Crispy Cereal Bars (gluten-free, vegan, contains tree nuts)

Crispy Cereal Bars

Crispy Cereal Bars


I know that most of you know that granola bars have an unearned reputation as magically healthy. Like most things, they have some benefits, some downsides, and it all depends on a) what goes in them and b) how you define “healthy.” I’m not focused on healthy here, though, so if that’s why you want a granola bar, move on. It also has tree nuts and almonds, so apologies to the nut allergic people out there.

What I wanted was something like the granola bars of my later childhood — something that’s basically a candy bar, but with a certain crunch and an airy mouthfeel — plus, dipped in chocolate. Just because. I’m not going to try to explain random cravings; I just cook them. We occasionally had these instead of cookies in our packed lunches, and for some reason, they remind me of this time of year — summer isn’t here, but you know it’s coming.

I started this recipe off to use up a box of Environkidz Chocolate Koala Crisp. (Link informational, not affiliate). I am not a big cereal eater, but I go through phases where I like to eat it as a snack — this wasn’t the right texture or size for that, so it had been sitting on my shelf for a bit. But it was perfect for the main filler in this snack bar — it’s crunchy, airy, and just a bit chocolatey. Any crunchy cereal in small bits will work, so whatever is safe for you, buy that. I would consider using the Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal, (again, not an affiliate link) as that’s what I generally buy when I want actual cold cereal. But I’ve only made this with Koala Crisp, as I wanted to use that up, and I’d consider buying it again to make these bars.

To the cereal, I added a bunch of trail mix staples — coconut, almonds, and dried cherries. (Note: dried cranberries or raisins work better, as they are smaller and don’t mess up the overall texture. But I just like dried cherries better.) As an adult, I wanted a little more variety of taste and texture than the kiddy granola bar I remember (but still with chocolate on). Make a sticky sauce (this is messy, I know. Sorry. It works.) and then add chocolate. Ka-blam. Childhood snack. Maybe healthier, maybe not, but it’s safe for me.

Crispy Cereal Bars -- first without chocolate, then with, then sliced

Crispy Cereal Bars — first without chocolate, then with, then sliced

Cereal Snack Bars

NOTE: dried shredded coconut appears on the ingredients list TWICE. This is not a mistake. I just find it less confusing to list it twice than tell you you need x amount, divided. This is not the sweetened coconut flakes — you could try that, but I think it would be too sweet. This is just pure dried/dessicated shredded coconut, which is wonderful.

  • 1 cup crispy cereal
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup smallish dried fruit (I used cherries)
  • 1/4 cup thinly-sliced almonds (could also use chopped, but not whole — they won’t blend in)
  • 3 dates, pitted (about 50g)
  • 2 Tablespoons shredded coconut
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4 Tablespoons brown rice syrup
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (brand that’s safe for you)

Prepare an 8×8 inch baking pan by cutting a sheet of parchment that will fit in it. Don’t worry about being exact — just make sure you have enough to cover the bottom and sides when it’s filled.

Mix the dry ingredients (cereal, coconut, dried fruit, almonds) in a bowl.

In a food processor, add the dates, 2T shredded coconut, coconut oil (this can be solid, it’s fine), and brown rice syrup. They are in that order because you can use the same tablespoon if you do them in this order (the coconut oil will help the brown rice syrup not stick). Pulse it until the dates are chopped up well, then just blend. You will likely need to scrape the sides a few times, as this is really sticky. I’d suggest a silicone spatula, if you have one, and be careful not to cut it on the blades (I’ve lost a few this way).

Add the wet ingredients to the dry. It will take a little work to get this out of the food processor. Again, the silicone spatula is the least sticky thing I’ve tried. Using the spatula, mix the wet and dry ingredients. Mostly, this is like kneading bread — bring up a scoop of the dry ingredients and sort of press them into the mass stuck into your sticky goo from the food processor. I am assuming that if you keep working at it, this will eventually incorporate everything. I’ve never managed to do that — I just grease up my hands with a bit of coconut oil and mix with my hands after a bit. It works fine.

