Recipe: Verrines with Orange, Chocolate and Speculoos

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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


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

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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.

Recipe: Magenbrot – Chocolate Gingerbread

‘Tis the season for Christmas markets in Switzerland, and I hope to visit one soon! To date, I’ve strolled through these festive markets in Montreux, Neuchâtel and Zurich. With a steaming mug of vin chaud in my hands, I have to always stop and admire all the sweet Swiss treats. I still have many to try, but one of my favorites is Magenbrot—small cocoa gingerbreads coated with dark chocolate icing.

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Zurich Christmas Market, December 2013

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Onion Market in Bern, November 2013

Magenbrot means “stomach bread” in German. According to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, the name developed because the spices and sugar contained in the bread were supposed to aid digestion. Instead of wheat flour, recipes for Magenbrot call for rye flour, which gives the gingerbread a little more texture. You can typically find these at fall festivals in Switzerland, like the Bern Onion Market, and at Christmas markets. Bakeries that make Magenbrot traditionally sell them wrapped in pink paper.


Magenbrot

(dairy-free, egg-free and nut-free)

Recipe adapted from Betty Bossi.

Dry ingredients:
300 grams rye flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
125 grams sugar
150 ml rice milk
1 tablespoon kirsch

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl until well-blended.

2. In a separate container, whisk together the wet ingredients and then pour into the large bowl with the flour mixture. Stir until a dough forms.

3. Turn the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll with a floured rolling pin until you have a rectangle, about 2 cm thick. Cut the rectangle into about 5 strips of dough with a sharp knife. Please note: The dough will be a bit sticky, so use a little extra flour to help shape it.

Magenbrot dough

4. Bake at 180°C/350°F for about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly on a wire rack. When still warm, cut into pieces, approximately 2 x 4 cm. Let the pieces continue to cool while you prepare the glaze.


Magenbrot Glaze

100 grams allergy-friendly dark chocolate
20 grams dairy-free margarine
100 ml water
250 grams powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of salt

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix the first three ingredients together, just until the chocolate is melted and well-blended. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining ingredients.

2. Put the cooled Magenbrot in a large bowl and pour the warm glaze over them. Toss them gently in the glaze until well-coated.

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3. Place the Magenbrot on a wire rack to cool and for the glaze to harden. Store in an airtight container.

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I just froze some homemade Magenbrot so my son can have an allergy-friendly treat during our next visit to a Swiss Christmas market. They’re easy to make and highly addictive!

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!

Granola Bars, Hives and Cross-Contact

Managing my son’s food allergies often involves an assessment of trust. Do I trust a restaurant to serve a safe meal that’s free of cross-contact? Will a crèche (child care provider) know how to identify and respond to an allergic reaction? When I buy prepared foods at the grocery store, I also put my trust in the manufacturer to fully disclose allergens on its labels. Even though Switzerland has requirements in place for labeling allergens as intended and unintended ingredients, I still recommend contacting the manufacturer if you have any doubts, as I learned most recently from our experience with Coop’s chocolate-coated granola bars.

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Soft Snack Granola Bars

I first discovered Coop’s apricot “Soft Snack” granola bars last year, and they quickly became one of my son’s favorite treats. Then, I noticed a chocolate-coated cereal bar from the same product line. From the start, I thought the product wouldn’t be safe. Swiss-made chocolate always seems to carry a warning about potential traces of milk, eggs or almonds. I read through the ingredients and the allergy declaration, but everything looked okay for my son.

Back at home, I served the bars to my son. On at least two occasions, he developed some hives around his mouth. Concerned about the potential for cross-contact with his allergens—even though it wasn’t indicated on the package—I stopped buying them.

Last month, I finally decided to contact Coop and ask about unintended ingredients for the chocolate “Soft Snack” granola bars, as well as the “Bio Crunchy Choco Riegel” bars. As always, Coop responded thoughtfully and promptly to my questions. For its two granola bars made with chocolate, a Coop consumer service representative wrote in an email that:

“…we cannot guarantee that these products are 100% free from milk, eggs and almonds because our manufacturer has a factory which processes gluten, eggs, milk, nuts and soy. This means that products may still contain small traces below the legal limits unless otherwise declared on the packaging (e.g. gluten free).”


“May Contain Traces of…” 

Even though traces of my son’s allergens may unintentionally be included in these granola bars, Coop wrote that the amounts fall below the limits in which Swiss regulation requires a company to list them on the label: 1 gram for each kilogram of the finished product. (For more information about Swiss labeling requirements, see Ordonnance du DFI sur l’étiquetage et la publicité des denrées alimentaires, Art. 8). At the same time, manufacturers can voluntarily label their food products to indicate the potential presence of allergens, even if the unintended amounts fall below these limits. For these granola bars, Coop has decided not to include such a statement.

