chatting with ginger park and frances park about allergies, away! + two scrumptious chocolate recipes

Ginger, Justin, and Frances show off Justin’s Pizza (photo by Trish Moreis-Stiles)

Chocolate Chocolate, yum yum, happy happy!

Look who’s here! As promised, the fabulous Park Sisters are visiting today to tell us more about their new cookbook, Allergies, Away!: Creative Eats and Mouthwatering Treats for Kids Allergic to Nuts, Dairy, and Eggs (St. Martin’s, 2013).

If you remember my previous post, you know that Ginger’s son Justin was diagnosed with severe food allergies when he was just a year old. The new cookbook contains 70 of Justin’s favorite recipes developed specifically for kids like him by his beautiful and talented mom and aunt.

Some of you may know that food allergies are growing by epidemic proportions in this country. Six million kids (or 1 in 13) are affected, and this number has grown by a startling 50% since the late 90’s. Affected families are having to learn different coping strategies that can sometimes prove pretty daunting. What do you cook for your allergic child to keep him safe, make sure he’s adequately nourished, and actually enjoys the variety of foods on his plate? Since eating is also a social activity, how do you ensure he doesn’t miss out on the fun of birthday parties and other special occasions?

Adorable Justin at his third birthday party.

Justin has given all the recipes in this new book his highest *five star rating*. You don’t have to suffer from food allergies to enjoy them either. You’ll find many familiar comfort foods included, and I love the diverse mix of dishes, everything from Korean bulgogi and half moon dumplings to Mexican quesadillas and chili, to Italian pizza, lasagna and risotto to Greek tzatziki (thanks, Koomo!). Of course they’ve included chocolate. Did you have to ask?

Seoulful Half-moon Dumplings!

Before we hear from Ginger and Frances, please help yourself to a Chocolate Breakfast Muffin. Cornelius and I had fun baking these and giving them the official taste test (hard work, but somebody’s gotta do it). Oh. My. God. So, so good. More on these decadent chocolate chocolate treats later.

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Thrilled to hear that Justin has finally outgrown his dairy and egg allergies! As of last summer, you were continuing with at-home challenges (incorporating eggs and dairy in cooked food). How is Justin doing now? Any other notable milestones? Has he gone to the allergist for another raw food challenge yet?

Justin is doing great. Based on his most recent RAST (blood test) results of two years ago, he’s slowly outgrowing his dairy and egg allergies. However, he has yet to do another raw food challenge, but we will address that issue in a subsequent question. He is currently limited to his milk and egg muffins baked at 400 degrees for twenty minutes. The good news is that we’ve watched him devour 3 or 4 muffins at a time with no allergic reaction! Yay!

Now that Justin eats cooked milk and eggs on a daily basis, we’re less anxious about cross-contamination. In fact, we now venture beyond our kitchen for an occasional night out on the town – a HUGE milestone.

Jefferson helps Justin celebrate his ninth birthday.

Justin has recently enjoyed meals at several restaurants including Unos, Cheesecake Factory, and Hard Rock Café. All of these restaurants take good care of allergic kids. We always make sure to have his medicine bag replete with Epipens and antihistamines, and an allergy list to give to our server. Justin even enjoys a fast food indulgence every now and then. Believe it or not, these greasy burger joints do a fantastic job of including detailed allergen information on their websites (unlike most restaurants).

Whenever we complain that restaurants don’t offer allergen information, Justin reminds us that we own Chocolate Chocolate or as he used to call it – the Hazard Zone! Touché.

Zesty White Bean Dip

Back to the question of another raw food challenge: Sadly for us our allergist gave up her practice for motherhood last year – and we were just on the verge of a personal scientific breakthrough! The next thing we knew we were back at square one with her colleague – the same allergist who once told us based on a scratch test that Justin would likely never be able to eat milk or eggs.

We revisited the allergist last week, but once again, his old school food allergy philosophy had us shaking our heads; he doesn’t like food challenges; he prefers skin testing to blood tests. We explained to him that Justin was eating milk and eggs everyday. The allergist claimed that studies prove food challenges can actually make food allergies worse. Bewildered, we went ahead with another scratch test, and sure enough, they indicated that he was allergic to EVERYTHING from milk to eggs, peanuts to soy, proving our point that scratch tests aren’t always an accurate way of diagnosing food allergies.

We requested another blood test to confirm that Justin’s numbers were still low, and the allergist warned us that the numbers vary with blood tests and labs. Needless to say these differing philosophies on allergies, food challenges, blood tests vs scratch tests have left us with a big question mark. We are currently in the process of finding a new allergist. Fingers crossed.

