Monday, December 26, 2011

Home Free Treats are a Great Snack Choice

Just before Christmas I was delighted to receive a package in the mail. Of course at this time of year it’s not unusual for the UPS or the FedEx trucks to drop by – but this time the package wasn’t something I ordered. Instead, it was a box full of cookies that the folks at Home Free sent me to try.

What a nice surprise! And great timing because my food-allergic son is home from college for holiday break. I am very impressed at the packaging – they make full size boxes of cookies with both large and mini cookies, single serving packs with large cookies, and single serving packs with mini cookies. Especially the mini cookies make a great take-along snack – something we’re always on the lookout for.

The cookies are dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, soy-free (the only soy used in the facility is soy lecithin), and gluten-free – and made in a dedicated facility. So they are safe for everyone in my house. Kudos to Home Free on that!

My son and I decided to try the mini chocolate chip cookies first, and we were delighted. If you did a taste test and compared them to Chips Ahoy mini chocolate chip cookies, I don’t think you’d be able to tell the difference. The vanilla cookies were next and, while not our favorite, a great basic vanilla cookie. The chocolate chocolate chip cookies are coming with us this week as we visit family.

These are crunchy cookies, tasty, and allergen-free. If you are looking for a snack for the lunchbox in the New Year, this is one to try. The cookies are available at some health food stores (including one very close to me!) or via the Home Free website.

Have you tried these cookies yet? What do you think?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Write in the Cookbook? Not Me…

Books have always been special to me. I can recall long lazy summers when the highlight of the week was our visit to the library, where my sisters and I would pick 4 or 5 books each – and hope they would last the entire week. Of course those were borrowed books, and writing in them wasn’t allowed.

In elementary school that reverence of books was reinforced further. We were taught to handle the books we were loaned for our studies with extreme care – they had to be covered and we were never (ever) to write in them, except on the little plate where we had to record our name as the protector-of-the-book-for-the-year. Did I mention this was a Catholic school?

In college I had to shell out my own money to buy textbooks. While many of my classmates would take notes in the margins and never went to class with a highlighter, not me. It was a book. It was my book. All of my notes went into a notebook.

Since that time I have amassed quite a collection of books, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, I just can’t bring myself to write in a book.

Which brings me to cookbooks. Cookbooks lend themselves to taking notes. Whether it’s fine-tuning a recipe, highlighting a key step, or a substitution for an ingredient, a recipe sometimes needs notes. Or, you might simply want to record your favorites.

I’ve taken cooking classes where a text is included, and the instructors encourage us to take notes – sometimes even telling us exactly what to write. And I still can’t do it. And yes, that means sometimes I lose the notes, or I forget what I did last time. But isn’t that what they invented Post-it tabs and post-it notes for?

What about you – do you write in the cookbook?

Regardless of what you are celebrating this season, I wish you all the best, and maybe even some great books (and cookbooks)!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Problem Isn’t Flavored Milk, It’s Milk

Deutsch: Ein Glas Milch English: A glass of mi... I am a big fan of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. I truly believe that we should all have healthier diets, and that school lunches need to be dramatically revamped for our kids.

That said, I cringe when I read about the movement to get rid of flavored milk with school lunch. Yes, we need to get rid of chocolate milk, strawberry milk, and any other sugared version of milk. No debate there.

My beef (no dairy pun intended) is with all types of cow’s milk.

You see, milk is what caused my son so much distress at school during his elementary school years, before we discovered he was allergic to it. Until he had an official diagnosis of food allergy, he had no other beverage options with the lunch the school served. And even after we knew about his food allergies, milk was still everywhere at the lunch table.

I find it amazing that our food pyramid still recognizes milk as an entire food group, and suggests that our children consume three cups a day, when so many of our children are allergic to it. Consider that we are the only mammals who consume another mammal’s milk. Who decided this was good for us?

Here’s my list of possible alternatives to the usual milk with school lunch:
  • Orange juice fortified with calcium
  • Hemp milk
  • Coconut milk beverage (the lower fat alternative to pure coconut milk)
  • A veggie smoothie
  • Water (do any of our kids drink enough water?)
What do you think? What beverage would you like to see served with school lunch?

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Book is Coming!

Have you noticed my updated website design? I thought it was time for a facelift because I have news – very big news!!

I’ve been kinda quiet about this, because this is my first full-length book, and I wasn’t sure what to expect – but now that the book has a cover and is available for pre-order at Amazon and other publishers – well, I guess it’s time for an official announcement.

Drum roll please...

Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts, will be published by The Experiment in April, 2012!!

Let out the balloons and streamers...

Check out my new about the book page to find out the whole scoop and options for pre-ordering.

What do you think of the cover? I think Susi Oberhelman, the cover designer, did a fabulous job on it, don’t you?

Just four more months...