When you have a mostly solid mass of sticky bar ingredients, dump it into your prepared pan and press it down. I don’t worry too much about making it exactly fill the corners — the rustic edges make it look handmade! But always feel free to be more precise than I am.

Put this in the fridge to set, maybe 15 minutes or so.

Melt the chocolate. The microwave is easiest (20 second intervals, stirring), but I don’t own one, so I use my double boiler. Originally I had planned to dip each bar in the chocolate, but I realized that the easiest way would be to pour a layer of chocolate onto the whole pan, let it set, and then cut the bars. So do this — it is WAY less messy than dipping and it wastes less chocolate.

Let the chocolate set, then cut into bars. These keep best in an airtight container in the fridge.


2015-05-22 Fabulous Food Allergy Friday

This giantest of rabbits wishes you a happy and tasty weekend.

This giantest of rabbits wishes you a happy and tasty weekend.

The Kitchn did a round up of posts on cast iron — how it’s made, how to use it and care for it, and some recipes. I (Mary Kate) use my cast iron skillets daily — my breakfast hash browns cook up in the small one daily, and most other things get cooked in the large one.

Dark. Chocolate. Coconut. Bites. I’ll just leave that there for you. If you can’t eat coconut, I’m very sorry. I would have already made these except that I’ve eaten all the chocolate in my house (except the ice cream. I’ve got a bit of that.)

So, in the “this is why I (Denise) trust no companies ever” category this week, the New York Times had an article on how many allegedly gluten-free supplements used by celiac patients actually have gluten in them (55%) and that some (13%) exceeded the 20 parts per million threshold set by the FDA to qualify as gluten-free. Be careful out there. 

And in further product news, here’s a list of over the counter stuff that contains peanut or tree nut ingredients.  Again, read labels and be careful.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Roasted Garlic and Pesto DIY Tater Tots


Roasted Garlic and Pesto DIY Tater Tots

Roasted Garlic and Pesto DIY Tater Tots

I just planted a whole bunch of potatoes in the garden, so I’m going to need some recipes to deal with them. I decided to try to make some adult flavored tater tots.  You’ll need a food processor or a blender, and if you don’t have food processor, a grater. I baked these, but you could also try pan frying them in safe oil.

Roasted Garlic and Pesto DIY Tater Tots


  • 1 cup of tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil

Put all ingredients in the blender or food processor and blend/process until pureed.

Pesto after blending or processing

Pesto after blending or processing

Tater Tots:

  • 4 large potatoes (I used russet)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Pesto (see above)
  • 1/4 cup of roasted garlic (here’s how to do it)

Preheat your oven to 400°F.  Peel and wash your potatoes. Place the potatoes on a small baking sheet.  Bake the potatoes for about an hour.

(NOTE: If I don’t already have roasted garlic, I prep the garlic as described in the link above and bake it at the same time as the potatoes.)

Garlic roasted in olive oil

Garlic roasted in olive oil

When the potatoes (and possibly the garlic) are ready to come out of the oven, remove the potatoes and garlic and turn the temperature on the oven to 425°F.  If you’re using a large hand grater, you need to wait until the potatoes are cool so you don’t burn your fingers. Since I was using the grating blade on my food processor to grate the potatoes, I cheated and did them hot. I sliced them lengthwise just enough to get them in the food processor, and grated them up.

Potatoes after grating

Potatoes after grating

Some of the grated pieces may be too long, and you may want to chop them up a bit either with a knife or a potato masher.  Mix the pesto sauce and the roasted garlic into the potatoes until they are well combined.

Potato, roasted garlic and pesto mixture

Potato, roasted garlic and pesto mixture

Spray your baking sheet with your safe oil in a mister. I used a small cookie scoop to portion out the tater tots, but you could use two teaspoons to drop the mixture on your baking sheet.

