Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Early Bird Gets Everything EXCEPT the Worm

A few years back, I was told about this glorious allergy-friendly expo in Atlanta, GA. I hemmed and I hawed because it's a good 4-5 hours away and my family are pretty much homebodies. But when I began to research it, I made the decision to change one of our family's habits forever. We became Event Geeks.

On our way, bagged breakfast for the ride
Event Geek?! This is a phrase that I use to best describe the strange fascination I have with allergy-friendly expos and events. I don't just like attending these events, I LOVE them. I love meeting new people, I love trying new allergy-friendly products, I love seeing how much our food choices have changed and most of all, I love having weeks of samples for my kitchen pantry. The Gluten Free & Allergy Friendly Expo boasts of being the biggest event in the United States- our family was more than spoiled because it truly is hard to compare other events to this one. Don't get me wrong- as an Event Geek, I love all events and expos because you can always learn something new, always leave with something but the Gluten Free & Allergy Friendly Expo was like I died and went to allergy-friendly heaven. It's a huge room filled with aisle upon aisle of foods and each aisle is labeled (such as nut free, etc.). Need a visual? Bear with me, I didn't have a great camera the last time around ;)

Do you SEE all of the aisles? All of the food? All of the people and excitement?!! Those lovely ladies with the bags- you will also see bags that are waiting to be filled when you go this time too (I cannot promise they will be the same ladies).

Buy Now, Save & Become an Event Geek This time around, I am proud to be a part of the Press/Blogger Team for the Gluten Free & Allergy Friendly Expo (Wow! Talk about Event Geek Extraordinaire). Not only will I be interviewing as many of the companies and sponsors that will be at this event as possible, I have also been given the power to help all of you join us and become an Event Geek too! PLUS- I have a way to get you a discounted ticket. How does that all sound to you right now?  Who wants to join me and the multiple sponsors April 2-3rd in Atlanta, GA? Put your Event Geek hat on and simply click HERE and enter promo code ADVANCE to save 20% off of your tickets NOW! (I say NOW not to be pushy but because the promotion is only good through 4/1/16 so you literally must do it NOW.) I do disclose that I am an expo affiliate so the link I provided is in conjunction with this affiliation- please be kind, use the link I provided, share and help a blogger out so I can get you more of these great events and promotions in the future.

Dates, Times & Places All proper Event Geeks must have this crucial information to attend, of course. Please be advised that this Gluten Free & Allergy Friendly Expo information is for the Atlanta, GA expo only- please be sure & check their website for full details on their other expos across the United States.

April 2 & 3, 2016
10 AM - 4 PM
Cobb Galleria Centre- Exhibit Hall A  
2 Galleria Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30339

* Need an interactive map? Just go HERE
* Directions & parking too? Click HERE
(PS- parking is FREE!)

Event Geek Checklist: The cost of each discounted ticket (using promo code ADVANCE) gets you FREE parking, event bag, samples, information, classes and you can cross off "Become an Event Geek" from your to-do list.

Who's Who I wanted to make sure I shared both the Gluten Free & Allergy Friendly Expo Sponsors AND the exhibitors. (So, basically, I have placed all necessary Event Geek information right at your fingertips!) Ready? It's a big list! Thankfully because without them, we would be sad Event Geeks:

Sponsors Include:                                              
Glutino     Udi's Gluten Free   EarthFare    Enjoy Life Foods     Kroger     Sprouts 
Earth Balance     Smart Flour Foods     SunButter     Bell Plantation
Building Blocks Magazine     Spinato's Fine Foods      

