January 30, 2012

Superbowl snack stadium -- Trick out your game day foods!

Superbowl Sunday is coming up!  Whether or not your favorite team made it to the bowl or even if you're not big on football, Superbowl is still a good excuse for an afternoon of snacking, silly commercials, and just plain being happy with friends and family.

I was searching the internet for game day snack ideas when I came upon this football stadium built of junk food on HolyTaco.com.


This thing was seriously a work of art.  I was completely blown away by the cleverness and level of detail even if I was kinda disgusted at the same time.  (See the Twinkie-bacon grandstands.)  Read the entire hilarious post at HolyTaco and you too will be just as conflicted as my mind and arteries.

While HolyTaco's stadium was over the top with junk food, it gave me the inspiration to try my hand at creating my own snack stadium.

Because of my kids' food allergies, I had to substitute some of the original ingredients for safe foods.  I also replaced some of the heavily processed foods and meat products with healthier choices.  The stadium I made was milk-free and nut-free.  Some of the snack chips do contain gluten or soy but you can use your favorite safe snacks instead.  Tofutti's Sour Supreme imitation sour cream contains soy and, according to their website, may contain traces of gluten from the manufacturing of the added flavors.

Below are the ingredients that I used.   While I often like to make homemade guacamole and hummus, I bought ready-to-serve stuff from Trader Joe's to build the stadium.  The Trader Joe's guacamole has a smoother consistency than my homemade guacamole, and that worked well for the football field although next time I'll mash in a couple more avocados to make the field thicker for holding the carrots.  Definitely have extra guac or avocados on hand.  If you are having a huge party, definitely double the recipe and use a deeper pan.

I used salsa for an end zone but you should try refried beans instead or at least use a strong base for your goal posts.

You'll see in the photos that I used salsa in one of my end zones.  Logistics-wise, this wasn't successful as it was too thin to support the celery goal post.  In my recipe, I suggest using refried beans instead.  Also, try anchoring each goal post into a chunk of tofu or cheese to offer even more stability.  And jicama might be an easier food to work with than celery so I included a mention of that in the post. 

Superbowl Snack Stadium
adapted from HolyTaco.com's 2009 Greatest Snack Food Stadium

12" x 8 1/2" x 1 3/16" aluminum foil pan
Pointed toothpicks
Plastic baggie or icing bag

The field:
Minimum 16 oz. of guacamole
1 can of refried beans
12 oz. container of sour cream or milk-free sour cream (I used Tofutti sour cream)
10 oz. hummus (double check ingredients for any potential allergens)
2 stalks celery, cut into half lengthwise, or 10 pieces of jicama, cut into 1/2-inch thick sticks
Block of extra firm tofu or safe cheese

The players:
1 to 2 dozen baby carrots, cut in half  (If you are double the recipe, you can probably keep them whole)
At least 5 sugar plum tomatoes, cut in half
At least 5 whole olives, cut in half

Stadium and fans:
A pan or box a little wider all around than the pan used for the field
Your choice of safe snacks - I used popcorn, tortilla chips, and Trader Joe's Veggie Sticks (contains wheat starch)
  1. Place aluminum pan into larger pan.  
  2. Evenly spread guacamole in the middle of the smaller pan, leaving a rectangular section at each size for the end zones.
  3. Spread in refried beans for one end zone.  Spread in hummus for the other.  Make sure your "field" is level and smooth.
  4. Put about 1/4 cup of sour cream into icing bag.  If using a baggie, add the sour cream to one corner and cut off the corner's tip to create your own icing bag.  Make sure all your sour cream is packed into the corner and then carefully squeeze out your yard lines onto the field.
  5. Assemble goal posts by using toothpicks and celery or jicama.  The vegetables may split with the pressure of the toothpick so you had to be gentle and gradually screw in the toothpicks the first time.  I cut out toothpicks in half and used the pointed end to carefully bore out the holes where the toothpicks would be.  I used 4 pieces of celery for each goal post.  Right before serving, anchor your goal post into a chunk of tofu or safe cheese and pop the posts into the end zones.
  6. Add the cut baby carrots onto the field.  (I used the wider ends to anchor them.)  This is where I got my football-loving husband involved.  He had a great time creating a play with the carrots!  If a football novice is assembling, remember that it's 10 players on the field from each team.  Add olive halves and sugar plum tomato halves to create helmets.
  7. Add your stadium fans!  Carefully pile in chips, crackers, pretzels -- whatever floats your boat!  If you are avoiding gluten, tortilla chips and popcorn are great choices.  I used some homemade "cheesy" vegan popcorn.  I loved how it added movement to the display.  You can almost hear the roar of those kerneled fans!
  8. Set up your goal posts.  Experiment -- it might take a few tries and a couple different chunks of tofu or cheese to get it sturdy.  Now you're ready for the game!
Enjoy your Super snacks!

