Trust and Food Allergies

The candles are off the cake, slices served to eager children.  A little girl has her fork by her mouth, a small bite of cake hovering and awaiting a response.  She was dropped off to the party, so there’s no one in particular for her to ask, so her tentative voice asks no one in particular. . .

“Does this have tree nuts?”

I ask her if she’s allergic, she says she is.  I ask her if she has her EpiPen and she pauses and then reveals she does not.  She really wants the cake.  She seems to regret asking the question.

I can’t get it out of my mind, what would I want another mom to tell my child?  How can I frame this in a way that doesn’t come off as judgmental because I am not in that other family’s shoes and I don’t know what advice they follow to manage allergies?  As I contemplate the situation a few things converge – food allergy awareness week, whether I’m quick to discount lay advice online, and community generated parenting advice.

First, we’re almost upon “Food Allergy Awareness Week” – I will actually be away from my own family for a few days to present at a conference in Orlando as a one-third representative of the Allergy Law Project (“ALP”).  I was invited because of ALP and will be reimbursed for my air travel and will have a room provided (see, there’s my disclosures at work). That has me contemplating audience – who are we trying to reach in an awareness context – could it be diagnosed individuals as much as people who may not know about allergies except for seasonal ones?

Second, a friend has made some very cogent points about a concept floated in an ALP post where we discussed non-lawyers dispensing legal advice.  She cautioned me that in law, medicine, and the like, we can’t discount the power of community information shared by informed individuals who have lived a given scenario.

Third, I’ve been reading the book “Parent Hacks” by Asha Dornfest – I pre-ordered a copy of my own but also received a review copy and Asha’s site and book have elements of empowerment and community based information that had me thinking about the tips, recipes, and more that food allergy parents share on social media and elsewhere.  (I reviewed the book on Amazon, so you can see my specific thoughts there via this affiliate link.)

Does anyone recall the part in Donald in Mathamagic Land where Donald Duck is advised to tidy his mind?  I’ve viewed my mind that way often – jumping to and fro – so blogging is often a way to achieve some organization.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Disney Animated Shorts
Source: The Encyclopedia of Disney Animated Shorts

Unrelated aside, well, aside, these things connect for me but they probably appear hodge podge to anyone else.  I promise I’m going somewhere with this.

A few things I know, in relation to the thoughts above:

  1. Communities have power, especially through the internet, to share useful and even life saving information.
  2. There are awareness battles to fight within a community as well as without.
  3. Bringing together 1 & 2 is a matter of safe spaces, supporting one another, and cogent discourse.

When there was nowhere else for me to go, there were blogs and other forms of social media.  Perhaps my law license gives me a little more ability to dig deeper into what I read, but I absolutely am sure the first place I heard about 504 plans was on a food allergy mom blog.  The first book about food allergy I read was Robyn O’Brien’s The Unhealthy Truth from our local library.  Who am I to discount parent based medium when it helped me so directly?  Well, there’s a balance, much like when I rambled on about FTC dot com disclosures.  Common sense comes into play with any information you read about online, in the news, or elsewhere – but the scaffolding we each build upon is different.

I was at a self help center “ask a lawyer” meeting and the prospective client had some bad experiences with attorneys.  She wanted my advice as an attorney but not representation by anyone because of her bad experiences.  I can’t fault her.  The same would go for a person who had a bad experience with an allergist or professional who was not an adequate shepherd of their trust.  Which all goes to say that I don’t fault people for looking elsewhere when they may have reason to believe they aren’t getting the truth from a segment of professionals.  But we can’t move from one extreme to another.  I wouldn’t presume to say a food was “safe” for another child, I can only know what works for our family – and yet you’ll find people posting online “we have x, y, and z allergies – is food abc okay?” and relying on the responses.  Is the asker or the answerer more at fault in that scenario (if any fault were to be placed)?

We have a responsibility to share accurate information about food allergies because we live it every day, but with the appropriate caveats we can share as well as protect one another.  For example, let someone know the limits of advice (“this worked for us, your mileage may vary” versus “this is how it is done”).  Community message boards, forums, and even facebook can all be very effective awareness and advocacy tools but we should disclaim and warn wherever appropriate.  I do see this form of appropriate disclosure quite a bit, but there are some situations where people become defensive and hostile if asked to clarify their experience or acknowledge the limits of their advice.

This leads me to thinking of my presentations next week at the FARE Food Allergy Conference in Orlando.  Mary and Laurel both have conflicts and can’t attend so it was up to me to carry the Allergy Law Project banner, so to speak, and take this great chance to reach others within our allergy community to share our resources and mission.  I know, however, that these are well informed individuals at different stages in their out advocacy journey and I would not presume to imply that their personal experiences are diminished in the face of the letter of the law.  On the flip side, I do think I want to address how to recognize when one is maybe out of their depth and needs more resources.

