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Valentine's Day Tips

by Kelly Rudnicki, The Food Allergy Mama and FAACT Board Member

Parents of children with food allergies live by a different rulebook when it comes to dealing with holidays such as Valentine’s Day at school. They can’t eat the treats served to them during a class party. They can’t eat the candy that might be stuffed inside their decorated Valentine’s cards. They make sure they don’t touch or accidentally eat something they’re allergic to.

Children with food allergies want to feel and be like their friends in class. They don’t want to feel like the odd man out during parties at school. Valentine’s Day along with other holiday parties at school are typically a source of great anxiety for food allergic children and their parents. But it doesn’t have to be.

Listed below are some tried and true tips that have helped parents of food allergic children stay safe AND included at school. Remember, food allergies are a matter of life or death. Don’t ever apologize about asking for special considerations for your child’s class during holidays. Every child has a right to have fun and celebrate safely, whether they have food allergies or not!

  1. Contact your child’s teacher several weeks in advance to determine if there will be a class party. If so, discuss what will be involved; games, treats, candy.

  2. Work with your child’s teacher for food free celebration at school ideas. If your teacher is adamant about food for parties then collaborate about food items that will be safe for everyone to enjoy. If your child has a 504 Plan on file at school, exercise your legal rights in your child’s classroom.

  3. Ask your school’s principal to encourage teachers not to allow candy inside distributed Valentine’s Day cards.

  4. If food must be served during class parties, contact both your child’s teacher and room mom to safe food to serve. Offer to bring it, if necessary.

  5. Make Valentine’s Day special at home for your child by letting him or her choose their favorite dinner and dessert. Little gestures like this go a long way for kids with food allergies who may feel sad or different because of their food allergy.

The Food Allergy Mama’s Favorite Valentine’s Day Treats:

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Double Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 1/2 c. soy or rice milk
1/3 c. vegetable oil
2 T. water
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. dairy free chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life or Divvies)

Topping
1/4 c. dairy free chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a 12- cup muffin tin generously with dairy free baking spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine soymilk, vegetable oil, water and vanilla. In a separate large bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Add soymilk mixture to flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide muffin batter evenly into prepared muffin cups. If using, sprinkle dairy free chocolate chips on top of muffins. Bake 15-18 minutes or until cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes and serve. 

Dairy, Egg, and Nut Free Whoopie Pies
1 c. dairy free margarine (2 sticks)
2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s)
1 c. dairy free sour cream (I use Tofutti)
1 c. hot water 

Filling
1 1/2 sticks dairy free margarine
2 3/4 c. confectioners’ sugar
4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. soy or rice milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line three baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the dairy free margarine until smooth. Add the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add applesauce and vanilla and mix thoroughly. In a separate medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder with a wire whisk. Add the flour mixture in thirds with the margarine mixture, alternating with the dairy free sour cream and hot water.

Use a cookie scooper to drop tablespoonfuls of batter onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake one sheet at a time for 10-12 minutes, or when the cookie bounces back slightly when touched in the center. Lightly flatten each cookie with the palm of your hand if you like a slightly less puffed cookie. Cool completely on baking sheets. Meanwhile, prepare filling.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream the dairy free margarine until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time until mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and soymilk and mix on medium high for a couple of minutes or until it resembles a creamy frosting. If you’d like your frosting a little firmer, put in fridge for a few minutes.

After cookies have cooled, use a small butter knife to spread a thin layer of frosting on the bottom of one cookie, and top with another cookie to make the Whoopie Pie. Continue with the remainder of the cookies. Store in an airtight container for a few days. 

Favorite Chocolate Sheet Cake with Chocolate Ganache
Serves 8

3-¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour
1 ¾ cups sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 -¼ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup dairy-free margarine, melted
1 ¾ cups dairy-free buttermilk (1 3/4 c. soy or rice milk mixed with 1 1/2 T. vinegar, let stand 5 minutes)
2 -¼ teaspoons vanilla extract 

Chocolate Ganache
2 cups dairy, egg, and nut–free chocolate chips
½ cup soy or rice milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350ºF and coat a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with dairy-free cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt using a wire whisk.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the melted margarine, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan.

Meanwhile, make the chocolate ganache: Place the chocolate chips, soy milk, and vanilla in a small saucepan over very low heat and heat, stirring with rubber spatula, until most of the chocolate chips are melted. Remove from the heat and stir with spatula until the remaining chocolate chips are melted.

Once the cake is cooled, pour the ganache over the cake and spread it out evenly. Store the cake covered in the refrigerator.

Happy Valentine's Day!