I can't wait until I can actually hold the book in my hands and share it with you!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Enjoy Life Updates Their Snack Bars

I love sampling new allergen-free and gluten-free products for you – we all know that allergen-free foods can be very expensive and you want to choose wisely. Well, Enjoy Life has been a roll this year updating all of their products. Their new mega-chocolate chips top my list of favorites, followed by the crunchy cookies, and my son favors the updated soft-baked cookies. Enjoy Life’s latest updated product are their oven baked chewy bars, and they sent me some samples to try.

What I love about Enjoy Life products is that I don’t have to think about food allergens at all. All of their products are free of the top eight allergens and gluten-free. All of their products are made in a dedicated facility, and anyone dealing with multiple food allergies (the top eight anyway) can feel very secure with this brand.

But I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of their earlier version of snack bars, finding them a bit grainy and dry. The new bars come in the same flavors – Sunbutter Crunch, Cocoa Loco, Very Berry, and Caramel Apple. They are actually smaller than pictured on the box, but they’re each 120 calories or less, low in sugar, and they are very easy to throw in a tote bag.

These are a very healthy snack or lunch-box treat.

I found the new bars to be chewier than the earlier version, and a bit moister. They are definitely an improvement, but still a little grainy for my taste.

Have you tried them yet? What do you think?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sundial – A Book Review and Interview

Usually when I talk books on this blog I am reviewing cookbooks – specifically gluten-free or allergen-free cookbooks – but when I heard that Carolyn Fruzzetti and Meghan Pearsall had written a young adult novel with a heroine who has food allergies I was intrigued.

While noone in my household fits the young adult genre at this stage, I am a big fan of suspense novels and Sundialdoesn’t disappoint. It’s a fast-paced thriller with some teenage drama thrown in along the way. And – despite being filled with espionage and serious subject matter – it’s “clean” and totally appropriate for young readers. This is definitely one I would recommend considering for your gift list!

I interviewed Carolyn and Meghan, and here’s what they had to say:

Colette: The first part of the book is primarily about what I would call normal teenage stuff – school, sports, boys, parties – and we get just a glimpse of what makes Whitney so special. The second half is full of some very heavy topics including cold war, terrorism, nuclear war, and corrupt government agencies. Why those topics?

Carolyn and Meghan: We researched what worked as compelling young adult fiction and used that as our foundation. Since Sundialis the first book in a series, character development and relationship building at the onset was critical. Granted, not everyone is from the wealthy Washington, D.C. suburbs but the characters have the same basic issues as most teens – school sports, friends, dating and parties. We wanted teens to be able to identify with these characters on a basic level and entice them with clues that much more is about to happen because in Sundial nothing is exactly as it appears.

As the characters expand their horizons about themselves and the world at large, the plot does the same: it evolves from a privileged high school world to a darker and more complicated world. The nuclear meltdown, terrorism and corrupt government agencies were relevant in 1988 and are still relevant today. The teen readers of today are our future. This book is full of complex and higher concepts because we believe teens want intelligent material and this book provokes thought and discussion on several issues.

Colette: I love that the hero in the story is a female. We have too few stories with females who save the day. Can you tell us more about how you developed the Whitney character?

Carolyn and Meghan: The simplest answer to that is Whitney is a character I would want as my friend. She is able to save the day because of her qualities as a person and the skills she develops within herself. Her competency is not from a wand or superpower – she earns it.

We also did not want her look to someone else to “save” her. We can all self-rescue and each person is responsible for his/her personal safety. Whitney has a plan for herself and her life. She is our idea of a real heroine and someone we thought teen girls could use as a role model.

Colette: When I first learned of this book it was the connection to food allergies that intrigued me. I was surprised at barely a mention of food allergies until the last third of the book, but as it turns out the food allergies are a strength that comes in handy for the lead characters. I found that so interesting because my food-allergic son talks about his immune system as being highly evolved – exactly the way you position it in the book. What triggered that idea for you?

Carolyn and Meghan: For us, it was important for food allergy to be a pivotal part of the plot but not to use it to define the characters. Instead, we defined our characters by their actions, dialogue and choices. Reid makes several mistakes concerning his food allergy like real teens do in real life and then has to correct his actions. These create teachable moments without lecturing or boring our teen audience because we know they are smart enough to learn from it. Better to have a “friend” in a book make a mistake that you learn from than to learn the hard way and do it to yourself! Several teens in food allergy support groups we have spoken to agree that this resonates with them more than other forms of communication. This is good because currently the age group of 12-21 has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest reaction fatality rate. It is our hope that Sundial will make a difference in those dire statistics and it will become an obvious tool to help educate and empower those with food allergy.

