Sunday, February 22, 2015

Allergy-Free Pick Up Stix

I have to admit, when it comes to thinking of different ways to use allergy-friendly products, I am borderline addicted to it. Perhaps I have some undiagnosed form of O.C.D., maybe it's a mental escape from the humdrum of everyday recipes or maybe it's just something that keeps my brain alive. Whatever the reason, I enjoy it and I am always excited when I wake up at 4 AM, startling my husband and saying "I have an idea!". This is my new thought process and I just go with it. However, this is often difficult to explain to a company that approaches me for ideas. It doesn't look professional at all.

Allergy-friendly company: "Nutrimom, we would love to hear what kinds of ideas you get when you see our products! We've seen what you've done  in the past and would love to know what you have in mind for us as well."

Me: "I have no clue.".....crickets. Fast forward to me trying to explain and still sound professional that I cannot pre-plan anything- my brain works the way it works, I am used to it and they need to just trust me. I am lucky enough that these companies do just say ok.

My Latest Recipe Ideas
Last year,I attended a Gluten and Allergen Free Expo in Georgia (pics here!) and I first tasted Smart Flour Foods gluten free pizza....oh my GAWH!!!! My family and I quietly circled the booth many times in an effort to eat as much of it as we could without looking tacky. Then I broke down and introduced myself to one of the company peeps so, of course, I then instructed my children to ask for more samples. You know how kids can be!

My first few recipes were fun to do (click HERE and HERE if you missed them) but recently, I had another ah-ha moment so off to the kitchen I went. What else can you do with a gluten free pizza crust? How about some Smart Stix! I came up with five varieties but obviously, the possibilities are endless.

Buffalo Pretzel Stix
Defrost a package of Smart Flour Foods pizza crusts and slice into thin "stix". Preheat the oven as directed on the package and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Simply spray generously with Winona Pure Popcorn Butter spray and sprinkle with crushed Glutino Buffalo Style pretzels. For a spicier version, add a touch of cayenne pepper. Bake until crisp (approximately 8 minutes) and store for up to 2 days in an airtight container. I will mention that they are very crunchy so do not overcook them.

*Mom Tip- You will have pretzel crumbs leftover on the baking tray- don't throw them away! Save them and use them for a yummy gluten free coating for chicken, fish or whatever else you need too.

Chocolate Biscotti Stix
Defrost a package of Smart Flour Foods pizza crusts and slice into thin "stix". Preheat the oven as directed on the package and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. *Optional- Winona Pure Popcorn Butter spray and sprinkle with cinnamon & sugar. 

Allow to cool, then melt allergy-friendly chocolate chips with a squirt of sunflower oil in it. Dip half of the stix into the melted chocolate and place onto waxed paper to cool. 

Birthday Biscotti Stix 
Need a fast, allergy-friendly grab and go option? Follow the cooking instructions for the Chocolate Biscotti Stix above and add your choice of sprinkles after you coat them in chocolate. 

Allow them to cool completely while you silently lick your fingers clean of the chocolate and sprinkles that happened to get stuck to your fingers.

Coconut Cluster Stix 
For those who love the combination of chocolate and coconut- can we get a gluten free yay as well? AND, because Smart Flour Foods crusts contain antioxidants, protein and calcium, it's like a power-packed treat. 

Smores Stix 
I will admit, these stix do take a bit more concentration but aren't they just the cutest things?! Repeat the process for the Chocolate Biscotti Stix an add half of a jumbo marshmallow (Dandies may be an option). 
*Optional Smart Smiles- Then, using a toothpick, dip one end into the melted chocolate and draw the adorable Smart Flour Foods logo guys. 

Unsure of Your Favorite Stix? Good news- why not have your own personal smorgasbord and have a container of a mix-n-match? A little bit of sweet, a little bit of spicy and a little bit of salty but all allergy-friendly.

As always, I will remind everyone to think outside of the box- rethink, reuse and rediscover your foods. The only one stopping the possibilities is you. In a world among food allergies, foods should be celebrated and my goal is to continue to show everyone the possibilities to do so.

Happy munching~


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Allergic Reactions- How Much is Enough?

How Much of a Specific Food Allergen Will Trigger An Allergic Response? New Study Sheds Light. ~ Guest Post by Kathy Penrod

For many children who suffer from food allergies, the only way to prevent an allergic reaction is to stick to a diet that strictly avoids the allergen. Strict avoidance is necessary because allergic reactions to food allergens can vary by individual. The severity of the reaction in the same person may be different each time he or she is exposed and the level of the allergen that causes a reaction can also vary. The uncertainty that surrounds food allergy reactions often causes food-allergic children and adults to be wary of even trace amounts of an allergen present in food, on surfaces and in air particles. That uncertainty, coupled with unclear food labeling practices, often causes fear about eating prepackaged foods, even when those food items should be safe.

