Thursday, December 11, 2008

Traditions of Christmas

One of our family traditions is to bake and bake and bake and make candy and bake, and then give all of these yummy goodies to our friends and neighbors in the week or two before Christmas. Some of the things we bake invariably get consumed at home (unfortunately too many by me!) and some are taken to holiday parties and so on. With all of the baking going on, I started thinking, wouldn't it be great if there was an allergy-safe icebox cookie dough recipe? Icebox cookies are those cookie doughs that you make one dough and then use it in different ways to make different kinds of cookies out of it.

So here goes...

Allergy Safe Icebox Cookie Dough
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 shortening (I used Spectrum Organic All Vegetable Shortening, made from palm oil)
2 cups oat flour
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
up to 3 tbsp. rice milk

Using a mixer, mix the shortening and sugar, adding vanilla partway through. When these are thoroughly mixed, add the oat flour, baking soda, and salt and mix well. The mixture will be relatively crumbly at this point. Preferably with the mixer running, add the rice milk a little at a time, mixing for at least 15 seconds between additions (other wise you won't be able to tell when you've got the right amount of rice milk in the dough). When the dough forms a ball, it is ready to roll out for baking. If you are going to be refrigerating your dough before using it, you may want to add a little more rice milk since food often loses moisture in the refrigerator.

At this point, there are several directions you can go.

Cookie Cutouts
Roll out the dough, half a recipe at a time, on a floured, non-stick surface. Cut it with cookie cutters. You can add sprinkles before baking, or you can bake and cool the cookies and decorate with frosting and sprinkles. Bake at 375 for 7-8 minutes. (Cookies baked a little longer will be more crispy, and those baked for less time will be more chewy.) For great frosting recipes, check out my book, Sophie Safe Cooking (

Pinwheel Cookies
Working with half a recipe at a time, roll Icebox Cookie Dough out to form a square, probably about 6 to 8 inches across. The dough should be between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Spread a filling over the dough, staying about 1/2 inch from one edge. Roll up the cookie dough and filling, starting with the side opposite the edge with no filling.

If the cookie dough is hard to roll up, there are a couple of things you can try. First, roll on a floured surface. If you don't have to work to get the dough off of your rolling surface, that will simplify things a lot. Second, place a sheet of waxed paper or something else that's flexible (such as a Silpat) on your rolling surface. You can still flour it, and then you can also use the waxed paper to help you roll up the cookie dough. Lift and push the waxed paper, separating the cookie dough from the paper and rolling as you go. The other thing to consider is that if the dough is too dry, it will crack as you roll it (that's what happened the first time I tried it!). If this is the case, make a note that you need more rice milk next time, and add extra milk to the dough that you still have in reserve.

After you have rolled up you cookies, refrigerate the dough until it is firm enough to handle with ease (1-2 hours). If you refrigerate the dough overnight, or if it seems too hard after refrigerating, allow it to sit at room temperature for a little while before you slice and bake it. Using a very sharp knife, slice the dough into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices. Place them on a cookie sheet, 2 inches apart, and bake at 350 for 8 minutes.

Pinwheel Cookie Fillings
There are lots of different fillings you can try, and I'm sure you'll come up with your own ideas, too. Here are a couple that I think are great!
Chocolate: melt about 1/4 cup chocolate chips. Allow them to cool slightly, and then spread them on the rolled dough. After refrigerating, slice and bake as directed. If you like your cookies hot, beware of both the temperature and messiness of the chocolate filling!
Cinnamon Sugar: shake cinnamon sugar all over rolled cookie dough, refrigerate, slice and bake as directed.
Cranberry: Mix 1/2 cup finely chopped cranberries, 3 tbsp. sugar, and 2 tsp. orange zest and spread over the rolled dough. Refrigerate, slice, and bake as directed.

Chocolate Cookie Cutouts:
When mixing up your dough, you can make chocolate cookies if you like. Instead of using 2 cups of oat flour, use 1 3/4 cups oat flour and 1/4 cup cocoa powder. You can still use all of the same variations. Delicious!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Giving Thanks

I suppose Thanksgiving has put me in a thoughtful mood, or perhaps it's the fact that I'm trying to figure out what to buy for my already terribly spoiled children, but I've been pondering gratitude. I have much to be grateful for in my life. Many of the things I'm grateful for would be on other people's lists as well--but I have a few extras.

1. I am thankful that I can run. And walk. And see. And play with my kids. You see, a little more than 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was putting pressure on my optic nerve, causing loss of peripheral vision. Because of the placement, I had a craniotomy. Because my neurosurgeon couldn't remove the tumor without risking damage to my optic nerve and other surrounding things, I had 5 weeks of radiation about 2 months after the surgery. And now, 5 years later, I can still see, walk, play with my kids, and I run on a regular basis, which is something I had never done.

