Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pistachio Recall

Yet another nut recall.  We are happy that pistachios are no longer a part of our lives.  If you missed the huge news story today, here is what the FDA has to say about the mess.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Budget Meal 3: Taco Night!

Taco night is a classic and for a reason! It is budget friendly, easy to prepare and can suit the needs of everyone in the family. Growing up my Mom made ground beef with taco seasoning and it still holds a place in my heart. The toppings can be anything you want. Personally, the buffet has to include SHARP cheddar cheese, fresh tomatoes, guacamole, salsa, chopped green onions, sour cream, lettuce and sprouts! Gabe and I both have fond memories of taco nights from our youths and both agree that sprouts are a very important component. Maybe because we grew up in the 70's? Your taco shell is also a personal decision and can vary from family to family. Mom always had corn tortillas, which she pan fried slightly in oil, to order. Gabe's family always had taco shells. I also think that fresh flour tortillas are perfectly wonderful. Corn tortillas are happily, gluten free and thankfully, Ella loves them. As far as the sides go, it is completely up to you. Re fried beans, black beans, rice, carrots, jicama, and watermelon all go well with this meal. Honestly, it could be a feast if you let it. As far as the meat is concerned, the options are limitless. I have also made grilled portabello mushrooms, which are so good in tacos. Lately, the following recipe has been my favorite for our family. It is a cinch to make and you will be shocked at how good it is!

Slow Cooker Beef for Tacos

3-4 lb. chuck roast
1 envelope dry taco seasoning
1 cup chopped onions
2 tablespoons white vinegar
7 0z. can diced, roasted green chilies

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 9 hours. Shred meat with a fork. Serve with pan au jus drizzled on top.

Earth Balance

Just wanted to take a second to plug a product that I am in love with. It is a butter alternative called Earth Balance Organic Buttery Spread, original whipped is my favorite. I have always been an all butter girl, detesting anything margarine. But I wanted to make an attempt to be healthier and saw this at Trader Joe's. So I bought some and have been amazed at how incredibly good it is. I mean, it is really, really good. It has a bunch of soy ingredients so if you are allergic to that, it is not for you. But it is gluten free, lactose free and vegan. It makes a fantastic spread for garlic bread, as it is slightly salty. I haven't used it for baking but have used it for almost everything else. Try it!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sugar Scrub

Ella has always had horrible eczema.  And since we have eliminated wheat and soy from her diet, it has improved, vastly.  But lately, it seems to be flaring up.  Not sure why, but I am quite concerned that this means that she is allergic to something that we do not know about.  Maybe it is simply the soap and/or laundry detergents that we use.   We do not meet with her allergist for another couple of months, so I am slowly trying to figure out what could be irritating her so much.  As I was laying in bed last night, it occurred to me that she might benefit from a little good-old-fashioned exfoliation.  So I went online, as every good, modern mother does to find an acceptable sugar scrub that I could make.  My husband asked me, with much practicality, "Why not just use one of those many scrubs that are already in the bathroom?"  Most of the scrubs that I use have lots of things that I am almost certain would reek all kinds of havoc for Ella's skin, so the only way for me to control things is to make it myself.  And make it I did.  The end result was a bit of a hybrid between many different recipes.  I first tested the oils on her skin to make sure that they did not hurt her.  Once I knew they were okay, I was ready to roll.  Here is what I came up with...

Sugar Cookie Sugar Scrub

1/3 cup white, granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable glycerin 
2 tablespoons jojoba oil
dash of vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients in a bowl or jar until well combined.  If the consistency is too thick, you can slowly add more jojoba oil, a teaspoon at a time.  Apply the sugar paste to the skin in the desired areas.  Gently rub in a circular motion massaging the skin.  Leave on for 3-5 minutes.  Rinse with warm water and enjoy baby soft skin!

We had a fun adventure of "Ella's Evening at Burke-Williams" pretending we were at one of LA's famed day spas.  She seemed to LOVE the special pampering.  And her skin really does feel super soft.

In the research that I did, a few sites suggested using baby oil which is actually quite horrible for the skin.  It clogs pores and is a very bad idea for those with eczema.  Other oils were possibilities, like avocado oil or adding aloe vera.   The recipe I decide upon was the simplest and had the purest ingredients.  If you wanted to individualize it, you could add any essential oil that you desire.  But not more than a drop or two.  Store any left overs in a tightly sealed jar and keep it in the bathroom for easy access.  Just use the contents within a week or two.

