Thursday, April 29, 2010

Five Things You Can Do to Support Allergy Awareness Month

Did you know that May is Allergy Awareness Month?

May 9th-15th is Food Allergy Awareness Week, and May 16th-22nd is National Eosinophil Awareness Week. With May being such an important month in the allergy community, I thought I’d share five ways you can support allergy awareness month:

1. Join your favorite allergy advocacy organization. My favorites include the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), The American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders (APFED), and Kids with Food Allergies.

2. Make a donation to further allergy research. The Hope on the Horizon Research Fund furthers research on eosinophilic disorders. Or, you can donate to food allergy research here.

3. Make plans to attend an allergy event. Upcoming Food Allergy conferences are in Tarrytown, NY on May 8th and Oak Brook, IL on May 22nd. The 2010 APFED conference is in Broomfield, Colorado from July 16 – 18.

4. If you have ever eaten out with your food-allergic family, head on over to Allergy Eats and rate some restaurants. We can all help each other out by sharing our experiences.

5. If someone you know with food allergies attends college, ask them to volunteer to be a student ambassador for their college at the FAAN College Network.

I’ll be at the Food Allergy Conference in Tarrytown on May 8th. Let me know if you plan to be there – I’d love to meet you!

Please share your ideas to support Allergy Awareness Month.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tropical Traditions Flax Seeds

Last week I shared a demo on how to make a replacement for eggs using flax seed meal. Today I am reviewing one of the products I used for that demo.

When I received a complimentary sample of Tropical Traditions Whole Golden Flax Seeds I was very excited, because it’s tough to find high quality whole organic flax seeds in my area. These flax seeds are grown in North Dakota.

The first thing you'll notice about them is the color. They are a true golden color. One big advantage to these flax seeds over others you may find is they won't cause those dark spots in yout baked goods like the darker flax seeds do. Don’t they look terrific?

To test these as an egg replacement, I decided to make Pamela’s Brownies. I’ve made these brownies dozens (okay, maybe hundreds) of times in the past using applesauce in place of the eggs.

I used the equivalent of two eggs (1/2 cup of flax seed goop). I needed to add an extra ¼ cup of water as the goop had gelled quite nicely.

The result was terrific! The brownies were perfect cake-like brownies. For a chewier brownie I would use just ¼ cup of flax seed goop (the equivalent of one egg).

I am really pleased with the Tropical Traditions flax seeds and highly recommend them. They are high in Omega-3 essential fatty acids, and contain a nice dose of fiber. Love that! In addition to the use as an egg replacer, I'm looking forward to adding them to salads, in fruit smoothies, and on my breakfast oatmeal.

If you missed it, check out how to make flax seed goop to learn how to use flax seed as a replacement for eggs.

Note: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product. I was under no obligation to review it, nor was I required to write a positive review in return for the free product.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Baking Without Eggs – How to Make Flax Seed Goop

“The Goops they lick their fingers….”
Does anyone remember the book Goops and How to Be Them: A Manual of Manners for Polite Children by Gelett Burgess?

When I first started making ‘eggs’ from flax seed, all I could think about was how goopy and gloppy they are. Now I can’t mix up these egg substitutes without remembering that line from The Goops, and so it seems fitting to call this concoction flax seed goop.

Today’s post is a how-to discussion on making the flax seed goop.

You can start with either whole flax seeds, or ground flaxseed meal. I’ll show you both methods.

The whole flax seeds I used were sent to me by Tropical Traditions to review. I’ll be letting you know how I liked them in my next post, but first I want you to see how awesome these flax seeds look!

Simply combine 1 tablespoon whole flax seeds with 3 tablespoons water in a blender and turn it on. This photo shows the equivalent of two eggs. I used the puree setting for about two minutes until the mixture became goopy.

I really like the texture of flax seed goop, as it most resembles eggs. It will change the color of whatever you are making – you’re baked goods will have brown flecks – and it also will add a slight nutty taste.

The second method of making flax seed goop is even simpler. Here you can either start with ground whole flaxseed meal, or grind your own. (An electronic coffee or herb grinder works well for this purpose.) For this mixture I used Bob's Red Mill flax seed Meal.

