Sunday, January 31, 2016

When You Give a Mom a Pretzel

It has been thirteen years since my son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. I still remember how his allergy specialist handled it with us- ugh! And I still remember going to the food store, reading labels and finding next to nothing to feed him safely - ugh! And, I remember crying.....

When 2016 began, I had an inner yearning for this year to be filled with different things. I wanted to celebrate rather than allow previous doom and gloom to invade my family's life. Do I get upset? Yes. Do I get angry? Yes. Do I still cry? Yes. This is a given- a normal reaction that is part of the food allergy journey but in my experience, these "down" events are usually my own way of flushing out the bad and allowing in the good.

After the holidays, I got a package with the newest Glutino product- BIG Pretzels! (Sorry, I felt compelled to capitalize it). As I was munching away to try them out, I realized that this was my much-needed new year push- I wanted BIG, new things to happen. As I crunched, I thought. As I thought, I was inspired. Not in my usual BIG way with recipes but BIG ways in a different light.  These are the things that I realized I must do to have an awesome year and I hope that everyone considers them as well. After all, life is too short not to know how to harness your inner peace (or, in this case..piece) ;)

Allow Magical Thoughts into Your Life
Chocolate, sprinkles & Surf Sweets on a Glutino Big pretzel
Remember that no matter what happens each and every day, tomorrow will be different in some way. Don't let yourself not have fun, don't let yourself not believe that anything and everything can happen. Even if it doesn't, there is no harm in believing. Put glitter on everything, eat some of your favorite foods (safely) and figure out how to make anything and everything special. If you need ideas ask your children. As adults, we often get so wrapped up in being an adult that we have trouble seeing the most enjoyable things that are right in front of us. Even if you don't have children, allow your inner child to come back and visit for awhile. There is nothing sweeter than doing something and having it bring back a long-lost memory that makes you smile when everyone else around you isn't. Your magical thoughts can be your own or can be shared- it's up to you.

Allow Silliness Into Your Life
I mustache you!
How could you not?! Being serious all of the time is not good for anyone. Silliness is much more contagious than anger. There is no harm in silliness and there is certainly no harm is seeing just how silly you can be. Silliness can be BIG or small but the positive effects are still the same- allowing your mind to feel the warmth of less stress. Sometimes we all get stuck in a rut or have a bad day but just one, tiny moment can produce a full-blown belly laugh that washes away the "rutty" stuff. Families, jobs, lives, cooking- it can all be taxing or it can all be silly (or, maybe a mixture). Admit it- growing up, what did you remember more; the moment someone you respected had a horrible meltdown-of-a-day or the situation that spawned into a story that you share with everyone to this very day? Take a tip from my daughter- all it takes is some chocolate, a swirly stick, a Glutino Big pretzel and maybe some sunglasses and a hat.

Allow Peace Into Your Life
It's a new year- let the past go. Don't dwell on it, don't obsess on what you cannot fix just move forward. Learn to breathe again. Take time to use what works well for you and what does not. Make sure that your diet is healthier, better and strive to make it tastier and enjoyable like it should be. Minimize all around- something as simple as an afternoon time out with a pretzel snack will allow you to clear your mind and let you start thinking about those silly thoughts that you are finding it difficult to grasp. It's a proven fact that carbs are important and necessary to produce glucose, your main source of energy. Realize that those broken pieces of pretzel in the bottom of the bag are not just crumbs- they are a part of a different recipe.

All we are saying is give peace (a piece) a chance 

Wishing all of you positive thoughts for 2016 ~

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Where Is Your Water From?

Water is everywhere- it's in our homes, it's in our backpacks, it's in our foods. But did you know that it's also a new way to supplement your every day life?

While I was at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference a few months ago, I found a bottle of Banana Water in my swag bag (the swag bag is a glorious gift that attendees get full of goodies from the vendors that we binge eat at night in our rooms). Upon waking up the first morning in the Colorado altitude I grabbed it, thinking it would be something like a shake. To my surprise, the Banana Water was not thick, not shake-like but more like a flavored water or a watered-down juice. I am not a juice person- I have never liked anything too sweet or too sugary and the fact that one of these bottles contains the
same amount of potassium as two bananas (which, are also not one of my favorite foods...a bit slimy, eww) I realized that this was something that I had to look into further.

