Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Figs, Greek Yogurt & Honey

This is one of my favorite breakfasts, this time of year when figs are so plentiful and delicious. I love the texture and flavor of Greek yogurt. I tend to go for the 0% fat. Then I top the yogurt with a bunch of sliced figs and drizzle yogurt over the top. It is good enough to have for dessert as well!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Freedom or Yours?

These days, the concept of "freedom" seems to be in jeopardy. Everyone is fighting for what they perceive to be their right to have this or that. If something gives you freedom, it is almost certain that your freedom will be taking away some one else's. It is all subjective.

As a blogger, I try to collect as much current information about food allergies as I can. One of the ways that I get my news is through Google alerts. I have it set to send me everything about food allergies and gluten and wheat intolerance. Every so often I see someone pose a question that is meant to create a debate and when it involves food allergies, sparks fly. If you want to see a good example of what I am talking about take a look at the following link... Should School Classrooms Ban Peanut Butter? by a blog called Lehigh Valley Parenting.

This is just one of those issues that seems to threaten everyone. The parents of the kid who is severely allergic to nuts want to do everything they can to make sure that their child is safe while at school. The school has an obligation to keep all their students safe. And peanut allergies, especially, are deadly and harder to control. And more and more children seem to be having these serious food allergies. Thus, the no nut policy has been appearing at schools across the nation. A nation who's go to, kid friendly lunch item happens to be a PB&J. Naturally, parents of the non-allergic children are then forced to find alternate foods for their picky eaters to nosh on while away from home. And let's be honest, it pisses them off because it feels like another person's problem is now their problem. Goodbye, freedom!

If you are a frequent reader of my blog, you know where I stand on this issue. Nuts should not be allowed in schools. At the very least, not in elementary schools. It is simply too dangerous. Yes, I know little Mikey will only eat a PB&J for lunch and I know that it is a stretch to find something else for him to eat, BUT his sandwich could actually kill another child. If the situation was reversed, I am quite certain that you would ask the kid to kindly leave his peanut butter at home.

There is a wonderful book that we discovered recently at our local library that approaches both sides of this issue in a very level headed manner. It is called "The Peanut Free Cafe" by Gloria Koster. The following is a review that describes the book perfectly...

"The most popular food at Nutley School is peanut butter, and Simon eats it on a bagel every day. Then a new student who has a peanut allergy comes to the school. Principal Filbert makes a peanut-free lunch table, and anyone who has a peanut-free lunch can eat there. Grant sits there alone. Simon suggests that they make the table a fun place, and the school starts a Peanut-Free Cafe that features snacks, arts and crafts, and a movie for the admission of a peanut-free lunch. Simon can't participate because he is unable to give up his favorite food. Finally he convinces himself to eat something else so that he can join his friends, but after school and on weekends he still enjoys peanut butter. The story addresses several important topics, all with a lighthearted touch. Cocca-Lefflers humorous and exuberant illustrations make the book fun. An informative and colorful selection, told in a nonthreatening way that kids will relate to." –Debbie Stewart Hoskins, Grand Rapids Public Library, MI

I love the caring spirit of this book. I really feel like there is not enough talk about what is good for the school community, as a whole. Whatever happened to caring for our neighbors? Or protecting those around us and not just ourselves? Somehow, our ravenous need for "freedom" has trumped everything else. It is something to think about...

Salem boy to ask Congress to pass food allergies bill

It seems to me that it is not so much to ask and accurately be told what is in the foods that we eat. Whether that be at a restaurant or from a food that is packaged and sold at a store. Legislating the information that we receive can be a bit tricky, as are all things having to do with the FDA. But many people are working hard to increase food safety. This is an article about a 13 year old from New Hampshire who is one of 80 youngsters from across the country chosen by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network to speak to Congress on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 about a bill that would fund food allergy research and help schools manage students who have such allergies.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Results Are In...

The doctor's office called with results from my blood test to determine if I am still allergic to shellfish... and they asked if I was sitting down. Somehow, someway I am no longer allergic to the little sea critters. Six years ago, I was diagnosed as being "highly" allergic to crab, lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams and scallops. This was determined via skin test, following a very scary and nearly fatal brush with gigantic bowl of seafood soup from my favorite NYC noodle joint. I was in shock. Here I was a California girl who had grown up on the beach eating shellfish (my favorite food) having to come to the realization that I could never eat it again. My doctor likened my situation to a cup being full. "Once the cup is full, that is it! No more room. Eat the shellfish and you are gambling with your life." And let me tell you, no amount of bacon wrapped scallops or lobster dipped in butter was worth reliving the hell of hives, slowed breathing, locked hands and freaky taxi ride to Mount Sinai's ER. I was done. And if I was ever tempted, my husband was right there beside me to remind me. "Don't EVER do that to ME again!"

