Friday, December 26, 2008

We Survived!

As the Christmas Season is coming to a close, I am happy to announce that we survived without incidence! Ella seems to be getting used to the fact that there are things that she cannot eat that other people can. And our battles are slowly being minimized. Thankfully I have the most wonderful family who goes out of their way to make sure that Ella has a lot of options when she sits down at the dinner table. This is the first time that I can remember that Ella, did not once, beg for the food on her cousin's plate. It was a Christmas miracle! And I was even able to "sneak" Milo a dinner roll without a tantrum from his big sister! PHEW! Ella was much more focused on our apparel and whether or not we both were wearing scarves and hats. She is a girl, after all!

Pan-Seared Tilapia with Chile Lime Butter

This is another recipe that I got from I believe that it also originated from Gourmet magazine. It is to die for. Tilapia is quickly passing up Halibut as being my favorite fish to cook with. And it is much cheaper!

For chile lime butter

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lime zest
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon minced fresh Thai or serrano chile (preferably red), including seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt

For fish

6 (5- to 6-oz) pieces skinless tilapia fillet or farm-raised striped bass fillets with skin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Make chile lime butter:Stir together butter, shallot, zest, lime juice, chile, and salt in a bowl.
Prepare fish:If using striped bass, score skin in 3 or 4 places with a thin sharp knife to prevent fish from curling (do not cut through flesh). Pat fish dry and sprinkle with salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until just smoking, then sauté 3 pieces of fish, turning over once with a spatula, until golden and just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes, and transfer to a plate. Sauté remaining fish in remaining tablespoon oil in same manner.
Serve each piece of fish with a dollop of chile lime butter.

Chile lime butter can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before using.

Caramelized Leek Soup

This has been keeping our bellies warm this winter. I try to make it as often as I can. I originally got the recipe from Epicurious, who got it from Gourmet magazine. It is so darn good!

2 pounds leeks (white and pale green parts only; about 2 bunches)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup vermouth
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
Garnish: 4 teaspoons finely sliced fresh chives

Halve leeks lengthwise and thinly slice crosswise. In a large bowl of cold water wash leeks well and lift from water into a large sieve to drain. In a 6-quart heavy kettle cook leeks in butter over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until some begin to turn golden, about 40 minutes. Stir in sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Stir in vermouth and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is evaporated and most leeks are golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Deglaze kettle with 1/2 cup broth and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes more, until liquid is evaporated and leeks are deep golden. Add remaining 3 cups broth and bring soup just to a boil. Season soup with salt and pepper.

Serve soup, garnished with chives, or if you are feeling crazy, cheese toasts.

Christmas Cookies!

These are some of the many cookies that I made for Christmas, this year. I have a blast doing these each year. Now I make two versions: one with wheat flour and one, without. Gabe told me that I really could get by with just the wheat-free version and no one would know. Truly, they taste pretty darn close to one another. But I am a bit of a masochist, so I did two batches. The recipe that I have been using for years is from the Mrs. Fields Cookie cookbook. The secret is to not over work the dough and to add as little flour as possible. I am also careful to chill the dough for at least one hour so that it is nice and cold.
The wheat free version comes from Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts. I might get sued, but here are both recipes. I use the same frosting for both cookies...
Sugar Cookies (with wheat flour)

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl combine the flour and salt with a wire whisk.

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer set on medium. Add the egg and vanilla, beat until well mixed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour mixture. Blend on low until just combined. Do not over mix or the dough will be tough. Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4" thickness and cut with cookie cutters.
Place cut-outs onto ungreased cookie sheets. ( I generally place them on top of parchment).

Bake for 13-15 minutes, being very careful not to brown. Immediately transfer cookies with a spatula to a cool, flat surface. Decorate with frosting (see below) and other decorations.

Sugar Cookies (Wheat/Gluten Free)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups Brown Rice Flour Mix (from Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts)
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add egg and vanilla and mix until smooth.
Add flours, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt; beat until a thick, smooth dough is formed.
Roll out dough between 2 large sheets of wax paper. Chill until very cold. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters, and chill again on a cookie sheet before baking.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until a very light golden color. Transfer to a wire rack and cool. Store in an airtight container.


Mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 2 tablespoons of milk. Mix well.
Get mixture to the consistency of thick cream, add more sugar if necessary. Try not to let
the frosting be too wet or it will not set properly. Add 1 drop of food coloring and mix well.
Repeat for all other colors desired.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Polenta Casserole

I made this casserole for a play date a few years back and it has become a favorite. Especially now that I am trying to find things to cook, wheat-free. This is a good, quick and easy alternative to lasagna.