Justin demonstrates his expert slicing technique.

Justin has grown up to be quite the pizza chef. What other recipes does he especially enjoy making?

Justin is now in high school and has a rigorous workload. He is always up into the wee hours of the night work, work, working.  When the tummy starts growling at midnight, he turns to his comfort food – Pasta & Beans! He’s actually added a twist to his favorite dish that makes for a creamier, richer meal or snack without adding any extra fat – Tofutti cream cheese. Guess all that biology and chemistry in school is paying off!

Justin was also assigned ‘head chef’ one evening for his orchestra classmates when they traveled to Myrtle Beach for their annual spring competition. On the menu: Marinara sauce and turkey sausage over penne pasta, garlic toast soaked in soy butter, garlic powder and mustard seeds, and corn on the cob. Dinner was a HUGE HIT.

Choco-Banana Bread

I imagine sending a child off to the first day of kindergarten is quite an emotional experience for any parent, whether or not his/her child has food allergies. What do you remember about Justin’s first full day at school, and do you have any tips for keeping kids with food allergies safe in school or while they’re away from home?

[Ginger]: Justin was fully aware of his food allergies by the time he was two years old.  Basically, it’s never too early to teach an allergic child good allergy habits. You can’t rely on the whole world to lookout for your child.

On that first day of kindergarten, I told Justin he needed to protect himself. He understood. I packed his lunch, and told him not to eat any food except for what was in his lunch box. He understood. Then I gave him his bus number so he would know which bus to board home, and kissed him on the cheek goodbye. He understood. Little did I know what was in store for my little guy.

Tater and Chive Cakes

Fortunately, there were no allergy glitches on his first day of school. However, at the end of the school day and despite his pleas, an administrator directed Justin to a bus with a different number than the one I gave him. Justin kept insisting that she was putting him on the wrong bus home and told the administrator to call me, which she did. She explained that Justin was confused – that he was trying to board the wrong bus.  But she assured me that he would be put on the correct bus.

Rock Star Onion Rings

When the bus arrived in our neighborhood, the doors swung open and all the kids filed out the doors… except for Justin. Horrified, I ran inside and called the school to learn that the administrator had put Justin on the wrong bus! Fortunately, miraculously, Justin navigated the other bus driver to our house.  She was in awe of his navigating skills, and told me, “Talking to Justin is like talking to an eighteen year old.”  But once inside our house, he fell to his knees and began to cry like the five year old boy that he was.

As for tips at school or away from home:  Don’t live in fear, but never be without your antihistamines and Epipen.

Best Biscuits ever!

Tell us about an incident where Justin was disheartened and disappointed about not being able to eat what the other kids were eating, and how you managed to turn this experience around into something positive.

Justin has an old soul. Since he was very small he always accepted his lot in life. Yes, there have been disappointing moments, but he never complained, cried, or felt sorry for himself. I’m pretty sure mommy and aunt were more upset!

Your beloved chocolate shop was a hazard zone for Justin until just recently. What happened when he visited Chocolate Chocolate for the first time? What’s his favorite kind of chocolate?

The first time Justin walked into Chocolate Chocolate, he whiffed the air and broke out in hives. That was early on. Now he’s able to hang out with the aging gang, and even enjoy some of our panned candy items like our jelly beans and fruit slice. But Justin will never be a kid in a ‘candy’ store. He’ a devout dark chocoholic purest!

Justin fell in love with our earthy non-dairy chocolate truffles dusted in cocoa powder. We once made him dark chocolate covered toffee, and it was delicious, but he just shrugged – needs more dark chocolate!

Justin’s 5-star Truffles

Which three recipes in the book have proven to be the most popular so far?

We’ve been hearing a lot about our cookies and brownies as most of our readers have young ones at home who love the sweet treats.:-)  French Puffs were the big hit at our book launch party. One blogger made the bulgogi and scallion pancakes along with our Brown Bag Brownies for dessert, and gave us 5 Stars!

Soy Nut Butter Cookies

Can you recommend any particular books or websites for parents whose children have been recently diagnosed with food allergies and sensitivities?

There are many wonderful websites, but I find that FARE – Food Allergy Research and Education – is the most informative. In fact, FARE is partnering with the Discovery Channel for a one hour spotlight on food allergies (click here to view).

Shortbread dipped in Dark Chocolate

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Now, are you ready for some chocolate chocolate?

I counted fourteen chocolatey recipes in the book, and we plan to try all of them eventually! For today, we decided on two breakfast recipes, because it’s always good to start the day off with an energizing chocolate fix, right?

