Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Book Recommendation

Recently, I tried a new Gluten-Free Cookbook that has been knocking our socks off. If you are looking for some new recipes to perk up your life you may want to check it out...

Gluten-Free Baking with the Culinary Institute of America by Richard J. Coppedge, JR., C.M.B.

The egg bread is especially yummy. I made it for Ella to have on Shabbat, last week, and she could not get enough of it. The recipe makes enough for 2 loaves so I made one the normal way and then I mixed chocolate chips into the other. YUM!

Chicken Breasts with Leeks & Mushrooms

I made this for dinner tonight. I got the recipe from Epicurious. Instead of the wheat flour, I substituted Bob's Red Mill Baking Flour (Gluten Free). It was delicious. Best served over rice. I would also recommend using a good tasting dry, red wine. The wine is a powerful flavor in the dish. Milo loved this, Ella was oddly turned off by its purple color. That kid is completely unpredictable. But it was nice to finally have a truly adult dinner! The recipe only serves 2, so I doubled it.

Chicken Breasts with Leeks & Mushrooms

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Purple Cauliflower?

We were at the farmer's market and as I looked around at all the usual fare, I discovered something very special... purple cauliflower! And since I have a purple obsessed princess in the house I decided to buy some. Who knew that it would be the hit of the season over at Casa de Miller? Ella ate it 3 nights in a row. And when it was gone, she asked for more. If you have not had the pleasure, it has a more mild flavor than the regular white variety. Hopefully it has as many vitamins and minerals or whatever as normal cauliflower. We also feasted on purple (blue) potatoes. I will be making some beet stew later in the week. If I can work up the courage. I used to love beets and when I was pregnant with Ella, I ate them by the pot full. They have lost their appeal for me since, but Ella requested them. If a 3 year old is asking for beets, I would be crazy not to give them to her. Watch-out, Borscht, here I come!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ella's Story

From time to time, people ask me to tell them the story of how we first learned of Ella's allergies. So I feel like it is worth retelling if you have never heard it before.

Ella was a breastfed baby. But even as an infant she had horrible eczema. To be honest, I never thought much about it because her doctor did not seemed too concerned. One time I let her have a meringue cookie and her mouth broke out into a red rash. At that point the doctor suggested that I wait to give her eggs until after she turned two.

She was a good eater, a great eater. She would eat EVERYTHING. All of the normal things kids eat like bread, pasta, crackers, edamame, bagels, and on and on. Her eczema would flare up from time to time but I just thought that she had dry skin. When she turned 2 we began to introduce nuts into her diet. She had peanut butter, granola, pesto with pine nuts, and almonds. There was no reaction that we could see so I thought, "Phew! She seems to be allergy-free!" And then one day we were at the Grove and I was snacking on some pistachios. Ella asked if she could try one so I gave her a small piece, not wanting her to choke. As soon as she put it into her mouth she spat it out. She began screaming as if I had fed her a jalapeno. Within seconds, her mouth was covered in hives. And then almost instantly she began to develop hives all over her neck and face. By the time I got to the drug store to buy some Benedryl, her eyes were nearly swollen shut. I was nearly having a heart attack as I frantically called her doctor and Gabe. As the rash got worse and worse, I decided that she had to go to the ER. Thank God we were right next to Cedars. Within a minute or so of our arrival, they had her hooked up to an IV and were giving her steroids and more antihistamine. She was in the hospital for about 6 hours. Thankfully, I got her there in time. If another 5 or 10 minutes had passed I am quite certain that she would have died.

About two weeks later we met with an allergist who tested Ella to confirm her pistachio allergy. They consider you to be highly allergic to something if your blood tests a 2% reaction. Ella is 86% allergic. I am not a scientist or a doctor, but those numbers are not good. Her doctor has told us that she will never be able to eat them, touch them, or get anywhere near them. Her allergy is one of most extreme Dr. Baum's office has seen, regarding pistachios.

While we were testing, I had them check to see if she was allergic to anything else. I was beyond shocked when we got the results back. As it turns out she is HIGHLY allergic to wheat, egg whites, soy, peanuts, almonds, sesame, hazelnuts, and a bunch of other nuts and seeds that I am forgetting. She is MODERATELY allergic to egg yolks and pecans. So basically, no nuts. Ever or in any form. The good news is that she can have eggs if they are baked above 350 degrees. The protein that she is allergic to is somehow altered in the baking process. Again, not a scientist but I am a chef so I was happy to find out that my baking days would not be ending. But finally I understood why her eczema was so bad.

