Life for people with food allergies can be tough. Even adults may have trouble saying "no" to favorite foods containing an offending ingredient. But for kids, food allergies can be even tougher.
"Kids with food allergies just want to feel NORMAL," writes Cybele Pascal, the author of a new cookbook.
Pascal, a chef and mother of two - one of whom has a handful of allergies - has written "The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook" (2009 Celestial Arts). In it, she manages to avoid what allergists say are the eight foods that are responsible for 90 percent of food allergies: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.
Allergen-free baking means stocking your pantry with special ingredients. Substitute rice milk for cow's; egg replacer for eggs (she recommends Ener-G brand); dairy-free, soy-free vegetable shortening for butter; and a gluten-free flour mixture (recipe below) for flour. The final "secret ingredient" in most of Pascal's baked goods is xanthan gum, a corn derivative that mimics gluten, providing structure and elasticity to baked goods.
For those of us who are blissfully free of food allergies, this book may seem unnecessary. But if you have a nephew with a peanut allergy, a neighbor child who is lactose intolerant or a friend with celiac disease, you can now serve them luscious baked goods that they can eat without fear. You can make them feel NORMAL.
• Marialisa Calta is the author of "Barbarians at the Plate: Taming and Feeding the American Family" (2005 Perigee). More at marialisacalta.com.