Autumn Appetites: Apples and Pumpkins

“Change is bad….”

My youngest went trick or treating for the first time without his parents last night. He had fun with his middle school friends, trick or treating as a group, eating pizza at the Halloween party, playing games in the dark. He laughed and played and enjoyed himself. Then… he came home and cried because he realized the Halloween traditions of his last twelve years didn’t happen because he had gone out with his friends instead of with his parents. And as is typical with children on the autism spectrum, he made this blanket pronouncement: “Change is bad!”

Change is bad. How often do we feel and think that? Even as adults whose life experiences have taught us that change can be good, we can feel uncertainty and anxiety creep up on us when something in life changes. Often, the change has to prove its goodness as opposed to us believing its potential good from the onset.

As you can imagine, I took the time last night to speak to my son about the many changes he has had in his life which were good and pointed out that last night’s change enabled him to have a really good time with his friends which he wouldn’t have had if he hadn’t “changed” by growing and becoming a middle schooler who wanted to hang out with his friends instead of his parents. He, of course, remained skeptical, but I trust that, as with my older two, someday my words will resound as reasonable and not gobblygook.

For those of with food allergies that appear later in life, change can definitely seem bad. Suddenly, the foods we’ve loved, we can no longer eat, and we now have to learn a whole new way of eating which includes new foods, new ways of shopping, and creating new recipes. It can feel overwhelming and just plain bad sometimes. Trust me, I know! The last few months of accidents, family health issues, and two too many deaths have created food comfort cravings, and what I wouldn’t have given to be able to eat one of my son’s Reese’s peanut butter cups last night!

On the other hand, though, developing food allergies later in life has expanded my repertoire of new food experiences, new recipes, and new opportunities for being creative, to do a different type of work, for establishing new networks and relationships, and to add support to community life. The good outweighs the bad.

Autumn presents a similar tension for folks… the changing colder weather means heavier clothes, shorter, darker days, and the coming of snow-storm filled, winter months. It also brings Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas, though, and wonderful foods like apples, pumpkins, kale, winter squash, and opportunities for eating those more cold weather foods like stews and holiday foods like tortes and pies.

This week, we had apples and pumpkins from neighbors’ gardens as well as our own to use up, so I decided to “change” what I usually make with apples and pumpkins (apple crisp and pumpkin pie) in favor of trying something new and different. So, I made an apple brownie, which is different from a chocolate brownie but tasty nonetheless, and a pumpkin gingerbread trifle because I had leftover gingerbread muffins from a workshop. Both treats were thoroughly enjoyed by the folks who benefited from my willingness to think that change could be a good thing!

Apple Brownies


2 cups gluten free flour blend (I used King Arthur’s whole grain version)

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup vegan butter, melted

2 cups coconut sugar

eggs equal to 1/2 cup (2 or three, depending on the size of your eggs)

3 large apples, peeled, cored, and diced into thin slivers

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Mix together the melted vegan butter, sugar and eggs.
  4. Stir the chopped apples into the dry ingredients, and then add the wet ingredients, mixing well until everything is moistened and incorporated.
  5. Spread the mixture into the lined pan and bake for about 30 minutes. The brownies will be puffed but will settle when it cools.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle


two cups pureed, cooked pumpkin

24 oz unsweetened plain or vanilla flavored coconut yogurt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

2 tbsp agave

container So Delicious dairy free coconut whipped cream

cut up pieces of gingerbread cupcakes Gingerbread Cupcakes

Assembling Instructions:

  1. Mix the pumpkin, coconut yogurt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and agave together in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Thaw the coconut whipped cream as instructed.
  3. In a deep round dish, layer according to the following: a thin layer of the pumpkin mixture, a layer of cut up gingerbread, a layer of the pumpkin mixture, a layer of half of the whipped cream, a layer of gingerbread, a layer of the pumpkin mixture, a last layer of gingerbread, last layer of the pumpkin mixture, and a layer of the second half of the whipped cream.
  4. Store in the fridge until ready to eat.

Autumn Appetites: Pumpkin Bundt Cake

“But I really don’t have anything to complain about, though….”

