Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Guest Blog at It's an Itchy Little World

I just want to say thank you again to Jennifer for inviting me to guest blog. I enjoyed writing the article and I hope that we keep up with each other going forward since I adore her blog.

Please check out my guest article and while you are there, check out Jennifer's company information as well for The Eczema Company.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Feeling Free with Home Free

Home Free was kind enough to ask me if I would like samples of some of their cookies...well that was a silly question! I am always willing to try new things, especially when they are allergy-friendly and safe for us to eat.

It's hard enough trying to find different recipes and researching foods but when our family finds a new item that is safe for us and convenient, we always give it a try. Don't get me wrong- you know that I have posted many,many times that there are always dishes in my sink because I cook and prepare constantly but as I once read by author Bette Hagman " Use as many prepared items as you can". This is something that I tell many newly diagnosed person with food allergies. Why? Because in the beginning, it's realistic. If you are diagnosed and try to read labels, find foods that do not contain any of the allergens, budget, prepare and  you still have your normal life, using prepared items helps you maintain your sanity until you get over the initial hump.

I was excited to try out the Home Free cookies, especially since many of my Facebook-likers have mentioned them before and had nothing but good things to say. I was also excited because my local Whole Foods has not carried them yet. If you have not heard or seen them either, Home Free makes cookies and coffee cakes that are free of gluten, peanuts, egg, tree nuts, dairy, cholesterol, trans fats and GMO's. Their facility is also dedicated peanut, tree nut, egg and dairy free. This covers SO many of my son's allergies and that fact that their facility is also free of most of these items makes me do the happy dance.

Home Free sent me a box of their Mini Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies and a bag each of their Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies and their Mini Crunchy Vanilla Cookies. Do you know how hard it was for my son not to eat them while he waited patiently for me to sample them first? Then, it was equally as hard to keep him from devouring the rest. All of the samples are great for someone who needs to crunch on something sweet. The texture is good and there is no funny after-taste that sometimes comes along with allergy-friendly products. They also kept well for several days after the package was open (I have noticed I have a hard time keeping some items fresh after opening).

I have to say, in my opinion, the Mini Crunchy Vanilla cookies taste very similar to Nilla Wafers, which is a good thing. My son had always asked what Nilla Wafers taste like so I am always thankful when I can find something and explain what another item tastes's a mom-thing.  I liked the mini packet also. It looks like a small package but you can easily get two servings of cookies to pack into a lunchbag for school. Of course, they did not last long enough to do so but I think it's good to know.

We also tried the Crunchy Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies..yum! Mommy has a soft spot for chocolate and I don't indulge myself a lot but I was actually letting my kids have more so that I did not eat them all up. You would think that having chocolate with chocolate chips would be too much chocolate (if that is actually possible) but these cookies were perfect- not too much of anything, just right.

The last item we had were the Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I would compare the taste of these to be similar to a crunchier version of Chips Ahoy. These also had just enough sweetness to curb my craving for chocolate and they were immediately munched up by my children. I did manage to spare a few for Dad for when he got home but I had to hide them. The funny thing was that I kept the empty boxes and bags to write about them and the kids came home every day asking "You got more samples? Can I have some?" The ultimate, quiet torture!

Overall, our family was satisfied with all of our samples. HomeFree also offers other items, such as a Cookbook, Starter Kit, flours and other natural baking products. They are on Facebook and their website is The only thing I do caution for fellow gluten allergy people is the fact that Home Free does also produce similar products with gluten in them as well. As you all know, having items in a facility that also produces gluten-containing items may or may not be a problem for your specific allergy and therefore, you should use your best judgement when deciding if these items are safe for you to eat.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Change With Your Kids, Don't Change Them

I spend a majority of my writing posts relating to food allergy topics but I am still a typical mom with typical, picky kids just like anyone else. I have seen a lot of comments lately about other moms stressing over how to get their children to eat or how to keep them busy and active and this jogged my brain a little bit. I realized that part of being a parent is to learn to adapt, good or bad. This also means that sometimes the adapting is something a parent has to be taught by their child and not the other way around. As parents, we are told all of our lives (even before having children) that children should be spoken to and not heard...why is this ok?

