Food Allergy Consultant, Author, Blogger & Mother- I bridge the gap when someone is diagnosed with a food allergy and how to begin in the world of allergy-friendly foods. I help find safe, wholesome foods to supplement allergenic foods, where to shop, which items to purchase that are safe and how to maximize their budget while adjusting to this dietary change www.AllergyPhoods.com
I was recently approached by Fay over at Label-Land asking if they could write a holiday blog post for my blog. I was more than happy to have them as a guest- after all, within the food allergy community labels are a necessary part of our lives. So sharing is also a must- the more, the merrier (especially during the holiday season, right?!)
Food allergy parents and teachers are all beginning to enter that time of year- it can be tons of fun but it can also be a disaster waiting to happen if it's not handled in an organized manner. Thankfully, Label-Land has outlined five easy tips to keep our children safe. And by children, I mean ALL children, not just the allergic ones. So grab a warm beverage, sit back and jot down what will help you stay calmer, safer and maybe even a bit more sane.
#1: Gather Information Although you may know the best way to manage your own child's allergies, there are other things to consider. Most school districts have their own requirements in place to ensure an allergen-free event. Even if your school doesn't, there may be other children in the school with moderate to severe allergies.
Before planning the party menu, meet with school officials and other parents to assemble a list of unsafe foods. When in doubt, plan the menu so it is safe for those with the most severe food allergies.
#2 Educate First The party planning committee may require some education on food allergies, especially if they have always done the holiday a certain way before a child with allergies joined the school community. Key points to bring up with the planning committee include:
Provide facts. 1 in 13 children under the age of 18 suffers from food allergies, so it's a safe bet that there are multiple children that require safe options.
Avoid making it just about your child. Change is more difficult to institute if people see it as selfish, although your intentions are only for your child's health. Instead, work with other parents of children with allergies to show that you are doing this for the entire school community.
Bring literature to back up your case. Your allergist can provide information to help you with your presentation. Consulting with your allergist is a good idea anyway, because they can point you toward further resources.
Finally, be ready to step up. Parents that don't live with allergies may see the entire process of a safe menu as frightening or as too much work. Volunteer to provide food or an allergen-free kitchen for food preparation as a group.
#3 Plan the Menu Volunteering on the food or menu committee is the best method to ensure an allergy-safe party. You are likely familiar with your child's allergies but you will also need to consider the food sensitivities of others.
Begin by collecting a list of allergies present in the school, along with their severity. Some children cannot even be in the same room as a peanut, for example, while others are only affected if they eat the food. Knowing the severity level allows you to plan a menu that completely leaves out the severe allergens, while ensuring you clearly label foods containing mild to moderate allergens.
#4 Delegate the Duties It isn't realistic to think you can handle all food preparation yourself. Instead, delegate the various duties to other parents and members of the party committee. When selecting members for a task, make sure they are completely on board with allergy safety. It's an unfortunate fact that some people do not take food allergies seriously and these people should not handle any part of the food service.
Duties to delegate include:
Food sourcing. One person can source allergen-free ingredients and main ideas. This task should go to a parent of an allergic child since they will have the necessary experience in deciphering package labeling.
Cooks. A few parents will need to handle the food preparation once the menu is decided and the ingredients purchased. Make sure all food is prepared in an allergen-free kitchen and that care is taken to avoid cross-contamination.
Serving manager. At least one adult will need to manage the food tables during the school party. This ensures that no unapproved treats are placed on the table and that serving spoons don't end up in the wrong dish and contaminate a formerly safe food with an allergen.
#5 Label Everything One of the best ways to avoid an allergy emergency is to make sure that every item being served is clearly labeled with a non removable label (this includes backpacks and lunch bags that are labeled with a non removable label like this. Label foods not just with their name but also with a detailed list of every ingredient. Use two labels for everything- one visible label and one taped to the bottom or back of the dish in case the main label is misplaced.
