Monday, November 21, 2011

When Technology Attacks...

Should Pregnant Women Ditch SSRIs, Microwaves and Cell Phones? From the Daily Beast

There is no doubt in my mind that all of this stuff plays a part in many of our health problems. As wonderful as technology can be, there is a price to pay.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bagged Salad Recall

Not sure why, but I have always been afraid that this would happen...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Love, Linda

A friend just told me about this company that makes t-shirts that announce a child's allergy. Really cute stuff, worth checking out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Kid's Nut Allergy is Bringing You Down

This is a blog post for Babble by my friend, Cassandra Barry. Some of you may know her as Mrs. Joel Stein. Now I know that my readership tends to go up every time Joel's name is mentioned and many of you are still quite annoyed with him. Just know that they are a family, like any other, who is trying to make their way through the world while having a child with food allergies. Their situation is unusual because Joel has such a big soapbox.

As I have said many times before, it is important to approach life with a sense of humor even when the going gets tough. I have always admired Cassandra because her husband often uses her as inspiration for his satirical writing. And it never seems to phase her. Laszlo is lucky to have her as an advocate!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tainted Cantaloupes Linked to 13 Deaths

If you have not heard, there is a big cantaloupe recall right now. Scary stuff...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Safety Tat (Temporary Tattoos)

We have spent a lot of time at Disneyland this Summer. I sure wish I had known about this company, sooner! As fellow allergy bloggers have pointed out, these would be a marvelous way to announce a child's food allergies. I am going to be placing my order now!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Another printable option...

Printables from Allergy Free Table

Peanut & Nut Free Labels to print at home

It's never too late to print a batch of these for the new school year...

Food Allergy Printables from KidsCanHaveFun

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Cake Mix Doctor: Gluten-Free

My dirty little secret when it comes to baking is the Cake Mix Doctor cookbooks. People are always blown away by her recipes and I never, NEVER tell them that I used a cake mix. Now there is a Gluten-Free version and I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy. If you are looking for a way to shake up your routine, grab a box of GF cake mix + this cookbook and get busy!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The News We Have Been Praying For...

Once a year, we take a trip to our allergist's office. Our 6 year old daughter is skin tested with all of the things that she has shown to be allergic to. We have been doing this for the last 4 years. Often, we see some reactions decrease, slightly. Sometimes we see new ones emerge (cinnamon, popped up last year). Every since we have known about Ella's allergies, we have been told that it is statistically possible for her to outgrow SOME of them. Namely, wheat, soy and eggs tend to be allergies that people tend to get over as time passes. Often, this can happen when a child is between the ages of 5-7... or so we have been told. We have always had it in our minds that maybe, just maybe things could change. The nut allergies are different. The doctor has told us that it is unrealistic for us to think that Ella will ever be able to consume them. Or at least, it is highly unlikely. So we have focused all of our hopes and dreams on the possibility that she can eat wheat again. After all, this has been a very annoying thing to have to avoid. It is an expensive allergy to have (hello, Whole Food's grocery bills!) and it has been isolating for her, socially (birthday party, anyone?)

Skin Test. Photos like these are as common as school portraits in our house

Ella is pretty good with her skin tests. She despises getting blood tests and will do almost anything to avoid them. But I always try to pack lots of distractions and sweet treats. This time around we took 4 spools of crafter's lacing to make lanyards, a pad of paper to play hangman and a purse full of Dum Dum Pops.

Blue Raspberry Relief, courtesy of a Dum Dum Lollipop

Lanyard Bracelet. I'd show you our hangman games,
but she wiped the floor with me.
And getting beat by a 6 year old is pretty... humiliating.

We waited 15 minutes to see results. Ella was a little anxious because it was the first time we have skin tested her for nuts since she had a horrific reaction, 2 years ago. Our doctor came in, with her poker face and slowly charted the results. Ella, naturally, kept asking her, "Can I eat wheat now? Can I eat wheat now?" Dr. Baum is an ocean of calm. She never raises her voice, always is comforting... she simply asked Ella to wait a few minutes more.

