Monday, August 30, 2010

Recipes for Rosh Hashanah- Gluten & Wheat Free

I originally posted this last September. Since Rosh Hashanah is a little earlier this year, I thought I would re-post for those who are looking for something to make that is wheat & gluten free during the High Holy Days. Best of all, these are both wonderful recipes that are sure to bring smiles.

The oven has been working hard tonight. I just finished making a loaf of challah for Ella to take with her to school. It has been very hard to find a decent challah recipe. I have attempted about 10 assorted breads and none have really "done it" for me. But I just found one on a blog that truly impressed me. The best part... it was EASY! And quick. Since Ella is allergic to sesame, I opted for purple sprinkles which she liberally helped me decorate. The blog where I discovered this recipe suggests using a braided loaf pan (GF challah is impossible to braid) but I improvised since I have no such pan. I used a 9" cake round cake pan and sprayed it really well with cooking spray. Then I used a #20 scoop to create mounds which I filled the pan with. I allowed it to rise, as specified. And then I glazed the dough with an egg yolk wash. Ella was then brought in to sprinkle until her little heart was content. And boy, oh boy were we happy with the result. The bread was light and dense all at the same time. And the flavor was also really close to true challah. Here is the link to the recipe... And this is what mine looked like...

If you are wondering, we could not wait to tear into this bad boy. Thus, the torn bit on the lower left hand side of the photo. This blogging rookie maneuver was worth it as Ella proclaimed... "Mommy, this is the best challah... EVER!"

Next in the oven cue was Gluten and Wheat-Free Honey Cakes. Not sure if I have mentioned this before but Ella is REALLY into the Wiggles. On one of their videos they reference honey cakes. Being the foodie that she is, Ella NEEDED to know what honey cakes are. I had not made them before so I was not quite sure. But I stumbled onto this amazing recipe. Which I decided to make as a special treat for the children on Rosh Hashanah. My original plan was to also make a apple sauce with lots of butter and brown sugar (my family is not Kosher). But after making these little gems, I am not sure they need anything. They are, off the charts, delicious. Honestly, they would be fantastic for any party and could be served to anyone, not just the eating impaired. If you are lucky enough to enjoy nuts, I think that this would be a delightful texture to go along with the airiness of the cake. But powdered sugar also does the trick. I bought a mini-bundt pan which had 6 cake slots. The recipe made so much batter, I decided to use muffin tins (greased) and cooked the remaining for approx. 10 minutes. Which yielded 18 muffins plus the mini bundts. This is what I came up with...


At 7:00 this morning, Ella came running into our room... fully dressed and ready to go. "Today is my first day of Kindergarten!!!!" Needless to say, she was very excited. We gave her breakfast, fashioned her hair "just so" and finished packing her backpack. The kid was truly floating on air.

Last night we checked and double checked everything that she would be taking with her to school: emergency medicine kits, check... snacks, check... school supplies, check... labels on everything, check! We actually had a lot of fun putting it all together.

Her med alert bracelet is quite snazzy. It is made of crystal beads and a lilac adorned, silver plate, detailing everything that could send her into anaphylaxis. Not clunky like the bands of yesteryear; just delicate and complimentary to whatever outfit she might throw together.

Daddy took her to school; Mommy stayed home like a total wimp. (What can I say? I am out of waterproof mascara!) Ella was beaming. Some of the other kids were not so excited. But she just pranced up to her classroom, smiling from ear to ear. I cannot wait to hear all about her first day when I pick her up.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Back to School on Monday

Ella, striking a pose

I cannot believe how fast the summer has gone. On Monday, my little Ella will be starting Kindergarten. It is so hard to believe; exciting; terrifying. She cannot wait. Today they had a Milk & Cookies orientation event at her school. It was hosted by her teachers. I have been looking forward to it as an opportunity to talk to her teachers about all of the ins and outs of her various food allergies. But alas, I have been stuck in bed for the past 3 days with a nasty cold. And today, my throat was hurting me so bad that I completely lost my voice. The only place I was headed to was the doctor's office.

Thankfully, we have had the help of our beloved babysitter all week. She took both kids to the event, after I threw some allergen free cookies in the oven for Ella to enjoy. My husband went to school before heading to his office to try and get a moment to talk to her teacher. But she was in the midst of a CPR class at that moment (pretty cool) and he wrote her a note, asking her to give us a call so that we can discuss everything with her over the phone.

All of my other "to do" items have been checked off the list; got the Epi pens updated and new bottles of Benadryl are ready to be packed into her emergency kits, her updated Med Alert bracelet arrived just yesterday, everything is labeled, forms have been filled out and turned in. Now all I have to do is focus on getting healthy and to CALM my nerves. Ella will be starting up at a new school and there are a lot of new people for us to get to know. Thankfully, she has a small class and we live only walking distance away from her school.

