Recipe: Swiss Rice Tart for Easter

Discover a dairy-free version of a typically Swiss tart made for Easter with rice, vanilla, lemon zest and a thin layer of apricot jam.

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For our first Easter in Switzerland, I attempted a few dairy-free and egg-free Gâteau de Pâques. My experiments always looked bad, and the texture was never right. Honestly, I think some of it ended up in the trash. (Please note: For those of you still avoiding eggs AND dairy, I found an Easter tart recipe from aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse).

According to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, the first tarts in Switzerland resembling today’s Gâteau de Pâques (in French) or Osterfladen (in German) may have started as early as the 16th century, and several sources pinpoint Basel as the birthplace. These tarts typically contain either rice or semolina. At our local Suisse Romande bakery, the Gâteau de Pâques has semolina and a thin layer of apricot jam. One of the bakers I spoke with there said he preferred using semolina over rice because it makes a lighter cake.

I tend to prefer the semolina-based tarts, but for this year’s Gâteau de Pâques (which I can now make with eggs), I really wanted to tackle a rice-based tart—especially since my past attempts were so unsuccessful. My dairy-free recipe uses the apricot jam layer instead of the more traditional raisins (the thought of moist raisins mixed with sweet rice just isn’t appealing to me). Both of my sons loved this tart, so I’m finally ready to share my recipe below.


Gâteau de Pâques

Recipe adapted from cuisine de saison.
(dairy-free, nut-free)

Tools:
Tart pan, 24 cm (9-10 inches) diameter

Ingredients:
500 ml soy milk
60 grams sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
120 grams rice (e.g., Camolino rice or risotto)
30 grams dairy-free margarine, melted
2 eggs, separated
about 320 grams prepared allergy-friendly pâte brisée (i.e., shortcrust pastry or pie crust)
100 grams apricot jam
powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions:

1. Stir together the soy milk, sugar and vanilla paste in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then add the lemon zest. Stir in the rice. Simmer for about 25-30 minutes until the rice becomes tender. Set aside to cool.

2. Add parchment paper to a greased tart pan (using dairy-free margarine), and then place in the prepared pâte brisée. Trim the sides, if necessary. Prick the bottom with a fork in several places. Spread the apricot jam evenly on the prepared crust.

3. Melt the margarine, and stir it into the cooled rice mixture. Separately, beat together the two egg yolks, and then stir them in as well, until well-combined.

4. Separately, beat together the 2 egg whites with an electric mixture (it will take forever to do this by hand) until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold them into the rice mixture. Take the rice mixture and spread it evenly over the apricot jam in the prepared crust.

5. Bake the tart for 40-45 minutes at 180°C/350°F until it’s set (it doesn’t wobble when you take it out) and lightly browned.

6. Once the tart has cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar (I made a quick bunny stencil with a sheet of paper, which I held down against the cake with some dried beans).

School vacation starts tomorrow, so I’ll be offline for the next two weeks. Happy Easter! Joyeuses Pâques! Fröhliche Ostern! Buona Pasqua!

Swiss National Day of Allergy 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015 – Today marks the seventh National Day of Allergy in Switzerland. Organized by aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse, this year’s event focuses on the relationship between allergies and skin, particularly during times of leisure, such as traveling or participating in sports activities. To increase awareness of allergies, aha! will be presenting images related to this year’s theme and sharing informational materials at seven train stations across Switzerland: Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Locarno, Lucerne and Zurich.

Image source: aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse

As part of its focus on skin, allergies and leisure in 2015, aha! is promoting several of its programs and activities related to this theme, such as its allergy-friendly camps for children and translation cards for traveling. Also, aha! offers training courses for parents of children with atopic eczema. At least two of these courses are planned for Suisse Romande this fall. Finally, aha! has lots of materials on allergies available via its website to help further this year’s message: “une bonne information et prévention pour une meilleure qualité de vie” (i.e., good information and prevention for a better quality of life).