We would also like to point out that keeping food allergy as a strength to save the world makes the plot interesting and acceptable to ALL teens. One of our goals is to raise food allergy awareness and to do that we need to reach not only food allergic teens but their friends. So far, non-food allergic teens love it just as much as food allergic teens. That is our version of REAL success – achieving awareness to an entire peer group!

Meghan’s daughter has a life-threatening peanut allergy and as she considered the skills food allergy parents must try and instill in their children, she realized they are actually the same skills the military teaches their special forces: situational awareness, preparedness, communication, mental toughness, vigilance, risk assessment, etc. They are the ultimate survivor skills. This idea merged with the thought that perhaps food allergy is an evolution (not a detriment). It has been a fun and empowering premise and we hope it reshapes the media image of those with food allergy. As a food allergy parent, this is the kind of book she would want her high school daughter to read so she wrote it.

Colette: I found the book very easy to read and fast-paced. While it starts out like your run-of-the-mill teen romance novel, it’s really a suspense thriller. I liked that you didn’t get too explicit with the romantic scenes, and I loved the way the story line played out. That said, I was a little disappointed in the ending – I like to have all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed when a novel ends. Clearly this ending is in anticipation of the next novel in the series. Can you give us any hints on what’s to come?

Carolyn and Meghan: Thank you! Sundialis designed to be accessible to everyone so it is free of profanity or explicit adult content. We wanted it to be edgy and exciting but not inappropriate in any way. Yes, the tension and suspense of the romance and action make for quite a thrilling cliffhanger! Hopefully, we won’t leave you hanging for too much longer as the sequel is almost half-finished and the entire plot is sketched out.

In book two, Whitney and Reid have even bigger obstacles to face and a rockier ride. On the food allergy front, readers will learn more of what actually happens before Whitney is hospitalized in Sundial, how to consider food and drink at high school parties and how to be properly prepared ahead of time when traveling outside the country with food allergies (to name a few). There are so many food allergy issues we wanted to subtly weave into the plot that we knew this had to be a series!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lots of Winners!

First, I must thank all of you for supporting this blog, and for helping to vote me into the Top 25 Food Allergy Blogs at Circle of Moms. I consider myself very lucky to be within the top 10, and very grateful for everyone’s support. I am in exceedingly good company with some truly awesome bloggers. Be sure to check out the whole list!

Next, onto the Pamela’s Products giveaway. The two winners (chosen at random) are:


Oh! Lucky winners, you are going to love this prize!! I have e-mailed each of you. Please send me with your mailing address no later than Friday, November 25th.

And (yup, I'm not done giving way stuff) – if anyone is interested, I still have one coupon for a free Goodbelly product to be given away. The first person to e-mail me here with their address gets it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

GoodBelly Probiotic Juice Drink Giveaway

A while back, the great folks at GoodBelly sent me some coupons to try their probiotic juice drinks. Alas, after scrutinizing the ingredients label I determined that they weren’t for me, and left the store without buying the product.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that I still have these coupons, and would love for someone to be able to use them before they expire at the end of this year.

The GoodBelly products are dairy-free, soy-free, organic, and vegan. They are also wheat-free but not gluten-free. They do contain barley and oats.

So – for those of you are not allergic to wheat or gluten, and want to try what looks to be a fantastic probiotic drink, I am giving away one coupon each to the first three responders who e-mail me here. Each coupon is good for one free GoodBelly product. Please include your mailing address.

Also, don't forget to enter to win a gift package from Pamela's Products including their new Whenever Bars. That contest ends tomorrow!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pamela’s Products Whenever Bars – A Giveaway

I just love giveaways, don’t you? And this one is just in time for the holidays. Even if you’re not traveling far you may need some snacks to throw in your bag for those shopping trips to the mall – which makes this giveaway just perfect.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a review on Pamela’s Products new Whenever Bars. The short story is I love them! And now you can enter for a chance to try them too. Two lucky winners (in the US) will receive a package from Pamela’s Products with one box of each of the four new bars (five bars to a box) and one bag of Pamela’s Products baking and pancake mix.

Here’s what you need to know about the products:

The bars are gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free. They do contain tree nuts and eggs. The oat chocolate chip coconut carries a warning for traces of milk due to the chocolate chunks.

The baking and pancake mix is gluten-free, soy-free, and egg-free. The mix calls for eggs to be added, but I find Ener-G egg replacer to work quite well as a replacement. This mix contains tree nuts and milk.

Whew – with all of that out of the way, let me tell you the rules to enter. Simply leave a comment below letting me know which of the bar flavors you are most interested in trying. The four flavors are:

Oat Raisin Walnut Spice
Oat Cranberry Almond
Oat Blueberry Lemon (my favorite!)
Oat Chocolate Chip Coconut

But don’t worry, if you win you’ll get to try them all – and, like me, you may be surprised which you like the best!

For a chance at a second entry, tweet this blog post and come back and leave a comment that you did.