But I will be on edge, at least until the school year gets rolling.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Free, Downloadable Allergy Labels

Free Printable Labels for Kids with Food Allergies from Kori Clark Designs. How cool is this?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

To Microwave or Not? That is the question...

For years, friends have been telling me how bad microwaving food can be for your health. When Ella was a baby, I had a strict "no microwave" policy. No doubt I have annoyed many family members by asking to use one of their pans, rather than sticking a plate in the microwave. As time has gone on, I have gotten much more lax... as much as I hate to admit it. After all, there is a reason why microwaves are a busy mom's best friend. But I read this article today on the HuffingtonPost and now I am thinking about going back to my original policy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cleaning up after peanuts

Just got this sent to me via my Google alert. It is from eHow...

WOW! That sure is a lot of work. Think I'd rather pass, thank you!

Also, in case you were thinking about using hand sanitizer to clean your hands,

"A 2004 Johns Hopkins Children's Center study showed that hand sanitizer is ineffective at removing peanut particles from the hands and other surfaces. Rather than removing the allergen, it simply spread it around."

This is why nut safety in schools is so important. The stuff is nearly impossible to clean up. Or at the least, takes a LOT of effort. And I can imagine that school maintenance staff can sometimes be overwhelmed by this task. Or doing it the correct way.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Egg Recall List

Wondering if your eggs are on the massive recall list? Go to this site to find out...

So far, 380 Million Eggs have been recalled. That is a LOT! Check those eggs!

Difference Between Organic, Cage Free and Free Range Eggs

Found this article interesting, in light of the gi-normous egg recall that is going on right now.

(From CNN)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Passenger Dies Due to a Peanut Allergy

Updated information is now available regarding the young man who died aboard a cruise ship, earlier this week. For all of us who live with the threat of an anaphylactic reaction to certain foods, this hits too close to home. I feel so badly for his family and I hope that this does not ever happen again; on a cruise ship or otherwise.

Epic Passenger's Allergy Believed to Be Peanut

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

September Issue of Everyday Food

We just got this month's copy of Everyday Food in the mail. I was delighted to see how many great recipes would work well if you are on a gluten-free or wheat-free diet. Not sure if this was intentional, on their part, or not. But if you are looking for something that is easy to make and most likely delicious to eat, you may want to pick up a copy. Here are a few of the recipes that I saw that looked good. (They do not seem to be available online, yet. But probably will be soon).

One Pot Chicken with Sausage & Potatoes
Beet & Tomato Salad
Baked Eggs in Tomatoes
Emeril's Turkey Meatloaf (use GF oats)
Slow-Cooker Turkey Stew with Lima Beans
Stuffed Cabbage with Beef & Rice
Roasted Pork with Onions & Citrus
Salmon Skewers with Smashed Potatoes
Skirt Steak with Sweet Potato Wedges & Parsley Salad
Corn Tortilla & Egg Scramble
Corn-Tortilla-Crusted Chicken Tenders (use cornstarch in place of flour in recipe)
Plus several others...

Wheat & Gluten Free Jelly Roll

One of my favorite gluten-free cookbooks, hands down, is Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts. Everything in this book is delicious. We have tried most of the recipes and each of them is better than the next. Our favorites are the pumpkin muffins, the lemon cake with lemon buttercream, the scones and the vanilla birthday cake. The other day, I decided to make our first wheat free jelly roll. Before I had kids, I used to make jelly rolls all of the time. Either as yule logs at Christmas or just as a nice treat to have in the summer. Berries and whipped cream go nicely with the vanilla cake. It has been a hot week in Los Angeles and it seemed like this would be a fun variation on strawberry shortcake. I baked the cake, according to instructions. After it cooled, I spread Strawberry Whipped Cream all over it, evenly and then slowly rolled it up. It is best when chilled so I would suggest putting it in the refrigerator for at least an hour, covered. Upon serving, slice and dust each piece with powdered sugar. Garnish with sliced berries.

Strawberry Whipped Cream

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup diced fresh strawberries

Whip the cream in a cold metal bowl, if possible, until it thickens. Add the sugar and vanilla. Whip until thick, close to stiff peaks. Fold in the strawberries until evenly distributed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Egg Recall

Eggs from one Iowa farm that are distributed nationwide are being recalled over salmonella concerns. From CNN...