I ran into a friend today who asked how I and the family were doing. Because he was a friend, I felt comfortable telling him about the emotional roller coaster the family has been on since May with two children being in car accidents, my husband’s father dying, trying to figure out what caused a seizure for my middle child, our oldest in angst about what to do next year after her senior year of college, our youngest camping in our bedroom since May, suddenly not wanting to sleep alone, health issues I have been having, a cousin’s wife struggling with a recurrence of cancer, and the transition to another full school year of responsibilities for both my husband and myself.

After briefing him on all that, he asked how in the world we were holding up, and I told him that we were actually doing okay because we continually and daily reminded ourselves about the many things we have to be grateful for in comparison to other things happening in the world. We aren’t living in any of the places which have been devastated by the recent onslaught of hurricanes. All our children are alive and well physically. We have jobs, a home, provisions. Our friends and family are numerous and great supports to us. My husband’s mom is not alone as she copes with the death of my father-in-law. My own parents are holding their own despite setbacks here and there.

Our gratitude list can go on and on, and some days we just sit and speak that list as a way of thanksgiving for all we do have, even in the midst of these more emotionally taxing times. For us, it really is the only way to live when life gets tougher than we’d like.

Sometimes, food allergies and health issues can be taxing and make us weary, too. We wish we didn’t have to eat a certain way. We miss and crave foods we used to be able to eat. We are frustrated by the time and energy and costs it takes to eat non-traditionally. We don’t like being the odd people out. We want to complain. We want to shake our fists at the universe.

I felt this the other day when the only options for food at a church gathering were ones I couldn’t eat, despite the number of times I have tried to make the church aware of just how many people with food allergies attend the church.

In these situations, though, I once again find myself thinking about the ways I am blessed. For those of us with food issues, we live currently in a time when options for alternative foods exist. Many of us also live in countries where we have access to nontraditional ingredients and food. More and more restaurants are offering options to meet dietary needs. Blogs and cookbooks are focusing on our health issues. Schools and hospitals are enacting changes to better help care for folks with allergies. Stores like BJs and Costco are selling nontraditional ingredients for cheaper. Those of us with food issues provide an opportunity for others to learn and to show compassion and understanding. Those of us with food issues have an opportunity to practice compassion and understanding when folks don’t learn and show compassion.

Again, the list of things to be grateful for about food issues can go on and on, if we truly consider them.

The other day, I was grateful for pumpkin. Pureed pumpkin is awesome for food issues because it is a healthy, vitamin-filled vegetable which can be used as a substitute for eggs as well as fats. Plus its orange hue makes food pretty, and it tastes yummy.

So, I decided I would make three pumpkin bundt cakes for some upcoming weekend events. For one, we ate the cake topped with an apple compote I made in the crockpot as a snack. For the other, folks put vanilla ice cream on top for a dessert. For the third, people just ate it as is for breakfast.

Pumpkin Bundt Cake


1 1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas

2 cups cooked, pureed pumpkin

3 eggs

3/4 cup extra light olive oil

1 tbsp minced ginger paste

1 cup agave

3 cups gluten free flour blend (I used King Arthur’s whole grain blend)

2 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt pan with vegan butter and coat with golden ground flaxseed.
  2. Blend together the bananas, pumpkin, eggs, oil ginger paste and agave. Set aside.
  3. Mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, along with the apple cider vinegar, and mix quickly just until the dry ingredients are moistened and incorporated.
  5. Evenly spread the batter into the prepare bundt pan.
  6. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the cake is puffed, golden and a toothpick inserted comes out with only a few crumbs sticking to it.
  7. Cool in the bundt pan on a wiring cooling rack for at 15 to 25 minutes. Turn the cake upside down onto the wire cooling rack, removing the pan, and allowing the cake to cool completely.

Changing Tradition: Dairy Free Pumpkin Cheesecake

“What exactly is traditional?”

This year, for the first time in eight years, I did not coordinate the parades and barbecue for the high school band which signifies the end of a “tradition” for our family. Every Memorial Day for these past few years, we’ve woken up early as a family and headed to the high school to drop off a high school child and to receive all the food parents were donating to the barbecue. Then, my remaining children, husband and I would head over to the local camp to set up for the barbecue. After cooking and serving hamburgers, hot dogs and veggie burgers to 70 people, we’d clean everything up, unload at home, and head back to the high school to pick up our child from the second of the two parades marched in on Memorial Day.