As you can see, I didn't attempt to construct the grandstands.  Truth be told, it was the afternoon before our Chinese New Year feast and I didn't want to spoil our appetites on snacks!  If you are planning a huge party and want to build out your stadium the way that HolyTaco.com did, think about using your favorite hot dogs and safe buns to recreate the Twinkie tiered seating.  I'm thinking a perimeter of homemade tamales or hot dogs -- single layer for the lower grandstand and and skewer-connected, double-stacked tamales or hot dogs for the higher level.  Milton's Gourmet White is a milk-free bun (contains wheat, soy).  Udi's Gluten-Free sells gluten-free, milk-free hot dog buns (contain eggs).

I had a lot of fun making the stadium.  It's too bad we have no plans for Superbowl Sunday and no TV reception (we got rid of cable service and have lived off Hulu.com years ago) or else I'd love to do this again and built out the stadium even more.

Send us your photos of your game day spread!  Or better yet, join us on our Facebook page and share your photos on our wall!

January 25, 2012

My sons' most recent allergy tests

It's all smiles and laughs when there are no needles involved!

Last month we visited Ryken's and Callan's allergist for a yearly check-in.  My kids hate this (what kid wouldn't?) but this is always something I secretly look forward to.  Will they have outgrown anything?

Ryken had only previously tested positive for allergies to peanuts and macadamia nuts and for the past two years, I focused testing on milk and peanuts.  The last time I had retested for all nuts was three years prior.  I realized I should be retesting him for all nuts every year because new allergies do spring up.  And I was pretty certain he had developed an allergy to walnuts because he complained of an itchy mouth and abdominal cramps after having a tiny sample last spring.  It was easy to make the choice to retest Ryken for all nuts and milk.  Since we do the  IgE antibody test, which requires a blood draw, there is no extra pain.

I have a couple of reasons for choosing the blood test over the skin prick. First of all, I like to see if Ryken's IgE levels are going up or down throughout the years.  It can be a sign of worsening or diminishing allergies.  Having his blood drawn is no fun for Ryken.  Secondly, the blood test is safer as it does not expose Ryken to the allergens.  With more exposure to an allergen, a person's allergic reactions can intensify.  Ryken is already known to be severely allergic to milk and peanuts so I didn't want to risk making things worse.  Don't get me wrong, though.  The blood test is an easy choice for me but not for Ryken.  It took me a good 5-10 minutes of talking, begging, and finally bribing him to be brave to go through with it.  The results were worth it: we found out that Ryken's severe milk allergy is holding steady, his peanut allergy has worsened considerably, and he is now mildly allergic to walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts.

As for Callan, we had discovered the year before -- after some frozen yogurt followed by a trip to the ER-- that he has mild allergies to milk and almonds.  The allergist and I thought it was best to retest him for all nuts and milk since he hasn't had any oral challenges since.  I elected to have skin prick testing done on Callan.  From what I gathered, neither the skin prick and blood IgE antibody tests are free from error and both definitely have their benefits.  The biggest benefit for me in Callan's case was that he could avoid a blood draw which he was petrified of.  I figured that since Callan's allergies were mild, that we would try skin prick testing and, hopefully, it would be the less uncomfortable route.