Just returned from our yearly allergist visit

I am always a mess this time of year. There is NOTHING fun about having to go to the allergist. Our doctor is a lovely person, but I would much rather see her less often. Because Ella has food allergies, we need to test every year. The reason for this is that it is common for these types of allergies to change over time. Especially with her wheat, eggs and soy allergies. Unfortunately, the nut allergies are severe enough that she will most likely have them for life. Sesame, could go either way.

Milo will be three in October. Because his sister is so allergic to nuts we have never allowed him to have any. His pediatrician suggested that we allergy test him, as well. rather than finding out "the old fashioned way"... aka an emergency room visit.

So we loaded up the bag full of fun things to do (markers, paper, books, toys, Daddy's Ipod, etc.) and grabbed a sack of lollipops before heading for the doctor's office this morning. I was nervous as hell. Ella knew what to expect, she would be getting her usual "stamp test"/scratch the skin and rub allergen into it. We were not sure if the doctor would want to do the blood test or a skin test for Milo. He has insanely sensitive skin. Going into it I was going to lobby for the blood test. But after talking to the doctor about it (she is REALLY good at calming me down) we decided to try the skin test on him.

Both kids handled it like champs. (Lollipops are the greatest invention of all time. The doctor's DVD player was a Godsend.) When we tested Ella last year, she had a horrible reaction to the nuts that we put onto her skin and it took her the better part of a day to stop itching and for the hives to go away. So this year, we decided to forgo the nut testing. We assume that there is no change. But we did test for wheat, eggs, soy, sesame and sunflower. We also tested for cinnamon, as Ella often complains that her throat itches after she eats it. For the most part, we got back some encouraging news. Her reactions to eggs, wheat and soy have decreased. She is still allergic to those things but instead of being a "3" or a "4" she is now a "1" or a "2". She is no longer allergic to sunflower, which GREAT news. However, she is still highly allergic to sesame, a "4+" and as it turns out, she is also allergic to cinnamon. Only a "1" but still enough to cause a reaction.

The doctor advised us to maintain her current diet and to avoid cinnamon when possible. But the future is bright. The fact that most of these things are decreasing is something to be encouraged by.

As for Milo, the news was even better. He was tested for the top five food allergens (milk, soy, wheat, peanuts and eggs) and came back negative on everything. We also tested several types of tree nuts and even though he did show a mild reaction to pecans, it looks like he is not allergic. Thank goodness! The doctor thinks that he has environmental allergies but we decided to hold off on that testing for now. Mainly because we already do everything that we are supposed to in our home to avoid these things (wood floors, air purifiers, no feather pillows, no pets, etc.). She suggested that we stop using dryer sheets when we wash clothes, even though they are "Free" of all allergens. She thinks that they might aggravate his already sensitive skin. And she suggested some moisturizers that we are to apply nightly, after his bath.

Overall, I am feeling like my prayers have been answered and am quite happy. Nothing we cannot deal with. We'll see what happens next year!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back to School: Get Busy, Get Prepared

The school year is quickly approaching. In fact, I have heard that some districts have already started up. If you have food allergies in your family it is a good idea to prepare yourself, your child and your school for the upcoming year. Here are a few things to consider as you gear up.

1) Make sure all of those emergency meds are up to date, including Epi Pens and Benadryl. Get a nice, sturdy bag to put them into. I also like to throw in a tube of Cortaid or hydrocortisone. Make sure the bag is well-labeled, including your child's name, their date of birth and your cell phone numbers. If you happen to live in California or another state where there is an emergency disaster plan in place (we have a little thing called earthquakes here in California), make sure you have 2 of these medicine kits. That way one will be in the school office or your child's classroom AND one will be where they store the disaster kits.

2) Make sure your school has all of your up to date contact information, especially if you have moved recently.

3) Fill out a food allergy emergency action plan. Either make one up yourself or use this pdf form created by Kids with Food Allergies.

4) BEFORE school starts, talk to your child's teacher. Educate them about your child's allergies. If possible, give them a typed list of your what foods your child CANNOT eat. Discuss your emergency action plan and give them a copy of the document from #3 (above). All of this is especially important if you are entering preschool, where group snacks are handed out daily. Ask questions about the school's nut policy, if applicable. Are nuts allowed? Peanuts? Tree Nuts? If so, is there a nut free table in place. You and the teacher need to be on the same page with these things. It is also a great idea to talk to all support staff and school administrators.

5) Order labels, if you have not already done so. It is a good idea to have labels made that announce your child's allergy. You can put these labels on everything from clothing (field trips!) to back packs to plastic food containers. These are fabulous and they are water resistant and dishwasher safe...

6) Order medical alert bracelets if you do not already have some. There are several companies that sell them on the internet but here are a few links if you need to start looking...

