Monday, December 28, 2009

Appetizers to Ring in the New Year

Time to think about 2010 and nothing starts the year out right like a wonderful New Year’s Eve party! Invite all your friends, they will never know the food is allergen free! I have included a list of my recipes that will work great for NYE including boeuf bourguignon skewers and white bean dip (this dip is from the holiday lamb chop recipe but is also crazy good on leftover turkey sandwiches, the bean mixture adds moisture to the allergen free bread).
I encourage you to think of any main dish you enjoy and portioning it out in bite size portions - as an amuse bouche (French term for one bite) Click here to access these recipes. I have also included below a new recipe for Spring Rolls and one that looked extra good from the Food Network - thanks Ted Allen!

Spring Rolls

1 package spring roll wrappers

Soyless Sauce:
4 tablespoons beef broth
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons molasses
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
black pepper to taste
½ cup boiling water

Combine all the ingredients
Add to sauce pan and reduced by half.
Store in refrigerator, use within 4 days.

1 pound fresh pork or chicken breast
1 medium onion, sliced
2 stalks celery, small dice
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pound Napa Cabbage, sliced thinly, 1 inch lengthwise
1 tablespoon sugar
2 green onions, diced

Pork Seasoning:
1 tablespoon soyless sauce (use soy sauce if you don’t have allergies to soy, much easier)
Kosher salt to taste
black ground pepper to taste
¾ teaspoon cornstarch

4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon soyless sauce
Kosher salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 teaspoons cold water*
2 tablespoons oil for stir-frying

Mix soyless sauce, Kosher salt, ground black pepper and cornstarch together, set aside.
Cut the pork into thin strips, add to marinade and let sit for 15 minutes.

Heat saute pan (preferably a wok) over medium-high to high heat.
Add the oil for stir-frying and let heat another minute.
When the oil is ready, add the onion and cook until soft and translucent.
Add celery and cook until soft.Remove from the wok.
Add pork to the wok and cook covered until well done and set aside.
Next saute mushrooms, set aside.
Add cabbage, and cook covered for approximately 1 minute, again adding salt and/or sugar to taste.
Combine all the ingredients in the wok. If necessary, drain some of the juice.

Mix gravy ingredients and add to wok/saute pan, pushing the vegetables up against the sides of the wok to form a well in the middle for the gravy.
Stir to thicken. Mix thoroughly.
Add green onion. Set the filling aside to allow to cool before wrapping.

To wrap, soak spring roll wrapper in water until soft. Lay the spring roll wrapper directly in front of you on a towel, add a second wrap directly on top of the first. Place the filling in the bottom middle closest to you. Tuck the wrapper closest to you around the filling and tuck sides in and roll. Very similar to making a burrito. You can eat the rolls as is or pan fry the rolls until crispy on all sides.

Ted Allen of the Food Network shares his recipe for Crostini with Thyme-Roasted Tomatoes, now for us allergenistas with wheat allergies/celiac, replace the bread with Deerfield Bakeries French Baguettes and you’ll have a hit. Other options for flavoring the tomatoes - rosemary, tarragon or cumin and cilantro.

Crostini with Thyme-Roasted Tomatoes

4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Kosher or sea salt
fresh ground pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons dried thyme
8 ½-inch-thick slices baguette, cut on the bias
1 clove garlic

Preheat the oven to 275°F. Place the tomatoes cut-side up in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and the thyme. Roast 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours, or until the tomatoes are very soft and slightly shrunken.

Increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Rub the crostini with garlic and top each with a roasted tomato.

Next up: My favorites for 2009!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Dinner: Wow your Friends with This Beautiful Lamb Dish

Last week was the last week of my culinary program at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago (Cordon Bleu Chicago). I am proud to say, like Julia Child, who also attended Cordon Bleu, I was top of my class. Funny how it took me 40 years to be a straight A student, I assure you my grades weren’t this high my first time around in college. My success at CHIC was a combination of being an older and more mature student, but mostly because I found a true love for cooking and helping people eat with food allergies. Nothing beats figuring out a recipe so that people can continue their family traditions - allergen free.

I wanted to thank CHIC for their unending support and patience as they figured out how to work around my unique needs as a student. I would also like to thank all the chefs at the school. Each and every one of them went out of their way to make recommendations for making dishes safe and options for ethnic cuisines that are naturally allergen free. In particular, I want to thank Chef Brian Karam. Chef Karam was my supervisor for my 12 week externship and also suffers from Celiac disease. Chef Karam always had recommendations to intensify or build the flavor profile on my recipes and was extra sweet, but blunt when recipes just didn’t work. I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with Chef Karam and believe my skills have multiplied under his wing.

In honor of Cordon Bleu, I thought I would modify their dish Cotelettes d’ Agneau Persillees with Haricots Blanc a la Bretonne. In English - Lamb Chops served with a White Bean Puree. In the traditional dish, you would use bread crumbs instead of potato chips, you can use an allergen free bread crumb if you prefer, but I liked the little bit of salt the chip added to the dish. Some terms you will need to know to make this dish:

Creamed Garlic – This is very similar to mincing garlic, but keeps your hands clean. Click here for a instructions on how to cream garlic.

Mirepoix – A mixture of 2 parts onion, 1 part celery and 1 part carrot, you can use a rough combination for this recipe.