Skin testing involves scratching or pricking the surface of the skin with extracts from potential allergens.  Doctors literally draw and number a grid on your skin (usually on your back so you can't scratch at it) and prick you with extracts from whichever allergens need testing.  Skin tests are often used because they offer results quickly and fairly accurately and, again, kids can avoid the terror of the big needle prick from a blood draw.

When Callan's skin test was administered, the big size of the wheal made it apparent that his milk allergy had worsened.  He was so uncomfortable during the test and I found that I had to wrap my arms around him to prevent him from scratching.  Callan also reacted to cashews and mildly to peanuts -- surprisingly, no reaction to almonds or halibut.  We slowly started giving him almond milk and then roasted almonds.  No reaction!  Woo hoo!  Almond milk is back on the table!

While it will take some serious convincing and negotiating for new toy cars, I'm certain that I want to do blood IgE antibody testing for both of my kids in the future.  I'm a numbers person and I like seeing how the IgE levels change over time.  Also, I want to minimize any direct contact with allergens since now it is clear that both of my boys have serious milk allergies and that they have developed more nut allergies, with Ryken's peanut allergy at an alarmingly severe level now.

January 23, 2012

Chinese New Year: Photos and Neen Gow

Gung Hay Fat Choy!  Happy New Year and welcome to the Year of the Dragon!

Yesterday was a really busy day for us, not only because it was Chinese New Year's eve but, truth be told, there was a important football playoff game!  So between cleaning up the house and preparing a special dinner, I was also designing fun game day munchies (more on that next week) and keeping our eye on a close match.  I figured our family would be so full of snacks from the late afternoon game that I decided to only prepared a couple of dishes for our New Year's meal.  (Good call.  We had TONS of leftovers.)  I kept it simple and stuck to lettuce cups and glass noodles, main dishes that worked well for us last year.

I did make one new thing this year, New Year's Cake (called nian gao in the dominant Mandarin dialect, or neen gow in Cantonese, which is Sarah's and my family's dialect).  Neen gow is made as an offering to the Kitchen God, who observes your behavior and helps determine if you have a prosperous new year.  Another explanation on why we offer this treat:  the sticky cake will keep the Kitchen God's mouth so occupied, he will be unable to report back on anything at all (bad or good)!

Neen gow is not your ordinary cake.  It uses glutinous rice flour and steam to create a mochi-like, gummy cake.  (For those unfamiliar with traditional Chinese desserts, they are typically less sweet than Western desserts and often use beans or rice.)

Making neen gow was really easy!  I bought my ingredients at a local Asian supermarket.  The rice flour should be easy to find there in most Asian markets -- make sure it's "glutinous" because you'll find out that there are quite a few different options in rice flours.  If you cannot find brown sugar pieces, you can easily substitute the readily available regular brown sugar.  In fact, it might be easier.  It was time-consuming to try to break down the hard pieces in the liquid.  The water-coconut milk combination I used was delicious but you can also replace the water with more coconut milk for an even richer flavor.

For the steaming, I used a huge stockpot and a metal wire stand to elevate my ramekins over one inch of water.
The neen gow mixture before steaming
While people usually prepare a big feast the night before Lunar New Year begins, there are fifteen days of celebrating.  Let the long party continue with your own new year's cake!

Steamed New Year's Cake (Nian Gao or Neen Gow)

1 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 cup water
16 oz. bag of glutinous rice flour
1 package of brown sugar pieces or 2 cups brown sugar (I used 4 of the 5 pieces in the package)
Dried fruit, sesame seeds (optional)
  1. Heat coconut milk and water over stove or in the microwave.  Add brown sugar.
  2. Dissolve brown sugar in the liquid making sure the completely break up any hard pieces.  This took a bit of time but after a while, the pieces absorbed enough liquid so that I could break them up with a potato masher!
  3. Remove pan from heat.  Slow stir or whisk in glutinous rice flour into water-coconut-sugar mixture.  
  4. Once ingredients are well combined, pour into a well-greased 8-inch pan or six greased 4-inch ramekins.  Add a dried piece of fruit (a pitted plum is common) in the center of pan if desired.
  5. Steam mixture over medium heat for 1 to 1.5 hours or until neen gow starts to pull away from the sides of its container.  Remove from heat and let cool.
  6. Drizzle with sesame seeds if you desire.  For easier cutting, refrigerate before serving.  Slice before serving.

