Friday, May 30, 2008

Presents for You

Hey, thanks for listening to me whine. Allow me to repay you with a link, a giveaway, some cookies, and a cake.

First of all, the Living With Food Allergies Blog Carnival is up, and there are some great topics this time. Check it out!

Go Dairy Free's June Giveaway:
Alisa writes, "In honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week, Gluten-Free Essentials is offering up three gifts, which are free from milk, eggs, nuts, gluten, and yeast! Each winner will receive one of three gluten-free and food allergy-friendly baking mix packages: The Cookie Assortment (chocolate chip, vanilla sugar, cocoa mudslide, cranberry-apple spice and decadent fudge brownie), The Deluxe Assortment (12 mixes, both savory and sweet), or The Speedy Bake Assortment (6 gluten-free mixes for kids)."

We all know how expensive these products can be, so here's your chance to get them for free! Just sign up for the Go Dairy Free monthly e-newsletter and you'll be entered to win.

Overnight Oatmeal Cookies

This carrot cake recipe is from The Compleat I Hate to Cook Book. I made it dairy-free and replaced the raisins with apricots because I hate cooked raisins. If you like them, put 'em in. And Vivian, it doesn't have eggs!

Honest Sheepwagon Carrot Cake

1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups water
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 tablespoon dairy-free margarine
2 large carrots, finely chopped (I use the food processor.)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Simmer all these ingredients together in a medium saucepan for five minutes, then cover and rest in the refrigerator for twelve hours. "Why it gets so tired is one of those little mysteries. But do it."--Peg Bracken

The next day, add:
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder

Mix it all up. Bake in two greased loaf pans at 275 degrees for two hours. Cool, then wrap in foil.
I frosted ours with dairy-free cream cheese icing. I used Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Days in the Life

Think it's Monday all day. Wonder why the mother in charge of Friday's Summer Birthdays party at Kindergarten hasn't called me yet.
Almost miss baby's four-month appointment. What genius scheduled it for 9 am the morning after a holiday? (Answer: Me.) Let toddler get a lollipop at doctor's office. Stop at grocery store on the way home with fussy baby and lollipop juice-covered toddler. Buy baby Tylenol and $75 in other "essentials."
Come home from doctor's office to find message from Teacher. Please call her, re: I am the mother in charge of the Summer Birthdays party.
Call several irritated mothers to assign them party duties.
Remember the van's registration expires this month. Call to schedule an inspection and hear, "You weren't expecting to get in by the end of the month, were you, Honey?"
Eat the rest of the leftover carrot cake from Memorial Day picnic.

Daddy leaves on four-day trip at 5:30 am. It's time for our yearly visit to Leftbehindville.
Baby wakes up fussy because of four-month shots.
Get Kindergartner ready for school so Grandad can drive her. (Thank you, Grandad!)
Pay bills.
Listen to Toddler tell story over and over of how he road on Grandad's tractor.
"Da, mooie tchra? Seat. Ride. Wheel. Hai turn. Katin turn. Nooo, Katin!!!! Nooo!!! Hai turn! Hai turn! Hai turn. Bye, mooie tchra."
["Grandad's tractor? I sat on it. I rode it. I turned the wheel. Eli had a turn. Katherine had a turn. No, Katherine! It's Eli's turn! Eli's turn! Eli had another turn. Bye, tractor."]
Eat leftover oatmeal cookies from Memorial Day picnic.
Kindergartner returns home. Feed everyone lunch. Nurse baby. Put Toddler and Baby down for naps. Decide to clean out the basement to get away from incessant Kindergartner chattiness:
"A long time ago, but not a long time ago, a little while ago, but not a little while ago, a long time ago, but not so long, Eli and I were jumping in rain puddles. Do you remember that?"
Kindergartner loses a tooth.
Take Kindergartner to swim lessons.
Talk to Daddy on the phone.
Go to bed right after the kids.
Get up in a panic to perform Tooth Fairy duties.

