Monday, December 30, 2013

The Demise of the Dairy Farm

I recently heard a story on the local news about dairy farms closing in New Jersey. The story focused on the workers being laid off just before the holidays – something I never like to see. But the analysis from the reporter left much to be desired. His comment was, “With Baby Boomers turning to alternative beverages, this is to be expected.”

And I had one of those (rare) yell at the television moments. Oh gosh, where shall I start? (Warning, there is a rant coming.)

Let’s start here: Are we going to blame every market shift on the baby boomers for the next 20-30 years? Nobody aims products (except for drugs that give the illusion of couples spending all of their time in romantic moments) at this market. Certainly, no one is marketing milk to baby boomers. Market surveys nearly always end with a category of >55, >60, or >65 – essentially lumping Baby Boomers with their parents (and dismissing them). And so, the demise of milk must be because of the Baby Boomers, right? I doubt it.

I have lots of suggestions for why the shift away from drinking milk might be happening:

1. The extreme rise in food allergies, including dairy.

2. More people of all ages choosing to eliminate animal products from their diets.

3. Dozens of options for “milk” – so many that we all can find an alternative to stealing it from the cows.

Three out of four people in my immediate family no longer drink dairy milk (one due to an allergy, two due to choice). What about your family? Do you still buy cow’s milk at the grocery store?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Crispness!

Last week my husband took me on a rare lunch date at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. I am very fortunate to live just minutes away from this beautiful and bountiful campus. While there, we spotted these clever foodie holiday signs:

My husband aptly pointed out that many of us are allergic to them, so during lunch we were trying to come up with our own variations. On the way out, however, we spotted these signs, appropriate for all diets:

Many thanks to my husband for trudging through the snow to get the shots.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Homemade Holiday 101: ebooks on Sale!

Are you still searching for holiday food ideas to accommodate multiple allergies and other custom diets? I might just have some answers for you.

Workman Publishing (the distributor for my publisher, The Experiment Publishing), is running a holiday promotion. If you sign up for their newsletter you can download your choice of e-books, including Holiday Food for All. This e-book is a fabulous collection of holiday recipes that will work for a variety of food restrictions including gluten-free, vegan, and allergy-free. I am thrilled that they included the Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls from Learning to Bake Allergen-Free:it's an easy (yeast-free) roll recipe that is perfect for a holiday meal. I'm planning to make them for Christmas Eve dinner.

But wait, there's more! For a limited time (until the end of the year) the e-book version of Learning to Bake Allergen-Free (in all formats) is being offered for the ridiculously low price of $2.99. Yup, you read that right.

And, if you check amazon, you will see that the kindle version is priced even lower. Did you know that you can gift a specific book on a kindle? Or, ff you have the hardcopy of the book and would like a digital version, now's the time to pick it up!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What Happened to the Measuring Cup?

English: A measuring cup purchased in the Unit...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The day before Thanksgiving I broke my favorite liquid measuring cup. It was a simple 1-cup Pyrex measuring cup with red lettering. It was the perfect size. It had a compact little handle so that it fit into the dishwasher nicely. It had both ¼ cup and 1/3 cup measures. It measured accurately. What more could you want in a measuring cup?

This was a measuring cup I had owned for as long as I can remember. It was likely passed down from my mother or grandmother. And, even though I had flirted with other measuring cups over the years (I did have others to use to finish my pre-Thanksgiving prep), none of them made me happy.

I have a glass measuring cup that measures nicely, but the markings are raised glass rather than printed; this means that I need to do squats to see how much I’ve measured. (I’ve nothing against squats, I just don’t need to do them when I’m baking.) It even has three pour spouts, in case I need to pour sideways. (Really, who does that? I tried it once just to see how it felt and I made a big mess.) But the worst past is that due to those three spouts, it takes up more than its fair share of space in the dishwasher.