The finished product after 1.5 hours of steaming
We hope the Year of the Dragon has started off well for your family.  Enjoy the renewed hope and remember, no sweeping today or you'll sweep away your good luck.  Woo hoo!  A break from cleaning!

A pre-New Year's trim, new red car shirt, and lucky money --  Callan had a great start to the Year of the Dragon!

January 20, 2012

49er Furikake Chex Mix

I know I promised you more Chinese New Year recipes, and I swear they're in the works, but I had to address something a bit more urgent for us San Franciscans.  I mean, we'll celebrate Chinese New Year for another three weeks, but the 2012 NFC Championship will only come around once.  In our fair city.  On Sunday afternoon.  Incredible!

I have two brothers.  Therefore, I was forced to watch games every Sunday growing up (or at least they were in the background while I played with my dollhouse).  There was church.  There were football games.  Then dinner and bed.  So for all you Niner fans who've waited patiently for this day, don't make the same mistake I did--30 minutes before last week's game I tried to get takeout on Clement St. along with everyone else grabbing something to munch on while watching the game.  Get to the market.  Buy the ingredients.  Make the Furikake Chex Mix.  You know you want to...

And unlike the traditional Chex snack mix, this one doesn't contain nuts (note: Furikake and soy sauce do contain soy)!

49er Furikake Chex Mix (from my friend Sarabeth, who reminded me of the existence of this delicious and addictive snack!)

Wheat, Egg, Dairy, Nut Free

½ cup Earth Balance margarine
½ cup sugar, heaping
½ cup white (light) corn syrup
2 T. soy sauce
2 -- 12oz. boxes of Crispix or 1 box corn Chex 1 box rice Chex (I use which ever is cheaper)
½ bottle of Furikake (I like to use the Nori Komi Fumi flavor because some other ones have fish in them)
1 large roasting pan or two sheet pans


Preheat oven to 250*

Put cereal into large foil-lined roasting pan and set aside (use large bowl if using sheet pans).

Melt margarine, sugar, corn syrup, and soy sauce in small sauce pan or pot stirring until dissolved. 

While you're waiting for mom to mix the cereal and syrup mixture in the other pan, sneak a few bites of cereal.
Pour syrup mixture over cereal and mix gently. Sprinkle furikake evenly over cereal and mix well, gently. Stick pan into oven and bake for 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes. (If using two sheet pans, distribute cereal equally and then bake following same baking instructions.)

I know, I know, not the healthiest of snack ideas...but in small doses guarantees to be a crowd pleaser.  For some other NFC Championship-worthy ideas, check out Irene's allergy-friendly recipes for hummus and guacamole, or make a batch of kale chips.  Go Niners!

January 18, 2012

Year of the Dragon Checklist

Although I grew up in San Francisco's Chinatown, Chinese New Year was little more than saying "Gung Hay Faat Choy" to our friends and family, receiving red envelopes filled with money, and counting up our spoils at the end of the day.  We didn't know to receive them with two hands.  We didn't know how to say "thank you" in Chinese.  It was bad enough we didn't speak or understand the language, but not knowing or practicing the customs was even worse. 

So when I met and married my husband, whose family is much more traditional than mine, I had the task of learning, understanding, and finally embracing the traditions associated with Chinese New Year, so that my children would also learn to make the customs their own.

It has been a several year-long journey for me, but this year I've finally become proactive and intentional about preparing the family for a happy and prosperous year of the dragon.  You see, in my interpretation of the customs, there are several foods you can eat and things that you can do which symbolize luck, and one does as much as one can to bring in the new year.

Here is our Chinese New Year Check List:

1. Clean the house--Sweep out the old, in with the new.  Don't clean on New Year's or you'll risk sweeping up good luck.  (Oh, how this one haunts me!  But I'm determined...)

