Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

May the year bring good things to all: happiness, health, wonder, and joy.
Achievement, and solitude; music and travel, and family, friends and pets.
Peacefulness and peace across our nation and world.
Ring in 2016!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Holidays, Celebrations, Food Allergies

I used to fret abut what to make for the holidays.  I'm italian and growing up we had Chriatmas Eve feasts with way more than seven fishes. And it was glorious-- company, singing, and lots of washing up. I transferred the tradition to my home, though not as elaborate ( my mom was a wonderful cook) but there was still company and fishes. 
  Then, I decided I didn't want to follow my Italian roots in a way my son-- and thereby my husband and I-- couldn't fully enjoy. 
   So I started making a roast-- sometimes leg of lamb, sometimes pot roast. Christmas Day traditionally we have a turkey -- easy and good for picking on that loose Christmastime schedule. 
  Do I feel badly about the shift-- no! I do occasionally miss fried smelts and the 
Taste of crab sauce. I won't lie. But I also occasionally miss being 21.  
 The parts of my Christmas tradition that stay the same-- company, laughter, good food, family-- are the important memories. And, 
     Now... I started making slow cooked pork shoulder... And a new tradition was born. 
Not only does a pork roast taste delicious as we pull slices from the bone-- not only does it taste good--it smells wonderful wafting through the house with the scent of pine. 
 Happy Merry everyone! Enjoy your family and friends and the traditions that you are newly making and remember it's not what's on the table, but who's at the table that matters. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

College Cookbook has arrived

Yes! the cookbook is out. Self-published which had its ups and downs but I am happy with the result. 
  Thank you to all the early readers. Use the book and have fun cooking. 

College Cooking: Allergy-Free 
 25 Easy Recipes for students and new cooks 
 No Substitutions 
No Hard-to-Find Ingredients 
Milk Eggs Peanuts Tree Nuts Wheat Fish Soy Sesame

  Currently available   And Amazon. 
If anyone gets the book, I'd love to hear from you:
 Thanks so much--and through this book I found a new facebook group: Parents of 
High school and college kids. It's a group   who are working to keep their kids safe as they become independent and move to college and beyond. And these folks are sharing all the information-- a real database is forming. 
  Check out the cookbook too!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Holiday Time --Again

Food Allergy, Holiday Meals and Family!

You’re doing the final shopping for ______________(insert a Holiday here )and your –mother—aunt—cousin-- calls and says “I’m making strudel for the holiday dessert and I know that Johnny is allergic to nuts, but it really doesn’t taste good without them, so I just wanted you to know.”
You hang up the phone –and (circle one)
A. Scream  B. Cry  C. Laugh D. Shake your head E. All of the above

All of the above is the correct answer – and then you get the baking mix from the cupboard and read about how to make a strudel.

      This is a typical holiday conversation for a food allergic family. We’ve all been there, and we all know what it feels like to NOT be able to make that special family recipe for a holiday meal. Well, as Loretta famously told Ronny in Moonstruck “Snap out of it!”
This is our life.
      And this is especially true around holiday celebrations when ritual meals, steeped in tradition, are the standard fare. Food allergies can cut us off those traditions, memories—whatever you want to call those remembered moments from our past-- and not allow us to make those dishes.
But we can’t make them.  And neither can my mother or my Aunt Sadie. Instead, I can make a menu that does not include allergens—and no one will know the difference. I can ask Cousin Pesky to bring a green salad—since that would be ‘easier’ for her—and ditch the strudel altogether. I may feel a pinch at giving up a family tradition, but what really makes the meal a tradition is that we gather our family and close friends to share it. That part doesn’t change.
    As parents we must smooth the way for a happy holiday. People may mean well, but don’t have as much practice at keeping our children safe—or people may not want to change their habits. Whichever the case, your child will have a happy and safe holiday because you –and possibly only you—make the effort to prepare and bring a special meal or host a worry-free fete. That you must think ahead, prepare, and possibly reorganize tradition—that is a given in the food allergic household.

But, above all, we must remember that --while the menu may need to change-- the message of these holiday meals does not. What we are eating should not be as important as who we are eating it with— as well as the laughter and gusto we bring to the table—no matter if it’s ravioli or rice cakes and jam.
The love, the sharing, the connection are what truly matters and there is no substitute for that.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Chicken a lá Easy!