What’s varied over the years is the number of my children who helped at the barbecue. First there were two while my eldest marched with the high school band; then there was one as my middle child marched. What didn’t change was the fun we had serving as a family, and the expectations of my youngest who from his youngest years loved going to the camp on Memorial Day. Last year, however, I resigned from 15 years of school volunteer work to focus more on other opportunities.

For my youngest, who is on the autism spectrum, he was torn between wanting to support his mother and what he saw as a loss from participating in our “traditions” for Memorial Day. As it is, this year would have marked a change whether I had continued or not because my husband’s father passed away a couple of weeks ago, and though we spent a week with my mother-in-law for the funeral, my husband and youngest went back this weekend to help her sort through my father-in-law’s office materials.

Before my father-in-law passed away, though, I reminded my son that traditions are what we make, not what make us and that this could be a year to do something slightly different. For some of us, our foods are very traditional… foods we’ve always had and therefore must continue to have. This can make it difficult if we’re trying to eat healthier or suddenly have food allergies altering our food needs.

This week I received an email from someone who has always loved pumpkin cheesecake. It’s apparently been a “tradition” to make it for Memorial Day, a tradition that dates back to his childhood when he wanted pumpkin pie for Memorial Day and his mom wanted to make a cheesecake, and they compromised. This year, however, his mother can no longer eat dairy and has to be careful of her total carb intake due to diabetes, and he feared their tradition would have to end. Instead, he learned that the tradition simply need to be modified.

I used tofu versions of the dairy for the cheesecake, reduced the “sugars” by using a smaller amount of agave instead of a larger amount of sugar, and reduced overall carbs by opting to not have a crust for the cheesecake. The gentleman said his mother enjoyed the cheesecake immensely, so for those of us wondering if change can be good, this cheesecake says, “Yes.”

Pumpkin Cheesecake


3 (8-ounce) packages tofu cream cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup Agave (If you like your cheesecake sweet, you may want to increase this to one cup)
1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin or two cups cooked, pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup tofu sour cream, at room temperature
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
4 eggs, at room temperature

Topping: 12 ounce tofu sour cream, 2 tsp agave, 1 tsp vanilla


Cooking Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and wrap a 10 inch springform pan with aluminum foil around the bottom. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

In a mixer, beat tofu cream cheese until smooth. Slowly add the agave with the mixer on low, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the pumpkin puree, sour cream, and the spices. Beat together until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between each addition.

Pour into the prepared pan. Spread out evenly and place in a large pan that will hold the springform pan and water. Pour boiling water into the larger pan until it’s about halfway up the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake in the oven for about an 1 hour or so. The cheesecake will be slightly jiggly in the center but a knife inserted near the edge should come out mostly clean.  Mine took an hour and ten minutes. This made a creamy, less dense cheesecake. If you like your cheesecake to be more solid, bake longer until the center is more firm.

Mix the sour cream with the agave and vanilla and spread over the top of the cheesecake. Bake for about another ten minutes. You just want the topping to solidify a bit.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 to 30 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours until the cheesecake is set. Remove from the springform pan and sprinkle with cinnamon on top before serving.

Recipe Revamping: Pumpkin Tunnel Cake

“Calories: Tiny evil creatures which live in your closet and quietly sew your clothes tighter every night.”

The above was written on a pillow sitting in a store window, and my son pointed it out to me, thinking it would make me laugh. He was right! I’m convinced these creatures have been multiplying in my closet over the past few years. What else would account for my clothes beginning to become more snug as I age? *grin*

I thought about the pillow when I received an email asking if I could revamp a recipe not just for allergies but to reduce overall calories. The recipe in question was for a tunnel cake and called for a total of six eggs, a cup of butter, and 12 ounces of cream cheese, so it’s no wonder the request was being made!

If you’re not familiar with a tunnel cake, it’s simply a bundt cake with a filling inside. They’re fun cakes to make wonderful to serve to guests because they look pretty and taste lovely. This particular cake was a pumpkin ginger cream cheese cake. The original recipe called for the filling: 12 oz cream cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 large eggs, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and 1/2 cup crystallized ginger; and for the cake: 2 1/4 cup flour, 2 tsp salt, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tbsp ground ginger, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1 15 oz can pumpkin, 2 cups sugar, 1 cup butter, 4 large eggs, and 1 tsp vanilla.