I also have one of those plastic angled measuring cups, and I’d love to know who thought that was a good idea. Nothing looks right when measured at an angle. Right now the only thing I use that particular measuring cup for is to hold my measuring spoons (and it does only a fair job at that).

When my favorite little measuring cup broke (sigh) I turned to amazon to look for a replacement and discovered that they don’t make it anymore – at least not in its past form. The new Pyrex measuring cup (which I bought at the grocery store) appears to be sturdy, but it’s not the same. I can read the markings – that’s a plus. It measures accurately – that’s a must. But it’s 50% larger than my old one. It’s a fat little measuring cup that could actually hold a whole ½ cup more liquid, yet the markings stop at 1 cup. (What’s up with that? Were we all spilling too much?) That design flaw, combined with an excessively large handle, means that it doesn’t fit nicely in the dishwasher.

I did some research, and discovered that I am not the only one disappointed with the new liquid measuring cups. Cook’s Illustrated lays out a number of issues based on their road tests.

Dear Santa,
If you are listening, please ask the elves to make me an old-fashioned measuring cup for Christmas. I promise to leave you some allergen-free cookies in return.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Value of a Blog Comment (or Why It’s Okay if You Don’t Leave One)

I was recently asked to fill out a form by a food vendor that I have an informal relationship with. The purpose of the form was to gather information about (and to assess) me and my blog. I suspect that some of the food allergy readers here (who are bloggers) may have received the same form.

As I was filling out the form it struck me that measurements can be deceiving—and they can incent the wrong behavior.

One of the questions asked was “How many comments do you receive per blog post?” I had to check the first box on the form, “0-5 comments.” After a fleeting moment of feeling like a failure, I realized that I don’t care.

That’s right, I don’t care if you leave a comment
. Here’s why:

Every blog has a purpose (or at least it should). I am not trying to facilitate a community with this blog. When I want community I visit Kids with Food Allergies or Freedible, or read the #foodallergy twitter stream. There are so many people (many of them bloggers) trying to build new communities, and yet I don’t have unlimited time to engage. So I pick my communities and I have no interest in leading my own.

I love to visit your blogs as well, and I leave the occasional comment. When I do comment it’s usually to add additional information or to provide support (and a virtual hug).

My passion is in solving problems and helping those with multiple food allergies to find solutions. That’s why I write cookbooks. That’s why I speak at conferences. That’s why I sit on the board of Kids with Food Allergies. That’s why I write this blog. If someone visits here today and feels even a tiny bit better about how to manage their food allergies that makes me feel better than a dozen comments ever could. When I receive an e-mail from a reader (of my book or my blog) that thanks me for the information I shared, that makes me feel better than a hundred comments ever could.

I don’t pretend that my mission is any more noble or important than building a community – there is extreme value in our online communities and I am grateful for those who provide that service – it’s just not what I do.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it when you leave a comment, and I treasure every single one of them. You are absolutely welcome to leave comments. You are also welcome to visit and not leave a comment. I am honored that you visit. I know that most of the 12000 of you who visit here each month haven’t commented and that’s entirely okay with me!

Feel free to leave a comment … or not.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

'Tis the Season... for Baking

“It’s baking season.”

I’ve heard that at least a dozen times a day in the past couple of weeks. Often it’s in e-mails from vendors with special offers or catalogs that still come in the mail, but not always.

There’s a part of me that wants to say, “Yes! bring the baking on!” and another part of me that wants to shout, “Who decided we can only bake around the holidays?”

For some of us – especially those of us who need baked goods without wheat, dairy, eggs, and nuts – baking season is all year long. We can’t all rely on processed food from the grocery store for our daily bread and snacks.

What’s your take? Do you bake just around the holidays? Or are you a year-long baker?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Which Camera and Lens Should I Buy for Food Photography?

At the recent Food Allergy Bloggers Conference, I had the opportunity to talk about food photography. Unfortunately, we had little time for Q&A, but the question I was asked the most after the session was a version of:

“I want to upgrade from a point and shoot camera. I am on a limited budget. What should I buy?”

