Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Allergen Free Brownies

When my son was first diagnosed with peanut, tree nut, seed, citrus, and apple allergies he thought it was the end of his world. He started listing off all the things he could not eat anymore with the drama of a starving actor. I pulled into our local grocery store and took him in for a tour. We started in the produce department. I told him "look around. Other than that one section over there with the apples and oranges, and the one little shelf with bagged nuts, you can eat everything here. You might not like everything here, but you could eat these things if you wanted to". His eyes got big looking around at the mass selection. Next we headed to the bakery where we found that the store's bread was labeled "made in a shared area with tree nuts and seeds". His shoulders slumped. "It's OK" I told him. "We will keep reading labels until we find a bread that is safe for you and if we can't find a store bought bread, then I have a bread machine sitting in the basement. I can pull it out and make you bread". He got this funny look on his face and asked "really? You don't have to buy bread in the store, you can make your own?"
By the time we had left the grocery store on that day, the only thing out of the whole store left on his "can't have" list that he was still up-set about was a boxed brownie mix. I told him "that's OK too. I can make you brownies, um, I think?"
 I was starting to feel like I had failed this child somewhere, and maybe my whole family. He didn't know you didn't have to buy everything pre-made in a store. We have become a culture of convenience that we rarely stop to think where our food comes from and how it was made. At that point I made it a priority to reduce the number of pre-made food items coming into our home. Mostly so I would know for sure that the foods in our home were allergen safe for my son to eat, and partly because after reading all those labels and not knowing what more than half the stuff in our food was, I realized we needed to be eating better ingredients. I was dreading the extra cost I imagined this change was going to have. Sure it was the right thing to do for my family, but what other things were we going to have to give up to eat better? What we found is that we actually started SAVING $$ on our grocery bill!
This change over to less pre-packaged foods didn't happen over night, and there are still several things we buy pre-made like cereal, and corn chips for instance. Let's face it, there are only so many hours in a day and I am not spending all of them cooking and then cleaning up the mess. I will however spend some of my time reading labels when shopping and making better choices.
I read an article once that suggested if a pre-packaged food had more than five ingredients and if it contained anything that you didn't recognize as a "real" food item- don't buy it. In therory, this makes for good practice, however, in the food labeling world somethings that are listed looking like an alien food substance are really just the labeling term for something simple. For instance, Sucrose is basicaly table sugar. Something we are all familiar with, just given a funky name on a label...not saying it's good for you, just made a good example. Learning how to read labels and knowing what the "funky terms" are has helped tremendously in terms of dealing with our food allergies. There were several things we were eating thinking they were safe for us because the product label didn't list an allergen outright. Recently, we added Gluten to our "can't have" list. Knowing that Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein is sometimes from a wheat source helps us to avoid a "hidden danger".
I challenge you to go to your pantry or refrigerator and pull out 5 random things. Read the labels. Anything there you don't recognize? Look it up- is it a funky term for something simple or did it make you think "oh my gosh! I feed this to my kids?"

Here is our favorite, and most asked for recipe from family and friends. They are so easy and awesome that I question why we ever bought boxed dessert mixes before.

Brownie recipe:  Pre-heat oven to 350F, lightly grease 8x8x2 pan. (9x9 works too)
1/2 cup butter (margarine, or other oil substitute)
2 squares (2 ounces) UN-sweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar (or equivalent sub like agave, or honey in reduced amounts)
2 eggs (or equivalent sub)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup flour ( or gluten free all purpose flour mix + 1 tsp xanthan gum)

In a medium sauce pan melt butter and chocolate over low heat.
Remove from heat. Stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat lightly by hand just until combined. Stir in flour.  
Spread batter into baking pan and bake about 30 mins. (if you use substitute ingredients, baking time might be more or less-)
Cool on a wire rack before eating (if you can wait that long)

Monday, February 21, 2011


I am a wife, and SAHM of three boys. Our family has multiple food allergies and intolerances between us, and our youngest child has cerebral palsy. We have a great sense of humor and faith in God.
Over the last several years, many people have asked me the question "how do you do it"? Sometimes the people who ask me this question are reffering to different issues that I deal with in regards to my children, sometimes they are looking at something I made....lol, and sometimes it's my cleaning methods.
 I love sharing information I have found- Things I have tried that worked, and even some things that didn't turn out so well. I hope this Blog can be a reference and conversation place for family, friends, and anyone else out there who may be looking for ideas, answers, or just an afirmation that they are not alone.