Monday, September 28, 2009

I can't believe I have to review products on my BIRTHDAY

Actually, I don't have to. But it's a nasty, cold, rainy birthday, so let's see how productive I can be, hmm?

In light of all of the shiny new review blogs popping up everywhere, I feel the need to re-explain how things work here. The reviews I write are usually for Go Dairy Free, I just cross-post them here. Occasionally, a company contacts me on their own. I get a sample of the dairy-free/food allergy-related food/product/whatever. I try it. I write honestly about it. I do not get paid by the companies or by Go Dairy Free. But even if I did, I'd write honest reviews. It's just a good way for us all to find out about new (often expensive) dairy-free and/or food allergy products. Aaand, done.

Recently I received a package of ND Labs' Meatless Burger Bits, or, as my kids call it, "Fake Meat." We used them in Peg Bracken's Green Pepper Stew. The texture and taste were very similar to ground beef, and we agreed that the texture is even more beef-like than their other meatless ground beef product. The Meatless Burger Bits are the closest-to-ground-beef meatless product we've tried. If it were up to us, though, we'd probably go with ground turkey or ground chicken or ground venison if we didn't want beef.

Yeah. Go here for a clear image.

So here's my question: if you are allergic to beef or a vegetarian or vegan, do you LIKE eating foods that taste like meat, or would you rather avoid meat--real or fake--all together? I had a grad school professor who was so excited about her Thanksgiving Tofurky, and I remember thinking, "What's the point?" If I didn't eat meat, I think I'd avoid meat-like substances. But I DO eat meat, so what do I know? Thoughts?

Ingredients: Beef flavored vegetable crumbles (soy protein concentrate, wheat gluten, malt color, and wheat starch). Spice blend: hydrolyzed corn and yeast protein, hydrolyzed wheat gluten, maltodextrin, malt extract, hydrolyzed soy protein, dextrose, yeast extract, onion, chili and garlic powders, torula yeast, malic acid, disodium inosiante, disodium guanylate, natural flavors*.

*The natural flavors thing worried me a bit, but they have allergen information on their website that says these are free of dairy.

Meatless Burger Bits are available on ND Labs' website.

This review was written for Go Dairy Free.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


It's fall! I'm home with two sick children! I'm Googling H1N1 signs and symptoms! And I'm cooking a lot to keep ahead of produce rottage. Money in the bank!

This week I've made applesauce and roasted green beans and mashed cauliflower and plum cake and pesto and a teeny tiny batch of salsa verde. Today I'm going to make Beck's Easy Cabbage Roll Casserole, but I'm going to make it with peppers instead of cabbage so I don't have to go to the store and venison instead of beef because we have a ton of it in the freezer. (Thanks, Scott's hunter friend!) And I want to make a sweet potato dessert but not sweet potato pie because I think pie crust is beyond me today. And really soon I'm going to make this because it is now a staple in our house.

What are you doing?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Milkless Milk Chocolate

Oh, yeah.

After some trial and error, we have found our dairy-free milk chocolate bar: Premium Chocolatier's Milkless Milk Chocolate. It has the mild flavor of milk chocolate, the creamy texture, and the meltability. And the chocolate is made in a dedicated dairy- AND nut-free facility. We are sold.

S'mores tested...

...kid approved. And adult approved.

I can't wait to try more of Premium Chocolatier's dairy-free chocolates. Like, NOW.


Roasted Cocoa Nibs, Cocoa Butter, Sugar, Soy Powder [Tofu, (Water, Soy Solids, Calcium Sulfate), Maltodextrin (From Corn), Modified Food Starch, Sunflower Oil, Calcium Blend (Calcium Carbonate, Tricalcium Phosphate), Natural Flavors (No MSG, No Dairy), Sea Salt, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Anatase, Titanium Dioxide (A Mineral for color), Vegetable Mono and Diglycerides, Vitamin B12, Vitamin E], Vanillin, Soy Lecithin Granules

Milkless Milk Chocolate bars are $12/six pack from Premium Chocolatiers.

This review was written for Go Dairy Free.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Scene from a September Morning

Children, waiting for friends to walk to school: Someone's here! Someone's here!
Mother, yelling from kitchen: All right, I'll be right out and we'll leave.
Children: Someone's here! Someone's at the door!
Irritated Mother: All RIGHT. I said I'm on my way.
Children: He's here! He's here!
Really Irritated Mother: WHO is WHERE?
Oldest Child: Mr. Young Ponytailed First Grade Teacher is here!
Mother: WHAT? [runs into trashed living room toward screen door]
Mr. Young Ponytailed First Grade Teacher: Your stroller was rolling toward the street. I thought there was a baby in it.
Flustered Mother: Oh, Good Lord, no. There's no baby in it.
Mr. Young Ponytailed First Grade Teacher: Well, it was on its way out to the road. I just wanted to stop and let you know.
Still Flustered Mother Who Can't Stop Talking: Well, that's what happens when you trash-pick your jogging stroller--you get one with no brakes!
Mr. Young Ponytailed First Grade Teacher: .... Yeah, well.... [backs away]
Flustered and Embarrassed Mother: Thank you!

Shoot me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kale Chips

This recipe was in our local paper a couple weeks ago. We've made it twice, and Katherine loves it. The other kids? Not so much. Scott and I think it tastes like dried seaweed. In the best possible way.

Kale Chips

1 T. apple cider vinegar
3 T. olive oil
2 bunches of kale, washed, with stems removed

Cut kale into 2 to 3-inch pieces. Mix vinegar, oil, and salt in a large bowl. Add the kale and mix by hand. Place in a single layer on baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for twenty minutes or until the kale is crispy. Cool and eat. (Scott and I crumble them up on top of rice.)

*The original recipe calls for 1-2 tablespoons of Celtic sea salt, which I do not own. I started with 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt, and they were WAY too salty--even for me. I would recommend starting with 1 to 2 teaspoons of kosher or sea salt and then seeing what you think. You can always add more salt when they're done cooking.

Monday, September 14, 2009


The new birthday lunchbox and thermos are a hit. Katherine has had soup for lunch every day so far. Her favorite kind is homemade chicken and stars, but we're going to need to branch out. What is your family's favorite soup recipe?

Homemade Chicken and Stars Soup from Comfort Foodsby Rachael Ray
(This cookbook is also the source of PicklesandDimes' favorite Chicken and Dumplings--back before Rachael started calling everything "stoup." *shudder*)

2 quarts chicken broth (sometimes I use dairy-free bouillon)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (or leftover chicken)
1 bay leaf
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup pastina pasta
ground pepper to taste (I use white pepper so the kids can't see it.)

Heat 1 quart broth to boiling, add chicken and bay leaf to pot and simmer, covered, for 8 minutes. Add vegetables to pot when you finish chopping each of them. Remove chicken after 8 minutes and place on cutting board to cool. (If using cooked chicken, I add it at the end.)

Add the second quart of broth to your pot and bring liquid to a boil. Add pasta and cook 6 minutes. Remove soup pot from heat. Dice chicken and add to soup. Season soup with pepper to taste. If soup is too thick, add up to 2 cups of water to achieve desired consistency.

This soup has converted several children to celery and/or carrot and/or onion eating. I'm just saying.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hallowed Ground

Last year I wrote about my September 11th experience. This year I'd like to share Dave Barry's column about Flight 93, written in 2002. Yes, he usually writes a humor column, but his serious pieces are some of the best I've read.

On Hallowed Ground

We remember.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tears of Joy

So it's Thursday of the first week of school, and things are going well. Katherine is off to a great start, and she hasn't heard any other children complain about the new food allergy policies. Eli came bounding out of preschool on Tuesday announcing, "I have a good day at school!" And he didn't shed any tears on day two of preschool (today). Helen is adjusting to being alone with Mama.

Mama, on the other hand, has been weeping at the drop of a hat. Or the turn of a page, as it were. Oh hai. Has you met Gina Clowes' book, One Of The Gang: Nurturing the Souls of Children with Food Allergies? Well, buckle up, Buttercup, and grab your Kleenex. Remember when we were all talking about what a good children's book about allergies would look like? It's here, and its name is One of the Gang.

Do you know the Mister Rogers First Experiences series of books on divorce, when a pet dies, potty training, etc.? I love these books and have used them for many a parenting milestone. They have a calm, confidence-building tone, and they show photographs of real children going through the situation being discussed. (Yes, Amazon reviewers, some of the nice people in the photos are wearing dated clothing from the 80s. Listen to me: kids don't care. Never once has my child said, "Wow, I could really relate to these people if only they weren't wearing blouses with big bows at the neck and tinted eyeglasses with initial stickers on them.") One of the Gang has the same gentle, empowering tone as these books, if not the retro fashion sense. I think Family Communications should publish it.

One Of The Gang starts with a brief discussion of how children are different from one another, then moves into a specific discussion of food allergies and the struggles and emotions that go along with them. The book is addressed to children with allergies, but I think other children could learn from it, too. Then--genius. Gina writes that food allergies won't stop you from being what you want to be, and she includes photos of famous people who have food allergies, such as Jerome Bettis and Dr. Robert Wood. She ends by writing, "You are here for a very special purpose! I wonder what it is."

*Cue Parental Crying*

Here is what I think is most important about this book. More than any other allergy book we have read, this book prompted discussions about the emotions that go along with being a child with a food allergy. Katherine talked a lot about the page that says, "You might wish that you didn't have food allergies and that you could eat whatever you wanted." Her favorite photo is one of happy children eating ice pops, with the caption, "When other grown-ups bring treats that are safe for you, it's terrific!"

I am so grateful for this book. Thank you, Gina.

One Of The Gang: Nurturing the Souls of Children with Food Allergiesis available on Amazon for $15.29.

This review was written for Go Dairy Free.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

In which I am THAT mother

I am a little twitchy this morning. K's school enacted a new peanut-free policy, and decided to inform parents of it two work days before school. So people are not happy, and I am hoping that none of the anti-allergy sentiment affects my daughter. Parents have been so understanding and supportive till now, but a school-wide policy that affects their children directly is making them very upset.

The other part is that some parents have made comments about K's allergy not being life-threatening (which it is) since milk isn't banned. I hope people don't take her allergy less seriously because some foods are banned and some are not. (Children who bring snacks with dairy will sit at a separate table in her classroom, and she will have an assigned seat in the cafeteria.) It's so hard to explain.

Also, we dropped E. off at preschool today, which he was not thrilled about. At all. His teacher was so wonderful and understanding that I started crying. In his classroom. I had to go into the teeny tiny bathroom and collect myself.

Other Mother: "Oh, is he your last child?"
Uh, nope.
Another Mother: "This is a wonderful program."
I know that. Tell him that.
We left him forlornly laying his head on the toy tool bench.

All of this stress is coming out in my dreams. Last night I dreamed that I was a student teacher in K's classroom. Several children were teasing her, so when I graded their math papers, I wrote, "I HATE YOU," on them. When I came home that evening, I told Scott, "I don't think I'm cut out for teaching." To which he replied, "You think?"

Friday, September 04, 2009

Playing Catch Up

All right, I admit it! School orientation/open house week took me down. Of course it didn't help that my dad and I did a home improvement project this week, too. Swistle keeps inspiring me. We enclosed this weird screened-in (OK, semi screened-in) porch that is built onto the back of our garage. You can't get to it from the house, so we never used it. Also, we needed a place to store all of our summer furniture, outdoor toys, lawn equipment, etc. Behold! Now we have a shed and we will be able to comfortably park in the garage come winter, without having to squeeze by the lawnmower and leaf blower and wicker furniture and whathaveyou. I just need to paint the plywood so it doesn't look like we're preparing for a hurricane.

I need your help while I'm playing catch up on product reviews, etc. Meghan wrote to me recently, saying:

"hi sarah--

i just found your e-mail through your blog (no whey mama). my name is meghan mcdermott and i have 2 children: sarah age 3 and matthew age 1. we found out a few months ago that matthew is allergic to milk and i think i may have narrowed it down to products containing whey. now that we're trying to introduce him to table foods, i find it very hard to find kid friendly choices that do not contain whey. my daughter is a very very (did i mention very) picky eater. her favorites are chicken nuggets and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, along with grilled cheese and drinkable yogurts. matthew can not eat any of these (except for jelly sandwiches which he loves :). so...i find myself at a loss as to what to give him. he is still eating baby foods and cereals ..and at 26 lbs, he is a hearty eater! if you could please give me any suggestions for brands and types of foods your daughter had enjoyed starting at an early age, i would greatly appreciate the help."

Off the top of my head:
So Delicious coconut yogurt
Some chicken nuggets are dairy free (Schwan's, Tyson--check the label)
apple butter
Roman Meal bread
cooked chicken breasts
grilled peanut butter sandwiches
Fake Rice-a-Roni
homemade soups (like chicken and stars)

Cookbook recommendations:
Go Dairy Free

Vegan Lunch Box

First Meals

Vegan Lunch Box Around the World
(Which I will be reviewing here very soon.)

I know there's more, but I need to take the kids shoe shopping. (Kill me.) What do you suggest?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Super M@rio Party

The Super M@rio Br0s. Party was a success. Due to rainy, wet weather, it was much more subdued than past parties. The kids watched a movie while eating dairy-free popcorn and drinking water from their party favors: M@rio sports bottles. (I wanted to get favors they might actually use again.)

Then we ate dairy-free cake, opened gifts, and did some coloring pages and games I found online. I love you, Internets.

The long, painful, birthday pet search is finally at an end. It turns out that K. is mildly allergic to dogs, and so we didn't want to introduce yet another allergen into her environment. That being the case, I'd like you to meet:

Kevin the parakeet!

Kevin is named for the bird in UP, which is a movie you and your family should see if you haven't already. We don't know for sure if Kevin is a boy or a girl.


But we figure we're covered, since the Kevin in the movie turns out to be female.

Time to work on more back-to-school stuff. I'll be posting some new product reviews this week in time for the start of school next week!