I will preface my answer by saying that I “speak Canon,” but similar solutions exist for all of the major DSLR vendors. (I like my Canon equipment and cameras – a lot – but I am not sponsored or paid by Canon, and I have not done any testing on other equipment.)

If you are planning to go the DSLR route, there are separate purchase decisions to make – the camera body, and the lens (or lenses).

Camera body – most DSLRs will perform quite well, regardless of whether they cost a few hundred dollars or thousands, but there are some things to consider:

Megapixels – The higher the number of megapixels, the better the photo quality. Even the new entry-level DSLRs are at about 18 megapixels. If you are looking at used equipment, I’d suggest that you should look for at least 16 megapixels. The more you crop, the more megapixels you need.

Full frame versus crop frame
– This terminology refers to the “frame” that the camera sees. Full frame cameras will “see” more of the scene than crop frame cameras (with the same lens). A lot more. Here’s an example with the full frame on the top and the crop frame below, with an identical setup:

Full frame cameras also give you more potential depth of field. That said, full frame cameras are considerably more expensive (because the technology is more complex). Keep in mind that you can compensate by using a wider-angle lens and reducing the f-stop. For most bloggers, a crop frame camera will be more than sufficient. On the other hand, if you are considering professional photography and want something that will grow with you, the full frame camera could be the way to go.

– many DSLRs now have video capability, but not all. If this is something you want, look for a camera body that has that capability. (My crop frame camera has video capability, but my full frame camera does not.)

– the lens or lenses you choose are arguably more important than the camera body. A crappy lens on either an entry level or a high-end body will produce a lousy photo. Conversely, a fabulous lens will perform beautifully on both. This is true regardless of whether you choose a crop frame or full frame camera. It’s also true that the best lenses are not always the most expensive – but there is a general correlation.

Most camera bodies will be packaged with a “kit” lens – usually a medium telephoto that is positioned to be “all-purpose.” (All-purpose usually means pretty good at a lot, but not great at anything.) However, it’s often possible to negotiate with a camera vendor to package a different lens with the camera. In fact, I highly recommend doing this; once you have decided which lens you want (if it’s not listed with that configuration), call the online camera shop you would buy from and ask if you can get the lens you want instead. It might cost a bit more, but it will be cheaper in the long run and you won’t have a “throw-away” lens collecting dust.

There is a difference between fixed focal length lenses (e.g., 35mm, 50mm, etc.) and telephoto lenses (e.g., 17-55mm). The latter allows you to get in closer or farther away from the subject without moving the camera (which, of course, should be on a tripod). Fixed focal length lenses will nearly always give you a better result, with less distortion, less bleeding, and less noise. However, a variable length lens can be very useful; it will likely be what you take with you on vacation; it also allows you to vary the shot without moving the camera (e.g., for a full table shot and then a close-up). I now use fixed focal length lenses almost exclusively for food photography, but I’d feel naked if I didn’t at least have an option for a telephoto lens.

The plot thickens…

The other characteristic to consider with lenses is whether they fit just a crop frame camera, or can work on either a crop frame or full frame. Canon calls their crop frame lenses “EOS” lenses, and one of my favorite lenses is an EOS lens – but it doesn’t work on my full frame camera.

And, if it wasn’t already complicated enough, for whatever length lens you choose, the wider the aperture capability, the better the lens will be (and more expensive). I am referring to the “f” numbers that appear next to the lens in the description. The lower the number, the better. An f/4 lens is okay, but an f/2.8 lens is better (and more expensive). Variable length lenses will often have a range (e.g. f/4.5-5.6), which denotes the lowest f-stop depending on the focal length you choose. I usually prefer food photos that are shot in the f/3.2-5.6 range, but for how-to shots I will choose a narrower aperture (e.g. f/8) to keep the entire photo in crisp focus.

Keep in mind that (in terms of depth of field results) an f/4.5 on a full frame camera is roughly equivalent to an f/3.2 on a camera frame camera.

