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)
Black glitter
Green pipe cleaners
Green paper or foam leaves
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 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! :)


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 or by calling 404-512-7983

Kids really are more allergic

This is from 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.)

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!)