Do you remember Hostess cupcakes, Suzy Q’s, Sno Balls, Ding Dongs, and Ho Hos? Drake’s Yodels or Devil Dogs? Or Little Debbie Swiss Rolls? So many versions of the same thing! I didn’t grow up with these stocked in my kitchen, but they were a secret indulgence when I was out with friends. There was no quicker way to get a sugar and/or chocolate buzz, other than drinking soda, or downing candy bars.
Thankfully, all of those things were rare treats back then. After college, I had all but forgotten about them, until my severely food allergic daughter needed an alternative to the many sweet treats that were sent in to school for birthday parties. I am ashamed to admit that while I often baked homemade cookies and brownies for my own children’s school parties (which were loaded with other common allergens and sugar, which I had yet to realize was a problem), I would send in prepackaged alternatives for the teacher to keep in hand for the many times when other parents sent in party desserts. Store bought cookies like Oreos and Chips Ahoy, and yes, I confess, Hostess cupcakes, were some of the things I would send in multiple packages of for use throughout the year.
If your child has severe food allergies, you know that parties are a huge challenge for families. Common food allergens usually take center stage. Pizza, cake, and ice cream are often the rule, and not the exception. And even when those things aren’t on the menu, you can’t be sure other items do not contain trace amounts of the allergen in question, unless you read the food label yourself. Candy and baked goods are often the worst offenders. That’s why it’s not unusual for parents of food allergic eaters to focus so much on making sure there are no traces of a certain allergen (which is the number one priority), that they do not concern themselves with other ingredients – allergens, toxins, food additives and colorings, that could be contributing to other, seemingly unrelated health issues that their child is facing as well.
I thought I was way ahead of the pack, only giving my children processed foods occasionally, and baking with whole wheat and organic milk products. I was wrong. Once your child has one food sensitivity, it’s wise not to throw all caution to the wind when it comes to consuming other common allergens (wheat and dairy often being the worst offenders) and additives as well. Once the immune system is compromised (over 70% of which is housed in the digestive system), it’s like a can of worms has been opened. Common food allergens and toxins feed them, so the only way to keep them from multiplying is to reevaluate and clean up your diet and lifestyle choices. Do pediatricians and allergists share such information with their patients these days? Have things changed at all? I suspect that it’s more common, but still the exception to the rule. Please feel free to share your experience in the comments section.
I’ve gone way off track, but before I share the Paleo cupcake recipe (which is free of most common allergens, except of course, chocolate, which is technically not in the top 8), I just want to reiterate that like most parents, I have made mistakes. Even the most well intentioned ones do, since there is a plethora of conflicting misinformation out there. The only way to sort through it is really by avid reading and picky eating, which includes a lot of trial and error, and a willingness to experiment in the kitchen. No diet can work for everyone, since no two people have exactly the same family history, exposure/reaction to/buildup of toxins, or health status. Furthermore, even families living in the same household do not make the same diet and lifestyle choices. We are unique individuals, and that’s why one-size-fits-all approaches rarely work.
Back to the Paleo cupcakes. Obviously, they’re not really Paleo, as hunters and gatherers didn’t bake, but I doubt they had birthday parties either. And if they did, I’m sure they were not celebrated anything like they are today! So, for all you modern day food sensitive eaters (whether you tend to eat the Paleo way or not), here is a sweet treat that I hope you and your family are able to enjoy for special occasions for years to come.
The batter tastes like a thicker, more chocolatey version of mousse/pudding, and can be eaten right out of the food processor, if you wish. Gotta love a good cake batter, right? Also, the cupcakes can be eaten warm right out of the oven, and remind me of a warm, flourless chocolate cake we used to order at our favorite French restaurant. So moist inside! Or, ice and refrigerate or freeze them for later use. Individually wrap them and take them out of the freezer whenever your child attends a party, if you like.
To be the allergen free Hostess with the “mostest,” you need a few good, go-to recipes that you can rely on for special occasions. Move over, Drake and Little Debbie! I haven’t been able to find your product ingredients online, but I know they include items that every parent wants to keep their child away from. So, I hope the following recipe proves to be the tasty alternative you’ve been looking for. Please note that it was adapted from Elana Amsterdam’s recipe for Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes, which contains eggs.
I will be seeking out the above mentioned products in grocery stores over the next week, and will have something to say about them on my Facebook page, for sure! Since Hostess went out of business, and then was acquired by Little Debbie and other companies, I’m curious as to how the ingredient lists have been modified to save money and generate a profit. Quality isn’t exactly on the menu of most food manufacturers these days.
Without even looking at the labels, though, I can safely say that prepackaged cakes and yes, cake mixes, are the worst choices we could make for our families. Better choices include anything that’s homemade, using real, pure ingredients. And of course, the best choices are the recipes that focus upon using real, minimally processed ingredients that are free of common food allergens, food additives and colorings, pesticides and other chemicals, and refined sugars.
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to make really pure food taste great. All you need is the motivation to do so, and a willingness to experiment a bit. That’s what I did to come up with the following recipe for Paleo Chocolate Icing. It completes the cupcake.
Some people just don’t understand the whole concept of food sensitivities, and why some refuse to eat processed food on a regular basis. Instead of trying to learn through the example of others, many of them tend to judge. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that the best way to avoid negative vibes surrounding your food choices is to share your favorites. It’s better to wow them with taste than defend a way of eating that many people just aren’t willing or able to understand.
Here’s an example:
For Thanksgiving, I made my Chocolate Coconut Truffles, some coated with chopped macadamia nuts instead of coconut, and plain dark chocolate macadamia cups as well. They were a big hit with my step father, who refuses to believe that coconut oil is healthy because it contains saturated fat. Since he didn’t know they contained the oil, he simply enjoyed them without questioning the ingredients, and even brought some home!
For someone who eats Snickers candy bars on a regular basis, the switch was a huge step up. Of course, I can’t make them all the time for him, but I was happy that I was able to sneak in a healthier choice without sparking controversy. Someday, I will tell him what’s in them, but for now, it’s so much more peaceful to keep it to myself and feel good about helping someone who refuses to help himself.
Meanwhile, that jar of coconut oil I gave my mother and him just sits in their cabinet. I can’t worry about it, though. It’s hard to teach those who are set in their ways to reexamine their food choices. All we can really do is lead by example, and little by little, healthier alternatives will sink in.
The truth is, none of us can make perfect choices all the time. We all have to do the best we can with the information and resources we have. Sometimes, we have to give ourselves a little leeway, especially around the holidays, which can be especially stressful.
Have a happy, healthy day! I hope your holiday season has gotten off to a wonderful start.
Please note that this post has been shared with the Natural Living Monday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Gluten Free Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Fat Tuesday, and Allergy Free Wednesday blog carnivals.