Monday, July 29, 2013

Enjoy Life Strikes Again – Decadent Soft-Baked Bars

Enjoy Life offered to send me some of these fabulous bars to try, and I enthusiastically said yes knowing that the audience here loves the top-8 allergen-free and gluten-free products that Enjoy Life makes.

The new bars are described as decadent, and here’s why: The bars each contain between 9 and 12 grams of sugar (depending on the flavor) and the first ingredient in each is tapioca syrup. Granted, tapioca syrup is considered to be a healthy sweetener (and I’ll take it any day over corn syrup, high-fructose or not), but it is still sugar.

These just might be the most creative product I have seen yet from Enjoy Life. The flavors include Chocolate Sunbutter (mimicking a chocolate peanut butter cup flavor), Cherry Cobbler (the sweetest of the bunch), Cinnamon Bun (while not a bun, reminiscent of those sticky bun treats), and Smore’s (mimicking the graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallow treats we used to enjoy). Here’s a peek at the Smore’s bar:

With their frosted toppings these are definitely not the choice for a healthy snack or a replacement for a breakfast bar, but they do make a great treat!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Allergy Eats Presents the Second Annual Food Allergy Conference for Restaurateurs

The city of Boston always puts a smile on my face. Having grown up on Cape Cod and graduated from Boston College, Boston makes me feel nostalgic. There are some cities where you visit after many years and find that so much has changed it no longer strikes the same cord. Boston, on the other hand, just keeps getting better.

My top reason for visiting Boston these days is because my son lives there. The second reason I love to visit Boston is the food. I know that I can always eat safely when I’m in Boston; this is due in large part to the food allergy legislation in place in Massachusetts.

In seems quite fitting then that the Second Annual Food Allergy Conference for Restaurateurs, hosted by Paul Antico of Allergy Eats, will be held in Boston. On November 5th, chefs, restaurant owners and managers, and food service workers will have the opportunity to here from industry experts, advocates, and physicians.

This is clearly where everyone in the food service industry should be on November 5th. Visit the Allergy Eats website for more information and registration.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Udi’s Gluten Free New Soft Baked Cookies

I must warn you that these cookies are gluten-free, but they are definitely not nut-free or even top-8 allergen free (see details below).

Udi’s Gluten Free sent along some cookies for me to try after I requested some hamburger and hot dog rolls – a nice surprise treat!

These soft-baked cookies come in three flavors – Maple Pecan Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Coconut, and Salted Caramel Cashew. Can you guess which I tried first? Of course, the ones with chocolate chips.

As expected the cookies are soft, and also larger than the typical food allergy cookie. Each box contains ten cookies that measure a healthy 2 inches in diameter.

If you’re not a make-your-own cookie kind of person, and if you are not concerned about allergens other than wheat, these could be a good choice.

Here’s the scoop on allergens:

Maple Pecan Chocolate Chip: Contains egg, pecans; may contain peanuts, milk, soy, and other tree nuts

Peanut Butter Coconut: Contains egg, peanuts, coconut; may contain milk, soy, and tree nuts

Salted Caramel Cashew: Contains cashews, egg, almonds; may contain peanuts, milk, soy, and other tree nuts.

Pictured below is the Maple Pecan Chocolate Chip:

I will admit that I am not a big fan of nuts in my chocolate chip cookies (why mess with perfection?) but I will also admit that I wasn’t able to eat just one.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Back From the APFED Conference

EOS Connections 2013 in Philadelphia was a great success. I’ve actually been back for a couple of weeks, but I’d like to share some of what I learned. Keep in mind that what I am about to share is not a scientific study, but anecdotal from my observations and discussions with patients.

There are many more adults being diagnosed with eosinophilic disorders than ever before. While the conference is designed for families, I spoke to a surprising number of adult patients.

I was not at all surprised to find families with lists of food restrictions similar to my son’s (wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts) or with a few other items added to the list. I was also not surprised to hear from parents whose children had just a handful of food they can eat. I was surprised at how many patients had anywhere from three to fifteen foods they could eat. I quickly stopped asking what foods they were allergic to when they approached my table, and started asking what foods they were allowed to eat.

