Thursday, December 30, 2010

Improving Quality of Life for Those With Food Allergies

Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network

When my son was first diagnosed with food allergies my immediate concern was finding foods that he could eat without getting sick. Like most food allergy mom’s, I sprang into action:

I read,
I researched,
I scoured the shelves of the health food store and read labels,
I learned to bake without wheat, eggs, or milk.

And like most food allergy mom’s I worried:

I worried about school lunches,
I worried about special events,
I worried about sleepovers,
I worried about sending him away to college.

But it wasn’t until recently that I really started to understand the emotional toll that food allergies have had on him. As he gets older (he’s now 20 and in college) he is sharing more about how he has felt for the past few years. In short, he often feels left out.

While his buddies at school are eating their dinner in the cafeteria, he is stuck waiting in line for his specially prepared meal. Yes, we are both grateful that his college is willing to accommodate him, but as he’s waiting his friends are finishing their dinner and off to study (or whatever is next).

When groups get together on campus, the typical take-out dinner is (you guessed it) pizza – about as close to poison as you can get for someone allergic to wheat and milk. And my son either needs to bring his own meal, or grab something on his own after the group has finished. He feels isolated.

And he worries:

He worries about constantly having to explain his food allergies,
He worries about being a burden when he has to ask for an accommodation,
He worries about missing out.

It’s not just about the food.

That’s why the quality of life study funded by FAAN is so important. Not surprisingly the study found that the most significant problem areas for teens included limitations on social activities and not being able to eat what others were eating. You can read the abstract here. FAAN plans to publish a full summary in the February-March issue of Food Allergy News, FAAN’s bimonthly newsletter for members.

As we move into 2011, I am going to be paying more attention to how we can improve quality of life for those with food allergies. What ideas do you have?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Poured Pizza Crust

I’ve been playing around with the idea of pies made with “crusts” that you don’t have to roll out. I really don’t like rolling out crusts – and it’s always a challenge to get them properly in the pie tin. While my poured pie crust recipe isn’t ready for prime time yet (stay tuned) I decided to try to make a pizza crust that didn’t require rolling out, and as quite pleased with the results!

This crust is like a thick batter, which you spread in a greased pie tin (use one that had edges).

Poured Pizza Crust

1 ½ cups gluten-free flour mix
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup (4 tbsp) Earth Balance shortening, melted
1 cup original hemp milk
¼ cup rice vinegar

Combine dry ingredients, then add wet ingredients and mix together until smooth. Pour into a large greased pie pan. Spread to edges. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Flip crust over. Add toppings. Bake for 15 minutes more to until toppings are done.

Flipping the crust over when it’s par-baked is a trick I learned at the Culinary Institute of America, and it really helps flatten the crust and bake evenly.

What a difference the flour makes!

I made this recipe twice. First I used Arrowhead Mills Gluten-Free Baking Mix. After baking the crust for twenty minutes I had a very crumbly grainy mess. The second time (the one you see pics of here) I used Namaste Gluten-Free Perfect Flour Blend. It just goes to show that flour is not just flour. I think this would also work well with Jules or King Arthur Flour gluten-free flour blends.

Try it and let me know what you think!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Twelve Food Allergy Christmas Wishes

I wrote my letter to Santa this year, and delivered it just before Thanksgiving. Oh I asked for the usual stuff – a 2011 calendar, some books (including Gluten Free Girl and the Chef and Free for All Cooking) – and I’m really hoping for a new clip-on iPod Nano to take to the gym, but that’s just the tangible stuff. I have other wishes – wishes that can't be wrapped up and put under the tree – wishes for every food allergic family that I’d like to share with you today.

This Christmas I am wishing that:

1. Those with food allergies would never have to feel left out of an event or special occasion due to their food restrictions.

2. More restaurants would embrace allergen-free menus in addition to gluten-free menus.

3. All restaurants would truly accommodate food allergies.

4. Schools would step up and learn to provide a truly safe learning environment for those with food allergies.

5. Congress would revitalize and pass the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007, to legalize the growing of commercial hemp crops in the United States.

6. Airlines, stadiums, and large public venues would ban peanuts to eliminate the health risk to those with severe peanut allergies.

7. Airlines would provide a wheat-free, dairy-free, nut-free snack for those with food allergies.

8. More funding would be made available for research to find a cure for life threatening food allergies.

9. The FDA would pass legislation to standardize and clarify the wording for food allergen advisory and warning labels.

10. The FDA would pass legislation so that cosmetic labels would clearly call out food-allergens.

11. No one would ever question the validity of food allergies or the motives of those who ask for accommodations.

12. That no family would ever have to suffer a tragic loss due to food allergies.

What are you wishing for this Christmas?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Why Am I Itchy?