To revamp the cake:

The Filling: To tackle the calories and the allergies to dairy, I opted to use tofu cream cheese and tofu sour cream in place of the regular cream cheese and sour cream, and I decreased the amounts by half. Even with half of the filling, there was plenty to fill the “tunnel” and to give the cake it’s pretty look and it’s surprise taste. I opted to keep one whole egg in the filling because it would help with the texture of the filling, figuring I could do something about the amount of eggs in the cake itself. To further reduce calories (and because I never use white refined sugar), I used Truvia in place of the sugar, which meant I could use half the amount needed.

The Cake: Because the person emailing couldn’t eat gluten, I swapped a gluten free blend for the white flour, but I didn’t want to use a rice flour blend for the entire cake, so I only used 1 1/2 cups of a GF blend and used sorghum and gluten free oat flour for the rest of the amount to add protein and fiber to the cake as well as to give the texture of the cake some density. I also chose to use 3/4 c of Agave instead of the 2 cups of sugar which further reduced calories as well as getting rid of the refined white sugar. To tackle the bad fat in the butter, I opted for safflower oil instead and reduced the amount to 3/4 cup. For the eggs, I decided to use 2 eggs and use 1/2 cup of egg whites for the rest.

The cake came out quite lovely. I served it to guests who asked for the recipe because they liked it so much! Below is the recipe as I made it. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Ginger Tunnel Cake


Ginger Filling:

6 oz Tofutti cream cheese, room temp (3/4 cup)

1/4 cup Tofutti sour cream, room temp

1 1/2 tbsp Truvia

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp salt

1 egg

1/4 tsp gluten free vanilla

1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (I chop it in my food processor into tiny pieces)

The Pumpkin Cake:

1 1/2 cup Gluten Free rice flour blend

1/4 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup oat flour

1 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp ground ginger

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp cloves

2 cups pumpkin, cooked and pureed or canned

3/4 cup Agave

3/4 cup safflower oil

2 eggs

1/2 cup liquid egg whites

1 tsp gluten free vanilla

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or white vinegar

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a Bundt pan with your preferred method. Just make sure that you’ve covered every crevice well so that your cake will easily come out when you invert it. Nothing is worse than the top of your bundt cake sticking to the pan!
  2. Using a mixer, blend the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add the sour cream, truvia, ginger, and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until incorporated. Mix in the vanilla and crystallized ginger. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the gluten free flour blend, sorghum flour, oat flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.
  4. Mix together the pumpkin, agave, oil, egg, egg whites, and vanilla.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet with the vinegar and mix well until the dry ingredients are completely moistened.
  6. Fill the prepared bundt pan half full and make a little tunnel in the batter for the filling.
  7. Give the filling a good stir because the ginger pieces would have have fallen to the bottom. Carefully spoon the filling into the tunnel. It will probably spill out a bit. Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.
  8. Carefully add the rest of the cake batter to cover the filling.
  9. Bake for about 40 minutes until the cake has risen, is golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  10. Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes, better to do 25 to 30. Carefully invert and remove the cake from the pan. Cool completely.


Creative Cooking: Crumb Cake

“Your EKG is abnormal.”

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to make an allergy friendly version of a crumb cake recipe for an office party.  I was told, though, “Please don’t change anything other than to make it gluten and dairy free for my co-workers.  It’s a delicious recipe, and I don’t want to lose the taste.”

I did as instructed, but it killed me emotionally. Simply reading the ingredients was enough to give anyone a heart attack. Between the cake batter and the crumb topping the recipe called for two cups of full fat sour cream, four cups of sugar, four cups of butter, four whole eggs, and of course, white flour.

I’m sure the gentleman was correct in saying that the crumb cake was delicious. All that butter and sugar, how could it not be. My question, though, was whether it couldn’t be just as delicious as a healthier version of itself. I thought about that question again this week as I laid in a hospital bed after a severe stomach flu rendered me completely dehydrated which in turn caused an abnormal EKG.

I was sent home yesterday and spent this morning being checked out by a cardiologist. Fortunately, because I do lead a healthy lifestyle of exercise and good eating choices, the abnormal EKG did appear to be caused by low potassium levels and not anything being wrong with my heart itself. I thought, though, about how differently the results could have been if I did eat crumb cake the way a lot of people do.