7) At back to school night or any parent orientation, take a deep breath and introduce yourself! Inform the other parents about your child's situation. Help them understand how critical food safety is for your child. Tell them specifically what will happen if your child eats something that they are not supposed to. Answer questions. Encourage them to e-mail or call you at any time. Make THEM feel comfortable. You never know how people will react to the news. I have found that most parents are willing to work with you and are even sympathetic. It has always been important for me to communicate that I am willing to go the extra distance to make sure my child is NOT excluded. During birthday season, this can be a problem when everyone is bringing treats to school. They can still bring in stuff that their kid likes, just ask them to alert you in case you need to bring in an alternate for your child to enjoy. If you show people that you are not making this THEIR problem, they are more than likely to help you out. If someone gives you a hard time or if there are issues with other parents, please discuss with school administrators. You need to feel as comfortable as possible when you drop your child off at school. And it helps to have as many people as possible know what COULD happen if your child were to consume an allergen.

8) Check out this well-thought-out guide...

Personal Note: I do not get any kick backs from the products and companies that I mentioned. I am just using their websites to get you going. There are a ton of other fabulous companies out there to make your life a little easier. If you happen to have something local to your area, I would suggest using them. Good luck!

Young Man Dies of a Food Allergy, Aboard a Cruise Ship

This was very sad news to awaken to this morning. All of us who deal with food allergies know that this is the grim reality of our situation. Everything that we do for our children and ourselves is to stop something like this from happening. On Saturday, a 21 year old apparently died of anaphylaxis after eating something that he was allergic to, while vacationing on a cruise ship. He was traveling with 5 other family members and it is not yet known if the young man was aware of his allergy or not. I am curious if the ship had an emergency protocol in place for such a situation. Can they stock epi pens and Benadryl in their medical kits? This is a horrific tragedy and my heart is breaking for this family...

Cruise Ship Passenger Dies of an Apparent Food Allergy Reaction

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Lemon Blueberry Pancakes

There are some pretty fabulous wheat and gluten free pancake mixes out there on the market. We like to keep a couple on hand, for breakfast and even for dinner. (Breakfast for dinner is NEVER a bad thing!) Typically, the mixes are pretty bland on their own. But if you add a few ingredients, presto! Now we are talking!

This is what I whipped up this morning, using The Cravings Place All Purpose Pancake and Waffle Mix. (You can use ANY mix and get the same delicious results).

Lemon Blueberry Pancakes

1/2 package of the mix
water, enough to get it to the right consistency... around a cup
1/4 cup sugar (their mix is not presweetened)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, about 1/2 lemon's worth
1 teaspoon of freshly grated lemon zest
1 pint organic blueberries, washed and drained
powdered sugar for dusting

Get the mix to the correct consistency with water, depending on your preference. Add the sugar, lemon juice and zest. Mix well. Fold in the blueberries.

Cook on a griddle that has been preheated, medium heat/flame. I also greased the griddle with butter before pouring in the batter. But you could use anything that your diet allows. Just make sure to use something, as they will stick to the pan, otherwise.

Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy.

Makes 4 servings.

Art Camp: It was a BIG hit!

Ella & her best friend Nathaniel on the 1st day of Art Camp

A couple of months ago, I debated whether or not to send Ella to an art day camp for the summer. The camp was to feature fun activities for children ranging from wood working to drumming to cooking classes. My daughter is very creative; an amazing artist. She loves music, she loves to cook. It seemed like it would be the perfect fit for her. But I hesitated because she also has severe food allergies. Ironically, I was more concerned with the notion that we might be a burden to whoever was teaching the cooking class. No one knows better than I, how difficult it is to prepare a meal that is free of wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, sesame and eggs. And I didn't want Ella's circumstances to limit the experience of those around her.

A few of her friends from school were going to be doing the camp and she really wanted to go. So I decided to fill out the online application, including a lengthy medical statement. I had no doubt that we would be rejected. Shockingly, they decided to welcome us with open arms. As it turns out, we were not the only family in the program to have food allergies. I discussed the situation with the cooking instructor and we decided that Ella could prepare the items even if she did not consume them. They had a strict, no nut policy, which is always the biggest of my concerns. And she has never had a problem touching wheat or soy, so that helped, too. I just asked that she not be allowed to touch sesame or sesame oil. And if she cracked an egg, she would have to wash her hands immediately with soap and water. (As many of you know, not all food allergens can send a person into anaphylaxis. That depends on the severity of their particular allergy. Thankfully, wheat, soy and eggs are the lesser of her allergies. This is a very complicated thing to explain to most people who are not living la vida loca, like we are. The allergies ARE real, some of them just take a few days to show their effects. Others, take minutes. So we have learned to prioritize these things to not make everyone around us crazy and it also helps Ella to feel like a normal kid.)