Now, I know a few parents may start to read this and already have a few things popping into their mind that they would love to tell me about but before you do, just hear me out. As a child, I learned a lot from my environment, my experiences and my friends and family. I was taught to respect my parents and that my job growing up was to make sure that I listened, I didn't break the rules and to do well in school. These are all things that I try to instill in my children. I agree with these thoughts and I feel any child should do the same. But what happens when you have a child that doesn't want to go with the flow? A child that does things outside of the box and makes you think that maybe you need to change your thinking, even if it's not what you were always told to do? What if you realize that your child has actually told you (in a round about way) that it's actually not your way or the highway?

I have learned from my children that there is no list of rules that works with every single child exactly the same way. I have learned that sometimes you do have to give in and do something that is the total opposite of what you always swore you would never do as a parent. I have realized that just because we always have "grown-up time" does not mean that "children's time" is any less important. Your child grows up and learns to be their own, unique person. They show you that sometimes it's ok to eat cold pizza for breakfast or to have ice cream for dinner an hour past bedtime. You have to bend and just say ok sometimes. Thinking back, what do you remember more- the rule that your parents had about going to bed on time or the time when they actually let you eat cookies in your bed past your bedtime and not brush your teeth? I am willing to bet that you seem to remember the second choice.

Our children are here to enlighten us and to make us realize how short life is. Change does not have to be a bad thing all of the time.  Step into the unknown and just go with it. This is how ice cream was invented and this is how The Noble Peace Prize is won. In today's society, people are so fast to judge others that they don't stop to think about all of the "what ifs". So many of our children today are deemed hyperactive or unfocused because they don't want to be a typically developing child...what do you think would happen if Mozart or Albert Einstein was alive today as a child?

Embrace your children and let them ask questions. Listen to them when they disagree with you, don't shut them out. If they are coloring outside of the lines, don't correct them. Learn to respect them, even when they are very young because children know when people do not respect them. Don't be embarrassed if they want to know about sex or why people are different colors. They learn from you. The only time you should be embarrassed is when they don't ask questions or they don't want to know.

Love them, no matter what.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Enjoying Life with Enjoy Life Foods

Well, Enjoy Life Foods has done it again. They have sent me more samples and, darn it, we were just more than happy to oblige! This time, we were sent samples of their chewy bars - Sunbutter Crunch, Cocoa Loco, Very Berry and Caramel Apple. As always, simple taste-testing was first. My son (the picky eater) was the first to mention that they seemed to be softer and have a better texture. We honestly had not purchased them for awhile because they were a little too firm for my son's taste. These seem to be new and improved and our family whole-heartily agrees that the chewy bars are definitely back on our kitchen staples list.

Now, you may have noticed that my samplings always include recipes that I come up with. There are a few reasons I do this- a) to see how creative I can be with a product, b) to see how versatile a product can be for our family, thus helping us in the budget area, c) to help improve my content of the blog so that reader's might begin to get new ideas themselves and d) to secretly hope that Enjoy Life will decide to send me more sample because we love samples!

I started what I do to help people in many ways but the main thing I try to teach people is how to rethink their cooking strategies. Many people who are diagnosed with food allergies over think what they have to do as far as recipes, cooking and preparing. Part of my job is to get people to take a step back, stop targeting the foods you cannot eat and to utilize what foods you CAN eat. It's the same with cooking with food allergies- you learn to use what items are available in your kitchen in different ways.

My first chewy bar was the  Caramel Apple bar. My children liked it and it was a good snacky thing but I wanted to use it somehow. I used my recipe for Gluten Free Donuts and I made

Frosted Gluten Free Donuts with Caramel Apple Crumbs

The donuts I make are not light and fluffy, they are more like a cake donut. They can be stored in an airtight container for 1 day or two but they are best when eaten just a few minutes out of the oven. I have made this recipe for doughnuts and I have rolled them in powdered sugar, cinnamon & sugar and frosted them with chocolate. For someone with food allergies that is craving a doughnut, this will do the job.
Baking Spray
1 Cup Rice Flour
½ Cup Tapioca Flour
1 ½ Teaspoons Gluten Free baking powder
½ Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon nutmeg, divided (if allergic, can use allspice)
1/3 Cup shortening, butter, ghee or oil
Egg Substitute for 1 egg (we use Ener-G powdered)
4 oz. Applesauce
½ Teaspoon vanilla
½ Cup Milk of your choice
2 Squirts of honey
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
Vanilla Frosting of your choice (we use Pillsbury)
1 Enjoy Life Foods Caramel Apple Chewy Bar, crumbled

