Best of 2013

First of all, let me say thank you to my readers and supporters of my blog.  I truly enjoy creating and sharing allergy-free recipes with you!  After looking back over the year, I thought I would share with you my 'Top 5' recipes from 2013.

Vegan Salted Caramel Corn

Do you have lots of people at your house during the Holidays?  How about anyone with a dairy or nut allergy?  Here is a delicious recipe for a dairy-free, nut-free caramel popcorn that will keep everyone happy.

Allergy-free Candy Cane Cookies

Recently, I came across a yummy-looking recipe for peppermint cookies on a friend's blog, and they looked like a perfect recipe to adapt to be allergy-free.  My husband is particularly fond of cookies with crushed candy canes on top.  This simple recipe can be a fun one to make with the kids, who can enjoy smashing candy canes, rolling cookie dough balls, and sprinkling crushed candy canes on top of the cookies.

Sweet Debbie's 'Fudgy Fig-A-Mama-Jig Bars', Cookbook Review and Giveaway

Recipe Reprinted from SWEET DEBBIE’S ORGANIC TREATS by Debbie Adler. Published by Harlequin. Copyright Debbie Adler 2013

Recently, I got my hands on a new cookbook for allergy-free and vegan baking, 'Sweet Debbie's Organic Treats: Allergy-Free and Vegan Recipes from the Famous Los Angeles Bakery' created by Debbie Adler, owner of Sweet Debbie's Organic Cupcakes in Los Angeles.  Not only is it a beautiful cookbook, but it is full of unique,  allergen-free, refined sugar-free treats that look delicious!

Debbie even manages to include nutrition-packed ingredients like turmeric powder,  mesquite powder, and even parsnips in some of her creations! As I started eagerly exploring all of the creative, recipes such as 'Blondies with Roots,' 'Quinoa Cranberry Cookies,' and 'Saffron and Cardamom Donut Holes,' one recipe caught my eye: her Fudgy Fig-A-Mama-Jig Bars. I thought I would give them a try.

Allergen-free Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving can be challenging for those with food allergies. Of course, the main dish is typically allergen-free, but the appetizers, sides and treats usually are not. As you plan your family gathering this week, I thought I would share with you some of my recipes to help make your feast a food allergy-friendly one.

Gimbal's Fine Candies Review and Giveaway

Move over, Jelly Belly - there's a new allergen-free jellybean in town: Gimbal's Fine Candies!  Actually, Gimbal's has been around since 1898, but what makes them stand apart is the fact that they are allergen-free: their candy is peanut-free, tree nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and egg-free! All of their packages contain the following label:

 Not only does Gimbal's make amazing jellybeans, but they also make gourmet sour, cherry, cinnamon, and licorice candies. All of them are made with real fruit juice or natural extracts. Their gourmet jellybeans include 41 individual flavors. Recently, I got my hands on a package of their jellybean Harvest Mix, which is a seasonal combination of 7 of the Fall flavors.

The Harvest Mix flavors include Roasted Marshmallow, Harvest Spice, Peach Cobbler, Goblin Punch, Red Delicious, Harvest Berry, and Pumpkin Pie.  

My daughter and I sampled all of the flavors, and I have to say they are all bursting with it!  Her favorite is the Harvest Berry (pink one) because it is, as she describes, 'very fruity.'  My favorite is the Red Delicious (red one).  I think it tastes just like biting into red delicious apple.  The only flavor we were not crazy about was the Pumpkin Pie, but that may be due to the fact that we prefer fruity rather than spicy flavors.  

I thought I would share a cute idea you could make with candies like these - Indian Corn decor!  These could be used for place cards or just for Fall/Thanksgiving decor.  I found the idea on Pinterest.  Check out how cute they turned out:

Now it's your turn to try some of Gimbal's Fine Candies! Enter the raffle below for your chance to win a full-size bag!  

**Update: 11/29: The winner of the Gimbal's candy is April Paik.  Congratulations, April!**

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Allergy-free Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

'Tis the season for all things pumpkin.  This goes for Snickerdoodles, many people's favorite cookie. These pumpkin Snickerdoodles are completely allergy-free, free of all top 8 food allergens.  They are wonderfully soft and dangerously addictive and would be a perfect allergy-free Thanksgiving treat!

Enjoy Life Decadent Soft-Baked Bars Review

Enjoy Life Foods is a wonderful company that specializes in making delicious foods, free of all top 8 food allergens. Recently, they gave their followers on Facebook an opportunity to sample some of their new Decadent Soft-Baked bars, so I jumped at the chance! With a child who is allergic to 4 of the top 8 allergens, I rarely can find a granola or dessert bar that she can eat, let alone enjoy! Imagine my delight when I opened this:

Four full-sized boxes - how generous! All of the bars were nice and moist, with a lovely icing drizzle on top.  In my opinion, they are not too small or too large - just the right size for a treat.

