Monday, April 14, 2014

Ian’s Frozen Foods – Product Review

There are a handful of companies that I can rely on when it comes to foods for multiple food allergies and Ian’s Natural Foods is one of them. They recently sent me some samples of their new frozen foods to try. Among the options available top-8 allergen-free are chicken tenders, onion rings, French toast sticks, and French Bread Pizza.

I was intrigued about how they would make French Toast without eggs; it turns out that these are made from a rice-based cinnamon bread, and then coated with a batter of flour and sweeteners. An interesting concept!

I tried the chicken tenders with onion rings for dinner. I love that the chicken tenders are made from real chicken (no fillers, no hormones, and no antibiotics). Both of these foods are coated with a crumbly corn-based batter. The onion rings are the crunchy type of onion ring (as opposed to the smooth batter type you might be used to). I served them up with some sliced avocado and salad.

My meal was tasty and satisfying. Prep was simple – just heat and serve – making it a great option for a quick dinner after a stressful day. All of these foods should be kept frozen.

Note that the servings are small – for example, one box of chicken tenders is just two servings. (What you see pictured above is half of what's in the box.) If you are buying to feed the whole family you will need more than one box.

Monday, April 7, 2014

White Lion Baking Company, A Gluten-Free Bakery Review

I recently visited my mother on Cape Cod and decided to take a drive to The White Lion Baking Company in Mashpee, Massachusetts. Whenever I hear about an allergen-free or gluten-free bakery in an area that I am visiting, I like to check it out. My curiosity is as much about learning how other bakers create their treats as it is about finding something great to eat while traveling.

Upon entering the bakery we were greeted with cases of cupcakes, cookies, cakes, and other sweets. But when I say "sweet" I should mention that the bakery is refined sugar-free; in this case that means that they are sweetened with honey. Everything is gluten-free, grain-free, and soy-free. They bake some treats dairy-free, but some do contain dairy. Some treats are nut-free, but many are made with almond flour (or a combination of coconut and almond flour). Since they are all made in the same kitchen, the bakery is not appropriate for anyone allergic to tree nuts or dairy. They do also use eggs.

My sister and I picked a half-dozen treats to sample. My favorite -- by a mile -- was the chocolate brownie (should have gotten more of those).

After dinner we tried the chocolate cupcakes and the carrot cupcake. We all agreed that the carrot was the best, whereas the chocolate was dry (but the non-dairy frosting was quite good!)

We saved a blueberry muffin and cinnamon bun for the next morning; both were dry.

All in all, I was a bit disappointed but the trip did encourage me to try baking with coconut flour. I am dreaming up coconut baking projects -- perhaps a coconut flour brownie will be first on that list.

Monday, March 31, 2014

When Life Gives You Lemons (Favorite Things)

There is one item that is always on my grocery shopping list: lemons.

Lemons are extremely useful and versatile.The skin of the lemon will give you zest that can be used to add flavor to -- just about anything.

Always make sure you wash lemons (and other citrus fruit) before zesting or juicing to eliminate oils or waxes that have been used on the skins.

Gone are the days when I use the juice that can be squeezed out of a little plastic container designed to look like a lemon. Fresh lemon juice is the way to go:

Fresh lemon juice is ideal for making salad dressings, sauces, mayonnaise. I use it in fillings for pies, in applesauce, and in jams. You can never have enough lemons, or lemon juice. But just in case you do.... in case life gives you a whole bunch of lemons, then it's time to preserve them.

Use a large, sanitized Ball jar. Remove the top and bottom tips of the lemons and quarter them without slicing all the way through the bottom. Pack the centers of the lemons with lots of sea salt (or kosher salt). You can't use too much salt. Stuff the lemons into the jar:

Leave an inch of headspace in the jar. Add more salt and then fill the jar with lemon juice (freshly squeezed, of course). Make sure all of the lemons are covered with juice.

Cover and let the jar sit in the pantry for 4 to 5 weeks. The salt will break down the lemons and make the skins oh-so-tender. Once the lemons are broken down as much as you'd like, move the jar to the refrigerator and they will keep for months.

When you have a recipe that calls that preserved lemons, remove a piece from the jar, scoop out and discard the pulp, wash and slice the skins. Life is definitely better with lemons, don't you agree?

Friday, March 21, 2014

What I Want American Idol Caleb Johnson to Know

 I am an American Idol fan – have been since season two. When American Idol is on I don’t answer the phone, check my e-mail, or check twitter. There’s a rule in my house that you aren’t allowed to talk to me during American Idol. (I'm just a little obsessed.)
American Idol logo 2008–2011
American Idol logo 2008–2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 And so I was watching on Wednesday night when rocker Caleb Johnson did something that should never be done – he joked about food allergies.

Here’s what happened:

Ryan Seacrest asked Caleb how the contestants were dealing with the stress of the competition. Caleb responded by saying they were having fun, pulling pranks – one of which was putting peanuts in peanut-allergic, fellow contestant Alex’s socks.

I broke my own no-talking rule and blurted out, “I can’t believe he just said that!”

Caleb immediately back-tracked saying, “That’s just a joke.” And I believe it was. Caleb comes across as an easy-going, fun-loving guy who always has a smile on his face. He’s the kind of guy who will take the microphone away from Ryan Seacrest and upstage him (yeah, that happened too.)

And I must give Caleb credit for apologizing for his food allergy comment on Thursday night. I presume from his apology that Caleb now understands that food allergies should never be joked about – that they are serious and can be life-threatening. A joke about food allergies is never funny.

If an American Idol contestant were in a wheelchair, no one would joke about pushing him or her down the stairs because that would just be mean (even criminal) and you could (ahem) die from it. Exactly.

Now I’m going to cut Caleb some slack because I don’t believe he meant any harm and by all accounts the prank didn’t actually happen. Ryan Seacrest put him on the spot; Caleb’s comment was off the cuff. And he’s young. But still… he’s an American Idol. Millions of Americans are watching, including many young kids.

So here’s what else I would say to Caleb:

You chose to put yourself in the spotlight. As an American Idol, there are millions of kids looking up to you. You are a role model and that means that you must behave responsibly.

There is a child with food allergies somewhere (perhaps millions of them) who didn't sleep Wednesday night for fear that they could be bullied due to their food allergies.

I hope that none of your fans take your comment as a green light to pull a similar prank. I hope that the kids watching gasped as loudly as I did because they have a friend, or a sibling, or a classmate (there are approximately two children in every classroom) with food allergies and that they understand the seriousness of the disease.

Most importantly, I hope that you think for a few seconds before you make fun of anyone (for any reason) ever again.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Bumbalooza Update

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a product review on a Cookies and Cream Cake Mix. I noted that the ingredients list contained milk, while the box itself was labeled "No dairy."

I wanted to let you know that the folks at Bumbalooza have responded and clarified. The printing on the side of the package of the Cookies and Cream mix that I received was an error. All of the products that Bumbalooza makes are dairy-free except for the Cookies and Cream mix. The ingredient list was accurate. The label on the side has been corrected.

As a reminder, if you aren't allergic to dairy, the Cookies and Cream muffins that I made were quite tasty!