For more information:

EAACI Allergy Awareness Campaign

Are you “trapped by allergy”? A new allergy awareness campaign has arrived in Europe that focuses specifically on food allergy and anaphylaxis during the next two months.

The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI), which hosted the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting I attended in Dublin last fall, launched its allergy awareness campaign in June 2014. It started in Copenhagen, where EAACI hosted its annual congress, using a street marketing campaign that featured the message of people being “trapped by allergy.”

“Allergy is a condition that affects people’s lifestyle and ability to work. An allergic person can fear insignificant things with which we come into contact on a daily basis, such as plants, pets, insects, food or drugs, and this leads them to feel trapped in their condition.” —EAACI President Nikolaos G. Papadopoulos

For more information about the June 2014 launch of this campaign, check out EAACI’s press release or see the video below that highlights the street campaign in Copenhagen.


EAACI’s Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Wave

On March 9, 2015, EAACI released a third press release (the second press release focused on asthma) to begin the food allergy and anaphylaxis wave of its allergy awareness campaign.

In all, EAACI estimates that over 17 million Europeans have a food allergy. Furthermore, it reports that 1 out of every 20 children has at least one food allergy. Over the last decade, food allergy cases have doubled, with a 7-fold increase in the number of hospitalizations caused by severe allergic reactions. Given these numbers, EAACI finds that “more awareness and education is needed to improve management of food allergies and anaphylaxis.”

During March and April 2015, according to the campaign website, EAACI will have an online campaign targeting five countries: Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. It also plans to disseminate printed materials via primary care organizations, patient organizations, national allergy societies and pharmacist organizations.

What are your initial thoughts on EAACI’s allergy awareness campaign? I’m curious to hear what you think about it. Please leave a comment below, when you have the chance. I’ll continue to share information via Facebook and Twitter, as I learn more about this campaign.

Finally, if you are interested in getting involved with this EAACI’s campaign, check out the campaign website for additional resources and information.

Beware of Allergy

Food Allergy Support Groups in Switzerland

Outside of the doctor’s office, when you’re in need of some additional food allergy support and advice from people who can relate to your situation, there are several patient groups in Switzerland that can help. I’m highlighting three of them below—and each represents a different language—French, English or German.

Group’s name: Founded in: Primary language: How to find them:
Allergissima
2014 French
Switzerland Food Allergy Network 2015 English
  • Facebook
    (closed group)*
Verein Erdnussallergie und Anaphylaxie 2011 German
  • Website (in German and English)
  • Facebook (closed group, “Forum  Erdnussallergie und Anaphylaxie”)*

*For Facebook’s closed groups, you can search for the group name while logged into Facebook and request permission to join the group.


Allergissima

Allergissima was started by Anita Fossaluzza Schopfer, who you may already know from the allergy-friendly cookbook she published in 2012: Recettes pour faire la nique aux allergies. Her son was originally diagnosed with 13 different food allergies. This organization is working to improve the quality of life for people living with food allergies and intolerances. Some example activities include organizing or participating in conferences and preparing articles or other written materials on food allergies.

You can learn more about Allergissima by visiting its website, Facebook page or sending an email to info@allergissima.ch.


Switzerland Food Allergy Network

Of these three support groups, Switzerland Food Allergy Network is the newest one. Using a closed group on Facebook, it allows members to join and share information privately about current research, allergy-friendly restaurants and allergist recommendations, for example. Ali, an American who lives in the canton of Vaud, started the group to help connect with other English-speakers living with food allergies in Switzerland. She has a 4-year old son who was diagnosed with 18 different food allergies at 10 months of age.

To request membership to the Switzerland Food Allergy Network, you can do so by searching for the group’s name via Facebook.


Verein Erdnussallergie und Anaphylaxie

I’ve written about Verein Erdnussallergie und Anaphylaxie (i.e., “Peanut allergy and anaphylaxis club“) before, as this group’s founder, Angelica Dünner earned an aha! award in October 2014 from the Centre d’Allergie Suisse. Like the other group’s founders mentioned above, she is also the mother of a child with food allergies. This group provides information for and about food allergy sufferersprimarily individuals with peanut allergy and those who experience anaphylaxisand for parents of children with such allergies.

