Tuesday, May 26, 2015

More Chances to Hear (and See) Me Speak

No, I don't like to sit still. Yes, I'll be traveling more this year -- and even doing an event from the comfort of my own home.

On Tuesday, June 2nd, I will be the speaker for the next Kids with Food Allergies webinar. The topic is  "Beyond the Basics: Creating Pantry Solutions Without Milk, Eggs, Nuts, Wheat, and Soy." You can sign up here.

I'm thrilled to be traveling once again to the APFED EOS Connections event in Indianapolis on June 26-27th. On Saturday I'll be speaking on Learning to Shop and Cook Allergen-Free. I will also be signing books.

On Sunday, September 20th, I'll be at the Northern New Jersey Food Allergy Conference run by Lisa Giuriceo. I'll be speaking about crafting food-allergy-friendly recipes and signing books. The conference will run from 9am to 1pm at the Saddle Brook Marriott.

And, of course, I'll be at FABlogCon again this year. I will be speaking on a panel with Alisa Fleming and Chandice Probst on Pitching Your Ideas, signing books at the Wine and Sign Party, and catching up with all of my food allergy friends! This year FABlogCon moves to Denver on November 13-15th. Will you be there?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Maui Brand Sugars - Product Review

Yes, I use sugar when I bake. Not too much. But, I prefer real sugar to alternative sweeteners, and - in many cases - even to liquid sweeteners. In all cases, I choose minimally processed sugars (rather than the traditional, highly processed cane sugar).

Disclaimer: Maui Brand sent me samples of their sugar to review.

I have to admit, there's not a lot to say about the taste of sugar. Sugar tastes sweet. Sugar tastes like sugar. And I have proven time and again that crystal forms of sugar will perform equally when baking, including when creaming.

After assessing the Maui White natural cane sugar and the Maui Raws Turbinado sugar,) I had to ask myself - why choose one brand of sugar over another? There is nothing to say about taste or nutritional value when comparing sugar. I found these sugars to perform just like other natural cane sugars and turbinado sugars.

I think sugar companies have a tough challenge; they need to compete on value proposition. In this case, Maui sugars are playing up the fact that all of their sugar from the beautiful island of Maui. Does surrounding beauty make a better sugar? I'm skeptical. On the other hand, the sugar comes entirely from the United States. Compare that to Wholesome Sweeteners value proposition of supporting fair trade and sustainability, but sourcing sugar from around the world.

Another area for sugar companies to compete is with packaging. The smaller container size and the individual packets position this product to be ideal for use with coffee, tea, or other small add-in applications. They are less useful for baking and of course, the lion's share of what I use sugar for is baking.

That said, I do think this is a fine product. Would I seek it out if I have easier access to other natural cane sugar? Probably not. What about you?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Amrita Energy Bar Product Review

I've been receiving a lot of new products lately and that's always fun, but the downside is that sometimes it takes me a while to get them to do a proper review. I received a complimentary sample of Amrita Energy Bars a couple of months ago, and after trying them I'm wondering why I waited so long.

The closest thing I can compare them to are Larabar energy bars. Of course, Larabar's are based on nuts, whereas Amrita bars are based on seeds. The ingredients of the Amrita are simple -- primarily seeds and fruits. Date paste is the first ingredient and the remaining fruits vary based on the flavor, as do the seeds. They are top-8 allergen-free with do contain sesame. They also carry a warning for coconut (which you all know by now isn't really a tree nut).

Updated 10/01/2015: According to a company representative, the bars are made in a facility that makes foods with nuts and gluten. Therefore, these may not be appropriate for those with nut, wheat, and gluten allergies.

With flavors like cranberry raisin, apple cinnamon, apricot strawberry, and chocolate maca, there is a flavor for every palate. Pictured above is apricot strawberry. These bars are simple, taste great, easy to share, and travel well. I now have a new bar to throw in my bar for "whenever."

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Aquafaba Goodness! Meringues and Mayonnaise

My favorite recipes are the ones with totally new ideas that require invention, that require science. A few weeks ago I went totally nuts when I read this blog post on the Kids with Food Allergies website about egg-free meringues made from bean brine. I had just come from a speaking engagement where I told the audience that none of the egg replacers I was discussing (flaxseeds, applesauce, chemical egg replacers) could be used to make meringue. Could it be possible that making meringues from bean brine actually works?

The answer is a resounding yes!!

And it’s easier than you might expect (it worked on the first try).

Amazing meringues made with bean brine. They melt in your mouth!My version of the recipe is a bit different than in the Kids with Food Allergies post. But first, what exactly is bean brine? It’s the liquid in a can that the beans have been soaking in. I discovered that in the vegan world this is commonly referred to as “aquafaba.” Lousy word, but maybe it will grow on me.