2. I am thankful for Sophie's food allergies. The things that are hardest for us are often also the things that make us grow the most. Because of Sophie's food allergies, I have developed skills that I never would have otherwise--such as creating recipes. I have also accomplished things I never would have thought of before--such as publishing Sophie Safe Cooking.

I am also grateful for the usual suspects: my family, my home, God, my husband's job, etc. But I find that I am the most grateful for the things that have been the hardest.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


With Halloween behind us (and I hope it was enjoyable and safe for everyone!) it is now November and time to start thinking about Thanksgiving! Yes, Thanksgiving is all the way at the end of the month, but it may take a little time to put together a Thanksgiving meal that is allergy-friendly but maintains many of the traditional elements associated with Thanksgiving dinner. With that in mind, I am working on pie crust recipes. I have one that I have tried a few times, and I would be happy to get a little input from others. So, for your eating pleasure, here is the rough draft of my pie crust:

Pie Crust
1/4 C shortening or margarine
1/2 C sugar
2 C oat flour
1/4 C rice milk

Use a pastry blender to blend the shortening and sugar until it looks like crumbs. Add oat flour and mix well. Finally add rice milk and mix until the dough sticks together in a ball. The consistency of the dough should be similar to sugar cookie dough.

Place the ball of dough on a surface dusted with oat flour. Roll it into a circle approximately 12 inches in diameter. Gently lift the crust into the pie pan. Trim edges. If you need to precook your pie crust, bake it for 12 to 15 minutes in a 350 oven.

I made this recipe this evening and I filled it with cherries mixed with sugar and cornstarch (6 cups cherries, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch). Since the filling was rather wet, but the pie needed to cook with the filling in it, I only pre-cooked the crust for about 7 minutes. Immediately after removing the crust from the oven, I filled it with the cherry mixture and popped it back in for about an hour, until the filling was bubbly in the center. It turned out pretty well.

The other little tip that might be helpful is that when you roll your dough out, it is easiest if you roll it onto a flexible, movable surface, such as a Silpat or some plastic wrap. That way, when you've got it the size you want, you can more easily move the dough into the pie plate. Another option is to roll it on a hard surface (dusted with oat flour, of course) and when you're all done, place a piece of plastic wrap over the dough. Then pick up the edge of the dough (and plastic wrap) and roll it onto your rolling pin so that the plastic wrap is toward the rolling pin. Then you can simply unroll your dough onto the pie plate.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Candy without labels??

Halloween. The beginning of the holiday season. And the beginning of the allergy worries about the holidays. I love the holidays, and I really want Sophie to love them, too. I don't want her to miss any of the fun, the magic, the tastes, the experiences. So I have come up with a few things that help us to make Halloween work for her.

School parties: I always attend Sophie's school party. I always bring something to share with the class, and I often sign up to help plan as many of the school parties as possible. This can be a lot of extra work, but it also makes the food aspect of the party so much more comfortable for us.

Parties with friends: If Sophie is invited to another Halloween party (or birthday party, for that matter), I simply ask what will be served in terms of food and bring a suitable substitute for her. Many other parents now ask me to just tell them the right brand of hot dogs, the right kind of ice cream, etc. so that they can provide Sophie with what she needs. We have been very blessed to have such supportive friends! I always make sure to have some extra candy or other treats at home so that if goody bags contain things we're not sure about, she can trade for something we know is safe.

Trick or Treating: Isn't this such a nightmare? The traditional after trick-or-treating candy sort takes on new importance with food allergies in the house! I try not to make Sophie's candy sort too different from the other kids. Either Jeff or I sit with all of them as they go through their candy. For the most part, she knows what she can and can't have, and her sisters often trade for some of her forbidden items. I also have a reserve of Sophie-Safe treats to trade as well. The sad part comes when there's something that we're not sure about and she wants to eat it. I think all candy manufacturers should put their labels online, so that we can sit there Halloween night and Google all the candy that isn't familiar to us. Who ever thought about the ingredient labels before life with allergies?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Success at the Happiest Place on Earth

Well, for us it really was the happiest place, because the staff was fabulous about handling food allergies. All of Sophie's allergies are within the "top 8," and I think that made it easier on the staff. They were amazing. One place we ate at was a buffet and I asked about some buffet items. They told me what would work for her and then brought her plate out already made up so that I wouldn't need to worry about whether there was any cross-contamination with the serving utensils! The Chef came out to talk to me right away at every restaurant except one; at that one it was the manager instead. I am very impressed, to say the least.

