My posts have been sparse recently, to say the least. Not only is this because I had a scrumptious little baby boy back in May, and mom life is BUSY!!! But also because I have some new dietary restrictions thanks to my son’s food allergies. Since I searched for women with similar stories, I decided to share mine, in hopes that it might help someone else going though the same thing. Don’t worry, this isn’t turning into a “mom blog”, but because my recipes will change for now, I felt I needed to let you know why. This blog is all about the food, and will continue to be!!
Back when Carson was around 2 months old, we thought maybe he was either colic or had some gas problems. Since he’s always been exclusively breastfed, his pediatrician mentioned briefly about some babies having an intolerance to dairy or other foods. Little did I know that what I was eating could have been causing this! But since his symptoms were the same as colic at this point, we didn’t really think that was it. He would get super fussy (especially at night) and would arch his back like he was in pain. This lasted off and on for a few weeks. Then when he was about 3 months old, it seemed like he had a little stomach virus (I’ll spare you the gross details). His pediatrician assumed it would go away on it’s own. After another week or so when nothing had improved, we went back in. His doctor suggested I give up all dairy and see if that helps. Since dairy takes several weeks to get out of your system, this would be a slow process – but we saw an improvement within a week! It’s in so many things you would not have guessed though (i.e. McDonald’s french fries & lunchmeat, for example). It’s also listed under several ingredient names, not always just “milk” or “dairy” (you can see a full list at godairyfree.com). So I did some research and after a few accidental slip-ups, I successfully cut all dairy from my diet. As a baker, this was definitely a little sad. What would I do without butter and milk in my baked goods? But after a few weeks, we saw a major change in Carson’s demeanor and almost no more virus-like symptoms. Because he was so much happier, it was well worth it. When we brought him back in to get tested, he was still not 100% better. Then came the rest of the list. In addition to dairy, I needed to cut soy, eggs, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, fish and shellfish. All of the 8 most common allergens. Um, what?
At first, I was really focused on what I can’t eat. No pizza, no ice cream, no turkey sandwiches, and the list goes on and on. Now I’m focusing on what I can eat. Although a lot of the foods I used to eat are off-limits, there is still so much that I can eat. Cooking at home is really pretty easy, it’s eating out that’s a challenge. I can eat any whole fruits and veggies, and most meats. There’s wheat-free grains like quinoa, quinoa pasta & rice. Even some potato chips and popcorn. Since I refuse to live without dessert, I’ve been trying to figure out how to bake with the things that I can eat. I figure there are other people that would want allergen-free baked goodies too! Whether it’s for the same reason as me, or one of the many other reasons, I hope to find some delicious treats that everyone will love (even if you don’t have any restrictions).
Since I cut all 8 allergens about 4 weeks ago (dairy for 8 weeks now), I’ve seen even more of an improvement with Carson. Luckily he’s still been gaining plenty of weight (still up in the 90th percentile) and is a healthy, growing, handsome baby boy! We also saw the Pediatric GI specialist to make sure nothing else is going on with his little belly. Starting this week, he wants me to add back in some of the allergens, one at a time over a few weeks, to see if he has a reaction. Fingers crossed! So be on the lookout for some great baking alternatives for awhile. They will vary between different categories and be labeled as such (some gluten-free, egg-free, vegan, nut-free, etc.). I for sure can’t have dairy and soy, we know those two are a triggers for sure. But sometimes I do bake for other people, so it will be a mix. One thing’s for sure, I’m just trying to create baked goods and treats that taste amazing. Luckily sugar isn’t an allergen! 😉
I welcome any comments, suggestions or tips from anyone that’s gone through a similar situation or ventured into vegan/ soy-free/ nut-free/ gluten-free baking. So far, I’ve noticed a ton of coconut products that seem like a great alternative to dairy. Everything from ‘ice cream’ to ‘butter’. I’ll be sure to post any products/ ingredients that I find myself using a lot too!
I have been looking at a ton of gluten-free/ vegan recipes to try and figure out this new way of baking. For me, baking without flour, butter and eggs is completely foreign territory. The main allergens (for baked goods anyways) that I need to look out for is wheat; so anything ‘gluten-free’ works. Then of course dairy; so no butter or cow’s milk. Next is eggs, the binder of most baked goods. So anything ‘vegan’ lets me know it’s free of both dairy & eggs. After that, the most common allergen that seems to sneak into everything is soy. Did you know that even more common than dairy, soy is in almost all chocolate and chocolate chips? So annoying! (Also a large percentage of babies that have a dairy protein allergy, also have a soy allergy). So they really go hand in hand. On the list next is tree nuts and peanuts. Nuts used to be a daily staple for me. Also a lot of vegan recipes use nuts (like cashews) to make the base for a certain consistency in some dishes (like vegan ‘cheesecake’). And then the other two allergens, you don’t really need to worry about for baked goods – shellfish & fish.
I wanted to start out with something simple to ease into this type of baking. It’s quite hard to find store-bought baked goods that are vegan AND gluten free AND soy free AND nut free. Usually they’re just one or two of these. And what I have found, they’re not so good. I figured the best chance I have it is to make it myself… and I was right. The main difference between these and traditional blondies is mostly the slightly drier texture and the lack of ‘butter’ flavor. But they were still a little crisp on the edges, and then chewy and soft in the middle, just like traditional blondies. And then of course with tons of chocolate chunks!! Even my husband loved them… and he isn’t typically into any ‘substitutes’ to traditional treats.
Random Food Tidbits/Suggestions:
-Halloween candy was taunting me all last week, so Starbursts and Skittles were my go-to. Also, Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Watermelons have become favorites.
–True Food Kitchen is another good one for a night out. We went there for our anniversary and they were so accommodating! I was able to get the Autumn Harvest Salad, since its gluten-free and vegan, and then I just added grilled chicken. Soooooo good!
–Arrowhead Mills Gluten-free Baking Mix (it was the only gluten-free flour blend that I found not made in a factory that also manufactured dairy and/or wheat).
–Earth Balance (only the soy-free items).
–These Enjoy Life chocolates are seriously my lifesaver; dairy-free AND soy-free!
–So Delicious (the Coconut items).
-Since so many salad dressings contain soy and/or dairy, Alpine Avocado Vinaigrette has become my absolute favorite!
-The best substitute I’ve found for peanut butter is SunButter.
- 2⅓ cups Gluten-free flour**
- 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
- ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
- ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- ¾ cup Brown Sugar, packed
- ½ cup Granulated Sugar
- ½ cup Coconut Oil, softened
- ¼ cup Unsweetened Coconut milk, room temperature
- 2 Tablespoons Pure Maple Syrup, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
- 1½ cups Dairy-free/ Soy-free chocolate chips or chunks***
- Coarse Salt
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare an 8" x 8" baking dish with either nonstick cooking spray or melted coconut oil to prevent sticking. It also helps to line it with parchment paper, letting the sides hang over. Set dish aside.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the GF flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or large mixing bowl) cream together both sugars with the softened coconut oil (not melted) for about 2 minutes on medium speed. Add the milk, maple syrup and vanilla, mixing to combine.
- Add dry mixture into the wet, mixing carefully until just combined. Fold in about 1 cup of the chocolate chips/ chunks.
- Transfer batter to the prepared baking dish, making sure to spread the batter to all sides of the dish & smooth out the top. Sprinkle the rest of the chocolate chips/ chunks on the top, pressing them lightly into the batter. Top with a sprinkle of coarse salt, to taste.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top is set (the edges will turn lightly golden). Cool completely in the dish on a cooling rack, about 1-2 hours before cutting.