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?