 You will need to use an Ebelskiver pan for this recipe. Spray lightly with baking spray and heat on low-medium heat on your stove top.
In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients except for the frosting and the chewy bar. The mixture should be thicker. If it’s too watery, it will drip when you turn them over. Spoon the mixture into each muffin cup, filling half way.

 The first batch will take a little longer to cook because the pan is warming up. To check to see if it's time to flip them, use a toothpick

When they are just lightly browned, use a small spoon and flip them over, keeping them in the indent of the pan. You will check for doneness the same way you checked for flipping.

Set aside and allow to cool on a plate- do not seal them in a container until they are completely cool because this will make them soggy. Cover with frosting and crumble Caramel Apple bar bits on top.
Makes approximately 12- 15 mini doughnuts.

The next item that I decided to use was the Very Berry bar. It took me a few days but as I was preparing my lunch one day, I thought that Very Berry crumbles on a salad would be a nice treat. And, to my surprise, they were awesome! It was like having a combination of apple bits and gluten free croutons combined into one. Obviously, there is no recipe- you simply prepare a salad of your choice and crumble these bad boys on top. Simple, easy, healthy, done.

Very Berry Salad Topping

Now, for those of you that have read my previous recipes, our family likes to try some kind of sweet treat too. I am mainly a taster and not really a muncher but my children and husband are always happy to finish up whatever I have made. I have been forever asking Enjoy Life Foods to consider making a chocolate Sunbutter Crunch bar.....tap, tap, tap.

Chocolate Covered Sunbutter Crunch Bites

Anyway, I made bite-sized chocolate Sunbutter Crunch bits. I did two types- some with a mini marshmellow on top and some with just plain chocolate.
1 Enjoy Life Foods Sunbutter Crunch bar
1/4 - 1/2 Cup Enjoy Life Food chocolate chips
Mini marshmellows (optional)

Cut a Sunbutter Crunch bar into bite-sized pieces. Place a piece of waxed paper on a sturdy surface and place the pieces onto the waxed paper. Set aside.

In a small pot, melt the chocolate chips on low heat, using a plastic spatula. When the chocolate is completely melted, cover the Sunbuttermarshmellows, simply top each piece with a single marshmellow and drizzle with chocolate.

Let cool completely before eating. Store extras in an airtight container.

Makes approximately 12 pieces.

The last chewy bar left to try was the Cocoa Loco bar. I had tried a bite of my son's when we first got the boxes and they are a great, fast, chocolaty treat by themselves. They would also be great to use for a chocolate pie crust, as chocolate crumbs in a Rice Dream ice cream cake. Sadly, my sampling time had run out...I had waited just a few days too long. I left the boxes within arms reach and this was what I found :

Here lies what is left of our dear, beloved Cocoa Loco
So adored when you were here, such a short-lived stay in this world

This concludes my sampling this time around. As always, I highly recommend Enjoy Life Foods products to anyone, not just those of you with food allergies. Yes, they are allergy-friendly but this does not mean their products are off-limits to anyone else. Keep in mind that their products have healthier ingredients and this is the key to optimal health. Choose your foods wisely and you will feel better and be healthier. As I have noticed in myself, you will find that when you are happy, others are happy around you (even if it means that they ate the last Cocoa Loco bar and did not leave you any!). 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

I wanted to wish everyone a very happy new year!

I am trying to catch up from the holiday but I am working on a guest blog for It's an Itchy Little World as well as some sampling blogs.

I will post everything as soon as I am able.

I also made it to #2 on The Babble List for 2011! If you would like to see the complete list, you can view this at : . I believe the voting has ended but I am unsure .

Thank you for being a part of my blog. I appreciate each and every one of you!