Monday, June 26, 2017

SkinnyPop For Foodies

I remember the first moment I saw SkinnyPop in a store- it was their White Cheddar popcorn. I remember because I was in that typical shopping haze when you don't focus on anything else and the kids asked if we could try it. My first tired, didn't-want-to-be-at-the-food store response "It's cheddar so no."Luckily my daughter is a label-reading fiend and she quickly pointed out it was dairy free cheddar. I stopped, read it and reread it.

SkinnyPop, Meet NutriFamily And we have been friends ever since. I'm not sure about other food allergy families but when we find snacks that all of us can eat and are delicious, it's a win-win. They become staples in our pantry and the fact that I have seen them just about everywhere puts the icing on the cake (ooohhh, or the popcorn, imagine!!!). I can often be seen traveling with their bags in tow but they usually do not make it back home with us. SkinnyPop has been to Great Wolf Lodge with us twice, they have been to the beach, they have been to Atlanta, GA and bunches of other places. They are definitely travel-worthy and although I buy the big bags for every day use, I also splurge and buy the individual, smaller bags to avoid anyone fighting over who had more than the other. Heck, I even found a size at Costco recently that can keep up with NutriKids appetite...behold, the toddler-sizes SkinnyPop :) (This is a real photo people, I could use it as a pillow!)

SkinnyPop Gets All Foodie on Us I am all for being an allergy-friendly, family-oriented snack but then I got hold of this cool list that let's the adults still enjoy SkinnyPop in a fun, foodie kind of way. Honestly, sometimes adults need to enjoy snacks too and sometimes, we just want to have them without any sticky little hands or leftover crumbs in the car seats (No offense kiddos,I still love you). Imagine hosting a friendly get together with your favorite SkinnyPop product but then saying "Hey guys, you have to try this flavor with that!" Suddenly, your beverages have become an all out foodie event that is still easy, delicious and fun. Like I always say, food should be fun, even with food allergies. SkinnyPop came up with all of these fabulous food pairings and I cannot wait to try them all out!

(picture is available as an info graph from SkinnyPop but I wanted you to be able to read it)

Do I Have a Pairing of My Own? Unofficially, yes but mine is one that anyone in the family can try out. NutriKids have always had the words "Something sweet, something salty, something crunchy" in their heads since day one of school and snacking. Since it's summer and the warm air tends to melt some of our cold items (and I always say waste nothing!) here is my pairing:

I NEED SKINNYPOP NOW! No worries, you can find them on their website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest. You can also find a store near you or order online and have it sent right to your door. 

.... and of course, you can always find it in my kitchen but I cannot guarantee that we will be willing to share. 

Which one will you try?!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Starbucks® Sammie- Nosh or Never Mind?

There has been quite a stir lately about the new Starbucks® Gluten-Free Breakfast Sandwich. Just for the record, I am not allergic to gluten nor do I have Celiac Disease. I find keeping to a gluten free diet resolves many of my strange symptoms. I have, in the past, admitted that I do not care for their food items. Not that I expect a five star meal when I go there but honestly, most of their meals are a bit on the rubbery, microwave-blah side and not worth the money. Now, here I am, joining the others and venturing outside of my mindset to try their gluten free sandwich. I went in doubtful but did I come out the same way?

Order Up The first thing I noticed was that it was very well labeled on the outside of the package. The words "gluten free" are plastered all over the paper. Is this necessary? Absolutely! Because people can make mistakes and those mistakes can cause bad things to happen. Especially when it comes to food allergies and ingredients, there is no such thing as overdoing it. In my opinion, I believe this is all about food safety and less about the marketing factor. Looking at the package, it would be pretty darn difficult to mix this up with a different breakfast sandwich. So Starbucks® you get an A from the starting gate.

Easy on the Eyes As I said, I do not care for their other food items and I was not expecting anything wonderful. Growing up in New Jersey, breakfast sandwiches were a way of life. This one consists of a gluten free roll, egg, reduced-fat cheese and Canadian bacon. I was reluctant as many gluten free rolls can be, well, awful. I am picky about my foods but why shouldn't I be? And you should be too. Food is meant to be delicious, even with food allergies and intolerances. And regardless of others who may promote some of those other less than yummy gluten free products, I do not. There is no reason too. Life is too short to eat bad foods. You will note that these sandwiches come to you in a completely sealed package- nobody touches it, nobody arranges it and nobody else can contaminate it. It goes from storage area to microwave to you, period. It literally has to be ripped open. Please see their ingredient and allergen statement here to ensure that your health is not compromised, safety first and label reading always!

