Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why do I have a new love of facebook?? The ability to keep track of long time friends is amazing! I love that I get to catch up with old and new friends all the time on this new-found technology! We have moved multiple times over the years due to my husband's job but in each place we have met new wonderful friends, yet still miss all our old friends all the time.

In the craziness of life, it is hard to juggle everything and still feel connected to everyone. This is where my love of facebook has started. I was a very reluctant starter but I have jumped in and am having fun with it! I am still trying to get Kim out of the kitchen long enough to sign up...but oh well!

One of the best things is that many of my friends will share their recipes on their facebook pages...and this one...I asked if I could use for our welcoming kitchen blog!

My friend Kathy is a truly amazing wife, mother, and friend! Her husband and I became friends when we worked in Yellowstone for a summer and I am so happy that he married such a cool chic ; ) They are dear friends to us and, although we do not see each other as often as we like...I love them all!

Aren't they the cutest family?!

Enough of the sap...on to the recipe! It is so simple...yet so delicious! Although this sounds like a summer dish...the colors in it made a nice addition to our Christmas Eve tamale dinner! We served it as a side dish...but it was quickly turned into a salsa that was eaten with corn tortilla chips.

Allergy Free Corn & Avocado Salad

2 cans corn
1 diced avocado
1 pint halved grape/cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup green onion

Combine all ingredients and toss with vinaigrette.


2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp ground pepper
Sea salt to taste

It was so well liked it was a blur to watch it get eaten ;)

Happy Cooking!

Kim & Megan

Find tasty recipes in Welcoming Kitchen: 200 Delicious Allergen and Gluten-free Vegan Recipes.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Photo by Julie Han

When I started creating a Welcoming Kitchen in my home, I thought that it would be great for my family and for any of our friends or loved ones who came over. This has worked out so well for us. We had 25 guests for a casual Christmas Eve buffet that featured lots of Welcoming Kitchen (allergy-free, gluten-free and vegan)dishes that everyone devoured! We had chili (from our upcoming cookbook), rice, salad, corn muffins, dips, chips and tons of cookies and candies. I have worked hard for several years to come up with delicious and safe foods that I could serve at home. That alone would have been worth the effort. There's so much more to the story, though!

My friends and family have also chosen to serve Welcoming Kitchen dishes when they entertain to ensure that parties and meals are safe for my kids and for other guests. Just this morning, I brought my sons and my nephew to my mom's for breakafast. She made a feast of muffins, fruit and allergy-safe quesadillas for everyone. All three little guys chowed down (as did my mom and me!). Next time that your carnivorous uncle, or lactose-loving friend, or nutty neighbor ask what they can make that will work for you, consider forwarding one of our Welcoming Kitchen recipes to them. They'll see how easy it is to make food that works for everyone.

Happy Cooking!
Kim and Megan

Sunday, December 27, 2009

This yummy muffin recipe comes from our new book, The Everything Guide to Cooking for Children with Autism (Adams Media, 2009). Zucchini muffins are great at this time of year. You still want something that feels celebratory (like a sweet muffin), but that sneaks some nutrition in alongside the goodness.

You can freeze these and heat them as you want to eat them.

Zucchini Muffins

Makes 12 muffins


3 cups gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1 tablespoon gluten-free vanilla extract
2 cups raw grated zucchini


Preheat oven to 350.
Oil a standard muffin pan.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir with a whisk.
In a large bowl, combine applesauce with 3/4 teaspoon baking powder.
Mix in brown sugar, oil, flaxseed meal, and vanilla.
Mix in zucchini.
Slowly mix dry ingredients into wet, adding one half at a time. Stir until combined.
Spoon into oiled muffin pan.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Happy Cooking! (and Happy New Year!)
Kim and Megan

Sunday, December 20, 2009

There was holiday music.

There were children busy exploring their winter-y creativity.

There were lots of colors.

But, we weren't decorating cookies. Nope. We were making little Shrinky Dink ornaments. (Remember Shrinky Dinks from your childhood?)

Obviously, in our Welcoming Kitchen we're all about food. But, sometimes a great way to include everyone in an activity is just to move away from food. Our kids had a blast, and they were busy for well over an hour (giving me more time to clean up and get some holiday stuff done).

Tomorrow, maybe we'll make custom gift wrap out of recycled paper!

Happy Cooking!

Kim and Megan

Friday, December 18, 2009

Since we have been writing this blog, we have been incredibly fortunate to meet so many wonderfully caring people working to provide information, resources and assistance to people living with a variety of dietary restrictions. This past week, a great website was brought to our attention. is a great resource for folks living with food allergies. If you're not familiar with them, take a moment to check them out. This week, they are featuring our recipe for Ridiculously Yummy Peppermint Chocolates.

