Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Turn Halloween Inside Out

I am a firm believer of rolling up my sleeves and getting messy in the kitchen. I do not believe that allergy-friendly products should be "prepared as directed". The number one complaint that I hear from people with food allergies is that they feel their foods are limited. But I say it's not the foods that limit you, only your knowledge on how to use them. Let your mind wander like you used to when you were a kid. Cut foods up, pull them apart, put them into other foods that you usually don't. The worst that may happen? You have a recipe that doesn't look pretty or maybe even taste great. The best thing? You will find new ways to use the foods that you can have and have fun in the process.

Pull It Apart
This Halloween, I made a few simple creepy but adorable treats. All of us get a little unnerved when we see eyes staring up at us but what about if the eyes are coming from your cookies? With just a few ingredients, these cookies can be shared, packed into lunches, dunked in your favorite drink or served at this year's Halloween party. One thing is for sure- they won't take up a lot of your busy schedule and the kids can help you make them.
Watch how easy these are here ~

Scary Eye Cookies
(for EACH cookie)
1 Chocolate Vanilla Crème Cookie (or similar cookie to suit your allergy needs)
2 Jelly beans of the same color (I use Gimbals Candy or Surf Sweets)
Melted chocolate such as Enjoy Life Foods

Prep Time: 3 Minutes
No Bake Time: 2 Minutes

  1. Gently separate the top of a cookie and set it aside 
  2. Place two jellybeans on the edge of the vanilla cream as if looking out
  3. Spread melted chocolate onto the back half of the removed top cookie
  4. Gently place the top cookie back on, making sure the chocolate-covered side is in the back of the eyes
  5. Using a toothpick, dip it into the melted chocolate and draw on the pupils of the eyes
  6. Allow to cool completely
Serving size 1 Scary Eye Cookie

EYE dare you not to try these!
No, Pull ALL of It Apart
When I say pull your foods apart, I mean everything! Yes, having scary eyes peering out of a cookie is fun. But then I thought, why stop with that? What about opening up that snack and seeing eyeballs rolling around! Not just any eyeballs- eyeballs that you can eat (ewww, I never thought I would say that...). AND, eyeballs that are made of everyone's favorite part of the cookie- the cream filling! So I pulled apart the rest of those cookies and came up with Cookie Frosting Eyeballs. Just remember, don't throw away the cookies either. As I always say- waste nothing! I'll share a few tips for the remaining pieces following the recipe. Easy video tutorial here!

Cookie Frosting Eyeballs
Two vanilla cream cookies of your choice (such as Glutino Chocolate Vanilla Creme or Josef’s GlutenFree)
2 Jelly beans of the same color (I use Gimbals Candy or Surf Sweets)
Melted chocolate such as Enjoy Life Foods

Prep Time: 5 Minutes 
No Bake Time: 3 Minutes

  1. Remove the cream filling from the cookie
  2. Set the unused cookie aside*
  3. Roll each cream filling into a ball
  4. Insert one jellybean into the center
  5. Using a toothpick, dip it into the melted chocolate and draw on the pupils of the eyes
  6. Allow to cool completely 
Serving size 1 pair of eyeballs

*Those leftover cookie pieces- don’t throw them away! Use them for cookie crusts, toppings or make them into fast & easy bat wings! Just dab the corner with melted chocolate and let it cool

How do YOU use your foods? 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Is YOUR Pharmacy Safe?

Click to Visit
A few days ago, I went to my favorite local pharmacy Robinhood Family Pharmacy. I love the entire staff and I have known them since they opened up their business. They are a full service compounding pharmacy so I have the best of both world for my family's  health. But my last visit, I left with a bit of disappointment and even a little bit of anger and frustration. What caused my ill feelings may very well be the same thing that could effect you and your family as well and this is why.