For more information about this group, you can visit their website, request membership to their closed group via Facebook (“Forum Erdnussallergie und Anaphylaxie”) or contact them directly with your questions.


Additional resources
:

  • In Switzerland, if you would like to start your own food allergy support group or locate existing groups, you can contact La Fondation Info-Entraide Suisse, which helps people who want to start self-help groups for a variety of health-related topics.
  • In the United Kingdom, Allergy UK maintains a support contact network of individuals who can provide support and advice to people living with food allergies.
  • In the United States, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has information to help people start their own support groups or you can use its online search tool to identify existing support groups in your area.

If you know of any other food allergy support groups in Switzerland, please let us know by leaving a comment below.

Finally, you may have seen that I’m raising funds for Allergy UK by running in the Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon in October 2015. Is there any chance you would consider sponsoring me? If so, I would really appreciate it if you would make an online donation via my JustGiving page. Thanks in advance for your help!

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Swiss Retro Recipe: Riz Casimir

Riz Casimir 2736x3309

An easy meal for kids, I’ve created a dairy-free version of a popular Swiss dish from the 1950s: Riz Casimir.

I first discovered Riz Casimir at Zurich’s Hiltl Restaurant in December 2013. When I saw it on the menu, I didn’t realize this curry dish was actually over a half-century old and known throughout Switzerland. Only after trying Hiltl’s vegetarian version did I start noticing this dish in other restaurants and among the prepared meals from Coop and Migros. Finally, after I came across a simple recipe for Riz Casimir in my Swiss cookbook for public schools, Croqu’menus, I decided to try making it myself.

Riz Casimir Coop 2951x2045.11

According to Betty Bossi, Riz Casimir is often mentioned as a favorite dish by people of all ages in Switzerland. The founder of the Mövenpick restaurants, Ueli Prager, developed this recipe in 1952 with ingredients considered exotic for the time: curry, pineapple and banana. Ultimately, it seems Riz Casimir is the Swiss interpretation of Kashmiri Rice, a northern Indian dish.

Instead of using cream, I’ve been making Riz Casimir with coconut milk. I also added a few other ingredients, like fresh garlic and ginger, and some optional toppings, like chopped cashews and cilantro, to give it a little more flavor and texture. My 3-year old isn’t a huge fan of curry, but this is a very mild recipe.

In terms of presentation, I modeled my version after the photo in my Swiss cookbook of a wreath of rice decorated with banana, pineapple and cherries, and the curry nestled in the center. Honestly, it feels a little ridiculous arranging the fruit like this on the platter, but if it helps my finicky kids find it more appealing, I’ll continue to do it!


Riz Casimir

Recipe adapted from Croqu’menus (9th edition, 2005, p. 91).
(dairy-free, egg-free)
Serves 4-5 people

Ingredients:

1-2 teaspoons sunflower or canola oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated or chopped
4 chicken breasts, sliced into thin and bite-size pieces
100 ml white wine or allergy-friendly chicken/vegetable broth
250 ml coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder
1-2 teaspoons cornstarch
salt, to taste

Optional toppings: chopped cilantro and cashews, pineapple rings and apple slices

Serve with hot basmati rice

Instructions:

1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, ginger and garlic for a few minutes until tender and fragrant.

2. Cook the chicken for about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until its nearly done. Remove from the pan and set-aside. Add the wine (or chicken/vegetable broth) and simmer for a few minutes.

3. Add the coconut milk and curry powder to the wine in the pan, and whisk it together until well-incorporated.

4. Whisk in the cornstarch and return the chicken to the pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes more until the sauces thickens slightly.