One of my New year's resolution-- to use a little less oil and a lot more chicken. So yesterday I got a cut up chicken, put it in a pan. Got canned diced tomatoes and spooned them all over the chicken-- don't use a lot of the liquid. Then I diced garlic, sprinkled that garlic and lots of pepper over it and popped it in a 400 oven with tin foil. After about a 40 minutes, remove the foil and cook for another 30-40 minutes until nice and bubbly. 
   I served with rice and, since the oven was on, I roasted Brussel sprouts (halved with a tablespoon of oil and some water. )
  Easy and delicious. And a pretty healthy way to start the new year. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Teen Summit!

The Teen Summit weekend was awesome. So many people and so many memories. A huge shout out to the FARE organizers who did such a good job for us with great speakers, scheduling, and sweatshirts. 
I found friends from years past and made new ones. 
  It's such an amazing feeling to be in a room-- a very big grand ballroom in this case--with over 300 people who "get it." Who have walked in your shoes. 
  People who have made eggless cakes, read countless labels, collaborated with many many teachers and school nurses and packed a 1000 lunches. Just like you. 
  That's who we are-- and we're good at this, really good. And proud of it. We  exchanged information and experiences. Our kids hung out with new friends, sharing stories and texts. 
  And, our "village" -- our food allergy village-- once again empowered its villagers and made us laugh and cry and say goodbye stronger than we arrived. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Teen Summit here we come!

Off to Washington DC for the FARE Teen Summit. This weekend, We'll scale the heights and grapple with the lows of everything teen-aged and food allergy. 
  Restaurants. Dating. Travel. Sports. College. Parents. Epi-pens and risk taking. 
 And we'll laugh and I'll cry-- I always do-- and we'll make new friends and catch up with old ones. And we'll watch as our strong, brave, and wonderful kids have a blast. 
Hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Teen Summit: 10 years and counting

I'm going to be at the Teen Summit in DC next weekend-- hope to see you there!
 It's a great event for kids to meet, greet, gripe, and grin. It's empowering and informative and fun. 
Note: my little recipe book : College Cooking: Allergy-Free will be available on Amazon very soon. Easy recipes for college kids or anyone who wants easy delicious  meals -- allergy-free. 

Feel free to contact me at:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Great NYTimes Column

Melissa Clark, who writes a weekly homey food column for the New York Times, this week takes on the idea of basic recipes for a variety of foods. 
  These are relatively simple recipes which work for -- as she labels--"any meatballs" and " any roasted vegetables."
   Now these recipes use ingredients that include some top 8 allergens-- eggs, milk, fish-- but Clark's suggestions and ideas are in the right place. Have a few go-to recipes that work with a variety of proteins-- and it makes your cooking life easier. 
  Ideas echoed here and repeated like a mantra for everyone cooking for a food allergic family. 
 Check out the column though-- good ideas and cheerful presentation.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Teen Summit--the 10 Year Anniversary!!!

Unbelievably it was 10 years ago that about 50 of us gathered in Crystal City, Virginia to talk, share, explore and breathe a collective sigh of relief about food allergies. 
  Finally, we were in a whole roomful of people who "got it. " We were in a room with other kids and moms( and maybe two dads) who knew exactly what we were dealing with. And we were laughing and sharing tips and-- circling DC on a monument tour with a bus driver who was lost!
  That weekend was life-changing. I personally had never met another family whose kid was allergic to more than one food. I had never met another family who found it difficult to travel and who knew how to bake a gluten-free, egg-free,milk-free birthday cake. It was wonderful!
  My son was the "keynote speaker"-- at 12! And parents were not allowed in the room as he talked about dealing with food allergies in school, after school, sports teams and socially. I think it was a brilliant stroke by the FAAN organizers to keep the teens and the parents totally separate. 
 And the floodgates opened. The kids couldn't share enough about their triumphs and trials. AND, how they dealt with them day to day. The relief and joy and positive attitudes were unbounded. 
   My son still has friends from that first Teen Summit. As do I. 
  My friends and I continue to share the stress of food challenges. Or college jitters. Or what petition just got passed in our respective states. Or what to make for lunch. 
  Of course in 10 years the Teen Summit has grown. Now, over 100 teens and preteens attend. And there are speakers for the teens and parents for two and a half days solid. But there's still lots of conversation and sharing and community. And always that big sigh of relief that everybody gets it. 
  In 10 years food allergies have gone from being practically unheard of to a condition to be accommodated. By law. 
  It's been a journey, and the friends I made at the first Teen Summit have been there every step of the way. 
  It's the place to be in November-- see you there!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Risk-Taking and Food Allergy