YOUR Insurance Company MAY Be Putting YOUR Health at Risk Our family has utilized BCBSNC for many many years with little or no complaints at all. They have been the best about offering affordable plans, lower rates when most other insurance companies were simply astronomical. BCBSNC has always included most of my health providers and my beloved Robinhood Family Pharmacy. But now, they might not. Now, they may put my entire family's health at risk as well as countless others. You see, I saw THIS letter posted in the pharmacy when I was there:

"Re:  Termination of ROBINHOOD FAMILY PHARMACY LLC from Prime's Networks

Dear Pharmacy Owner or Manager:

Prime Therapeutics LLC (Prime) has made enhancements to its network participation criteria regarding Prescription Drug Services thresholds for pharmacies participating in Prime's pharmacy networks. You have been identified as currently processing compound Prescription Drug Services that exceed ten (10%) percent that does not comply with Prime's network prescription criteria.

This letter serves as notice that Prime is invoking its right to terminate ROBINHOOD FAMILY PHARMACY from Prime's pharmacy networks. Pursuant to the Section titled  "Term and Termination" of the Prime Therapeutics Pharmacy Participation Agreement ("Agreement") between Prime and Epic Pharmacy Network, Prime Therapeutics will terminate the Agreement effective December 1, 2016.

 If your Pharmacy believes its dispensing practices for compound Presciption Drugs Services complies with the described above and you wish to appeal your pharmacy's termination, please submit a written appeal to the Pharmacy Network Contracting Department within 30 calendar days or as otherwise required by law with this letter to Prime will review your request and provide a response to your Pharmacy based on its determination. 

If you have any questions concerning this letter, please contact us at or at 888.277.5510 option 1.

Prime Therapeutics LLC
Pharmacy Network Management

cc: Epic Pharmacy Network"

PO Box 64812  St. Paul, MN 55164-0812  tel 612.777.4000  toll free 800.858.0723"

My apologies but 10%? I didn't realize that BCBSNC or Prime Therapeutics or Epic Pharmacy Network had the right to tell their customers that only 10% of their health was allowed to be taken care of.

What Does This Mean? Basically, it's about money. Because more people are utilizing compounded prescriptions, it means less money directly to specific pharmaceutical name brands, which means people who work for Epic Pharmacy network and/or Prime Therapeutics get a call from those pharmaceutical companies who are now unhappy due to lack of use of their products. This is how smaller pharmacies lose some of their customers who rely on what they have found to be the safest prescriptions alternatives for their health. Did you read that BCBSNC and Prime Therapeutics  Epic Pharmacy? THEIR HEALTH. Don't understand? Let me explain it quite simply- these are your customers who pay to have your coverage. Much like me, these consumers choose your plans because you offer exactly what they need and are thankful that you offer it. These same customers may have specific health issues that require a compounded prescription versus a brand name medication because if causes horrible side effects. Just as there are reasons to prescribe a medication, there are just as many reasons if not more not to prescribe medications for certain individuals.

My Blunt Plea to BCBSNC, Prime Therapeutics and Epic Pharmacy Network Not only do I demand to utilize my right as a consumer to continue to utilize the pharmacy that best suits mine and my family's needs but I demand that you renege your previous decision to remove Robinhood Family Pharmacy from your list of accepted participating pharmacies for your network. I know these people even though your companies do not. I know that they truly care about all of their customers, their specific needs and I trust our lives with their staff. I know that if I fill a prescription with them and I forget to check on any minute details (such as possible allergens in a prescription) they will immediately make me aware of what it includes and what our family's safest options are for us to choose from. And, they do it with a patient, warm, friendly smile every single time. BCBSNC, Prime Therapeutics and Epic Pharmacy Network- can you honestly say that your pharmacy does that for you and your families? I highly doubt it. I urge you to contact Robinhood Family Pharmacy or any of their customers to ask questions if you are still doubtful. Your customers are what keep your companies in business each year. The voice of your customers is what shapes your plan needs, what helps you to decide how to continue to be preventative companies and your customers are the people that will be the people who will choose to stay with your companies or find others that do not cut off what is their lifeline to staying healthy and well. When a doctor writes a prescription for a compounded prescription, there is a really good reason for it. Is this not something that any/all of your companies feels is a stepping stone to keep your companies as a forerunner in the health industry?  

So BCBSNC, Prime Therapeutics and Epic Pharmacy Network- I am begging you to be the better company for ALL of your customers as well as my family. Be the companies that are in the news for a good and decent reason rather than a negative one. Be a part of your consumers voices and show us that you are here to work with us, not against us. As I stated previously, my family has been in your care for many, many years. If we had to choose another health care provider, it would be upsetting but if we had to choose an entirely new pharmacy that doesn't give a tiny inkling about our health, that would be devastating and detrimental to our health. 