1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 bag of sliced crimini or brown mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large can of chopped tomatoes
1 large can of tomato sauce
teaspoon of salt, dash of pepper, pinches of basil & oregano
2 tubes of prepared polenta
1 package of marscapone cheese
2 packages of sliced fresh mozzarella (Trader Joe's)
Grated Parmesan cheese, approx. 1/4 cup

Cook onion in olive oil over medium heat until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic. Cook until mushrooms are done, another 5-7 minutes. Add tomatoes and sauce. Season with salt, pepper, basil and oregano. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice polenta into 1/2 inch rounds. Heat a medium sized, fry pan. Pour in approx. 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook polenta slices until edges are slightly crisp, approx. 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

Oil a rectangular baking dish. Pour approx. 1/2 cup of the sauce into the bottom. Layer the bottom of the dish with the cooked polenta rounds.

Top each round with a dollop of marscapone and a slice of mozzarella, and top with another polenta round.

Cover "sandwiches" with remaining sauce. Layer remaining mozzarella over sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Bake covered in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is brown and bubbly. Serve hot.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Madness

As I wait for my second batch of sugar cookies to bake, I thought I would take a moment to update ye old blog. Life has been crazy these last few weeks. Sick kids, disappearing nannies, endless work hours, parties and on and on. Ella had her school Hanukkah party on Friday. I made sugar cookies in the shape of dreidels and Jewish stars for everyone. And I made "swap-out" wheat-free versions for her to enjoy. Unfortunately, many other parents made cookies and they were served on a platter to each of the children. Ella wanted to sample each of them. And all I had to offer was a measly bag of cookies, obviously not as cool as the rest. I tried!

The ginger cookies that I have been making are still a hit. Right now I am preparing the boxes of goodies that I make for the neighbors each holiday season. I generally make gingerbread cookies for that group, and they have always been Ella's favorite. I am glad to have an alternative to offer her this year. Another safe bet is the peppermint bark that I make. Thankfully, there is no wheat or nuts in this particular confection. Phew!

We are still in the midst of our nanny transition. Because of our situation we cannot simply hire anyone to take care of the children. Illegals are out of the question. Can you imagine the scene if Ella needed to be taken to the emergency room? Forget it! And I only want someone who has medical training or AT LEAST knows CPR. But all of that comes at a price. The nanny that we have been using is so amazing. She formally took care of a certain celebrity's child. And as that may sound very fancy-in-deed, the fact of the matter is that all it did was gave our nanny a taste for the high life. We paid her what was for us, a lot of money. But still, not enough. So even though I only have 2 weeks until my job is complete, she decided that she needed to bail on us in order to interview on other jobs. Thankfully, we were able to find a short term solution. But the stress has been beyond anything that I would like to go into. So much of this anxiety has been because I am always so worried about Ella and what she might eat. I wish that I could just walk out the door and say, "See ya!" and not look back. But it is so hard. As much as I LOVE working, this is something that I will never be able to escape.

So very soon, I will be getting back to my normal routine with the children. But I will be seeking part-time help to help me remain a sane mama! If you know anyone who might be good, please let me know. One thing is for sure, I am not going to use an agency ever again. That has been a nightmare. I will not say which agency has brought me so much unhappiness, as I am afraid to get sued. But if you live in LA and would like to know, please contact me and I will be glad to tell you!

There's the buzzer! Will be posting more later!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hell's Kitchen

Sorry I have not been the best about blogging, lately. I have been working like a mad woman, set decorating Season 6 of Fox's Hell's Kitchen. It is a tremendous amount of fun. The crew is also really, really wonderful. Normally I am majorly stressing out, this time of year. But somehow having too much to do seems to balance me out. I am hoping to do some baking this weekend. Ella's school is having their Chanukah party next Friday and I have offered to make cookies for the event. In doing so, I will also be making some wheat-free swap outs for Ella to enjoy. It will be worth it, just so that she can feel like the rest of the kids.

We have been having some nanny drama, lately. Our beloved nanny might be leaving us to work on a higher paying, longer term job. This seems to be the pitfalls of going through an agency. It is a really long and boring story, maybe I will post a separate blog about it when the dust settles. All I can say is that, as much as I LOVE working again, I cannot accept the possibility of doing it without our Hayley. She is so wonderful and I have never once worried about Ella needing her Epi-pen when I am away. So I have turned down a show for Bravo to return to being a full time Mom. At least for now.

Since I am working so much I have been exhausting my slow-cooker. When I have time, I will post some fab gluten-free recipes. Thankfully, the kids love soup. So I have been making LOTS of it!

I am also planning on adapting some of my classic holiday treats into a wheat-free version. I will post those, as well, soon!

Off to address the holiday cards and drink some egg nog...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Insanity at the grocery store...

