I first ate Tom-Kha soup in Portland, Oregon in late July/early August of 2006 – my husband’s cousin made the recommendation and for a citrus fan like myself, the flavor was fantastic. I didn’t remember the name of the soup, though, I knew it had coconut milk and a very distinct lemon flavor. It wasn’t something I had a chance to have again until my friend took me out to lunch at a local Thai restaurant (Komol – not remotely allergy friendly given the heavy use of nuts in Thai cuisine but a great place if you’re vegan or vegetarian with no allergy concerns). The lemongrass and coconut mentioned on the menu had me wondering if “Tom-Kha Mushroom Soup” was what I had enjoyed in Oregon — I was right!
5 cubes of Massel Vegetable Bouillon dissolved in 5 cups of water (I don’t normally suggest things by their brand name but I adore this veggie stock, plus it is gluten free)
1 fresh lemongrass stalk (I found this by the fresh herbs at our grocery store)
1 can of Thai Coconut Milk
4 mushrooms, sliced with stems removed
20 grape tomatoes
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
Fresh lime juice to taste
Salt to taste
Bring five cups of water to a boil on the stove, then add the five bouillon cubes (if you’ve bought a 4 cup carton of vegetable stock you can just use that and add some water).
Follow the directions here for the lemongrass (essentially cut off the end to add to the pot and remove some outer layers before food processing the remainder into a fine mince) and add to the pot, simmer for a few minutes.
Add 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper, sliced mushroom, garlic, and sliced carrot and continue simmering. After five minutes, add the tomatoes and continue on medium-high heat. At this point I covered the pot and reduced the heat a little to try to get the carrots a little more tender but I needn’t have worried.
Add 1 teaspoon of salt at this point or let people salt to taste later. Same goes for the fresh lime juice, I added some while cooking (juice from 1/2 of a lime) and then added some to the bowl when serving for an extra boost.
Add the contents of the can of coconut milk to the pot and bring back to a simmer, stirring occasionally. In the colder months the coconut milk will have likely separated so don’t be surprised if some of it is solid at the top and there is coconut water at the bottom.
Once the soup is heated through, it is ready to serve! It is surprisingly easy and quick to prepare – a perfect spring soup.
You know you’re a food allergy mom when. . . you find yourself re-imagining childhood treats! Chocolate oranges are a December holiday memory for me and I wanted to share the flavor and fun with my kids. Longtime readers of this blog will know I get into the chocolate crafting spirit at this time of year and 2014 is no exception. . .
My family moved to the United States from England when I was about three years old but our love of British chocolate endured. In the store the other day I perused the label of a childhood favourite (see what I did there?) – a chocolate orange from Terry’s – and knew it wasn’t an option for our family because of nut warnings.
I debated getting chocolate molds (amazon affiliate link), orange foil (amazon affiliate link), and orange extract to create these but cooking with food allergies is complicated enough without getting a bunch of extra supplies. Enter Google! The very first result when I searched “home made chocolate orange” was a post from February 2013 on a site called “Lilyshop” entitled “How to make a chocolate orange.” The author used a hollowed-out orange to accomplish her orange shape and the presentation was pretty stunning. Her ingredients were chocolate, cream, and orange extract – none of which are problematic for our family with our current restrictions (peanut and tree nut free, oat free, vegetarian, and sesame free) but I still strive to go top 8 allergen free whenever I can so I can be the most inclusive.
So! Yesterday we braved the store (we did venture out over the weekend to go to the Clark County Museum and the Natural History Museum as a family but I wasn’t going to go shopping!) to get items for a holiday packet to send to my brother (December 1 is the recommended final ship date for APO packages if you want them to make it to their intended destination by December 25th). All I needed were oranges since I had the chocolate and coconut oil I anticipated using to create the recipe (I skipped orange extract because I wasn’t sure what brand would be safe and also wanted it to be easy to make).
The photo above was taken by my son and he helped me make these and is by me as I write this post so he voted it was the best picture. I convinced him cropping out his foot on the carpet by the bag of chocolate chips would be ideal, though.
Vegan and Nut Free Chocolate Oranges
Knife and cutting board
Muffin pan (optional)
Metal saucepan and metal bowl (essentially a make-shift double boiler)
Halve one of the oranges and use a small knife to hollow it out. There are great in-process pictures here so I didn’t try to take pictures with a knife in hand myself. Do this over a bowl so you catch the juice. With the second orange, zest it on the bottom hemisphere so you can then halve it and hollow out the top. You’ll likely have enough chocolate to make 1 1/2 orange peels into chocolate oranges but if you need more zest I’d use the second orange for zesting and any excess chocolate can go into an ice cube tray or other mold for general snacking.
