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Allergen-free Super Bowl buffet and Valentine's Day goodies

Satisfying your sweet (and salty) tooth

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I spent the holidays salivating over the Facebook posts of friends who were making snack foods with their kids. Chex Party Mix, homemade guacamole, desserts, appetizers: an array of homemade goodies to share with family and friends. It seemed a cruel tease to a mom with two food-allergic kids.

Then, as I passed boxes of Chex cereal in the store the other day, I wondered if I could make Bowl-worthy treats that are safe and taste good, too. My 4-year-old daughter, Talia, is allergic to wheat, dairy and eggs, and she and my son, Ty, are both allergic to nuts. But we are a family that loves to eat.

Back home, I assembled my purchases and pored over the Chex Party Mix recipe (see our Allergen-Free Chex Party Mix version). It called for 3 cups each of wheat, corn and rice Chex, a cup of nuts, pretzels, bagel chips, butter and seasonings. The tweaking began.

I poured 6 cups of rice and corn Chex and gluten-free pretzels into a large baking pan and melted some nondairy margarine in the microwave. Talia and I stirred garlic powder, seasoned salt, onion powder and gluten-free Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce into the margarine, then poured the sauce over the Chex mix and stirred to coat the cereal.

I placed the pan into a 250-degree oven and stirred it every 15 minutes for the next hour. It smelled heavenly. We removed the mixture from the oven and laid it on paper towels to cool. The kids dug in and ... touchdown! The first item in our Super Bowl buffet was born.

Next I tackled a recipe for guacamole (see Mitzi's Guacamole recipe) that my girlfriend serves at her parties. It was so creamy that I assumed it had cream cheese in it. Mitzi assured me that it didn't. I immediately came home and tried to replicate it by finely chopping tomatoes, onions and cilantro and mixing them with lime juice, salt and red pepper. After chilling for an hour, it made a mighty fine salsa, which we sampled with sweet potato chips.

I then took two peeled ripe avocados, mashed them with a fork and folded it in with the salsa, adding more seasonings to taste. Bam—another hit.

Suddenly I envisioned a Super Bowl spread full of tasty possibilities.

To give the offerings more heft, try this recipe for Gluten-Free Hooter's Buffalo Wings, and I'll throw some wheat- and dairy-free Hillshire Farm Lit'l Smokies in the crockpot with Sweet Baby Ray's honey barbecue sauce.

You can make your own tangy sweet and sour sauce for meatballs and sausages by combining a bottle of ketchup with about 7 ounces of grape jelly. Heat through in a crock pot and you'll be good to go.

I'll round out the menu with an assortment of gluten- and dairy-free chips and salsa, and a fruit and vegetable tray.

Betty Crocker makes a gluten-free devil's-food cake mix that's perfect for making cupcakes. Just substitute two 4-ounce containers of plain applesauce for the eggs and a dairy-free margarine for the butter. Frost with Pillsbury's dairy-free Creamy Supreme Chocolate Fudge icing, and your guests will be none the wiser.

For Valentine's Day, there are a number of places to purchase delicious nut- and dairy-free chocolates.

Vermont Nut Free Chocolates offers nut-free milk and dark chocolate hearts, truffles, fruit creams and chocolate-covered pretzels.

Amanda's Own Confections makes dairy-, peanut-, nut-, gluten- and egg-free chocolates in the shapes of hearts and teddy bears.

Divvies offers an assortment of dairy-, nut- and wheat-free chocolates and candies and dairy- and nut-free cookies.

Boom Choco Boom bars by Enjoy Life are dairy-, peanut-, nut- and soy-free. The bars are made of rice milk and come in milk, dark and crispy rice chocolate flavors. The bars cost about $1.50 to $2 each, and various flavors can be found at Whole Foods, Earth Fare, Kroger and Harmony Farms in Raleigh. Find a coupon at the company's website: www.enjoylifefoods.com.

Joyce Clark Hicks can be reached at joyce4indy@gmail.com.

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