July 17, 2008

Blasting Off With Healthy Cakes

By Edward M. Eveld, The Kansas City Star, Mo.

Jul. 17--Andee Hindery is creating her own lemonade-out-of-lemons life.

Hindery, a 28-year-old Kansas Citian, suffered with food allergies so bad they were debilitating. Her answer: cookies and cupcakes.

Sick for years, Hindery recovered after finally getting a proper diagnosis. She taught herself to cook and bake without dairy products or gluten, a protein in wheat and other grains. Her favorite challenge: making sweets.

At first the goodies were just for her. Now Hindery has come up with a brand, Astrocakes, and hopes to be in grocery stores with her treats. They're for people with food allergies, but folks without allergies like them, too, she said.

And she has a plea: If you're struggling with undiagnosed health symptoms, by all means ask the doctor to investigate food allergies.

Hindery has another persona. With a degree in dance and acrobatic training, she can be encountered around town performing and teaching aerial acrobatics in fabric.

Q. What's an Astrocake?

A. That's just the name of my company. The gluten-free and vegan cookies and cupcakes are called Rocketcookies and Rocketcakes.

But why the "astro" theme?

I love all the space imagery. There's so much you can do with it. I have heard that my cookies look a little like satellites. They're sandwich cookies, soft sandwich cake with cream filling.

How did you find out about your food allergies?

I was sick for a total of about five years. About three of those I was too sick to work or take care of myself. I went to a million doctors, and not one of them tested me for food allergies. A friend who was in her third year of medical school suggested it.

The worst symptom was when I just couldn't move. Completely immobile. I had breathing problems, dizziness, headaches, just not being able to think straight.

To not know what's wrong with you, and if you're ever going to be all right again, it's scary. And I was a dancer. To not be able to move ...

How long did it take to recover?

It actually took six months to feel better and then about a year to be fairly normal. It's been about two years, and I'm an acrobat now.

What's it like trying to avoid the allergies?

You have to know so much about what's in everything you eat. You have to read labels. You have to ask questions at restaurants. It's a big chore, but it could be worse. It keeps me from eating processed foods and fast food.

So it's good thing you like to cook.

This must be so hard for people who hate to cook. I can make a dairy-free, tomato-free, gluten-free spaghetti dish. And I enjoy the challenge now.

Plus, out of this came the idea for the sweets.

I'm a baker, and I love it. It makes my food allergies bearable. When I first made the cookies, they were just too good not to share.

There's a pretty good market for gluten-free things, but there were no soft cookies out there. I wanted to make cookies that I would like to eat.

The cupcakes are a lot more work as far as making them gluten-free and vegan. They don't keep as well as the cookies. I let people know that they should be eaten in a day or two. There are no preservatives, no animal products, no corn syrup.

The cookies keep longer, plus I'll probably sell them frozen in grocery stores. They're so good out of the freezer. ... They're like ice cream sandwiches.

So how do you make them vegan and gluten-free?

There's no wheat flour or grain with gluten in it. Probably the most complicated thing is getting the right replacement for wheat flour. I mix my own flour blend. There are rice flours and bean flours and different starches. ... Applesauce is a good replacement for eggs.

Friends have been my taste-testers, and none of them have dietary restrictions. They hold me to very high standards.


taste and see For more about Andee Hindery's gluten-free, vegan treats, go to www.astrocakes.com or call 1-816-288-1956.

To reach Edward M. Eveld, features writer, call 816-234-4442 or send e-mail to eeveld @kcstar.com.


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