Tip: when I hollowed out the orange halves there was a small hole at the bottom so before you melt the entire bag of chocolate chips, reserve about 10 individual morsels (more if you’re using mini-chips) to fill the hole before adding the melted chocolate mixture. Set the orange halves in a muffin pan or on something that will keep them stable.
Heat some water (maybe an inch or two, making sure it won’t touch the bowl you set on top) in the saucepan to boiling and reduce the heat to simmer the water. Set a metal bowl on top of the saucepan and add your chocolate chips (less the 10 you reserved). Stir with a silicone spatula/scraper and add the orange zest. Follow with the one teaspoon of coconut oil. Once the mixture has become liquid, you’re going to add the orange juice very gradually. The chocolate may start to seize a little so that is why I’d suggest waiting until the very end of melting it.
Once mixed, spoon the chocolate into the hollowed out orange halves and use a knife to level the top. Put them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes or in the fridge for longer. You want them to set but not become solid at this point because you’re going to slice them before putting them in the fridge to become solid.
If you want to be really fancy, after you quarter the orange halves into slices you can use a toothpick to make some detailing on the side of each slice or you can leave them smooth.
They were delicious right after slicing – easy to bite into – so if you prefer them at that stage be aware that putting them into the fridge again for too long is going to give you a more snappy chocolate instead of a yielding one. I am thinking if you want them fudge-like you can add coconut cream to your chocolate mixture but I haven’t tested the idea yet.
We have 8 planets and 8 top allergens – that’s about to change! Well, we’re hoping it will change and a fantastic organization called CSPI (the Center for Science in the Public Interest – a Washington, DC based non-profit health advocacy group) has taken a major lead in doing so. No, Pluto isn’t coming back (at the moment) but CSPI and many other folks would love to see sesame added to FDA labeling requirements for allergens.
In January 2013 Jessica connected me with Janna dePorter, a research associate at CSPI, about CSPI’s work on a petition for the FDA to get sesame labeling going. I was able to reach out to my own networks so that Janna could speak with other great individuals that wrangle sesame allergies in their life.
The sesame seed (Sesamum indicum) is an oilseed crop and edible seed that is used in many food and consumer products. It is used in an increasing number of foods and might be listed in the ingredient list under an unfamiliar name, such as benne, benne seed, benniseed, gingelly, gingelly oil, gingelly seeds, gomasio, halvah, seed paste, seed oil, sesamol, sesamolina, sesamum indicum, sim sim, tahini, and teel or til.
This is part of the background research that Janna and others were involved with when they reached out to food allergy families – where and how does sesame, one of the top 10 allergens labeled for in Canada already, hide and endanger an at-risk population? Sesame also hides under terms like “spices” or “natural flavorings” in food.
My statement in support of the petition is featured on page 13 as pictured below, I’ll also paste it in for easier reading but it gives a better idea of why I think this is such an important step:
September 21, 2014 H. W. Las Vegas, Nevada My daughter was diagnosed with multiple food allergies shortly after turning 1. She’d had reactions before the confirmation of her condition but it took time to isolate her triggers. She was initially allergic to peanut, tree nut, oat, sesame, corn, milk, egg, wheat, soy, and grape. This made cooking and shopping a challenge and it still is a challenge even though she did narrow her list after outgrowing a few allergies to peanut, tree nut, oat, and sesame. Having a “mainstream” allergy mixed with a “non-top-8″ allergy makes a life of constant vigilance that much more challenging. You could say “just avoid the allergens” but when companies don’t have to disclose the presence of sesame or use the commonly understood name of sesame, things get tricky. 5+ years into our allergy journey I know how to pick up a product and hunt for the clues that tell me about the presence of something like sesame but even my food allergy mama sleuthing skills can’t see into the mind of a manufacturer that just lists “spices” as an ingredient. “Tahini,” or ground sesame paste, is another nebulous ingredient that I try to work on with my budding reader but which inhibits the ability of others to assist in keeping her safe. Which is to say that I may know that tahini equals sesame but a teacher or other parent may not know that. It really boils down to disclosure for our family – sesame is a fairly major allergen not being labeled for. No one is asking companies to stop using sesame in their products, just to let the consumer know that it is there. The precedent set by adding to labeling requirements will open the door for more transparency and safety for consumers in the United States. How do I teach my child to be responsible about her allergies if companies that make food products aren’t required to tell her the ingredients of their “spices” or that tahini lurks within. I distinctly remember buying tomato sauce and seeing that one variety had sesame. I was shocked and wondered if the absence of sesame on the other brands’ labels meant it was present and they didn’t feel obligated to tell anyone. The broader issue is not whether I’m going to walk out of the store with tomato sauce, it is that if we’re consenting to have food production so removed from the end user, we should be heard when we ask for assistance knowing whether we can safely provide a food product to our families.
