Monday, January 30, 2012

You Can Help North Mountain Pastures Build an Aging Room

Every now and then I run across a cause worth supporting, and this blog post is about one of them. I just recently learned about Kickstarter, a new way to fund to creative projects. It allows anyone to find supporters to help fund a project. It's not an investment (not directly at least) and it's not a charity. It's a way to help fund projects that you have an interest in. Projects are only funded if they reach their goal.

North Mountain Pastures is run by my niece and her husband, and they are seeking funding to build an aging room to make their own salami, bacon, and other cured meats. Today they raise their own grass-fed pigs on their Pennsylvania farm, and want to be able to process the meats at their own farm. Here you can see them talking about their project:

Why should you care? You would be supporting a local, sustainable food system. Especially those in the Pennsylvania area would benefit, but anyone can invest.

What do you get in return?
Contributors who give at least $50 or more will receive processed meats in return. Check out the North Mountain Pastures project page to learn more and to find out what you will get at each funding level.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Classic Beef Stew – In the Crockpot

Winter is when my Crockpot comes out from hiding in the far corner of my pots and pans shelf – and usually it stays out for a few months. The beauty of the Crockpot is you can use whatever you have in the fridge, and it’s so easy to throw a combo together that is gluten-free and allergen-free.

This week I picked up some beef stew meat at the grocery store and went with a classic:

Allergen-Free Beef Stew

1 ½ pounds of beef stew meat
4 small-medium potatoes, peeled and diced
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
Additional spices to your taste
1 quart vegetable stock (make sure it contains no food allergens)

Throw all of the ingredients together in a Crockpot, set it to low heat, and let it stew for 7-8 hours. Enjoy the smells and the warmth of the house when you get home from work!

What's your favorite winter Crockpot dish?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Is it Cold Enough Yet? Warm Up With Hot Hemp Cocoa

It has taken a while for winter to reach us in the Northeast this year, but it's finally here. And yes, we have cold temperatures and winds that make it feel even colder. Of course after the mild winter we've had so far those single digit temps can feel much colder than they are.

So when you come in from the cold, you might want to check out my recipe for hot hemp cocoa over at the Living Harvest blog.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Of Course There Should be Epinephrine in Our Schools

The death of Ammaria Johnson, a first-grader with food allergies, earlier this year, has caused an out-pouring of outrage, grief, sadness, and concern among those in the food allergy community. Ammaria suffered cardiac arrest after eating a single peanut, handed to her by a classmate on the playground. Those who have written on the topic point out that this was a death that was avoidable, but none do so better than Margaret Carlson in her article for Bloomberg titled Death Shows Schools Need Power of EpiPen.

Carlson makes the point that defibrillators are more common in our schools than epinephrine, a point that really hits home with me. Yes, the high school my sons recently graduated from has a defibrillator. Nobody questions the need for the defibrillator. That same school also has a trainer who is with the sports teams during practices and games. For many games he isn’t called in action, but when he’s needed parents are sure glad he is there.

During high school football games there is an ambulance sitting ready at the field (unless responding to another emergency). During my years of watching football at the high school that ambulance was needed three times. The rest of the time it was waiting, just in case.

In the cafeteria there is a large sign posted prominently with the instructions to recognize if someone is choking and how to perform the Heimlich maneuver, should it be necessary. Nobody questions that it should be hanging there. There should be a poster right next to it that explains how to recognize an allergic reaction, and how to administer epinephrine, if needed. For those not familiar with food allergies, epinephrine can save a life, as Dr. Sarah M. Boudreau-Romano so expertly explains here.

Of course there should be epinephrine in our schools.
And it should be easily accessible.

The most recent estimates of food allergy in our children is now between 4 and 6 percent; that means that most classrooms will have a child with food allergies. Not every child with food allergies will have had an episode serious enough to prescribe epinephrine. And there’s always a first time for an allergic reaction. Given that many of our children eat two out of three meals a day (plus snacks) at school, there’s a good chance that first reaction will happen there.

The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act
was introduced in the Senate late last year. The proposed bill would provide States with incentives to require elementary schools and secondary schools to maintain, and permit school personnel to administer, epinephrine at schools. The findings note that more than 15% of students with food allergies have had an allergic reaction while at school, and 25% of epinephrine injections at school involved individuals with a previously unknown allergy.

It’s not just parents of children with known food allergies that need to be concerned. Of course there should be epinephrine in our schools.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cornbread Mix

I am so excited that Bob’s Red Mill has been expanding their line of gluten-free products – many of which are also dairy-free. Over the holidays I found this Cornbread mix from Bob’s Red Mill, and decided to try it.

Of course, I had to adapt it so that we didn’t add any allergens. Instead of adding milk, butter, and eggs, I added hemp milk, sunflower oil, and I used Ener-G egg replacer for the eggs.

The result was not quite what I expected. Usually when I think of cornbread I think of a moist, grainy bread, with a strong corn taste. I found the Bob’s Red Mill mix to be much milder and more “bready” than the typical cornbread. I made mine into muffins, but had I made a loaf this would have made a good slicing bread for sandwiches.