Food is to be enjoyed, and I want to eat delicious crumb cake just like other people. I think, though, that what one eats should be the best it can be for my body’s health. So, I confess, that after I made the crumb cake as I was asked, that I went to work creating a healthier version which I shared with my writing group, a friend, and my family, all of whom declared it to be delicious. It took a little though, but I was able to make a few simple changes which made all the difference.  Let me share….

The Sugar: Four cups of sugar is crazy. Really. As I’ve mentioned in the past, sugar is a poison to our body, and we’re better off avoiding it if we can. As I’ve also mentioned, sugar replacements aren’t the end all as well. They still have calories and still can cause some fluctuations in one’s glycemic index, but that you can lose so much less in a recipe and are not as refined has pluses which sugar does not. So, I opted to use a cup of Agave for the cake batter and 1/2 cup of coconut sugar in the crumb topping which reduced the sweetener from 4 cups to 1 1/2 cups. Everyone agreed the cake was plenty sweet enough.

The Butter: Four cups of butter is A LOT. I agreed, though, that for a good crumb topping you did need a substantial amount of butter to get the right consistency and taste. So the question was how to create a balance between quantity and quality. In the end, I swapped grapeseed oil for the butter in the cake batter. As a plant based oil it has health benefits which butter does not, and as a liquid fat, I only needed to use 1/2 cup versus the two cups of butter in the original recipe. For the crumb topping, I decided I could halve the amount and use one cup of a vegan soy free butter which still reflected the taste and consistency of a good crumb topping. So, I was able to decrease the fat from 4 cups to 1 1/2 cups.

The Eggs: Eggs are not bad in general. In fact, they’re quite good for you. But as with all things, moderation is the key, and four whole eggs carry a lot of cholesterol in those egg yolks, which is not always good for people with certain health risks. This was an easy enough fix, though. I simply opted to use 3/4 cups of liquid egg whites which eliminated yolks altogether but kept the liquid ratio needed for the cake batter.

The Sour Cream: I admit, I love sour cream. Even the tofu version I have to eat because of my dairy allergy. It’s creamy texture and tangy taste definitely make for a delicious crumb cake. The problem is that even the vegan version isn’t really that great for you. Being made from tofu only adds a small margin of protein, nothing concrete enough to counter the fat and other additives. So, I thought about for something different to give the cake it’s moisture and flavor. In the end I decided to use pureed pumpkin because it would lend a pretty orange color to the cake as well as all those good minerals and vitamins which our bodies need. Two cups of pumpkin instead of sour cream eliminated a lot of extra fat and calories from the cake.

The Crumb Topping: This was key to do correctly, because crumb cake is, after all, about the crumb topping. If it didn’t meet expectations, all would be lost. As I previously mentioned, I had reduced the quantity of butter to one cup and swapped 1/2 cup of coconut sugar for the two cups of white sugar , but there was still the problem of how little nutritional value the white flour in the topping had, not to mention my allergies to wheat. I finally chose to use a combination of gluten free whole rolled oat and gluten free oat flour. With the addition of protein and fiber, I felt better about the topping being healthier than the original version. I also reduced the overall amount of “flour” and used 2 cups instead of the original three cups to reduce the extra calories.

The Flour: White flour is another food to be avoided if at all possible. There is no nutritional value to white flour, and if you’re like me and allergic to wheat, you can’t have it anyway. The problem, though, is that my usual switch, which is to use high fiber, high protein gluten free flours like bean flours and sorghum flours wouldn’t necessarily give me the texture I wanted for the crumb cake. Crumb cake batter is supposed to be a medium batter, not light and airy but not overly dense. Since I had altered the crumb topping, though, to have more fiber and protein, I decided I could be more lenient with the cake batter, and I opted to use a gluten free baking mix that was a mixture of brown rice flour and sweet white sorghum with potato and tapioca starches that worked well.

The Flavoring: Since I had omitted the sour cream which usually gives a good crumb cake its flavor, I needed to consider adding some spices to the pumpkin replacement. Cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves did the trick.