And then there’s image stabilization. If you’re walking around you will want image stabilization. But you’re using a tripod, right? And while on the tripod you don’t need IS.

So, what do you need?

For most food photography, I would suggest a wide angle lens (the lower the mm, the wider the angle) and a macro lens. This combo will allow you a wide angle for top down shots, and the ability to get in really close for ¾ shots.

When I took the photos for Learning to Bake Allergen-Free I used a Canon EOS 7D with a 60mm EOS macro lens and a 17-55mm EOS lens (usually set at the widest angle – 17mm).

Since that time I have purchased a full frame camera with a couple of additional lenses. For my new book, I am shooting with the Canon 5D Mark II equipped with a Sigma 35mm lens and the 7D with the 60mm macro.

Even though I have a 100mm macro for my 5D, I really love the results with the 60mm macro. And my Sigma 35mm lens is dreamy.

My best advice on what to buy is to consider your budget and what type of photos you most want to take. Then research, read the reviews, strike a bargain, and enjoy!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Announcing the Winners of the Hamilton Beach #smoovember Giveaway

Oh it's so much fun to have two winners!

The winner of the Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart Blender is:

Dough Maven

And the winner of the Single Serve Blender is:

Kathryn @ Mamacado

Congratulations! I will be contacting each of you directly.

Enjoy your smoothies!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

We Are United #FABlogcon

I am still feeling the positive energy from the first annual Food Blogger Conference. I am exhausted – jet lag, changing back from daylight savings time, and behaving like an extrovert when I am really an introvert all contributed to that. But I am also energized.

Bringing together bloggers, authors, doctors, advocates, educators, and vendors who are connected by severe food restrictions was the brainchild of Jenny Sprague and it was a resounding success. As we were leaving the conference a friend said, “I hope she does it again next year,” and my response was, “Oh, she’s doing it again!” So, Jenny, don’t prove me wrong on that!

There is something cathartic about being surrounded by people who “get it.”

Despite the fact that some of us there were advocating for ourselves while others have children or loved ones with food restrictions…

And despite the fact that our food-related issues ran the gamut from anaphylactic allergies, to celiac disease, to eosinophilic esophagitis, to intolerances, to a plethora of other less-well-known illnesses…

And despite the fact that some of us have been managing food restrictions for years, others just received a diagnosis, and yet others are on a seemingly never-ending quest for a diagnosis…

We are all united by the desire to drive awareness, acceptance, and accommodation of severe food restrictions.

Acceptance was everywhere. Not one person questioned another’s need to avoid a particular food – for any reason. We didn’t look at each other suspiciously. No one asked pesky judgmental questions and no one suggested that they knew better what would work for your body than you. No one suggested that only “life-threatening” food allergies should be prioritized. And we all had each other’s backs.

I wish everyone who visits this blog could have been there. In case you weren’t, here’s a bit of what you missed:

The first session with the talented and funny Tess Masters, the straight-talking Joel Warady, and marketing genius Annelies Zijderveld was one of my favorites.

I didn’t bring enough Kleenex for this session on Facing Adversity with a Smile with Susan Weissman, Tiffany Glass, and Jenny. I think it’s fair to say that many in the food allergy community have had way more than their fair share of difficulties – including many non-food-related illnesses and other losses – yet, this is a group that moves forward triumphantly!

Henry Ehrlich made us laugh and gave us hope during his keynote address.

And we ate well. Very well. As always, I brought a stash of safe snacks, just in case. I didn't need them, and I didn't even need to open a box of the Enjoy Life cookies Joel shared with us. Even the restaurants had a top-8 allergen-free menu:

Before I go, I must give a shout-out to the fabulous Homa Woodrum. While she expertly avoided all stages and cameras she was busy making everything work behind the scenes. FABlogcon wouldn’t have happened without you Homa!