5. Serve immediately with basmati rice and optional toppings.


Food Allergy Clinical Trials in Switzerland

Peanut allergy was in the news again recently, due to a study out of Australia using a treatment that combined probiotics with oral immunotherapy. The study offers some promising results, as 80 percent of the enrolled children could tolerate eating peanut by the end of the clinical trial. At the same time, 45 percent experienced an allergic reaction, which according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) is similar to other studies using oral immunotherapy. If you didn’t see all the media coverage, here are a few links to get you up to speed:

Nuts

When I posted an article about this Australian study on Facebook, someone asked if I knew of any similar clinical trials being conducted in Switzerland. To address this question, I contacted a pediatric allergist working in Geneva via email. He wrote to confirm that no such study is currently being conducted here.

This inquiry made me curious about other food allergy clinical trials in Switzerland, and the pediatric allergist I contacted recommended an online database that’s maintained by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH): ClinicalTrials.gov. When I searched the database, I found three relevant studies that are currently open and recruiting participants. You can click the links in the table below for more information about each individual study.


Food Allergy Clinical Trials Currently Recruiting Participants in Switzerland
Study title Sponsor Types of allergens Estimated completion date Eligible ages
Molecular Analysis of IgE Antibodies in Walnut Allergic Patients University of Zurich Walnut November
2015
1 year to 70 years
Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management University of Zurich Peanut, hazelnut, walnut or celeriac February
2017
5 years and older
Tree Nuts Allergies: Does a Single Nut Allergy Necessitate the Dietary Eviction of Other Tree Nuts? University Hospital, Geneva Peanut and tree nuts January
2016
12 months to 16 years

Source: Search results obtained on February 16, 2015 from ClinicalTrials.gov for Switzerland when the condition entered was “food allergy.”


Additional resources:

  • For some helpful background information on clinical trials, check out the Frequently Asked Questions prepared by FARE.
  • In the United States, Vanderbilt University maintains ResearchMatch, an online patient registry. FARE and NIH worked together and used ResearchMatch to create a special food allergy sub-registry for patients interested in volunteering for clinical trials.

 

Have you ever participated in a food allergy clinical trial? If you have any experience or advice to share, please leave a comment below. Many thanks!

Homemade Dairy-Free Chocolate and Marzipan Penguins for Valentine’s Day

The professional version of chocolate-marzipan penguins

Our local chocolate shop always makes these cute little chocolate and marzipan penguins for Valentine’s Day. This year, I decided to tackle a homemade version.

After my son’s successful food challenges for eggs and almonds last year, marzipan is one of my new favorite ingredients (remember the Swiss Stollen at Christmastime?). Even thought it’s a major improvement, his milk allergy still prevents him from enjoying store-bought chocolates at this time.

To prepare for my confectionery experiment, I bought some dairy-free marzipan and food coloring. After shaping the penguins’ bodies and wings out of the marzipan, I spread some melted Enjoy Life Foods chocolate on their backs. Then, I dotted some chocolate on small drops of powdered sugar icing for the eyes (they seem a bit scared, don’t they?). My family of penguins certainly look homemade, but they taste really good, and the kids are excited to try them on Valentine’s Day.

My very homemade-looking penguins

If you’re looking to make some allergy-friendly Valentine’s Day treats, here are some recipes I’ve shared during the last few years. All of them are dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free and tree-nut free.

And, for another super-easy and no-bake recipe, check out Allergy Shmallergy’s Sweet Strawberry Hearts.

What allergy-friendly treats are you planning on this year for Valentine’s Day? Please share your suggestions and recipes by leaving a comment below. Thanks so much! 

Special bites: A Zürich “Sweet Studio” with Delicious Gluten-free and Dairy-free Treats

Special Bites Sweet Studio 2560x3153

Elegantly decorated cupcakes, rich double chocolate cookies and cake citron garnished with candied lemon—all made without dairy and gluten by Special bites in Zürich. I had the chance to meet the baker who creates these delicious treats over the weekend, and my family and I are now her biggest fans.