The Ratio: Because crumb cake is all about the crumb topping to cake ratio, and because I was reducing the amount of flour and butter, I opted to cook the cake in an 11 x 15 pan which meant I could distribute the crumb topping over a shallower depth of cake batter to ensure that there wouldn’t be more cake to crumb topping which might prevent enjoyment of the any piece given.

The Appearance: Crumb cake usually has a powdered sugar coating which makes for a beautiful presentation. I admit, I didn’t want to eliminate the aesthetics because for me presentation is important, too. I could, however, greatly reduce the amount used. The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. I was able to use one tablespoon and create the same appearance without all the added sugar.

Crumb Cake


Cake Batter:

2 1/2 cup gluten free flour blend (use a version with brown rice flour)

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cloves

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup liquid egg whites

2 cups cooked, pureed pumpkin

1/2 cup grapeseed oil

1 cup Agave

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Crumb Topping:

1 cup gluten free whole rolled oats

2 cups gluten free oat flour

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 cup vegan soy free butter

1 tbsp powdered sugar

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 11 x 15 pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Mix together the gluten free flour blend, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. Blend together the liquid egg whites, pumpkin, grapeseed oil, and agave. Add to the dry ingredients with the apple cider vinegar, and blend until the dry ingredients are fully moistened.
  4. Pour cake batter into the prepared baking pan.
  5. Combine the whole rolled oats, oat flour, coconut sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Using clean hands incorporate the vegan butter into the mixture until everything is completely mixed and you have no dry ingredients leftover. You’ll have a nice clump which you can then crumble for the crumb topping.
  6. Evenly distribute small chunks of the crumb topping over the cake batter.
  7. Bake the prepared cake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake is puffed and golden.
  8. Cool the baked cake on a wire cooling rack. Using a sifter, gently sprinkle the powdered sugar to completely cover the crumb topping.



With Gratitude: Thanksgiving Muffins

“Only two weeks to Thanksgiving and then it’s Advent!”

My son ran into the kitchen today to announce that my time to pretend the holidays were not approaching was at an end. I could ignore his heralding at six months, three months, and even one month… but two weeks! Whether I was ready or not, it was time to begin thinking.

The fact is that when you have multiple food allergies, thinking about holiday meals can be something you’d like to put off if you can, because thinking about them means figuring out exactly which and how many dishes you’ll be making simply to ensure that you have food to eat.

If you’re new to the blog, you can search by category for “holidays” and find posts I’ve previously submitted about allergy friendly holiday cooking — everything from how to minimize stress to how to revamp pies, cakes, entrees and side dishes.

This week, however, a young mom wrote asking me about ideas for a Thanksgiving muffin. Her father-in-law cannot have eggs, dairy and wheat, so she thought muffins might be easier to make than rolls. She wanted the muffins to be “Thanksgiving-ish”, though, and I had just the recipe for her.

Thanksgiving Muffins. When I think about Thanksgiving, pumpkins, squash, apples, and cranberries always come to mind. So I have a recipe that you can make just about any way you want, varying the type of cranberries you choose, your choice of pumpkin, winter squash or even a homemade applesauce in place of pumpkin, and even the spices you decide to include. And the bonus is that they’re gluten, dairy, egg, soy, and nut free, too.

Thanksgiving Muffins


4 tbsp ground golden flaxseed

12 tbsp water

2 cups pureed cooked pumpkin or winter squash (butternut, acorn, etc…) or apples

2/3 cup safflower oil

3/4 cup Agave

1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, dried cranberries, or cooked cranberries (My kids like the cooked cranberries best because they’re softer and I usually cook them with a bit of agave to make them sweeter, but you can also use fresh cranberries if you want a tart/sweet flavor contrast to the muffins or dried cranberries if you want the muffins to have some chewiness and little more sweetness)

3 1/2 cup gluten free flour blend (I usually use a homemade mixture of sorghum, garbanzo bean, and oat flour with arrowroot starch but I’ve used Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur and Authentic Foods)

2 1/2 tsp spices (any combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, allspice and/or cloves are good)

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup boiling water

2 tbsp vinegar (I like to use apple cider vinegar but a white vinegar is fine, too)

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and fill 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners. (The orange, red-flecked muffins look pretty in a white liner if you put the muffins in a bowl to put on the table for the Thanksgiving meal.)
  2. Combine the flaxseed with the water and let sit for five minutes.
  3. In a large bowl mix together the cooked pureed pumpkin or squash or apples with the oil, agave and flaxseed mixture. Set aside.
  4. In a food processor chop the cranberries, no matter what type you’re using, because this will distribute them more evenly throughout the muffin. Add to the wet mixtures.
  5. In another bowl mix the flour, spices, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, along with the water and vinegar. Mix until all the dry ingredients are moistened.
  7. Evenly distribute the batter among the 24 muffin cups. They will be filled almost to the top.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Muffins will be puffed and golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.