Exhibitors Include:
Abundant Love     Against the Grain Gourmet     Arbonne     Ardenne Farm
Atlanta Gastroenterology     Baby Mum-Mums     Bakery on Main      Bare Belly Organics
Beanfields Snacks     Bell Plantation     Building Blocks Magazine     Camp Weekaneatit
Canyon Bakehouse     Celiac Support Association     Chef Vedam     Your Comfort For Life
Daiya Foods     Estrella Damm Daura     Delight Gluten Free Magazine     doTerra Jenna Drew
Earth Balance     Enjoy Life Foods     Freedom Foods     Garden Lites     Gluten Intolerance Group
Glutino     Hilary's     I Heart Keenwah     Kinnikinnick     Kitchen Craft Cookware
Kroger     Love Grown Foods     Maggiano's     Mahatma     Massel     Mike's
Milton's Baking     Mina's Purely Divine Gluten Free     No Gluten Inc.     Nubian Heritage
Paleo Magazine     Pascha Chocolate     Rainbow     Red Daisy Group     Ronzoni Gluten Free
RP's Pasta Company     San-J     Shay-Latte Coffee     Smart Flour Foods     Sonoma Flatbreads
Spiked Seltzer     Spinato's Fine Foods     Sprouts     Success Rice     Sugar & Spice Market
SunButter     Swerve Sweetener     Three Bakers     GF Mom Certified     TransOcean
Udi's Gluten Free     Vans Foods     Veggie Fries     Younique by Jennifer Baugus

MORE Exhibitors Added!
2bWhole     Dr. Biggs Chiropractic     EarthFare     Elmhurst Harvest     Safe & Happy Family
Saffron Road     Schar     True Source Family Chiropractic     Zuresh

I would also like to extend a very special thank you to one of my Sponsors Winona Pure Oils. I have had the honor of working with them for a few years, love the commitment they have to their products and I am honored that they have graciously offered to be a sponsor so that I can report on the amazing things to come and see at the Gluten Free & Allergy Friendly Expo.

           Can't wait to see everyone in a few weeks!                                             

Friday, February 19, 2016

Up the Creek WITH a Baking Paddle

Let's face it- sometimes some of the allergy-friendly products that we all encounter are downright disappointing. It is not only difficult to find products but it can be even more challenging finding brands that also taste good as well as offer ingredients that are good for you (because we all know that even gluten free and allergy-friendly products can be junk food). Don't get me wrong- all of us need a little somethin'-somethin' from time to time when we get cravings. Ultimately, it would be ideal to be able to combine our cravings with a product that has all of the components that we need.

I am happy to say that I was approached by one such company. After sharing my typical Sunday pancake day photos, I received an email from the owner of Clear Creek Natural Food. This company carries amaranth-based muffin and pancake & waffle mixes. As stated by the owner John Emrich, they recognized the need for gluten free products without the typical starches added (such as tapioca, rice, potato and cornstarch). This company's passion definitely shows through the correspondence that I received and after 14 years of finding products, meeting people and speaking to so many companies true passion to help others always gets an A+ in my book.

What They Have
They only carry three products (as of right now) but don't be fooled- less product means more love in each item. This includes Traditional Pancake & Waffle Mix, Light Pancake & Waffle Mix and Coco-Cao Muffin & Baking Mix. Need the ingredients? Simple click on the item above and it will bring you directly to the Clear Creek Natural Foods items page for each item (How's that for fast information!)

Pancakes, Flapjacks, Griddlecakes
Regardless of what your family calls them, I tried both of Clear Creek Natural Foods mixes. What I did was prepare the the Traditional mix with powdered egg replacer and the Light mix as directed on the package directions. I had inquired with Mr. Emrich on his thoughts about substituting the eggs and he was honest and felt they would not work as well. Let's see the comparison-

Eggless A bit thinner and flatter but absolutely tasty! I will warn that these have a slightly heartier taste and not the typical floury, pancake mix taste if that makes sense. On first bite, I was chewing like "I don't know if I like this" but then the flavor kicks in and YUM! For the eggless version, I added powdered egg replacer, raw honey, allspice, cinnamon, vanilla, coconut oil (I use Winona Pure) and a tad of baking powder with lemon juice to try to perk up the pancakes. I don't mind flatter pancakes personally but my picky eaters are just that- picky and visual.

As Directed Tried the Light mix and as you can see, they are much fluffier and thicker. The directions call for 3 eggs and I followed it completely (obviously a no-go for NutriSon with egg allergies but hey, a mom can eat). After first noticing the better thickness of these pancakes what I also noticed was how much of the egg I tasted in the pancakes. Now, in the hopes of not trying to make anyone angry, it is very possible that this is due to us not using eggs in most of our recipes because of my son's allergy to them. Perhaps my taste buds have changed but I do have a few more bags that I can't wait to try with maybe two of the eggs to see if it's a happy medium.