Taste? Plain and simple, it is very good. The gluten free roll is very good- it's not dry or crumbly or spongy (as can sometimes happen when you microwave foods). The roll tastes just like any other roll, gluten free or not- I'd LOVE to know which brand it is! I venture to say that if you put this sandwich in front of someone and don't tell them it's gluten free, they would never know it. The Canadian bacon is good- also not chewy or dry. The size of the sandwich is more than adequate. The egg and cheese are also good (I am also picky about microwaved eggs...yup, I am just picky period). Good ratio on bun vs. cheese, egg and breakfast meat as well.

Regrets? None. At. All. I do admit Starbucks®- you have made me eat my words, literally. This is a delicious meal item and I am one happy camper. Some additional thoughts:
- Consider offering a cheese-free option as well (or) dairy-free cheese
- Expand to other breakfast meats (chicken sausage patty, bacon?) Al Fresco is our favorite
- Would love an egg-free option as well

Waste Nothing My teeny, tiny pet peeve, as I mention regularly (since allergy-friendly foods tend to be a bit more pricey) waste nothing! I know this is such a minute thing but do you see the portion of the sandwich that gets left behind here? Now some of us love to scrape it off, lick it off, whatever but that is still food waste. There's like an entire bite stuck in there. I know it happens, I know it's from the heating process and probably can't be helped but (maybe) can you work on it? Yeah, it's probably fun watching people hold the paper up to their face, licking and scraping but if you are in a business not lady-like. 

All in all, what I am trying to say is- thank you Starbucks® for introducing this and for opening up your eyes about your food allergic customers. I look forward to (possible) future additions in the works ~

Who else has tried the Gluten-Free Breakfast Sandwich? 
Tell me your honest thoughts!

Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for this post, I am just a hungry blogger. I was not asked to write this review, I was not paid for it and I was not compensated for my meal.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

4 Awesome Tips For People With Sensitive Skin

Guest post by Michael Peggs

Having sensitive skin can be quite a challenge to maintain. With the abundance of beauty products on the market, choosing the most natural and organic products is needed to avoid harmful chemicals that might cause you allergic reactions. On top of that, the scorching heat and pollution in the environment makes it more difficult to maintain a beautiful, healthy, and glowing skin these days.

To help you manage your skin regimen, check out these 4 awesome tips for people with sensitive skin:

  1. Always Read the Label Unfortunately, having sensitive skin means your skin does not react well with all types of ingredients present in most skin care products. As such, you should always be watchful with your purchases. Make sure you only use natural beauty products, as these are free of harmful chemical ingredients, such as fragrances and paraben preservatives that cause irritation and flare ups. Keep your guard up for complicated chemicals and formulas that can potentially irritate your skin.
  2. Less is More Make your everyday regimen simpler by limiting the number of products you put on your skin. The 3 basic needs to maintain a healthy skin are your cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. On occasions when you need to put on makeup, go for natural beauty by using the bare minimum- tinted moisturizer, blush, mascara, eyeliner, and lipstick or lip tint. It's always better to go for natural and organic beauty products like the line offered by Well Within Beauty. Their comprehensive skincare line is derived exclusively from natural sources, containing the highest level of organic ingredients, while remaining completely free of chemicals and toxins. 
  3. Always Wash Your Face Whenever you have the chance, wash your face with a cleanser that is formulated for sensitive skin. This will keep your pores clean and free from dirt that may be clogging your pores. Once done washing, don't rub your face with a towel or facial tissue but just dab it dry. Apply moisturizer immediately for maximum absorption. Do this at least twice a day to keep your face fresh and clean throughout the day.
  4. Wear Sunscreen All the Time Wearing your sunscreen is one of the most important tips for maintaining sensitive skin. Having skin that is more irritable and vulnerable to the elements means you need to work extra hard to keep it healthy. Look for sunscreen that is organic and natural, so you can wear it everyday without the risk of skin irritation.

To summarize, stay aware of all the products you put on your skin. You need to take extra care of yourself when incorporating new products into your skincare regimen, especially if you have sensitive skin. While finding good products can be a challenge, more and more organic beauty products are hitting the market.

Remember: knowledge is power. Keep yourself informed on the latest skin care studies. Always be on the lookout for what's new in the market, as products are continuously evolving making it easier to care for your sensitive skin.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Plant-Based Dessert Giveaway

There are some allergy-friendly products that I have been in the loop with since they began. I love that- I love feeling like part of my family still reaches out, wants to say hey and wants to share as well. My first encounter with Wink Frozen Desserts was back in 2012 (read it) - they were my second product review and they were gracious enough to send us bunches of samples for the FARE Walk that I organized in 2013 as a safe, cool treat on a very hot day. I have watched them grow over the years and I am happy to say that this is a product that is run by dedicated, passionate people who aim to make something safe for everyone to eat.

