Friday, July 31, 2009

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

I got the recipe for this cake from "Gluten-Free Baking" with the Culinary Institute of America. Earlier in the week I had used half of a can of sliced pineapple to make a slow cooker chicken dish. Since I had the other half of a can to use up, I figured what would be better than a pineapple upside-down cake? So I made this when Ella was at school. Let me tell you, it was a hit! Milo was begging me for a piece as soon as it came out of the oven. And Gabe and I really enjoyed it, as well. The caramelization comes from using lots of butter and brown sugar, so it is heavenly. No one will know that it does not have wheat flour in it. Sorry that I am not posting the recipe, as I do not want to get in trouble with the cookbook's authors but I will say that it took a lot longer to set than the book suggests. They said that it should cook for 30 minutes but this cake was in the oven for about 45 minutes. Such a great dessert, not a crumb will remain on the plate if you decide to make it!

The world is opening up for those who suffer with gluten intollerance

It seems that there has never been a better time to have gluten/wheat allergies. The amount of products available to help you adjust your diet without suffering seems to increase with each day. From cookbooks to pastas to ready made pizzas and everything in between. There are so many options! Now big companies like Betty Crocker are getting into the "mix" with easy to make gluten-free alternatives to some of their favorites. (I have been on the lookout and have not yet seen them at our local super market, but I am told that they should be on shelves soon. I am eager to read the ingredient list, as there is still a chance that Ella will not be able to have them due to all of her other allergies). But it makes me feel good that people can feel more "normal" in their every day lives.

And now Coors Field in Denver has announced that it is opening up a gluten-free concession stand! How great is this? They will be serving hot dogs, burgers and other snacks that meet gluten free standards. They will even be serving brownies and cookies and BEER! People are starting to realize that this is not a fad diet and there is some real market potential out there. Whether they are in it to make money or not, I applaud them for their efforts. Hopefully we will see more and more of this as time goes on!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tea Party!

Mini Rice Krispie Treats
Shortbread Jelly Sandwiches
Sugar cookies with sprinkles
Fruit Dip with sliced fruits
Veggie Tray
GF Pretzels
GF Crackers
Assorted Teas and beverages

The recipes for the cookies came from the Annalise Roberts' baking cookbook. I used the classic Rice Krispie Treat recipe. The fruit dip has become a bit of a requirement for a
ll of the play dates that we host. We first had it at a f
riend's birthday party (Thank you, Susan and Ava Mae!) It is really easy to make. Just combine equal parts yogurt (I prefer raspberry lowfat) and cool whip. Fold the two together and chill for about an hour. You can serve it topped with sprinkles, if you'd like it to be festive.

Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free Play Dough

Here is a great recipe for homemade Play Dough that is wheat and gluten-free. Good to have on hand when summer days get long...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Best Practices for Allergy Sufferers

This article is about Lisa Lundy, who has written a cookbook called The Super Allergy Girl™ Allergy & Celiac Cookbook - From A Mother Who Knows™. It has an informative video discussing the best practices for allergy sufferers. She also has a website that is full of valuable information. Please check it out! Recently Lisa commented on one of my posts and I am so happy to have her as a reader.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why am I always sick?

I found this article very interesting. There seems to be a lot of talk lately about chronicle illnesses that are caused by diet. After doing the blood type diet, I can say that, allergies aside, some foods agree with me more than others. The hard part is resisting such foods. It is almost easier when you have a food allergies and you can say, well, that gives me hives or might make me stop breathing so I am not going to touch it. It takes more will power with things that may not cause an immediate reaction. How many times have I said, "Life is for living! And I want to eat that steak dinner with a martini, bread and potatoes with butter and sour cream, rich side dishes and a sticky, gooey dessert!"? And then I fill ill for a day or two after as my body tries to process it all. My Achilles heel is that I love food too much! But this article is food for thought, nonetheless...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Think you have food allergies?

LA Times just published this article called, "Think you have food allergies, think again..." Since we have been seeing an allergist, a trained medical specialist, an MD and we have been tested until the cows come home I can say with the utmost certainty that WE DO have food allergies. Even though I have heard stories about chiropractors and nutritionists giving clients allergy diagnoses from time to time, the majority of the folks that I know have been tested by an actual doctor. So in a way, articles like this rub me the wrong way. Partly because they provide false hope to people and partly because they send a message that people are pretending to have allergies when in fact they do not.