What can you do?
Be sure to share the press release with others to raise awareness of non top 8 allergens. You can even share your own story of dealing with sesame or another allergen that isn’t mandated for labeling. More disclosure benefits all of us and may put companies on notice that they should take a step further than what is legally mandated already by FALCPA.
My daughter is reading labels as her reading skills improve, it is exciting and scary for me at the same time because she believes the things she reads (this goes back to the other work CSPI does about children and marketing) and relies on them. She does know that the next step is calling the company or emailing them to find out about other allergens and manufacturing practices and that will still be our norm, but maybe things can change.
Keep sharing also your own stories about living with food allergies with people in your community. Just as there are “teaching moments” when you spend time with a child, there are teachable moments in everyday conversation with others. We may each only be one person but you never know how far a message can spread!
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.
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.
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.
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[…].”
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.
Thank you, Annelies, for the idea! Anyone else joining in?
Speaking of VegBooks, here are the latest posts I’ve contributed to. . .
I had the privilege of participating in a panel last month entitled “Blog and Order” at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference along with Assly Sayyar, Esq. (my older sister) and William Devine II, Esq. (a friend of mine from law school). The usual caveats apply here that all three of us are licensed to practice in Nevada (my sister is also licensed as an attorney in California) and nothing we discussed then (or below) are meant as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship. It is purely information and we’d encourage you to contact counsel in your area with specific questions.
William tackled a great segment about protecting your intellectual property and the rights/obligations associated with that. Assly spoke about defamation and best practices for communicating online within that realm. My section was about guidelines (in the US) that impact how and what we share on our blogs and in social media to essentially protect our readers. Our session started late (AV issues overall during the event had a bit of a domino effect) so I had about 4 minutes to summarize everything I meant to discuss (my apologies!) and promised to post some links and additional information here at a later date.
The March 2013 FTC .com Disclosures file can be downloaded from the FTC here, I’ve also mirrored the file here in case that link doesn’t work. It isn’t a huge file as many of the pages are examples of webpages so I highly recommend downloading it to your kindle or smartphone or even just printing it out and reading it next time you’re waiting at the doctor’s office. Or, if you’re a nerd like me, you’ll just read it for fun.
QUID for Responsible Blogging
Interestingly enough, necessity being the mother of invention, I threw together a mnemonic I really like when I realized I had to scrap my planned presentation:
So what does “QUID” entail and how do you incorporate it into your blogging practices? QUID stands for “Qualify, Use Common Sense, Integrate, and Disclaim/Disclose.” I like that it hearkens back to the phrase “quid pro quo,” which means “something for something” in Latin. When you receive a product for review, chances are in exchange you’re going to write a post, so the mnemonic really works for this context.
Generally, if you follow all four points when you include affiliate links, product reviews, paid content, and the like, you’ll be protecting your readers and yourself. What do I mean by protecting your readers? Well, the whole theme of the FTC .com Disclosure guidelines is that you don’t want to hide the ball, you don’t want to make it difficult for someone to know up front what biases you may have before they take some sort of action. It could be as simple as having someone click on a link without making it clear that you get a cut from any sale that results from their time on a given recommended site or it could just be that they read some (but not all) of your review of an awesome meal and come away thinking “Blogger A really loved that place, I should check it out” without ever knowing that you tacked on a disclaimer at the end of the post that your meal was comped.
