It was 8:00 and we’d just finished dinner and story time. Daddy was on his way upstairs with the kids for their bedtime routine and I was headed off to the kitchen to start baking. You may not know this about me, but I find baking incredibly relaxing. It’s what I do to unwind, relax, and regroup. Alone.
Just thirty minutes prior, I had set butter out on the counter to soften…real butter. I was in a baking mood and I wanted chocolate chip cookies…the kind with real butter, real eggs, and dark chocolate chunks. I don’t remember the last time I baked real chocolate chip cookies, hence the somewhat urgent craving.
I walked into the kitchen and started gathering my ingredients…eggs, milk, vanilla, flour, raw organic sugar…That’s when I heard footsteps and my son’s tiny voice… “Mommy, what are you doing?” I’m silent for a minute, already foreseeing the next question because it’s so completely obvious what I’m doing. “What are you baking?” he asks in his sweet inquisitive voice. What I want to say is, “Sweetheart, it’s bedtime. It’s very important that you go to bed on time and get enough sleep for school in the morning.” But what I really say is, “I’m baking chocolate chip cookies,” (and I REALLY wanted those chocolate chip cookies!) already prepared for his response. “Are they going to be Vegan?” At this point, I’m stuck. I can either bake two different batches of chocolate chip cookies, or simply put aside my desire for a warm, chewy dairy and egg-filled chocolate chip cookie and make the vegan alternative. It’s late and I’m getting tired, so I look into his sweet brown eyes and say, “Yes honey. Of course they’re going to be Vegan so you can have them.” But I’m not off the hook yet because my son is two steps ahead of the game. “But why do you have eggs and real butter out?” Guilty. I’m not in the habit of lying to my children and I was a little caught off guard. However, in this particular situation, where telling him that I was planning to make the most delicious dairy and egg-filled chocolate chip cookies ever and that he wouldn’t be able to eat any of them would have just devastated him in that moment. He really is great about avoiding foods he can’t eat when he’s at school or out. But home is supposed to be a safe place. “Silly Mommy” I laughed. “I took the eggs and butter out by mistake.”
What ensued was about 15-20 minutes of measuring, mixing, and baking vegan alternatives. My son and I have been baking since he could hold a spoon, and despite my initial longing to have some “me time,” I really enjoyed making those chocolate chip cookies with him. And when they were done and he had finished eating the first one, he looked at me with those brown eyes and said, “Mommy, those were the best cookies ever!” My heart melted and of course I let him have just one more before bed.
Living with food allergies is difficult…not just for my son, but for our entire family. It touches so many aspects of our lives…some, most people wouldn’t even think about. Like whether I should feed my son before a birthday party or bring in treats to have on hand at school. It dictates where we shop, where we dine, and how we plan activities. The question I’ve been debating lately is whether or not our home should be a safe environment for him…free from any foods he can’t eat. But I have a daughter…a daughter who, as far as we know, isn’t allergic to any foods. Do I “deprive” her of those foods? It’s a decision I’m constantly going back and forth on.
In general, I resort to getting my cravings for real milk lattes and real butter desserts satisfied outside of our home. While I can’t say that every food in our home is safe for our son (we’re working on it), we’ve done our part to ensure that he has a wide variety of foods that he can eat. And every single meal I make for our family can be consumed by him. I’ve spent countless hours reading, researching, speaking to parents and professionals, and experimenting to give him as many food options as possible. I’ve learned to make cheesy vegan pizza, delicious vegan pancakes, hearty allergen-friendly soups, and the most delicious Vegan Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies I’ve yet to taste. This recipe is simply an adaptation of Hershey’s Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies, which I was going to use initially:
- 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup of Earth Balance Soy-Free Vegan Butter, softened (if there are no soy allergies, you can use their Vegan Buttery Sticks)
- 3/4 cup organic sugar
- 3/4 cup organic dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tsp dry Egg Replacer mixed with 4 tbsp warm water
- 1/2 bar (depending on the size of the bar and how much chocolate you like) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Beat butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Add egg replacer, beating well. Gradually add flour mixture. Stir in dark chocolate chunks.
- Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.
But the question still begs, should I as a parent make our home a safe place for my son so that he can walk into the kitchen, pick up a food and not worry about whether or not he can eat it? I’d love for any of you who have dealt with this issue to weigh in on the topic.