Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Yummy Plum Jam

At my recent trip to the grocery store I came upon piles of plums on sale. I love to take advantage of fresh fruit, in season. I considered making plum pie, but decided instead that I wanted to preserve some of this flavorful fruit for later in the year. Plum jam was in my future, and it can be in yours too!

This is a super-simple jam. Just three ingredients. No pectin. No preservatives, except sugar. This can be made as refrigerator jam, or refer to The Allergy-Free Pantry or another reference to learn how to safely preserve jam.

Plum Jam

Makes 3 ½ to 4 pints

6 cups of plums
2 cups organic cane sugar
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice

Wash the plums, slice them, and remove the seeds. Keep the skins on, for color. Combine the plums and sugar and let them sit for an hour until juicy.

Add the lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium and boil for 20 minutes until most of the skins have separated. At this point, skim off as many skins as you can find. Boil for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened.

I think this is my new favorite jam!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Things I Learned at APFED EOS Connection 2015 for Patients with EoE and EGID’s

English: Eosinophilic oesophagitis, histologic...
I was fortunate to be asked to speak at the APFED (American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders) conference in Indianapolis this year. This is a family conference – with activities for kids and teens as well as fantastic, informative sessions for adults. Here’s a recap of just a few of the interesting facts I learned:

5% of patients with EoE have a co-existing condition of another EGID (eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorder).

Like other atopic diseases, EoE tends to run in families (with males outnumbering females 3 to 1).

We have seen a dramatic increase in EoE, but it’s not clear whether this is a true increase or recognition of the disease. Until the mid-2000’s there were very few citations in medical papers/research.

There are considerably more EoE instances reported in urban areas than rural (and especially on the east coast). Could this be (at least partly) a result of both recognition and the fact that major centers for EoE are in these areas? (Which came first, the chicken or the egg?)

The epidemiology of non-EoE EGIDs is poorly understood. We now know a lot more about EoE than when my son was diagnosed 15 years ago, but there’s a long way to go!

EoE symptoms vary by age: The youngest may experience feeding disorders or vomiting (yeah, all that spitting up is NOT normal), whereas older patients are more likely to experience swallowing difficulties and food impaction.

The biggest culprit? Milk! (That is certainly true for my son.) Followed by egg, soy, wheat, and nuts.

As with food allergies, it seems that it’s relatively common for those with EoE to also have another allergic disease – especially asthma, and be very sensitive to air-borne allergens.

This all rings very true for me, confirming things I suspected. What about you?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Another Person’s Poison – A Book Review

I’m not a history buff in any way, shape, or form. I honestly don’t remember a thing from any history classes I may have taken (sometimes I think I may not have taken any, but that’s surely not true). So when I was asked if I’d like the review Another Person's Poison: A History of Food Allergy, I was tempted to pass. But the title of the book really caught my attention, and it was about food allergies, so I was intrigued.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy for review.

The first question I was tempted to ask was, “Does food allergy truly have a history?” and it turns out it does. The book starts with accounts as early as the 1700’s where adverse reactions to food were described. Some of these sound like things we would today call food allergies, or dermatitis, or even celiac disease.

The history of food allergy goes way back, but I was surprised to learn how new the study of food allergy truly is. Throughout the text we learn about how the terms “food allergy,” “anaphylaxis,” and “IgE” came about – and how their use evolved over time. This is an extremely well researched book. There are close to 100 pages (nearly a third of the book) of notes and references.

I was most surprised about how Matthew Smith connected food allergy to mental illness – a parallel he uses throughout the text. While he isn’t describing food allergy as a mental illness (he is quite careful not to) he does describe how adverse reactions to food were perceived as mental illness. It’s all in your head. Who with food allergies or managing food allergies hasn’t felt a little bit crazy at times? And who among us hasn’t been looked at as if we’d lost our heads when describing food restrictions. Yeah, I get the connection.

I was surprised to learn that there were people calling for complete, factual ingredients labels as early as the 1970’s. And yet, the FALCPA wasn’t passed until 2004. Progress, or tragedy?