Unlike my son who gets an inflamed esophagus when he eats something he is allergic to, my food allergies usually manifest themselves as rashes.
And for weeks I have been feeling itchier than usual, with rashes popping up seemingly spontaneously.

So I became the detective… what was I eating that was making me itchy?

I had been using flax seed in my smoothies. I tried leaving out the flax seeds, and stopped using flax seed goop as an egg replacer for a while, but nothing changed.

I stopped eating chocolate for a few days, dreading the thought that perhaps I had suddenly developed an allergy to chocolate, and was quite happy when that didn’t solve the problem.

I was stumped.

Then in the shower the other day, squinting to see the 2-point font writing for the ingredients list on my shampoo, I thought I spotted “wheat” listed. Out of the shower I grabbed my reading glasses to check, and sure enough – the shampoo I have been using for the past three months has wheat in it.

I was very happy to find a culprit that wasn’t chocolate or a new food allergen to add to my list of things to avoid, but very annoyed that the labels on the shampoo didn’t allow me to easily discover this. In the US, while the top eight food allergens must be clearly listed on all food products, the same does not apply to cosmetics. If passed, the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 would help by ensuring full ingredient disclosure, but would not have the same focus on calling out allergens that food packaging is required to have.

Have you ever had a reaction to a food allergen in your shampoo, soap, or make-up? How did you discover it?

Update: Since I posted this I have been through my entire stash of haircare and skin care products (including those travel sizes that tend to collect in the bottom drawer) and have discovered that nearly everything has wheat, or soy, or some kind of hydrolized protein in it. So I am looking for recommendations on great allergen-free skin and hair products. Any ideas?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sometimes it’s the Little Things

I knew it was going to be a good day when I returned an item at Banana Republic, and found a fabulous sale with an extra 30% off sale items, including an item my son asked for for Christmas. (Shhhh… it’s a surprise.)

Then I was off to the health food store to stock up on some items I needed for holiday baking projects, including Earth Balance shortening and Living Harvest hemp milk (I never seem to have enough of these staples).

I was also in search of gluten free oatmeal. I love my oatmeal in the morning, and while I don’t think I need to go completely gluten-free, I have noticed that some days I have some gastro-intestinal problems after breakfast which I am assuming is due to cross-contamination with wheat (one of my allergies). I not only found Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oatmeal, but I also found Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oat flour. Yeah!

Then I did a quick tour of the frozen foods section and I nearly jumped up and down for joy when I found Living Harvest Tempt frozen dessert. Until now we’ve not been able to find this close to home. And yes, I know it’s almost winter, and it’s freezing outside, but this stuff (especially the chocolate fudge) is yummy, and my milk-allergic son is home from school, and I soooo wanted to make his day! Yippee!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Allergen-Free Bread – Foods for Life

When you need to eat while avoiding wheat, eggs, milk, and soy, finding packaged sandwich bread can be a very difficult task. When we first started looking for breads my son could eat, we’d read the ingredients lists on the packages of the gluten free breads:

Rice flour, fruit juices, soy protein


Rice flour, cornstarch, eggs

And we went on and on reading every package searching for one that didn’t use soy, milk, or eggs.

And then we found it! In the frozen food section I discovered Food for Life Breads. The two we have found that work are the Millet bread, and the Brown Rice Bread. Both are sweetened with fruit juice, and contain an admirably short list of ingredients. Please note that they do contain a warning label that they are processed in a facility that also processes tree nuts.

The favorite in my house is the millet bread. These breads are found in the frozen section of your health food store or grocery store, and best kept frozen until you are ready to use them. You can take out just a few slices at a time, and thaw them in the refrigerator.

I find that they also work best when toasted. If you are using them straight from the freezer I suggest running them through the toaster twice before making your sandwich. Also, these breads tend to have smaller slices that your typical (wheat) bread. My son usually prepares two sandwiches to equal one regular sandwich.

What’s your favorite off-the-shelf allergen-free sandwich bread?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

An Allergen-Free Holiday - Dairy-Free Sweet Potatoes

In my family we split down the middle when it comes to potatoes. My husband and oldest son prefer mashed potatoes, while my food-allergic son and I prefer sweet potatoes. So what do I do? I make both!

