Chocolate Cake + Sunbutter Icing =

Last week was my dad’s birthday and Father’s Day, and at the center of my family’s celebrations was a chocolate and sunflower butter layer cake.  My dad was really excited about it – before my peanut allergy was diagnosed my dad loved peanut butter, and since we’ve now eliminated all peanut products from our house, he has converted to sunflower butter.  Try doing a search for chocolate and sunflower butter layer cakes (the kind of cake he requested for his special week) and you won’t yield nearly as many results as you would have by searching for peanut butter instead.  Something I have learned about cooking and baking with food allergies, though, is that there are simple ways to make recipes more allergy friendly.

The recipe my mom and I chose to use for my dad’s cake was for a chocolate and espresso cake with peanut butter icing.  Upon reading through the ingredients for the recipe, we realized that only the icing called for peanut butter and the cake was entirely peanut free.  So we stuck with the cake recipe (which was from Damaris Phillips) and searched for a different icing recipe, ultimately settling on a recipe developed by the Sunbutter brand.  To top off the layer cake, we sprinkled bits of chopped Suncups around the circumference of the cake instead of the chopped peanuts the original recipe had suggested.  The result was a photogenic, delicious, and safe cake for our celebrations!  So next time you find a recipe that looks great but contains your allergen, simply find other ways to make substitutions or even patch two or three recipes together.



Everything was Red

I recently came across a red velvet cake recipe that was easy and delicious (and photogenic), so I thought I would share it.  I also thought I’d share the cocoa powder I used in the recipe.  It can be tricky to find cocoa powder from a nut free facility, however, I discovered a brand called Guittard Chocolate Company, and have since sworn by their chocolate chips and cocoa powder.  I used the “Cocoa Rouge” unsweetened cocoa powder in the red velvet cake.  The chocolate is not only delicious, but it also comes in gorgeous packaging.  Apparently they also make chocolate bars, but I haven’t tried them (yet).  I’ve come across some of their products at stores like Whole Foods and World Market, and their products can also be ordered online.

Pan De Muerto ☠

Pan De Muerto ☠

On November 2, which is the Latin American holiday El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead), my family tried a new recipe,”Pan de Muerto”  (Bread of the Dead).  El Dia de los Muertos is time to celebrate one’s loved ones who have passed away.  People offer presents to their ancestors including food, as well as toys for children who have passed.  It is not a sad holiday, but instead is a happy time of remembrance.  In Mexican bakeries during this time of year,  it is common to find Pan de Muerto, a round, sweet yeast bread decorated with pieces that resemble bones and dusted with sugar.  It tastes delicious with hot tea or Mexican hot chocolate.

The recipe is free of peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and soy.

Here is what ours looked like:

pan de muerto

Find the recipe that we used by visiting the blog “Mexico in my Kitchen”


A Yummy Fall Recipe: Butterscotch Scones

In past few years, I have come across a few companies that offer baking chips that we food allergic people can actually use.  Companies like Vermont Nut Free Chocolates (tree nut and peanut free) and Guittard Chocolate Company (peanut and gluten free) make butterscotch, dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, white chocolate, among other flavors of chips.  They can be used to make chocolate chip cookies, but here is another recipe in case you’re looking for some variety.
 Butterscotch Scones – yields 12 scones

This recipe is adapted from the Susie Peck’s ‘Pewter Rose Butterscotch Scones’ recipe as told to reporter Jennifer Lover.  
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

1/3 to 1/2 cup whole milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen

3/4 cups butterscotch chips

PREHEAT oven to 375 degrees.  COMBINE flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.  BEAT egg lightly in a measuring cup with ounce markings and add milk to 6 ounces.  GRATE butter using a coarse grater into the flour mixture and toss with a fork until combined.  Add beaten egg and milk, reserving 1 tablespoon of the liquid.  STIR gently to combine.  Add butterscotch chips and stir carefully working the dough as little as possible.  TURN dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and fold it a few times (about 6, the heat of your hands can melt the butter).  Using a floured rolling pin, roll dough to about 1 inch thick.  Cut into 2-inch triangles.  TRANSFER scones to an ungreased cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and brush tops with reserved milk mixture.  BAKE until lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes.  Serve warm.