So for the past six years I have dutifully avoided every California roll, every shrimp that accidentally made it's way into my chow mein, and I stopped eating at those fabulous hotels by the beach that offer a bounty of the fruits de mer. I even stayed out of the kitchen as my mom cooked up crab cakes for the family. If I hadn't decided to take a skin test, along with my daughter to ease her stress I might not have ever found out. I am not allergic to shellfish?

But (there is always a but) I do have a high reaction to histamine. This one is honestly a bit hard for me to explain, as I am not a doctor and the way that it was explained to me is still confusing. Apparently there are foods that have histamines in them and foods that cause a histamine response. Foods like citrus, chocolate, wine, pickles and shellfish. Because of this, it is still quite possible that if I eat one of these foods I could react to the histamine or my body can produce histamines that would resemble what I have experienced as a food allergy... hives and the whole enchilada. So now that I am conditioned to see a lobster tank and run, I asked the doctor if she thought that I would be safe eating shellfish again. And she thinks that I will be okay, but advised that I first take an antihistamine about an hour before eating. That should be enough to stop the histamine response, in theory. My husband has asked if he could not be with me when I try my little dining "experiment". He wants me to call him and let him know how it goes. And truth be told, I still pretty gun shy. The story continues...

(I just wish Ella will outgrow her allergies. Or some of them. I would gladly give up my right to eat shellfish if she could have wheat. If only...)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Roast Chicken with Brioche Stuffing a la Martha

Some people watch Oprah but I am a true Martha Stewart devotee. A new season of her show started yesterday and they made this chicken. It looked so good that I had to try it myself, with a wheat-free/gluten-free twist. I have to say that it is the best roasted hen that I have ever made. Far from low-fat, but completely delicious. Instead of the brioche, I used a gluten and wheat-free egg bread that I had made this weekend for the crumbs. I tore the bread into small bits and pulsed them in a food processor until very fine and then toasted them in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes until they started to turn golden. This is really quite easy, just a little time consuming because the bird needs to chill in the fridge after it has been prepared.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Just a note...

Lately, my blogs have been sparse, at best. Apologies to those of you who check in from time to time. The kids have both been home all month, we have our house on the market, and there have been raging wildfires just minutes from our doorstep. We have been doing everything, anything to occupy youthful energies, away from home and indoors. Sort of challenging, if ya know what I mean :) I will be happy to be back on my normal routine once school is back in session on the 14th. I have several recipes that I have been working on and as soon as I have more time, I will get to blogging about them! Thanks for sticking with me! XOXO!

Restaurants that we LOVE: Garlic Jim's Pizza

Recently, a friend told me about a pizza chain that offers a gluten & wheat free pizza on their menu. She had tried their pizza at a party and loved it, without knowing that it was not made with traditional wheat flour. Knowing our situation, she got the 411. Garlic Jim's Pizza is a chain that is nation wide. Not all of the locations offer the GF dough, but many do. Our closest restaurant is in Burbank and thankfully, it is on the menu there. The dough only comes in a large sized pizza and can be made like any of their other pizzas with a variety of toppings, sauces and cheeses. I first asked if they could tell me the ingredients for the dough, which they were happy to oblige. It is made with rice flour, tapioca flour, olive oil, yeast, sugar and spices. (YEAH! No almond meal!) After we had the green light, I told my daughter the good news: We were about to eat a wheat-free pizza from an actual restaurant!!! Not one of those funky shaped pizzas that I have been known to make from time to time! She was allowed to pick whatever toppings she wanted. Her choice, mushrooms and pepperoni. We took the pies home (the Burbank store is take-out only). We almost lost our minds on the drive home because the smell was so intoxicating. Ella kept saying, "I can't believe that I get to eat a wheat-free pizza!!! From a restaurant!!!"

We compared her pizza with the one that we were eating (Garlic Jim's Ultimate Combination). Her pizza had a thinner crust and there were some green flecks throughout the dough; parsley. Taste wise, it was truly delicious. It reminded me of the thin crust pizzas that we used to get when we lived in New York City. Our pizza was also very good. Exactly what you would expect from a take-out place. If I were to compare it to another company I would say that it reminded me of Papa John's. Truth be told, I sort of favored her pizza as it seemed to have more flavor. And what did Ella think? She was actually a little luke warm on it. She thought that the sauce was very spicy, as was the pepperoni. And she was right. Maybe not the right fit for a four year old. But she still managed to drop back 2 slices. And my son did not seem to have an issue with the spiciness... as he also ate 2 slices and he NEVER eats anything. Next time, we will request less sauce or maybe try one of their other sauces or leave the sauce off altogether. And we will not get the pepperoni on her pizza. Otherwise, we are already planning our next pizza meal.