Whisk together 1 tablespoon flax seed meal with 3 tablespoons water and let it sit. When it’s goopy (about twenty minutes) it’s ready to be added to your recipe.

Flax seed goop can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. Measure out ¼ cup of goop for each egg you are replacing. Just be sure to let the goop come to room temperature before adding to your project.

Have you tried flax seeds as egg replacements? What do you think?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lessons From the CIA – Baking Without Eggs

I find eggs to be one of the trickiest substitutes in allergen-free baking. A couple weeks ago I took a gluten-free baking course at the Culinary Institute of America. Even though the focus of the class was on avoiding gluten, I was able to learn quite a bit about baking without eggs.

Chef Coppedge was a big fan of Ener-G egg replacer. Those of you have tried egg replacers know that this one is free of the top eight allergens and gluten-free. I have used this before (successfully) in cakes, muffins and cookies. What surprised me though was his suggestion to use this in cream fillings. As long as you aren’t making eggs dishes (like scrambled eggs or something like a frittata) or something that requires peaks (like meringue), he seemed to think using egg replacer would work. Great news! I have added a cooking project to my list to try making pudding with Ener-G egg replacer. Has anyone tried this?

The only caution is to always add the egg replacer last – just before you are ready to pop it into the oven. It contains a fast acting baking powder, so you should mix it and add it to your baking project last thing.

The other option we talked about for replacing eggs was flax seeds. This, along with applesauce, was always one of my favorites and is quickly becoming a preference.

Chef Coppedge recommended a mixture of 1 part flax seed meal to 4 parts water by weight. (He’s a big fan of doing everything by weight – “weights don’t lie”). I had seen formulas of 1 tablespoon flax seed meal to 3 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon flax seed meal to ¼ cup water (with each of these equaling one egg). So I decided to do a little science project. (In other words, I took out my kitchen scale and tested them.) The results? I determined that these formulas do indeed get the same result, so pick whichever is easiest for you.

But the coolest thing about flax seed ‘eggs’ is that you can make them ahead of time and keep them in the fridge. He even pulled a big vat of flax seed goop out of his fridge to show me. You can just measure ¼ cup of goop to equal one egg.

Come back tomorrow for a show and tell of how to make flax seed goop. For more Baking Lessons click here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour

I am so thrilled that we now have quite a few gluten-free flour blends to choose from to make gluten-free and allergen-free baked goods.

King Arthur, considered a leader in premium flours and a company that is committed to using only the finest ingredients, launched their gluten-free product line in February. When they sent me some of their new products to test, I decided to start with the basic – the multi-purpose gluten-free flour blend. And I decided to make a recipe that I’ve tried and loved before, so that I can have an accurate comparison of King Arthur’s flour to the others I have tried.

First things first – about the product. The gluten-free flour is packaged in a 24 oz box, the equivalent of four cups of flour. I like the size, as many recipes call for 2 cups of flour making this the perfect size for two baking projects. It’s a mix of rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, and brown rice flour. Gluten-free bakers know that flour blends for breads tend to be different than flour blends for cakes/muffins/cookies/quick breads. I would characterize this as a baking/pastry flour rather than a bread flour. It’s a blend that is high in carbohydrates and low in protein. It’s also a blend that does not contain xantham gum. This means that you will need to add your own based on the recipe you are using, but it also means that those with corn allergies can safely use this product.

The flour contains no wheat, soy, eggs, milk, or corn. It’s made in a dedicated gluten-free facility and certified gluten-free. The flour itself is a fine-grained (powdery) flour, making me very optimistic about how it will perform.

Now, onto my baking experiment. I decided to make chocolate zucchini muffins using Cybele Pascal’s chocolate zucchini bread recipe in the Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook. I have made this recipe with other flour blends before, and loved it. You can see the result to the right. Overall, the muffins were quite good, but I do have to say that they were a bit lumpy and on the grainy side. Nevertheless, they held together well, and sliced well. Next time I think I’ll add more liquid to make them a bit more moist.

Due to the nature of this blend, I think it will be a perfect choice for cookies, tarts, and pie crusts. I'll be trying some with tarts soon.

I am hoping that King Arthur comes out with a larger more economical package (a 3 lb or 5 lb package would be nice). At the moment it appears that the only place to buy King Arthur gluten-free products is online. I hope to be able to find this in stores soon.