This concept transcends your blog, so if you wrote a review of a restaurant and had been comped for the experience and later have an automatic script that tweets out your old posts to generate interest, or you pin your page to a board on pinterest and don’t repeat/include some sort of disclosure, you could be running afoul of disclosure rules. Taking our hypothetical restaurant review, say the title of the post was “Great Meal at Chez Allergy” and in the post itself at the very end you disclose that the meal was free. Later, when tweeting out a link to the post you just say “Read about my great meal at Chez Allergy” or have the post title and a link with no other information. If you don’t disclose in the medium you’re sharing the link that you received some benefit, you could be causing confusion then and there. Your followers may never click the link to discover the full circumstances of your dinner but they’ve already taken some information in and internalized it, which is that Blogger A really loved Chez Allergy. You’ve impacted them without giving them the full benefit of knowing how you came to eat at the restaurant and write about it.
It sounds cumbersome in my examples but using QUID we can see how Blogger A could approach the restaurant review. . .
Another word for “qualify” would be “characterize.” We want to ensure that whatever is being presented is going to carry with it the right weight given a circumstance. In the same way I see bloggers mention “I wasn’t paid to say this, I just really wanted to share this product,” you’d be saying to your reader, “I have independent opinions but want you to know that I did get a free product that I am now sharing with you.” Simple, to the point, and it actually can increase your reader’s esteem for you in the long run because they’ll know where they stand. This is what I like to think of as the “I’m not a doctor but I play one on the internet” type of concept – you want your readers to know that just because something was safe for your allergic family, they need to do independent research. I had one great question at the end of my talk where I was asked how a blogger can share articles of a scientific nature without having people think they are endorsing them or putting them out as something they might not be. The best solution we discussed in that circumstance was to say exactly what is going on – something like, “I read this abstract and it sounds fascinating/promising/what have you, so I’m sharing it while also letting you know I’m no expert and you need to do your own investigations.” You’ll find the right voice and tone for your space, probably significantly less wordy than mine, but I hope that helps.
Use Common Sense
This is a bit of a catch-all parameter but it goes back to putting yourself in the shoes of your reader. What do you want to know when you read a review of account of an experience? Price is often an important factor, so when you get a free product and review it can you really be as fair as you would be if you had to shell out $5 for said bag of gluten free flour? This also carries into integration and generalized disclosures.
Also under common sense, please give credit appropriately. If you get permission to use someone’s image, share that, if you’re getting a recipe from another site, why not link your reader to that site and avoid wholesale copy/pasting? Others will extend you the same courtesy as well. Watermarking is something else we discussed on the copyright side. When I see poor practices I usually make a mental note of the person engaging in that behavior and view them with suspicion. Don’t get on my suspicious list!
This is a tough one. As I mentioned above, if you are sharing a post via twitter and enticing people to click over to your blog, or even sharing a recommendation on instagram, you need to integrate the disclosure with the medium you’re in. That means you can’t just have a link to your disclosures page at the end of a post or tweet or instagram picture. If you cannot for some reason perform appropriate integration, you cannot share that recommendation in that medium. It bears repeating – if 140 characters is not enough to get across that you got a free meal at Chez Allergy, you shouldn’t be sharing on twitter that you had a great meal. It is probably a better fit for your facebook followers, etc. So you’ll also be cautious about auto feeding your facebook posts onto your twitter account because even with proper facebook disclosure you know your words will be truncated as they go out onto twitter, etc.
Integration is a platform issue as well – you need to be beta testing your own site on multiple platforms. A sidebar disclosure that you have affiliate links in all your posts is not going to be enough when someone looks at your site on their mobile browser. The sidebar in that circumstance collapses into a menu or is too small to read, or the like. The FTC .com Disclosures even go so far as to say you need to look at where people’s eyes are drawn and not hide disclosures where they don’t look. I’m personally fascinated by this stuff, so you can check out an article about eye tracking here but generally, there are areas of a page people just aren’t going to be looking so that is not the place to put a qualified disclosure. What does this mean in a common sense approach? Just put your disclosure right where you’re making your recommendation or placing your affiliate link. For affiliate links I state a product name and then parenthetically place an affiliate link labeled as such. For a post about an experience, I would put information to indicate it was provided by a given company at the start and end of my post. If the post is lengthy so that you could scroll a ways and not see any indication of a disclosure, it may be a case where you remind your reader the meal or experience or product was comped. It doesn’t take long to write these disclaimers and it doesn’t take long to read them. Your readers will appreciate you all the more for respecting their time and energy.
