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Nix Nuts from Your Cooking and Baking

How do you cook and bake for someone with allergies?

Lori Sandler, who learned her son has a severe nut allergy, was faced with that very question. And she's not alone. In the past five years, the number of Americans with food allergies has doubled from 6 million to 12 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sandler, who taught herself to cook and bake with her son's allergy in mind, started her own allergy-free bakery, Divvies, which serves all sorts of nut-free baked goods and snacks. Her philosophy is that through cooking specialized allergy treats, no child will be left out of delicious eating.

(From the Food Allergy Initiative Web site)

How to Avoid Peanuts:

The federal Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires that any packaged food product that contains peanuts as an ingredient must list the word "peanut" on the label. Please be sure to read all product labels carefully before purchasing and consuming any item. Remember, also, that ingredients change from time to time, so check labels every time you shop. If you are still not sure whether or not a product contains peanuts, call the manufacturer. Always take extra precaution when dining in restaurants or eating foods prepared by others. If you are in doubt about any product or dish, don't eat it.

The following ingredients indicate the presence of peanut protein:
Beer nuts, ground nuts, mixed nuts, and peanut (including peanut flour and peanut butter).

Peanut protein is found in Arachis oil, and in cold pressed, expressed, expelled, and extruded peanut oils. Highly processed peanut oil has been shown to be safe for the vast majority of people individuals allergic to peanut. As the degree of processing of commercial peanut oil may be difficult to determine, avoidance is prudent.
Ethnic restaurants (such as Chinese, African, Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese), bakeries, and ice cream parlors are considered high-risk for individuals with peanut allergy due to the common use of peanut and the risk of cross contamination-even if you order a peanut-free item.

Peanut butter and/or peanut flour have been used in chili and spaghetti sauce as thickeners. Always ask if peanut was in the recipe.

Many candies and chocolates contain peanut or run the risk of cross contact with peanut protein.

Lupine or lupin is a legume that may cause an allergic reaction in those with peanut allergy. Lupine is used in this country in many gluten-free and high-protein products. In many European countries, particularly Italy and France, lupine flour and/or peanut flour may be mixed with wheat flour in baked goods.

Many tree nuts are processed with peanuts and therefore may contain trace amounts of peanut protein. Extreme caution is advised.

What to do:

Be on guard for unexpected ingredients.
You'd be pretty surprised to know what some chefs have used as hidden ingredients, and where they've used them. Peanut butter has been used to thicken gravy, sauces, and chili; walnuts have been found in ravioli; one sesame-ginger butter recipe called for both soy sauce and peanut butter.

If you have a severe peanut or tree nut allergy, stay away from high-risk food establishments that frequently cook with these ingredients, because the risk of cross contact is high. For example, it is common for Mexican, African, Chinese, and other Asian dishes to contain peanuts, and equipment and utensils are usually shared among foods.

Unexpected ingredients can be found in packaged food, too. Milk and soy have been found in some brands of tuna. Anchovies and/or sardines can be found in Worcestershire sauce. At least one brand of veggie burger lists walnuts on its ingredient statement. This is why it is so important to read the labels of all packaged foods carefully each time you eat them! Although this may seem to be a waste of time, don't take shortcuts. Too many needless reactions, some fatal, have occurred because people didn't read labels carefully.

Visit your allergist
Even if you haven't had a reaction in years, schedule regular visits with your allergist. This is especially important if you have asthma in addition to food allergy. Ask your allergist to create a customized emergency action plan (pdf), if you don't already have one. That way, if you eat something and have a reaction, you'll know exactly what to do. If your allergist has prescribed an EpiPen or Twinjec for you, know how and when to use it.

Recognize early symptoms and know what to do
Know the symptoms of an allergic reaction, and don't ignore them if you begin to experience them. Remember, the sooner you treat a reaction, the better off you'll be.

Carry your prescribed medicine at all times
Always be prepared to handle an allergic reaction. If you have been prescribed an EpiPen or Twinjec, take it with you wherever you go. You never know when you'll need it.

Teach others how to help you
Your friends want to help you, but in order for them to do so, they will need direction from you. Don't wait for an emergency to let them know what they can do, explain it in advance. Talk to your friends and let them know how they can tell if you are having a reaction and what steps they need to take to help you.

Brownies Made the Divvies Way

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup non-dairy sour cream
2 tablespoons applesauce
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 cup Divvies Semisweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 9 pan with non-stick baking spray. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside. Combine all other ingredients (except for chocolate chips) in mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until very smooth. Be sure to scrape sides of bowl so all ingredients are well incorporated. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Beating at medium speed, and, once again be sure to scrape sides of bowl with spatula. Fold in chocolate chips and mix on low speed to evenly distribute throughout brownie batter. Pour batter into prepared pan. Spread to distribute evenly.

Bake for at least 40 minutes. Test by inserting a toothpick. The longer you bake these brownies, the cakier they will become. Fudgy are safe and delicious as these are made without eggs!

Seed-free Breadcrumbs

Double-check that the bread you purchase if free of and has not come into contact with any nuts or seeds (or any other potential allergens)

1/2 loaf sliced sesame-seed free crusty Italian bread
season to taste, or per each cup of breadcrumbs:
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For very fine breadcrumbs, cut crusts off bread. This step is not necessary.

Place bread slices, in a single layer, on baking sheet(s). Bake 10 minutes, then turn bread over and continue baking for another 10 minutes (total 20 minutes). Bread should be very dry and not at all well-done, or burnt. Remove bread slices, break into pieces and place in food processor. Pulse food processor until desired breadcrumb consistency is reached. Add seasonings to taste. Store in an airtight container.

Ideas for breadcrumbs:
Chicken fingers
Eggplant and other fried vegetables
Nut-free Pesto
1 cup basil leaves
1 clove garlic
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmigian cheese (can use a combo of parmigiana and pecorino)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until you have desired consistency. Be sure to scrape sides of food processor to incorporate all ingredients. You may adjust any of the above ingredients to your liking.

Ideas for pesto:
Mix into pasta with a bit of the pasta cooking water and stir. Adding more cheese/seasoning is optional.

Spread directly on sandwiches or mix into mayonnaise. Pesto-mayonnaise is great as an aioli dip for French Fries or mixed right into chicken and tuna salads. Whisk some into vinaigrette. Spread on toasted Italian bread to make bruschetta. Use as a topping or dip for steak, fish and chicken.

For a cupcake recipe, go to Page 2.

Divvies Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups water

1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup dairy-free margarine, chilled
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rice milk


CAKE: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together oil, vinegar, vanilla, and water until well combined. Add flour mixture to the mixer and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary. Batter should look and feel more watery than normal cake batters.
Pour batter into prepared muffin tin, filling each cup 1/2 to 3/4 full. Transfer to oven and bake, rotating pan halfway through cooking, until a cake tester inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Immediately remove cupcakes from muffin tin and transfer to a wire rackso the water can evaporate and your cupcakes will not be soggy. Let cool completely before frosting.

FROSTING: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, margarine, salt, and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary.

Add rice milk and continue mixing until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary. With the mixer running, slowly add remaining 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, mix until well combined. Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, up to one week.

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