Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

An ode to a pistachio


There was once a time that I consumed pistachios, with all of their salty goodness, by the bowl full. Every so often I would encounter one with a closed shell. The one that said, "Oh, no! I do not belong to anyone. Move along. Not worth the trouble." And then I would. If anyone would would ask me what my favorite nut was I would say without hesitation, a pistachio.

That was, until I discovered that my daughter is dreadfully allergic to them. What once brought me so much joy is now giving me nightmares. If I were to eat one and then kiss her, she could die. Her allergy is "off the charts" according to her allergist. "We have never seen a person this allergic to pistachios." After we found this out, I threw out my stash. And have not eaten even one of them, since.

But I would be lying if I said that I do not miss them. A friend of mine and I were at one of my favorite restaurants recently and the featured special was a salad with heirloom tomatoes and pistachios. She ordered it. I wanted it. She offered me a bite. I refused. And gosh darn it, I have been craving it ever since.

I think about pistachios often. For a foodie, it is an ingredient that is almost impossible to resist. But I have to. I often think about folks in my position. Parents who love peanuts or almonds or dairy and can no longer "go there" for fear of endangering our little ones. This is a rough spot to be in.

There is an ice cream joint in Hollywood called Mashti Malone's. They are famous for their rosewater and pistachio ice cream. It is heavenly. Believe me, the temptation to pop in there is very strong. And I constantly pass the place as I head down La Brea, multiple times a day.

Maybe it is the Catholic in me. Sometimes a gal just needs to feel guilty. And suffer. I say this all, very tongue in cheek. But there is some truth to this yearning.

When I was looking up images to attach to this post, I stumbled upon the photo above. It seems that some woman in Ohio found what appears to be the image of Jesus on her pistachio. If you were to ask me, I would say that the face looks more like the weird preacher guy from "Poltergeist." (But I am sort of intrigued by the chipped red nail polish.) Anyway, she found this amazing and special nut on Christmas Eve, of all days.


Coincidence? I think not.

Yesterday, I happily celebrated the birth of Jesus with my family as we consumed massive amounts of "rich" and tragically unhealthy food. There were no pistachios. But it must be said that I am thrilled at the end of each day that we have made it through without visiting the ER. I am willing to do anything that keeps my daughter safe.

As she told me recently, "I love you, Mommy. You are my whole world!" Guess what, kid? You are my entire universe.

Friday, December 24, 2010

From our home to yours, Happy Holidays


This Holiday season seems to have been on warp speed. It is hard to believe that it is already Christmas Eve. The big news at our house is that Ella has lost her first tooth, meaning that the Tooth Fairy AND Santa will be visiting our home all within the same week!

I went back to work the Monday after Thanksgiving, but that has not derailed my holiday baking. So far, I think I have made about 12 dozen gingerbread cookies. Some were for school parties others were gifts and more than a few have been consumed by us. Naturally, I have also made a lot of decorated sugar cookies, peppermint bark, cupcakes, toffee, rum balls, lemon persimmon bars, oodles of baked sweet breads, Cornflake snowflakes, coconut "snow balls", GF peppermint ice cream cake and I even brought out my cookie press a time or two. (We are working on our "relationship" and the courtship has been a bit rough at times.) All of this has made for a busy month, not that I am complaining. I love this time of year. And nothing makes me happier than seeing the excitement on my kid's faces.

Sometimes it is hard to slow down enough to enjoy the moment, but I am trying. A dear family friend passed away last week and my sister has been quite sick with a horrific throat infection. Nothing about this has been fun, especially because it is Christmas time. So I have been counting my blessings and trying to appreciate everything that is valuable and great in my life. And saying my prayers that my sister will have a Christmas miracle!

Since she has been sick and my brother in law is recovering from a recent appendectomy, we have been having lots of play dates with my niece and nephew. Having all of that youthful energy and laughter around the house is really special. Let's be honest, having four kids under the age of 5 all at once can be a little.... exhausting. But fun. :) My daughter has her food allergies, my son cannot eat pecans and my nephew is allergic to eggs. There is a lot of discussion before each snack or meal is consumed. Thankfully there are so many goody options that no one feels like they are "suffering". We had Chinese food for lunch yesterday and each kid had something different on their plate. My son and niece were eating low mein (with wheat based noodles). My daughter said, "Mommy, I feel left out. Why don't I have noodles, too?" She had veggie rice without soy or egg, but these kids like to all have the same stuff. So I let her taste the noodles, which she immediately spit out. "Too saucy!" So many overlapping needs and tastes! We do what we can.

Tonight we are going to make a big dinner, Italian style. (Isn't that what all of the German-Irish families do on Christmas Eve?) Hopefully we will make a dent on some of those desserts! And Christmas day will be filled with presents and even more food. Something tells me I am also going to have to fit in some time at the gym when the dust settles.

I hope all of you have a safe, healthy and especially joyful holiday. Please eat with care when someone else is preparing your meal. Don't forget your safety kits, just in case. Sending you a giant hug and a wish for a very happy new year!

-Heidi

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Girl Dies of Food Allergy After a School Party

This is not what I like to report on, ever, but especially this time of year. My heart goes out to this girl's family. All of us who live with food allergies and constantly face the threat of anaphylaxis understand the gravity of this death. Please, please be careful at holiday parties this year. It is often easy to slip into a relaxed state of mind. Do what you can to stay informed about what you and yours consume. And carry those Epi-Pens and Benadryl!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Coconut Snowballs


I first published this last year and am looking forward to making them again next week! If you cannot have dairy, there are some fabulous soy or coconut ice cream alternatives that would be just as delicious.