Today I’m sharing my recipe for Dairy-free Sweet Potatoes. You can find my recipe for Dairy-Free Holiday Mashed Potatoes in The Allergen-Free Holiday Cookbook  and at the Living Harvest blog.

Dairy-Free Sweet Potatoes


8-10 medium-large sweet potatoes (approx 5 lbs.)
1 tsp plus ½ tsp salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
6 tbsp Earth Balance soy-free buttery spread


1. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes. Chop into cubes.
2. Place potatoes in a large saucepan or stockpot, and cover with water. Add an additional inch of water. Add 1 tsp salt.
3. Boil on medium-high heat until a fork inserted through the sweet potatoes causes them to crumble (approx. 20 minutes).
4. Drain water from potatoes and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
5. Add remaining salt, maple syrup, and buttery spread.
6. Use a potato masher to combine the ingredients.
7. Serve immediately.

Makes 10-12 servings


Sweet potatoes are great if they are left a little bit chunky.
Add additional Earth Balance if desired.
Potatoes can be made ahead of time. Warm in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes before serving.

The Allergen-Free Holiday Cookbook is available at Smashwords. Download it for free with coupon code “AA48Y”.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Great Recipe Ideas & Learn How to Use Smashwords to Create Your Own Cookbook

I love sharing recipes, and I was thrilled when Jamie, from Allergies and Me asked me if she could share one of my allergen-free holiday recipes at her site. My Allergen-free Cranberry Bread is her featured recipe this week. This makes a great alternative to classic rolls for your holiday meal. Try making them as muffins for your Christmas breakfast, or mini-muffins for your New Year's Day brunch!

If you want more holiday recipes, please take advantage of coupon code AA48Y to download the Allergen-Free Holiday Cookbook for free, or check out Allergies and Me Recipes.

Do you want to learn how to create your own e-book? Smashwords is a fantastic tool, and anyone can use it. For those that are interested, check out the presentation from Smashwords Founder, Mark Coker:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Authentic Foods Pancakes

During the holidays it’s a tradition in my house to have a big family breakfast, and pancakes are always part of those breakfasts. Despite the gluten-free baking mixes that are available, I’ve had a hard time finding a pancake mix that can be made allergen-free and passes the family test – where all family members agree that yes! these are not only edible, but really good.

This Thanksgiving I tried the Authentic Foods gluten-free pancake and baking mix. It’s tough to find Authentic Foods in the Northeast where I live, but I had a box full of goodies from Authentic Foods shipped across the country so I could try them.

The pancake recipe calls for milk, eggs and oil. I used hemp milk, Ener-G egg replacer, and canola oil. I added an extra ¼ cup of water, as the mix was very thick without it. I was so pleased with the results of this mix that this one is going on my list of items that I am willing to pay shipping for.

The gluten eating members of the family even asked for more!

Most importantly, the pancakes did not stick as I was making them. Dare I try this in the waffle iron? I might just do that!

Monday, November 29, 2010

What to Do With Leftover Turkey?

Thanksgiving is over, and if you’re like me you have at least two tubs of leftover turkey in the refrigerator. Of course, you can just re-heat the turkey, or slice it for sandwiches with your favorite allergen-free bread.

Or… you can get creative with your turkey leftovers!

Here is one idea to try:

Almost Turkey Pie

Chop leftover turkey into chunks (about two cups).
Combine turkey chunks with one small (6 oz) can of tomato paste, ½ tsp basil, and 1 tsp oregano.
Spread turkey mixture into a greased pie plate.

Prepare “crust” batter:
Blend together 2/3 cup of your favorite gluten-free flour mix with 1 cup of original hemp milk, and the equivalent of two eggs (mix 3 tsp Ener-G egg replacer with 4 tbsp. water), and ¼ tsp pepper.

Pour crust batter over turkey mixture in pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes until crust is lightly browned. Slice and serve.

This recipe works really well with the dark meat leftovers. Try it and let me know how you like it!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Maybe, Maybe Not – A Rant on Food Allergen Advisory Labels

Chances are if you are reading this blog you already know that in the US, the top eight food allergens need to be clearly called out on all food product labels, either in the list of ingredients themselves, or called out in a “contains” statement (e.g. contains milk). This of course is for the ingredients that are intended to be in the product.

But what about unintended ingredients? What about those pesky advisory labels? I’m talking about those optional labels that say things like:

“May contain tree nuts”

“Processed in a facility that also processes wheat”

Or the ever confusing:

“Precautions were taken to segregate ingredients…”

These warnings are inconsistent in their wording and in their usage, making it close to impossible to know how to interpret them. If something “may contain” an ingredient, then it’s also possible that it “may not contain” that same ingredient. If manufacturers include warning labels does that mean they are just being good citizens and fully disclosing? Or does it mean that there actually is a higher chance of the product containing that ingredient than the manufacturer who just doesn’t include any warnings at all?