Drum roll... ELLA IS NOT ALLERGIC TO WHEAT ANYMORE!!!!!!! The same thing goes for soy and cinnamon!!! Truly, this feels like such a miracle. Ella was practically floating from the news. Honestly, I have never seen her glow as much as she did in that moment. She was so happy. The doctor told us to approach this with baby steps and to not jump into eating bowls of pasta, at least for now. Maybe a bit here and a bit there. Possibly working up to more as time goes on. I could see Ella imagining all of the things that she can now eat, that she could not before... crackers, challah, pancakes, the cupcakes I make that she is never allowed to eat, breadsticks, CROISSANTS, pie and the list goes on. I told her, "You can also eat wheat pasta and Grandma's spaghetti sauce!" And she looked at me and said, without missing a beat, "Just because I can eat wheat doesn't mean that I now want to eat sauce, Mommy!" Ella hates anything saucy.

As for the tree nut allergies, the results were pretty much what we anticipated... she is still highly allergic to almost all of them. Same goes for peanuts and sesame. But we can handle that. SHE CAN EAT WHEAT!!!!

As a reward for her bravery and to celebrate her new ability, I asked her what she wanted to have for dinner. She opted for a pancakes at Du-Par's... a place in LA that makes the most amazing light and fluffy pancakes....

Just one pancake, but oh so blissful.

Now we have been handed a new deck of cards and it seems like this hand might be better. The one good thing about the wheat allergy is that it has limited the amount of possibilities for cross contamination with nuts. Wheat is in everything. So pretty much anything processed has been off the table. Now that she can eat store bought bread and snack foods, it seems like we are going to have to be much more careful about label reading. Same goes for restaurant "adventures". It has been hard to go wrong with a bowl of brown rice, steamed veggies and grilled chicken.

For the moment, I am just going to be happy for her and will try and hit "pause" on my worry button. I am just so excited for her, as the world just got a whole bunch more interesting.

To be continued...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hypoallergenic Dogs? Maybe not...

Growing up, we had a cockapoo who we loved for over 16 years. He never shed and we assumed he was "hypoallergenic". Both my sister and I had horrific environmental allergies, but we always never thought that it was because of our dog. (I still do not, by the way!) My Mom has a Bichon Frise, her third, and she swears that they are also hypoallergenic. I have never had issues with them but my sister has. That is why this new study intrigues me...

The Myth of the Hypoallergenic Dog

What do you think? Which pets have given you trouble? Which ones have not?

California Pizza Kitchen, Gluten-free!

GF Pizza with Mushrooms & Olives

We have been hearing rumors that CPK (California Pizza Kitchen) was getting ready to offer a gluten-free pizza crust option. The wait is over! Tonight, we got to try their new crust. The new pizza is part of a new menu that is packed full of Gluten and Wheat free options.

Pizza dough ingredients are said to contain: Rice Flour, Water, Corn starch, Tapioca dextrin, Non-Fat Dry Milk, Whole Eggs, Sugar, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Baking Powder, and Soybean Oil.

The verdict: We LOVE it! More importantly, Ella loves it. The crust was thin and was not overly seasoned, like other GF crusts that we have had. Making it easy for a 6 year old to love it. "It's just as good as a wheat pizza!" exclaimed Ella has she quickly gobbled down 4 of her 6 slices. Thankfully, she saved enough for left-overs for her camp lunch tomorrow.

As an added bonus, CPK does not charge extra for the crust and you can order it on most of your pizza favorites.

Our favorite GF pizza is still Pizza Fusion , but this is a close second. CPK happens to be near our house and our school often throws fundraisers there. Now we can order something beyond grilled chicken and steamed broccoli! Something tells me that we will be back soon.

Here is a link to other CPK Gluten-free menu items...

CPK Gluten-free Menu

Kids Bowl, Free?

Looking for something fun to do indoors this summer, to beat the heat? How about bowling? This is a fabulous deal worth checking out, especially if you have kids. Up to 4 adults can be listed on the Family Pass (including babysitters and grandparents) and they can bowl 2 games per day! You are charged a one time fee of $24.95, not including shoe rentals.

Monday, July 4, 2011

GF Cookies and Creme, no bake Cheesecakes

These look simply delightful and I had to share this link. Can't wait to give them a try.

From "Simply, Gluten-Free"...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Food Allergies More Common, More Severe Among Children

This was on CNN today. Not much of a surprise to those of us who have a child who is severely allergic to some type of food. The numbers are increasing and this is downright, disturbing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fun things you can make with a box of GF cake mix...