Honesty First A large part of what I do with allergy-friendly foods, recipes and food allergy consultations is to show others that relearning how to use the foods that are safe is crucial. Most of us get so overwhelmed about all of the foods that we cannot eat but in truth, food allergies are a life event, a new journey- a beginning to expand our foods in ways that we would never even have thought to use them before. So when I began to read the reviews about Banana Water, I was at first horrified. Then my #KitchenGeek brain stepped in and felt a need to show all of these people that they weren't doing it right, not at all! Just because a beverage is a beverage does NOT mean it's only for opening and drinking. It's about using the potential of the product to boost your current foods as well as to make them just as delicious....sort of like pureeing vegetables and adding it into foods to hide from the kids only better.

Soak It This is simple logic if you think about it- Banana Water is a liquid. Why not replace water or milk in a typical recipe that you enjoy every day? One of the major complaints that I hear from people a lot is that they don't know what to what you normally eat but with new ingredients. One of the most delicious ways that I used my Banana Water was to make soaked oatmeal. Not sure how it's done? Simply combine uncooked oats, spices (I use cinnamon, allspice, raw honey and coconut oil) and add enough Banana Water to the mixture to make it "soupy". Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, just heat and eat. You can also add coconut chips, seeds, fruit, oil or a healthy protein spread (SunButter is a great one). This starts your day out with a warm, satisfying meal that's loaded with healthy proteins as well as potassium, vitamin c and magnesium. Best of all- it's simple. When it comes to food allergies,we all like simple. Heck- anyone with or without food allergies likes simplicity. To be able to sneak all of the other great components into a brain-boosting meal is like multitasking for your health, mentally and physically.

Sip It It seems that we are very much a society that likes to sip- we meet for coffee, we have warm beverages on a chilly day and we enjoy a refreshing drink when we are parched. Making sure we keep ourselves hydrated is also essential for our metabolism and keeps everything moving along in our digestive system. I began to heat up water for my morning tea and then it occurred to me- Banana Water! I mixed half water and half Banana Water and let my tea bag steep. The result? A delicious flavored tea that I would love to try as an iced tea when the warmer weather comes back around. And, not to repeat myself but I transformed my tea into a power tea (yay me!).

Click for the recipe NOW~
Stir It Many of us are salad dressing lovers. If you are like me, you are always, always reading the labels for possible allergens as well as other ingredient counts on the bottle. Sadly, there are very many people that don't make their own dressing (eh-hem) Hand-raised, me being one of them. Or should I say, I am still trying to break old habits and routines. How long can you remember going to the store and purchasing salad dressing? Even if it's a great, allergy-friendly brand the cost versus making it is truly comparable. And with two ever-hungry children and being at home during a snow storm, both my budget and supplies were dwindling. There was ice on the ground, there was lettuce but there was no dressing....until, my eye spied the Banana Water containers sitting on my counter, staring at me. I felt like The Grinch, getting his evil grinchy smile but within five minutes, I had a very tasty salad dressing.

Passion Fruit Dressing
6 Ounces Passion Fruit Banana Water
3 Tablespoons olive oil (I use Winona Pure Oil)
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons raw honey
1 Teaspoon ground coriander
2 Teaspoons sea salt

Gather all of your ingredients and combine them in a blender. Blend until smooth and refrigerate until ready to use. Stirring or shaking may be necessary prior to each use as the ingredients may naturally settle or separate.

Sizzle It  This is actually a double-recipe idea that popped into my head and I figured I would just wing it (there is a pun....just wait for it).

Chicken Vinaigrette
Download and prepare it now- HERE
1 Package chicken
8 Ounces Passion Fruit Dressing (divided)
Oil oil (I use Winona Pure Oil)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse the chicken and set it aside. Prepare a shallow glass casserole dish by spraying it lightly with oil. Place the chicken into the prepared dish and drizzle it with 4 ounces of Passion Fruit Dressing. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes, or until no pink remains, turning once.

Remove from the chicken from the dish and set it aside. Add the remaining Passion Fruit dressing to the casserole dish. Using a whisk, combine the drippings from the dish and the dressing. Spoon over the chicken and serve.

Share Your Water Now that I have shared just a few of my recipe ideas for Banana Water, I challenge all of you to do the same. Let's see how many recipe ideas we can share together. By sharing, we will also be helping each other out with new recipe and menu ideas (which, honestly, even I could always use). Together, we will make all of those previous people who commented eat their words, literally.