The Food Allergy Initiative recently reported on the results of a study
that took a look at allergen labeling. The study examined cross-contamination of ingredients in foods with and without warning labels. They found the allergens they tested for in 5.3% of products with advisory statements and in 1.9% of similar products without advisory statements. Also interesting was the fact that small companies were five times as likely to have contaminated foods (5.1%), as large companies (0.8%).

These results would suggest that those with food-allergies are best off if they stick to products without warning labels, and buy from large companies.

Take this quick poll:

What is your approach to food allergy warning labels?

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'll be back posting next week with some post-holiday food ideas.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Mixes Spotted at Stop & Shop

Oh, I’m excited! I just got back from the grocery store, and guess what I found? The full line of King Arthur Flour’s new gluten-free mixes stocked on the shelves.

This wasn’t the health food store I’m talking about – this was the mainstream grocery store where I do my weekly shopping.

Where I live in New York’s Hudson Valley, it’s hard to find things like gluten-free flour blends at the grocery store. Luckily we do have a health food store chain that carries some items, and thank goodness for the internet for when I’m looking for brands (like Authentic Foods) that I can’t find locally.

Now I no longer have to go on a field trip to Vermont when I get a hankering for King Arthur Flour cookies. What a treat!

What about you? Have the new King Arthur mixes made it to your grocery store shelves yet?

Monday, November 15, 2010

In Search of the Perfect Brownie Mix

If you’ve been here before, you know that I am a chocoholic. My motto is: When in doubt, eat chocolate. If you’re going to have dessert, it may as well be chocolate – and, if it’s a breakfast muffin then obviously, chocolate is the right choice.

In my quest to try to adapt the variety of gluten-free baking mixes on the market to be allergen-free, I have found brownies to be a particular challenge. Specifically, those that are high in sugar content (or where sugar is the first ingredient listed on the package) tend to be the most problematic when you leave out the eggs.

This time I tried Namaste gluten-free brownie mix. I love the Namaste flour, muffin mix, and chocolate cake mix, so I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t make the brownie work. The only substitute required on this one was the eggs. I used Ener-G egg replacer to make the equivalent of three eggs, and I added the oil that the mix called for.

The result? A sugary brownie mess. I can now tell before time is up on the oven timer when a brownie mix isn’t going to work because I can hear the brownies sizzling in the pan. Brownies aren’t supposed to sizzle are they? No, I don’t think so.

And once again, I have concluded that some gluten-free mixes that require eggs, just can’t be adapted to be allergen-free.

Here’s the low-down on the brownies I have tried so far:

I recommend avoiding Namaste, King Arthur Flour, and Trader Joe’s gluten-free brownie mixes if you need to replace the eggs.

Brownie mixes that work with allergen-free substitutes include Bob’s Red Mill, and my favorite – Pamela’s Products.

Does anyone have a suggestion for other brownie mixes I should try?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Allergen-Free Holiday - Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce isn’t necessarily a problem for the food-allergic – you can find canned whole cranberry sauce and jellied cranberry sauce that works for most of the food-allergic. However, if you want a cranberry sauce without high-fructose corn syrup – or made with organic cranberries, you are much better off if you make your own.

I’ve been making cranberry sauce for years, and it’s about the simplest thing you can make. Oh, and it is soooooo much better than those cranberry jellies.

Cranberry Sauce


2 cups fresh cranberries, washed and strained
1 cup orange juice
1 cup chopped pineapple
2 tbsp light agave nectar


1. Bring cranberries and orange juice to a boil in medium saucepan over high heat.
2. Reduce heat to med-high and boil until cranberries begin to pop open (3-4 minutes).
3. Add pineapple chunks.
4. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce starts to thicken (about 10 minutes).
5. Add agave nectar and continue simmering another 2-3 minutes.
6. Let cool.
7. Transfer to serving bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Leftover cranberry sauce makes a great jam or spread.

The Allergen-Free Holiday Cookbook is available at Smashwords. Download it for free with coupon code “AA48Y”. If you like it, I’d appreciate it if you post a review on Smashwords!

Monday, November 8, 2010

An Allergen-Free Holiday - Allergen-Free Cranberry Bread

I usually only make cranberry bread during the holidays, when it’s easy to find fresh organic cranberries. Then I load up on cranberries and make extra loaves of this great bread to freeze and eat throughout the winter.