Hungarian-born Timea Megyeri opened Special bites in October 2013 because she wanted to make sure that people avoiding dairy and gluten could still enjoy delicious sweet treats. Her goal is to make high-quality baked goods that taste just as good, if not better, than those made with milk, butter and wheat, for example. With offerings like Bakewell Cake and Victoria Sandwich Cake, Timea has a strong British influence in her baking, as she received her formal training at University College Birmingham.

After admiring her stunning photos of cupcakes and other treats on Facebook for months, I finally placed an order for pick up in Zürich. When I arrived at her commercial kitchen, her brightly lit workspace was immaculate and absolutely free of products containing dairy or gluten. Timea had set out a platter heaped with freshly baked cookies and bars. There was a layered sponge cake with berry filling and some lightly sweetened breakfast cookies, including one with grated carrots, gluten-free oats, agave syrup and raisins. I also had the chance to meet Timea’s boyfriend, Malcom Hett, who serves as her taste-tester and marketing advisera fitting role given his day job working as a global marketing manager.

Special Bites Tea Time

Photo courtesy of Special bites

For my 3-year old son with a milk allergy, it’s not often he gets to eat something that I haven’t made for him—which is why I was so excited to discover Special bites. He can safely eat gluten, so I don’t normally buy gluten-free products, but from my experience in Switzerland, its more common that dairy-free products are also made without gluten. Unfortunately, the few prepackaged cookies like this we’ve bought for him haven’t been very good. However, the photos I kept seeing from Timea made it seem that gluten-free ingredients weren’t holding her back from making really delicious baked goods, so I had to give it a try.

I had such a lovely time chatting with Timea about her baking, it wasn’t long before I realized an hour had passed! My usual snack time routines involve cleaning up spilled soy milk and reading children’s stories, so I enjoyed the opportunity to just sit and talk with someone who really understands how to bake exceptionally well, including for people with food allergies and intolerances. When it was time for me to leave, she bagged up my order of chocolate cookies and lemon cakes in a Special bites tote bag, and I could haven’t been more pleased.

Back at home, both of my sons were thrilled with everything from Special bites. The lemon cake had a great flavor and light icing, without being too sweet (she admitted to actually liking salty things more than sweets, and it’s reflected in her baking). I was especially impressed with the double chocolate cookies—so rich and with a texture almost like a brownie. I had to remind myself they were for my son, so I wouldn’t eat them all!

Double Chocolate Cookies

Double Chocolate Cookies

If you’re living or traveling in Zürich with special dietary needs, I highly recommend Special bites for delicious and elegant dairy-free and gluten-free, as well as vegan and gluten-free, baked goods. We plan on placing another order the next time we’re nearby. You can order products online that can be picked up in Zürich or you can find them at the following:

Eva’s Apples
Weinbergstrasse 168, 8006 Zürich
Phone: 044 363 56 54

Mr. and Mrs. Glutenfree
Forchstrasse 28, 8008 Zürich
Phone: 076 548 43 23

Simply Soup
Hallwylstrasse 24, 8004 Zürich
Phone: 044 554 66 71

Pelikanstrasse 19, 8001 Zürich
Phone: 043 497 22 32

FELFEL (no retail shop; food items delivered to enrolled workplaces)
Grubenstrasse 11, 8045 Zurich
Phone: 043 536 74 51

A big thanks again to Timea Megyeri of Special bites for hosting me and for creating quality products that taste great while catering to the needs of people avoiding dairy and gluten in Switzerland.

Swiss Allergy Center: Summer and Fall Camp Programs for Children and Teens

aha! summer camp 2014

Site of the aha! camp program in Davos Klosters (Photo courtesy of aha!)

Are you looking for a summer or fall camp for your child with food allergies? If so, aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse is once again hosting several camp programs for children ages 8 to 12 years and 13 to 16 years.

For several years, I attended a weekly summer camp in Minnesota, and I think programs like this create memories for a lifetime. Kids get the opportunity to make new friends and enjoy the outdoors, while learning how to be independent from their parents for a week (and now I see how it’s a nice break for parents too!). It’s great that aha! is sponsoring programs to make camp accessible for children and teens with allergic diseases, such as asthma, atopic dermatitis and food allergies.