If you didn’t happen to win one of the fabulous prizes at FABlogcon (or even if you did) be sure to enter to win the Hamilton Beach blender giveaway – you have a week to enter.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Calling All Smoothie Lovers, It’s a #smoovember #giveaway!

You are going to love this! Hamilton Beach gave me the two blenders I am reviewing here, and they are also giving one of each away to lucky readers here. Two winners! Yippee! It’s #smoovember!

Most of us use our blenders for smoothies, right? So it made perfect sense to me that Hamilton Beach would design their new line of blenders around the smoothie. Let’s take a look at them, one at a time.

The Smoothie Smart blender is very solid and sturdy. I love the glass container – it’s a hefty appliance. I also like that the hole to add things (ice, liquids, or oil if you are making an emulsion) has a little flip lid; that makes it very easy to add ingredients while the blender is running. Of course, what makes this blender unique is the smoothie button – goof-proof if you are making smoothies:

What I like best about the Smoothie Smart is its size – it’s only 15 inches high, making it ideal for those of use with low clearance on our counters.

 Now, let’s take a look at the Single Serve blender. This is a very cute little gadget. I love the idea of being able to make a smoothie and then take it along with you. In my days of working in Corporate America, I brought a smoothie to work every day. I would make it in a big blender, and then transfer it to a travel container to bring to work. (And I’d have to clean the big blender as well as the travel container.) This Single Serve blender lets you drink from the same container you make the smoothie in.

There’s a lot to like about this blender; it’s a simple one-touch design, the container has volume measurements, and the lid has a sip top (similar to travel coffee mugs). At first I thought it was odd to be carrying the blade along with my smoothie, but I soon got over that.

Before I show you my smoothie, I need to talk about what else this blender can do. As you may know, I grind flax seeds all the time, to use instead of eggs. In reading the instructions for this blender I noticed that it could be used to grind coffee and I thought – I bet it can grind flax seeds. That was the very first thing I tried to do with this blender, and I am happy to report, it works!

Now, about that smoothie…

It’s November, so I dug into my stash of frozen fruit (from my pickings at the farm earlier this year). I combined a ripe banana with frozen blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries. Then I added ½ cup coconut milk beverage.Yummy!

The giveaway:

To enter, leave a comment here with which blender you prefer, and what type of smoothie you’d like to make. I will be picking two winners, one for each blender.

For extra entries:

Share this post on facebook and/or twitter, linking back here. Use hashtag #smoovember. Leave a second or third comment to let me know you did so!

Entries end on Tuesday, November 12th, at midnight eastern time. The winners will be announced on November 14th. In the meantime, have a great #smoovember!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Events, Here and There

As I am writing this, I am packing for the Food Allergy Blogger Conference in Las Vegas. It’s hard to believe that after months of planning, it is really here. Kudos to Jenny Sprague and Homa Woodrum! I’ll see both of you this weekend. And I am looking forward to meeting all of the readers here who will also be there.

I have two more events planned – much closer to home – this year. On Saturday November 9th, I’ll be at the Beekman Library in Hopewell Junction, New York. On Saturday December 14th, I will be at the Guilderland Library in Albany New York.

At each of these events I will be doing an allergen-free and gluten-free baking demo. We will be making cookies – just in time for the holidays! If you’re in the New York area and can make one of these events, I’d love to meet you.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Cheated

I need to confess. This isn’t the kind of confession I should be making to a priest. No, it’s the kind of confession that only you – the readers here – might understand.

I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich. I ate it. And I enjoyed it.

You know that the recipes I share here are wheat-free, gluten-free, egg-free, nut-free, and soy-free. That list covers both my son’s and my own food allergies. Although I am only allergic to gluten and soy, most days I am happy to eat the way my son must eat everyday.

I am not only completely comfortable with milk alternatives, I prefer them to cow’s milk. Nuts were never my thing. I do accept the occasional gluten-free roll made with egg at a restaurant, but that doesn’t feel like cheating – can I call it research?