The set of patients avoiding a short set of foods (I never thought I’d say that allergies to five or six foods was a short set) seemed to correlate with the group that had noticeable symptoms. The patients avoiding very long lists of foods often were unable to detect whether they were having a reaction; the only way they were able to know there was inflammation was from an endoscopy. In some cases the long list of foods to avoid was due to elimination (of just about everything) and then adding back in one food at a time. It’s not surprising then that it takes so long to add foods back in if the only symptom is detectable via endoscopy.

The question I was most often asked was about flour blends. A large number of people had allergies to rice, corn, and even tapioca, taking off-the-shelf blends off the table. In most cases I was able to offer a solution. It takes at least one grain/bean/flour and one starch to make a blend. If there’s another grain or another starch to add, even better.

It struck me that parents of EGID kids (and the patients themselves) are extremely resilient. They are top-notch problem solvers and very flexible and I had the pleasure of meeting dozens of them during the conference.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Udi’s Gluten Free Buns for the Barbeque and a Grilled Broccoli Recipe

Outdoor grilling is not just the holidays. I like to use my grill all summer and into the fall. Luckily, the folks at Udi’s Gluten Free sent me some hot dog and hamburger buns to try. While I’ve been a fan of Udi’s bread for some time, I haven’t been able to find the buns in my local stores.

Right up front I will tell you that both the bread and the rolls are wheat, dairy, soy, and nut-free, but they do contain eggs. As a side note, eggs in off-the-shelf baked goods is a pet peeve of mine; every time I see Udi’s at an event I ask them when they are going to make a bread without eggs. Nevertheless, I am able to have eggs so these buns are my own personal stash.

I was most surprised to see that the ingredients list for the products is not the same; I tend to think of hamburger rolls and hot dog rolls as the same product in a different form. In Udi’s version, the hamburger buns contain more potato flour, and the hot dog buns contain resistant corn starch. This makes the hot dog buns lighter, while the hamburger buns are designed for soaking up juices.

The hot dog buns come six to a package, whereas there are four hamburger buns in a package. Like most gluten-free breads, these are best toasted. They have a reasonable amount of substance to them; look how tall the hamburger bun is:

I made hamburgers with farm veggies and grilled broccoli. The broccoli is super simple to make while the burgers are cooking.

Grilled Lemon-Pepper Broccoli

1 large or 2 small heads of broccoli, cut into large pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon black pepper (medium grind)

Brush or spray the olive oil onto the broccoli stalks. Brush the lemon juice onto the stalks. Sprinkle with pepper. Grill over low heat, turning once, until the stalks are bright green. They should be served crispy.

What are you grilling this summer?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Duo of Vegan Cookbooks that Food Allergy Parents Will Love

I recently had the pleasure of signing books alongside Nava Atlas at an event in Poughkeepsie called the Breakfast of Champions. If you recognize her name it’s because she is a best-selling vegan cookbook author. She has written a dozen or so books (including a couple that aren’t cookbooks).

So why is a food allergy mom writing about vegan cookbooks? It’s not just because Nava is awesome and her books are fabulous, but because quite a large number of the recipes in these books work marvelously for those with food allergies. There is no need to be vegan to appreciate the recipes Nava creates and the information she shares.

Wild About Greens was the first of Nava’s books that I purchased when it was released last summer. Having just joined a CSA a couple of years prior, and still having no idea what to do with some of the veggies I was bringing home, I found this to be a resoundingly helpful book.

I recently re-read the book, cover to cover. That is saying quite a lot, as I almost never do that. What I love most about Nava’s style is that she explains things clearly; she doesn’t assume I already know how to grill bok choy – she gives specific direction on how to.

In re-reading Wild About Greens, I realized that Nava’s mission with vegan food is very similar to mine with allergen-free and gluten-free food. We both aim to empower readers and give them the tools they need to be successful.

While at the Breakfast of Champions Nava and I traded books; I gave her a copy of Learning to Bake Allergen-Free in exchange for a copy of Vegan Holiday Kitchen. I couldn’t wait to get home and dig into it. Once again, I read cover to cover because there is so much useful information in this text.