Planning a school party with allergies may seem overwhelming,but it's well worth it when all the children are safe to celebrate together. It's easier to take on a project of this size when you work to get everyone working together in the children's best interest.
Before I begin, I need to apologize to Luke's Organics...(hanging head) they were kind enough to send me their products months ago after we met at the the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference in Las Vegas and I am just now posting the review. (Shame, Nutrimom, shame!!) It was not intentional and I appreciate that they not only sent so much product but also were kind enough to not send me emails like "Um, yeah, hey. Did you, maybe get to taste all of those items that we sent to you yet? You know, the entire line of our products that we mailed out...right away..like we promised." Instead, they were professional, courteous and they just let me do my thing. Thanks Luke's! I promise, it won't happen again.
As you can see, I was completely serious when I said they sent me one of everything because, well, they really did! Let's do a quick rundown of what they have here:
Multi Grain & Seed Crackers
Bean & Seed
Ancient Grain Multi Grain & Seed
Kale Multi Grain & Seed
Protein Blue Corn & Red Lentil Multi Grain & Seed
SuperFood Sweet Potato, Hemp & Buckwheat Multi Grain & Seed
Brown Rice Chips Himalayan Pink Sea Salt
Cha-Cha-Cha Chia Seed Multi Grain & Seed
ALL gluten free, can we say selection? Yes, we can! So what does a blogger do with said items? I could just eat them (and, obviously I did) but you know how I have that habit of seeing what else I can do with foods. Just depends on my mood but I also like to stretch my food to it's limits. You know, boost it's ego and make it recognize that it's much more important than everyone says it is. Plus, it's fun.
Let's just jump right into those recipes, shall we? Heck, I waited long enough (uh, yeah, it's been since September) Gasp! Here we go-
6 Chips EACH (Chia, Black Pepper & Multi Seed) Crackers, ground
5 Roasted Brussel Sprouts
1 Tablespoon Hummus (I used Roasted Red Pepper)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a pan with oil to prevent sticking and set aside.
In a food processor, combine the sausage, ground chips, Brussels sprouts and hummus. Combine well. Spoon mixture into the mushrooms and spray lightly with additional oil spray. Bake until golden brown.
Makes 9 Mushrooms
Chicken Fried Burger
Winona Pure Oil
4 Burger Patties
45 Multi Seed Crackers (ground)
In a large pan, spray with oil and warm the pan on medium heat. Coat the patties with the ground crackers and place into the pan. Fry, flipping once until no pink remains in the middle.
In a large pan, spray with Popcorn Butter spray on medium heat.
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Place a spoonful at a time onto the greased pan and fry, flipping once.
You may also bake them- preheat oven to 400 degrees, fill a muffin tin with IfYouCare muffin liners and bake. Spray with additional oil when they begin to crisp. Please note that this method does make them fall apart very easily but still just as tasty. Serving sizes will vary
Wondering about the orange food? Click HERE for the recipe!
Easy Gluten Free Topping
Grind a mixture of All (Garden Vegetable, Bean & Seed, Sea Salt) crackers Follow Your Heart Vegenaise
Fish of your Choice (also great for poultry)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the fish into a casserole dish, coat with Vegenaise and top with ground cracker mixture. Bake thoroughly. Serving sizes will vary
No Recipe Needed (Sometimes) After much taste-testing, recipe-making and thinking, I realized that sometimes...just sometimes a recipe is not needed. Sometimes, you can just enjoy the chips- taste the chips, dip the chips or be really gross and do what NutriSon did and lick the salty taste off the chips prior to eating them (gag). I chose to make up a fast and easy pick platter of hummus, homemade guacamole and a neighbor's secret recipe barbecue sauce (curse you, Chris! I must have the recipe!!). So hubby & I got to munch on the Kale, Protein and the Chia chips.