Our doctor who is based at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, has us test Ella every single year. The reason for this is that as we age our response to foods changes. Many children, thankfully, outgrow their allergies to some foods over time. We were encouraged last year when we saw some weakening in the numbers in some of Ella's allergies. But we are far from being out of the woods and as a parent, the only responsible thing to do is to continue the testing. And let me tell you, this no fun for anyone. Hmmmmm, should we have two large men hold her down so that we can draw blood or should we poke her and rub potential allergens all over her back? And wait for her to go crazy as welts form? Trust me people, this is no trip to Disneyland!

I guess I just get a little heated when anyone does not see validity in our situation. Or even if anyone questions it. In speaking to our doctor, as well as many other medical professionals, the amount of people developing food allergies is staggering. One even described it as an epidemic. I am starting to think that "food allergies" is the new "global warming/climate change". Either you accept science, find a cure and move on. Or you choose to walk around with blinders on. My awareness of all of this became crystal clear after 2 very horrible trips to the ER (one for me and another for Ella). That is why I am trying so hard to inform people and affect change. I am glad that there is a spotlight on this topic and I really encourage people to get their information from a variety of sources. And listen to your doctors. Thank goodness for modern medicine!

LA Times: Accuracy of Allergy Tests Varies

Boy, the LA Times is working overtime to get some links from my blog this week. Here is one about the accuracy of allergy tests.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Shameless Self Promotion

When I am not cooking up things for Ella to eat, I work as a Set Decorator in film and television. Earlier this year I decorated two seasons of Hell's Kitchen, back to back. The first of those seasons (Season 6) will begin airing on Tuesday on Fox (check your local listings). Admittedly, this is not a show that I normally watch. I am more of a Top Chef kind of gal. But I have many friends that say that they are addicted to it and swear that I should give it a chance. Regardless, I am really proud of the sets that we created. Doing a show like this is a major feat and you would never know just by watching it. The "restaurant" is built from the ground up, each season. It takes place on a Hollywood sound stage. It must have enough tables to feed 100 patrons, as well as scores of camera crews and support staff. There is no plumbing or gas lines so this must be brought in. And everything must follow strict building and fire codes, as it becomes a real working restaurant. In addition to the dining room and kitchens, there are Gordon's offices and an outdoor patio and living quarters for all 16 contestants. Trust me, just finding 16 matching bedding sets is challenging enough (we had everything made). I was a part of a team of three decorators (normal shows only have one) and somehow, we were able to make it all work beautifully, even with all of those cooks in the kitchen! The Season 5 crew (which I was not yet a part of) just got nominated for an Emmy last week for the fabulous work that they had done. I am so proud of them and I can honestly say that we were able to step things up even more between Seasons 5 and 6. Check it out if you are looking for something to watch over the summer! By the way, Gordon Ramsey is a pussycat. A total sweetheart!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Also in the LA Times...

Why do is there such a rise in food allergies these days? A common thought is that our over use of antibacterial products is making our immune systems go haywire. Just ask my mother, I have NEVER been a clean "freak". I do happen to have an assortment of cleaning products in my pantry, but I gravitate toward the Eco-friendly, non-toxic versions. Even the hand sanitizer that I keep in my car is herbally based. And let's be honest, I use it 3 out of 7 days. Yes, I am the worst kind of mother. Still, food allergies seem to plague Ella but this info is interesting. Worth a read...

Early Exposure to Food Allergens

LA Times just published this article about early exposure to food allergens and how it can actually be beneficial. This is all very interesting, but what about the children that show signs of food allergies while still being breastfed? Ella had a diet based in wheat and soy from 9 months on, but still she is very allergic to these things. And her eczema started when I was still breastfeeding her. Seems like the jury is still out, but worth a read nonetheless...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fitting in at school, an update

Below is a re-posting of an article from October. Many people have read this post and have asked me about it over the last few months. I was reminded of it when I read this article tonight, about kids just wanting to be like everyone else. I am happy to report that things have actually eased with Ella. She has come to accept her situation and we have fewer and fewer incidents like we used to. She is in summer school but her teachers seem to be on board with all of her allergies. The kids made chocolate chip cookies in class this week and then ate a picnic styled lunch with them, as well as sandwiches and lemonade. Thankfully her teacher gave me an advance warning and I made some swap outs. The cookies also appealed to Milo who is turning into quite the baked goody hound!

Ella's cubbie is filled with a giant bag of snacks. There are sweet and salty options and everything in between. She seems to like going in there each day and deciding what she will eat. All the other kids have to eat what the group eats. Ella is starting to appreciate her exclusive status (see, there is a silver lining). When I pick her up each day, I like to ask which snack she chose. It is a way for us to stay connected as we weave through Los Angeles traffic!

