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Cookbook offers allergy-friendly options for brunch or pool parties

Andrea Abel

When my younger daughter was in kindergarten, she started breaking out in what looked like large mosquito bites all over her body. Under the care of a wonderful allergist, we soon discovered Sydney was allergic to apples, strawberries, blueberries, and all kinds of melon. Suddenly, birthday parties, play dates and school events became more challenging, as we had to check out food and drink ahead of time. And, more devastating for Sydney, she often missed out on fun such as watermelon seed-spitting contests, party treats, or drinks such as apple juice, just about any kids juice blend, or strawberry lemonade.

Beyond the potentially life-threatening aspects of food allergies, kids and adults alike with one or more allergy often can feel isolated in social situations or feel deprived when they can't eat what everyone else is enjoying. The editors at Kiwi Magazine recognized this and came up with the cookbook: "Allergy-Friendly Food for Families: 120 Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, Egg-Free, and Soy-Free Recipes Everyone Will Love." Though the cookbook is geared toward kiddos, the recipes are sophisticated enough to delight people of all ages who struggle to balance food allergies and active social lives. And the handy tips prepare anyone who wants to stock a pantry with the right ingredients.

The colorful cookbook, chock full of festive and easy-to-prepare, tasty, kid-pleasing recipes, also has an Austin connection. Kiwi Magazine's staff recipe developer is Austinite Marygrace Taylor, who developed most of the recipes for the book. Kiwi is a national parenting magazine with an eye toward green and organic lifestyles that balance "real world" and "ideal world."

Current data estimate food allergies affect one in 17 children younger than 3. Dr. Allen Lieberman of Allergy and Asthma Center of Austin notes peanut allergies have doubled in the past decade. Lieberman says though there are theories for the surge, no single reason has been determined.

"The landscape of kids with food allergies has gotten kind of crazy over the last 10-20 years," Taylor says. "Back 30 years ago, food allergies weren't a very common thing. Now, millions of kids have food allergies.

"It's difficult for families to deal with. But the fact that food allergies have become more common helps spreads that awareness, making it easier for families to manage those allergies and helping kids not feel so left out."

A food allergy is different from food intolerance. An allergic reaction occurs when a person's immune system recognizes the protein in a certain food as harmful and produces an allergy antibody.

Further exposure can trigger an allergic reaction within minutes of exposure or a few hours later. Symptoms can include hives, redness, swelling, tightness in the chest or throat, coughing, an itchy tongue or mouth, vomiting, stomach pain, fainting, lethargy and itchy palms and feet. Serious stuff.

"Allergy-Friendly Food for Families" makes it easy to include kids or adults with food allergies whether it's Sunday brunch at home or a summer pool party. Each recipe contains handy nutrition information and is categorized as being dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, soy-free, gluten-free or some combination of these. Other recipes have gluten-free options.

"One of my very favorite recipes is the banana bread waffles. They are really, really surprisingly delicious and easy to make," Taylor says. "Even though they are gluten-free, the waffles have a great chewy texture on the inside and crisp on the outside."

For special occasions, Taylor touts the giant cookie cake, likening their version to the giant frosted chocolate chip cookies found in shopping mall food courts. "It's absolutely delicious, and cookie cake isn't something you see every day at parties," Taylor says.

Resources

Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, www.foodallergy.org

Gluten-free baking

Gluten-free baking has a learning curve with it. "Gluten-free flour lacks the protein structure in (wheat) flour that gives the body and texture," Taylor says.

A combination of sorghum flour, tapioca starch and potato starch are Taylor's favorite substitutes for wheat flour.

To replicate the tenderness in other baked goods, Taylor uses xanthan gum. Wheatsville Co-op, Central Market, and Whole Foods Market are good local sources for these ingredients. Store these ingredients in the freezer for longer shelf life.

Adaptive recipes allow party-goers to enjoy the event

Marygrace Taylor of Austin developed most of the recipes for "Allergy-Friendly Food for Families: 120 Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, Egg-Free, and Soy-Free Recipes Everyone Will Love" and shares these tips:

Before a party or play date, talk directly to parents to find out if any children have food allergies or sensitivities.

Come up with a menu of recipes that seem safe and probably could accommodate everyone.

‘Build Your Own' dishes work well. Taylor recommends a taco bar. Set out corn or flour tortillas and a variety of ingredients from which to select. Burgers work well, too.

Parents of kids with food allergies will always appreciate it if you want to make a recipe their children can eat. But run the recipe by parents so they know what's in it.