Thank you, Garlic Jim's for trying something new. As much as I love to cook, it is great to have an alternative dinner to serve the family when we are on the go. If you happen to have a Garlic Jim's near you, check it out! And if your location doesn't have the GF dough, request that they get it. Don't be shy!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Looks like I won't be throwing away the wheat-free flour mixes any time soon..

Ella and I survived our first Mommy & Daughter skin test. Going into the test, I was well prepared. I brought along a bunch of distractions including pens & paper, books, games and lollipops. No doubt that I was more anxious than she was, having done the test before. The doctor explained everything to Ella and showed her what the testing stamp looks like.

I was the first up, getting the full panel of 60 plus a few others including some of the foods that we know Ella is allergic to. I also had her retest shellfish, including lobster, crab, oysters, clams and scallops. The test was not as uncomfortable as I remembered. I think it used to be more of a true "scratch" test. Anyway, I had Ella watch watch the nurse was doing so that she new what to expect. It actually sort of tickled more than it hurt.

And then Ella was up. She was a brave little soldier. I held her in my arms as the test was being done. I had to hold her arms to keep her from moving. Once the test started, she was pretty upset. But once the stamps were on she stopped crying. (We decided to not test her for pistachios because she is so allergic that it might have caused a severe reaction.) Instantly, hives began to appear on her back. And she was pretty uncomfortable with the itching. The lollipops saved the day. And when it got really itchy, we cuddled as close as we could without messing up each of our results.

My back also was itching like crazy but it helped to have her to focus on.

The doctor came in to check the results. There were many surprises for me, not so many with Ella. She is still very allergic to all nuts, sesame, wheat and eggs. She is still slightly allergic to soy, but it seems to be diminishing. The odd thing was that last year her blood test claimed that she in not allergic to pecans. But her skin test showed that she is highly allergic to them. So thankfully, I have never given her any. (Not that we would have anyway, as cross contamination with nut manufacturers is a risk that I would be unwilling to take.) So although we were hoping for better news we are relieved that no new allergies have emerged. Thankfully, she still shows no reaction to milk. As far as environmental allergens go, she also tested positive to some pollens and grasses, as well as dust mites. She also tested highly allergic to histamines. I guess each of us respond differently to histamines that are in the foods that we eat. Some foods naturally have histamines in them. Others release histamines once they are consumed. The doctor gave us a list of foods that we might want to try and avoid... cheese, citrus, berries, tomatoes & chocolate. Since Ella's diet is already so restricted, I am not going to pull any of this unless I see a pattern develop where she eats something and has a specific reaction.

As far as my test results are concerned, I was a bit shocked. My body reacted very little to the shellfish samples. Of all the shellfish that they tested, I am only mildly allergic to oysters (1 on a scale of 1 to 4) and I had a questionable response to shrimp and clams. But I did have a mild reaction to the shellfish mix (part of the standard food panel that includes the top six things that people are allergic to most including wheat, milk, peanuts, soy and eggs). So rather than sending me directly to a seafood restaurant to enjoy a celebratory lobster dinner, my doctor is ordering blood tests to get more info. So the jury is still out, but maybe I will be able to enjoy my beloved scallops once more? The other thing that she told me is that I am not allergic to iodine, which another doctor had previously told me. So that will make life a lot easier for me on many levels.

I have a host of other seasonal/environmental allergies, all playing a large part in my chronic sinusitis. But the good news on that front is that I no longer seem to be allergic to pet hair and dander, as I once was. So the kids might just be able to get a cat someday, after all.

After they read our backs, they washed us off and that is when the fun really started with Ella. In cleaning her up, the allergens that she is most allergic to got spread around. Her back quickly was covered in hundreds of tiny hives. She looked like a creature with a shell made of ripples and spots. She was screaming that her back was itchy. They gave her Zyrtec and rubbed a topical cortisone cream all over her. After a half an hour the hives were only getting worse. So they gave her Benadryl. We sat waiting for her hives to go down. After about 1 1/2 hours, she seemed to be improving so the doctor released us. I was pretty upset and Ella was totally out of it. Thank God we did not rub the pistachios on her. My guess is the culprits were the sesame and peanuts, as her response hives for those allergens were the size of two quarters placed next to one another.

Overall, the test was worth doing. But I was really hoping that Ella's wheat allergy would have decreased over the past year. Thankfully we have lots of options and it really is good to know what we are up against. I am just hoping and praying that Milo will not have to deal with any of this. Fingers are crossed...