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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in dairy allergies (5)


Recipe: Chocolate Squash Muffins (grain-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free)

Grain/Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Soy-free, Egg-free

Copyright & Photos: Elisabeth Veltman, The Tender Foodie

If food were fashion (and we know that it is) then squash is the new black. Squash makes very moist, healthy, and yummy muffins. Loaded with antioxidants, magnesium, B Vitamins, and iron; you can serve these muffs for breakfast or have them hanging around as snacks. I think you might like paleo muffins even better than regular 'old wheat muffins. I do!

Inactive prep time: 1 hour
Prep time: 15 min.
Cook time: 35-45 min.
Makes 12 muffins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


1 cup mashed butternut squash or acorn squash (roasted and peeled), or mashed pumpkin flesh (my favorite to use is Tropical Traditions Organic Pumpkin in a box).

1 small banana (or half of a large one)

4 TBS ground flax mixed with 8 TBS filtered water & left for 5 minutes to gel (this is your egg replacer)
½ cup almond butter (can also use a nut-free sunflower butter)

¾ cup honey

¼ cup coconut oil, melted (if your almond butter is very oily, you may need to leave this out, if the almond butter is very dry, leave it in.)

½ cup dairy-free raw cacao powder (make sure it is dairy- & gluten- free if you have guest w/ these allergies). I use Navitas Raw Cacao Powder.

½ cup coconut flour (exactly - sift out the lumps before you measure)

½ TBS of gluten-free cinnamon (McCormick brand) - Learn more about spices

1-teaspoon gluten-free, aluminum-free baking powder

1-teaspoon baking soda

1-teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract

1-teaspoon gluten-free chocolate extract

¼ teaspoon of sea salt

Optional: add 1 cup of Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips for extra sweetness.


1.    Vent the squash (poke several holes with a knife), the roast the squash whole at 425 degrees for about 1 hour or until a knife easily pierces through the center.  Cool.  Cut In half and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.  Then scrape out the flesh into a measuring cup.
2.    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
3.    Grease a 12 muffin tin with coconut oil, or use paper muffin cups
4.    In a food processor (this works better for paleo than a blender) combine the squash, banana, almond butter, flax seed mixture, honey, and coconut oil. Add the vanilla and chocolate extracts. Blend well.
5.    In a separate bowl, whisk the coconut flour, raw cacao powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and sea salt, then add it to the wet ingredients and blend well.
6.    Scoop into the muffin cups filling to the top.
7.    Bake for 35 minutes.  A toothpick will come out moist with a little crumble.

Let muffins cool, and then remove from tin and nom.

*Please note: coconut is a drupe, not a nut, but some people are allergic to coconut (and the oils), so please double check with your nut-allergic guest to be sure that they can eat coconut.


Writer, owner of Blue Pearl Strategies, and lover of all culinary delights, Elisabeth started The Tender Palate & Tender Foodie, for people with food allergies, sensitivities and intolerance. She believes that everyone should live deliciously and have a healthy seat at the table.


My Chat with Crave – First Gluten-free Bakery to Win "Cupcake Wars"

Cupcake Wars Goes Gluten-Free

I’ve been following Crave Bake Shop's progress on Facebook, intrigued by their emphasis on gluten-free integrity, exacting pastry standards, vegan Thursdays, and multiple allergy sensitivity.  So when owner Kyra Bussanich contacted me and asked, “Can we send you some treats to try?”  I was pleased, but had no idea that she was about to be named the first gluten-free baker to ever win the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars”.

Kyra and I chatted on December 16 (Doughnut Friday).  At that time she couldn’t even discuss the win, let alone reveal on what show she would be appearing.  She was also the first gluten-free baker to ever show up on Cupcake Wars in 2010, so I assumed the secret involved said show again.  Needless to say, I rushed home that following Sunday just in time to see her grab the prize away from heavy hitting bakers who used traditional flours. 

See Kyra's winning, gluten-free Boston Cream Pie Cupcake Recipe here.

Because of my somewhat complex allergies, I’ll be receiving Crave treats to review in 2012 – after the holiday rush.  Perhaps then, I’ll coax Kyra into for an inside look at her experience with other cupcake warriors, that intimidating-looking panel of experts, and her introduction to namesake (and one of my fave actresses), Kyra Sedgwick.  

 Pictured: Jackie, Kyra Bussanich, Kyra Sedgwick. The episode let Kyra have a chance to cater a Hollywood party on the set of "The Closer" starring Emmy award winning Kyra Sedgwick.