My blog is called "Living WELL with Food Allergies" but maybe I should call it "Putin' on the Ritz"! Because it ain't cheep to feed a family of four, especially when you are buying all organic and hopefully, allergen-free food. We hit Whole Foods today, and yes, I know that this place does not offer any bargains. Forgetting that this was the weekend right before Thanksgiving, I was shocked to discover the madness in the parking lot. Who knew that a mostly organic market could be such a draw in LA? We extracted the kids from the minivan, grabbed a couple of shopping carts and headed off into the abyss. Suddenly I was transported to Fairway Market in NYC... a true dog eat dog, moment. Shopping carts buzzed about. People were grabbing cranberries and green beans as if there were a tornado about to thrash the building and this was their last Thanksgiving on earth. Women fought over the last farm-raised turkey. Men piled bottles of chardonnay into their carts. Even the Vegans got into the act, as they debated the ultimate question, "Is it a yam or a sweet potato?" Through it all we fought. I truly felt like a quarterback, looking for a path to run as people charged at me with their metal carts. And then I found myself in the baking aisle. On a good day, this place is a challenge. Today it was like the SAT all over again, except with two wild, grabby octopi trying their best to pull EVERYTHING off of the shelves. "Can I help you find something?" asked the kind stock boy. "Ever heard of albumen? And if so, do you happen to have it powdered?" and "Where is the defatted soy flour?" oh and, "Can you tell me where you keep the Whey Protein?" All of this so I can make a lousy wheat-free pumpkin pie for my daughter!

And if all this were not enough, I was flabbergasted at the check stand when I was told how much it would cost to buy four bags of groceries... $215.58. REALLY? I looked at my receipt and everything seemed to be accurate. And can you believe that I paid $15 for two bags of pretzels? Yes, they were of the special gluten-free, nut-free, send your kids to the moon variety. But $15? Who knew living so WELL would cost so much?

The good news is that Ella and Milo will have lots of snacks to choose from as we drive up the coast on Thursday. Should I be happy that we are the type of family that cannot simply hit the drive thru and keep on going? I guess. And in the spirit of Thanksgiving I will mention that I am thankful that my kids are healthier than ever, eating pesticide and allergen free. I am also thankful that I am currently employed, as is my husband. Otherwise we might have to join the ranks of so many of our fellow Americans this holiday season... and stay home!

Thieves Oil Cleaner

A friend of mine has a child who suffers from asthma and food allergies. This is an all natural cleaner with essential oils that she has been using. She dilutes it with water and puts it in a spray bottle. She uses it wherever her kids touch... counters, tables, cribs, bathrooms, toys, etc.. She has even used it with much success on carpet. It smells good and is non-toxic. I am going to try it out, but I thought that I would pass this info along if anyone is interested...

Whole Foods has a Food Labeling Dispute

My Dad sent me this link. I guess that Whole Foods has joined the ranks of those who carry potentially unsafe and mislabeled foods. They are still one of my favorite stores in the universe. We are going there today to give them lots and lots of money! This article could make a person paranoid, but it is an important reminder about any food that we do not make ourselves and the potential affects of said food on a person with food allergies.,0,241722.story

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Gluten-Free Pomegranate Ginger Muffins

This is a muffin that we have been eating in our family for years. It is a great way to use one of Fall's best fruits, the pomegranate. The old recipe uses wheat flour. This is the updated, gluten-free version...

2 cups Brown Rice Flour Mix (from Baking Classics, see recipe below)
1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 cup whole organic milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
sanding sugar
chopped crystallized ginger, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Position rack in center of the oven. Use paper cups to line a regular size muffin pan.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add pomegranate seeds and crystallized ginger, coat well with flour mix.

Combine milk, oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Add to the flour mixture and mix until just blended. Divide batter into muffin tin. Sprinkle sanding sugar over the tops, approx. 1/2 teaspoon each. Top with additional chopped ginger, place in center of each muffin.

Bake for 18-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan immediately and let cool. Makes 12 muffins.

* The best way to get the seeds out of the pomegranate is to cut the whole fruit into quarters and then allow it to soak in a bowl of water for at least 30 minutes. Once it has soaked, the seeds should pop out with very little effort.

Here is the basic recipe for the Brown Rice Flour Mix. I keep a large jar of this in my pantry at all times. It is the best and most versatile mix that I have encountered. It makes, delicious and deceptive quick breads every time. You will never be able to tell that you are eating wheat-free!

Brown Rice Flour (extra finely ground) 6 cups
Potato Starch (not flour) 2 cups
Tapioca Flour 1 cup

-Mix all together well. Store in a cool area. Total yield, 9 cups.

Due to Bad Air Quality, We Decided to Skip the FAAN Walk

Today turned out to be very different than I thought it would be. As fires raged all around us and the air got increasingly thick with smoke and ash, we decided that we should not participate in the FAAN walk. It was heart breaking for us, as we have put in so much time and effort. But we were amongst the top five fundraisers in all of Southern California, thanks to many of our friends and family who gave so generously. We are beyond appreciative especially considering these tough economic times. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

I had prepared some muffins to hand out to our fellow team members along with these handy dandy purple t-shirts. Now I have a platter of wheat-free pomegranate ginger muffins and a ton of personalized shirts with "Team Ella" on them. I guess there are worse things that could happen. The muffins, by the way, are my own recipe which I will post later.