The grains in this bread mix are cornmeal, potato starch, sorghum flour, corn flour, and tapioca flour.

If you’re looking for the standard cornbread mix, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a good gluten-free bread with a hint of corn taste that can successfully be made allergen-free, this is a great choice.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mindful Mayo – A Great Find for the New Year

Today I want to talk about sandwiches. Sandwiches for the lunchbox, sandwiches for the road, sandwiches to take to work. Once we found a wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free sandwich bread for my son, we solved half the problem.

But we were still left with few options for dressing up the sandwich. Of course there was mustard, but sometimes you just want mayonnaise. The dairy-free options we could find were soy based – not an option here. So late last year when I heard of Earth Balance’s Mindful Mayo I got really excited.

At first it was only available at Whole Foods, and the closest to me was an hour and a half away. So I waited patiently and this weekend I found it in my health food store.

So here’s the deal: The original Mindful Mayo has no eggs, no soy, and no dairy. It’s gluten-free and vegan. It contains (non-GMO) canola oil, water, brown rice syrup, apple cider vinegar, pea protein, salt, mustard flour, and lemon juice concentrate. One tablespoon has about 90 calories.

And the best part is – it tastes just like (an egg-based) mayonnaise! And it spreads just like (an egg-based) mayonnaise too.

Don’t look for it near the mayonnaise – it’s in the refrigerated section (and must be kept refrigerated.)

Have you tried Mindful Mayo yet? What do you think?

Monday, January 9, 2012

One Dish Meals – Sam Mills Pasta d’oro

It has suddenly turned very cold here in the Northeast – frigid cold. Not unusual for this time of year, but since it’s been so mild this winter so far, the cold is noticeable. So before my son left to go back to school I decided to whip up a nice warm one-dish meal.

I used a gluten-free pasta that I found at a local health food store. The Sam Mills Pasta d’oro is 100% corn – no gluten and no common food allergens. Whereas some corn pastas can get very mushy and sticky, this is one that holds it’s own extremely well. The recommended cook time is 10-12 minutes. I went on the lower side of that as my experience with gluten-free pasta is that they usually recommend cooking too long, but next time I’ll go the full 12 minutes.

Pasta with Chicken and Sprouts

1 package Sam Mills Pasta d’oro 100% corn pasta
4 chicken breasts, diced
1 pint brussel sprouts, halved
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil

Begin cooking the pasta. Saute the chicken, brussel sprouts, onion, and garlic, with 2 tablespoons olive oil, in a large sauté pan over medium low heat, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining olive oil. Drain the pasta. Toss all ingredients together in a large pasta bowl.

Done in less than 20 minutes!

What’s your favorite one-dish winter meal?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Field Trip to the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory

Despite having spent my high school years on Cape Cod, and my frequent visits back to visit my Mom, I had never visited the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory. So on this holiday visit we decided to go.

The factory is located in Hyannis, a stones throw from the Cape Cod Mall. It’s an unassuming building, but as soon as we arrived we were greeted by bright signs that directed us to the tour. While the tour is self-guided, the potato chip making process is very easy to follow by the signs that describe exactly what is happening at each stage.

Cape Cod Potato Chips are my chip of choice – not just because I’m from the Cape, but because the ingredients are so simple – the original variety contains only potatoes, canola oil, and salt. While there are some flavors that contain milk ingredients, I feel more confident after having seen the factory that we can safely eat the potato chips.

I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the process, but it was quite impressive. The most surprising thing to me was that after the chips are sliced, oiled, and baked, there is a person on the conveyor belt that inspects the chips and (by hand) removes the ones that are overly baked or burnt – a job he took very seriously.

And at the end of the tour we got to leave to samples. My fav so far? The Yukon Gold chips!

Monday, January 2, 2012

New e-book from Dr. Atul Shah on Allergies

Allergy skin testingI love to find high quality information about allergies from reliable sources, and that’s exactly what I found when Dr. Atul Shah pointed me to his new e-book, Allergy: You Asked, We Answered. The book, available from Smashwords, is written in question and answer format, and based on the many questions Dr. Shah hears at the Center for Allergy and Asthma. Here is an example (and one of my favorites):

Q4: Is allergy suggestive of a weak immune system?
A: No. The immune system protects us from getting infections and helps clear them once we are exposed to germs. When this immune system gets over activated in response to other exposures like pollen, it is considered an allergy. So, in simple terms, allergy is an over active immune system and not a weak immune system.

I’ve always known that those of use with allergies are super-strong!

Seriously, this e-book is an introductory tutorial on allergies (of all types), and I’m sure we’ll see more e-books from Dr. Shah. While not specifically about food allergies, it's a great resource if you suspect allergies, or have a recent allergy diagnosis. If you’d like to check out the book, you can sign up for Dr. Shah’s newsletter at, and download your free copy.

What a way to start the year! (And if you happened to get a new Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader for Christmas, you can read it there.)