Product Review: Mixes from Allergic Solution

Disclosure: I received 8 free mixes from Allergic Solutions, 4 to use and 4 to give away on the blog using whatever method I preferred.  For the giveaway I will be paying the postage out of my own pocket so I have to limit entries to the United States.  All opinions, experiences, and pictures are my own.  Please confirm that any product is safe for your family before using it.

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My friend Jenny at Multiple Food Allergy Help forwarded me a request from the Canada-based company Allergic Solution looking for bloggers to try their baking mixes, review them, and do a giveaway.  I was intrigued by their bean flour mixes because while I know classic gluten free baking used bean flours, I had heard mixed things about them and only used garbanzo bean flour early on in my attempts to make safe treats for my family.  After I discovered rice based blends I never looked back but the big selling point for bean flours is that they have a higher protein content than rice flour.  Hence my interest in trying these mixes.  I e-mailed the company’s representative and they didn’t mind that my blog is a small one and didn’t even have any specific requests regarding the giveaway.  I liked that they genuinely seemed to be interested in sharing their product in case it was a good fit for people dealing with food allergies or other special dietary needs.  The mixes are normally $6.79 for what is pretty much a single use portion customized into one of four categories: Pancake & Waffle, Vanilla Cake, Yeast Free Bread, or Carob Cake.  I mention the price because that can be a big factor when we’re already having to buy so many specialty products to accommodate food allergies.

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I started with the pancake mix.  Despite touting on the packaging that the mixes are free from common allergens such as egg, wheat, corn, soy, and nuts, the recipe included on the package involved using eggs.  While alternate recipes are on the company’s website, I would have liked to see an allergen free recipe on the package and the egg-inclusive version on the website instead (Edited to add: Scroll down to the comments to this post to read an explanation from the company’s founder regarding space limitations dictating the choice of recipe for this package).  Speaking of the allergens, Allergic Solution is open on the packaging about there being potential corn and/or soy traces in their mixes.  This goes to the heart of some of the disclosure debate going on here in the U.S. – do we want to know that a product could have the tiniest trace of an allergen so we can decide whether to use it?  I for one appreciate the company’s openness.  But I digress.

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The pancake mix was the perfect opportunity to break out Colette Martin’s Learning to Bake Allergen-Free (amazon affiliate link) because of the sections where Colette gives the reader advice on adapting store-bought mixes to be allergy friendly (I have so many recipes in her book on my “to try” list but have been swamped with work lately!).  By the way, if you haven’t checked out Colette’s website, Learning to Eat Allergy Free, I highly recommend it.

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I used tips from Colette’s recipe to adapt the package’s recipe for our purposes and the results were well received by the kids, my mother in law, and myself for breakfast.  I love that Colette’s book gives you the tools you need to make substitutions on the fly by specifically laying out ingredient equivalents.  The pancakes that resulted seemed a little soft in the middle at first but as they cooled they improved and the bean flour made them feel substantial and pliable.  Though they weren’t thin, they reminded me a little of crepes and I ate my pancakes with sugar and lemon juice.

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On another morning I decided to give the Vanilla Cake mix a try.  The package’s recipe didn’t need adapting aside from how much sugar I wanted to add (I believe I went with a third of a cup or so) and I added 1 1/2 cups of frozen blueberries to the batter before spooning portions into cupcake liners for baking.  I baked them for 24 minutes and they made for a lovely breakfast treat.  These were my personal favorite with a little Earth Balance Soy Free Spread melted on them fresh out of the oven.

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The Yeast Free Bread mix was up next.  I didn’t have ground chia seeds as recommended by the recipe on the package so I used whole chia seeds and that may account for the crumbly nature of the bread when it came time to slice it.  The texture and flavor were good but a sandwich bread this was not.  Of the four mixes it was my least favorite because my mother in law makes a garbanzo bean biscuit that I prefer but that isn’t to say we didn’t finish this loaf up in about a day.