Located in the Swiss Alps, these camps have staff trained to deal with food allergies, such as responding to severe reactions like anaphylaxis. Also, there’s a dietician to help plan safe and nutritious meals for those with food allergies and intolerances. With this support system in place, children and teens with allergic diseases get to have a wonderful camp experience, and parents have the comfort of knowing their children’s medical and dietary needs are being met.

Please see the table below for a quick overview of aha!’s various camps this summer and fall. For the first time this year, aha! will be offering a camp for French-speakers.

Camp d’enfants aha!

aha!kinderlager

aha!jugendcamp

Eligible ages 8-12 years 8-12 years 13-16 years
Language spoken French German German
Date Fall: Sunday, October 11 to Saturday, October 17, 2015 Summer: Sunday, July 19 to Saturday, July 25, 2015

Fall
: Sunday, October 4 to Saturday, October 10, 2015.
Summer: Sunday, July 26 to Saturday, August 1, 2015
Location Crans-Montana (Valais), elevation of 1500 meters Davos Klosters (Graubünden), elevation of 1100 meters Davos Klosters (Graubünden), elevation of 1100 meters
Cost* CHF 240 CHF 240 CHF 290

*For children and teens residing abroad, the cost will be CHF 350, if the individual is not covered by insurance in Switzerland.

For all of the camps listed above, the deadline for enrollment is four weeks prior to the start of the program. You can find the online registration form for each of these camps by clicking on the links provided above. If you have any questions, please contact aha! directly at 031 359 90 50 or info@aha.ch.

Tonight, my husband and I will attend aha!’s Benefizkonzert in Bern, which will raise funds for these camp programs. A big thank you to aha! for inviting me to this event. I’ll report back soon on this evening’s festivities, for a worthy cause!

Oral Food Challenge for Baked Milk: Passed

Baked Milk Food Challenge

My son’s final doses of baked milk

“Milk in the batter! Milk in the batter! Stir it! Scrape it! Make it! Bake it!” – From In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

On Thursday evening, I read In the Night Kitchen to my sons at bedtime. It’s one of my favorite children’s books. I hadn’t planned on it, but I when came across the brown-hued cover on the bookshelf, it seemed appropriate timing considering our plans for the morning—my son’s physician-supervised oral food challenge for baked milk.

This would mark his sixth food challenge, and I feel the same way every time—nervous, worried, happy and excited. After our unsuccessful attempt at baked milk back in July 2014, when my son refused to eat all the required doses of cake, we decided to try a new approach. This time, as recommended by his pediatric allergist, I modified the recipe and baked the cake at home.

I’m elated to report that my son “passed” the challenge with a negative result—no reaction whatsoever. This is huge. I baked Zopf with milk and butter for my family on Sunday, and we all ate it together. My hope is that every child with a milk allergy can get to this point. We feel so incredibly lucky once again.


Why is baked milk okay?

When milk is extensively heated (i.e., baked), the proteins change somehow so my son’s immune system no longer considers it an allergen. From the various articles I’ve seen and our own experience, the heating standard for food challenges with baked milk is generally 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes. One recent study estimates that the majority (75 percent) of children with cow’s milk allergy can tolerate eating baked milk products, like cake and bread. Another study has found that consuming baked milk products helps to increase children’s tolerance for drinking unheated cow’s milk.

Sources:

2015-01-15 20.34.45

Have you participated in a baked milk food challenge? What was your experience?  Please leave a comment below.

My son will have another milk-based challenge coming up this spring. More details soon… In the meantime, I’m making sure he has baked milk in some form every day until then. I’m thrilled to be baking with milk and butter again!

Thanks for your continued support and advice! I hope you’re getting some good news about food allergies too.

Updated: If you would like the recipe I used for the baked milk challenge, please send me an email for more information. February 2, 2015.