Roasted Garlic and Pesto DIY Tater Tots before baking

Roasted Garlic and Pesto DIY Tater Tots before baking

Use your oil mister to mist the top of the tater tots, and place the baking sheet in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Use some tongs or a spatula to turn them over, and then bake them for another 25-30 minutes. You want to watch them closely, as you’ll notice mine were a tad overcooked.

Take them out of the oven, salt to taste, and enjoy!


2015-05-15 Fabulous Food Allergy Friday

Rhino Butt Friday

Yes, I went to the Lincoln Park Zoo and all I brought you was a couple of rhino butts.

Goatsandgreens did a three-recipe Cinco de Mayo celebration, including these lettuce wrap fish tacos. That sounds tasty. There’s also a mango pear salsa, a very different salsa than our earlier summer mango salsa. There is always room for more mangoes in my week.

Have you made vegetable stock concentrate? I have not, but after looking at this recipe, it looks very do-able and useful. I will be trying it as soon as I’ve got some leftover veg to use up.

I still have King Arthur Flour on my Facebook feed from when I could still eat wheat, basically because I like to torture myself. But this week I saw this recipe for Chocolate Sorbet that’d be worth trying if you’ve got safe for you ingredients. I don’t think I could have expresso powder, but I’m sure I could figure out something or just skip it. No milk, or other non-dairy milks, just basically chocolate and cocoa powder and sugar.

It’s Food Allergy Awareness week, and FARE has some information on anaphylaxis that bears repeating. Feel free to share on social media. 

Have a great week everyone!

Carrot Chickpea Curry

Carrot Chickpea Curry

Carrot Chickpea Curry

So I went away for a week and came back to New Hampshire summer. To be honest, as much as we complained about the cold, I wasn’t ready for full-on summer temperatures. If it stays this way, I’ll need to dig out the AC sooner, not later, just to get some sleep. It’s hot! It doesn’t help that my apartment holds the heat like an oven.

Why, if it’s hot, would I give you hot food — hot in temperature as well as full of spices? Well, first off, it’s not hot everywhere — I hear that if you live in either of the Dakotas or Wyoming, you got snow this weekend. Secondly, hot food is a great way to make it feel cooler. It’s all about contrasts. Actually, this curry tastes great hot or cold, so make it for dinner and eat the leftovers for lunches. Oh! And whether this is “spicy” or “full of spices” is entirely up to you — if you like spicy foods, buy a spicy curry powder. Otherwise, buy a regular or “sweet” curry powder and you get all the flavor without the heat. I always buy sweet curry powder because I can add some cayenne if I want things spicy. There IS coconut in here — Denise and I have both made curry with cashew milk, but never successfully without a nut milk. Let us know if you have a nut-free way to make an Indian-style curry.

This curry passes all my tests for a weeknight dinner — it takes less than 10 minutes to prep, and while cooking takes about 45 minutes total, only a few of those are active. You will need a skillet with a lid or a cover of foil. I have one skillet with a lid (finally), but I’ve found that because my cast iron skillet holds the heat better and is a slightly different shape, it works better than my lidded skillet. A sheet of heavy duty foil stands in for a lid here and lets the carrots steam to perfection.

Carrot Chickpea Curry

Carrot Chickpea Curry

Carrot Chickpea Curry

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 sweet onion (about 1/2 cup), chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • 5 carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
  • 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons cilantro
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • rice to serve curry over, if desired

Heat your pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions. Stir well to coat with oil, then sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to lightly brown.

Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Then add the carrots and beans, and the curry and cinnamon. Stir everything well until the spices are fully spread over everything.

Now cover and cook for 15 minutes. There are two ways to do this — if you like browned bits, just let it go for the full 15 minutes. And I do mean browned, not burned. If you prefer no browned carrots or onions, stir it once or twice during the cooking time.

Then add the cilantro, coconut milk, and ginger. Stir well, and cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

Serve over rice, or if you’re feeling less like rice, over greens for a salad.