Budget Meal 2: Breakfast for Dinner

This may seem like a bit of a cop out, but really it is not! Kids and adults all seem to like this unusually timed meal. Often, when I am feeling less than inspired, this is my go-to meal. It is the perfect time to serve up a variety of allergen free options, customized to suit everyone in the family's needs. The best part is that is all very budget friendly.

Strawberries are starting to hit the market in droves and the prices are very affordable. Surprisingly, Costco often offers locally grown produce at crazy cheap prices. Earlier this week I scored a 4 pound crate of enormous and delicious strawberries. So when I decided on this particular meal I wanted to incorporate them somehow.

The meal that I served was wheat-free waffles with strawberries, vanilla yogurt, bacon and bananas. It is up to you to decide what type of waffle to use. I happened to make mine from scratch and cooked them with my waffle iron. But you could also get yours frozen or you can make pancakes, in which case, they sky is the limit. Bacon is a must with any breakfast meal at our house, so that was a no brainer. I also had a huge tub of vanilla yogurt that paired well with the textures of the strawberries and waffles. (Each person had a different way of eating this meal. Milo dipped his waffle in the yogurt, while Ella had hers on the side, and I ate mine with the yogurt and strawberries drizzled over the top of the waffles.) And since Milo is busy learning how to say "Na Na!" I also sliced up some of those for him.
Since many of you who read this blog are not necessarily on a wheat/gluten-free diet, and because I always feel weird about posting a published author's recipe, I will leave it up to you to come up with your own means of obtaining waffles. Or pancakes. Or crepes. Or whatever. I will give you my method for macerating strawberries, a technique that I learned while working at an ice cream parlor in college.

Macerated Strawberries
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
2-4 tablespoons sugar (to desired level of sweetness)

Place the berries in a bowl. Sprinkle sugar on top. Let sit, at room temperature 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. After about 15 minutes, a sugary syrup will start to appear. The more it sits, the more syrup you will see. Serve over waffles, crepes, scones, pancakes, shortcake or ice cream. My personal opinion is that this concoction is best eaten within 24 hours, otherwise it starts to taste a bit alcoholic (not a good thing). But it is easy enough to do, that if you are like me, you will make this frequently throughout the late spring and summer. Enjoy!
Budget Meal 2
Waffles with macerated strawberries
Vanilla Yogurt
Really, the sky is the limit and completely up to you!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wheat-Free Black & White Cheesecake Squares

I saw this recipe in this month's MS Living and decided to adapt it so that it could be wheat and gluten free. Since I had a bag of GF brownie mix from Trader Joe's in my pantry, I thought I would try and use it. The results were even better than anticipated. Ella went crazy. I also garnished the plate with strawberries which accented the dessert perfectly. Follow the above link if you would like to make the original recipe. Here is what I did...

Black & White Cheesecake Squares

1 batch of gluten/wheat free brownies
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare brownie mix according to package instructions (or make your favorite recipe from scratch). Fold in chocolate chips. Spray a 8 x 8 baking dish with cooking spray. Reserve a cup of the prepared mix and place in the refrigerator. Spread the rest of the batter in the bottom of the dish. Bake for 20 minutes, until the base is set and the edges start to puff. Remove from oven and cool dish on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, mix cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and remaining egg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl. Spread over cooled base; crumble reserved dough on top. Bake until filling is set, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in dish on wire rack, then lift out using overhang. Cut into squares. Squares will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

Martha Stewart Living

As an eternal fan of Martha, you can imagine how happily surprised I was to open this month's Living magazine to find an article on Gluten-free eating. There are several recipes, many use or contain nuts, but one of them looks really good and I am going to try it in the next few days. If you are interested but do not get the magazine, here is the article that appears in the magazine, containing links to the recipes.


Look for me on Facebook!  If you are reading this blog, I would love to know who YOU are!  Send me a friend request...