Handling Holidays: Pies

website pies

“As American as apple pie.”

As the story goes, the Pennsylvania Dutch invented the two crusted fruit pie as we know it today, and apparently being able to have pies regularly with your meals was seen as a status symbol.  Whether this is all true or not, I don’t know, but I do know that my husband would rather have a pie than a birthday cake; that my members of my extended family would think Thanksgiving had gone horribly wrong if no pies were present; that figures say 700 million dollars in pies are sold every year in the U.S.; and that students everywhere are thrilled to celebrate Pi Day with pies of every type every year.

Ironically, though, pies, which are made with “good for you” ingredients like fruit and vegetables, are full of fat, sodium, and allergy triggers like wheat, nuts, and dairy.

Fortunately, when it comes to desserts, however, pies are probably the easiest to adapt for healthier eating or for an allergy restricted diet.  They usually don’t require very exact ratios of ingredients, and because you don’t need to make anything “rise”, you can pretty much substitute any ingredient with another without worry of disastrous results.

Healthier Pies

If you simply need to eat healthier, here are a few easy fixes to try:

For Crusts:

1.  Swap the white flour in the crust for whole wheat.  100% whole wheat has a higher fiber content, but you can also use white whole wheat if you want something closer to white flour.  Since 100% whole wheat flour is denser than white, you should use about 1/4 cup less in your recipe.

2.  Swap out the butter or shortening with coconut oil, which is actually a solid, not a liquid as the name implies.  It’s considered a healthier fat than butter and shortening.

3.  Make a crust using a liquid healthy oil as opposed to a solid fat.  A general recipe:  1 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/3 cup oil, 3 tbsp “milk”.  I have used safflower oil, grapeseed oil, canola oil, etc… and almond milk, soy milk, and rice milk — all to success.

4. Substitute part of the flour in the recipe with a nut flour, coconut flour or soy flour.  You can substitute up to half of the flour with  a nut flour, about 1/4 of the flour with coconut flour, and up to 1/3 of the flour with soy flour.

For Fillings:

1.  Use Agave or Stevia or Coconut sugar in place of the sugar in the recipe.  For every cup of sugar use about half of any of these substitutes.  If you use the Agave and it’s simply a couple of tablespoons to 1/4 cup, don’t worry about it being a liquid.  If you’re using a cup or more, though, decrease any other liquid by at least 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup or increase a flour ingredient by 1/4 to 1/2 cup.

2.  Swap out any “whole” milk product (milk, yogurt, cream cheese, etc….) for a lower fat, lower sodium variety.

3.  Substitute egg whites for any whole eggs.  If you’re worried about the texture of a certain type of pie like pecan pie, use half whole eggs and half egg whites.

4.  Use date molasses instead of regular molasses.  You can use the same amount of date molasses as regular molasses.

Allergen Friendly Pies

If you need to substitute traditional ingredients, here are a few things you can try:

For Pie Crusts:

1.  Make a gluten free crust instead of a wheat flour type.  There are tons of recipes online you can follow.  Companies like Bob’s Red Mill also have their own pie crust mixes which you just add water to and roll out.  HINT:  These always need slightly more water than the instructions indicate, though, and you’re best rolling them out between wax paper.

2.  Substitute water or your type of “milk” (soy, rice, almond, coconut, etc…) for any milk in a crust recipe.

3.  Substitute vegan butter or coconut oil for any butter called for in a recipe.

4.  Use a recipe that calls for a liquid oil as opposed to butter so you can use safflower, canola, grapeseed, walnut, pumpkin, etc… oils instead.   A general recipe:  1 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/3 cup oil, 3 tbsp “milk”.