2. Get haircuts--Same concept--don't get your haircut on New Year's or you risk cutting off some luck.

3. Buy new red clothes  for the family.  Now this is definitely something I've got covered (shopping, anyone?).  And with leftover holiday merchandise left on racks, and Valentine's Day around the corner, shelves are stocked with red clothes.  Everyone sports their new threads on New Year's Day.

Addi is happy to try on her new red dress!
  4.  Prepare red envelopes with lucky money to give out to family and friends' children.  Children are taught to say "Gung hay faat choy" or other phrase wishing luck, happiness, health, etc. and are given two envelopes from each couple, one from each person.  The envelopes can be filled with any denomination of money, but when considering how much to fill each envelope, note that 4's are considered unlucky and 8's are considered especially lucky.

5. Select orange, round tangerines with stems for freshness and beauty to create a display in a bowl.  My mother-in-law will also add a pomelo and some red envelopes to her bowl. 

If you lack space or just want a fun craft project for little ones, try making an orange bowl collage with various textured paper. 

6. Try a few Chinese New Year recipes.  There are many foods considered lucky because their names are homonyms for various words or phrases for wealth, luck, or happiness.

I will leave you with one recipe today, and post a few more later on in the week.  Irene posted a link to a lettuce cups recipe last year, and I had to tap into my greatest resource (my mother-in-law) to get some advice about making her kid and allergy-friendly version of my childhood favorite, traditionally made with oysters.

My Mother-in-Law's Lettuce Cups for Kids (Egg, Dairy, Nut-free; can be made soy and wheat free by eliminating the hoisin sauce)

Eat lettuce cups for good fortune


6-8 oz. of Chicken Breast (alternatively, use ground chicken)
2 Aidell's Chicken Apple Sausages (or use Chinese sausages--"lop cheung")
1 small can of Water Chestnuts (or use Jicama)
1 oz. of Dried Black Fungus*, soaked for at least an hour in a bowl of water
5-6 Dried Chinese Black Mushrooms, soaked for at least an hour in a bowl of water
1 head of Iceberg Lettuce
Hoisin Sauce* (plum sauce--contains wheat and soy)
2 T. Oil
Garlic Powder, Salt, & Pepper to taste (about a tsp. of each)
1 tsp. Cornstarch
1 tsp. Sesame Oil*

(*Optional ingredients)

1. Dice the chicken breast.

2. In a small bowl, add about a tablespoon of oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, cornstarch, and sesame oil to the diced chicken and let sit while you dice the sausage, water chestnuts, dried black fungus, and black mushrooms.

Diced black fungus

3. Peel, wash, and dry the lettuce leaves and set aside.  You want to try to keep them whole and intact.
4. Add 1-2 tablespoons of oil to a pan and stirfry the chicken until cooked through.  Add sausages, water chestnuts, fungus, and mushrooms until heated through.  Remove from heat.
5. Serve immediately by scooping chicken mixture into lettuce cups and drizzling with hoisin sauce.

The boys got this version because they're not big mushroom fans
Get to your Asian market today, because although they may stay open for Thanksgiving and Christmas, they'll all be closed for Chinese New Year.  Happy shopping!

January 16, 2012

Dan Dan Noodles: peanut-free goodness

Happy, happy birthday to Martin Luther King, Jr.  Hope your families are taking the time to reflect upon his legacy, his beliefs, and what you are doing to serve others.

Truth be told, Sarah and I are still in recovery mode from the holidays, the winter cold/flu season, and the reboot of the usual hustle &bustle of stay-at-home life with kids and their many activities.  Both of us have been working on recipes, meal ideas, and crafts for the blog but have had a bit of a time/energy challenge with transferring it over to the blog for our fabulous readers.

As we talked at a birthday party on Saturday, Sarah reminded me that Chinese New Year is just around the corner.  Yikes!  (Monday, January 23rd to be exact.)  For those of you that aren't familiar, Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year goes by the lunar calendar so the date is different from year to year.  Sometimes it's in late January and other years it's as late as President's Day.  This year it has truly crept up on me but I'm more than happy to dive into some Chinese cooking.

