February 25, 2013

Cream of Mushroom Soup - a dairy-free version of a classic

A few weeks ago as we readied for the Superbowl game, I had my mind set on making an easy, allergy-friendly soup to share.  I had a few choices already tested, adapted, and posted here at Get Allergy Wise so I figured, easy.  The day before the party I asked my husband which soup he preferred I make.  Not a big fan of soup, my husband threw me for a little loop when he "ordered off the menu" and replied, "How about a cream of mushroom soup?  Only if you can make it vegan, though."

Not one to back down from a culinary challenge, I searched for a milk-free cream of mushroom soup recipe, one that would be simple to make but just as delicious.  I came across Healthful Pursuit's recent kitchen experiment of using cauliflower and I was instantly in lust.  Cauliflower, a natural and nutritious thickening agent for soup, was a BRILLIANT idea!  It's especially great in a creamy soup with coconut milk as cauliflower has a pretty mild taste.

I did very little tweaking to the original recipe.  I just doubled the quantity and for the liquid used roughly half canned coconut milk (full fat only!) and half milk substitute.  I added even more cauliflower because my personal preference is for a very thick soup.  I have tried this with white, cremini, and portabello mushrooms.  All tasted great though I am partial to cremini mushrooms.

Remember to use a full-fat coconut milk for added richness.

My husband and I loved the soup and the other adults seemed to really enjoy it.  One person told me she doesn't usually like cream of mushroom soup but she liked this one and went back for seconds.  My kids are less than thrilled about the texture of mushrooms so there was a little bribing in the form of Trader Joe's crescent rolls and an adjustment in texture (blended/pureed all the onions) when I made this a second time.  The next time I will make this I will completely blend everything.  My kids seem to do better with completely smooth soups. 

Trader Joe's sells its own version of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls.
Trader Joe's crescent rolls do contain wheat and carry a warning that they
may contain milk.  We have tried them and so far, so good with my milk-allergic kids.

Another fabulous thing about this soup?  It takes about 30 minutes to make.

Cauliflower Cream of Mushroom Soup - vegan, wheat-free, gluten-free, and potentially nut-free and/or soy-free depending on your choice of milk substitute
Adapted from Leanne Vogel's Healthful Pursuit blog's Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup 

4 to 6 cups of cauliflower florets
1 can of full-fat coconut milk
2 to 3 cups of safe milk substitute (I have used Soy Dream Original and Trader Joe's Original Almond Milk with great results)
1 large onion, chopped
2 10-ounce packs of mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp sea salt
Dash of nutmeg
Ground pepper and salt to taste

  1. Combine coconut milk, milk substitute, and cauliflower florets in a large pot.  Cover pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low and continue simmer for 10 minutes until cauliflower becomes tender.  Remove from heat.
  2. Meanwhile stir-fry onions for 3 minutes in a separate saucepan over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and continue cooking until onions are translucent.  Set one cup of the onion/mushroom mixture aside.  (If you prefer only mushrooms and no onions floating in your soup, stir-fry 1 cup of mushrooms first and set aside for mixing in at the end.  Alternatively, if you want a completely smooth soup, don't set anything aside.)
  3. Combine thyme, sea salt, nutmeg, and the remainder of the mushrooms/onions with the cauliflower pot.  Puree the mixture until completely smooth using a traditional blender, food processor, or (my favorite for hot soups) immersion blender.  If the soup is too thick for your taste, blend in additional milk substitute. 
  4. If you had chosen to set aside 1 cup of onions and mushrooms, stir them in at the end for added texture.  Add salt to taste.  Reheat soup on low if desired and serve warm.
For more dairy-free inspiration, check out the Healthful Pursuit blog where meal and dessert ideas abound.  Let me know if you find something that I should try next!

February 19, 2013

The Pure Pantry Saves Valentines Day

Until this year, I think the kids still truly believed that Valentines Day was all about spending a few weeks creating lovely tokens of friendship for their classmates, and not about candy.  We thankfully still had the homemade cards, which I was so grateful for.  In fact, it was Addi's first year exchanging Valentines cards, and when the morning came, she got a bit teary-eyed over the thought of parting with her 30 painted and glittered hearts.

Who can blame her for not wanting to part with her creations?    

