Back to School Emergency Treats for Food Allergic Kids

Mini vanillaIt’s that time of year again, time to send the kids back to school.  As exciting as that can be, if you’re a food allergy parent that means bracing yourself for the upcoming parade of classroom celebrations.  Most teachers are pretty good about letting us parents know when cupcakes or donuts or whatever else is about to invade the classroom, but there’s bound to be a time or two or ten when treats arrive without our knowledge.  Nothing can be worse than having your child watch the rest of the class enjoy a yummy treat while the teacher gives them a Jolly Rancher as a poor substitute.   In my experience it’s best to be proactive for these types of situations and leave a box of emergency treats in the classroom.

Depending on the specific allergies your child has you can assemble a box of their favorite safe candy and/or baked treats to leave in the classroom for the surprise celebrations.  Unfortunately, if you don’t want to swap out the box every week you’ll be confined to filling it with processed foods with longer shelf lives.  Other options include baking treats and freezing them.  Some schools will allow you to keep a box in the school freezer.  This will give you about two months before having to refill the box with fresh treats.  A last ditch idea, while not ideal or even possible for some parents, is to bake treats at home and keep them in your home freezer.  When treats unknowingly arrive in the classroom, the teacher can call or email and you can run a treat into the school.

Leaving a child out of a classroom celebration can be heartbreaking for everyone involved, but most especially for that child.  No one wants them to think they are not deserving to celebrate just because they have a food allergy.  So as school starts this year plan ahead for your child and provide for them to have a safe treat when those inevitable celebrations occur.

For families living in Las Vegas, Dreamy Desserts Nut Free Bakery will begin delivering treats for the 16/17 school year directly to school front offices without charging a delivery fee in an effort to offer yet another solution for safe classroom treats for all.   Parents can order the treats in advance and inform the bakery of the food allergies that need to be accommodated in the classroom.  Dreamy Desserts is a dedication peanut and tree nut free bakery.  They are able to accommodate other food allergies as well but are not a dedicated “free from” facility for anything other than nuts.  They require 7-days advance notice and offer mini or regular size cupcakes, baked donuts, cake pops or cookies for classroom celebrations.  Visit for more information about Dreamy Desserts.

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Have a Nut Allergy and miss See’s Candies: Recipe for Homemade Milk Bordeaux

Bordeaux Chocolates Small

Growing up on the west coast it’s hard not to have heard of or visited See’s candies.  The chocolates they make are simply amazing.  When my son was diagnosed with nut allergies, See’s quickly became a memory, as the employees will tell you the candies (even those without nuts) are not safe.  They are subject to being cross contaminated by nut dust.  It broke my heart my son would never know the taste of my all time favorite See’s offering:  Milk Chocolate Bordeaux.

After doing some research, I discovered a recipe for these yummy candies on a site called Taste of Home.  I made the chocolates and have to say, they were pretty darn close.  I’m so excited to have my favorite candies back and to get to offer them to my son knowing they are safe.

I’ve reprinted the recipe below or you can click on this link to go to the original site

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp instant coffee
pinch salt
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
12 oz dark or milk chocolate
Melt butter and brown sugar together in heavy pan.

Bring to boil and boil for two minutes.

Stir in cream, coffee, salt and bring to boil again.

Stir constantly. Boil for 30 seconds and remove from heat.

Let cool for 10 minutes.

Add sifted powdered sugar to mixture. Stir in well.

Chill until mixture holds shape of a small ball. Roll into 2-inch balls.

Melt chocolate according to pkg instructions.

Dip candy balls into melted chocolate. Sprinkle with cake sprinkles, if desired.

Makes approx. 2 lbs. Or 24 pieces

Dreamy Desserts is an online nut free bakery located in Las Vegas, NV.  Custom orders are available with 7 days advance notice.  For more information about Dreamy Desserts, please visit or email 


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Cake Baking Chemistry 101

whitecake9A basic cake recipe has the following ingredients:  flour, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla extract, baking powder, salt and milk.  We are all pretty familiar with these items and can follow a cake recipe quite easily.  But do you know how each ingredient contributes to your baked cake and why?  If you understand how each ingredient plays a role in your cake, you can manipulate them to get your desired cake texture, density and taste.

Flour – Flour provides the structure for your cake.  When mixed with a liquid and baked, the proteins in flour bond together to form the cake.  When baking a cake, it’s best to use cake flour.  Cake flour has fewer proteins to allow for a fluffier structure.

Sugar – Sugar adds sweetness of course, but it also helps the browning process.

