The Teal Apron Awards

tealapronawards

I had this idea for Food Allergy Awareness Week (coming in May) but both of the people I wanted to honor have birthdays between now and then so in the spirit of not being able to wait on gifts one apron is already on its way and the other will be heading out in the mail in a week or two!

IMG_4963

Much like when I first began navigating food allergy friendly cooking and baking, the Teal Apron Awards are a joint effort between my mother in law and myself.  I’ve made this apron pattern myself before for a bridal shower gift but this time around I selected the fabric combination and my mother in law did the sewing.

It wasn’t until I had gotten to know some of my favorite allergy friendly cookbook authors that I learned the amount of time and expense that goes into recipe creation and cookbook writing.  We may complain about the expense of allergy friendly ingredients but these ladies buy those ingredients many times over as they test and re-test their recipes and tips.  It is part of what makes me trust it will be worth it if I have to go find a suggested ingredient.

That said, I’d like to honor the contributions of Cybele Pascal and Colette Martin to food allergy kitchens everywhere.  I know an apron is not much in the grand scheme of things but most of all I wanted to say “thank you.”

Cybele (www.cybelepascal.com) – I still remember the day you commented on my fledgling blog, I forwarded the email notification to more than one member of my family.  There were weekly recipe link ups and you visited all the contributors’ sites to offer them encouragement.  One of your recipes that became a staple in our home is from your first cookbook, vegan stuffed cabbages.  When you signed my cookbooks you were glad the pages were stained and crinkled because they had been used – they’re even more worn today!

IMG_4955

Colette (www.learningtoeatallergyfree.com) – thank you for not only answering my questions but the questions of those I send your way.  Even when people are just adapting a recipe in general I know I can tell them to reach out to you and you’ll brainstorm with them until they figure out how to adapt their recipes for their needs.  I love that you wrote a book focusing on food staples, fully understanding how non-top 8 allergens impact cooking for so many.  And getting to see Donny and Marie with you last year was a blast!

Through the magic that is the internet I am so proud to call both of these women my friends.  They are incredible human beings and inspirations as business women and mothers.  Happy April birthday, Cybele, and happy May birthday to Colette.  I hope you both enjoy your aprons!

IMG_4959

Write a Card for Each Day in November #NaNoCaMo

IMG_20141102_080655954
Quote: “Purpose is the reason you journey. Passion is the fire that lights the way.” – Author Unknown

In January, fellow VegBooks reviewer and all around awesome gal, Kristin Wald from her blog at mutterschwester.wordpress.com, wrote about the 200th anniversary of Pride & Prejudice (Jane Austen’s brilliant work) and opined about real letters, not just thank you notes and birthday cards, but a handwritten missive:

An actual “catching up” or “I have wanted to tell you” letter. And, if it’s your style, add something quirky or fun or surprising to the letter.  Make it your very own craft project. Maybe you’ll even need to buy some crayons. Or cut up a magazine for color.

– from “Pride and Prejudice: Celebrates Its 200th Anniversary on Paper.”

I loved the idea but I do tend to write letters in cards as well as in folded sheets (upon sheets).  I wrote letters and notes and cards but nothing I had the presence of mind to share with Kristin as she asked in her post.  Still, it is funny that her request that we write real letters to one another came in connection with a post about Pride and Prejudice because that (and Jane Austen’s Persuasion) contain my favorite letters in all literature.

Birthday Card
Quote: “It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all” – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Last year my friend Mindy moved very far away to the Dakotas and it reminded me of another author who lived in the Dakota territory, Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I told my friend that I wanted to exchange handwritten letters after she moved.  Yes, we both had email and our respective blogs to follow and comment on, but she was going to live a pioneer life so letters were a must.  When I get her letters, I will sometimes wait a few hours before I open them so I can savor them.  There’s just something special about that.

Birthday Card
Birthday Card

Fast forward to recently, I received some wonderful letters and cards in the mail, including from my friend Annelies Zijderveld(her blog is The Food Poet and she has a cookbook coming out in April 2015!) – who unsuspectingly asked for my address and sent a cheery orange card my way.  I responded in kind with a handwritten card.  Annelies then suggested on Facebook that instead of “NaNoWriMo” (National Novel Writing Month or National November Writing Month, not sure which is the accepted version) we should do “NaNoCaMo” (National November Card Month) and “send a card everyday in November to someone in your Facebook friends list[…].”

(Redacted) Envelopes
(Redacted) Envelopes

I’ve sent four cards so far and will be aiming for 30 total.  For about the cost of a stamp you can make someone smile, so why not?  You could write a note of thanks, a birthday card, a letter, encouragement, you name it.  Here are my first four – I love doing matching envelope doodles so I included those as well.  As it is still early November, there’s still time to message your friends and find out their addresses.  Considering there’s no mail on some days, you won’t be sending a card every day, but it is more fun to space them out through the month, even if you’re not following a rigid schedule.