She begrudgingly brought her Valentines cards to school, but quickly had a change of heart--yes, a change of heart--when she realized she had received 30 lovely cards, many with candy attached. 

Back at home, with all of her cards scattered in front of her, some ripped open envelopes (why is it so difficult for children to open envelopes?), and a pile of lollipops, chocolates, and other confections, I finally relented and gave her a lollipop. 

And then there were two.  Two holidays she now associates with getting a piece of candy.

She's the lucky one without food allergies, but it was heartbreaking after so many years of a strict 'no candy rule' to see the kids wanting it more and more.

As for my MFA (that would be Multiple Food Allergic) boys, I was rushing around the kitchen at 8 am on Valentines Day trying to whip up chocolate cupcakes, only to discover I was low on pantry staples like flour and sugar. 

In a pinch, I dug out one of the mixes I'd picked up at the Gluten & Allergy Free Expo last weekend.  We are not gluten-free, but we do avoid egg, dairy, and all nuts (except coconut), and it was really eye-opening to sample lots of products that were free of the top 8.  I am a gluten-free novice, but found the cake at this booth so incredibly rich and delicious that I had to buy a bag to see for myself.

The Pure Pantry Mixes at the GFAF Expo were beautiful to look at but are even better to bake with. 
In a blind taste test, I would've never guessed that the Pure Pantry Wholegrain Dark Chocolate Cake Mix was anything free.  How they managed to get such a moist, rich, and delicious cake with a true dark chocolate taste out of this mix is beyond me.  To prepare it without egg, I used Ener-G Egg Replacer according to the directions.  I also opted for coconut oil, as I had used it in Irene's brownies, and was impressed by the results.  I liked how the directions included dietary modifications, and some recipes for frostings.

I topped the cupcakes with an egg and dairy free cream cheese frosting that I made with soy cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract, but quickly found that the frosting wouldn't hold up without remaining chilled.  Nevertheless, frosting-less cupcakes were a hit with the boys, as well as with my littliest sweets monster.  We've been frosting them and gobbling them up for dessert in the last few days.  I've managed to eat my fair share of the two dozen I baked, telling myself I'm doing it for the good of the team.  :)

In the end, I think the spirit of card-making and giving still won out over the candy.  Addi's lollipop was never even finished before it was dumped into the compost bag, and, even after the candy came and went (into the compost bag alongside a half-eaten lollipop), the cards and memory of a day filled with love remain.

I hope you and yours had a fabulous and safe Valentines Day.

February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day - a little less food, a lot more fun!

Valentine's Day is here.  What is typically anticipated as a sweet and romantic day sure generates a host of different emotions from those with food allergies or food-allergic children.  Sadness, exclusion, anger, dread, anxiety, terror.  And with an estimated 1 in 3 parents reporting that their food-allergic child has had a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction on Valentine's Day, it's no wonder that parents are on edge on this food-filled holiday.

I am happy to share that neither of my sons' classes will have a full-blown Valentine's Day celebration this year.   Woo hoo!  Really, this is mostly about keeping school time for school-related learning and not solely a decision based on the risks of food allergies...but I will take it as a minor victory in the name of food allergy families anyway!!  Kids are free to pass out Valentines and candies at the end of the day and kids are preparing heart bags to carry their love loot home.

Ryken's class is, however, doing a math project with conversation hearts and Gummi Bears but both are safe for him.  I also am a little leery and will pack a safe treat for Ryken in case some well-intentioned parents who have forgotten about Ryken's food allergies bring in armloads of store-bought cupcakes and cookies.  This happens occasionally to my disappointment and to the teachers' as well.  Divvies Bakery, a dedicated milk-free, egg-free, nut-free bake shop, recently sent me samples of their chocolate hearts which are available for online purchase.  I think these will go in the treat stash!

Although I don't consider myself a crafty DIY mom, I love making Valentines.  Construction paper, pencil, markers, and scissors.  Decorations: optional.  There is something extra special about getting a Valentine that someone put a little sweat into making.  In past years when Ryken was a preschooler, I helped him cut out hearts and had him dictate to me what he wanted to say to each of his friends.