The contest runs until Saturday, November 19th until midnight. Two lucky winners will be chosen randomly and announced on Monday, November 21st. Please check back to see if you have won. If you win I will need to communicate with you via e-mail to get your mailing address.

The fine print: Winners must be in the US. Each participant can only win once. If I can’t reach you by Friday November 25th, I will pick an alternate winner.

Good luck! and thank you to Pamela's Products!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

End of Harvest Stew

While the power was out last week I kept thinking about the veggies I had in the fridge from the farm – and about how nice it would be to have the crock pot running all day in anticipation of a nice warm stew. I just love using the crock pot on chilly days.

Last week was the final pickup of CSA shares for the season, with limited selection (due to the snow), so I decided to make a potpourri stew – with whatever I had. It’s a little bit like throwing all the leftovers into a casserole dish – but a crock pot version.

Here’s what I used:

1 leek
½ garlic head
About 3 cups of brussel sprout greens
1 butternut squash
4 small potatoes
6 small carrots

I peeled and chopped it all up and added 3 cups of Pacific Foods chicken broth, 2 tsp Cajun seasoning, some salt and pepper, and 3 basil leaves. Then I set the crock pot on low and let it sit, stirring every hour or so, and filling the house with a great aroma. Something about those brussel sprout greens… they really add a unique taste to this dish.


What are you throwing together in your crock pot this week?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Do You Need Some Allergen-Free Holiday Solutions?

This is the time of year that we are all stressing out about the big holiday meals. Do you need some simple allergen-free solutions? I put together The Allergen-Free Holiday Cookbook (with ten simple allergen-free recipes) so that families with food restrictions could have a stress-free meal. All of the recipes are free of the top eight food allergens and gluten.

For one month only (until December 4th) I am offering The Allergen-Free Holiday Cookbook for free on Smashwords. Simply use coupon code GM63U at checkout for 100% off. If you didn't download it last year, this is the time to pick it up!

And don't forget, there are still seven days left to vote for your favorite food allergy blog. Click on the Circle of Moms icon to the right, and scroll down to vote.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pamela’s Whenever Bars, A Great Travel Staple

Oh no, I'm waaaay behind. What with being away for the weekend and then being without power and internet for a few days, I haven't been able to hype my blog for the Circle of Moms best food allergy blogs. See that circle in the upper right? Please click on it and vote!

Now, back to regularly scheduled programming:

For the past few weeks I’ve been on the road on the weekends, watching my son play water polo. I hope you get a chance to watch a water polo match sometime – it’s a fascinating game!

But this weekend we managed to get ourselves caught in the storm that hit the Northeast. I was in Boston Saturday night when the storm arrived, then traveling back to the Hudson Valley on Sunday.

The folks at Pamela’s Products had sent me samples of their new Whenever Bars to review, so I brought some along for the trip, and I was very happy that I did. I tried the Oat Blueberry Lemon for breakfast and had the Oat Cranberry Almond for a snack.

We managed to make it home safely, but instead of a warm home we were without power for a couple of days. What to eat? Oat Chocolate Chip Coconut Bars to the rescue!

These bars are aptly named – they work for breakfast, lunch, snack, dessert, whenever. I love the oat base, as oats are a favorite of mine. And of course, these oats are gluten-free. Not quite a cookie and not quite a granola bar, whenever bars are a happy medium. They have the texture of a soft oatmeal cookie with all the goodness of a granola bar.

A note of caution – the bars are gluten-free and dairy-free, but they do contain nuts and eggs. Those allergic to milk may want to avoid the Oat Chocolate Chip Coconut due to the dairy warning on that product. They do also contain soy lecithin (often not a problem for the soy-allergic).

The bars are sweetened with agave and coconut sugar, and they range from 170 to 190 calories per bar. They come five bars to a package; at $4.99 per box that’s about one dollar per bar.

While they aren’t appropriate for my son due to the egg, they work quite nicely for me (with wheat and soy allergies). My favorite is the Oat Blueberry Lemon (pictured above). These are my new take-along-in-case I can’t anything appropriate to eat while on the road staple. Have you tried them yet? What do you think?

Monday, October 31, 2011

I'm in Great Company

See that little circle icon on the top right-hand side of the page? Circle of Moms has nominated my blog as one of the best food allergy blogs. And I am in really good company, with many of my fellow food-allergy friends and bloggers also nominated. What an awesome community this is!

Click on the icon to vote for your favorite. I'd be honored if you vote for me!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mary’s Gone Crackers Sticks and Twigs

A while back the folks at Mary’s Gone Crackers sent me products to try, including these sticks and twigs. I tried the cookies first (and one happy reader won a free sample). I had set the twigs aside, waiting for the right occasion to open the bag.

