Usually if someone hears the words “dairy free” or “gluten free”, they cringe and expect it to taste like “Donkey Cake”.
While there are a ton of horrible ready-made, allergy free items on the shelves, and some equally bad recipes that taste more like cardboard than food, there are ways to get your allergen free treats simply without sacrificing taste or breaking the bank (as many “allergen free” labeled ingredients and mixes are often over-priced).
The first step is to realize that convenience has just gone out the window, and to just deal with that realization. It is what it is, and you can’t change it.
That was the first and hardest step I had to deal with. I am a creature of convenience. Knowing that a pizza was just a phone call away was a lifesaver during those moments where I felt too sick to cook. But with a dairy allergic child, that simply isn’t possible anymore.
We used to order pizza delivery and just made sure we ordered a personal pizza for our dairy allergic child minus the cheese. He likes pepperoni, though, so we went with that. However, after awhile, it became clear that, even if the milk was baked into the crust, he would react slightly to it.
Unfortunately, every delivery place that served personal pizzas had milk in their crust and/or their pizza sauce. I had never considered that pizza sauce would have cheese in it already.
So, it was time to improvise and come up with a new solution. We purchased some frozen pizzas. One had no dairy and the other was a regular pizza. As it turned out, though, that particular brand gave me an unwanted reaction. The ingredient label stated that “Good manufacturing practices” were used to ensure that contamination didn’t occur in these pizzas in a facility that also handled peanuts and tree nuts. Obviously, it wasn’t good enough for me. And since both of our boys are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, this was unacceptable.
It was time to make my own pizza. I had done it once before when I was on a gluten free diet (long story), so I knew that I didn’t want to take the time to make my own dough, at least for now. So I went to the grocery store and started label reading various ingredients until I found a great crust that was free of all the ingredients we are allergic to. It was easy to find a good pizza sauce and other toppings as well. I purchased a package of personal pan sized pizza crusts to make the cheese free pizza for our dairy allergic little boy, and then some larger crusts for the rest of us so we could have cheese on our pizzas.
It worked like a charm, and now, everyone loves Mommy’s Homemade Pizza Night!
Mouthwatering, isn’t it? While the convenience of delivery has been lost, this has actually become a quick dinner solution in our house. Just assemble the ingredients, stick it in the oven, and you’re done! It takes just as long as a frozen pizza to make, with just a little extra effort.
The plus side – I can purchase tons of toppings and just throw whatever I want on there really quick. Buying a frozen pizza, you can’t do that. Doing it all yourself, you can have pepperoni and mushroom one evening, and ham and pineapple Hawaiian pizza the next. Last minute cravings are satisfied. Yum.
Another convenience that has been lost is the birthday party meal plans and attendance. If one of our boys wants an elaborately decorated birthday cake, I can’t just pick one up at the grocery store bakery. Have you ever seen their “May Contain” ingredient list? It’s a mile long!
I’m also not much of a baker. I’ve baked from scratch only once in my life, unless you count Home Economics class when I was in middle school. I’m a “buy the box cake mix” kind of person. I always have been. It’s how I was raised, even. So that makes the art of baking extremely difficult for me when trying to avoid peanuts, tree nuts and milk all at once.
Cake mixes usually contain milk already, before you even buy it. Other cake mixes have the “may contain peanuts and tree nuts” warning on the label. Then others call for you to add eggs to the mix. Since our oldest child and I both have an egg protein sensitivity, it makes no sense to purchase a dozen eggs to only use 3 to bake a single cake. We’ll never eat the rest of those eggs.
So, I was faced with a major dilemma.
Either I was to find a cake mix that was peanut, tree nut, and milk free, and use a suitable egg substitute in the mix
Bake a cake from scratch.
I must’ve looked at every single ingredient label in horrible frustration until I finally found one that was totally safe. No peanuts. No tree nuts. No milk.
But it called for eggs.
What was I to do about that? I tried several different methods of egg substitute. I mixed milled flax seed with water. That worked okay, but the cupcakes were gooey in the center. Cornstarch mixed with water is another one, but that always made the cake just fall apart. It was hard to get a bite that wasn’t crumbs.
This last time, as I baked cupcakes to bring to a friend’s child’s birthday party (I bring my own because the cake there usually isn’t safe, and I don’t want my boys to feel left out), I decided to do something I never did before.
I went to the Martha Stewart website.
I hate Martha Stewart.
But she had some great ideas for the egg substitute for cakes: applesauce. I was already using applesauce as an oil substitute, so I figured I might as well use it for the egg substitute and see how it comes it.
I made spice cake cupcakes and added water and applesauce to the mix and then baked according to the instructions on the box. Unfortunately, I forgot to add the raisins to the batter because I spaced out, but I’ll try that next time.
Let me just say, the cupcakes turned out so wonderfully moist and delicious. My friend (whose son was having the birthday party) described them as utterly divine.
To do the applesauce substitute for eggs, use 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce in place of 1 egg.
In my opinion, they tasted better than if I had used regular ingredients. It’s a low fat (no oil!), low cholesterol (no eggs!), dairy free, peanut free, egg free, tree nut free cupcake that tastes absolutely amazing!
Even better, I was able to use regular canned frosting that only contained soy, which we are, thankfully, not allergic to, and I found some good autumn style sprinkles that were free of any potential allergens as well. SCORE!
And my house smelled of spice cake, bringing me instantly into the blissful feeling of the fall season – my favorite season of the year.
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