Butter – Butter or other fats, such as oil, create the texture of your cake.  The fats coat the proteins in the flour.  While butter will give you a richer taste, oils are better at coating the proteins and as such will generate a moisture texture.  Butter is best creamed at room temperature.  If too cold or too soft, your air pockets will not whip up correctly (see baking powder).

Eggs – The whites of the eggs act as a leavener, while the yolk adds richness and moisture.  It’s important that your eggs be at room temperature when combining your ingredients, this will allow them to mix correctly with the sugar and butter.

Vanilla Extract – Vanilla adds sweetness and flavor

Baking Powder – Baking powder is a leavener.  It releases carbon dioxide to create air bubbles that act to puff up your cake.  Creaming butter allows the butter to whip up and create opportunities for air bubbles.

Milk – Milk helps with the moisture of the cake but also contributes to the texture by bonding with the proteins in the flour.  You could also use buttermilk.  The acidic properties in buttermilk react to the baking powder releasing even more carbon dioxide, contributing to a fluffier cake.

Salt – Salt balances the sweet taste in a cake and helps to enhance the other flavors.

Dreamy Desserts is a nut free bakery located in Las Vegas, NV.  Custom orders are available with 7 days advance notice.  For more information about Dreamy Desserts, please visit or email 

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Baking Outside the Box

baking from scratch

The other day while browsing at Barnes & Noble, I saw what I consider a horrible disservice to would be bakers, a majority of the cookbooks were calling for boxed ingredients in their “recipes”.  I suspect this is to answer a need for quick solutions in our busy lives or possibly a compromise to the intimidation some fear when contemplating the decision to bake vs. buying ready made treats.

Do boxed cakes save time? I don’t think so.  Boxed cakes might vary slightly but most call for the addition of ingredients usually eggs, oil and water (the latter 2 which have to be measured out) as well as the contents of the box – let’s call that 4 ingredients.   A basic scratch cake calls for flour, sugar, butter or oil, eggs, milk and a leavening agent such as baking powder.  That’s all of 6 ingredients, 2 ingredients more than the box mix. Furthermore, the box adds several other ingredients that are not only hard to pronounce, their necessity is questionable given the simplicity of a true cake recipe.  All in all, the time it takes to measure out your own flour, sugar and baking powder is nominal, making scratch vs. boxed a push when it comes to saving time.

Did you know that when the first boxed cake mix hit the shelves in the early 1930’s it’s maker was attempting to do as suspected, help homemakers bake a cake quicker and easier.  It didn’t take long however, that the boxed recipe was modified to include the necessity of fresh eggs.  Research at the time revealed the addition of fresh eggs preserved the “baking experience” consumers required with their now fast and easy mixes.  To me, this only reinforces that deep down we desire to bake from scratch, so why not.  It’s really not that hard.  As someone who once thought the box was the peak of my baking abilities, I learned that with a little practice I could scratch bake and you can too.  We can all bake outside the box.  I had a few misses at first, which is a testament to my lack of initial competence but I’m happy to share, I bake even faster from scratch now than I ever did with a box.  For those who are still hesitant, here are some of my mistakes and how to correct them.  I hope sharing them will help you to realize you can scratch bake too.

Mistake #1:  Using cold ingredients (i.e butter, eggs and milk)

First and most important: Bake with ALL, yes all, ingredients at room temperature.  Take your butter out first.  It takes longer for the butter to get to room temp.  If you don’t have time to wait, microwave a glass of water till it’s boiling.  Toss the water, place the stick of butter inside, cover the glass and wait a few minutes and your butter will be soft.  That works by the way, whenever you want a soft stick of butter.  Personally, I prefer to bake with butter but if you really can’t wait or bake vegan you can use oil, which is already at room temp (I think this is why the mixes call for oil).  For the eggs and milk, I usually take those out about 30 minutes before I want to bake.  If your baking vegan and your applesauce is cold, bring that to room temp as well.  Boxed cakes call for water (tap water or RO water is usually close to or at room temp, another reason I suspect they call for water) and you can certainly use water too but I think milk will give you a better cake in the end.  Most traditional recipes call for milk, if not buttermilk but water will work too.

Mistake #2:  Stressing about making exact measurements

Second:  When measuring dry ingredients don’t stress to much trying to be exact.  As long as you are mostly correct, the fact that you have 2-1/4 cups or 1-7/8 cups of flour for a recipe calling for 2 cups will not ruin your cake.  Sure you strive for 2 cups but don’t worry if your a little off.