Online Bakery to Retail Yum Store

In the meantime, let’s focus on what we could discuss:  her journey from online baker to a retail store with lines out the door and down the block on opening day.

I didn’t anticipate such a crowd.  I thought that it would be six months before I’d hire my first employee, but I had to hire someone the first day!

Kyra first launched Crave’s online presence in 2008, but on May 13, 2011, she opened “a whole different ballgame” in Lake Oswego, Oregon.  Kyra said that this open-minded, small business community, located just outside of Portland, was committed to helping her grow.  

As we chatted up the artsy quality of Lake Oswego, it reminded me of Saugatuck, MI – a town near my current state of repose, Grand Rapids.  As small worlds would have it, Kyra’s grandfather was born in Grand Rapids before ending up in San Diego.  Six Degrees.

I found it wise that Crave learned from the online business before opening the retail storefront.  One important lesson was that neither the size nor the brightness of multiple orange “fragile” stickers could keep your precious cupcakes from being dropkicked on their journey to your door.  So Crave packages accordingly and offers limited items available for shipment, like 3 kinds of cupcakes, ring dings, and the scones of the day.  Sweet.

In store, they create beautiful special order wedding cakes, and have a pretty large menu of gluten-free yummi-ness from which to choose.


Passion, Sacrifice and Le Cordon Bleu

Custom Birthday CakeKyra received her training at the famous culinary arts institute, Le Cordon Bleu.  As we chatted, it was clear that she measures her gluten-free pastries against the best, and that she will not compromise taste, texture and flavor simply to make a treat.

We love requests.  But it’s difficult when people expect us to serve sugar-free, vegan and dairy-free every day.  My heart always sinks, because it’s so hard for me to say, “I can’t do that for you today”. Our goal is to do amazing tasting gluten-free things.  There is no reason that gluten-free shouldn’t taste just as good.  I don’t want to compromise our standards.

Thinking of her in a roomful of wheat flour, however, I thought of her health and she graciously let me inquire.  Kyra has Crohn’s, and her mother has been recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease, so given her own diagnosis and the genetic propensity for CD, she was putting herself in front of a gluten-toting firing squad every day during her training.  

I was sick a lot in pastry school and missed about 1 day every other week because I was too sick to go to class.  Some of my professors understood, but others were not very sympathetic.

I thought of my tour of the bakery at The Secchia Culinary Institute in Grand Rapids, which I took earlier this year.  I had a clear picture of what Kyra’s experience might have been like.  Secchia’s bakery had huge bins marked “wheat”, “rye”, and “barley”.  During my tour there was no class in action, yet the empty bakery was clouded with flour nonetheless.  I could only imagine the sacrifice Kyra made to learn her craft.  My respect for this chick climbed even higher as we spoke.   

On Gluten-free Laws, GMO’s and Health

Wedding CakeWhenever I interview a baker, researcher, doctor or flour manufacturer, I ask their opinion about the pending gluten-free law.  Is 20 parts per million too much?  Could the law go any further?

20 ppm is too much.   I think it should be zero ppm, but that 20 ppm is realistic.  You can’t control everything and mistakes do happen.  The law itself will be primarily driven by consumers and their choices.  Eight years ago no one knew about gluten, but consumers and their health drove changes in the market.  Before I cut gluten out of my diet entirely, I had no appetite, was losing weight, not sleeping well and operating on a 30% gas tank.  After only 3 days on a gluten-free diet I felt tons better. My mom, however, took a lot longer to heal.  Even painkillers for my mom were formulated with gluten.  It’s so important to have products that are labeled correctly.

As for modern day GMO’s (genetically modified organisms), she is one of the growing number of people who believe that GMO’s are one big reason behind the huge spike in gluten allergies – that and the fact that we are eating so many processed foods loaded with gluten protein.  

If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.  If you are sick, the only thing you can focus on is how you feel.  Today, we often reach for a quick fix in the medicine cabinet.  But that doesn’t get to the root of the problem, and just layers one medication on to the next.  And it all could come down to taking care of ourselves through diet.

I think the answer is so simple.  If you have celiac (or other inflammatory problems) – get off gluten.  

Like so many people today, Kyra suffered for most of her life and had several misdiagnoses slapped on her forehead.  On a gluten-free diet, however, she is thriving.   We can all learn from experiences like Kyra’s, and garner hope, as well.

Advice for Tender Foodies

Kyra Bussanich, Owner and Creator of Crave Bake ShopI asked Kyra for some advice for the Tender Foodie population.  Here is what she said.