I also urge everyone else reading this to contact your current health insurance carrier and make sure that your consumer rights and health are not being controlled. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

How to Borrow a Cooking Tradition

Dining out with food allergies is always tricky. Most of us cook a lot rather than chance an unfamiliar meal and that's cool....most of the time. But sometimes, we get tired of cooking too. Sometimes, we don't want to make every single thing from scratch. And more than sometimes, we crave easy to use, allergy-friendly products that we can just open and heat. Is this possible? Yes. But first, a little bit of how I found Spinato's Fine Foods.

Travel Back in Food Time This year, I attended the Atlanta, GA Gluten Free & Allergy Friendly Expo. This is where I saw them. This is where I stuffed my face multiple times as I walked by, trying to be discreet but saying yes every single time Spinato's Fine Foods asked if I would like a sample. Gluten free pizza slices, gluten free pasta with their sauces...yummm! Plus, they serenaded me. Who can resist someone singing to you?! Don't believe me? (I warn you- I filmed it, not realizing it would be viewed sideways so pretend like you are looking for a book in the library) Watch here :) I ate, I sang, I ate some more and I was happy. Who wouldn't be, right? 

Then, I got a Package I got a bunch of Spinato's Fine Foods products to try!!! I got pizzas, salad dressings and sauces. Where to start? How to share? ...did I really want to share?  Good food makes me stingy ;) However, in this case, I wanted to share. You see, NutriSon has multiple food allergies and is limited in his choices of pizza that he can eat safely. I had a stack of them. I checked and double-checked the product ingredients and processing so I let me guard down and agreed to a pizza party night. But not before I left them in the freezer so he could stare at them each day, waiting, may seem mean but come on fellow parents you know we torment when we can. For those of you not familiar with Spinato's Fine Foods pizzas they are ALL gluten free! They offer Mozzarella, Pepperoni and Tomato, Basil & Garlic. I will say that Spinato's recommends heating them in the oven directly on the oven rack for the best crust outcome. I thought about this and as a food allergy mom (and just plain mom) two things came to mind: A) I'm not really sure how clean my oven racks are and what else may be on them and B) when the cheese melts all down the oven, burns and stinks up my house, who is going to clean it up? Me! But as usual, I came up with a very easy fix. Place a large baking sheet on the rack, then place a cookie cooling rack on top of the baking sheet. Place your Spinato's pizza on the cookie rack and voila- easy to clean up and maximum pizza crust results achieved! The key is to let the heat get to the bottom of your pizza crust to keep it from being soggy. Blah! Soggy pizza crust- no, just no.
Pizza Tasting OK, so the first thing I thought of when I bit into the Mozzarella pizza (bear with me) Steve Martin's movie The Jerk when he's eating "Pizza in a Cup". Is this relevant to the tasting? No, my brain just wandered a bit :) The mozzarella was a decent frozen pizza, no complaints. Pepperoni? Our only complaint was that it needs MORE pepperoni. It's kind of buried somewhere under the cheese and with a family of meat-eaters, we prefer a visual experience to our foods. My personal favorite pizza was the Tomato, Basil & Garlic- oooh my! The flavor mixed with the herbs mixed with the tomatoes that tasted like someone just plucked them out of the garden?! Seriously a hearty, fresh-tasting pizza and with my crisp crust going on, I was a happy, pizza-eating fiend for the night. NutriSon was even eyeing up the slices left on my plate like "You gonna eat that?" Uh yeah dude- can't a mom just have one dinner where she stuffs her face without having to share?? Don't get me wrong- when my kids were smaller, of course I shared (when it was safe to do so). I would make food and give it to them even if it meant I waited to eat but now they are older and I want my own food!!Give a mom a pizza, let a mom have her own pizza and see how happy that mom is at the end of the day, that's all I'm saying.