To distract Ella from the disappointment of not being able to spend the day at the beach, I decided to take her to see Madagascar 2. Who knew that a kid would like eating popcorn, Junior Mints, and gummy bears while washing it all down with fruit punch? It is the American way, after all and this three year old was more than happy to oblige! We had lunch after the movie at Souplantation. It was shocking to me how crowded this place was. In fact, these types of places seem so busy now that the economy is in the gutter. At least Ella now has lots of company as she gobbles down her salad and bowl of soup!

I am trying to keep things light here, but I feel the need to take a moment to mention how grateful we are to all of those who are out there fighting these horrible fires. And my heart is heavy knowing that so many people are suffering tonight from the loss of their homes. If any of you out there need assistance, please e-mail me and I will do what I can to help you out! My prayers are with all of you...

Unhealthful Air Quality Forecast Due to Sylmar Wildfire

November 15, 2008

Sylmar, Corona, Brea and Yorba Linda Areas Affected
Air quality officials have issued a smoke advisory today for the San Fernando Valley as well as areas near Corona, Brea and Yorba Linda due to smoke from multiple wildfires.
All individuals are urged to exercise caution and avoid unnecessary outdoor activities in any area directly impacted by smoke. This includes areas where residents can see or smell smoke.
Air quality may reach Unhealthy levels in areas directly impacted by smoke, including the San Fernando Valley, portions of the San Gabriel Mountains near the fire, and the northwest Los Angeles County coastal area.

Due to additional wildfires in Riverside and Orange counties, air quality will reach Unhealthy levels in the smoke-impacted areas of Corona and Norco, portions of Orange County and southern coastal areas of Los Angeles County. Surrounding areas of Los Angeles and Orange counties may reach the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups level or higher, depending on fire conditions and wind flows.

Keep your windows and doors closed unless it is extremely hot inside. In these cases, seek alternate shelter. Run your air conditioner if you have one. Keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside.

For more tips on avoiding health impacts from the smoke, see on AQMD’s website.

AQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Britney's Son Hospitalized Due to Food Allergies? Tuesday, Nov 11, 2008 2:50AM UTC LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -

Pop star Britney Spears' 2-year-old son, who was hospitalized over the weekend after he had a reaction to something he ate, has been released from a Mississippi medical facility, according to a report on Monday on celebrity website in the day, Spears' family posted a statement on her official website,, saying Jayden James was admitted to the hospital on Sunday, and "doctors concluded he had a reaction to something he ingested."The statement said the boy would be discharged on Tuesday, but TMZ posted a picture of Spears departing the hospital while holding the child on Monday evening.People magazine, quoting a source close to the family, said that Jayden had suffered "a terrible allergic reaction. He had hives, was itchy and irritable."The source told the celebrity magazine that Jayden "is doing fine" and Spears, 26, and her mother, Lynne, spent Sunday night at the hospital with him.The trip by Spears to Louisiana, her childhood home, was the first time she had been allowed to leave California with sons Sean Preston, 3, and Jayden since their father Kevin Federline was given full custody in July.

Pumpkin Muffins

Just made the second batch of these babies, for the week. The kids are going nuts over them. And let's be honest, so am I! They are wheat-free but you would never know it. Maybe if I run into you in the next month or so, you will get to try one. Or better yet, come to the FAAN fundraiser this weekend, and I will have muffins-a-plenty to hand out! "All things pumpkin" is my favorite motto for the Fall. I will never get enough!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Celebrating the Harvest

Yesterday we made a trip out to Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark, CA. The kids had a blast. We were driven out to the fields by a tractor. Once there we picked our own produce including fresh beets, lettuce, leeks, corn, carrots, broccoli, and celery.

It was a great learning experience for Ella, as she got to see where her food comes from. At least the kind that comes from the ground :) She was so into it that she wanted to take one of every kind of vegetable. Sadly, we did not have enough bags or room in our refrigerator for all that the farm had to offer.

Besides picking produce we got to see animals, including an "animal show" with trained rats, pigs, dogs and bunnies. There were two train rides, a playground and a bouncy house for the kids. We lunched next to a very enthusiastic donkey who seemed very much to want what we were eating. Who knew that rice cakes with smoked turkey would seem so appealing to a farm animal? Milo walked everywhere and came home covered in dirt.
Upon returning home with our bounty, Ella directed me in the kitchen. We were to have a farm salad, using all of the veggies that we had brought home. Don't tell her, but I am saving the leeks for a soup that I will make later this week. I also supplemented our feast with wheat-free pumpkin muffins (Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise G. Roberts). Being a true follower of Martha Stewart, I would love to tell you that I had hand-picked a pumpkin and pureed it myself. But I would be lying. As it turns out, Libby makes a really spectacular puree, which did the trick. We also had corn on the cob and my cornflake pork tenderloin (see recipe in a September post).
Dinner was a hit, especially the pumpkin muffins. Even those of us who can eat wheat, happily gobbled them down. We are going to be finishing off the batch tomorrow, for breakfast. All in all, it was a magical afternoon and our limitations did not mean that we had to sacrifice anything!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Walk with us on November 16!