This could be a short column: 
There is no risk taking. 
  Except of course, when a kid doesn't read the ingredients because ( supply reason here: "too awkward" " no ingredients list" " didn't want to")
 Or when something looks and smells sooooo good that they have to try a bite. 
But often, food allergic teens are risk- averse, especially about their body's well-being. They're not the ones swinging upside down on the jungle gym. Or jumping into the ocean on a dare. Or nose grinding on a skateboard, taking air. 
  Doesn't mean they're not cool or fun or active-- just, as I've always said, a tad more responsible and mature. 
  Gotta be-- gotta keep yourself safe and still be independent. And the only way your folks will let you be independent is to be responsible: 
Take that Epi-pen; 
Avoid that restaurant,
 Pack yourself a snack. 
( and my thanks go here to many talks by FAAN folks--Karen Mudd we love you-- about what's allowable and what's not). 
  So our food allergic teens may not be trying everything there is out there to try, but I think we can be pretty confident that they're trying to keep themselves safe each and every day. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Summer Food Staples-- Allergy Free

Summer staples-- the foods that appear for the short summer season and are at every table and farm stand this time of year. 
Watermelon. Fresh golden ears of corn. Peaches and tomatoes galore. Cubenelle peppers -- the long thin light green ones. Sometimes called Italian peppers. Zucchini and cucumbers and every kind of salad green and radish. 
 All this bounty is perfect for your summer table. 
Cubenelles can be roasted under the broiler -- wash and dry them. Lay on a broiler pan and broil each side until blackened. Remember to do the sides too. Take out of oven and let cool a bit-- until you can handle them. Strip off the blackened skin. The pepper underneath should be soft and fragrant. These make great  toppers  for chicken or burgers. Or throw in a bowl with some olive oil and halved garlic cloves, and steep the peppers for an hour. Great alternative side dish to macaroni salad or coleslaw which many allergic folks can't eat. 
   How about grilled peaches for a delicious dessert? Halve them, remove the pit, and put on the grill inside down. They will carmelize-- turning a little black-- which means they're done. If allowed, these make nice little bowls for sorbet or ice cream. 
   Tomatoes-- cut up and drizzled with olive oil and salt-- can't beat it. But as a nice side dish, try tomato salad, Italian style. Cut ripe tomatoes (2-3 regular aize)into quarters or eighths. Put these in a bowl. Drizzle with 1/3 cup olive oil, two or three crushed garlic cloves and pepper liberally. Add a 1/2 cup of water and let this mixture steep-- that is, leave it in the counter for an hour or more. Stirring every now and again. Top with fresh basil and serve. 
  And for something different-- pickled zucchini. Scrub a medium zucchini well And cut into thin rounds. Put in a jar or glass Mixing bowl. Add two cloves snaxhes garlic. 
Mix equal parts vinegar and water-- 1/2 cup vinegar(white, rice, cider) and 1/2 cup water, 1 Teaspoon of kosher salt, 1 Tablespoon of sugar, a few black peppercorns, a few sprigs of  fresh rosemary.  Stir together and put in microwave for 1:00 minute. Pour heared mixture over zuchinni and cover lightly. let it pickle for an hour or more. Stirring occasionally. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Carnivals. Festivals. Street fairs and BBQs-- July 4th approaches

Summer has arrived-- July 4th Barbecues with family. Maybe cookouts on the beach. Or grilling in the mountains.  Then there's the boardwalk and town carnivals and state fairs and the firehouse pancake breakfasts. 
  Traditions we love-- and traditions we need to make adjustments for. 
  Can you make the side dishes for the family picnic-- so you know they're safe and that your kid has something to fill his plate. Or you can suss out the carnival before you go as a family-- there's often cotton candy and French fries and snow cones-- all of which are usually safe for allergies to eggs, milk, nuts, peanuts, and soy. Of course you have to check the ingredients-- but these are the kinds of items one can find at carnivals and church festivals and town fetes. 
If wheat is allowed -- the traditional vats of " zeppole"-- fried dough with powdered sugar-- are an all-time favorite: they're greasy and sweet and smell divine. In fact, stay far away from them
If wheat isn't allowed since it really feels like you're missing out  if you can't have them. 
 And really the whole point of summer fun is NOT to feel left out.
 For other events in these holiday weekends-- try to control what you can: Bring food-- remember, enough for everybody at the picnic. 
Find one item at the festival or at the street fair that's safe-- like an Italian ice or curly fries-- and everybody have that. 
Take a supply of safe items--and make sure those are completely obviously JUNK food! What's summer for, but junk food. Even if it comes from home and not the boardwalk vendors.  
  And remember to have fun!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