π or Pie?

π or Pie?

Happy Pi Day!  Today has the pi-est moment of the century. March fourteenth, 2015 at 9:26 is the closest we will get to 3.1415926… in a long time.  To celebrate, I made this Mushroom and Leek Pie.  It is amazing for people who like mushrooms and want something delicious for Springtime.

“Mushroom & Leek Pie”

Of the top eight food allergens, this recipe is free of peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish.

pre-baked 9′ pie shell

3 leeks washed and chopped

12 oz mushroom sliced (Shiitake, Baby Bella, whichever you prefer)

4 tbs butter

5 eggs

4 tbs half and half or heavy cream

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

Preheat the oven to 360º. Sprinkle half of the cheese on the unbaked pie shell.  Sauté the leeks and two tablespoons of the butter until tender, then remove from pan.  Sauté the mushrooms in the same pan with 2 more tablespoons of butter until tender and the liquid has evaporated. Add salt, pepper, and leeks to the mushrooms and stir until combined well.  Pour the mixture into the pie shell.  Top it with the other half of the cheddar cheese.  In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and the cream.  Pour over top of mushroom leek mixture into the pie shell.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.

(Adapted from a recipe I recently clipped from a Taste of Home magazine.)

Happy Mardi Gras!!

Happy Mardi Gras!!

Yesterday was Epiphany, meaning it is now the season for King Cakes.  Mardi Gras this year is on February 17, so you’ve got a little more than a month to celebrate.  Can’t go to New Orleans? Fear not.  Try this recipe for King Cake, which was adapted from Bunkycooks.

Celebrate Mardi Gras with this delicious (and nut free) king cake!
Celebrate Mardi Gras with this delicious (and nut free) king cake!

“Mardi Gras King Cake” makes two cakes

Of the top eight food allergens, this recipe is free of peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish.


1 cup milk

1/4 cup butter

2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast

2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/ 45 degrees C)

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


1 cup packaged brown sugar

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup melted butter

1/2 cup raisins (optional)


1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla

*** The tradition with King Cakes is to hide a plastic baby in the cake.  Whoever gets the baby is in charge of making the cake for the next year.  (Oh, and be careful when you eat the cake so as not to break a tooth…)

Hide a baby in your Mardi Gras King Cake, and whoever gets the baby has the honor (or chore) of making the cake next year.  Chew carefully when you eat the cake though...
Hide a baby in your Mardi Gras King Cake, and whoever gets the baby has the honor (or chore) of making the cake next year. Chew carefully when you eat the cake though…

For pastry: Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter.  Allow mixture to cool to room temperature.  In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tbsp of the white sugar.  Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.  When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture.  Whisk in the eggs.  Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt, and nutmeg.  Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time  When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

For filling:  Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.

To assemble:  Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10×16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.  Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Push the baby into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the confectioners’ sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water and tsp vanilla.  You may want to make the icing separately for each cake, as the icing hardens quickly.  You may also cover the icing with purple, yellow, and green sprinkles in the spirit of Mardi Gras.

Enjoy, and happy Mardi Gras!!

A Monday Morning Recipe

A Monday Morning Recipe

Monday mornings are no fun, but these muffins always make a nice breakfast!

banana date muffin

“Too Good To Be True Banana Muffins”  Makes 12 muffins

Of the top eight food allergens, this recipe is free of: peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy  (make sure to check the allergy warnings on the store bought ingredients that you use)

2 Bananas

2 cups white wholewheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

4 oz fage greek yogurt 0%

1/2 cup skim milk

8 fresh dates with stones in center removed

2 eggs

1 stick unsalted butter softened

1 cup dark chocolate chips

Place eggs, butter, yogurt, milk, bananas, and dates in the blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into a bowl with the flour and powder and mix just until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Grease a muffin tray and divide mixture into 12 muffin holders and bake at 340 degrees for 12-15 minutes just until lightly browned and knife comes out clean.

I like to make this recipe over the weekend and keep the muffins refrigerated, then microwave them for breakfast or for an afternoon snack.

**I got this recipe from chef Jill Dahan.