"Happy Healing Vibes Are Being Sent Your Way" (Interior: Unless You'd Prefer a Happy Healing Hot Fudge Sundae Instead..."
“Happy Healing Vibes Are Being Sent Your Way” (Interior: “Unless You’d Prefer a Happy Healing Hot Fudge Sundae Instead…”

Thank you, Annelies, for the idea!  Anyone else joining in?

____

Speaking of VegBooks, here are the latest posts I’ve contributed to. . .

Letters of the West

Tracks Count

Best Books for 5 Year Old Vegetarian and Vegan Kids

The Allergy-Free Pantry (Review and Giveaway)

One of my favorite people has a new cookbook coming out early next month and I was able to snag an advance copy!  That means the page number references are missing and certain aspects may change by the time the book goes to print but even in that form I can tell you “The Allergy-Free Pantry” by Colette Martin (amazon affiliate link), to-be-released September 9, 2014, is everything the tagline promises:

Make your own staples, snacks, and more without wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, or nuts.

Advance Review Copy
ARC could mean “Advance Review Copy” or “Already Really Creased”

I’ve baked from Colette’s prior book, “Learning to Bake Allergen-Free,” (amazon affiliate link) so I was excited to choose a recipe out of this book that leaned to the “staple” side of things.  My kids would have rather I made the toaster pastries (I may yet still!)   and I eyed the potato puffs with interest but our decision was made by recently listening to the audiobook of “Little House in the Big Woods.” (amazon affiliate link)

My daughter was fascinated by the stories of pioneer life, especially the detailed descriptions of chores like churning butter.  We’ve even watched some videos online of old fashioned butter making so Colette’s “Homemade Buttery Spread” was just the ticket.  This is dairy free and even corn free.  I remember when my daughter still would react to corn (she’s grown out of that allergy) it was hard to find corn free options of staples.  This includes as ingredients: coconut oil, grapeseed oil, canola oil, flax, water, lemon juice, and salt.   Oh, and in honor of Colette doing all her own photos, I tried to use some manual settings for these pictures!

Ingredients for Colette's Homemade Buttery Spread
Ingredients for Colette’s Homemade Buttery Spread

Colette explains everything – she even discusses at length on the subject of “flax eggs” how you can replace the flax for those that are allergic (chia seeds may be an option).  Her tips on creating a permanent emulsion were especially helpful for this recipe and are applicable to dressings and her homemade mayo recipe as well.  Thank you to my mother in law for slowly drizzling the oil in while I tried to get a good shot.

Emulsion in progress
Emulsion in progress

I used our Vitamix to blend this up but a food processor or immersion blender are listed as possibilities as well.

Heart shaped molds for vegan coconut buttery spread - 1 tablespoon apiece
Heart shaped molds for vegan coconut buttery spread – 1 tablespoon apiece

Just like Ma in “Little House in the Big Woods” (amazon affiliate link), we used molds for our buttery spread.  (Milk is now safe for us but my daughter prefers vegetable spreads for toast since she is used to them.)

I love the little flecks of flax and the coconut oil smells wonderful.  My mother in law remarked, “It’s perfect!  Not that I doubted it for a minute anyway.”  My daughter loved the finished spread, as did I.  My son was not in a taste testing mood.  The flavor does come through strongly but you can always substitute other oils as discussed in the book.  I won’t share the recipe here but I hope you’ll check out the book!  Amy Tracy at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie does have her own review as well as Colette’s homemade mayo recipe on her blog if you’d like to check it out.

Out of the molds
Out of the molds

Colette advises that you may be able to substitute this for shortening when chilled for pie crusts or cookies but doesn’t recommend using it for frosting or syrups.  The book is filled with tips and many were new to me even though I have been baking and cooking allergy friendly for over 4 years now.  At one point she mentions, for example:

I don’t recommend paper liners when baking with gluten-free grains, as they have a tendency to hold in moisture.  Instead, bake directly in the muffin pan and add the paper cups, if desired, after cooling.

Giveaway!

I am not only, courtesy of Colette’s publisher, giving away 1 copy of “The Allergy-Free Pantry” but I will also include, purchased from the affiliate link proceeds of this blog (see my disclosures), one USD $20 Amazon.com gift card to spend as you like!  I hope you’ll take Colette’s suggestion in the book to buy a scale to weigh out your flours but then I thought readers might already have one.

How to Enter:

Leave a comment letting me know something you make from scratch in your home – open to entries until August 13, 2014 at 12 p.m. Pacific Time.

I’ll assign numbers to each comment to represent their order and use a random number generator to pick the winner.  This giveaway is void where prohibited and open to residents of the United States and Canada.  I’ll need you to include your e-mail address  (it will not be shared or used for any other purpose) so I can reach you if you win.  Any winner that doesn’t respond within 24 hours of contact forfeits the prize and I’ll choose another winner.

