Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Brother Oh Brother, What a Sampling of Healthy Fruit Snacks!

Brothers-All-Natural was generous and recently mailed me a free package of a huge variety of their nutritious goodies. For those of you who don't know who they are, Brothers-All-Natural is a company who sells fruit crisps that I am addicted to. My favorite thing about their fruit crisps is that they are simply JUST fruit and nothing else. This is a big plus with my son's allergies, especially because many other dehydrated fruits tend to be processed with or around oils or foods that we cannot have in our home. I was thankful to receive their fruits crisps but they also have other great products, such as Fruit and Oats and Potato Crisps (Yum! Haven't had those yet!). Their facility does not manufacture any products containing nuts, dairy, soy or wheat so the way I see it, it's a win-win situation.

As I mentioned before, I received a nice variety of their crisps, including some of the Disney Fruit Crisps. My children are at that age now that the Disney bags made them kind of turn up their noses but wouldn't you know it- magically, when I removed the chips from the Disney bags and served them in a plain bowl, wow how delicious they were! My slew of crisps included a bag of peaches (regular and Disney), a pineapple, Asian pear, strawberries, strawberry banana, Mandarin oranges, banana (regular and Disney), Fuji apple, Disney apple and Disney cinnamon apple. I would tell you if I had a favorite but they were all so delicious, I truly could not pinpoint just one. I will say that I found using the banana chips in cereal is very similar to having mini marshmallows. I know this doesn't sound true but this was the description straight from my daughter's mouth. What could be better than a healthy marshmallow?

Now here is where I had a difficult time....for those of you who subscribe to my blog, you know I love to come up with great recipes using the products. This time, I was stumped. Part of the problem was the basket sitting there, staring at me, calling me. I would open a bag, munch and try to think. I would go through the cabinets for ingredients, open another bag and think. My husband cruised through the kitchen and the pineapple chips were gone. My Aunt Ida with no teeth came to visit and took the cinnamon apple crisps....not really, but I was on a role, sorry. Needless to say, I feel the reason I could not come up with some new and different recipes was because they are perfect the way they are. They are healthy, they are allergy-friendly and they do not need anything else. They are a proud crisp.

Now, just because I did not think up a good recipe does not mean we didn't try them in different foods. I can say that the fruit crisps are great paired with many items- over ice cream (or, in our home, Rice Dream), in gluten free oatmeal, in cereal, over a salad or even on top of a waffle covered with a nut-free topping. They also com in convenient, individual packets that can be kept in your car, in your purse or sent to school for a snack without having to worry about any of the children at school who have an allergy. I want to also mention, as a long time customer and an allergy mom who budgets, Brothers-All-Natural also has great online promotions that have saved us a nice bundle of money from time to time. I am not keen on ordering online a lot but when they had a sale that saved us $42...yes, you read that correctly, I went ahead and excused my stubborn streak of refusing to have foods shipped to me. After all, a happy mom always makes a happy family.

I would absolutely recommend Brothers-All-Natural Fruit Crisps to anyone. I trust their company and I feel that their products are made in a safe environment for those of you who have concerns about allergenic foods. Brothers-All-Natural can be found at many local stores but their website is http://www.brothersallnatural.com/ as well as on Facebook. I also recommend that you check out their specials online as well as their "Fruit of the Month". Many thanks,again, to Brothers-All-Natural for this great opportunity to let others know how wonderful your products are. Keep up the good work!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Leading Moms in Business Contest

Hello Everyone-

I wanted to tell you about a contest called the Leading Moms in Business. This contest allows people to vote for their favorite business. If I have helped you in the past or you feel I could be helpful to others, please vote for me at this site:  http://www.startupnation.com/leading-moms-in-business/contestant/11638/index.php
You can vote once a day and you can also send yourself a daily reminder to vote. Voting is not required but it is appreciated

Thank you in advance to those who decide to vote!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Easy Treats for Valentine's Day

I was busy this morning, preparing for tomorrow's Valentine's Day celebrations. I was making cookies and my son's box of chocolates when it occurred to me that there may be some newly diagnosed people that may need to know how to prepare some fast and easy goodies. After all, I didn't know in the beginning and you have to learn somehow, right?

