Monday, December 28, 2009

Mashed Potato Soup

This post is not so much a recipe as a suggestion. This is the time of year for creamy, wonderful mashed potatoes, made the allergy free way your family likes them.

Know what? You can freeze what you don't eat. Put them in a baggie, squeeze the air out, press them flat, pop them in your freezer. Instant side dish for any dinner in a hurry.

They also make a wonderful base for soup. Fresh or frozen, soup from leftover mashed potatoes is wonderful. I'd share my recipe, but I can't seem to find it. Drat! Add some grated carrots, some onion and celery, some broth of your can wing or just google it. There are tons of good recipes out there, and soup is pretty darn forgiving with substitutions.

Warm and hearty, mashed potato soup can be vegan, dairy free, soy free, gluten free, nut free, allergen free and very filling. Give it a whirl.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Squash Sauce

This recipe has quickly become my go-to dinner on crazy or lazy nights when I need to get dinner served quickly with minimum effort. I can get this on the table in 20 minutes, start to serve. And everyone in the family loves it. Everyone. How often does that happen? (Although, I have found that if you serve it as a 'build your own' event, the kids love it more. They will eat three servings if they get to pile on the pasta, add turkey, and douse it in sauce all by themselves.)

This recipe is dairy, egg, nut, and soy free. With care it can be vegan and gluten free. Serve over your favorite pasta, or for added protein serve over quinoa. Feel free to brown some ground turkey, sausage, or beef and toss it in if you like. Make it yours, you'll be glad you did.

Squash Sauce

1 bag frozen butternut squash (or about 2 cups cubed butternut squash)
1/2 c vegetable broth
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp sage
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2-1 c additional broth or milk of choice

Put squash in small sauce pan, add veggie broth, cover and simmer about 10 minutes or until very tender. (This will take a bit longer if using fresh squash.) Meanwhile, heat olive oil in small skillet. Add onion and saute until translucent and golden brown, about 5-7 minutes, add garlic and cook until the fragrance changes from pungent to slightly sweet, about 2-3 minutes. Add this to the squash pan. Use a few spoonfuls of the liquid from the squash to deglaze the onion pan and add this extra flavor back into the squash. Add seasonings and puree until smooth, adding additional broth or milk to achieve the consistency you like. I like to add coconut milk (surprise!) to make this a bit creamier, but you can use any liquid that you have on hand. Pour over pasta and enjoy!

*Cook's Note: Sometimes to change up the nutritional content, I add a handful of frozen carrots or frozen cubed sweet potato to the frozen squash and cook it all together. As long as it is orange in color the kids don't notice. I've even been known to add a handful of white beans to give it a little protein bump.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sunbutter Dreams Pie

Do you remember peanut butter pie from your childhood? The kind made with peanut butter, cream cheese and whipped cream? Often with a layer of chocolate? Oh man. Yum. Ok, not that I EVER had that as a child. I didn't discover it until college, when all of the really sinful foods are discovered.

I was dreaming of a slice of said pie when I thought to myself: "Why not remake this to be allergy friendly?" Because around here, no one eats nuts. I googled it, and looked through a few recipes to get an idea of what the basic concepts were. Then I dove right in.

The following is an example of my cooking on the fly style lately. I rarely follow a recipe, seldom measure, and don't focus on accuracy when I do. This time, though, I really tried. Really. I didn't eyeball much.

The end result was FANTABULOUS! Says me. And my husband. Haven't taken it for a test drive with the kids yet, but I think it'll be a hit. This just in: all three kids love it.

Try it out. But only if you have a few pounds to spare, because you're not going to want to put this back if the pie plate isn't empty yet. Despite it being super rich. And bear with me on the directions, there are a lot.

Sunbutter Dreams Pie

Whipped cream:
  • 1 can coconut milk (NOT light)
  • 1/3 c powdered sugar
  • 1 single serve packet Vance's DariFree (or other powdered milk substitute- this is optional but does help a bit with the texture)
  • 2 tbsp Spectrum shortening
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 c Sunbutter Creamy (the kind with a red lid- it has a thicker texture than the yellow lid kind)
  • 1 c powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk
  • 1 2/3 graham cracker crumbs (or cheerios, or chex, whatever you can do)
  • 1/4 c sugar (maybe a touch more if using unsweetened cereal- or use a bit of brown sugar too)
  • 1/4 c earth's balance soy free margarine

Step one: Make the coconut whipped cream. This is easy, but requires a little advance preparation. Put your can of coconut milk in the back of the fridge and leave it there for a few days. This gives it time to really separate and the cream to really thicken, making it easier to spoon just the cream out of the can. I originally thought: cold is cold. How much can it really matter after 24 hours? It matters. Twice I have tried this with just over 24 hours of refrigeration, and while the coconut milk has separated, the cream at the top is not thick enough to spoon out as easily as I like, with no extra liquid. Keeping the can in the fridge for a few days really allows the cream to get thick, almost like shortening, and the liquid under it will be almost clear and very thin. Very easy to spoon out the part that whips easily into soft peaks of heavenly yumminess. Yes, it will still work if the can is only in overnight. I just like it to be super easy. (Oh! And really, put it in the back of the fridge. Putting it in the door allows for frequent shaking, which keeps it from separating fully.) Also, I pop a glass bowl and my beaters into the freezer for 20-60 minutes before I whip the cream, to get a really good chill on them. Coconut whipped cream will last 2-3 days in the fridge, so you can whip it up in advance if you want. It is super easy once the coconut milk is chilled, so I wait until I need it. Less likely for some to 'evaporate' in the fridge overnight that way. LOL. That was the long, scary part of the directions, the rest is smooth sailing. You can do this!

Open the can of coconut milk. (DO NOT SHAKE!!) Take bowl out of freezer and spoon the thick layer of cream from the top of the can into your chilled bowl. Be careful to avoid getting the thin liquid from the bottom of the can, as it will make your cream too soft to whip well. Now whip on high speed with chilled beaters 1-2 minutes, until it starts to get fluffy. Add 1/3 cup powdered sugar and one packet DariFree and whip another 1-2 minutes on high, until soft peaks form. Put back in fridge. Done! Don't taste it. You won't want to stop.

Step two: Prepare the crust. Pour 1 2/3 cups graham cracker or cereal crumbs into pie plate. Add 1/4 c sugar and stir to combine well. Melt 1/4 c margarine and drizzle over crumbs. Mix to combine well. Press mixture evenly across bottom of pie plate, and up the sides as far as you like. Set aside. (Chill if you would like. You can do this in advance too, if you want.)

Step three: Prepare the filling. This is the part where I really just guessed, so there is no science behind why I did it this way. It worked, though, so I'm not gonna question it.

Melt 2 tbsp shortening and 1 tsp coconut oil in microwave or small saucepan. Stir in 3 tbsp brown sugar. Heat and stir until smoothish. Allow to cool 10 minutes. (Really, I stuck it in the fridge for about 5 minutes.) Pour into mixing bowl and add 1 cup sunbutter. Mix well. Add powdered sugar, 1/3 c at a time, beating well after each addition. Mixture should be very thick. Drizzle 1-2 tbsp of the leftover coconut milk in with the last 1/3 c powdered sugar to increase creaminess. (And keep my poor little hand mixer from catching fire.) Mixture should be very thick now. It would roll into balls very nicely for dipping in chocolate to make home made buckeyes. But I digress. Now, add that lovely chilled coconut whipped cream. Mix about 1 minute, until smooth and creamy. Pour into graham crust and chill for 1-2 hours until serving. Keeps well overnight. Can't vouch for how long it holds up after that because it was gone!

That was A LOT of explaining, but it really goes together very easily. And it would be sooo good with a little chocolate shaved or drizzled on top. If the allergic kiddo could do chocolate. You can serve this to anyone, even without allergies, with no apologies or explanations. It is that good.

If careful, the above recipe can be dairy free, soy free, egg free, nut free, wheat free, gluten free, calorie free heaven. Ok, maybe not calorie free. But SO worth every one of them.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

2 Bean Burrito

What family doesn't need a super quick, super simple meal on standby for chaotic nights? Especially during the holiday season when it seems that everything seems to be moving faster! This is one of my favorite quick fix dinners, because it can be made with things that are usually in the pantry and be on the table in 30 minutes or less. And, it is easily adaptable to the spices on hand. I have even done it with no spices and it comes out fine. Not that I ever wing it with a recipe. Never.

2 Bean Burritos

1 can organic pinto or red beans, drained and rinsed
1 can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 c vegetable broth
1 tsp Garlic Garlic seasoning (from Tastefully Simple), or garlic powder to taste
2 tsp Sweet Bell Pepper dip mix (also from Tastefully Simple), or random seasoning of choice
1 c fresh baby spinach
6 tortillas of choice

Put beans, broth, and seasonings in medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in spinach, return to heat if needed, just to wilt the spinach. (Your bean mixture should be very thick. If it is not, simmer uncovered until it thickens.) Warm the tortillas slightly so that they are more pliable. Spoon 1/6 of the filling into each tortilla, fold up ends and then fold in sides to create a nice burrito. Put seam side down on pre-heated non-stick pan (no oil needed, just the warm naked skillet) and toast until golden brown and crispy. Turn and brown on other side. Serve warm.

Add a fruit and veggie of choice, viola! Dinner. Warm, quick, and easy. Gotta love that.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Avocado Muffins

Once upon a time I found a recipe for gluten free chocolate avocado cupcakes. They were good. Chocolate is like a secret weapon though, it hides a multitude of misflavors. Unless you are serving a little girl who a) has never liked chocolate and b) recently tested allergic to it. Which may explain why she doesn't like it. Hmph.