So we’ve qualified our words, integrated them into our posts and been reasonable about our approach. . .what exactly are you disclosing in a disclaimer to protect your readers? You want them to know anything that is essential to understanding your position or understanding that they could be benefiting you by clicking on a link or taking some action. If I tell you Chez Allergy is great and you find out that they paid me to make the recommendation, it is going to diminish your opinion of my words. In the more extreme case, if I point you to something and make it sound like I’m a doctor or know something specific about an area and I don’t actually have that expertise, then I could actually cause harm. You don’t want to do that, and the FTC doesn’t want you to do that. The more specific your claim or recommendation, the more you’re going to be disclosing. That doesn’t mean you should shy away from taking positions or making opinions known, but anything you can provide by way of behind the scenes information to let your reader make an informed choice is going to be good.
People blog to inform, to vent, to make money. . .the list goes on, but since you are in control of what you share, you need to view the trust your reader is giving you with a sense of responsibility. You’ve seen magazine ads that try to look like an article (“advertorial” is the term I believe) and they list clearly that they’re an ad. Same goes for blogging.
Let me end by saying you’re allowed to make money for the work you do – for food allergy families a free box of cookies represents a $5 benefit and a nice perk for being involved in writing, researching, recipe testing, etc. You’re allowed to get a percentage of a sale if a reader orders a book based on your suggestion. What you can’t do is be sneaky. Being careless is tantamount to being sneaky for the FTC – just not knowing these guidelines are out there is not enough. The disclosure pdf is written in easy to understand terms and has a lot of great examples via screen shots. I just wanted to distill the concepts into something you can implement in your blog right away.
I can’t thank William and Assly enough for taking the time to come speak at the conference – the volunteer time people put in as speakers, at the registration desk, and helping with set up and take down was so appreciated.
On Saturday, October 25, 2014, I participated in the female-centered bike/run event out in Summerlin (Northwest Greater Las Vegas pretty much). It was called “Goldilocks” by event organizer Brooksee. I’ve never done an organized ride other than a group ride through a local Meetup group (Biking Henderson, which is made up of a great group of supportive riders who accept with open arms all skill levels and share their experience in return – the group is run by the husband and wife team of Ryan and Gayle) so I was nervous about being in a crowd of cyclists even in what was deemed by the organizers as a “noncompetitive event.”
We had packet pickup the day before, the window of time was between 4pm to 8pm out where the event was to be held which can be good as far as finding your way the next day but not great for driving in rush hour traffic to the other side of town when you’re heading out there the next morning anyway. A minor gripe but only because we had the school trunk or treat to get back to at home and were juggling timing. My husband drove me and the kids to packet pickup so they could have the outing and we arrived at about 3:30pm. I helped with a few boxes at registration and the kids got to meet “baby bear” (yes, everything had a Goldilocks story theme). R was enthralled by the large bear mask and E kept saying “I think that is a person!” so I reminded her it was like Santa where we don’t tell people something is pretend lest we ruin their surprise. Teachable moment and whatnot.
There were no course or other details in the packet when we did get to registration – I was assigned a rider number and given a gift style bag with some fliers for sponsors and some lip gloss as well as an event-themed water bottle. The official shirt was a tech tee with a cycling pocket at back in a bright pink color (see part of it on the image below). I had sized one up but would have sized two sizes up if I’d known how snug the shirt was. They said you could swap for another size the next day but I wasn’t going to haul the shirt around when I had plenty of gear as it was. Still, nice to know if you’re debating registering and participating after reading my review/recap.
The 50K riders were the last to start so I was able to hit the road out to Summerlin at about 7am for my anticipated 8:30am start time. When I parked I got to chatting with a group of really nice ladies from Utah that were getting their bikes and gear ready. They’d done a Goldilocks event out near Salt Lake City earlier this year and seemed to love the experience. At that point I spied Gayle, one of the organizers of the meetup group I’m in for cycling, on her signature pink bike. When I say pink, I mean not just for the event pink, but always pink, down to her tires. For the occasion, however, she sported a pink tutu to match and it made me feel at ease to see her. I got to meet her sister and her sister and I hung out a bit before it was time to get started on the course.
When I registered you could create a team to get a discount, so couponer that I am at heart, I created a team called “Spoketacular.” A bit Halloween, a bit cycling, a bit girl power all rolled into one. A friend signed on with me, Michelle, and though we only knew each other via email and Facebook (we were introduced a while back by a mutual friend), I felt like I already knew her. We were both going to ride our own race so to speak though we did see each other once or twice out on the course after we started.
