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.
I wanted to share this recall notice I received today because we are big fans of Sunshine Burgers at our house and I’ve recommended them here on the blog before. When I saw the subject line I was worried the recall was related to the recent paprika and cumin contamination cases (read more here). The contamination is in the form of gluten, not nuts, though it is related to a spice supplier.
Here’s the full statement:
Effective immediately, we are voluntarily removing from store shelves the following items for a possible allergen contamination as a result of gluten levels higher than 20 parts per million. Affected products include these Sunshine Burgers products and “use by” dates:
Organic Sunshine Burger Black Bean South West (SKU# 7 94213 00013 0) with the following USE BY dates: 7/13/2016, 7/21/2016, 7/28/2016, 8/4/2016, 8/11/2016
Organic Sunshine Burger Barbecue (SKU # 7 94213 00023 9) with the following USE BY dates: 5/4/2016, 6/11/2016, 8/13/2016
Organic Sunshine Burger Loco Chipotle (SKU# 7 94213 03163 9) with the following USE BY date: 8/12/2016
If you purchased a product with one of these SKU codes and dates, you can send us a product label – or photo – for a full refund, or return the product to the grocery store.
During routine testing by an independent laboratory, gluten in excess of 20 parts per million was detected in three of the eight items in the Sunshine Burger product line. No other products were affected. We immediately removed the affected production lots from commerce and initiated additional testing to identify the source of the gluten and take corrective actions. The additional testing of ingredients found the source of the gluten was a spice blend from a third-party organic spice supplier that did not meet our specifications.
Prior to this positive test for gluten, no Sunshine Burger products had tested positive for the presence of this allergen. All Sunshine Burger products are certified organic and verified non-GMO. They are produced in a plant with a strict HACCP program in place. Corrective actions are being implemented to ensure this is not repeated.
We sincerely apologize to consumers for the inconvenience this voluntary recall has caused. Please contact me directly if you have any questions.
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.
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.
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!
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.
I used our Vitamix to blend this up but a food processor or immersion blender are listed as possibilities as well.
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.
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.