April Peveteaux is the author of Gluten Is My Bitch. With the pub­li­ca­tion of her new cook­book, Bake Sales Are My B*tch: Win the Food Aller­gy Wars with 60+ Recipes to Keep Kids Safe and Par­ents Sane, April is guest blog­ging for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil all week as part of Vis­it­ing Scribe series here on The ProsenPeo­ple.

I am a woman who loves to eat. I con­sid­er feast­ing upon great foods one of my great­est pas­sions and an inti­mate, yet uni­ver­sal, way to con­nect with oth­er like-mind­ed peo­ple who enjoy stim­u­lat­ing all of their sens­es. In oth­er words: If you wan­na be my lover, you got­ta get with my blend­ed spinach and ricot­ta dip.

It was no acci­dent that my hus­band and I fell in love over every eth­nic meal we could indulge in while dat­ing in New York City, and some that we were not sure qual­i­fied as any eth­nic­i­ty. Where do those sug­ar-roast­ed nuts come from, any­way? His appre­ci­a­tion for my South­ern and Cajun cook­ing and our many argu­ments over what makes a taco, based on his Cal­i­for­nia expe­ri­ence and my Okla­homa and Texas knowl­edge, meant we were able to ful­fill each oth­er while remain­ing hungry.

After we brought our two beau­ti­ful, and vora­cious, chil­dren into the world it prob­a­bly won’t sur­prise you to know that one of my most sat­is­fy­ing respon­si­bil­i­ties as a moth­er and wife became the prepa­ra­tion of spe­cial birth­day cakes for each mem­ber of my house­hold. Pur­suant to their per­son­al­i­ty and their pref­er­ence, I make a unique birth­day dessert for every­one, and insist they indulge in a piece for break­fast on the day they were brought into this earth­ly exis­tence. Is there a bet­ter way to cel­e­brate the day you were born than by smoth­er­ing your gob with sug­ar? My hus­band goes for a hon­ey­bun cake made to resem­ble, well, a hon­ey­bun, cov­ered in cin­na­mon, toast­ed pecans and a still-warm glaze. My son loves a rain­bow cake with thick white but­ter­cream frost­ing between each lay­er to accen­tu­ate the bright col­ors of the con­fec­tion. And my daugh­ter enjoys a cook­ie-crust­ed ice cream cake cov­ered in fudge and whipped cream — the same ice cream cake my own moth­er made for me every year on my birthday.

Feed­ing my peo­ple is seri­ous busi­ness, and I am filled with plea­sure as they enjoy the culi­nary delights I share with them on spe­cial, and every­day occa­sions. Which is why rais­ing kids as they attend a Jew­ish day school and start to get seri­ous about Judaism has become a chal­lenge to me — in the dietary sense.

As a cook who likes to expand her reper­toire and broad­en her children’s palates, prepar­ing kosher meals on demand was not my (straw­ber­ry pre­ferred) jam. I’m an add-on kind of gal who just walked into a restrict­ed space and was not hap­py about hav­ing to ditch my bacon. I also like to make sure no one begins a meal hun­gry, so appe­tiz­ers are a big part of my meal plan­ning. When work­ing under a tra­di­tion­al six-hour sep­a­ra­tion of the meat and dairy, there was no way I was bring­ing out my favorite roast chick­en if I’d pre­sent­ed the epic cheese plat­ter less than two hours pri­or. Some­thing had to give. And it wasn’t going to be the cheese platter.

While doing some recon­nais­sance with oth­er kosher par­ents, I real­ized that many chose the path of least resis­tance: going veg­e­tar­i­an or veg­an. I am not that mom. I have celi­ac dis­ease and can’t have gluten, and quite frankly I think that’s enough depri­va­tion for one house­hold. Also, being gluten-free means that bagels for every meal are also not an option. This is in fact, the worst.

Rather than risk offend­ing every­one at my kid’s lunch tables, and also risk being a big old jerk, I decid­ed my fam­i­ly would have to com­pro­mise. After all, if my kids were going to be raised Jew­ish, they were all ready to ques­tion every­thing. Why not lunch?