When I was a kid growing up in the 70's and 80's there was a treat that we would get at the store, every year around Christmas. I cannot for the life of me, remember who made it or what it was called. But it was basically vanilla ice cream, rolled in shredded coconut. And then it came with a small candle that you were suppose to put in the middle and light it. Very festive! For the past couple of years I have been craving this dessert like crazy. So I decided to make my own version and was thrilled at how easy it was to do. (I guess my years working at an ice cream parlor continue to pay off!)

1 Pint of the best vanilla ice cream
1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut

Remove the ice cream from the freezer and let rest on the counter. Fill a shallow bowl with the coconut. With a #20 scoop or another trusted ice cream scoop, create a balls out of the ice cream, trying to keep them as round as possible. Gently roll each ball in the coconut and place on a cookie sheet covered in parchment. Repeat until you have run out of coconut (I was able to make about 6 snowballs). Stick the cookie sheet in the freezer and allow balls to harden for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Joyce's Joy Juice

This recipe came from a former co-worker of my Mom's. The ingredients were sloppily written on the back of an old envelope at what I am assuming was a very fun Christmas party. We have been making it, happily, now for close to thirty years. If you are looking for a warm drink to serve or bring to a holiday party, consider this. Or you can whip up a batch and drink it while decorating the tree and wrapping gifts. Spiking is only optional!

Joyce's Joy Juice


7 cups apple cider

5 cups orange juice

1½ cups fresh lemon juice

4 cups superfine sugar

3½ cups STRONG black tea

5 cups water

4 cinnamon sticks

1 tablespoon of whole cloves

1 (2") piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for approx. 30 minutes-1 hour, depending on taste and urgency.

Remove cinnamon, cloves and ginger.


Serve with brandy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kourtney Kardashian's Son Hospitalized with Peanut Allergy

This has been all over the news for the past couple of days. My heart goes out to them and hope their son is okay.

http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20444171,00.html

Sunday, November 21, 2010

All Aboard!


Lately, I feel like I am on a fast moving holiday train. A bullet, that is rushing toward the new year. So much to do as the days fly rapidly outside my window. I have been buzzing around my kitchen, nonstop since Halloween. The picture above says it all. It is not even Thanksgiving yet and I am already prepping for Hanukkah and Christmas. My daughter's school has had two bake sales in the past month. The first of which, I cooked SEVEN different items for. The school set a record in sales, earning over $800. There was another one this weekend and I decided to only make two items. (Slacker, I know.)

My house has turned into a round the clock bakery. I asked my Dad what my Step Mother wants for her birthday and he said, "Oh, just make her one of your chocolate goodies." Then the school asked for volunteers to make goodies for the all school Thanksgiving feast. I am a sucker, I volunteered. Naturally, my mom is also depending on me to help her prepare my family's Thanksgiving dinner. We have a large family and my Mom's house is the center of our universe on what has become my very favorite holiday. So I grab some comfortable shoes, a Cafe Mexicano from my favorite cafe and a good bottle of wine as I roll my sleeves up and get busy.

It is not all baking, too. My daughter attends a Jewish school and they are putting on their annual Hanukkah pageant. An e-mail went out asking for parents to help making costumes and decorating the sets. So naturally, I volunteered. (One day, very soon my husband will surely have me committed.)

Oh, and did I mention our holiday party, my daughter's performance in "Where the Wild Thing's Are", and the biggest of all celebrations... Christmas? This is the point where I should ask Calgon to take me away.

This all brings me endless amounts of joy and yes, there may be dark puffy bags under my eyes but gosh darn it... it is worth it. The funny thing is that I know that there are so many other people out there, just like me. Trying to do all that they can to make their holidays spectacular. To me, it means so much when people give their time and make things themselves. It is what the holidays are all about. And I feel quite blessed to have a home over my head, healthy children and an abundance of love in my life. Lots to celebrate!

This is the time of year that I find myself thinking a lot about my Grandmother, Mary. She was an absolute inspiration. She literally prepared for Christmas, year round. She made doll ornaments from clothespins and crocheted snowflakes, as she sat in her chair each night. (This, after raising four kids, maintaining a spotless household and making some of the best food anyone has ever tasted). When Christmas arrived I was thrilled to run into their warm home in the mountains where stacks of delicious goodies awaited me. It was a child's dream come true. Everything was perfect, scrumptious and seemingly effortless. It all came from her heart. If there is anything that I wish to give to my family, it is that. Lord, how I miss that beautiful woman.

I also miss my strong, warm Grandfather who was the ultimate host. He lived for these types of celebrations. If we had ham, he'd make sure that there were at least 4 different types of mustards. It was also his job to make sure everyone had a drink in hand, at all times. He always had a great story to tell; I hung on his every word.

Sigh.

I am the epitome of a holiday softy. A total sap. But something tells me that by the time New Year's rolls around this year, I will be ready for it.

Oh, and I almost forgot... I just got called back to work. I start prepping the sets for Hell's Kitchen AND MasterChef in a week. Better drink more of that coffee!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why not?

If you happen to have a second and are feeling the "love" please vote for this little blog that could. Many thanks, in advance!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eczema strikes, again

Our daughter used to have dreadful eczema. In fact, it was an early indication that she was having bad reactions to foods. After we cleaned up her diet (wheat and soy being the biggest culprits) her eczema left and we have not seen it since.

My son has always had very sensitive skin. A few months ago, our allergist suggested that we stop using dryer sheets and encouraged us to use a non-comedogenic lotion all over his body after bathing. He does not appear to have any of the food allergies that his sister has. We skin tested him and he only reacted to pecans, and mildly. After following the doctors instructions, we have seen his skin clear up. But over the past week, he has developed an angry red rash around his chin and cheeks. He has been taking antibiotics to cure a sinus infection, and I wonder if his rash is a reaction to that. Or maybe he could be experiencing dry skin from the oddly dry weather we have been having. But his doctor thinks he might be reacting to the wipes we use to clean him. He also has the rash on his tush. She told us to use only Lanisnoh wipes (the kind made of gold... only kidding, they aren't cheap!) And she prescribed a topical cream, to be used until the rash clears up. On top of this, she wants us to avoid foods like tomatoes that are acidic and might further aggravate the situation, for the time being. Sorry kid, your beloved pizza and spaghetti with marinara are off the table!