Concasse – This is a tomato that has been blanched, shocked and chopped. All seeds have been removed from the tomato. You can use canned diced tomatoes as well.

Sachet – Normally wrapped in cheese cloth, you can use a coffee filter in a pinch to contain these ingredients to add extra flavor to your dish. Sachets include – 6 parsley stems, 8 whole black peppercorns, sprig fresh thyme, a couple bay leaves and 1 whole clove. Make sure you fold the coffee filter several times so the ingredients don’t get out.

Lamb Chops served with a White Bean Puree
Serves 4

3/8 cup parsley, minced
6 cloves garlic, creamed
3/8 cup potato chips, crushed
8 double lamb chops
Kosher salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1½ cups mirepoix, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Mix together the persillade (crust for meat) by combining parsley, garlic and potato chips, set aside.
Dry the lamb chops and season with Kosher salt and pepper.
In a small saute pan, heat olive oil and sear chops on all sides.
Remove chops from pan and spread mustard on the fat side of the chops.

Press persillade mixture into mustard to stick on the side of chops, set aside.
Add mirepoix to saute pan and place chops on top.
Finish in oven until desired doneness.
Rare 130°F
Medium Rare 135°F
Medium 145°F
Medium Well 150°F
Well Done 160°F

If you have time, you can add beef stock to the saute pan and reduce until you can run finger through the sauce on the back of a wooden spoon and it does not run thru line you just made (the French culinary term for this consistency is nappe).

Bean Puree
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, creamed
2 cups white beans, soaked over night and drained
1 cup tomato concasse, finely chopped
2 cups chicken stock
additional water as needed
1 sachet
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, heat oil and sweat onions until translucent.
Add garlic, and cook another minute, careful not to burn garlic.
Add beans, tomato concasse and stock. Add additional water if needed to cover beans.
Bring to a simmer and add sachet.
Maintain a simmer until beans are tender, about 30 minutes, adding more water if needed.
Remove beans from liquid and take out sachet, reserve liquid.
Place beans in a blender and add 2 tablespoons of reserved liquid.
Adjust consistency by adding additional liquid and seasoning with Kosher salt and black pepper.

Smear beans across plate and top with chops. Enjoy!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

These cookies are so good, no one will ever know they are allergen free. This is a modified recipe, I used to call these graham cracker cookies, I tested them with some modifications at a cooking class at the Whole Foods Market in Willowbrook last week, and most people thought they tasted like snickerdoodles. Blending these could make a really nice crust… hmmm. Let me know what you think.

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies
These cookies taste best when you use Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Flour.

2 cups of all purpose allergen free flour
¼ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Spread
1 cup sugar
1½ teaspoons water
1½ tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 375°F degrees.
Combine flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon together by sifting and set aside.
Blend sugar and Earth Balance together and mix with water and canola oil.
Fully blend in the flour mixture, adding small amounts at a time.
Make 1” balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Use a fork to push down cookies (cross-hatching them looks good).
Bake for 9 minutes and put on a rack to cool.
The cookies are very delicate until they are fully cooled, be careful!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Good news allergenistas, Food announced the top 10 trends for 2010 and “free from” is on the list, like Gluten-Free and Allergy-Free! Another trend that is great for our community is a focus on international flavors, there are some naturally allergen friendly or free products that exist in other cultures, as we learn more about other cuisines, we will find new ingredients and recipes for allergen free options. For the full details visit .

Keeping it Real
In a back-to-basics economy it is natural to return to basic ingredients. This isn’t about retro, or comfort food, or even cost. It’s about determining the essentials and stocking your pantry accordingly. It is about pure, simple, clean and sustainable. It is—dare we say—a shift from convenience foods to scratch cooking.

Experimentation Nation
Restaurant concepts are in flux as people redefine what going “out” to eat means. Gastropubs, fusion dining, shareables, and communal tables are all being tried. New concepts around “fresh” and DIY will do well. Experimentation is the trend, so we’ll see concepts come and go.
More in Store
We predict growth in grocery stores, particularly as private label assumes prominence. Those old generics have morphed into their own brands, so that there is blurring and less of a caste system. Grocery stores are also doing things such as upgrading delis and fresh take-out sections, all the way to returning butchers to a place of prominence.

American, The New EthnicSM

This is all about flavor delivery. Immigration has come to the plate, and we are now defining a new Global Flavor Curve. Part comfort, part creativity, the latest flavors are coming from the great American melting pot. So, it’s about grandma’s food, but the recipes may be written in Japanese.

Food Vetting
You are what you eat! That’s what’s leading this trend—our constant need for assurance that we are eating the right things, that our food is safe, that we are not ingesting pesticides or anything that will someday prove harmful. Call it food vetting or sourcing—the issue is that people are asking where their food comes from.

Mainstreaming Sustainability
People have mainstreamed sustainability, unlike a year ago, when we were somewhat afraid to use the word. America is just now learning how to be sustainable, and Americans are holding themselves responsible. In 2010 we’ll see people and companies becoming sustainable for authentic reasons.

Food with BenefitsSM
Call it what you will—nutritional, healthful, good-for-you—but this trend toward beneficial foods is growing at a pretty big rate. Expect food to either have nutrients added, or have the word “free” (gluten-free, allergy-free).