Happy Cooking! (and Happy Holidays!)

Kim and Megan

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It is finally here!

I went to my mailbox in huge anticipation!

What is this exciting mail? Is it a surprise present from my husband?

A last minute holiday gift that I rushed to have delivered??

What is your guess??

Of course....I knew you would know!!

The newest exciting VEGAN CHEESE!!!!

Dairy-free, Soy-free, Delicious Cheese!

What?? That was not your first guess??

Really?? I am shocked!

This amazing cheese won the 2009 Best Of Show VegNews Award and is the hottest vegan product right now! It is made from arrowroot and tapioca flours. The combination allows it to melt, stretch, and basically get as close to cheese as you can in a vegan product. I had seen pictures and read about it but wanted to test it out in our Welcoming Kitchen...

After reading lots of hype about the new vegan "cheese" made by Daiya, I had to order some for myself. I got mine through Vegan Essentials online since it's not available at retail in my area yet. I ordered both flavors (Italian Cheese blend and Cheddar). My family and I were really excited to try it, so we made a quick macaroni and cheese the day it arrived.


The reviews were overwhelmingly positive! My children have never eaten dairy cheese, so they just enjoyed it. I haven't eaten dairy cheese in about seven years, so my basis for comparison is probably not too accurate, but my husband does still occasionally eat dairy cheese. We both really liked the flavor and texture. My husband said that

"It was the closest cheese alternative I have tried!"

I contacted the folks at Daiya to find out when we could find this cheese on our grocery store shelves. They said that they're working on a retail rollout plan now, and that it should be more readily available in spring. If you live on the west coast or in Canada, it might be on your shelves already.

Please note that we were not paid to review this product or given any samples, our review is based on our opinion.

Welcoming Kitchen cooking is terrific not just for people who have food allergies or intolerances, but it's also a great option for vegans who might over-rely on wheat and soy in their daily diets. So many quick vegan foods are made from wheat or soy that it's easy to have them figure prominently in every vegan meal. Since Welcoming Kitchen cooking doesn't use either soy or wheat (or any other gluten-containing grain), incorporating these recipes into your routine can be an easy way to diversify a traditional vegan diet without having to try too hard.

The macaroni and cheese was creamy and flavorful. We used a small rice pasta shell, because that was what I had on hand, but you could use quinoa-corn elbows, too, or any shape that strikes your fancy. I'm sure we'll post a more grown-up mac and cheese in the future, but this was a quick throw-together dinner that we served with some sauteed spinach. Sometimes quick and tasty is good enough!

Gluten-free Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Easy Mac and Cheese
Serves 4 to 6


1 pound gluten-free pasta, cooked according to directions
pinch of salt
1/4 cup rice milk
2 cups Daiya cheese, cheddar flavor


Preheat oven to 400.
Cook pasta with pinch of salt according to package directions.
Drain when al dente.
In a small saucepan, bring rice milk just to a boil.
Add 1 cup cheese, stirring until cheese is melted.
In a large casserole dish, toss pasta with cheese sauce.
Sprinkle remaining cheese over pasta.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted, but not browned.

Happy Cooking!

Kim & Megan

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

gluten-free, vegan chocolate peppermint candies

I am in full-on holiday mode! Today, I whipped up these treats that have a crisp chocolate exterior and a soft, minty inside. In case you didn't notice from other posts, I can be a bit disorganized when I am in a cooking frenzy! I might possibly be the messiest cook ever ;)

Anyway...What's so great about these candies is that they use just a few ingredients so that even if you don't have any special dietary needs in your home, you can easily make these for all of your guests to safely enjoy without a large financial investment. They also would make a great homemade gift.

(Note: To crush the candy canes, I just smashed them up with my rolling pin. It took about 4-5 standard size candy canes to get the 5 tablespoons.)

We submitted this recipe to be part of the Virtual Cookie Exchange 2011 hosted by Rianne at Art of Dessert

We also shared this recipe as part of Allergy Friendly Fridays.