All of this is a guessing game and none of it makes me happy. I despise seeing my little guy uncomfortable and I do not like the looks I get when I drop him off at preschool. (Doctor says that it is NOT Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease, nor is it Slapped Cheek Syndrome). But it is a bit of a game; one of elimination. Hopefully we will find the source before we all lose our mind.

Kind of praying that it is the wipes, actually. I would much rather pay for those little purple packages than find out that he has some other kind of crazy allergy. Fingers are crossed...

Sesame allergies; related to nut allergies?


I found this little article from Medicine Journal Feeds, very interesting. It certainly applies to our family. Our daughter is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts and is just as allergic to sesame. But she has no issue with coconut, thankfully. I know that this is not the case with everyone but I wonder if there is a connection. I am terrified of her having any contact with sesame, especially after I saw her reaction following her most recent skin test.


Just as a side note, a few years ago I had to have an emergency appendectomy. My appendix had cracked and was reacting to a small seed that had gotten stuck. Can you guess what that seed was? Yep, it was a sesame seed! Ggrrrrrrr!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes to Share

Here are several delicious looking recipes for Thanksgiving from Food Allergy Living, as well as links to other helpful articles on the subject...

Thanksgiving ideas

These craft, meal and activity ideas are worth checking out. From Kids With Food Allergies...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thanksgiving: What do you serve?


Thanksgiving is right around the corner. There is no question, it is my favorite holiday. My Mom and I cook like lunatics, all day. And then we feast! Having a child that is allergic to so many things can really complicate things. In years past, I have prepared a special wheat free pumpkin pie, just for my daughter. And then last year I bought a mini pre-made version at Whole Foods and she loved that, too. But that is just dessert.

To add to the insanity, I have a kid who hates mashed potatoes. So her meal is usually turkey, cranberry sauce, raw veggies from the appetizer plate and some of my Mom's stellar Jello salad. That is a pretty decent meal by most standards, but this year I am going to try and make something else.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving dishes? And how do you handle the stress associated with food allergies on this holiday that is all about eating? Please let me know by leaving a comment or on my Facebook page!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Peanuts and Pregnancy?

Thought this costume was cute,
even if it doesn't totally relate to the topic :)


There has been a lot of research indicating that eating peanuts during pregnancy can possibly contribute to a child developing a peanut allergy. There is a new report out today from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, that suggests that there may, indeed, be a connection. Everyone on the web has been talking about it. Here is a link to an article that discusses the findings...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Allergy Free Halloween Treats

Rice Krispie Pops, dipped in white chocolate & sprinkles

If you are looking for a treat to make for Halloween that is allergy friendly and with ingredients that are easy to obtain, this might be the one for you. They are made with the classic Rice Krispie Treat recipe, so they are free of tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and eggs. If you want you can make them with dairy free margarine and forgo dipping them in white chocolate, if you have a dairy allergy. Here is the link to the recipe that I followed...


You will also need...

14 oz. chopped white chocolate or Wilton candy melts
Halloween-themed sprinkles or candies

(***If you are making a dairy free version and will not be dipping them in white chocolate, you can add candy or sprinkles to the mixture. You can either do this right after you add the rice krispies or you can sprinkle them on top of the mixture, after you have pressed them into the pan.)

Use a 8 x 8 glass baking pan, that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Cover the bottom and sides with 2 overlapping sheets of wax paper, allowing the extra to hang over the sides. Then spray the pan, once more.

Pour the prepared treat mixture into the pan. Spray hands with cooking spray and pack everything down, as tight as possible. Even out the top, if necessary. Refrigerate until cool, approx. 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and wax paper. Move to a cutting board. Cut the edges to make an even square. Then cut into fourths, crosswise and then each row into three rectangles. This should yield 12 treats, plus a few scraps for you to chow down on or to give to a lucky family member. Insert a stick into the center of each treat and place on a cookie sheet that is covered in wax paper.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes.


Treats, ready for dipping.

With a double boiler, set over low heat, melt approx. 8-10 ounces of chopped white chocolate or melting chips (like the ones you find at the craft store from Wilton). Stir until melted and take care not to burn or scald the white chocolate. Once it is all melted, dip the treat into the chocolate. Cover 5 sides, leaving the bottom where the stick meets the treat, uncovered. Use sprinkles (double check those ingredient list for any possible food allergens) or candies to sprinkle over the chocolate. Cover all sides, except the bottom. Place back on the cookie sheet that has been covered with wax paper. When all treats are decorated, return to the refrigerator to chill until ready to serve.

They should sit out for about 20-30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Yields 12 treats.

Note: If you read the recipe for GF Brownie Pops from an earlier post of mine, you may recognize the orange colored white chocolate and the same sprinkles. There is no shame in using up ingredients, people! If you got it, use it!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

LA FAAN Walk 2010



Our team shirts, ready to be delivered.



Our team captain, adorned in latex.



Our float.



Milo was bitter because there was no room for him in the float.



Hanging out in a tree, waiting for the walk to start.


The Walk was a great success. It was nice to be surrounded by so much love and support. My family came out to walk with us on what turned out to be an amazing California day. There were so many beautiful families and groups of friends. We dressed in purple; Ella's favorite color. My 6' 5" brother-in-law was even man enough to wear a shirt that was bedazzled in rhinestones in the shape of a peace sign. (He gets major points for this, in my book).

