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.
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.
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.
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.
This giveaway is sponsored by me, I thought it would be fun to celebrate my 300th blog post by choosing some of my favorite things to share. The best part is that I don’t just have one set of what is pictured, I have put together two! One for the winner to keep and one for them to choose to give to someone else (or have me ship to someone else).
What’s included in each package?
1 Tops Docket Gold Notepad – I adore these for list making
1 Smareco Notebook – you can use an app with it but the paper it uses is lovely and has an almost French-style horizontal rule to help with penmanship
1 IKEA chocolate/candy mold – Las Vegas is getting an IKEA in the near future but I do pop over to the one in Arizona when we are over there
2 bags of Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Morsels – top 8, sesame, and oat free, among other things
2 jars of No Sugar Added SunButter – be aware they do roast the seeds on shared equipment with Soy
1 Bicycle charm – just a shout out to bikes
1 square of Vintage Sandylion Fuzzy Stickers – I’ve been collecting fuzzy stickers since 3rd grade, these are little forest animals (awww. . .)
1 Pentel Ener-gel Pen – I personally prefer super duper fine point pens (think .38mm tips) but most people don’t so I chose a nice smooth gel pen with a slightly larger nib
1 pack of 3 Eccolo notebooks
2 Lego black curved plates – when you put them together they make a heart, great for homemade friendship necklaces
To enter, just leave one comment and let me know what posts you like to see here (reviews? recipes? advocacy?) or just tell me who you’d choose to have me ship the second set of goodies out to.
Also, because I’m running this giveaway, it is open not only to US residents but internationally (except where it may be prohibited, I’m not going to be able to sit down and check every jurisdiction so the honor system applies). The cut off for comments as entries is March 15, 2015 at 12PM Pacific Standard Time. One entry per person, please. I’ll assign numbers to each entry in the order of their comment submission and use a random number generator to pick the winner. They’ll be contacted via the email they provided and if they don’t respond within 48 hours I’ll pick a new winner with the same time rule. The winner gets to pick another person to receive the same package.
3/15/15 – The giveaway has ended, the random number generator picked comment 9 and I’m awaiting a reply within 48 hours from the winner.
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.
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. . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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…
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.
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!
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.