Monday, March 16, 2009

More Research Being Done RE: Peanut Allergies

This article was published in the LA Times today... Therapy to Suppress Peanut Allergies is Reported

Living WELL doesn't have to be expensive

Everywhere I turn lately, I am reminded of how bad the economy is. Food costs are higher than ever. Magazines, newspapers, television and radio shows are all offering ideas on how to feed your family on a budget. All of this got me thinking... and now I am going to hop on the bandwagon. Part of this is a challenge for myself and part of it is to come up with options for those of you who read this blog. I tend to be a no holds barred, sort of chef. I believe in high quality ingredients. A person cannot have a spice cabinet that it too full. Much of this I get from my Mom who taught me that it is worth going to every store in town, to find all of the ingredients necessary to make a recipe. Over the years we have had many interesting wild goose chases, looking for unusual things like juniper berries, lemon grass and endless types of specialty liqueurs... Moving to LA increased my chances of being able to cook all of Martha Stewart's recipes, but even still, I often have to visit 3 or 4 stores. And when I lived in New York City, the ante was even higher because almost everything was available, the challenge was in finding it! Luckily, we lived two blocks away from Zabar's and not far from Fairway. No matter how much pavement pounding I did, it was ALWAYS worth it! And even now that I have two little kids, it remains a passion for me. But feeding a family, in dire economic times AND trying to work within all of Ella's allergy restrictions requires a little creativity. So now I am going to truly challenge myself to make a tasty, healthy meal for 4 with as few ingredients as possible. And I am going to try and do it once a week, at least. These meals can be made for less than $20.
Here is my first entry. If you ever need to quickly access any of these recipes, look to the column at the right and click on "Budget Friendly".

Budget Meal #1

Slow Cooked Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Vegetables and Mashed Potatoes
Slow Cooked Pork Tenderloin
1-2 Pork Tenderloins
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 can French Onion Soup
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup (Whole Foods has one that is organic and wheat free)
Place all ingredients (in the order listed) in a slow cooker/crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
When it is ready, you may slice it or shred it and serve on top of mashed potatoes. Top with some of the mushrooms and drizzle the au jus from the bottom of the cooker on top of the mushrooms.
Roasted Vegetables
2-3 vegetables of your choice (for budget purposes, look to what is in season), approx. 2 lbs total
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.

Clean and cut vegetables into small pieces and toss with oil and salt in a large bowl. Spread in 1 layer in a large shallow baking pan (1 inch deep) and roast, stirring and turning over occasionally, until tender and golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes.
Mashed Potatoes
2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes (preferably large)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup whole milk
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Transfer to a 3-quart heavy saucepan and add 5 cups cold water and 1 teaspoon salt, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Drain potatoes in a colander, then return to pan and cook over moderate heat, shaking pan occasionally, until dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a bowl and keep hot, covered. Heat milk, butter, white pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in saucepan over moderate heat until butter is melted.

Force potatoes through food mill or ricer (or if you do not mind a few lumps go old school and use a hand mixer) into hot milk mixture in pan and gently stir with a large heatproof rubber spatula just until combined.
** I also really like using chicken broth and 1/2 & 1/2 in place of the milk. The two flavors and textures work well with the mashed potatoes.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Dad's Chicken

My Dad is probably my biggest blog reader and I love it! He is the most amazing BBQer on the planet and yesterday he came to LA and cooked up some tri-tip and sausage for us. Ella is beyond addicted to his steak and probably consumed a pound by herself yesterday! Dad also makes a mean Chicken, which he recently e-mailed to me. He MIGHT kill me for posting this, but until I get a cease and desist order, I thought I would share it with you...

Dad's Fab BBQ Chicken

Wash chicken and put into a large bowl. Add 1 cup of Apple cider vinegar.Tbsp. of Wrights Hickory Seasoning. 3 tbsp A1 Steak Sauce. Tbsp KC Masterpiece Tbsp Worcester sauce by Lea & Perrin. Add warm water to cover chicken and then mix it all up. Mixing a couple/three times over a period of a couple of hours. If using a Propane BBQ then throw a couple of damp oak barks on the flame and put chicken up and away from flame.

Before turning on BBQ, season with these spices, both sides.

When BBQ is almost complete add some melted butter. A few minutes later, add some squeezed lemon. Turn off fire and let it sit in the smoke of the oak bark.Selling or sharing this recipe is forbidden by Boyle's Law......... enjoy


Calling All Chefs!

I have been getting a lot of great recipes sent to me lately and I am enjoying making all of them. If you have something that you would like to share please send it to me! You can either e-mail me at Hdecor8@gmail.com or you can leave it in the comments section. Family recipes or otherwise, are always welcome. Or if you happen to have a recipe that you just love but are trying to adapt it to omit an allergen or for other dietary reasons, please send that as well and maybe I can help you. I am also getting ready to start a weekly feature where I'll post economical ways to eat, allergen free. There has been a LOT of traffic on this blog lately and I am thrilled. So if you are reading this and feel you have something to share, let me know!