I made two things this year- heart-shaped sugar cookies and (as I mentioned) my son's box of chocolates. Both are fairly easy and don't take much time to make. I feel this is helpful, especially for those of you that are just starting to find new foods to make. Fast and easy in the beginning helps. Since I have been making cookies that have to be gluten free, peanut free, dairy free and egg free, I have always used the same box mix for almost any cookies that I make. I use Cherrybrook Kitchen (picture above). I apologize for the dark pictures in advance- my appliances and my counters are all dark and this does not present very well.

The cookies come out well, even using substitutes for rice milk or margarine. I also find that since I am unable to perfect a cut-out cookie recipe, this mix allows me enough flexibility to add in other items and to mold them pretty much as close to a cut-out cookie as I need. I suggest that if you are molding the cookies into shapes, it helps to put the batter in the refrigerator to cool down a little and it holds together better.

To make a heart-shaped sugar cookies, simply roll 2 small balls of prepared cookie dough (about the size of a quarter). Place them next to each other on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Then, using two fingers (clean and dry), gently push down on the dough balls and slightly press and drag the dough downward to make a point. You will need to go back up and make a larger indent for the heart shape because as the cookies bake, the dough does expand and if there is not an exaggerated "dip" for the heart, it will look more like a circle..which is fine, because it still tastes just as good.

Next, using a small bowl of your choice of colored sprinkles, use a flat bottomed glass that is wet. Dip the glass bottom into the bowl of sprinkles and gently press first on one side of the heart cookies, then the other. If you just push down on the entire cookie, it may take away from the heart shape. Bake as per the directions on the box. When removing the cookies, they will be VERY flexible while they are still hot. Let them sit for a minute, then gently lift off
 the cookie sheet, using a flexible plastic spatula. Let them cool on a wire rack.

When they are done, keep them in an airtight container. They should last for up to 4 days (if they make it that long before being eaten). Remember, if these are your first batch of cookies they do not have to be perfect. I'm willing to bet that your children will not even notice if the hearts don't look like perfect hearts. And, if you have any cookies that do crumble into pieces, save the crumbs for toppings on ice cream, yogurt or some muffins. Do you see the love?

Next, I began the project of making my son's box of chocolates. Keep in mind that there are a few great companies to order from, such as Premium Chocolatiers http://www.premiumchocolatiers.com/ . However, if you are willing to be adventurous and you need to keep the budget in line, making a box of chocolates is just as easy and (I feel) is more personal. You can start by visiting your local dollar store and choosing a plain, heart-shaped box to fill with your chocolates. Open the box and trace the bottom of the box twice on some parchment paper or waxed paper.  You will use one heart on the bottom of the box because, as an allergy mom, you may want to cover the bottom just to be safe..who knows what was in the box, even at the store. The second heart will be glued to a piece of heavier, colored paper of your choice to sit on top of the chocolates before you put the lid on. You will also need a sheet of paper that is sturdy to make the separators. Simply cut out 2-3 strips and bend them as needed. I also used scissors that cut with a design at the top. You can also use paper mini muffin cups but these may not offer you as much space.

Next, prepare your workstation. Get everything that you might need to make your chocolates so that you don't overcook the chocolate while searching for the items and to avoid leaving chocolate smudges all over your kitchen. I try to set everything out on the counter, including a board covered with waxed paper so that I can make the chocolates quickly.

Be adventurous and choose foods that you might not normally find in a package of chocolates- try using tortilla chips, mini marshmallows, dried fruit, gluten free pretzels, granola, popcorn, whatever you think would be yummy and unique. You can also use squares of an already-made chocolate bar, such as Enjoy Life Foods by breaking the squares up and wrapping them in a small amount of foil.

Melt your chocolate (I use Enjoy Life Foods chocolate chips) on medium, stirring constantly so as not to burn or overcook the chocolate. When the chocolate is done, it should have no more chip-bumps (is that even a word?) and it should be smooth as seen in the picture.

From there, you remove the chocolate from the heat and you proceed to cover anything that you can in chocolate, leaving it to cool on the waxed paper. You may also want to use a mini muffin tin to form some chocolates. Simply insert a small piece of waxed paper into a few of the muffin indents and add chocolate. I made a few by doing a layer of chocolate, a small dab of Sunbutter and then another layer of chocolate...sort of an allergy-friendly peanutless butter cup. Don't be afraid to use waxed paper- just make sure that when you are peeling it off of the cooled chocolates that no pieces stay behind.

You can leave the chocolates on the counter over night to cool or, you can place them in the refrigerator for a few minutes. Both ways work but I have found that putting them in the refrigerator tends to turn them a lighter color after a few days. This does not effect the taste at all, it just doesn't look as nice when presenting the candies.

