Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bumbalooza Product Review & The Problem with “Dairy”

Late last year I received some gluten-free baking mixes from Bumbalooza to review. I asked if they were also soy-free, dairy-free, and egg-free – and the answer was yes – some mixes required these as add-ins, but the mixes did not contain any of those ingredients or nuts.

I (finally) tried one this week. I should mention that these mixes look like a lot of fun – with names like Cookies and Cream Cake Mix – and the boxes even have activities inside for the kids:

The way this particular mix was designed required you to beat the eggs into soft peaks, but I wasn’t deterred. I substituted flaxseed eggs for eggs, So Delicious coconut creamer for yogurt, and Earth Balance shortening for butter. Instead of milk I used more coconut creamer. And, instead of making the cupcakes in layers as suggested, I mixed all of the ingredients together. I even added some mini Enjoy Life chocolate chips, for good measure. I was rather proud of myself for creating a cupcake that did taste like cookies and cream:

And then I noticed this. Although the side of the box says “no dairy:”

The ingredients list contains “organic dried milk powder:”

I immediately shipped off a note to the vendor to get clarification, and have received no response. Nevertheless, I must assume that the mix itself (not just the add-ins) contain milk.

And there lies the problem with the use of the word dairy. The term is commonly used to refer to all products that come from cow’s milk – including butter, cream, yogurt, and milk. But there is no official guidance of the use of the word by the FDA. The FALCPA (Food Allergen Labeling Consumer Protection Act) requires that the term milk be used on product labels that contain milk or any product derived from cow’s milk. And when an allergist diagnoses a dairy allergy, the patient is generally told they are allergic to “milk.”

But the term milk is confusing in it’s own right. We use the term to refer to non-dairy products – soy milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, etc. – and not everyone (especially restaurant staff) is cognizant that “milk” includes more than what we drink or put on cereal.

Luckily, my son wasn’t home when I made these cupcakes – crisis averted. But this is a reminder that we must always read the detailed ingredients labels and we can never be too clear about the foods we need to avoid.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things

I don’t particularly like raindrops (on roses or elsewhere), but I do appreciate rainbows. I’ll sneeze like a maniac if I get close to a kitten’s whiskers and I will scratch like a madwoman if I wear woolen mittens (yes, I’m allergic to both). I can appreciate a bright copper kettle, but I much prefer tri-ply stainless steel.

I don’t share a fondness for the favorite things from the famous Sound of Music song by the same name, but I do have a few of my own favorite things, especially in my kitchen. As I am working on edits for The Allergy-Free Pantry, I am realizing that there are a handful of tools I turn to over and again.

These are a few of my favorite things:

A large baking sheet – this is by far the single most useful baking pan anyone can own. The half-sheet size (13 inches by 18 inches) fits nicely in most home kitchen ovens, and it’s the ideal pan for making cookies, crackers, rolls, granola, English muffins, and even doubles as a pizza pan. (Hint: all of those recipes and many more will be in the book!)

Parchment paper
– I honestly cannot live without parchment paper. I buy packages of 4 or 5 at a time so that I will never run out. Am I obsessed? Perhaps, but with good reasons. Parchment paper is a must in any allergen-free kitchen to help avoid contamination – it’s the simplest way to line my favorite large baking sheet. Parchment paper provides a non-stick surface for rolling out pie crusts, crackers, and flatbreads. It’s also ideal for wrapping just about any food – granola bars, ice cream sandwiches, chocolate chewy candies (again, all recipes will be in The Allergy-Free Pantry). I prefer the pre-cut flat half-sheets of parchment to the kind that comes in a roll – it’s just easier to work with.

A pastry roller or mini rolling pin
– I discovered the little red roller pictured here about six years ago and I can’t stop finding ways to use it. It’s especially helpful when you need to roll something small (such as tortillas) or you need to roll right up to the lip of a pan (such as pizza).

What are your favorite kitchen tools?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What I've Been Up To

You may have noticed that I've been quieter than usual lately. No, I haven't escaped to the tropics for the winter. And no, I haven't lost power either (knock on wood) despite the deluge of snow that has hit the Hudson Valley.

I have been very busy working on revisions for my upcoming book, The Allergy-Free Pantry, slated for release in September.

I have a love/hate relationship with this phase of the book process. Love, because it means we're getting close and soon I'll be seeing the book cover and interior design. And soon after that it will be available for pre-order. Hate, because revisions can be hard and my natural tendency to become obsessive kicks into over-drive. So, please forgive me for hiding a bit as I create the best possible book I can for you.

I'll be sure to share more info about the book very soon!

I am hoping to have copies in my hands in time for Kids with Allergies Strides for Safe Kids, the Gluten-Free and Allergen-Free EXPO in Secaucus, and the second annual FABlogCon!