We shared some allergy-friendly traditional lunar new year dishes last year.   In preparation for this year's meal, I've been playing around with some noodle dishes.  A popular Chinese noodle dish is dan dan noodles.  Served cold and traditionally made with peanuts and Chinese noodles, it's a good target for making allergy-friendly.  It makes for an easy meal that is full of flavor thanks to the loads of fresh garlic and ginger.  Because it's a cold dish, parts or the whole dish can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until you're ready to put it all together.

There are a lot of different ways to make dan dan noodles some of which are completely free of vegetables.  It would make me feel a little too guilty to eat a whole bowl of the stuff without some plant goodness so mine calls for fresh carrots, zucchini or cucumber, and cabbage.  Feel free to experiment with different fresh, steamed, or stir-fried veggies or use the more traditional pickled cabbage (canned or jarred) that you can find in Asian grocery stores.  Add more minced garlic it you like.  Be really conservative with the sambal oelek if you're little ones or you aren't big fans of spicy food.  A little of the stuff already goes a long way!

Dan Dan Noodles
Adapted from Alton Brown's recipe on the Food Network

8 to 12 oz. of your favorite safe spaghetti, ramen, or other noodle/pasta (I've used fresh Chinese noodles and TJ's organic whole wheat spaghetti.)

1/4 to 1/2 head of cabbage. thinly chopped (In a pinch?  Trader Joe's sells already shredded cabbage.) 

For the sauce:
1/3 cup sunflower seed butter 
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 Tbsp soy sauce (Use gluten-free soy sauce or tamari if you are avoiding wheat or gluten) 
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth
chili paste (sambal oelek) to taste

1 or 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 cucumber or zucchini (I used the latter), julienned
2 green onions, finely chopped

  1. Boil noodles accordingly to package directions.  Drain and rinse, and set aside.
  2. Steam cabbage until wilted.  You can do this over the stove.  Alternatively, you can do steam with your microwave by putting the cabbage and a couple tablespoons of water in a covered bowl or deep dish.  I've done both methods and check every few minutes.  It usually takes less than 10 minutes.
  3. Drain cabbage and set aside.
  4. Mix sauce ingredients together.  
  5. Toss cooled noodles and cabbage with sauce mixture until evenly coated.  Add julienne vegetables and green onions and re-toss until well combined.
  6. For a spicy kick, add a little sambal oelek and mix well.  Taste and stir more in until you get your desired heat.
  7. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

January 11, 2012

Easy Comfort Food: Ribs, Collards, & Cornbread (NO dairy, egg, nut, soy*)

Are you still recovering from the holidays?  It shouldn't take this long to unpack all the snow stuff, put holiday decorations back in the garage, or find homes for all the new stuff the kids received for Christmas.  But for some reason in our house, it does.  So I'm still in survival mode.  I guess my number one resolution to keep the house cleaner is a work in progress.  And meal planning goes something like, "Hmm...what's in the fridge?"

So tonight, we had a simple yet satisfying meal of our favorite comfort foods--BBQ ribs, collard greens, and cornbread muffins--all dairy, egg, and nut free (*can be made soy-free by substituting rice milk or other soy-free milk in the cornbread) for my food allergic brood.

Slow-Cooked BBQ Pork Ribs

Rack of Pork Ribs
Salt, Pepper, & Garlic Powder to taste
BBQ Sauce

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Season ribs on both sides with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Cut between ribs into sets of threes or fours, and place on foil-lined pan meat side down.
3. Seal tightly with foil.
4. Bake at 300 degrees for 4 hours.
5. Remove from oven and turn it up to 425 degrees.  Coat both sides of ribs with KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce.

6. Bake at 425 for about 20 minutes or until crispy on the outside.  They're fall-off-the-bone tender and delicious!

Collard Greens

Collards (I buy the collard greens mix in a bag from Trader Joe's.  It's already washed and cut.) 
1/2 Yellow Onion, roughly chopped and 3-4 whole garlic cloves (or just use garlic powder)
Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper
1-2 cups of Chicken, Vegetable, or other stock

1. Saute onions and garlic in a heated pan with oil.
2. Add collard greens and salt and pepper, and saute for a minute or so.
3. Add 1-2 cups of stock, cover, and let simmer until stock has evaporated.
4. If you want it more tender, add more stock or water and let it simmer until the desired tenderness.