I have been busy, VERY busy. In my arsenal of allergy friendly cookbooks, I have several great recipes that I could not live without. But there are days when I don't even have time for those. So I have been keeping boxes of GF cake mix on hand for anything that might come up. There are several companies that make these mixes and most seem to be quite good. But if you add a few extra ingredients like chopped fruit or orange juice, you will be thrilled at what can be created. And if you use the cake in unusual ways, like in a trifle or dipped in chocolate you would be hard pressed to find someone who would turn their nose up at the end result. Here are a few things that I have made in the past few months for a wide variety of Ella's activities. Tea parties, play dates and even a dessert for a grandparent visit. Everyone was clamouring to get to these bad boys. Hopefully you will be inspired to stock up on a GF mix, or two...

Impromptu play date activity... Cherry Chip Cupcakes

Ice Cream Cake, GF Cake layered with mint chip ice cream

Trifles! Sweet, glorious trifles!

Petit Fours, for taking to a little girl's birthday party

Miniature Cupcakes with Strawberry Whipped Cream Frosting

Where, oh where have I been?

MasterChef 2, FOX... Main Cooking Competition Area

My blogging, as of late, has been minimal. This is not because I have stopped Living WELL with Food Allergies. Rather, I have been insanely busy with my day job... working as a set decorator for two Television shows. As you may know, those shows are both on FOX... Hell's Kitchen and MasterChef. We did two back to back seasons of HK and one season of MC. I LOVE my job and am quite proud of my amazing art department. There are often quite a few challenges that we overcome, by what often seems like a miracle.

My sets are like my children; I love them all. But MasterChef holds a special place in my heart. It is a fun show to watch and like anyone who watches the show, I enjoy rooting for the underdogs. Part of my job is to work closely with the Culinary Department to really create a setting that is different than any other cooking show on TV. This year, I was blessed to work with a team that was led by the fabulous, Sandee Birdsong (a former Top Chef contestant and producer). Jane, Joplin, Brad and Jeff were a dream to work with. Together, we created pantry and equipment rooms that exceed anything that has ever been seem on TV before. In fact, MasterChef International liked what we did so much that they are now going to try and recreate these environments on the other MasterChef version that air around the world. They took extensive photographs of our sets, which was really exciting for us. If you have not seen
the show, I would encourage you to check it out. Season 2 just started airing. You may also see full episodes here.

Our Pantry. A true feast for the senses!

The kids visited me on set a couple of times and Ella was quite taken with the pantry. She grabbed a few of her favorite types of fruit, as well as some chocolate. Milo, ever the boy, was fond of the fork lift. Lucky for him, we seem to have one of those on every set!

Hell's Kitchen 9 and 10 were also a lot of fun to create. Season 10 is still shooting, currently, but Season 9 is set to begin airing alongside MasterChef, Mid July. I would show you photos, but unfortunately, I am not allowed to until the show airs. Our show and my sets will be featured in Design Trade Magazine at the beginning of next month, I believe. Really exciting stuff!

Our family has also been quite busy. Ella finished kindergarten and is excited to move into first grade in the Fall (sob!) Milo has been dancing his way through his first year of preschool. In true California style, both kids are enrolled in a children's yoga class which they LOVE. My husband's show, "The Cleveland Show" also on Fox, has been renewed for a fourth season and we are very excited about that.

Things on the allergy front seem to be okay, thankfully. Ella's wheat allergy seems to be diminishing, at least a tiny bit. We have been letting her eat very small amounts and have not seen a rise in her allergy symptoms. By small, I mean, a bite of bread or a battered chicken tender. We will have her tested again in the next couple of months just to further monitor the situation. We visited Disney's California Adventure last week and had lunch at Arielle's Grotto. I told our waiter about Ella's allergies and he was very helpful in finding things for her to eat. (There were many options). And for dessert, they even brought her a special cup of sorbet. A fabulous experience, all the way.

The summer is looking to be very exciting with Art Camp just around the corner and trips to places like Yosemite and Northern California. We are also considering a trip to Hawaii, in September. Hopefully, I will have time to blog more often. I have missed being able to connect with all of you. I send kind wishes for your summer plans, as well. Hopefully, everyone will have nothing but great stories to report!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

European E. Coli Outbreak

This is pretty scary. I hope they find out how this happened and quick...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rice Krispie Sushi

We got this month's copy of Parent's Magazine in the mail today. As usual, it was filled with tons of great parenting information and ideas. Our daughter's 6th birthday is just around the corner and they have a great section this month called, "Birthdays on a Budget". The one that really got me excited was the Japanese Tea Party theme. The featured dessert is for "sweet sushi" made with rice krispies, fruit leather/roll-ups and a few other things. What a perfect idea for a kid who has a wheat or dairy allergy! The treats can be made with margarine. Just be sure to check the ingredients for the candies that are used, as licorice often has wheat in it.

