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Because Hallmark is Right: Life is a Special Occasion

I realize if you’re really going to trust me to be your faithful companion on this allergy-free journey, you probably want to know a little bit more about me. So we’ll start with 2 character traits which I’m sure anyone who knows me will readily attest are true:
1) I get absurdly excited about the littlest things in life. Not to say I don’t get absurdly excited about the big things too…but really why do we overlook the little joys in life?? (You know, last day of taking your antibiotic, last run before retiring a pair of running shoes,  first peppermint mocha of the holiday season…all things to be celebrated!) I don’t care that people often make fun of me for it…it’s who I am. And I think the world would be a much happier place if more people hopped aboard my celebration train.  In fact, I once had a plan to start my own line of greeting cards to celebrate obscure events so my friends and I spent much of the spring semester one year at Villanova compiling a list of obscure events we thought there should be cards for (everything from “Yay!! You’re Class Commencement speaker!” to “Enjoy playing the Last 8 PM Mass of Your College Career!”) Unfortunately, I think ecards have pretty much filled that need and saturated my target market (see, I really was a business major once upon a time) so I’ve abandoned the plan for my greeting card line. I’ll just make ads for my bakery encouraging the celebration of such life events with an allergy-free treat 🙂
2) I have a gift for dates. Now I know what you’re thinking: wow, Katie way to kick yourself up a few notches on the conceited chart. Before you jump to conclusions, I’m not talking about the usually awkward yet so entertaining encounters between two people getting acquainted (it’s ok to admit it: you secretly enjoy when the hostess seats you near the people who are clearly on a first date…it’s like a soap opera you just can’t stop watching. And yes, it’s even more entertaining when food allergies play into the dating scene. Those of you waiting with bated breath for that post, I promise it’s coming…you won’t be disappointed.)  I’m also not talking about that overgrown-raisin-looking fruit (though they are delicious too). I’m talking about calendar dates. While most kids spend December 26th playing with their favorite new Christmas toy, I always spent it filling in a year’s worth of birthdays and holidays on the new calendar Santa was always kind enough to deliver each year. I was also that kid who loved to stare at the cupcakes, party hats, or whatever creative birthday chart my teachers came up with each year and to this day, I can still tell you the birthday of almost every elementary school classmate of mine…even without facebook to remind me. I don’t know why dates stick in my mind but that’s always been the case. Which of course is convenient considering I love to celebrate obscure occasions and holidays.
I may or may not have multiple calendars. Mostly color-coordinated of course!
Although I think it’s ALWAYS important to celebrate the little things in life, I believe this is especially true when you’re facing a challenge: i.e. adapting to a new diet. Mark off dates on your calendar, celebrate mini-milestones. Embrace your inner-middle-school self (perhaps you don’t remember middle school but I get to witness it everyday: Happy 2-Week Anniversary, 3-Week Anniversary, etc…see, I knew it would come back to you 🙂 ) and celebrate like crazy. One-month allergen-free, 3 months without an ER visit, 1 month free of labwork…all occasions worth celebrating if you ask me!
Now of course, celebrating is a bit more challenging now because you can’t just grab a donut, cookie, cupcake, etc. from any old bakery. (Well, at least until I find capital investors for mine!) Again, have no fear: that’s why I’m here! I have some ideas for you…and then a recipe in case all else fails.
11) God Bless Betty Crocker, and Bob, and King Arthur, etc.: If gluten 
      is your problem, you’re in luck. You may have noticed gluten-free has become quite trendy lately. Though I will admit it infuriates me at times that this is the case, we forced-to-be-gluten-free people really luck out because of it. There are all kinds of pre-made mixes out there now that were never there years ago. Betty Crocker has a super-easy-to-make 
      line of mixes that are DELICIOUS. Bob’sRed Mill has a pretty impressive array of choices too. I must say my personal favorite are the King Arthur Flour mixes…and not just because I recently got a coupon code for them. I discovered them unintentionally thanks to a Groupon-type deal (more about that later) and I have to say it was like eating a gluten-filled treat all over again. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference. If you have additional allergies (i.e. dairy so you can’t have butter) you may have to be a little creative to make the mixes work, but it’s totally possible. And if your grocery store doesn’t carry them, ask! You’d be surprised what they’ll order for you if they know you’ll buy it!

