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

Vegan Zucchini Muffins (gluten-free, food-allergy friendly) www.welcomingkitchen.com

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.
Vegan Zucchini Muffins (gluten-free, food-allergy friendly) - www.welcomingkitchen.com

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!)

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. Mallergies.com 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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Peppermint Chocolates - Kim's Welcoming Kitchen

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.)

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!


My new book, Super Seeds, is available now! You can also find tasty recipes in Welcoming Kitchen: 200 Delicious Allergen- & Gluten-Free Vegan Recipes.

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

Sugar Cookies (vegan and gluten-free) - Kim's Welcoming Kitchen

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.

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.

Sugar Cookies (vegan and gluten-free) - Kim's Welcoming Kitchen

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 4 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 sheet .
Bake 13-15 minutes or until golden.

These cookies go great with our new hot cocoa!

Windy City Cocoa - Kim's Welcoming Kitchen

Happy Cooking!

My new book, Super Seeds, is available now! You can also find tasty recipes in Welcoming Kitchen: 200 Delicious Allergen- & Gluten-Free Vegan Recipes.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Photograper: Suat Eman

For such a simple question...it 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. www.allergysense.com/blog/2009/11/24/you-can-win-a-gingerbread-house-that-is-nut-free-and-peanut-free-and-free-of-more-allergens