I was expecting to find something akin to a pretzel, but what I found was very different from what I expected. The sticks and twigs are very cracker-like. They have a discernable crunch when you bite into them. They are like a very thin cracker rolled into a stick. The package I tried first – chipotle tomato – is spicy – not too spicy, but they have a bang to them.

All in all I really like these. If you serve them to someone expecting a pretzel they may be disappointed, but instead of a cracker they are an excellent choice. This is a great party snack, or accompaniment for soup.

Mary’s Gone Crackers
products are manufactured in a gluten-free, wheat-free, nut-free facility. Some of their products contain soy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cripsy Brown Rice Treats Made with Erewhon Gluten-free Cereal

The past few weekends I have been traveling to my son’s water polo tournaments. While these events are a lot of fun, they are long days spent hanging around the pool. Sometimes my son’s team only has an hour or so between games to grab a snack – and they burn a lot of calories in that pool.

And because some of these campuses are in the middle of nowhere, and the local sandwich shop or pizza joint just won’t work with my son’s food allergies, I like to bring along a bag full of goodies for him.

This week I decided to whip up a batch of allergen-free crispy rice treats – the kind we all used to make with Rice Krispies. I figured these could double as a breakfast bar or a snack while he’s on the road.

Crispy Brown Rice Treats

4 tbsp (1/2 stick) Earth Balance natural shortening
1 bag (10 oz) marshmallows
1 box Erewhon Crisped Brown Rice cereal with mixed berries

Line a 9X13-inch pan with wax paper.
Melt the shortening in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.
Add the marshmallows. Stir constantly until the marshmallows are completely melted.
Turn off the heat. Add the crisped rice cereal and mix, folding the cereal into the marshmallows.
Spoon the mixture into the lined pan. Place a second sheet of wax paper over the mess and push with your fingers to flatten and smooth to the edges.
Refrigerate for an hour. Lift the waxed paper out of the pan. Cut into bars or squares.

For those of you needing an allergen-free Halloween treat, this will do the trick!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Taking a Bit of a Break This Week

Every now and then we all need a break, right? So, instead of a typical post today, I'd like to share a link to a cartoon post, with a little bit of gluten-free humor.


BabyBummers Real Troopers

Monday, October 17, 2011

Today is an Important Day

It’s a milestone day for me. Today is the day that I deliver the manuscript to my publisher for my first book. I know I’ve been quiet about it here – perhaps I’ve been afraid that I would jinx it – but my dream of publishing a book for families with multiple food allergies is coming true.

The book is all about baking without wheat, milk, eggs, soy, nuts, and gluten. It’s part cookbook and part how-to, and will be published in Spring 2012. Yes, I'm very excited! Yes, it's scary, and yes, it's a lot of work.

I must say that I have a new-found appreciation for anyone who has ever written or edited a book – especially cookbooks. It’s amazing how many different ways there are to write, “Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.” There are a lot of details in cookbooks, and they must be right.

I am so excited to be able to work on this project and can’t wait to be able to share it with all of you!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Enjoy Life Does it Again

Whenever the folks from Enjoy Life Foods ask me if I want to sample one of their new products I never hesitate to say yes! It seems the company has been on a roll lately, with their new crunchy cookies, and mega chocolate chips. Their latest product – Seed and Fruit mixes – are a fantastic addition to their line-up!

They sent me two flavors to try. Beach Bash is a mix of sunflower kernels, pineapple, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and apricots. Mountain Mambo is sunflower kernels, pumpkin seeds, raisins, apples, chocolate chips, and cranberries. Two awesome combos!

They are made with all whole foods and contain none of the top allergens. I love the bags – they are small enough to be able to throw in a tote bag – and since the bags can be re-closed it’s easy to divide into lunch box portions.

This is what I would describe as a trail mix – it has a good mix of carbs and protein, and is perfect for a wholesome mid-afternoon snack. The seeds don’t overpower the fruit, and vice-versa. Of course, my favorite is the one with chocolate chips, but chances are you’ll want to keep both on hand!

Every food allergy family should keep a stash of these trail mixes. Have you tried them yet? What do you think?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dear Colette, I Think I’m Allergic to Sucralose

2D structure of artificial sweetener sucralose
Chemical structure of sucralose via Wikipedia
I recently received a letter from Maggi, who was concerned about a reaction she was having to the artificial sweetener Splenda. Here is an excerpt from her letter:

I have experienced yet another episode of unbelievably itchy hives on my face, neck, ears, and arms that lasted almost 72 hours after inadvertently consuming sucralose (Splenda). Having seen a doctor, an allergist, and a dermatologist over a period of 2 years with wild guesses at common causes of allergic reactions, I finally diagnosed myself after baking a pie using Splenda and suffering a near immediate severe allergic reaction shortly thereafter. My last reaction a couple of weeks ago was worse than any before after only a small inadvertent dose that was added to some vanilla syrup (the kind that is added to coffees). It wasn't until I got sick that I picked up the bottle and read it was pure sucralose.