Link to the Parents Magazine article

I was really excited to show the article to our daughter (who, by the way is having a Backyardigans themed party) and she was very excited. But she mentioned that a friend of hers from school often brings these treats as dessert in her lunch. Where have I been that I missed this? Naturally, I will be trying them as soon as I can. And I looked them up on the Internet and found a couple of other resources to check out, as they are quite detailed...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Easter Eggs

Spring is upon us and it is time to start dying Easter eggs, as Easter is just a week away. If you have ever wanted to dye Easter eggs, naturally, you may want to try this. With a few beets, cabbage and some turmeric you could create some pretty fabulous colors. Throw in some onion skins, and you will never want to go back to those boring, ubiquitous colored pellets again!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Matzah Rocha

This recipe has become a beloved tradition at our house each Passover. Everyone loves it and it makes for a perfect dessert after the Seder dinner... or anytime! I even made some for Ella's birthday party last year and they flew off the table. The key to this recipe is the salt. There is nothing better than the chocolate/salt combination. We're making a double batch!

Matzah Rocha

1 cup of unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
12 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 boards matzah or enough
GF crackers/matzah to cover cookie sheet
plain kosher/coarse or sea salt (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Cover a cookie sheet with foil, grease the foil with cooking spray. Lay out matzah in a single layer, breaking boards as needed to cover the foil completely.

Boil butter and brown sugar together over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. (It’s important to bring to a boil and keep boiling for 3 minutes to allow the butterscotch to fuse together, but do not boil for much longer than 3 minutes, as butterscotch burns easily.) Working quickly (before butterscotch hardens), pour butterscotch over matzah and spread over the whole surface. Allow some time for it to harden.

Melt chocolate chips over a double broiler, or over low heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan, taking care not to scorch. Spread the chocolate over the butterscotch. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Bake at 350° for 5 minutes to allow everything to set. Freeze for one hour or more, keeping the cookie sheet as level as possible. Break into pieces and serve. Can be enjoyed cold or at room temperature.

Yields: Serves 8-10

Time to make: 1½ hr

Source: with modifications by Heidi

Friday, April 15, 2011

Three Wishes...

A couple of weeks ago, Ella's teacher had the children make "wish" books. In it, they could got to imagine 3 wishes. These are the things that Ella wishes for most...
You guessed it, this one made me cry.

This one made me laugh. She likes to make BIG plans with her friend, Zoe. And this one proves that she is just like every other five year old!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Saturday, March 12, 2011

GF Gooey Bars

I adapted this recipe from this month's Everyday Food. It is so good, you'll never miss the wheat or gluten. My brother-in-law was over to the house this morning. He gobbled down 2 of them and raved about how much he loved them. (He normally runs in another direction when he sees raisins.) He didn't realize that there are raisins in the bars. When I told him, he could not believe me. And he didn't notice the missing wheat, either.

These are very easy to make and even more fun to eat. Enjoy!

GF Gooey Bars

nonstick cooking spray
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons superfine brown rice flour
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons white rice flour
1/3 cup +2 tablespoons potato starch
1/4 cup tapioca flour
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon course salt
3/4 cup GF rolled oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (6 ounces)
1/2 cup raisins
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups ( 7 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9 x 13" baking dish with parchment paper, leaving overhang on short sides. Lightly coat paper with cooking spray. In a food processor, pulse together butter, confectioner's sugar, flours, xanthan gum and salt; until mixture becomes a coarse meal. Add oats and pulse until just combined. Press dough evenly into the bottom of the dish and bake until lightly browned and firm, about 20 minutes.

Scatter chocolate chips and raisins evenly on top of crust. Drizzle with condensed milk and top with coconut. Bake until coconut is golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely on wire rack before cutting into 18 squares. Store in an airtight container, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Thank goodness for generics!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hamentashen for Purim

If you are looking for a wheat and gluten free Hamentashen recipe that is sure to knock the socks off of everyone, look no further. We are going to be cranking out a few dozen of these bad boys this weekend. This is the third year in a row that I am posting this recipe. Enjoy!

This gentile has had her work cut out for her, as she raises a Jewish kid who is allergic to so many things. All of the Jewish holidays are celebrated with specific kinds of foods. Now I am constantly trying to find recipes that are adaptable to Ella's special diet and often, I find things that are really quite delicious. Today we made Hamentashen off of a recipe that I found on the Internet. Naturally, it is wheat and gluten free. We filled ours with three separate fillings; apricot, chocolate chips and blackberry. When pinching the "hats" I closed them a little too much; more than what is traditional. But they tasted just as good! These will now be a staple in our home.