I really like the combination of oat flour and rice flours in this bread, but you can substitute your favorite flours. I serve it on Thanksgiving, and then we have the leftovers for breakfast the next day.

Allergen-free Cranberry Bread


1 cup oat flour
¾ cup rice flour
½ cup sweet rice flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ tsp xantham gum
2 tbsp softened Earth Balance
¾ cup honey
1 cup orange juice
1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped


1. Stir together dry ingredients.
2. In mixer combine Earth balance, honey, and orange juice. Mix on medium for two minutes.
3. Add in cranberries, and mix for another minute.
4. Gradually add in flour blend, mixing on medium speed until all ingredients are combined.
5. Transfer immediately to greased loaf pan.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.


Always mix xantham gum in thoroughly with dry ingredients.
You may substitute 1 ¼ cups of your favorite gluten-free flour blend for the rice flours. If you use a flour blend that contains xantham gum, eliminate the ½ tsp of xantham gum.
Make your own oat flour from gluten-free oats in your food processor or blender is gluten-free oat flour is not available.
Try cranberry honey if you can find it.


For more holiday recipe ideas, download The Allergen-Free Holiday Cookbook from Smashwords. I recommend the PDF format so you can print it out and take notes. Use Smashwords coupon code “AA48Y” to get the book for free through year-end. If you like it, I’d appreciate it if you post a review on Smashwords!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Can a Restaurant be Too Restrictive?

Saturday night my husband and I were in Princeton, NJ, with our food-allergic son. I had heard some good things about the way PF Chang’s handles food allergies, so we decided to try it.

There was a crowd, and we were told it was a one and a half-hour wait. Before making the decision to wait, I asked whether they would be able to handle allergies to wheat, milk, soy, eggs, and peanuts. The receptionist was very happy to tell me, “Yes! When you sit down, let your waiter know, and they’ll print out a list of what he can eat.”

Great! I was curious to see how it worked. My son was optimistic that he would be treated well.

Two hours later we sat down. I asked about the gluten-free options on the back of the menu, thinking that was a good place to start. “Yes, there’s a difference between the regular lettuce-wrapped chicken and the gluten-free lettuce-wrapped chicken,” I was told, “the gluten-free version uses a soy-based sauce.” Come to find out that pretty much every option on the GF menu substituted soy for wheat. Now, I’m not a big fan of soy, and in addition to my son’s allergies, I have had problems with it in the past, so we asked for the special list.

A few minutes later, the restaurant manager came by with a printout of things my son could eat. It went like this:

Chicken items available for you:
We’re sorry, there are no items for you in this category

Seafood items available for you:
We’re sorry, there are no items for you in this category

Meat items available for you:
We’re sorry, there are no items for you in this category

… and it went on like this for three pages.

In fact, the only items my son could eat were rice and a vegetable soup. That was it.

Needless to say, we were more than a little annoyed. The manager couldn’t have looked at the printout before he gave it to us, could he?

When our waiter returned, he explained that pretty much everything on the menu has hydrolyzed egg protein in it, and most items have soy. There was some good news. Our fabulous waiter worked with us and the kitchen. He managed to convince the chef to make a steak with no sauce. With steamed veggies and rice, my son was set.

What I learned is that PF Chang’s doesn’t accommodate, they restrict. They take an approach that says – if the way we make it you can’t eat it, then pick something else. In fact, what we need for them and all eating establishments to do is to accommodate – if the way they usually make it doesn’t work, then they should adapt their recipes and make something the food-allergic can eat.

What do you think? Can a restaurant be too restrictive?

Monday, November 1, 2010

An Allergen-Free Holiday - Apple Raisin Pie

Here in the Hudson Valley apples are in season. Apple orchards surround our community. There are farms where you can pick your own apples, and there are plenty of local apple selections available at the grocery store. What does that mean?

Pies, of course.

Even when I was baking with wheat I was afraid of pies. For years I was a slave to the Pillsbury pie crusts that you get at the grocery store and unfold into your pie plate. But I have discovered that gluten-free pie crusts can actually be easier than wheat crusts. You don’t have to worry about the crust staying in one piece – you can just glue it back together with your fingers and no one will be able to tell!

Today I am sharing my recipe for Apple Raisin Pie. You’re gonna love this one!