While you are waiting for the candies to cool, go back and finish your box to put them into. The top paper should be glued and ready to insert. Your paper dividers can be put into the heart box. You may need to crease the paper dividers to keep them in one spot but they will also stay once you have inserted the chocolates. Once your chocolates have cooled, simply insert them into the dividers or paper mini muffin liners. I group them together ( 2-3 of the chocolate covered chips, 2-3 of the peanutless cups, etc.) but you can do whatever you feel looks and works best for you.

Happy Valentine's Day and may it be a safe one for you and your family.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Seriously Sensational Sunbutter Sampling

Our household has had Sunbutter as a kitchen staple for as long as my son has been diagnosed with food allergies. I was delighted when they asked me if I would like to receive some free samples and let them know what I thought. Being the food allergy mom that I am, trying to budget and to serve healthy and delicious foods to my family, this was equivalent to getting a Christmas gift. Not only was it free but we already knew that we would use the products and enjoy them. If I was a waffle, this would be me receiving Sunbutter.  I know,I know, kind of corny but it's true!

We received two samples- one of their Organic Sunbutter and one of their Natural Crunch Sunbutter. The Organic Sunbutter simply has fresh roasted organic sunflower seeds and nothing else. It has the same consistency of peanut butter and it's very versatile to use for mixing into recipes, baking or for snacking. In fact, my son asked for a chocolate cake the day we received the samples. So I whipped up a gluten free chocolate cake and quickly made an icing using Sunbutter. The icing was easy to make, the Sunbutter whipped up nicely and all were happy for many days to come in our home.

This was our Gluten Free Chocolate Cake With Sunbutter Frosting:

- 1 Box Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free Chocolate Cake mix
- 1/2 Cup Butter or butter alternative
- 1 Cup Sunbutter
- 3 Tablespoons (or more, as needed) milk or milk alternative
- 2 Cups Confectioners Sugar
- 1/4 Cup Melted Enjoy Life Foods Chocolate Chips  or chocolate syrup (optional)

Prepare the cake mix as directed on the package. Let cool completely before icing.

In a medium bowl using am electric mixer, combine all of the remaining ingredients until you reach the desired consistency. You may find it to be a little too thick, in which case you can add in additional small amounts of milk or milk alternative until you get the frosting that you desire.

Frost sides and top of the cake. Drizzle with melted chocolate on top. Enjoy!

The next day, I was cooking bacon and, of course, I was getting hungry. I decided to pop a gluten free waffle into the toaster. I began to smear it with some Sunbutter and for a moment, I was struck with the thought of Elvis Presley.....bacon, Sunbutter...I think you can guess where this is headed. And behold, the Elvis Midday Snack was born! I have to say, never in a million years did I think I would try this combination but Elvis had it right- it's a mixture of just enough creaminess from the Sunbutter and just enough crunch and saltiness from the crisp bacon. I was very pleasantly surprised. (Yay, Elvis!)

Elvis Midday Snack featuring Sunbutter

- 2 Gluten Free waffles of your choice (I used  Nature's Path Frozen Homestyle Waffles)
- 4+ Pieces of cooked bacon of your choice (I used Hormel's Natural Choice)
- Sunbutter of your choice

Prepare the waffles as directed on the package. Spread with desired amount of Sunbutter. Add bacon on top. Repeat, if necessary.

Don't get me wrong, I eat healthier foods as well. I added the Natural Crunch Sunbutter into my morning oatmeal with some fresh strawberries with just a pinch of sea salt to get a great, fulfilling and fast breakfast. I also had some on my rice crackers for an afternoon pick-me-up and it was perfect. I guess I am a crunchy kind of a person.

The last thing that I decided to try out was as a topping on our Rice Dream ice cream. Why not? How many times have you seen ice creams that contain peanut butter? Why not make Sunbutter feel like it's welcome too. A few scoops of Rice Dream, some warm Sunbutter partnered with some melted chocolate...yum! Very easy, very satisfying and very happy children and mom (which is really what is the important thing here). Feast your eyes...ooooohhhhhh, ahhhhh!

Sunbutter products are great for people who cannot have nuts or nut products. Their products are made in a  facility that is both peanut and tree nut free. You can view their line of products at www.Sunbutter.com or on Facebook. I do want to mention that they also have other items, such as convenient 1.5 ounce cups of Sunbutter, On-the-Go-Snack-Packs and Sunbutter with Omega-3. Our family gives Sunbutter 1 thumb up (only 1 because our other hand is busy scooping the Sunbutter out of the package).