One example of this phenomenon occurs when a food item does not contain any allergens in its listed ingredients but is manufactured in a location that also manufactures food that does contain the allergen. These food items sometimes carry a label that states the food item “may contain” an allergen. So the question then becomes, is the food safe to eat or not?
Photo courtesy of Jacionline

Finding Clarity
But what if food-allergic children and their parents could determine how sensitive they were to an allergen and what level of the allergen would cause an allergic reaction? Professor Claire Mills and a team of researchers from the Institute of Inflammation and Repair at the University of Manchester, located in the United Kingdom, have been working on a solution to help bring clarity and consistency to the issue.

The team recently conducted a study to determine the level of allergen that would produce a reaction in only 10 percent of the most sensitive allergy sufferers. Five allergens were examined: peanuts, hazelnuts, shellfish, finned fish and celery. The study was printed in the January 2015 edition of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

As part of the study, Professor Mills and her team enlisted participants to engage in a food challenge in which they ate small amounts of foods they were allergic to.

photo courtesy of Healthline
Allergic reactions occur when the immune system malfunctions in the presence of an allergen. Normally, the immune system protects the body from harmful substances like viruses and bacteria. But when the immune system malfunctions in the presence of certain food proteins, it responds inappropriately to the food protein, a substance most people's bodies perceive as harmless. Consequently, the body overproduces chemicals called histamines, which cause allergy symptoms like runny nose, itchy and watery eyes or swelling. Allergies may appear as external or internal symptoms and in any part of the body.

Researchers closely monitored the participants’ allergic reactions and found what appeared to be baseline levels of the five foods, which would cause a reaction in the 10 percent of participants who were most sensitive to food allergens. In other words, the participants who were most sensitive to the allergens reacted at specific levels of allergen proteins. The results showed the following levels of allergen proteins were needed to trigger a reaction:

·         1.6-0.1 mg of peanut, hazelnut or celery protein
·         27.3 mg of finned fish protein
·         2.5 mg of shellfish protein

The theory is that if the person is most sensitive to allergens react at a certain level, anything less than that level would be safe for food-allergic people to eat. Although the implications may be compelling, there is no information on how the researchers identified the people most sensitive to food allergens or how their levels of sensitivity varied from others who are less sensitive to food allergens.

Moving Forward
While the study was small, the intent was to move toward helping people become better informed of their own sensitivities to particular allergens and to help improve packaged food product labeling.

The study and its findings are focused on Europe and the European populations but have implications for the United States. The research is promising, but more large-scale studies are needed.

What are your thoughts? Please feel free to share your opinions & comment.

A little about the author

Kathy Penrod is the founder of My Kid's Food Allergies—a website dedicated to keeping children with food allergies safe and healthy through education and awareness. The goal is to create and maintain a site that provides the best and most recent information about food allergies, a community of parents and other adults interested in learning and sharing about food allergies and access to physicians and other food allergy experts.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Safe Valentine's Day Bouquet

While at one of my recent never-ending trips to the food store, I saw this candy-oriented bouquet in the floral department. I mean, how cute? Flowers are nice but this is such a great option for a child, a candy lover, a spouse. But what it's not an option for is someone with food allergies. As NutriDaughter frowned, she looked at me and said "Too bad it's not something safe for us." And in true, Nutrimom-crazed allergy brain mode, one thought popped into me head- CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! Thanks Barney Stinson ;)

So what does one use for such a project? Well, considering the recent upsetting news about dairy in products, the rising concern of cross-contamination and the fact that I am an official Enjoy Life Foods blogger, there was no other obvious choice of what I should use. With a trip to the local Dollar Tree and yet another food store shopping event, I arrived home with the necessary supplies. And although I was grateful to have received two product vouchers, I have a tendency to splurge when it comes to Enjoy Life Foods products. What can I say? I love their products, my family loves them and, well, I get a tad over zealous.

Wondering what the basics are to make these bouquets? Here is a quick rundown:

Begin, Mess Up, Swear, Do Over Yes, this is what will happen. As easy as they appear, I was throwing things all over the place, tape stuck to my hair and eating up my Mega Chunks through the process. (Hey, chocolate makes you feel better, they did studies!) To keep it as simple as possible, tape the bars under the wrapper flaps, making sure you secure them with tape both along the inner flap and the outer flap. If you attach them too low, they will flop and fall all over the place (like, the floor, the counter and then may be thrown across the room in a wild fit of mom anger). I will also warn that during this process, your children will drive you insane because they will be lurking, waiting for the chance to realize you are all done an they can eat the leftovers that are open.

I found through trial and error that the easiest method was to use the basket bags. Wrapping paper works but the basket bags seem to stand up the best and didn't tear. Simply fill the bottom of the vase with chocolates, granola (hey, maybe even some Seed & Fruit Mix or heck why not even broken pieces of the Crunchy Cookies?) and insert the basket bag. For a larger vase, I suggest placing a small plastic cup inside the basket bag to add better leverage. Then tuck the additional bag and straighten the edges that are sticking out of the vase. One thing that I also suggest is to arrange these within a day or two of presentation to keep the foods in the bottom of the vase fresh. Add a bow and ribbon- voila! You have yourself an allergy-friendly bouquet.