I’ve seen a lot of people say they liked the signage on the course and I’ll just say that I was glad I had made an effort to memorize the course from the web map before we started because there were several points where I saw people go the wrong way or misunderstand a sign that I would have easily misunderstood similarly if I didn’t have the directions on my mind. I’ve ridden from Blue Diamond into Summerlin, which was the latter part of the course, but getting out there from our starting line took a couple turns and even some roundabouts.
The advertising for the race called it “fully supported” but there was one aid station fairly early and then nothing for quite some time. The traffic was something to contend with as well, a lot of construction on the route that made it tricky going for a bit since some of the riders didn’t have experience with riding etiquette. I don’t mean that as a jab or anything, and I am not seasoned by any means, but there are things I’ve been able to learn from riding with small groups that came in handy for me. For example, when you are coming to pass someone, you announce “on your left” or “on your right” so that they know you’re coming and don’t make a sudden swerve. If you see a problem on the road you yell it out, like “car back,” or “rocks” so others can avoid them. I made a point to say thank you to everyone that followed good practice by announcing their presence, it just helped keep us all safe. Someone mentioned that for Pedal to the Medal (another cycling event) they gave a little primer on etiquette right before the race so everyone was on the same page. That’d be something I’d suggest for Goldilocks as well.
Oh, and on the subject of aid stations, I stopped 3 miles before the second station for my first (and only) break and later learned that the aid station I bypassed after my break was out of water when people were reaching it. I don’t know that information first hand but hopefully no one relied solely on the stations for their water if that was actually the case! A main aid station feature were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – I avoid nut butters just for peace of mind with E’s allergies and could see that if she ever does a cycling or running event she’ll just have to be vigilant as usual about bringing her own food and water.
The first 14 miles went by at a great pace, I managed them in an hour, but the rest involved a lot of inclined road. By the Blue Diamond turn I knew the course well and that if I just kept pushing along I would get the glorious downhill to make up some of my time. Still, being rusty on my training the last few months meant that my uphill pace was 6 miles per hour if I was lucky, and I know when I’m more on my game I am capable of 7 miles per hour or more so it does give me an official time/pace to beat. But when all was said and done, I made it through without injury, major discomfort, or incident, which was nice. I did miss the usual guys I ride a portion of that route with, it was strange not to see my husband, JR, and Sam (to name a few) waiting for me at the top of hills.
I finally made it to the point where I knew the downhill was coming when I saw a Honda Pilot go by. For a split second I thought it looked like our car but shook the thought away since my husband and I had agreed the day before that he wasn’t going to bring the kids out. They had swimming and other activities to keep them busy and there was no reason to waste the gas. What I spied at the top of the hill, though, made me so incredibly happy – my husband and the kids were waving and cheering me on. It was such a rush to see them and to hear “go mommy!” They drove ahead and stopped another time before heading ahead of me to the finish (where they were given the cutest pink bells to ring by organizers).
My official time was 3:05:53.9 (link) per the timing chip for 50K, here’s a screenshot of the GPS data:
I think the GPS deducted non-moving time which would be the break I took. My usual average just on the portion of the map from Blue Diamond to Summerlin and back is 12 mph so I feel good about my average yesterday. Plus, it gives me something to beat on the “official” side of things since when I do the usual route we get to stop for coffee midway and rest for a bit.
They don’t do finisher’s medals for Goldilocks, they do necklaces! (They also have free event photos, I haven’t seen mine yet but that is another nice perk.) Then you can purchase additional charms but I didn’t know when I bought my charm that I needed them to use pliers to add them, I assumed they would just slip on. Just a tip, I think the volunteers were eating lunch when I purchased my charm or they would have mentioned it to me. The funniest thing to me was that at the finish they had performers from male revue show on the strip presenting the necklaces. It took me a minute to figure that out! In the interim, he said something about riding like the wind but what I heard was a question about win conditions on the course so I rambled about the cross winds up by Blue Diamond (they were worse than a headwind) while another part of my mind read his shirt, thought about the Australian accent, and understood that the last thing he wanted to hear about was the condition of the course. Oops. Very nice of the guys from “Thunder from Down Under” to come out for the event, though!