I Want My Umami
The “foodie” has settled into a more universal designation of someone who loves food—not a food snob. They are just as likely to want a PB&J as they are to try the latest soft shell crab sushi. And they may put French fries on it! The point is experimentation and a willingness to try new things.

Will Trade for Food
In an era when you can rent a name-brand purse for a special event, we want to know how we can apply that same concept to consumables. So what do we do in a bad economy when we have more time than money and skills that we still want to put to use? We barter. We predict that we’ll all see more of the barter system come into play now that technology can assist with connections.

I, Me, Mine
It’s the rise of the individual. While sharing has come into its own in restaurant concepts, there is a separate but equal trend toward individuality. It’s part of the reason why we are making our own cheese, smoking our own meats, and making our own specialty desserts. Expect more attention to the individual, but it’s not just about portion size—it’s also about food that reflects personality.

Next Up: A perfect dinner for your holiday guests.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

First Safe & Sound Dinner Slated for 2010 at LANDMARK GRILL & LOUNGE and Sugar Cookies to Satisfy the Allergenista Sweet tooth

Looking for the perfect gift for your favorite allergenista? Look no further! Our first Safe & Sound Dinner of 2010 is at Landmark Grill & Lounge on Tuesday, February 9th. This chic restaurant is owned by the same restaurant group as BOKA, so you know it is going to be good. In fact, Zagat says, “Those BOKA boys did it again…at this Lincoln Park “see- and-be-seen” “hit in the making”. The décor is chic and warm, a perfect setting to chase away the cold of Chicago winters and if today is any indicator, we are going to need it!

I worked an evening at Landmark Grill & Lounge last week and was impressed with their allergen protocol. When you sit down at Landmark, the first thing you are asked is if you are headed to the theatre (Landmark is right across from the Steppenwolf Theatre) and if you have allergies or any other dietary concerns. After your order is taken, a computerized ticket is sent to the kitchen with an allergen alert on the order. The chef also announces the special allergen request in the kitchen and reconfirms as the dish goes thru the pass. Every step of the process was handled with the utmost care and concern for cross contamination and safety.

Now, onto the menu, how does braised boneless short ribs with mole, corn orzo and brussel sprout leaves sound? Or how about acorn squash risotto with arugula, pumpkin seed oil and sage? These are just a few of the dishes on Landmark’s menu, I can’t wait to see the special menu Chef Kurt Guzowski is going to prepare for us, all free of the Big Bad 8 and gluten. If you have any other special requests, please email them to me and I would be happy to see if the chef can accommodate.

Tickets will go on sale for the general public later this month, but a small block of tickets will be available for a holiday discount of 10% using code LCAF0209 only good until 12/24/09.

Now onto some sweets!
I posted this recipe last year, but have made some changes that have greatly improved the texture and taste of this cookie. Sugar cookies were my favorite cookies to make with my great grandmother when I was little; she made at least a dozen of different types of cookies and candies, but these cookies… I just had to figure this recipe out and with the help of Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Spread we are really close. Enjoy!

Sugar Cookies
These cookies are best when you use Jule’s Gluten Free Flour.

¾ cup Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Spread
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon egg replacer
2 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon rice milk
2 cups allergen free all purpose flour mix
1 teaspoon xantham gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375°F degrees.
Combine Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Spread and sugar until smooth.
In a separate bowl, combine egg replacer and water and stir until fluffy, add to sugar mixture with vanilla and rice milk.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, xantham gum, baking powder and Kosher salt.
Gradually add flour mix to sugar mixture until well combined.
Cover dough and refrigerate for 1 hour.
On a clean dry surface, sprinkle rice flour and roll ½ of dough out to 1/4” thickness.
Sprinkle flour on your rolling pin to keep dough from sticking.
Be very careful when cutting shapes as this dough is very fragile until it is cooked and cooled.
Put cut out cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 6-7 minutes.
Cool completely before frosting.

Cookie Glaze
Place a cup of powdered sugar into a bowl and slowly add water, a few drips to start, you need very little. Mix together until you make a frosting consistency, slowly adding water as needed.
Take a spoon and rub over cookie, place on a flat surface to dry.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Options for Allergen Free Risotto, A Tasty Snack for Cuddling Up and 20% off all E-Books from Go Dairy Free for the Holidays

When I first started culinary school, my husband didn't care for any specialty rice dishes. He only liked plain white rice with Smart Balance and salt. Every new dish I brought home would be followed with a polite response that he likes everything, “subtle”. Well, all that changed when I first made risotto! This dish takes a little time and attention, but it is well worth it, enjoy!

Risotto with Roasted Red Pepper Puree and Fresh Basil

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 slices bacon, cut in lardons
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, creamed
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4-5 cups chicken broth
1 roasted red pepper, skin, seeds and membrane removed
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Fresh basil, chiffonade

Heat broth over low heat; keep warm.
In a sauce pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat.
Add bacon, cook until crisp, remove and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium. Add onion; cook until soft, 5 minutes.
Season with kosher salt and black pepper.
Add garlic and cook for another minute.
Raise heat to medium. Add rice; cook, stirring, until translucent around edges, about 3 minutes.
Add warmed wine; cook until pan is almost dry, about 2 minutes.
Add 1 cup hot chicken broth at a time (stir until almost all liquid is absorbed before adding more), until rice is tender, 25 to 30 minutes total.
While risotto is cooking take roasted red pepper and add to blender.
You may need to add a little water to help the blender puree the pepper.
Mix red pepper puree and bacon with finished risotto and top with basil.