Just as physicians bemoan the snake oil salesmen of the world, lawyers do get frustrated at the harm that can be done when someone gets bad advice.  That said, bad advice can come from lawyers just as it comes from lay people, but professionally there are remedies for people harmed by bad advice from a lawyer.  You have reason to believe a higher expertise is at play, after all.  The next layer of complication though comes from giving a presentation as a lawyer, or writing an article, and the recipient changing the message or making it their own.  If I talk about 504 plans or rights under the ADA, I do want people to feel empowered to advocate for themselves.  I really do.  But I wouldn’t ideally want them to claim some authority if they share that information with another person.

Back to the little girl at the party, a lot of this comes down to trust.  Who we trust and how.  Whether trust is enough – we can trust that we won’t get in an accident or we can also wear a seatbelt.  We can trust that a label is accurate or we can also carry epinephrine.  We can trust that a school administrator is on the side of our child’s safety or we can advocate for a 504 to supplement what are hopefully already sound school policies.  What we should avoid is implying that something is a safeguard when it is just a shared experience -the audience doesn’t always have the ability to tell the difference so it is up to the speaker to relay that to the listener proactively.  That is simply being a responsible person.

At the outset of any business relationship, I tell clients, there’s a point where everything is going to be great – you and your business partner get along great, you trust each other, it is simply going to be awesome.  And then down the line people change and circumstances change.  At that point there’s an appreciation for the operating agreement that seemed so specific and pessimistic.  If you’re the one to point out to a fellow allergy parent, for example, that maybe they shouldn’t send their kid to a birthday alone and without epinephrine, you have a situation ripe for conflict.  Allergy Awareness Week is a time and a chance to share information and perhaps reach people within the community who have received poor advice or who are relying on sources who are not responsible about the effect of the information they provide.  People should absolutely have access to resources to represent themselves, they just shouldn’t be effectively representing someone else outside of their own sphere.

While I’m in Orlando, by happenstance, Asha from Parent Hacks will be stopping on her book tour and I really hope I can make time to go meet her because her community based website has been such an inspiration to me as a blogger.  She always keeps her own voice, even if something is sponsored, because she discloses whenever a concern could be raised and is not afraid to spark discussion.  I remember when she wrote about the pressure parents can feel about Valentine’s Day.  She suggested that we remember what our children feel about what may simply be a Hallmark holiday.  But she made no apologies for not being a fan of the day when her kids were small.  She didn’t claim that her approach was better or worse, she just offered her personal insight.  That is the power of blogging and community based information.  Putting something out into the world without judgment but so that someone else maybe sees their own struggle put into another’s words.

I hadn’t really looked through the Parent Hacks book when my ordered copy arrived because because I’d been in the middle of some health issues at the time and everything about life and the universe pretty much managed to put me in tears.  And then I saw this…

To Caron Arnold, Sara Carlstead Brumfield, Kara Hagen, Tracy Hengst, Adrienne Jones, Jim Jones, Elana Kehoe, Stu Mark, Rob Monroe, Duane Morin, Heather Petit, Jill Pohl, Kendra Riemermann, Marjorie Wheeler, Homa Woodrum, and the readers of ParentHacks.com. This book and my gratitude are yours. We made this together.
“To Caron Arnold, Sara Carlstead Brumfield, Kara Hagen, Tracy Hengst, Adrienne Jones, Jim Jones, Elana Kehoe, Stu Mark, Rob Monroe, Duane Morin, Heather Petit, Jill Pohl, Kendra Riemermann, Marjorie Wheeler, Homa Woodrum, and the readers of ParentHacks.com. This book and my gratitude are yours. We made this together.”

And I teared up anyway.  There’s something amazing about feeling like you are friends with someone you’ve never met in person and then somehow having your life weave into theirs in something so concrete as a book you can hold in your hands.  A book that is about bringing a parenting community together with tips, tricks, and “hacks” to make taking care of kids a little easier.

There’s this larger parent community with islands of compassion and support like ParentHacks.com and I think there are those islands similarly in the food allergy world in the form of in person support groups, conferences, meetings, KFA, FARE, social media groups, and more.  The tone we set is important and the information we give is as well.

Like Asha, my gratitude is this community’s.  I can’t wait to meet some of you next week and share my hopes for continued legal safeguards, labeling, and the strong food allergy community at large.  Hopefully I’ll figure out what to do about the little girl from the party in the process – I need advice on that front for certain.  Thank you to FARE for this upcoming opportunity and for embracing the independence that is at the heart of the Allergy Law Project‘s mission.

