Sometimes publicists send me books for review that I don't immediately find relevant to my life, and that was the case with Allergy-Friendly Food for Families, especially since we don't suffer from food allergies. And for that, I'm so grateful. After reading Don't Kill the Birthday Girl last year and learning how careful Sandra Beasley must be with everything she eats and drinks I'm more aware of those issues. I also have friends with children who have celiac disease, as well as colleagues who deal with it as well.
Allergy-Friendly Food for Families is published by the editors of Kiwi. While I don't read that magazine regularly, I've picked it up a few times. Photography in the book is shot by two photographers. Lifestyle shots, which feature people, are done by Alexandra Grablewski, and the food photography is by Ghazalle Badiozamani. Both are fantastic photographers whose portfolios outshine what appears within the pages of this book.
While the photography illustrates the freshness, wholesomeness, and goodness of the recipes, unfortunately they could easily pass for stock images and that is disappointing. However, what is exciting about the images is that they show a variety of families enjoying food together. There are Asian families and multi-racial families eating and cooking together. There are black hands and white hands eating together. A father and son cooks together. I appreciate that the editors envision a community of eating and sharing of food unbound by traditional division of gender or race.
Divided into six categories: breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snacks, and parties, each recipe is indexed by color-coded tabs that indicate it's status: gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, and soy-free. The indexing in the back is arranged to make it easy for parents, children, and caretakers to quickly identify which category they want to browse. Dietary information including serving size, calories, fat, protein, carbs, and fiber is included with each recipe.
Each chapter includes tips for endowing children with kitchen skills. You can teach your children to scoop an avocado. After you slice it, you give half to your child and then teach her to slice and scoop, etc. A section at the back provides instruction for stocking a natural, allergy-free pantry.
There are several intriguing recipes and the one that my piqued my curiosity was Black Bean Brownie Bites. I made them while Ian was at work and mentioned them in a fb update. The mere idea of them turned him off. Naturally, I made him try them. He loves brownies, chocolate, all things sweet.
But, first things first. My experience with the recipe itself went well enough except for my blender. I have a standard blender that is at least 15 years old and after draining and rinsing the can of blank beans and putting them into the blender's carafe and punching each button, one after another.... nothing happened. I scraped the beans into a bowl and used my Braun hand blender instead and everything went perfectly fine from there. I'm eighty-sixing the old blender. It's a relic of Ian's that I may move and store in the basement.
What else? I had all the ingredients except for the evaporated cane sugar. I googled "substitution for evaporated cane sugar" and learned that honey will do, but you only use half the amount called for. That was simple enough.
So my other concern about cooking from this book was the ready availability of ingredients. I'm fortunate that we have an organic market, a gourmet market, and several regular grocery stores nearby where I can shop. I shopped at the organic market and found most of the items listed in one of the last sections called "Building a Natural, Allergy-Free Pantry".
Most of the flour substitutes were easily found via the Bob's Red Mill brand, which I've seen locally available for at least the past ten years. As demand has grown for a variety of substitutes, our stores have stocked more of their products.
I used agave nectar that I found at T.J Maxx some time ago, but I've seen it on local shelves as well. My step-mother and mother-in-law are both diabetic, and so I'm always aware of alternative sweeteners and how I might incorporate or substitute those in dishes so that they can partake.
The only item I didn't easily find was chickpea flour. Of course, if you don't live near a grocery store that stocks these speciality items, it is ordering them online is, but there's nothing like shopping and comparing prices in person.
These were incredibly rich brownies. I barely finished mine. Elsa ate a bite or two and was done. Ian nibbled a bit, and he was astounded. The only weirdness he mentioned was a slight grittiness suggestive of their bean origins. Otherwise they are moist, thick, spongy, and really quite awesome. I'll make them again. We talked about adding nuts. Ian thought perhaps cashews. My mother regularly put nuts in every batch of brownies she baked. Invariably they were walnuts, and so I love a plain brownie. I hated having to pick walnuts out of the brownies she made. Ugh.
I shared them with my women's studies class Monday afternoon, offering them to my students--who are all between 19 and 22 or so-- and I told them they were made with black beans. Only one tried a nibble. It is unfortunate that most students are not so adventurous with their eating. Nontheless, my taker/taster agreed they were outstanding for a bean brownie; she suffers from allergies to red dye, so she's particular about what she eats. Interestingly, several students admitted to food allergies. Oranges makes one's throat swell shut. And another has problems with coconut. Methinks it is a generational thing.
A few other recipes that caught my eye, mostly for their creativity, they were: pear dunkers with cashew-cinnamon yogurt sauce, spiced carrot fries, and polenta mini pizzas.