Peppermint Chocolates

Makes 18 candies


1/4 cup rice milk or coconut milk beverage
2 1/2 cups allergy-free, gluten-free chocolate chips
5 tablespoons crushed allergy-free, gluten-free candy canes


Fill a mini muffin pan with mini muffin papers.
In a small saucepan, heat rice milk until it is just about to boil. Turn off heat.
Stir 1 cup chocolate chips into rice milk, continue stirring until chocolate is completely melted.
Stir crushed candy canes into melted chocolate. Set aside.
In another small saucepan, heat remaining chocolate chips, stirring constantly until about half-way melted.
Remove from heat, and continue to stir until completely melted.
Spoon a small amount (about 1/2 teaspoon) of the melted chocolate into a muffin paper.
Top with approximately 1 teaspoon of peppermint chocolate.
Cover the peppermint chocolate with another 1/2 teaspoon of melted chocolate.
Continue with remaining papers, one at a time.
Cover muffin pan with waxed paper, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Happy Cooking!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tis the season to bake and bake and bake. In our Welcoming Kitchen we use canola oil and coconut oil and flaxseed meal and fruit purees to give our baked goods great texture. But ... even if you're a vegan, and even if you have allergies or intolerances, sometimes at this time of year, you might just yearn for that buttery flavor of your childhood.

Now, thanks to Soy-free Earth Balance, you can bring that buttery flavor back into your kitchen! Shortbread cookies and butter crusts are available to most everyone again. We will continue to use the ingredients that we have come to love over the years, but we'll also gladly add this yummy spread into our rotation.

We look forward to sharing some of our favorite holiday treats with you this month.

***Of note...we were not paid for this produt review or given samples...we just really love this product!

Happy Cooking!

Kim and Megan

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

After a day covered in gluten-free flour and vegan powdered sugar (and I mean covered), there are now two Welcoming Kitchen sugar cookies ready for your holiday cookie cutters!

How lucky for me, that I saw Alton Brown on Good Eats last night. He gave some great tips that made making these cookies even easier. First, put a cookie sheet in the freezer to chill. My freezer isn't big enough for this, but lucky for me, I live in the Midwest and just put my cookie sheet outside to chill. Then, when you're ready to roll out your cookie dough, sprinkle your work surface and rolling pin with powdered sugar to prevent sticking. Finally, after you roll out your dough to 1/4-inch thick, put your chilled cookie sheet on the dough to re-chill it. (I put a piece of parchment paper between my pan and dough, since mine had been outside.)

These cookies are a basic cookie; you can add a whole range of flavorings or icings to suit your preferences. Some ideas are citrus zest, cinnamon or cocoa.

(Not only am I a messy cook - I wasn't joking about being covered in flour and sugar - but I also am a bit disorganized. I couldn't find our holiday cookie cutters, so if you look closely at the picture, you might see that my cookies are animal shapes. Hopefully, I'll find the right cutters soon!)

I made 1/2 batch of these cookies with oat flour and 1/2 batch with gluten-free all-purpose flour with xanthan gum. Both turned out well. I decorated mine with colored sugar.

We shared this recipe with Allergy-Free Vintage Cookery's Lunchbox LoveAllergy Friendly Fridays and Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays; please check out the other great recipes.

I submitted this recipe as part of Cookie Exchange 2011 hosted by Rianne at Art of Dessert.

Sugar Cookies

Makes 36 cookies


1 cup soy-free Earth Balance
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, divided
1 teaspoon GF vanilla
4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
(or use 5 cups cups gluten-free oat flour in place of the GF all-purpose flour and xanthan gum)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plain-flavored coconut milk-based yogurt
Powdered sugar for dusting work surface


Cream Earth Balance and sugar together.
In a separate bowl, combine applesauce with 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.
Add applesauce mixture and vanilla to Earth Balance.
Blend together.
In a medium bowl, combine flour and xanthan gum, (or oat flour), 2 teaspoons baking powder and salt. Whisk together.
Slowly mix flour mixture into wet ingredients.
Mix yogurt into batter.
Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap or seal in a zip-top bag.
Refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350.
Dust work surface and rolling pin with powdered sugar.
Roll dough out to 1/4-inch thick.
Re-chill dough with a cold cookie sheet.
Cut with cookie cutters.
Bake on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 13-15 minutes or until golden.

Happy Cooking!
Kim and Megan

Monday, December 7, 2009

Photograper: Suat Eman

For such a simple sure is complicated to find the answer!

In our welcoming kitchen, we are big fans of all things coconut!
We love the versatility that coconut products give us when developing recipes for multiple food restrictions! And we certainly try to accomodate a lot of restrictions here ;)

To those with a tree nut allergy, deciding if a coconut is safe can certainly be confusing! Prior to 2006, coconuts were not included on lists of foods to avoid for those with tree-nut allergies. However, under the new labeling laws, the FDA now classifies coconut as a tree nut. The law further requires that food labels of coconut-containing foods must warn consumers that the product contains tree-nuts.

How can a coconut become a tree-nut?

Is it an identity crisis?

What is a coconut lover to do??

