Happy World Nutella Day, friends! As a dietitian, I’m a big believer that all foods fit and that definitely includes a spoonful of Nutella straight from the jar…ahem, I mean on whole grain toast…from time to time.
Except when your child is allergic to hazelnuts, that is. I felt a lot of emotions when she was first diagnosed with her peanut and tree nut allergies, mostly concerning her safety. But I also felt hugely disappointed that she wouldn’t be able to enjoy some of my own favorite childhood treats, like Reese’s cups and Nutella.
I’m pretty forthright about how I generally I prefer to buy items like bread and tomato sauce that I could otherwise make at home. But when you’re dealing with allergies, that’s just not the case for so many products. Nobody’s out there marketing an allergen-free chocolate spread any more than you can find sugar-free soy-based yogurt pouches. If you want your kids to enjoy safe versions of these types of foods, you just have to make them yourself.
And that can be a huge burden on the parent. On the one hand, you don’t want your child to miss out on the foods her peers and even siblings can enjoy. But on the other hand, it’s hard enough to keep a family well-fed even when you’re not dealing with allergies! Preparing special foods for a child with allergies often means sacrificing hours we would otherwise spend on our own leisure and self-care.
There’s no easy answer. These are issues we’ve been discussing in my new Facebook group, Self-Care for Allergy Moms. If you’re facing any type of food allergy, I encourage you to join!
What’s working for me right now is to focus on a handful of EASY recipes (like my Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto) that I make in large batches again and again. But another tactic I really enjoy is getting my kids involved in the cooking activity. This way, I’m not up until midnight slaving away in the kitchen. We generally choose a weekend afternoon to make something and it turns into a fun bonding experience.
Most recently, we tried our hands and a homemade, hazelnut-free version of Nutella. I scoured Pinterest for a recipe to start with and let me tell you, there are a lot of whomp whomp knock-off Nutella recipes out there! Sugar-free? Low-fat? No thank you, we want the good stuff!
This recipe features real chocolate and real sugar. It’s a treat, after all! As is the trend with my recipes lately, I used sunflower seeds to substitute for the hazelnuts. Now, if you’re not allergic to hazelnuts yourself and you’ve ever had the real deal…well, sunflower seeds are no hazelnuts, let’s just say. There’s a reason you won’t find sunflower flavored coffee at your local coffee bar! Hazelnuts are delish, but you know what? Chocolate and sugar are delish too, and the sunflower seeds still add a “nutty” element at least.
I used milk chocolate chips in my version, but for those of you facing dairy allergies, I plan to try this out with a dairy-free, soy-free version like Enjoy Life soon. If you beat me to it, please let me know the results!
12 oz. chocolate chips
1 cup pureed roasted unsalted sunflower seeds (see note)
2 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil (do not substitute coconut oil)
2 tbsp. powdered sugar
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
*Note: You could use a commercially available product like Sunbutter, just remember to adjust the recipe’s salt and sugar content a little. If you’re making your own with a recipe like my Homemade Sunflower Seed Butter, skip adding the salt and sugar and let the food processor run until the mixture is very runny and creamy. I usually process the seeds for 10-12 minutes, but for this recipe I let it go 15 minutes.
Soften the chocolate chips by microwaving them in 30 second increments, stirring after each round. They don’t need to be completely melted, 90 seconds total should do the trick.
Add the chocolate chips and remaining ingredients to a food processor. Process 3-4 minutes until fully incorporated, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.
Store in a microwave-safe jar, such as a mason jar. The canola oil should help the mixture retain a spreadable consistency, but if you find it hardens up just microwave for about 15 seconds.