My response to Maggi:

Sucralose is sugar that has been chemically modified by adding chlorine. It is considered to have “no calories” because the body cannot digest it. That fact alone should cause us all some concern. I would question whether a food that cannot be absorbed by the body is indeed food at all.

Since sucralose is a sugar, it doesn’t fit the mold of traditional allergies – which are to the proteins in food. However, I did discover that sucralose also contains a small amount of binding agents – including corn, which could also be a trigger of food allergies.

Whether it’s a reaction to the chemicals used to process sucralose, to the binding agents, or something else, it’s clear based on the direct cause and effect that you are experiencing an allergic reaction to sucralose.

The solution is to avoid the product. One of the hardest things for all of us with food allergies is to learn to read product labels. You must read every label for every food product you buy, even if you’ve used it before without a problem. Formulas change, and it’s likely that the use of sucralose in processed foods will increase over time.

Readers, what adiditonal advice do you have for Maggi?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Butternut Squash Stew made with Pacific Natural Foods Broth

It has suddenly gotten cold here in the Northeast – much too cold for my liking at this time of year. But it’s too early to turn the heat on, so the next best thing is to keep the house (or at least the kitchen) warm by pulling out the crock-pot and making stew.

I’ve been on a bit of a veggie kick lately – I will not claim to be anything close to vegan, but we are severely trying to limit our intake of animal based foods. The good news is – I have lots of fresh veggies from the farm, and some terrific broths that the folks at Pacific Foods sent me to try.

I love stews because you can throw the ingredients together and let it sit. And as I’m working at home I can smell my meal all day long.

Butternut Squash Stew

I butternut squash, peeled and cubed
½ pound of kale leaves, chopped into large pieces
½ head garlic – one clove sliced, the rest whole
1 onion, cut in half and sliced
1 tsp Cajun spices
1 tsp pepper
3 cups of Pacific Natural Foods organic vegetable broth
1 can garbanzo beans

Place all ingredients (except the beans) in a crock-pot and cook on low for 7-8 hours. Stir occasionally. Add the garbanzo beans with 1-2 hours left to cook.

What are you making with your early fall veggies?

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Winner of the Mary’s Gone Crackers Giveaway is…


Karen, since I have your e-mail I will contact you to get the address to send your Mary’s Gone Crackers chocolate chip cookies to. Congratulations! And let us know what you think after you try them.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Have You Tried Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Products?

I'm loving the Bob's Red Mill gluten-free baking mixes and flours. Whenever I find a new mix to try, I consider it a challenge to create something from it -- with allergen-free substitutions, of course. One of my latest creations was Cinnamon Raisin Muffins from a Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread Mix.
Check out my guest post at the Bob's Red Mill blog for the recipe!

What's your favorite gluten-free baking mix?

And don't forget to enter the Mary's Gone Crackers giveaway!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mary’s Gone Crackers Cookies -- and a Giveaway

No, that’s not a typo. Mary’s Gone Crackers makes crackers as you might expect, but they also make cookies. They recently sent me a box full of goodies to review, including the cookies pictured here.

As a businessperson, I love the company’s philosophy and vision – “conscious eating” is their motto, and their products are not only gluten-free and vegan – they use organic, non-GMO, locally sourced foods. This is my kind of stuff.

Not everything Mary’s Gone Crackers makes is what I would call allergen-free; for example, the crackers contain tamari (which is made from soybeans).

The cookies we tried are what I would describe as low-sugar (9 grams per serving) and whole grain (rice, tapioca, potato, amaranth). They do contain coconut and soy lecithin.

I was delighted when I opened the box. Each box contains two separate pouches. This may not seem like a big deal, but I think it’s genius – if you’ve eaten a lot of gluten-free foods you know that they pick up moisture and don’t keep on the shelf as long as traditional cookies. The two-pack design means you don’t have to eat them all in a couple of days. It also makes it easy to pack in a picnic basket or lunch box.

Now, the cookies – We tried the double chocolate first (of course). They are soft baked with a bit of a crunch – perhaps provided by the chia seeds. It’s actually almost a hybrid cookie/cracker. The chocolate chip cookies are crunchier, and yet still not quite what you would expect in a traditional cookie. Most surprising are the “oatmeal raisin” without oats. How did they pull that off? With quinoa in place of oats. No, it doesn’t taste like a traditional oatmeal raisin cookie, but the quinoa does pair well with raisins.

A final note – if you want decadent, sweet, and high calorie, these are not what you are looking for; if you want healthy, organic, gluten-free and vegan, you should try them.