There's MUFFIN To It I have to say that NutriSon offered the muffin line ;) The Coco-Cao Muffin Mix directions calls for 4 eggs.....I am stubborn, I used egg replacer and one (4 ounce) applesauce instead. Did the muffins take a little longer to bake? Yup. Did they still look almost raw even though they were done? Yup. Were they the most absolutely most moist muffins I've had in a LONG while? YUP! The taste is subtle- not too overwhelming on the side of chocolateness but more of a melt in your mouth coco flavor. The ultimate test? NutriDaughter had a friend over and she is beyond a picky eater (like, BEYOND). You should have seen my huge smile in the kitchen when I handed her the muffin and said "Eat this" and she did. The whole thing plus another. Mission accomplished. I am that pesky Italian mother who must feed everyone but with a food allergy slant.

Extra Mom TidBits As a mom, there are details that I pick up on and like to share. They may not make much difference to any of you or maybe they will but sometimes what I think is a random thought may be very helpful to someone making the product. So, in no particular order:
  • You will notice the ingredients contain popped amaranth (cool!)- this also leaves the faint smell of popcorn in your kitchen. Fun fact: popped amaranth is actually a really healthy and easy popcorn snack replacement. I recommend researching how to pop it because I tried and failed miserably.
  • While mixing the batter, you may notice that it's very similar to that lovely product called Floam (that everybody gives as a party gift but nobody likes to receive due to the inability to remove it from many things in your home). 
  • Preheat your skillet or pan. These pancakes will cook faster and easier if the surface is preheated. The first few for me took a lot longer than your typical pancakes.
  • I recommend a skillet versus a frying pan. When I used a pan, the batter spread out too far for me to have multiple pancakes cooking at once which adds time in the kitchen, which then turns breakfast into brunch unexpectedly.
  • Just as most gluten free mixes are, there is an airy quality to the flour which tends to become airborne and spread over your kitchen surfaces far and wide. Open and pour slowly. Plus, you don't want to waste any of it.

These tidbits are not meant at all as a negative- just as observations.

Clear Creek Natural Foods I want to say thank you to John Emrich and Tom Whitney (who also reached out to me). This is a newer company that began with the purpose of helping other people eat healthier gluten free products. They recognized that more starches also tend to mean more sodium and less of the protein that we really need to keep our energy levels and metabolism optimal. You can find their information on their website or on their Facebook page.  Please be kind and let them know that Nutrimom sent you (I don't get anything other than a pat on the back for sending them some new people) and sharing is nice.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Food Makes the World Go 'Round

Each Valentine's Day, I am instantly turned into the geeky mom that I always swore I would never be. Ok, maybe I am every day but Valentine's Day steps it up a notch. What does this mean? Virtually every meal that my family eats the entire day is either red or heart-shaped or both. I even catch my teenage son smirking with delight when he comes down to a heart-shaped breakfast. But who could blame them? NOW, if I could only figure out how to have someone make ME heart-shaped food all day, I would be set.

Begin the Day With Love
Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I wanted to come up with something simple for those of you who just don't have the time to cook a meal. No judgement here- all I ask is to remember how important including a protein with your breakfast is to get that brain functioning. Dare I say, protein plus a heart-shaped anything revs up those little minds of our children. Watch their faces light up when you tell them you are going to make them something with love but also with two of their favorite foods. Then, put on your super cape and in under ten minutes, swoop in and present these Breakfast Bar SunButter Sammies.

Click HERE for the recipe
Simple, fast, easy, heart-shaped, protein-packed (thanks SunButter!) and they are just plain adorable. To be honest, I was popping several of these into my mouth while trying to get the recipe written. Beware as breakfast bar and SunButter smudges may appear on you, your clothing, your hair and all other surfaces that it touches. I do advise to only lick your fingers (if they are clean) since all of the other places, blah- who knows what's been there and there should be no sickness on the day of love.

End the Day With Love
Valentine's Day can be stressful, even with all of the love flying around. We're all jumping around filled with love and joy, we are all hyped up on excess sugar (come on, you know we are!) and at the end of the day, we will still be happy but soooo darn tired! Which brings us to our options:

A) We could go to a drive through - Uh, no. Food allergies and drive-throughs don't go together and so not budget-friendly, which would begin another fight (which is not allowed on love day)

B) We could grab a prepared meal at a local food store- Again, still concerns with food allergies, budgets plus who knows how long that food has been sitting there or how many people have moved it around, hoping someone will buy it before they need to chuck it. Refer back to three paragraphs above regarding sickness.