The problem? I got the idea of using an avocado to make muffins stuck in my head. Only there would be no chocolate to disguise it. What flavor would be dominant enough to mask the avocado without being overwhelming for little people? Oh- and it wouldn't hurt to lose the green tint as well.

I looked online and found a few recipes that sounded promising, but nothing quite right. So I used the online versions as inspiration and added my own little something to create a muffin that is moist, fluffy, and perfectly balanced in flavor. Says me. It has just a hint of sweet whispering to you, but is savory enough to stand in as a dinner roll. A shy peek of orange flavor appears just as you finish chewing the first bite and then softly disappears. I am loving the way the flavors harmonize without any of them stealing the stage.

You could absolutely add a bit of sugar if you like a sweet breakfast type muffin. Or add a teaspoon of orange zest to enhance the orange flavor. Give in to standard American spicing and add a teaspoon of cinnamon, or shake it up with a splash of ginger. Whatever, as do all of my recipes, this has some wiggle room. Feel free to personalize it.

I'll share what I did, because it was good. Two out of three children inhaled them without hesitation. The third? Unless sugar is one of the first three ingredients, she would rather not partake. Maybe I could drizzle a little warm honey glaze over it for her. Hmm...

Avocado Muffins

1 avocado, peeled and seed removed
1/3 c pumpkin puree (I had a little left. Feel free to use banana or applesauce.)
1/2 c coconut milk
1/4 c hemp milk (feel free to use 3/4 c dairy product of choice- I like to shake up the nutrition)
1/3 c coconut oil (or shortening or margarine of choice)
1 tsp vanilla (as required for any baked goods recipe)
3 Tbsp maple syrup
8 Tbsp golden flax meal + 2/3 c orange juice with calcium, combined and set aside
2 c flour (I used the real thing, feel free to use gf blend of choice, add 1 tsp xanthan)
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp hemp protein powder (I've been hiding it everywhere lately)
1/4 c sugar

Puree avocado, pumpkin, coconut and hemp milks, coconut oil, vanilla and maple syrup in blender until uniformly smooth. Whisk or use mixer to beat orange juice/flax mixture briefly. (I have found that flax seems to change texture when you mix with a mixer rather than by hand. In a very good way. Just a personal observation.) Add in avocado puree and mix until well combined. In separate bowl whisk together remaining ingredients. Add to wet ingredients and stir until combined. Spoon into prepared muffin tins and bake at 350 for 25-28 minutes. Makes 18 regular sized muffin, or 12 muffins and one mini loaf.

Oh! And one final thought: I did run the nutrition analysis on this. 'Cuz I do that alot. If you would be interested in seeing nutrition information appear for this, or future recipes, let me know. Maybe I'll start adding it in.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Quest for Nutrition Software

Dear Really Smart Programmers,

I have a suggestion. And it could make you a gazillion dollars. Ready? Design a software package that works on Mac, and Windows if you must, that makes nutritional analysis easy. That is an oversimplified request, from the hearts of many mothers trying to feed our kids well balanced diets. I have a list of demands. Um...requests.

Here goes:
  • There must be a very large database of foods built in, including complete nutritional info for each, with updates quarterly to add new foods that have hit the market
  • Users should be able to create recipes and analyze the nutritional content of each
  • Users should be able to add foods that are not already in the database
  • Users should be able to build a meal from any combination of single ingredients and recipes stored in the program, and analyze the nutritional quality of the meal
  • There should be capability to track multiple meals, and analyze nutritional value of that set time period
  • Information presented should go beyond the useless, er- basic, labeling required by the current labeling laws to include a comprehensive vitamin, mineral, and amino acids list
  • Users should be able to import recipes from outside sources and analyze nutritional value
  • Menu planning and meal tracking should be present as separate features to allow for actual consumption and upcoming meal plans
  • Users should be able to generate grocery lists from the menu planning section
  • Visual representation in the form of tables and graphs should show nutritional balance so users can see at a glance the strong and weak areas of the food in question
  • Daily nutritional tracking should show which RDA requirements have been met
  • User interface should be uncluttered and easy to understand

I know that there are more things we would like. But this should get you started. I'd be happy to take it for a test drive and give you feedback on how to improve it. Thanks so much.

Yours truly,
Allergy Mama

If any of my fellow food allergy menu planning readers have added suggestions, you should take those into account also, because they're pretty much your target market. XOXOX

Friday, November 6, 2009

Pomegranate Muffins

Oh my! I've really done it this time. I am sharing this recipe with you now so that there can be proof these tasty little gems existed when I get up in the morning. Because, truthfully, I don't know if I'll be able to stop eating them. Crunchy crusty muffin tops resting on teasingly tender muffin bodies with the perfect proportion of sweetness. Mmm.

It started with a handy little muffin recipe that is a snap to throw together, which my family inhales. Every singe one of them loves the recipe. While it is incredibly tasty and easy, it has almost no nutritional value.

In my house, every bite counts. Gotta make every bite carry as much punch as possible. So, this is a twist on the original recipe, intended to power it up without losing any flavor appeal.

Pomegranate Muffins

1 c flour
1/4 c golden flax meal
1/4 c old fashioned oats
1/3 c white sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
1 t sea salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp hemp protein powder
One pomegranate
1/4 c orange juice
1/4 c safflower oil

Crush/crumble oats with your fingers and add to large bowl. Add remaining dry ingredients and whisk together. Remove seeds from pomegranate carefully, place in quart size ziplock baggie, and roll over with a rolling pin or squeeze to release juice from most of the seeds. Add entire contents- juice and seeds- to dry mixture. Add oil as well, and stir. Mixture will be stiff and somewhat dry. Add orange juice a tablespoon at a time until batter is proper consistency. Depending on how juicy your pomegranate was, you may not need the full amount of orange juice, or you may need a bit more. You can judge this, you know what a muffin batter should look like. Stir just until uniformly moist. Spoon into muffin cups and bake at 400 for 25 minutes.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Simple Birthday Cake

For those of you who can do gluten, this is a super simple, quick to whip up cake that even non-allergic people enjoy. It's really a non-recipe kind of recipe. Ready?

Simple Birthday Cake

1 box safe cake mix
1 can soda pop or carbonated beverage of choice

Preheat oven. This is important, because the cake goes together super fast, and needs to go straight into the oven. Pour dry cake mix into a large bowl. Pour soda on top. Mix until blended. Pour into well greased pan and bake according to instructions on box. That's it.

This does make a very soft cake, which does not hold up quite well enough to make it a layer cake, and it will stick a little to your cupcake wrapper. But it is yummy, and easy, and the kids don't mind licking the wrapper to get every last bite.

We have had great flavor with Fanta orange soda, 7-up and Sprite. Coke was ok, and Dr. Pepper was kinda strange. Be bold. Try any flavor. It might surprise you.

I'm working on a slightly improved version of this simple cake, and I'll let you know when I have it down. So far the preliminary trial looks AMAZING. I hope to share soon.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Flavor of Fall- in a mug

I am striving to find a warm drink that my daughter can wake up with each day. Since she was about 18 months old she has started every day with a warm glass of chocolate soymilk. Or vanilla. Or cinnamon rice milk. Warm and creamy is the theme. However, hemp and coconut milks do not suit her palate, which are the two milks currently at use in our house.

So. She has been starting the day with herbal tea. It doesn't quite fit the bill. She drinks some of it, but has yet to slurp it down the way she did with her milk. I would also like something that has a bit more nutritional value. And so far, warm juice has not gone over well.

Today it hit me. She loves pumpkin pie. How about a pumpkin latte- minus the coffee part. Thus, a warm comforting mug of fall flavor is born. Pumpkin pie in a cup. Does it get any better?

It does. Not only does she like it, it is packed with healthy things that make Mommy feel much better about how she starts her day.

Pumpkin Latte

1/3 c canned pumpkin puree
2/3 c hemp milk
1/3 c coconut milk
3 Tbsp organic sugar, or to taste
Dash of pumpkin pie spice or pie seasonings, to taste: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and ground cloves

Mix all in small saucepan and heat through. Serve warm. Leftover can be put in the fridge and microwaved the next day. Yummy! It really is like pumpkin pie in a mug. And all amounts can be varied to suit the taste buds of your little people. Perfect. I love a recipe with wiggle room.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Chemistry of Baking

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a certain chemistry in baking. A sublime glow that comes from baking a scrumptiously fluffy morsel with a delicate crumb that everyone in your family raves about. A magical satisfaction that is brought about from being able to craft a treat that is so similar to those being enjoyed in typical American households across the country that no one would suspect yours is substantially different. It is much like a romance, that chemistry. A bit of nurturing and love produces memorable results. Neglect and lack of effort produce sorry little bricks that even the dog won't bite.

That hangup that your seventh grade home economics teacher instilled deep within your soul, the one that tells you not only must your measurements be precise, but the stars must also align just so in order to get a tasty end result? It's bunk. Complete and total.

I remember that class. And the teacher. And the disapproving stare I got because I didn't want to scoop that last stubborn slimy bit of egg out of the eggshell with my finger. My teacher was insistent that my results would be substandard because of the missing 1/4 teaspoon of egg. Obviously if I could not measure with precision I would never be a competent baker.

Bah! I'm here to tell you she was wrong!