The art camp was the greatest thing, EVER. Whenever we dropped her off in the morning, she was practically floating on air. And when I picked her up each day, she was still skipping around, talking as fast as she could about all of the fun stuff that she had done that day. They had pajama day, they had crazy hair day, they studied Japanese art, hammered together wood picture frames, ate ice cream, danced and had drum circles. It could not have been a better experience. I am so happy that I decided to give it a try.

Yesterday was the last day of camp. The kids put on a drum performance for the parents, wearing black and faces painted like native Americans. It was adorable. When Ella was done she ran up to me and said, "Mommy! Guess what I got to do today? I got to decorate a wheat free cupcake! My teacher made one for me. And it was delicious!" I was so moved by the teacher's gesture. It was so loving and considerate. And it rocked Ella's world. No doubt, she will be talking about her experiences at camp for a long time to come.

This whole thing reconfirmed my belief that just because you have food allergies, doesn't mean that you have to stop living. And I think that it would be really sad if Ella had to miss out on these important parts of her childhood, just because she is a little more vulnerable than someone else. It was also a valuable lesson for me in letting go; trusting that the camp counselors would protect her when I was not there. It wasn't easy. But it paid off, BIG time.

(Note: We happen to live 1/4 mile away from her school. I had my cell phone on me at all times. The office had her emergency medication bag. If something bad had happened, we would have all been able to assist her and quickly. All of this eased my stress and helped me to let go.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Joel Stein's Time Article

This is not my first post about the Time Magazine article but I wanted to let you know that Joel's mea culpa regarding food allergies can now be read online, in its entirety.

Joel and I are friends and as it sometimes happens with friends, we once had a difference of opinion. A big one. He originally wrote a very controversial Op-Ed for the LA Times where he stated that food allergies is a yuppie phenomenon. He rubbed thousands of us the wrong way when he said, "Your kid doesn't have an allergy to nuts. Your kid has a parent who needs to feel special." I do not think that I am alone here when I say that he was incorrect on both counts.

My daughter's severe allergies to several foods makes us feel a little too special. I would much rather take a heavy dose of "normal", thank you very much. Joel did an incredible amount of damage to those of us who struggle with allergies, every day. He fed into the beast of ignorance; giving fuel to the fire of those who think that we are just making this whole thing up. If you have ever rushed a child to the ER, as they are covered in hives and gasping for air, you know just how real this thing is. It is a living nightmare. And because people who are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts tend to react to them in a much more severe way, read anaphylaxis, it is a dangerous situation. As parents the most imprtant thing we have in our arsenal is ability to spread awareness, through education and communication. This is an epidemic that is affecting more and more families each day. We are tired of a debating whether or not allergies are real or if they are on the rise. We simply want to get down to the business of finding out why this is happening. And if we cannot stop it, we need to work on a way to cope the best way that we can.

This is what I had to say about the whole thing on my blog, at the time of Joel's original piece...

Back then, Joel and I exchanged several e-mails about our differing opinions. As I have said before, we are friends. And it was all handled in a very friendly way. Nothing I said could persuade him. I happen to come from a family of political opposition. Some of us are staunchly Democrats and some of us are proud Republicans. Even though I have developed a fine debate technique, I have learned that sometimes people will just think what they are going to think. You can love them for every other part of their personality and respect them, but often, they cannot be swayed. I can still love them for who they are, even when they are being thick headed and irrational. Joel and I ended our dialog by him making me promise to not kill him the next time we saw one another socially. I kept my promise.

And then a few months ago Joel found out that his son, who was barely a year at the time, is severely allergic to nuts. He had the typical experience... trip to the ER, allergy testing, panic and in his case, regret. His eyes were opened in a whole new way. Many people had wished some sort of karmic pay-back to Joel, because of his LA Times piece. I was not one of them. The last thing the world needs is another child with food allergies. And I am so sorry that little Laszlo now has to endure this reality. Joel decided to write another article, this one for Time Magazine; a mea culpa of sorts. He interviewed me for the column. He wanted to talk over the whole thing with me, while still processing his child's allergic reaction. We sat for two hours over lunch. We discussed how we handle my daughter's allergies in our home, the testing, the doctors, the lifestyle. We theorized why this is all happening. We had non-related friendly conversation. It was a lovely lunch. At the end of it I really got the feeling that Joel has been brought to his knees over this situation and that he does, indeed, feel remorseful. He is known for playing a devil's advocate and often takes on "the other guy's" opinion. But I think that he realized he crossed a line with his LA Times article. He owed a big apology to allergy sufferers. He needed to get on his knees and beg for forgiveness.