Experiment!  I used to be one of those people who liked to draw inside of the lines.  I didn’t want to try a recipe unless it came out perfectly.  But this is not a way to start an alternative bakery.
Once, I made grilled nectarines with a tapioca and soy pudding for my dairy-free husband.   The pudding did not set, so I served him Grilled Nectarines and Vanilla Soup!  He looked up at me and said, “This is really good!”  So the lesson is, If it tastes good, serve it.  It’s all about how you present what you create.  

Bake Shop Practices

I respect bakers and restaurants who not only have strict, trained practices in place, but who also know their limits.  Here are a few highlights of Crave’s practices:


The only soy used is the soy lecithin that is already processed in the Callebaut bittersweet Chocolate (which is also dairy-free) and in their dark chocolate sprinkles.

Cleaning Practices & Dairy-Free:

  • Between each cupcake batch they clean extensively with sanitizing solution and the racks are wiped down every day.
  • The most restrictive batch, like dairy-free cupcakes, go first into the oven.
  • They change parchment paper with every batch.

Ingredient Sourcing, GMO, Organic, Local:

  • They use only certified gluten-free ingredients.  No gluten makes it into the bakery.  (They love Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free flours)
  • Crave uses no oat flour, and only use gluten-free oats (from Bob’s and Naked Oats) that are from farms that do not rotate their oats with gluten crops.
  • Crave use organic, non-GMO, and local ingredients wherever possible.
  • Prefer to make flavors using produce and products in season whenever possible.

Crave is a Kosher Certified Bake Shop

Special orders

Special orders can be accommodated if planned ahead.  For instance, Crave recently fulfilled an order for a “gal who had a fatal peanut allergy”.  But they had to do it during a week when other special orders could be made that didn’t require peanuts.  Crave didn’t use peanuts in any items for a week prior to fulfilling this non-peanut order.  Crave knows that gluten and nut particles can linger in the air for quite some time.  They respect that bit of physics.  I respect that.  And look forward to my taste test.  Bring it on, Kyra!

Find Crave


PHONE: 503.212.2979 | FAX: 503.212.2978


HOURS: TUE-FRI 8am - 5pm, SAT 8am - 4pm


Aimee's Story: Second Thoughts About Thanksgiving.

Welcome to Aimee B. Smith, our new guest blogger and parent of a food allergic child.  This post is part of a series about dealing with food allergies in social situations -- this series will discuss handling Thanksgiving.  

Upon Arrival

From the moment I step out of our car on-to the snow-packed drive of my aunt’s house, my nose catches a whiff of the delicious aromas of roasted turkey, baked stuffing and homemade pumpkin pies.  The smell takes my mind and taste buds back, evoking all the warmth and nostalgia of Thanksgiving. But before my belly has a chance to rumble with the anticipation of gorging on the holiday spread, a sharp pain stabs my gut. Anxiety overtakes me: Will we be met with sly glances or unpleasant teasing again?  Will my daughter’s food intolerances consume the dinner table discussion? Will I be slammed repeatedly from every direction with questions like, “I forget, what gluten is exactly?” and, “Now tell me again, why can’t she eat this?” The knot wrenching my stomach tightens. Am I prepared to handle the slew of well-meaning but perpetually clueless references of, “I don’t understand…” and “Don’t worry so much, a little won’t hurt her.”?

Second Thoughts

I am having second thoughts about being here. Maybe our family’s dietary baggage is too great a burden to others.   Should we even have come to this dinner? This is as bad as, maybe worse than taking Raina to her friend’s pizza party or attending a neighborhood picnic. I’m scared for her safety, afraid she may ingest the wrong foods.  But it’s not just the allergens, disguised in mouthwatering dishes and desserts that I fear. My concern goes deeper –what if my daughter feels like an outcast, or that she feels somehow less of a person because she can’t eat what others are indulging in? 

Giving Thanks

My eyes turn to find Raina. She’s skipping up to the steps with glee. My Uncle Bob opens the door as full of high spirits as my little, bouncing girl. My aunts push him aside and run out with open arms and wide, glowing smiles to welcome and hug Raina tightly. I relax for a minute; my fears are subdued watching everyone’s joy. 

I remember the lessons that Melanie Potock, Raina’s feeding therapist, taught us: Eating should be enjoyable and relaxed.  It’s as much about the act of sitting down and enjoying each other as it is the food.  We aren’t here just for the food. 

I take a deep breath, allowing myself a break for just that instance from the overbearing stress I put on myself to manage these sorts of situations. As I let out a deep sigh, I remind myself of the pressure I place on myself to ensure Raina’s safety and that I’m doing a great job.