Wishing all of you a safe & happy Valentine's Day! Please make sure you view my GFree for V post as well as my guest post on Glutino's website for even more tasty recipes. And remember- ALWAYS think outside of the box!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

GFree For V

The numbers of people with a gluten allergy and intolerance is on the rise so there is even more need than ever to find some edible yummies, especially with holidays. This may pose a bit of a quandary for those who are counting down the days until Valentine's Day arrives. Are you still in the dark as to what you can make for your sweetheart? Do you have a gluten free girlfriend? Does your boyfriend say "Beware!" whenever you hold up a recipe or a new product to try? I, Nutrimom, along with the help of the wonderful peeps at Glutino have decided enough is enough! Let me show you just how easy and delicious gluten free can be.

Behold- I give you four gluten free recipes that will be enjoyed by both gluten free and those who do not normally eat gluten free. There is also the added bonus of time. Or, should I say, the lack of- each of these recipes can be made in 20 minutes or less. Tell me your ears didn't perk up after that.

Salted Caramel Bacon Hearts
For my bacon lovers- how about a sweet surprise?

Bacon of your choice (we love Wellshire Farms)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Place the strips of bacon into a shallow glass baking dish with sides (bacon splatters, let's not catch the oven on fire for Valentine's Day...totally different kind of flame that we don't want!). Form each bacon strip into a heart shape and bake until beginning to crisp (approximately 15 minutes). Sprinkle the crushed pretzels onto the bacon and place back into the oven for another five minutes to allow the caramel to melt. 

Remove gently with a spatula to keep the shape and allow to cool on plate lined with paper coffee filters to catch the grease. Serve (or, secretly hoard all of them and tell no one).

Love Bites
Toast is ok but why not add a touch of love and sweetness?

1/2 of a Glutino Multigrain English Muffin (cut into quarters)
Winona Pure Popcorn Butter Spray
Strawberries (sliced & cut into hearts)*

Taking each quarter piece of the Glutino English Muffin, form it into a heart by first cutting a "v" at the top of the quarter, then cutting down the sides at an angle. Place the heart-shaped muffin pieces onto a baking sheet or foil and spray lightly with Winona Pure Popcorn Butter Spray. Toast in a toaster oven set at 300 degrees for approximately 5 minutes. Remove, top with a chocolate covered pretzel, a heart-shaped strawberry and secure with a pretzel stick (also a handy little way to pick it up and, not to mention, fully edible). 

* Not sure how to make a strawberry heart? Easy peasy! Since I am a visual person, I thought I would share this link from Crafty Baking to help all of you out too! (Just click & get ready to make hearts).

Hot dog Hugs
Who doesn't love a mini hot dog and some mustard (wait, where's the mustard?!)

Hot dog of your choice (we used Applegate)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Generously grease a mini muffin tin with the olive oil, making sure you use your finger to completely cover the inserts as well as the outer rim to avoid sticking (because nothing is worse than cute food that gets stuck!). Set aside.

Next, cut your hot dog into chunks that are about 1/2 an inch thick. At the top, cut a "v" and slice along the sides to form a heart shape. Set aside.

Prepare the pancake mix as directed. Fill the mini muffin tins half way (no more than that because, again, overflow= sticking, which leads to angry people on Valentine's Day. That's a no-no). Sprinkle with chopped honey mustard pretzel pieces. Place one hot dog heart into the middle of each muffin insert. 

Bake for approximately 5 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before removing to avoid having your "hug" fall apart....can you even imagine?!

Buffalo Mac & Cheese Bites
Bite-size, buffalo, cheese, need I say more?


Winona Pure Popcorn Butter Spray
Leftover mac & cheese of your choice (prepared)
Cheese of your choice 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a mini muffin tin by spraying it with the Popcorn Butter spray. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the leftover mac & cheese and your choice of cheese. Spoon into the mini muffin inserts and top with crushed pretzels (OR, for an even spicier version, mix half of the crushed pretzels into the mac & cheese too!). Drizzle a small amount of Popcorn Butter spray onto the filled cups and bake until slightly brown. 

Allow the cups to cool before removing- doing so after they are taken right out of the oven will not allow the cheese to mold it into a proper "bite"....flash forward to an awkward food presentation moment, showing just a pile of cheese, noodles and pretzels. Still tasty, just not as cute.

Wishing all of you a safe and happy Valentine's Day.

I would like to thank Glutino for sending me these product samples to use with my creativity in compiling recipes. I did not receive any compensation other than the products themselves as all of my product reviews are always of my own opinion.

*Please be aware that Glutino does process products with some allergens. As always, I recommend that you check ingredients and their website for more information to see what is safest for your allergy needs.