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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in vegan (9)


S'mores! Gluten-Free, Dairy-free & Vegan, The Campfire Beckons.

The Real Things are So Much Better Than Rice Cakes

I recently asked this question on The Tender Palate Facebook page:

Since you have been diagnosed with food allergies, what do you miss eating the most? 

I received answers ranging from tomatoes to pizza to just plain bread and butter; to oreos.  For me, I miss S'mores (and pizza and really, really good bread, and cheese...).  For a couple of summers I attempted to make one mamouth S'more using two giant rice cakes.  As I smushed the cakes together, and closed my eyes in anticipation, this genius substitution made the chocolate and marshmallows disappear.  It took about 8 marshmellows and a 1/2 package of chocolate chips to balance the size and texture of the rice cake.  Plus I always wound up with rice in my mouth and chocolate and marshmellow on my face.  I kept this up for the sake of my love of S'mores, until I found S'moreables.  I thought of all Tender Foodies who might be missing S'mores like I did, and came up with a few options for the Labor Day Weekend.


Graham Cracker Options

S'moreables by Kinnickinnick

These are tasty little grahams are like a cross between cookies and graham crackers.  But they do the trick for their namesake.  They are indeed, S'moreable (adorable and devourable).  One nice thing about them is that they are a little tougher than the "real" thing and they don't crumble when you press the hot marshmallow down on the chocolate.  We likey.

Free of gluten/wheat, dairy, eggs, treenuts, peanuts, and yeast.  Made in a dedicated gluten and nut-free facility (since June 15, 2009) that does use soy, eggs and sesame seeds. 


 Jules Gluten-Free Graham Cracker Mix

I have not had the opportunity to try this graham cracker mix (yet), but I have used Jules' all purpose flour in the CEO Maple Cornbread Muffins - and it is fantastic.  Jules Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour works exactly like regular all purpose flour.  The flour has a lighter, starchier feeling when you first use it, but there was no difference whatsoever in the texture, taste or behavior of the flour when baking and tasting.  The many taste testers I employed after many batches agreed with me.  Jules graham cracker mix also got a rave review from Washington Post Food Writer Kim O'Donnel, so I would expect nothing less than success in making Jules grahams.  In fact, Ms. O'Donnel called the mix a "cookie miracle".  You can use this mix to make graham crackers or ginger bread cookies (which was what she raved about). Jules Gluten-free Graham Cracker Mix is  gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free and dairy-free.


Marshmallow Options

Jet Puffed Marshmallows

We all grew up with these tasty, sugary, yummy pillows that morph into a taffy-like substance when you put them in the microwave and that have become an expected campfire companion like no other.  Jet Puffed Marshmalows (the regular kind) are touted on many blogs and being gluten-free and dairy-free.  Though we don't have specific facility, testing or ingredient sourcing information, we do have the ingredient list and this statement sent to me from Kraft on 8/3/2011:

The vast majority of our products clearly identify the eight major food allergens (eggs, fish, shellfish, milk, peanuts, soy, tree nuts and wheat) in common terms familiar to consumers in addition to the more technical terms required by food labeling laws. We've worked hard to implement common terms on all our labels.

 Jet-Puffed does, however, contain gelatin, so for a vegan option, please look at what's next.

Dandies Vegan Marshmallows

Most marshmallows use gelatin, which is an animal product.  So for vegans with food allergies, these marshmallows are a great option.  They are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and nut-free.  Don't use if you have soy allergies, they do contain soy, but it is non-GMO soy, which we love.   Read the ingredients and compare against your allergen-free needs.  Here is their allergy statement:

We operate in our own independent manufacturing facility, giving us ultimate control over what ingredients come into contact with our products. We can say with certainty and conviction that there will never be dairy, eggs, shellfish, tree nuts, or peanuts in our plant.