I emailed Coop last week to see if they would consider adding a voluntary statement about potential traces of allergens to these cereal bars. In addition, I inquired as to whether any of their food products include such a voluntary statement, even if the amount of unintended allergens falls below the Swiss limits. Yesterday afternoon, I received the following statement in an email from Coop:

“Whenever possible, we avoid the use of warnings about traces of allergens, as we believe that such warnings unnecessarily restrict the choice available to allergy sufferers. For this reason, manufacturers are only required to state unintentional contamination with allergens in the product information (which we use for the declaration) if they exceed the legally defined limits. Many manufacturers also specify traces of some allergens that are well below the limit, which we then include in the declarations on the product.”

While I want Coop to be absolutely clear about what allergens could be included in its food products, I can also understand their rationale. Blanket allergy statements like those recently seen at Tesco in the UK, for example, do not help consumers.

I think it’s great that Switzerland has set limits for labeling unintended allergens, but it’s still up to manufacturers to include a “may contain” or “shared equipment” statement for products that fall below these limits. This leads to inconsistent practices among manufacturers, which can be challenging for consumers. For example, an overly cautious allergy warning may unnecessarily limit the options for consumers. On the other hand, without full disclosure of unintended allergens, a consumer may be putting themselves at risk of an allergic reaction.

In my opinion, voluntary labeling of unintended allergens doesn’t always meet the needs of people living with severe food allergies—for which even these trace amounts can sometimes be harmful. Therefore, if you have to avoid incredibly small amounts of allergens and have questions about food products and cross-contact—whether its Coop or Migros or any other grocery store—trust your instincts. Don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturers directly, just to make sure—for your own safety and peace of mind.

I’m curious to hear from others on the “may contain traces” labeling issue. How often do you contact manufacturers? What are the labeling requirements where you live for unintended allergens? Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts and comments. Bon week-end, all.

Recipe: Mocha-Cardamom Snack Cake

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Ever since our winter vacation back in February, when we drove across the border to do some exploring in France, I’ve been wanting to make a chocolate cake flavored with coffee and cardamom. I discovered this wonderful combination at a French chocolate shop in Morteau: Chocolaterie Klaus. After baking many test cakes, I’ve found an easy recipe to share that’s dairy, egg and nut-free.

I’m trying very hard not to eat cake for my second breakfast this morning…


The French Village of Lods

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When we originally planned our little excursion to France, the intent was to visit Lods. This small village alongside the Doubs river has been designated as one of the France’s Plus Beaux Villages (most beautiful villages). In all, 157 villages have this title and receive support from a nonprofit association working to maintain the character of these historic places.

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While we enjoyed walking through this quiet town, I didn’t find many options for a fancy French pastry. Instead, I bought some treats in Morteau, a larger town on the border with Switzerland. From what we’ve heard, it’s a common stop for Swiss residents seeking cheaper groceries in France.


Chocolaterie Klaus

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As we drove through Morteau on the way back to Switzerland, I spotted a “chocolaterie” sign and requested my husband take a quick turn. Soon after, we arrived at Chocolaterie Klaus. I ran into the small factory store, while my youngest napped in the back seat.

Inside, I found piles of delicious chocolate bars with small dishes of broken pieces to sample. While they had the typical flavor combinations, I saw some new ones too, like grapefruit and piment d’Espelette—a chili pepper grown in Spain and France. I bought some cookies and caramels, and two bars of chocolate, including a milk chocolate one with coffee and cardamom.

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Inspired by this chocolate bar, I began experimenting to create an allergy-friendly chocolate cake with the same flavors of coffee and cardamom. After several attempts, I found a quick recipe from my favorite ol’ Betty Crocker cookbook. My mother’s recent visit included a delivery of allergy-friendly mini-chocolate chips from Enjoy Life, so I had everything I needed to make a safe cake for my son (dairy/egg/nut-free). This recipe is incredibly fast and easy—and similar to the one for Crazy Cake. My 6-year old enjoyed helping to mix all the ingredients in the pan.


Mocha-Cardamom Snack Cake

Adapted from my favorite Betty Crocker cookbook, 7th edition (1991).

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

Dry ingredients:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
1 cup strong coffee
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon white or cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used dark rum instead)

Topping (added before baking):
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life mini chips)

Use an ungreased square pan, 8×8 inches or about 20×20 cm.

1. Sift dry ingredients directly into the square pan, and stir together with a fork.

2. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and use the fork to combine them, just until blended.

3. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the top of the cake batter.

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4. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 180°C/350°F until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center. Cool on a wire rack in the pan. Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar, if desired.

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In the United States, May is Food Allergy Action Month. Check out FARE’s calendar of activities which have the purpose to:

“go beyond raising awareness in order to inspire action so that we can improve understanding of the disease, advance the search for a cure, create safer environments and help people live well with food allergies.”

Bon week-end, everyone!

Saas-Fee and Zermatt with Food Allergies

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The Matterhorn view from Zermatt

With my mother visiting us from the United States, we went on a mini-vacation to the canton of Valais. Along with relaxing in the mountains, we had the ultimate goal of seeing what’s arguably the most famous Swiss peak—the Matterhorn (which I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t immediately recognize!) As always, my son’s food allergies required us to undertake some additional planning. I’m sharing what we learned, including some restaurant recommendations, in case it might be helpful to others traveling to Saas-Fee and Zermatt.


Saas-Fee: The Pearl of the Alps

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Ski chalets and mountain views in Saas-Fee

In Saas-Fee, we rented an apartment for three nights from the Dom Collection. The kitchen was well-equipped with the basics for cooking allergy-friendly meals. The town also has two well-known Swiss grocery stores that I refer to all the time—Migros and Coop. We were very familiar with the products and could easily find what we needed without having to read lots of new food labels.

For these reasons, we didn’t try eating out with our son at any of the local restaurants in Saas-Fee. Whenever we left the apartment, I always packed along lots of allergy-friendly snacks. These came in handy when we took two cable cars and the world’s highest underground funicular up to see the mountains towering above the Saas valley. Our chaotic crew needed a break, so we stopped in a small coffee shop surrounded by the snowy peaks for a snack. I spread out a small smorgasbord of allergy-friendly baked goods for the little guy that included some of my homemade baked goods—Petits Pains with Bear’s Garlic and glazed Madeleines. I also brought along one of our favorite cookies from the United States that we can’t find here in Switzerland: belVita Golden Oat crunchy breakfast biscuits.

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Allergy-friendly snacks at the coffee shop at the Allalin (3500 m.)

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The view from the three sixty coffee shop at the Allalin


Seeing the Matterhorn from Zermatt

We had two and a half days in Zermatt, and our hopes for a clear day to see the Matterhorn came to fruition, and fittingly on Easter Sunday. To top it all off, we successfully had three delicious meals at hotel restaurants with our food-allergic son. I had contacted these places in advance via email about my son’s allergies (and in English). Thankfully, all wrote back indicating they could prepare a safe meal for him.


Zermatt Youth Hostel

The Zermatt Youth Hostel served as our temporary home, and the staff there were great. While our son skipped the hostel breakfast that’s included in the nightly rate, he ate dinner in the restaurant on our first night there.

I was very impressed because the hostel went out of their way to make sure he could have a safe meal. First, even though the hostel always serves a set menu for dinner, the cook prepared a special dish for my son: a chicken breast sauteed in olive oil in a separate pan. Also, when planning the set menu for the evening, the staff person at the front desk told me they tried to avoid using my son’s allergens in order to reduce the potential risk of cross contamination. For example, instead of a typical Swiss dessert that would likely include milk and eggs and nuts, I noticed they served generous slices of fresh melon. Finally, when I had questions about how the rice and peas were prepared, the cook let me read the label for the vegetable bouillon, so I could double-check that the ingredients were safe.

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Allergy-friendly meal at the Zermatt Youth Hostel

On Sunday morning, the Easter Bunny left treats for the boys in the lobby of the hostel. My dear mother brought along lots of allergy-friendly chocolate and candy from the United States. It made me so happy to see my son get his fill of chocolate bunnies and foil-wrapped chocolate eggs—just like all the other kids.

In my opinion, the Zermatt Youth Hostel did a great job accommodating my son’s food allergies. Also, if your kids like bunk beds as much as ours, this is the place to stay if you’re visiting Zermatt. Plus, the hostel has a more affordable rate when compared to some of the other pricier hotels in town.


Cervo Zermatt

A spectacular view of the Matterhorn, excellent food and a beautiful interior, Cervo Zermatt should not be missed. We had a fabulous lunch there on Easter Sunday, and they pulled together a beautiful allergy-friendly meal for our little guy. Of course, he slept through the meal… So, he enjoyed his fancy meal in the stroller when he woke up on the way back to the hostel. We highly recommend this restaurant.

