baking for kids with allergies: my little secret

I wouldn’t dare to question the merit of vegan baking from scratch; my single mom did it for two decades while raising five children. It’s no exaggeration to say that she never once baked out of a box.

The beauty of it lies in your ability to control the ingredients: you can use organic flour, mix a combination of whole grain and gluten-free flours together, use healthier alternatives to cane sugar like brown rice syrup or maple syrup, and add nutritious bonuses like ground nuts and seeds without hubby and kids noticing the difference in taste.

I followed in mom’s footsteps for three decades. I baked egg-free goodies by hand until my 30s, when the demands of parenting in general, much less baking for a child who is allergic to all dairy products (cow, sheep and goat milk, and eggs) and certain tree nuts, took its toll. I just didn’t have the time or patience to experiment with recipes without eggs that fell apart or transformed into sink holes.

Then one day, two years ago, when my little one with allergies was a baby, I noticed a pleasant-looking box of baking mix in the specialty section at Fairway on 75th and Broadway. The box stated, “peanut free, dairy free, nut free, egg free.” The name of the company was Cherrybrook Kitchen, and the product was chocolate cake. B was turning two, and how I would love to make chocolate vegan cupcakes for his birthday party in five minutes or less.

I added water and vegetable oil (the recipe calls for margarine, but I am a huge fan of oil instead of butter or margarine in baking—it has healthy unsaturated fat in it), put the mix into cupcake tins, placed n the oven and returned in 20 minutes. The result as no less than a small miracle: perfect-looking cupcakes that mimicked the “real” deal, those with eggs and butter. So easy. Cuts out having to shop for five different ingredients, So predictable. A guaranteed result every time.

Cherrybrook Kitchen also sells a chocolate chip cookie mix, which hubby and the boys love, plus brownie, sugar cookie, yellow cake and pancake mixes, all of which are available gluten-free, and frosting mixes.

When I make the cookies, I add flaxseeds for extra healthy omega-3 fat, and ground sunflower seeds or almonds for added protein, vitamin E and trace minerals.
cherrybrook kitchen cookies

The downside of their mixes is that they all contain cane sugar. Cane Sugar is unhealthy for numerous reasons, including the fact that it makes your blood sugar spike, putting stress on your kidneys and pancreas, which can lead to obesity and diabetes. (See upcoming post on the hazards of cane and refined sugar).

So I am cautious about feeding my family products with cane sugar. I still bake regularly without sugar (look for sugar-free, dairy-free yummies upcoming in my recipe section) but willingly resort to CherryBook Kitchen’s vegan, nut-free baking mixes every once in a while.

When it comes to baking for kids with allergies, there is something to say for convenience.