Dirk Van Susteren Photo
Sidestep food allergies by serving Double-Energy Crunch Bars, which contain no wheat, butter, eggs, tree nuts or milk.
It’s back-to-school time. At your local school, it’s likely that peanut-free zones have been designated, lunch menus have been designed to accommodate lactose- and gluten-intolerant students, and the annual memo on acceptable snacks has been distributed.
Even if your own children are blissfully free of food allergies or sensitivities, there is a good chance some of their friends and classmates are not. This means that providing a class or team snack, an afternoon refreshment or party goodies can be a project fraught with peril. Those lethally delicious peanut-butter brownies you make could, in fact, be lethal to an allergic child. You have to think it through.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the eight most common food allergens are dairy products, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds, walnuts and cashews), soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Unless you are in the habit of serving oysters Rockefeller or tuna tartare as an afterschool nosh, you have to worry about only the first six.
Want to make your favorite oatmeal cookies? Better do it without butter, eggs or wheat flour. Pizza is a winner, but you need to make the crust gluten-free and find a topping that doesn’t include cow’s milk or soy cheese. Your favorite granola recipe is likely to include offending tree nuts.
“The Ultimate Allergy-Free Snack Cookbook” (Square One Publishers, 2012) can help you navigate the confusing world of food sensitivities and allergies. Authors Judi and Shari Zucker offer 100 recipes for satisfying snacks that are not only free of the offending allergens but also are low in refined sugars and saturated fats and high in fiber, protein and taste. With this book, you’ll get to know your way around gluten-free flours (rice, oat, teff), alternative sweeteners (brown rice syrup, agave, honey) and healthy oils (grapeseed, safflower, sunflower).
My eyes (and taste buds) were immediately drawn to the Double-Energy Crunch Bars below. Blueberry muffins may seem like no big deal, but the Zuckers have met with panache the challenge of baking them without gluten, eggs or dairy!
Double-energy crunch bars
Yield: about 35 squares
Grapeseed, safflower or sunflower oil, for pan
1 cup dry roasted sunflower seeds
½ cup toasted sesame seeds
½ cup raisins, dried cranberries or dried cherries
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut (see note)
¾ cup brown rice syrup
¾ cup toasted sunflower seed butter
¼ cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups crisped brown rice cereal
Lightly oil a 16-by-11-inch pan. (An 11-by-14 or 9-by-13-inch pan will work, although the bars will be thicker and there will be fewer of them.)
Place sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, raisins (or other dried fruit) and coconut in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
In a large pot, heat brown rice syrup over medium heat just until warm. Add sunflower seed butter and agave nectar. Continue to heat while gently stirring, just until the mixture is heated through and creamy. Remove from the heat. Stir in vanilla. Add seed mixture and rice cereal; stir well until all ingredients are well-coated.
Using a spatula, spread mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan. Lightly oil your hands and pat mixture down evenly and firmly. Refrigerate several hours, or cover and freeze.
With a sharp knife, cut into squares. Layer squares in an airtight container, separating each layer with a sheet of waxed paper. Refrigerate up to one week or freeze up to two months. Serve chilled.
Note: Although coconuts come from trees, they are not tree nuts; they are seeds. The Zuckers say coconut allergies are very rare, even among people who are allergic to tree nuts.
Recipe from “The Ultimate Allergy-Free Snack Cookbook,” by Judi and Shari Zucker (Square One Publishers, 2012)
Classic blueberry muffins
Yield: 10 muffins
2 cups brown rice flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup honey
½ cup rice milk
½ cup applesauce
¼ cup grapeseed, safflower or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 10 cups in a standard muffin tin or fill them with paper liners. Half fill the remaining two cups with water to avoid burning the tin during baking.
Combine rice flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add berries and stir until well-distributed. Blend the honey, rice milk, applesauce, oil and vanilla in a large bowl. Add flour mixture to the honey mixture and stir to form a thick batter.
Spoon about 2 heaping tablespoons of batter into the 10 prepared muffin cups. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool at least 10 minutes before removing from the tin.
Recipe from “The Ultimate Allergy-Free Snack Cookbook” by Judi and Shari Zucker (Square One Publishers, 2012)
Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.MORE IN Food & DiningWhen it comes to packing a picnic basket, sandwiches are almost always the stars of the menu. Full Story
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