When pack­ing a lunch I did decide that going veg­e­tar­i­an was the best way to respect the school guide­lines and their obser­vant class­mates. Remov­ing meat from their mid­day meal was going to be much eas­i­er on all of us. Espe­cial­ly me, since I don’t eat lunch at school and can shove all the left­over brisket into my mouth only min­utes after indulging in nachos. But for my children’s sake, we pack a veg­e­tar­i­an lunch 99% of the time, and they can total­ly work with the lack of meat pro­tein through the mag­ic of bean and cheese burritos.

Din­ner­time and the week­ends are much more chal­leng­ing, espe­cial­ly since the adults in the fam­i­ly do not keep kosher. Still, in sup­port of our children’s com­mit­ment we make it work. Our daugh­ter (the most strin­gent observ­er) has agreed to be Dutch kosher” when at home or on vaca­tion, mean­ing she can enjoy some dairy and only wait one hour to dig into the fried chick­en. I com­pro­mise by exper­i­ment­ing with veg­an and veg­e­tar­i­an meals that keep us kosher-style. Luck­i­ly the pop­u­lar­i­ty of Paleo-style eat­ing goes well with both kosher style (no dairy to mix with meat, just skip the pork and the shell­fish recipes) and my own celi­ac dis­ease, since the Paleo diet eschews all grains.

We are prob­a­bly one of the few fam­i­lies who dine either Paleo or veg­an depend­ing on the evening, but mix­ing reli­gions and food requires cre­ativ­i­ty and ded­i­ca­tion to eat­ing real­ly well. I’m cer­tain­ly will­ing to try new, deli­cious options — see recipe for Rice Chex chick­en fin­gers below — to keep every­one in our house well fed and respon­si­ble to their beliefs. As long as I can keep deep-fry­ing any­thing that falls in line with these dietary restric­tions, it’s kosher.

Rice Chex Chick­en Fingers

Kids love chick­en fin­gers, but find­ing bread­crumbs that are both gluten‑, egg‑, and dairy-free is a huge chal­lenge. Rice Chex (and oth­er Chex prod­ucts) are sev­en main aller­gen-free (no gluten, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish or shell­fish), so you can use them to crunch up your sal­ads, or coat your fried chick­en. Keep it dairy- and nut-free by using rice milk in this recipe.

Prep time: 20 min­utes Cook time: 15 minutes
Makes: 12 servings

2 lbs. chick­en tenders
4 cups Rice Chex
1 cup rice milk
1 tea­spoon salt
1 tea­spoon pepper
1 tea­spoon paprika
3 cups veg­etable oil
Sauces for dip­ping (check aller­gen info on label)

1. If not already cut into fin­gers; slice your chick­en into 6” strips, approx­i­mate­ly 2” wide. Set aside.

2. In a food proces­sor or blender, com­bine Rice Chex, salt, pep­per and papri­ka. Pulse until tex­ture resem­bles bread­crumbs. Trans­fer to a large plate.

3. Pour rice milk into a medi­um bowl and set up assem­bly line with chick­en ten­ders, milk and Rice Chex mix­ture. Place chick­en ten­ders in bowl with rice milk as you heat your oil.

4. Heat veg­etable oil on medi­um-high in large skil­let or use a deep fat fry­er and heat on medi­um-high. Once water sprin­kles dance” on the sur­face the oil is ready. Turn heat down to medium.

5. Dredge (rice) milk soaked chick­en ten­ders in Rice Chex crumbs, coat­ing completely.

6. Trans­fer to hot oil and cook until browned, 5 – 7 min­utes per side. Allow chick­en ten­ders to drain on paper tow­el-cov­ered plate.

7. Serve chick­en ten­ders alone, or with desired sauces.

Recipe excerpt used by per­mis­sion from Bake Sales Are My B*tch: Win the Food Aller­gy Wars with 60+ Recipes to Keep Kids Safe and Par­ents Sane.

April Peveteaux is a writer, edi­tor and the unlucky recip­i­ent of a celi­ac dis­ease diag­no­sis. An enthu­si­as­tic home cook (espe­cial­ly dur­ing hol­i­days), Peveteaux con­vert­ed fam­i­ly recipes to gluten-free and found peo­ple could­n’t tell the dif­fer­ence between gluten-free latkes, and the flour-coat­ed ver­sions of Hanukkahs past. She lives in Hol­ly­wood with her hus­band and two chil­dren, and miss­es New York intensely.