Sweet Potato Cookie Pie (Top 8 Free)

Break out the mixing bowls, and dust off the pie dish! Holiday baking season is here in full force, and we know all too well the struggle of finding desserts that accommodate food allergies, while appealing to everyone’s tastes. So we whipped up this gluten-free and vegan sweet potato pie using our Sweet Potato Millet cookies in the crust - it has all the warm flavors of fall without sacrificing taste or safety. We hope you love it as much as we do!

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Sweet Potato Cookie Pie Recipe

Yields one 9-inch pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of Partake Foods - Sweet Potato Millet Cookies

  • 1/4 cup sugar (we recommend coconut or brown)

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil or vegan butter

  • 2 cups of sweet potato puree

  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (or other alternative milk)

  • 2 tbsp oil of choice

  • 3 tbsp maple syrup

  • 1 1/2 tbsp oat flour (you can blend your own rolled oats)

  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground flaxseed

  • 1/4 cup sugar (we recommend coconut or brown)

  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

  • 1/8 tsp salt

Directions:

FOR THE CRUST:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Pour cookies into a zip-loc bag and crush with wooden spoon or rolling pin to make fine crumbs.
  3. Place cookie crumbs in large bowl. Add sugar and coconut oil. Stir well to combine.
  4. Pour crust mixture into pie pan and pat down bottom and sides to form crust. 
  5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

FOR THE FILLING:

  1. In a large bowl, add sweet potato puree, coconut milk, oil, maple syrup, oat flour, ground flaxseed, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir mixture until smooth.
  2. Pour mixture into cookie pie crust.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes on center rack. After 30 minutes, turn off heat and leave pie to rest in oven.
  4. Let cool for 2 hours (or refrigerate for firmer texture), then serve and enjoy! 

DIY Edible Fall Spice Paints

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We're always on the look out for fun indoor activities and these edible spice paints were perfect for some festive seasonal fun! We loved that it was super easy to prepare and most importantly, allergy friendly and toxin free (unlike traditional paints), so we didn't have to worry about our little one sneaking a taste. Vivi had a blast stamping with apples and making hand prints, creating some awesome autumn masterpieces for our refrigerator! 

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Fall Spice Paints Recipe

Yields 4 half cups of paint

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp sugar

  • 1/3 cup gluten free flour (regular flour works as well)

  • 2 cups water

  • 1/2 tsp of each Fall spice (ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and nutmeg)

  • Food Coloring (red, yellow, green)

  • 4 ramekins or small cups

Directions:

  1. Add sugar and flour into small saucepan.
  2. Add water and stir together until smooth. Turn on the heat to medium and continue stirring until mixture thickens.
  3. Distribute mixture into cups.
  4. Add spices and food coloring (about 20 drops each) to create paint colors.
    • For yellow paint, mix ginger and yellow food coloring. 
    • For red paint, mix cinnamon and red food coloring.
    • For orange paint, mix turmeric and a couple drops of red.
    • For brown paint, mix nutmeg, red, yellow, and a couple drops of green.
  5. Let paints cool completely before letting your little ones dip their fingers in!

3 Things I Learned as a Food Allergy Mom

They always say you’re never fully prepared to be a mom. Even after religiously reading every possible book, taking prenatal classes, and scouring all of Google - you still won’t know it all! Throw in food allergies and it’s a whole 'nother ball game. But despite the tough challenges, there has definitely been glimpses of light, and along the way I’ve learned a few a delightful things.

They Can be a Blessing in Disguise

I'd always thought of myself as fairly healthy, but since Vivienne's food allergy diagnoses, I am forced to read every single label of every single product she eats, and because of that, I've learned that many of the "clean-label", "healthy" snacks I previously enjoyed contain lots of hard to pronounce ingredients and aren't as healthy as I'd previously thought. Because Vivienne cannot eat wheat or eggs, our meals typically consist of a lean protein/seafood, fruits/vegetables, and quinoa/brown rice. 

In addition, we've become a lot more aware of how our bodies feel when we are eating simple, whole foods - to the point that my husband realized some of his lifelong GI issues weren't "normal" and has been since diagnosed with Crohn's. While we weren't happy to hear that news, I think it's so much better that we found out early and can be proactive in making sure he follows a low-residue, anti-inflammatory diet.  We've discovered so many delicious, allergy-friendly alternatives that are tasty, safe for Vivienne, and healthier alternatives to our classic favorites.

They Turn You (& Your Child) Into an Advocate

Before Vivienne, I was always the person who didn't want to rock the boat and said yes, even if I didn't want to. But since her food allergy diagnoses, I've become an advocate for her, which in turn, has made me much better about taking a stand for myself. When your child's life is potentially at stake, you stop worrying about being a bother and make sure your voice is heard.

In turn, I think Vivienne is also learning to advocate for herself. Even at 2 1/2, she clearly tells adults, "No, I'm allergic to that and I can't eat it", which I'm hoping will translate to her standing up for herself in other facets of her life. 

Most People Really Are Compassionate

Prior to personally having to deal with food allergies in our family, I didn't think much about food allergies, so I wasn't always conscious about where I ate certain foods - i.e. I would eat peanuts in the airport and not think twice about it. I meant no harm, but I was just oblivious to how many people were affected by food allergies and how severe they could be.  But I've found that when I'm vocal about Vivienne's allergies, people are willing to make a quick accommodation to make situations safe for her. We've found this on planes, at school, and in social settings, like birthday parties. 