Other ideas to try with risotto:
Pea puree with Morell Mushrooms
Tomato puree with asparagus and cilantro
If your allergens will allow it, risotto is lovely finished off with fresh parmesan

This is a perfect snack while the whole family huddles up to watch a movie. If your crew likes a little heat, add some chili powder with the powdered sugar for some sweet and heat!

Kettle Corn

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
Kosher salt to taste

In a large pot with a lid, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking.
Once hot stir in sugar and popcorn kernels and cover.
Continue cooking, shaking pot constantly, to keep sugar from burning.
Continue shaking pot until popping has almost stopped (be careful not to burn).
Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Now for a little gift giving idea.

Alisa Fleming, was born with a severe milk allergy. As an adult with a food allergy, she started to help others enjoy the many non-allergenic foods that this world has to offer. Whenever possible, Alisa caters recipes and information to the needs of other food allergic individuals, from egg- and soy-free to gluten-free. Her recipes are fun and inventive. Alisa is offering a special 20% off her entire E-Book collection ( to allergenistas until December 24th, perfect for you last minute gift givers! Use Coupon Code: ALLERGENFREEHOLIDAY

Sunday, December 6, 2009

More Presents for the Holiday Season for Your Little Allergenistas and a Great Place to Shop for Allergen Friendly Foods and Holiday Gift Baskets

A great stocking stuffer for little ones, Aroma Dough is Gluten Free made with 100% organic, wheat-free rice flour, sodium, water, moisturizing oils, natural aromas (no perfumes). It DOES NOT contain nuts, nut oils, perfumes, soy, dairy products or wheat.

Next up is another clothing item, it is just so cute, I couldn’t resist. Who says you can’t share your allergen message and still be stylish? Theresa Marie Green, owner of Allergy Apparel and mother of two children, one with a severe nut allergy, wanted her line to be “hip, functional, and educational”. Why skulls and crossbones? “Other than the cool factor, they are a reminder that nuts, wheat, eggs, dairy, gluten, shellfish, and other foods can be poison to a child.” I know what you are thinking… yes, they have adult sizes too! Allergy Apparel is having a promo offering FREE shipping on orders over $75. A 10% discount is also available when you sign up for their email updates, private sales, and coupons.

Last but not least, I visited Lil’s Dietary Specialty Shop in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood yesterday. Owner, Marcie Harvey, coins her shop “where everyone is special” and she is right. Marcie took me all over the store, offered me samples of products and helped me handpick products specific to my allergen needs. What’s even better, if you don’t live in the area, you can call and Marcie will help you put together your order and make recommendations based on your tastes and allergens. Lil’s ships all over the world including Europe, Brazil and Saudi Arabia. What impressed me the most was the large selection of dry and frozen goods.

Below is just a couple of the great allergen alternatives available at Lil’s Dietary Specialty Shop.

Visit Lil’s Dietary Specialty Shop at 2738 W. 111 Street, Chicago, IL 60655 or go online and shop, get a 10% discount using code: Lisacooks. Thanks Marcie!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Your Complete Allergen Resource for the Holidays

That’s right allergenistas, this month, I will be focusing on everything you need for the holidays from gift giving, the perfect dishes for the big day, to appetizers and cocktails to ring in the new year.

With only 21 days until Christmas and one week until Hanukkah, let’s start with gift giving…

Mallergies has created a line of t-shirts and bibs that are so cute and share your allergen message in a cute and impactful way. Perfect if your child goes to a home or event where allergens are present.

Another clothing product I really like is Ragaboo, they are a new Florida based company that focuses on all organic products to make their t-shirts. No harsh dyes or chemicals which can be important for allergenistas with skin conditions. The t-shirts are made of 70% certified organic bamboo and 30% certified organic cotton and is printed with lead free inks. Ragda Deeb McAfee, the owner, has two children with dairy allergies and her business started from her concern for pesticides and chemicals in the foods we eat and clothes we wear. Ragaboo is offering a 20% discount for all purchases, use coupon code: lisa to get your discount (expires Jan. 01 2010).

Stay tuned allergenistas, this is just the beginning of recipes, gift ideas and tips to have a great holiday season.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Still have leftovers from Thanksgiving – try this recipe with your leftover Turkey

Instead of using chicken, shred turkey and add with broth and rice milk. This creamy pot pie goes great with the crispy crust, make your own or get a ready made one that works with your allergies.

Chicken (Turkey) Pot Pie

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed
1 cup carrots, small dice
1 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup celery, small dice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup onion, small dice
1/3 cup GF all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup rice milk

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Heat pan, add olive oil and heat another minute.
Sweat celery, then carrot.
Add chicken and peas. Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes.
Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in GF flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.
Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Pour hot liquid mixture over. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Use spare dough pieces to decorate the top of your pie. I made leaves to match the season.