Apple Raisin Pie

Filling Ingredients:

4 cups chopped apples
½ cup raisins
½ cup sugar
¼ cup sweet rice flour
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp lime juice

Pie Crust Ingredients:

1 cup brown rice flour
½ cup sweet rice flour
2/3 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
½ cup tapioca starch
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sucanat
10 tbsp Earth Balance shortening
½ cup water
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar


1. Prepare filling: By hand, combine apples and raisins in large bowl. Toss with lime juice. Add sugar, sweet rice flour and lime juice. Toss to coat apples. Set aside.
2. Prepare pie crust: Combine flours, baking powder, salt, and Sucanat in large mixing bowl, by hand.
3. Using a pastry cutter, mix in Earth Balance, water, and vinegar.
4. Continue combining until a pasty mixture forms.
5. Separate pie crust mixture into two equal amounts.
6. Roll out first crust, and gently place in greased pie pan.
7. Add filling.
8. Roll out second crust. Gently place over pie pan, crimping the two crusts together.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve warm, or let cool.


If a pastry cutter is not available, use your hands.
Gluten-free pie crusts can easily be repaired by sticking additional pie dough where the damage occurs. There is no need to rise.
Roll out crusts between two sheets of waxed paper, then gently peel paper back to release the crust.
2 ½ cups of your favorite gluten-flour mix can be substituted for the pie crust flours.


Don't forget to download The Allergen-Free Holiday Cookbook from Smashwords. I am offering this free to readers of Learning to Eat Allergy-Free through the end of 2010. Use Smashwords coupon code “AA48Y. If you like it, I’d appreciate it if you post a review on Smashwords!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Have You Visited the Living Harvest Blog?

I am really excited to announce that you can now find me blogging for Living Harvest at their blog:

Living Harvest Blog

As you know, I am a big fan of hemp, and Living Harvest's Tempt product line is my choice when it comes to hemp milk. Check out my first blog post there, and be sure to join the community!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

An Allergen-Free Holiday - Breadless Turkey Stuffing

It's hard to believe that the holidays are almost here! Of course, that means family gatherings and holiday meals – and for those of who need to cook for families with food allergies, there can be added stress.

For the next few weeks I will share some of my family’s favorite allergen-free and gluten-free holiday recipes. First up is my breadless turkey stuffing. My family has been making meat stuffing for years. This recipe goes back to my grandmother’s French-Canadian heritage. I have modified it over the years, but the essence of the meat stuffing tradition in my family remains.

Breadless Turkey Stuffing


1 cup brown rice (measured prior to cooking)
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground turkey
2 medium onions, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped
4 tsp Bell’s seasoning


1. Prepare the rice according to package instructions. Set aside.
2. Brown the turkey and pork together in a large skillet over med-high heat. When cooked thoroughly, drain. Add the Bell’s seasoning to the meat mixture.
3. In a small skillet, add the olive oil and onions. Sauté over medium heat until the onions are caramelized (8-10 minutes).
4. Combine the meat mixture, rice, apple, and onions together in a large mixing bowl.
5. Stuff and roast turkey.
6. When turkey is done, remove stuffing from bird and transfer to a serving dish. Serve immediately.
Makes enough stuffing for a 14-18 pound turkey.


Stuff the turkey only when you are ready to begin roasting to avoid illness.
Adjust the amounts for a smaller or larger bird.
If Bell’s seasoning is not available, substitute equal 1 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp oregano, and 1 tsp pepper.
This recipe can be made as a side dish. Prepare as above, transfer to a casserole dish, add 4 tbsp Earth Balance soy free buttery spread on top, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.


For more holiday recipe ideas, download The Allergen-Free Holiday Cookbook from Smashwords, available in many formats. I recommend the PDF format so you can print it out and take notes. I am offering this free to readers of Learning to Eat Allergy-Free through the end of 2010. Use Smashwords coupon code “AA48Y”. If you like it, I’d appreciate it if you post a review on Smashwords!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Hemp Discussion Goes Mainstream

Hemp Seeds - Don't let them growThe last thing I expect to see when I crack open Fortune Magazine is something that I might write about on this site. Imagine my surprise, when on page 22 of a recent issue I stumbled upon an article about hemp.

It’s not a big article, just a short piece in the front of the magazine, with a picture of Nature’s Path Sunny Hemp bars – one of my favorite snacks.

The article points out that prior presidential candidate and congressman Ron Paul introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009, which would – if passed – exclude hemp from the DEAs definition of marijuana.