Please show me the master baker who starts a recipe by sitting down with his chemistry books to figure out the exact amount of baking powder needed to bring enough lift to a cake. And how the reaction changes when there is an introduction of an acidic liquid such as vinegar, and yadda yadda yadda. It doesn't happen. It IS NOT exact. Watch any person with years of experience with baking. They add a handful of this and that with a pinch of the other, and get bisuits and breads that are melt-in-your-mouth heaven. Not a measuring spoon in sight.

So, all you allergy mamas that are afraid to bake. Stop being afraid. There was no chemistry involved, no exact science. Your measurements don't need to be precise, just close-ish. Yes, the more accurate you are the more easily you can repeat your results. That is the real reason they have assigned measurements to recipes. To make repeating fabulous results easier. If you have a recipe that is so finicky that measurements must be precise, pick another recipe.

My idea of a great recipe? One that I can fudge and still have it come out yummy. I don't spoon my flour into the measuring cup and level it with a spatula. I scoop it out, and give it a little shake to level it. Sometimes I eyeball what 1/2 teaspoon of salt could be. Or just pour milk in until the batter seems the right consistency. I replace eggs with whatever is in the pantry. I pick whatever combination of flours I favor that week.

The moral? Stop being afraid. It's not as exact as you fear. I promise. And the results are so darn tasty. The more you do it, the easier it gets to judge what you can fudge. All of the recipes on my page are completely fudge resistant. So play a little. Have a little fun making your little one's tummy happy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Back to Basics

Finally able to sit down and blog this week's allergy appointment. I knew going into it that this would not be a fun one. We had so many clues leading up to our annual battery that there would be new allergies. Like increasing chronic tummy pain, seemingly random allergic reactions, and constant eczema. While I knew it wouldn't be good, I was not prepared for the full scope of the news delivered.

I walked in knowing that I needed some conclusive answers to help me to bring relief to my daughter. When the allergist asked what we thought she should test for, I answered, "Anything edible." Why waste space with environmental allergies? We can't avoid them. Only treat them. Food? We can avoid that if we know what it is. Test for anything edible.

Not only did the existing allergies react more strongly than ever before, we added a host of new ones. Yikes. For those of you keeping score, we now avoid: dairy, eggs, peanuts and treenuts, chicken, soy, rice, sesame, chocolate, tomatoes, fish, crab, lobster, and clam.

I do have to scratch my head and ponder some coincidences. Such as the fact that my daughter has NEVER liked chocolate- in any form. She even complains that is smells bad. First time we have ever tested for it, and she is allergic. She used to gobble up spaghetti like any other kiddo, and about a year ago she suddenly decided she no longer liked the sauce. She still ate the pasta plain, but no longer liked the sauce. And very rarely used ketchup. She never liked raw tomatoes until just about a month ago. Things like that make me wonder if my daughter is more in tune with her body than she realizes, and than we give her credit for. Was it truly a dislike, or was it a stronger aversion brought about by a slight allergic reaction? (Although she came up at 4++ for tomatoes. Wow.)

There was some good news. She did not react to beef this time around. I'm not sure how much good this does us though. For those of you who have taken red meat out of your diet, then cheated by indulging in a burger (or other form of red meat) you know how painful it is. Ouch. Doubled over misery and much protest from your entire digestive system. Not sure if I want to try to put that back into our diet. At least, not until she has been without belly pain for awhile, so we can be aware of how it is truly effecting her.

So now I feel like I am relearning how to feed my family. How to balance the needs of non-allergic and allergic. What on earth does a mama make now?

Back to the basics for us. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies. Beans. Quinoa. Internet searches for creative recipes to try and to adapt.

And hopefully it'll go over better than last night's dinner. Apparently sweet potato soup with black beans is not to be properly appreciated by the under 8 crowd at our house.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Pasta Review

Some time ago my family removed wheat from our diet, on doctor's orders. As if anyone would ever wake up one morning and think, "You know what? Cooking is entirely too easy around here. I think I should take wheat out of our diet." Ha!

Really, for us, wheat was the hardest allergen to part with. It is EVERYWHERE! It hides in innocuous places that would have never occurred to the average consumer. And, let's face it. Gluten rocks. Really. It lends such a wonderful simplicity to baking, such carefree ease in achieving fabulous tastes and textures when cooking.

Gluten free? Not so much. You have to coax ingredients into playing nicely together, and lovingly craft each delectable bite with careful attention.

One staple of our diet that was hard to give up? Pasta. Kids and spaghetti go together. Early in our quest for wheat free pasta, we tried several. Quite a few gooey, gummy rice pastas. Finally, I stumbled upon a gluten free blogger that shone a light of hope into our newly wheat free world. She painted pictures of tasty dishes not only free of wheat, but free of most of the allergens we avoid. Thanks to her, I learned to how to bake and to cook again without fear, and WITH flavor and wonderful texture.

She also recommended the pasta that we began using. I figured with her level of experience, she had tried enough of them to know that this must be one of the best available. Tinkyada
has served us well. The texture is good. It has a bit of a bite to it that I never cared for, but with adequate rinsing and some sauce, it worked. It was the best we had experienced.

Until now. Recently, I made spaghetti with a box of Lundberg brown rice rotini. Um. Holy sauced divinity Batman! It was good. The texture was wonderful, and there was no telltale bite, or aftertaste. None. It was even good COLD. (We don't like the other one cold. No thanks.) It really passes the taste test, the texture test, the ease of preparation test. All of them. With flying colors.

Anything can pass the test with sauce, right? My husband served plain Lunberg elbows a few nights later, with just drizzle of olive oil. I had seconds. And thirds. That has never happened before. I have never liked undressed rice pasta before, with out any trappings. A new day has dawned.

In all fairness, I only tried it because they sent me a very generous supply to share at my recent allergy friendly tasting party. So, yes, they kinda bribed me. And I'm so glad they did. Because I'd still be putting up with a lesser product based on recommendation of a very knowledgeable stranger.

So two thoughts for you: 1) Try it. It's good. and 2) Recommendations help, but keep trying until you find one YOUR family loves.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Garbanzo Bean Soup

Fall weather is coming. Perfect for jeans, sweatshirts, hot coffee on the porch swing, and soup for dinner. Mmmm....

I have no idea where I found this recipe, to be fair. But I love how easy it is to throw together. This and some cornbread and I call it dinner.

With careful attention, this recipe can be dairy, egg, nut, soy, and gluten free, and vegan.

Garbanzo Bean Soup

2 cans garbanzo beans, with liquid
1 16 oz can diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 med onion, chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 bay leaves
3 carrots, peeled and sliced

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 4-5 hours. Add additional water or broth if needed during cooking. When cooking is done remove about 2 cups of soup and puree in blender. Add puree back to soup to thicken. Serve with your favorite dinner roll.

(Sometimes I add in cubed ham or diced bacon during the last few minutes of cooking. Just long enough to heat it through.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Vitamin Decision

Some time ago I decided that it would be a good idea to add a multi-vitamin to our children's diet. With the amount of foods we are avoiding, and the natural tendency of kids to be picky eaters, it made sense to have an insurance policy of sorts. A little something extra to help fill in the nutritional gaps of the day.

Being a demanding mama, I was looking for very specific things from the vitamin that would be in our house. First, it had to be free of our allergens. Of course. Second, it should not contain artificial sweeteners. That eliminated an amazing number of choices. (Is sugar really so evil?) And last, it had to taste good. If it's not good, the kids aren't going to eat it. And the last thing I want is to add a battle to our daily routine.

After searching through quite a few options, I found a vitamin that meets up to my demands. And then some. YummiBears by Hero Nutritionals. Allergen free, tasty, no artificial sweeteners.

Recently, YummiBears sent me a sample of their new organic multivitamin. A good thing in it's original form, now made better? The kids and I took it for a (taste) test drive.

Wow. It's really good! Still allergen free, still yummy, and now organic. It is softer to chew than the original gummi multi-vitamin, and I think the fruit flavor is more intense. The kids love love love them. This is a very good thing.

So, if you're searching for the perfect vitamin for your family, check them out. Could be they meet your standards too.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Cookie Review

For those of you who check in on occasion, you know that I recently hosted a tasting party for my food allergy support group. A chance for everyone to stop in and taste products they have not tried- and in some cases have not heard of- in a safe and expense free environment. Because, really, I hate paying a premium price for a safe food only to discover that no one in the family will eat it. Drat!

Let me first say that I was profoundly moved by the unbelievable generosity of the companies that offered samples of their products. I expected a smattering of samples and a cluster of coupons, and plenty of polite denials. I got quite a shockingly different response. Small, family owned companies that sent samples to support a group of mamas managing life threatening food allergies even though their profit margin does not allow much wiggle room for such giving. Touching emails and letters stating that while they are not in a position to offer much, they have empathy for the challenges of raising a child with food allergies and they would send something.

I was a little misty eyed. These small companies wanted to support us? And in such big ways? Guess what. Their sincere open-hearted giving prompts my pay it forward nature. I want to shout about each of them from the top of every Whole Foods store in town. (Mostly because that's where we allergy mamas go trolling for our off the beaten path finds. And I wanna hit their target markets.)

So, over the next few weeks, I am going to offer you a review of each of the products that sent samples. They are biased only by the desire to connect you with companies that offer safe products for your kiddos.

Enough already. Let's get started!

Home Free sent an incredible sampling of cookies, chocolate chips, and even their cookbook! Dairy, egg, peanut and tree nut free, their baked goods are an awesome option for moms with multiple allergies. (While most products do not contain wheat, they are made with oats that contain traces of wheat. I love how honest and upfront their site is in making sure to let consumers know that their products are not gluten free. Much respect for that.)