Hear about Husband's delicious seafood dinner the night before.
Buy cupcake ingredients.
Bake dairy-free cupcakes for Friday's school party.
Bake dairy-free muffins for Friday's playgroup. (Toddler-watching bribery for the other moms.)
Think about ordering takeout for dinner.
Only two more days till Daddy's home....

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chrysalis Cookies

I have a very hard time being critical of allergen-free foods. So many of them are made by small, startup companies, often run by a person with a food allergy or a relative of a food-allergic person. They are trying hard to do a good thing. They are being gutsy and starting their own businesses. So I really, really hate saying, "Nice try, but your product tastes like dirt and has the consistency of sawdust."

It's like when you're teaching your kids to clean the house. Sure, they do a crappy job and there are still crumbs all over the floors they just swept, but they tried. And you want to praise them for the effort, if not the actual result. "Ok, yes, your product tastes bad, but, hey! It's dairy and wheat free, and it's so healthy! Good job, Honey!"

Fortunately, this is not an issue I had to face when reviewing Chrysalis Cookies because they are AWESOME. Twenty cookies were delivered to our house, and they were gone in less than twenty-four hours. The kids and I will eat just about any health-conscious treat, but Scott will not. When eating the Chrysalis Cookies, he said, "You know I don't take cookies lightly. I wouldn't say these were good unless I really liked them. These cookies are good."

We received a sample of each of their five flavors: Unbelievable Chocolate Chip, Old Fashioned Molasses, Granny's Chocolate Crinkles, Very Vanilla Sugar, and Chewy Cranberry Oatmeal. We liked them all. I kid you not. They are all great, with a wonderful, chewy texture, good flavors, and the perfect amount of salt.

The 1.5 ounce frozen cookie dough portions are packed in 36-count bags. You just place them on a baking sheet (the phrase you're looking for to describe mine is "well seasoned"), let them thaw so you can flatten them out a bit, bake, and EAT. I mean, "let cool, then eat."

I would love to see these cookies in every coffee shop, cafeteria, and grocery store in the country.

Chrysalis Cookies are wheat-free, dairy-free, whole-grain, Kosher cookies made with organic oat flour and no trans fats. A full list of ingredients is here. They can be purchased online for $25.99/3 dozen cookies. Food service quantities (216 cookies/case) are also available.

This review is for Go Dairy Free.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Greek Chorus

That's me, chanting, "You can never be too careful...." Such a charming trait, no?

Here's an email from m on her son's Hershey trip:

"Hi Sarah,

Just wanted to give you the report on my son's day at Hershey, as promised. Overall, he had a great time, though not without a couple of glitches. He had one minor 'contact' reaction -- his eye started swelling up, which usually means that he touched something milky and rubbed his eye. He went right to the bathroom and washed his hands and eye and took some Benadryl, and the symptoms subsided. No other reaction the rest of the day.

As for the Kosher Mart -- He called me at 3:30 on his cell to report that it was closed. He was a little panicked, as he was quite hungry. It turned out that they close early on Friday for the Jewish sabbath. Luckily someone at the nearby food service was able to help him out.

I wrote them an email thanking them, and suggesting that they post the closing hours on the website. They said they would.

I guess the moral is: No matter how conscientious you are, things can go awry. Have a backup plan -- even if it's just an extra sandwich in the cooler back in the car."

Thanks for the report, m. It's a good reminder to have a backup plan. And a cell phone!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Get Well Soon

Beck is sick, and two of her children have the chicken pox. On a happier note, she wrote a lovely column about her daughter's dietary restrictions and started a gluten-free recipe/discussion page. Go check it out!

I am sending Beck a batch of virtual beet brownies. I found this recipe in our local paper the other day and altered it to make it dairy free, but I haven't tried it yet.

Chipotle Beet Brownies

1 jar sliced pickled beets
1 box brownie mix
1/4 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder
1 cup dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray. Drain beets, reserving 1/4 cup liquid. Combine beets and reserved liquid in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth; set aside.
Combine brownie mix, oil, eggs, pureed beets and chile powder in a large mixing bowl; stir 50 strokes with a spoon. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 28-30 minutes as directed on brownie package. Remove from oven; cool. Frost or dust with powdered sugar.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Amusing? Sometimes

Karen at Avoiding Milk Protein asked me for some summer travel tips, and m is concerned about her 13-year-old dairy-allergic son's upcoming trip to Hershey Park--without his parents. So let's talk amusement parks, shall we?

Go to the website of the amusement park you will be visiting and look for allergen information, usually somewhere under food/restaurants. More and more locations are posting this information on their sites. Print it out and keep a copy for reference at the park. HOWEVER, you never know how often the information is updated. Or maybe they ran out of the hot dog buns listed on the site and had to substitute with another brand. You just don't know, so you still need to be on the alert at the park.

With that in mind, look for contact information. Using the Hershey Park website as an example, yes, they do list the ingredients of some allergen-free foods online. They also provide contact information for those with questions about allergens. Use this contact information. Personally, I like to use email because then I have everything in print. Explain your situation, then ask whatever questions you have, such as:
May we bring allergen-free food with us into the park?
Who do we ask at the restaurants to let us see ingredient labels?
Who do we contact if we run into a problem at the park?

Even if some of these answers are provided on the website, I like to have them with me in print in an email from a high-ranking employee of the park. Then if I run into any resistance, I can pull out the "permission slip."

This is an especially important technique for parks that don't have as many allergen-free options. We have been allowed to bring food for Katherine to various locations that don't usually allow outside food and have never been questioned. But I had my email copies with me just in case someone asked. In these instances, I had to dig around on the websites a little more to find someone to write to. Sometimes I've used the generic "contact us" address and my email was forwarded to the appropriate person. A reply may take awhile, so as soon as you know where you will be going, start writing.

Traveling with food-allergic children is stressful. Sending them off on their own is even more stressful. So until all amusement parks become as forward-thinking as Holiday World, write those emails. Write them before to ask your questions, and write them after to say, "Thank you."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Guerrilla Cooking, With Bonus Baby Content

Here is another obscure cookbook from my collection. It was written by Mel Walsh, another Peg Bracken devotee. We had the Mexican Spaghetti (minus the cheese) for dinner last night.

Mexican Spaghetti

"Use this on the nights when you're tired and you don't want guff from anyone about the menu. The all should like this, and if they don't, tell them it's their turn to cook tomorrow night. "--Mel Walsh, Guerrilla Cooking: The Survival Manual for People Who Don't Like to Cook or Don't Have Time to Cook

1 pound spaghetti
1 pound ground round
1 small onion, chopped
11 oz. can Mexican-style corn [I use frozen corn.]
1 cup chopped ripe tomatoes, either fresh or canned
2 tablespoons chili powder [I use one T. so the kids will eat it.]

"Put the pasta pot on to boil. Meanwhile, brown the beef and chopped onion in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Stir so they won't stick. Drain off any fat. Then add the corn, drained tomatoes [I don't drain them.], and chili powder. Stir. Simmer with the cover on so the juices don't evaporate.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and put it into a serving dish. Pour the meat sauce over the pasta. If desired, sprinkle with grated Monterey Jack cheese. [We don't, obviously.]

Serve with a green salad topped by avocado slices."

And here is our almost-four-month-old baby girl (*sob*), whose baptism was this Sunday. We dressed her in a ridiculous tutu-like outfit from her great-great aunt because, what better time to wear such a thing? The service was beautiful, even the part where Eli tried to escape from Gramma and she managed to catch him by the tip of his tractor boot. Good reflexes, Gramma!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Breads From Anna Piecrust Mix

Breads From Anna Piecrust Mix

Gluten and Yeast Free
Corn, Dairy, Soy, and Rice Free

Ingredients: Tapioca Flour, arrowroot, millet, maple sugar, potato starch, Montina(TM) (perennial bunch grass, achnatherum hymonodies), chick pea flour, navy bean flour, pinto bean flour, salt, xanthan gum, cream of tartar, baking soda.

I made our piecrust with plain soy milk, apple cider vinegar, and canola oil. The directions on the package didn't have all of the baking information I needed to make a fruit pie, so I went to their website for additional baking tips.

The crust was very easy to mix up and roll out, even for me, the non-baker in the family. Because of its crumbly consistency, it was a bit tricky to place in the pie pan, and it did crack during baking. (See photo.) One thing I appreciated about this gluten-free piecrust is that it wasn't sweet, so it could be used for savory pies as well as dessert pies. However, most tasters didn't like the bitter aftertaste of the crust.
Breads From Anna Piecrust Mix

This review is for Go Dairy Free.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wanna Read a Story?

A Kindergarten Tale:

D. accidentally spills his cheese crackers at snacktime. They land near Katherine, who wisely doesn't touch them. M. and L. come over and clean up the spill. (D. helps, too.)
M. says, "We just saved Katherine's life!"

For more Food Allergy Awareness Week stories and blog posts, check out this week's Living With Food Allergies Blog Carnival at Check My Tag.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Recipe for a Blog Entry

Take these popular blogging topics:
Food Allergy Awareness Week
The rising cost of food
Being frugal
Cooking without allergens

Mix them all together, and you get Nowheymama's Summer Resolution (I can make a resolution any time of year, thanks.) : I am determined to make more of my family's snack foods from scratch.

*Crickets chirping*

Well, I'm excited about it, and that's what matters. Here are the categories I'm thinking about:
Frozen desserts, such as soy ice cream, sorbet, popsicles
Fruit treats, such as fruit snacks and fruit leather (Remember the 70's? Of course! We all do.)
Gelatins made with fruit juice
Cracker-type items
Snack bars

I'm tired of spending so much money on this stuff. ($3.79/pint for Tofutti ice cream, Local Health Food Store? Really? $4.19/box for six EnviroKidz peanut butter bars, Local Grocery Store? REALLY?)
I think I can make these things in a healthier AND more cost-effective manner. (You won't see me making my own soy milk anytime soon, for example.)
I want a good supply of go-to recipes for school lunches in the fall.
I think this is the one area of grocery shopping where we haven't cut back much yet.

I'll share recipes and family reviews as we try different foods, and would love to hear any or all of your snack recipes.

Are you with me? Come on, dust off that ice cream maker and dig out your Mom's old Tupperware popsicle molds. Maybe we'll even invest in food dehydrators! Whee!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Email Tutorial

Remember when the Internet was "new" and Martha Stewart wrote columns about web etiquette--like how to properly address emails? No? Just me, then? Okey-doke.

Today I'm going to play Martha and offer my own email tutorial because I think it's important to praise companies when they do a good thing and to gently reprimand them when they, say, suddenly add unnecessary allergens to a product. Does it make any difference? I honestly don't know. Probably not. But at least I know I've spoken up. Besides, it takes just a few minutes to send an email to a company: no envelope, no stamp, no hunting for the address, no getting it to the mailbox before the mail carrier arrives, etc.

Letter The First:*
Dear [Company]:

I am writing to let you know how much our family enjoys [product]. My [person] has a severe [allergen] allergy, and s/he is able to eat your [product] because it is [allergen] free. Please continue to produce your wonderful [products] !


* Variations:
Write to your local supermarket to thank them for carrying certain products.
Write to a company whose product you enjoy and would like your store to carry and give them your store's contact information.
Write to a restaurant and thank them for the allergen-free items on their menu.
Write to a potential vacation spot you love and ask them about their allergy policies.
Write to a show that is allergy sensitive. (I wrote to Sesame Street to thank them for the "soy milk for sale" sign in Hooper's Store. Katherine was really excited about it.)

Yes, some of these messages could be delivered in person, but the company can use your wonderful letter (known in the airline industry as an "orchid letter") as an example of how awesome they are, making it more likely that they will continue to carry your item. You will almost always receive a thank you for your note.

Now it's time to let your passive-aggressive tendencies shine.

Letter The Second:
Dear [Company]:

Our family has enjoyed your [product] for many years. Sadly, we are no longer able to use [product] because you have changed the recipe and added [allergen]. My [person] is severely allergic to [ingredient] and cannot eat it. We will miss using [product] and hope that you will reconsider changing the recipe back to its original form.

Thank you for your time,

You will almost always receive a response that cites the months of consumer research the company did to come up with their "new and improved" recipe. You will often also receive a coupon for the altered product, encouraging you to "try it again." This might make you want to beat yourself over the head with your laptop, but at least you tried.

Now get writing!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Food Allergy Awareness Week

This week, May 11-17, is the The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network's eleventh annual Food Allergy Awareness Week. FAAN's website states: "This week is devoted to food allergies. There are lots of ways to get involved—visit a local ambulance provider to learn about epinephrine, hang posters, have a fundraiser, talk to legislators, everything helps." Other suggestions for getting involved are here.

One of my favorite FAAN programs is the Be a PAL: Protect a Life from Food Allergies program, which has easy steps for nonallergic children to help their allergic friends:
"Anyone can be a PAL by following these five easy steps:
  • 1. Never take food allergies lightly.
  • 2. Don’t share food with friends who have food allergies.
  • 3. Wash your hands after eating.
  • 4. Ask what your friends are allergic to, and help them avoid it.
  • 5. If a friend who has food allergies becomes ill, get help immediately!"
  • PALs can be thanked with a free certificate from the website.

    Friday, May 09, 2008

    Me a Whiny Girl

    Friends of my parents tell this story of their 4-year old son and 2-year old daughter talking in the back of the car:
    Daughter: You a whiny boy.
    Son: No I'm not! I don't whine! Mom, [Daughter] said I'm whiny! Tell her I'm not! Tell her to stop!
    Daughter: You doin' it now.

    Today I am a whiny girl. I have a sinus infection. Whah, whah. Poor me. It's rainy and overcast. Bleah. So this morning the little ones and I will go to playgroup where Eli will parallel play and I will sit in the corner with Helen and try not to infect anyone. And tonight I will cheer myself up by serving everyone Beck's Chocolate Surprise Cake* (There are beets in it! Shh!) and watching Juno with my husband.

    I will also be cheered up by the thought of my reader panel idea being published in the July/August issue of Wondertime. I'll be published! And they're paying me $75! I'm the next Catherine Newman! HA HA HA HA HA HA.

    *Substitute dairy-free margarine for the butter, and bake it in an 8"x8" pan at 325 degrees.
    [Edited to add: I ended up with enough batter to fill a 9"x13" pan, so that's what I used. We frosted it with dairy-free cream cheese icing, and everyone liked it a lot.]

    Thursday, May 08, 2008

    Take a Letter



    Monday, May 05, 2008

    Angel Food

    Have you all heard of Angel Food Ministries? Lately, I've been reading lots of blog entries and talking to people about their food and gas cost concerns. I thought this program was something that might help. According to their website, Angel Food Ministries is "a non-profit, non-denominational organization dedicated to providing food relief and contributing to benevolent outreaches in communities throughout the United States."

    Angel Food is open to anyone--regardless of income. For $30 a month, you get ~$65 of food. A month's menu may include:

    • 4 lb. IQF Leg Quarters
    • 4 oz. Beef Back Ribs
    • 1 lb. 80/20 Lean Ground Beef
    • 2 lb. Breaded Chicken Tenders
    • 1.5 lb. Bone in Pork Chops (4 x 6oz.)
    • 1 lb. Ground Turkey
    • 18 oz. Stuffed Manicotti (Cheese)
    • 12 oz. Smoked Sausage
    • Betty Crocker Seasoned Potatoes
    • 7 oz. Cheeseburger Dinner
    • 16 oz. Green Beans
    • 16 oz. Baby Carrots
    • 2 lb. Onions
    • 1 lb. Pinto Beans
    • 1 lb. Rice
    • 7 oz. Blueberry Muffin Mix
    • 10 ct. Homestyle Waffles
    • Dessert Item
    Are some of these items problems for people with food allergies? Yes. But anything your family can't eat could easily be shared with someone else or given to your local food pantry.

    Although we haven't tried it yet, I know many families (of various sizes and incomes) in our community have signed up for Angel Food and are pleased with it. I think it's a great idea. You can find your closest site here.