Ella has another friend from school who is allergic to milk. She recently went to a summer camp that was less respectful of her situation. Her mother had to be called in a couple of times to administer Benedryl because the little girl was fed things that she is not allowed to eat. I consider this to be outrageous. And I will NEVER send my children to this place for camp. (Let's just say that this place is a three letter word that rhymes with "moo" and is where you would go to see lots of animals). Truly, are they kidding? Why would they take any chances, especially considering what a litigious society we live in. Train your camp counselors, people!

Anyway, Ella seems to be grasping her predicament and in a way she sees it as part of who she is and less as something that holds her back from things. Plus, she gets to order Mommy around in the kitchen with all kinds of requests. Tomorrow is Saturday and I am predicting that she will ask for wheat-free popovers or pancakes. Better hit the sack...

Further Incentive...

Originally posted on 10/1/2008

As if I did not have enough reasons to start a blog in the first place... this week presented me even more inspiration. In general, I am doing this as a sort of catharsis for myself. But mostly, I am doing it for Ella. She is so little and it is really hard for her to understand why other kids get to eat the things that she cannot. It is heartbreaking. She thinks about it all of the time. She begs us to give her wheat. After all, she has been to nirvana and wants to go back. The fact that it causes her to get itchy welts all over her shoulders and back does not seem to matter. The kids wants donuts and croissants, for God's sake! Who wants to go to a birthday party and not be able to eat the pizza and cake? So we spend our days trying to remind her how bad the stuff is for her as I try and pull culinary masterpieces out of my hat just to try give her SOME joy.

Anyway, Ella is very musical and she has started making up songs. She wants to make a CD and she is always saying, "This is my new song, we should put this on the CD!" And then she sings... Yesterday she sang me a song called, "Little Bits of Wheat are a Little Treat". And then she proceeded to sing a little ditty about how all she wants to eat is wheat and oh, what a treat! Poor kid!

Today, at school pick up, my heart sank when I saw all of the children sitting and eating a snack of animal cookies, as Ella played by herself (without snack) in the sandbox. As soon as she saw me, she ran to me and said, "Mommy, can I have an animal cracker, too?" Thankfully, I keep a bag of gluten-free animal crackers in her cubbie. Not sure why the teachers did not offer her one. I am annoyed by this, but will write it off as an oversight. But it just added fuel to my fire and gave me further incentive to keep going on my mission...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tuna with Sun Dried Tomatoes

I used to make this tuna salad as a daily special when I ran my Dad's restaurant. We always sold out, half way through the lunch rush. And people often requested it when it was not on the menu. Now, I make it all of the time for my family. It is best as a sandwich filling, but you could also serve the tuna on top of a bed of lettuce or arugula and eat it as a salad. It pairs well with my gazpacho (see recipe below) to make a cool meal on a hot summer night. It is also a fantastic appetizer when served atop a basil leaf and sliced baguette toasts.

Tuna with Sun Dried Tomatoes

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes (you can also use the kind packed in oil, but drain well)
2 cans, chuck light tuna in water, drained
2 green onions, white and light green parts, chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 small can of black olives, chopped and drained
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, plain
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Hydrate the tomatoes by soaking them in boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Drain well and chop.

Place the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. If the tuna is too dry for your taste, add more mayonnaise, a tablespoon at a time.

Chill, covered in the refrigerator for at least an hour. You could serve it sooner, but the time in the fridge really helps the flavors come together, in my opinion.

Serve on freshly baked bread (gluten-free or otherwise) with arugula or lettuce.

Makes 4 sandwiches

Friday, July 10, 2009

Commiserate, Celebrate!

A friend and I were talking recently. She has food allergies, as do both of her children. Naturally, they all are allergic to different things. And each has a list of things that they cannot eat rather than one or two items. As a mom, it is quite a feat to put dinner on the table under such circumstances. She told me that she liked reading my blog but wished that she could eat more of my recipes. I told her that most of the people that find me seem to have varying allergies. And as much as I would like to, it would be impossible for me to suit each person's needs. Some are here because of nut allergies, others for gluten intolerance, and still others are avoiding shellfish. No matter what people's circumstances are we all seem to be here for the same thing: to commiserate. And my primary message has always been that it is possible to live a fulfilling life, even though we might be limited in our choices. It has been such a joy for me to meet many of you and to hear your stories. As challenging as this situation is for me and my family, it helps to know that we are not the only ones dealing with this madness. When an allergy diagnosis is first made, it is natural to feel isolated and to think, "How am I ever going to do this?" The Internet closes that isolation gap; it is a beautiful thing!

