Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Allergy-Friendly Chocolate Review, Ideas, and Recipe
(originally written in April 2012)

The Enjoy Life® brand is really a blessing to those with life-threatening food allergies.  Everything they make is free of the eight most common food allergens; their products are also certified gluten-free.  Enjoy Life® makes cookies, granola, snack bars, cereals, trail mixes, chocolate bars, and chocolate chips—but, let’s face it, I’m here to talk about the CHOCOLATE!! 

Enjoy Life® sent me two bags of chocolate chips (two different varieties) and one package of Double Chocolate Chunk Granola to review.  Unfortunately, I could not test the granola since it contains inulin/chicory (one of my food intolerances).  But Enjoy Life’s baking chocolate is wonderful!  There are two different varieties: mini chips and mega chunks.  They are made of real simple, all natural ingredients (Evaporated Cane Juice, Natural Chocolate Liquor (Non-Alcoholic), Non-Dairy Cocoa Butter).
Besides tasting great (there really is no discernible difference between them and other semi-sweet chocolate chips on the market), both chocolates are very versatile.  I use them in so many different ways (not every suggestion listed below will automatically be allergen-free; obviously choose safe products and ingredients based on your dietary restrictions):

1.      As is! –unaltered, straight from the bag.
-Grab a handful for a quick chocolate pick-me-up snack.
-The mini chips make a terrific ice cream topping.
-They can also be enjoyed unaltered in an allergy-friendly trail mix (with safe cereals, marshmallows, and dried fruit) as I mentioned in my February column about party snacks.  (If you prefer to buy an already-prepared trail mix, Enjoy Life® makes a seed and fruit mix which contains their chocolate chips.) 
-My kids and their cousins love using the mini chips to decorate frosted sugar cookies and cupcakes.

2.      Melted!—both varieties melt exceptionally well, although the mini chips do so more quickly.  I pour the desired amount of chips into a heat-proof bowl, and simply microwave the chocolate on high in 30-second intervals, stirring after each time, until it is smooth and melted.  Some suggest adding corn syrup or shortening to the chocolate, but I have never found it necessary.

Chocolate-covered strawberries
-You can use this as a chocolate fondue in which to dip fresh fruit, cookies, or pretzels (or anything else you desire!).
-I like to make chocolate-covered strawberries or pretzels (just dip until each piece is thoroughly coated, let excess drip off, place on a wax-paper-lined plate, refrigerate until chocolate is re-solidified, and serve).
-When melted with milk (or any milk alternative), the chips make an easy chocolate icing for cake or cupcakes.
Chocolate Hearts for Valentine's Day

Solid chocolate bunny and eggs

-My favorite use for melted chocolate is to make candy for my sons.  Every holiday the “allergic community” scrambles to find safe chocolate in themed shapes (online or in store), and what little is available is expensive (plus shipping, if applicable)!  If people knew how easy it was to make your own chocolate candy, allergy-friendly candy suppliers would go out of business.  One bag of chocolate goes a long way when making candy, and, although Enjoy Life® chocolate chips are relatively expensive (about $5/10 oz. bag), I know the chocolate is “safe” and my method is much cheaper than buying already-made specialty chocolate candy.
I simply pour melted chocolate into candy molds (very inexpensive online or at a cake/candy supply store, and they come in any shape/design imaginable!) and freeze until solid.  I can’t tell you how excited my oldest son was when he got to eat his first solid chocolate Easter bunny
If you don’t have molds, you can pour melted chocolate into a paper-cup-lined mini muffin tin for individual chocolate candy cups.  I love to add rice crispy cereal or coconut flakes for some variety; you can also make mint chocolate by stirring in a little (just a drop or two of) flavoring oil (NOT extract).
-Simple chocolate raisins are another candy option.  
-Enjoy Life® does make chocolate bars (and they do taste like real milk chocolate, so much so that my mind had difficulty being convinced I wasn’t eating dairy!), but sometimes I will make my own chocolate bars (pour melted chocolate chips into a wax-paper-lined pan).  My boys love to use chocolate bar pieces to make S’mores

3.      In recipes!—any recipe that already calls for chocolate chips, or an addition to enhance a recipe.
-I will admit, chocolate chip cookies are my weakness!  And Enjoy Life® chocolate chips work perfectly in any cookie recipe, and in cookie bars, blondies, and brownies (in fact, I just used the mega chunks in my banana chocolate chip bars!). 
-The chocolate chips make hot cocoa extra rich!
-You can also toss them into your favorite pancake batter. 
-Chocolate fudge!! (Need I say more?)
-The mini chips are an excellent addition to homemade granola bars; check out the allergy-friendly (and NO BAKE!) recipe below.

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
A favorite snack item, these bars have simple ingredients, are easy to make, and require no baking!  Enjoy Life® mini chips are perfect in them, but this recipe is very adaptable to individual preferences.  You can add whatever spices or mix-ins you like to create your own version—try cinnamon and raisins, or coconut flakes and dried cranberries.  The possibilities are endless!
  • 2 cups oats*
  • 1 cup crispy rice cereal
  • 4 Tablespoons butter or margarine
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup honey**
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chocolate chips, divided
  1. Lightly grease a 9” x 9” pan*** and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together oats and cereal; set aside.
  3. In a small pot, melt together butter/margarine, brown sugar, and honey over medium heat.  Bring to a low boil; stir until well combined.  Reduce to low and continue to cook another two minutes.
  4. Remove pot from heat and stir in vanilla extract.  Pour this mixture over oats/cereal in large bowl; mix well until evenly distributed and all is moistened.
  5. Let mixture cool slightly, about 5 minutes.  Then gently stir in ¼ cup of the chocolate chips (they will melt some, but this is OK).
  6. Transfer mixture to greased pan; spread out to an even thickness, pressing the mixture down to pack firmly together.
  7. Evenly sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup chocolate chips over mixture; use clean hands to press chips into the bars so they adhere.
  8. Do not cover while still warm!  Cool thoroughly (at least two hours) before cutting into bars.  (If you can wait, these are best made one day ahead of eating; the flavors seem to have more time to meld.)  Cover with plastic wrap and store at room temperature.
*The original recipe calls for quick cooking oats, but rolled oats should work fine too.  Perhaps try a combination of both!
**For a vegan version, you can substitute agave for the honey.  However, you might want to reduce the amount so the bars are not too sweet.
***I originally tried these in a 9”x13” pan, but they came out too thin and crumbly.  They work best in a smaller pan, packed in thick.  If you don’t have a square pan, you can push the mixture to one side of a longer, rectangular pan (leaving part empty). 
This recipe is free of wheat, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts.  To make it dairy- and/or soy-free, use a safe margarine and safe chocolate chips (such as Enjoy Life® brand).  To make it gluten-free, carefully choose oats that have been certified gluten-free and use a gluten-free crisp rice cerealAlways double-check ingredients, including cross-contamination risk based on your level of sensitivity and comfort.