2015-05-08 Fabulous Food Allergy Friday

Look, it's a baby rhubarb patch at Denise's new house!!

Look, it’s a baby rhubarb patch at Denise’s new house!!

Happy Friday!

First up, what do/did famous writers eat for snacks? A huge variety of things, some very odd. This really amuses me (Mary Kate) and I can’t quite pin down why. I love Wendy Macnaughton’s drawings, though.

Second, in honor of Denise’s friend Laura who was tormenting us with photos from Paris, this lentil salad sounds a lot like one I had when I was in Paris in 2010. I liked lentils before that, but there was something about the French versions of cold lentil salad that just blew my mind.

Some of you know that I was fermenting a bunch of stuff before the big move, hot sauce, kimchi, dill pickles and sauerkraut, in hopes that my gut bacteria population would improve and maybe help things. I just found this recipe for a Sima, which is a fermented lemonade drink from Finland. Seems like it’d be easy to try and interesting. 

And since I’ve been working on building my raised garden beds this week and due to a small error in calculation, I have about 23 extra cement blocks, I might make this garden bench. This is allergy related because I’m going to be very tired from growing all my own safe food, but also it’s easy and looks super cool. And I’m painting mine purple. Shocker. 

Have a great week everyone!

Beef Satay – Gluten-free with Soy-free option

Beef Satay - Gluten-free with Soy-free option

Beef Satay – Gluten-free with Soy-free option

I used to order chicken satay all the time, before the chicken and corn allergies reared their ugly heads. Since I can’t have chicken, and I’ve been craving satay, I decided to try the beef version to see if that would get rid of the craving, which it did. It was so yummy. If you can have chicken, try it with chicken too and let me know how it was, so I can live through you vicariously. If you have a soy allergy (I don’t), try this with Mary Kate’s Soy-Free, gluten-free “Tamari Sauce” and let us know how it worked out for you.

Beef Satay – Gluten-free with Soy-free option

  • 1 to 2 pound flank steak

Beef Satay Marinade:

  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 small onion, peeled and diced roughly (it’s going in the blender or food processor, so don’t stress over it)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Sriracha (use a safe version for you, I ferment my own at home, since I don’t have a safe version)
  • 3 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce (I do well with San-J Tamari Gluten Free Soy Sauce, the alcohol is from cane sugar not corn, but if you can’t use soy, try Mary Kate’s recipe for a Soy-Free, gluten-free “Tamari Sauce” )
  • 4 Tablespoons of a safe oil for you (I used grape seed and olive oil because I ran out of grape seed in the middle)
  • 3 Tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of dried lemongrass (if you’ve got fresh, use it, but it’s often hard to get here)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons of ground coriander
  • 2 Tablespoons of ground turmeric


  • food processor or blender
  • a baking rack
  • a sheet pan safe for the broiler
  • bamboo skewers (optional)
  • food safe and safe for you food prep gloves – you’ll need them to put the beef on skewers or you’ll have really yellow fingers as turmeric stains, which is a vast understatement.

Place all the marinade ingredients in a food processor or blender, and puree them into oblivion. They should be the consistency of a smoothie when you’re finished.

Beef Satay marinade pureed into oblivion

Beef Satay marinade pureed into oblivion

Cut your flank steak across the grain into long strips about an inch and a half wide, as these will end up going onto skewers. Place the flank steak and the marinade into a zip top bag, making sure that the marinade covers all pieces of the flank, and squeezing out any air.

Beef Satay marinating in a zip top bag

Beef Satay marinating in a zip top bag

Marinate overnight, or at least 4-5 hours. When I made them, I marinated them in the morning for that evening’s dinner. I’d say that they marinated for about 10 to 11 hours and that worked fine.

If you’re using the bamboo skewers, it’d be a really good idea to soak them in water for an hour or two before cooking them. I soaked them for about 15 minutes and it was clearly not enough time, as some of the sticks charred and burned a bit (okay, a lot).