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Last, but not least, was the Carob Cake mix.  I’ve never tried carob that I know of and it had a subtle flavor that grew on me quickly.  We put more sugar in these than we had in the blueberry muffins (half a cup) and even then they weren’t overly sweet.  R and I spooned teaspoons of raspberry jam onto the tops of the batter after filling the cupcake liners and the jam ended up sinking to the center of the cupcakes with delicious results.  I suppose it is the height of decadence to not even have to put jam on your breakfast baked goods because it is already inside but by this point the kids were starting to think that every day we were going to have something yummy to start our day aside from the usual rice cereal or rice bread toast.

We really enjoyed all the mixes and look forward to sharing some with you!  Just a few other notes for my review first – my mother in law remarked that the font size on the English/French packaging is very small.  The warning about potential soy and corn cross contamination is printed on a crease near the top of the bag and might be missed if you are not careful.  That said, along with my comment above about the chosen sample recipes on the packages, I think these are minor points.  It is obvious that Allergic Solution wants you to use their mixes as a canvas and it was fun to experiment a little bit with pre-made mixes.  Even at $6.79 I can see keeping the cake mixes especially on hand for the emergency birthday party notice.  I didn’t get to test how one of the cupcakes froze, however, which I’d hoped to do as I was thinking about birthday party possibilities.  They simply didn’t last long enough to go into the freezer.

As a result of trying these mixes, my husband asked if we could seek out some other bean flour based recipes.  I am looking forward to it!

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Thank you to Allergic Solution for sharing the mixes with me.  I’d like to pick one random commenter on this post (with a U.S. address) to receive a set of the four mixes featured in my review.  I’ll select one comment at random after entries close on April 30, 2013 at 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time.  To enter, simply comment on this post and let me know if you’ve ever tried baking with bean flours.  Please provide your e-mail address so I can contact you if you win.  The winner will have 48 hours to reply to my e-mail notification of their win with their U.S. mailing address so I can put their mixes in the post or I’ll randomly select another winner.  The winner is Amanda from Celiac and Allergy Adventures!

Good luck!  Thank you!

Reflection and Blogging

I never seem to have the right words in the face of hardship.  I do believe, however, that even if you don’t have the words, by saying something you are reaching out and connecting with someone else.  Even if that something is just: I’m so sorry.  So very sorry.

My mom is a Labor and Delivery RN and she would come home from her night shifts sometimes and hug us oh so tightly.  She’d sigh as her arms finally let us go.  When I was a little older I realized that those were the mornings that dawned after nights where they’d lost a baby, or even a mom, at the hospital.  My mom hugged her babies after nights spent comforting people that had lost theirs.  It was she who taught me about people withdrawing when they see someone grieving and that she never wanted me to be that way.  Even if you don’t know what to say, she’d tell me, call them.  Write to them.  Offer your time and a sympathetic ear.

Though I try to be there for people, I am certain I don’t always succeed.  I am not without those that think poorly of me and aren’t afraid to tell me as much – I don’t want this post to sound like someone reading isn’t already being there for people in need.  I think what I’m getting at is that I don’t feel right without acknowledging that even though on the internet things move at light speed – one moment we’re sharing in shock as current events unfold and the next we’re back to swapping recipes or stories of our days – it is never business as usual.  Also, there is no expiration date on grief, so reaching out to someone weeks or months or years after something that shook their world can also provide comfort and support.

There is enough sadness in the world without the addition of willful, destructive acts (or, as T.H. White put it in The Once and Future King – “Life is too bitter already, without territories and wars and noble feuds.”).  All we can do is to keep loving as much as we can and hope for better tomorrows.

Food Allergy Friendly Family Meal Ideas

On a whim, I looked at my meal logging on My Fitness Pal to see how what we really eat compares to the food options I’ve blogged about and thought I’d share!  The meals we return to again and again have ingredients that are versatile so we keep them on hand and many of them are what we call our own version of “fast food.”  Not all the links below are to recipes on this site, some are on other sites or are linked to products we buy for convenience.