Since the weather is getting cooler, there’s nothing better to warm you up than a mug of rich hot chocolate. I like the addition of cinnamon and vanilla with luscious melted semisweet non-dairy chocolate chips. Prefer your hot chocolate milky or darkly decadent? No problem — just add more chips till you’re happy. Believe me, this is a dang good cuppa!

Appropos of something, did you know Jane Austen liked to drink hot chocolate every morning? Hmmmm, Jane Austen — who’s to say hot chocolate didn’t inspire her to write Pride and Prejudice and to create the enchanting and mysterious Mr. Darcy, who was then played impeccably by one Colin Firth!!! *swoon* *starry eyes*

Where was I? Oh yes.

Pick up your cup and sip, sip, slowly — make the sweet deliciousness last and last . . . ahhhhh!

Served in our special doggie cup and saucer in honor of family dog Jefferson. Woof!


(makes 3 servings)

3 cups vanilla soy milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips:

  • 1 cup for Hot Milky Chocolate
  • 1-1/2 cups for Hot Mo’ Chocolate

Heat up the soy milk. Stir in the cinnamon and vanilla. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Top with mini marshmallows or dunk our Chocolate Chip Cookies (page 148) into the hot chocolate for a totally chocolate dripping experience.

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Now, I will try to keep my superlatives in check while discussing the Chocolate Breakfast Muffins in case you think I’m exaggerating (who me?).*drool* *licks chops* *sigh*

I admit I’d never made chocolate muffins before and was all aflutter before I even started (Cornelius put on a Bridget Jones video on cue). Reading over the recipe, I knew the addition of unsweetened applesauce would make for a tender, moist crumb and I liked using canola oil as a lowfat alternative to butter. *flutters eyelids*

I pulled out my can of Scharffen Berger unsweetened cocoa powder, already anticipating unmitigated bliss. Could it really be as simple as combining dry ingredients with wet? Why, yes.

Biting into that positively sinful deep dark chocolate oozy warmth (those chips must have gone to melting school they were so perfect) was almost too much to bear. But Cornelius and I had a job to do, just for you, so we soldiered on. Inhaled Devoured Enthusiastically consumed several of these babies and have never been the same since. Ah, the wonder and power of chocolate. All in a frisky dairy, nut, and egg-free muffin (who thinks it’s a cupcake)! Marry me, please! *kisses fingertips*

You must make these very soon . . . but be forewarned. They may very well drive you to the edge of reason, quite likely, well beyond . . .

Reach right in. It’s yours!


(yields 12 muffins)

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons water
1 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips (plus extra chips for sprinkling on top)

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Coat a 12-well muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray, or line with paper cups.

In a large bowl, combine the applesauce, oil, water, soy milk, and vanilla. In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips. Combine wet and dry ingredients and fold together gently until just mixed.

Fill the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of each. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the muffins form a peak.

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What are you waiting for? Click through to score your copy of Allergies, Away! pronto. Many delicious adventures are calling your name in addition to all the recipes pictured in this post. 🙂


♥ Visit the Park Sisters’ Website to learn more about their other books for children and adults.

♥ Visit the Chocolate Chocolate Website for more about the best chocolate boutique in the D.C. area.

♥ Check out the Allergies, Away! Facebook Page for more recipe shots and updates.


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wkendcookingiconThis post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on a fancy bib and come join the fun!





Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


38 thoughts on “chatting with ginger park and frances park about allergies, away! + two scrumptious chocolate recipes

  1. I’m so hungry looking at those chive cakes nevermind the chocolate. What a great book for kids with allergies. I am amazed how much allergies is a concern these days.


    1. I’ve tried 3 recipes from this book so far, and all have been delicious. Those chive cakes do look yummy, don’t they? Maybe next . . .


  2. This looks marvelous, Jama, thanks to Justin’s allergies, all of us get rewarded with a great cookbook. I’ve had many students through the years with allergy exclusions and I would have loved to have had some of these recipes to make for my class. Buying pastries for a class just didn’t always work! I enjoyed every picture, of Justin growing up & the food. Thank you, and thanks to Ginger, Frances & Justin too!


    1. They’ve done a beautiful job of including recipes most kids really love without compromising on taste — so important. As you said, this cookbook would also be really helpful for teachers wanting to make some treats for their classes. 🙂


  3. Jama, thanks for this informative post. And it is always wonderful to learn more about what Frances and Ginger are doing. I love the photo of Cornelius diving into the chocolate muffin.


    1. Picture books, novels, a memoir, now a cookbook — two amazingly talented and versatile writers. What will they do next?

