Thursday, March 29, 2012

Apple Coffee Cake with Chia Seeds - Kim's Welcoming Kitchen

Chia seeds are a little powerhouse in this refined-sugar-free coffee cake.  Not only are the chia seeds the egg replacer in this vegan breakfast treat, but they also act as a binder for the gluten-free flour.  Not too shabby for an itty-bitty little guy!

It is the gluten in wheat that holds traditional baked goods together, so it is necessary to add a binder to gluten-free flours to replicate that effect.  Frequently, that binder is xanthan gum or guar gum, but they are not the only options.  When chia seeds are soaked in water they form a gel that not only can take the place of eggs in vegan baking, but the gel is strong enough to hold the gluten-free baked good together.  There are other options, too, like psyllium husks, but I didn't use that here.

I shared this recipe with Allergy Free Wednesdays.

Crunchy Topped Apple Coffee Cake


1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar, divided
1/2 cup soy-free Earth Balance
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup non-dairy milk beverage (I used rice milk.)
2 cups gluten-free baking flour mix (I used King Arthur Flour brand.)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups 1/2-inch diced, peeled apples (approximately 3 small apples)


1)  Preheat oven to 350.
2)  Lightly oil an 8-inch-square baking pan .
3)  Combine chia seed and water in a small bowl.  Set aside.
4)  Lightly toast pepitas in a dry skillet for approximately one minute or until lightly golden.
5)  In a food processor, pulse together pepitas, 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
6)  Cream together Earth Balance, 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar and maple syrup.  (I used my KitchenAid stand mixer.)
7)  Mix in chia seed mixture and non-dairy milk beverage.
8)  In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg using a whisk.
9)  Mix dry ingredients into wet, one half at a time until well incorporated.
10)  Mix in apples.
11)  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Smooth top with a damp spatula.
12)  Spread pepita mixture over top.
13)  Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Happy Cooking!

Monday, March 26, 2012


In the context of school what does it mean?

I have been thinking about this for quite a while (probably since my 3rd grader started kindergarten), but especially this week.  This week our school is having an Inclusion Week.  My children are fortunate to attend a public school that is committed to trying to create a welcoming environment for children with all kinds of strengths and challenges.

Food Allergies and Children
For Inclusion Week, children made squares indicating what makes them unique; then they were joined into classroom quilts.

I applaud the efforts of the parent volunteers of our Inclusion Committee and our school leaders to focus attention on how we can create an inclusive school community.

How does all of this work when the challenge your child faces is food allergies?

I have written here about concerns about food in the classroom and safety.  Inclusion is a slightly different matter.

If a child is allergic to dairy or is gluten-intolerant, how does he or she feel when a classroom reward for good behavior or achieving a fund-raising goal is a pizza party?  How different would they feel if it was a movie day or extra gym time or playground time?

If children fundraise by having bake sales or selling candy, how does that make the child feel for whom those foods are dangerous?  How might they feel if they were selling non-food items instead?

Why not make a log cabin out of craft sticks and glue instead of pretzels and frosting? 

Every time a family of a food-allergic child has to decide whether to speak up that an activity puts their child at risk or has to bring an alternative when there is food in class highlights the child's challenges and can make that child feel different (maybe not quite so included).

If the family does speak up and request an alternate activity, how does that make the child and his classmates feel when the other classes are enjoying a "treat" that they are denied?  Will the other children in class hope not to be with the food-allergic child in the future, so that they can still have the "treat?"

With food-allergy rates for children around 1 in 12 children, or 2 per classroom, I urge school communities to rethink inclusion as it impacts children with food allergies.  Sometimes food is a necessary part of education.  When it's not, or when there's an easy alternative, we can create a more-inclusive environment for many of our children by sticking with something else.  

I shared this post with Allergy Friendly Fridays and Allergy Free Wednesdays.

Happy Cooking!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gluten-free Vegetable Dip Recipe

We, like a lot of the country, are experiencing way-warmer than usual weather.  It's gorgeous (though a little freaky for March!) and it makes us want to play outside all day long.

When it's 80 and sunny, I don't want to spend my day in the kitchen!  I want to frolic with my boys.

Lucky for me, this dip throws together in seconds, and makes even picky veggie eaters delighted.  For grown-up tastes add the Sriracha, for kids, leave it out.

A dip can dress up a plate of veggies and turn it into an appetizer or a lunch.

I shared this recipe at Allergy Free WednesdaysSlightly Indulgent Tuesdays, Allergy-Friendly Fridays and Allergy Friendly Lunchbox Love.