Leek and Mushroom Soup

My friend Shannon also sent this one to me. As I have mentioned, she lives in the Pacific Northwest and has the opportunity to make lots and lots of soup! This one was a HUGE hit. I am starting to think that leeks are like the bacon of vegetables. Everything tastes good with them! Ella is not into creamy things so I reserved some of the soup with just the veggies and chicken broth, before adding the flour and 1/2 & 1/2 for us. I served it with some of our favorite wheat-free french bread. Soup has never gone so quickly in our house!

Leek and Mushroom Soup

1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 large leeks, sliced
1 10 oz. package of frozen asparagus, thawed
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour (can be wheat-free)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
14 oz. can chicken broth
2 cups 1/2 & 1/2

Cook butter, leeks, mushrooms and asparagus in a large sauce pan until tender. Stir in the flour and spices. Add the chicken broth and 1/2 & 1/2. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens.

I used my stick blender to puree the soup and then I used some of the leeks and asparagus that I had set aside as a garnish.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


There have not been too many times in my life that I have been envious. In fact, I am always a grass is greener kind of gal. But human nature dictates that sometimes, we wish we had more. And today, was one of those times. Was it a play date at a fabulous Beverly Hills home? Or a glimpse of a friend's new luxury SUV? Not so much. For the first time, I really wished my kid could taste nuts. Without hesitation, and with complete reckless abandon.

We were at gymnastics and after class was over, all of the kids rushed to get a snack. Most of the children opted for the Nature Valley Honey Nut Granola bars. Happily, they clinged to the green wrapped treat as it crinkled in their tiny hands. Could they possibly know how lucky they are? Is it possible for someone to skip through life, eating anything that your heart desires, without fear of... hives? Yes is the answer and without question, as I was one of those kids. Little did I know how blessed I was. And to think, all I did was complain about how my parents would not buy me an Izod shirt or K-Swiss shoes! But that is beside the point...

Oh, how I wish Ella could not fear food. I wish more than anything that she could taste EVERYTHING and decide on her terms what she likes and what she does not like. This moment hit me in a deep place for some reason and it has been difficult for me to shake it today. But through it all I am finding new inspiration and because of this, I am going to march on. And I hope and pray that through all of this, Ella will some day be able to feel like a normal kid. And not hate me for shielding her from those things that might hurt her...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Busy Day

Well, I am quite grateful to be back on standard time. I feel like I can now do a little more with my day. What is that saying, "If I only had more time in the day..."? That is how I feel normally. Today I got up, got Ella ready for school, took Milo for a hike, put him down for his nap and got busy in the kitchen. My oven is getting very little rest on this Monday. Pumpkin muffins are in there right now, as Ella's gluten-free french bread is rising on the counter. I didn't want my bread machine to feel left out so I am using it to make some basic (wheat) bread. When Milo wakes we are going to head out and get Ella at school and then I am going to take both of them to music class. This event will probably kill me, as there is only one of me and what seems like 4 of them! At least it is only an hour long! Then I will head back to the house to start making soup. And I am making two soups tonight, both recipes from my beloved friend Shannon who lives in the Pacific Northwest. Living up there, practically makes her an expert on warm and delicious soups. Once I get some photos together I will post recipes.

Yesterday, I shocked my sister by taking chocolate chip cookie dough to her house. She simply could not believe that I made a traditional dough (with wheat flour, recipe from Toll House). My thought was that the cookies were for them (and Gabe and I). Newsflash: I still bake the old fashioned way. I just made sure I had an alternate for Ella to eat. As it happened, my sister had just made rice crispy treats, which are free of wheat. So EVERYONE was happy! My sis also had one of the Glutino Duo Cheese pizzas (mentioned in previous blogs) in her freezer which inspired her to order regular pizza for the rest of us. We finished the day playing in their gorgeous backyard and enjoyed the California sunshine.

Okay, Milo is waking now. I think he smells the muffins. Oh they smell good!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Quest for the holy Matzo

So Passover is just around the corner and Ella LOVES matzo/matzah. In the past, we have ordered these amazing gluten-free crackers from one of our favorite suppliers BUT it seems that everyone is out of them! Searching the Internet, I have only been able to locate the Israeli made product in England, where they are also in short supply. We are going to Florida for the holiday and are hoping to acquire some of these gems before our trip. If I cannot locate them I am going to attempt to make some on my own. There are a bunch of recipes out there in cyberspace but most include nuts or seeds in their ingredient lists. If anyone out there has any suggestions for me, I will gladly take them!