While Vegan Holiday Kitchen contains a few more recipes that call for nuts or soy ingredients, most of these are highly adaptable. And don’t let the word “holiday” steer you to thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas; there are recipes for Jewish holidays and just about any special occasion. There are even recipes for the Fourth of July!

Of course, there’s no need to prepare these recipes just for holidays. As I transform my family’s dinners to be more plant-based I plan to rely on this text quite a bit.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Glutino Has a New Look!

I’ll be honest. I’m not always thrilled about packaging makeovers, especially when it comes to gluten-free and allergen-free products. There’s something comforting about the package that looks the same as the one we’ve been relying on for years. But I do like Glutino’s makeover:

I have noticed at my local health food store that some products still have the old packaging and there are some already on store shelves with the new look. But no worries, the product formulas haven’t changed; they are still the same trusted gluten-free ingredients.

Glutino sent me a box full of samples to try, including a new product – toaster pastries.

I must tell you that while all of these products are gluten-free, the cookies contain milk, eggs, soybean oil, and soy lecithin. The toaster pastries contain eggs. The crackers contain eggs and may contain milk. While definitely suitable for those who need to avoid gluten and suitable for some with food allergies, others should proceed with caution.

My favorite of the bunch are the pretzel chips. They are the most suitable for those with multiple food allergies; they contain soy lecithin (but no soy protein). I love that they are called chips because they are thin and crunchy like a chip. And they’ve been reformulated to reduce the fat while keeping 3 grams of fiber per serving.

Be careful, they are addictive. I filled up this bowl to take a picture, tried a few, then tried a few more. Before I knew it the bowl was empty.

Glutino sent some gluten-free fact cards along with the goodies. My favorite fact? Glutino’s products are currently produced with less than 10 parts per million of gluten – the industry standard is 20 parts per million. Kudos to Glutino!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Cake Decorating Lessons with the Cake Boss

It’s not every day you get to visit a famous bakery and decorate cake with the Cake Boss. I consider myself a very lucky girl. Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Carlos’ Bakery (of Cake Boss fame), previewing the new Cake Boss baking products and decorating line, and getting a lesson in decorating a cake with one of Buddy Valastro’s instructors.

Yes, it was fun! And yes, you can be jealous.

You might be wondering how one get’s invited to an event like this one. I met Julia from Meyer Corporation at a recent conference, told her I was a baker, she asked where I lived and whether I’d be interested in attending this event. And of course the answer was a resounding yes!

And so I got up early and got stuck in New Jersey traffic. Despite giving myself an extra hour to get there I was late, but I didn’t miss any of the good stuff, starting with a preview of Buddy’s Cake Boss products.

The product line includes all kinds of baking pans, bowls, measuring cups, and utensils – just about anything you need to make a cake of any shape or size – as well as a series of cake decorating tools. Here are a few of my favorites:

The cake pans are all very sturdy and well constructed. These star pans would make great muffins!

I love these melamine bowls, measuring cups, and spoons.

Here Buddy is showing us how the baking sheet has marks where the cookies or pastries should be placed, as his son watches.

Love that pastry stand! And there are dessert plates, serving pieces, and so much more!

In the middle of the discussion Buddy’s mom interrupted us:

She was there to remind Buddy of an engagement at the church the following day. Buddy didn’t miss a beat.

The products will be available at Michael’s in September, and then working their way into other stores throughout the year.

One really unique product is the cake decorating kits. They contain all the tools you need to decorate a themed cake. And they come with instructions on exactly what to do. Love it!

We used some of the items from the flower cake kit in our class.

Gabriella gave us a very detailed lesson. I appreciate that she focused on details such as the right way to hold a pastry bag and how to stretch fondant:

Here’s my cake:

Not bad… but here’s a classmate putting the finishing touches on her cake:

Clearly, I need practice.

Here’s a peek at what I got to bring home:

I'm really loving that tiny rolling tool. While we used it in class to cut ribbons, it's also perfect to score crackers!