Why the peace signs? Well, if you happen to have or know a child in grade school you may have noticed that peace symbols are quite trendy right now. You can be certain that our little group of 3-5 year olds have no concept of "peace" but they sure can identify its symbol. So I indulged Ella on this one. All of our shirts had the image, as well as our "float" which was a very elaborately dressed Radio Flyer wagon. We made "Team Ella" signs with glitter foam, attached some sparkly purple bows, added a few "no sesame, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and wheat" signs, and finished it all off with some purple leopard print ribbon. A job that even Fancy Nancy would approve of. We also decorated our two team strollers.

The walk, itself, was not bad. Two miles, along Santa Monica Beach. It has been overcast and raining all week. But we were graced with a break in the clouds and some 70 degree weather. I had the opportunity to meet lots of new people and share stories. And we also were able to enjoy the music, balloon making and free samples that the vendors had to offer.

The organizers did a top notch job with everything. We appreciate all of your dedication and hard work. Our team earned over $1000, which is quite a feat in this shaky economy. Thanks again to all who made contributions. Hopefully some day we will find a cure.

If you are interested in participating in one of these walks, they take place all over the USA. There are several upcoming walks. Maybe there is one in your area? To find out more information, check out FAAN's Walk for Food Allergy site.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gluten-Free Oreos

Gluten-Free Girl just posted this recipe for GF Oreos. They look pretty fab. Here is a link to the recipe...

Monday, October 18, 2010

GF and Wheat-Free Paper Mache/Papier Mache



We have been going crazy with the Halloween crafting this year. Something that I used to love to do as a child was paper mache or if you like to spell things the French way, papier mache. The traditional papier mache paste is made with flour and water. But after some internet sleuthing, I found two ways to make it without using flour.

1) Mix 2 parts white glue with 1 part warm water. Combine well. Paste is ready for use!

2) Claycrete Instant Papier Mache This product is made from paper and is finely ground into a dust. You mix it with water, kneed it a bit and mould it. You do not need to use strips of paper, newsprint or magazines; the mix is all you need.

We tried both ways and quite honestly, I preferred the old fashioned way; using option #1. This is how we made our pumpkins...


Papier Mache using wheat flour-free paste

You will need:

Batch of Paste (see option #1, above)
2 Old Magazines or Catalogs or 1 section of a newspaper, cut into 2"x 6" strips
4-5 latex balloons
Paper Cups
Acrylic craft paint (orange and black)
Glue
Black glitter
Green pipe cleaners
Green paper or foam leaves
OR
Hole punch
Twine or ribbon

Cover a work surface with butcher paper or newsprint. Mix the paste, according to the instructions (1) above. Place cut strips next to your bowl of paste. Blow up balloons to desired size and rest each in a paper cup. (You can use any kind of cup, I liked the paper ones because clean up was a breeze). Place each strip, one at a time, into the glue. Squeezing off as much excess as you can into the bowl.


Begin to layer the strips on top of balloon. Place the strips on top of each other, overlapping slightly. Layer them in a perpendicular fashion; one goes vertical and the next horizontal and so on.



Continue this process, as you work your way around the balloon.



Cover the entire balloon, right up to the base of the balloon but do not cover the "belly button". Leave that part sticking out.



Set the balloons aside to dry. This should take about 12 hours or overnight. Make sure to flip the balloons as some point during this time so that the underside can dry and the papier mache does not stick to the cup.

Once the balloons have dried completely, it is time to paint them. Paint the main body of the balloon, orange. Allow to dry completely. Draw the face with black paint or if you prefer, paint the face with glue and sprinkle with glitter. Be sure to shake off all of the excess.

Once the pumpkins have dried, you can remove the latex balloon. Hold onto the belly button and pull on it slightly. Cut the latex, making sure not to sever it all of the way. As the air escapes, you will hear a crumble, crunch sound. Remove the balloon and any paste crumbles that are left behind.

To make a stem, simply leave the hole left by the belly button, as is. Create the stem out of the pipe cleaners. Hot glue it into the top. You can also add leaves made from paper or green foam sheets, if you desire.

If you want to make a pumpkin pot, for carrying or displaying goodies you can cut a bigger hole in the top with scissors. Punch two holes with a hold punch on opposite sides of the pumpkin's face. (As far down as your punch will allow, about 1" from the top). Attach ribbon or braided twine to the holes, creating a handle.

If the pumpkins are rolling around a little, simple press them gently on a flat surface. They should even out. You can also spray them with a little polyurethane spray, gloss or matte finish if you want to preserve them a little.


Los Angeles FAAN Walk

The LA FAAN Walk is less than a week away. If you are in the area and want to join us, please do. The walk will take place in Santa Monica on Sunday, October 24 and hopefully we will have beautiful weather. If you would like to check out our personal page, "Team Ella", go here...


Our fundraising goal is a bit smaller this year, as so many people have been hit hard by the economic situation. But we are almost there!

If you are planning on doing the walk and want to join our team we would welcome it. Or if you happen to be going already, look for us. We will be wearing purple. And chances are quite good that I will have a baked goody or two!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

GF Brownie Pops, Halloween Style!



As many of you who read this blog frequently know, I like to collect baking pans. Recently, I mentioned the braided loaf pan that we have been enjoying. My newest acquisition is a brownie pop pan. Yep, I have a habit. I have seen these pops in magazines and at friend's parties for quite some time. And I thought it would be fun to have another way to make wheat/gluten free treats. For my first adventure, I decided to use the GF brownie mix from Trader Joe's. Mostly because it is so simple to use and I happened to have a bag on hand. The instructions on the pan's packaging suggested that you insert the stick in one of two ways... 1) Halfway through its baking time or 2) After the mini cake has cooked, removed them from the pan and insert the stick as it cools. I tried both ways and had great success with the latter. For some reason the sticks kept falling over when they were in the oven. (The second method made dipping a lot easier, too.)


This was version #1. As you can see, the sticks are already leaning a bit.

