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.

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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.

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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

Vegan Allergy Friendly Tom-Kha Soup Recipe

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!

Google yielded this veg friendly recipe on a site called “Flip Cookbook” – it has great step by step instructions with photos so do head on over and check it out.  The recipe as written features soy sauce and tofu, so I thought I’d try to simplify things and make the soup top 8 allergy friendly.

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Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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Once the soup is heated through, it is ready to serve!  It is surprisingly easy and quick to prepare – a perfect spring soup.

Sunshine Burger Issues Voluntary Recall Notice (Gluten)

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.

Sunshine Burger package (circa 2011)
Sunshine Burger package (circa 2011) – this variety is not affected in the recall

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.

Sincerely yours,

Cole Jones
General Manager
info@sunshineburger.com

Source (March 4, 2015).

Homemade Vegan and Nut Free Chocolate Oranges

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).

Just Three Ingredients!
Just Three Ingredients! (Photo credit: RLW)

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

Supplies

Knife and cutting board

Muffin pan (optional)

Metal saucepan and metal bowl (essentially a make-shift double boiler)

Spatula/scraper

Ingredients

2 medium sized oranges (navel is just fine)

1 teaspoon of orange juice

1 teaspoon of orange zest

1 9 ounce bag of Enjoy Life dark chocolate morsels (other Enjoy Life varieties are fine)

1 teaspoon of coconut oil

Water for your makeshift double boiler

Directions 

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.

Vegan, Nut Free, Gluten Free Chocolate Orange Slices
Vegan, Nut Free, Soy Free, & Gluten Free Chocolate Orange Slices

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.

As presentation goes, this is a lot of fun!  Maybe do a version with mint or make a batch of Cybele Pascal’s top 8 free thin mints to accompany the chocolate oranges for an allergy friendly tea party?

Vegan and Nut Free Chocolate Oranges from OhMahDeehness.Wordpress.Com
Vegan and Nut Free Chocolate Oranges from OhMahDeehness.Wordpress.Com

If you’d like to buy pre-made fancy chocolates, check out Indie Candy (I’ve sampled the top 8 free orange truffles and they are amazing), Premium Chocolatiers, or Vermont Nut Free Chocolates (these do have milk) to start but you can really have fun making treats in your own kitchen so I hope you’ll try!

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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Vegan Slow Cooker Potato Leek Soup

Thank you to Sarah Norris of Gluten Free Dairy Free Walt Disney World for pointing me to this recipe – I had purchased Yukon gold potatoes and trimmed leeks at Trader Joe’s because the idea of soup when it is 100 degrees out is oddly appealing.  I adjusted it to be more calorie friendly and thought I’d share my version here.  First, let me direct you to the inspiration, Gluten-Free Goddess’ 2009 recipe.  Her post has wonderful pictures (with leeks for a garnish) and suggestions for a stove top method as well.  Also check out our Food Allergy Bloggers Conference post featuring Sarah, it was great to meet her last year!

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Ingredients

1 cup rice milk

4 cups vegetable broth

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

Supplies

Slow cooker or crock pot

Cutting board, knife

Teaspoon measurement

Immersion blender

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Directions

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

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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!

Vegan Slow Cooker Red Lentil Coconut Curry Recipe

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.  

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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.

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Supplies

Knife
Cutting Board
Strainer
6 Quart Slow Cooker
Frying Pan

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Ingredients

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

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Directions

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.

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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!