Recipe: Verrines with Orange, Chocolate and Speculoos

Chocolate Orange Speculos Cups 2219x2394.49

A super-easy and irresistible dairy-free dessert combining some of my favorite flavors: orange, chocolate and speculoos (aka, Biscoff).

During a recent visit to the library in our small Swiss city, I came across a children’s cookbook from the well-known French chef, Cyril Lignac. I first learned of him from watching the French baking show, Le Meilleur Pâtissier, where he serves as a judge. The cookbook I found has lots of nice recipes, and one that immediately caught my eye was for Verrines au chocolat, spéculoos et oranges.

With a few substitutions, I’ve made Mr. Lignac’s recipe dairy-free. If you don’t feel like baking and need a quick recipe with few ingredients for warmer weather, it’s incredibly easy to throw this together. I’ve tried making it with soy cream and with full-fat coconut milk. My boys liked both versions, but I had a slight preference for the one with soy cream (a thicker, creamier texture).


Verrines with Orange, Chocolate and Speculoos

Adapted from Cyril Lignac and Lets petits chefs: Nouvelle recettes (2010), p. 76-77.

Makes 4 servings
(dairy-free)

3-4 oranges
150 grams (about 1 cup) dairy-free chocolate, chopped or in pieces
200 ml soy cream or full-fat coconut milk
35 grams (about 2 1/2 tablespoons) dairy-free margarine, softened
4 speculoos cookies (I used the ones from Lotus Bakeries)

1. In a small saucepan, mix the soy cream and chocolate together. Melt the chocolate over medium heat, stirring the mixture constantly until its smooth. Let it simmer for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the softened margarine until completely incorporated. Pour the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for about an hour until it cools and thickens.

2. When the chocolate mixture is ready, peel the oranges, separate into sections and cut into bite-size pieces (Please note: Mr. Lignac removes all the pith and membrane, which looks better, but I just don’t have the patience!). Place equal amounts of the orange pieces into four glass cups.

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3. Spoon equal portions of the cooled and thickened chocolate mixture over the four glasses of oranges.

4. Crush the four cookies in a plastic bag and sprinkle them evenly over the chocolate mixture in the four glasses. Serve immediately or return them to the fridge and serve the same day.

We’re back from vacation, and I’m ready to hear about your latest recipe recommendations, restaurant experiences and other food allergy updates, etc. I hope you’re all doing well, and thanks for your continued support and advice!

Free From Farmhouse


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!

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 Label: A Special Certification for Allergen-Free Products

aha! label soy yogurt

When food products contain (or may contain) potential allergens, federal laws in Switzerland require that companies clearly disclose this information on food labels. In comparison, when a company wants to disclose that its products are free from these same allergens, Switzerland has a private certification process overseen by Service Allergie Suisse.

Over time, I’ve noticed this label on several food products we routinely purchase for my son and wanted to know more about it. Here are the questions I had about the Swiss Allergy Label and the answers I found, based on information obtained from the Service Allergie Suisse website and an email I received from this agency in August 2014.

Please note: The information shown below, particularly the number of certified products and the companies that produce them, is meant to provide a snapshot of this program at a particular period of time. For the most current information, you can visit the Service Allergie Suisse website or subscribe to its News Service.


When did the Swiss Allergy Label start?

The Swiss Allergy Label program was started in 2006 by Service Allergie Suisse, a private independent agency based in Bern.


What is the purpose of the Swiss Allergy Label?

The focus of Service Allergie Suisse is on “consumer goods and services that are produced, labeled and sold with particular consideration given to allergy and intolerance problems.”

According to the email I received from Service Allergie Suisse, three independent authorities evaluate every product being considered for this allergen-free certification. For food products in particular, companies must also demonstrate that they have systems in place for quality control and allergen management. Finally, there are regular re-audits to ensure ongoing compliance.


How many products have earned the Swiss Allergy Label?

On January 13, 2015, I found 173 products listed on the Service Allergie Suisse website, as shown below.

Table: Number of products with the Swiss Allergy Label by category

Product category Number of products
Food  84
Cosmetics  46
Textiles  24
Household appliances  8
Washing and cleaning agents  8
Technical products (e.g., air filters)  3
Medical products  0
Total  173

Source: Obtained from the Service Allergie Suisse website on January 13, 2015; http://www.service-allergie-suisse.ch/257/product-categories/?oid=1464&lang=en.


Which companies have products with the Swiss Allergy Label?