It can be quite confusing and difficult as a food allergy mom, but it's comforting to know that there is a bigger support group than we think. We just need to speak a little louder and show those outside of our community the positives of food allergies, like improving overall health, because it's not all negative. 

-Denise

Vegan Pumpkin Butter Dip

This vegan pumpkin butter dip by Lindsey Lee is the perfect fall accompaniment to our cookies! It's simple to prepare, yet finger-licking good and makes the perfect back to school snack or afternoon treat! 

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Pumpkin Butter Dip Recipe

Yields 3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

  • 1/2 cup vegan coconut whip (So Delicious CoCo Whip recommended)

  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar

  • 2 tsp cinnamon

  • 1 tsp all spice

Directions:

  • Place all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Once smooth, it's ready to serve - enjoy!

Building Partake from Scratch

The idea for Partake Foods came about in my living room last June. I was thinking about how my daughter, Vivienne, always missed out on fun treats because of her food allergies. At the time, Vivienne had just turned 1 and wasn’t able to eat wheat, corn, eggs, tree nuts, or bananas.  It seemed that every time I found a great gluten-free dessert recipe, it called for eggs or every time I found a great vegan dessert recipe, there was wheat flour used in the recipe. Throw in her allergy to bananas, and we were totally screwed, as bananas are often used in place of eggs in baked goods recipes.

Cue my mama bear anxiety. I began to picture Vivienne being at school (mind you, at this time, she’s only 1) and missing out on classroom birthday parties and being the girl no one wanted to invite to playdates because of her multiple allergies.  As I wallowed in my misery, I thought, “instead of complaining about this, I’ll create a company that makes fun snacks that she can eat”.

I conducted some brief market research, which consisted of buying lots of gluten-free and vegan cookies, as well as “normal” cookies and harassing my mom-friends with online surveys.  My findings led me to want to create a brand platform that would eventually have delicious, nutritious Top 8 Allergen Free meal and snack options for every part of the day.  Things that I was not willing to compromise on were: the products had to taste “normal”, no super cheesy kids branding, and we would only use ingredients that I would feel comfortable giving to my own daughter.

Now, to decide what products we would start with. In my market research, I learned that there are lots of allergy-friendly baking mixes, and while that would have been an easier first product, baking mixes didn’t provide the convenience I was looking for. Customers would still have to decide what type of milk substitute and what type of egg replacement to use, depending on their allergy situation. Then I thought about frozen foods – and still love that idea – clean label, allergy-friendly frozen meals, but for a one-woman startup managing USDA guidelines and a frozen supply chain was more cumbersome that I was up for. And then – muffins – I REALLY wanted to do muffins –like the little mini muffins that every kid eats (that have sugar as the first ingredient!), but to make them shelf stable they’d need a lot more sugar and preservatives than I was willing to consider. So cookies it was.

I went to Whole Foods and bought $200 worth of ingredients and started experimenting in my kitchen with different recipes and flavor combinations, but after two weeks of trial and error, I realized that it would take me a lot longer than I’d like to launch Partake without the help of an outside product developer.  I began reaching out to vegan and gluten-free bloggers and cookbook authors and interviewed several, but when Shauna Ahern (aka “Gluten Free Girl”) got back to me with her suggestions, I knew she was our lady!  Shauna helped us to create flavor combinations (based on the results of the online survey I sent to mom-friends) and a base formula. 

At this same time, I was looking for a place to make the cookies. I didn’t have the capital to build my own facility but wanted to ensure that the facility we chose reduced the risk of cross-contamination as much as possible. I printed the guide of manufacturers approved by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (the people who provide the Gluten-Free logo that goes on packages) and literally cold-called every single approved manufacturer in the US. I was super excited when I found a gluten-free, nut-free facility that had a Top 8 Allergen Free room and BRC certification (a type of super legit food safety certification).  Unfortunately, they didn’t work with startups, so that’s a whole ‘nother story for another blog post. Long story short, we convinced them over the course of the year that we were serious about growing Partake, and they decided to give us a shot. (Yay!)

Meanwhile, the cookies – after working with Shauna, we settled on Blueberry Buckwheat, Sweet Potato Millet, and Carrot Oat as our flavors and had some really cool ingredients like aquafaba – the gross liquid that is leftover in a can of chickpeas has a name and can be used as a great egg replacer – in our recipes.  We found a small copacker in Illinois where we could do a trial run and learned that a recipe that tastes great in the kitchen is a lot different than something that runs efficiently on professional manufacturing equipment… Oh, and blueberry cookies (made with blueberry powder or puree) turn a very not pretty shade of green/brown when baked. 

I then went to work on finding a Product Developer and found an amazing woman, who we still work with, who turned those recipes into “formulas” and included some really functional ingredients like sprouted ancient grain flours. We took those formulas to our new copacker and that’s how we brought our cookies to market! Partake was truly born out of a desire to bring delicious, nutritious, allergy-friendly meals and snacks to families – like mine, and while we started with cookies, my vision for the company includes meals and snack options that I think my family – and others – will enjoy partaking in.

Thanks for reading! We would love for you to join us on this journey as we work to grow Partake Foods. Stay tuned to learn more about my entrepreneurial highs (& lows),  life as a food allergy (but also normal!) mama, and for delicious, allergy-friendly recipes. 

-Denise