By Debra R. Messick
Feeding those we love with sweet holiday treats often involves equal measures of stress and bliss.
Bustling to shop for ingredients, mixing, then baking sometimes drains our last ounce of energy when we’re most pressed for time.
But the heavenly aromas and over the top taste are such a vital part of the season it’s well worth the effort.
Now try imagining the stress level involved when tried-and-true recipes you’ve relied on turn out to be unsafe for you or a loved one.
Main stay ingredients such as wheat flour, butter, cream, milk, peanuts, and more, must be rigorously avoided by roughly 15 million Americans, including one in every 13 children, who have been diagnosed with potentially life threatening food allergies and allergic diseases.
Challenging enough on a daily basis, such a regimen can make a protective parent or spouse feel downright Grinch-like when faced with pitfalls presented by traditional holiday recipes.
Once upon a time the only solutions were to withhold the goodies altogether, or attempt feeble imitations nasty tasting enough to make the Grinch himself proud.
Laurie Sadowski remembers those days. Diagnosed with celiac disease in 2005, and unable to safely consume the gluten protein found in wheat flour, she was dependent on her own resourceful spirit to find flavorful alternatives.
Unlike today, neighborhood food markets had scant amounts if any — certainly no glut — of gluten free items, much less entire sections.
To recover her health, Sadowski, then in her 20s, moved home with her parents while commuting to school, and devoted what energy she had remaining to exploring the basics of baking science in order to better understand how to best create recipes she could not only securely consume but actually savor, those which tasted just as good, if not better, than those she had to forgo.
The tasty fruits of her labors resulted in several cookbooks doubling as guidebooks leading those with dietary limitations delightfully back to baking bliss.
As “The Allergy-Free Cook” Sadowski realized her new found mission — helping others transition through the loss of familiar comfort foods into an exciting new dietary landscape.
Chapters were primers on the essential properties of gluten free flours (millet, sorghum, teff, and others), leavening agents, sweeteners, xanthan gum, a helpful gluten substitute, and how to combine different ones for the best baked results.
She discussed the fine print involved in deciphering food labels, and alerted cooks of the crucial need to safeguard against cross contamination in the kitchen.
Sadowski also shared her many recipes, including her “essential” reinvented chocolate chip cookie, taste tested to perfection with the help of her family and 15-plus novice and experienced bakers testing for accuracy in their own kitchens.
Another step in her path to dietary wellness was the discovery that dairy protein also caused distress, so she again sought, and found, satisfying substitutions such as vegan buttery spread, nondairy milk, nondairy chocolate chips, coconut oil and coconut milk.
Her recipe for coconut raisin cookies using Sunbutter brand sunflower seed spread, a peanut butter substitution for those with peanut allergies, is featured on that company’s webpage.
Several years ago, as a contributor to Allergic Living Magazine, Sadowski developed a gingerbread house recipe, allergy free down to the gumdrop decorations.
This year she’s offering a downloadable collection of 12 basic “starter” cookie recipes.
For information on allergy free baking, she’s glad to answer questions via her Facebook page, and at www.lauriesadowski.com.