Currently, the 14 companies listed below have products that have earned the Swiss Allergy Label:

In terms of food products, the vast majority of these products are sold by Migros. Based on my search, it appears that Coop has fewer than 10 food products from its own “Free From” line that have been certified by Service Allergie Suisse.


What services have been certified with the Swiss Allergy Label?

In addition to certifying products, the Swiss Allergy Label can also be applied to services, including catering and gastronomy. At this time, two companies have been certified for such services: (1) Menu and More for catering and (2) Migros for gastronomy. Menu and More is active in catering meals for children and adolescents, according to the email I received from Service Allergie Suisse. Since October 2014, Migros has expanded it range of certified products, and you can find these products in dozens of its locations (click here for the complete list).

For more information about the requirements for restaurants to receive this certification, please review this summary document from Service Allergie Suisse.


Are you familiar with the Swiss Allergy Label? Do you have products in your home certified under this program? I’m interested in any feedback you may have about this program, so please leave a comment below if you have something to share. Many thanks!

Updated: January 15, 2015

aha! 2014 Awards and a Giveaway

On Wednesday, October 23, the aha! Allergiezentrum Schweiz (Swiss Allergy Center) held its 2014 awards ceremony at the Bern Stadttheater. I somehow snagged an invitation to this year’s event. The thoughtful staff members at aha! are often fielding my questions via email, and it was such a pleasure getting the chance to meet them all in person. I was also excited to learn about the people and projects receiving awards, as they represent some important new opportunities to increase awareness and improve the quality of life for children and adolescents living with food allergies in Switzerland.

Stadttheater Bern

Bern Stadttheater

Unfortunately for me, all the speeches and presentations during this event were in Swiss German, but I guess that’s to be expected on the other side of the Röstigraben! Thankfully, the French version of the written program and the PowerPoint presentations helped me to follow along. To learn about the award winners, aha! has information on its website in German and French. Three projects shared the grand prize this year, all with a particular focus on peanut allergy and anaphylaxis. Here’s my quick summary of the 2014 grand prize winners:

  • Angelica Dünner: Erdnussallergie und Anaphylaxie (Peanut Allergy and Anaphylaxis) is a nonprofit organization based in Zurich that provides information for people living with food allergies, which Ms. Dünner helped to create three years ago. In 2014, among other activities, Ms. Dunner obtained permission from Food Allergy Research & Education in the United States to translate into French and German two children’s books about Alexander, an elephant with a peanut allergy. You can purchase these books via the organization’s website. When my 3-year old starts school next year, I’m planning to order a copy for his new classroom. I’ve exchanged emails with Ms. Dünner several times in the last year or two, and I was delighted to finally meet her. Her group is doing important work in Switzerland, so please consider becoming a member today.

  • Dr. Alice Köhli: At the Universitäts-Kinderspital Zürich (University Children’s Hospital) in Zurich, Dr. Köhli is the head of the Allergologie department. She has been working in collaboration with Ms. Dünner to offer food allergy and anaphylaxis training for parents, teachers and other caregivers of children with food allergies. The purpose is to help prevent anaphylaxis and to teach people how to respond to severe allergic reactions, should they occur. To date, these workshops have only been offered in German.

  • Dr. Ferdinanda Pini-Züger: For the Canton of Zurich, Dr. Pini-Züger is the director of the Sektor Schulärztlicher Dienst (School Medical Sector). Also working with Ms. Dünner, Dr. Pini- Züger helped introduce informational sheets for parents and teachers on peanut and tree nuts allergies and anaphylaxis. She also helped to develop a legal agreement between parents and the school district on how to manage food allergies in the classroom, based on existing primary school law. According to aha!, this is the first time informational sheets on food allergies have been prepared by a school district and shared on their website. This project is of great interest to me, and working with aha!, I would like to develop a similar set of materials in French for my son’s school.
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The view from my seat before the aha! 2014 award ceremony

Congratulations again to the three deserving winners of the aha! 2014 award, and a special thanks to the generous aha! staff members for allowing me to attend the ceremony. I hope these projects can be replicated soon in other regions of Switzerland and in different languages, namely French and Italian. I will continue to follow their progress and share updates in the future.


A Peanut-Free and Tree Nut-Free Giveaway

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You could win these products! Please read the instructions below.