I dipped the pops in melted white chocolate that was orange colored. And then I had Ella sprinkle the orange and black jimmies over them. (We also tried dipping the wet pops in the sprinkles but they got too goopy. It was a mess.)

But if you happen to be looking for a fun activity and treat and are getting tired of cupcakes, you may want to consider investing in one of these pans. They can be found online or most places that carry Wilton pans, like Michaels.

Ella is already planning her Christmas version. And Milo is already waiting in line to eat them.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yum! (NOT!)


This is a photo that has been making the rounds lately, via e-mails and Facebook. It is a photo of msm (mechanically separated meat). Chickens are turned into this goop and made into nuggets. It is made from the parts of the chicken that are left over, after processing. To combat the risk of bacteria growth, it is washed with ammonia and then re-flavored artificially. Because the color turns pink, it then has to be dyed with additional artificial colors.

This image has been stuck in my head for days and I decided to go to snopes.com and see if there was any truth to it. According to their research this is both true and false information. If you are curious, you should check out their report. (See link above).

What I got out of is is that processed chicken nuggets are gross, no matter how you slice it. And certainly not something I want my kids to eat on a regular basis. (Too much handling = scary, in my book. Especially when we are talking about an animal product).

Yesterday at the parents meeting at my daughter's school, there was a lot of discussion about what kind of chicken to serve to the children for hot lunch. All of the parents want the kids to eat grilled chicken. All the kids want are nuggets. Here is a really interesting video link from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on the topic.


Thankfully, our daughter does not partake in the school hot lunches because of her multiple food allergies. When I make chicken strips I do it with organic meat that has been covered in cornflakes. But I anticipate that this will be something we will have to deal with when my son hits grade school, as this is the kind of junk he LOVES to eat. Hopefully, this image will still be in my mind.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Try, try and try again!

This past weekend was my son's birthday party. He does not happen to have food allergies but three of the children who came have severe food allergies and one parent who is gluten intolerant. When I asked my son what he wanted for his birthday he said, "Cupcakes!" And since I have been known to bake on occasion, I felt like it was a reasonable request. His theme was "Toy Story" so I decided to make Mr. Potato Head, Hamm and alien cupcakes. My original plan was to make another wheat-free, nut-free, egg-free and dairy free cupcake for Ella and her friends. (Something that was easily distinguishable from the rest.) I bought a mix from Whole Foods (usually I use a cookbook recipe, but I thought I would save a bit of time measuring if I used a mix). The cover of the box said it was free of everything on my list, plus corn-free. It said, "Add your own sweetener" which I assumed meant that the sweetener was the only thing that I would have to add. I quickly scanned the ingredients and everything looked good. It wasn't until the night before the party when I realized that I would have to add one cup of milk and SIX eggs to make the cake. Please tell me in what world this is dairy free and egg free? (They did not offer any alternatives for the eggs but suggested rice or soy milk, in lieu of cow's milk.) So I was in a pickle. The recipes that I had called for ingredients that I did not have. So I was left to improvise. I decided to make Ella wheat-free and gluten-free cupcakes (with dairy) and then I made rice crispy treats with dairy free margarine. After the treats set, my plan was to cut them into circles and decorate them (along with the GF cupcakes) like Jessie's hat. I pulled out a recipe for vegan/ dairy-free frosting. Everything was going great until I added the gel food coloring... when everything started to separate. Something that really grosses me out for some odd reason. And then I second guessed myself, yet again, when I started worrying that the red food coloring might cause issues for the other little girl. So I made a version with white frosting and sprinkles.


Dairy-free, egg-free rice crispy treats, done 2 ways.

(Intervention? Therapy? This woman needs help!)

And then I ended up frosting Ella's cupcakes with traditional buttercream. Hey, go with what you know! This is how they turned out...

Ella's wheat-free/GF cupcakes

So for a party of 20 children and 2o adults, I ended up making 4 types of cupcakes and rice crispy treats. Each one was worth it. The mother of the little girl told me how much she appreciated my efforts. And that was enough for me.

Unfortunately, everyone at the party is now convinced that I am a total lunatic. Which is not so far from the truth! :)






Vaccines

The controversy over vaccines never seems to end. I read about this case today and am not sure how or if it relates to food allergies but as a parent, I find it interesting. We happen to believe strongly in vaccinating our children, but there hasn't been a single doctor visit that I have not cringed, cried and prayed that I was doing the right thing. Sadly, I have a friend who lost a child to the flu a few years back... and if she had been vaccinated, she would have been protected. (The flu strain that she got was the same as the immunization that year.) The little girl was 2.

That being said, I am still totally open to all debate on this issue and pass no judgement on those who decide against vaccinating their children. Clearly, this is a very complex issue and every parent has to make their own decisions based on what is best for their kids. Recently, we agonized over the MMR booster for our daughter who had a horrific reaction to her first MMR shot. Thankfully, reader Linda from New Jersey suggested that we take a titer test to check the level of antibodies in her blood needed to fight the measles, mumps and rubella. As it turns out, her levels were more than high enough and the booster would have been uneccesary overkill. This is something that should be discussed with your doctor if it is something that you are considering. We live in California and the laws are pretty strict when it comes to school aged children and their immunizations. We have had to jump through a few hoops since school started; lots of letters being faxed back and forth, to confirm that Ella does not need the booster. Thankfully, our doctor and our school are very patient and have been willing to work with us.

In any case, if you are interested in the above mentioned article from today's Huffington Post, here it is...

Allergen Free Halloween Party near Atlanta


If you happen to live near Sandy Springs, in the Atlanta area and you have a little one with food allergies, you may want to check this out. A non-profit group has teamed up with the fire department to throw a Halloween party for kids with food allergies. Cool! The party will be on October 23 at Fire Station #2. There will be games, crafts and prizes. The children will receive a goody bag with non-food items. They will also get to meet firefighters and see the trucks. Organizers ask that no food be brought to the event.