Chips Vs. Crackers
I do have to say that if I had to choose, I prefer Luke's Organics line of chips over their crackers. I'm siked that they are all gluten free and contain heartier grains but, well, the crackers all kind of tasted a bit similar to me. But, on the flip side, I would definitely use their crackers for items like breading, mix-in's, etc.
Now their chips on the other hand- loved! To give you a heads-up, here are my first impressions of each chip variety (in case you tend to lean toward a particular type). Please note that descriptions are merely my interpretation of how they taste. Chip tastes my vary due to opposing taste buds.
~Ancient Grain Multi Grain & Seed- Hearty, crunchy and just a tad of salt ~Kale Multi Grain & Seed- Tastes just like any usual tortilla chip but no bitterness from the kale ~Protein Blue Corn & Red Lentil Multi Grain & Seed- Hearty, a bit of a slight smokey flavor ~SuperFood Sweet Potato, Hemp & Buckwheat Multi Grain & Seed- Not much of a sweet potato taste but still good and hearty ~Brown Rice Chips Himalayan Pink Sea Salt- Salty, almost a nutty flavor ~Cha-Cha-Cha Chia Seed Multi Grain & Seed- Similar to a "Frito" kind of taste
I so appreciate that a company like Luke's Organic is out there for our communities. They are free of peanut, tree nut, soy, gluten, GMO's and as you can see from all of their information on their website, they are passionate about keeping their products healthy for us. Please make sure you visit all of their media sites to see what else they are up to & please let them know that Nutrimom sent you (sharing is caring!).
*No compensation was received for this review other than the products themselves as my reviews are always honest.
Do you remember what is was like before food allergies? Driving to the store, choosing your favorite chocolate bar that was absolutely not good for you but you still had to have one? I do. My favorite was Twix...drooling. That chocolatey, crunchy caramelly bar. Can I still go and get one- yes but I know it's not safe for my son and I know that ultimately, I will feel like crap after I eat it. My answer to these situations is to limit my forbidden treats but every once in awhile, I find a recipe or make a recipe that tastes very close to that beloved snack so that I don't have to worry about cheating or not cheating. Sometimes. I can have my candy and eat it too.
This morning, I started out trying to make one type of recipe and it turned out to be something else but better. This crispy treat (to our family) tastes almost like a Twix bar. But even better than that, it's easy to make (even for me..remember, I suck at making crispy treats..see HERE). Easy, allergy-friendly and may I say, slightly addictive? May I happily present my recipe for SunButter Surprise Crispy Treats
Spray a casserole dish with the spray oil and set aside.
In a large pot over medium-low heat, add the butter (or butter, spray alternatives) and mini marshmallows. Stir frequently until melted to prevent burning and sticking. Remove from the heat and add the SunButter. Mix in the Double Chocolate Crunch Granola and mix well.
Using a plastic spatula, pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Cool completely before slicing (or, eat them directly out of the pot using care as not to burn yourself in the process).
November is a time to reflect on what we are all grateful for as well as indulging in many of our favorite foods with the holidays rolling around. I wanted to take the time to share with all of you some important food-related facts to help give us all an upper hand in staying a bit healthier. Normally many of my posts are about food allergies and related products but when the American Red Cross contacted me and so passionately pointed out how food was a definite factor in this month's stroke awareness, how could I not share?
Just like the numbers related to food allergic reactions are scary, so are the numbers when it comes to stroke victims. Did you know that every 4 minutes a person's life is taken due to a stroke? I didn't! Did you also know that 1 in 6 people will have a stroke within their lifetime? I didn't know this either. The fact is that just as with food allergies, if it does not directly effect you or your family, chances are that you would not even think twice about stroke symptoms. But this certainly does not protect you from having one so let's share knowledge because, as I always like to say, knowledge is power.