We refused to believe that wheat was a problem, in spite of the doctor's strong suggestion to remove it from her diet. She advised us to proceed with caution but to pull all wheat from her diet if we ever noticed a reaction. So for a little over a year, Ella ate wheat. We gave it to her in moderation, along with soy. We were away on vacation and were pretty much letting her eat "whatever" because it was "easier" for us. By the time we got home, her arms and shoulders were covered in a poison ivy-like rash. She was going nuts scratching at it. Welts formed, as she cried. We covered her in Cortaid and dosed her with Benedryl. Finally, it occurred to me that maybe it was her diet. Pizza, pasta, bagels, crackers, bread, more pasta. It all became clear that we had to pull the wheat. So we did and within 2 days, her rash had cleared. That was in June and she has not had any wheat since. She is like a new person. It has not been easy. I have been teaching myself all new ways to cook wheat-free. And I started this blog, partly to share info with friends and family, partly to help others in our situation, and mostly to have a cathartic release. This is a stressful way to live. It sucks. But the silver lining is that maybe now I can help others who might be looking for support. A whole new world has opened up. We have made friends that we would not have made, people from all over the country.

Life goes on and we are certainly trying to make the best of it. I am constantly asking myself, "Why did this happen? What could I have done to prevent this?" There are no answers. From what I have been told no one in our families has allergies like this. The only link to me is my adult onset allergy to shellfish, but her doctor does not think there is any relation. There is a slight chance that Ella may become less allergic, as she gets older. So we now test her once a year. Her soy allergy is diminishing and she is now no longer allergic to walnuts! So I am comfortable with the direction we are moving in.

But for now, the fight continues. And so does this blog...

Response by Dr. Wood to Joel's OP/ED

I couldn't have said it better myself...


Joel Stein's OP/ED for the LA Times

So I was at a birthday party today and a friend asked me if I had read Joel's OP/ED for the LA Times, poking fun at the "hysteria" surrounding food allergies. Joel is a friend of ours and a few people, banking on the fact that I seldom have time to read newspapers, thought that maybe they should hide it from me. Knowing that Joel gets his jollies from playing Devil's Advocate, I decided to read the article with a grain of salt. If it had been anyone else, I would probably be organizing a lynch mob through the Hollywood Hills rather than typing this. But I am going to not lose my mind over this, after all. The reaction to the article has been intense, deservedly so.

It is important for me to mention that if I had not been through my particular experiences, first when I found out that I am allergic to shellfish and second, when I found out that Ella is allergic to everything else, I maybe could see his train of thought. If you have never been around a person with severe food allergies, it would be hard to have sympathy for the situation. I get it. We must all seem like needy freaks to the outside world. But believe me when I say this, I would do just about ANYTHING if it meant that I could take Ella's allergies away from her. ANYTHING. This is not the life that I would have chosen, but I really do believe that these things happen for a reason. Even if that sounds like a cliche', I truly mean it. I wish more than anything that Ella could live life like a normal kid, afraid of nothing. And I do my best to try and normalize things for her. I wish that we could throw caution to the wind. But because she is the love of my life, I need to do everything in my power to protect her. She is 3. She is not capable of doing that for herself. As I have mentioned before, we are so very thankful to all of our friends and family for having so much patience with us.

Pistachios are Ella's Achilles heel. If she touches one, her throat WILL close within 15 minutes and her breathing WILL stop. There is no disputing this fact. It is our personal HELL, I assure you. Thankfully, her allergy to peanuts is not as severe, because her chances of running into that nut are much more likely. And peanut allergies tend to be the deadliest, especially with the little ones. There are several kids at Ella's school with this particular allergy. I feel so horrible for them. From the school's standpoint it just makes sense to have a no nut policy. It is a liability issue. Yes, this is an inconvenience for other parents. But it is a bad that is vastly outweighed by the good. Kids across America are now getting to eat something other than a PB&J for lunch! There are worse things that could happen!

Now that I have ranted, I will let you read the editorial. Joel and his wife are about to have their first child and I am sure that Joel's view of the world will change very soon. Gabe and I used to sit around talking about this and that, and were very opinionated about all kinds of things regarding children. Almost everything that we swore never to do, we have done. It happens. It is part of the process of giving up yourself for that little bundle of joy. In any case, I am going to calm my heating mechanism over this but it is worth a read, if you are interested.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Got Eczema?

A friend recently told me about a lotion called CereVe that helped her daughter with dry skin. She told me that it was the only thing that seemed to work.  Ella always has horrible eczema, especially this time of year so I rushed out to get some and try it.  It is amazing.  If you have tried everything and nothing seems to do the trick, look for this at your local drug store.  It is usually in the section with the Aquaphor, but not every store carries it. It comes in a tub as a cream or in a pump as a lighter lotion.  Both are working miracles at our house.   You can also get it online.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Collard Greens 2

For a bit of time, I could not find my favorite collard greens recipe, but thankfully it appeared!  The other recipe that I posted is good, this is even better.  Enjoy...