Have you tried King Arthur flour yet? What do you think?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Snack Series: Nonuttin’ Granola Bars

I had the opportunity to try a free sample of one of these Nonuttin’ granola bars, and immediately went back to buy a box of them in each of the chocolate chip and the chocolate chunk flavors. I couldn’t resist.

Despite their description as granola bars, there is little to remind me of a granola bar here. Of course there are no nuts. Nor are they crunchy and stiff like most granola bars. They are very reminiscent of the crispy rice bars you loved as a kid, but less tacky and chewy.

The chocolate chip is the less chocolaty of the two, with just small (dairy-free) chocolate chips. The double chocolate chunk is my pick for chocolate lovers, with large chunks of chocolate and chocolate in every bite.

Gluten-free oats, and rice products are the primary ingredients. They are wheat-free, milk-free,  egg-free, and gluten-free. They do contain soy lecithin (a non-protein product of soy). The packaging lists soy as a possible allergen due to possible cross-contamination with their product lines containing soybeans.

They are just the right size to throw in a lunch box or handbag for a mid-afternoon snack. Have you tried them yet? What do you think?

About the snack series: Snacks without wheat, eggs, soy, nuts, and milk can be really difficult to find. That’s why I am always on the lookout for easy on-the-go snacks that can be thrown in a lunch box, backpack, or handbag. This is one of a series of posts on allergen-free snacks. If you have a suggestion for an allergen-free snack that I should try, please e-mail me at multifoodallergies at gmail dot com or leave a comment here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Help Support APFED by Tweeting

The American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders (APFED) is a non-profit that promotes awareness and research of eosinophilic disorders. These illnesses manifest as food allergies. In the most extreme cases, patients need to be tube-fed. There have been recent inroads in EE research, and we need to keep the ball rolling.

USA Today is running a twitter campaign. The non-profit organization that gets the most tweets between now and Friday will win a full page ad in USA today.

You can help simply by tweeting!

Your tweet must include the exact text:

#Americawants APFED to get a full page ad in USA today

Please also ask your followers to retweet (RT) and include the hashtag #APFED.

Thanks for your help!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lessons From the CIA – The Importance of Liquids

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was planning to take a gluten-free baking class at the Culinary Institute of America. Saturday was the day. Chef Richard Coppedge, the resident gluten-free expert on the Hyde Park CIA campus and author of the book Gluten-free Baking with the Culinary Institute of America, was our teacher for the day.

After explaining how he had scrubbed down the kitchen to get rid of contaminants, we got busy baking doughnuts, and tarts, a yeast bread, a quick corn bread, pizza, and even pasta (oh my!) Despite the fact that the class was focused on baking without gluten, Chef Coppedge was very helpful in answering my questions about allergen-free substitutes in some of the recipes we made.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share more of what I learned including baking without eggs and how to use gums in gluten-free baking, but what surprised me the most, and what I want to focus on today is the role of liquids and moisture.

I always thought that when I was adapting a traditional recipe to be allergen-free that I needed to keep to the exact same mix of dry to wet ingredients. What I learned is that gluten-free flours absorb more liquid, and that sometimes adding more liquid ingredients is the right thing to do. If you add more liquid to breads it will make them more batter-like, and that may be just the kick they need to keep them from being dry and crumbly. To adjust for more liquids, you may need to bake longer.

I also learned that carbonated water is a great trick for yeast breads (only if you plan to bake them the same day). The carbonated water will help with the rising action.

How do you know when your bread is done? When a cooking thermometer inserted into the center is 200 degrees. When your bread looks done on the outside, if it needs more time, turn the oven down to 325 degrees, and bake a little longer.

Another trick I learned was the importance of moisture when making bread. Before baking, the bread should be placed in a closed humid environment for 45 minutes (this is called proofing). The microwave is a great place to do this (not cooking, of course). Also, having moisture in the oven will ensure a nice crust on the bread (none of that crumbly stuff). In class we had access to fancy industrial ovens with humidity controls, but of course none of us have these at home. Chef’s recommendation was to lightly spray the walls of the oven (not the light) with warm water before pre-heating. Then, during the cooking process the moisture needs to come out, but not until the crust is brown. At that point, you can slightly crack the oven to vent it.