Thank you and good luck!

____

Elsewhere: If you follow my vegetarian and vegan friendly reviews at vegbooks.org, I have a few new ones to check out!  Julia’s House for Lost Creatures (I adored this one),  Sleep Tight, Anna Banana, I Love You Just Enough, The Zoo Box, The Girl and the Bicycle, and Peep and the Big Wide World

____

UPDATE 8/14/14 – Our winner is comment 11 from Mary!  Thank you all for your comments – Mary, your book and gift card will be on their way soon!

winningcomment

Untitled

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

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

The No Biggie Bunch (Review and Indiegogo Campaign)

My food allergy dollars allocate in priority to:

1) Injectable epinephrine
2) Safe chocolate
3) Safe food

Now all they need to make is an epinephrine auto-injector case with a spot for emergency chocolate and snacks, right?  My daughter would totally be on board with it if it was pink, blue, and purple. What I mean to get at, in my signature roundabout way, is that the first place I go when I need food allergy related reading material is my local library (and even inter-library loan) before buying books (or usually in lieu of buying them). So I have to admit that I was aware of the No Biggie Bunch series of books for quite some time before I ever investigated further because our local library did not have any copies. We were missing out on a neat quartet of smart, well illustrated, and accurate food allergy reads for the younger set.

No Biggie Nutrition Facts

I met Heather Mehra, co-creator of the No Biggie Bunch books (with Kerry McManama and Michael Kline), and her husband at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference last November and they are some of my favorite people because of their authentic exuberance for kid lit, awareness, and their family. I flipped through one of the books for the first time when I visited with Heather and the quality of the series was readily apparent. I excitedly purchased two books for my children and when they shipped to me I was generously gifted the other two books in the series as well, all signed (thank you so much again Heather)!

No Biggie Bunch books

The No Biggie Bunch should be in libraries and a new Indiegogo campaign aims to make that happen. Contributions fund distribution costs associated with putting the series in libraries across all 50 states. In the first week of the campaign, for example, $30 covers one set of four books for a library as well as two books for a school library dear to the contributor’s heart. Six books (retailing for $14.99 apiece normally) disseminated with sound and approachable food allergy discussion for just $30 is a great deal and I wanted to use it as the nudge I needed to get around to writing about the series here.

Peanut Free Tea for Three

This was the first of the series that I read and I had to get it for my daughter.  Three friends gather to have a tea party and are totally supportive of one another’s food allergy circumstances.  They bring their own safe food, something very familiar in our family, and have a wonderful time.  A main topic in this one is cross contamination with jelly because a knife may have had peanut butter on it during a prior use.  The book also models collaborative imaginary play.

Trade or Treat Halloween

The No Biggie Bunch each have single allergies, as well as one member that has no food allergies.  This really works for kids with multiple allergies because they can identify with more than one character in the books.  In “Trade or Treat Halloween” the kids are able to enjoy trick or treating with the knowledge that they’ll trade their haul for safe options.  Last year we had our first trick or treat outing and my kids handled it very well.  Greta, allergic to wheat, is excited in this story because she trades all her candy for stickers to decorate her room.


Dairy Free Dino-Licious Dig

There are no adults in the No Biggie Bunch books so the situations and dialogue are very accessible to elementary school and pre-school children.  Davis can’t share Natalie’s cheesy crackers when she offers them on a playdate because of his dairy allergy but both Natalie and Davis handle things in an upbeat way.  Davis’ “No Biggie Bag” has just the safe snack he needs and the two can continue with their adventure.  The attitude toward food allergy is very factual but supportive.  I see the children in my daughter’s class being very understanding on a regular basis.  Like Natalie, they want to share but know they need to keep their classmate safe.


Sports-tastic Birthday Party Book

We’ve covered tea parties, Halloween, and the run of the mill playdate. . .I saved the hardest scenario for last – the birthday party.  Scotty’s birthday cake is safe for some but not all of his friends but they are prepared with safe treats of their own.  As a mother I feel a pang of sadness when I read this book because of course we want our children included in those activities that others take for granted but to my children this book reflects the reality of birthday parties for them.  We plan and prepare and shop and bake so we can celebrate with their friends so that the focus of the day is not on the sugar rush (though that is an added benefit) but on having a great time together.

"No Biggie!"
“Along with my princess crown I packed my own jelly in my No Biggie Bag.”

The illustrations by Michael Kline are bright and cheerful and the characterizations are forward thinking – the friends have varied cultural backgrounds and diverse interests but love getting together.  I hope you’ll consider supporting the Indiegogo campaign to get these books into more libraries!

____

The books are really focused on models of good habits when managing food allergies, so for books that cover allergic reactions I’d recommend The Princess and the Peanut: An Allergic Fairytale and The Bugabees: Friends With Food Allergies to round out your library collection.  

I am a volunteer contributing reviewer of books, music, and movies over at VegBooks.org if you’d like to check my recent posts there: Philip Reid Saves the Statue of FreedomThe Lego Movie (2014)In a Heartbeat (CD), Patty’s Secret, Bronto, Friend of Ceratops, Violet Mackrel’s Natural Habitat, and Monster on the Hill.

Vegan Slow Cooker Red Lentil Coconut Curry Recipe

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.  

IMG_0814

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.

IMG_0824

Supplies

Knife
Cutting Board
Strainer
6 Quart Slow Cooker
Frying Pan

IMG_0835

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

IMG_0816

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.

IMG_0818

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!

Elsewhere…

Great Articles

On the food allergy front, there have been some great articles and posts recently that I wanted to highlight because they’ve enhanced my knowledge of the development of allergies:

Protect Your Digestion, the First Line of Defense Against Food Allergies by Dr. Eva Untersmayr – This article is fascinating, if I’d seen it before my presentation last week I would have had to mention it.  Be sure to explore the fantastic website AsthmaAllergiesChildren.com (the site’s founders will be at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference, see the agenda for details).

From the outside in: How eczema could lead to food allergies by Iona Twaddell – I am trying not to let mommy guilt get to me when I read research articles but I do confess to wondering often whether using Aveeno lotion (which is oat based) with my daughter is related to her severe oat allergy.  I was directed to this article via the twitter feed of Anne F. Russell BSN, RN, AE-C (who will also be a conference speaker and helped us proofread the conference brochure I created… download the brochure here as a pdf – thank you Anne!).

Genetic glitch at the root of food allergies? by Jessica Martin, PhD – I love how Jessica breaks down concepts.  The other day she e-mailed me a detailed response to a question I had and hopefully you’ll see it on her Food Allergy Sleuth site soon.  When she bought a ticket to the conference I was thrilled because I can’t wait to meet her.

Food Allergy Walk and Food Allergy Bloggers Conference

I have a fundraising page again this year for the Food Allergy walk here in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 2, 2013.  I’m on the walk committee and also a co-founder of the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference that will be kicking off with the walk and running through November 4, 2013.  So it will be a big weekend for Food Allergy in Southern Nevada!  We need team members and virtual walkers are welcome!  If our team raises $1,000 before August 31, 2013 our team name will appear on the official walk t-shirt!  We’re just about halfway there, donate and/or join today!

(If you’d like to have a chance to win tickets to The Wizard of Oz at the Smith Center, check out the team page of Young Artists Supporting FARE – a $10 donation during their raffle period earns an entry.)

An Allergy Friendly Kickstarter Campaign

Ending September 10, 2013, here is a Kickstarter campaign that might be of interest – it involves a top 8 allergen free, vegan candy that I’ve backed and you may want to as well!  Premium Chocolatiers needs to raise funds for the equipment necessary to manufacture their vegan marshmallow coated with chocolate and candy.

Vegan, Allergy Friendly Kickstarter Campaign
Vegan, Allergy Friendly Kickstarter Campaign

The way the Kickstarter website works is that if the funds needed to achieve the stated goal aren’t raised, the campaign doesn’t get “funded” and none of the money pledged is charged.  They’re almost halfway to their goal with two weeks left and I’d love to see this idea take off.  $7 gets one bag of “No No’s” shipped to US addresses sometime hopefully in time for Halloween, so check it out here.

The VanSquigglebottoms-to-be

Something with a deadline that is a little further into the future is the fundraising campaign my friends Jessica (not the same Jessica I mentioned above) and Jeff have launched that involves changing their last name to “Van Squigglebottoms” permanently and officially if they raise $1,000,000.00 for Oxfam on or before December 31, 2013.  I hesitated to donate only because I like their names as they are but then I got to thinking that I love the positive approach they’re taking.  They care passionately about the causes associated with the less fortunate and they’re willing to do something off the wall to get the attention they feel this cause needs.  You can see their fundraising page here and I can assure you that even the smallest donation will cheer Jessica and Jeff on.  Even if all you can do is spread the word about their fundraising efforts, that may prompt someone else to donate.

Children’s Literature (and Music!) Reviews

Finally, it has been a while since I rounded up my latest Vegbooks.org reviews.  I’ve even had the chance to review some music which was a lot of fun.

Mind of My Own (CD)

Say Daddy

Where to Sleep

Steam Train, Dream Train

Memoirs of a Goldfish & Memoirs of a Hamster

Paper Son: Lee’s Journey to America

He’s Been a Monster All Day

Blink of an Eye (CD)

_____

School starts tomorrow and E turns 5!  It is exciting and surreal at the same time.  Have a great week, all!