As with any food option, please make sure they suit your comfort level.  I, for example, will buy things for our family that are in a shared facility with, say, eggs or soy, but not tree nuts or peanuts.  Recently E has grown out of her milk allergy and we’re working on some other food challenges but aside from feeding the kids yogurt and or cheese, I haven’t gone back to dairy.  I always told myself that I’d go back in a heartbeat but then as the months wore on I realized that my excuse for eating dairy in the face of animal cruelty implications was that it would be “too hard” to stop.  When I stopped eating dairy for my daughter’s sake I realized a vegan (versus a vegetarian) diet involved many more flavors and options than I thought.

If anything jumps out as something you’d like a recipe for, please let me know in the comments.  We were able to start eating corn again this past summer but aside from tortillas, tostadas, or corn itself, many of these options are still corn free.  We also were able to re-introduce tomatoes and grapes in the past year, much to my relief.  You can also check out the What We Eat page for other recipes I’ve posted about.

Baked Potatoes with Mushrooms and Onions

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Bean Burgers on Rice Bread (or Tapioca Dinner Rolls) with Ketchup and other fixings

Brussels Sprouts or Asparagus (roasted) with Mushrooms (we used Portabella Mushroom Caps a few times) and Rice or Quinoa

Cauliflower “Popcorn” with Roasted Vegetables and Wild Rice

Cereal or Granola and Rice Milk

Chickpea UnTuna Salad (here’s a recipe I started with but of course leave out the nuts)

Green Lentils, Rice, and Plain Coconut Milk Yogurt

Grilled Cheese (Daiya) on Rice Bread

Masala Dosas with Coconut Milk Yogurt

Misto alla Griglia with Wild Rice

Nachos with Daiya and Pinto Beans

Pakoras with Quinoa and Vegetables

Persian Lima Bean Rice with Tomato Onion Salad (I make a healthier version of both these days with a lot less oil)

Quinoa and Roasted Asparagus or Corn

Salad (Quinoa with Cilantro Lime Dressing or with Brown Rice Couscous)

Saffron Rice with Beans and Baked Yams

Shepherd’s Pie with Fresh Cranberry Sauce

(Baked) Spaghetti Squash with Marinara Sauce (I’ve cut the oil and sugar in this recipe with great results)

Spinach and Mushroom Risotto

Steamed Vegetables and Rice or Quinoa and Marinara Sauce

Steamed Artichokes with Roasted Onions and Quinoa with Balsamic Vinegar

Sunshine Burgers (or Quinoa Burgers) and Alphatots (or Oven Fries)

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Tabbouli with Falafel and Bean Dip

Tostadas topped with Refried Beans, Guacamole, Salsa, Lettuce, and Tomatoes

Wild Rice (or Quinoa) and Oven Roasted Vegetables with Balsamic Vinagarette

What are some of your family’s “fast” dinner options?

Can You Spare 10 Minutes?

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You may recall that last year I was able to speak to the Nevada Legislative Committee on Healthcare during their public comment portion regarding a proposed bill that would allow for school access to epinephrine.  The bottom line is that epinephrine saves lives when administered quickly and appropriately.  Nevada is on the cusp of joining a hopefully growing list of states that are providing a legal framework for schools to carry what is called “stock epinephrine” so that students that either don’t have their auto-injector as prescribed or have their first anaphylactic event at school can receive potentially life saving intervention as soon as possible.

The people working hard to move this bill forward in Nevada need your help.

Caroline of Grateful Foodie up in Northern Nevada has been meeting, often at a moment’s notice, with stakeholders, lobbyists, and representatives to tell the stories that will give a voice to this bill.  I was so excited to help that I contacted our Assemblywoman, Ellen Spiegel, before we even had a bill draft number.  I was nervous, I didn’t want to trouble her but she not only replied to my e-mail, she had someone from her office call and chat with me at length about what this bill means to our family and to families like ours in Nevada.

Do you have 10 minutes to spare?

