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!