Sadly, the cookies went SO quickly that I did not get to sample multiple flavors. EVERY mama in the room scooped up cookies to take home for their kiddos. And not all of those moms are serving kids with multiple allergies. Imagine the scene many moons ago when Cabbage Patch Dolls hit the stores at Christmas time. Uh-huh. They are that good. (The part where the shelves were empty, not the part where people were physically wrestling for possession of a doll. Though it is fun to imagine a group of allergy mamas pulling hair and kicking in order to get to safe cookies!) I brought home a smattering of the mini chocolate chocolate chip cookies. Crispy, crunchy, chocolate-y yumminess. Had trouble saving some to share kind of good. The ultimate test? My husband. Finicky to the end about allergy free baked goods, he went back for more. And more. And proclaimed that we would need to order some. Wowzer. My 4 year old is an easy sell, she loves most things that include sugar. She woke up in the morning, smiled that adorable sleepy smile and said, "It's tomorrow, right? Can I have more of those little cookies now?" Ummm. Yes, but maybe breakfast first.

As for the chocolate chips, they are up to the competition with their allergen loaded counterparts. No telltale aftertaste either. Again, yum yum yum.

As if tasty is not reason enough to try, you can also feel good about the organic ingredients used. I love knowing that I can indulge in allergen free organic treats. Maybe you could have one for breakfast afterall.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Healthy School Fundraiser Option

How many times have your kiddos had fundraisers at school, dance class, football, or other miscellaneous activity? And how many of them have involved food? Cookie dough, pizza kits, candy bars.... I hate selling things that my food allergic daughter couldn't enjoy even if she wanted too. We allergy mamas tend to be very aware of the foods that surround us, both in terms of allergens and health.

Hero Nutritionals has come up with an interesting idea. Why not offer a healthy -and tasty- fundraising option that is good for our kids? Virtually allergy free YummiBears vitamins. They even have adult versions, and an organic line.

If your PTA is looking for a fundraiser, why not toss this out as an option to consider? Sure beats cookie dough and wrapping paper sales! And sharing 25% of the profit seems very generous to me.

For more info, visit:

(And no, they are not paying me. I love their products. They sent info, I thought I'd share.)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Tasting Party Planning

I have been quite busy contacting companies to offer them the opportunity to direct market our allergy group with samples, coupons, and literature. It really could be a win-win situation with our group members finding new products to use in their home and the sponsoring companies finding new customers.

At the end of the day though, it is just lil' old me, contacting business persons that do not know who I am. I believe in what I am doing. I know how liberating it can be to discover a product that your family can safely eat and that will reduce your time in the kitchen. Let's face it, we allergy mamas spend A LOT of time in the kitchen. But it's still just me.

I have been honestly overwhelmed by the the level of support that many of the companies have shown. Especially the smaller businesses. They have been so willing to work with me. It is touching that they can appreciate the life of a mama who has food allergic children, and offer to help make her life easier. One bite at a time.

As samples roll into my house, I am continually like a kid on Christmas morning. Giddy with the anticipation of sharing tasty treats with other families. Anxious to taste a few myself, as they are not all familiar to me. I am bubbling with excitement at the prospect of linking an allergic family with a new and unfamiliar product that they will love at their house.

And I have a plan. For all of you who wish you could make it, but can not. I will be sharing with you, virtually, every taste and texture that is present. Ingredients too. So maybe you can be inspired to take your taste buds on a tantalizing new trip. Watch over the next month for product reviews and opinions from tasters present.

And no, none of them are paying me. Really. Unless you count their generosity and kindness. Sincerely, I want to support any company that understands the importance of supporting an allergy mama and her allergic family. I want to keep our allergy friendly options open and advancing, which means helping these budding companies find their target market.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

An allergy friendly tasting party

I know that I often look at products in the store and think "Wow, that looks good. We'll have to try that." On days when the budget is feeling generous, I may grab an extra random item or two. On days when I know that I will need to talk nicely to my debit card to prevent it from laughing at me, I keep on moving.

You know how that goes. And it is especially true with allergy friendly products, which tend to carry a higher price tag. Don't get me wrong, I will happily pay for knowing that I can offer my family safe treats. Totally worth it. But. I hate getting excited about a new product, paying a steep price to try it out, and discovering the kids hate it.

If only there was a way to try it before you buy it.

With that thought in mind, I am going to *attempt* to host an allergy friendly tasting party for my food allergy support group. My goal is to have a multitude of allergy friendly foods on hand for them to try. And coupons to encourage that first purchase, to make trying a new item less of expenditure and more of an adventure.

That being said- what item is a go-to food in your house? What's the weird discovery that you found on the bottom shelf that you now can not live without? What food would you like to try but have not found the money to manage it? PUH-LEEESE! I am begging you here: send your wish list, your recommended list, and your suggestions.

As suggestions roll in, I'll talk to the companies that make the product, and see if they would be willing to share. After all, who wouldn't want a foot in the door with a target market of interested and loyal consumers?

Thanks for helping out! I look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sunbutter coffee cake

I know, I know. I already have a sunbutter coffee cake recipe. But this one is pure, unadulterated sunbutter love. No sharing the stage with happy bananas. And not from a mix. From scratch goodness. In a way that only homemade can be.

When making this recipe, my goal was to produce a texture that was completely lacking the ultra moist crumb that my recipes generally have. The texture that always strikes my husband as 'gummy'. Focus on texture.

OK. One more thing. I wanted to lower the sugar content. Most of the recipes online call for one or more cups of sugar. That's a lot of sugar to start the day. And now that I'm trying to switch to organic sugar... using a whole cup of that sandy gold in one You know what I'm talking about. Cut the sugar, for your health and that of your bank account.

As sunbutter is a natural humectant, I decided to use less starch in the recipe. I chose flax eggs and hemp milk because they both have a slightly nutty flavor that I thought would compliment the sunbutter.

The result? Big success. This was by far the best texture I have yet created. Not a hint of gluten free here. No gum, no grit, no give away gluten free tip offs. It was fantastic.

Of course, it also led my husband to discover that while he likes sunbutter raw, he does not like it cooked. Go figure.

But I would be happy to share my happy success with you, and you can in turn share it with your family. My kiddos cut their coffee cake open and spread it with jelly for a classic flavor combination that they devoured.

Sunbutter Coffee Cake

1/2 c sunbutter
1/4 c spectrum organic shortening, softened (or your butter substitute of choice)
3/4 c brown sugar
2 flax eggs (2 Tbsp flax meal mixed with 4 Tbsp warm water)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c sorghum flour
1/2 c buckwheat
1/2 c millet flour (plus 1Tbsp. I accidentally added 1/4 c extra, but scooped most of it out!)
1/4 c potato starch
1 tsp xanthan
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 c hemp milk (or your milk of choice)
3 Tbsp raw sugar (for decoration- optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Mix the flax eggs in a small bowl and set aside to gel. Combine sunbutter and specturm in a large bowl and mix well. Add sugar and beat well. Add flax eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy. In a separate bowl whisk together dry ingredients. Add to sunbutter mixture alternately with milk. Pour into prepared 9x13 and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake 35 minutes. Enjoy.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Homemade Maple Syrup

If you have toddlers in your house, you know that syrup is so much more than a mere condiment. It is a valuable resource than magically transforms many foods from frumpy to fabulous delivery system. That's right. It's not just for pancakes at our house. We drizzle it on oatmeal, cooked carrots, sweet potatoes, pork chops, name it. It's amazing what a little maple glaze can do for a toddler's willingness to eat.

Of course, I try to use pure organic maple syrup as often as possible. Both because I prefer natural sugars over corn syrup laden treats, and because real maple syrup is a good source of zinc, manganese, and just a whisper of calcium. Everyone knows that when feeding finicky eaters every extra milligram of nutritional content is valuable!

Given my tendency to run out of pantry staples though, I occasionally find myself with a plate of naked pancakes. What's a mom to do? My first preference is to whip up some berry syrup, but that middle kiddo is suspicious of it. Anything that color, with that many lumps...well. That can't be good.

Instead I whip up a small batch of homemade maple syrup. It's not the real thing, but it's sweet, it's the right color, and all three muchkins will eat it. It's so quick and simple that you may never buy Aunt Jemima again.

Homemade Maple Syrup

1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. water
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp maple flavor

Combine sugars and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to help sugar dissolve completely. Once it reaches a boil, remove from heat and add flavoring. Serve. That's it.

You can easily make as much or as little as you need, just use equal parts of each sugar and water, and adjust the flavoring accordingly. You can add a pat of butter if you like it with butter flavor. A dash of cinnamon to tease your tastebuds. Cook it for an extra minute if you want to thicken it up, or add a splash of corn syrup if you must. (This is a rather thin syrup.) Mix it with the rest of your real maple syrup to stretch it out for one more day. You can even let it cool and refill your favorite syrup bottle for easy pouring.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

More lunch box thoughts

I know that a lot of you mamas out there are getting ready to send the allergic munchkin off to school. And that means packing lunch. We just completed our first year of packing lunches, and I learned so many things! Let me share the knowledge, so that you can go into your school year feeling like a seasoned pro.

First, lunchtime is finite. This is new to kindergarten kids if they have previously stayed home with mom. Up until now they have had as long as they need to finish eating. No more. Lunchtime is brief. Often even more so for kindergarten because they are so new to cleaning up the classroom and lining up to go to lunch, and that means it takes them longer to get ready. Which, in turn, means they are sometimes late to lunch. And they don't get extra time. For those of you with dawdlers, start practicing now. Set a timer. See how your slowpoke does. And don't forget to account for the friends factor. As in, my kiddo is sometimes so busy chatting with her friends that she forgets to eat. Or only takes a few bites. Ay-yi-yi!