My younger son, Callan, is now the preschooler.  His fine motor skills are a lot more developed than his brother's were at his age although his endurance for making thirty Valentines by himself isn't quite there yet!  So I made a little cardboard template of half a heart, traced the half-hearts on folded construction paper, and let Callan cut them out himself.  Callan wasn't keen on writing messages (again, the endurance thing) but I convinced him to write his name on all thirty hearts so that his friends would know it was a Valentine from him.  He was so excited to put the Valentines in the school cubbies.  One of his classmates found his and said, "Thank you, Callan."  Callan beamed with pride!

With Ryken being older, more skilled, and able to focus longer on a task, I gave him the option of working with the computer.  He happily accepted.  (Note: I rarely let the kids use the computer.  I still have to figure out the perfect balance of becoming computer-literate and becoming a game-playing tech zombie, if you know what I mean.)  I traced the hearts for Ryken to make the process a little easier since we only had a week to do everything.  He was responsible for cutting them out and composing messages on the computer.  This provided a good opportunity to get acquainted with Microsoft Word, typing, and general tricks on using our laptop.  Ryken loved the grown-up feeling of working on his project.  After he finished, we printed out the messages, cut them, and taped them to the hearts.

My kids have been surprisingly mum about Valentine's sweets.  They were so happy to make Valentines for their classmates and are excited to be getting cards from their friends.  Maybe Valentine's Day has been spared the reputation of being another food holiday?  Maybe love still prevails for this special day...

I still plan on making a special Valentine's Day treat for the kids.  We will start the morning with heart-shaped pancakes.  I made a batch of nut-free fudge by tweaking a recipe from a cookbook by vegan chef Chloe Coscarelli.  That recipe isn't quite perfect yet so I'll need to refine it before sharing it with you.  (In the meantime, we have a whoooole lot of first-try fudge to get through...)

Wishing you and yours a safe and happy Valentine's Day.  Let's hope with more awareness, education, and care in our communities, we can bring that 1 in 3 statistic drastically down.

February 12, 2013

Presentation: Sloane Miller on living with food allergies with confidence

At the end of January we attended a food allergy blogger summit sponsored by Mylan Specialty, makers of the EpiPen auto-injector.  The summit was an opportunity for food allergy bloggers from across the country to meet and learn together about recent food allergy research and hear from some experienced advocates in the field.
Sloane Miller aka Allergic Girl  Photo Credit: Noel Malcolm

One such advocate is Sloane Miller, aka Allergic Girl.  Sloane is a dynamic, articulate speaker and a witty, engaging person who clearly has thrived despite managing multiple food allergies for her entire life.  She is a licensed social worker and food allergy coach as well as the lauded author of Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies.  While the diagnosis of food allergies is often shocking and traumatic, Sloane believes that you can learn to live with food allergies with confidence: "Just because you have a restricted diet doesn't mean you have a restricted life."

Sloane emphasized that with any daunting task, food-allergy related or not, it feels more manageable to follow this course of action: first, identify the issue that you are dealing with; second, break it down into smaller parts; and finally, tackle each part one by one.  To develop food allergy confidence, Sloane breaks down the task into three parts:

1.  UNDERSTAND your food allergy diagnosis:  Having a clear and complete understanding of your food allergies.  This must be done collaboratively with a board certified allergist that you trust.  To get a full understanding of your allergies:
  • PREPARE for your appointment: (1) Prepare a 1-page health history that highlights known allergies, past reactions, testing previously done, and contact information.  (2) Prepare 1 page of questions that you have.  "What do the test numbers mean?" "What about 'may contain' statements?" "What do I NOT need to avoid?"
  • It is key for your food-allergic child to be included on formulating questions and seeking any clarity on issues that are important to him/her.  Know that fears, concerns, and questions will change as kids grow older and face different social situations, including dating, bullying, and college.  This is a great opportunity for kids to begin to self-advocate because, like it or not, they will be navigating the world without our daily presence before we know it.
  • CONSULT with a board-certified allergist:  Make sure you are completely comfortable and confident with your allergist.  You want a professional with whom your child and you can have an open, trusting relationship so that you feel comfortable turning to them.
  • PLAN what will happen in the event of an allergic reaction.  Create a Food Allergy Action Plan with your allergist so that you can recognize symptoms of an allergic reaction and have a clear course of action on how to respond.  Your child and you need to be able to fully understand the food allergy action plan so that you can explain it in plain English to everyone around you.  And of course, always ALWAYS carry your life-saving medication with you because accidents can and do happen at any time.
2.  COMMUNICATE your food allergy diagnosis.
  • Be clear:  Know your allergies.  Sloane suggests to try to summarize your allergies in three sentences.  Example:  "I am allergic to milk, peanuts, and tree nuts.  When I am reacting, I get hives, sneeze and cough, and my throat may swell shut.  I carry my life-saving medication in my waist pack."
  • Be factual: You know your allergies and your reactions better than anyone.  Own your knowledge.  "I get hives if I can touched with cheese or milk.  I throw up if I accidentally have a bite of dairy."  Your facts are not open for dispute. 
  • Be firm:  Be assertive and never apologize for your food allergies.  Your food allergies are real.  They are serious.  Speak in a calm, neutral tone so that people can focus on your message.  Remember you have nothing to prove.  
  • Because Sloane completely understands and accepts her food allergy diagnosis as facts, she has full confidence.  And with that, she can confidently advocate for herself.
3.  FORM POSITIVE AND SUPPORTIVE RELATIONSHIPS around your food allergy diagnosis.  This support system may consist of:
  • Your inner, safe circle of family and friends who "get it":  These are those close to you who truly understand the medical need of your food allergies.  They are flexible and open, non-judgmental and will be there to keep your safe by accommodating or advocating for you.
  • Food allergy allies:  This can be teachers, school nurses, coaches, or even servers or chefs with whom you have formed a connection.  They can provide extra support in making sure your child is safe.
  • Food allergy research and support groups:  Food allergy blogs and organizations such as Kids with Food Allergies and Food Allergy Research & Education (formerly FAAN).  Getting together in-person with a local support group is the best ways of getting support.

Learn more about Sloane's daily adventures by visiting her website.  And consider checking out her much-lauded first book, Allergic Girl:  Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies.  

Thank you again to Mylan Specialty for this opportunity to be in touch with some wonderful speakers and fellow food allergy bloggers!

February 8, 2013

Dai Fat Go--Cakes for a Prosperous New Year

Most of our mothers and grandmothers have literally perfected a few to several dozen specialty Chinese dishes; but most do very little home baking.  This is not to say that they are immune to the wonderful smells wafting out of the doors of the Chinese bakeries on Stockton, Clement, or Irving Streets--the don tats (egg custard tarts), char siu baos (steamed pork buns), and the gai mei baos (cocktail buns).  But let's just say that my mother-in-law's oven is most popularly used to store over-sized pots and pans--not for baking.

It's nice to have a big wok with a lid for steaming.  It will fit a 6 muffin tin.
So it was fun to see how her eyes lit up when she realized she could make a simple cake using equivalent amounts of just four simple ingredients, after a friend gave her the recipe.  The "fat" in the name of the little cakes means prosperity [think: gung hay fat choy], so, they are typically made around Chinese New Year.  This year, the first day of the year of the snake lands on Sunday, February 10.

I rivaled my mother-in-law's excitement with the realization that the recipe is naturally egg and dairy free, two of the main food allergens in our household. My mother-in-law has been making the cakes all week, and the kids have been enjoying fresh muffins for breakfast.  I've found they go especially well with my afternoon cup of coffee.  They are really moist, spongy, and slightly sweet.

What gives these cakes their pretty flower shape is that they are steamed, not baked, so I guess my mother-in-law will be keeping her pots and pans tucked safely away in her oven for the time being.  Steaming muffins was a first for both of us.

Before I give you the recipe, you should know a few things about my seldom-baking mother-in-law. When someone says to add 1 cup of something, she uses a dry measuring cup, not a liquid one.  And when someone says to add brown sugar, packing the sugar is optional.  So even though the original recipe said to add one cup of brown sugar, packed it was equivalent to 3/4 of a cup.  This recipe couldn't be easier.

Logan had a blast helping his grandmother with the cakes.  Way too much fun for a sick day.

Dai Fa Go--Big Prosperous Cake  (No Egg or Dairy)

1 cup flour

1 cup water

1 cup dark brown sugar, unpacked (or about 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed)

1 cup Bisquick

Stir the ingredients together, pour into lined muffin pan, and steam on a plate in a large pan or wok covered for 15 minutes.