For Fillings:

1.  Substitute vanilla soy milk for evaporated milk.  1 1/2 cups is equal to those 12 oz cans usually called for in a pumpkin pie recipe.

2.  Substitute vegan butter or a liquid oil or coconut oil for any butter called for in a recipe.  If you’re making a fruit pie that calls for “dotting with butter”, you can just omit the butter altogether and still have a tasty pie.

3.  Use a gluten free flour like garbanzo bean instead of a wheat flour.

4.  Make your own dairy free sweetened condensed milk.  This recipe only works for a pie that is going to be baked:  Beat 2 eggs until thick.  Add 1 cup brown sugar and mix well.  Add 1 tsp vanilla and mix well.  Add 2 tbsp of a flour and beat for one minute.  Add 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt.  Beat for another minute.  Set aside until you need to add it to your recipe.  This is equivalent to one 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk.

You can also try making homemade sweetened condensed milk by mixing about 2 1/2 cups of your type of “milk” (rice, nut, coconut, soy) with 8 tbsp sugar or agave.  Stir well and simmer over low heat until the “milk” has reduced and thickened.  This will take a couple of hours.  Keep the heat low and stir frequently.  When it’s thickened, you can add 1/8 tsp of salt and/or 1/2 tsp vanilla, if you’d like.  Put a clear plastic wrap up against the mixture before cooling in the fridge to prevent a “skin” from forming.

5.  Use a frozen non-dairy dessert to replace the vanilla ice cream as a topping.

6.  Make a dairy free whipped cream.  Chill a can of full fat coconut milk overnight.  Turn the can upside down and drained out the liquid.  Put the cold cream into a cold mixing bowl and whip into it’s light and fluffy.

7.  Make a soy cream:  Mix one pint soy creamer, 1/2 cup soy sour cream, 1/4 cup Agave, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Cook over low heat until it thickens, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat and add 2 teaspoons vanilla.  Scrape into a heat safe bowl and press plastic wrap directly against the cream to prevent a “skin” from forming.  Cool in the fridge.  Before serving, whisk the cream to make it lighter and fluffier.

8.  Substitute eggs with 1 tbsp ground flaxseed meal mixed with 3 tbsp water for every egg needed in the recipe.  Simply mix up the meal with the water and let it sit for at least five minutes to thicken to an egglike consistency.

Crustless Dairy Free Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie


2 cups cooked, pureed pumpkin or 1 15 oz can of pumpkin

1 1/2 cup vanilla soy milk (or milk of your choice: evaporated milk, rice, almond, coconut)

1/2 cup liquid egg whites (or two whole eggs or 2 tbsp flaxseed meal mixed with 6 tbsp water)*

1/2 cup Agave

1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour (or other gluten free or wheat flour of choice)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp dried orange  peel

1 tsp gluten free baking powder

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup gluten free whole grain rolled oats

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp Agave

1 tbsp melted vegan butter or oil such as grapeseed

Baking Instructions:

1.  Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9.5 or 10 inch pie pan with your preferred method.

2.  Mix the pumpkin with the soy milk, egg whites, and Agave.

3.  Mix the garbanzo bean flour with the cinnamon, orange peel, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, orange peel, and salt.

4.  Mix the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture and pour into the prepare pie pan.

5.  Mix the rolled oats with the cinnamon.  Add the Agave and melted “butter” or oil, and combine well to make an oat topping.

6.  Use clean hands to evenly top the pumpkin mixture with clumps of the oat topping.

7.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 50 minutes.  The pie will be puffed and golden.

8.  Cool for 15 minutes on a wire cooling rack.  Then put into the fridge to cool completely.

* If you like your pumpkin pie denser, simply whisk in the egg whites with the rest of the liquid ingredients.

If you prefer a lighter, creamier version, though, whip the egg whites with 1/8 tsp of cream of tartar until they’re stiff. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, and then gently fold the egg whites into the batter until they’re fully incorporated.

To fold egg whites:  Used a large curved spatula and be sure to put your batter into a large bowl.  Gently scoop your egg whites on top of the batter.  Then go along the curve of the bowl along the bottom of the batter with your spatula to gradually get some of the batter.  Scoop the batter gently into the center of the egg whites.  Then scoop your spatula back up toward the top of the batter and start all over again.  Essentially you’re just really, really gently incorporating the batter into the egg whites.