Michelle and I chatted for a bit after the ride (she posted a great time!) and she got to meet my husband and the kids. Her kids had been at the race start so I’d met them earlier, she has such a sweet family. I love how being outdoors for things like running or riding brings people together. You get to forget about deadlines and conflict for a little while and just keep moving forward. My husband and the kids took me out to lunch at Jason’s Deli and we had a wonderful rest of the day. They were serving food at the finish line but I didn’t try any though at the start I did have a banana from the food tent. On the ride itself I had water and a Gu energy gel (caffeine plus sugar, essentially). Normally for this distance I would (and should) manage nutrition better but I had some nervousness that makes me not crazy about eating. So it is always a mix of listening to your body and keeping in mind that it does need some fuel. And also, sometimes you have to stop when the lactic acid in your muscles is getting to be too much (the one stop I did make was very necessary and helped a lot in that regard).
I have pangs sometimes where I miss running but ever since the Hoover Dam half marathon last December my right knee just hasn’t played along with running. I do think the 5k distance is still something I’ve got in me with the right prep but cycling leaves me a lot less wrecked and is simply more fun through the whole process. When you get to the top of a tough hill on a bike you get to feel the wind in your face as you go downhill at 30 mph while the reward for reaching the top as a runner is not as exhilarating.
I would absolutely do the event again – I think the vibe was upbeat and friendly, the volunteers were great, and riding a route I largely had done many times was a huge plus. I had to chuckle at the fact that more than one person complimented my jersey as they passed – not that I haven’t complimented men on their jerseys before but I don’t think they feel comfortable doing the same to me. I was going to wear a new one I’d found but at the last moment wanted to wear my first bike jersey. I told my husband later it was my lucky jersey because it had gone the Blue Diamond route but then he reminded me it was also my torn jersey from my bike crash on the River Mountain Loop Trail. He’s technically correct that I have an odd definition of lucky, but the reminder of crashing my bike was actually useful to me on this ride because I stayed focused, alert, and safe. I also had a lot of fun! Here’s to the fall/winter cycling season and more good rides!
People often ask if a Costco membership is worth it when a lot of what you’ll find in any store, let alone a membership based one, isn’t an option when you have food allergic individuals at home. Produce and basics aside, I wanted to write about a few finds this past week at our Henderson Costco. Be advised that these selections are specific to our Southwest region of the country and that no one paid me to write any of this though Happy Family and Luke’s were FABlogCon sponsors last year.
This post has been on my mind since I first wrote about Kirkland’s Ricemilk (here and here) but thank you to Sharon Wong from Nut Free Wok for encouraging me to get it done! The photos are just from my phone so they are more illustrative and informative than pinterest-worthy. As always, call companies to verify a food’s appropriateness for you. I uploaded these files at full resolution so you can click on the images and peek at ingredient labels if you are interested in seeking a product out.
When E outgrew her corn allergy but had not yet outgrown her wheat allergy, these were a great option. I usually am not a fan of corn tortillas but you cook these up fresh and they are wonderful in recipes like enchiladas. 60 for $6.39, I’m not sure if they freeze well or not.
Read more about the ingredients here and about their stock status here for Kirkland Organic Ricemilk. We use it almost exclusively even though milk is now technically a safe option for us. Unlike many Ricemilks, it is not in a shared facility with nuts per my last communication with Costco corporate. $13.99 for 12 containers with 4 cups in each.
We can’t have oats, peanuts, tree nuts, or sesame so this Granola isn’t an option but I include it here for my gluten free and vegan friends that may not be aware Costco is carrying products by Udi’s. My favorite nut free and oat free granola is by Enjoy Life but I don’t know if they’ll break into Costco with anything other than Plentils for the time being. $6.79.
Luke’s MultiGrain & Seed Crackers – Chia Seed
Luke’s crackers are pretty tasty and though my favorite of their products would have to be their chips (and even some of those have sesame), I love that an allergy aware company is featured at Costco. This particular box consists of two large backs of the crackers (not snack packs like I assumed when I first purchased them) and the flavor is very neutral. $7.99.
Nutiva Coconut Oil
I am sharing Nutiva’s coconut oil in a cautionary way since they now carry a shared with peanut oil in the facility warning. We haven’t bought it since but it may still be a safe option for some! (Updated 12/1/14 – I found an announcement that some varieties now are made in a different facility. View the article on Nutiva’s site to learn more.)
Krusteaz Gluten Free Brownie Mix
I purchased this for my sister in law, who is doesn’t eat wheat or gluten products, so I could make an easy treat considering we don’t stock gluten free flours the way we used to at home when E was allergic to wheat. She really enjoyed baking with these mixes and liked the results. Great price, but again, I didn’t buy these necessarily for my daughter so I don’t know what other factors may come into play ingredient-wise. Just nice to see gluten free options for people! $7.99.