Put labels on food that you do set out with a list of major ingredients for adults and kids to see.

Kids just want to have fun. They don't want to be singled out or catered to. The best thing is to work it out with the parents ahead of time. Then the child can come in, grab a snack, and take off to have fun.

Green Monster Dip with Carrot Coins

1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 Tbsp. tahini

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 clove garlic

1/2 tsp. salt

4 cups packed baby spinach

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally

Add the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, water, olive oil, garlic, and salt in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Add the spinach, 1 cup at a time, and puree until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and serve alongside the carrots. Serves 8.

Teriyaki Turkey Sliders

1 pound 93 percent lean ground turkey

1/4 cup panko, fine dry bread crumbs, or gluten-free bread crumbs

2 Tbsp. finely chopped scallions, white and green parts

1 Tbsp. wheat-free tamari

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. minced fresh ginger, or 1/8 tsp. ground ginger

1 Tbsp. canola oil or sesame oil

8 whole-grain slider-size buns or gluten-free slider-size buns

In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, scallions, tamari, garlic, and ginger. Mix well. Shape into 8 small patties.

Heat the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the patties (in two batches, if necessary) and cook, turning once, for about 15 minutes total, until no longer pink. An instant-read thermometer should register 165 degrees when inserted into the patties. These also can be grilled. If grilling, brush the patties with sesame oil before placing on the grill.

Place on buns and serve with condiments of your choice.

For an Asian spin, I served the sliders with a sauce made from mayo, wheat-free tamari, and freshly grated ginger and garlic. Makes 8 sliders.

Giant Cookie Cake

Canola oil for coating the pan

2 cups sorghum flour

1/2 cup tapioca starch

1/2 cup potato starch

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum

1 cup soy-free, nonhydrogenated margarine, at room temperature

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup raw cane sugar

1/4 cup molasses

2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed whisked with 1/4 cup warm water

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free chocolate chips

Dairy-Free Vanilla Frosting (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly coat two 9-inch round cake pans with canola oil.

In a medium bowl, add the sorghum flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum. Mix to combine.

In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the margarine for 1 to 2 minutes, until soft. Add the brown sugar and cane sugar, and beat for 1 to 2 minutes longer, until light and fluffy. Add the molasses, flaxseed mixture, and vanilla and beat again until well-mixed.

Working in batches, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing until well-combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, smoothing the tops with a spatula (the batter will be very sticky). Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the edges are golden-brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely on wire racks.

For each cake, run a butter knife around the edge to help loosen it from the pan, then place a plate on top and invert to remove from the pan.

To assemble, place one cake on a plate or cake plate, rounded side up. Frost with half of the frosting, then top with the remaining cake, rounded side up. Place the remaining frosting in a piping bag (or plastic resalable bag with the corner tip snipped off) to decorate the top of the cake. Refrigerate until 1 hour before serving.

Dairy-Free Vanilla Frosting

1/2 cup soy-free, nonhydrogenated margarine, at room temperature

3 1/4 cups powdered sugar

3 Tbsp. rice milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the margarine until soft. Add the powdered sugar in batches, then add the rice milk and vanilla. Beat for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. If not using right away, cover and refrigerate for up to two days. Allow to come back to room temperature before frosting.

Mighty Marinara Sauce

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, quartered

1 clove garlic

1 large carrot, peeled and quartered

1 stalk celery, quartered

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

Salt

1 bay leaf

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.

In a food processor, combine the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Process until very finely chopped.

Add the vegetables to the stockpot and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until soft and translucent.

Add the tomatoes and season with salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and add the bay leaf. Simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes, until the flavors are well-blended. Remove the bay leaf and serve. Serves 6.

Greener Sloppy Joes

1 1/4 cups French lentils, picked over and rinsed

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 green bell peppers, diced

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. smoked paprika

2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (optional)

2 cups Mighty Marinara Sauce (recipe follows), or your favorite tomato sauce

1/2 cup water

Salt

6 whole-wheat or gluten-free hamburger buns

In a medium stockpot, add the lentils with enough water to cover by 2 to 3 inches. Cover, bring to a boil, then simmer, partially covered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender. Drain the lentils.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the bell peppers and sauté for 5 minutes longer.

Add the cumin, paprika, brown sugar, and jalapeño, if using. Cook for 1 minute, then add the marinara sauce and water. Season to taste with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the lentils to the sloppy joe mixture. Season to taste and cook for 5 minutes longer, until the flavors have blended.

Scoop the sloppy joe mixture into the hamburger buns and serve. Serves 6.