If you live in the area and want to attend, you need to register in advance. E-mail the number of children attending to
confirm@fakidsatl.org or by calling 404-512-7983

Kids really are more allergic

This is from Time.com. It sort of reiterates a bunch of the articles that I have been posting lately, but with much of the data in one place. Worth a read...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Early or Late: When Should Foods Be Introduced?

Ella, 8 Months Old

Lately, there seems to be a shift in thinking about food allergies and when to introduce certain foods into a child's diet. My daughter is five and when she was two the common advice that was handed out was that children should wait until age two before trying any kind of nut. Now research is indicating that EARLY introduction might be the best way to avoid food allergies.

We were also encouraged to breastfeed our daughter, because that is supposed to help minimize allergies. I breastfed Ella for a year. I did let her drink formula from time to time after about 10 months, just in case I was killed in a freak accident and unable to feed her. As it turned out, I had to have an emergency appendectomy and spent an entire week in the hospital. It was one week before her first birthday. Because of all of the drugs in my system, I had to force wean her. (It was a nightmare for me, and she barely seemed to notice). Thank God for the formula!

From six months on, her diet was heavy on wheat. Pasta, bagels, bread, crackers... the typical American diet!We gave her soy around that time, as well. We let her have eggs some time in that period and she hated them. Through it all, she had eczema on her the insides of her arms and behind her knees. I just thought she had dry skin.

Since we were trying to do everything by the book, we waited until her second birthday to let her sample nuts. We started with peanut butter. She didn't want any part of it. When she did put some in her mouth, there was no reaction. It seemed like a good sign. Then we let her have pesto or something with pine nuts, again no reaction other than her refusing to eat it. The turning point in our lives happened when we let her have a pistachio. It is a story that I have told a thousand times and it never gets easier to remember that day. She put a fraction of the nut into her mouth. She spit it out; screamed as if it were a burning jalapeno. Within seconds, she had hives all over her lips. Within a few minutes, her eyes were swollen shut. And then she started started having trouble breathing; it was textbook anaphylaxis. I was pregnant with my son at the time. And the hormones + the stress of the situation, kicked in. I drove her, like a maniac, to the ER. As soon as we got there, they ushered us in. She was given an IV and they administered antihistamines, epinephrine, and steroids. We remained there for several hours as we waited for the swelling to go down.

Two weeks later, we had her blood allergy tested for dozens of foods. We were shocked when we got the results... wheat, eggs, soy, all tree nuts, peanuts and sesame. She was highly allergic to all of these things. I cannot say why she did not react to the peanut butter or the pine nuts. But she clearly had been having some difficulty with the other things, as evidenced by her horrible skin rashes.

I am a bit baffled about this new research, from a personal stand point. We do not have a history of food allergies in our family. She had wheat as soon as she was able to eat (early introduction) and she is allergic to it. And we waited on the nuts (later introduction) and she is allergic to them. I am very curious about what the experiences of my readers were. You may want to also check out this article from Med India...

(Talk about an annoying title!)

Did you breastfeed/were you breastfed? When were the allergic foods first introduced? If you have a moment, I would love to hear your story. Either in the comments section or on my Facebook page...

Black Male Children Have Highest Rates of Food Allergies

This is an interesting article that is worth taking a look at. Sort puts the kibosh on the theory that food allergies are a yuppie phenomenon and only happens to upper middle class, white kids. (Sorry, Joel. I had to say it.)

http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/643891.html

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Favorite Cookbooks Gadget

I just added a new bar to the right of this page, which lists all of my favorite allergy-free cookbooks. Check it out if you are looking for something specific. I have tried to call out what the book avoids for easy reference.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Exciting, encouraging research from Johns Hopkins

Really? I can eat cheese again?


Johns Hopkins researchers Turn Off Severe Food Allergies in Mice


Flu Vaccinations and Food Allergies



This is from today's Businessweek...


Something to think about. I know that our house has already been hit hard with lots of viruses and it is barely Fall. I want to do everything in my power to stop things from being spread around and keep the kids healthy. If you need more convincing, here is a post of mine from July to consider...


And take those vitamins!

Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef Cookbook


Super jazzed to see that my copy of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern arrived in the mail today. I have not yet made any of the recipes but I know that I am going to love, love, LOVE it! It is very well art directed and there are lots of personal stories interspersed throughout the book (totally my kind of thing). It is a cookbook for those who have a more sophisticated palate. Some of the things that I cannot wait to try are the Smoked-Salt Caramel Ice Cream (drool!), the Arugula-Fig Salad with Blue Cheese & Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, Gluten-Free Crackers, Risotto with English Peas, Fava Beans and Prosciutto, and Fresh Gluten-Free Pasta. I can imagine that Celiacs all over the place are singing! Several of our friends are Gluten Intolerant and I am so happy to have this as a resource for my library, should they ever pop by for dinner. And it will come in handy over the holidays when I need to create something my family will love AND is safe for Ella to eat.

This is definitely a "grown-up" cookbook for the true foodies out there. The recipes are fairly simple to follow and the ingredient lists are not ridiculous. I highly recommend it to anyone who might be looking for this sort of a thing. (And I will post more of a review once I actually cook something from the book. I am just so darn excited, I wanted to share!)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Organic produce delivered to your door: A GREAT thing!


Many areas now have companies that deliver fresh, seasonal and local, organic produce right to your door. I have heard about this quite a bit from my friends and I was interested but not enough to try it out. And then my son's school sent home a flier from a local delivery company that also donates a portion of their profits to our school. Talk about a cool fundraiser! So I decided to go for it. The company is called Farm Fresh to You and each week they are delivering a mixture of fruits and vegetables to us. (They have lots of packages available, varying prices and quantities.) We are getting their regular package which is $31.50/week.