 Make Your Own:  with Ina Garten's Recipe

I love Ina Garten.  Her recipes always work and they are surprisingly adaptable (more on that later).  If you are concerned with food colorings in commercial marshmallows or are allergic to soy, making your own with Ina is a great option.  Try this marshmallow recipe, but leave out the toasted coconut for a true s'more-worthy marshmallow.  Although a s'more with toasted coconut would be amazing, wouldn't it?

GLUTEN & VEGAN NOTE:  use a gluten-free vanilla extract.  Most extracts are made with gluten-grain alcohol.  Most of the gluten protein is distilled out of the alcohol, but some people can still be sensitive to the traces of gluten that might remain. Also, this recipe uses gelatin, an animal product. Thus it is not the best recipe for vegans.


Chocolate Options

My favorite dairy-free chocolate, bar none (pun intended), is Callebaut Bittersweet.  Callebaut tests for dairy, and currently has a nut-free and gluten-free facility (but does not test for these allergens).  Enjoy Life Foods is a wonderful company who also makes really good chocolate.  They started out serving the Big 8 allergen-free community and doing it right. They have a dedicated facility that is free from soy, dairy, gluten, peanut, treenut, egg, fish, and shellfish.  Although the semi-sweet chocolate chunks tend to be more sweet than the Callebaut, they are very good and make a nice option for s'mores (and all baked goods).  Another nice chocolate is Rice Dream.  Although this is quite sweet (a little too much for me, so I prefer the bar wtih crisps) it is creamy and smooth.  It is also dairy-free and gluten-free.


S'mores Recipe

If you have never made a s'more... seriously, I've actually met people who haven't ,.. the recipe is simple. 

1.  Remove the graham crakers from the package and separate into sections that are 3 inches (or so) square. 

2. Place 4 (for example) grahams on a plate and place the chocolate on top of two of the grahams. Have the other two at the ready.

3.  Put 2 marshmallows on a stick and roast the marshmallows over a campfire, turning until they are golden brown... or burnt, however you like them.

4.  Put 1 hot, toasty marshmallow onto the chocolate covered graham and quickly cover with the awaitng graham.



S'mores in the Oven (oh yes you can)

Craving S'mores in the dead of winter?  Use the oven.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Place the graham crackers on a cookie sheet (you can line with parchment).  Put the chocolate on the graham cracker.  Carefully rest an uncooked marshmallow upon the chocolate.  Repeat according to the number of guests you are serving or the in line with the size of your craving.  Offer thanks for this beautiful creation, then place in the oven until the marhmallows are melty and a little toasty.

*If you want your mallow super toasty, ou can do the same thing under the broiler.  Just watch closely, it only takes about 30 seconds. *

Remove from the oven and place another graham cracker on top, or simply enjoy open-faced (and on your face).



As always, this is a guide.  Please regularly check the websites of all suggested products since ingredients, facility practices and sources for ingredients could change the allergen information.


Tasting the Vegan Cupcakes of Grand Rapids. Dairy-free, Egg-free, & a Gluten-free Surprise.


We once again welcome guest blogger, Audrey Depenbrok.  She and a group of taste testers had the "painful" job of eating their way through all of the dairy-free and egg-free cupcakes they could find in Grand Rapids!  Their favorite, of course, is at the end.  Thanks Audrey!


Preparing to Score

Cupcakes seem to be all the rage these days. However, if you are a vegan, or suffer from food allergies or intolerances, finding an enjoyable cupcake can be a challenge. Our group of tasty testers scoured the local cupcake scene to find a few bakers who are creating treats for we, the allergen-free, the Tender Foodies.

"We" were a group of taste testers whose ages ranged from 9 to 75 years old.  We conducted a taste test and came up with four of our favorites.  Each person graded each cupcake in four different categories (Taste, Texture, Appearance, and its Similarity to a "regular" cupcake).  We then gave each cupcake an overall score, all on a scale of 1-10, where 10 reached perfection.


Cupcake Group #1 - Bartertown serving Roc's Cupcakes

Roc's Cupcakes at Bartertown 

Bartertown is a recently opened vegan eatery located in downtown Grand Rapids. Their cupcakes are provided on a daily basis by Roc's Cupcakes. These cupcakes are vegan, so they are free of any dairy or egg product. They offer a variety of different flavors each day. 