Mistake #3:  Beating the flour and leavening into the cake

Third and last: Follow the recipe and after you’ve creamed the sugar, butter (or oil) and eggs (or applesauce),  you will be ready to add the flour/leavening and milk.  Turn your mixer to the lowest speed.  You want to alternate these ingredients as you incorporate them into your creamed butter/sugar mixture not beat them in.  If the speed is too high you can add unnecessary air to your batter which can wreak havoc in the oven or worse after your done baking, causing the cake to sink upon cooling.

It may be possible that boxed mixes have some of those “other” ingredients to idiot proof the process and for the most part they do.  However, with just a little practice you can ditch the mysterious ingredients and bake your own cake from scratch, outside the box.

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Homemade Pineapple Soft Serve Ice Cream

pineapple soft serve
Super simple to make, homemade Pineapple Soft Serve Ice Cream will quickly become your new favorite treat.   It tastes a lot like another famous pineapple frozen treat from a very popular children’s theme park, but at a much more affordable price.  This recipe yields 8-10 servings.



What you need:

1 Fresh Pineapple

1-1/2 Cups Drinkable Vanilla Yogurt (or Coconut Milk for a dairy free option)

Dash of Salt

Tbsp of lemon juice

2 tbsp of Sugar (optional)

Food Processor or Blender

What to do:

Cut up your pineapple into chunks and freeze overnight.

Take your frozen pineapple, yogurt, salt, lemon juice and sugar and puree in a food processor till thoroughly mixed.

Freeze your mixture for about 4 hours.

Serve and enjoy!


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How to make a Hibiscus Iced Sugar Cookie

hibiscusMaking an iced sugar cookie is probably easier than you might imagine, although it does take some time.  Just follow my steps to make a hibiscus flower iced sugar cookie and you’ll be dazzling your friends and family with your stellar skills in no time.

You will need:

Round sugar cookies

Royal Icing (recipe below)

Food Color

Icing Bag (You can substitute a freezer bag)

Squeeze Bottle (You can also use a spoon if you don’t have a squeeze bottle)


Yellow Non-Perils

First you’ll need some sugar cookies.  Round shaped cookies will work fine, so no need for a fancy cookie cutter.   You will want to roll out your dough for an even surface and if you don’t have a cutter you can improvise with the edge of a glass.  I like to roll my cookies thick about 3/8″ but whatever thickness you prefer will work fine.

Next you’ll need some royal icing.  I make mine with 4-6 cups powdered sugar, 1/3 cup liquid egg whites (plus more as needed), 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp cream of tartar.  I use a stand mixer but a hand mixer will work too, just be careful to moisten the sugar before turning on the mixer or you have a sugary powdery mess all over your kitchen.

Once your icing is made, tint it with the food color and put in an icing bag with a #3 or #4 icing tip (available at Michaels, JoAnne or Hobby Lobby) or you can use a freezer storage bag and just snip the corner a bit allow the icing to come out.  Try not to cut too much off the corner, you want to be able to draw with the icing.

Ok, icing made and tinted your favorite color – let’s get started!

A hibiscus flower has 5 sort of flat edge petals.  Draw the outline of your flower on your round sugar cookie.  You might want to practice first on a piece of wax paper to get the feel of the shape before committing to your cookie.  Outline all our flowers and let them set for a few minutes.

Demo 1

While your outlines are setting, take some more icing and put it in a bowl.  I personally use large measuring cups because they have a spout (you’ll need the spout if you have a squeeze bottle).   Dilute your icing with some additional egg whites.  You want to mix in egg whites till you have a thick but pourable consistency.  Pour your icing into your squeeze bottle and get ready to flood.  Flooding is the term for filling in your cookie.  The thinned out icing will allow it to dry with a smooth even finish.  Put your accent color in first. Just make a small circle in the center.  Then fill in the rest with the main color.

demo 2

Once filled in you need to take a toothpick and starting in the center, drag it out towards the edges of the flower.  Do this all the way around.

demo 3

Let the icing set for about an hour or so and then get your icing bag back out and draw another outline of your flower on top. This gives your flower some more definition.  Also, draw the stem in the center.

demo 4

Finally, take some white icing, diluted a bit, and using a squeeze bottle or very carefully with a spoon, add the stamen to your flower.  Sprinkle a few yellow non perils on top and there you have it – a hibiscus flower!  Let your cookie set for 6-8 hours so that it doesn’t dent or smash when handled.

demo 6

These cookies can be frozen for a few weeks if you are not ready to serve them right away. I like to make cookies in advance to give me time to react or redo if something goes wrong. Have fun cookie decorating!

