Best New Product Finds 2017- Part 2

Hi friends, happy Friday! Here is part 2 of my Best New Product Finds of 2017. I thought I could get them all done in two posts, but I think it will require a few more. Hopefully, you like hearing about all the products I found. I want the posts to be short enough to read in one sitting and not have some products get lost at the bottom. So here goes for today. I have two non-food items in this one and two granola bars.

At the bottom I have given you my hummus recipe because in my family, we can’t get enough of hummus. My youngest daughter has been going through some new GI issues for the last 6 months that we are still trying to get to the bottom of. I decided to take eggs out of her diet to see if it helps her. That means that I have been using the water from chickpeas/garbanzo beans (aquafaba) as an egg replacer which leaves me with a TON of garbanzo beans. We have enough hummus to last a very long time. 🙂

Be sure to sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t already! My email subscribers get news first, get recipes that I don’t post here, and the opportunity to sign up for classes before anyone else!

Native Deodorant
Native Deodorant Ingredients

This Native Deodorant I found through a friend. I’m about to get a wee bit personal so if you don’t want to read it, feel free to skip to the next item. 😉 A good friend of mine sent me an email several months back about this deodorant knowing that I love organic and healthy products. The truth is that I have tried some organic and healthy deodorant with terrible results. Honestly, I have never worn deodorant very much as I don’t really need it. I figured that if I didn’t need it then why wear it especially if most deodorants have parabens and aluminum zirconium which are two red flags for me. The, about a year ago I started to need deodorant but couldn’t find one that worked for me without those two ingredients. Them I tried this Native Deodorant. I was sold right away! It has safe ingredients, smells amazing, and actually works. A win all around. I’ll never go back! For my food allergy friends, this does have tree nuts in it (shea butter and coconut). We both can get a free sample of Native Deodorant if you buy it here.

Kiss Freely Body Butter

I met the owner of Kiss Freely at FABLOGCON in Denver this past November. Several years ago I started using organic and safe make up and body care. It’s very important to me that I feed my body healthy food and also put healthy products on my skin. I was excited to meet the owner of Kiss Freely and hear all about their products that are free from so many allergens and chemicals. The owner gave me a small sample of their hand lotion and I just love it. My hands are always dry so I use lotion often. The Kiss Freely lotion goes on feeling a bit greasy at first and then it soaks in quickly leaving my hands feeling nourished and soft. My MIL bought me several containers of their body butter for Christmas, yay for me!!

Made Good Bars

While I was at FABLOGCON I met the Made Good Bars team. I was so excited to find their granola bars! It isn’t often that we find snacks that everyone in my family can safely eat. I knew that my girls would be thrilled to have new snacks to put in their lunches. Even better is that they have fruit and veggies in their bars. My girls loved these bars so much they were gone in just a few days. The only downfall of these is that they contain some cane sugar. If you have followed our journey for any amount of time, you know that we don’t eat a lot of cane sugar if any. Cane sugar is pretty common place in kids granola bars so this is nothing earth shattering for most, I would just love it they didn’t have it. Other than that, these are great!

88 Acre Bars

I met the 88 Acres Team at FABLOGCON as well and went home with lots of 88 Acre Bars to share with my husband. He can’t have any cane sugar at all so I saved this stash just for him. He takes a snack to work with him everyday so these bars went to work with him. They are Gluten-Free, Non-GMO, Nut-Free, Peanut-Free, Vegan, Soy-Free and no cane sugar. All of their bars are packed with nutrition from fruits and seeds. My husband really enjoyed these and loved that they weren’t sticky like many similar bars are. He would welcome these bars for a snack at work any day.

*There are affiliate links above for your convenience and helps support my blog 🙂 always be sure to check ingredients to be sure the items are safe for you.

UmpalaRAIN Hummus

Hummus

Ingredients
1 can Garbanzo Beans or Chickpeas (they are the same thing)
½-1 C Olive Oil
2 T Lemon juice
1 t Onion Powder
Salt to taste

Directions
Place all of the ingredients in a high powered blender. If you like a thicker hummus, use the ½ C of Olive oil. If you like a thinner hummus use 1 C Olive Oil. Blend on high until the hummus is smooth and to the thickness you desire. This hummus has endless possibilities. You could add ¼ C of red pepper sauce to give it a pepper taste, ¼ C of pumpkin puree, add olive tapanade to it, etc. This recipe is a good base to start with. Feel free to add your favorite ingredients. Enjoy!

Best new product finds 2017- Part 1

I decided that I would make a lengthy post today about all of the amazing new allergy friendly brands I found this year. When I started to go through all of them, I realized that there are SO many. This is great news for all of us, you included, but too much for one post. This will be the first of two parts. Stay tuned for part 2 soon. I was able to travel for work this year to Portland, Oregon for Gluten Free Food Allergy Fest (GFFAFEST) where I had a booth to promote my business. A few weeks later I headed to Denver, Colorado to meet up with some other amazing food allergy bloggers for a Food Allergy Bloggers Conference (FABLOGCON). These two events were inspiring, encouraging, helped me solidify the vision I have for my business, and allowed me to meet some amazing people and brands. I’m so excited to share these all with you over the next two posts. At the bottom of the post, I also added the recipe for my amazing tortillas. I keep getting asked for them, and since it’s Friday when I typically share a recipe, you get it down below. 🙂 Don’t skip all the great new products I found on your way to snag the recipe!

Be sure to sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t already! My email subscribers get news first, get recipes that I don’t post here, and the opportunity to sign up for classes before anyone else!

As always, my goal is to give complete honest reviews on products that we have tried. I don’t get paid for any product reviews, but I did get many of these as samples from GFFAFEST and FABLOGCON. These are listed in no particular order.

Hammond’s Candies Peppermint Stirrers

These Hammond’s Candies Peppermint Stirrers were a product that I found at my local natural grocery store. I have searched high and low for a candy cane type item that my corn intolerant girls can eat. Two years ago I found these and we haven’t looked back. My girls absolutely LOVE these. They taste just like a candy cane, but have the texture of a soft dinner mint, the ones that melt in your mouth. These stirrers are so fun to put in hot chocolate. Since these are softer than a traditional candy cane you can suck liquid through them like a straw. What’s not to love about that?! Hammond’s Candies also uses all natural food coloring with is an awesome added bonus! This company is out of Denver, I so wish I could have gone to meet them when I was there. Next time!

Bloomfield Farms Sandwich Bread
Bloomfield Farms Sandwich Bread 2

Are any of you in the market for amazing Top 8 Free (no wheat, dairy, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shell fish) sandwich bread? My youngest daughter is currently on an egg free diet (along with many other frees) to see if it helps her health. While I make my own top 8 free bread, we were heading to Phoenix for Christmas so I needed to find a good packaged alternative. I asked my friend The Allergy Chef and this Bloomfield Farms Gluten Free Sandwich Bread is the one she recommended. It far surpassed all of our expectations. We have loved Udi’s and Rudi’s bread (both have egg white) for years. This bread trumps anything we have tried. It is soft, doesn’t need to be toasted, and tastes great. The price is comparable as well. If you purchase their bread mix it’s far less expensive. You can’t go wrong with this bread!

Free2b Chocolates
Free2b Chocolate Bars

I met the Free2b folks at FABLOGCON in Denver. They were so kind, helpful, and loved to give away loads of their chocolate. 🙂 Their products are top 12 free (peanut free, tree nut free, dairy free, gluten free, soy free, egg free, fish free, shell fish free, no corn, sesame free, coconut free, mustard free). I mean come on, what’s not to love for a food allergy family?! I stashed the pile of chocolate that I got from them in my closet until Christmas. They made the perfect stocking stuffers. My girls were beyond thrilled to get sunbutter cups, mint cups, dark chocolate with peppermint, and chocolate rice crisp bars. Free2b is chocolate heaven for food allergy folks. Their products are really good and will become a staple here!

Forager Project Chips

I found these new super food Forager Project Chips through Erica at Celiac and the Best. She was raving about them being gluten free and dairy free. I figured I must need to try them. My mother in law bought some while we were visiting them in Phoenix for Christmas. They are packed with organic vegetable, are gluten, dairy, and corn free. I really love these chips! There might just be times when I eat a whole bag in one sitting. 😉 I will say though that the “cheesy” flavor comes from nutritional yeast which I don’t think tastes much like cheese. It might be cheese like to a small degree, but I wouldn’t say these taste cheesy. That’s not to say they aren’t amazing, because they are, just don’t go into eating them thinking they will taste like a dorito. The one downside I found to them is that they come pretty crumbled. There are some whole and intact chips, but most of them came crushed. That’s likely because the chips are made of vegetable and don’t stay together as well as corn. I’m not really sure, that’s just my educated guess. None the less, I high recommend these. 🙂

Enjoy Life Products

Enjoy Life products have always been my girls favorite. I found them many years ago when my middle was first diagnosed with severe food allergies. Their products have been a staple in our house and well loved. My girls take their cookies to school every few months to leave in the cupboards as safe snacks when parties happen at school. Enjoy life has come out with some new products this year so of course my girls were thrilled to try them. I also had the pleasure of meeting the Enjoy Life crew at both GFFAFEST and FABLOGCON. They are a huge supporter of our food allergy community. Alright, onto some of their new products that we have tried. All of Enjoy Life’s foods are top 8 free and so is their facility. Plentils came out earlier this year which are chips made from lentils and potato starch. We first tried the plain which my girls really liked until they tried the dill and ranch. My girls LOVE the Dill and Sour Cream Plentils so much that they, along with a non food allergic neighbor, made up a song about them. Seriously, they are SO good!! We look forward to trying their other new flavors as well. Next we tried their new Coco Loco Baked Chewy Bars. Again, my girls love these. As a mom who doesn’t feed her kids very much sugar I would make these dessert, not a snack or granola bar. They are definitely delicious. Last on our list of new products from Enjoy Life was their Chocolate Chip Handcrafted Crunchy Cookies. We have been long time fans of their Soft Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies. Enjoy Life continues to be one of our staple store bought safe treats.

*There are affiliate links above for your convenience and helps support my blog 🙂 always be sure to check ingredients to be sure the items are safe for you.

UmpalaRAIN Tortillas

Tortillas

Ingredients
2/3 C Brown rice flour
2/3 C White rice flour
2/3 C Tapioca starch
1 t Guar gum
½ t Cream of tartar
¼ t Baking soda
1 t Salt
1 C Warm water

Directions
If you have a tortillas press plug it in and set it to medium high. Tear a large piece of parchment paper that is big enough to fold in half and fit in your press. If you don’t have a tortilla press, I HIGHLY recommend getting one. It is worth every penny. I have the Chef Pro 8 inch Tortillas Press and love it.

In a large bowl mix together all dry ingredients well with a spoon. Add water to dry mixture and mix until well combined. The dough should be a bit sticky, but not terrible thick. If you use an in expensive brand of flours you may need to adjust the liquid. I use a tortilla press to make these which saves a ton of time. Using a large cookie scoop place dough on tortilla press with parchment paper, press down, let cook for about 30 seconds, then remove and place on a plate. Enjoy!

If you are making these by hand with a frying pan I would still use a cookie scoop to get even balls. Then use a baking mat dusted with extra tapioca starch. Place a ball of dough on the mat, sprinkle the top of the dough with more tapioca starch, then roll out into a circle. Spray pan with non-stick spray and fry each side for 10-15 seconds. Repeat until done.

This recipe works really well to double.

Holiday Traditions and Amazing Recipes!

Happy holidays to you all! I have teamed up with some amazing food allergy bloggers to bring you all kinds of fun today. The 5 of us are sharing our favorite holiday traditions and our favorite holiday recipes. You are in store for great ideas of new traditions to start with you family and wonderful recipes for you all to enjoy. All of us wish you a warm and festive holiday season! Please check out all of these ladies on social media and their blogs, they are true gems that you want to follow!

I’ll start out the fun. We have made some really fun traditions during the holiday season that are really special to us. One of our favorites is going out on the Polar Express as we call it. I started this tradition several years ago, honestly on a whim. We were heading out to look at Christmas lights and decorations and thought it would be fun to call it going on the Polar Express. The girls were in the car with their pj’s, hot chocolate, a safe candy cane, and we headed out to look at Christmas lights. This tradition has stuck and my girls look forward to it every year, several times in the season. Two years ago I even printed out tickets for them to ride our Polar Express which now come out each year for the trips. Below I have given you links to the printable tickets, the safe candy canes, and our recipe for safe hot chocolate. 🙂

Polar Express Tickets

Hammonds Peppermint Stirrers

umpalaRAIN Hot Chocolate Mix

Hot Chocolate Mix

Ingredients
2 C Coconut sugar or regular sugar if you can’t have coconut
1 C safe Unsweetened Cocoa powder
2 ½ C Rice Milk Powder or Coconut Milk Powder
1 t Pink himalayan salt

Directions
Place all ingredients into a blender and blend together until well combined. Store in an airtight container. When you want a delicious cup of hot chocolate, add two heaping scoops to mug and add hot water. Enjoy! This also makes a great gift, place in a mason jar, add a bow and you’re set.

Now for one of our favorite recipes: Vegan, Refined Sugar Free Caramel

umpalaRAIN Salted Caramel

Caramel

Ingredients
2 C Coconut sugar
½ C Earth balance soy free buttery spread
¾ t Salt
1 lb Brown rice syrup
½ Quart Coconut cream
1 t Vanilla

Directions
Line a 9×13 dish with parchment paper with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large sauce pan combine the coconut sugar, butter, salt, brown rice syrup, and half of the coconut cream. Cook on the stove until bubbling and then slowly add the other half of the coconut cream. Then bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer reaches 220°-240°. 220° will give you a soft caramel and 240° will give you more of a harder caramel more like taffy. Drizzle a little bit into a bowl with cold water. When it is done the caramel drop will be soft but not mushy at 220° and harder at 240° in the cold water. Once it has reached the right temperature you need to move quickly. Take the caramel mixture off of the stove and stir in the vanilla. Then pour into prepared baking dish being sure the caramel is even in the dish. Let sit for 20 minutes, then using a pizza wheel or knife, make cut marks in the caramel while it is still pliable. You will need to do this a few times (every 20-30 minutes) to ensure it is easy to get out. If you wait to cut it until it is fully hard, it is almost impossible to cut. I’ve learned the hard way, trust me! Once the caramel is well firmed up, separate pieces and wrap them individually in wax paper. If you love salted caramel, add Pink himalayan salt on top. Enjoy!

*There are affiliate links above for your convenience and helps support my blog 🙂 always be sure to check ingredients to be sure the items are safe for you.

Meet my lovely blogger friends!

Dr Vivian

Dr Vivian- You can find her on Instagram and Facebook as well as http://allergyfamilies.com

Vivian is a U.K. physician who now lives in California. She has 14 years of experience as a doctor and is passionate about functional medicine and using lifestyle measures to get to the root cause of medical problems. She started to look into the reason behind the chronic disease epidemics when her kids were diagnosed with severe food allergies and she got no answers from her allergists. She has also helped her husband combat hypertension through a plant based diet and navigated herself out of chronic fatigue. She will be starting her own health coaching practice in 2018 to help others take back their health.

Dr Vivian’s favorite holiday recipe is:

Dr Vivian- Vegan sweet potato brownie with a dark chocolate ganache

Vegan sweet potato brownie with a dark chocolate ganache on top

Recipe (this will serve 8)
Ingredients
2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potato
1 cup almond butter or another nut butter like cashew
2 tbsp maple syrup (you can add more if you want)

Ganache topping:
1/2 – 1 cup dark chocolate chips (the more chocolate chips the thicker your ganache layer)
2tbsp coconut oil

Directions
Mix the sweet potato and almond butter and maple syrup together, pour into a baking tin/tray and bake at 350F for 20-25min. Let it cool. .
Meanwhile melt the chocolate chips in a bowl over hot pan, stir and add in the coconut oil. Stir until everything is melted. .
Once the brownie has cooled completely, pour the ganache mixture on top and spread evenly. .
Put in the fridge for 3-4 hours and it’s ready! .
NB: the ratio of nut butter to sweet potato should be 2:1. Make sure your sweet potato is not too moist and if it is, add some oat flour to absorb the moisture or the brownie will come out all floppy and too soft… also – the firmer your nut butter the better – a lot of shop bought nut butter has added oil, and it can be too watery which means the brownie will throw the consistency too (and again you can remedy that by adding some oat flour in the mix if your nut butter is runny rather than firm). Enjoy!

kortney- allergy girl eats

You Can find Kortney as Allergy Girl Eats on Instagram, Facebook, and also at http://www.allergygirleats.com

Just because I have food allergies (anaphylactic to sesame & peanuts; allergic to tree nuts, soy, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, and then some, plus OAS) doesn’t mean I don’t love to eat! Instead of becoming paralysed by the limitations food allergies may bring, I have embraced them and turned them into a passion, a passion for all things delicious and adventurous! My blog, www.allergygirleats.com, explores how simple and empowering cooking can be, and how to live life to the fullest with multiple food allergies and anaphylaxis.

There are two things I love about the Holidays; the first is menu planning. When we celebrate with my side of the family, there is nothing more fun than thinking up an epic menu with my mom, who just so happens to be a chef! The second thing is we always play charades. I don’t think I laugh that much all year, watching my grandma mime ‘Jaws’ is priceless.

Allergy Girl Eats-sweet potato mash with caramelised onions

My father has a potato allergy, which means instead of mashed potatoes we make mashed sweet potatoes with caramelised onions. These always make an appearance at the Christmas table, and sometimes they even get a chipotle flavoured twist!

Ingredients
3 medium Sweet Potatoes – cut in half lengthwise (roughly 20cm by 7cm)
1/2 large White Onion – thinly sliced (approximately 2 cups)
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1.5 tsp Fresh Rosemary – finely chopped and divided into 1 tsp and 0.5 tsp
1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
Wrap sweet potato pairs in tin foil and bake at 475° for 30-35 minutes, until soft.
In a large pan or wok add onions and olive oil. Cook over medium-high heat. You want to continuously stir the onions, so they do not burn. When the onions are starting to soften, add 1 tsp of rosemary and balsamic vinegar. Turn the heat to medium and continue to stir the onions until they are caramelised, around 20 minutes. The onions will have halved in quantity and be slightly sticky. Take off heat and set aside.
When the potatoes are done, remove flesh from skin and place in a large bowl. Mash the potatoes using a fork.
Mix the caramelised onions and remaining rosemary into the sweet potatoes. If the mash feels dry, add a little more olive oil.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Gena- Symply Nourished

You can find Gena as Symplynourished on Instagram and at http://symplynourished.com

Hi I’m Gena, I’m a Dental Hygienist who has crossed over into becoming certified as an Integrative/Holistic Nutrition Practitioner. My Son has suffered with Eczema, food allergies and sensitivities, which has opened my eyes to the importance of food as medicine. It has pushed us to find new and nourishing ways to fuel our family. As a Mom on a mission, I’ve spent countless hours researching the root cause of these ailments along with other common chronic conditions becoming prevalent in our children today. I’ve created a Health and Wellness Blog sharing our story, resources and recipes. My hope is that these ailments don’t have to be the new normal for our children, that they can lead healthy, thriving lives.

As holidays approach, I’m filled with memories of baking and enjoying treats with family and friends. When you have allergies or food intolerance’s it can feel like some of the fun is taken from you as you need to prepare “special” meals or treats. What I have come to find is that friends or family tend to enjoy the allergy friendly treats more than some of the traditional goodies.

I hope you find my recipe for mini apple pies useful. The dough is very versatile allowing you to tailor it to savoury pies as well. You can find more of my allergy friendly recipes over at symplynourished.com – Wishing you all a very Happy Holidays.

Symply Nourished Mini Apple Pies

Mini Apple Pies

Ingredients:

Crust
1 3/4 cup Cassava flour
½ c Tigernut flour
1/4 tsp sea salt (adjust according to preference)
1/2 cup palm shortening
1/4 cup vegan butter (check oils for dietary preferences)
1/4 cup ice-cold water, added in tablespoons (may need more or less adjust accordingly)
Filling
4-5 medium apples cored and roughly chopped (Approx 4 cups)
1/4 cup coconut sugar or succanat
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cassava flour
Optional: Add raisins, cranberries or other dried fruit to taste.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Crust: In a medium bowl combine cassava flour, tigernut flour and salt.
Cut in vegan butter and shortening with fork or pastry cutter if you have.
Add water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture forms and can be shaped into a ball.
Cover in wrap and set aside while you prepare the filling. You can place dough in the fridge, but I find it easier to work with when the dough is closer to room temperature.
Filling: Toss the apples with the coconut sugar, cinnamon and cassava flour. Add the apples to the bottom crust then roll out the remaining smaller disc and carefully place over the top of the pie. Roll and crimp the edges of the dough together, tightly sealing them. Poke a few vent holes into the top of the pie. Then cut out shapes with remaining dough to top the mini pies and place on the bottom rack of oven.
Assembling the pies: Roll out dough between two pieces of cassava floured parchment paper, to about 1.5-2mm thickness.
Cut out larger circles for the pie bottoms, eyeball a circular shape larger than the width of the muffin tin about 6-inch in diameter
Use the top of a cup for smaller circles for the tops.
Press the bottoms (larger circles) into your muffin tin, allow extra dough to form over the edge as you will need to crimp the smaller circle on top once you get the filling placed inside.
Fill each pie with about 2-3 tbsp of filling (depending on the size of your muffin tin).
Place small circle of dough on top and crimp/seal edges.
If extra dough is available, roll out the dough and use little cut outs to make shapes to place on top of the mini pies.
With a pastry brush lightly coat the tops of the pies with a dairy free milk wash on the top (I have also used vegan melted butter).
Bake at 375 for 20 minutes (check often, ovens temps vary), until lightly browned on top.

Elizabeth- Food Allergy Mama

You can you find Elizabeth on Instagram as Food Allergy Mama and also Food Free Fun

Elizabeth Moreno is a former actress and puppeteer who lives in Oregon with her husband and two teenage boys, both of whom have anaphylactic food allergies. As an allergy advocate, Elizabeth chaired the Portland FARE Walk for Food Allergy and co-founded Food-Free Fun for Everyone, an organization that hosts food-free social events for kids with food allergies and restrictions in and around Portland, OR. She connects with the food allergy community via her Instagram account, foodallergymama where she shares her family’s food allergy journey and the things she does to make life safe, inclusive and fun for her boys. Elizabeth also writes for the online family travel magazine, KidTripster, where she shares tips for traveling with food allergies.

Our favorite holiday tradition is probably giving our boys new pajamas every year on Christmas Eve. It’s the one present they’re allowed to open before the 25th and I can’t believe they still go berserk over pajamas!

Food Allergy Mama- Mexican wedding cookies

Mexican Wedding Cookies

I fiddled with a bunch of recipes, coming up with a vegan, nut & soy free cookie I love. I use coconut oil, powdered sugar, Mexican vanilla extract (regular vanilla extract is OK too), imitation almond extract (optional but I highly recommend), unbleached flour & coarse sea or kosher salt (gives a little burst of salty goodness & imitates the crunch of the missing pecans). These cookies taste buttery & have no coconut flavor.

Ingredients
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with silicone mats. (Parchment paper works too.) In a large bowl, add:
1 cup coconut oil in solid state, but not cold
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp Mexican vanilla extract (regular/imitation vanilla is OK)
1/4 tsp nut free imitation almond extract (opt. but highly recommended)

Directions
Beat above ingredients with electric mixer until incorporated & creamy.
Stir in 2 1/4 cups flour & 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt or kosher salt.
Using your hands, knead or squish the dough making sure all flour is incorporated & no chunks of solid coconut oil remain. Dough will be crumbly.
Squeeze & roll dough into 1″ balls & place on cookie sheets. Bake one sheet at a time on center rack for 10-12 minutes until cookies just begin to brown. Remove cookies to cooling rack.
While still warm, but not hot, roll cookies one at a time in a small bowl of powdered sugar (you’ll use about 1 1/2 cups) & place back on cooling rack. When they are completely cool, roll in powdered sugar again.
I use two forks to roll the cookies & lift them out of the sugar to keep my fingers from getting gooey sugar all over them. I remove the excess sugar by lifting each cookie with a fork & gently tapping the fork against the side of the sugar bowl, using the other fork to keep the cookie from falling off the first fork.
Yields 2 1/2 dozen.

We would love to hear if you adopt any of our traditions and/or make our recipes! Happy holidays and a very happy new year to you all, we appreciate each of you!

Back to School Snacks

This is the time of year that we are packing lunches and snacks for school lunches. It is easy to get in a rut of what we pack, so I thought I would give you a few of our family favorites. These are very versatile which I love. We used to buy rice crackers at Costco, but they come in a six pack, three of which have cheese. We are a dairy free family so I quit buying these crackers since I had to give away half of them. My girls were so sad when I stopped buying these crackers. I figured they couldn’t be that hard to make since the ingredients were very simple and straight forward. Just like I figured, these are super easy to make! The cheese rice crackers were a request from my oldest daughter. Since I love to experiment in the kitchen, I thought I would give powdered cheese a try for her. It worked beautifully and is fairly simple to do. All three of these recipes come together very quickly. I hope you enjoy these new recipes!

Be sure to sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t already! My email subscribers get news first, get recipes that I don’t post here, and the opportunity to sign up for classes before anyone else!

Rice Crackers

Ingredients
1 C White rice flour
3 C water, divided
1 T Sesame seeds (optional)
¼ t Onion Powder, or any spices you prefer
¼ t Salt + more for sprinkling
¼ C Olive oil

Directions
Preheat oven to 375°. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small pot Combine the rice flour and 2 C water and bring them to a boil. Stir constantly until you have a sticky rice goop, then turn the heat off. The rice goop will be very thick and should be relatively smooth. Next, add the rest of the water until the rice goop is now about the consistency of baby rice cereal. Add your spices, salt, and sesame seeds in and mix well to combine. Using a spatula, scrape the rice mixture onto your prepared parchment paper and smooth out until it is about ¼ inch thick. I spray a 2nd piece of parchment paper with non-stick spray, place it on top and smooth the rice mixture out. One the mixture is even, drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 375° for 1 hour and 20 minutes. After the crackers have cooked for 20 minutes, take them out and cut them into desired shapes with a pizza cutter. Return them to the oven to complete their baking time. You will take the crackers out a few rows at a time as they are done. Place the finished crackers on paper towel to let dry. Bake in 5 minute increments until the rest of the crackers are done. They should be a light golden brown color and firm to the touch. Once the crackers are completely cooled and dry, store in an airtight container. If they get soft, just bake them again until they are golden brown and firm. This should only happen if they didn’t get cooked well the first round. These are great plain, will sun or nut butter, with cheese, hummus, or any other spread you can think of. Enjoy!

For Cheesy Rice Crackers, follow the recipe above. One you have sprinkled the top of the crackers with salt before baking, add the cheese. Then continue with the directions above.

Cheesy Rice Crackers

Ingredients
1/2 C Daiya cheddar shreds cheese

Directions
Prepare a dehydrator tray with parchment paper. Place the Daiya shreds on the parchment paper and spread evenly. Dehydrate the cheese for 2-3 hours or until completely dry. If you do not have a dehydrator, I bet you could do this in the oven on 125°. I haven’t tried this so I can’t guarantee it will work, but I imagine it will. Please let me know if you try this and how it works. 🙂 Once the cheese is dried I place it on a plate for an hour with a paper towel on top and bottom of the cheese as this cheese is very greasy. Blend the cheese in a spice grinder, coffee grinder, food processor, etc. to make it into a powder. Once you have the cheese powder, continue with the directions above.

umpalaRAIN Fruit Snacks

Fruit Snacks

Ingredients
1/2 C lemon juice
2 T Water
1 C Fruit of choice *(I use frozen fruit and have done, blueberry, berry medley, tropical mix)
4 T Grass fed gelatin such as Great Lakes brand
3 T Sweetener of choice (I have used honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and stevia successfully)

Directions
Prepare a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper and set aside.

In a pot on the stove, mix lemon juice, water, and sweetener of choice. Mix them well to combine and then add the fruit. Turn the stove onto medium-high heat and bring the liquid and fruit mixture to a rolling boil. Once it is a rolling boil, turn the heat off. Prepare your high powered blender and then put the fruit mix in the blender. Blend well until the fruit is liquified. Leave the fruit mix to cool down for 5 minutes. Once your fruit mix has cooled down, add the gelatin and blend quickly together until the gelatin has dissolved. Moving quickly, spread the fruit liquid into your prepared 9×13 dish being sure to spread the mixture evenly. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until firm. Once the fruit mixture is firm cut into squares with a pizza cutter or use any small cookie cutters. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Enjoy!

*Be careful what fruit you choose to use. If you pick fruit that has a lot of seeds (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.) the fruit snacks will be very seedy. My kids don’t like that at all, so either avoid those fruits, mix them with other non seedy fruits, or strain the seeds out of the mix before you add the gelatin.

Here is another cracker recipe I posted a few months ago for cheese crackers similar to cheese it’s. These should set you up well for you and your kids to have great, healthy, and simple snacks.

*There are affiliate links above for your convenience and helps support my blog 🙂 always be sure to check ingredients to be sure the items are safe for you.

Growing up in the 50’s with food allergies

I have always known that my mom had a severe anaphylaxis allergy to peanuts. When I was a bit older I realized that she avoided all nuts. She was very careful about chocolate in particular as far as I remember as a kid. I’m sure she would have many items to add that she was careful about, but that’s one thing I remember in particular. Kids memories are funny aren’t they?! Chocolate definitely is an area of concern for people with peanut and tree nut allergies. She even made us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when we were kids. There was a strict rule that the knife goes in the jelly FIRST and the knife had to go directly into the dishwasher, NO RINSING in hot water first! I still have that same strong rule in my house just in case someone comes to my house that has a peanut allergy.

When my middle daughter had severe food allergies as an infant, and then had an anaphylaxis reaction to peanuts at 18 months old, it didn’t come as a huge shock. I will write a blog post at some point about my daughters anaphylaxis reaction. Knowing my mom has an anaphylaxis allergy to peanuts greatly helped us when my daughter had her reaction. I adopted some ways that my mom has lived life with food allergies for my daughters. One thing that I have greatly appreciated about my mom and her food allergies is that they have never stopped her from enjoying life. She takes them seriously, takes appropriate precautions, but they don’t keep her from living life to the fullest. My mom travels all over the world, enjoys restaurants, and time with family and friends. Her food allergies certainly don’t define her.

Since two of my daughters have had severe food allergies, my parents and I have talked a lot more about their experiences. My dad is a Dr. so he too has added a great level of comfort for our family with food allergies. We always know that if anyone has a severe reaction and panics, he won’t panic. He’s calm, cool, and collected all the time in every situation. That has helped all of us to see life a bit in the same way. Clearly, he also takes my mom’s food allergies seriously and has been there for many of her anaphylaxis reactions. It’s great to have a Dr. with you everywhere you go. 🙂

My parents have taken amazing care of our girls and their food allergies. They don’t get a lot of social media posts from me on how they care well for my girls because they have my girls without me often. 🙂 Date nights = overnight stays for my girls with my parents who spoil them with Udi’s blueberry muffins, Van’s waffles, Rudi’s bread, Pamela’s cookies, and Enjoy Life Foods cookies. I have never feared that my parents wouldn’t know how to handle a severe food allergy reaction. Let me tell you, this made my life so much easier! I know many people don’t have this same experience. My parents have been an amazing support for us over the years in many ways, including our food allergies. When we have family gatherings, my mom goes out of her way to ensure that we all have safe food for us. Thanks mom for loving us so well!!

I thought it would be good to ask my mom several questions about growing up in the late 40’s and 50’s with food allergies. This gave me great perspective in many ways. My mom is very clear that her parents response to her food allergies is likely not how others may deal with them. I want to be sure that this is not a place for judgment, but a place for us to gain understanding of one persons experience growing up many decades ago with food allergies. It has opened my eyes to understand my mom in new ways and has also brought me to a place of thankfulness that there is so much more education and help for those of us with food allergies today. Here is my mom’s story of growing up with food allergies, please read with a heart of kindness and understanding. 🙂

From my mom:
OK. This may not help much, and you may not agree with the way I was raised, but here it is… 🙂

How old were you when you were diagnosed with food allergies/what year was it? I suppose that the answer to this depends on your definition of “diagnosed.” I had my first major allergic response to peanut butter as a toddler. (ok, so that would be in 1946 or ‘47…) I was first tested for allergies by an actual allergist at age 7, in 1953.

What foods were you allergic to as a little girl? What were your symptoms for each (as brief as you want). I have anaphylaxis and occasionally nausea and vomiting with peanuts. (I’m not totally sure if the nausea is part of the allergic reaction per se, or if, as I have begun to theorize, every time as a toddler and small child I was given ipecac in the ER every time I was brought in.) I’m also very allergic to walnuts. From age 7 on I lived in a house with a huge walnut tree in the front yard that I routinely climbed. Touching the oil in the nuts caused my eyes to swell shut and hives to break out. Eating walnuts causes hives and extreme swelling and itching in my hands and ears. I have similar reactions to pecans. I’m allergic to all melons, although the reaction is less severe. When I eat melons my mouth and throat itch and I feel kind of “icky”. I ate watermelons regardless as a kid, and just put up with the itching because I like them. I can’t eat stronger flavored melons, like cantaloupe, at all. I am allergic to milk, which causes stomach cramping.

How many other people that you knew growing up had food allergies? My dad was also allergic to milk. That’s about the only person that I knew had problems with eating certain foods.

How did your parents help you with your food allergies? This is an interesting question, and one that you may not like my answer to. I had my first actual “allergy testing” at age 7. I pretty much reacted to everything that I was tested for. I’m strongly allergic to just about anything that grows, from all grass to all flowers, from weeds to mold, from dust to cats, and on and on. My allergy testing results were pretty much the same for foods. Some foods showed an exceptionally strong reaction, but others were milder. I’ll never forget leaving the doctor’s office and my mom looking at the full page of foods that I “shouldn’t” be eating. Of course it included peanuts and all tree nuts, but it also included wheat and eggs and milk and raw carrots, and melons and on and on and on. She immediately pretty much just tore up that list and threw it away… You may freak out right about now, but for me it was the best thing that she could have done. From then on she simply figured if I had a bad enough reaction I wouldn’t try eating that item again. Pretty much, “if it doesn’t kill her she can eat it.” That attitude allowed me to have personal control over my diet. It also allowed me not to feel like I was totally different from other kids. I continued to eat bread and cookies and cake (which all contain wheat and eggs and milk) and my system has, through persistent exposure, accommodated those milder allergies. I learned on my own that M&Ms in those days (even the “plain” ones) contained ground up peanuts, and I only needed one problem to never eat another M&M.

How many anaphylaxis reactions have you had in your life? Were they from direct contact eating a food you are allergic to or was it from cross contamination? This is a hard one to answer. Supposedly in my first couple of years of life I spent quite a bit of time in the hospital. I assume that at least some of those visits started with anaphylaxis, although probably most were from my severe asthma. My asthma attacks occasionally were almost like anaphylaxis because my throat was closing and I couldn’t breathe. Since early teen years I’ve always had Benadryl within reach, and take a big dose whenever I think I’ve gotten in trouble. I had one anaphylaxis during college when our chef unexpectedly decided to put walnuts in the beef gravy… sigh. As an adult I’ve had maybe 5 trips to the ER with anaphylaxis. I have carried an EpiPen, but never used it. Instead I take a bunch of Benadryl and get to an ER for IV epinephrine. I’m not totally sure how you would define cross contamination. I’ve had my throat start to close and my eyes swell shut from the steam when someone ran hot water over a knife coated with peanut butter. Because of the peanuts covering the ground and being walked on and floating in the air I can only go to baseball games when I am so loaded down with Benadryl that I’m totally groggy. I had one episode in a Mexican restaurant when they put mole sauce with peanut butter on the enchiladas instead of normal enchilada sauce. I learned that I can’t walk into a Thai restaurant because the peanuts cooked in oil permeate the air from the cooking steam and my throat will immediately close up. I had a bad time once from pesto sauce that the menu had not clarified contained ground walnuts. I know that I can’t eat at a Cold Stone ice cream place because I worry about what has been chopped up on those stones before I get my ice cream. I know that I can’t eat a Blizzard at DQ because they don’t really clean the machinery after making a Blizzard with something like Reeses Pieces. I suppose that I learned that by having a reaction from the cross contamination.

Did you ever feel left out as a kid with food allergies when there weren’t very many people with them? I didn’t really feel all that “left out.” Partly that was because the only foods that had total urgent restrictions were nuts. Partly that was because I’m pretty much an introvert and as a kid was sort of “odd” anyway. Because my parents were so laid-back and never overreacted when I had a problem with food I never actually focused on it very much. People have often asked me if it isn’t just “terrible” not to be able to eat peanut butter and chocolate bars with nuts, etc. I can’t say that it has been that hard. Since those items make me so sick they just don’t appeal to me. Basically there are so many things that I can eat that I don’t worry about it at all.

What is one piece of advice that you would give parents that have small children with severe food allergies? For me it worked to be 100% vigilant about the foods that could truly be potentially fatal, but having plenty of leeway and not overreacting and panicking about foods that might cause more minor irritations like itching or brief rashes.

Anything else you want to share with us? 🙂 Help you kids have strong self-identities that don’t stress their “differences” but stress their “similarities” to the other kids. I love that you have learned to make cupcakes and pizza and all the things that the other kids eat so that your girls never feel left out.

Thanks for sharing your story with us mom! I love you!

*There are affiliate links above for your convenience and helps support my blog 🙂 always be sure to check ingredients to be sure the items are safe for you.

Living in Africa with an Anaphylaxis Allergy

In 2011, my family left our home country to live in Rwanda, Africa for six months. At the time, our oldest daughter had just turned 5 and our middle had just turned 2. We headed half way around the world to fill in for the executive director of a home for former street boys. Our health journey leading up to us leaving was exhausting in many ways. Six months before we left, our middle daughter had an anaphylaxis reaction to peanuts while we were on vacation. She also had severe, though not life threatening, dairy and soy allergies. Due to these two allergies she was on prescription formula. Before we left, we had long conversations with her pediatrician and her gastroenterologist. They were both amazing and supportive of our upcoming trip and encouraged us to not let the food allergies keep us from going. With the stamp of approval from her doctors, along with many other pieces coming together, we prepared to head overseas.

baggage

As you can see, we took a whole lot of baggage! Flying internationally allows each person to have 2 suitcases up to 50 lbs and 2 carry-ons. We took full advantage and took all 16 bags, a stroller, and 2 car seats. It was quite a spectacle at the airport. We arrived three hours before our flight took off so that we had plenty of time to make it to the ticket counter, through security, and onto the plane. The woman that checked us in was amazingly helpful and patient with us. One item that we purchased for this trip and still use everytime we travel is a hand held baggage scale. It works like a charm and is very small, I highly recommend getting one if you don’t have one. I made sure that we had enough, and extra, food to get us all the way to Rwanda with delays if they happened. We called the airlines ahead of time to ask what they would be serving on the plane. There wasn’t a whole lot that we could eat, but that is pretty common for us. I had Dr’s notes for the epi pen, Benadryl, and medically necessary food in case anyone gave us a hard time. If I remember correctly we had at least one whole carry on full of food with ice packs. No one gave us a hard time, it just took us a very long time to get through security lines. We were prepared for that so it was ok.

While my middle daughter had severe food allergies, the rest of us also had food intolerances. At that point, our family couldn’t have nuts, gluten, dairy, soy, egg yolk, tomato, and garlic. We had a friend in country that was able to help us decide what we needed to pack for our time in Rwanda. Two of our suitcases were full of food and kitchen items. The first one of these suitcases was full of 40 cans of prescription formula for my daughter. We couldn’t leave the country without the formula since my daughter couldn’t drink any milk alternatives and she also failed to thrive without the calories she got from the formula. Our carry ons also held several cans just in case our bags didn’t show up. The second suitcase full of food had xanthan gum, one pot, one pan, and as many boxed mixes that we could stuff in. At that time, we used Chebe pizza mix, Bisquick GF (gluten free) pancake and waffle mix so we packed many of those, and a few other random mixes as well. We knew that we could easily buy GF flour so we didn’t need to bring flour with us. It was amazing to have GF flours so easily accessible and also launched me into baking full time.

Chebe pizza

Our friend that was in country was able to get us a loaf of GF bread upon our arrival from a sweet friend of hers. Along with the loaf of bread was the recipe as well. All of the corner markets carried GF flours for very little money. I could get brown rice flour, white rice flour, tapioca starch, millet flour, and I think teff as well. Before we went to Rwanda, I had used many boxed food items for our allergies, but hadn’t done very much baking with my own mixes. This trip changed all of that in a heart beat. I was able to get many recipes from other Americans that we had become friends with, but I had to figure out how to convert them to fit our dietary needs. Our internet connection there was far slower than dial up, if it even worked at all. I didn’t have pinterest or any other sites that I could get recipes from. So this began my crash course in allergy friendly baking. I spent hours upon hours in the kitchen there with my two daughters to make enough food to sustain us. Meat in Rwanda is VERY expensive so it was only for special occasions. Other than that, we ate a ton of rice, eggs, salad, avocado, fruit, and vegetables. While we lived there I managed to make bread every other day since we only had a small refrigerator and the heat made the bread mold quickly.

Kitchen
Breakfast

We worked at a home for former street boys and all of us would spend a full day together there each week. From the first time we met the staff and boys, we were VERY clear with them about our daughters severe food allergies. We made a rule that no one was allowed to feed her. While people in Rwanda don’t have food allergies, the staff and boys were amazingly understanding. They all took her allergies very seriously which we were so thankful for. English is the national language in Rwanda, but hasn’t always been. Thankfully all of the staff at the home spoke fluent English and we also had an interpreter with us most of the time so we could communicate effectively.

boys

There is a very close knit group of ex-pats in Rwanda. We made sure that we connected with them right when we got to Rwanda. This made our transition much easier to find safe restaurants, large grocery stores, learn how to navigate the market we lived next to, and also gave us friends right away. When we lived in Rwanda we ate at home, or home made food, about 98% of the time. This was the easiest way for us to ensure our daughters safety. There were a handful of restaurants that we frequented, there is a list of them below. We lived in the capital city of Kigali, so there were many options for us to choose from. All of these restaurants had staff that spoke fluent English, were originally from an English speaking country, and/or were high end that catered to English speaking people. These three criteria were important for us to stick to so we knew our daughter would get safe food. Many of these restaurants also let us bring a few of our own food items. We made sure to call ahead to ask if this was ok and also to talk to them about our daughters food allergies ahead of time. Thankfully we made it through six months living in Rwanda without needing to use an epi pen!!

Our Safe Restaurants
Mr. Chips- this is a small burger shack that is owned by a Canadian man. It is frequented my many English speaking people and all of the staff speak English

Sakae Japanese Restaurant- This was a brand new restaurant when we lived there. They serve amazing asian food of all sorts and kinds. All of the staff speak English. We called ahead of time to talk about our food allergies. They were fantastic! We went for early dinners so the staff wasn’t rushed. They allowed us to bring our own GF soy sauce for those of us that could have it. All of our food was checked closely by the staff to ensure that it was safe for my daughter to eat.

Zen Oriental Cuisine- We had the same experience here as we did at Sakae. They were a bit on the busier side, but still great!

Aromas Coffee- This coffee shop was a few blocks away from our house so we went there several times. We would get smoothies and nothing else. I wasn’t comfortable eating food there, but the drinks were great.

The country of Rwanda is very small in terms of land mass. It is easy to go on day trips to other parts of the country. This was very helpful for us to see other parts of the country without having to find safe food in small villages. While there, we went on a safari trip. We used Bizi Danny’s guided tour and they did a great job. They picked us up very early in the morning because the animals are most active then. I packed all of our food for the day so we didn’t have to stop at any restaurants along the way. Akagera National Park is on the east side of the country that borders Tanzania. The park is split between both countries so the animals are free to roam between them. We had the opportunity to see zebras, hippos, topee, gazelles, water buffalo, baboons, giraffes, and many species of birds. The day we were there the elephants and lion were in a different part of the park. We were told that the lion typically stays on the Tanzania side of the park. This is one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. It felt surreal the whole time we were there. I would highly recommend doing a safari trip.

Zebra
Topee
Hippo
Giraffe

At the very end of our trip we headed west to Nyungwe rain forest. The scenery in the rain forest is stunning to say the least. We found a little hotel and restaurant to stay in just outside of the forest. This hotel wasn’t fancy in the least, but it worked for us. We had fun guests outside our room every morning. Our girls loved having baboons so close. The drive through the rain forest is slow but beautiful so we just learned to enjoy the scenery as we made our way through. Towards the west side of the forest there is a ranger type station. This is where you can find trail maps and hire a guide if you want. Many people go to Nyungwe to see orangutans, but they don’t allow kids to go on those hikes. We hired a guide to take us to see colobus monkeys. It was a pretty steep mile hike down before we found the monkeys, but worth every step. There were probably 1oo monkeys playing with each other, screaming, and flying from one tree to the next. If you ever go on this hike, or any other hike in a rain forest, it’s a good idea to hike in tall rain boots or gators. Take it from me, biting ants in the pants are no fun! :/ After our hike we drove through the rest of the forest to see what was there. There are miles of tea plantations in a gorgeous setting. In the middle of one tea plantation is an amazing hotel. The next time we go we will be saving our pennies to stay here. Our time in the rain forest was magical.

Baboon
Tea Field

All in all, our trip to Rwanda was a great success with food allergies! It took a lot of planning ahead and time in the kitchen while there, but it was all worth it. My current baking is a direct result of our time in Rwanda, so I am abundantly thankful for that. It pushed me far beyond my limits in many ways which helped me to grow in ways that I wasn’t expecting. If you are contemplating a trip with severe food allergies, it can be done, if your medical team approves it. I am so thankful that we had a medical team that cheered us on and encouraged us to make this trip. They prepared us and helped us in many ways to make this a safe trip. I hope you enjoyed learning about our overseas journey and feel encouraged that it is possible to travel with severe food allergies!

*all photos are mine

Why are Food Allergies on the Rise?

I often get asked why food allergies are on the rise. While I have my own opinions as to why this is, I don’t have a medical background to give facts and data. This is why I turned to my friend Vivian who is a general practitioner. She is a wealth of information, well researched in this area, and has a son with severe food allergies. I am so excited to have her guest post for me on this important topic.

Why is allergy on the rise?
I’m always asked ‘What is the cause of allergies?’ – and it is a difficult question to answer, and you can probably talk about it all day because there are so many factors at play, which I will highlight here.
Food allergies among children in the US increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011 – allergy is now an epidemic in many of the developed countries. And it’s not just children – adults are starting develop food allergies for the first time in their adulthood too.
So the million dollar question is… WHY?

Genes
There is no denying that genes play an important role in the development of allergy – if you have a family history of atopy (food allergies, asthma or hay fever) you are more likely to develop allergies but the rapid rise in the incidence of allergy must be linked to the environment too as our genes cannot evolve that quickly. Some interesting facts:

• foreign-born Americans have significantly lower risk of allergic disease than U.S. born Americans.
• your risk of developing allergies increase the longer you reside in the U.S.
• this tells me that it is not simply down to the genes but must be also due to environmental factors too

In 2013, Dr Silverberg of St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Centre in New York found that foreign-born children who moved to the U.S. had an increased risk of developing allergies, and this risk increased the longer they resided in the U.S. So this supports the theory that environmental factors are causing more allergies.

“Why is the environment making us more allergic?”

Whilst there are many theories out there, so far no one has the definitive answer. There’s the Hygiene hypothesis (that we are too clean and the immune system is not stimulated enough – I’m not a fan of this theory though).

Personally, I believe the gut and the food we eat has a lot to answer for…

All disease begin in the gut – Hippocrates

The father of medicine said this about 2000 years ago – and I think we are only beginning to find out there is truth in his wisdom. Obviously, I don’t necessarily agree that ALL disease starts in the gut. Congenital and genetic conditions that you are born with, for example, do not. However, I am convinced that a lot of chronic medical conditions which are on the rise begin in the gut e.g. autoimmune, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, allergies… just to name a few.

Research has shown:

• Antibiotic use in infancy is linked to increased odds of developing food allergy in childhood
• The bacteria found in stools of children with food allergy is significantly different to those of children without food allergy.
• Beneficial bacteria in the gut produce substances which alter the integrity of the gut barrier to the outside world, and the way the gut presents food particles to our immune system.

The Gut

Did you know that the gut is a major immune organ?

As well as digesting and absorbing food, the gut also plays a significant role in healthy immune function. We are seeing a worryingly rapid rise in allergy and autoimmune diseases (e.g. Hypothyroidism, Lupus, Rheumatoid, MS), and although allergy and autoimmune diseases are different entities, there is a common theme – all of them result from a malfunctioning immune system: in autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks the body itself, whereas in allergies the immune system attacks food/environmental allergens.

The allergy epidemic has gone hand in hand with a period in the developed countries of increasing antibiotic usage, GMO foods, intensive animal farming, pollution, increasing cesarean sections rates, formula feeding, and a low fiber/highly processed foods diet….just to name a few!

For example, you may think you are ok because you don’t take any antibiotics, but the antibiotics that livestock has been fed/injected from intensive farming probably stays in the meat, so you are most likely ingesting some antibiotics inadvertently when you eat meat farmed this way, and similarly with milk and dairy products.

Why does it matter?

Antibiotics kill bacteria – as well as killing the bad bacteria that causes infection, they also kill the good bacteria you need for health. There are trillions of bacteria in the gut – weighing around 3 pounds, and these are necessary to maintain normal gut function. A combination of environmental factors listed above has led to an altered ‘microbiome’, the healthy bacteria missing and instead the gut has ‘bad’ bacteria which can release toxins, cause the gut to be leaky and therefore leads to an increased risk of allergies. The way it does this is by allowing food proteins to enter the blood stream when normally these food proteins would stay in the gut. When food proteins are circulating in the blood stream, these may trigger an immune system or “train” the immune system to become allergic to that particular food.

The gut bacteria is so important in regulating how food proteins are presented to our immune system – if they present food in the wrong way, we end up with an allergy.

SO it ALL begins in the gut! Somehow, the gut is presenting food wrongly as foe… Why the immune system produces the wrong signal is an area of rigorous research. It has been suggested that beneficial gut bacteria produce many of the important messengers involved in the correct signalling process and with the altered gut microbiome caused by environmental factors, these important beneficial gut bacteria may be missing thus changing the signalling process in the gut. Due to GMO farming, modern day food no longer resembles what our ancestors used to eat. Wheat and soy are both heavily altered to withstand harsh conditions for improved crop yields, and this is also having an impact on our health.

As well as the gut, food allergens may also be presented to the immune system through the skin – and this is particularly relevant for eczema sufferers where the skin barrier is broken and may explain why infants with eczema have a higher risk of food allergies (good eczema control is particularly important in infants to prevent this theoretical mechanism of food sensitisation). It has been suggested that if your immune system is ‘seeing’ allergens through the skin but not encountering it in the gut as food, an allergy may develop to that particular food when you start to eat it. The LEAP study (2015) conducted by Professor Lack’s team in London has shown that early introduction of peanuts into the diets of high-risk infants can reduce the incidence of peanut allergy developing later on (see my blog post on this next week). So it is important that the gut sees these allergens, identify them as food and ‘accepts’ them early on before the immune system starts playing havoc and misleads the body into attacking it.

For me as a doctor, the rise of allergic and autoimmune conditions is both alarming and frustrating as we are not good at treating them. We have strong and toxic medicines to dampen the immune system with but these can cause serious side effects and we don’t like using them. Apart from these toxic medications, we can only treat surface symptoms without ever getting to the root cause: food avoidance for allergy, painkillers for rheumatoid arthritis, steroid creams for eczema.

I really think that Hippocrates was way ahead of his time, and we are only beginning to unlock an important piece of the disease puzzle by looking at the gut. The modern day life assails many assaults on the gut and as a result, we are seeing a rise in conditions which were rare a couple of decades ago.

Watch this space.

In the meantime, look after your gut.

Thanks Vivian for a great piece on the rise of food allergies! Here you can find more information on gut health from Vivian. She is such a great resource so click through her other articles as well!

Navigating the Grocery Store

May 14-18 is Food Allergy Awareness Week. On social media I asked my followers what they would like me to write about food allergies. In the next few weeks I will be writing several posts to answer the great questions I received. I also have two awesome guests that will be posting on food allergies as well so be sure to come on back in the coming weeks. Here is the first in the series.

One of my followers on Instagram last week what I do to help my girls when they feel sad about foods they can’t have. This post is dedicated to answer this great question. Keep in mind that this is what I have done with my girls, it may or may not work for you. I hope it is helpful since this can be a very difficult issue to deal with for sure.

1. One of the most important things we can teach our kids is that life isn’t always fair. Life just isn’t fair, no matter how much we want it to be. There will always be difficult situations to navigate in life. My husband and I have worked really hard to instill this in our girls in many different situations. We have three girls and we simply can’t make everything fair and equal all the time. That will never be reality for them once they leave our home either, so we want to prepare our girls for the realities that they will face later in life. This is no different with their food intolerances and allergies. It doesn’t seem fair that they can’t eat the same foods as other people, but it is their reality. We give them the freedom to feel sad and talk about how hard it is to have food allergies. It is important for them to be able to voice their feelings. Since life isn’t fair for anyone, in our case with food intolerances and allergies, we help them to see beyond it.

2. We teach our kids thankfulness as a response to difficult situations. Let me be clear again though that we absolutely let our kids feel sad and talk about the challenges they face having food allergies and intolerances. The fact is that we can’t change that our girls (both my husband and I as well) have food allergies and intolerances. If we can’t change that, it is up to us to determine how we let them affect our lives. We can mope around in our sadness and discouragement, or we can choose to be thankful for what we CAN eat. Yes, our list of “can’t haves” is very long, I call it a scroll. You know what though? There are SO MANY foods we CAN eat. Having food intolerances and allergies has pushed all of us to be adventurous with new foods that we might not have ever tried. Our family has become so close knit having food allergies and intolerances because we can’t eat out very much we spend almost every meal together. Most of us also have a very strong desire to be creative, so we have taken our creativity into the kitchen.

3. I am typically very determined in many areas of life. This has done our family well having food allergies and intolerances. I have been determined to not let food allergies and intolerances get the best of us or keep us from enjoying life. If I find a “normal” recipe that looks good, I am determined to figure out how to make it work for my family’s long list of can’t haves. There are very few foods that I haven’t been able to re-create to fit my family’s needs. My family has to endure eating all of my experiments until I get them right, which they are very gracious to do. This has greatly helped my girls to not feel left out. If they are going to a party or event, I always ask the parent what they will be providing for food. I make the same food that will be served at the party so my girls feel included, but with safe food for them. My freezer is full of desserts all the time so the girls have many options to choose from when they have an event to attend. This has helped them to always feel included which is one of the toughest things for kids with food allergies and intolerances to deal with.

4. When we are in a grocery store and see foods that my girls would like to eat, but can’t have we do two things. We find a similar product that is safe for them. The area that we live in has a plethora of natural food stores that have huge selections that fit our needs. If we can’t find it in our local stores, we look online where we can find almost anything we need. It doesn’t satisfy the urgent “want” while we are at the store, but it’s good for them to learn to be patient. 🙂 The other thing we do in this situation is figure out how we can make it ourselves. See #3 for this. My girls are at ages that I can reason with them about what they can and can’t have. If your kids are too young to reason with, I would suggest bringing a safe snack for them to eat while you are at the grocery store so they aren’t thinking about all the food they are passing by.

5. From the time our girls could talk we taught them about their food allergies and intolerances, their reactions, and the consequences of eating those foods would be for them. We wanted them to know clearly why they couldn’t eat certain foods. Education is so important with our kids in this area. I often use the example that we teach our kids the ABC’s from the time they are born knowing they don’t understand them at the time. We repeatedly teach the ABC’S because we know that one day they will know their ABC’s for themselves. I see it no differently with food allergies and intolerances or teaching kids not to touch a hot stove. It is our job to repeatedly teach our kids about their food allergies and intolerances until they know and understand them clearly for themselves. This year I have gone into our two older girls classrooms to talk about food allergies as well to educate their friends. The more we can educate our own kids, their friends, and our families, the easier it will be on our kids.

Please let me know if you have any other questions that I can answer. I hope this was helpful!

Easter Brunch Muffins

Easter is just over a week away. At our house, Easter is one of our favorite holidays all year round. My husband has a big birthday (40) the day before Easter this year so I have a lot of food prep and baking to do this week. I look forward to putting a lot of thought into how we will celebrate my husbands birthday and Easter. We are abundantly thankful for my husbands 40 years of life and looking forward to many more, as well as the new life that we celebrate on Easter. There is so much to be thankful for and celebrate.

Life has been busy since we have been traveling so I haven’t put a lot of thought into Easter brunch until now. I was asked to post a muffin recipe so I thought this strawberry muffin would be the perfect addition to Easter brunch. These muffins come together quickly and easily, using fresh strawberries. Not only are they easy to make, but they are packed full of healthy Omega 3’s as well. I do my best to pack as many of my recipes full of healthy ingredients as well as make them taste amazing for us food allergy folks. It’s a win win all around in my book! You can of course switch out the strawberries for another berry if you choose, but we really enjoy these with strawberries.

Strawberry Muffins

Ingredients
2/3 C Brown rice flour
2/3 C White rice flour
2/3 C Tapioca starch
1 t Guar gum
½ C Coconut sugar
1 T Flax meal
1 ½ t Chia seeds
½ t Cream of tartar
¾ t Baking soda
½ t Salt
2 T Earth balance buttery spread, soy free
2 T Apple sauce
1 Egg or egg replacer
1 ¼ C Coconut milk (or rice milk) + 1 t lemon juice
1 C Diced strawberries

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray 12 muffin tins with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together and be sure they are well combined. Then add the wet ingredients except fruit and mix well until combined. Cut strawberries into small chunks. Fold in the berries until fully incorporated. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy!

Whether you celebrate Easter or not, I hope that you enjoy these strawberry muffins! Have a great week everyone!

Vegan Nut Free Pesto

Vegan, nut free pesto for the win! With a family that can’t eat tomato, dairy, or garlic, this makes sauces very difficult. It really makes pizza challenging and who doesn’t love pizza?! I was bound and determined to find a sauce that my whole family could eat and enjoy for pizza. My husband and I went out to an allergy friendly restaurant many years ago, unfortunately it was terrible. I had a pesto pasta and it tasted really bad, but it gave me a great idea, to make our own pesto.

Every summer we grow a simple garden and put many of our favorites in it that are easy to maintain. Basil plants are very inexpensive to buy and easy to care for. I buy mine at Trader Joes at the beginning of every summer. They plant easily in our raised beds and don’t mind having quite a bit of shade. I plant four of them every summer and harvest them repeatedly throughout the summer. These four plants produce enough leaves for me to make pesto to last me through the whole year. It’s amazing! If you have space in your yard and care to grow simple plants, this is a great one to grow. I have a black thumb and I can keep them alive so you certainly can. 🙂

Back to my pesto. I have been making this recipe for many many years and it’s always a crowd pleaser, even with non food allergy people. No one ever knows the difference. I posted this picture below on Instagram in the fall after I harvested my basil and made a batch of pesto. A friend of mine left a comment that it looked like I was starting a marijuana dispensary. LOL!!!! This was hilarious to me because she knows me very well. For 11 years I was a drug and alcohol counselor for kids, so she knows very well I was not dispensing weed. It did give me a good laugh though, so if you thought the same thing, now you know it’s not. I didn’t go from being a drug and alcohol counselor to dealing drugs, I promise! 🙂

I use this pesto recipe on pizza, pasta, grilled sandwiches, with chicken, and any other way you could imagine using pesto. Give it a try!

Pesto

Ingredients
2 C Fresh basil leaves, packed
¼ C Daiya cheddar cheese shreds
½ C Olive oil
3 T Sunflower seeds, raw
2 Garlic cloves finely chopped (omit if you can’t have them)
1 t Salt

Directions
Put all ingredients into a high powered blender and blend until desired consistency is reached. Use fresh on pizza, patsa, bread, or any other fun idea you may have. If you want to make it ahead for later, freeze in silicone baking cups or in small snack size zip lock bags. If you freeze them in silicone cups, place them in a large zip lock bag once fully frozen. Enjoy!