Here are our thoughts on the 4 flavors:

Chocolate SunButter

This bar could not be sampled by my daughter because she is severely allergic to sunflower seeds.  So, I gave some to a friend whose son has several food allergies, not including sunflower seeds.   He really liked them, but he thought they would be better with chocolate chips.  He preferred to eat them with extra melted chocolate chips on top (Enjoy Life, of course). In my opinion, the SunButter does give the bars a nice peanut butter-like flavor.

Chocolate SunButter 

Cinnamon Bun

This one was my daughter's favorite.  It was very moist and had a wonderful cinnamon flavor.  It really did taste like a cinnamon bun. She went through this box the fastest.  If I were to buy some of these Decadent Bars for her, this is the flavor I would choose.

Cinnamon Bun

Cherry Cobbler

My daughter did not like these at all - not because they were bad, but because they actually tasted like cherry cobbler.  She is not a fan of fruit in her desserts, especially cherries.  Actually, she probably gets it from me. I have never liked any cherry desserts myself.  I tasted them as well, and I thought they really tasted like cherry cobbler.  Again, not my favorite, but if you're a fan of cherry desserts you will enjoy these.  

Cherry Cobbler


This bar was the driest of the four, albeit still soft. You can even see the difference in the picture, compared to the other three. They do contain some Enjoy Life graham crackers, so perhaps that contributes to the dryness. It did have a nice mild chocolate flavor.  I kind of wish they had some actual little marshmallows in them.  


Here's an example 'Nutrition Facts' from the Cherry Cobbler bar.  As you can see, the bars do have a modest amount of sugar and very little vitamins or minerals, but they are full of real ingredients, including dried fruit and quinoa flakes.  I certainly would not consider them nutritional bars, but they sure are a nice treat, especially for those with allergies who rarely have the opportunity to indulge in such a thing.

These bars would be a great option for a party, and they could be cut into smaller pieces and served on a cookie tray.  You can purchase them at your local grocery or natural foods store or online.

Nut-free Chocolate Crunch Bites

I just returned from the first annual Food Allergy Blogger's Conference (FABlogCon), which was held in Las Vegas, NV.  What a great weekend of collaboration and inspiration!  Not to mention all of the fabulous swag!  One of the swag items, along with some popular pins on Pinterest, got my mental juices flowing to create some Nut-free Chocolate Crunch Bites.

Paleo Berry Jam

The typical American diet is inundated with sugar.  One of the common culprits is jam.  Who doesn't love a little jam on their toast, english muffin, or bagel?  But, most jams contain quite a bit of refined sugar in order to achieve that sweet taste we all love.  Whether we have food allergies or not, we can all agree that cutting down our refined sugar intake is a good idea, right?

One of my favorite Paleo food blogs is  The author, Juli Bauer, creates really yummy paleo versions of many comfort foods.  The other day, I came across her Raspberry-Blueberry Jam and decided to modify it to fit our family.  Check it out:

Dairy-free Pesto (Paleo)

Ever since my daughter and I returned from our trip to National Jewish in Denver, where we discovered that she can eat pine nuts (even though she is severely allergic to tree nuts), I've been searching for the perfect dairy-free pesto recipe for her to sample.  Of course, traditional pesto contains parmesan cheese, but really it tastes great without it.  I combined a few recipes I found online to come up with this version.  Now go make it and slather it on your favorite crostini or pizza dough!

Book Review: 'Patty's Secret: A Tale About Living with Food Allergies' by Leneille Moon

I recently came across a new children's book, 'Patty's Secret: A Tale About Living with Food Allergies' by Leneille Moon, written to spread the word about food allergies.

This is a darling story about a little pig named Patty who has multiple severe food allergies.  She is very nervous about her first day of school, specifically about how the other kids might feel about her food allergies. When she takes a bite of a food she knows she's allergic to, just to fit in, she starts to experience a scary anaphylactic reaction.  Thankfully, her twin brother comes to the rescue, and her 'magic shot' (Epi-Pen) is administered, stopping the reaction.

There are some great lessons that can be learned from this book: 
  • Allergic kids need to let others know about their food allergies
  • Never eat something you know you are allergic to
  • Always have an Epi-Pen close by in case of an accident
  • Kids are curious, and they can also be very accepting of differences

I will be buying a copy, which can be purchased on Amazon here, and giving it to my son's 1st grade teacher to read to her class.  I highly recommend that you do the same! Thank you, Leneille, for writing such a helpful, important, kid-friendly book!  You are a mom after my own heart!

Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls - Vegan & Nut Free!

It seems like in the summer, bananas ripen faster.  Maybe my kids aren't eating as many of them, but every time I glance at the bowl of fruit on my counter, I have at least a few ripe bananas.  Sometimes I freeze them to use later in smoothies, and other times I mash them up for some yummy banana bread.  I even resort to throwing them away *gasp*.  Last night, I noticed 5 overly-ripe bananas and had a thought - has anyone managed to use bananas in cinnamon rolls?  Low and behold, after a quick Google search, I found a recipe online that I could easily make allergy-free.  Thanks to Anna at The Bashful Bao for figuring out the proportions.  All that was left for me to do was adapt it to be vegan!

I know, most of my recipes are gluten-free and vegan, but this summer we discovered, thanks to National Jewish Health in Denver, that my daughter can eat wheat.  As you can imagine, this opens up a whole lot of baking options!  If you need the recipe to be gluten-free, I'm sure you could substitute your favorite gluten-free flour mix for the all-purpose flour and add a little xanthan gum.  You may just have to let it rise a bit longer.

Cinnamon rolls can be quite a time commitment, but these bad boys were completed in 2 hours flat (including the time for rising)!

7-Minute Artichokes

One of my daughter's favorite vegetable snacks is steamed artichokes.  Because they are such a great, healthy, allergy-free snack I try to make them for her on a regular basis, but steaming artichokes is a time-consuming task, especially at high altitude!  I recently found out that you can quickly prepare a steamed artichoke in the microwave, and it only takes 7 minutes.  That means along with the time it takes to trim them, you can be indulging in delicious steamed artichokes in less than 10 minutes! 

Rib Eyes with Garlic-Thyme Marinade

Ok, so this recipe is not going to appeal to any vegetarians or vegans out there, but if you're a meat eater like me, it is a party in your mouth.  It comes from my collection of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food recipes I have collected in a binder over the years.  The original recipe is here.  Besides the obvious tenderloin, rib eyes are my favorite cut of beef or buffalo, due to their tenderness and fatty content (mmm, fat...).  This is a delicious paleo, allergy-free recipe that all the meat lovers in your family will love.  The prep is easy, the cooking is easy, and the eating is delicious.

Strawberry Coconut Ice Cream

With strawberries in season and the weather getting much warmer, now is the perfect time to make strawberry ice cream.  Just like my Chocolate coconut mousse/ice cream, this recipe uses coconut milk and gelatin. Plus, it's allergy-free and paleo!

Maple Chile Bacon

Is there really a way to make bacon more delicious?  A few weekends ago, I discovered the answer is yes! I'm typically the chef in the family, but this recipe was created by my creative hubby one Saturday morning.  Utilizing the oven method, it's a breeze to make.

{guest post} Spicy Artichoke Dip

Today's post was written by Tali Wee who currently lives in Seattle and blogs about life in the northwest.  She owns Wee Picket Fences where she writes about being a new homeowner, bargain hunter, a dairy-free foodie and DIY enthusiast.  Tali works at Zillow where she handles the community outreach for Charlotte, NC.  She enjoys family, food, travel, writing and spending time on projects around the house.

Thanks Tali for posting!

In my family, food is the most common topic of conversation and is usually the reason for gathering together.  We are all healthy, but we appreciate eating dynamic meals and tasting new foods.  In high school I discovered that I had an allergy to a few random foods, but primarily dairy.  Unfortunately, it’s not lactose intolerance where popping a Lactaid pill will provide me the enzyme to enjoy a bowl of ice cream.  Luckily though, my diet restrictions are fairly common, and there are grocery aisles full of dairy-free ingredients and numerous blogs packed with flavorful recipes and substitution tips.  The toughest part of transitioning to a dairy-free diet was convincing my family that dairy-free dishes can actually taste just as delicious as their full dairy versions.

Since becoming dairy-free, I began testing out recipe substitutions on my friends, family and co-workers. The trick is to offer the dishes without divulging the allergy details.  Truthfully, ‘dairy-free’ and ‘gluten-free’ don’t make non-allergic people’s mouths water!  It’s such a fun challenge to swap around ingredients to make the dishes safe for everyone in the group.  Plus, I feel much safer making dishes myself as many people don’t understand the ins and outs of food allergies.  Fortunately, I have such a food-focused family they try their hands at allergy-safe dishes when we get together.