Pie Crust

1½ cups allergen free all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Spread
6 tablespoons cold water

Sift all the dry ingredients together.
Place in food processor and add butter, pulse until the mixture resembles clumps about the size of small peas.
Add cold water, a tablespoon at a time, distributing the water evenly throughout the whole of the mixture by pulsing after each tablespoon.
When the mixture sticks together, but is not doughy, place in a large ziplock bag and form into a ball.
Flatten ball to a disc and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Cut bag on 3 sides and sprinkle allergen free flour on dough, recover.
Roll under plastic bag until the dough is of sufficient size to fit into a 9 inch pie pan.
Line the pie pan with dough, a glass pan works best, use spare pieces to fill in missing/cracked areas.
Bake at 425°F for 10 - 15 minutes.
Fill with a chicken filling.
Makes one 9” pie crust.
This can be frozen and used like a commercial pie crust if desired.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Special Request and Pumpkin Pie Bites

Two days until Thanksgiving, and we got a special allergenista request for Green Bean Casserole, which was the 3rd most popular question asked to the Food Network about Thanksgiving! It’s going to take some time, but the results are well worth it if you are a fan of this dish. I have never had Green Bean Casserole, but I got lots of tasters sans allergies to let me know if I got it right.

Green Bean Casserole

This dish will take several steps including, making the cream of mushroom soup, making the fried onions and finally assembling and finishing the final dish, let’s get started.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

2 tablespoons oil
½ cup onion, diced
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
Kosher salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup white wine
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons allergen free flour
4 cups chicken stock (use vegetable stock if you want vegetarian)

Take sauce pan and heat over medium heat.
Add oil and and heat another minute.
Add onions to pan and cook slowly until soft and translucent.
Next, you are going to add mushrooms, you may have to add in batches, if you put too many in at once you will steam the mushrooms instead of sautéing them.
As you finish one batch of mushrooms, remove and add another until complete, season with Kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
Once all mushrooms are cooked, add all back to the pan and add white wine to deglaze pan, cook until dry.
Add olive oil and allergen free flour, whisk for 2 minutes.
Slowly begin to add chicken stock and simmer for 20 minutes.
Place soup in blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.

Onion Strings
1 onion, cut in ½ and then into thin ½ moon strips
2 cups rice milk
1 cup allergen free flour
1 tablespoon thyme, minced
Kosher salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1 quart oil

Take onions and put in a bowl with rice milk and allow to soak for 1 hour.
Mix together allergen free flour, thyme, salt and pepper.
Take a large stock pot and fill with oil.
Bring oil to 365°F.
Take onions out of rice milk and coat with flour mixture.
Add to oil in small batches, large batches will lower the temperature of the oil too much and make the onion strings soggy.
Remove strings from oil once they are golden brown, place on paper towel to drain, add additional salt/pepper if necessary.
Set aside.

Finally, the end dish

2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut in ½
2 tablespoons oil
1 red onion, diced
2½ cups cream of mushroom soup
Kosher salt to taste
black pepper to taste
French fried onions

Take a large sauce pan and fill with water 2/3rds, bring to boil.
Add green beans and cook for 2-3 minutes, until tender.
Immediately, immerse beans in ice water to stop cooking process, remove and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Take a large saute pan and heat over medium heat.
Add oil and heat another minute and then add red onion.
Cook onion until soft and translucent.
Add green beans to pan and cook for two minutes.
Add cream of mushroom soup and thoroughly incorporate, heating thru.
Season with Kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
Top with French fried onions and bake in oven for 10 minutes.

Now for dessert!

I had the most difficult time with a pie crust free of the Big Bad 8 and gluten, the crust is very delicate and falls apart easily. So I decided to rethink this recipe and came up with pumpkin pie bites – they are fun to make and the kids can help. Consider them pumpkin pie amuse bouche!

Pumpkin Pie Bites

Pie Crust
1½ cups allergen free flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Spread
6 tablespoons cold water

Sift all the dry ingredients together and place in a food processor.
Add buttery spread in tablespoon amounts to food processor, pulse twice.
Add cold water, a tablespoon at a time, distributing the water evenly throughout by pulsing after each tablespoon.
When the mixture sticks together, but is not doughy, roll out onto a table or pie mat dusted with flour. Roll until the dough is about 1/8” thick.
Use a cookie cutter to cut round bite sized shapes, makes about 20 discs.
Bake at 425°F for 10 - 15 minutes.
Set disks aside to cool.

Pumpkin Filling
1 can pumpkin
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 cup rice milk
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon water.
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Mix pumpkin, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and milk together in a saucepan.
Heat mixture thru.
In a separate bowl, mix together corn starch and water until smooth.
Add cornstarch slurry to pumpkin mixture and bring to boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, set aside to cool.

Take pie crust bites and assemble on a plate.
Use a pastry bag to put pumpkin on discs or use a spoon if necessary.
Sprinkle top with powdered sugar.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It’s Turkey Time!

The main attraction – the turkey! This year I brined the turkey; this makes the bird juicy and extra flavorful, definitely worth the extra effort. There are only a few days until Thanksgiving, so I will keep the recipes coming, next up: green bean casserole, a request from a fellow allergenista. I never had this dish pre-allergens, so you will really have to let me know if I get it right!