Wink Frozen Desserts recently reformulated their products and asked if I would try them out. Heck yeah! I admit, I am a product review junkie but specifically- never turn down dessert, especially safe dessert. Right? But also, you know I love to share so I thought it would be cool (pun intended) to have a taste-testing party and a giveaway. I can taste the desserts, we can share thoughts and best of all, three people will be chosen to receive a variety pack. School is ending, summer is beginning- there is just no better way to celebrate.

Dessert Rules (and yes, it does)

  • Giveaway will begin Monday June 5th and end Thursday June 8th at midnight 
  • Contest is open to US residents only (sorry Canada, I still love you!)
  • 3 Winners will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter
  • Each winner will receive 1 Wink Frozen Desserts Variety Pack
  • The winners will be announces Friday June 9th
  • If the chosen winners do not respond within 72 hours, alternate winners will be chosen
  • Sharing is always encouraged
  • Be sure to include #WinkDesserts AND tag me & Wink Frozen Desserts
  • As always, none of your entry information shall be shared or sold, it's just between us
 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to the winners-

PLUS, isn't the little winky logo guy adorable?! Remember, the MORE you share, the better the giveaway is! Special thanks to Wink Frozen Desserts for both thinking of me to try out the new goods and for offering such bountiful giveaway prizes. Visit them on the web, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube & Pinterest. You can also order directly for pints & packs or check their store locator.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

No Tomatoes? No Problem!

I have met many people who cannot consume tomatoes. Since our family tends to look for hearty meals that are both easy and allergy-friendly, I wanted to share my newest chili recipe. Whether it be for topping a hot dog or burger, eating alone or just as one of those meals that you double and freeze for less cooking later, it's a must try!

Mango Chili
(For those who cannot have tomatoes & another easy place to hide pureed veggies!)

2 Tablespoons oil
1 Tablespoon onion and garlic powder 
1 Pound ground meat of your choice (try to use a combination)
1 Teaspoon EACH sea salt, basil and chili powder
½  Teaspoon EACH thyme and oregano
¼ Teaspoon ground black pepper or ground coriander
Cumin & red pepper to taste
2 Cups "safe" beans of your choice, drained and rinsed (black beans)
1/2 Cup - 1 Cup pureed greens of your choice
1 Medium mango, deskinned and pureed
*If it seems dry, add broth starting at ¼ - ½ cup and increase if needed

Prep Time:   5 Minutes
Cook Time:  25 Minutes

  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil  
  2. Add onion and garlic  
  3. Cook over medium heat until brown  
  4. Add ground meat; cook until the meat is not pink anymore 
  5. Add all of the remaining spices and stir well  
  6. Add the beans, greens and mango  
  7. Cover; simmer on low heat for about 10-20 minutes

*This recipe is spicier if you make it ahead of time and let it sit overnight.

Makes approximately 4 servings

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Top 8 Free Cream Puffs

I have been a big fan of The Greater Knead (formerly Sweet Note Bagels) for many years. Love their bagels, love their mission to feed all of us and I especially love that they sent me a bag of their All Purpose Blend Baking mix to try out. Could I have just baked some bread? Sure. Did I? No. Instead I recreated a dessert that I have missed for a very long time- cream puffs. And not only are they gluten free but they are also free of egg, dairy and nut. Get your chef hats on, pull on your apron and get your taste buds ready.

Top 8 Free Cream Puffs
Featuring The Greater Knead

1 Cup water
½ Cup butter of your choice (can use Vegan or dairy free)
½ Teaspoon sea salt
 1 ¼ Cups TheGreater Knead All Purpose Blend Baking Mix
8 Tablespoons Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg + ¼ cup cold water
1 Tub SoDelicious Coco Whip (thawed)
¾ Cup So Delicious UnsweetenedVanilla coconut yogurt
½ Teaspoon vanilla

Prep Time:        8 Minutes
Cooking Time:  45 Minutes

1.       Preheat the oven to 425°.
2.       Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside
3.       In a medium pot, bring the water, “butter” and salt to a boil
4.       Remove from the heat and add the flour, stirring continuously
5.       Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes
6.       Prepare the filling by combining all of the ingredients in a large bowl
7.       Cover and refrigerate until needed
8.       Using a large bowl, transfer the cooked pastry items and add the Vegan egg, mixing on low with a hand mixer and scraping the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula
9.       Scoop mounds of the batter onto the baking sheets (a scoop is the easiest method)
10.   Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 350° (do not open the oven door)
11.   Bake at reduced temperature for 20-25 minutes or until the pastries are golden
12.   Remove the pastries, insert a small slit on the top of each pastry
13.   Place them back into the oven for 5 more minutes
14.   Allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack
15.   Once cool, gently cut them in half
16.   Spoon or pipe prepared filling into the cooked pastries
17.   Top with sprinkled confectioners’ sugar
*If storing, be sure to store the puffs in an airtight container (unfilled) and fill as needed.