As a side note, I had an interesting allergy experience at Disneyland. One of my other children ended up in the First Aid center because of a migraine headache, and I stayed with her while she was resting. While we were there, another mom and daughter came in. The little girl was having stomach problems--cramping, etc. She was able to get comfortable and fall asleep for a few minutes at one point, during which her mother and I started talking. It turned out that the little girl had food allergies. A little while later, the girl went to the bathroom. It was clear that her stomach problems were becoming more intense. When she finally came out, probably 15 or 20 minutes later, she was also sneezing repeatedly. This was a new symptom and struck me as being a little odd, until I thought of Sophie's recent peanut challenge.

During her peanut challenge a few months ago, Sophie ingested some peanut butter without problems, but eventually threw up and then sneezed repeatedly for several minutes. This was followed by more vomiting. At the time, I was very worried because whenever 2 body systems are reacting, you have to consider the possibility of anaphylaxis.

Well, the little girl's mom was worried about getting her daughter back to the hotel because she wasn't improving and needed better rest, and didn't really notice that her daughter had started sneezing. I mentioned that she might want to give her a Benadryl and have the RN take her blood pressure, just to check, and within a few minutes she ended up being rushed off with the paramedics to the emergency room. As far as I could see, she was not in any terrible danger at that time, but there were 2 body systems reacting--and you just never know where that's going to go.

Hopefully everything went well from that point--I haven't heard anything further. As I've considered the evening, it has struck me how interesting it is that I happened to be there with another allergy mom. If nothing else, we were able to give each other a little support in an unfamiliar environment. Right place, right time!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Is this crazy? We're taking our family to Disneyland. So in addition to long lines, crowds, trying to keep track of a wandering 3 year old, not to mention the possible nightmare of airplane travel with children, we are braving a vacation with food allergies. What does Disneyland have to offer a child who's allergic to eggs, wheat, peanuts and tree nuts? I've made a few phone calls, even received a phone call back from one of the head chefs, so now it's trial by fire so to speak. Our first Disneyland food experience will be bright and early our first day there, at the PCH Grill (the Lilo and Stitch breakfast).

It's too late to be nervous, so wish us luck!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lunchbox Lunches

One of the things that caused me stress when thinking about sending Sophie off to school was what to send in her lunch. At home, she usually eats leftovers from dinner the night before, or we cook something fast for her lunch. I knew that sandwiches would be okay sometimes, but rice bread is too expensive for her to take every day. Plus, I wanted her to be able to pack her own lunch. As it turns out, she takes muffins for her lunch most days. They don't have to be refrigerated and I can actually make a batch and freeze it, so I'm not baking constantly. If she puts 1 or 2 frozen muffins in her lunchbox the night before, they are thawed by lunchtime.

Do you need extra muffin recipes? In addition to using the muffin recipes from my cookbook, I also make the quick bread recipes into muffins--mix up the batter and pour it into greased or lined muffin cups. A recipe for 1 loaf of bread makes between 12 and 18 muffins, depending on the size of your muffin cups and how full you fill them. Then bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. When they are done, the tops should be starting to brown and a toothpick or knife inserted into a muffin should come out clean. I like to allow the muffins to cool for about 5 minutes in the muffin pan and then slide a knife down the side to lift the muffins out one by one. If you're storing them, especially freezing them, you'll want to let them cool completely before putting them in a ziploc bag. If you're not storing them, they taste best warm from the oven, in my opinion!

There is one drawback--Sophie's older sisters now take muffins in their lunches, too, and we are going through more muffins than you can imagine!

Some of the other things Sophie has taken in her lunchbox are: celery sticks or apple slices with Sunbutter ( and sold at Target in our area!), chips with bean dip or chicken salad, and of course sandwiches Sophie Safe Style--rice bread with SoyNutButter or Sunbutter and jelly.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm so proud!

This is Sophie's first year eating lunch at school, as well as her first year having a snack everyday at school. This created all sorts of nervousness for me before school started, but I shouldn't have worried. Yesterday Sophie told me that a few weeks ago, her teacher accidentally gave her Goldfish at snack time.
Feeling incredulous, I asked, "What did you do?"
She said, "I said 'I can't eat those,' and she cleaned off my desk." She said it as matter-of-fact as if she was telling me her spelling words.
Knowing that food plays a central and volatile role in Sophie's life, I am so proud that she is so relaxed about it!

Monday, September 22, 2008


One of the byproducts of being the mother of a food allergic child is that people send me all kinds of interesting articles, information about new research, etc. My sister-in-law Mandy sent me a link to an article about the woman who writes this blog: and in reading her blog, I found out about some new things happening with food labeling practices in the United States.

Apparently, there was recently an open FDA hearing about "may contain" statements. The AFAA is trying to find out how people are using "may contain" statements and advise the FDA appropriately. If you would like to add your voice, please participate in this short survey about food labels:

It only took me a few minutes, and in addition to enabling me to be heard, I also took the opportunity to examine how I am using those elusive "may contain" statements, and what I really think they mean. Thank goodness for byproducts!