Gluten-Free Hamentashen

1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour (superfine is best)
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup tapioca flour

Fillings of your choice: apricot, prune, or berry preserves,
chocolate chips, M&Ms, cream cheese or whatever your heart


Cream butter and sugar in a bowl; add egg and mix. AddOJ and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix together all dry ingredients; slowly add
mixture to butter and sugar mix.
Mix until just combined.
Refrigerate dough for several hours or overnight. Dough needs
to be very cold to work with.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover cookie sheets with parchment

Roll out dough onto a lightly gluten-free floured surface. Roll to 1/8-1/4" thickness. Cut circles in dough with a 2 1/2" wide glass. Fill each circle with about 1/2 teaspoon of filling of your choice.

Fold up 3 sides of circle and pinch edges firmly to form a triangle with opening at the center to let the filling poke through. Or if you have an over eager pincher, as I did, you may seal them closed.
Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Let cool on rack and transfer to a plate.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Music to my ears!

In case you have not heard, Allegra is now available without a prescription!!!! I come from a long, line of allergy sufferers and this is the one medication that has always worked for us. Not sure why it has taken so long for this miracle medicine to become OTC, but I am very, VERY happy. No more fights with our insurance provider!!!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Skippy Peanut Butter Recall

Recall Alert! If peanut butter is your thing (if you are one of the lucky ones) make sure you check your jars of Skippy, especially if you have any of the reduced fat varieties. They might be contaminated with salmonella.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Missed it by THAT much!

When I was a kid, we watched a lot of "Get Smart". The main character, Maxwell Smart, had a lot of memorable quotes. He always got a laugh when he would say, "Missed it by that much." His delivery was spot on.

As a mother of a child with food allergies, I think it is important to have a good sense of humor. And as frustrating as our situation can be, it always helps when I can find a way to laugh. When possible.

As some of you know, I work as a Set Decorator in the film industry. Two of my shows are on Fox, both staring Gordon Ramsay; Hell's Kitchen and MasterChef. MasterChef is currently in production and they sent an e-mail out to the staff and crew asking us if any of our kids would be interested in participating in one of the upcoming competitions. My first reaction was to be VERY excited. Ella, my five year old daughter, is very interested in what I do for a living. She jumps at any opportunity to come to my work. Over the course of a show, there are many stages of development for her to observe. The planning, design and model building. The preliminary materials search. The building of the set. The months of shopping and finally, the set decoration. I try to bring her along so that she can witness and participate in each step. After I finished decorating MC Season 2, I brought her to the set and the first thing she said to me was, "I want to be on this show!" And I told her that the show was like a big game with grown ups who are competing against each other to see who is the best chef. I couldn't foresee a chance for her to appear on camera... until I got an e-mail yesterday.

And then I remembered the food allergies. I knew that if they were doing a food competition with children, things like peanut butter and pasta were VERY likely to be involved. There was no way that she could participate. And I heard Maxwell Smart say his famous phrase, "Missed it by that much!" And I couldn't help but smile.

The good news is that Ella will never know that she missed an opportunity to be on TV. She is already quite bitter about the whole allergy thing and there is no need to add fuel to that fire. But it was a striking reminder of the lack of freedom we have in our lives, at times. But honestly, I am just happy that I have such a fabulous kid who is creative and wonderful in every way.

But I am going to suggest they do a competition for people who have food allergies. Top Chef did it and it was a great episode!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Antibiotics in our foods

Pharmaceuticals, pharmaceuticals and MORE pharmaceuticals. What have we done to our foods? Our bodies? Our planet? These are all questions to ponder as you read the following article. Our food system is clearly broken. Sometimes I feel like we are so ahead of the cart it seems almost impossible to fix...

Today's Food System: All Drugged Up from the Huffington Post

Thursday, February 24, 2011

GF Red Velvet Cupcakes

A little bird just told me that Sprinkles is now offering a GF red velvet cupcake. I called them to see if nut flours are used and they said, "no". BUT they do not suggest any of their cupcakes to anyone who may have a nut allergy. (Cross contamination risk.) But if gluten/wheat are your only problems... SCORE!

Go here, for more info... Sprinkles

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Salsa and Sauce Recall

If you happen to have a wheat or gluten allergy, heads up about this recall. Good to know before you open up that jar of salsa or eat something at a Super Bowl party...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Those pesky peanuts...