I have posted this before, but it is worth mentioning again. If you are free on November 16, we would LOVE to have you join us...

We will be walking to raise money and awareness about what it is like to live with the threat of food induced allergies. Please join us for what is sure to be a beautiful afternoon!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Milo's Birthday Celebration Part 2

As it happens, my kids like cupcakes. And thankfully I am beginning to figure out how to make them so that all in my house can enjoy. This weekend we had a party for Milo (1) and my niece, Maddie (2). The theme was a tea for two and two for tee. It was your basic, tea party/golf party.
I had a ton of fun creating two separate cupcakes for the party. Three, actually, if you count the wheat-free version that I snuck in to give my kids. I am pretty darn proud of the golf cupcake, in particular. I made the golf balls out of white chocolate. An idea that would never have occurred to me if it were not for my amazing friend, Andrea, who is a master with these sorts of things.

Ella and Milo seemed to enjoy their bounty.
Who knew that a one year old could get so blissed out by white chocolate?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Article

A new study tracks the rise in food allergies...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Why can't I eat what the other kids can eat?

The theme continues... there seems to be so many questions coming from Ella, these days. The hardest one to explain is "Why can't I eat what the other kids can eat?" Next Wednesday Ella's school will begin offering lunch to the children on Wednesdays. Last year this meal included basic, kid fare like Mac & Cheese, Chicken Nuggets, Pasta and Quesadillas. This year they are trying out a new service that offers healthy, organic lunches. After reading the menus for the next few weeks, I thought that it might be worth letting Ella try it. My thought is that she can eat most of the stuff the other kids eat (like fruits and veggies, cheeses and juices) and then I would send along a substitute for the things that she cannot eat. Next week they are having "Stackers" which means multi-grain crackers with cheese and turkey. There are some amazing Glutino (gluten-free) crackers that we have been devouring, and they would be an easy swap. Everything else being offered is Ella -safe. FINALLY, a chance for a little normalcy in her life. That was, until I got a call from her school today telling me that the man who owns the company that prepares the food, does not feel comfortable serving any child that has been prescribed an epi-pen. Ugh! So I was told to call the owner on his cell phone so that we could discuss Ella's situation and possibly come to a compromise about her lunch. These are the kinds of hoops we must go through on a daily basis. If you are reading this and your child is free of food allergies, please know how incredibly blessed you are just for the simple fact that you will never have to spend time engaging in one of these types of conversations. I have started to feel like every meal is a battle. It has become a delicate balancing act for everyone involved. I understand this man's position, truly. How horrible would it be for him to serve a lunch to a child and have them go into anaphylaxis? I know how annoying we must be to everyone, including the staff at her school. Our problem has become their problem. Thankfully, everyone loves Ella and seems to be committed to making her life as happy as possible. For me it is easy, in a way. She is my child, after all. And let me also point out that she is not the only one in the school who has these issues. I got to see the list of children in her school who have allergies. On average, there are 3 children, per class, with food allergies at her school. Each class has between 9 and 12 kids. That is either 1/3 or 1/4 of the children. Talk about an epidemic. I happen to know the parents of 3 of those children. None of their families have histories of food allergies. What is going on? This is madness. As a consequence and it happens to benefit us, the teachers and administrators are now well versed in caring for such children.

Anyway, back to my conversation with the owner of the food company. After 15 minutes of chatting (at times, I felt like I was negotiating a peace treaty) we finally came to a solution. Ella can eat her boxed lunch, as long as I provide an alternative wheat-free option. But if she has any adverse reaction, he is unwilling to take responsibility. My biggest fear is that she will consume a pistachio, but he has promised me that they will NEVER use any pistachios or pistachio products. But he also mentioned that most of the foods that they use have been processed on equipment shared by common allergens. For me, that is acceptable.

It is a bit of a roll of the dice. But it is no different than anything that we buy from Trader Joe's, whose foods carry similar warnings. And we also are taking our chances every time we eat out. It is scary. But I want her to feel like a normal kid. That, to me, is worth the gamble.