Did you know that the medical incident response time for ambulance services in Las Vegas can be as long as ten minutes and fifty-one seconds?  (Source: Page 87 of this Nov 2012 PDF: http://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/files/ICMAfirestudy.pdf)

A child having an anyphylactic event at school may not have 10:51 to wait for help so I’m asking my fellow Nevadans to take 10 minutes now to take action about SB453 and encourage your representative to support the bill as it moves through the legislative session.

Here is the e-mail I wrote to Assemblywoman Spiegel, I have to update her office with the bill number actually since we have one now!  You don’t have to write much but I hope this gives you an idea of what you can write:

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Dear Ms. Spiegel,

I reside in District 20 and I wanted to reach out to you as our Assemblywoman to offer my voice as a parent of a child with multiple severe food allergies.  There is a bill trying to make its way through the legislative process regarding stock epinephrine in schools (the goal being to mandate schools to carry these life saving devices). 

I know you are busy so I will link to my blog post containing the statement I offered the Nevada Legislative Committee on Healthcare last year when the question of such a bill came up:  https://ohmahdeehness.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/my-prepared-statement-presented-to-the-nevada-legislative-committee-on-health-care/

Food allergies are on the rise and actually in a Sunday New York Times feature printing on 3/10 there is a riveting and powerful story of the rise in food allergies in children and the measures parents and loved ones take to protect them:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/magazine/can-a-radical-new-treatment-save-children-with-severe-allergies.html?hp&_r=0

There will be a fiscal note on the bill, I’m told, because of the mandate (version permissive language for the bill draft) but the expense to Nevada would be far greater if lives are lost to anaphylaxis.  Las Vegas’ emergency response time, for example, is over ten minutes, which is the time window when epinephrine needs to be administered to have lifesaving effect.  If a child has a reaction at school and has to wait 10 minutes for an ambulance they could very well die.  25% of anaphylactic reactions in schools occur without a prior food allergy diagnosis.  So there are children that could have a reaction absent a 504 plan or absent a prescription for injectable epinephrine.  These children, as well as those whose parents simply cannot afford the approximately $100 per injector (if they have no health insurance) need Nevada’s help.

Thank you for reading and I would love to have the opportunity to chat with you about this issue that is near and dear to my heart.  Thank you also for representing our district!

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There is to be a hearing regarding the bill this Thursday, April 4, 2013.  Even though the main activity will be up in Carson City, you can contribute here in Las Vegas at the Grant Sawyer Building at 555 E. Washington Ave., Las Vegas, Nevada 89101 at 3:30 p.m. – feel free to comment or email me if you’d like more details on participating.  Be sure to wear light blue to show your support!  I am hoping to be there but even if I can’t make it I will be wearing light blue on Thursday and hope you will too.

If you’d like to find out where your address places you as far as representatives to contact, you can go here:

http://mapserve1.leg.state.nv.us/whoRU/

Thank you to FAPE Las Vegas for the link, here are some other suggestions they shared:

“Take a simple Share Opinion on Legislative Bill Poll for lawmakers!  This is also very easy to do and only take seconds to complete.  Simply, check off that are you are FOR SB453 and then provide your address and contact data so they know which district you belong to.”


“Contact the members of the Health and Human Services Committee
 who are meeting this Thursday, April 4th at 3:30pm at the Legislature in Carson City and simulcast in Las Vegas in the Grant Sawyer building.  Either attend the meeting in support of SB453 or email each member and ask them to support SB453.  Here are their email addresses (please note that a short message of gratitude would be welcomed for Senator Smith).”

Senator Justin Jones Justin.Jones@sen.state.nv.us

Senator Debbie Smith Debbie.Smith@sen.state.nv.us

Senator Tick Segerblom tsegerblom@sen.state.nv.us

Senator Joe Hardy Joe.Hardy@sen.state.nv.us

Senator Ben Kieckhefer Ben.Kieckhefer@sen.state.nv.us

Thank you!