Second, those handy little packaged fruit cups? Not so handy. They are wonderful in that you can send them to school several days in a row. Waiting for your child to have time to eat it. And it won't go bad while traveling back and forth all week. Of course, if it is traveling back and forth only because it is too hard for little fingers to open...well. My allergic kiddo was too shy to ask for help. At the end of the week I asked if maybe she didn't like the peaches and would like Mom to find another choice. No, she answered, she likes peaches. She just couldn't get them open. So, moms, please make sure your kiddo has the moxie to ask for help opening packaged snacks, or open them ahead of time and put them into a container that is easier to use.

Personally, I don't like packaged food. It is more expensive, and usually not in the right portion size for my little darling. What to do? When I am making dinner, or lunch, or whatever....I scoop out a portion before serving it. Really. I know the mandarin oranges are going to be inhaled. There won't be any left. There may be injuries suffered trying to decide who will eat the last one in the bowl. If I wait for leftovers, they may not come. So, get out your itty bitty container and put in a portion that is perfect for lunch tomorrow. Fruits, veggies, main dishes. Whatever. Save it, then serve it. And now you have at least part of tomorrow's lunch packed. Save money, save time.

Now for an unavoidable truth: school lunch tables are covered with unknown variables. The bus students may sit there in the morning. Breakfast may be served there. The cafeteria may double as an art room. Lunch might come in two shifts, with the kindergarten eating second shift. Who knows who was sitting there and what lovely residue they left behind. Sticky syrup, paste, peanut butter slime, maybe even a little 'I'll just wipe it here since I don't have a tissue.' Nice. You can pack a wipe so your kiddo can wipe the table first. We all know how thorough those kiddos can be. You can pack a placemat to unfold and eat on. You can teach your kiddo to eat over their lunchbox. Whatever fits your comfort level. Please establish, though, that food that touches the table should be treated as if it magically turns into brussel sprout pudding. That is to say don't eat it. Ever. Because you just never know.

One more thought for now: bring it all home. That's right. Even the trash. Those first few weeks your new student is learning the routine and how to use time wisely. You will be learning how much food actually goes into that body. If all of the trash, the half-eaten and the not-even-touched food comes home it helps the learning curve. What is the right portion size? How many types of food should you pack? What foods seem like a good idea but don't get eaten? Once you get a feel for what actually is consumed, certainly encourage your kiddo to find out where the trash can is. Because lunch boxes don't take long to get smelly.

Hope that helps a little bit. I'll try for a few more morsels of wisdom as the summer moves on. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cool Summer Treats!

The thermometer is creeping up and up. Every summer the craving for fresh fruit right out of the fridge hits me. Nothing is more refreshing. What says summer more clearly than a thick slice of cold watermelon?

Unless you're a kid. Then fruit is good. But popsicles and ice cream are better. C'mon now. It's a summer tradition bred into us through the generations.

How to balance the two so the kiddos get their frozen treat, but still get the healthy benefits of fruit? Frozen fruit. You knew that. And I just whipped up a batch of frozen fruity goodness from one of my kids' favorites: cantaloupe. They were drawn in by the promise of creamy frozen deliciousness in a bowl. And pleasantly surprised by how much it really tastes like fresh cantaloupe.

Pick your favorite melon and try it today. You won't regret it.

Simply Fruity Sorbet

2 c frozen melon
2 Tbsp oil (I used safflower)
1/4 c sugar, or to taste (we used a bit less)

Cube melon and place in baggie or freezable container. Freeze solid. Remove from freezer and place in food processor. Pour oil and sugar over frozen melon. Pulse until melon breaks into large chunks. Once uniform pieces are achieved, turn on processor and allow to blend for 1-2 minutes, until smooth and creamy looking. Enjoy immediately or put it back in the freezer for later. The oil keeps it from freezing solid, so it will still be ready to enjoy!

You could also puree this mixture with fresh melon, and then freeze for enjoyment. Either way, it is tasty. Use about one tablespoon of oil per cup of melon (or fruit), and adjust the sugar depending on the sweetness of the fruit you are using. Enjoy!

(OK, I admit, it got a little soft while posing for pictures. And I licked the bowl, because melted ice cream has no calories, right? A word of caution: the texture is kind of strange if you wait until it's soup to eat it. Frozen is recommended.)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Banana Bread

In my pre-allergy baking days, my banana bread was legendary. Really. It was often requested for gatherings, and I never had leftovers to take home. Family get togethers, work pot-lucks, teachers lounge treats, you name it. I have given out the recipe many many times. It is that good.

It is also totally not mine. It is from a cookbook that I inherited when I got married. 'Cincinnati Reds Home Plate Favorites'. From Buddy Bell we have Base-Hit Banana Nut Bread. And it scores every time I make it.

After our allergy diagnosis I adapted the recipe to be egg and dairy free, and we still enjoyed it. When we got rid of wheat I thought, naw. Too many adaptations, it couldn't possibly be good. I still make the original recipe to take out to different places. I trust that it is still good. It tastes funny to me now, having been off of such decadent baked goods for so long.

Anyway, after my daughter asked- again- why I always make banana bread for everyone else but not for us....I knew it was time. Time to stop searching for a good recipe and just try this one out. Adaptations and all.

And it worked! It was moist (what gluten free baked good isn't?), and flavorful, and gone by the end of the day. My kids had it for breakfast, and two snacks. Um, and me too. Baked goods are my weakness.

My husband? The ever picky baked goods critic? Not so much. He said the flavor is good, but it's still too gummy. So, feel free to tweak it. Let me know if you get a drier version. I'm OK letting him eat toast. He never has adapted to allergen free baked goods.

I'm good with that. More for me.

Beyond the Bases Banana Bread

1/2 c Earth Balance buttery spread- soy free version (or use Spectrum shortening)*
3/4 c packed organic brown sugar
3/4 c organic cane sugar
2 EnerG eggs, whisked until foamy with warm water
2 tsp bourbon vanilla
1 c mashed banana*
1/2 c sorghum flour
1/2 c millet flour
1/2 c brown rice flour
1/2 c tapioca starch
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 c unsweetened coconut milk + 1/2 tsp white vinegar (for buttermilk)

Cream butter or shortening (or blend thereof) in mixer bowl. Add sugars gradually, beating until light and fluffy. Add EnerG eggs and vanilla and blend well. Fold in mashed bananas. Whisk together dry ingredients in separate bowl. Add alternately with coconut milk mixture, mixing well after each addition. Pour into greased bundt pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling. Dust with powdered sugar (as you see above) or serve naked. Good both ways.

*Cook's notes:
  • We have not had butter in the house until about a week ago when we found the soy free Earth Balance. My allergic kiddo doesn't like overwhelming butter flavor after being off it so long, so I used a combination of butter and Spectrum shortening. A little more than half butter.
  • The banana is one of my secret ingredients. No slightly over ripe bananas here. The blacker the better. They should fall out of the peel when you open them up. Just shy of moldy. trust me, it gives a really intense flavor to your breads and muffins.
  • If you can have nuts, toss in 1/2 tsp of almond flavoring in place of 1/2 tsp vanilla. It's the other secret ingredient in this recipe, but I always omit it since we are avoiding nuts. Makes a huge difference in the flavor though. While you're at it, throw in some pecans too! Yum.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Iced Green Tea Lemonade

After a day of working in the yard with the kiddos, we all needed something cold and refreshing to drink. I know that water is the best choice, and we drink our share. Sometimes though, you want something different, something with flavor. Not cloyingly sweet and syrupy, not sour. Light, cold, flavor that dances on your tongue. How 'bout good old fashioned iced tea? Something about summer just begs for iced tea. Sun tea, if you have time. No time today, we needed cold refreshment NOW!

Then I remembered that wonderful green tea lemonade I had at Starbucks a few weeks ago. That would be perfect. The crisp refreshment of lemonade and the light energy of green tea. Over a tall glass of ice. Perfect.

Iced Green Tea Lemonade

4 decaf green tea bags
2/3 c organic sugar (or to taste)
1 packet Kool aid lemonade
8 cups barely boiling water
3 cups crushed ice (or whole ice cubes)

Heat 8 cups of water until bubbles form along the bottom and sides of pan, but do not yet rise to the top. Just shy of boiling. Remove from heat and add 4 bags decaf green tea. Stir lightly to make sure tea bags are saturated. Allow to brew 4 minutes. Remove and discard tea bags. Add the lemonade mix and the sugar and stir to dissolve. Put 3 cups whole or crushed ice in a pitcher and pour hot tea mixture over ice. Add more ice if needed, you don't want to melt your pitcher. Serve over ice or chill and enjoy later.

All three of my kiddos downed two huge glasses. This may be our new summer indulgence.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sausage Sweet Potato Burrito

I must have gotten in touch with my creative cooking muse. Inspired by weeks of rotating through the same basic foods, she came to free us from culinary complacency. Thank heavens!

Tonight I was staring into my cupboards, again, trying to figure out what to make for dinner. You know how that goes. Suddenly, images of Irish Cottage Pie flashed through my head. Wouldn't that be tasty? Except my kids were lukewarm on it, and I didn't have the time for that much effort.

Suddenly, it hit me. And I knew what to do. And it was fast. All very good things. (Dinner? Also very good. In fact, it would also make a great breakfast.)