For now, she can eat with her friends. Fingers are crossed as I knock on wood :)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Play dates

One of the biggest challenges for us is when we intermingle with other children Ella's age. As I have mentioned in previous posts, even school can be a real challenge. It is not fun for us to stick out like an annoying, sore thumb. When we go to the park, restaurants, and play dates there are always bound to be discussions about what Ella can and cannot eat. And there are always the debates with Ella over why she cannot eat something and WHY other kids can have the things that she may not. It is heart breaking; exhausting. Yesterday we went to a play date and I made wheat-free cookies to try and head her off at the pass. They were special Halloween sugar cookies (just like the ones I made before her diagnosis), dripping with frosting and sprinkles. And best of all, they were adorned with candy corn. As much as she loved them they were not enough. She gobbled them down and then she focused on all of the things she could not eat. My friend Lindsay, one of the best play date hostesses around, also was so sweet to have many, many options for Ella to eat. (Truly, I have the most supportive and wonderful friends. I would be lost without them.) Anyway, the 2 hours that we were there were spent in argument over what snacks were safe or not. I kept offering all of the other choices but nothing could be as good as the tabu foods. Poor Ella. It must be so hard for her to grasp her situation.

But, there are learning experiences to be had. And I am hoping that all of this madness will subside and she will just go back to being a normal kid who is more interested in climbing on the swing set and running across the lawn. Oh, how I love that kid. Together we will find the answers...

Monday, October 13, 2008


Milo turned 1 this weekend. And since we are still not sure if he is allergic to any foods, I am keeping him on the same diet as Ella. Including the wheat-free diet. So I whipped up a little cake for him to enjoy. It was my first attempt at a layered Gluten-Free cake, complete with buttercream. This one was yellow cake, with vanilla buttercream frosting, chocolate whipped cream and bananas. Both kids seemed to enjoy it, thankfully. Actually, it rivaled other wheat versions that I have made over the years. Definitely will make it again. Next time, I will allow for more frosting as this cake required a nice, crumb coat. Something about the rice and tapioca flours, I guess. I am planning on making other versions in the coming weeks. Photos to follow...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Road Trip!

So we decided to take the kids down to San Diego last weekend. This was the first time that we left home for a significant period of time, without having control of our dietary situation. Experiences like these will help us understand how to assimilate into the general, non-allergic population. But in general, we were able to make it work. With a little effort!

I packed the car up on Friday. We had everything that Ella could possibly need. Lots and lots of snacks, including wheat-free blueberry muffins, rice cakes, fruit, gluten-free crackers and cookies, home-made breads, chesses, and sliced veggies. The hotel that we stayed at "provided" breakfast." We assumed that they would at least offer bacon, potatoes and yogurt, amongst their "many" offerings. But we discovered, first thing Saturday morning, that all they had was bread, bread and more bread. Translation: WHEAT! After sitting the kids down at a table in the breakfast room we decided to pull the plug and head back to our room so that we could eat the selection that I had brought with us. THANKFULLY, I had all of those options.

First, we headed to Sea World. After our grueling morning of denial, I decided that my focus would be lining out a lunch option. Right away, I noticed that there was a "Dining with Shamu" buffet. We booked a reservation, thinking that good 'ol Shamu might, at the very least, help our kids eat a decent meal. After glancing over the menu, I decided that this was a good way to go. Even if we had to sacrifice their future educational prospects to be able to finance the adventure. Anyway, it actually turned out to be a fantastic meal. There were many choices, and not just for the allergy-challenged family. Ella feasted on salad, fruit, potatoes, beef and chicken. And there were many dessert options including strawberries with whipped cream. Phew! And did I mention, SHAMU?

Dinner was just as easy. We found a place within the park that had smoked chicken and veggies. As well as salad and watermelon. Thankfully, both kids seemed to enjoy their meal. And Ella was able to end her day with a nice, hefty bag of cotton candy.

We decided to serve breakfast in our room on Sunday. Milo expanded his meal by eating most of Gabe's oatmeal. And then we headed out to the Wild Animal Park. It was your basic family, zoo excursion. All was going well until lunch time and we had to decide where to eat. For most families, this might be a conversation. But for us, it seemed like we were trying to debate who would be the best leader of the free world. After, many discusions and an evaluation of the elaborate park map, we selected a place that had "healthy" kids meals. It seems that the Gods were on our side as we were able to feed both kids without much effort. Hot dogs, Santa Fe Salad (black beans, corn, chicken, lettuce and cheese), fruit and rice saved the day. The kids were so busy having fun that they forgot to beg for the usual chicken tenders and bread. Oh, who am I kidding? There was LOTS of that. But we distracted them with all of the animals and carousel rides. We grabbed a couple of ice cream cones before hopping on the freeway, which sweetened the deal and made things just a little smoother.
Overall, we had a successful trip. With a little planning, we were able to make the journey feel pretty normal. And I have decided that there is some silver lining in all of this madness... my kids probably eat better than most American kids. Aside from the cotton candy! :)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Great article about food allergies...