Here is an article that one of my Twitter pals posted. ("Managing Food Allergies Like a Pro and Having Fun Doing it" by Gina Clowes.) I love it because it expands on the theme that I was just talking about. It is so wonderful to hear stories of people connecting, building friendships and moving beyond the initial stages of allergy related grief.

As usual, thanks for reading!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Walnut Opportunity

Ella is frightfully allergic to pistachios, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, etc.. But for some reason she has tested negative to walnuts and pecans for the last two years. The doctor told us to avoid ANY packaged nut to escape any cross contamination risks. So we steer clear of anything made with walnuts and pecans, just in case. I promised her that if we were ever near a walnut tree, I would pick her one and crack it open for her to eat. That way I would KNOW that it is safe. At a party this past weekend, sat a bowl full of walnuts in their shells. Ella picked up one up and my initial reaction was, "Oh my God! Put that down!" Forgetting of course that she could actually eat it. And Ella was beyond excited and full of curiosity. Sadly, there was no nutcracker to be found. Three of us, searched the house high and low looking for a device to crack the nut. Thankfully, my friend's Dad is Egyptian and had grown up eating these nuts right out of their shells. He took two nuts, smashed them together, and we were left with a hand full of nut meat. Then my nervousness set in. What if the tests had been wrong? What if she really is allergic? But it was too late, this ball was in motion. We had the Epi pen and Benedryl standing by. I handed a tiny fragment to our vulnerable little girl as she quickly snatched it from my hand. She slowly chewed it. I checked for any reaction. There was none! No hives. No red skin. No screaming. PHEW! After all of this, Ella's response was only lukewarm. "It is okay, Mommy." And then I asked her if she would like to have another bite. "No, thank you." I am not sure what she was expecting, something sweet perhaps? But whatever it was, it seemed to make her happy to get a chance to feel normal on some level. And the verdict: not such a big deal after all!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Muffins and Parades

Ella really wanted me to make her pancakes with bacon this morning, as it is a Saturday. But since it is also the 4th of July, and we were going to a parade near the beach in Santa Monica our leisure time was cut short. So I made these muffins to take with us and to hand out to our friends. I made Lemon Coconut muffins from the Annalise Roberts cookbook and Banana Muffins (Banana Bread recipe) from the Culinary Institute's GF cookbook. They were really yummy. Everyone seemed to love them and no one missed the wheat flour. A friend was there with her children, who all have food allergies. The hardest part for her is that everyone has a different list of things that they have to avoid. Her son cannot have nuts, her daughter cannot have dairy, gluten or wheat. So her son got to partake in the cupcakes and muffins, her daughter did not. Thankfully, she did not seem to notice them anyway.

Hope everyone is having a fabulous holiday weekend! XOXO!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Jello Poke Cupcakes

My grandma used to make the most delicious cake at Christmas time, amongst a barrage of delicious treats. Every so often I find myself missing her and her goodies. And for the past year or so I have been making a wheat free cupcake that is reminiscent of her Jello poke cake. Whenever I make it, people swoon. I have stopped telling them that they are eating "wheat-free". Clearly this recipe is not the healthiest thing that I make. But isn't it fun to be bad, every so often?

I am making these cupcakes, to take with us to tomorrow's 4th of July parade. Last year I picked up some tinsel sparklers from Pottery Barn and I will use them to top the cupcakes. There is no doubt that people will think that I am "nuts" and "over the top" but this stuff makes me so happy! Happy 4th to all of you Americans out there!

**These were a big hit, even with those who are not restricted by allergies. And no one gave me grief about being "over the top!" Phew!

Jello Poke Cupcakes (Wheat/Gluten-Free)

1 recipe for vanilla cupcakes (my favorite is from A. Roberts)
1 3 oz. box red jello (cherry, strawberry)
1 tub of cool whip

Make the vanilla cupcakes, according to instructions. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Make the Jello, according to instructions.

Place the cupcakes inside a 13 x 9" glass casserole dish. Poke holes in the cupcakes with a fork, approx. 5 times. Drizzle the Jello over the cupcakes, slowly, allowing the liquid to fill the holes. (Approx. 2 tablespoons, per cupcake). Chill for 6 hours or overnight.

Frost the cupcakes generously with Cool Whip. (If you do not have Cool Whip on hand or want to eat something less processed, cherry or vanilla butter cream also works nicely). Decorate with sugar, sprinkles or fresh fruit.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mama's Spaghetti

I originally posted this recipe a few months back. It is so good, but tonight I tried it using ground turkey instead of the beef. It was just as good. The spices work well with the turkey. Don't omit the bacon if you can help it. It is what makes the sauce irresistible!

