Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Love and Latkes

Latkes are definitely a labor of love. A very greasy, oily, labor of love.  A time consuming, set off the smoke detector (twice), back breaking, use up half a bottle of oil, not to mention a 45 minute cleanup, and the entire house smells like a diner, labor of love.  Can you feel all that love for the miracle of the oil? 

I have made latkes over the years in different ways according to the tastes of my family.  I prefer the home-style kind where you can actually see the grated potato sticking out in crunchy, jagged edges.  My daughter likes the mealy kind, where everything is ground up in the processor and poured out like pancake batter-she really likes the gigantic frozen kind (UGH). 

My husband is just happy that I am making something that can’t really be considered healthy.  Poor thing has had to suffer through broccoli, spaghetti squash, and turkey meatloaf (all which were eaten along with seconds…hmmmm).  But, bona fide carbs and oil? Well, who needs to spend endless hours shopping for the perfect gift when a fried potato will do?

I really wasn’t up to latkes this year.  I didn’t’ want to make them, especially after rolling, cutting and baking six dozen sugar cookies.…I was so tired.  However, my son made a special request for latkes and I had recently viewed a recipe in my favorite new cookbook Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas for eggless latkes.  Despite my weariness, I wanted my allergic baby to feel like everyone else and truly enjoy the holiday with traditional fare, as he has to cope with food issues  on a regular basis in school and elsewhere (by the way, other traditional fare also includes jelly donuts…don’t even think I am going to fry donuts  any time soon).

So, I grated, grated and grated some more…by hand (can you hear the violins playing in the background)?  Do I get the Jewish mother of the year award for hand grating as opposed to using the food processor? Do the cuts on my fingers and occasional drops of blood get me any closer to sainthood? Nope.  Then, I mixed, and plopped and fried….and fried, and fried and fried.  There was oil on the counter, stovetop and splatters on the wall.  Let's not even talk about my clothes that require fumigation. By the better part of an hour, I had a tin full of golden, brown, shiny, jagged, crunchy edged, and paper- towel soaked latkes.  Yeah, me.  Now, my son who deals with food allergies so stoically could eat the same thing as everyone else on Hanukkah…safely. 

He picked it up, popped it into his mouth, and declared…”sorry, I don’t really like latkes, can I have pasta instead?” 

Ah, yes, the miracle of rigatoni. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Staying on the Radar…One Cookie at a Time

Holiday season is a time of joy for most, and stress for others. I admit that I fall in between the two.  Unfortunately, for those kids with food allergies, holiday season can become a landmine if no one is at the helm keeping watch.  I have made my son vigilant about food allergies;he knows not to eat anything at school, in class, in the lunchroom or otherwise.  For every treat he has to turn down, he gets the equivalent at home-safely.  The teachers in the school all comment on how great he is about managing his food allergies, and as a result, they take notice of my six-year old who maturely gives up some of the irresistible goodies in school.  Most of the teachers know who my son is simply because they are so impressed by his fortitude (not to mention that he can be so darn cute).

Every school year I introduce myself to the lunch aides, provide a note for the teachers to send home to parents, talk with the nurse, discuss my son’s  allergies with his new teacher, refill expired Epi-Pens and update medical forms.  On a lighter note, I also make dairy, egg, nut free baked goods for the teachers during holiday season. I do the same during Allergy Awareness Week. It’s a small gesture of thanks, and moreover, it keeps my kid on the radar.  I find that it takes the stigma out of allergy food as well.  Most people think that if it isn’t loaded with eggs or butter, it won’t taste good.  When those who are not familiar with quality allergy free products, taste it and comment ”Wow, I can’t believe these don’t have eggs!” There is pause for thought.  It’s no longer so weird or different, rather it’s now considered good, or daresay, normal.  It’s the new normal.

The day after I brought in some allergy free sugar cookies, the EMT’s were called into my son’s school because a fourth grader ate a cookie with nuts that someone in his class brought in for a birthday. Somehow, the kid slipped off the radar. I had been volunteering that day and heard the call for EMT’s regarding a nut allergic reaction.  My heart stopped.  The child had an Epi-Pen administered and was then sent to the hospital…he was fine.  Afterward, many teachers who saw my stress, said, “You know your son would never take a cookie and eat it.”  Yes, I know, he wouldn’t, and yes, I am glad they realize that and as a result would never even offer it to him. I would like to think my efforts have made a difference over the last two years, or at the very least brought the attention of food allergies to teachers who never really had a clear understanding of what it’s all about.  