Here are some quick facts about hemp:
  • Hemp is a very profitable crop, as it can be grown without pesticides.
  • Since 1970 is has been illegal to grow hemp in the US. Hemp is grown in most industrialized nations, including Canada.
  • Hemp is high in protein.
  • Hemp is high in Omega-3 and Omega-6.
  • There are no known allergies to hemp.
  • And most importantly… hemp is not a hallucinogenic.

I, for one, am very happy to see this discussion more play. What about you?

Picture by xJasonRogersx.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Disappointed in Daiya

Lots of food-allergy blogging buddies have been sharing recipes with Daiya, a dairy-free alternative to cheese. I had been waiting for it to show up at my local health food store, and was very excited when it finally arrived.

I decided to make an allergen-free veggie pizza, with the mozzarella style Daiya. Made primarily from tapioca, arrowroot flour, pea protein, and oils (including coconut oil), this product is vegan, gluten-free, and top eight allergen-free (except for coconut). It boasts the ability to melt like traditional cheese, and it does. While you don’t get the stringy effect like traditional cheese, Daiya does provide a nice soft melted layer.

That said, my family was less than thrilled with the taste, which is more reminiscent of beans than cheese.

Despite being quite willing to try just about any new product, my son’s assessment was that he’d rather have had the pizza without the cheese. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

The pizza was made with Miss Roben’s pizza crust mix.

Have you tried Daiya yet? What did you think?


Monday, October 18, 2010

Orgran Buckwheat Pancakes

I find pancakes to be one of the toughest foods to make allergen-free, second only to rising breads. I long ago gave up trying to find a pancake mix that I could use to make waffles – without wheat, butter, eggs, or milk. Usually the gluten-free mixes (when made without eggs) stick like crazy to my waffle maker, which is why this buckwheat pancake mix from Orgran was a bit of a surprise.

Those who are used to eating wheat-free already know that buckwheat is not made from wheat. Buckwheat is actually a seed, not a grass, and is gluten-free. It is possible to be allergic to buckwheat, but for those who aren’t, buckwheat is yet another alternative to wheat.

The flours in the Orgran mix include rice flour, maize (corn) starch, and tapioca, in addition to buckwheat. The mix suggests adding water, milk, and eggs. I used unsweetened hemp milk, and Ener-G egg replacer.

The verdict on these pancakes was that they were quite good. They do have a distinctive – not quite nutty – taste. They don’t fluff up like traditional wheat pancakes do, but overall they satisfied the troops. The most surprising aspect of this product to me was that the pancakes don’t stick to the pan like most gluten-free pancakes do. I was actually able to make the entire batch without ending up with scrunched up messy pancakes. Yeah!

Disclosure: I received a free sample of this product from Organ.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Another Brownie Alternative

I am on a never-ending quest to try all of the allergen-free and gluten-free brownies on the market. You might wonder, as my family does, why I don’t just stick with my favorite Pamela's Products Brownie Mix,and I don’t have a good answer. It may be because so many of the brownie mixes I have tried have been a challenge to get just right when made without eggs, butter, or milk, and I just can't resist a challenge!

This week’s brownie experiment was Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Brownie Mix. I actually found this at a Christmas Tree Shops store. (Who knew that Christmas Tree Shops carried Bob’s Red Mill products?)

I used Earth Balance shortening (1 ½ sticks) instead of butter, and Ener-G egg replacer (4 ½ tsp Ener-G mixed with 6 tablespoons water) to replace the three eggs. I added Enjoy Life chocolate chips.

I find that with most adapted gluten-free mixes I need to bake a little longer, and that was true here as well. I left them in the oven for 25 minutes, and voila!

These brownies were quite good! This mix makes a large batch – it fills a 13X9 pan versus the usual 9X9 brownie pan. Not quite as fudgy as my favorite Pamela’s brownies, these are a great alternative when you want a more cake-like brownie, and they adapt quite well to allergen-free substitutes.

I should also note that the flours in this mix are potato starch, sorghum, tapioca, and corn, while the Pamela’s Products brownie mix is made with rice flours.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Another Great Baking Book - Divvies Bakery Cookbook

Divvies Bakery has a new cookbook that allergen-free families will love. Lori Sandler created the Divvies Bakery Cookbook with recipes she uses in the Divvies Bakery, a bakeshop she started that is peanut-free, tree nut-free, milk-free, and egg-free.

I was thrilled when the folks at St. Martin’s press asked me if I wanted to review this book because I’m always looking for allergen-free baking ideas to share.