Who says that we have to stop eating amazing pasta, just because we have a wheat allergy or a little gluten intolerance? I am always telling my friends who are in this predicament to substitute rice pasta and top it with their favorite sauce. You will never know the difference. This recipe has been in my family for a few generations. For me, it is the ultimate comfort food. My Mom has made it my entire life and now I take much joy in preparing it for my family...

2 Tbsp. bacon fat (or 2 slices chopped bacon)
½ cup chopped onions
1 lb. chuck, ground
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, minced
1 1-1b. 13 oz. can tomatoes (3-½ cups)
2 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
1 6 oz. jar sliced mushrooms, undrained
1 tsp. salt
⅛ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. sage (I tend to use 1/2 tsp., as that is my taste preference)
¼ tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. salad oil
16 oz. spaghetti, wheat-free

In bacon fat in large kettle or cook bacon until browned add and saute onions until tender. Add chuck; cook, stirring often, until meat loses red color. Add garlic, green pepper, tomatoes, sauce, mushrooms and seasonings. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 1-½ hour or until as thick as you like. Boil spaghetti according to package directions

Yields: Serves 6

Time to make: 2 hr
Source: Cici Schultz Wynn

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Chilled Gazpacho

It is getting to be one of my favorite times of year... time for chilled soups. And what is better than chilled gazpacho. This is my own recipe, adapted originally from the Moosewood Cookbook. I spent some time in Madrid, Spain and got to see how the pros do it. We ate it almost every day. This is one of things that I make that people ask for again and again! The key to this soup is to make it a day in advance. That way the flavors have time to meld together, optimally. Try it and enjoy!

Chilled Gazpacho

½ onion, roughly chopped
1 medium clove of garlic
1 medium red bell pepper
1 medium cucumber, peeled & seeded and roughly chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley
2 scallions, white & green parts, roughly chopped

Put all of the above ingredients into a food processor and pulse until mix is minced.


2 cups of freshly diced tomatoes
Juice of ½ lemon
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar (tarragon vinegar is best, if you can find it)
2 tablespoons of good quality olive oil
1 teaspoon of honey
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
¼ teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
A dash of ground cayenne
½ teaspoon of dried basil
½ teaspoon of dried tarragon (unless you are using tarragon vinegar)

Pulse until pureed. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add…

4 cups tomato juice (or I like to use the Veggie Juice from Trader Joe’s)

Chill until very cold. I generally like to let this mixture set for at least 4 hours in the fridge. It is best when the flavors have a bit of time to meld.

If you like, you can serve with a little crème fraiche and/or diced veggies, like cucumber or red peppers. Garnish with a sprig of parsley.

This is a great party appetizer when served in small cups. Or if you are making it as a dinner course, it generally serves 6-8.

Calling the doctor, after office hours

All I seem to do lately is talk about the doctor. I am starting to feel a touch like Woody Allen! Milo has a dreadful cough/cold that is accompanied by high fevers. It has been going on for 4 days now, with him sleeping very little at night. That means that I have not been sleeping at night. Don't get me wrong I love my cuddle time. But when everyone is healthy and during the normal awake hours of the day! Last night his fever hit 103, he was hysterical, refusing water and was lethargic. So I decided to call the on-call doctor at our pediatrician's office. When I heard who the on-call doctor was, I cringed. He is a very famous physician who is often quoted in Parent's magazine and other publications. But the dude has the bedside manner of a cold brick wall. When I expressed my concern about my son's condition, he seemed annoyed. In fact he made me feel downright silly for bothering him in the first place. He said that the cold is a virus that is going around and that Milo should be over it within a week. He told me to control the fever with alternate rounds of baby Motrin and Tylenol. And he said that if I was really concerned I could bring him in to have his ears and lungs checked in the morning. His manner did little to comfort me. And then my poor husband had to get an earful from me, at 2:33 am, after I got off of the phone with Dr. Grouchy Pants.

I try not to be one of those over reactive parents, but when you see a kid who is so not themselves AND is running a very high fever, it seems like the perfect time to call the doctor. Crazy me! My sister and I spoke about the whole thing this morning and her doctor has advised her to call whenever she feels the need, but suggests waiting until a fever hits 105. 105? That seems outrageously high. As it turns out, my niece and nephew just had this same cold. And it lasted just shy of a week. So I am going to relax a little and keep him away from the doctors office unless he seems to have more of a lung or ear situation. Besides, I am 100% sure that he got the cold when he got his Hib last week. And the last thing the kid needs is more infection to fight...