Show me how you think outside of the Banana Water bottle ;)

Monday, January 18, 2016

In Other Words, Go Dairy Free

For those of you who seek out a dairy free lifestyle, many of you are apt to find Alisa Fleming or her links to Go Dairy Free along your searches. I have to admit, I have been a silent fan of Alisa's for awhile-she is a Contributing Editor for Allergic Living Magazine and I was honestly a tiny bit star struck when I met her at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference in 2014. (Gasp! Am I a stalker? Am I a food allergy stalker?....maybe, but always in a polite, professional way).

Stalker Turned Reviewer This year when I saw Alisa at the Food Allergy Blogger Conference, she asked if I would mind reviewing her book Go Dairy, YEAH!! I was more than honored and so, stalking may have it's advantages. I brought it back with me, I was excited and thrilled and then the holidays came and the kids were home for two weeks so the poor book sat in my office, alone, in the dark. Luckily, dairy free books don't go bad when left unattended.

I Finally Read it! I have to say, upon first opening the book, I felt a bit overwhelmed but how much information she included. It's a lot- like, a lot. Then I realized that this is exactly how I work - I want everyone to have more than enough information. I want everyone to know that their food allergies are not uncommon or something that is not as difficult as they are thinking it is going to be. So after that occurred to me, I knew that I would like this book because her passion is my passion. 
  • Her Story- This is the first portion of Alisa's book and I instantly bonded with it since it was so close to what I had gone through with my undiagnosed symptoms a few years back. I cannot express how important those two pages are to people who have been struggling with symptoms and doctors and ailments that seemed as if they were unanswerable. Especially when people cannot pinpoint their allergies with their symptoms, sometimes all they need is to hear that other people are going through the exact same things as they are.
  • Milk/Milk Alternatives- An entire section that goes into complete detail on all of the different types of milk and milk products. Alisa discusses the importance of each, how the benefits differ, the importance of dietary changes for behavior and disease prevention and why some of these products may or may not be safe to include in your dairy free choices. I personally love that she addresses the positive changes that can be seen by transitioning to a dairy free lifestyle because often times, I feel there is more of an emphasis on options versus valid reasons that foods can revamp your health.
  • Calcium and Nutrient Supplementation- Again, very important to have for those newly diagnosed or those looking to make a dietary change the proper way. The last thing that anyone needs is to begin a new food lifestyle and not continue to receive the proper nutrients and benefits of the foods that they are no longer including. The trick is not in the foods that you cannot have but in the foods that you can have. This paired with specific dietary tables that can quickly answer all of those people who ask "But where do you get our calcium from?!" 
  • Eating, Eating and More Eating- When anyone changes their diet, they all have fears of how to safely adhere to the new foods while also going about their everyday lives. Go Dairy Free has information on all of what you will need- dining out, eating on the go, having meals with friends and family and even how to handle school situations (those dreaded class parties!). Shopping lists also included to keep you safer. Besides- having food limitations should not mean that you are eating less- you should be eating more.
  • Multiple Dairy Free Options- Countless dairy free options and it also includes recipes on how to make your own. I do admit- I have never tried to make my own and I am your typical "I want to go to the store and buy it" on a few of my products but I'm now thinking about it. Alisa also made sure to include the taste, the uses and tips for purchase and storage of each milk substitute. 
  • Cheating and Spreading the Love- I have been a long time supporter and advocate of utilizing different oils to add as a dietary supplementation. I am also a visual person who loves to see simple explanations literally right in front of me. I highly recommend that you check out the chapter that explains oils, supplementation and the easy to use tables simplifying exactly when and how to use them. Also included are multiple recipe ideas for dairy free spread options to use in place of butter. Another point that I cannot repeat enough- rethink your foods and how to use them so the idea of spreads made me smile.
  • From Soup to Nuts- This book has nine chapters of dairy free recipe ideas- nine! Whether it be a pick food, a brunch idea, a fast snack or a full recipe, these chapters cover just about everything that anyone would need as a starting point. The only thing left to do is to figure out which recipe you would want to try out first. Gosh Alisa, could you maybe offer to stop by our house and make one of these bad boys for us? 
...My Only Dislike- No pictures, just the cover photo which is a total tease. Don't get me wrong- I understand how time-consuming adding a ton of photos would have been but in the era of visual people, I think photos would have topped the cake. I don't mean this as a negative at all and I hope Alisa understands that it's not meant as as such. I mean, have you seen the pictures on her website???? Mouth-watering. For a fast example, this is what I'm talking about:

photo courtesy Go Dairy Free Facebook page

Not the End, the Beginning I would be utterly surprised if someone were to tell me that they didn't find this book helpful. Every type of meal needed, every step to an easy dairy free life handed to you in one book. This was obviously written by a woman who wants everyone to have everything at their fingertips all in one spot. As with many other things that happen along the way, food allergies are a journey and a hidden blessing. A diagnosis is not the end of anything- it is always the beginning of a healthier you. What better way to have someone hold out their hand to help than Alisa Fleming and her Go Dairy Free book.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Bakery For Allergies & Health

Yes, Anna is always this smiley!
A few months ago, I became acquainted with one of the most amazing people in my area- Anna Simeonides. Why is she so special? Because Anna is the founder of To Your Health Bakery- a bakery that specializes in not only allergy-friendly items BUT also vegan, gluten free and wholesome baked goods. I mean, anybody that has food allergies or dietary needs would be drooling if they saw what Anna does....don't believe me? Here, take a peek and try not to lick the screen-

Still not convinced? Well, I interviewed Anna and not only are her baked goods completely delectable but on a personal level, I felt like I connected with her immediately. She is completely passionate about what she does and it shows in her conversations as well as her marvelous foods that I was more than willing to try out. Because there are so few allergy-friendly options in my area, I wanted to share her information with all of you. I could not think of a better way to begin a new year than by sharing this new safe haven for those who truly miss baked goods. You will notice that I will also share additional pictures of her mouth-watering goodies on the side of the interview to further entice you to order shame in this- it's for the good of our food allergy community.

NM: Tell me about what inspired you to begin baking, especially allergy-friendly and vegan items?

Anna:  When I was 8 years old, my entire world changed. My little brother, Panteleimon, was born and he immediately became the apple of my eye. I was devastated when we quickly discovered he had a plethora of food allergies and intolerances that only seemed to grow in severity as the years passed. So I suited up in my pink apron and began to do some serious experimentation in the baking field. My mom bought me a book "Allergy Cooking with Ease" by Nicolette Dumke and I still refer to it this day. It truly was a life saver and taught me so much about food science and ingredient alternatives. We take allergies very seriously around here. EpiPens are always on hand because when Panteleimon has an allergic reaction, his throat immediately begins to swell and close up. This is called anaphylaxis and is probably one of the scariest things a person can witness.  To this day, Panteleimon remains allergic to wheat, meat, eggs, all dairy products, corn, soy, sugar and half of the fruits and vegetables but we are grateful for his health and abundant energy.
still drooling..

NM:  Can you please share what allergy-friendly options you offer to your customers?

Anna:  If you go to our website at, you'll see that not only do we have an online store but we also have a "Special Orders" tab. This tab is designed for those who have restrictions that need to inform us before they order anything. We work with a variety of different flours including coconut, almond, spelt, gluten free oat, brown rice and more. We use Soy Free Earth Balance in lieu of butter and flax seeds, chia seeds and arrowroot in place of eggs. The sky is the limit when you order with us... if we don't know how to do something, we love a good challenge and will gladly find a solution! We once received  a request for a two tier chocolate strawberry cake that needed to be gluten free, grain free, corn free, soy free and dairy free. It was for the birthday of a five year old who had just been diagnosed with all of these allergies and was devastated at the thought of not having her usual cake. We ended up making her an incredibly moist chocolate cake out of coconut and almond flour, filled with a strawberry cashew cream, drowned in chocolate ganache and topped with fresh strawberries. They put My Little Ponies on top to decorate and she was as happy as could be. We love our customers and give 110% to accommodate their needs.
thinking of licking the screen
NM:  What are your certifications for your baking skills and your bakery itself?