First a warning – most of the recipes use wheat flour, and many use soy products (including tofu and soy milk). So if you have soy or wheat allergies and need to follow recipes line by line, this won’t be the book for you. That said, if you don’t mind being just a little adventurous as you bake, the soy-allergic will easily be able to substitute rice or hemp milk, and I think most of the recipes can be adapted to use a gluten-free multi-purpose flour as in my example below.

The book itself is very inviting. I love the blue and white striped theme that is carried throughout the book, and there are terrific pictures of some of the great baked goods you can make.

I decided to try one of Divvies signature items, the Divvies Famous Chocolate Cupcakes. (Yes, of course, it had to be chocolate.) The folks at St. Martin’s Press allowed me to share this recipe with you:

Divvies Famous Chocolate Cupcakes

1 ½ cups unbleached flour
¾ cup sugar
½ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 ¼ cups water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-well cupcake pan with paper liners.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together until well combined; do not sift. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl combine the vegetable oil, vinegar, and water and blend with an electric mixer on medium speed.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients and mix until very smooth, scraping the batter from sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula. Continue to mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. This batter will be more watery than typical cake batters.
5. Pour the batter into the lined cupcake pan filling each well about three-quarters full.
6. Bake the cupcakes for 25 minutes on the center rack of the preheated oven. After 12 minutes, rotate the pan to ensure even more even baking. Remove the cupcake pan from the oven, and immediately transfer the cupcakes to a wire cooling rack – this is very important as it allows excess moisture to evaporate from the bottom of the paper baking cups.

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

Recipe from The Divvies Bakery Cookbook by Lori Sandler. Copyright © 2010 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.

To make these allergen-free, I substituted multi-purpose gluten-free flour. I increased the flour slightly (which is usually necessary when adapting for gluten-free flour) – I used 1 ¾ cups of Namaste Perfect Flour Blend. Since the Namaste flour has xanthan gum in the formula, there was no need to add more, but if you use a flour like King Arthur gluten-free flour, I would recommend adding ½ teaspoon on xanthan gum also.

Lori Sandler uses vinegar in a lot of her recipes as an egg-replacer, and I loved the way this worked in the cupcakes. I am going to be trying this a lot more in my own recipes.

The cupcakes were a hit! I think this recipe could easily be used to make a cake, or adapted with add-ins.

Bake to the cookbook itself – there are cakes, breads, pies, cookies, and more. I am planning to make the Classic Strawberry-Raspberry Bars next.

Have you tried Lori’s cookbook yet? What do you think?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Training for Water Polo

When my son first started playing water polo two years ago, I knew little about the sport other than what I had seen on the Olympics. Patrick played football, basketball and track in high school, but water sports were a whole new venture.

For those not familiar with the sport, here’s a crash course:

  • Water polo is played in a pool, with each team fielding six players and a goalie.
  • It’s like soccer in that the object is to get the ball into the net, which is guarded by a goalie.
  • It’s like basketball in that every player plays both offense and defense. Plays are run on offense, with each man being guarded by a man from the opposing team.
  • It’s like football in that it’s an extreme contact sport, with the defender doing whatever they can (including almost drowning their opponent) to cause a turnover.
  • Players (except the goalie) cannot touch the bottom of the pool, and can handle the ball with only one hand at a time.
  • The team that scores the most goals wins.
Sound tough? It is the most physically demanding sport I have ever seen. Speed in the water matters. Strength matters.

Training season is intense. My son’s team practices twice a day in the pool – for two hours each. One session is swim training – laps, sprints, speed training – while the second session is water polo practice – running drills and plays in preparation for game play. They lift weights in between pool sessions.

Of course, all this training means lots of calories are burned. It’s tough for the players to maintain their weight, and they are eating four or more meals a day. It’s tough for the average player to get enough calories, but when you have multiple food allergies, it’s even tougher. Yes, my food bill from the college is double during water polo season than any other time of year.

To help meet his higher calorie needs and to ensure high quality calories, my son likes to add protein shakes. Living Harvest’s High Protein formula is the best we have found on the market. Soy and whey formulas are not suitable due to his food allergies, and while rice protein formulas can be found that are free of food allergens, they tend to leave a grainy aftertaste. Better still, Living Harvest’s high protein formula has almost double the protein of most formulas (which is important for building muscle mass), and has a high dose of potassium (to help avoid cramping).

Pat usually makes himself a very simple shake, combining protein with hemp milk, after his weight training session for the day. Even if your kids aren’t athletes, protein shakes can make a great snack. Mix the Living Harvest original with chocolate hemp milk, or the vanilla spice with vanilla hemp milk for a great mid-afternoon pick-me-up!