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A breakfast of champions 

The start of a New Year brings great beginnings to mind. In an allergen-conscious, food-obsessed home like mine, that means thoughts of breakfast. One of my favorite childhood meals was my dad's homemade pancakes served with a side of crispy bacon. I'd dreamed of continuing the tradition with my own kids.

When my daughter was diagnosed with allergies to wheat, dairy, eggs and nuts, I thought that dream died. An eternal optimist, I tried various allergen-free pancake mixes with monstrous results. Too gritty, grainy, thick, crispy, limp or bland—you name it, my attempts produced it. I got everything except that elusive, melt-in-your mouth stack of hotcakes I recalled from my youth.

So it was with a skeptic's palate that I decided to try a made-from-scratch recipe in The Kid-Friendly Food Allergy Cookbook (Fair Winds Press, 2004). "Buttermilk" pancakes beckoned with their vanilla-infused promise of tender hotcakes. I pulled out my mixer, grabbed a bag of rice flour and some sugar, salt, baking powder and soda. The recipe called for substituting a dairy-free blend of soy yogurt, rice milk and lemon juice for the buttermilk.

I used Bob's Red Mill rice flour that first time, and the cakes were a bit grainy, but it was a commendable attempt.

The next time around I used the finer-ground Bette's Featherlight Rice Flour Blend by Authentic Foods. Now we were getting somewhere.

I served Talia's pancakes to the entire family one morning without telling them, and none but my husband was the wiser. He finished his plate, but he did not go back for his usual seconds. I suppose he had an idea that something was amiss.

Two weeks ago when I decided to make pancakes, I realized I had no rice milk or plain rice flour. I tried King Arthur's all-purpose, gluten-free blend and vanilla soy milk instead. As is often the case, the batter seemed a little thick at first. I added a few tablespoons of soy milk to thin it out, substituting blueberry-flavored soy yogurt for the plain. Voilà! A new variation was born.

They taste best hot and can become chewy if allowed to cool. I often refrigerate or freeze the pancakes in zip-top bags and reheat them for 20–30 seconds in the microwave wrapped in a paper towel.

If you prefer waffles, we've found Van's frozen gluten-, egg- and dairy-free plain and blueberry waffles to be the best tasting by far.

As for breakfast, there is a runaway favorite at our house: my made-from-scratch blueberry pancakes with a side of bacon. You can find the Allergen-friendly Buttermilk Pancakes recipe on the Indy food blog, Big Bite.

Joyce Clark Hicks can be reached at joyce4indy@gmail.com

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