Food Find: Tree Hugger All Natural (Vegan, Gluten Free, and Nut Free) Bubble Gum

I was at Sprouts (formerly Sunflower Farmer’s Market) the other day and spied a new (to me) label calling to me with its promises of being nut free and allergy friendly.  Tree Hugger All Natural Bubble Gum checked out ingredient-wise for our family and I’m happy to report it also passed some thorough taste testing by my 4 1/2 and 6 1/2 year old kids.

IMG_4950

Each flavor is unique and matches its naturally colored exterior quite well, though I couldn’t really tell you the difference between “tangerine” and “orange” but you’ll have fun trying to find one.

At $3 a bag direct from the company (amazon affiliate link – currently a higher per bag price), I’d say the price is reasonable compared to other specialty food allergy items and we’d definitely buy it again.  There is a warning about a possible shared facility with soy, so exercise caution and contact the company if you have questions or concerns in that regard.

IMG_4948
INGREDIENTS: Cane Sugar, Glucose, Gum Base (Contains Natural Chicle), Brown Rice Syrup, Gum Arabic, Natural Flavors (including Lemon ,Grapefruit, Watermelon, Pomegranate ), Sun Flower Lecithin, Natural Colors, (Including: Red Beet, Berry Extract, Paprika Extract, beta Carotene, Chlorophyllin) , Carnauba Wax.

The variety we tried was “Citrus Berry Mix” and 2 pieces comes in at 10 calories.  The colors, flavors, and texture remind me of gum ball machines when I was a kid – something my kiddos don’t get to experience because of cross contamination risk (and lack of labeling).  I’m going to be on the lookout for a gumball machine bank for my office.  I think it might be a fun feature especially for clients bringing kids along to meetings.

Hopefully this variety of gum is a safe option!

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Speaking of reviews, my latest at VegBooks.org are as follows:

Gordy and the Magic Diet (great pick for food allergy families)
Planet Kindergarten (a fantastic book)
Cinderella (2015 Live-Action Film)
Letters of the West: An ABC Book
A Penguin Named Patience: A Hurricane Katrina Rescue Story
Tracks Count: A Guide to Counting Animal Prints

Goldilocks Las Vegas 2014 50K (31 mile) Ride Recap

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.”

Goldilocks 2014 Packet Pickup
Goldilocks 2014 Packet Pickup

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.

2014 Goldilocks Vegas' "Baby Bear" tells E and R her age
2014 Goldilocks Vegas’ “Baby Bear” tells E and R her age

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.

One of our favorite bike shops, Irwin Cycles, was a sponsor.
One of our favorite bike shops, Irwin Cycles, was a sponsor.

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.

Me and Michelle starting the ride (picture courtesy of Michelle's husband)
Me (purple jersey) and Michelle (pink jersey) starting the ride (picture courtesy of Michelle’s husband)

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.

(Attempt at a photo of my displayed distance while riding, I ended up using text to speech to message my husband instead.)
(Attempt at a photo of my displayed distance while riding, I ended up using text to speech to message my husband instead.)

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.

Where the course got familiar for me, off of Blue Diamond
Where the course got familiar for me, off of Blue Diamond

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:

Goldilocks Vegas 2014 50k
Goldilocks Vegas 2014 50k

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!

Finisher's necklace with purchased charm (they had nothing for my distance so I got a bike image)
Finisher’s necklace with purchased charm (they had nothing for my distance so I got a bike charm)

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).

Team Spoketacular!  (Michelle on the left, Me on the right)
Team Spoketacular! (Michelle on the left, Me on the right)

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.

My trusty road bike (a sale find at REI)
My trusty road bike (a sale find at REI)

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!

Review: Dreamy Desserts Nut Free Bakery in Las Vegas, Nevada

It has been almost two months since E’s 6th birthday and she knew she wanted a “store bought” cake.  Not “mommy made.”  It had to be “Frozen” themed and as her RSVP list grew the prospective cake did as well.  I had been watching with fascination the updates on twitter and facebook of Penny Redlin, owner of Dreamy Desserts (a nut free online bakery based in Las Vegas), and knew that the nut free made to order bakery was my “store bought” solution.

Frozen Birthday Decorations
Frozen Birthday Decorations

Penny was incredibly friendly and helpful with the process.  Given her time limitations she fills up reservation spots on her calendar and as your date nears you can get in touch and firm up what you’d like.  I actually shipped (via Amazon Prime) cake toppers directly to Penny to make the process that much easier.  Advance ordering isn’t just for cakes but for other treats like cookies or parfaits as well.

