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.
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.
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.
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced (I used a 6oz pre-trimmed pack from Trader Joe’s)
680g Yukon gold potatoes, washed and quartered (I leave the skins on)
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp dried dill weed
1 tsp granulated garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste (depends on how much salt is in the broth you use)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Slow cooker or crock pot
Cutting board, knife
Start your crock pot on high, set it for 5 1/2 hours. add the oil if desired and then the chopped leeks. No need to worry about large rounds when you are chopping the leek, you will be blending this recipe up! Add your quartered potatoes and then the 4 cups of vegetable broth. You’ll see the ingredients are just about covered. We don’t want the soup to be watery so trust me on this. Cook on high and when when the 5 hours of cooking time has elapsed (I set it for a little longer so I have time to chop and prep while it heats up) you’re going to blend the soup in the crock pot with your hand immersion blender. At this point add the 1 cup of rice milk, adjust your salt and pepper to taste, heat until warm throughout (shouldn’t take long) and you’re ready to serve. Great with a salad.
Calorie and Nutritional Information
The batch I made came to 1,763 grams and we like to do 100 gram servings in MyFitnessPal so it was 47 calories per 100 grams. I didn’t list the spices and herbs in the recipe so that may have added a trivial amount of calories. I’ve managed to put all my lost weight back on in the last year but I am still trying to fight my way back. Here’s hoping!
It has been a while since I shared a recipe but this recipe, inspired by Anupy Singla’s “South Indian Lentils With Curry Leaves” from “The Indian Slow Cooker” (amazon affiliate link), is something we make just about every week.
When my husband and I got married we received a slow cooker (amazon affiliate link) as a wedding gift and I was perplexed because as vegetarians I didn’t think we would use a slow cooker that much. It is wonderful for beans (see my post about a refried bean recipe here) and with this recipe, the red lentils break down wonderfully for a meal on their own or served over brown or white rice.
I normally hesitate to list ingredients when a recipe is derived from a cookbook, opting to instead point readers to the book itself, but my variant of Ms. Singla’s recipe cuts a number of ingredients out (I didn’t have fresh curry leaves, for example) or reduces them drastically (like the coconut milk and salt – she suggested two tablespoons and I use one teaspoon!). This makes a very generous batch so you can freeze half and serve half or have leftovers another night.
6 Quart Slow Cooker
1 Red Ripe Tomato, Quartered
3 Cups Red Lentils, Rinsed and Drained
1 Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
7 oz Can of Diced Green Chiles
1 Teaspoon Turmeric
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
4 Teaspoons Curry Powder
1 Teaspoon Mustard Seeds
2-3 Teaspoons Canola Oil
3/4 Cup of Coconut Milk
8 Cups Water
Heat the frying pan on medium until warm, then add the oil. Put the mustard seeds in the pan until they start popping and add the diced onion. Stir and add the turmeric, curry powder, and salt. Once the onions have softened you can add them to your slow cooker. While the onions are frying, feel free to rinse the red lentils in the strainer over the sink. Pick through the lentils as well to make sure there are not small pebbles or the like. Add the drained red lentils to the crock pot along with the diced chiles, tomatoes, and water.
Stir the mixture and set the slow cooker to low for 6 hours. Add the coconut milk and stir, then cook on high for half an hour. No worries if you are not home to do this at the 6 hour mark, your slow cooker should switch to the warm setting until you get home and can add the coconut milk.
You can halve the recipe but if you do, keep the coconut milk the same measurement but do halve the water along with everything else. Sometimes the curry can me thicker or more liquid depending on the liquid from the onion and tomato but it is always delicious. Ms. Singla includes cumin, coriander, and even fresh curry leaves in her recipe but I have streamlined it a great deal for my kitchen.
The leftover coconut milk (if you use a large can) is great in smoothies. Enjoy!