One tough course for the dairy-challenged is the appetizer.  Many popular hors d'oeuvres include cheese as a main ingredient.  For this Spicy Artichoke Dip recipe, I simply eliminate the cheese.  I don’t recommend this approach for all dip recipes because it can negatively alter the overall texture.  This recipe holds up consistency with additional veggies and reduced moisture.  Enjoy this dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan appetizer at your next gathering. 

Salted Pretzel Caramel Brownies

The other day, I saw this pin that caught my eye: Salted Pretzel Caramel Brownies.  Yum - what a delicious combination of flavors and textures - chocolate, pretzels, salted caramel, fudgy, crunchy, gooey.  It sounded like a culinary masterpiece, and I had to come up with an allergy-free version.  

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

My aunt just sent me fresh Vermont maple syrup last week, and let me tell you, it is so much better than the stuff you can buy at the store!  It was the perfect excuse to make my daughter some allergy-free pancakes, and luckily my food-blogging soul sister, Tessa the Domestic Diva, posted one of her pancake recipes just the other day!  I made a few modifications to her yummy recipe to create my own apple-cinnamon pancakes - yum!

Smoky Shrimp with Garlic

One of my favorite things to do is to scour the internet for recipe ideas and then tweak them a bit for my own tastes.  The other day I was searching for a paleo shrimp dish and came across this one from Williams Sonoma.  I'm obsessed with all things smoky right now, so I decided to make this one with a smoky, southwestern twist. The bonus, it's allergy-free too!

Chocolate Coconut Mousse/Ice Cream

While searching for the perfect chocolate coconut ice cream recipe, I came across a combination of ingredients that resulted in a very versatile dessert.  This recipe can be used to make either chocolate mousse or chocolate ice cream, depending on your mood.  The bonus: it's Paleo and allergy-free!

'Slap Yo Mama' Caramel

For those of you with a dairy allergy, on the Paleo diet, or who eat only raw foods, caramel is typically out of the picture.  Well, this is your lucky day!  I have found a no-cook, dairy-free, 5-ingredient caramel sauce that will make you 'slap yo mama,' as Tim Hawkins would say. The original recipe can be found here, but I made some slight changes to make it creamier and closer in flavor to the caramel I've been so fond of.  

Coconut Crack Balls

Thanks to Pinterest, I found this recipe the other day for Coconut Crack from the yummy food blog This Chick Cooks. I made some for a luncheon I had at my house this week, and every time someone bit into one, their eyes widened in delightful surprise.  They are incredibly delicious, and are a great choice to have if you're wanting to wean yourself off of your refined sugar stupor of the Holidays and Valentines Day.  The recipe makes about 12 balls and contains a total of 1/4 c of maple syrup.

Another bonus, the recipe only contains 5 ingredients and takes very little time to prepare.  Try them! You can find the original recipe here, but for those of you who want fewer clicks, here it is:

Coconut Crack Balls

  • 1 c shredded coconut, unsweetened
  • 1/4 c maple syrup (grade B is fine)
  • 2 T coconut oil, softened
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • dash sea salt
  • shredded coconut for garnish
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until well mixed and the mixture sticks together. If the mixture is too gooey to form into balls, stick it in the fridge for a little while.
  2. Form into balls, sprinkle with additional shredded coconut, and chill for at least an hour.

Shared on: Whole Foods WednesdayHealthy Vegan Friday, Gluten Free Friday, Gracelaced MondaySlightly Indulgent Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Wheat Free Wednesday, Allergy Free Wednesdays, Raw Foods Thursdays

Simple Oven-Roasted Ribs

The other day, I found a great deal on some baby back ribs, so I scoured the internet for oven-baked rib recipes.  I found quite a few and combined what I thought was the best of all of them into one easy allergy-free recipe.  Lucky for all of you Whole30 people, it happens to be Paleo too!

After preparing my pan with aluminum foil, I mixed up the spices in a small bowl. Chances are, you have all of them in your pantry.  

I then rubbed the rib rub mixture into both sides of the ribs and sealed up the foil.

After baking for 3 hours, I removed the foil (you can simply open up the foil as well) and returned it to the oven for 20 minutes to brown up.

The finished ribs had a nice crust and were so deliciously tender! What's your favorite way to eat ribs, wet or dry?  Why?  Add your answer in the comments below.