The Time article arrived on news stands two weeks ago. Because Joel is a comedian, much of what he wrote came across as being insincere. Several people have commented to me that they do not think he is taking the whole thing seriously. I do not live inside of his head, but as his friend I can tell you that he is. He is not a monster. He is just afraid that if he loses his humor, he will lose his "voice". So he went for the joke, rather than laying himself on a sacrificial table. Overall, I think the article was effective. He told his story and got some chuckles. But many have not yet forgiven him. They were hoping for more.

Since the piece hit, I have gotten mass amounts of traffic on this blog. And I have appreciated many of the comments that I have gotten from readers. I will say that there was one particular person who wrote some pretty horrific things, a true "nut job", who accused me of trying to take away his civil liberties. He is exactly the sort of freak that ate up Joel's original article with a spoon. He called me and my family many names and suggested that I get out of America since I "hate freedom so much." His words were actually quite toxic, scary even. He forced me to establish a filter for my comment section, that was not previously in place. There is a lot of his type of garbage floating around the internet and since this is my blog I decided that this is not the place for his filth. It was a minor set back but it reminded me of how terrifying this world can be sometimes. Our children need us to protect them and having people like this, out and about, makes it pretty hard for me to sleep at night.

When I began this blog, in 2008, I wanted to do it as a positive person who sees the cup as being "half full". Yes, our situation is daunting. But not impossible. We need to work together if we are ever going to see a change. It has been a very cathartic process. It has helped me to dispense information and to get feedback on many issues. Sometimes I vent. Sometimes I cook. But through it all, it has helped me and my family as we work our way through the madness.

If you have just discovered Freedomtoeat: Living WELL with Food Allergies, I appreciate you taking the time to look us up. Hopefully you will stay tuned and keep reading.

Sending out lots of loving thoughts to all of you who have been hit by food allergies. You are not alone.

McNeil products are still missing from shelves after recalls

It has been a long summer, since many of McNeil's products including Tylenol, Benadryl, Motrin and Children's Zyrtec were recalled at the end of April. The products can still not be found on store shelves and I haven't been able to figure out when they will be reappearing. Thankfully, there are lots of generic versions of these medicines, which we have stocked up on. My daughter takes Zyrtec every day. It seems to be the only thing that helps her with her seasonal allergies. We have sampled almost every drug store version of Zyrtec and finally, we have landed on one that she likes. (Remember, she is only 5 and if it tastes bad it is war trying to get her to drink it.) Costco's version seems to be the best... children's Aller-tec. And they sell it in two bottle packages, which is perfect for us. If you do not happen to have a Costco membership and would like to get some, I have noticed that other online companies like Amazon also sell it.

We are also thankful that there are so many generic versions of Benadryl, as we are about to update our school emergency medication bags. We have not done a full spectrum taste test, but the version from Target seems to work fine with my kids. Since we do not have to take this as frequently, taste is less important.

I have to say that this recall has made me really question all of McNeil's products. It is pretty scary when one drug company has so much control over the market. Especially, as a parent of vulnerable children. But the reality is that we do rely on these types of medications to get us through the rough spots. (Allergic reactions, rashes, fevers.) Hopefully they will work out their issues and be back to business soon. But for now, we are happy to sample the generic offerings of other companies. And grateful that they are even there.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What do Food Allergy Labels Really Mean?

"While you might be tempted to ignore those 'made in a facility that processes' (something you're allergic to) labels in the supermarket, new research suggest products with these labels are in fact more likely to be contaminated with peanuts, milk or eggs than unlabeled foods."

GREAT! Doesn't it seem like every package now has these warnings? Generally, we avoid the ones that say "may contain trace amounts of tree nuts, peanuts or sesame." But usually, I throw caution to the wind when it says, "Processed on equipment that also processes tree nuts, peanuts or sesame." Shopping is never easy, especially now. I guess I am going to have to take my magnifying glass to the store with me as many of these warnings are often almost too small to read.

I am curious if any of my readers have ever had a bad experience with this type of labeling? There are a lot of people out there, all over the world who read this blog and I would love to know how bad this problem is.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuna Cakes

I originally published this recipe in April of last year. But it is a good one and I thought it would be worth re-posting it. It is the perfect thing for these warm summer nights. Even better with a glass of chilled white wine or Prosecco.