Collard Greens

1 bag of collard greens
1 smoked ham hock
1 yellow onion, cut into quarters
1 turnip, cut into quarters
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tbsp. hot pepper vinegar or white vinegar w/ a dash of crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 tablespoon season salt

In a large pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add pork, season salt & vinegar & cook covered until pork starts to get tender, approx. 45 minutes.

Saute onion and turnip in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 5 minutes in a separate pan.  Add garlic and cook for 5 minutes more.  Add sauteed vegetables to water.  Add collard greens & cook for 40 minutes or desired tenderness.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

Salmon & Asparagus Pasta

This is one of Ella's favorites. She LOVES salmon, especially lox or smoked. So I am always trying to come up with new ways to serve it. This can be made with spaghetti or penne. Naturally, we use brown rice pasta but any pasta will do.

1 package pasta
1 bunch of asparagus
4-6 oz. package of smoked salmon
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon dill (optional)
Parmesan cheese, grated as garnish

Boil pasta. While the pasta cooks, steam asparagus in a separate pan for 4-5 minutes. Remove to an ice bath and chop into 1/2" segments. Set aside.

Chop salmon. Set aside.

When pasta is ready, reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain pasta. In a pan, melt butter and add olive oil. Toss in pasta, asparagus, salmon, lemon zest, dill and season with salt and pepper.

Serve and garnish with freshly shaved or grated Parmesan! Enjoy!

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup

I made this soup tonight and was really thrilled with how it turned out. We have been eating wheat-free french bread all week and I was able to use that when I made my goat cheese toasts. But if you can use whatever bread works best for you, wheat-free or otherwise. I also added the asparagus as an additional layer; it adds a nice contrasting texture to the smooth soup.
3 red peppers
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon roasted red chili paste
1 garlic clove
3 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 heavy cream
1 cup fresh asparagus, steamed and diced

Goat Cheese Toasts (recipe following)

Broil the red peppers, turning them so they blacken on all sides. Once they’re black, put them in a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and leave them until they’re cool enough to handle (about 30 minutes). Peel, seed, and roughly chop them.

Warm the olive oil in a thick-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the peppers, chili paste, and a pinch of salt, stir to combine, and cook for 5 minutes.

Finely chop the garlic, add to the pot, and cook for 2 minutes.

Drain the tomatoes, and add to the pot with the thyme, red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt. Cook for 10 minutes.

Add the chicken stock. Puree with a stick blender until smooth, and simmer for 15 more minutes. Check seasonings and add more salt to taste. Add the cream and heat one more minute on low heat.

Divide asparagus into 4 dishes. Pour soup on top. Finish with a goat cheese toast and serve warm.

Goat Cheese Toasts
4 slices of crusty french bread
olive oil
herbed goat cheese
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place bread on a cookie sheet and drizzle the tops with olive oil. Toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove. Top bread with goat cheese (as much or as little as you like) and sprinkle with thyme. Drizzle a little more olive oil over the cheese. Bake for approx. 7 minutes. If you like the top to be a bit brown, broil on high for an additional minute.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

By the way...

If you haven't tried Trader Joe's Eggplant Hummus, you have not lived. Ella cannot have it, but I am addicted. Oh, is it ever good!


We had lunch at the mall today and I was thrilled to have discovered something new that I had never thought of before. Ella wanted to go to CPK for lunch. She was remembering the days when we used to let her eat wheat with reckless abandon. She wanted mushroom pizza and she wasn't going to take "no" for an answer. Thankfully, I had come prepared. I had a bag full of snacking and meal supplementation. I had packed 6 slices of wheat-free french bread. We ordered the kids' cheese pizza with mushrooms. And when it arrived to the table, I scraped the toppings off of the crust and gingerly placed it upon my bread slices. It was hot enough that the cheese was still droopy. After my MacGyvering, the concoction resembled an artisanal pizza. And I was quite proud of myself! After little convincing, Ella gobbled it down and I breathed a sigh of relief! Dining with two kids under 3 is no picnic, but we actually had a lot of fun at lunch today!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sandwich time

Now that I have returned to my domestic duties, full-time, my oven is getting lots of use. Ella requested her favorite wheat-free french bread this morning. I was happy to oblige. But waiting for the dough to rise and bake is a bit of an orchestration for me, while chasing Milo around. He has turned into a climbing and boundary testing maniac. Luckily, it all worked out and everyone was happy with the results. Ella enjoyed having a real sandwich at lunch (adios, rice cakes!) In fact, she dusted off an entire loaf today between lunch and dinner. Looks like I will be making more tomorrow.
My Mom is getting me a bread machine with a gluten-free setting and I cannot wait for that baby to arrive! It might just give my slow cooker a run for its money...