1-12 to 14 pound turkey
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons rosemary, minced
2 tablespoons thyme, minced
Kosher salt to taste
black pepper to taste

8 quarts water
3/4 cup Kosher salt
1/2 bunch fresh rosemary
1/2 bunch fresh sage
6 bay leaves
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrots, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 head garlic, cut in ½ thru center of cloves

Mix together ingredients in brine and add turkey to mixture.
Refrigerate for 24 hours.
Remove turkey from brine and dry thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 325°F.
Mix together olive oil, rosemary, thyme, Kosher salt and black pepper.
Rub mixture all over bird and under skin.
Use butcher’s twine to tie the legs closely to the rest of the bird.
Place turkey in roasting pan on roasting rack breast side down and cook for one hour uncovered.
Flip bird after one hour, season with Kosher salt and black pepper and continue cooking until internal temperature reaches 185°F in the thigh of the bird or 165°F in the breast.
You will want to baste the bird with the juices in the bottom of the pan every hour or so. If skin is getting too dark, cover bird loosely with aluminum foil.
Let turkey rest 10 minutes before cutting to retain juices.

Friday, November 20, 2009

More Thanksgiving Sides and Pumpkin Bread with a Fruit Glaze

Six days and counting until the big day! No compromising for us allergenistas this Thanksgiving, keep checking in, I plan to post holiday recipes every couple of days up until the big day! All FREE of the Big Bad 8 Allergens and gluten.

Butternut Squash Fries
These fries are great to nibble on while the turkey is roasting. The chili powder adds just the right amount of kick, kids and adults love these alike!

1 medium butternut squash, cut in ½” strips
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon chili powder
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 425°F.
On a baking sheet, combine squash with olive oil, cumin and chili powder; season with salt and pepper.
Toss to coat, and spread squash in a single layer. Roast until fork-tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Sprinkle with lime juice and cilantro.

Roasted Mixed Vegetables
If mashed potatoes and gravy aren’t your thing, this alternate is a wonderful option and uses the best fall vegetables.

1 small butternut squash, cubed
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
1 red onion, quartered
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 475°F (245°C).
In a large bowl, combine the squash, red bell peppers, sweet potato, and Yukon Gold potatoes.
Separate the red onion quarters into pieces, and add them to the mixture.
In a small bowl, stir together thyme, rosemary, extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, Kosher salt, and ground black pepper. Toss with vegetables until they are coated. Spread evenly on a large roasting pan.
Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked through and browned.

Now for some dessert!

Pumpkin Bread

3 cups allergen free flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups pumpkin
1 cup canola oil
½ cup apple sauce
½ cup water
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice

For the glaze:
¼ cup apple or your favorite juice, or coconut rum
2 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix liquid ingredients and spices, pumpkin, canola oil, applesauce and water.
Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Grease 2 loaf pans.
Pour dough in pan and cook for 50-60 minutes.
Test with a toothpick to make sure center is cooked.

In a separate bowl, mix apple juice and powdered sugar thoroughly, pour over slices as you serve.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Are you full yet? More Thanksgiving dishes for the big day…

Traditional mashed potatoes and gravy, no Thanksgiving table would be complete with out them. I updated the mashed potato recipe from last year since finding the wonderful, Earth Balance natural buttery spread soy free. It makes the potatoes more creamy and fluffy, something I am particularly thankful for!

Next up, desserts… all free of the Big Bad 8 allergens and gluten.

Mashed Potatoes

3 pounds of potatoes, peeled and cut in cubes
¼ cup Earth Balance natural buttery spread soy free
¼ cup Rice Milk
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste

Add potatoes to a cool pot of water.
Bring water to boil and add a tablespoon of Kosher salt to water.
Cook potatoes until knife tender.
Strain potatoes and put thru rice mill if you have one, otherwise use a masher.
Add Earth Balance spread and Rice Milk, blend into potatoes, making sure not to over mix as potatoes will become gluey.
Season with Kosher salt and black pepper to taste.

Traditional Gravy

1 small carrot, diced small
1 small celery stalk, diced small
1 small onion, diced small
3 tablespoons canola oil or drippings from turkey pan
1/4 cup all purpose allergen free flour
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup fresh thyme, diced
4 whole black peppercorns
Kosher salt to taste

Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil or pan drippings in a medium saute pan over a medium high flame.
Add onion and cook until soft and translucent.
Add carrot and celery and saute until nicely browned.
Stir in flour and remaining oil/drippings and cook, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes.
Using a whisk to continue stirring, slowly add broth.
Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and add seasonings.
Simmer gravy for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Strain vegetables and seasonings out of gravy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thanksgiving Side Dishes – Garlic Asparagus and Sausage, Cranberry and Apple Stuffing

Next up are two of my favorite sides for Thanksgiving, but don’t worry allergenistas, coming up later this week, we will be focusing on more traditional staples for the holiday including:

  • creamy mashed potatoes and gravy;
  • juicy flavorful turkey and;
  • tasty desserts that will surprise your family

Of course, all are free of the Big Bad 8 allergens and gluten! Who needs them, anyway?

Let me know if you have a special family recipe you would like to see modified, my kitchen is filled with Thanksgiving ingredients and I am up for the challenge!

