Angie Nelson and Gilbert Junge work to develop allergen-free meals.
Maple Grove resident Angie Nelson’S life was flipped upside down when, just six months into having her first child, she and her husband, Paul, discovered that Liam was diagnosed with four of the top nine
“It was a really scary time for us,” Nelson recalls. As first-time parents, the Nelsons tried to avoid allergies by feeding Liam peanut butter and other allergens at an early age—a recommendation from their pediatrician. “So I had given him peanut butter and mashed banana as a snack when he was 6 months old, and he had no reaction. Two weeks later, he broke out head-to-toe in hives, crying uncontrollably,” Nelson says. This reaction led to Liam’s allergy diagnosis; the family was to steer clear of peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and milk.
Since Nelson had been breastfeeding at the time, she had to eliminate all allergens out of her own diet. Trips to grocery stores meant reading every food label top to bottom; the Nelsons had to cook each meal from scratch and were left with limited options. Add in the fears of cross-contamination, eating out at a restaurant or going on playdates.
“It was a tough time, and I do feel that we were blessed that we like to cook,” Nelson says. “We found recipes that are important to our family, such as my husband’s family pancake recipe that he grew up on, and we found out how to make it without eggs and milk. We played around in the kitchen to make [Liam’s] life as normal as possible.”
Wanting to find better options for her family and others going through the same situation, Nelson, alongside chef Gilbert Junge, developed Liam’s by Safer Plate, a frozen meal company featuring four distinct meals, which are free of the top nine allergens, including milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, soy, wheat, sesame, shellfish and fish.
“It’s kind of a long story, but my bestfriend and colleague is Greg Coley … He was the executive chef at a country club that Tom Nelson, Angie’s father-in-law, was a member at,” Junge says. “They were discussing Safer Plate in its infancy, and Greg said to Tom that he knew the perfect guy to talk to, so I was introduced through Tom.”
That was in 2019. At the time, Junge was the corporate chef for the Mayo Clinic. Now, Junge is the vice president of operations for Liam’s by Safer Plate and works on developing allergen-free meals.
Prior to developing the line of frozen meals, Liam’s by Safer Plate operated as a meal kit delivery company, for which Junge developed more than 60 recipes. He’s taken some of those recipes and developed the Liam’s by Safer Plate meal options, including: Cheezy Rotini, cooked rotini in a dairy-free cheezy sauce with a side of broccoli; Tangy Pulled Pork, prepared pulled pork with barbecue sauce and sweet corn; Chicken Alfredo Rotini, cooked with chicken, rotini and Alfredo sauce with a side of broccoli; and Beef & Pea Pods, cooked beef in a Mongolian-style sauce with pea pods and rice.
“A big part of our company is bringing convenience to families like ours, but its also about normalizing food allergies, creating a new normal and making kids like ours and adults feel more confident about their allergies and to not feel so isolated and alone,” Nelson says.
Junge amplifies that mission. “A lot of people think it’s not going to taste good, and they ask, ‘Why would you buy something that’s free of something that you’re used to getting?’ It’s something that we’re trying to change,” he says. “These items taste good. It’s not just for those that have allergies. It’s a healthier way of eating … The misconception of allergen-free food is that it isn’t tasty. It’s something that we want to let people know isn’t true.”
Contributed by Angie Nelson
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ¼ cup applesauce
- 2 ½ cups Ripple milk
- 5 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
Whisk dry ingredients together. Add applesauce, and stir. In a separate bowl, combine lemon juice and Ripple. Stir until it thickens to the consistency of buttermilk. Add “buttermilk” mixture to the other ingredients; add vanilla and a heavy pinch of salt. Mix until combined. Some lumps are okay. Heat a greased pan (Use cooking spray, olive oil, butter or whichever is safe/preferred for your family.) over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add about ¼ cup of batter to the pan. Wait for bubbles on the top of the pancake to start popping. Use a spatula to flip the pancake. Serve with your favorite maple syrup, or top with Enjoy Life chocolate chips!
*Note: This recipe is not free of the top allergens. Adjust ingredients as needed.
Liam’s by Safer Plate can be found at all Lunds & Byerlys and Festival Foods locations, select Hy-Vee and Kowalski’s Markets across the Twin Cities, local co-ops and more.