Not Sugar Cookies for the Nut-Free School Dilemma

In this age of frequent tree nut allergies, we frequently get asked how we deal with nut-free school situations. We’ve certainly dealt with this exact issue at any school we’ve had our kids attend. I’m all for protecting kids in the best way possible, but sometimes paranoia fear gets the best of us. The idea of banning all forms of nuts is often the reaction to a severe problem for what is actually a problem for only a very small segment of the population. In Finian’s school, for example, his classroom is only used by one class: his. There are no peanut or tree nut allergies in his class at all, yet they are still banned.

This policy (understandably) comes from the old adage of better safe than sorry and is great on many levels; but for those of us who feel as averse to wheat and use nut flour as a replacement, the going can get tough at “treat” time. So, in light of this situation, what is a grain-free family to do on those occasions when a birthday is celebrated at your school? What’s the grain-free family to do when cookies are called for? Well, first things first: understand exactly what is avoided in these bans. Sometimes you have to help educate your school:

  • Peanuts are easy to identify and one of the most volatile and reactive allergens around. Even though they’re legumes (beans grown underground and almost never consumed raw), they are often banned from schools because of this severe allergen potential.
  • Cashews are a seed, but classified as a tree nut because of their reactive allergen abilities.
  • Almonds, Pecans, Walnuts, Hazelnut, Chestnut, Brazil Nuts, Pine nuts, Macadamias and Pistachios are all true “tree nuts” because they are the seed, pod, or kernel from a tree.  After their thick or rubbery shell is removed, they can be consumed raw, roasted or boiled.

So what’s left? What’s not a “botanical nut”? Your friend and mine, the coconut. If your school attempts to ban coconuts, load up on your research and prepare to get it changed, especially if you’re bringing your own child’s snack and he’s not sharing – air exposure to coconut causing an allergic reaction is unheard of from our research.  I have it on my to-do to try to make a treat out of just cocoa and tapioca flour, but until then this is what we know to work.

Now that you’re educated on the topic… here’s where the cookies comes in. The other day, Finian’s class was all set to decorate sugar cookies with icing for their Fall Festival. Leaving aside the question of the educational value of wheat flour and refined cane sugar, what was this grain-free family supposed to do in order to let him feel included in the activity?

Simple: we made coconut flour “sugar” cookies.  Not so simple: coming up with a recipe that would hold together well but keep him from bouncing off the walls at school (we’ve discussed how Finian’s behavior changed with a Paleo diet, most of which we attribute to being low in sugar). A sugar free, nut free, sugar cookie? Sure… no problem!

Not Sugar Cookies
Tree Nut Free, Peanut Free, Grain Free (contains eggs)

Ingredients

1 C fresh, pitted dates
1/3 C coconut oil
1/3 C palm shortening or butter
4 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 C coconut flour

Instructions

  1. In food processor or blender, puree the dates into a paste
  2. Add eggs, vanilla, oil and shortening to date paste and pulse until combined
  3. Add flour and pulse until a thick dough forms
  4. Spread extra coconut flour on rolling surface to reduce sticking
  5. Gently roll out dough until 1/4″ thick, don’t press too hard or dough will not easily release when transferred
  6. Using cookie cutters, cut shapes into dough and transfer to baking sheet
    we were able to do this with our hands, but if you’re having problems with it sticking and not releasing from the counter-top after you’ve “floured” your surface, roll it out on parchment paper, leaving space between the cookies, then transfer the paper to a baking sheet
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes (until edges start to turn golden brown).

Please note, these cookies are intended to be a little bland and dry. They are intended to be used as decorative cookies, although our boys gobbled them up just as they were.  We suggest getting creative with melted dark chocolate (like Modern Paleo Warfare did here) or to use a looser icing like our Caramel Icing for the top.

About Matthew

Matthew McCarry has written 222 post in this blog.

Matt is the husband of Stacy and somehow manages to contribute to this blog in between taking care of three children, producing the Paleo View Podcast and cooking most of the food featured here.