Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Amore di Mona Chocolate - Product Review

You know me, I love chocolate. When in doubt, bake it chocolate. When in crisis, eat chocolate.

I was intrigued by the Amore di Mona chocolates, as soon as a complimentary package arrived at my door. The packaging suggests that this is no ordinary chocolate:

The chocolate is gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, nut-free, AND low glycemic (billed as "diabetic-friendly"). Wow, that's a feat! The sweetener used is agave nectar. All of the ingredients are sourced from the best. Let's look inside that gift box:

Oh, which to try first... There are hard chocolates, and caramels. I picked a Caramela to start:

The chocolate has a smooth taste and feel, doesn't read as sweet as other "dark" chocolate, and not overpowering. But let's talk about the caramela:

The real treat here is the caramel. The caramels are silky, smooth, and melt in your mouth. No hard "break your teeth" caramels here. Oh, so, good. Yup, if you try this brand, you must try the caramels! (affiliate link)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Camel Milk? Uh, I Don’t Think So…

I have long since given up drinking cow’s milk. I am not allergic to milk and I won’t go out of my way to avoid it for myself. But my son is allergic to milk, and he must avoid it at all costs. And so (as the story goes) I gave up buying cow’s milk more than a decade ago, choosing to use hemp milk or coconut milk instead. (You probably know that all of the recipes I develop are dairy-free.)

English: Sahara camel calf feeding from her mother
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can live a complete and fulfilling life without dairy.

Along my journey of writing cookbooks for families with food allergies, I discovered that humans are the only mammals that drink another mammals milk. Yup, all that “(cow’s) milk is good for you” messaging from the government is, well – malarkey.

And while I can’t yet claim the same strict ethical diet that vegans do, I am finding myself more and more repulsed by cow’s milk. Just as I walk very quickly by the bread in the “gluten aisle” of the grocery store, I breeze right by the dairy case. No need to linger there. Dairy, I don’t need you.

So when an article popped up in my inbox about camel milk being the next new milk, it went immediately to trash. I can deal with people embracing almond milk (not everyone is allergic to nuts), but camel milk? I say, “No, thank you.” Please don’t ask me to try it. Please don’t ask me to review it. What about you?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Upcoming Food Allergy Events -- I'll Be There!

It's going to be a busy fall with some great events that I will be signing books and/or speaking at, starting with this weekend! Here's where I will be:

Sunday September 20th (9:00 am – noon)– North Jersey Food Allergy Conference
Marriott Saddle Brook, NJ
Presentation and book signing

Saturday-Sunday November 7-8th (10 am to 4 pm) Living Without’s Gluten Free Food Allergy Fest,
Hilton Hotel, Stamford, CT
Book signing

Tuesday November 10th (7:00 pm) – Pawling Library, 11 Broad Street, Pawling, NY
Demo, talk, and book signing

Friday through Sunday November 13-15th Food Allergy Blogger Conference, Denver Renaissance Hotel, Denver Colorado
Panel discussion and book signing

I hope to see you there! Let me know if you are coming and we'll be sure to connect!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Choosing a College: The Most Important Question to Ask When You Have Food Allergies

Within the next few months, high school seniors across the country will be deciding where to apply to college and submitting applications. There are many factors to consider – location, curriculum, size, etc. And for those with food allergies, add food to that list.

It’s been a few years since my son applied to college, and a couple since he graduated. We asked a lot of questions before he made the decision to apply early decision at his top choice, but there’s one question that stands out as being key:

Where does your food come from?

In at least one of the college cafeterias (most will have more than one) you want to find kitchen staff that actually cooks.

Many cafeterias outsource their food service to vendors; avoid these, if you can. It’s impossible for the kitchen to know what’s really in the food (or how it was handled) if they are opening vats and dumping them into bins.

Ideally, you’d like to find a cafeteria where the staff actually makes the food. They are far more likely to be able to adapt meals and dramatically more likely to be able to accurately tell you the ingredients (and even show you labels).

If you can, eat there during your college visit (pick a busy time) and watch how the staff handles your requests. Does the chef come out to talk to you? Will they bring you a plate directly from the kitchen rather than expecting you to go through the food line (where contamination can occur)? And most important, can the chef tell you what’s really in the food and how it was prepared?

Best of luck to all of the #foodallergy seniors!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Challenge of Oven Temperature

For the past few months I have had the pleasure of living and working in two locations, both of which I call home. But as I develop and test recipes with two different ovens I have discovered an added challenge. The two ovens, set to the same temperature, do not perform the same.

I have tested the oven temperature and both set at 350 degrees do indeed register 350 degrees on the exact same thermometer. Yet, the same recipe, with the exact same ingredients, can take as much as 20% longer to be done in one location than the other.

So, what’s going on?

The first oven is the one I used to develop and test the recipes for my first two books. It’s a Kenmore, about ten years old. Nothing fancy, but it’s reliable. It’s probably similar to what many of you have in your homes.

The second oven is new. I replaced a very old, very unreliable oven with an oven that has some high-end features, including convection. I picked it because I needed an oven that was a slide-in and it had to fit in the space I had (to avoid an entire kitchen remodel). It happens to be blue inside (pretty, right?), but that’s just a bonus!

This is the oven that bakes faster. Yes, on the regular bake cycle (I don’t use convection for baking). Neither location is at high altitude, although one (the one that bakes faster) is far more humid.

So, again, what’s going on?

After much experimentation (and second-guessing) I now believe that the variation has to do with the fans (or lack of them). Even on regular bake, the new oven uses the fan that would be used for convection baking to help the oven preheat faster. I think this creates a more uniform temperature throughout the oven and hence it bakes faster (and more evenly). I also believe this is why my brownies made with the Enjoy Life baking mix required less time than suggested.

I believe this article about ignoring your oven dial has some good points. We should always view timing – not just for cooking but also for baking – as guidance, not definitive rules. Learning what your baked goods should look like when they are done is a far better determination than time.