This is worth reading if you get a chance. Lots of good info about recent studies that have been done on food allergies...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Banana Ebelskivers

This is as close to nirvana as it gets at our house. It requires an Ebelskiver pan but will also work as a yummy pancake recipe. The texture is light and fluffy. The Ebelskivers are a lot like little donuts. If I made these every day, there would be no complaints from the kids. Addictive...

1 tablespoon butter
1 ripe banana
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup Gluten-Free flour mixture (from Connie Sarros cookbook, preferably)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
powdered sugar

Melt the butter. In a medium sized bowl, mash the banana with a fork. Whisk the eggs, vanilla, milk and melted butter into the banana until well mixed.

Sift the flour mixture, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt over the bowl with the egg mixture. Whisk the batter until smooth. Let mixture sit for 10 minutes. Fold in chocolate chips.

Preheat an Ebelskiver pan over medium heat, for approx. 1 minute. Add about 1/4 teaspoon of shortening to each pod of the pan. When melted, add approx. 1 tablespoon of batter to each pod. I use a small ice cream scoop (#50) and it comes out really clean. When the batter starts to bubble, flip with a fork. Continue to flip to avoid browning. Let cook about 3 minutes total. Remove to a plate and drain on paper towels. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

They will go quick! You should continue doubling the batch if you are cooking for more than 4 adults.

If you are using this recipe to make pancakes, use the batter to prepare over a skillet, as you normally would.

This recipe was adapted from Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free Cookbook for Kids and Busy Adults by Connie Sarros.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Snacks to pack!

We are always looking for easy snacks to take with us on our adventures away from the house. Here are some of the things that we love...

Rice Cakes (lots of options)

Pirate's Booty (veggie booty for those with dairy allergies)

Rice Crackers (non-sesame versions)

Boxes of Organic Raisins

String Cheese or Baby Bell

Fruit Crisps (Brothers-All-Natural, sold at Costco)

Potato Chips or Potato Crisps (Brothers-All-Natural, sold at Costco)

Tortilla Chips

Cold Cuts

Snap Peas, Carrots, Celery Sticks, Sliced Cucumber

All kinds of sliced fruits, blueberries are especially easy

Snacks by Ians and Glutino (large variety found at Whole Foods)

Annie's Organic Fruit Snacks

Snapea Crisps (Ella's favorite)

Veggie Chips (the kind without wheat flour)

Rice Crispie Treats (for special occasions)

Puffed Rice Cereal (for Milo, especially)

Rice Chex

Gluten-Free Pretzels

Gluten-Free Animal Crackers (this saves us at the zoo!)

Juice Boxes (organic) and Milk Boxes (2% milk or whole, only organic)

Gluten-Free Muffins that I make ahead and keep in the freezer

Monday, September 22, 2008

Facts & Fiction

Here are some of the most common myths regarding food allergies. There are many articles about this topic to be found on the Internet, but this one covers the basics...

Friday, September 19, 2008


Our latest addiction... Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free Popovers

I got the recipe from Gluten-Free Quick & Easy by Carol Fenster. I would post the recipe but I think that if you are interested in this you should go buy her book. It is fabulous. But if you are my friend, e-mail me and I will be happy to pass it along!

Ella loves to help me get everything ready! Milo was helping by supporting the ladder that Ella was standing on.

I think that the delicious, tender popovers were well received by all. Ella likes hers, especially with apricot preserves.

Croque Monsieur

I happened into this one night when I was looking for a late snack. It may not be for Ella to eat (because of the egg) but Gabe and I sure enjoyed it!

2 Slices Wheat/Gluten-Free Bread (my favorite right now is Whole Foods' 365 Gluten Free Sandwich Mix)
2 thick slices of good quality ham
2 slices of Swiss or Gruyere cheese (large enough to cover bread slice)
2-4 large eggs (depending how many you want on your sandwich)
unsalted butter

Preheat Oven Broiler to high setting.

Preheat an oven proof skillet, over medium heat. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and fry eggs to desired doneness, making sure to keep them separate from one another. Season with salt and pepper and remove from pan. Butter one side of each of the bread slices. Place buttered side in pan. Top with cooked egg(s), 1 slice of ham per slice of bread, and top with cheese. Allow cheese to get slightly melted. Check to make sure bread is crispy and golden brown. Remove from range and put into pre-heated oven. Broil for approx. 3 minutes or until cheese starts to get brown and bubbly. Serve with favorite brown mustard. Enter Nirvana!

Serves 2

Cornflake Pork Tenderloin

Here is a current favorite around our house. Ella especially loves to help me make it, as she enjoys pounding the meat.

1 Pork Tenderloin, cut into 1/2" slices
3/4 cup wheat-free flour (like Bob's Red Mill)
1 cup egg substitute or 2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups finely ground cornflakes (I use a food processor)
1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, finely shredded
coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
lemon wedges and fresh parsley (for garnish)

Place a slice of tenderloin in a thick plastic bag. Pound with the flat side of a meat tenderizer until evenly thin, approx. 1/8". Repeat for all slices and plate.

