Book Review: Welcoming Kitchen

These days, it seems almost everyone knows at least one parent whose child has food allergies.

Well, Kim Lutz was that parent.  Shortly after her son, Casey, was born, she discovered he had multiple food allergies.  Rather than hand over control of Casey’s food to pre-packaged convenience foods, Kim determined to create recipes herself, in her own kitchen, to assure that her son could safely enjoy them.  She envisioned a “welcoming kitchen” in which everyone—not just her son—could sit at the table and partake of delectable dishes free of eight key allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, dairy, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish.

The result of her culinary expedition is Welcoming Kitchen: 200 Delicious Allergen and Gluten-Free Vegan Recipes, co-written with Megan Hart.

Welcoming Kitchen is a sturdy, compact volume that’s small enough to transport easily and will tuck into your handbag if you (like me) need to ensure some homemade meals while traveling. In the book’s introduction, Kim shares her personal story. Following is “Basics,” a chapter in which the she outlines the main ingredients used in the recipes, all of which “make it easy and affordable to feed all of your guests, even those with restricted diets.” No exotic or outlandishly expensive ingredients here!

First among the dishes I sampled was the Roasted Fennel Spread. I took Kim’s advice and tossed this veggie-rich cross between a sauce and a dip with pasta. Infused with Italian flavors, the sauce made a delectable light dinner with some linguine. My husband raved over this one.

Next up were Sausage Patties, an ingenious mix of ingredients that work well to approximate a spicy, savory component of breakfast or lunch. I enjoyed mine wrapped in a raw collard leaf, burrito-style.

As for sweet offerings, I baked up some Apple-Zucchini Muffins, moist and textured with shreds of zucchini and diced appleThe Doughnut Bites were a perfect snack, light and airy as any pastry shop donut.

Finally, I also tried out the Crispy Sunflower Seed Butter Treats, tiny cookie-like mounds with a rich, crunchy, caramelly taste (and with only 4 ingredients—ready in less than 10 minutes!).

All of the recipes I mixed up were a hit, with nothing too complicated (pre-roasting the fennel for the Roasted Fennel Spread was probably the most complex operation I attempted!).

I’d recommend Welcoming Kitchen for anyone dealing with multiple food sensitivities, allergies, or anyone who cooks for someone with them.  Many recipes are familiar classics (Hummus, Blueberry Muffins, Baked Beans, Gnocchi), while others are variations using various whole-foods substitutes (Creamed Spinach, Sloppy Joes, Brunch Hash); but whichever you choose, the recipes are sure to delight and satisfy even the most discerning palates—and especially those of your kids!

Ricki Heller is the author of Sweet Freedom: Desserts You’ll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar (one of only three cookbooks endorsed by Ellen DeGeneres on her website) as well as three e-cookbooks. She writes the popular food blog Diet, Dessert and Dogs, where, for the past three years, she has chronicled her journey with candida and posted almost 600 sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, whole-foods recipes.

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