Last week we received heirloom tomatoes, rapini, chard, green grapes, cantaloupe, black plums, baby bok choy, sweet peppers, red radishes, arugula and fingerling potatoes. I will tell you many of those items are not ones that I would normally buy, but that is a very good thing. It has pushed me to make new things or to adapt old recipes.

On Sunday, we had a little play date at our house. My kids have been really into waffles lately so I decided to use up the cantaloupe and the grapes. We made melon balls, which was a great activity for Ella as I prepared the rest of the meal. Naturally, bacon was involved. But we opted for the "healthier" turkey bacon; still good! I made the wheat free waffles from scratch but you could also use a frozen version like Van's, if you were interested in make a similar meal.


Sunday Brunch

Tonight we are having two meals. One for Kid #1 (Ella) who refuses to eat anything that has sauce or tomatoes. So I threw together a soup with mushrooms, ginger, carrots, snap peas and the baby bok choy. I will add some mung bean noodles before I serve it.



Dinner For Kid #1


The rest of us our having a version of Mama's Spaghetti. A staple around here. But instead of using canned foods, like I normally do for this recipe, I am subbing everything out with fresh veggies. I am using up the heirloom tomatoes and sweet peppers from our delivery. It smells Heavenly and tastes even better!


Dinner For Kid #2 (and the rest of us)


If you have thought about doing a produce delivery service, I would highly encourage you to do it. It is a good way to eat more fruits and veggies an may challenge you to try new recipes.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CNN Poll: Vote Now!!!!!


There is a CNN poll going on right now about peanut bans in schools. Please take a second to vote and make your voice heard. And pass along a link to your friends and family.

Also, if you are easily disturbed steer clear of the comments section. (It is so easy to spew anger and hostility when you are hiding behind a computer.) Since I have read a lot of this garbage, again and again, I am choosing to ignore it. Besides, I promised my husband that I would avoid it.

To vote...

Food Allergies Make Kids a Target of Bullies

And this, from CNN today. We need to protect our kids. This is so frustrating...

Children with Food Allergies Targeted by Bullies

This really disturbs me. What is it about human nature that makes us want to belittle and hurt some one else. Why can't we evolve from this nonsense?

From Medical News Today...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Back to School Night


As anyone with a child that has food allergies knows, Back to School Night can be a little daunting. I say this because it is the night where you meet all of the new parents and teachers and get to give them your little schpiel about your child and their particular situation. For some reason, I was more shy than I normally am this year. Thankfully, my husband jumped in and helped me break the ice. "Hi, we are Ella's parents. We just wanted to take a moment to let you know that Ella has several severe food allergies." All of the people that we do not already know had the typical reaction of concern. Everyone seemed to be on board with not sending nuts and peanut butter to school. (It is the school policy but for some reason it doesn't seem to be enforced). The teacher spoke about how she deals with Ella, in regards to snacks and lunch. She mentioned that nuts/peanuts are not allowed and that one day a child brought in a peanut butter cup to have for dessert. She had to ask Ella to move to a different table. She also mentioned that they have a strict, no sharing rule.

There was a lot of discussion about Ella's allergies; a hard topic to communicate sometimes as her reactions to foods are so varied. I told them that if she even touches where a pistachio has been she is going to the hospital. Whereas, her wheat allergy is much less severe. It must seem very confusing to everyone that we keep it out of her diet, yet I am not as concerned about cross contamination. For instance, she was denied apples once because they sat on a plate next to bread. Let's be honest, I would rather that they act conservatively in these instances. But Ella can participate in baking activities, even if she cannot actually eat the end product. She has never had issues with touching wheat or eggs, thankfully. I am just very careful about washing her hands frequently.

I have nothing but admiration for teachers, especially Kindergarten teachers. This is a very challenging job on many levels. I have no doubt that I would be absolutely miserable at it. And I hate to heap on more to our teacher's already full plate.

After the group overview, we spoke further with her teacher. She is very willing to help us but I know that all of the details are making her eyes spin. I hate dumping all of this on her but it means the world to me when they are open to working with us. It helps that we are at a private school and the class is quite small. But I encouraged her teacher to call me or e-mail me if ever she had a question about something. We also agreed to create a snack box for the classroom that will hold goodies in case another parent decides to bring in sweet treats without warning.

Beyond that, I also asked that parents give the teacher advance notice about such desserts so that she can let me know and I can attempt to bring in something similar. I brought up the fact that I am a crazed screwball who welcomes a challenge and can make almost anything. And I mentioned the blog. No doubt several people consider me to be a bit of a whack-a-doodle. So be it. If it keeps Ella safe, that is all that matters. I also made sure that they know that we are not dumping off our problems on them. This is our situation and we own it. We are not about making extra work for other people. We just want to keep our kid healthy.

These little conversations have to happen and I felt so much better after that night. Starting a new school with new people can be scary. But it is so good for Ella on many levels. She really is just a normal kid, after all. Hopefully anyone who might have doubts about us with have a chance to see how beautiful and smart she is. It will be nice when they see her as something other than "that kid who is allergic to everything."


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Braided Loaf pan















It arrived! It finally arrived! The braided loaf pan that I have been coveting for close to two years, the one that had been out of stock, worldwide; is now a working part of my kitchen. My daughter is allergic to wheat but on Fridays, they serve challah at her school. I often make hers from scratch, slicing and freezing some of the loaf. Even though it is sliced, she still gives me constant grief over the fact that it is not braided. For those of you who have done any wheat or gluten free baking, you know that it is absolutely impossible to braid dough that does not contain gluten. It may taste like something that might contain wheat, if it is done correctly. ButBEFORE it bakes and rises, it is more like a gooey and sticky cake batter. In any case, I had read about braided loaf pans on other blogs that I read. And then I searched high and low, across the Internet to no avail. I gave up looking. And then a few weeks ago, I decided to try my luck on Amazon again and I scored! The Kaiser Bakeware 15" Classic Braided Loaf Pan was $19.99. And even though I got a shipping confirmation, I still did not believe that it would ever make its way to my kitchen. But it did!