Makes 6-8 little cakes

A big prosperous Chinese New Year to all of out Get Allergy Wise families!  Time to go clean the house...

February 2, 2013

Superbowl Party Food - some favorite ideas

Superbowl Sunday is this weekend!

Okay, this is probably not news to the rest of you but Sarah and I are a little behind on things.  We were out of town for a couple days to attend a food allergy blogger summit hosted by Mylan Specialty, the makers of the EpiPen auto-injector.  Plus, the regular weekly schedule of school and afterschool classes continues while Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day have somehow creeped up on us.  And we barely recovered from winter break!

Superbowl is a great excuse to have a snack-filled party.  As an allergy mom, I try to get as natural as I can -- organic fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible or store-bought products with less processing and no preservatives -- so that I can know what's going into our bodies.  It's good practice, food allergies or not.  If you have other party guests with different food allergies, make sure you find out again what their exact allergies are.  (So many of my friends' kids have food allergies, it can be hard to keep track of what.)  Take extra precaution with washing all cookware and utensils and preparing and handling foods.  If possible, have an allergy-friendly table separate from other party foods, or extras that do not ever hit the shared buffet table (less chance of cross contact).  Keep recipes and all ingredient labels handy but be completely straight with your food-allergic guests on potential risks of exposure to other allergens.

The easiest way to cater (no pun intended) your party food to the game is to go for color.  The San Francisco 49ers' colors are scarlet (red) and gold.  And the Baltimore Ravens' colors are purple, black, metallic gold, and white.  Lots of natural food possibilities there, special thanks to the abundance of red and yellow fruits and vegetables and the Ravens having a pretentious four team colors.  (Ha ha, no snark there.)  You can make dishes with these foods or simply use them as garnish.

Red foods:
Berries, tomatoes, red bell peppers, paprika, red tortilla chips, ketchup, salsa

Yellow/Gold foods:
Lemon, banana, pineapple, mango, yellow bell peppers, corn, tortilla chips, mustard

Purple foods:
Blueberries, grapes, purple cabbage, purple kale, purple yams or potatoes

Black foods:
Seaweed, black olives, black grapes, black beans, safe chocolate chips or shavings (I love Trader Joe's semisweet chocolate chips which are milk-free.  They also sell milk-free dark chocolate bars.)

White foods:
Shredded coconut, jicama, rice, safe cheeses (we love dairy-free Daiya Vegan Shreds which are free of the top 8 food allergens)

We have compiled some of our favorite food posts in case you need ideas for where to put that colorful garnish!

Snack stadium, version 1.0

Snack ideas
Last-minute Superbowl snack ideas
Superbowl Snack Stadium
Furikake Chex Mix
Colorful Couscous Salad
Healthful Allergy-Friendly Party Menu
Princess and the Pea Salad

San Francisco fans, dress up your soups with your favorite red and yellow trimmings.  If you are safe with wheat and gluten, serve it hot San Francisco-style, in sourdough bread bowls.  Otherwise, slice your favorite safe bread and serve it on the side.
Corn and Chickpea Chowder

Potato Soup - Ravens fans, try making this soup with purple potatoes and replace the vegetable broth with water and additional safe milk of your choosing.
Corn and Chickpea Chowder
Butternut Squash Soup
Bean and Bacon Soup
Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup

Layered Jell-o - change up the Jell-o colors to represent your favored team!
Chocolate covered confections - San Francisco is well known for chocolatier, Ghirardelli.  While many Ghirardelli offerings are not guaranteed milk-free, you can substitute your favorite allergy-friendly chocolate.  (Mine is Trader Joe's semisweet chocolate chips.)  Not exactly the same as Ghirardelli, but have you ever known a guest to complain about chocolaty anything??
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cupcakes 6 Ways

No matter what you choose to serve, have fun with it!

February 1, 2013

Party Time -- Tips to remember for preventing allergic reactions and anaphylaxis

Bringing the family to a party can be a worry-filled outing when you are managing food allergies.  There will be party foods that your food-allergic loved ones cannot eat.  And even if there are options with safe ingredients, with so many people handling and grazing around the buffet table there is a high chance that cross contact will occur rendering even those safe items that you brought unsafe for your loved ones.