Food Factors- Poor diet choices, high cholesterol & blood pressure and obesity are just a few things that you can begin to change in your life right now. So how do you know which foods tend to be some of the top no-no's? Here's an easy list of foods that you may want to reconsider going forward-
Store-bought baked goods
Chips & crackers
Snack foods & frozen foods
Prepared frozen meals
Now before you run into your kitchen and begin throwing everything under the sun away, stop and read your labels (well, well- another food allergy-related thing as well!). Not all of the foods that I listed may be offenders. I am talking about foods that contain hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils and high amounts of sodium. Do your research, read and reread your labels and make informed decisions. If you are unsure, ask for help. Every small thing that you do today will keep you healthier tomorrow.
Signs to Watch For- We have a few foods to watch out for but what types of symptoms do we need to be aware of if we think someone just isn't acting quite right? Just as the chart below shows us, it's easy to remember FAST-
Time to call 911
And, just as we seasoned food allergic people always tell others- when in doubt, seek immediate medical assistance. With a stroke, time is of the essence and there is no shame in an unnecessary medical visit. Some day, one of those visits could mean the difference between life and death.
Food that You Should Eat- Are there foods that you can eat that will also help reduce the risk for a stroke- yes! Vegetables and fruit are always great but also make sure you eat a variety of high fiber foods and grains as well. These foods act as a pipe cleaner for your arteries. Are you worried about what they might be? Don't! Many high fiber foods are also great protein and even allergy-friendly.
- Legumes: split peas, lentils, black beans & lima beans
- Vegetables: artichokes, peas, broccoli and brussel sprouts
- Fruits: raspberries, blackberries, avocado (yes, it's a fruit!) and pears
- Grains: Bran, whole wheat and barley. Need gluten free options? Try certified gluten free oats, quinoa, flax seeds and chia seeds.
Need a Quick Recipe? Try out some of my easy, allergy-friendly recipes (simply click on the recipe title to get too the full recipe)
<3 Please remember to be thankful for everything that life brings you each and every day but also be thankful for the things that life keeps away from you as well. For more information about how to prevent a stoke, the symptoms or other general facts please go to http://www.redcross.org/ <3
Who needs some fast, gluten-free recipes for the Thanksgiving holiday next week? Who needs recipes for the entire holiday season? I do, I do!!! We are in luck- Pam Jordan (also known as I'm A Celiac) has a free ebook available on Amazon right now! I do admit, I felt privileged to have been offered a sneak peek but it's available to all of you right now (just click HERE to be zoomed away to the magical land of gluten free) so please make sure you get your copy and share with others who can use it as well.
Are you curious what is in this holiday cookbook? My first instinct is to insist that you download it right now but for those of you who like a little information first, I'd be happy to give you a quick breakdown. Although it's a shorter book (21 pages), Pam gives a variety of appetizers, side dishes, main dishes and desserts (Mmmm, desserts!). She adds in helpful holiday tips to dine safely and she offers a list of the products that are used in all of the recipes in her book including a direct link to make it that much easier for the reader to get what they need before the holidays jump on us. How's that for skipping all of those long lines at the stores?!
For those of you who may be new to a gluten free diagnosis, Pam Jordan is an author/blogger/mother who has Celiac Disease and is one awesome supportive person to help all of us so we don't starve or feel the least bit unsatisfied with our gluten free diets. She shares tips, recipes, menus and most of all, Pam is a regular down-to-earth person just like you and I. Her passion to help other people shows through in everything that she does (which is why I personally like her).
Thanks to Pam for looking out for all of us and for continuing to help us through the difficult times of the year. Download your copy now for free and please share with others as sharing is caring. (Well, I'm sure you were going to do that anyway!) For your speedy, still-sitting-in-jammy-shopping experience, here is the link www.EasyGFHolidayRecipes.com.
Being an author myself of my own ebook, I am intrigued when I get requests to view other people's cookbooks as well. Not only do I get another cookbook to add to my collection but I get to see what is inside of the minds of these great people that I come into contact with. It's one thing to talk about what you would like to do, what your life is like having a restricted diet but it's quite another task to put together a cookbook- especially a cookbook that has to be so precise due to food allergies.