Sausage, Cranberry & Apple Stuffing

1/4 cup dried parsley
½ tablespoons rubbed sage
½ tablespoon rosemary, minced
½ tablespoon dried celery seed
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound mild bulk breakfast sausage
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups sliced leeks, white and pale green parts only, cleaned well (about 2 large leeks)
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and chopped
1 cup chopped celery with leaves
1 cup sweetened cranberries
6 cups GF bread cubes (croutons)
2 to 3 cups chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Mix together parsley, sage, rosemary, celery seed, Kosher salt, black pepper, onion powder and sage, set aside.
Saute the sausage in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until cooked through, crumbling coarsely, about 10 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage and drippings to a large bowl.
Add olive oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, apples, celery and seasoning mix to the pan and saute until the celery is soft.
Mix in the cranberries and saute another minute.
Add the mixture to the sausage, then mix in the GF croutons and parsley.
Next add the chicken stock a little at a time until the stuffing is very moist, but not mushy and season with salt and pepper.
Place in a casserole dish. (The stuffing can be made to this point 2 days before Thanksgiving, refrigerated.)
Bake in a 9x13-inch rectangular casserole dish and place, uncovered, in the oven for 20 - 30 minutes, until the top is crispy and the center piping hot. Use turkey drippings to top if available.

To make croutons: Defrost bread (if necessary) in oven, cut off crusts and cut into small squares. Be careful not to brown bread.

Garlic Asparagus
I saw asparagus on sale at Stanley's (North and Elston in Chicago) and I really love this dish, I know it's not in season, but if you can find good asparagus, it will be a hit!

2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Blanch and Shock Asparagus (immerse asparagus in boiling water until tender, remove and immediately place in ice water to stop cooking).
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Toss asparagus with oil and garlic; season with salt and pepper.
Roast on a large baking sheet until tender and browned in spots, 10-12 minutes. Serve warm.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipes - Some Old Family Favorites & Dishes to Start New Traditions

Need some new ideas for this holiday season or need an allergen free adaptation to a family favorite? Keep posted allergenistas, the next few posts will be dedicated to helping you have the best Thanksgiving holiday yet!

Can’t wait for the next post?
Saturday, November 14th come see me make butternut squash soup, mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing, all free of the Big Bad 8 Allergens and Gluten at Whole Foods Market – Hinsdale, IL. (click here for more details).

Until then enjoy these great sides.

Fingerling Potatoes and Caramelized Leeks

1 pound fingerling potatoes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 leek, thinly sliced (white and light green only)
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon parsley, minced

Add potatoes to a boiling pot of water and cook until soft, set aside.
Take a sauté pan and place leeks in pan, fill with water about 1/2” deep.
Cook on medium until water has evaporated.
Leeks will be cooked by the time the water is gone, but keep adding water (about 1/8th a cup) and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally until leeks are creamy and caramelized, you may need to add water several times.
Once leeks are caramelized, set aside.
Over medium heat, place a sauté pan and heat for one minute.
Add olive oil and heat another minute.
Add potatoes, salt and pepper and cook until heated thru.
Mix in caramelized leeks and cook another minute.
Sprinkle with minced parsley.

I found some lovely heirloom cherry tomatoes on sale for this picture, regular cherry tomatoes work just as well.

Peapod and Cherry Tomato Salad

2 peppers, roasted, skinned and cut into strips
1 cup peapods, trimmed
½ pound cherry tomatoes, quartered
¼ red onion, cut in thin strips
¼ cup champagne vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 cloves garlic, creamed
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

Bring sauce pan 2/3rds full with water to boil.
Add peapods and cook for 3 minutes.
Remove from pan and immediately immerse in ice water.
Lightly dry peapods with paper towel and place in bowl.
Add cherry tomatoes, onion and peppers, set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together champagne vinegar, olive oil, honey, garlic, Kosher salt and black pepper.
Add dressing to salad and toss lightly. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

FAI's Campaign for a Cure

Recently, I attended the Food Allergy Initiative’s 2nd annual Chicago benefit with Betsy Thompson of Gluten Free Betsy. The event raised more than $1 million that will help support research for a food allergy cure.

The Food Allergy Initiative (FAI) is a non-profit organization that is now the largest source of funding for food allergy research in the United States.

FAI's patronage is facilitating a number of groundbreaking, research projects. Northwestern University's Paul Bryce, for instance, is spearheading an experimental therapy study that will help determine the success of a vaccine in preventing food allergies as well as minimizing symptoms for those who have already been diagnosed.

At New York's Mount Sinai's School of Medicine, Drs. Xiu-Min Li and Hugh Sampson are developing a therapy that's been designed to prevent life-threatening reactions to half the "Big 8" food allergens: peanut, treenut, shellfish and fish.

These are just a handful of the extraordinary research projects that the FAI has sponsored since it was founded in 1998. To learn more details about the organization's research and partnerships that are helping forge a path to an allergen-free future, please click here .

One of the more heartwarming moments of the night was a sequence of videos that helped illuminate how parents are coping with their children's severe reactions to food allergens. FAI has uploaded several inspiring videos on its YouTube channel. I have included the video from the event, I encourage you to show it to people so they can understand what food allergies mean on an everyday basis.

Through the Safe & Sound dinners I am glad to support FAI's efforts with a silent auction item and a monetary donation.

I can't say enough good things about the extraordinary work FAI is doing on behalf of the estimated 12 million Americans with food allergies--and their friends and family members who are also affected by the condition.

FAI's headquarters are in New York and it has recently established outlets in Chicago and the Pacific Northwest. Please consider volunteering or making a donation. But most importantly, spread the word!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

BOKA: A Commitment to Allergen-Free Excellence

Chicago's allergenistas were treated to a remarkable feast last night at the season finale of the Safe & Sound Dinner series. BOKA's red-hot chef--Giuseppe Tentori--was on top of his game, offering an ambitious, allergen-free creation that left the group's members dazzled and inspired.

