By Guest Blogger Sunny Busby (And Love it Too!)
I’m a firm believer that the best food is naturally gluten-free.
Whole fruits and vegetables, minimally processed meats, eggs and nuts are all naturally gluten-free, and my family thrives off a whole-foods diet. It’s easier, it’s safer, and frankly, it’s nicer on both my waistline and my pocketbook.
And then comes the holidays. And birthday celebrations. And anniversaries. And school parties. And snacks at church on Sunday.
Did I mention the holidays?
Before we get into the hustle and bustle that comes with the beautiful season which will be quickly upon us, there is one day that my children look forward to with a sense of whimsy, drama and cautious awareness; Halloween is a day that brings lots of laughter to many, and unfortunate frustration to some.
Three years ago, when my family first made the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle following my own celiac diagnosis and the subsequent elimination diets that proved two out of five of my children also have gluten-sensitivities, we were already on high alert for dairy-packed foods as one of my daughters has a severe dairy-allergy.
With this transition, Halloween went from a difficult but manageable holiday to one that posed many, often complicated, challenges.
Even with the hundreds of gluten-free candies which are listed on pages 317-324 of the Triumph Dining Gluten-Free Grocery Guide, there are still many Halloween related foods that, due to gluten or dairy content, are simply not safe for my family.
Caramel apples, cake walks, licorice and crispy rice treats quickly went from our favorites to items and events we must avoid.
Fortunately, there are resources, tools and ways to make your favorite treats safe at home.
Using your old tried and true rice crispy treat recipe, try replacing your old crispy rice cereal with new gluten-free versions including Gluten-Free Rice Crispy’s, Erewhon Brown Rice Cereal, or even Cacao or Fruity Pebbles for a colorful and extra-fun treat!
If, like us, you need to also replace the butter, try using a butter-flavored palm oil or coconut oil 1:1. You’ll never miss the old, less allergy-friendly ingredients!
To make certain your little ones always have cupcakes that are safe for them, try making your own Hidden Eye Halloween Cupcakes, or wow an entire crowd with this Mexican Chocolate Black Cat Cake. Relatively easy, these treats will make your gluten-free children the envy of the party!
Finally though, caramel apples pose a hidden risk.
Wheat flour may be added to caramel to thicken it before coating your apple. Then of course, once the apple is coated, it may be dusted in wheat flour to prevent sticking to the packaging or to other caramel apples. Sometimes additional toppings, like pretzels or candies, are added and are not gluten-free. Finally, if your apples are produced in a facility or area where other gluten-containing items are being made or served, there is a strong risk of cross-contamination and the apples should still be avoided.
So why not make your own?
Because my family avoids refined sugars, I have opted to create a gluten-free dairy-free caramel that uses palm sugar instead of refined sugar and coconut milk and oil to keep it dairy-free.
Truly delicious and positively allergy-friendly, I hope you enjoy this caramel as much as we have and wish you the Happiest of Halloweens!
Refined Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Caramel
3 c Palm Sugar
1 c Honey (Agave or Palm Syrup also works well)
2 c Coconut Cream* (from approximately 2 cans of very well refrigerated full-fat coconut milk)
1 c Whole Fat Coconut Milk
1 c Coconut Oil
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
½ tsp Sea Salt
First, measure ingredients. To obtain the proper amount of coconut cream, refrigerate two cans of full-fat coconut milk for at least 24 hours (I always keep two to three cans in my refrigerator to ensure I have cream when I need it!). When you open the refrigerated can, the solid coconut cream will be on top. Scrape this with a spoon and be careful to leave as much of the clear coconut water at the bottom, behind.
Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan and melt together over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Once mixture begins to boil, track the caramel closely with a candy thermometer. The ideal caramel stage is 311f. Palm sugar goes from caramel to burnt even faster than refined sugar, and coconut oil has a higher smoke point than butter, the combination can make creating the perfect caramel all the more difficult, but not impossible.
Once caramel has achieved the ideal temperature, remove from heat and pour into a 9×9 parchment lined pan to cool.
Allow to cool approximately 15-20 minutes before dipping apples. The caramel will thicken as it cools. Once you have covered the ideal number of apples, allow the caramel to set completely, slice into bite sized squares and wrap in parchment paper for giveaway and storage.
Makes approximately 5 c caramel