Makes approximately 18 small puffs

Did you make them?
 Leave a comment & let me know ~

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Made Good Foods Giveaway

Have you tried Made Good Foods yet? I just finished taste-testing the bunches of goodness that they were kind enough to send to me. In case you are not familiar with Made Good Foods, they offer allergy-friendly Granola Bars, Granola Minis and even Crispy Squares (these I did not get to try but it's going on my to-do list ASAP!). They were also most recently mentioned in the news when they partnered with Snack Safely, Enjoy Life Foods and others for the Free-From Sample Program for Schools (read here) - a program that is aimed at sharing both food allergy awareness and information as well as coupons and samples to schools, their staff and others that are typically involved with school meal and snack planning. Talk about jumping into the food allergy community on a positive and delicious note! And I do admit, one of the most difficult products that I have tried to find that contains minimal allergens has always been granola. I am happy to report that Made Good Foods are free from and made in a facility free of peanut, tree nut, wheat, dairy, sesame, tree nuts, soy, egg, fish and shellfish. Plus, who doesn't love that they offer both bars and minis (not sure about most of you but our family typically has some pretty picky eaters when it comes to shapes, sizes and just about anything else).

Speaking of here is one of the things I like most about these bars and minis- do you see the label? Are you seeing the ingredients? Did you catch the part where it says "Vegetable powder (spinach, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, beets, shiitake mushrooms)" - are you thinking what I am thinking? An allergy-friendly, safely packaged snack that also does what we have had to make homemade for I don't even know how long. They went and snuck vegetables into these pocket-sized pieces of yum! And I know what you may be thinking- "But my kids can read labels, they have since they were yay big because we taught them too so they will see the word vegetable". No worries- a couple of little tips from Nutrimom:

A) remove the package and have them taste it first. Often if they don't know the healthy ingredients are in there, the tasting is much easier. Then once they like them, they won't care if they are eating the ingredients that they profusely claim they despise
B) Teach them to read the ingredients but relabel the words. When they ask what the carrots are for, tell them they are "flavor enhancers" it lying? Maybe a tad but is it completely untrue? Nope. All of the ingredients do enhance the flavor so I rest my case as a parent of picky eaters.
 C) Eat them with your children- Tell me that whenever they see you eat it, they don't immediately want to eat it too! As long as they are double-checking with you to see if they are a safe snack for them,all is good.

Size Does Matter Come on, as a parent who packs lunches, plans long car trips or even just needs something to throw into your purse to get out of the door quickly without having to worry about ingredients and everything Made Good Foods definitely has the advantage. And I hate to repeat myself but when you have a house with various types of food allergies, it is life-saving to find products that can be eaten safely by everyone. The fact that you can tuck them away in your purse or coat pocket so that you can actually eat one in secret is also life-saving (just sayin'). You know you have been there too! You know you have hidden inside pantries, locked bathrooms or driven around the block an extra time just to be able to eat one snack all by yourself. It's part of parenting. Well, actually, it's part of human nature, parents or not- we just want to eat our own food sometimes!

The Bar Has Been Raised I admit, initially I tried the Minis and I wasn't sure about them- Made Good Foods granola is not your typical crunchy granola. It is a bit softer, chewier- almost like they hid marshmallows in there somewhere but of course, they didn't. But then I tried the bars, liked them. Asked my kids' opinions, liked them. And I realized it's not that I didn't like them, it's that I am so stuck on my idea of what granola is that I wasn't focusing on the real question - did I like them? The answer- yes. I like the taste, I like the many flavors, I like the fact that they offer bars and minis and I love the hidden veggie factor.

Here's the Giveaway Part Happily, Made Good Foods wants to share with all of you too! Here's what you need to know before we get started-
- Giveaway begins Wednesday May 17th and ends Friday May 19th at 12 Midnight EST
- This giveaway is open to everyone in the US AND Canada (yay!!! Canada always gets left out, not this time)
- 3 winners will each receive the full line of Made Good Foods Bars, Minis & Crispy Squares (10 boxes total each winner)
- Winners will be randomly selected via Rafflecopter
- No purchase necessary
- None of your information will be used/shared/sold/nada- just need it for the giveaway
- Sharing about the giveaway is appreciated using #madegoodfoods

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to our winners-
Dawn Pierson, Brianna Wolin & Kelly Cory

Find out more! Visit Made Good Foods on their website, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

Thank you to the folks at Made Good Foods for sending me these delicious goodies to review. As always, never compensation except for the products themselves as my reviews are always honest