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!