Food allergies are becoming more common, and that can make eating out or going to parties more frustrating than fun. Two Charlottesville moms have made themselves into "Those Nut Free Ladies" and their recipes into a baking business that deals with that culinary challenge head on.
Mixing and frosting in their household kitchens, Karen Brooks-Fox and Amy Barbour are hard at work filling 10 to 15 orders a month. That includes cupcakes, cakes, and cookies in a wide variety of flavors. But all of those tasty treats have something in common - it's not what is in the cake but what's left out that counts.
"It's hard to trust bakeries or restaurants or anywhere we go," said Barbour.
Both of these moms know best how important allergen-free cooking can be. Barbour and Brooks-Fox bonded over their two sons who have a laundry list of allergies. Over the years, they've learned to cook without things like dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, and nuts in their kitchens. Then, they thought to take their baking to the business realm to make it easier for others dealing with similar circumstances.
"We could put the work that we had put into making these recipes so that other moms with kids with allergies could have the option," Brooks-Fox commented.
"Those Nut Free Ladies" wouldn't disclose their secret recipes, but explained they can swap eggs for powdered substitutes and dairy products for rice milk in conventional recipes. They also sub in applesauce for certain ingredients and use different types of oil to avoid allergens in their baked goods. Locally-grown fruits are also a popular part of their baking.
The safety precautions go beyond the ingredients with this kind of cooking. Barbour says if they have an allergen-free order coming up, she won't allow certain ingredients in her kitchen sometimes days beforehand. On top of that, the ladies use steel tips when icing their cupcakes. Those are easily sterilized and less likely to contaminate frosting.
"When they're ordering products, first they know it's safe," Barbour explained. "And secondly, sometimes you can share, you know, experiences that we've all gone through with having a child with an allergy."
The pair makes cookies, cakes, and cupcakes for all occasions. Vegan recipes have even been requested. They hope to see their products on grocery store shelves or in coffee shop displays in years to come.
But more than anything, "Those Nut Free Ladies" just want to make sure everyone has a chance to enjoy food-filled occasions without worry.
Brooks-Fox added, "At the heart of all of this, was to give people a great option for those happy occasions."
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Dannika Lewis joined the NBC29 news team as a general assignment reporter in June 2010. She started her ventures in broadcast news at Elon University where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism. Email/Follow on Twitter/ Full Story