Friday, February 3, 2012

Love Yourself on Love Day

A Letter To Myself from Myself......

Dear Self-
I am writing to you this Valentine's Day to remind you that you are the most important thing to yourself. I know you have been busy and the day-to-day turns into week-by-week but remember that if you do not take care of yourself, your body will remind you of what you are ignoring. You are a kind soul and you do everything for everyone else, which is such an honorable thing to do. But just because you are this type of person does not make you immune to becoming run-down or sick or worse. Take care of yourself and love yourself.

How can I do this, you ask? When there are always dishes, always piles of dirty laundry and always endless tasks that you have to get done in a certain time frame. I am glad you asked because it says that you recognize that you need to do something to relax. Take one, small step at a time and work your way up. Even if you start today with just 5 minutes of uninterrupted time or 10 minutes of going outside to get some fresh air into your lungs. Stop and look at the flowers that are trying to bloom and listen to the noises around you to remind you that you are part of this world and you are here to enjoy it also.
This is your world, your life and you need to live in it and be a part of it, not just go through it. Take care of yourself and love yourself.

When you have managed to do this, then do a little more for yourself. Do something that will make your heart full and make your soul sing. Get up and dance around with your children and swing upside down on the swings at the playground. Feel the wind going through your hair as you run and spin and twirl. Just remember, Self, that it's the simple things that make you happiest. Remember that it's feeling the hugs from your children and feeling safe sleeping next to your husband at night. Enjoy the times when the house is quiet because the children are away but also enjoy the time when they return even more. Read a book in the sunlight and remember Self, take care of yourself and love yourself.

In case you have forgotten, you are a beautiful person and you need to share this with the world. Beauty is more than how you look or what you wear, its how you feel about yourself and other people. Have you noticed, Self, that when you are happy and positive that others are also? Be kind to yourself and make sure that the criticism of others do not harm you but only make you want to grow stronger and better. Know that it's ok to cry when you need too- this is not a weakness but just a way to show emotion. When were you ever told that you should not show emotion? You are only human and emotions are the best part of being human. Self- are you still listening to me? SELF! Take care of yourself and love yourself.

One more thing, because I know you are already starting to make new lists in your head of what has to be done and you are already putting you at the bottom of the list- Self, there is always tomorrow but tomorrow will never be if you don't grasp it today. Do it today, now, this moment! Do not wait to take care of yourself for a more convenient time or it will never be. You always look to the future and promise for tomorrow, but looking back, how many times have you wondered "If I had only done it then." It's ok to be your own person and to understand why you need to do the things that you need to do for yourself. People can help take care of you but only you, yourself, can truly take care of you. Remember, Self, please take care of yourself and love yourself.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wink Frozen Desserts

Recently, I was asked to sample and review a new item that is not even on the market yet called Wink Frozen Desserts. This product idea was invented by Gabe Wolff who sought out a way for people who could not have diary-based ice cream to still have a healthy and tasty option for their cold treat. During this quest, he not only came up with the idea but he also made it Vegan, low calorie, fat free and free of sugar, dairy, nuts and gluten. It's a happy little dessert.... I have proof, just look below!

There are a large variety of flavors which include Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry, Mint Chocolate, Cookies N' Cream, Caramel, Cinnamon Bun and Cake Batter. The ingredients include filtered water, vegetable glycerine, pea protein, natural flavor, tapioca flour, stevia, baking soda, xanthan gum and guar gum with a few extras for some of the flavors (such as cocoa powder for the chocolate).

Wink Frozen Desserts are available to order online and they are shipped out to consumers via Fedex in a nifty dry ice box. It's like having a mini-freezer sent to your doorstep! They are not available in stores but their online ordering information is fairly easy to use and they send you tracking information regarding your order to help you follow it's path. I literally received an email 20 seconds after I was handed our box stating it had been delivered.

Overall, I would say Wink Frozen Desserts are a good option for fellow food allergy sufferers. I do want to state that our family does not use any non-sugar sweeteners and because of this, we did experience some slight after-taste issues from the stevia. This being said, this is only limited to our personal experience and this should not discourage anyone else from trying this product. I feel that any company that cares enough to make such a treat with so few worry some ingredients deserves a try.

You can find Wink Frozen Desserts at www.winkfrozendesserts.com as well as on Facebook.