      Cornelius of course LOVED the muffins and is now charging us $1 if we want to eat any more of them.


  4. This is really cool. I think of my sister, Jess, also now in high school, who has been so brave about… well, everything. She has so many allergies, and so many things that are blockades in the road of “normal kid,” but like Justin, she’s an old soul, and just deals – while we cry. I’ll point her to this blog post so she can get some recipe ideas (and she can oogle Justin, too).


    1. Best to your sister Jess, T. — these kids are sometimes much more resilient than we could ever be. Hope she can get some recipe ideas (most of the baked treats aren’t GF, though).


  5. Happy for Justin that he’s able to expand his eating, and also that he is so good at dealing with challenges. That will help him his whole life.

    My kids have not found scratch allergy tests to be super useful. I hope a terrific allergist shows up soon. (So hard when you have to start over with a new doctor!)

    The recipes look delicious! Scharffen Berger is soooo good.


    1. Justin is quite an amazing person to take everything in his stride from such a young age. You’re right that his continued ability to meet challenges will serve him well in the future.

      It’s really hard to find a good doctor, the right doctor. Your past experience with the ineffectiveness/unreliability of scratch tests validates Ginger’s experience.

      And yes to Scharffen Berger! I need to get some more to stock up for the winter :).


  6. Jama, darling – what a fantabulous post! There are no words to express my gratitude. And I’m pretty sure Cornelius is a chocoholic!

    And many thanks for all the wonderful comments. When I showed Justin the post and comments, he beamed with pride. We’re enjoying Seoulful Half-Moon Dumplings tonight. Did I hear Cornelius say he wanted to join us?! Come on over!


    1. Cornelius would love to join you but he’s afraid of Jefferson. Small bear, giant dog!

      Thanks again for your wonderful answers — always an honor to have you and Francie drop by! 🙂


  7. “But Cornelius and I had a job to do, just for you, so we soldiered on.”
    You are very brave, Jama. 😉

    And I can testify, from personal experience, that the Parks have a lovely store!


  8. Woof! Echo wants that Woof cup and saucer. Because he, like all dogs, can’t have chocolate (not even from semi-sweet chocolate chips), I’ll have his share of hot chocolate, along with one of those chocolate muffins.


  9. I used to be allergic to 91.2% (that’s a guess) of all the food in the world. Luckily, I grew out of it. Unluckily (for Mom and Dad), I will now eat almost anything, so they probably (a little bit) wish I was still allergic. 😉
    Erik the Great Eater 🙂


    1. Happy to hear you’ve outgrown your food allergies. Please leave some food left in the world for us, Erik the Great Eater — especially if it’s chocolate or pie or cookies . . . 🙂


  10. Oh, Jama, you and Mr. Firth! You make me laugh 🙂 This is such a great post and resource. I’ve never dealt with allergies but the thought of navigating that with a child makes me break out in hives. By the way, I’m speaking to 3 groups of moms about kids lit coming up next month and I’m passing along your blog to them because I love it so much!


    1. Wow, Jill, thanks so much for the shout out! I really enjoy Orange Marmalade too :). You deserve extra chocolate muffins. Shall I ask Colin to deliver them?


  11. Awesome post! I’ve developed a mild peanut allergy in the last few years and am always on the look-out for good allergy-free cookbooks. This one sounds great, especially cause it’s kid tested. What a story and journey. Hope Justin finds a good allergist soon.


    1. As you know, many “allergy-free” cookbooks contain recipes that meet special dietary requirements but they don’t necessarily taste good. With kids, if something doesn’t taste good, no way you’re gonna get them to eat it. That’s what makes this one different. The recipes are delicious and appealing to even people who don’t have food allergies.


  12. My husband has oral allergy syndrome and I so fear my daughters developing some type of food allergy as well. This looks like a fantastic cookbook without sacrificing any of the yum. Those chocolate muffins look delicious!!


  13. So glad that these moms are taking such a creative approach to helping Justin.Lots of tasty food should be a great help in making up for the disappointments of having the allergies.


  14. What a terrific resource! I love knowing there’s a cookbook for all those kids who have food allergies. Those muffins look so yummy!


    1. This cookbook could easily become a mom’s best friend. Recipes are easy to prepare and I’m sure kids will enjoy helping with the cookies and other treats.


  15. I enjoyed reading this post! We don’t have food allergies in our family but daughters were diagnosed with celiac disease after college so we’re learning about cross-contamination, etc. related to gluten-free eating/cooking. Many similar hazards!


    1. Celiac disease is tough! Luckily there are more gluten free products out on the market now but cross contamination is always a big concern.


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