Once your flank steak is finished marinating, turn on your oven’s broiler and let it heat up. I put the oven rack in the top-most position, but you may need to move it down one depending on the height of your baking rack and baking sheet. Place the baking rack on the baking sheet, and put on your food safe prep gloves. Over a surface that won’t stain, or you don’t care if it stains (I used a cutting board), slide the strips of beef on to the skewers and put them on the rack.

Flank steak skewered but before cooking

Flank steak skewered but before cooking

When you have skewered all the beef strips, place the baking sheet in the oven and broil for 5 minutes, or until you see some crispy bits and then flip the skewers over, and broil on the other side for 5 minutes. It make take more or less time depending on how hot your oven is, or how thick your flank steak is, but you’re looking for an internal temperature of 135°F for medium rare if you’ve got a thermometer.

Beef Satay after broiling

Beef Satay after broiling

It make take more or less time depending on how hot your oven is, or how thick your flank steak is, but you’re looking for an internal temperature of 135°F for medium rare if you’ve got a thermometer.

Beef Satay - Gluten-free with Soy-free option

Beef Satay – Gluten-free with Soy-free option





2015-05-01 MAYDAY Fabulous Food Allergy Friday!

Denise's garden - getting ready for growing lots of stuff

Denise’s garden – getting ready for growing lots of stuff

Welcome to May, people. If you weren’t ready for it and wonder where April went — welcome to the club! Man, time flies. Since Maypoles aren’t that edible, and we aren’t coordinated enough for dancing, let’s share links instead, okay?

How do you find safer food while traveling? Do you bring all of your own? What sites do you use? I’ve used Find Me Gluten Free before, mainly because I have the app on my phone. And yes, my allergies go well beyond gluten, but a place that has some familiarity with gluten-free foods might also be able to accommodate other allergens, so it’s a good starting place. Allergy Eats is another option, which caters much more to those of us with multiple allergies, but you can only search by allergen, not cuisine type or anything.If you know of any place fabulous to try in Chicago or Milwaukee, leave it in the comments!

I’ve e-mailed a few small places with questions and heard back from none of them. If you’re a small business that caters to people with food issues, you really need to figure out how to respond to e-mail inquiries — or do what one bakery did and let people know that you don’t have the staff and give a suggestion of what time of day to call. Or even better, just put up full ingredients lists (especially if you allow online ordering!). Just a suggestion.

So since many of us in the food allergy community have to learn cooking and kitchen skills if we didn’t have them pre-food allergy apocalypse, here’s a nice guide from the Kitchn on food safety and sanitation at home.

Did you know you’re supposed to clean your dishwasher? I was unaware, but the procedure recommended seems pretty allergy friendly to me (if I use safe vinegar). 

Have a good weekend everyone!

Summer Mango Salsa

Summer Mango Salsa

Summer Mango Salsa

Apparently it’s mango season. In browsing the grocery store flyers looking for inspiration, I noticed that two of our three chains had mangoes on sale. I’ve never eaten a mango before, but I’ve had mango juice and liked it. So I thought I’d give it a try. Why not, right?

According to the Mango Board, mangoes are ripe when they give a little under a gentle squeeze — like avocados. As I said on Friday, it’s really worth your time to watch the video before deciding you know how to cut a mango. You can make it a lot harder than it needs to be (I sure did), but mangoes are sweet and tropical and taste like summer. If your “spring” as been like ours in New England, you need a reminder that warmer weather is coming. Tropical mango flavor helps.

“Salsa” generally conjures up tomatoes, but fruit salsas are pretty amazing and seem to have a better, brighter balance of flavors for certain main dish meals. (And yes, I know that biologically tomatoes are  a fruit, but US law says they are vegetables). Salsa isn’t the quickest thing ever, but the work that goes in pays amazing dividends in flavor.