On the particular day that our taste testers swarmed into Bartertown, we were pleased to see that they offered five different flavors. The offerings were; Chocolate, Vanilla, Apple Crumb Cake, Orange Blossom and Rosewater. 

Our favorite from this group was the chocolate cupcake. Which scored an 8. It had great taste, although it was slightly dry. The icing was very good, very creamy and sweet. This cupcake was more dense than a traditional cupcake might be.

The vanilla cupcake was also a favorite, scoring a 7.5. Its taste, however, was a bit like cornbread, and again had the same dense and dry texture that we found with the chocolate cupcake. 

We were very excited to try both the Orange Blossom and the Rosewater cupcakes - but we were disappointed with the flavor. Both cupcakes scored a 4. The rosewater cupcake was a bit overdone, and came off tasting soapy. While the orange blossom cupcake didn't seem to have enough flavor, and it didn't offer much in the citrus department. 

The apple cupcake was delicious, and had beautiful texture. But, each taster made a comment that it was more muffin-like, even more similar to a coffee cake than a cupcake. It scored an 8, even though it wasn't perfectly "cupcake-like".

All of the cupcakes from Bartertown were beautiful. Each was iced to perfection, with coordinating sprinkles or decorative sugar. 


Cupcake #2 - Little Pearl Cupcake


Little Pearl Cupcake, located on Northland Drive in Plainfield Township, recently began offering gluten free cupcakes and vegan cupcakes.


First, we tested out their Cinnamon and "Butter"Cream Vegan cupcake. They use Earth Balance spread in place of the butter in their icing. 

Cinnamon & "Butter"cream Vegan Cupcake at Little Pearl

These cupcakes had a nice texture, weren't too dry, and they looked great. We found this cupcake to have a slight cornbread flavor as well. The cake portion of the cupcake didn't offer much in the way of cinnamon flavor. The icing was topped with a heavy sprinkle of cinnamon, which is the main source of cinnamon flavor on this cupcake. 


This cupcake scored a 7.


LIttle Pearl also offered a Gluten Free variety, so we took a bite out of their Gluten-free Lime cupcake. 


Gluten-free Lime Cupcake from Little Pearl


We found this cupcake to have a texture very similar to that of a regular cupcake. In fact,  many of our tasters commented that if they hadn't known it was gluten-free, they would have thought it was made with regular flour.

The taste however, left something to be desired. Nearly all of our tasters agreed that the lime flavoring seemed very artificial. The lime flavoiring did seem to please our 9-year old taster who said, "the flavor is very soothing".

The icing on this cupcake was very sweet. It also melted very quickly. I put these cupcakes into an already cool car, and drove them approximately two miles to the tasting location.  They were melted by the time I arrived. 

This cupcake scored a 6.


Cupcake Group #3 - Marie Catrib's 


Nestled in "The Center of the Universe" on the corner of Lake Drive and Diamond in Grand Rapids, Marie Catrib's offers a plethora of vegan and gluten free baked goods each day. 

Although there weren't any cupcakes available, we took a recommendation from the staff for two of their most popular cakes - which are also available as cupcakes from time to time. 

The Vegan Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate Cake.


 Vegan Chocolate, Chocolate Cake from Marie Catrib's - sometimes available in cupcake form

This chocolate cake was rich, moist and utterly delicious. A dark chocolate cake, with a "milk" chocolate icing and filling, and drizzled with a chocolate ganache. This cake could easily be passed off as it's dairy-laden counterpart. 

The Vegan Chocolate, Chocolate Cake scored a 9.


The second item we tasted from Marie Catrib's was the Vegan Carrot Cake, which is also available in cupcake form on certain days. 


 Vegan Carrot Cake from Marie Catrib's - on certain days, this presents as a cupcake, too.