   






2)  Find a Home-Away-From-Home: Believe it or not, there are already some first-movers out there in the allergy-free market. There are many states which already have gluten-free, dairy-free, tree-nut free bakeries. I am beyond blessed to live less than 5 miles from an amazing gluten-free bakery which also specializes in dairy-free and vegan treats. If you’re ever in the Baltimore area, I promise I’ll take you there. But until then, here is a resource to try and find one near your corner of the world:
There is nothing like having a safe bakery to go to on a day when you want to celebrate. I just went to mine the other night to commemorate my 2-year “Gluten-free-iversary”…2 years to the day since I heard the news “Miss Burke, good news is you don’t have a tumor…but you also don’t really have much intestine lining left.” If that’s not something worth celebrating, I don’t know what is!
Happy 2 Years Gluten-Free!!
3)   The Freezer is Your Friend: Some of you may not be lucky enough to have an allergy-safe bakery within a reasonable distance. And honestly even those of us that do would be broke if we frequented said bakery every time we wanted to celebrate a mini-life-milestone. At least I would be with the rate I celebrate. So, another wise idea is to master the art of baking your own cupcakes, cookies, whatever treat most strikes your fancy. Then keep them in the freezer so when you unexpectedly find yourself in need of a celebration, you can just heat it up and enjoy!
Here is my go-to recipe. I have about 4 in my freezer at all times. Just in case 🙂
Check out HomeGoods and TJ Maxx!
They have great allergy-free food sections!
Chocolate Cupcakes (Gluten-Free, Dairy-free, Soy-free, Corn-free (if you use the right vanilla extract!)
¼ cup coconut flour
½ cup coconut milk
about ¼ tsp. baking soda
about 1/6 cup of cocoa powder (adjust for your chocolate taste preference)
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs and an extra egg white
¼ cup coconut sugar (I switched to this since my pancreas decided to turn against me last week too…but trust me, it’s delicious! And low glycemic-index)
Mix and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes!

Chocolate Frosting (also Gluten-Free, Dairy-free, Soy-free, Corn-free (if you use the right vanilla extract!)
1 cup of Enjoy Life chocolate chips
1/3 cup coconut oil
½ tablespoon vanilla
MY SECRET INGREDIENT: 1-2 tbspns. of whatever nut butter I have from the farmer’s market! My personal favorite is the pecan butter 🙂
Put all the ingredients in a pan over low heat. Heat until melted and then store in the refrigerator so it becomes thick enough to spread.
My finished product! Time to celebrate!!
4   

     4) Sign up and enjoy!: There are some companies out there that will send delicious, safe treats right to your door. Again, the downside is most of us don’t have the dispensable income to afford such luxury but on occasion…you know for those REALLY important life events (Pi Day anyone??)…it’s worth treating yourself. Here are some of my favorites:
http://www.icanhavethat.com/:This is ingenious. And actually it’s really more of those of you without allergies but who have allergy friends. These baskets make the PERFECT gift! Safe, delicious, and a rare treat for those of us who can’t eat a lot of things in typical gift baskets.
http://tasterie.com/shop/: You tell them your food allergies and they design a box for you that    arrives at your door every month. It’s a great way to learn about new products…but the downside is if you don’t like them, it’s at least $18 down the drain.
http://www.glutenfreesaver.com/:If you have a gluten issue, do yourself a favor and sign up for this ASAP. It’s just like Groupon or Living Social…only everything is gluten-free. You’ll get some amazing things shipped right to your door for a discounted rate…hence how I found King Arthur flour.
So, in short, I say take it from Hallmark: Life is a special occasion. Don’t wait around for a particular holiday to celebrate. Instead, look for things to celebrate in each day. Surprise a friend with an unexpected treat. Write a card to someone for no particular reason at all. Treat yourself to that pedicure you’ve been putting off or that long-awaited beach trip with your family. Why wait to celebrate the beauty we’re lucky enough to enjoy in this life?? Especially those of us who have been sick know that each day you can wake up, get out of bed, and face the day is worth celebrating. Go make the most of it, find reasons to celebrate, and never forget…especially in allergy-free baking, life is better with frosting. And allergy-safe sprinkles on top 🙂

2 thoughts on “Because Hallmark is Right: Life is a Special Occasion

  1. Thanks for the kind words, Katie! We're really proud of our GF mixes and are continuing to work on new mixes and recipes for all of our GF fans. Feel free to reach out to me directly (or through Niki) if you need any help! :)-Matt@KAF

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