Since peanut and tree nut allergies were a focus of this year’s aha! awards—and one of the kind organizers of the 2014 Food Allergy Bloggers Conference just sent me a complementary box of allergy-friendly products—I wanted to share some of these treats by trying my first-ever giveaway. Here are the details, if you’re interested in entering:

  • How to enter: Please leave a comment below with the answer to this question—What is your favorite allergy-friendly product?
  • Deadline: Saturday, November 8 at 12:00 PM (Swiss time). I will randomly select a winner and announce their name in a comment below on Monday, November 10.
  • What you win: I will send to you, wherever you are, a box of peanut-free and tree nut-free goodies, including:

Full Disclosure: As I mentioned, I received a complementary box of allergy-friendly products from the Food Allergy Blogger Conference. However, I did not receive any compensation from the Food Allergy Blogger Conference or from any of the product manufacturers listed above, nor I was expected to hold a giveaway via Dairy-Free Switzerland with these products. Any opinions expressed in this or other posts on Dairy-Free Switzerland are solely my own. The King Arthur Flour Golden Flax Meal is my contribution to the giveaway. As always, please read labels carefully to make sure these products do not contain any of your known allergens.

I hope you all had a wonderful (and safe) Halloween and an excellent weekend. Thanks in advance for those of you entering my giveaway, and good luck!

Traveling to Dublin: Food Allergy Conference

I’m in the final stages of packing for our family trip to Dublin, in part so I can attend the third annual Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting (FAAM) 2014 presented by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI). For every trip we take—no matter where we’re going and especially if we’re flying—I prepare a “food bag” for my son with allergy-friendly treats and back-up meal options. Today, I made madeleines in the morning, and a batch of saffron buns just came out of the oven.

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Allergy-friendly food for my son, sans dairy and (raw/undercooked) eggs

FAAM 2014 will be a great opportunity for me to hear from allergists working throughout Europe. To give you some background info on this conference, according to the EAACI website:

“The FAAM 2014 scientific programme has three integrated and complimentary plenaries, presenting the basic, translational and clinical science of food allergy and anaphylaxis. The final plenary weaves these themes together addressing how we hope to help patients move from merely controlling their food allergy – which is difficult for them – to a cure – which is proving difficult for us.”

For those on Twitter, I’ll take a stab at live-tweeting from the event, providing highlights of what’s being presented and by whom. I look forward to sharing with you what I learn in Dublin in the coming days and weeks.

By the way, if you have any recommendations for allergy-friendly restaurants or products in Dublin (or Belfast), please leave a comment below! Thanks in advance for your help.

Allergy-Friendly Product Recommendations: Crème à Tartiner, Biscuits and Ice Cream

As I’ve done in the past, I like to share allergy-friendly product recommendations when I find something exceptional. Here in Switzerland, I often buy the following products, all of which are free of dairy and eggs. We really like these products because they’re allergy-friendly (at least in our home), and because they taste great. Maybe they’re some of your favorites too?

Please note: Ingredient lists and allergen information can change, so please make sure to read food labels carefully. We recently noticed a new allergen warning added to one of our favorite products, Roland Sticks. It occurred because of a change in the company’s manufacturing practices, so we’ve unfortunately had to stop buying it.


I. A Savory Spread: Crème à Tartiner

Alnatura Streichcreme-Toskana

Alnatura

Allergen info: Free of the top-10 allergens.

Where to buy: This product can be found in select Migros stores in German-speaking Switzerland or online via LeShop.ch. The full ingredient list and nutritional information for this product are available at Alnatura’s website (in German and French).

My review: This versatile German product has “creme” in its name, but doesn’t contain milk. I probably wouldn’t have given it a second look at the store because of the name alone, but when Migros sent me a complimentary box of allergy-friendly Alnatura products, including the Streichcreme-Toskana, we had to give a try. Since then, we’ve been hooked. Somehow this smooth spread made of sunflower oil and seeds, red pepper, tomatoes, herbs and more tastes deliciously creamy. It’s great on a sandwich with turkey or chicken. I also toss it with hot pasta and steamed veggies to make a quick lunch for the boys. Along with the Toskana, Alnatura’s Streichcreme comes in other flavors, which I have yet to try: Aubergine (Eggplant), Curry Mango Papaya and Beet.


II. Biscuits sans Dairy and Eggs (contains: tree nuts)

Original Dar-Vida 5-Korn Biscuits

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Allergen info: Contains almonds, gluten and wheat. May contain traces of hazelnuts.

Where to buy: Available at Coop and Migros. Hug AG makes Dar-Vida products, and information is available in English via their website.