On the plus side, I was pleased to see Smith call out the role parents have played in driving change and awareness when it comes to food allergy.

On the downside, there is little discussion of recent history. There is no mention of KFA, AAFA, or other more recent non-profits that focus on food allergy. There is limited discussion of the links between allergic diseases. There is limited discussion of any research beyond the early 2000’s. There is limited discussion of specific foods or multiple allergies (although the chapter on peanut allergy is extensive).

As expected, the conclusion is also limited. There is no answer as to why food allergies have increased or even what caused them in the first place. There are no new revelations here. The essence of Matthew Smith’s conclusion is – as he states in the final paragraph – “Food allergy, much like mental illness, is a perplexing, alarming, and deeply personal condition.”

Is this book a must-read for those managing food allergies? I think not. It’s interesting – perhaps some might even say fascinating – to learn about the evolution of food allergies and how they have been perceived over time, but you will find nothing here to help you manage food allergies, feed your family, or even avoid food allergens. I think that those in the medical profession will be most interested to read this text.

A note: You may notice on amazon that the book contains a second sub-title, Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History. I believe that was dropped from the final title and I'm glad it was -- there is absolutely no culinary history covered.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Good Luck Chuck Sunflower Seed Butter Review

I received free samples of Good Luck Chuck sunflower seed butter for review.

As I waited for the product to arrive I pondered the name. Is it meant to be “Good Luck, Chuck” as if wishing Chuck some good luck? Or is “Good-luck” an adjective, as if Chuck brings good luck? Amazing what a comma or a hyphen can do.

And so I searched out the story. One might assume that the sunflower seed butter is made by Chuck, but alas, it’s not. Aaron is the founder of Good Luck Chuck (and the guy who sent me free samples). It turns out that Chuck is a guy that Aaron met when Chuck was down on his luck. Aaron helped Chuck out that day, bringing Chuck a little bit of luck. Hence the name “Good Luck Chuck”.

Of course, you wouldn’t necessarily know by the product name that this is sunflower seed butter, but it is – and it’s good!

It comes in three flavors – original (think “plain” or “classic”), chocolate (yup, it’s like Nutella without the nuts), and surprise, surprise – sriracha!! Now that’s a spicy twist.

What I love most about this product is the ingredients. There’s nothing in here that I wouldn’t put in my own homemade version. The ingredients for original are:

Sunflower seeds, sugar, palm oil, salt

The label also clearly states that none of the top 8 allergens are present. Each serving has 3 grams of sugar and 7 grams of protein. This is good stuff.

I tried the original first, as that’s the version I can best compare. This is a very creamy butter (creamier than most) and I did need to stir it when I opened the jar.

If you are in search of a great sunflower seed butter source, I think Good Luck Chuck’s is worth a try, and it’s available on amazon (affiliate link).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Math Matters: The Size of the Baking Dish

It’s often said that baking is a science – and that is certainly true – but the equally important skill when baking is math. (Have I mentioned that I was a math major?) Lucky for most of us, the math needed for baking is much simpler than algebraic equations and linear algebra, but basic math (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) and geometry come in quite handy when baking. I always keep a calculator in the kitchen (the calculator on your phone works too), and a ruler nearby.

Today’s lesson is about the size of a baking dish:

A 10-inch pie plate is considerably larger than a 9-inch plate. That inch might not seem to make much difference, but you need considerably more pie dough and filling to make a 10-inch pie. Check out the math:

Area equals pi (3.14) times the radius squared.

A 9-inch pie plate has an area of 64 inches (4.5 x 4.5 x 3.14) whereas a 10-inch pie plate has an area of 79 inches (5 x 5 x 3.14). That’s a difference of 23%.

Whereas some recipes can be adapted for plate size (for example, a brownie recipe designed for a 9-inch-square pan can be made in an 8-inch-square pan by increasing the baking time, don’t try to use a 10-inch pie plate with a recipe that was designed for a 9-inch pie. You won’t have enough crust and the filling will fall flat.

If you must use a 10-inch pie plate with a recipe designed for a 9-inch pie plate you need to increase the ingredients by roughly one quarter (or 5 parts for every 4 that the recipe calls for).