This salsa is fine with chips, but if you want to really highlight it, serve it over a meal. Things I think would work well with the summer mango salsa:

  • Shrimp and rice, if you can do shellfish (this was my choice)
  • Chicken, pork, or fish, if any of those work for you
  • Black beans and rice

Let us know what you try so that, if it’s good, we can copy you. I have a feeling I’ll be making this a few more times, and I’d love some new ideas for what to serve it over.

Summer Mango Salsa

Summer Mango Salsa

Summer Mango Salsa

  • 1/2 of a sweet onion, finely diced (this should be between 1/3 and 1/2 cup — adjust according to your love for onion)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice (I wanted to give you a measurement, but I’ve had to use everything from 2 whole limes to 1/2 a lime to get 2T. It varies widely. I always buy limes in pairs, for whatever reason.)
  • 1 serrano pepper (buy a size commensurate with your love of spice), stem, seeds, and inner membranes removed, diced very finely
  • 1 mango, cut into small cubes
  • 1 avocado, cut into small cubes
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

The order of the ingredients above is deliberate. I love onion in my salsa, but I don’t like it too strong. If you chop it first and then let it marinate in the lime juice while you fight with the mango, it mellows out a bit. I’m assuming that the acid “cooks” the onions a bit, as it does for fish in ceviche. If you’re a better food scientist than I am, I’d love to know if this is true; it could just be the power of suggestion.

For the best flavor profile, you want the onions and the chile diced very finely, as finely as you can manage, and the mango and avocado a good bit chunkier (but still, not too big). The onion and chile go into the lime juice first. The mango next, and last the avocado — the avocado will break down the more you stir it, and I like it pretty well intact.

Basically, chop everything up and mix it together in a bowl. This is a very fresh salsa, and it doesn’t need much time to meld — half an hour at room temperature seems to be enough, although it is great the next day. I doubt it would last all that much longer, but I’ve made it a few times now and I’ve yet to test that.

Enjoy your plate of summer.

2015-04-24 Fabulous Food Allergy Friday

Grill on Fire

This grill is what I’m dreaming of just now, so it’s hosting Friday finds. From an early spring barbeque in the grand year of 2006.

So it’s Friday again, and while we might have had spring earlier this week, it’s gotten a bit chilly again. So let’s dream of summer and fire, okay? I (MK) know it was cold this day, too, as I’m wearing flannel in the other photos, but it was still grilling time.

What did we dig up this week? I don’t know what Denise found, but I do know she’s hanging dry wall at the moment, so if it’s just my finds going live, you’ll have to forgive her. It’s possible she can’t move her arms.

Have you heard of “aquafaba“? Yeah, me neither until the other day. Apparently, the cooking water/juice from canned beans (commercial and home-canned) can be used to make meringues, marshmallow fluff substitutes, and other confectionery wonders. It’s vegan, and if you can your own, likely allergen-safe. I need to give this a try.

My other great find this week was mangoes. I’ve had mango juice before, and liked it, but it must be mango season given that they are on sale everywhere in town. Mangoes are AMAZING and I’ll share what I’ve been doing with them on Monday. Just a tip: if you have not cut mangoes before, watch the damn video. Otherwise, it’s just really, really messy.

I’m (Denise) managing to check in. I did not end up hanging drywall this evening, instead I went to Home Depot again and gave them more money to buy a Dremel Ultra-Saw. So I’ll be hanging drywall this weekend. Remember that whole why I didn’t want to be a home owner thing?  Right.  Anyway, I saw an interesting blurb on the FARE blog about a potential new blood test that would predict allergy severity.

Also, Vox had a review of a new book called “Got Milked?” which takes a look at whether what we’ve been led to believe about milk having health benefits is true or not. Maybe it’ll help you answer all those people who say “Milk allergy? But what will you do about calcium? You’ll get osteoporosis?”  Or is that only me? 

What are you looking forward to this weekend? Are you going to try aquafaba? If you do, tell us about it!


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