My review: We always have a box of Original Dar-Vida crackers in our house, and now we’ve discovered this company makes an allergy-friendly biscuit as well. This Swiss product reminds me of the Belvita biscuits my mother brings us from the United States. While these biscuits are a safe treat for my son, some of the other flavors with pear or chocolate either contain or may contain traces of milk, so please read labels carefully.

 

III. Allergy-Friendly Ice Cream

Glace à l’arôme de cacao or vanille, Glace avec gaufrette

Migros ice cream 2247x3005
Allergen info: The ice cream products contains soy. The ice cream cone treats contain soy, gluten, hazelnuts and wheat.

Where to buy: Migros. You can search for these products via Migros’ Migipedia website (in German, French and Italian).

My review: These Italian-made products from Migros saved me a lot of time this summer. In April and May, I began collecting allergy-friendly ice cream recipes, free of dairy and eggs. Then, I somehow came across these aha! products online when I was placing order via LeShop.ch. First, we tried the vanilla ice cream with much success. After that, my sons tried the Cornets, or ice cream cone treats, which they both loved. Finally, we sampled the chocolate ice cream, and it’s just as good as the other products. Instead of having to experiment with my ice cream maker all summer, I served these products to my son instead. Plus, it was so wonderful being able to give him his first-ever ice cream cone!



Full disclosure
: As I mentioned, I received a complimentary box of Alnatura products from Migros, including the Streichcream-Toskana. However, I did not receive any compensation from Migros, Coop or other manufacturers to write about these products. Any opinions expressed in this or any of my other posts are solely my own. If you produce an allergy-friendly product and would like to send me a sample, please feel free to contact me. However, please keep in mind that I will only share information about a product if I think it’s exceptional and could be helpful to others.

What are your favorite allergy-friendly products that are available in Switzerland? Please leave a comment below and let us know. These products can make such a difference in expanding the options available to people with food allergies and intolerances. Many thanks!

Recipe: Swiss Comfort Food—Benedictine Stew from Einsiedeln Abbey

benedictine stew

Public schools don’t provide lunch here in Switzerland, as I’ve mentioned before. Kids either go home for lunch or to a grandparents house, for example, or they participate in an offsite parascolaire program. These programs in our Swiss city pick up kids from school at 11:40 AM, feed them and then bring them back to school by 1:45 PM.

Since I’m still working as a mère au foyer (i.e., stay-at-home mom), my son comes home for lunch. With a fixed amount of time to get him fed and returned to school, I find myself needing to do some meal prep in advance. This way, our time together isn’t too rushed (i.e., I keep my cool and don’t yell as much!), and he’s not late getting back to class.

This week, I wanted to share a very Swiss recipe from the canton of Schwyz that I’ve adapted to be dairy-free: Benediktinereintopf Kloster Einsiedeln (Benedictine Stew from Einsiedeln Abbey). It’s a hearty Swiss-style meal that can be made relatively quickly, with a little chopping done beforehand. So far, I’ve served it with mashed potatoes (which most of us prefer) and elbow macaroni (which my son with food allergies prefers). Surprisingly, it’s a dairy-free cheese that makes this dish work!


Einsiedeln Abbey

Our family visited the Einsiedeln Abbey this summer, where the Benedictine Stew apparently originated, but the torrents of rain prevented us from having a leisurely visit. We still enjoyed our time there, but I would love to return someday during the holiday season for the town’s famed Christmas market, as the Abbey makes a dramatic backdrop to the festive stalls of craft makers and food vendors.

Einsiedeln Abbey front

Einsiedeln Abbey in the pouring rain, July 2014

The current Monastery and Abbey Church in Einsiedeln were constructed in the 18th century, but religious pilgrims have been visiting this site for over a thousand years. The courtyard include stables for the historic Einsiedeln breed of horses. The boys would have loved seeing them, but it was raining so hard that day, none of us wanted to venture out across the courtyard!

Einsiedeln Abbey interior

Courtyard of the Einsiedeln Abbey; stables in the background

Back home after our trip, I came across the Benedictine Stew recipe in my Betty Bossi cookbook. Other than it being from the Einsiedeln Abbey, I haven’t learned much else about this Swiss dish. Although, I saw the Jewish Museum Berlin has a recipe online for a cheese soup served at the Abbey on “minor fasting days,” with leeks as a suggested addition. If you know anything else about the Benedictine Stew, please let me know!

