Monday, May 31, 2010

Ella's Birthday Cakes

This year, Ella managed to squeeze three birthday celebrations out of us. They seem to grow with the years. We invited her classmates over for a play date after school and I made a wheat free cake, as well as regular cupcakes for the kids. Both were cherry chocolate chip flavored with cherry butter cream frosting. The only difference was that the cake had 2 layers of chocolate whipped cream, as well. Guess which was our favorite? I am telling you, if you make wheat free things the RIGHT way, you cannot tell the difference. It was light, fluffy and delicious!

I also made dairy free rice crispie treats for a guest who is allergic to milk. Those were gone before the party was over with. I decorated the cupcakes with lollipops that I found at Michael's. I think the kids liked them.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sinus Surgery

I finally had my long awaited sinus surgery. After months and years of continued sinusitis, my doctor told me that he would have to operate to drain my upper sinus cavities. He also compressed the bones a bit and used heat to "fry" some of the soft tissue that is prone to infection. Not a full rhinoplasty, but an endeavor, nonetheless.

Let me tell you, I will be happy if I NEVER have to go under general anesthesia again. The surgery, itself seemed to go well. Better than my doctor expected. That is, until I came "to". Anesthesia always makes me nauseous. And this time was worse than any other. I was vomiting blood, so much so, that they decided to keep me in the hospital overnight rather than releasing me (out patient), as scheduled. The doctor is not sure why I had such an extreme reaction, but things did get better over the week following surgery. A few months back I had a horrible reaction to the Predisone my doctor had prescribed for helping me treat a severe sinus infection. My throat closed, I had hives and needed to take Benedryl to stop the itchiness. He said that they generally introduce Prednisone into the IV when doing sinus surgery but because I had recently had such a negative reaction and recently, he went with an alternate steroid. But I got to wear this nifty wrist band during my stay at Cedars Sinai Hospital.

It has now been two weeks since I had the operation. And I can already notice a difference. I can breath easier and feel much less congestion. I am sure that I will be glad that I did the surgery, over time. But I will not lie, I was a little concerned for a few days. The pain has been minimal, thankfully. If I feel a slight headache coming on, I just pop a couple of Tylenol and I am good to go.

It sure feels good to have the deep haze lifted. And I have never been more appreciative of my good health.

Love it or Hate it: Cilantro

In my family, there is a battle raging. There are those of us who detest even a trace amount of Cilantro and those who cannot get enough of it. Each side has very strong opinions and cannot understand how ANYONE could love or, in the opposite case, hate it. There's a lot of eye rolling. For the most part, we are an open minded bunch. But for some reason, there is no middle ground in this debate. Ask anyone if they like cilantro and you will get one of two strong responses. I have yet to meet a person who says, "Take it or leave it. I simply have no opinion."

It seems that even though cilantro is the most frequently used herb in the world, the divide is strong and global. Researchers have been studying this phenomenon and there may be a scientific reason why people have such strong reactions to the herb. And it doesn't matter how "dignified" or "cultured" your palette is, you will either love it or hate it.

My Mom is a very good cook, open to many of the world's cuisines. And she LOVES cilantro. She is in the "eat it by the bunch-full" camp. Whereas, my sister and I absolutely gag at even the slightest smell of it. We both think it tastes a lot like soap and even a fraction of a leaf destroys whatever dish it is a part of. My sister will push aside said offending plate and will completely lose her appetite. We have been in situations where she is starving to the point where she's shaking. And then her food arrives, cilantro is present, she notices it with the first bite and she's done. Not interested in eating, anymore. (Maybe this is the great new diet drug?)

There are people close to me who claim to have a food allergy to it, even though it is more of an aversion. And when they go to a restaurant they tell their server that they will have a very bad reaction if it gets anywhere near their plate. I am sure there are people out there with this actual allergy, but I like saving such conversations for things that we are ACTUALLY allergic to. And believe me, that is enough to get any server's head spinning!

Oddly enough, my own reaction to cilantro has lessened over the years. So many restaurants that I love use it. And so many cuisines; Thai, Mexican, Indian and even California Pizza Kitchen! If I remember, I mention my dislike even when ordering. But every so often I get a piece. And I do not come unglued, like I used to. Yesterday, I was dining at one of my favorite restaurants, the Border Grill. I ordered the chicken tostada sans cilantro. But some made its way onto my plate. The rest of the meal was so darn good I wasn't about to waste it by sending it back or risk having spit added. And then I got into the car and heard someone talking about the LOVE/HATE thing on my satellite radio. It seems that even the great Julia Child despised it. (She also detested arugula, which I happen to love.)

