Sunday, November 29, 2009

Restaurants that we LOVE: Olive Garden and P.F. Chang's

Life has been getting better and better for those of us with nutritional limitations. More and more chains have been creating gluten free menus for their patrons. And as a mother of a child who cannot eat wheat but loves eating out, I am eternally grateful for options. Two restaurants that we have always enjoyed and are happy to discover that they offer several GF dishes are Olive Garden and P.F. Chang's.

Olive Garden's various menus can be found here. Amongst the offerings are grilled chicken and steamed veggies, meat kabobs, and they are even trying out a new GF pasta with marinara sauce. From what I am told, the pasta dish just made its way out of the test kitchen and the more people order it, the more likely it is that they will add more GF pasta dishes to their menu. So go, go go! And tell them how much you appreciate this expansion of their menu.

For a while now I have been hearing about how P.F. Chang's is offering their own GF menu. We happen to have an amazing local Chinese restaurant that caters to our every need so we do not often give other places a try. But we were recently running around in a different neighborhood and decided to pop in and give them a try. And boy were we impressed. The staff was so friendly and helpful. And knowledgeable about the menu. When you are dealing with food allergies, this is essential. Ella went hog wild. We ordered several things, just to give them a try. Which was not too much of a problem, as it allowed a bunch of leftovers. (Score! Mommy got a cooking break!) If you are around one of their restaurants and are hungry, please check them out. It is so nice to feel normal again and I applaud these restaurants for trying something new. THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Food Allergies are on the Rise in Children

In case you have not yet heard or read about it, new studies are confirming that food allergies are on the rise.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Way to go, Ralphs!

We just received a coupon mailer from Ralph's Supermarket. They are advertising the fact that they are now carrying more Gluten Free products. Inside the mailer were two coupons, one for the GF Betty Crocker mixes and the other is for the GF Chex cereals. Way to go! It is really refreshing to see a chain like this embrace the Gluten Free diet. Just as I always say, there is plenty of money to be made on folks like us... Thank the Lord for alternate food choices at the grocery store!

(See review below for details on the Betty Crocker GF Mixes. Also, click on the link on the right under "Browse Recipes" and "Cranberry Cinnamon Party Mix" for a yummy way of using GF Rice Chex cereal. I published this back in April and it is sure to please, especially during the Holidays. You and your guests will love it!)

Review: Betty Crocker Yellow Cake Mix

Gotta say, I had my reservations. I was not sure what the mix would taste like or what kind of texture it would have. But we were happily surprised, on both counts. I used the mix to make a batch of cupcakes and then I used them to make two desserts over the course of two nights.

Dessert #1: Strawberry Shortcake. I cut the cupcake in half and placed it in a bowl. I then topped it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, macerated strawberries and whipped cream. Everyone was quite happy with the results.

Dessert #2: Mini Banana Trifles. In a dessert glass, I layered bits of torn cake + banana pudding + sliced bananas + whipped cream. I did about 3 layers of each and finished with a doll
op of the whipped cream. Gotta tell you, this dessert was TOPS! I served to my in-laws who were visiting and they went, well, bananas. It was sort of like the classic banana cream pie and just as addictive.

There are probably 150 different things that you can do with this basic cake mix. There are other wheat and gluten free cake recipes that I prefer. But this sure is a great product to have on hand around as a last minute dessert fix. Hopefully you can find it at a your local grocery store!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

We Survived!

Thanks to lots of happy thinking and a grateful bottle of Tamiflu, the Miller Family has seemingly survived the H1N1. Ella has a bit of a lingering frog in her throat, but is otherwise back to her old self. Thankfully, the rest of us did not catch it. Which really makes me think that the vicious bug that we had in August was indeed the swine flu. I know that this disease has really destroyed a lot of people but I am truly relieved that it was not that bad for us. Ella will be back at school tomorrow. Quite honestly, I am more worried about getting something else to further exhaust her immune system. But I am going to hope for the best, as my little lady really needs to get out of this house!

Her teacher just called to let me know that they will be making gingerbread men in class on Tuesday, so I will be trying a new wheat free recipe that a friend sent to me. Oh, it feels good to be getting back to normal life!

Monday, November 2, 2009

H1N1 is in the Hizzy

It has been looming over us like a dark shadow, chasing us around ever corner. Everywhere we turn, people are discussing it. On the news, at work, at school, in restaurants and stores across the globe. H1N1 at first seemed like just another media sensation when people first caught wind of it last spring. Lots of fear mongering, lots of panicking. At first, I shook it off as just another threat to public health, du jour. Along the line of SARS or the Avian Flu. But as time has gone on and it became obvious that this was something to really fear, I gradually started to brace myself with the "what if" scenarios. The vaccine came out and like all other flu vaccinations, it was made with eggs, making it an impossibility for Ella. Which is sad because she is also asthmatic and considered "high risk" and usually pushed to the front of the line for such vaccines.

Last week, the dark shadow approached, as several of Ella's classmates were diagnosed with having contracted the Swine Flu. My instincts told me that our window was closing and I was right. On Saturday, Ella started acting quite lethargic even napping mid-day. Ever the optimist, I wrote it off as her being tired from the crazy day we had on Friday and maybe she just wanted to rest before a big night of trick or treating. Right? We were able to rally her to costume up and head out for a night of candy collecting (imagine that!) But after about an hour she told me that she was ready to go home. She started complaining of a headache. That night she woke at 2 am, asking for water. Her head was quite warm. And then Sunday, she awoke with a gnarly cough and was clearly sick. Eventually, her fever hit 103 and we called the doctor who (being that it was Sunday) diagnosed her over the phone. Without question, she has the H1N1. Sigh.

Next came the hard part. The doctor wanted to give her a prescription for Tamiflu. But being that we live in a major metropolitan area, there are extensive shortages on the children's version. (Here's an article from CBS about the shortages.) Gabe and I spent a total of 2+ hours on the phone, calling every pharmacy near and far. Nothing. And then her doctor suggested that we ask if anyone was willing to create a suspension from the adult version of the drug. And after several more calls, Gabe was able to find someone who could do it. PHEW! So we waited another couple of hours for the "cocktail" to be made, thanking each and everyone of our lucky stars.

Today, Ella is doing pretty good under the circumstances. Maybe all of our experience dealing with the insanity of her food allergies has prepared us, in a way, for this year's global pandemic. (Much like my endometriosis prepared me for childbirth.) And I am trying to remain positive and strong as we take this whole thing on. I fully understand the gravity of the situation but I am choosing to not focus on the dark statistics. That only brings stress to an already terrifying situation. We are taking good care of our little lady. I have been getting lots of advice from the parents of her friends who had it over the past few weeks. Thankfully, she has not lost her appetite and is very receptive to drinking liquids. We are planning on keeping her home from school and all other social activities for as long as it takes for her to be back to normal health.

Time will tell if the rest of us will get this thing. Milo was REALLY sick a few months back with a severe flu like bug. I also got it. At the time, I just assumed that it was not the Swine Flu. My sister's kids were also quite sick and her pediatrician told her that if anyone was getting the flu in the middle of summer it was almost certainly the H1N1. Not sure if that is true or not, but wouldn't it be great if we actually are immune already? We shall see. So far, Milo seems fine. Other than the fact that he has been waking up at absurdly early hours. He was up and at 'em at 3 am this morning! My guess is that he is about to go through a developmental change. And then maybe the little guy can get back to being a good sleeper, once more. We sure could use some sleep around here!

Hopefully everyone is happy and healthy, out there. This thing is really far reaching and if you can get your hands on some Tamiflu, especially if you have other health issues, I would strongly suggest that you do so. It seems to really help!