Anna:  As mentioned before, I've been baking since I was eight years old. I also went through a two year culinary program at WS/FC Career Center that allowed me to compete in national cooking competitions for both years that I was enrolled. I worked at a bakery for two years before moving to the bakery at High Point University where I had my own line of desserts, "Panther Pastries". I opened my own bakery this past summer of 2015 and have also been working at Fratelli's Italian Steakhouse creating the dessert features there. I currently bake out of my home kitchen which was inspected and is certified by the NC Department of Agriculture. However, the long term goal is to save up enough for a retail space and have allergy-friendly, vegan, gluten free, paleo and gourmet baked goods on a daily basis!

Umm, yes please!
NM:  Your bakery is by appointment only- what is the typical time frame a customer could place an order and expect to have it?

Anna:  Our business cards do read "By Appointment Only" as we have had people stop by the house randomly, not realizing that we are not a retail location. However, we are constantly taking orders both by phone and through the website at all hours. At least five days in advance is preferable for an order but we have had people call in last minute and we've been able to service them. We try to stay flexible around here so if you're in a pinch, it never hurts to give us a call!

NM:  Are all of the items that you make from your personal recipes?

Pie! Oh my!
Anna:  A lot of the items I make are personal recipes or they are recipes that I have tweaked to become my own. All of our award winning cookie recipes are original, including our Caramel Apple Butterscotch Delights, Triple Chocolate Bombs and Blueberry Lemon Twists. Sometimes I'll just have ideas pop into my head, flavor combinations that I need to try and I become so inspired. I like to do a lot of research when I'm trying something new and read all of the different recipes available for a product. Then I take the best parts of all of the different variations and compile them into what I think is the master recipe! There's definitely a lot of guess and check involved but that's how you learn- through lots of practice and perseverance.

NM:  Could you share some of your favorite allergy-friendly brands that you use in your recipes?

I did NOT stick my finger in..
wanted too though
Anna:  Bobs Red Mill has been with me since day one. They've been there since before allergy awareness started to pick up and all of these other wonderful companies kicked off. They have such high quality products and have never let me down. Their new 1:1 Gluten Free Flour Mix is incredible and such a time saver. It makes flawless cookies, muffins, pie crusts.. you name it. Definitely a fan. I am also grateful for Glutino and their awesome mixes. Their products help me out when I'm in a pinch and I also have a lot of fun experimenting with their blends. Soy Free Earth Balance is the best thing next to real butter and they sell margarine in baking stick form which makes life so much easier. I was recently introduced to Winona Pure Oils and they absolutely rock. It's so nice not to have to stop and grease the pans by hand- it's just spray and go with superior product ensuring great taste and no stick.

Gee, I wonder how she met up with
Winona Pure Oils? (heh-heh)
NM:  What one kitchen item could you absolutely not live without and why?

Anna:  MY MIXER. Maybe I'm just weak, but I can't seem to function without it. There was a point in time where my little Hamilton Beach Electric Hand Mixer rode in the trunk of my car with me because it seemed that I was always running into situations where I needed a mixer and one was not present. It finally gave out a couple of weeks ago and it was rough letting it go... until the new Kitchen Aid took it's place :) Listen, if everything isn't fully combined, it won't bake right or taste right and no one's a happy camper! Also, mixing things by hand not only triples your baking time but it also seems to triple your mess and physical therapy visits for your arm...okay, kidding about the last part! But honestly, if you haven't already, invest in a mixer. You can thank me later.

NM:  Do you have any allergies of your own? If so, please share what they are and what symptoms occur.

Anna:  I've been very blessed to be allergy free thus far. I did suffer from pretty severe acid reflux growing up and it was only through an elimination diet and drinking apple cider vinegar that it has subsided. Otherwise, I am very blessed to lead such a healthy life.

NM:  Any advice or words or wisdom for others looking to bake as well?

Anna:  Never give up! I know that sounds cliche but it's so crucial in both baking and cooking. When you exhaust yourself and pour your whole heart into making something only to have it come out a rock yet gooey, unidentifiable substance, you really want to throw in the (kitchen) towel (and the apron) and eschew baking forever ( or as least until you've waited long enough to forget what a disaster the last time was). But don't do that! You're wasting precious time where you could be discovering new recipes and creating family favorites and lots of memories. No pain, no gain is totally true here. Keep persevering, tweaking, bake the same thing 15 times until you perfect it! Because once you've got it, you keep it for life :)

Many warm thank you's to Anna for her hard work and dedication to her family as well as all of ours who need her. I did want to share one last item that I saw on her website as I truly feel the exact same way- don't you agree too?