The Giveaway

Now, one lucky reader will able to try the Mary's Gone Crackers product of their choice. Simply visit the Mary's Gone Crackers website and check out their product line. Leave a comment here with the product you'd like to try. You have until Friday September 23rd at midnight to enter. The winner will be announced on Monday September 26th.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Allergy Eats Goes Mobile

When Paul Antico sent me the press release about the new Droid and iPhone Allergy Eats apps, my reaction was, “Yes!!”

I’ve been asking for this app. I’ve been waiting for this app. Now it’s here!

I love the Allergy Eats site – it’s extremely helpful in finding restaurants that can accommodate my family’s food allergy restrictions. But I don’t need help when I’m home, by my computer. I know the local restaurants. When I need help is when I’m on the road, and we need to find a place to stop for lunch.

I’ve tried accessing the Allergy Eats website from my Droid X – but it’s a little too hard to use that way. The Droid app solves that problem, making it very easy to use. The interface is simple, and a quick search gives me the information I need including restaurants, location/contact info, and reviews.

I also tried the app on my iPad. If you download it on the iPad you’re stuck with the iPhone app (which is essentially a small screen on an iPad). I wasn’t too thrilled with that, but the Allergy Eats website can easily be accessed on my iPad using the web browser. I prefer it that way and so does Paul Antico who says that the iPad format will be the website. The use experience with the iPhone app is the same as the Droid app – very easy to use.

Here's an idea of what to expect:

Both apps can be downloaded directly from the app stores for the devices, and they are free! Yippee!

I expect to be getting a lot of use out of the Droid app over the next few months, as we will be traveling to new places for my son’s water polo tournaments.

Have you tried the app yet? What do you think?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Kim and Scott’s New Gluten-free Pretzels

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a soft pretzel. I used to love the ones you can buy from the street vendors in New York City, but even if a vendor claimed to have a gluten-free version, I’m not sure I’d trust it. So I was excited when the folks at Kim and Scott’s offered to send me some of their gluten-free gourmet pretzels to try.

You may have heard of Kim and Scott's Gourmet Pretzels, or even seen them on QVC. Well, the news is that they now have a gluten-free pretzel -- it's a bavarian classic soft pretzel.

Right out of the box they looked really good. They come two to a package, and were delivered to me frozen. They will keep thawed for four days – and yes, I did manage to eat both of them in four days. The pretzels are fully cooked, but the package suggests heating them in the oven or microwave before eating. I used the toaster oven and it worked just fine.

The pretzels are gluten-free, nut-free, milk-free, and soy-free. They do contain eggs, which made them off limits for my egg-allergic son. They use a multi-grain gluten-free flour blend that includes tapioca, rice, sorghum, quinoa, amaranth, and teff flours – quite a lineup of grains. Each pretzel is only 150 calories. The package comes with coarse salt to be added, if you’d like. I chose to keep mine plain.

The bottom line? I am really happy with these pretzels. I would definitely recommend them, and would buy them. Twelve pretzels (six boxes of two) costs $32.95 at Kim and Scott’s website. I am hoping that local stores will start to carry them so we can buy just one box at a time.

Have you tried these pretzels yet? What do you think?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Celebrity Sighted at Conference – Now, what?

The San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, ...Image via WikipediaI recently attended the BlogHer conference in San Diego. Unlike the BlogHer Food conference attended by 500 food writers, the big BlogHer conference is more than big. Nearly 4000 bloggers who write about anything and everything attended the conference this year.

As I planned which sessions to attend, I was delighted to see that Shauna James Ahern, author of Gluten-Free Girland Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef,was presenting – not about food, not about gluten-free eating – she and her co-presenters led a session on blogging your way to self-acceptance. More on that later. First, you need to know that in my world (writing about special food needs) Shauna Ahern is a celebrity. She is the person I most wanted to meet while in San Diego.

Flashback to Atlanta and BlogHer food. There were many food writers there – many whose work I was not familiar with, and some names that I recognized. Among the great food writers I met in Atlanta were my amazing panel co-speakers, and another woman that I must describe as a food-writing goddess. Dianne Jacob, author of Will Write for Food, was also speaking at the conference. I was lucky enough to be able to chat with her as we walked to an event. Following that session she wrote a very thoughtful blog post, which all conference goers should read.

Dianne’s post helped me to realize that in every room (large or small) there is someone there who is more accomplished, more recognized, and (for those in business) higher on the org chart than you and me. We want to impress them, get to know them better, be more like them. There’s also most likely someone there who views you as that person they’d like to talk to, and they’d like to learn something from you but may not know how to approach you.

Back to San Diego and Blog Her 11
. As I prepared for the first session of the day I spotted Shauna as I was coming out of the restroom. I instantly recognized her from photos I had seen, and the thought crossed my mind – should I walk up and say hi? No, it was just minutes before her session, and it didn’t feel like the right time. I went into the room and found a seat.