Here’s my version of aquafaba meringues:

Aquafaba Meringues

½ cup of aquafaba (the liquid from a can of beans)
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Use the whisk attachment on your mixer. Beat the aquafaba on high, for about 5 minutes, until it is foamy. Add the cream of tartar, vanilla, and sugar. Beat on the highest speed for 10-12 minutes until the mixture is thick and holds its shape. (The peaks will not stiffen as much as they do with egg meringue – think of them as soft peaks.)

Whipped aquafaba looks and behaves nearly like whipped egg whites, but they are egg-free and vegan!
Drop spoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 225 for 1 hour and 20 minutes (until the bottoms are light golden) and then turn off the oven. Let the meringues sit in the oven for another 40 minutes.

Aquafaba meringues are lighter and fluffier than traditional meringues. They melt in your mouth like cotton candy.

Melt in your mouth meringues made from aquafaba. Oh, so good!

After making meringues I wondered… what else might I use aquafaba for? Could aquafaba be the next new egg replacer? And I immediately thought of mayonnaise. When I developed Flaxseed Mayonnaise for The Allergy-Free Pantry, I tried many foods as the base, but I hadn’t yet discovered aquafaba. I opened a can of garbanzo beans just so I could have the liquid to try aquafaba mayonnaise. (We’re probably having beans for dinner tonight.)

I know you are dying to know, so I will spill the beans (pun intended) and tell that it does work. What could be cooler than flaxseed mayonnaise? It just might be aquafaba mayonnaise.

What else can you do with aquafaba? Make mayonnaise, of course! Smooth and creamy to top off your egg-free or vegan sandwiches.The method to make aquafaba mayonnaise is exactly the same as with flaxseed mayonnaise, but considerably more oil is needed when using aquafaba – about two times as with flaxseed mayonnaise. (In flaxseed mayonnaise I used two flaxseed eggs to ¾ cup oil – here I am using the equivalent of one “aquafaba egg.” And aquafaba seems to have a citrusy flavor as is – hence just a little bit of acid is needed.

Aquafaba Mayonnaise

¼ cup aquafaba (the liquid from a can of garbanzo beans)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon mustard
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
¾ cup oil

Combine the aquafaba, salt, mustard, and lemon juice in a working glass with an immersion blender. Add the oil in a slow trickle while continuing to run the immersion blender until all of the oil is incorporated.

Mayonnaise made from bean brine. Yes, really! It's egg-free and vegan!

This mayonnaise is a bit more akin to a milk mayonnaise than it is to flaxseed or traditional egg mayonnaise – it has a smoother, lighter, almost frothy consistency. I expect it will work quite well in salad dressings (wheels turning).

And of course, this gives those who are allergic to flaxseeds an alternative!!

I’m never throwing away the juice from the bean cans again.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Perfect Gifts for Food Allergy Moms

Are you searching for the perfect gift for a special someone on Mother’s Day? Mother’s Day this year falls on May 10th, coincidentally the beginning of Food Allergy Awareness week. What could be more appropriate to gift on that day than something to help your favorite mom, grandmother, or spouse manage food allergies?

My top picks include books and essential tools:

1. The Allergy-Free Pantry:
Readers love my second book for its practical suggestions to make staples in the safety of your own kitchen.

2. Allergy-Free and Easy Cooking:
If it’s recipes for meals that you need, Cybele Pascal’s book is unsurpassed for those with multiple food allergies.

3. Learning to Bake Allergen-Free:
If you’re looking for a baking book that teaches you how to bake without wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, or nuts, this is a great cookbook for your collection.

4. Feeding Eden:
This memoir by Susan Weissman continues to be one of my all-time favorite books. Perfect for moms with a newly diagnosed child

5. Primo digital scale:
I can't stress enough how important it is to weigh flours when you are baking wheat-free and gluten-free. This is the scale I rely on daily. And now they come in pretty colors, too!

6. Cuisinart Spice and Nut Grinder:
This is the only item on this list over $25, but it’s a tool I use nearly every day for grinding flaxseeds to make flaxseed eggs and flaxseed mayonnaise. Make sure you use it only with allergen-free foods (this is the type of tool that can easily get contaminated).

7. Teal Kitchenaid Cookie Scoop:
A tablespoon size cookie scoop is perfect for forming allergen-free cookies. This one comes in teal – the food allergy awareness color. Love it!! Add it to one of the cookbooks above, put a teal ribbon around the package, and you’re all set!

Disclaimer: The links above are affiliate links. If you choose to buy via one of these links I will get a few pennies back.