Even the food allergy groups have a difficult time with recommendations regarding the safety of coconut:

According to FAAN (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network)

"Coconut, the seed of a drupaceous fruit, has typically not been restricted in the diets of people with tree nut allergy. However, in October of 2006, the FDA began identifying coconut as a tree nut. The available medical literature contains documentation of a small number of allergic reactions to coconut; most occurred in people who were not allergic to other tree nuts. Ask your doctor if you need to avoid coconut."

The Food Allergy Initiative states the following about coconut as a tree-nut:

"The following are uncommon, additional tree nuts that require disclosure by U.S. law. However, the risk of an allergic reaction to these nuts is unknown: beechnut; ginkgo; shea nut; butternut; hickory; chinquapin; lychee nut; coconut; pili nut."

So the bottom line is...coconut is classified as a tree-nut; however, after talking with your physician, you might be able to safely consume it, even if you have a tree-nut allergy! (Disclaimer: it is possible, to be allergic to only coconut so always check with your doctor about what foods are safe and unsafe for your individual situation!)

Here in our welcoming kitchen, we do choose to use coconut containing products despite our tree-nut allergies.

Now, I may have to go have a coconut-containing drink after writing this post ;)

Happy Cooking...with Coconut!

Kim & Megan

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Kim and I were honored today to meet with a fabulous group of parents today on the north side of Chicago. Julie was gracious enough to let us into her very "welcoming kitchen" for a great morning of cooking, eating, and sharing. We spent time talking about the basics of gluten and casein-free cooking and baking.

Kim had her run as the Julia Child's of GF CF baking and demonstrated how to make a coconut pineapple rice pudding, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (recipe available right here on this blog!), and topped it off with our old-fashioned biscuits whose recipe is featured in our latest book: The Everything Guide to Cooking for Children with Autism.

It was a great morning of new friends and was our first official welcoming kitchen food domonstration so thank you to everyone for your encouragment and support on our new adventure!

Happy Cooking! And today it was ;)

Kim & Megan
PS...Kim is in the kitchen working on a roll out sugar cookie that is welcoming kitchen friendly right now!

Recipe to be published here in the next week...

Friday, December 4, 2009

After years of blood tests, my seven-year-old son is eligible for a food challenge. Great news, right? I would have thought that this would have been only a source of excitement for us. I was unprepared for the anxiety that all of us, including my son, feel about it.

For those of you who don't know what a food challenge is, here's a little nutshell explanation. Every year my son gets a blood test to determine the amount of allergy antibodies in his system. When the number falls below 2, he is eligible for a food challenge. In the challenge, he will be given increasing amounts of the food that he has been allergic to (in our case, the challenge will be cows' milk). The challenge happens in the doctor's office in case he has an allergic reaction. If he does, he is still allergic and has to continue avoiding. If he makes it through the challenge with no reaction, he is believed to no longer be allergic. However, if he passes the challenge, he will need to eat a serving of cows' milk (cheese, yogurt, milk, etc.)at least every other week. So, to me it seems like it's not that he's no longer allergic so much as that the allergy has changed, since if you're not allergic, you don't have to follow these same rules.

An allergy to cows' milk is pretty scary since little kids are so messy. We have worried every time kids eat ice cream and drip near him, and we worry that some child will spill his milk at lunch. Passing the food challenge would eliminate those worries. The world would be a lot less dangerous for him. Also, he could eat foods (like crackers) that are made on the same equipment that is used to manufacture foods that contain milk. That would be great.

So, what's there to be anxious about? Well, plenty, actually. The odds are slightly better than 50% that he'll pass. Those aren't the greatest of odds. He's worried that he's going to get sick when he is exposed to his allergen. (Since we've hammered this into his head for years, that's not shocking.) They just don't know enough about how people outgrow allergies to give us better odds than that.

Also, my children and I are vegans. He was very upset at the idea of eating cows' milk. For us, though, his health and safety are our biggest concerns. We have told him that it is up to him if he passes the challenge if he wants to continue being a vegan or if he wants to eat cows' milk. He would have to eat the one serving every other week, though, even if he chooses to remain vegan. We would treat that serving as his "medicine" to keep him healthy.

The nurse practitioner at our allergist's office was amazing. She took lots of time to talk with me about our concerns. She advised us in how best to talk to our boy about the challenge, and she helped us help him make the decision to go ahead and give it a try.

Our appointment is set for the end of January. We're keeping our fingers crossed until then!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Not only do our friends at Allergysense provide a ton of useful information on their website, but for a few days they are running a great giveaway. Click on this link to find out more about their allergy-safe gingerbread house giveaway.