Each month FBC member and nutritionist, Sondi Bruner, takes a favourite recipe and shows you how to adapt it to be allergen-friendly, as well as delicious and healthy. This month she shows us how to create edible gifts that are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and nut-free.
This delicious popcorn image is courtesy of Shutterstock.
In my experience, an edible gift always receives a warm reception — particularly if said gift involves chocolate or another decadent treat. Many families today are trying to move away from buying unnecessary stuff that will only collect dust or be tossed away, and I've never heard of anyone chucking a batch of homemade double chocolate chunk cookies.
For people with allergies and intolerances, the holiday season can be a thorny time of year since many traditional meals, treats and snacks are laden with common allergens such as gluten, dairy, eggs and soy. (If you've got someone like this coming for dinner, check out previous columns about how to cook for gluten-free eaters, or how to entertain vegetarians and vegans.)
Edible gluten-free and allergen-friendly gifts are incredibly thoughtful. Recipients will appreciate the extra effort you've logged and undoubtedly love the sensational tastes and flavours. If you're giving an allergen-friendly holiday gift this year, here are some of my favourite options, along with advice for how to tweak some of your favourite recipes.
Oats in and of themselves don't contain gluten. However, oats are often planted alongside wheat or processed with gluten in manufacturing facilities, leading to cross contamination. Adapt your favourite granola recipe by substituting wheat-free oats 1:1, and then bulking it up with a variety of ingredients like nuts, seeds, coconut, dried fruit and dairy-free chocolate.
If you're making granola for someone who has celiac disease or severe gluten sensitivity, avoid shopping from the bulk bins at grocery stores, as someone may have accidentally used a scoop that has come in contact with gluten. It's a safer bet to opt for packaged ingredients.
Homemade Dairy-Free Truffles
This is the perfect gift for those with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance, or the vegans in your life. Even the bigwigs like Jamie Oliver and Martha Stewart are on the dairy-free and vegan truffle train. Dairy-free truffles are simple to make, freeze well, and can look extremely festive depending on what you choose to roll them in.
No truffle fans around? You can also check out this column on how to make homemade dairy-free chocolate, or create a dairy-free chocolate bark.
Tea and Hot Chocolate Mixes
For those in a northern climate (which is all of us in Canada), we're about to head into the cold and snowy season. Fortify your recipients with a delicious dairy-free hot cocoa mix, or a selection of their favourite teas. Dairy-free hot chocolate mixes are super simple to make: mix cocoa powder or raw cacao powder and a dried sweetener (I prefer coconut sugar). That's basically it! Then you can layer in other flavours like vanilla, mint, lavender, cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg, or even a few pinches of turmeric for an anti-inflammatory flair.
DIY Gluten-Free Baking Mixes
The holidays are inevitably filled with a glut of heavy meals and treats. Some people don't want to look at another batch of cookies or box of chocolates by the time New Year's Eve rolls around. Instead, create a DIY gluten-free baking mix that recipients can whip up a few months down the road when a sweet craving strikes.
Select an easy recipe for gluten-free muffins, cookies, scones or breads. Purchase a mason jar and layer gluten-free all-purpose flour, sugar (again, I like coconut sugar), baking powder, baking soda, salt, and any add-ins like cocoa powder, cinnamon, chocolate chips, dried cranberries, etc. Then print out a card with the recipe instructions and the wet ingredients, and tie it to the jar with a pretty bow.
This way your loved ones can have a sweet treat at any time of the year.
Spiced Nuts and Seeds
If there are no nut allergies in play, bake a large batch of spiced nuts and seeds. You can swing 'em sweet or savoury — just ensure that the spices you use haven't come into contact with other allergens, such as gluten (this is usually listed on the label). This is a gift that also stores well, so recipients can snack on them well into the new year.
Corn is gluten-free, inexpensive, and can be dressed up in a variety of ways. I like to buy organic corn and pop it myself, then add my own seasonings. Blend together salt, nutritional yeast, hemp seeds and turmeric for a 'cheesy' look and taste, or sprinkle the popcorn with chili powder or your favourite herbs. Or, create a sweet version using drizzled chocolate or maple syrup and cinnamon. Package it up with a festive bow and you're all set.
Have you ever met someone who doesn't like cookies? Me neither. Even the people who say they "don't like sweets" can be enticed to steal a bite of a sweet-smelling, gooey cookie. For some handy advice about adapting your favourite cookie recipe, check out these posts about allergen-friendly chocolate chip cookies and allergen-friendly gingerbread cookies that you can actually roll out and stamp with cookie cutters.
I like to make my cookies bite-sized using a tablespoon measure or small cookie scoop, particularly around the holidays. That way, recipients can indulge without going overboard.
Gluten-Free Vanilla Extract
For the people in your life who love to bake, homemade vanilla extract is a lovely treat. It's too late to get started on this one for the upcoming holiday season, but it's definitely something to tuck away in your mind for the future. Simply split vanilla beans, place them in a jar and cover with vodka. Let the mixture infuse for at least a month (you can find a full tutorial here). Gift-giving doesn't get much easier than this, folks.
Vegan Vegetable Bouillon
Store-bought vegetable stocks can be filled with preservatives that are detrimental to our health, or contain gluten. Fresh vegan vegetable bouillon is a great alternative, and can be stored in the freezer to lengthen shelf life. Check out this nourishing vegetable bouillon from 101 Cookbooks, or try a dried version with this vegan 'chicken-style' broth powder (the latter is a staple in my spice rack, but I personally skip the protein powder and sugar).
A Subscription Snack Service
This last one is for those of you who simply don't have time to do extra cooking or baking during the holidays, but want to give a fun, edible gift. There are many companies that offer healthy, gluten-free and allergen-friendly snack box options. Everyone loves getting mail, and food in the mail is even better!
What are your favourite edible gifts?
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 cup Medjool dates (about 10), pitted and roughly chopped
- ¼ cup cacao powder
- optional: ½ tsp cinnamon
- optional: ½ tsp vanilla extract
- In a food processor, grind the sunflower seeds into a rough meal.
- Add the dates, cacao powder and spices, if using, and blend for a few minutes until everything comes together. When you pinch the dough with your fingers, it should clump together easily.
- Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and press the dough evenly into the pan.
- Chill, then cut into bite-sized squares.
- Makes about 16 squares, depending on how big you slice them.
Check out more of Sondi’s Allergen-Friendly Remixes for great ideas on revamping your favourite recipes to make them allergen friendly! Here are a few to check out:
Got a favourite recipe you’d like to see get an Allergen-Friendly Makeover? Let us know in the comments…
Sondi Bruner is a holistic nutritionist, freelance writer and food blogger. She educates people who follow allergen-friendly diets about how to eat simply, deliciously and safely, allowing them to rediscover the pleasure of food. When she’s wearing her writer’s hat, she works with natural health brands to create content that will help their customers live fulfilling, healthful lives. Find out more at www.sondibruner.com. Or you can follow Sondi on Facebook or Twitter.