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.
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.
My daughter is hard at work at her own cookbook, or the “Allergy Friendly Snack Book” as she calls it. I love seeing her practicing her writing as she gets ready to enter first grade next month (she turns 6 on the second day of school this year) and just owning the idea that she can write a book if she wants to. This is her first recipe in her book, she calls it “Fudge Cobbler” because at the moment the word “cobbler” is her favorite new kitchen term (we made some actual Apple Cobbler the other day when I didn’t feel like wrestling with my usual broken pie crust) but also just refers to it as “fudge.” Her recipe is pictured below, I’ve expanded a little more on her steps but even at age 5, heating the ingredients aside, there’s a lot for a kid to do hands-on with measuring, mixing, and pouring.
She wrote this up in May so I’m behind in posting it but we’ve had a busy summer.
Metal saucepan and metal bowl (or double boiler)
Small baking dish or pan lined with parchment paper
1/4 cup SunButter (or other sunflower seed butter)
Heat a saucepan (or double boiler) with water on high on your stovetop and place a metal bowl over the top of the saucepan and melt the chocolate chips (or chunks) over the heat. Mix in sunflower seed butter and brown rice syrup once chocolate is melted until combined. Pour the mixture into a pan lined with parchment and freeze (or refrigerate if you’re not in a hurry) until firm. Slice into portions of your choice (pictured are small bite sizes).
And E, if you’re ever reading this down the line, know that I’m so proud of you and love that what is often a challenge for me (cooking and baking) is something you approach with gusto and excitement. Seeing you and your brother grow, learn, and embrace this life is one of the keenest joys I have ever known.
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!
Genetic glitch at the root of food allergies? by Jessica Martin, PhD – I love how Jessica breaks down concepts. The other day she e-mailed me a detailed response to a question I had and hopefully you’ll see it on her Food Allergy Sleuth site soon. When she bought a ticket to the conference I was thrilled because I can’t wait to meet her.
Food Allergy Walk and Food Allergy Bloggers Conference
I have a fundraising page again this year for the Food Allergy walk here in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 2, 2013. I’m on the walk committee and also a co-founder of the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference that will be kicking off with the walk and running through November 4, 2013. So it will be a big weekend for Food Allergy in Southern Nevada! We need team members and virtual walkers are welcome! If our team raises $1,000 before August 31, 2013 our team name will appear on the official walk t-shirt! We’re just about halfway there, donate and/or join today!
Ending September 10, 2013, here is a Kickstarter campaign that might be of interest – it involves a top 8 allergen free, vegan candy that I’ve backed and you may want to as well! Premium Chocolatiers needs to raise funds for the equipment necessary to manufacture their vegan marshmallow coated with chocolate and candy.
The way the Kickstarter website works is that if the funds needed to achieve the stated goal aren’t raised, the campaign doesn’t get “funded” and none of the money pledged is charged. They’re almost halfway to their goal with two weeks left and I’d love to see this idea take off. $7 gets one bag of “No No’s” shipped to US addresses sometime hopefully in time for Halloween, so check it out here.
Something with a deadline that is a little further into the future is the fundraising campaign my friends Jessica (not the same Jessica I mentioned above) and Jeff have launched that involves changing their last name to “Van Squigglebottoms” permanently and officially if they raise $1,000,000.00 for Oxfam on or before December 31, 2013. I hesitated to donate only because I like their names as they are but then I got to thinking that I love the positive approach they’re taking. They care passionately about the causes associated with the less fortunate and they’re willing to do something off the wall to get the attention they feel this cause needs. You can see their fundraising page here and I can assure you that even the smallest donation will cheer Jessica and Jeff on. Even if all you can do is spread the word about their fundraising efforts, that may prompt someone else to donate.
Children’s Literature (and Music!) Reviews
Finally, it has been a while since I rounded up my latest Vegbooks.org reviews. I’ve even had the chance to review some music which was a lot of fun.