The carrot cake was equally as good as the chocolate cake. Since this cake is vegan, the traditional cream cheese is missing. However, the icing is sweet and delicious and covered with toasted coconut that helps hide the fact that the icing is lacking cream cheese. 

The carrot cake scored a 9.


Cupcake #4 - Cakabakery 


Cakabakery, founded by J.T. Kakabaker in 2010, is a custom cake baker. Designing custom wedding and special occasion cakes and cupcakes. Cakabakery will attempt to meet any dietary need. 

Vegan Raspberry Lemondate Cupcake from The Cakabakery

From Cakabakery, we taste tested their vegan Raspberry Lemonade cupcakes. These cupcakes were a lemony cake, topped with a raspberry icing. The cake had pieces of candied lemon zest running through it, while the icing had bits of real raspberries. 

This was the unanimous favorite of our taste testers. Each agreed that the cake was beautifully moist, not too dense, and had a perfect balance of sweet and tart. You would never guess that this cupcake is dairy-free and egg-free. 

This cupcake scored  perfect 10. 


 Note from Elisabeth:  We will be contacting these bakers to ask if they would be willing to provide some information on their kitchen practices, so that highly allergice/ Super Tender Foodies will have more information regarding cross-contamination and baker knowledge.


Audrey Depenbrok is a Tender Foodie and a self proclaimed cake-aholic with an indecisive nature. She spends her days as a freelance non-profit consultant while taking care of her little boy, golden retriever and two cats.  You can find her tweeting away @mommy_kinz. 



"Forks Over Knives" Cures What Ails You.


Ultimate Fighter Mac Danzig gets protein from plantRip Esselstyn's firehouse lowered their cholesterolRuth Heidrich was supposed to die young (she didn't)







That Burger in My Fridge

I had a package of wonderful ground beef perfectly thawed and ready to throw on the grill tonight.  I thought about that meat throughout the

documentary film, "Forks Over Knives".  The beef is from Crane Dance Farms, a local spot with a great reputation and a farm that I'm just getting to know.

San'Dera Nation curedBut a nice, juicy burger wasn't the only thing on my mind when I walked into the theatre.

I also wondered ...

1.  Will the film address other potential underlying causes to disease as well as how our dietary choices effect our health?  (I'm talking, pesticides, chemical food additives, modern toxicity, anti-biotics, food allergies, factory farming, the "G-word"... you know, that stuff.)

2. Will I become so horribly militant after I see this film that I will lose all of my friends?

3.  Will this film tell me NEVER to eat a burger or a beloved steak again?




Knowledge Heals

Anthony Yen can "raise his flag" after multiple heart surgeries, and eating a plant-based dietAs the film began, my questions and expectations became less important than the gentle, intelligent research of Dr. Colin Campbell, a nutritional scientist at Cornell University and Dr. Caldwin Esselstyn, a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the Cleveland Clinic.  In different areas of the country and the world, these two men asked the same question, "Why do these diseases exist in the first place?"  They found that in the answer to THIS question lies the cure.  Diet.

When you see Forks Over Knives, you might walk away, not militant, but inspired.  You might also have a huge craving for  vegetables (I did).  You will definitely have more respect for your own body.  You will have a better understanding of your body's ability to heal itself and why the wonderful world of vegetables can help us all heal. 

On the fip side, doubts about the pills in your cabinet and that surgery you are about to have will creep in, too.  Credible evidence by credible physicians and researchers will give you that doubt, not cheesy, manipulative scare tactics.  

The evidence was most strongly presented in a group of people that the film followed (some of whom are pictured above).  I won't spoil it for you - the results are dramatic and worth seeing on the big screen yourself.  You will also hear pieces of information that are quite fascinating.  For instance, one of the first indicators of heart disease is erectile dysfunction.  Who knew?  Eat plants, and as Anthony Yen puts it, "your flag will raise" without a problem, even into your 70's.  Fireman Rip Esselstyn, author of "The Engine 2 Diet" said it best as he climbed up the fire pole using only his arms, with the chant, "Real. Men. Eat. Plants." 