As I waddle up to the steps, laden with bags of my own allergen free pumpkin pie, gluten/egg/dairy free, green chili cornbread and homemade gravy I think perhaps this year can be better. I inwardly repeat my daily mantra, “It’s getting easier each day.  It’s getting easier each day…”  

Aunt Margie jolts over to grab a bag and, peaking in, says, “Oooh, look as these goodies! Your cousin, Lizzie, will be so happy. She’s on some crazy diet, off the dairy and gluten as well.” 

“Really!” I reply in shock then burst out a big smile, eager to greet my cousin, our new comrade on our allergen-free team. 

While I can’t always have faith that my family or friends will understand Raina’s needs or bend over backwards to accommodate her, I can hope that each year will improve as we all grow. I’m certain Raina will someday grow to be her own advocate and we, as a family, will find improved ways to cope with our stresses. Now that, is something to be thankful for!


About Aimee

Aimee B. Smith is a mother to four year old Raina, her miracle girl who was born a micro preemie at 24 weeks gestation. Aimee and her family embarked on an allergy-friendly journey after discovering Raina suffered from multiple food intolerances. The process has opened up a whole new adventure of cooking, shopping, dining and socializing for her and her husband. She is an avid writer, who finds inspiration for her art through her strong spirited daughter and the challenges and triumphs of motherhood. 




Do You Shop in Multiple Groceries Every Week? 5 Simple Steps That Could Help.

Nearly every week, I visit several grocery stores just to buy the staples that I need.  If you have multiple food allergies and intolerances, finding the most basic products in one place is nearly impossible.  If you live in a mixed-allergy/non-allergy household, whew, you are probably too tired to actually make dinner!  As I listen to the Tender Foodie Community, it's clear that most of you experience the same huffing and puffing and trucking around town.  You might have to drive across state lines.  Perhaps you also order from multiple internet stores. 

Wouldn't it be nice if we could just go to one or two stores to get what we need?  Here's the kicker:   The individual nature of mutlipe food allergies (along with your personal tastes) make it tough for grocery stores and brands to know what you need. Unless, of course, you tell them.  If we tell them en masse as a Tender Foodie Community, your request has more influence.

To help get your needs to your local grocers (and to the brands that they sell), I've put together a form.  Here's how it works:

1.  Sign up to become an email member in order to access this form.  Its free and we only send out updates once or twice a month.  Becoming a member will help us reduce the amount of spammers hitting our form.

2.  Log in to access the form whenever you find your head about to explode because you can't find X product, or you wished that you could find, for example, a cocoa powder that is non-GMO, non-alkaline, and produced in a factory that does not also process other allergens. 

3.  Twice a month, I'll send your request along with others in your community to your local grocer.  Where appropriate, I'll also send the request to whatever brands you list. 

4.  The more requests for a particular product that a grocer receives and the more requests the brand receives for better allergen processing, the more likely our community will benefit.  So ...

5.  Send this blog post to every Tender Foodie that you know. 

As a community, we are used to taking our knocks, doing our homework, and being silent.  If we have a way to act as a community, who knows, vendors might be swayed to work with allergen-free suppliers, test for multiple allergens, or make their facilities free of multiple allergens.   It could happen (here is one example).  Plus, you might reduce the number of trips you make, the amount of gas you burn and the amount of postage you drop.  Though we can't guarantee any vendor's actions, we think this could be super powerful.

Your input could help greatly expand the "safe" choices out there for Tender Foodies.


Does this Happen to You?

For example, I tend to visit the Meijer store near me for "some" organic vegetables, especially greens like kale and swiss chard.  They sometimes have the dairy-free chocolate chips that I use and sometimes have one of the many gluten-free flours that I use.  I go to one Harvest Health in Hudsonville to get the only truly dairy-free plain yogurt, that isn't processed in a factory that also produces other things I can't eat, even though their location on Burton Street is more "on my way" and both carry many allergen-free staples that I use.  I just gave a jingle to Saffrons, a Gluten-free Marketplace to see if they carried whole grain millet that isnt processed in a cross-contaminated factory, they didn't, but they were happy to get in a case for me.  Saffron's really does their multiple allergy homework.  They review products regularly, and label them for multiple allergens so it saves you shopping (and homework) time.  Although Saffron's is not conveniently located to me, I will drive there to get it and whatever else I can find, since they have great stuff.  For grassfed meats, I just made my first visit to Nourish Organic Market.  Nourish carries local and grassfed meat from local farms and butchers and other great products.  Plus, they are next to my yoga studio (From the Heart).  To try to add some measure of convenience, I now order local and organically raised vegetables from Doorganics - who delivers right to my door every Wednesday afternoon.  They are another new business that, although you can't yet order what you want in your weekly box (she says hopefully), they are helping me to expand my palate and try stuff I don't usually get (like turnips, which I now love).  Plus, their produce is straight from the farm keeping their fruits and veggies packed with the most nutrients.  I've also gone to Horrock's Market to get the Nature Made Frozen Fruit that I use in my smoothies.  For my favorite chocolate of all (Callebaut), and for organic wine I make an occasional trip to G.B Russo's and Son. They have great, higher end, specialty cooking supplies, too.  I used to visit the D&W Fresh Market near me because they were expanding their organic produce and allergen-free items.  However, it is now a Family Fare and they discontinued some of the items that I counted upon.  Several compoundingly disappointing trips later, I stopped trying.  I bet if they knew that, and other people spoke up, they would rethink what they are putting on and taking off the shelves.  Did I mention Trillium Haven Farms at the Fulton Street Farmer's Market in the summer?  Or trucking through Costco for items that might or might not be there from week to week?  Then there are the online stores, the internet searching, the cross-contamination research...