The food that calls to me on occasion – the one I miss – is cheese. No, the cheese substitutes just don’t do it. And so, today (when no one else was looking) I blissfully ate my grilled cheese sandwich.

Do you follow your child’s food diet? Do you cheat? What food do you miss the most?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Are you Ready for Halloween?

Candy, candy, candy. What’s a food allergy parent to do?

Be aware that some chocolates contain dairy, many are processed side by side (or on the same equipment as) nuts, and nearly all contain soy lecithin. Other candy contains various allergens.

One of the best coping techniques for parents of kids with food allergies is to either trade the candy collected from trick-or-treating for something safe, or to just provide your own safe treats.

Here’s a link to one of my favorite allergen-free candies to make at home:

Chocolate Chewy Candy
. Just like Tootsie Rolls, but better!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Nostalgic Photography Props – Help Me Choose

When I was writing and photographing Learning to Bake Allergen-Free, I included a prop that my grandmother (Memere) had given to me in one of the pictures. It wasn’t a deliberate choice, I simply needed a small pitcher to pour Chocolate Maple Syrup onto a stack of pancakes.

(The full photo is on page 245 of the book.)

Memere had an eclectic collection of knick-knacks. Every time I look at this pitcher, it reminds me of sleepovers at my grandparents’ house. Each of my sisters and I had our own pitcher, used only at her house for pouring milk over cereal. This was mine:

Now, as I am taking photos for my second book (have I mentioned that I am writing another book?) I want to make sure to include another meaningful piece from my grandparents, and I’d love your help to decide which one. Here are the choices:

1. I don’t recall this tiny china pitcher ever making it out of Mem’s curio cabinet. The curio was where she kept the “special” pieces – the ones that didn’t get used. But my sisters and I would ooh and aah over the special pieces. Memere would take them out and tell us where she had gotten them – a gift from a friend brought back from a trip, something she bargained for from the antique dealer around the corner, or (as in this case) a bargain picked up at a yard sale. Despite the fact that Mem didn’t use it, this piece often makes it onto my dinner table for gravy or salad dressing:

2. This next piece actually reminds me more of my grandfather (Pep) than my grandmother. When I would visit them on trips home from college, my grandparents always treated me like a guest (even thought they lived next door). That meant snacks on fancy plates, and something to drink. The “something” was always ginger ale. It was Pep’s job to get my drink, and for some reason he always asked which glass I would like it in. In retrospect, I’m not sure why he asked which glass. (Is that a thing?) Nevertheless, this is the glass I always chose to sip my ginger ale from as we “visited:”

Help me decide which to use! Leave a comment below with your choice.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Just One Month Until the Food Allergy Blogger Conference

I have been blogging for nearly five years.

I have been dealing with food allergies for more than twelve years (longer if you count the lengthy diagnosis phase to discover my son’s EE).

In the past few years I have attended a number of writing and blogging conferences, including BlogHer and BlogHer Food. And it’s great to be in a room with others who write, blog, and care about food. I have also attended food allergy and EE events, and it’s great to be in a room with people who truly understand what my family deals with on a daily basis – without question or judgment (because we all know that every food allergy situation is unique).

When Jenny Sprague called me earlier this year and asked what I thought about a blogging conference for people who focus on food allergies, I thought, Bingo! What could be better than getting the entire food allergy community together? And soon after, the Food Allergy Blogger Conference was born, led by Jenny and Homa Woodrum – two fabulous women who I can’t wait to see in … justfourweeks.

It’s hard to believe that FABlogcon is almost here!!! Do I sound excited? I am!

I am honored to be speaking with Cybele Pascal and Kelly Rudnicki about Recipe Development at 1pm on Sunday afternoon. How did I get so lucky to be speaking with these two rock stars? And I’ll be meeting Kelly for the first time, in person.

I’ll also be speaking on Sunday at 2:30 pm. along with Rebecca Hirt and Ritesh Patel. Our session is called Picture This and we’ll be talking about visuals.