Simple Oven Roasted Ribs

  • 2 racks baby back ribs
  • 6 T rib rub (see below)
    *Rib Rub* 
    (makes about 2/3 cup)
  • 2 T paprika
  • 1/2 t cayenne pepper
  • 1 T black pepper
  • 1 1/2 T garlic powder
  • 2 t onion powder
  • 1 1/2 T salt
  • 1 1/2 t dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 t dried thyme
  • 1 t dried mustard
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F, and line a large baking sheet with a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil or two sheets of regular aluminum foil, enough to cover the pan twice (you will seal this up around the ribs later)
  2. Place the ribs on the foil, not overlapping. Rub about 3 T of the rib rub onto both sides of each rib (6 T total), fold the foil over the ribs and seal tightly.
  3. Place ribs in the oven and bake, undisturbed, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The ribs should be very tender.
  4. Remove the ribs from the oven and peel back the foil so that the ribs are exposed. Return the exposed ribs to the oven to brown for about 20 minutes longer.
  5. Take the ribs out of the oven and set aside to cool briefly before cutting between the ribs and serving.

Millet-Sorghum Bread

There are lots of delicious gluten-free breads out there, but not if you are allergic to dairy and eggs as well.  Udi's has some lovely-looking loaves, but all of them contain egg whites.  So, I have to bake my own allergy-free bread.  The other day, I came across this blog post by Authentic Simplicity for a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free bread made from millet and sorghum flours.  I slightly adapted it to be a little sweeter and discovered an easy, delicious gluten-free bread. 

Butternut Squash Lasagna

When some people hear 'Butternut Squash Lasagna,' they might be reminded of squash-filled pillows of ravioli.  This delicious paleo dish uses the butternut squash in a completely different fashion: it is used as a replacement for the noodles.  The recipe comes from one of my favorite paleo recipe websites,  Another bonus: it is free of the top 8 food allergens! The result is a flavorful, healthy, plate-licking dish that the whole family will love - even the children.

Smoky Kale Chips

Here's a nice little twist on the traditional kale chips. I happened to come across this wonderful new Smoked Alderwood Sea Salt the other day, and I keep trying to find ways to use it. I went easy with these since I opted to use some bagged kale, which was already washed and chopped.  You can really use any kind of kale in this recipe - curly, dino, red, etc.  There are just 3 ingredients: kale, olive oil, and smoked salt.

Keep Informed

This post is a bit different from my usual allergy-free recipes, but I feel like it's an important one. As a parent of a child with severe food allergies, it's vital for me to stay up to date on the latest food allergy research. Even though we have a very good local pediatric allergist, it's really up to me to be proactive and seek out this information. Fortunately, there are several online resources.

One of the great websites to check out is The Food Allergy Initiative (FAI), which recently merged with The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. They will soon have a new website located at For now, check out FAI's main page and scroll down to the links under 'Recent News.'

Listed in the recent news, some food allergy treatment options, all currently still in the clinical trial and/or research stages, include oral immunotherapy, TSO Therapy and eating baked milk. The outcomes are looking promising, and I would suggest talking to your allergist about these treatment options and when they might be available.

I did come across two practices who currently perform oral immunotherapy: The NE Food Allergy Treatment Center, and Dallas Allergy Immunology. There are other major food allergy research centers around the country. They include:

The final online resource I'd like to share is Consulting MD, A website offering state-of-the-art medical advice from the world's leading experts, specializing in second opinions and cutting-edge, informational videos. Lucky for us in the food allergy world, their first set of informational videos is on food allergies, specifically practical information about food allergy testing, prevention, management, and new treatment therapies. I have already previewed these videos and have found them to be extremely informative and helpful. They have motivated me to be more proactive in my daughter's health and establish her as a patient at one of the major food allergy research centers.

Consulting MD has graciously offered a 75%-off discount to my readers for these already-affordable videos. Simply go to this link and enter the group code CEvideo before purchasing. But hurry - this offer is only available until the end of February!

On top of offering a steep discount on their food allergy videos, Consulting MD is offering to share their exclusive, state-of-the-art food allergy packet, created by top medical experts. All you have to do is sign up for their email list (here) and like their Facebook page. The packet can be taken to your doctor and includes: 
  • New 2013 Allergy Treatments
  • State-of-the-Art Allergy Care Centers
  • How to Mange Food Allergies (Use with your doctor)
  • Allergy Reaction History Chart
There have been and continue to be advancements in food allergy testing, prevention, management, and treatment. With all of the resources out there, you can stay informed!

Shared on: Allergy-free Wednesday, Gluten-free Fridays

Paleo Split Roast Chicken

Well, after 5 months of posting allergy-free recipes (most of which were baked goods), the pants are getting a wee bit tight!  So, I'm going to focus on posting healthier, allergy-free paleo recipes for a while.  The first one is a wonderful recipe I found on Health-Bent.  I highly recommend their website for incredibly delicious paleo recipes, a lot of which are allergy-free. This split roast chicken has an amazing garlic-lime-cilantro paste and is very juicy, due to the fact that it is split and not overcooked.