What Our Mothers (or the USDA) Didn't Tell Us

My lunch after seeing the movie.The film also offers a glimpse into the power of marketing.  We all grew up with the USDA food pyramid and TV ads telling us that a dairy is the "only" source of calcium, that meat is the "only" source of protein; and now, that high fructose corn syrup is the same as sugar (and that it is actually good for you).   The film debunks these theories with some interesting science and quick insight into politics.  The truth is, that hIghly saturated foods with mostly fats and sugar cause food addictions.  They also change our palates and destroy our bodies' healing abilities.

My diet is pretty darn healthy and includes mostly plants.  I feel much better when I eat my greens and lots of them.  But Forks Over Knives challenged my own assumptions and habits, as well.  Did I have that burger?  Oh yes.  And it was really good.  But I'm going to rethink the frequency with which I consume red meat, and meat in general, and explore more deeply other protein sources.

Look out vegetable aisle.  I'm comin' to get you.

About the Film

 For Movie Times in Grand Rapids visit:

Learn More About the Film:

Watch a clip from Forks Over Knives:


Gaia Vegetarian Cafe is Brunch-o-licious.

No Cow, Dairy-free and Yummeee.

The Jim White (without tortilla and without cheese) w/ Potatos & Onions

After my move to Grand Rapids, MI, I had walked across the street from a rather dark, non-descript building.  For a year or two I always paused and wondered, "what on earth is in that place?", but never ventured past my curiousity to find out what kept pulling my attention.   Then one day, after a class at From The Heart Yoga Center, my then-new yoga buddies said, "Wanna go to Gaia?"  Through these great peops I discovered that Gaia was a Vegetarian restaurant and it is located in that very building.  

As we opened the big wooden door to a well-hidden, but bustling restaurant, I had also hoped that this Earth Goddess Eatery would be food-allergy literate and Tender Foodie accepting.  They were.  And are. 

They use whole, fresh foods and don't blink an eye when I ask, "is the corn organic?"  But I do double check to be sure that both the servers and the chefs understand that none of my particular food allergens can be near a cutting board, plate or other food item (and you should, too).  The good news is, their fried potatos and onions are perfectly browned and always made with olive oil and not butter.  The great news is, those potatos also qualify as lick your plate good. 

Gaia is an understated, welcoming little joint with a kind, intelligent staff and a kitchen you can observe as you wait for a table.  The crowd is a great mix of tie-die, family, creative and loosen-your-collar business types.  The energy in the room inspires and allows great conversations.  My favorite thing on the menu (so far) is The Jim White.  I order it without cheese or romaine lettuce.  I also reject the tortilla.  They do have an all corn tortillas made by a local company.  I haven't yet spoken to the tortilla maker to confirm their allergen-free factory practices but I don't feel any pressure to do so on a personal level - I just love the Jim White without the traditional tex-mex wrapper.

The combination of avocado, black beans, brown rice, scrambled eggs (made without milk), tomatoes and salsa is consistently fresh, delicious and always satisfying.  The rest of the menu promises to be the same.  On my way out I always bow slightly in respect to the delicious Gaia Blend Organic Sumatra Coffee.  Somehow it makes ricemilk, which I usually find too watery as a milk replacer of any kind, a very compatible coffee companion.  I have dubbed this Gaia blend some of my favorite coffee in town.

Gaia is also a perfect place for vegetarians to bring their non-vegetarian friends, as no one will leave with their stomach growling. Through a search I  discovered that "Gaia" means, "the goddess of the earth, who bore Uranus and by him Oceanus, Cronus, and the Titans."  Gaia may not serve meat, but their stick-to-your-ribs fair is worthy to carry the name of this Titan-baring goddess.

Although Gaia is open for different meals, I tend to gravitate toward the noon-time hour on the weekends, since Gaia is so bruncholicious.


Find Gaia at:

209 Diamond Avenue Southeast Grand Rapids, MI 49506-1525 - (616) 454-6233
Open Tue-Fri 8am-8pm; Weekends 8am-3pm



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