I was approached to see if I would be interested in reviewing The Delight Gluten-Free Cookbook by Vanessa Weisbrod. For those of you who may not know, Vanessa is the Executive Editor of Delight Gluten Free magazine (awesome magazine, awesome peeps as I have met them). I'm not sure what everyone else usually tends to look for but I always go to the photos first. Not that this is necessarily the best way to see if it's a worthy cookbook but as I have learned, cooking gluten-free an be very challenging so if the pictures look enticing, I will be drawn in even more. (Pouting, wishing my photos were half as good right about now!)
The photos are all just simple, clean looking pictures- nothing ultra fancy but this is something that I feel everyday people who are looking for answers might respond to better. When I look at recipes with photos that display the ultimate dish that I cannot possibly live up to, I close the book and let it collect dust. As I say often, in every day life who has time to create an eighteen step meal? Not many so why would a complex photo make us want to be able to? I like the brightness of the pictures and the fact that I could even see these as foods that might have been from my own kitchen.
What I liked about the book-
Anatomy of a Recipe I am a person who likes to include details to make recipes easier as well as someone who like simplicity. I loved the "Anatomy of a Recipe" on page 17 because it spells everything out for you. This may seem a bit silly to some but sometimes, when you have a brain fog and just can't function on your usual level, something like this helps give you that extra "Ah ha!".
Allergen Tag/Symbols These are helpful while you thumb through the cookbook and takes one less step while searching. Rather than having to go through the entire recipe, check and recheck ingredients, you can just check the allergen symbols to give you a heads-up.
Short Prep Time Most of the recipes within Vanessa's cookbook are 30 minutes or less. This goes back to my everyday comment of not having enough hours in the day to cook super genius meals. Yay for fast and easy!
Trusted Brands and Resources Vanessa lists many gluten free brands and I was thrilled that many of them are my family's favorites as well. I find these especially helpful for newcomers to the world of food allergies because it gives them a good place to start with items that they can feel comfortable trying out.
Cocktails Chapter Yes, she includes a chapter for cocktails! (Well, a girl likes to have options and enjoys a small night cap now and again) Also a handy reminder to many people when starting out gluten-free that gluten lurks everywhere, even in alcoholic beverages. Better to be safe than sorry.
Convenient Size The book has a lot of great information but it's not a large or heavy book. Sounds silly but do you know how many heavy cookbooks I have dropped on my toe?!
What I knit-picked about:
SPAM Yes, like that gelatinous mystery meat in a can kind of Spam. Right there, on page 116. I am all for utilizing the foods that you can eat but that just crosses a line with me. Blah! Sorry Vanessa, my issue not yours.
Dairy, Eggs, Butter Again, my issues and not the author's at all. I just noticed that a large majority of the recipes contain dairy, eggs and butter which may be a turnoff to some. I understand that it's a gluten-free focused cookbook but perhaps if there had been substitutes mentioned in the recipes containing these items to make it a bit easier for the person cooking them up (rather than flipping back and forth to the substitutions list on page 18).
The recipe that I tried:
After perusing the entire book, the recipe that caught my eye was on page 146 "Curry Coconut Mashed Cauliflower". Why this recipe? Because I am not a cauliflower lover, the combination of flavors seemed unique and it wasn't a recipe that I would assume would be in a typical cookbook (such as your average muffins, soups, etc). So I gave it a whirl. And to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. It was super easy to make and there were leftovers for lunch and sides. There was no usual cauliflower taste and it was almost like a garlicky, creamy slightly spicy version of mashed potatoes. Mine didn't seem as orange as the picture in Vanessa's cookbook but it was still quite tasty.
<3 A heartfelt thank you to Vanessa for thinking of me for my thoughts on her cookbook. I know she will do well with this and will continue to rock the gluten-free world with additional recipes in the future.