... cause so many problems for those who are severely allergic to them. Planes are very confined areas and what might seem like an innocent snack to some, is lethal to others. This is a great article from Allergic Living, worth reading...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Keebler Recall

Those elves have some splainin' to do...

For those of you who may be fans of Keebler cookies, the company has recalled 17,000 eight-count cartons of Keebler Fudge Shoppe jumbo fudge sticks because the mislabeled cartons contain individually wrapped jumbo peanut butter sticks. The company says consumers with peanut allergies the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reactions if they eat the fudge sticks. More information: 888-746-3679;

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Music to my Ears

San Luis Obispo is my home town so news of this bakery makes me very happy! We can't wait to try it out, next time we are in the area.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Slow Cooker Oatmeal

Lately, we have been rediscovering steel cut oats. They are delicious and far more nutritious than old fashioned or quick cooking oatmeal. Here is a recipe that I have been making lately in our trusted slow cooker. The best part: it is ready to eat right when you wake up!

Serves 6

2 cups steel cut oats (look for GF, if need be)
4 cups of water
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 small apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I like red varieties)
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries
2 tablespoons of butter or margarine, chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add all ingredients to a slow cooker. Cook on low setting for 8 hours. If desired, serve with steamed milk of choice (soy, rice, cow's milk, coconut milk, etc.).

Unused portions can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container up to 3 days.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Itchy Legs, once again

Ella is allergic to wheat. As much as she hates it, as much as we want her not to be... she is allergic to wheat. This is an odd allergy for her. She doesn't see a reaction right away. If she eats something that has wheat in it, it often will take hours and sometimes days for her body to respond. She starts itching. At first it might be a patch of "dry skin" in her face. Followed by small bumps. Then she starts to get a tiny rash on her legs, which spreads over time. Before we know it, she is scratching everywhere.

Even after a dose or two of her allergy meds, the rashes will remain. There is only one way to make the itching stop and that is to eliminate wheat (and several other allergens) from her diet.

She is five. The only thing that matters to her is that she gets to eat things that her friends and family get to eat. And unfortunately, we are a part of a food culture where most foods are wheat based. Pizza, pasta, crackers, cake, bread, bagels, and on and on.

Over the past couple of years her wheat allergy has diminished. Mostly because we have been so strict with what she is allowed to eat. Oddly enough, this has given us a false sense of security. She's no longer a 4, she's a 1!!! On occasion, we let our guard down and let her have a little. Maybe in the form of a chicken nugget. Maybe a goldfish cracker or two. Maybe even a tiny nibble of pizza. This is a bit of a balancing act for us. We are weighing a lot of factors; her need to fit in, our desire to make her happy, our need to keep her healthy. I will admit, sometimes it is easier for us. Maybe if she eats a little birthday cake, we won't have to make a wheat-free version to take along with us. And then we give her a little extra allergy medication at night.

This might all seem a bit distorted or confusing. What are these people doing? Honestly, it all comes from a loving place. And we are always second guessing ourselves. But how much is enough? Where do we draw the line? Ella cannot possibly understand our seemingly arbitrary and changing rules. Without question she will grow up to have major control issues. And most likely, hate us.

As we have relaxed a bit on how much wheat she is allowed to have, her skin has started to get itchy again. How much are we giving her? Generally, she is allowed to have a 1/2 a piece of challah with her classmates on Fridays. And maybe a Ritz cracker on a saturday. Or we let her try something we are eating, like a bite of pasta. But not every day.

We just found out that she has been asking her her friends if they can share their snacks with her at recess. This is not a good thing, from our perspective. But for Ella it means that she can finally enjoy what they all take for granted, just a little. We have asked her to stop this and hopefully she will. (When the kids share food, wheat is the least of my concerns.)

When she starts itching, I take notice. To me, it just isn't worth making her uncomfortable. Ella definitely would not agree. "So what, Mom! It's a croissant! C'mon! A CROISSANT!"

I just hope that we are able to move past all of this one day. As I have said before, wheat allergies are so very challenging. And as much as I love finding fun ways to cook brown rice pasta, it just wears me out. And worse than all of that is the fact that my beautiful daughter suffers regardless, whether she eats wheat or not. And there is nothing I can do to take away that pain.

Food Allergy Myths

Two articles worth checking out and passing along to those in your life who have misconceptions about food allergies.