Education your loved ones and yourselves on your food allergies and safe practices is first and foremost key to keeping them safe.  Families and friends dealing with food allergies get better at understanding what their allergies mean and how to avoid risks with more time, practice, and dialogue.  Here are additional party tips to help keep your loved ones reaction-free and, hopefully, lower your anxiety level.  Here's hoping we can all enjoy the big game and catch up with good friends a bit...instead of keeping a constant vigil over the buffet table.

  1. Bring your medication.  Yes, this statement is a no-brainer but let me elaborate.  If you have been prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector, always carry it in its correct form, as a two-pack.  Sarah and I recently attended a food allergy blogger summit in which Ruchi Gupta, leading doctor and advocate on food allergies, shared with us that there is still a misconception that the EpiPen auto-injectors can be separated to cover more area -- to keep one at school and one at home, for example.  Keeping the twin pack together is absolutely necessary.  Sometimes one shot of epinephrine is not enough as Sarah discovered recently and there is always the chance that one auto-injector fails to function properly as with the case in the tragic anaphylaxis death of Tyler Davis.  Know and keep a copy of your food allergy action plan with your life-saving medication so that you and fellow guests know what to do in case of a reaction and how to identify signs of anaphylaxis. 
  2. Bring your own safe foods.  Even if you know the hosts, have talked to them about the menu, have checked food labels and recipes, always have a collection of tried-and-true safe snacks for your food-allergic loved ones.  Bring a variety and bring more than you need. 
  3. Bring safe cups.  At kid-friendly parties, there is often a sea of juice boxes that "decorate" the party venue almost as much as beer bottles at a frat party.  On two occasions at such parties, I have seen kids accidentally taking sips from my kids' juiceboxes.  (Yes, said boxes then went straight to the trash.)  I like to bring reusable lidded cups with straws like these to stand out and to protect against the wrong-drinker.  Besides being cheap and BPA-free, I can easily change out the straws if they get gross, I can write my kids' names on them with a Sharpie and easily wipe/scratch them off when I'm done.  Feel free to pop a sticker on the lids, too, to further distinguish your family's cups. 
  4. Keep those hands clean!  If it hasn't become a family routine yet, make sure that you and your kids wash before and after each time you take a food break.  Carry plenty of wet wipes, too, for those places where a sink isn't accessible.  I am not shy about offering wet wipes to friends' kids also along with a friendly reminder that my kids can develop rashes or worse if they are touched by their food allergens.
  5. Bring a Sharpie.  A Sharpie is also great for writing our names on our disposable plates (assuming we are not at a sit-down, fine china kind of gathering).  You don't know how many friends, living with food allergies or not, have commented on the brilliance of marking our plates to avoid mix-ups.
  6. Tote your loved one's safe foods separately from the food you will share.  Bringing something for a potluck?  Pack your child's portions in their own containers.  That way you can avoid the risk of cross contact from accidentally shared or mixed-up utensils or dropped-foods at a buffet table. 
  7. Always honor the instinct and feelings of your food-allergic loved one.  I was lucky enough to hear food allergy advocate Allergic Girl Sloane Miller speak about living a confident life with food allergies.  She told us about a time when a meal was completely catered to her specific allergies. However, with so much going on, she did not get a chance to personally talk to the servers and food preparers ahead of time to double check about ingredients and food handling.  Sloane felt uneasy about eating the meal and decided not to eat and take it back to her hotel room instead. 
  8. Never eat for someone else.  Even when a host has gone through great lengths to provide allergy-friendly foods for your child, if your child doesn't want to try something unfamiliar to them, be okay with that.  Do not ever force your child to eat to "be polite" or because you are afraid of disappointing your well-meaning host.  Again, this goes with honoring your loved one's gut feelings on how to keep themselves safe. 

Souperbowl Sunday - potato soup free of the top 8 allergens

The 49ers are playing in the Superbowl XLVII which, months ago with
a new starting quarterback, probably seemed like "the impossible".

Superbowl Sunday is almost upon us and for folks here in the San Francisco Bay Area, it's an especially exciting one.  THE 49ERS ARE IN IT TO WIN IT!