Elsa
Elsa

Dreamy Desserts is Las Vegas based so if you’re traveling to town for an event you can order in advance and even pay to have your order delivered if you are within a certain range.  I sprang for delivery because I had no idea how to transport E’s cake.  The best part of doing business with a fellow food allergy parent is that you can ask all kinds of questions and never feel silly – there’s a detailed answer in response and even frank discussion of kitchen practices for those allergens that are off the beaten path (oat and sesame for us on top of peanut and tree nut).  Dreamy Desserts can make vegan cakes as well, which we debated to be more inclusive of E’s dear friend K but after consulting with K’s mother she was going to make her own matching cupcakes (see, I’m not the only one!) for the party.

Image Courtesy of Dreamy Desserts
Image Courtesy of Dreamy Desserts

More about Dreamy Desserts:

Dreamy Desserts was created for anyone looking for nut free treats.  Sadly, my son can not have peanuts or tree nuts.  As it turns out, I have over 20 years of baking experience, so I decided to offer nut free baked goods to others with a similar need. 

We are an online bakery based in Las Vegas, NV.  We can deliver any of our nut-free treats within the Las Vegas area!

If you don’t see what you’re looking for, just ask, we may be able to accommodate

 (as long it doesn’t have nuts!) 

(source: Dreamy Desserts).

I should stop rambling and offer the big reveal – the look on her face made it so worth it.  E’s  6th birthday “Frozen” cake…

Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Oat Free, and Sesame Free Frozen Birthday Cake
Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Oat Free, and Sesame Free Frozen Birthday Cake

The snowflakes were a mix of sugar (the smaller ones) while the larger details were a vegan fondant.  The frosting sparkled and the cake was white with strawberry preserves.

Frozen Birthday Cake by Dreamy Desserts
Frozen Birthday Cake by Dreamy Desserts

E was delighted, as was I.  Penny didn’t ask me to write about this but I kept meaning to highlight how wonderful she is to put so much love and care into making special treats for those that live with food allergies.  By the way, Dreamy Desserts’ Facebook page is really close to breaking 20,000 likes so if you’d like to see other delicious options as photos are posted, head on over!

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Also at E’s birthday was my friend Pamela Sundlie, owner of Magic Wand Face Painting, who did a fantastic job with face painting and glitter tattoos for the kids.  Best of all, she had her ingredient sheets with her (and we’d gone over them in advance of course) so there were only adorably painted faces and no itchy cheeks.  I love that we can support the creativity of our local friends while also having a great time.  This was E’s first solo party since before R was born (we’ve been doing joint parties) so I wanted it to be special – I warned her that I can’t really top her 6th party until perhaps her wedding day.  She seemed okay with that.

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!

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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

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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!

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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!

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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.

Food Find: Enjoy Life Foods’ Dark Chocolate Regular Size Morsels

I love what Colette Martin wrote about holiday baking – it is great to see everyone firing up their ovens but baking is a year round thing in our house.  Since you may be pondering holiday -focused baking right now, I thought this review could include a roundup of some chocolate baking ideas I’ve already featured on this blog.  If you are shopping for the allergy friendly baker in your life, I must suggest books by Colette Martin (amazon affiliate link), Cybele Pascal (amazon affiliate link), and Kelly Rudnicki (amazon affiliate link – thank you to my friend Alison for my copy!).  I met all three ladies at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference and they are just as gracious and amazing as I had hoped.  My friend Elyse snapped this picture of me with Cybele that I will always treasure:

Me (on the left) with Cybele Pascal (on the right)
Me (on the left) with Cybele Pascal (on the right)

I was able to taste Cybele’s chocolate chip cookies (amazon affiliate link) at the conference and they were great!  Very cool to see more shelf stable options for grab and go sorts of days.  As usual, I digress.

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Back to the main subject of this post – Enjoy Life Foods’ Dark Chocolate Regular Size Morsels (my free sample is pictured above between the mini chips and the mega chunks from our own stash) are just now rolling out!  I haven’t seen them on store shelves yet but I received a bag free from Enjoy Life to review and they are our new favorite.  They even have five less calories per serving compared to the mini chips (related to being a bit less sweet I am guessing).

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The posts below can feature any variety of Enjoy Life chocolate (substitute freely!).

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chunk Blondies

Holiday Shaped Chocolate (featuring Erewhon Cereal)

Chocolate Covered Chocolate Cupcakes

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Gingerbread Boys with Chocolate Buttons (or a Gingerbread House)

Chocolate Covered Strawberries and Chocolate Covered Sunbutter Balls

Allergy Friendly Thin Mints

All of the ideas featured here are top 8 allergen free.  As full disclosure, this is actually our first holiday season with new safe foods (read more about that here).  Happy baking!