Blueberry Cornbread Mini Muffins (Note: Mix is made on shared equipment with wheat, milk, egg, and soy)

Adding blueberries to anything easily tempts by berry-loving 7-year-old, who said, "These are the best muffins in the world, mom." 
I use the Cornbread Muffin Mix from Trader Joe's, and use soymilk instead of cow's milk (use rice milk or other alternative milk to make this recipe soy-free), and Ener-G Egg Replacer instead of an egg.

1-1/2 teaspoons of Ener-G Egg Replacer plus 2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup soy (or other) milk
1/2 pint blueberries

For mini muffins:
1. Preheat oven to 325.
2. Add Ener-G and water to a mixing bowl and beat with wire whip or fork.
3. Beat in oil and milk.
4. Mix in cornbread mix until moistened.
5. Add blueberries if so desired.
6. Pour into lined muffin tin and bake about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

I love the whole corn kernels and moist texture of these muffins.  Save leftover muffins for quick off-to-school breakfasts.


January 9, 2012

A chat with Chef Amy Fothergill

When Amy Fothergill's daughter was put on a gluten-free diet, the chef and mother of two was challenged.  Flour had been such a pervasive ingredient in her cooking but now she was faced with the need to go without it immediately.  Amy accepted the challenge to learn to cook without gluten - she jokingly refers to it as her "gluten-free immersion program" - and began experimenting with different ingredients and techniques to recreate familiar dishes.  (Incidentally, Amy completely eliminated gluten from her whole family's diet as well and found that it greatly improved her digestion, sleep, and overall well-being!)

Amy was a guest chef for Sprouts Cooking Club where she made gluten-free pancakes.
Amy's journey as a reinvented chef has influenced her work as The Family Chef, a cooking instructor for people with busy lifestyles.  Her goal is to make cooking easy for anyone be it families, friends, and people with special diets.  More than half of her clients manage food allergies and sensitivities, gluten being the most common.  Amy offers classes for those with special diets like her family and includes instructions on how and what to substitute for other common allergens.

Amy led parents on how to make a gluten-free Italian Family Dinner at Whole Foods.
Amy has been gracious enough to share with Get Allergy Wise her recipe for carrot muffins, a personal favorite and what she admits started her off on her adventures in gluten-free cooking!

Gluten-Free Carrot Muffins by Amy Fothergill, The Family Chef

1/2 oil
3/4 cup pure cane sugar
2 eggs (if subbing out eggs, use enough substitute for 3 eggs)
3 Tbsp water
1 1/4 cup gluten-free flour blend
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups packed grated carrots (about 4 medium carrots)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine oil and sugar.  Mix well.  Add eggs and water and mix.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Then add raisins making sure they are coated with flour.
  4. Mix flour mixture into wet ingredients.  Then add in carrots and coconut.
  5. Pour batter into greased muffin tins.  Bake 18 to 22 minutes until muffin springs back when pressed.

Cooking gives kids practice at focusing.

I made the muffins with the help of my sous chef son, Ryken.  To grate the carrots we used vegetable peelers instead of a box grater, and then I cut the strands into shorter pieces.  Vegetable peelers are easy to use and clean, both important factors when cooking with my milk-allergic kids.  (I admit it - I have a healthy fear of old cheese particles lurking around the edges of those grate holes!) 

We used the same gluten-free flour blend that I've been using lately for other baked treats.  Also I only used half the raisins called for in Amy's recipes due to personal preference.  The muffins were light and flavorful and a huge hit with my boys!

The finished product -- moist and delicious!

Taste tester Callan needed a second helping before he could verify the awesomeness of the muffin.

Amy teaches classes in markets and restaurants in San Francisco and nearby cities.  This winter her class offerings include ideas for integrating more grains into your meals, gluten-free cooking, 5 ingredient dishes, and brunch menus.  For more information on Amy's class schedule for the months of January, February, and March, check out her website and blog, or her Facebook page.

Bon Appetit!