Here is a great little article about some common food allergy myths from

Celebrating MLK Day

If you happen to be home today and want to celebrate Dr. King, here are a few recipes (Southern "Soul Food" inspired). On the menu, Oven Fried Chicken Fingers, Collard Greens, GF Mac and Cheese and Black Eyed Peas. If you have little ones and are looking for fun activities to do, I have attached a link to some fun Dr. King themed crafts. This was a great, great man. And I feel like he always held his head high. His words were tough, direct and powerful. But always civil. I am so glad that we have a holiday that honors a man who truly changed our country, for the better. Happy MLK Day!

Oven-Fried Chicken Fingers

2 1/2 lb skinless boneless chicken breast halves
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
7 cups cornflakes (7 oz), coarsely crushed

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Butter 2 large shallow (1 inch deep) baking pans.

Gently pound chicken between sheets of plastic wrap with flat side of a meat pounder or with a rolling pin until 1/3 inch thick. Cut chicken lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips.

Stir together butter, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish. Put cornflakes in another shallow dish. Working with 1 strip at a time, dip in butter, then dredge in cornflakes, pressing flakes firmly to help adhere. Transfer as coated to baking pans.

Bake, switching position of pans halfway through baking, until chicken is golden and cooked through, about 15 minutes total.

Cool chicken in pans on racks to room temperature (crust will firm up as it cools).

Collard Greens and Turnips with Ham Hock

6 cups water
1 large ham hock (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes or 1/2 teaspoon Rooster Sauce
3 pounds collard greens
1‚ pounds turnips

In a 6-quart kettle bring water with ham hock to a boil (water will not cover hock) and simmer, covered, turning hock over halfway through cooking, 1 hour. Add vinegar and pepper.

While hock is simmering, remove and discard stems and center ribs of collard greens and cut leaves into 1-inch pieces. Stir collards into hock mixture and simmer, partially covered, until almost tender, about 45 minutes. Cut turnips into 1/2-inch cubes. Stir turnips into collards and simmer, partially covered, until turnips are tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Season collard and turnip mixture with salt and pepper.

Gluten-Free Mac & Cheese

This is my favorite wheat-free Mac & Cheese, by far. I am a BIG fan of this comfort food and I never thought I would find a recipe that is as good as the typical, wheat pasta versions. But this is just as good. You will never know that this is GF, especially if you add even more shredded cheese to the top after you have poured it into the pan.

Black Eyed Peas

Dessert is still up in the air. Maybe some sliced pears. Or chocolate of some sort, if Ella has anything to say about it! Mommy will probably enjoy a little Bourbon after the kids go to bed!


This is a website that we use constantly. There are a lot of great ideas of things to do with the little ones. Ella has been having fun creating her "Thank You, Dr. King" coloring book. If you are home tomorrow and looking for something to do, you may want to consider doing some of these activities...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Food Truck Sensation: BEWARE!!!

There is a new food fad that is sweeping the nation, gourmet food trucks. These are not the roach coaches of yesteryear. They are often run by famous chefs and are a true cult phenomenon. We live in Los Angeles, the mecca of all food trucks. There are blogs about them and reports posted on Twitter about where the trucks can be found. Everything from crepes to gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches to korean BBQ tacos. The sky is the limit and the offerings can be spectacular. But if you have food allergies, you should eat with caution. A mommy friend of mine alerted me to an experience she had, recently. They were eating off of a burger truck. And they ordered some french fries, which without their knowledge had been cooked in peanut oil. There were no signs posted, warning people with food allergies. This was strictly a burger truck and the family, who has a child that is highly allergic to peanuts, never imagined that the french fries would be cooked in such a way. Thankfully, they caught the mistake before their child got a hold of them and was sick. ALWAYS ask, even when you might think that it is an impossibility. People use all kinds of crazy ingredients and it is better to be safe than sorry. I am sure that peanut oil is a delicious way to fry potatoes, but certainly not worth the risk.

If you are interested in tracking down one of these trucks, here is a great LA area link...

But eat with caution!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

From the LA Times

I meant to post this last week, but time got away from me. Worth a read...

Vaccine Controversy

From CNN...