Sarah, who is a native San Franciscan, is a huge Niners fan.  And me?  Fair-weather fan here.  My husband is a huge Redskins fan having been raised near the national's capital.  Naturally, our stats-obsessed eldest son is now a huge Redskins lover as well.  But we are getting behind our hometown team, enjoying the scarlet red and gold banners around town, and loving an excuse for co-hosting a fun and allergy-friendly Superbowl party.

Among other snacks, I've decided to make some soup for the big game.  I know, I know.  Soup is not the first thing you think of when you are thinking football.  But San Francisco is famous for its sourdough bread and if you have been visited here before, chances are you have indulged in warm chowder in a bread bowl as you gazed across the Bay in search of the Golden Gate Bridge.  (Again, if you've visited here before, you know that the often fog-filled skies do require you to do some searching!)   

Preparation is fairly simple and there are so many options that are free of the top 8 allergens.  Because of the handy slow cooker, you can prepare this ahead of time and transport it if you are going as a guest to a party and therefore have a hearty and safe option for a meal.  The soup can easily be dressed up to represent the scarlet and red colors of the 49ers or the purple, black, metallic gold, and white colors of the Ravens.  (Four team colors...seriously, Ravens??)


With "scarlet and gold" bell peppers and the sourdough bread bowl,
this soup is all about the 49ers.  Melted Daiya Mozzarella Shreds
helped create the soup-lid bread football.

Slow Cooker Potato Soup - free of the top 8 allergens
Adapted from Taste of Home's Red Potato Soup Recipe
2.5 lbs potatoes, cut into cubes (I used yellow potatoes but peeled Russet would probably be better.)
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
2 ribs of celery, thinly chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 tsp sage
1/4 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt, plus extra salt on hand
3 Tbsp corn starch (I use Argo Brand which is gluten-free) or 1/3 cup safe flour
14 oz can of full fat coconut milk (do not skimp on the fat here)
6 cups broth (I used Trader Joe's low-sodium organic vegetable broth)
white pepper and black pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp minced parsley
1 Tbsp agave nectar 

Serving Suggestions:
  • mini or large bread rounds - if you are wheat-allergic or gluten-intolerant, nix the bread bowls but provide slices of your favorite safe bread 
  • chopped red and yellow roasted bell peppers
  • chopped bacon 
  • chopped sundried tomatoes  
  • Daiya Cheddar Cheese style vegan shreds 
  • tortilla chips -- red and yellow for us 49ers or blue corn (close to purple!) and yellow for Ravens fans
  1. Layer vegetables (with the potatoes at the very bottom) on a crockpot/slow cooker.
  2. Add spices, salt, and cornstarch/flour.
  3. Pour canned coconut milk and vegetable broth over vegetables.  
  4. Cover and cook soup on low setting for 6 hours. 
  5. Uncover soup and add agave and some of the minced parsley.  Blend to a smooth texture.  You can remove the soup from the slow cooker first and blend in a separate container. I use an immersion blender and just try to be careful not to let the blender touch the sides or bottom of the bowl.
  6. Taste soup.  Add more salt, pepper, sweetener, and parsley to taste.  Having used low-sodium vegetable broth, I believe I ended up using 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt in the recipe. 

A couple of notes: my soup came out a darker yellow than I had anticipated due to the dark, rich organic vegetable broth that Trader Joe's sells.  I love their flavorful broth.  If you want a lighter color, I would reduce the amount of vegetable broth and substitute some plain water or your favorite unsweetened safe milk instead.  Using Russet potatoes might help to tone down the color.

I have to mention that my kids were protesting about having soup for dinner.  Groans and ewww's abound.  I guess the words, "potato soup" aren't what gets little boys running to the kitchen table with excitement.  However, once I took out the knife and starting carving openings into the bread, they were completely enthralled.  "What are you doing, mommy?  What's that?!?"  I told them that the soup would be served in a bread bowl, a bowl that they could eat, too.  Both of my boys did a complete 180 on the soup and happily greeted dinner.  I did have to cut their mini-bowl in half because there was no way the kids could drink and eat that much soup and bread.  They still absolutely loved their half-bowls with my eldest Ryken declaring, "Mmmm, the soup is actually pretty good."  

Now if I could only serve all their meals in an edible container...