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Sea bass for Easter lunch at Cervo Zermatt


Parkhotel Beau Site

By the time we got to the historic Parkhotel Beau Site for their Easter Gala dinner, we were all tired and still full from our delicious lunch. The restaurant at the hotel is quite formal, and the gala menu included four separately-served courses, which I knew my two young children would not make it through without a major scene. Thankfully, the kind and patient servers at the hotel allowed us to all order off the À la carte menu. All of us opted out of the gala menu (even though it looked great), and our meals were excellent.

For our son, our server first brought out crudités—carrot and cucumber sticks without any dressing. Then, for his main course, he had Spaghetti Napoli—an allergy-friendly version of pasta and tomato sauce without cheese. He said this was his favorite restaurant meal from the trip!

Overall, the Parkhotel Beau Site is another great option for people dining out with allergies in Zermatt, especially if you’re looking for an elegant and leisurely meal in a more formal setting.

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A beautiful Matterhorn view on Easter Sunday in Zermatt

I’ve updated my list of allergy-friendly Swiss accommodations and restaurants to include the establishments described above. If you have any other suggestions for my lists, please leave a comment below or send an email to dairyfreeswitzerland@gmail.com. Thanks for your help! We can learn so much from each other.

During our trip, I stopped at nearly every bakery I could find! So many delicious Swiss treats to discover, and I’m hoping to share some new recipes soon. Bon week-end, everyone!

Pear-Rhubarb Spéculos Crumble

We almost always have Lotus spéculos cookies and/or spread (a.k.a. Biscoff) on hand. These cookies are still one of the few allergy-friendly treats I can buy for my son in Switzerland. So when I recently saw a recipe for pear crumble with spéculos cookies in a French-cooking magazine, it didn’t take long for me to try it. I grew up eating fruit crisps (no oats) and crumbles (with oats), and I’m not sure I’ll ever make one again without these cookies!

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For the pears, my favorite vendor at the farmers’ market recommended a Swiss-grown pear, la poire Conférence. This pear is apparently one of the most commonly grown in Europe. It was originally introduced at a “Pear Conference” in 1885—hence its name.

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While my 2-year old loves pears, my 6-year old does not. However, he gladly ate them baked with rhubarb in this crumble. As you can see from the photo above, we’ve been generously topping our crumble with whipped soy cream mixed with powdered sugar and vanilla sugar. It’s made with fruit and oats, so I think it’s perfectly suitable for breakfast, right?


Pear-Rhubarb Spéculos Crumble

Inspired by the “Crumble poíres-spéculos” recipe in Saveurs magazine N°208.

(dairy, egg and nut-free)

Crumble:
3/4 cup spéculos cookies, crushed
1/2 cup oats (I use flocons d’avoine complète)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dairy-free margarine, softened
1/4 cup sugar

Fruit:
juice of one lemon, freshly squeezed
1 1/2 to 2 cups rhubarb, cut into pieces
4 1/2 to 5 cups pears – peeled, cored and cut into pieces
1 packet of vanilla sugar (7 grams) or 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon sugar

For use with a 9×13-inch (22x33cm) baking pan or an oval gratin pan of roughly the same size.

1. Prepare the crumble. Crush the cookies and mix together with the remaining ingredients. Set aside.

2. Squeeze the lemon juice into a large bowl with the vanilla sugar. Add the cut fruit and stir frequently to keep the pears coated with lemon juice to prevent them from browning.

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3. Pour the fruit mixture into the pan, making sure it’s evenly dispersed. Then, sprinkle and spread the crumble mixture evenly over the fruit.

4. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 180°C/350°F until the fruit has softened a bit and the topping is golden brown. I recommend eating the crumble while it’s still warm. Otherwise, try and eat it the same day or shortly thereafter.

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Later today, I’ll be catching a train to Ticino. I’m hoping to discover some new food specialties from Italian-speaking Switzerland. Bon week-end, everyone!

Last-Minute Homemade Sweets for St. Valentin

Joyeuse St-Valentin! Happy Valentine’s Day! This wonderful holiday provides yet another excuse to eat sweets—and chocolate in particular—while celebrating the people you love. What could be better?

Our local confiseries have beautiful displays of handmade chocolates in their windows. My boys and I often stop and admire them on the way to school.

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While our 2-year old will not be getting milk chocolate again this year because of his food allergies, I’m not going to make him feel bad about it. Instead, I’ve prepared three homemade sweet treats for our family to enjoy together.

These recipes could not be easier. All three have short ingredient lists and can be thrown together quickly. So if you want to make any of these today, there’s still time!

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Chocolate Coconut Bonbons

Recipe adapted from Saveur.

