Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

An ode to a pistachio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coincidence? I think not.

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

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

Friday, December 24, 2010

From our home to yours, Happy Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Girl Dies of Food Allergy After a School Party

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

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Coconut Snowballs

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 17, 2010

Joyce's Joy Juice

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

Joyce's Joy Juice

7 cups apple cider

5 cups orange juice

1½ cups fresh lemon juice

4 cups superfine sugar

3½ cups STRONG black tea

5 cups water

4 cinnamon sticks

1 tablespoon of whole cloves

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

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

Remove cinnamon, cloves and ginger.

Serve with brandy.