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DIY Allergen Free Baking – Substitutions & Recipe Fixes

chocolate brownie

I’ve got a stack of books all touting allergen free recipes in my kitchen cupboard.  Problem with most of these books is that they call for ingredients that are hard if not impossible to find.  Seriously, how many people have heard of arrowroot powder for example.  Even if you have heard of the ingredient, finding it is another issue.  I recently spent weeks seeking out Sorghum Flour, only to give in and order it online forcing me to not only wait for the flour but pay shipping as well.

The whole experience is frustrating to say the least.  In the event, anyone else feels the same, I’ve decided to share some of my easy to find substitutions in regular recipes to achieve allergen free treats.  As far as baking goes, this refers to wheat, soy, milk, eggs, nut and corn.  Corn is not a top 8 allergen, but I’ve recently seen more and more requests for corn free treats.

Wheat substitution:  For a gluten free treat, there are gluten free baking flours – ready to go.  These are expensive and I’ve found a lot of success and saved money with a White Rice Flour, Tapioca Flour, Corn Starch mix.  Use in a ratio of 2:1:1 respectively (1c -1/2c- 1/2c).  For every cup of flour mix add 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum.  You can find these flours at most stores and most certainly at Whole Foods.  Other flours that are also great for baking: Brown Rice Flour, Potato Starch and if your can find it Sorghum Flour.  Make sure to read your labels.  If you have a nut allergy there’s a very popular brand of alternative flours that clearly states on the package that their flours are made on shared equipment with tree nuts.

Soy substitution:  Soy seems to be everywhere, especially once you begin to notice it.  Vegetable oil usually contains soybeans  and so does vegetable shortening.  Some suitable substitutions are Canola Oil or Spectrum Organic All Vegetable Shortening, it’s made from palm oil.  Both can be substituted in a 1:1 ratio.

Milk substitution:  Removing milk in a recipe means to remove butter as well.  For milk I use Rice Milk and for butter I use vegetable shortening in a 1:1 ratio.  Coconut milk and coconut oil are also good options and while it’s technically a fruit, some are concerned it’s a nut, so I personally avoid it but I’ve heard it yields great results.

Egg substitution:  There are many choices for egg substitutes but my favorite is applesauce.  You can use 1/3 cup applesauce for each egg. The applesauce adds moisture to your baked good so don’t use it if your recipe calls for oil vs butter or shortening.  If your recipe calls for oil you can use a banana for each egg needed.  There is also a powdered product that is an egg replacer called Ener G available at Whole Foods.  When applesauce makes for too much moisture and you want to avoid the flavor of banana in your baked good, this is a good alternative.

Nut substitution:  If your craving peanut butter cookies, Soynut or Sunbutter are great substitutes.  If you are looking to add crunch, rice cereal is good.  If you feel your banana muffins need something else how about adding some dark chocolate chips instead of nuts.

Corn substitution:  For gluten free flour, potato starch is a great substitution for corn starch.  If you bake with baking powder, corn starch is usually an added ingredient.  To bake without baking powder, substitute baking soda and cream of tartar using a 1:2 ratio respectively.  Be mindful of your powdered sugar if corn is an issue.  Many powdered sugars are made with cornstarch.  Organic powdered sugar is a great substitution, it typically uses tapioca starch instead of corn starch.

Now, in the course of my allergen free baking, I’ve found that substitutions can sometimes interfere with the chemical reaction needed to create the right texture and leavening in your baked good.  After research I learned that baked goods require ingredients to have certain weight ratios with respect to each other for the chemical reactions to do their magic.  These ratios are:

Sugar must weigh the same or more than the flour

Eggs must weigh the same as the fat (your butter, shortening or oil)

Eggs plus milk (or your liquid) must weigh the same or more than the sugar

Your are free to break out your kitchen scales or you can check your recipes against some standards weights I have for you listed below: (ingredient/weight per cup)

Cake Flour/4.1 oz

Sugar/7 oz

Butter/8 oz

Milk/8 oz

Egg Whole/1.7/oz

Egg White Only/1.1 oz

Egg Yolk Only/.6 oz

White Rice Flour/5.6 oz

Brown Rice Flour/5.6 oz

Tapioca Flour/4.2 oz

Corn Starch/4.5 oz

Sorghum Flour/4.5 oz

I’ve found I’ve had to tweak the proportions of my ingredients in some of my recipes, especially when making substitutions,  in order to achieve a desirable result.

I hope you find these substitutions and tweaks helpful.  If baking is not your thing and you need some allergen free treats, feel free to visit my website  I’d be happy to bake them for you.

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