Creamy Sunflower Seed Butter Dip
Makes one generous serving

1 tablespoon sunflower seed butter
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons vanilla-flavored coconut milk yogurt
Sriracha to taste (optional)

Combine all ingredients.
Serve with cut-up fresh vegetables.

Happy Cooking!

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

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Eczema and Coconut Oil -

Both of my boys have eczema in the fall and winter.  Although Casey's is associated with his food allergies, he also just plain-old has eczema.  His is really itchy, and his legs in the colder months are frequently covered in scabs and bloody patches.  Evan doesn't have food allergies, but he also has had eczema in the fall and winter.  Not only are his legs covered in rough patches, but there are also a few patches on his back and arms.  They're not itchy, luckily, though.

If this is the same story that you have at your house, I don't have to tell you the vast number of creams, lotions and concoctions that we have tried over the years.  Sometimes in a misguided attempt to be "natural" we've even made matters worse (as a baby we used shea butter and almond oil on our undiagnosed nut-allergic son!).  Everyone has something to suggest -- friends, neighbors, doctors -- to make things better.

Add me to the list!  We recently turned to an old buddy, coconut oil, as suggested by my good friend, Julie. She is a lover of all things coconut oil, and she has turned me into a convert. 

We have been rubbing generous amounts of coconut oil into my sons' skin, and we have seen a vast improvement!  Their skin is softer and less scabby.  Because it's kind of greasy, we apply it at night before bed.  They go to sleep smelling slightly tropical, but all fragrance is gone in the morning. 

I don't know if this will help you if you're struggling with eczema, but it might be worth a try.  (Obviously, this is not an option if you have a coconut allergy.)  At least for us, spring is coming, and that will also bring some relief!

Happy Cooking!

My new book,  Ancient Grains: A Guide to Cooking with Power-Packed Millet, Oats, Spelt, Farro, Sorghum & Teff (Superfoods for Life)is available now! Super Seeds, is available now! You can also find tasty recipes in Welcoming Kitchen: 200 Delicious Allergen- & Gluten-Free Vegan Recipes.

Friday, March 9, 2012

My beautiful, smart, complicated son was born 9 and a half years ago.  Right away, he developed severe eczema.  Then came breathing problems, eventually leading to a diagnosis of asthma.  Then we discovered that he had multiple food allergies.

In the beginning it was really rough.  We spent years not sleeping, worrying, and trying to figure out what to do to make his life as full and rich and comfortable as possible.

Today, he is an active third-grader who is on a swim team and plays baseball, soccer and endless games of football.  He goes to parties and play dates.  He thrives in school and has lots of friends.  He grows healthier and stronger all the time.

It is with all of this in my head and my heart that I read Feeding Eden, a new memoir by Susan Weissman. The subtitle of this book reads, "The Trials and Triumphs of a Food Allergy Family."  That sums it up really nicely.  

In her book, Susan documents the ups and downs of trying to find answers for how to best help her son, Eden, as he struggled with a variety of health issues including food allergies, while trying to parent another child, keep her marriage together and maintain some level of sanity.  I've been there.  Reading her book brought me back to the exhausting times of Casey's baby and toddler years.  She is really honest about her inner struggles, her successes and their missteps.

Feeding Eden is written in an easy-to-read style, and you really feel you get to know Susan and her family.  I think that it would be helpful to read this book if you are just starting down the food-allergy road.  It can feel really lonely when you are confronting multiple health challenges and the unique social stresses that food allergies introduce into a family.  This book might just make you feel a little less alone in your journey.  That's a good thing.

For me, it was a little hard to revisit those trying early days.  I am grateful that things have gotten so much easier for us. (Though I worry about jinxing us as I write that!)  We are focused on our road ahead, and I try not to spend too much time reliving what came before.

It can be comforting to know that instead of being alone in the struggle, there are millions of us out there doing the best we can.  If you would like to get to know one of those moms a little better, read Feeding Eden, especially if you're new to this particular adventure.

Happy Cooking!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A while back, I asked if you had anything that you missed that you wanted me to try to make Welcoming Kitchen-friendly.  Molly contacted me asking me to try to make poticia. 

Vegan gluten-free Poticia

First I had to find out what poticia is.  I looked around on the Internet, and it seems like poticia (or poviticia) is a traditional Slovenian bread that is rolled out thin, filled with walnuts, honey and raisins, and then rolled up jelly-roll style.

This offered a whole bunch of challenges.  First, I have never tried poticia.  I had to go by several descriptions.