Place the flour on a plate. Season with salt and pepper. Place eggs or egg substitute in a low bowl. Blend with a fork. Combine cornflakes and Parmesan cheese in a third dish. Add a pinch or two of coarse salt.

Take each of the pork slices, dredge in flour, dip in egg mix, and cover with cornflake/cheese mixture. Cook in a frying pan, preheated with oil over med-high heat. Cook each side for approx. 3-5 minutes. Allow crust to reach a golden brown before flipping. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon wedges.

Ella likes hers with ketchup!

Join us on November 16!

We will be walking to raise money and awareness about what it is like to live with the threat of food induced allergies. Please join us for what is sure to be a beautiful afternoon!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things...

Well, Ella and I could not have picked a better time to have food allergies. Luckily, there are many options out there for us. Ella is allergic to wheat, eggs (except in baked goods), soy, all tree nuts, peanuts and sesame. She is extremely allergic to pistachios, especially. When I became a Mom, I also became a baker. Now I am busy trying to find recipes that can easily be substituted for Ella's favorite baked goods. In going through this process, I have discovered a few cookbooks that are fantastic. And many that are not. Here are my suggestions...

Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise G. Roberts

Gluten-Free Quick and Easy by Carol Fenster, Ph. D.

Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free Cookbook for Kids and Busy Adults by Connie Sarros

I am also in love with the following products and would not be able to survive without them...

Any and all brown rice pastas

Tapioca, Potato, Brown Rice, White Rice, Sweet Rice and Sorghum Flours (I did not even know that these foods existed two months ago)

Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Pancake Mix (also dairy-free and nut-free)

Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Brownie Mix (also dairy-free and nut-free)

Corn Tortillas

Corn Flakes (who knew that they would save my life?)

Authentic Food's Blueberry Muffin Mix

Brown Rice Cakes

Glutino's Gluten-Free Frozen Pizzas

Mi-Del Arrowroot Animal Cookies (Thank you, thank you, thank you!)

Pirate's Booty

Let's Do Gluten-Free Ice Cream Cones

It may seem like I have a lot of sweet choices on my list. But hey, I have a 3 year old. Sweets are a part of our lives! I will add to this list later, but I just wanted to take a moment to sing some praise!

Spitting Mad

Recently, I was reading an article on about a little girl who has food allergies. It was talking about her limitations and how one restaurant has started hosting an allergen-free night so that people like her can enjoy a great meal away from home. The little girl is very close to my daughter's age, so I was immediately drawn in.

Following the article were a bunch of comments and one of them, in particular, has got me spitting mad. It was from a woman named "Amanda" who has a daughter that only likes to eat peanut butter sandwiches. And her school is nut free, so she was complaining about what an inconvenience it is for her to have to follow the rule. She believes that if her daughter cannot eat PB&J's, it violates her civil liberties. So she has decided to send her daughter to school with one of these sandwiches, every day, even though there are children in her class that have peanut allergies. She thinks that parents should "Just deal with it!" After reading this venomous insanity I found myself getting so mad that I could barely breathe. What a horrible, selfish person. How is it possible that someone could be so vicious and uncaring? And I cannot imagine what values she must be teaching her daughter. Not to mention the fact that she is greatly endangering the lives of other children by being so callus! I am not a violent person but I can promise you that if I ever meet this woman, I might just hurt her. My day was consumed by rage. And after much introspection, I decided that I needed to do something to stop people like her. Now I am inspired to do what I can to raise awareness of this dreadful disease. And I want to commit myself in every way that I can to find out why there are more food allergies now, than ever before.

Let me make it clear that I fully understand how annoying it must be inconvenienced and to not be able to send your child to school with their favorite food. Why does your child's right to eat a PB&J trump my daughter's right to be able to go to school? It is not as if somebody has decided that they do not like the color blue, therefore no one can wear blue to school anymore. We are talking about something that could endanger the lives of other people. Because of this, I think that parents who do not follow a school's no-nut policy should not be allowed to send their child to that school. If for no other reason, it is a liability issue. Maybe they should send their child to a private school that allows them to be able to eat their beloved sandwich. And really, is it so hard to find an alternate to PB&J's? Why do parents think that their kids will only eat pizza, hot dogs, chicken nuggets and PB&J's? Yes, kids are picky eaters but you have to at least TRY to find something else for them to eat. Maybe something that is nutritious? Ella does not have a severe peanut allergy, although she is allergic to them. It would not be a catastrophe for us if she had exposure to peanuts. BUT I understand how dangerous these allergies can be and for that reason alone, I am willing to think outside the box.

Thank you, Amanda! Hopefully there are many more of you out there. My new mission in life is to teach you some compassion! And maybe then, we will have a better world for our children.