What does everyone think about this? I have mentioned hesitation about vaccinations on this blog in the past, but tend to be on the side of Western Medicine when it comes to immunization. My daughter did have a horrible reaction to her first MMR shot and I have often wondered if her allergies are related in some way. It is not really a rational, fact based theory. It is more about me wanting to have a direct cause for her situation; someone to blame. But I have several friends, whom I respect deeply, that have decided to not immunize their kids. Many of them, using Dr. Wakefield's study as the foundation of their argument. And there are a host of other reasons why parents choose to not vaccinate, which are all worth considering. Much like all things relating to parenting, there is a lot of gravity in the decisions we make... everything from baby shots to where our children will go to school and beyond.

One thing is for sure, this controversy is only heating up and I am sure we are going to be hearing a lot more in the days and weeks to come.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sunday, January 2, 2011


As many of us are working through our New Year's resolutions, it is important to find inspiration where ever you can. Today, my husband and I have been tackling some light organization around the house. Things like cleaning out the fridge and cupboards. The kids have been sorting through their toys and getting rid of old markers. As I took a break to listen to the rain outside, I decided to open up this month's issue of Sunset Magazine. In it there is a fascinating article about a family in Mill Valley, California who are virtually garbage free. I am mystified by their simplified lifestyle. After the holidays, the amount of "stuff" in our home is at an embarrassing all time high. I simply cannot imagine living so minimally, but I respect the notion, on the highest of levels. It truly is something to aspire to. If we could all just reduce our waste, even a little, the world would be a much better place. The article is really worth checking out if you are interested...

The Zero Waste Home and here is the blog of the woman who is featured in the article... Really thought provoking stuff.

My daughter's Hopscotch Magazine also had a piece this month called, "Waste Not, Want Not" that has been sticking with me. It is by Vijaya Bodach who reflects on her childhood growing up in India. They created very little garbage and reused everything. They lived a simple life composting what they could and appreciating what little they had. It is an interesting tale of different cultures. The author says, "Looking back, I realize that we were poor, But it didn't matter. We were happy." As a parent of a child who has been given so much in her life, without knowing what it is to suffer, I found this story endearing. Beyond just the fact that they lived simply and produced little waste.

As Americans, we truly do produce a lot of garbage. The average person in the USA tosses out about 1,130 pounds of waste each year. (According to Sunset magazine, not sure what portion of that is recyclable waste.) Other sources put that number a bit higher, but on average, most of us recycle about 40% of our garbage sum. That's somewhat encouraging! "What's Up with Trash" is a source for easy to comprehend statistics about how much waste those of us in the USA produce. (YIKES!) Worth checking out if you are interested.

Don't get me wrong, I am as guilty as anyone. I shop for a living. And many of the things I purchase (sometimes by the car load or truck load full) are breakable and require a lot of wrapping. I do own about 30 reusable shopping bags and refuse plastic whenever I can. But that doesn't mean that I cannot try to do better.

None of this really has much to do with food allergies, at least on the surface. But I do think our overuse of plastics and chemicals are related in some way. I just offer up this post as a way to get people thinking about the impact that each of us has on the world. We are all connected, after all.

Best of luck with your resolutions in this new year. Lord knows I need help with mine... to eat less sugar. Usually, I try to avoid making such New Year's declarations. But when the pants get a little tight around the waist, some changes have to be made!

Getting Gum Out of the Hair: When Peanut Butter is an Impossibility

Yesterday, as we returned home from a trip to the snow my daughter sat in the back seat of our minivan twirling gum in her fingers, dangerously close to her hair. Thankfully, we managed to get her to spit out the dangerously gooey mess before it became tangled. But it got me thinking: What would we use if gum was stuck in her hair? My mom used the classic, peanut butter, in my hair. But having a kid who is allergic to peanuts makes this remedy an impossibility. So I have been researching alternative methods and here is a list of what I have found...

1) Olive Oil or other cooking oil like Canola or vegetable. Rub the gum with the oil, leaving in for 3 minutes. Gently remove the gum by working it with a comb. Wash hair with shampoo, afterward.

2) Ice. Apply ice to the gum, until it is hard... about 10-15 minutes. When it is rigid enough, break it apart and remove it from hair.

3) Vaseline. It works the same way as the olive oil.

4) Baby Oil. Same method as Vaseline or Olive Oil.

4) Rubbing Alcohol. Apply it to the gummy area with fingers. (A cotton ball would only make the mess worse). Gradually, the gum will come loose. Wash and rinse hair, afterward.

5) Toothpaste. Gradually rub pea sized amounts into the hair until the gum comes loose. Wash and rinse, afterward.

For more ideas, check out How to Get Gum Out of Your Hair by Wikihow or How to Get Gum Out of Hair by or check out this comment board on the topic on