I remembered a recipe for crafting your own sausage patties from the premiere issue of Cooking Light Magazine.* (Seeing as how we were out of actual sausage, this would be perfect, with modifications of course.) My six year old adores sausage. I had left over mashed sweet potatoes in the fridge. My 4 year old adores mashed sweet potatoes. And tortillas. I had those. Also a favorite of my 6 year old. The 2 year old? She'll eat anything that doesn't run.

If I combine them, surely they'll like them. Right?

Mommy liked them. A lot. The savory spice of the sausage seasonings combined with a touch of sweetness from the sweet potatoes wrapped in a crispy tortilla shell made a perfect combination for me. The kids? The oldest devoured hers. The middle one peeled off the tortilla and ate the filling. The youngest? She went to town on the broccoli.

Oh well, you can't win them all.

Sausage Sweet Potato Burrito

1 medium tart apple, peeled and shredded
2 Tbsp grated onion
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp rubbed sage
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp allspice
1 pound ground turkey
1 c mashed sweet potatoes*

In a bowl combine all ingredients except the sweet potatoes. Mix well. Add to large skillet and brown ground turkey mixture. When cooked through, add mashed sweet potatoes and heat through. Heat separate skillet on medium heat. Toss a tortilla on just long enough to warm it slightly, they are more pliable that way. Spoon filling into center of tortilla, fold in ends and wrap to form a burrito. You decide how full to make your burrito. Place on skillet (no oil, just a naked but warm skillet) and brown. Remove from heat and repeat with another tortilla. You can brown as many as will fit on your skillet. The crispy outside that is achieved this way really adds to the appeal of the dish. This should comfortably fill 8-10 tortillas.

*Cook's notes:
  • This is not an endorsement of the magazine. I had a subscription many years ago. It was good. It was pre-allergy living. I have no idea how many recipes would convert. I just figured, if I'm going to use their recipe, I should give them credit.
  • I was lucky enough to have leftover mashed sweet poatoes in the fridge. They were made with coconut milk and brown sugar. You make them the way your family likes them. Or get crazy and just toss in some cooked cubed sweet potatoes. But I kinda liked the way the mashed ones helped hold it all together.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pizza Pasta

Spaghetti has always been a quick and easy standby for dinner at our house. Brown the ground turkey, cook the rice pasta, toss on the sauce. Done. Until about 6 months ago it was a guaranteed winner, with all three girls inhaling at least half their body weight in pasta. Then one day my 6 year old suddenly decided she didn't like spaghetti sauce anymore. There went the easy and well liked dinner for crazy days.

Tonight, I had a bit of an inspiration driving the kids home. My picky eater used to love pizza sauce. (Long, long ago when we made our own pepperoni rolls.) Why not use it on pasta? And a dinner idea was born.

Of course, only my 2 year old ate it. Three helpings. The other two? New sometimes takes a time or two. I thought it was tasty, and so did my husband. So, it's worth sharing.

Maybe it'll inspire you.

Pizza pasta

1/2 small onion, chpd
6 baby portabella mushrooms, chpd
4 pieces uncured uncooked bacon
2 Al Fresco Sweet Italian sausages
1 14 oz jar of your favorite pizza sauce
12 oz Tinkyada Fusilli pasta (or pasta of your choice)

First, get the pasta started.

Now, chop onion and mushrooms. (And any other pizza toppings you like. We were out of red and green pepper, or that would have gone in too.) Cut bacon into bite sized pieces. Add onion, mushroom and bacon to large skillet to saute. (No oil needed. The bacon will release enough fat to keep everything from sticking.) While those cook, cut sausages in half (or quarters, like we did) lengthwise, then chop into bite sized pieces. When bacon is cooked through, add sausage to skillet to brown, about 5 minutes. Add your pizza sauce and heat through.

Remember that pasta? Drain it, rinse it. Decide whether to mix it with the sauce or serve a bed of pasta topped with a ladle of sauce.

The great thing about this recipe is you can change it up to suit your pizza passion. Toss in some zucchini, leave out the bacon, whatever fits your family. And if you eat cheese, it would be great with a sprinkle of mozzarella. Yum!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake

I love biscuits. Hot from the oven, bare naked biscuits. Glutinous, tender, flaky biscuits. My quest one day not long ago was to make a tantalizing gluten free biscuit that my munchkins could enjoy. I searched online and found this recipe, which sounded too good to pass up. And it was incredibly tasty. A bit too much white rice flour for me, making it slightly gritty. I made a few alterations, like using coconut oil in place of butter. And coconut milk. And mixing up the flour combination. (I just can't leave a recipe alone anymore.) As I was eating them, I thought- 'If I add a pinch of sugar, this would make a darn yummy shortcake!'. And it was a plan.

I was planning on serving shortcake for dessert last night. But I ran out of time to make them. They sounded sooo good, I couldn't wait until dinner time. So I thought, why not have them for breakfast? Biscuits for breakfast makes sense. With berries, that's fruit! And whipped cream, there's calcium. Serve with a side of bacon and it sounds like a full and complete breakfast to me! Of course, you can stick to tradition and make Strawberry Shortcake for dessert, it would be just as yummy. However, I like to break the rules. I like pie for breakfast. Life is short, start your day sweetly.

And, if you aren't sold just by the mere thought of fluffy, tender, slightly sweet biscuits layered with berries picked at the peak of juicy ripeness and topped with a dollop of light and airy whipped're a hard sell. So is my husband. You know what? He liked it. No qualifiers. It was good.

Here it is. Enjoy. I know I did.

Old Fashioned Shortcake Biscuits

1/3 c white rice flour
1/3 c amaranth flour
2/3 c brown rice flour
1/2 c potato starch
1/4 c tapioca starch
1/4 c sugar (edited to add this very important ingredient!)
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp coconut oil (or safe margarine)
2 Tbsp shortening
1 c coconut milk (or preferred milk substitute)
2 tsp vinegar

Preheat oven to 450. Pour milk into a small bowl, add vinegar and let stand 5 minutes. In another bowl whisk together dry ingredients. (Don't get hung up if you don't have this exact flour combo. Use what you have. This one is good though.) Cut in coconut oil and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in buttermilk mixture and slowly stir until well combined. Drop generous spoonfuls onto a well greased baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes.

The slightly sweet coconut flavor these have goes so well with strawberries! Last time I made them, I used all potato starch, and they had a slightly more tender crumb. If you do use all potato starch, cut the xanthan to a generous 1/4 tsp.

Top with sliced berries and Coconut Whipped Topping made from coconut milk. I altered the recipe slightly by using DariFree powder in place of soy milk powder. I have a few sample envelopes left, so I used one of those. (21g as labeled) I also omitted the lemon, and used a splash of vanilla extract in place of vanilla powder. Wow. Sinful indulgence. Lick the plate good. Promise.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A canine rant

Before you start reading, be forewarned: the following is not a happy how to bake article. It is a full fledged rant. From a slightly deranged mama who is frustrated frequently by misconceptions about allergies.

I admit: I have never been a dog person. Really, they are too high maintenance for me. Feed me, walk me, play with me, let me in, let me out, clean up after me, bathe me. That's what kids are for. Except children eventually begin to take on each of those tasks themselves. The dog? Not so much.

Cats, those are my pet of preference. Low key, easy to maintain. Put out food occasionally and they eat as needed. (Rather than inhaling the entire contents as if it may vaporize if left in the bowl longer than 72 seconds.) Change the litter box regularly and be done. No poop hide and seek in the yard. I have always had house cats, so there is no in and out dilemma. And you get the occasional snuggle and happy purr, low key affection to show you are loved. You can leave them alone (and uncaged) for a weekend and be confident that you will return to an intact home- shoes and all. It works for me.

My husband? Not a cat person.

We were both strangely relieved when we found out that our oldest daughter was allergic to cats and dogs. We would never have to duke it out as to whether we should get a pet, and what kind. Pets? Maybe a fish... someday. When the two year old can understand that she should not share her cheerios with it, or give it an extra jar of fish food just because. And that fish swim alone. No need to get naked and jump in. Really.

We understand that there will be no furry pets in our house.

Here comes the ranting part... there are no allergy free dogs. Barack Obama advocated getting a dog by doing it himself. Here is an intelligent, well educated man perpetuating the misconception that there are hypoallergenic dogs. Very publicly breeding the idea that people with allergies just need to seek the right kind of dog. We have long sought to help people understand there is no safe dog. Unless it's stuffed. And the wise and esteemed leader of our nation just acquired a dog for his allergic daughter. So it must be ok. And now we work twice as hard to overcome the myth that some dogs are safe for people that are allergic. It comes up more often now, along with the opinion that we haven't tried hard enough. And that we are over stating the severity of the allergy.

Aaaack! Yes, some dogs are less likely to set off major allergy attacks for those mildly allergic to dogs. They will still be allergic to the dog. What if it's short haired? Hairless? Surely she would be ok with a hairless. Um, no. It still has skin. And saliva. Most people with pet allergies are not allergic to the hair, but to the dander. The skin that naturally sheds and flies willy nilly about the house, sticking to whatever it should land on. Walls, lamps, furniture. And vacuuming? Nice thought. When is the last time you vacuumed the curtains, walls, lamps, and everything else from floor to ceiling? Dander goes everywhere. Everywhere. And when you walk across the room, you can kick up a fresh cloud.