Next, I wanted to come close to the experience Molly missed, while using ingredients that would be safe for everyone.

Finally, I didn't want it to be so difficult that other readers would not want to give it a try.

What we ended up with is a cake instead of a bread.  The cake is not very sweet, though, but it is easier to work with then a gluten-free yeast bread.  I used apple cider vinegar and sparkling water to give it some lightness.

Instead of rolling it up (a challenge for gluten-free dough), I baked it thin, and then layered it together like a torte.

For the filling, toasted pumpkin seeds and agave stand in for the walnuts and honey.

I'm not sure if this will live up to Molly's memory, but I can tell you that it's really tasty and slightly exotic!  It also was easy to make, but looks impressive with lots of layers.

I thank Molly for pushing my limits a little. 

I shared this with Allergy Free Wednesdays, Allergy Friendly Monday and Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

Makes 4 servings


For cake:
1 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur brand)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted, soy-free Earth Balance
1/2 cup vanilla-flavored coconut milk beverage
1/4 cup sparkling water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

For filling:
1 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
1 cup raisins
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat oven to 375.
Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, xanthan gum and sugar with a whisk.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine melted Earth Balance, coconut milk, and sparkling water.
Mix dry ingredients into wet.
Thoroughly mix in vinegar.
Spread batter on parchment forming a 10x14-inch rectangle.
Bake 7-10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cake cool on a wire cooling rack.

To prepare filling,
Lightly toast pepitas in a dry skillet.  (Approximately two minutes, or until just starting to turn light brown.)
In a food processor, chop pepitas.
Add raisins, agave nectar and cinnamon to pepitas.  Process until thoroughly combined.

When cake is cool enough to handle, cut into 6 equal rectangles.  Remove to cooling rack.
Place one rectangle down on the parchment-covered baking sheet.
Spread filling on top of cake.
Press another cake rectangle on top of filling.  Spread filling on top of that one.
Continue until all the filling is used and top with last rectangle.  Press down.
Return to 375-heated oven for 10 minutes.

Happy Cooking!

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

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A little over a month ago, I was "adopted" by Sea Maiden at the gluten-free, vegetarian blog, The Book of Yum.

This time around, I decided to return the favor, and I "adopted" her.  I wanted any of my readers who had not yet discovered her well-written blog to learn about it.  Sea writes about being a mom, a student, a wife, and an all-around busy woman.  She writes with humor and in an easy style.

Part of this process is that I picked out a few recipes from Book of Yum and made them myself.  It was tough deciding what to make.  Some of Sea's recipes aren't right for my home; although she's a vegetarian, she's not a vegan, so some of her recipes include eggs and dairy.  She also uses nuts, which we don't in our house.  Since I was doing this for Welcoming Kitchen, I also wanted to pick recipes that fit in with our model (vegan, gluten-free, and free of the top 8 allergens).  With that said, however, there were still lots to choose from! 

The first recipe I picked out was a chocolate mousse.  I've seen recipes for avocado-based chocolate puddings, but I had yet to try one that I liked.  Sea's recipe is delicious!  It's creamy, rich, and really tastes decadent.  I loved that it had very few ingredients, and it came together in minutes.  

I was really intrigued by the raw foods marinara.  I loved how you could put together a sauce for pasta, crostini or pizza quickly and without cooking.  This sauce was a little sweet for me, because the recipe calls for two dates, but I loved the freshness of it.  I served it over some wide rice noodles that I got at the Asian market earlier this week.  I would definitely make this again, though I would eliminate the dates probably.

 Although it's ok to make just two recipes, I couldn't leave it at that.  I also made an amazingly spiced chili-garlic roasted broccoli.  My absolute favorite method to prepare cooked vegetables is roasting.  I usually just toss my veggies with olive oil, salt and pepper.  It's funny how just spicing it up a bit can make such an enormous difference.  My sister and I ate the whole head of broccoli with our fingers -- it was that good.  This recipe results in broccoli that is definitely all grown-up.  It has a great kick and so much flavor.  I will definitely make this again.

 I had such a good time snooping around Sea's blog.  I hope that you get to know her and The Book of Yum a little better, too.

Happy Cooking!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Today on The Balanced Platter I wrote a blog post about my road to easier breathing through changing my diet.  I also created a recipe for a chocolate "shake."  It's rich and creamy and chocolaty, so I'm calling it a shake.  For all that, though, it also is free of refined sugars, contains no dairy and has some surprise ingredients.

If you want to read more, check out the post here

We shared this with Allergy Friendly Lunchbox Love.

Happy Cooking!