Tuesday, March 18, 2014



In the past month and a half I watched chocolate filled velvet hearts give way to chocolate filled, pastel colored eggs in every pharmacy, supermarket and big box store I've walked into. We all know "those" holidays. But in between those two is another one-- Purim. Like the man holding a gallon of vodka behind me in the liquor store today chided at my pizza hat (not a pizza delivery person's hat but a hat that look's like a pizza from above), "is Halloween early (chuckle and snark)?". "No", I answered, "it's Purim...a Jewish holiday...we dress up." "come again" "purim", "P-U-R-I-M", "He mouthed along as I said it slowly, then it clicked in some vague way.  As an aside, why was I in a liquor store in a pizza hat? Well, long story but we needed more wine for our festive meal and the other people in the car were dressed as a clown in full regalia, Lady Liberty, 2 butterflies or a princess with a crown that said, "Birthday Girl", so a pizza head was actually the best choice in this situation.

Like all holidays, which are a battleground for those with food allergies and sensitivities, Purim is one of those holidays with a big food component. Besides the festive meal, we go door to door with baskets of sweets and treats (yes, it looks like Halloween, sounds like Halloween, but it's not at all like Halloween...except for the costumes and candy).  We actually knock on the door and "give" food door to door instead of "getting" food like on Halloween. But when you bring to others they tend to bring to you. There's always a sense of excitement when the kids peer into the multicolored bags and creatively designed baskets for the sweets they like. And what a twinge in my heart I feel when my allergic and Celiac children look and see nothing they can have. Not to mention that children are kind of let loose to forage in the candy from the crack of dawn till they pass out in a sugary stupor at night with a lollipop held loosely in their hand and a princess crown askew on their head like a prom queen past midnight.  As such there are children in their paths at parties and meals with allergens galore on their hands and faces, to be dodged by those allergic to the mere wisp of peanut breath.

Some considerate friends will pack special bags for those that are allergic, and some will not. The tempting booty will be passed on to a non-allergic sibling to be greedily added to their ever growing piles.  That is why it is so important to have things your allergic/sensitive child can have available which will make them feel included and able to take part in this special aspect of the day.  All the bags we packed to give out included items my kids could eat, so the packing included liberal snacking. Also a tempting dessert like those in Fran Costigan's new book, Vegan Chocolate hit the "sweet spot". These items are not only vegan, but use seriously healthy ingredients like maple syrup and coconut oil.  The author graciously included a number of gluten free baked goods, such as Gluten Free Chocolate Torte to Live For, Intensely Chocolate Trifle and Chocolate Chunk Cookies. As well as those that are naturally gluten free like Raw Chocolate Fudge and Mandarin Orange Tart, Chocolate Horchanta and Mocha Creme Brulee. And all of the recipes are free of dairy, eggs and animal products!
Costigan's book has very detailed recipes, so that even the novice can follow along to baking perfection. In addition, she goes into detail about vegan ingredients (which may be unfamiliar to some), types of chocolate and equipment needed to achieve culinary success. Desserts are divided into chapters by type, such as Truffles, Pies and Tarts, and Frozen Desserts--just to name a few. The gluten free and allergic amongst us will not be disappointed with this book.

So even if you aren't giving to people on special diets, you can make your baskets special. by allowing as broad a range of people to eat your treats, and maybe an allergic child can look in the basket you hand over and the smile will not fade from their face.

These little gems (literally did you know that muffin pans used to be called "gem pans'?) are real stunners and the perfect sweet bite. My neighbor stopped in while I was making them and commented that they look very impressive. So you don't always have to "go big or go home", for some reason miniature desserts look elegant and are sure to wow.

Gluten-Free Brownie Bites

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. gluten-free all purpose flour blend
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup organic granulated sugar
3 1/2 Tbsp. organic whole cane sugar (ground in blender until powdered)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1/4 tsp xanthan or guar gum (unless it's already in your flour blend)
1/4 cup mild tasting extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup any nondairy milk
1/4 cup prune puree (can be found in baking aisle, or use baby food prunes, or make your own)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. chocolate extract (optional)
1/4 cup mini gluten-free vegan chocolate chips.

(I've condensed the instructions somewhat from the original)

1. Pre-heat oven to 325F degrees. Spray a 24 cup mini-muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Sift together baking mix, cocoa powder, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum into a large mixing bowl. Whisk to aerate.  Set aside. (A "cheat" on sifting is to just whisk all very well in a large bowl).

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, nondairy milk, prune puree, and extracts until thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid in the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula until all dry ingredients are incorporated.  Stir in chocolate chips.

4. Fill baking cups 2/3 full and bake for 12 to 13 minutes, until brownies have risen and fell set when lightly tapped. A wooden toothpick inserted into the center should look sticky but not wet.

7. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then gently transfer to a rack to cool completely. For the best flavor, refrigerate brownies for one hour before serving.  Serve plain, dusted with confectioner's sugar or frost as desired.

Yield: 24 mini brownies



  1. can you use tapioca starch in place of gf ap flour blend?

    1. You actually need a blend, so Tapioca could be one component, it is usually combined with other flours like potato starch, rice, etc. I like Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Blend which has xanthan gum in it, or Better Batter. http://www.julesglutenfree.com


      In most grocery stores you have choices like King Arthur Bran All purpose Flour Blend, or Betty Crocker.

    2. That's "brand" not "bran" above.