This is a great article worth reading from last month's New York Times.

Which side are you on?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

BPA Found in 92% of Canned Foods

In case you are looking for something else to keep you awake at night. BPA has been found in 92% of canned foods.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Yet Another Reason to Buy Locally & Organic

Pretty disturbing news out today about the foods we consider "healthy". As the summer is about to begin and more of us will be consuming seasonal fruits, this is something to consider BEFORE buying. Once again, buy locally and avoid commercially produced produce. It may look pretty, but it is covered in chemicals that can negatively affect your nervous system.

Monday, May 10, 2010

It's Food Allergy Awareness Week

It's Food Allergy Awareness Week! More than 12 million Americans have food allergies. That’s one in 25, or 4% of the population. The incidence of food allergy is highest in young children- one in 17 among those under age three. If you are reading this blog, chances are that you or someone you love has been affected by a food allergy. Food allergies are on the rise. More and more children, especially, have extreme food allergies. It is so important to educate everyone you know about the dangers of exposure to allergens. Use this week as your inspiration! Spread the word!

That Pistachio is NO Friend of Mine!

A few days ago, a couple of Ella's classmates came across a pistachio on the play yard. Even though her school is "nut free" one rogue nut still managed to find its way into the sand box. Since Ella is one of two students in her class who are extremely allergic to tree nuts, most of the children are well versed in what can be dangerous to their friends. Gallantly, the boys carried the nut over to a teacher who immediately threw it in the trash. Afterward, they ran over to Ella and told her, "We are protecting you, Ella! We found a pistachio and we got rid of it! Now you are safe!"* Pretty cool considering these boys are only 4 and 5! Thankfully, Ella was not the one who found the nut. That would not have been a good phone call to receive. Phew! Thanks, boys! We owe you.

*= As told by Ella.

Nonuttin' Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Two of my favorite things... Martha Stewart and NoNuttin' got together last week to show how to make granola bars that are free of wheat, gluten, nuts and sesame. Here is a link to the recipe, featured on Martha Stewart...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Thank Goodness for Generic Brands!

If you have felt like you have been sidelined by this whole Johnson & Johnson recall, like we have... there is another way! Most large drug store chains carry generic versions of all of your medicine cabinet favorites, including Zyrtec, Benadryl, Motrin and Tylenol. I just stalked up, in case it takes J&J a long time to fix their supply. Believe me, two days of Ella's sniffles were enough to convince me that we cannot go long without her allergy meds.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cranberry Cinnamon Party Mix

Thought I would repost this, as it is a great snack to have on hand for play dates and parties...

Since I learned that Rice Chex does not contain any wheat, I have been finding all kinds of different ways to use the cereal. When we go on road trips, I will often make up a batch of "Ella's Trail Mix" using Rice Chex, Gluten-Free Pretzels, other wheat and gluten free cereals like Perky-O's and Puffins, raisins or other dried fruit and sometimes, chocolate chips. When we were planning for her party she asked me if I would make some of her special mix, to serve at the party.

So I did a little research on the Chex website and came up with this recipe. FYI, Rice Chex is now also Gluten Free, so if you are Celiac you will want to check that out.

Many people told me how much they liked this. It is great for parties, but also just to have around as a snack.

Cranberry Cinnamon Party Mix

1/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 butter
3 cups Rice Chex cereal
2 cups Gluten Free Twist Pretzels (I used Glutino) or regular pretzels
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, set aside. Melt the butter, set aside. In a large bowl, toss the cereal and pretzels. Drizzle the melted butter over the cereal and pretzels. Sprinkle the sugar mixture on top of the other mixture. Pour onto the cookie sheet, spreading into a single layer.

Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes. Toss in the cranberries. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Benedryl & Zyrtec Recalled

In case you missed it, Johnson & Johnson just issued a major recall of several of their allergy and pain medications.

(See article from today's Washinton Post)

Included on the list are Benedryl & Zyrtec... staples in our household. Hopefully they will get on this situation quickly and get some new product to the stores.