I have a lot more to share, and some great recipes that I’ll be adapting to be allergen-free. In the meantime, try some of these tricks and let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Snack Series: Boom Choco Boom

Snacks without wheat, eggs, soy, nuts, and milk can be really difficult to find. That’s why I am always on the lookout for easy on-the-go snacks that can be thrown in a lunch box, backpack, or handbag. This is one of a series of posts on allergen-free snacks.

My latest snack find is chocolate. Dark, decadent, delicious chocolate.

Until now, I didn’t think it was possible to create a chocolate bar without some kind of lecithin or emulsifier. The Enjoy Life Boom Choco Boom dark chocolate bars contain only evaporated cane juice, chocolate liquor, and non-dairy cocoa butter. That’s it. No milk, no eggs, no soy, no wheat, no gluten, no nuts.

The dark chocolate is by far my favorite. I have always liked my chocolate dark and plain. But the chocolate crispy rice bar is another great choice for those who prefer more of a milk chocolate taste – again, milk-free. This flavor of the bar also contains rice ingredients (including rice flour, rice bran, rice syrup, and rice milk powder) as well as salt, carrageenan, and raisin juice concentrate.

One of the things I love about the Enjoy Life products is their mission to provide products free of the top eight allergens, and I am really thrilled with the results here.

Have you tried the Boom Choco Boom bars? What’s your favorite allergen-free chocolate bar?

If you have a suggestion for an allergen-free snack that I should try, please e-mail me at multifoodallergies at gmail dot com or leave a comment here.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Flour Blends for Wheat-Free Baking

Remember when baked goods meant products made from wheat?

If you need to bake without wheat – and especially if you need to bake gluten-free – you know that the best approach is to blend flours. And we have lots of flours (and starches) to choose from – brown rice, sweet rice, sorghum, potato, tapioca, buckwheat…

For those who aren’t allergic to corn there are also corn (maize) and millet flours. And for those who don’t need to avoid gluten there are barley and oat flours.

I am really encouraged to see that there are more and more manufacturers offering gluten-free and allergen-free flour blends. It sure makes our lives as Allergy Moms and Chief Allergen-free Cooks much easier.

In addition to the different flours used, it’s important to note that some of these blends incorporate xantham gum, while others just provide the flour base. If you choose a flour blend with xantham gum or guar gum already added, there’s no need to add more to your recipe.

Here are just a few you might want to try:

Authentic Foods Multi Blend Flour is a mixture of brown rice, sweet rice, tapioca starch, cornstarch, potato starch, and xantham gum.

The Perfect Flour Blend from Namaste Foods – one of my favorites – combines sweet brown rice flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, sorghum flour and xanthan gum.

The new Gluten Free Classical Blend from Authentic Foods is a combination of brown rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour.

The new King Arthur Gluten Free Flour is a mix of rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, and brown rice flour.

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour combines and interesting mix of garbanzo flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, sorghum flour, and fava flour.

What’s your favorite flour blend? Do you mix your own or buy the packaged blends?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Snack Series: Ener-G Wylde Pretzels

Snacks without wheat, eggs, soy, nuts, and milk can be really difficult to find. That’s why I am always on the lookout for easy on-the-go snacks that can be thrown in a lunch box, backpack, or handbag. So I thought we should start the month off with the first of a series of posts on allergen-free snacks.

Ener-G Foods makes a terrific pretzel that meets the bill. Wylde Pretzelsare wheat-free, milk-free, egg-free, soy-free, and nut-free. Instead of a traditional form, these pretzels are formed in small rings, which make them very suitable for small hands. They have a nice crispy crunch to them, and make a very satisfying snack. They are available in an 8oz, 4oz, and a new 1oz. single serving size (the one pictured here).

I tried the plain version, but they also come in sesame and poppy seed flavors. If you are allergic to corn, sesame, or poppy seed, you will want to avoid these.

When you buy these make sure you look for the Wylde pretzels and not one of the pretzel-shaped varieties that are labeled wheat-free, as these do contain soy flour.

If you have a suggestion for an allergen-free snack that I should try, please e-mail me at multifoodallergies at gmail dot com or leave a comment here.