Monday, December 22, 2008

A Hanukkah "Carrot Seed" Story

This blog is technically not a mom blog. I try to give timely advice to women and parents based on my training as a nutritionist, and more recently a Certified Lactation Counselor. However, as all moms know, it is sometimes difficult to refrain from telling your own story. So, once in a while, I will tell stories about my life and my experience being a mom to a cute 2 year old boy with dairy-egg-nut food allergies. I hope it adds some personality and flavor to the blog. Here is the first such story:

We inherited a copy of The Carrot Seed by Ruth Kraus from my husband's family and it is by far one of the best children books I have read. For those of you who read this blog, you know that I have mentioned it before. It contains only 101 words but tells a powerful story of faith, determination, or instincts- depending on your interpretation. It is the story of a young boy who plants a carrot seed and tends to it, even though his mom, dad, and big brother tell him "it won't come up." The carrot came up "just as the little boy knew it would."

This is often how I feel about food allergies. People tell me that I won't be able to make traditional foods like cake, pancakes, cupcakes, and challah and that our son will feel left out. With a little bit of effort and advice from other blogging food allergy moms and cookbooks, I have successfully made all of the aforementioned foods. He has cake at parties, pancakes on Sunday mornings, cupcakes with children in his day care, and challah every Shabbat. We have even found some store brands of baked goods that adhere to his food allergies, which helps reduce our kitchen time. The dairy is never the problem since rice, soy, and coconut milk have taken care of that. But those pesky eggs...they are almost every recipe, using their power to bind and leaven.

In the days leading up to Hanukkah, I mentioned to a few friends and family members that I was going to attempt to make egg-free latkes. As you can see in the linked Wikipedia entry, latkes are "traditionally" made with eggs. Everyone's response was essentially the same: "Okay, good luck with that but I am not sure that is going to work." Even the talented caterer for this upcoming latke event, was somewhat skeptical.

Then I found this link, which saved the day. Article author Murry Shohat has his grandmother's Eastern European recipe for latkes. Guess what? There are no eggs in it. I doubt the explanation for this is due to a sensitivity to food allergies; food allergies were rarely a concern back in the day. Shohat explains the lack of egg in his grandmother's recipe: "Eggs were a luxury in the peasant shtetls and rarely were they available in sufficient numbers to find their way into latkes. Yet virtually every western latke recipe I've seen uses eggs. In fact, latkes are often incorrectly called potato pancakes, and that explains the use of eggs."

So last night, for the first night of Hanukkah, we made Murray's Grandmother's latke recipe (don't you love the internet?). The only change I made was exchanging one regular potato for one sweet potato. I am a nutritionist after all and couldn't fathom eating all that oil without any fat-soluble vitamin A to go along with it. Read more about Vitamin A in this post.

The Recipe (slight tweaks):

  • Large skillet  with 1/4" of unrefined cold-pressed olive, canola or grapeseed oil
  • 5 large baking potatoes, peeled or unpeeled (you can swap sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini, or kohlrabi for up to half of the potatoes)
  • 1 large white or yellow onion 
  • 1 tablespoon flour per potato
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste (start with 1/2 tsp salt + 1/4 tsp pepper, work from there)
  1. Grate the onion and potatoes (once by hand-held grater or twice on the grating blade in the processor). This depends on what consistency you like your latkes.
  2. By hand, spatula, or mesh strainer, squeeze out as much water as you possibly can and pour out.
  3. Gently mix in the flour just to thicken the batter to the point where a tablespoonful is slightly stiff.
  4. Then gently mix in the baking powder, and salt and pepper
Cooking directions:
  1. Place rounded to heaping tablespoons of batter into the hot oil, filling the frying pan with latkes but not too close together. Get a spatula ready, to flip the latkes.
  2. While they cook, line a cookie sheet with two layers of paper towels for draining.
  3. When the bottoms are medium golden brown, flip the latkes to complete cooking.
  4. If you want them crunchy, cook to a darker color.
  5. If you are cooking in batches, be sure to add oil as needed. When both sides are the same color, pick up with tongs, shake off excess oil and remove immediately to the paper towels. Reload the frying pan, repeating the process until all are cooked.

Getting ready to make latkes...

Squeezing out the potato juice from grated potatoes...

Here we go...

Looking good...


Just as the little girl had known they would be :)

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  1. you go girl!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I hope I'm not one of those people who was discouraging about latkas with no eggs. I'm sure yours were delicious.

    Love, Mom

  2. I'd love the recipe for egg-free challah and cupcakes! Given the mix of allergies among children of friends, it's a useful thing to have.

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