And, if Sunday wasn’t busy enough, I’ll be signing books alongside more than a dozen other authors including Susan Weissman and April Runge at the Wine and Sign party in the evening. If you haven’t read Susan and April’s books yet, you should.

I am looking forward to re-connecting with food allergy friends that I haven’t seen in a while, including Cheryl Viirand, leader of Freedible, Lynda Mitchell, leader of Kids with Food Allergies, Alisa Fleming, Caroline Moassessi, Keeley McGuire, Selena Bluntzer, Kim Pebley, Cindy Gordon, and many other fabulous bloggers.

And I can’t wait to meet the rest of the attendees who I have only met online.

Will you be there? I want to meet you too!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Enjoy Life Updates their Chewy Bars (and a Discount)

I am always skeptical when products change – especially when the original was a favorite. So when Enjoy Life told me they had changed their chewy bars – updated the packaging and improved the taste – I had to find out for myself whether the new versions were truly better. Enjoy Life sent me a box of bars to try:

Right off the bat I was pleased to see that Enjoy Life stayed true to their mission. The bars are still gluten-free and top-8 allergen-free and processed in a dedicated facility. Way to go EL!

Next, I was thrilled to see that they didn’t improve the bars by adding sugar. These bars still contain less than 8 grams of sugar per serving, and the Sunbutter Crunch clocks in at only 4 grams of sugar!

The packaging says that the bars now feature ancient grains – that would be what appears to be small amounts of quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and millet in the Caramel Apple, Mixed Berry, and SunButter Crunch bars. The Cocoa Loco (my longtime favorite) claimed to be packed with more chocolate chips. But, could it be true?

My taste test of the Cocoa Loco bars left me pleasantly surprised. They are indeed packed with more chocolate chips. The bar is moister and tastes just splendid. This may become my new mid-afternoon snack!

It’s your lucky day because you can try the new Enjoy Life bars as well! Use discount code CHEWY10 at the Enjoy Life shop to receive a 10% discount on your first order of chewy bars.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Appreciating the Wisdom of Bird by Bird

Cover of "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions...
Cover via Amazon
One of my favorite books on writing is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. The title of the book refers to the concept of baby steps – doing a little bit at a time to reach the end goal. It’s a concept that truly works for me right now.

I am working on a new cookbook – and surely, I will be talking about that more over the next few months – but for now I want to talk about the process. Each day I am a recipe developer, recipe tester, writer, food photographer, food stylist, and prop stylist. It’s a lot of hats to wear.

And I have a deadline – a deadline that strikes me into a state of fear if I think about it too much, due to the sheer magnitude of the project. The trick is not to think and just to do. I know that if I make progress each day, I will complete the project. It’s a matter of baby steps, crossing off one bird at a time.

Do you have a favorite book of wisdom? Please share.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Gimbal's Back to School Sweepstakes

Gimbal's Find Candies is giving away a backpack full of candy, including Gourmet Jelly Beans, Cherry Lovers, Cinnamon Lovers, Sour Gourmet Jelly Beans, All Natural Licorice Scotties and Sour Lovers:

All Gimbal's candies are free of the top 8 food allergens!
The Back-to-School Sweepstakes runs through Sept. 30th, 2013, and is open to everyone. Enter the sweepstakes through Gimbal’s Facebook Page and you will automatically receive 10% off your next online purchase.

Monday, September 16, 2013

This One Haunts Me

It’s not the first time we’ve heard about a tragic loss due to food allergies. We all know that any number greater than zero is too many. Yet, this one feels different. It pops into my head randomly during the day and keeps me awake at night.

It’s not the story of a first-time anaphylactic reaction where epinephrine wasn’t available. It’s not the story of a teen gone rogue and rebelliously challenging her food restrictions. It’s not the story of an epi-pen left at home while on vacation. This is a story where – by all accounts – everything was done right.

