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.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rosemary Red Soup

Tomorrow night is the season finale of MasterChef and I will be having some of my art department friends over. Here is one of the things I will be serving. Thankfully, the nights have started to cool off so this will be perfect. This recipe is from my friend, Shannon who lives near Seattle. It is one of my favorites!

Rosemary Red Soup

Prep & Cooking Time: 50 minutes
Makes 6-8 servings

3 medium carrots, scrubbed and peeled and chopped
1 beet (2 if small), scrubbed and peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 cup dried red lentils
6 cups water or stock
2 bay leaves
1- 3" sprig fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2-3 tablespoons miso, optional (but I HIGHLY recommend using it!)

Heat oil in a soup pot; add onion and saute until soft. Add carrots and beet; saute a few minutes more. Wash and drain lentils. Add lentils, water &/or stock, bay leaves, rosemary, and oregano to sauteed vegetables; bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 40 minutes. Remove bay leaves and stems of fresh herbs. Puree soup with hand blender or other device with miso. Gently reheat on stove before serving.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


There is a wonderful product out there called CeraVe. We have used it for a couple of years now to combat Ella's eczema. A friend told me about it after it helped her daughter with chronic itchy skin. Recently, our allergist suggested that we moisturize Milo each night after his bath. He has never had eczema, per se, but he often gets mysterious rashes in random areas of his skin. So we decided to try the CeraVe on him. She also suggested that we stop using fabric softener sheets, even the ones that are "free" of chemicals and allergens.

It has been close to a month now and he has been rash free. His skin is as soft as it was when he was first born. I like this lotion because it is light and fragrance free. There is no greasy residue and it doesn't take a lot of work to apply it to the skin. (Unlike his sunscreen which seems to take the better part of forever for his skin to absorb it.)

Lately, I have been feeling like my skin looks like the Mojave Desert. Maybe it is because I am getting older; maybe it is all those years I spent on the beach. So I decided to try the CeraVe, for me. I usually apply it right after I get out of the shower or bath when my skin is still a bit dewey. It seems to be helping quite a bit. We use the kind that comes in a pump and we buy it at our local Rite-Aid. It is a little more expensive than other lotions, but I think the benefits outweigh the higher price tag.

If you have had eczema or dry skin and have not had any success with other lotions, I would highly recommend CeraVe.

*Note: I do not make money off of any of the products that I promote. If I find something to be exceptional, I like to share the information. Particularly to those who suffer from allergies/food allergies.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

GMA Clip- Food Allergies in Children are on the Rise

Here is a clip from Good Morning America regarding the dramatic rise in food allergies, particularly anaphylaxis, in children.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Indie Candy

Just discovered this great company in Alabama, called Indie Candy that puts together allergen-free boxes of goodies for your children to keep in their classrooms at school. They sell a wide variety of all kinds of yummy things to enjoy... worry free. They also offer seasonal candies and other treats. Worth checking out if you are a grandparent and want to send a little "Back to School" gift or if you just want to indulge, yourself. Best part, they deliver!