And the saliva. How many dogs do you know that refrain from kissing their owners? Yes, you can be allergic to doggie saliva. Many with dog allergies are. (And the urine too. Heaven forbid the dog should pee on the slide. Even if it dries before the kiddos go down the slide, the allergens remain. Nothin' like an itchy bum.)

I realize that many people see their pet as a member of the family. They love them. I'm good with that. If you have a pet, you should treat it like family and love it well. I get perturbed though, by people that think it is appropriate to take the dog everywhere. The doctor's office. Shopping. The airport. The library. Craft class. Everywhere they go. Your pet is yours. Take it on a walk. Take it to the park. Take it to the vet. Take it to the pet store. Sure.

But please don't bring it into our space. Not at the doctor. You're sick, not the dog. Not craft class, dogs aren't so good with scissors. Haven't seen a dog read yet, so maybe not the library. If he needs company then STAY HOME and play with him. He'll like that better.

So many people think I am over reacting. I get that look. You know the one. The one that says "Yeah, whatever." I offend people by turning down invitations to visit their home because they have a dog. Yes, I appreciate the offer to put it in the basement while we visit. No, we won't be coming. Unless you shampoo the carpet and furniture, paint the walls and ditch the dog. Yes, I'm serious.

Recently my niece brought over her leap pad game system, complete with big bag of game books and matching cartridges. She had moved up in the gaming world and would not need these, so was gifting them to my munchkins. How awesome. Ten minutes after beginning to play with them, my daughter was covered in hives. That's right! My niece had a dog. Had. It died 4 months before they brought the games to us. There was enough dander remaining on the games to trigger an allergic reaction. Benadryl and a bath for her. The remainder of the evening for me was spent wiping off every page of every book, inside and outside of the gaming system, and every cartridge. (Throwing them away would have caused too much heartbreak.)

So, no, I am not a maniac. Yes, my daughter is severely allergic to dogs. Feel free to come to our house and play. We still like you. We just don't love your pooch. No offense.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chicken Apple Sausage Skillet

I have been trying to make a breakfast recipe that my girls will eat using Al Fresco Chicken Apple Sausage. It just seems like it would be perfect in a breakfast casserole type dish. Alas, no luck so far. I have had a few that are close, but the girls won't eat them. Finally it hit me- the tastes are too similar. They blend too well, not allowing each flavor to combine in a flavorful harmony but instead forming a monotone meal. Nothing to tantalize the taste buds.

Last week I just knew what to do. My inner Emeril was talking. Too bad I didn't write it down then, when it was fresh in my mind. My girls ate every bite. I enjoyed it. And in the morning it was gone. No note, no goodbye kiss, no picture to remember our happy times.

Here is my attempt at recapturing that brief inspired moment of culinary creativity. It's not the original, but it's still worth trying.

Chicken Apple Sausage Skillet

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 sweet red pepper
1/2 medium onion
1 pkg Al Fresco Chicken Apple Sausage (I find them at Giant Eagle.)*
2 c chicken broth
6-8 oz pasta of choice (we use Tinkyada)
1 cup frozen corn
1 Tbsp brown rice flour
dash garlic powder

Chop onion and red pepper into bite sized pieces. You decide what bite sized it at your house. Heat olive oil in large skillet, add red pepper and onion and cook until onion is soft and just starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, slice sausage into coins, or an angled cut for larger coins. Add to skillet and brown. Remove pepper, onion and sausage from pan for now. Toss in frozen corn and 'roast' for 5-8 minutes. (You can add about 1/2 tsp of cilantro here for color and a subtle flavor.) Remove corn and add to sausage mixture. Add chicken broth to still warm pan and stir to deglaze pan. Bring to boil. Add pasta. Cover and cook to desired doneness. Add more broth if needed (about 1/4 cup) to make a touch of sauce. Sprinkle flour over pasta and stir, cook about 3 minutes to thicken. Sprinkle with garlic powder if desired. Add sausage and pepper mix back to panto warm through. Taste and spice if needed. (Nothing more added here.) Simple and yummy.

* Cook's notes:
Not all chicken apple sausages are the same. Some are sweet, some savory, the spices vary greatly from brand to brand. We like Al Fresco because it is a very sweet and mild sausage. A different sausage will significantly change this dish, but won't necessarily make it better or worse. Just different.

I did not measure a single ingredient. All of the above are guesstimates, as is usual with my cooking. I like to wing it. I'm sorry if it makes you crazy.

And while this sounds too simple to be tasty, it really is. The flavors compliment each other very well. Even my husband, the one with the distinguished (read: snobby) palatte, complimented this dish.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What's for Dinner?

When I tell people what my daughter is allergic to, they often respond with "Oh my! What does she eat? Air?" If you have seen her, she certainly looks as though that is a substantial part of her diet. She does, in fact, have a decent appetite. As long as you can be patient enough to let her eat, because she is definitely not a fast eater. But- hey! Haven't studies shown that's why the French stay so lean even with their incredibly rich diet? Because they savor their meal and enjoy each bite slowly while they talk. She'd be a great french citizen.

That aside, I certainly do have my nights when I just don't know WHAT to make for dinner. Every mom has those, even moms with no dietary restrictions to deal with. The difference? I can't throw my hands in the air and order pizza. I know you can't either.

So, I have decided to randomly post dinner ideas from our house. Feel free to share dinner ideas from your house, because I could use some inspiration too! I might even get crazy and post a whole weekly menu. I do have them.

Our first dinner is a great example of "fast food", meaning that it takes only 30 minutes from start to table. It would have been much faster, but those darn lentils just don't like to be hurried. (Leave off the lentils and you could sit down in 15 minutes.)

I couldn't resist sharing this dinner because the colors were so vibrant. With that kind of visual appeal it's so much more enjoyable to eat. Kids are suckers for this, though they don't know it. Really. Serve a meal that is lacking in visual appeal and they are less likely to dive in. Try to avoid visually bland meals by making sure to get different colors in every meal, or eating from a plate that contrasts with your food. Advertisers know color choices matter, they chose colors that will help appeal to their audience and make the sale. Aren't you trying to sell something too? On a much smaller scale. Just a little food for thought. Pun intended.

So, what was on the menu? Just in case something in the picture is hard to identify:
  • Pan Seared Chicken Breast
  • Steamed Sugar Snap Peas
  • Rice Pilaf with Lentils (from Near East)
  • Apricot Halves
  • Beverage of Choice
So quick and easy to throw together that I don't even need to post ingredients or directions. And the kids ate it. (Though my four year old had to have ketchup for dipping. I'm good with that. Whatever gets it in.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tips for Baking Without- Egg Replacements

Baking without eggs is an adjustment for any experienced cook, both in practice and in flavor. Don't panic, the options are almost limitless, and yield very good results. I have found several tried and true favorites at my house. All of them alter the flavor of the finished product slightly. (This is the part my husband has had the hardest time adapting to. He does not care for the way most baking tastes without egg. He is the toughest one to convert.) Experiment with a few options until you find what you like. I have favorites that I use depending on the recipe type. One for pancakes, another for muffins, another still for meatloaf. And of course, one for days when I'm just feeling lazy.

First of all, a word of advice. If your recipe calls for more than two eggs, throw it away. The result is substantially different in flavor, and we have found that it just is not enjoyable. Also, be aware of how your egg substitute fits in with the other ingredients in the recipe. For example, do not use a replacement that is based on baking powder if there is already a lot of baking powder in the recipe. Using a tablespoon of baking powder definitely leaves a funny flavor that anyone new to eggless baking will dislike. (If you have been doing it for years, you may not notice the flavor as much.) My goal has always been to produce an end result that I could serve to anyone, allergic or not, and have it be considered tasty.

If you have favorite recipes you want to save, pick a replacement option and try it out. If you are really new to this, and want to see how other cooks have adapted, I highly recommend VegWeb. It is a site loaded with vegan recipes. Some are taste bud tantalizing treats, some are average. You can look at the recipes and learn how other people are doing it. Sometimes the replacement is obvious. Sometimes you have to read the recipe more than once to figure out what is replacing the egg.

Here is a long list of potential egg replacements. All of the below substitutions are equal to one egg. Many I have tried, some I have not. Most are commonly found ingredients in the house, so you won't need a special trip to the health food store to try them out.