Mamma Chia Chia Squeeze
When I was a kid we didn’t eat anything out of a pouch. . .well, I guess except for drinking Capri-Sun “juice.” But I digress. My kids love all things pouch based it seems and Costco is in tune with that. $11.99.
Go Go Squeez
These applesauce pouches are E and R’s favorite – my daughter even wrote the company a letter (with her Auntie’s help) to thank them for being nut free. You may think, of course applesauce is nut free, but it is nice to see Go Go Squeez taking pride in that. $10.99.
Happy Family Fruit and Veggie Twists
Happy Family also has a line of fruit sauce pouches but crazily these were stacked right next to the powdered peanut butter in the store (just an observation, I know everything is sealed) and they have this little note on them saying your purchase supports “Operation Peanut Butter.” I looked into it and it is actually a program to help with starvation around the world in children with peanut butter enriched with other ingredients. Every purchase supports this project. You can watch a video clip from Happy Family about Operation Peanut Butter here. I personally would like to know more about the way they are approaching this program but their hearts are in the right place and it is not an implication regarding the manufacture of these pouches themselves. I just was surprised by the new reference on the label and looked into it a bit.
Essential Bakery Seeded Gluten Free Bread
We stumbled upon this bread a while back and bought some to try when my sister in law visited. No nuts, gluten, dairy or soy! It is also delicious toasted or untoasted so do check it out. $7.99 for two sizable loaves of yummy gluten free bread is a great deal too.
Stretch Island Fruit Leathers
$10.59 for 48 fruit leathers that sell at supermarket checkouts for 50 cents apiece is a substantial deal (22 cents apiece, in fact). All of these fruit leathers are natural and make for a good purse/diaper bag emergency snack.
Yummy Earth Fruit Snacks
40 fruit snacks from one of our favorite companies, Yummy Earth! These are even gelatin free. I like to buy things like this for my daughter’s class so they have safe treats on hand in case a student forgets a snack at home.
Jelly Belly Halloween Mix (Peanut Free)
100 individual bags of Jelly Belly jelly beans for $9.79 – I bought these for my daughter’s school Trunk or Treat so they could pass out peanut free options. Please confirm that these are safe for other allergies of course.
These are wheat based crackers but another option for in class snacks at $11.89. They do have soy and milk alerts in addition to wheat, I am glad for the absence of oats on these.
Kirkland Tortilla Chips
We buy the non-organic Kirkland corn chips for a very good reason – the Organic variety has a nut warning. Click here to see the front and back of the Organic variety. We once grabbed the wrong one by accident so I thought I’d mention it. $4.99.
Kettle Potato Chips (Kirkland)
$4.79 for a bag of potato chips bigger than your head can’t be beat. I like to eat these with salsa which I know makes me weird but I don’t mind.
Honest Company Shampoo
I haven’t purchased this shampoo but the label looks promising. Have any of you tried it? $14.99 is spendy for me but it might be a good option given the ingredient list.
I spotted this cart at checkout – when we entered the store Costco had a display for singing Olaf dolls. R wanted one and I said no but a lot of parents had their kids playing with them in their carts so it was funny to see how many ended up on the “re-stock” pile. Poor Olaf! Don’t worry, some grandparent is going to buy you anyway so you can sing for the whole family at home. . .
So! I hope this was of interest – I’d love to know what food allergy friendly finds you have at your local Costco because I’m a Costco nerd (Exhibit A).
Edited 10/27/14 to add: A reader (thank you, Mary!) communicated to me that Costco will take otherwise safe candy and mix it in with unsafe (for, say, nut allergy) candy to package for Halloween so a trick or treater wouldn’t actually know if their usual brand was safe. They informed me they’d tried to work with Costco on the issue but they would not budge. I did want to share that warning as it was not something I’d thought about before. They also brought up the elephant in the room, so to speak, about samples and cooking in the aisles for samples that involve nut products or other allergens. There are signs stating that there are allergy warnings but we all know children don’t and can’t sometimes read those signs so parents of food allergic children need to pay special attention. Sample distributors will ask a child to get their parent’s permission before trying food but I’ve also had them offer my child something while I was standing there and make no statement about allergies. Of course there is also the risk of a child grabbing something in the rush of people to get a sample and the fact that the reps don’t usually have more information about a product than what is displayed on their packaging. So my recommendation of Costco comes with caveats, however, you can certainly find a lot of good options from among the multiple aisles of mixed nuts.