Holiday treats for kids with allergies

For many of us, the holidays offer a time to gather with family and close friends, sing songs, cherish memories from the past and bake savored recipes from our childhood. Sweet scents and fresh baked goods usher in the holidays. But for some children (and adults), those special recipes that grandma used to make are forbidden.

More than 15 percent of Americans have been forced to adopt a strict, wheat-free diet. Many others are unable to tolerate various dairy products. These special needs brought a new challenge to my culinary game board.

The most frequent question my gluten-free clients ask is, “How do you make delicious baked goods without using some form of wheat flour?” My neighbor, who is on a gluten-free diet, helped me discover a book with recipes that she loves. at-Free Recipes & Menus: Delicious, Healthful Eating for People with Food Sensitivities, by Carol Fenster, Ph.D., opened my eyes to the many ways delicious, wheat-free baked goods could be made.

Fenster created a sorghum-corn flour blend that I use in all four of the recipes below. One note of caution. The Sweet Snowball Sugar Cookies are a challenge. They take extra time and patience and must be made into a thicker cookie, but the results will allow your loved ones to eat this favorite holiday treat like everyone else.

Sorghum-Corn Flour Blend
1½ cups sorghum flour (Sprouts will special order)
1½ cups potato starch or cornstarch
1 cup tapioca flour
½ cup corn flour (you can make this yourself by grinding corn meal with a small coffee or spice grinder)

Mix together in a large bowl and keep in a sealed container in the freezer for up to six months. Makes 4½ cups.

Mrs. Claus’s Gingerbread
½ cup packed brown sugar
¹/³ cup canola or vegetable oil
1 large egg or ¼ cup egg substitute
¾ cup molasses
2 cups sorghum-corn flour blend
1¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (available at Sprouts and Whole Foods Markets)
1¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup soy milk plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar (combined)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a regular loaf pan with non-stick spray. In a large bowl, mix sugar and canola oil well with a hand mixer. Add egg and molasses; mix again. In a medium bowl, combine flour blend, xanthan gum, baking soda, spices, and salt. Add half of flour mixture and half of soy milk to sugar mixture. Blend well. Repeat with flour and sugar mixtures. Pour into loaf pan and bake for 55 minutes to an hour or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center. Cool and remove from pan after about 30 minutes. Makes one loaf (eight servings).

Sweet Snowball Cookies
1 cup non-hydrogenated shortening (available at Sprouts)
1 cup powdered sugar (plus a bit more for rolling)
2½ cups sorghum-corn flour blend
1½ teaspoon xanthan gum
¹/³ cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until mixture forms a ball. Remove and shape into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for one hour. Lightly coat a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. After dough is chilled and easier to work with, cut into small squares and squish into small balls. They may fall apart, but quickly squish them back together. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes and let cool slightly—about 10 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar to cover; they will be sticky, so be gentle. Keep in sealed container until ready to serve. Makes 32.

Chocolate Peppermint Brownies
1 cup sorghum-corn flour blend
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
¹/³ cup canola or vegetable oil
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 egg or ¼ cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
¹/³ cup hot peppermint tea or tea of your choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat an eight-inch square pan with non-stick spray. In a large bowl, combine sorghum-corn flour blend, cocoa, baking powder, salt and xanthan gum with hand mixer. Beat in oil, sugars, egg, peppermint extract and tea. Batter will be thick. Spread evenly on bottom of pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center. Cool and cut to serve. Makes 12.

Simple Shortbread Cut-outs
½ cup non-hydrogenated shortening (available at Sprouts)
²/³ cup powdered sugar (plus a bit more to work with)
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup sorghum-corn flour blend
Colored sugar sprinkles (optional)

In a large bowl, cream all ingredients with hand mixer. Form into a flat disk and cover with a large piece of wax paper. Chill for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Liberally sprinkle dough with powdered sugar and place back onto wax paper (this is easier and cleaner to work on). Lightly roll out dough to about ½-inch thickness, adding more powdered sugar as needed, then cut into shapes. If sugar sprinkles are desired, first lightly coat your finger with oil and rub onto cookie, then sprinkle with colors of your choice. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cookies will be slightly sticky to touch and will be very hot. Let cool before serving. Makes one to two dozen, depending on size.

This article first appeared in the December 2008 issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, broadcast or redistributed without permission of the publisher. For more information, write to editorial@raisingarizonakids.com.