OK.  Now I'm exhausted. 


  (Send me an E-Jingle with your comments on the form, would you?)


Stephen Colbert, from Cows to Cosmetics, You've Led Me Down a Sticky Path



As I research the new gluten-free labeling initiative, and answer some interesting questions about it, I am reminded of other sticky issues bubbling for attention in the background.  When I watched this video from Stephen Colbert's Oct., 6 2010 show which was posted on this morning, I decided to give these bubbles a little attention.  The foodista post was simply intended to show that the raw milk controversy has gone mainstream.  That's it.  But this is an interesting subject to me, since certain groups are proclaiming that raw milk will help cure dairy allergies.  As a person who suffers from the same, I am intrigued, but not about to run out and guzzle a giant glass of moo cow.  Or even a tiny one.  Thus, mine will be the cautious path and I'll do some heavy investigation before even commenting on it.  (However, if you are one of those folks who have had your dairy allergies actually cured from raw milk, I soooo want to hear from you.  Moo.)

The video clip itself, however, innocently drew me into other sticky issues.  This clip is really more about civil liberties than it is about the benefits or risks of drinking raw milk.  Which is interesting, but in today's times, civil liberties usually ends up in an "us" versus "them" discussion, which is ...  well you tell me.

Pasteurization without representation.  _Ron Paul

Individuals are stupid.  _David Acheson, former Assistant Commissioner for the FDA on Food Safety

But my attention stuck on something else that Stephen mentioned in the clip:  New York's stand on the health risks of dangerous chemicals in common household products.  To be fair, in his own words:

“… New York State will start enforcing a 40-year-old law that requires manufacturers of household cleansers to reveal the chemical ingredients in their products and any health risks they pose.  Way to spoil the surprise Bloomberg!”

But wait, the sticky issues don't stop there.  Have you read your cosmetics labels lately?  Pick up a copy of "No More Dirty Looks" to see why this is important.  Or simply read this quick article by the authors of that fine book.  In short, certain terms like "fragrance" are covered by trade secret laws, which means that, as long as there is an ingredient list outside of the word "fragrance", any company can put any chemical into any "fragrance", be it listed on a perfume, household product, or cosmetic.  To give you a different perspective, Europe has banned over 1,000 chemicals that are listed for use in cosmetics, while the U.S. has only banned nine.  Why would companies put carcinogenic or harmful, sometimes deadly chemicals into our household cleaners, let alone our skin care products?    Laziness?  Naughtiness?  Hatefulness?  Ignorance?  Mis-guided Creativity?  Greed?  Your guess is as good as mine. 
Regardless of the answer, it's worth becoming a little more educated about the products we are using.  Our skin is our largest organ and it absorbs what we put on it quickly (think:  hormone creams, "The Patch", etc.). Research, like this study done by the University of Michigan School of Public Health, reveals that chemicals in anti-biotic soaps are damaging the immune and hormonal systems in both children and adults.  What's more, they "increase the risk of hay fever and other allergies."  Weren't anti-biotic soaps supposed to be good things?  After all, I remember seeing the commercials and rushing out to buy them. 
In the end, we are what we eat, slather on, and breathe.   It stinks that some manufacturers don't just "do the right thing" or think about the outcome of their ingredient choices on their own customers.  But many don't.  The good news is, we can make choices that influence the market and support those good guys who have a more wholistic, knowledgeable and caring vision.  Need some inspiration?  Just start reading labels.  And spread the word about the good things you find.