1 egg=

  • The one I used most often when I started baking without eggs: 1 tsp baking powder, 1Tbsp water, and 1 Tbsp vinegar. This gives really nice lift to recipes. My nephew- with an unrestricted diet- loves pancakes made this way. He once told me that I have the fluffiest pancakes he has ever seen. Then he ate six.
  • 1 tsp yeast dissolved in 1/4 c warm water- I don't use this one often as yeast can be fickle.
  • 1 Tbsp apricot or banana puree- this is great for binding, but doesn't add lift, so only use if there is another source of leavening. It adds nice moisture, and does leave a noticeable flavor.
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp water, 1 1/2 Tbsp oil, 1 tsp baking powder- this does a nice job of giving lift and provides the fat that an egg would give, in recipes where the fat is important. I don't care for this one, but most people I know that avoid eggs seem to favor this.
  • 2 Tbsp finely ground flax seeds plus 3 Tbsp water. (Use hot water.) Mix them together in a small bowl, and let sit a couple of minutes until it becomes thick, then add as you would eggs. Flax 'egg' has a nutty flavor that works fine in cookies, bars and brownies, and things like zucchini bread, but may not be what you want in cakes or lighter vanilla-flavored items. It does help with browning, and it provides some omega-3 oils and fiber which we all like. Remember always to freeze your ground flax, because it goes bad very quickly from oxidiation of the healthy oils... or you can buy it in individual packets (like sugar packets) so that it is shelf stable and you can use just what you need. I have tried this and I like the binding in it, but it does need to have leavening in the recipe still.
  • 2 Tbsp. potato starch- Potato starch, not flour, gives the chewy mouth feel that eggs provide
  • 1/4 c mashed potatoes- I haven't tried this one because my kids will not eat mashed potatoes. Thus, I never bother making any.
  • 1/4 c canned pumpkin- This is a rather dense and chewy replacement, so is not well suited to recipes that are intended to be light and fluffy.
  • 1/4 c puréed prunes- Haven't tried this. You could probably use a jar of baby food for this.
  • 2 Tbsp arrowroot flour- The one exotic ingredient that I have not yet purchased.
  • 1 heaping Tbsp soy flour + 2 Tbsp water- We avoid soy when possible. Again with untried but reported to be very good.
  • 1 Tbsp soy milk powder + 1 Tbsp cornstarch + 2 Tbsp water- Again with the soy. You may be able to use DariFree in place of soy milk powder. (DariFree is corn based.)
  • EnerG Egg- found in the baking section at many grocery stores. This is a good one, quick and easy. Follow directions on the box to determine amount needed. Read the whole box for tips on using with success.
So, as promised, a huge line up of things to try. Pick your favorite. Pick more than one. Feel inspired and invent your own. Or recipe surf online and follow the lead of someone who already figured it out. (Just search for egg-free XXXX recipe, you'll get results!)

Good luck, and happy baking!

Tips for Baking Without- Milk Substitutes

If you are new to the world of food allergies, it can be very daunting to learn how to cook while avoiding traditional ingredients. Especially if you have one of the top 8, which are the most common ingredients. And if you have multiple allergies to deal with it can feel almost impossible.

I am here to tell you that it CAN be done. Yes, you have to relearn a few things. But after an adjustment period, it becomes old hat. Second nature. You can do it with very little effort.

The biggest pitfall is expecting your substitute ingredients to taste the same as your standard favorites. They won't. Ever. It's like expecting the home made birthday card from your 7 year old niece to closely resemble a Hallmark. Not likely. Is a card from your niece a bad thing? No. It is sweet in sentiment and simplicity, with adorable illustration. It is like a big hug, because it comes from the heart. Baking allergy free is like that. If you can let go of your Hallmark expectations and understand that you are going to get results that are totally different but still delightful in their own right, you will be a happy eater. And your tastebuds will gradually adapt to the new flavors. In a year or two, you will swear that your substitute tastes just like the real thing, and it will. To you. And your family will love what you cook because it was crafted with love for them, by you.

Ok, kids are picky eaters. They may not love it. But they might not like Kraft either. It's a crapshoot. The part about feeling safe and loved? They'll like that. Even if they never say it.

Enough sentiment. Let's cook, I'm hungry already!

Hmmm...where to start? How about milk. A staple in baking and cooking anything creamy. And the easiest to relplace. It's wet. Replace it with something wet. LOL. Really, in baking any beverage will stand in for milk. Water, juice, coffee, and substitute milks. There are a ton of substitute milks. Soy, Rice, Hemp, Almond, Oat, Coconut. And they all come in multiple flavors. You don't have to pick just one. Drink one for the flavor, bake with another for it's health benefits. You can even use multiple milks in a recipe to avoid strong flavor and still reap the health benefit. Pay attention to make sure you get one that is fortified. The substitute milks are very important in making things like home made chicken pot pie. Mmmmm.... here's a quick run down:

Soy Milk: Controversial replacement for many. Research the pros and cons. Good source of soy protein. Works like regular milk in any recipe, will sour like regular milk if left in a sippy cup too long, or if you add vinegar to make buttermilk. Make sure to buy unsweetened plain for cooking, because that hint of sugar and flavor in the rest will give your savory recipes an odd flavor. Available in organic and non.

Rice Milk: Has a thin, watery flavor and consistency when compared to its dairy counterpart. Lacks body and richness due to it's low fat content. Does not sour for use in buttermilk recipes. Mild flavor easier for many to adapt to. More flavor varieties of this beverage on the market than the other milks have.

Hemp Milk: Rich in healthy omegas. Slightly nutty flavor is very unique. Full bodied and rich, making it a heavier milk to give baked goods more oomph. Sours nicely with vinegar.

Almond Milk: You're on your own here. We're allergic to nuts. Enjoy though!

Oat Milk: Slightly gritty texture makes it harder to drink straight, but great flavor makes it yummy when baking. I like to use it in equal parts with water to make oatmeal! Creamy without altering the oat flavor. Be careful if you are gluten free, as oats are often contaminated with wheat.

Coconut Milk: Rich and creamy and high in medium chain fatty acids. ("Good fat", essential for growing little people.) High in lauric and capric acid, which are supposed to be good for supporting the immune system. Adding sugar to this can bring out the coconut flavor, which will vary in intesity by brand. It should not change the flavor of savory recipes. It comes canned (thicker) or in the dairy section (traditional milk consistency). It will make buttermilk if you add vinegar. You can make whipped cream with it if you buy a can of full fat milk. Lots of recipes for this online.

Try them all. Figure out which ones have the health benefits you value most, and which ones your family is most likely to drink. All of them are an investment, ranging in price from $6-$15 a gallon. But so worth it to know that you are giving your kiddos the healthy stuff they need to grow.

We'll stop there for now. Tomorrow? Egg replacers. And by tomorrow, I mean whenever I get the chance to sit down and blog. Until then, go try a new kind of milk. You'll feel good about it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Eczema and Allergy connection

This past weekend found me in Chicago, attending the FAAN conference. I came a way with a few tidbits of information that were especially relevant in our allergy life, and I thought I would share. Of course, the following information is what I understood as it was said. As with any other information, you may want to double check it for accuracy, and you should certainly discuss it with your allergist or physician before making any changes to your lifestyle.

First, the relationship between allergies and eczema changes as your child ages. In infancy and toddlerhood (through about 3) food and eczema are directly linked. Consuming allergenic foods causes eczema flare ups. If your little one was diagnosed as a baby, you already knew about this link. What I did not know is that as your child ages, food is no longer the primary trigger. In fact, it becomes less and less so. Environmental allergies begin to trigger eczema outbreaks around the age of three, taking the place of food allergy triggers. So for us moms trying to figure out what we fed our kiddo, stop doubting yourself. Yes, check the food. Also check the environment though, as your munchkin may be getting seasonal or environmental allergies.

As we move into puberty those crazy changing hormones play a part in the eczema. And as young adults the allergies and eczema are more loosely associated. The relationship eventually breaks down far enough that one does not lead to the other.

Eczema is closely tied to allergies, but it is it's own disease as well. This means that while allergies exacerbate eczema, no allergic exposure is needed to cause a flare up. It can be caused by being hot and sweaty in the summer or overly dry in the winter. It will go through cycles with no prompting. An eczema flare up is not a guarantee of allergic exposure. But we parents know that it's a pretty good clue for our little ones. For now.

Another source of interest for me was that topical exposure to food allergens does not result in a fatal allergic response. The medical adviser stopped short of saying it never happens or it is impossible, but he stressed repeatedly that life threatening reactions occur when the allergen is ingested. Ingestion to me means that the allergen is introduced into your body orally or through contact with a mucous membrane. (Rubbing your eyes and getting the allergen into your eye, or that dreadful -but rare- instance of childhood nose spelunking.) So, when daddy kisses your forehead and you get a rash, it may be uncomfortable, but it won't kill you.

Speaking of kissing....if you have teens, and thank goodness I don't yet, it's something for them to think about. Your date should refrain from foods you are allergic to. If they do not, think twice about kissing. (Insert graphic mental image of big teenage grins- complete with braces- immediately following any given meal. 'Nuff said.) Again the stressing that life threatening reactions occur upon ingestion. No braces? Super! That does not mean, though, that your date won't leave a telltale rash that you would prefer not to explain to your parents.

Another fun fact: Legumes are not a close knit family. The medical adviser present explained that the legume family is unusual in that you can react to one, such as soy or peanut, and not react to another, like garbanzo beans and peas. They all react individually, not as a family. So, if you are allergic to one legume do not assume that you are allergic to them all. Can you be? Of course. Will you be? Try them with sensible caution to find out.

If you use your epi-pen, go to the ER. Period. Expect to stay four hours for observation if it was a food induced reaction, longer if it was a reaction to medicine. (Food is processed through your system faster than medicines are, so you can leave sooner.) The reason for mandatory ER visits? Biphasic reactions can happen. In other words, your reaction can be controlled with the epi-pen, then come back full force later. We all know this, I think, but when faced with the decision of whether to spend the night in the ER or your own beds, your resolve can waiver. An unexpected word of caution: you may know as much or more than your ER doctor. Really. You live with an allergy every day, and have spent a lot of time educating yourself about how to handle it. This is not their area of specialty, and their training on the subject was not as extensive. Be ready to advocate (politely) for your child if faced with under-education. Wow. Not what I expected to hear from a medical professional.

Finally, allergies are taking longer to "outgrow". In the past the standard expectation was that many allergies would be outgrown by school age. Now they are lasting into early adolescence. Right up through high school. So, we drag out the light of hope into a longer beam. While the medical adviser would not stomp on hope that every allergy can eventually be outgrown, he did hint that the more severe the allergy the less likely it will be outgrown. It CAN still be outgrown, always that teasing flickering light of hope.

That sums up my take aways. Hope at least one of them is interesting to you too. If not, why on earth did you read this far?