Dressing Up Your Salad...and Pizza Spinato's Fine Foods also makes salad dressings (which is another plus- how many salad dressings do you know of that are truly allergy-friendly? Plus, pizza and salad is just a food marriage). Three varieties Italian, Balsamic and Pomegranate. Are you wondering about the flavors? Are you a picky dressing connoisseur? Here's a quick rundown:

  • Italian Good, mild taste-just a slight hint of olive. Not greasy or heavy with a bit of vinegar without being overpowering ( I hate when you get a dressing that has too much of anything)
  • Balsamic Creamy (even though it's dairy free) with a slight mustard taste mixed with your typical balsamic flavor
  • Pomegranate Similar to the Balsamic but a bit on the sweeter side
Additional thoughts on the Spinato's salad dressings- a little goes a long way, makes for an excellent pizza crust dipping sauce (which comes in handy while eating their pizzas) and all of them would work well on wraps or sandwiches too. Here, let me show you exactly what I'm talking about. Behold- the Spinato's Fine Foods dressing in action! Now, make sure you look closely as this is a very rare phenomenon to catch on film- most of the time, it's gone before anyone can snap a picture.

Food Should Be Saucy When cooking with food allergies, the number one complaint I hear often is "It doesn't taste good". Use the items that you have in multiple ways and increase your food concepts. Don't be afraid to play and see what happens. Some of my most easy and exciting recipes came from me just seeing what would happen. This was also the case when I tried Spinato's Vodka Cream sauce (not dairy free just an FYI). I prepared it and served it on my pasta. It was good, it was thick and creamy but it was even better the next day. I added it to leftover shrimp, chicken and veggies- ooooh yeah! It melted in my mouth. Did I share? Nope. Am I ashamed of that? Nope.

I still had two other sauces- Tomato Basil and Marinara. So this is how it went down: I opened both to see if they were different, I smelled them, I spooned a bit of them (on the spoon, not, well, never mind) and I had my own mini judging contest early in the day. The Tomato Basil sauce has a mild, hearty taste that's not overloaded with too much of anything and it's not a sweet sauce. The Marinara is slightly stronger. The best thing about these sauces in my opinion? There is no "jar sauce" taste. They taste freshly made.

The Good News As I shared before, Spinato's Fine Foods are gluten free. Their products are also made and packaged in a gluten free facility. If you are hoping to purchase some, they have a store locator located on their website. If you do not live in an area where you can purchase their items, contact them or submit a request at your local stores to carry them. Most stores are more than happy to accommodate their shoppers to make them happy and broaden the allergy-friendly shopping experience. Not sure just yet? Follow them om Facebook and Twitter and see what news they have to intrigue your taste buds.

Whatever you decide, you should always remember that having food allergies is about enjoying the foods that you eat.

Thank you bunches to Spinato's Fine Foods for the wonderful amount of goodies that NutriFamily got to try out. We all hope to see you soon at another expo or (hopefully) in a store near us soon.

As always, never any compensation except for the products themselves to review as all of my reviews are always honest.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

It Smells Like Halloween

"It smells like Halloween" - between the crisp, cool air, apple picking and chocolate.... YES, chocolate! But what happens when you have food allergies? How do you celebrate autumn traditions safely and deliciously? My personal suggestions- a new, easy recipe and a giveaway! But not just any kind of recipe or giveaway; a recipe and giveaway with two of my favorite products that can be used for a healthy twist on a favorite fall treat.

Usually, the norm is to make caramel apples. For those with food allergies, a store-bought or even homemade caramel apple may not be safe at all due to dairy and possible other allergens. And caramel- have you had a caramel apple lately? It gets stuck in your teeth. Is there a way to make this allergy-friendly and add a healthy ingredient to it? Yes, yes there is and all you need are two ingredients (maybe 3-4 depending on your flavor request).

Fruit & Chocolate Covered Apples
Crispy Green fruit snacks
Enjoy Life Foods chocolate*
Clean apples

Prep Time:    5 Minutes
No Bake Time:  5 Minutes 

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper
  2. Using a mini chopper, grind your choice of Crispy Green fruit snacks until very fine and set aside
  3. Melt the Enjoy Life Foods chocolate
  4. Using a small plastic frosting knife, cover the apple with melted chocolate
  5. Sprinkle the apple with ground fruit snacks (use 2 or more for flavor enhancement!)
  6. Set aside and allow the chocolate to set completely
  7. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator
  8. Insert a colorful paper straw or other decorative apple holder
* The new Enjoy Life Foods Snack Packs are perfect for those who only need to make individual apples, to add an easy, additional decoration, for sharing (or for not sharing) :)

Serving sizes will vary

Now For the Giveaway!!
Let's all stop for just a moment and say thank you to the folks at Crispy Green and Enjoy Life Foods for sponsoring this yummy giveaway (virtual thank you's heard all around the world).