Again, often we don’t ask for these types of missions in our lives, but when faced with the challenges we have to rise to the occasion one cookie at a time.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

GingerBees-Gingerbread Maccabees-Biting Someones' Head Off Never Tasted so Good

I have had a serious hankering for gingerbread, which is ironic because I never used to like it. I find that since I officially hit middle age with the recent celebration of my (fill in the blank) birthday, there are changes within myself that I cannot seem to control.

·    I now have to remove my glasses to read something up close.

·         I need mega doses of drugs to get over a common cold.

·         I can no longer say, what up?

·         I actually prefer a minivan to a sedan.

·         I take medication that I have seen advertised on TV.

·         Low rise jeans…well let’s not go there.

·         It seems that I like gingerbread. 

I have always backed away from gingerbread for a few reasons.  First, I never really liked the taste of ginger, and from a philosophical standpoin, I always associated gingerbread men with Christmas and felt it was a wee bit “sacrilegious” to eat them.  Recently, I spotted a box of cute, chubby gingerbread men on the store shelf and truly, the only reason I bought it was, that it was baked in a dedicated nut-free facility.  The product is Mi-Del, and so on a whim I decided to try them out to see if my allergic son would like them.

Needless to say, I became totally addicted to them.  I loved the crunch, and the gingery kick, though these were a wee bit to…”kicky,” but most of all, (and I am embarrassed to admit this), I loved biting their little heads off. Perhaps this sadistic tendency can also be chalked up to middle age.  Who knows?

I liked the cookies, but I thought I could do better…with a little less kick.  So, I decided to cast aside all of my pre-conceived notions regarding  gingerbread and focus my baking prowess on  the GingerBees, the stalwarts of freedom because they too deserve a strong, kicky cookie to remind us of their bravery. I mean, who said there was a religious monopoly on gingerbread? Right?  Besides, the gingerbread cookie isn’t as meek and gentle as the sugar cookie, therefore, the Maccabee heads don’t fall off until you are ready to bite them off.  Those who have baked Hanukka sugar cookies know of what I speak.  How many countless Maccabee heads had to suffer? 

 So, I bring this awesome gingerbread cookie recipe to you adapted  from The Eat Clean Diet for Men Book.

Go ahead, bite someone’s head off…you will feel so much better.

PS-These are egg, nut, and dairy free (and they can be made gluten free as well)

GingerBees (and othe assorted shapes)


1/3 cup canola oil (you can also use coconut oil)

½ cup Sucanat (this stands for Sugar Cane Natural, much healthier than regular sugar because it is unprocessed, doesn’t spike blood sugar and adds to the molasses flavor of the cookie)

¼ unsweetened organic applesauce

½ cup + 2 TBSP Blackstrap molasses

1 ½ cup unbleached all purpose flour

1 ¼ cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (you can use  2 ¾ spelt or almond for gluten sensitive)

1 tsp. ginger

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325


In a medium mixing bowl, sift the flours, baking soda and spices together.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and the oil and using a whisk, beat for about two minutes until it is a caramel looking color and fluffy.  Then, add the applesauce and molasses and beat.

Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir.  As the dough gets stiffer, you will need to use your hands.  If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour (not too much).

Divide the dough into two rounds and wrap in saran wrap.  Place in freezer for 1 hour or more.

·         Set oven to 325 degrees and line baking sheets w/parchment paper.

·         Remove from freezer and let the dough warm up for 5-10 minutes.

·         I cut a gallon-size ziploc bag down the side seams so that I can roll the dough inside the bag. Flour a rolling pin and roll out dough to 1/3 “ thickness.  Turn the dough clockwise to get all sides.  It is so much easier to do this with a Ziploc bag.  I find it works much better than plastic wrap or parchment, especially when you have to “peel” the dough sometimes. Then remove the dough perfectly flattened and place it down on a clean surface to use the cookie cutters.  The dough can be sticky and you have to work fast.  Sprinkle flour generously to prevent sticking.

·         Use cookie cutters to shape dough (smaller cookie cutters are best) and place on parchment paper.

·         Bake for 12-15 minutes depending on your oven.

·         Remove from oven and let cookies cool for about 1-2 minutes

·         Slide off baking sheets and place on cooling rack.