College Food-Allergy Cookbook

The cookbook is almost done! Just in time for going back to school. College kids are starting their shopping for towels and comforters and new computers. And those who have good allergies to deal with -- they're calling the Disabilities offices and student deans. 
And some food-allergic kids will be moving into their own apartments or frat houses. Maybe this cookbook can benefit them. 
   Allergy Free College Cooking.  
 is 30 easy-to-make meals that are free of The Top 8: No Egg, Milk, Nuts, Peanuts, Wheat, Soy, Shellfish, Fish-- and Sesame. 
 It's a book of easy dinners; reicpes good not only  for the college student, but for any new cook-- especially a cook new to food allergies. 
  There are no special ingredients. Or specialty stores to go to. 
These are simple everyday recipes that are familiar to all: meatloaf, BBQ ribs, chicken soup, chili,  mashed potatoes. Recipes like the kind you'll find on this blog. 
  And, I've given lots of shopping tips, notes on what pots and pans and what utensils you'll need. As well as a simple glossary of basic cooking terms. 
  Keep you posted on publication date-- and it will be available as an e- book as well as a a coil- bound print book. 
  So be safe and enjoy this start of summer. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

College and Food Allergies

It's that time of year again-- high schoolers are visiting schools and planning for college. 
      College dining for a food allergic student can be-- at best, challenging and at worst, unsafe. To say nothing of unhealthy if the student can't find safe meals to eat and must " make do" with less than nutritious or substantial food. 
( it's a problem my kid had and came
home Christmas break "malnourished.")
  Many colleges and universities are recognizing the growing food allergy issues-- as well as the rising interest in food in general among students. In response to the food allergy concerns-- which can have an impact on a school's liabilities, bottom line, as well as reputation-- schools are looking to many resources. FARE is developing a college response plan. Sources from the food industry are trying to respond with organizational changes-- like specialized stations in the dining halls. (Simple Servings-- a program out of Sodexo food services-- is being adopted many places.) 
  There is the school's office of disabilities. But they are responsible for keeping the school safe from lawsuits, not safe for your child. Keep that in mind-- and it's not that they won't try to be helpful, but if it's you or the school at stake-- guess whose side the Disabilities people are on. 
 Just good to know. 
And further to this discussion-- one of the most difficult concerns to parse out is the transition from what is agreed upon in The Dining  Services office and what happens on the dining hall line. Ay, there's the rub. 
  The gap between plan and implementation is often too wide to bridge. And, it's always where issues can occur-- just as with anything in this world. The paper plan looks great; ingredients and recipe look safe.  But does one cook add something a little extra? Can the sever really keep a plain baked potato under his counter until your child comes to claim it? Are the salad bar utensils really kept separate and refreshed often?
   Then add a possible layer between the food supplier and the university dining services and then the servers on the line-- it could be like the old-time game of "Telephone."  The information you started with is completely different by the time it reaches the last person on the line. 
   I'm not trying to be negative-- just practical. Think about these issues as you speak to the dining services folks. Nothing may be perfect-- and some schools can handle one or two allergies, but not multiple. Some smaller schools will cook meals individually, some will not. All will try to be helpful-- and most times, it will work out! 
And if it doesn't, your child gets the opportunity to advocate for upcoming students and for the community at large. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

More Cumin Recalls-- and Crushed Peanut Shells

So, it's out there in the news that the powdered cumin that has been recalled has been contaminated with ground peanut shells. 
  The peanut shells are inexpensive and bulk up the cumin. So, in they go. 
  I personally doubt that any factory worker or any producer or owner thought they were putting anyone at risk. 
   And I also personally doubt that this was not a known additive, a known procedure in the industry. For years. 