Natalie Giorgi took one bite of something she had eaten many times before – something she thought was a safe treat. This time it contained peanuts. She spit it out and alerted her parents who then gave her an antihistamine. Twenty minutes later, when she experienced the first symptoms of anaphylaxis, her father – a physician – gave her a shot of epinephrine. Then another. And another. Three doses of epinephrine were not enough to stop cardiac arrest in this beautiful thirteen-year-old.

We teach our children to look both ways when never crossing the street, to never get into the car with a drunk driver, and to always carry an epi-pen. In this case, even three epi-pens were not enough.

Of course we can ask the tough questions: If she had received epinephrine sooner, would it have made a difference? If she had been rushed to the hospital would the result have been different?

We have been taught that epinephrine save lives. And surely, that is usually the case. But what happens when epinephrine simply doesn’t work? Is it possible that a body can build up a tolerance to the drug? Or, that some of our immune systems have adapted to the point of not responding to it? How do we change the ending to this story?

I remain haunted.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Weekend at the GFAF Expo in New Jersey

I am back from another wildly successful Gluten-Free & Allergen-Free Expo. This time I only had to travel a hop, skip, and a jump from my hometown to get there – and it was fabulous to have a special foods expo nearby!

I was grateful to be signing books alongside some fabulous authors, and grateful to San-J for sponsoring the author’s booth:

Children’s author Heather Spergel wrote a touching book titled Free to Be Gluten Free!
that is appropriate for children with all kinds of food restrictions and to help other children understand what it means to have celiac disease or food allergies.

While many of the products demo’ed at this event were the same as earlier conferences this year, there is one that truly stood out.

My pick of the show is Wink Frozen Desserts. These tasty frozen treats are a cross between ice cream and ice milk – non-dairy, of course. In fact, they are top-8 allergen-free, vegan, gluten-free, and fat-free. It’s hard to believe that they are just 25 calories per ½ cup and oh-my-gosh they are good!! Chocolate Peppermint is my favorite!

My favorite moment of the show was meet Molly Cavanaugh for the first time!

Molly is an editor at The Experiment Publishing. She helped edit Learning to Bake Allergen-Free and came up with the sub-title “A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts.” And she is just as fabulous in person as she is on the phone!

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Winner of the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker is...

Bells, whistles, drumroll...

Congratulations Lindsay!!

You are going to love this nifty little gadget:

You all had some very creative ideas for the sandwiches you would make. If you'd like to make them with the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker, it is available at Amazon, Target, Kroger, K-Mart, and Sears nationwide.

Thanks for entering!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Jessica’s All Natural Gluten-Free Granola

A package arrived from Jessica’s Natural Foods and my first thought was “yum!”

One of the best things about writing a food allergy blog – and occasionally doing product reviews – is that I sometimes get free samples to try. This was a case where I wasn’t aware of the product before Jessica contacted me, but I am delighted that she did!

Jessica’s granolas are all made with certified gluten-free oats, no GMO’s, no preservatives, and no artificial colors. I am very happy that she kept the sugar low – most contain 7 or 8 grams of sugar per serving, whereas many granolas have at least twice that much.

In terms of safety, I love the way the products are labeled. Each package is very clear about exactly what food allergens it contains, what else is processed on the same equipment, and what else is processed in the same facility. This is the kind of information that it sometimes takes hours of digging to find. Kudos to Jessica. That's the way product labels should be done!!

The label on the Cherry & Berry Granola that I tried states that it is manufactured in a dedicated gluten-free facility, it is made on shared equipment with products containing tree nuts and soy lecithin, and it’s produced in a facility that processes eggs and soy.

The Cherry & Berry contains coconut, which of course is not a nut, but many of the granolas do contain tree nuts. They are clearly not suitable for those with tree nut allergies, but the rest of can easily scan the product information and know whether it is safe for us.

The granola itself is delightful. It contains just the right amount of crunch, just the right amount of sweet, and just the right amount of goodness!

Jessica’s Granola is available at Whole Foods in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan, and ten other states, and at the Jessica's Naturals website.