Based on the session description I wasn’t sure the topic was right for me, but the speakers intrigued me. As luck would have it, with that choice I accidentally stumbled upon the most inspiring panel discussion I have ever attended. (I say that after having attended years of corporate sponsored events where big names were hired to motivate and challenge us.)

Gretchen Rubin, Brene Brown, Shauna Ahern, and Mr. Lady were genuine, honest, downright real speakers/writers/human beings/people. They rocked. And so, I was captivated by the emotion of the session when I got in line afterwards to introduce myself to Shauna.

And what did I do when I got to the front of the line? I babbled – told her how much I liked her books (true) and her blog (true). And I babbled some more, surely not making any kind of meaningful impression. I was intimidated – not due to any fault at all on her part – simply because I was me and she was Shauna.

So let me tell you why I am so impressed with this remarkable woman. Shauna didn’t have to travel the world to become whole and write a book. She simply got well, stayed home, and met her soulmate. While that sentence encapsulates her story, it doesn’t begin to describe the joyful life that she leads and chooses to lead every day.

Here’s what I would have liked to say to her:

“Your books move me. Through your stories you teach me about life.

And the next time we meet, I’d love to have a real conversation.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Have You Ever Seen a Yellow Watermelon?

This is just too cool not to share.

I picked up a watermelon at the farm last week. It was a big produce week -- even with a half share, I was able to pick six items. This watermelon was one of my picks.

It took a while to get around to cutting it open. When I finally did, I was surprised to find a yellow -- yes, yellow -- watermelom.

What a wonderful unexpected surprise! Perfect for a Labor Day picnic!

What's the most surprising or exotic fruit or vegetable that you have found this summer?

Picture taken with my Canon 7D, 60mm EFS macro lens

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dairy-Free Milk for the Lunchbox

I really wish this product were available ten years ago. When my son was diagnosed with allergies to milk and soy, the only option he had for a take-along drink box was juice. Not that juice is necessarily a bad choice – but I would have preferred a choice with more calcium and vitamin D for his school lunches.

The good news is, it’s here now, and if you need a non-dairy milk option to pack in those brand-new lunchboxes as the kids go off to school, this just might be the right choice for you.

These shelf-stable versions of So Delicious Dairy-Free coconut milk beverage come in packs of 8, in three different flavors – original, vanilla, and chocolate.

Even the chocolate version you see here is just 70 calories for 6.5 ounces. The unsweetened original version is only 35 calories per box.
They are free of gluten, milk, eggs, soy, and nuts. They do (of course) contain coconut.

With 25% of the Vitamin D requirement and 6% of the calcium requirement, I’d say this is a great lunch box choice for kids with food allergies. What non-dairy drinks do you send to school with your kids?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dear Colette, I Have a Coconut Allergy

Ivory Coastian coconut.I received a letter from a reader who suffers from coconut allergies, and like everyone first diagnosed with an allergy, she is struggling. So I thought I’d begin a response to her on this blog, and ask readers to weigh in.

Here is an excerpt from Dyana’s e-mail:

I am allergic to coconut and coconut oil. These are found in all kinds of things from shampoos, to breakfast cereals, and any mint flavored ice cream product on the market. I can't even eat popcorn at the movies any more because theaters use coconut oil to cook popcorn. One of the biggest problems people with this allergy are facing is that it is being marketed as being healthier and a good allergy free alternative. Help!

My response follows:

Dear Dyana, I am sorry to hear that you have a food allergy. Yes, I know how you feel, and I understand that everywhere you look you see your food allergen. This is good news, because you can’t avoid what you can’t see. I think this is heightened awareness (kind of like after you buy a red car you notice every red car on the road). The solution, of course, is to avoid coconut.

First, let me address food. While many of us (myself included) believe that coconut should not be classified as a nut, the FDA includes coconut in their classification of tree nuts. That is good news for you, because the top eight food allergens (including tree nuts) must be clearly called out on all food labels. That should help you pinpoint which products do (and do not) contain coconut.

But those food labeling laws only pertain to things we eat – not cosmetics, shampoos, etc. I understand this problem well; as more manufacturers are trying to remove parabens from their products, they are replacing them with “natural” ingredients (like wheat and soy proteins which I am allergic to and nut oils including coconut). This means that we have to dig deeper when checking ingredients.

You are correct that coconut oil is being embraced – especially by vegans, and yes – even some of us in the food allergy community. For those who are allergic to milk, coconut oil can be a great alternative to butter/margarine, and coconut milk is a terrific non-dairy milk to bake with. But the good news for you is that you can substitute milk or butter back in, where those products are called for in recipes.

Now, I’ll open it up to the readers. What advice do you have for Dyana? Are there any coconut-allergic people out there who have products to suggest?