Tonight, I was brainstorming a use for a bunch of things that I had in my pantry and fridge. I also had a box of broken Gluten-Free Crackers that had arrived in the mail early in the week. You might not be surprised to learn that they were like that when I got them. Anyway, I was also thinking about crab cakes and how much I miss them. So I came up with this recipe for tuna cakes and I was thrilled with the results. I completely expected Ella and Milo to turn their noses up at them, but to my great surprise, they LOVED them. Ella even asked for seconds and thirds. I served them with asparagus soup and tater tots (why not?) But next time I make them I am going to serve them alongside chilled gazpacho. That would be soooo good!

Tuna Cakes
2 cans tuna, drained (I prefer packed in olive oil)
1 cup Gluten-Free Crackers , crushed (you may also use Ritz if you have no allergy)
1 egg or equivalent egg substitute
1/4 cup mayonnaise or nonfat yogurt
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
1 spring onion or 2 scallions, finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh tarragon or 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
pinch ground Cayenne
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients well in a bowl. Place in refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Heat oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan, approx. 1/4" deep) over medium high. When oil is ready, scoop tuna with an ice cream scoop (I used a #20 scoop) and form flat patties using your hands. Gently place the patties in the heated oil. Fry until golden brown on each side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve atop a bed of greens and garnish with lemon slices.

Makes 8 tuna cakes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tune In!

My two show will be airing on Fox tonight, back to back. It is the season finale for Hell's Kitchen 7 and an all new episode of MasterChef. I was the set decorator on both of these shows and it is fun to have two of my shows airing on the same night. Both have been big ratings winners this summer. It is all very fun to watch. And MasterChef is especially good!

Hell's Kitchen Season 7 Dining Room

MasterChef USA Season 1: Egg Challenge

Conte's Gluten and Wheat Free Pasta

We have discovered yet another fantastic product that we would like to promote. Last week, while shopping at Whole Foods, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw wheat free raviolis in the freezer section. Naturally, I had to grab some. Ella has been begging me to make her some for a long time. And while I am more than happy to whip up all types of baked goods, pasta seemed like an endeavor that I didn't want to take on. And along came Conte's.

We tried it out tonight and Ella nearly lost her mind. She LOVED them. In fact, she requested that I pack them in her thermos for summer camp tomorrow... the ultimate thumbs up.

The texture of the pasta was spot on and the cheese was delicious. We paired ours with some red sauce and it was lovely.

If you happen to see these or feel like getting them online, I would highly recommend them. We happen to have a bag of their gnocchi in our freezer, as well. Something tells me that we will be cracking those bad boys open before the end of the week.

Once again, thrilled to have so many options on the market. "Giving up" ain't what it used to be!

Monday, August 9, 2010

FAAN Walks in your area...

FAAN (The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network) has several fundraising walks throughout the year and around the United States. It is likely that one may be happening in your area, soon. Please get involved with this wonderful organization and sign up to walk. The money goes toward food allergy research and awareness. Since we do not know the cause and are from from having a cure, your support is greatly appreciated. The year before last, Team Ella (our team) was one of the top three fund raising groups for the Los Angeles FAAN Walk. Please follow this link to find out where there is a FAAN Walk happening near you...

Roasted Beets with Herbed Goat Cheese

Every so often, I get a real hankering for beets. And they are pretty hard to resist when I see them at the farmer's markets. I prefer golden beets, as they tend to have a more mellow flavor. The easiest way to cook them is to roast them. They are a wonderful side dish, especially as a salad. The key to this recipe is the herbed goat cheese. The two flavors work well together.

Roasted Beets with Herbed Goat Cheese

3 Large Beets or 4 Small Beets (stems and stalks removed)
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Herbed Goat Cheese (see below)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil or parchment. Wash beets. With a vegetable peeler, remove the outer skin of the beets. Slice into 1" cubes. Place into a bowl. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Roast on the center rack of the oven for approx. 1 hour or until fork tender. Be sure to toss the beets while they are cooking, every so often.

Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. The beets can either be served at room temperature or chilled. Before serving, top with dollops of the herbed goat cheese and sprinkle chopped herbs on top. If you prefer, sprinkle roasted pine nuts on top, as well for added crunch.
(Makes 4 Servings.)

Herbed Goat Cheese

4 oz. soft goat cheese
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon chopped Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
pinch of kosher or sea salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper (a turn or two of the pepper mill)

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Chill for about 30 minutes.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Living WELL on Facebook

Just set up a Facebook page for this blog. Just another way to connect/communicate. Please check it out...