(As an aside-- walk down the spice aisle
in any supermarket and see the empty rows where cumin and paprika--and chili powder sometimes too. )

   Fillers are used in every kind of food--I'm often amazed what foods include whey or other milk products, which ingredient I always thought was expensive. 
   But it's discouraging to feel that so many products can be contaminated at the source and that we'll never know. 
I know you, like I, often cook from scratch since most packaged products contain something our kids can't eat. And that's the LISTED allergens. 
This is a whole different ball game-- this is an unknown lurking danger. Or the possibility of danger-- and  that's unnerving. 
  So the only option I feel I have is to make everything from scratch and to use salt, pepper and herbs...
Other spices-- I'd grind my own, but will
Probably forgo spices altogether. 
Be well and we'll all have to make Italian food-- no need for cumin, paprika-- plus it's what I know best! 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Pan- Fried Chicken, allergy free

Fried chicken. 
The very words makes one's mouth water. I can hear the crackle and sizzle of the skin frying... Yum. 
 Below is a time- honored method of frying chicken. The ingredients have been changed to protect the allergic

Pan-Fried Chicken
Chicken thighs on the bone
Olive oil
Rice Dream 
Pie crust flour and cake flour--Mix it half and half in a mixing bowl 
   I use Gluten Feee Pantry brand
Liberally salt and pepper the flours

Soak a couple chicken thighs in a bowl of Rice Dream-- a few minutes is fine

Coat the thighs in the flour mixture. I use a bowl and transfer the chicken piece by piece to the flour bowl and turn and cover the chicken. 

During this time heat the oil in a frying pan-- use enough to fill the pan halfway up side. 
 Heat oil slowly starting on medium and raising to high heat as the oil heats.
The oil is hot enough when a drop of water sizzles when you drop it into the pan. 

Put up to three thighs in the pan-- just make sure the oil doesn't spill over sides. Let them cook for 6-8 minutes, then turn over. ( I use tongs) Let them cook another 6-8 minutes. And, skin should be crisp and golden brown. 
To check internal done-ness:
Stick thick part of thigh with a knife -- juices should run clear. 

Using tongs, take chicken pieces out of pan and place on paper towels to drain. 

And eat! 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cumin, Food Allergies, Ruminations

The FDA has issued warnings to the general Public about cumin and products using Cumin because of the possible Presence of peanuts--a deadly allergen. 
  I am very happy that the FDA took these steps as it will get news coverage and a wider dissemination than all the good food allergy sites. 
  Also, I am glad because it brings into the public eye just how serious food allergies really are. Deadly. 
Something to be taken seriously. 

What I don't understand, still, is how did peanuts get in the spices? Made on the same lines as ground peanut products?
My feeling is that peanuts are a more desired and expensive item than cumin or chili powder. And, I don't know what ground peanuts are used for-- but that's my ignorance and nothing to do with this discussion. 
  If this does speak to "Made on the same lines as..." Then it begs the question who is watching the cleaning processes applied to the factory lines-- for any product-- or should we go back to avoiding "made in same facility" and "made in a plant that also processes..." (many of us do anyway)
The world restricts again

 And, for now,  I just continue to avoid any and all items that include "spices" and settle for salt and pepper and herbs I can buy with the stems still on. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Chicken Soup

It's cold outside so I am making a chicken soup with carrots, celery, parsley and a tablespoon of tomato sauce. 
It's hearty and warm-- and I have leftover rice to stir in. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Recalls Galore-- What's Up?

Scary to see so many recalls. At least I am unnerved. Especially about the cumin recalls:
Perhaps I should have been anxious about spices before these recalls. 

Perhaps I should have purchased  whole spices and ground them myself. 

Perhaps I never should have used cumin or chile or tumeric or curry --
Oh wait, I didn't. 

But even so, these recalls are scary, and although I never like to cross something completely off my list-- I am crossing off cumin. And other ground spices. 
  And, I may even stop using dried herbs and spices in general-- salt and pepper aside. 
  Years ago my mom told me " when in doubt, don't". Think it's good advice now in light of these recalls. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Candied Orange Peel a lá Allergy-Free

As easy as one two three. 
   Candied orange peel-- which is orange peel, sugar, glucose, and sorbitol preservative. 
  Semisweet chocolate morsels from Vermont Nut Free Chocolates. Dairy free, nut and egg and other top eight- free. 
The finished product is in middle. 

Heat the morsels and with great dexterity-- which i do not possess FYI!--dip the orange peel in the chocolate to coat tips.  Refrigerate until chocolate is hardened.