How does he do it? Over the summer, I had the good fortune to work with Chef Tentori at the Museum of Science and Industry and later spent an evening in his kitchen--listening, watching and learning.

Chef Tentori's protocol to reduce the risk of cross-contamination goes above and beyond those of other restaurant kitchens I've observed. Indeed, his staff's attention to detail is what makes BOKA so exceptional.

When an allergen-free meal is ordered, a booming announcement is made to the kitchen to prepare for a customized dish. Almost immediately, one chef assumes full responsibility for that particular plate and oversees its evolution from start to finish.

Unlike other chefs dedicated to the highest standards in allergen-free cuisine, Chef Tentori wasn't personally impacted by food allergies. Instead, his philosophy is to ensure that each and every customer is afforded the opportunity to experience the pleasure of fine dining.

“When you go out to eat, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed that you have a special diet request," Chef Tentori told me. "It's our job to make you happy.”

The food. The menu was free of the "big eight" allergens, gluten, and 23 additional allergens:
· Crispy White Polenta with grilled eggplant petals, ceci, pickled celery and dehydrated picholine olives
· Fennel-dusted chicken thigh served with a quinoa cream and watermelon radish fennel salad with tomatillo sauce
· Angus tenderloin with braised short ribs, napa cabbage and bacon roll with smoked white runner beans.

Then for dessert, Swirlz cupcakes--drizzled with Pam Rose's signature frosting.

Can it get any better?

This was our last Safe & Sound dinner series in 2009. It’s time to roll up my sleeves and prepare for 2010. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear from you. Together, we can make the city Safe & Sound one bite at a time!

Next up: Holiday dining, recipes to wow your friends and family!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Debunking Food Allergy Myths and Braised Short Ribs

A few questions I keep getting asked and would love to share them with you.

Myth: You can’t eat nutmeg when you have a tree nut allergy.
False - According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) website, “Nutmeg is obtained from the seeds of the tropical tree species Myristica fragrans. It is safe for an individual with a tree nut allergy.”

Myth: You can’t eat allspice when you have a tree nut allergy.
False – According to the Encyclopedia of Spice, allspice is a berry that smells like a combination of spices, especially cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Allspice belongs to the Myrtle family which also includes Cloves, Eucalyptus, Guava, Paprika and Pimento.

Time to cook!

Braised Short Ribs

6 bone in short ribs
Kosher salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, medium dice
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon flat leaf parsley, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup celery, medium dice (about 2 stalks)
1 cup carrot, medium dice
3 cloves garlic, creamed
1 small can tomato paste
3 cups red wine
2 cups water
1 bunch fresh thyme
3 bay leaves

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Heat a large stock pot over a medium high heat, add olive oil and heat another minute.
Season short ribs on all sides with Kosher salt.
Brown short ribs on all sides in stock pot, remove from pan and set aside.
Mix together thyme, parsley and pepper, set aside.
Add additional oil if necessary and add onion to pot and cook until soft and translucent. Add ½ of spice mix.
Add garlic, cook an additional minute.
Add carrot and celery with 2nd ½ of spice mix.
Once vegetables are soft, push to side and add tomato paste to pan. Make sure not to burn.
Add wine to deglaze pan and reduce by ½.

Place meat back in pan and cover with water. Place fresh thyme and bay leaves in a coffee filter (fold top to seal) and add to pot.
Place pot in oven covered for 3 hours or until meat falls off the bone. Add additional water if needed and flip ribs about ½ way thru process.

Make sure you store ribs in braising liquid to stay moist.

Monday, October 26, 2009

BOKA Menu Finally Revealed & SWIRLZ Cupcakes bringing dessert!

Take a look at this amazing, flavorfully inventive menu Chef Giuseppe Tentori has created especially for next week’s Safe & Sound Dinnerour last dinner for 2009 -- next Monday, November 2nd at Chicago hot-spot BOKA.

Our Safe & Sound Dinners challenge top local chefs to create a special, one-night-only menu just for us, free of gluten and as many of “The Big 8” allergens as possible. It’s a fun and lively group dining experience, a great way to meet and share tips with allergenistas, and includes a fabulous gift bag filled with allergen-free swag….all for $50!

Space is limited and requires advance reservations.
Click here to get your tickets today.

First Course
Crispy white polenta, grilled eggplant petals, ceci,
pickled celery, dehydrated picholine olives

Second Course
Fennel dusted chicken thighs, Quinoa cream,
watermelon radish, fennel salad, tomatillo sauce

Third Course
Angus tenderloin, short rib, napa cabbage &
bacon roll, smoked white runner beans

Cupcakes from

Guide to menu:
Ceci - chickpeas
Picholine olives - The Picholine is best known as a cocktail olive, though it is also used to make olive oil.
Cream - a mixture of pureed onions to give quinoa a creamy consistency.
Tomatillo sauce – Tomatillos are green tomatoes most commonly found in Mexican dishes
White runner beans - Larger than limas, slightly irregular in shape, these beans are creamy and sweet for soups, salads or as a side dish.

To top it all off, our friends from SWIRLZ are providing their deliciously decadent, allergen-free signature cupcakes. What a great way to wrap-our 2009 Safe & Sound Dinner series!

Giftbag contributors: