Disney’s “Frozen” Party Favor Idea

If you enjoyed my lightsaber valentine idea (glow sticks and Star Wars valentines), I have another idea that my daughter helped me come up with as we have been planning her “Frozen” themed 6th birthday.  When it worked so well she asked me to share it here.  Who knew the day would come when she’d say “can we post this on your blog, Mom?”  She is writing her own cookbook right now and you may even see some of those recipes in this space.

Frozen Bubble Favors

This doesn’t work with all cupcake rings, the plastic needs to be a little bit pliable, but it did work with the “Frozen” cupcake toppers we’d purchased on Amazon (amazon affiliate link or ebay search link) and these mini bubble bottles from Oriental Trading (search: hexagon bubble bottles and choose your favorite color).  Just work the ring over the top of the bubbles and there you go.  Easy peasy way to give a theme to the bubbles but also works as a food-free idea for party favors.

(For R’s 4th birthday we’re doing Chinese paper yo-yos and Power Rangers rings – his were too sturdy to work with bubble bottles.  I love August birthday planning!)

Graphics for the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference 2014

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I’ve been having fun making some spotlight images for this year’s Food Allergy Bloggers Conference and thought I’d share what I’ve done so far here.   Just about 10 weeks until the event so I am hoping these build interest – previous attendees should know we’ve got a fresh mix of topics and speakers and new attendees should know they will be welcomed with open arms.  I saw someone online ask if this was the sort of event where they’d be staying in their room the whole time and to that I would offer a resounding “no!”

As a co-manager of the event, please feel free to contact me with questions if you are considering attending.  Be sure to follow the conference on Twitter or Facebook (or both!) to see new graphics as they come out.  I can also do another roundup in a couple of weeks.  Register to attend today!  If you’re local to Las Vegas, we can work out single day passes if those are a better fit, we also might still have volunteer slots open in exchange for passes.  Just let me know.

 

Alisa Fleming

Colette Martin

Dr. Ehrlich

Erica Dermer

Dr. Gupta

Henry Ehrlich

Keeley McGuire

Dr. Stukus

Susan Weissman

vitamix

Lynda Mitchell

Vegan Slow Cooker Potato Leek Soup

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Thank you to Sarah Norris of Gluten Free Dairy Free Walt Disney World for pointing me to this recipe – I had purchased Yukon gold potatoes and trimmed leeks at Trader Joe’s because the idea of soup when it is 100 degrees out is oddly appealing.  I adjusted it to be more calorie friendly and thought I’d share my version here.  First, let me direct you to the inspiration, Gluten-Free Goddess’ 2009 recipe.  Her post has wonderful pictures (with leeks for a garnish) and suggestions for a stove top method as well.  Also check out our Food Allergy Bloggers Conference post featuring Sarah, it was great to meet her last year!

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Ingredients

1 cup rice milk

4 cups vegetable broth

2 leeks, trimmed and sliced (I used a 6oz pre-trimmed pack from Trader Joe’s)

680g Yukon gold potatoes, washed and quartered (I leave the skins on)

1 tsp dried tarragon

1 tsp dried dill weed

1 tsp granulated garlic

Salt and Pepper to taste (depends on how much salt is in the broth you use)

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Supplies

Slow cooker or crock pot

Cutting board, knife

Teaspoon measurement

Immersion blender

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Directions

Start your crock pot on high, set it for 5 1/2 hours.  add the oil if desired and then the chopped leeks.  No need to worry about large rounds when you are chopping the leek, you will be blending this recipe up!  Add your quartered potatoes and then the 4 cups of vegetable broth.  You’ll see the ingredients are just about covered.  We don’t want the soup to be watery so trust me on this.  Cook on high and when when the 5 hours of cooking time has elapsed (I set it for a little longer so I have time to chop and prep while it heats up) you’re going to blend the soup in the crock pot with your hand immersion blender.  At this point add the 1 cup of rice milk, adjust your salt and pepper to taste, heat until warm throughout (shouldn’t take long) and you’re ready to serve.  Great with a salad.

Calorie and Nutritional Information

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The batch I made came to 1,763 grams and we like to do 100 gram servings in MyFitnessPal so it was 47 calories per 100 grams.  I didn’t list the spices and herbs in the recipe so that may have added a trivial amount of calories.  I’ve managed to put all my lost weight back on in the last year but I am still trying to fight my way back.  Here’s hoping!

EpiPen and Auvi-Q Expiration Date Frustrations

When we re-fill epinephrine auto-injector prescriptions it feels a little like checking a scratch card – what will the expiration date be?  I think many of you are in the same situation.

Auv-Q Purchased 5/12/14 with 1/2015 Expiration Date

Auvi-Q Purchased 5/12/14 at Target Pharmacy with 1/2015 Expiration Date

This is not a new issue, I mentioned it in my post about the most recent Legislative Healthcare Committee Meeting and in my Mylan Summit post, but as I type this is I have just returned from paying $233.86 (after the $100 copay card, Mylan has one as well) for an Auvi-Q epinephrine auto-injector set  of two that expires January 2015.  The last Auvi-Q I obtained had an expiration date fourteen months out from the date of purchase and this one is 8 months.  So I know it is possible to be 12-14 months out on an auto-injector.  Anything less than a year is a problem considering the costs for families alone and that the high cost may cause families to stop filling their prescriptions.

Our Voices are Louder Together

I am fortunate that I can pay the cost of the medication (our insurance does not cover or alleviate prescription drug costs) but that does not mean it is ideal.  I specifically requested that they order the Auvi-Q last week in hopes of getting a newer one but it was not enough.  I would love to gather your experiences and submit them to both Mylan and Sanofi as there has to be a better option in all of this. 

When I saw the Auvi-Q expiration date I asked to see an EpiPen one and it was February of 2015 to the Auvi-Q’s January 2015.  I stuck with the Auvi-Q because the voice guidance puts my daughter’s teacher at ease and because the expiration date was not that much better (February 2015).  Still a significant amount of time less than the 12 months we all aim for.  After, I called Jenny and vented and she suggested that I should have left the medicine there and called around town to find a better expiration date but we’re already 12 days into May and my daughter’s injector expired April 2014.  So here I am, hoping that when the time comes in January to obtain a refill that there will have been true changes in the system so that other families as well as ours are not in the same boat.  Also feeling grateful that I have people I can call and know they will share my frustration about things like this.

Anecdotal reports include hearing that pharmacies in town offering a discount on injectors that expire sooner (like 50% off on one that is six months out) but I don’t know which pharmacy that would be.  We only buy one set every time we need a refill because of the cost and because my daughter self carries.  I carry an expired set in my purse just because something is better than nothing as a backup.

Let’s Discuss…

At any rate, please let me know either at my email homa at woodrumlaw dot com or here in the comments about your experiences and I would like to put together a letter to both Mylan and Sanofi asking about our options.  I have a feeling that the issue is on the pharmacy side of things because reps from Mylan and Sanofi have mentioned that the dates should be at least a year out.  I am not placing blame as much as feeling baffled that if companies are telling me all pharmacies have to do is exchange older injectors for newer ones, why are they not doing it?  Why discount them or force them on consumers that aren’t going to risk not having them in the event of an allergic emergency.

Thank you in advance for your input on this one, I will keep you posted.

Disclosure: I attended Mylan’s Summit last month but my opinions are my own – more detailed disclosure here and here.  Sanofi and Mylan have both been sponsors of the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference, of which I am a co-owner.  My opinions, as always, are my own and are not representative of my position at Food Allergy Bloggers Conference LLC or the real or perceived benefits from either company. 

Food Find: Pascha Chocolate

Beautiful packaging
Beautiful packaging

I came home recently to find a box marked “perishable” on my doorstep and whisked it inside.  Those of you in Southern Nevada will know that the shipping window for perishables here is very limited and has already passed for 2014 (that is, until November or so rolls around).  I was so surprised to find I was the lucky recipient of some unsolicited chocolate!

In early 2013 I had read on my friend Colette’s blog Learning to Eat Allergy Free that there was a new allergy friendly chocolate and it was fair trade to boot.  I did not find Pascha Chocolate in stores at that point but was the lucky winner of a giveaway hosted by Alisa Fleming of Go Dairy Free at the end of last year and I loved what I received.  I wonder if I got into the system as someone that will gladly consume large quantities of chocolate and when I received the box this past week and realized I never had the chance to write about my take on Pascha Chocolate.  It was time to remedy that (see also: Disclosures).

Chocolate with Maca

Chocolate with a new to me ingredient: Maca

 

By the way, both Alisa and Colette are taking part in a new spin on ice breaking at this year’s FABlogCon – we are having a morning roundup of Saturday “breakout sessions” that will be limited mostly to groups of 10-15 per topic where you can really get some one on one insight from some brilliant folks.  Colette will be offering information on using that fancy DSLR you are scared to switch into manual mode and Alisa is going to be covering monetization across blogging, writing, and magazine platforms.  You’ll be able to register for the breakout sessions soon, I am having a hard time deciding which one I want to sit in on so I may claim planner’s privilege and hop in and out of sessions to “see how things are going.”

Beautiful packaging

Beautiful packaging

Ahem.  So, what did I receive?  Twitter recap to the rescue because most of it is already gone four days later. . .

I even found myself enjoying the coffee variety and I don’t drink or like the aftertaste of actual coffee.  The coffee flavor makes me think of my mom.  She works nightshifts as a registered nurse (labor and delivery) and has done it for many years so coffee is her mainstay.  There’s something comforting about the aroma of coffee and chocolate that says “mom” to me.  I wonder if my kids are going to smell frying onions in olive oil as adults and think of me?

The 100% cacao chocolate chips are a wonderful addition and the chips will be coming out later this year.  I am so glad to have a 100% alternative to Baker’s chocolate (which is not totally safe for milk allergic families given the “may contain” warnings on the packaging) for baking and cooking).  I tried the 100% chips in my vegan chocolate chili recipe (a lot like this recipe, just with chocolate and agave in the mix) yesterday and it was nice to not have to chop chocolate since the chips melted in perfectly.

Pasca Chocolate Chips

Chocolate Chips Coming Soon

My favorite of the bars was the 60% with Maca variety and I have to say I like the infused flavors much more than the varieties I’ve tried in the past with Goldenberries or Cacao Nibs (two of the types I received from Alisa’s giveaway, which were very good as well).

The children are not fans of darker chocolates, especially E, but I love seeing allergy friendly chocolate diversifying.  Even Pascha Chocolates suggests their 55% bars for the younger set and R did like the 60%.  These options are vegan, peanut free, tree nut free, and more with a great texture and taste.  Hope to start seeing these in stores locally, be sure to comment if you’ve seen them out and about so I can track some down.  Highly recommended.

Mylan Summit 2014 (and My Trip to Washington, D.C.!)

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I’ve created a new Disclosures page to cover in greater detail what Mylan Specialty covered for the trip I’m about to discuss as well as other benefits I’ve received related to this blog.  Their provided disclosure is as follows but I didn’t think it covered everything a reader might ask about so feel free to scroll to the bottom of the disclosures page for more detail (though there is a spoiler in there about the DC leg of my trip that I covered myself):

I disclose in any communication made by me about EpiPen® (epinephrine) Auto-Injector and/or the Mylan Specialty Blogger Summit that such communication is at my own discretion and based on my own opinion.  I also disclose that my travel expenses were compensated by Mylan Specialty in exchange for evaluation and feedback on information presented during the meeting.

It is odd to say on the one hand my opinions are my own (they are) but in reality I do think I left the summit with a more favorable opinion of Mylan Specialty than before.  I don’t think it was because I had my travel covered as much as the act of traveling there and meeting with people passionate about food allergy awareness and advocacy in conjunction with their product (the “EpiPen”) did impact me.  I can see now why Jenny‘s story of starting the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference began with her experience gathering with other bloggers at a prior incarnation of the summit.  When she approached me about helping her bring the conference to life, she even said that she wanted the experience of connection and education to be available to not just the invited few but a broader audience.

It was such a boost to visit with some wonderful advocates on April 10th and 11th.  They say much of business is conducted before or after actual business hours in the form of relationship building but like true multi-tasking food allergy moms we made every minute together count.  Studious notes were taken, suggestions were made, and there were more than a few laughs thrown in for good measure.

So!  My husband points out to me that there’s the regular, concise way of saying things and then there is the “Homa” way.  I’m going to go with the latter though never fear, I won’t be pasting my type-written notes from the summit for readers to get through.  Thank heavens for small favors, right?  I won’t overload any of my e-mail subscribers with this full post because it is l-o-n-g so here’s the debut of my first ever “read more” tag on the blog, something I really can’t stand on other sites but I’m hoping you will click through and I promise it isn’t a pageview grab or anything.

Continue reading

Stock Epinephrine in Nevada Schools and Onward to Restaurants and More

Today, thanks to a heads up from Caroline of GratefulFoodie.com, I was able to attend the Nevada Legislative Committee on Healthcare Interim Legislative Session hearing.  In Nevada, we only have legislative sessions every other year.  Last year was a great year for food allergy advocacy as Senator Debbie Smith championed Senate Bill 453 regarding Stock Epinephrine in Nevada Schools.  The bill eventually passed with unanimous votes in both branches of the state legislature.

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Getting Ready to Start

This was not my first time on the fourth floor of the Grant Sawyer Building near downtown Las Vegas but it certainly was my quickest visit as our contingent was called up right after the public comment section of the meeting.  I was able to visit a bit with representatives from Mylan (makers of the “Epi-pen” epinephrine auto injector) and their Nevada lobbyist as well as the co-leader of our local Food Allergy Parent Education Group, Susanne Stark, Senator Debbie Smith, and Chef Keith Norman of the South Point (and most recently board director at FAACT).

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Senator Smith Addressing the Committee

Senator Smith began by letting the committee know about the success in the last year with stock epinephrine in Nevada. She poignantly told of how when the bill passed we did not know when it would be needed but now we did (Andrue Casado being one of the lives saved). The work is not yet done, she cautioned, because access can extend to restaurants.  Colin Chiles of Mylan would next expand on this point by referencing other states where unique situations were covered like New York summer camps and Alaska hunting guides carrying stock epinephrine.

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Susanne Stark and Chef Keith Norman Speaking About Expanding Stock Epinephrine

Susanne followed with her account of the uses of stock epinephrine in private schools that were open to acquiring it and how in Clark County, Nevada alone there had already been 20 uses of stock epinephrine since the bill passed last summer.  Keith spoke about his experiences in food safety and the need for epinephrine in restaurants and the like.

Kacey

Kacey Larson Offering Testimony from Carson City via Video Feed

Attention turned to Kacey in Carson City, brandishing the front page of the Reno Gazette Journal featuring Andrue Casado and how his life was saved when he had his first ever anaphylactic reaction at school in Reno. After some closing remarks by Senator Smith, the committee chimed in with their words of support and personal experiences with food allergy. Senator Jones and Senator Dondero Loop had direct family connections. Senator Jones’ wife recently had an anaphylactic reaction and Senator Dondero Loop’s family member navigated food allergy at a time when epinephrine autoinjectors were not prevalent or the norm.

From Left to Right: Senator Debbie Smith, Homa Woodrum, Keith Norman, and Susanne Stark (Courtesy of Susanne Stark)

From Left to Right: Senator Debbie Smith, Homa Woodrum, Keith Norman, and Susanne Stark (Courtesy of Susanne Stark)

We laughed at taking a “selfie” after the hearing but I think it is a great way to make sure everyone is in the photo. Thank you for sharing this photo, Susanne! I care deeply about each of these great individuals and get chills just thinking of the difference each of them is making in their work. Senator Smith for her work for Nevada, Susanne (and her co-leader Debbie Bornilla) for the parents and the community in Las Vegas as a support group leader, and Chef Keith for making so many happy and safe.

____

After the hearing Susanne raised the question to Mylan’s representatives about expiration dates on epinephrine (we were advised to feel free to return Epi-Pens with shorter than one year until expiration when issued as the pharmacy can readily exchange them for “fresher” stock).

Excitingly for me, Colin informed me the Mylan headquarters in Pennsylvania are a great space as I am traveling tomorrow to Pittsburgh to see it for myself at the invitation of Mylan. I was not sure if I could/should accept the opportunity when it was offered to me a few weeks ago but I think what I learn could be useful to the work we are doing in Nevada. Granted, this will require a lot of disclosure on my part as my plane trip, transportation, hotel, and meals are being covered and that does create the appearance of bias but hopefully longtime readers will know that I value my editorial independence. I look forward to sharing my experience especially since it will be my first time away from my children overnight (well, except for the night I was in the hospital in labor with my son and my daughter was home with my mother in law).

I will miss my kids tremendously and am very nervous about all the new social situations but there’s a sliver of excitement about the trip and getting to see the other attendees at the “Mylan Summit” April 10-11. Here we go!

Vegan & Gluten Free Aubergine (Eggplant) Khoresht Recipe

Eggplant Khoresht

Deceptively simple, entirely delicious, Aubergine (Eggplant) Khoresht is one of my all time favorite meals.  I am in year three of this blog without having posted about it mainly because it gets eaten before pictures can be taken.  You have to like tomatoes.  You have to be open to the idea of eggplant (and not have an issue with nightshades since they can be known to have an impact on inflammatory conditions).

My parents made this with meat when I was a kid but it was very easy to adapt with the addition of garbanzo beans/chickpeas for protein.  Growing up we always called eggplant by the name aubergine but I’ve lapsed into calling it by its American name in my later years.  Onward!

Supplies
Cutting board
Knife
Baking sheet
Medium to Large stockpot

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Ingredients
2 cups of Water
1 cup of Vegetable Broth (homemade or a store-bought safe variety – our old standby recently added sesame oil so we switched brands)
1 large or 2 small fresh Globe Eggplant(s) – about 400-500 grams
1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large onion, diced
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced Parsley (or the equivalent of dried)
2 tsp Turmeric
1 can (130g or 1 4/5 cup) ready to use Garbanzo beans (so, already cooked)
1 33g can of Tomato Paste
1 420g can of Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes (or other fire roasted variety)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare the eggplant as instructed in this recipe (peeling, slicing in rounds, salting and laying on paper towels, roasting in the oven, etc.).  While waiting for the salt to take some of the bitterness out of the eggplant, heat your stock pot/saucepan on medium.  Once heated, add the olive oil.  It should shimmer a little bit, then add your diced onion and stir.  Stir and monitor until the onions have softened, about 2 or 3 minutes.  Then add your garlic and other spices and continue stirring.  I lowered the oil in this recipe to make the calorie count favorable but that means it takes a little more attention.

Add the roasted eggplant once ready and stir to coat with the onions and spices.  Finally, add the tomato paste and roasted tomatoes as well as salt and pepper, water, and broth.  Stir and increase the heat until the mixture is bubbling and reduce to a simmer.  You’ll want to let it simmer with a lit off kilter until the mixture reduces to more of a chunky stew texture instead of something soupy.  I would say this takes about an hour on medium heat, stirring occasionally.  You can taste for salt and pepper throughout this time as well but don’t over do it early on since you are reducing the mixture a little bit.  The eggplant will break up as it cooks so that is why there’s no need to cut it into anything smaller than rounds during the roasting stage.  Enjoy!

Serve warm over brown or white rice.  I love it with coconut yogurt on the side as well as tomato onion salad.

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Also shared on the EpiFamily.Com Recipe Roundup.

Shared Equipment & Facilities and Food Allergy

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I used to only contact a company when issues arose with a product – that is, in my pre-food allergy family days.  Now I reach out to research ingredients and also to praise staff members that go above and beyond the call (at a restaurant we once had a vegetarian server that had a family member with food allergies she was awesome – I was compelled to e-mail the company about her and review the experience at Allergy Eats).  Sometimes it takes a few discussions to explain my question (when I called a fast food chain to see about the ingredients in their bread the response to “does it contain oats?” was met at first with “you mean gluten, right?”) but the effort is worth it.

This month’s Food Allergy Buzz Blog Carnival theme is cross contamination, that is, that foods that don’t have an allergenic ingredient by design may contain that ingredient by virtue of being in the same factory or on shared equipment.  For a restaurant you can see how easy it would be to just throw one customer’s order onto the griddle with another’s (imagine making a batch of regular pancakes and then pouring out gluten free pancake batter onto the same surface immediately thereafter).  A factory may not be so different if one flavor or variety is made and then another variant is sent through (for example, a potato chip production line could have sour cream and onion chips on the same equipment as plain chips).

Some companies voluntarily disclose shared equipment or facility warnings but for families with allergies that are not in the United States’ “top 8″ (wheat, soy, peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, milk and egg) the statements are not entirely helpful.  Further, the statements themselves are not regulated because of their voluntary nature.  Say a label proclaims the absence of an allergen but is silent about another.  Could you safely assume that the non-mention means the item is safe for your family?  Not always.

My directly relevant example is a product currently sold at our local Southern Nevada Costco.  It is called “Eat Pastry” and is a vegan, gluten free cookie dough in a tub.  You just scoop and bake, easy right?  I was thrilled to stumble upon it and the label seemed to check out.  I like supporting allergy friendly products at Costco, plus, it was cookie dough!

What I did know, however, was that a large portion of chocolate is by its nature cross contaminated with nuts (for allergy friendly chocolate, look no further than Enjoy Life, by the way) whether or not it is disclosed, so I went to the company website and found this in their frequently asked questions:

Q. I see that you use nut extracts in the Chocolate Chunk and Chocoholic Chunk cookie dough flavors. What type of extract do you use?

A. We use a trace amount of pure almond extract in these two flavors. Because the amount is so small, it is not listed as an actual ‘ingredient.’

Oh no, I thought.  They were referring to two wheat based varieties but I didn’t like that they were deciding not to list a nut extract because they decided an amount was “small.”  So I e-mailed the company:

To Whom it May Concern:

I bought your cookie dough at costco today and then I saw on your website about undisclosed almond extract – is that something that applies to this particular variety?  My daughter has life threatening food allergies, I appreciate all your disclosures on your packaging about being gluten free, egg free, etc. but I was nervous when I saw the FAQ on your website.  Please advise as to whether this product contains undisclosed nuts or nut derivatives.  Also, are there nuts in your facility?  

Thank you,
Homa Woodrum”

A day later came this friendly reply, from the CEO no less:

“Hi Homa, Thanks for your email. We do not use nut extract in our gluten free chocolate chip cookie dough (that is used in our regular chocolate chip cookie dough, which is not gluten free). We do however handle peanuts in our facility. We make our own peanut butter and make a peanut butter cookie dough, but we produce all peanut butter products on designated days to prevent cross contamination. We also thoroughly clean and sanitize all shared equipment and work areas between each production run so that allergens are kept separate.
We do not handle nuts in our facility, only the almond extract. 

I hope this information helps, and that your daughter is able to enjoy the cookies!

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Best,
Jessie
Jessie Williams
Co-Founder/CEO 

I used this as an opportunity to bring up a suggested packaging change:

Thank you so much for the prompt reply – I think your packaging is adorable and your product delicious but I hope in future you consider disclosing the shared facility and equipment on your labels.  I know that is not required but when I see that a product is free from so many allergens (and rightfully proud of it) as a consumer I would assume that the absence of a peanut or tree nut statement implies that there is no concern on that front.  Of course you can’t please all people and it is especially tricky when you are dealing with so many segments (gluten free, vegan, etc.) but I just thought I’d mention it in case it is something you can consider in the future.
Thank you again and I hope you have a wonderful day!
Homa”

Ms. Williams wrote back to say that they would certainly consider my suggestion in future packaging decisions.  I was reminded of the exchange when I saw smaller versions of the Eat Pastry product at Whole Foods recently, right next to the peanut butter variety she references in her e-mail.

Eat Pastry at Whole Foods

Had I seen the product where it was side by side with the peanut butter variety I may have skipped it, so you can see how one can’t just rely on what is on the shelf to know what is in a factory.

Eat Pastry

All that said, if nuts aren’t something you’re concerned about, the dough bakes up fantastically and tastes great out of the tub as well.  It is a great example of not being able to rely on a package alone, or the inclusion of “free from” statements.

I am not as vigilant a label reader as I’d like to be!  I bought a bag of fresh spinach at Trader Joe’s earlier this year and was surprised to see a shared equipment disclosure on the package:

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So I did what any food allergy mom would do, I took to twitter with my guilty confession that I’d failed to read the label.  Sloane Miller (Allergic Girl) encouraged me to reach out to Trader Joe’s and see what was going on.  I included a link to the twitter conversation that had ensued regarding the picture along with my question so they could see it was not just one querying customer.

Hi Homa,

I thought I would drop you line in the event we continue to play phone tag.

I did some research and found out that the allergen statement on the package was placed due to the fact that the facility processes other pre packaged salads that includes products containing the allergens noted.

That said, the allergen containing products come into the facility pre packed in individual pouches.

I hope this information is helpful. Please feel free to give me a call if you have further questions. Also, my direct e-mail address is [redacted].

Thanks for shopping with us,
Nikki

I will add that for those that may think I can just keep reaching out to companies about food allergy safety on my daughter’s behalf, please consider well meaning people that do a cursory check of a product regarding safety to bring to, say, a school function.  I know that on a regular basis my daughter’s teacher will email me and say a certain item seems to check out online as nut, oat, and sesame free but she still checks with me, which I very much appreciate.

Somewhere between a company deciding whether a trace amount is too small to disclose (see above) or a company that makes a blanket warning on a single ingredient item (see above also), I think there needs to be a real discussion about labeling and disclosure not just for the benefit of food allergic families but all who wish to know what they’re eating.  Then there’s non food products, like toothpaste, that don’t have to disclose ingredients in the same way the top 8 are disclosed.

Both my examples above involve nuts but I know of a friend’s daughter who is anaphylactic to milk or another friend’s daughter who is allergic to flax (something companies really like to leave off labels), so the concept of transparency in labeling is far reaching.  I’d love to see better on package disclosures, but acknowledging that this is not always a possibility because of space, I certainly feel that websites should list full ingredients and manufacturing circumstances.  They almost certainly maintain such records internally, or at least I hope so!

____

In other news, we have a date for this year’s Food Allergy Bloggers Conference: September 26, 27, and 28 of 2014 at the South Point in Las Vegas, Nevada! Last year’s event was fantastic (full disclosure: I am the co-founder of #FABlogCon) and we already have some awesome sponsors lined up as well as speakers. Plus, the South Point truly cares about issues like cross contamination and food safety (as well as delicious food). Hope to see you there!

Vegan Slow Cooker Red Lentil Coconut Curry Recipe

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It has been a while since I shared a recipe but this recipe, inspired by Anupy Singla’s “South Indian Lentils With Curry Leaves” from “The Indian Slow Cooker” (amazon affiliate link), is something we make just about every week.  

When my husband and I got married we received a slow cooker (amazon affiliate link) as a wedding gift and I was perplexed because as vegetarians I didn’t think we would use a slow cooker that much.  It is wonderful for beans (see my post about a refried bean recipe here) and with this recipe, the red lentils break down wonderfully for a meal on their own or served over brown or white rice.  

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I normally hesitate to list ingredients when a recipe is derived from a cookbook, opting to instead point readers to the book itself, but my variant of Ms. Singla’s recipe cuts a number of ingredients out (I didn’t have fresh curry leaves, for example) or reduces them drastically (like the coconut milk and salt – she suggested two tablespoons and I use one teaspoon!).  This makes a very generous batch so you can freeze half and serve half or have leftovers another night.

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Supplies

Knife
Cutting Board
Strainer
6 Quart Slow Cooker
Frying Pan

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Ingredients

1 Red Ripe Tomato, Quartered
3 Cups Red Lentils, Rinsed and Drained
1 Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
7 oz Can of Diced Green Chiles
1 Teaspoon Turmeric
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
4 Teaspoons Curry Powder
1 Teaspoon Mustard Seeds
2-3 Teaspoons Canola Oil
3/4 Cup of Coconut Milk
8 Cups Water

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Directions

Heat the frying pan on medium until warm, then add the oil.  Put the mustard seeds in the pan until they start popping and add the diced onion.  Stir and add the turmeric, curry powder, and salt.  Once the onions have softened you can add them to your slow cooker.  While the onions are frying, feel free to rinse the red lentils in the strainer over the sink.  Pick through the lentils as well to make sure there are not small pebbles or the like.  Add the drained red lentils to the crock pot along with the diced chiles, tomatoes, and water.

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Stir the mixture and set the slow cooker to low for 6 hours.  Add the coconut milk and stir, then cook on high for half an hour.  No worries if you are not home to do this at the 6 hour mark, your slow cooker should switch to the warm setting until you get home and can add the coconut milk.

You can halve the recipe but if you do, keep the coconut milk the same measurement but do halve the water along with everything else.  Sometimes the curry can me thicker or more liquid depending on the liquid from the onion and tomato but it is always delicious.  Ms. Singla includes cumin, coriander, and even fresh curry leaves in her recipe but I have streamlined it a great deal for my kitchen.

The leftover coconut milk (if you use a large can) is great in smoothies.  Enjoy!