When G turned one I made vanilla cupcakes with a Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. I dyed the frosting orange since his birthday is in October and carefully decorated each cupcake. We couldn’t wait for our sweet boy to take a bite of his first birthday cupcake. Friends and family came over to celebrate his first year. Balloons were everywhere and our camera was ready . After we sang Happy Birthday, I placed the cupcake in front of him and he immediately ate it. Within minutes of eating the cupcake, G broke out into hives, his face turned red and swelled. I didn’t understand what was happening. My mom, who is a nurse, said he was having an allergic reaction and to give him Benadryl. I remember thinking, “an allergic reaction? to what?” The Benadryl worked.
The next day I called his pediatrician and that was first time I heard the words: food allergy. He suggested we see a pediatric allergist. Within a couple of weeks, G was tested for the 8 major food allergens. I thought eggs would come back positive because the frosting contained egg whites. It did. I never thought peanuts would come back positive. In fact, I could hardly believe it when the allergist told me. She handed me a prescription for an epi-pen and sent us on our way. I was in shock and completely overwhelmed. I wanted a second opinion so we met with an allergist at Children’s Hospital in Boston who retested G. Once again, his tests revealed an egg and peanut allergy. I was told to completely avoid eggs and peanuts; and to have an epi-pen with us at all times. The fear and anxiety immediately set in. My mind raced with questions. How would I manage this for him and our family?
A few weeks, after we got our epi-pen prescription we had a play date with some friends. Shortly, after snack time G broke out into hives all over chest and face, his eye lids swelled and he kept grabbing at his tongue. I gave him two shots of Benadryl and it slowed his reaction. We left immediately and called his doctor. I was told to never hesitate to use the epi-pen. The Benadryl stopped his reaction this time; but next time it may not. I called Bubba in tears. I let this happen, but how?! I brought a safe snack for him. He didn’t eat what the other kids ate. I watched him carefully. What happened? My friend who hosted the play date told me her kids ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at lunch and she didn’t wipe the down the table. G reacted to a peanut butter smear that was left on the table where they ate snack. I didn’t see it.
Our lives changed drastically after G’s diagnosis. He has since outgrown his egg allergy so I no longer need to bake without eggs. He is highly allergic to peanuts so we are extremely careful. A safe dessert is always brought with us. We vet restaurants before we go. Air travel requires multiple calls to the airline to make sure a peanut free buffer zone is created around us. Long road trips to see family demands a large cooler filled with our meals and snacks for the day. Food isn’t easy for us. His allergy is constant worry for us; but we try to focus and what he can eat and not what he can’t eat.
I recently came across a recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars on the food blog How To: Simplify. (Check out this blog if you haven’t already! The recipes are great and the photography is beautiful.) I decided to make a peanut free version. In my recipe I use SunButter in place of peanut butter. SunButter is made of sunflowers seeds. It has the same consistency as peanut butter and is slightly sweet. Also, I browned the butter to add a nutty flavor to the crust without the nuts!
The combination of the chocolate, SunButter and crushed pretzels makes for a perfect salty and sweet, peanut free treat. This is great treat to take to school or serve at birthday parties.
Line 9×13 pan with parchment paper. Press crust dough evenly across pan and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
I use Guittard Chocolate Chips which are processed in a peanut free facility. They are also taste like real chocolate. I found them at our local Whole Foods. Melt the chocolate slowly and mix in the SunButter.
Pour chocolate and SunButter mixture over the warm crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle crushed pretzels on top. Be sure to gently press the pretzels into the chocolate. Pop it into the freezer and allow it to chill for an hour. Once frozen, remove from pan and cut into squares. Serve at room temperature, chilled or frozen. Share with friends!
Chocolate + Sunbutter Pretzels Bars
Make about 16 small bars or 9 very large bars
Recipe adapted from How To: Simplify
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup ground Rold Gold Pretzels
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 unsalted butter melted and browned
2 cups peanut free milk chocolate chips
1 cup creamy SunButter at room temperature
1 cup crushed Rold Gold pretzels
Pre-heat oven to 350. Line 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper. Be sure the parchment paper hangs over the sides so you can easily lift out the bars later. Crush pretzels in a food processor until ground.
Whisk together crushed pretzels, flour and confectioners sugar in a bowl and set aside. Melt 1/2 cup of unsalted butter whisking frequently. Watch very carefully as little brown pieces begin to form and the butter smells nutty. Remove from heat and allow butter to cool for a bit. Add browned butter to flour mixture and combine with your fingers. Press dough into pan evenly and bake for 10-12 minutes. While the crust bakes, make topping.
Melt chocolate in a glass bowl set over simmering water. Be sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir constantly until chocolate melts. Remove from heat. Add room temperature SunButter to chocolate mixture and stir.
Remove crust from the oven. Pour the chocolate mixture over the crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle with crushed pretzels and press the pretzels gently into the chocolate mixture. Pop into the freezer and chill for 1 hour. Remove from freezer and cut into squares. You can serve them frozen, chilled or at room temperature. I liked them chilled but any temperature will work and taste great!