When Erin McKenna learned that she had food allergies four years ago, she eliminated wheat, dairy, sugar and caffeine from her life. Craving cookies and cakes, she turned to cookbooks. "I thought it would be easy to find good recipes, but everything was so bad," she says. "My first cake looked like it was made from gel and I was told dairy-free, sugar-free icing was impossible." Her struggle to find tasty baked goods became the inspiration for BabyCakes NYC, her year-old vegan bakery in New York City. It took months of trial and error to get the recipes right—and longer to convince the skeptics. "Some people come and make fun of us to our faces, then they try something and keep coming back."
Erin McKenna's Healthy Attitudes
On exercise "I just bought a LifeFitness elliptical machine. It's the Cadillac of exercise equipment. I work out on it for 45 minutes every morning."
On weight loss "I lost more than 10 pounds by keeping things natural and cutting out all packaged and canned foods."
On beauty "I use Crème de la Mer moisturizing cream. It's the one thing I spend a lot of money on" ($110 for 1 oz; cremedelamer.com).
On juice "I started drinking wheatgrass every day and haven't been sick since."
On herbal tea "Yerba mate from South America makes you feel really alert, like coffee does but without the drop afterward. It's an acquired taste, but great with soy milk and agave nectar."
The Vegan Pantry
The ingredients Erin McKenna uses in the recipes here are available at Whole Foods and at most health food stores.
Agave nectar A honeylike natural sweetener that replaces sugar. McKenna prefers blue agave nectar because it is lower on the glycemic index.
Spelt flour A flour alternative for people with wheat allergies.
Dairy-free chocolate chips Vegan chips are made without milk or milk solids. Bittersweet and semisweet varieties of artisanal chocolate, like Scharffen Berger, may also be dairy-free; check the labels.
Gluten-free baking flour McKenna likes the flour from Bob's Red Mill, made from fava bean and chickpea flours.
Xanthan gum A natural gum that binds like gluten and adds volume to baked goods.