So what could YOU win? 
A variety box of Crispy Green fruit snacks, an adorable lunch bag and 2 bags of the new Enjoy Life Foods Snack Packs (one Mini Chips and one Morsels)!! 

The contest will run from October 10 - 13th 2016. See the contest entry details in the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Open to all US citizens. No purchase necessary. Sharing is always encouraged so if your friend wins, you can totally mooch their prizes. Entries will be kept confidential and will not be shared with any other parties. One winner shall be chosen at random via Rafflecopter

Just in case you weren't sure, go here NOW and get your entries in before it's too late!!!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway


~ Contest Winner ~

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What Doesn't Kill You May Kill You

Often, I write about how important seconds can be for someone'e life. I speak about it, I write about it, I advocate about it but still.....people are not listening. Let's cut to the chase because I pride myself on being the same person that you are reading that you may also meet in person someday. Ask people- it's true. When I make it a point to tell people that allergic reactions happen within seconds I do this because, no matter who you are, I want to help save you one day. I never, ever want to read an article that shares your name as someone who has succumbed to an allergic reaction because you were not prepared. And by prepared, I do not mean just avoiding the foods you are allergic too.

Information is STILL Useless Here I go, pulling up my soapbox again. I have tried to hide it, to bury it- but during the summer I found out two people that are near and dear to my heart do not carry an auto injector................ is it me? So I remain calm. I ask all of the relevant questions "What happened when you had a reaction?" "Did your throat close?" 'Did it effect your breathing" and last but never least "So, do you carry an auto injector?" THERE it is- the first response to my answer. The ducking for cover answer. The sheepish "Ohhh, I know my allergens so I just avoid them" Uh, no. Just No. To make it even more clear for those who are younger- kind of like the Meghan Trainor's song "NO". Really? REALLY?!!! FREAKING REALLY?????!!!

Why I Am Upset These people can die. They had a reaction or reactions and they lived. But next time, they can die. And I would be part of that because I knew they did not carry an auto injector. Person A is a family friend and Person B is a new friend that we met in the neighborhood over the summer. Both are equally important but they also have very different stories. Person A is retired and has found out why her body doesn't like certain foods. I get it. That's cool. However, there is a really, really big difference between a food that doesn't like you and it causes headaches versus "Yeah, my throat got really tight"... please, this is your life. How is your life not important to you if it's already really important to me? The reason for not carrying an auto injector- it costs too much money (cough, #Epigate) and it's too big and bulky. Mental note: next time I fill NutriSon's prescription, I will bring her one of our extras because I want her to live. And more importantly- I want her to want to live.

Person B is (drum roll please)....a doctor in the Emergency Room. Yes. A doctor. Who sees every possible thing that could mame, kill, bruise, etc. to anyone. This doctor has a wife who is allergic to seafood. The same answer "We just avoid the foods she is allergic too"... why? Why? Why? WHY?! It's the year 2016 and we still have doctors that do not understand that seconds count? That avoiding an allergic food may not be the entire answer. So what is the answer? How do we tell people that their spouse could die because they decided not to be prepared? Mental note for them- have them over, prepare safe foods and offer to help them get the appropriate auto injectors- stat.

Please Be Prepared- Even If You Don't Think You Need It Plain and simple, there is no other option. In life, there are a lot of "what if's" and I don't want anyone to be a "what if". I do not want anyone else to be featured on a news headline or be entered as a statistic- love yourself enough to make sure you are never,  ever in danger. Carry two auto injectors. Have extras at home. Do not leave them in the car or in the sun but do keep them in your purse. Think it's not fashion-worthy to carry an auto injector? Nether is being dead- plain and simple. Our community is in the middle of a crisis and we need to protect each other but honestly, it starts with you.

Show Me Your Auto Injector!