The first thing Ella and I did this morning was whip up a batch of one of her favorite bread recipes (let's be honest, it was from a mix but a good one... Pamela's Gluten Free Bread Mix). We followed the instructions for the sweet bread. The results were delicious. Both of my kids have devoured half of the loaf. And in Ella's mind, it is just as braided as any other loaf. (Thankfully, she has never seen the way it is done with conventional wheat flours). So it was a very worthwhile purchase and I can absolutely justify this glorious acquisition. (See, my darling husband... all of these pans DO serve a purpose and like my children, I could never imagine giving one up.)















Thumbs WAY up if you are considering one of these bad boys. Like my french bread pan, my popover pan and my mini muffin pans, this one will get used a lot!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Divvies Cookbook



Part of the fun about having a blog is when a publisher contacts me and asks me if I would be interested in reviewing their cookbook. Generally, I only like to offer favorable reviews to books that I truly enjoy. There have been some that have been sent to me that I have not liked for a variety of reasons... maybe the food wasn't very good, too many ingredients, too complicated or not appealing enough to the majority of my readers. So I was particularly happy when I was asked to take a look at the new Divvies Bakery Cookbook.

The first time I heard of Lori Sandler was when she was on Martha Stewart a couple of years ago. At the time, I had just decided to take on the enormous task of baking everything for my daughter. Like Ella, Lori's son has multiple food allergies. She decided to take action and a beautiful business, emerged. It is an inspiring story for those of us who often feel overwhelmed by a challenging situation.

Treats and childhood seem to go hand in hand. It is almost like a rite of passage; getting to eat goodies. Think about it, so many of BIG events when you are a kid are centered around sweets and treats. Holidays like Christmas, Easter, Halloween and birthdays are all about cake, cookies and candy. Play dates, bake sales, school events and on and on. When you have a child that has severe food allergies, suddenly this "fun" is kind of a nightmare. No one wants their kid to miss out but we still need to make sure that no one ends up in the emergency room. That is why I try so hard to help my own daughter by baking anything and everything that any other kid might take for granted. And thankfully, there is a growing industry and mountains of resources for making this possible.

The Divvies Bakery Cookbook is divine! All of the recipes are nut free, egg free and dairy free. (We happen to also have to avoid wheat so not all of the recipes worked for us. But after some tweaking, we can make it "Ella" safe... Hello rice flour mixes! Hello xanthan gum!) There are over 70 delicious recipes to choose from. We have tried several over the past few weeks. Our favorite is Andrea's Granola Bars... OMG! They are so good!

Earlier this week I had a dinner party at my house and decided to make some of the Divvie's Oh Fudge! No one that attended my party has food allergies but I thought it might be fun to test it on them to see if they noticed any difference from the kind that is usually made with sticks of butter and cups of cream. Everyone gobbled it up. My husband who happens to be lactose intolerant was thrilled. He absolutely loves it. I made mine with marshmallows and chocolate chunks on top. The recipe calls for using Divvie's special chocolate chips. But I substituted with another brand and the results were fabulous.

We also made the fondue last week and the kids were in nirvana. I served it with a platter with fruits and rice crispy treats. Each child had a small bowl of the chocolate, for dipping.













Fondue Fun!

Here is the recipe for the Oh Fudge! (reprinted with permission from the publisher). Try it! Get the book! You will be glad you did. As with this recipe, most of the desserts in the book are simple to make and ingredients are easy to obtain. As a mother of two young children, I am so thankful for that!

Oh Fudge!

Recipe from the Divvies Bakery Cookbook. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.

2 ¼ cups sugar

½ cup dairy-free margarine

½ cup Silk dairy-free liquid creamer (or coconut milk creamer)

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups Divvies semisweet chocolate chips (2 ¼ cups for real chocoholics)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

The toppings (optional):

Mini marshmallows

Peppermint candies, broken into bite-size pieces or smaller

More chocolate chips

Line a 9x9 inch pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil by placing two long sheets perpendicular to each other so that they stick out of the sides of the pan, pushing the paper into the corners of the pan. This will make removing the finished fudge much neater.

Heat 2 cups of the sugar, the margarine, liquid creamer and salt in a saucepan over medium heat on stovetop. Stir constantly.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the chips and stir for 2 minutes until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Pour the melted fudge into prepared pan. Press marshmallows and/or peppermint or chocolate chips onto the top of the fudge, if desired.

Let the fudge cool in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours until solid. Remove the fudge from the pan by lifting the ends of the parchment paper. Place the fudge, still on the paper on a flat countertop. With a very sharp knife, cute the fudge into 2x1-inch pieces.

Makes 18, 2 x 1-inch pieces



Canned Pumpkin Shortage


Going, going... GONE

I just had a major "WHAT?" moment at the grocery store. While looking for some canned pumpkin, I was informed that there is a major pumpkin shortage. How did I miss this? I have been using canned pumpkin for months, even buying it as recently as last week. While scratching my head I had to go online and check it out. And sure enough, there seems to be a shortage with companies like Libby. Apparently, cans of Libby's pumpkin have fetched high price tags on websites like E-Bay, some as much as $30 per can. The cause seems to be several growing seasons with too much rain and not enough sun. I have noticed that it has been hard to find at places like Ralph's, last fall in particular.

Here is a link to an article about the situation from the Washington Post from June...


The cans that I bought last week were from a smaller, organic grower. As soon as I finish this blog post I am going to head back to the store where I found them and stock up. (Read: Hoard). My family has grown addicted to all things flavored pumpkin... especially muffins and pancakes.

Hopefully the growers will have luck with their crops, as Halloween is just around the corner.