And don't forget to hit "Like"!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wheat Prices are on the Rise

It seems that the cost of bread might be going up, as wheat prices are on the rise. We often spend $5-$6 for a loaf of rice or tapioca bread so maybe things will begin to even out. (One of the things about eating wheat free that often gets me is the fact that wheat products are so available and affordable. Maybe the cost increase for wheat goods will approach what we have been paying for snacks; thus making it less painful for us, personally, at the checkout stand). But I feel for families that are already feeling the pinch in this current economic situation. Hopefully things will turn around soon.

This cake is getting some serious buzz!

More about Chelsea's wedding cake. Sounds like it was pretty darn good...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Wheat Allergies: Will She Outgrow Them?

Sometimes I have such a difficult time regulating Ella's diet. The part that is hardest for me it the wheat thing. Her allergy to it is "high" but her reaction has always been, slow. When she was a baby her eczema was a constant visitor. I just thought that she had dry skin. When she was first allergy tested, after the notorious run in with Mr. Pistachio, I was shocked to discover that she is allergic to so many things. And wheat? How is that possible? Her entire diet at that point had been crackers, bread, bagels and pasta. Suffice it to say that I was in denial about the situation for nearly a year. We tried to limit the amounts of wheat that she would eat, maybe some past here or a croissant there. But one week on vacation nearly did her in. We got very lackadaisical and she ate wheat at almost every meal. So she had a little dry skin. Totally do-able, right? By the end of the week she was covered in itchy, raised welts. It looked like she had been rolling around in a field of poison ivy. No amount of Cortaid or Benedryl could comfort her. The magnifying glass had focused itself on her situation; something had to change.

It was at that point that I looked at my husband and said, "It's gotta be the wheat." I will never forget that moment. We had stopped at an Italian restaurant in Santa Barbara. Ella couldn't eat her dinner because she was itching like crazy. She was going insane, "Mommy, help me." Her eyes that day were potent. The green sparkled in agony. That tiny little brown fleck in her left eye, beckoned me. I was the one that had allowed this to happen. It was up to me to fix it.

Within two weeks of removing all wheat from her diet, all of her eczema had completely cleared. This was the first time in her three years that she had soft, glorious skin. She was vibrant. That "thing" that had felt not quite right wasn't there any more. Ella was at her best.

It has never been easy. We live in a society that has a heavily wheat based diet. EVERYTHING she loved seemed to contain wheat. At first is was all about rice... steamed rice, rice cakes, rice flour, rice pasta, etc.. It took many tries to find products that could act as substitutions for everything she loved. Bread almost seemed like it would never happen again. And then I discovered the right cookbooks! Yes, it meant more work but boy were the results worth it. We have gotten into a groove. We found what lunches worked and which didn't. And dinner could always go either way, but she is a preschooler, after all.

But I haven't stopped dreaming. Any time I read an article and it mentions how children frequently outgrow their wheat allergies I get a little excited. Sure, this is how it is for us NOW but what if... And every time we go to the allergist for her yearly test, I feel like a little girl at Christmas time, waiting; praying for that Barbie Dreamhouse. Maybe this year. PLEASE let it be this year. How many decades of the rosary will earn my daughter the ability to eat wheat with reckless abandon? What if I promise to floss every single night until the end of time? It is like a sick little game that I play with myself. Hoping, praying, begging.

Well, we are in the two week stretch before we see the allergist. My tummy is already in knots. The good news is that we have already adjusted and are doing just fine without wheat in our lives. We can do this. And we are fortunate to have some many growing resources at our disposal. And a Whole Foods just blocks away. So really, we are quite lucky. But I would be a liar if I did not admit that I want Ella to be able to have wheat again. Not because it would make life easier for me, but because it would give her a freedom that she currently does not have. And that would be sublime.

Gluten Allergy?

New article from Reuters: Experts Identify Three Culprits for Gluten Allergy

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Organic Foods: Shopper's Guild

From time to time I like to update this blog on the latest info regarding organic foods. As I have mentioned many times, pesticide use has become toxic to our bodies and our environment. Here is an article that I posted in May about a study that came out, linking ADHD to pesticide exposure. Many fruits and veggies can be scrubbed to remove the pesticides off their surface. But with berries, it is next to impossible. Experts are now suggesting that people, especially those with young children, only buy berries that are organic. The Environmental Working Group came out with this easy to print guide that you can carry with you in your wallet. They also offer an iPhone application. Just remember to add ALL berries to the list, as blueberries are the only ones listed on their guide.

Online Support Group for Food Allergies

BabyCenter has a community online group for food allergies. Lots of topics are covered; everything from hives and eczema to breastfeeding, doctor's visits and beyond. Looks like a great resource. Click here, if you are interested in joining or checking it out...

There is also a group dedicated to Gluten-Free topics...

And another specifically for those looking for ideas on what to cook for people with food allergies...