The Betty Bossi recipe calls for a soft cheese with herbs, like Boursin. Instead, I substituted a dairy-free alternative: CreamyRisella, a soft Italian cheese made from brown rice. For the herbs, I just added some fresh tarragon. If you can use real cheese in this recipe, you should! However, if you’re like us and need to avoid milk-based products because of an allergy, CreamyRisella is a very good alternative.

Benedictine stew ingredients


Benedictine Stew

Recipe adapted from Betty Bossi’s “The Swiss Cookbook” (Zurich, 2010).

Ingredients:

400 grams ground beef
1-2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine
400 grams leeks, cuts into thin strips lengthwise (or into rounds—it’s easier and tastes the same!)
3 small onions, finely chopped
500 ml vegetable broth
200 grams CreamyRisella (or another very soft dairy-free cheese)
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon

Instructions:

1. Brown the ground beef in a large pan. Remove the beef and set aside. Drain the fat from the pan.

2. Add 1-2 tablespoons of dairy-free margarine to the same pan, and sweat the leeks and onions slowly for about 5-10 minutes over medium heat.

3. Pour the vegetable broth over the leeks and return the ground beef to the pan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

4. Stir in the CreamyRisella (or other cheese substitute) and tarragon, over medium heat, until both are fully incorporated and the dish is heated throughout. Serve immediately over your choice of an accompaniment: allergy-friendly boiled or mashed potatoes or elbow macaroni.

Benedictine Stew 2
The Swiss holiday, Jeûne Fédéral, is this weekend, so I’ll be making a Tarte aux Pruneaux to celebrate. Bon week-end, everyone!

Recipe: Lemon “Ricotta” Pancakes

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes 2713x2971

My oldest son—who doesn’t have food allergies, had previously stopped eating the vegan pancakes I made for his brother. He claimed to no longer like ANY pancakes. Thankfully, he’s changed his mind in the last few weeks. With a new ingredient, I’ve developed a recipe that both my sons really like: Lemon “Ricotta” Pancakes sans dairy, eggs and nuts.


MozzaRisella Vegan Cheese

While I don’t usually share recipes that call for specific brands of food products, I make an exception when I find something really great, especially if it could be helpful to others living with food allergies. My latest discovery here in Switzerland is MozzaRisella—a vegan cheese made from germinated brown rice. I’ve seen it in our small Swiss city at several bio (organic) shops, and I know you can also find it in the UK.

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We started buying MozzaRisella to make dairy-free pizza for our son. Compared to the frozen pizza with fake cheese we tried last summer in the US, the homemade pizza with MozzaRisella is so much better. This product even tastes good uncooked and straight from the package. My boys and I were sampling pieces last night when I was making pizza again, and my 3-year old with food allergies kept asking for more.

In addition to pizza, we also tried using MozzaRisella for nachos. I would have never considered this before, but we recently had nachos with mozzarella at our local Swiss-Mexican restaurant. We hadn’t made nachos for years, but during the World Cup, we ate dairy-free nachos with black beans and corn and topped with cilantro and thinly sliced radishes. Not as good as ones made with real cheese, but still an excellent alternative.

The Italian company that makes MozzaRisella also makes CreamyRisella, but I didn’t start buying this other product right away. Then, The Kitchn posted their easy recipe for Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes, and I wondered about using the CreamyRisella as a substitute for the ricotta. It worked from the start, and with a few other modifications, I now have a pancake that even my oldest son will eat. On Sunday, I served them for brunch with fresh raspberries and a side of bacon.


Lemon “Ricotta” Pancakes

Serves 3-4 people

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

zest of 2 lemons
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice mixed with 1 tablespoon flax meal
1 package of CreamyRisella (200 grams)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup soy or rice milk (I’ve been using Alnatura’s Soja Drink-Vanille from Migros)

1. In a large bowl, stir together the zest of the 2 lemons and the lemon juice with the flax meal and set aside for a few minutes.

2. Then, add the next five ingredients to the flax meal mixture and whisk together until smooth: CreamyRisella, oil, sugar, cider vinegar and vanilla sugar.

3. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Next, gently whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in about 2 batches, alternating with the soy or rice milk. Do not overbeat.

4. Using a measuring cup, pour pancake batter on a medium-high heated skillet. Flip the pancake once air bubbles throughout the pancake begin to burst. Cook about 1-3 minutes on each side, until light golden brown, and serve warm.

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Full disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, nor did I receive any compensation. The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own.

What’s your favorite vegan cheese? Have you tried MozzaRisella? I’m curious to hear about other vegan cheeses in Switzerland and beyond. Please leave a comment below or send me an email. Thanks!