(dairy/egg/nut-free)
Makes 20 candies

Filling:
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut*
1 1/2 cups powered sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons soy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla sugar**

Coating:
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoons cocoa
2 teaspoons cinnamon

*I used grated coconut (Noix de coco râpée) from Coop that’s already very finely chopped, so I skipped the food processor instructions listed under step #1 below.
**If you use vanilla sugar like I do, you’ll need to use about 4 tablespoons of soy cream to compensate for the loss of a liquid ingredient.

1. If needed, place coconut flakes in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer coconut to a bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

2. Spoon out about 1 tablespoon of the coconut mixture and roll it into a ball. Repeat process with remaining mixture and set them aside to rest for about 1 hour.

3. Combine all of the ingredients for the coating in a bowl. Dredge each coconut ball in the coating mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator.

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Blood Orange Madeleines

(dairy/nut-free, contains baked egg)

I made madeleines earlier this week for a playdate, using my favorite dairy-free recipe, and all the kids seemed to like them. I just used blood orange zest instead of lemon. Also, I tossed them in a bowl of light pink icing made of 2/3 cup powdered sugar and about 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed blood orange juice.

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Chocolate Peppermint Bark

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

Here’s another wicked easy chocolate idea that you’ve probably already made before, but it was another first for me. Just melt 2 cups of whatever allergy-friendly chocolate chips you can find in a heat-safe bowl over a small pot of water, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Pour the melted chocolate into the pan and spread around to your desired thickness. Sprinkle the top with 2-3 crushed candy canes or any other allergy-friendly toppings like raisins, chopped toasted pumpkin seeds or shredded coconut, etc. Put it in the fridge to cool for an hour or less, and it it’s ready to go.

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What allergy-friendly treats are you enjoying for Valentine’s Day? Please let us know by leaving a comment below. I’m always looking for new recipes and suggestions. Bon week-end!

Petits Pains au Lait (de Riz)

On my way to French class the other night, I stopped at a bakery and picked up a Petit Pain au Lait. My 6-year old had just finished his soccer lesson, so I was running from one thing to the next without time to eat a proper dinner.

Petit Pain au Lait, or Weggli in German, are soft little buns with two halves. Every type of Swiss boulangerie around us sells Petit Pain au Lait, and they seem particularly popular with kids. I’ve even seen them prepared with a chocolate coin inserted in the side, like a little dessert sandwich.

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There’s evidence that Petit Pain au Lait date back to the 16th century in Switzerland. Made with white flour, these buns were at one time considered a luxury that not everyone could afford.

During the last week, I’ve been referring to these petits pain as ″butt buns″ because they have a big crack in the middle, but my 6-year old said this actually wasn’t very polite. I’m not sure when he became the arbiter of good behavior, but I guess this isn’t a bad thing, right?

When I started searching for a recipe online, I quickly found one from Potes and Rollmops, a food blog in French that’s also based in our small corner of Switzerland. I’ve made it about 4-5 times in the last week and changed the recipe a bit along the way to make them dairy and egg-free. A big thank you to the guys at Potes and Rollmops for sharing their recipe!

An egg yolk brushed on top before baking gives the bun a nice shine and color. However, with the shorter baking time, I actually thought my 2-year old may have had an allergic reaction this week after eating one with the egg yolk glaze. While he didn’t have any hives like he normally does with eggs, he had other symptoms similar to those of an allergic reaction. I kept a close eye on him. Everything was fine, and I don’t know for sure that the egg caused his symptoms, but just in case, I’m sticking with an egg-free version for now.

 

Petits Pains au Lait

Recipe adapted from Potes and Rollmops.

(dairy, egg and nut-free)

300 grams bread flour or farine à tresse
200 ml rice milk, warmed
50 grams of dairy-free margarine, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 20 grams of fresh yeast)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Add the yeast and sugar to the warmed rice milk. Stir gently and set aside until the yeast has dissolved.

2. Whisk together the flour and salt. Make a well in the center. Pour in the melted and cooled margarine and the rice milk mixture. Stir until a soft dough forms.

3. Knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes. The dough may be sticky, but be patient, and add a little flour, if necessary. When the dough is smooth and elastic, place it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or a towel. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled.

4. After the dough has finished rising, divided it into six equal parts. Using the palm of your hand, roll the dough into a ball shape. Then, press the ball with your hands to flatten it into a circle—about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick. Next, using a sharp knife, cut the bun in half. Push the two pieces of dough back together, and then pinch the seam on the edges to help keep it together. (Please note: If it isn’t pinched together enough, it will likely pull apart while it bakes!).

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5. Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F and bake for about 17-20 minutes or until golden brown.

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I’m planning to make chocolate truffles for St. Valentin this Friday and will share the recipe/s if they turn out! What allergy-friendly treats do you have planned for Valentine’s Day?