As anyone who has ever been charged with feeding a small child can attest, some days it can feel a whole lot like you're a spinning top with 20 hands, each one offering a different food, chirpily introducing each one in the hopes that you can get anything, anything at all into the body of said child. "Pasta? Tomatoes? Toast? String cheese? Chicken? Peanut Butter? Mac and Cheese? I don't care if it's partially hydrogenated, crumb-coated "chik'n", for the love of God, child, eat something!"--sometimes up to three very trying times per day. I think even those blessed with the most adventurous of eaters can feel me here.
And yet, so often, even in the heat of my crazed-waitress moments, I can take a deep breath and remind myself that at least I have endless options to offer Little C. If I was one of those moms with a kid who has a serious food allergy, particularly something as ubiquitous as gluten or dairy, I don't know how I'd deal--something like 90% of the very short list of foods that Little C will willingly eat as a last resort just wouldn't be safe to feed her. I salute the Supermoms who rework their lives, grocery shopping and cooking everyday to make sure that the foods that are going into the little bodies of their allergic and/or ingredient-sensitive kids are safe. I'm not sure I could hack it. Especially in the baking and sweets department.
But recently I was sent a book that really opened my eyes to foods and recipes that are not only safe for gluten and dairy-sensitive people, but totally kid-friendly, even for the pickiest of little eaters. Every single recipe is one that I would gladly enter into my short-order cook rotation.
Cooking for Isaiah is written by magazine editor Silvana Nardone, inspired by her gluten and dairy-intolerant (and completely gorgeous!) son. Most interestingly for a baking fiend like me, she is an accomplished baker who worked for years with the pastry standards (and my personal cornerstones) of gluten-packed flours and the dairy bomb of butter. And even though it's a gluten-free book, I love that it acknowledges the importance of an all-purpose flour in the kitchen by offering a brilliant gluten-free all-purpose flour blend within the first few pages. Knowing that the recipes in the book pass muster of a woman who would never have had to create them had her son not needed them is a sign that, regardless of your dietary needs, you're in for some serious yum with this book.
Besides being packed with insanely delicious recipes, every page positively sings with love. This is a book with true purpose. I instantly fell in love with its story and creative, crave-worthy recipes, any of which I would happily cook and gobble down without feeling like a dish was lacking in flavor or integrity because of its gluten and dairy-free design. Take, for example, these come-hither Rocky Road Rice Crispy Treats. With a mouthful of chocolate and marshmallow, would you be thinking about flippin' gluten? Yeah, me neither.
Rocky Road Rice Crispy Treats
Adapted from Silvana Nardone's Cooking for Isaiah
The drizzles of semi-sweet chocolate and marshmallow sauce are absolutely a gilding of the lily here, but I thought the addition of them was decadent and sensational. If you don't want to buy a jar of marshmallow fluff for only 1/4 cup of it, which I didn't, then you can make your own marshmallow: melt 1 cup of mini marshmallows in a double boiler with 2 teaspoons of heavy cream (my choice), milk or water (if you're keeping these dairy-free). If you start with a full 10.5 ounce bag of mini marshmallows, then you should have just enough left over after mixing the bars together to make the marshmallow drizzle.
Also, read the labels of crisp rice cereal carefully--not all of them are actually gluten-free.
4 cups mini marshmallows
1/2 cup well-stirred almond butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 cups crispy rice cereal
1/4 cup marshmallow creme, such as Fluff (or not--see note)
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted, for drizzling
Grease an 8x8-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray and line it with a 14-inch long strip of parchment paper for easy removal of the bars.
In a large saucepan, combine 2 cups marshmallows, the almond butter, cocoa powder, corn syrup and salt. Melt together over low heat, stirring often.
Place the cereal in a large bowl. Pour the warm chocolate mixture over the cereal and stir to coat. When the cereal is nearly coated, stir in the remaining 2 cups of marshmallows. Press into the prepared pan in an even layer and set aside.
For the marshmallow sauce, either stir together the 1/4 cup marshmallow fluff with 2 teaspoons of boiling water, or melt 1 cup of mini-marshmallows with 2 teaspoons heavy cream, milk or water in a double boiler and stir until smooth. Let cool slightly before drizzling over the bars, along with the melted semi-sweet chocolate.
Chill the bars for 10 minutes in the refrigerator before cutting into 16 bars.