C) Prepare a four course meal in the name of love- ..........can you hear all of the mothers and wives out their either crying or screaming because they just don't wanna?! Four course meal, really? Are you out of your mind right now???

D) Keep it Simple- Ding, Ding, Ding!!!! Food should always, always, ALWAYS be simple, fun, allergy-friendly and budget-friendly. Luckily, I have a solution that hits all of these criteria. You ready? Heart-Shaped Bacon Wrapped Chicken to the rescue!

Are you still looking at it, saying "Are you crazy?! I can't make that!" YES, YOU CAN! and I can show you- just click here . If you are a recipe-reader and sharer, feel free to grab a copy here.

STILL Need More Ideas?
You can never have too many recipes! Sharing is caring so I invite you to also revisit these posts of some of my past Valentine's Day recipe ideas. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below :)

Cookies and how to assemble your own Valentines' Day heart of chocolates

Salted Caramel Bacon Hearts, Love Bites & Hotdog Hugs

Make your own allergy-friendly bouquet of chocolates

Monday, February 8, 2016

YOU Can Win THIS Box!

You all know that Valentine's Day is this week. This means sweet treats all over the world. For families with food allergies, this can be a challenging day to make sure everyone gets their sweets safely. Luckily Enjoy Life Foods is hosting a contest and they have offered to send one of my readers who participate a box of..... THIS!

What is in this yummy, delicious, allergy-friendly box you say? 
- 1 Box of Enjoy Life Foods Pancake and Waffle Mix (with added probiotics!)
- 1 Bag of Dark Chocolate Morsels
- a FREE Product Coupon
- 1 Heart-Shaped Pancake Stencil

Ready to Enter For a Chance to Win? Simply tag @enjoylifefoods with your favorite allergy-friendly Valentine's Day treat and include #SweetFreely on Twitter or Instagram. Enter by 2/14/16 before 11:59 PST  OR enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

PLUS the wonderful peeps at Enjoy Life Foods want everyone to Sweet Freely this Valentine's Day so they have partnered up with PTO Today and Homeroom Mom to make creative allergy-friendly classroom snacks. Curious? Click HERE and see for yourself!

Get cooking, baking, sweeting.... there's just a few days to enter.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

My Twins Arrived!

TWINS! They are here and they are beautiful! They make me smile each and every morning and I simply cannot get enough of them. There are so many different ways to describe how I feel...let's go on that crazy blogger journey today and let me share some of the sayings that hit the nail right on the head. Ready? (putting crazy blogger hat on...because, one must wear a hat for these kinds of journeys)

"Sometimes miracles come in pairs"

"Twins- double the love"

"I may be a twin but I am one of a kind"

"I'm the mother of twins, what's your super power?"

"First we had you..then we had both of you...Now we have everything."

Ladies & Gentlemen, I am happy to announce the 
SunButter Twin Packs 
(available at at select SE Costco store locations)

These SunButter Twin Packs are being sold exclusively at select Southeast Costco stores. Not only is this great news to hear but the Twin Packs are budget-friendly and also include a link to SunButter's free School Safe Recipe Book. At this time, these SunButter Twin Packs are only available at specific Southeast Costco locations BUT if they are successful, SunButter will be sure to announce on social media! Current locations are below for your convenience. 

Since I have spread the love, let's have fun with just one more of these twin quotes:

Top 5 Things Not to say to the mom of Twins

  1. Which one is your favorite?  None! I love all of my SunButter products equally!
  2. I guess you're done now. Never! Well, at least not until they stop making SunButter..gasp! The very thought brings tears to my eye! It must be the hormones from the event ;) 
  3. Better you than me. Untrue- SunButter is great for everyone (unless you are allergic to sunflower or any of the other ingredients in SunButter so always check your labels to stay safe)
  4. Are they natural? Why yes, they are ;) Proof HERE
  5. Double trouble. I beg to differ! No trouble, just healthy and nutritious protein.



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