Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No-Potato Chive Latke

For those who may not be able to eat other Hannakuh treats, these allergy-friendly latkes are a perfect alternative that everyone can enjoy.   It is a perfect appetizer, breakfast, or side dish.  No one will ever know that you made them without potato.  The secret to their success is rest.  Once the batter is mixed, it must rest for at least 30 minutes before frying to a light, crispy brown.   A plate of these latke with a side of honey is a sweet treat for the soul.

No-Potato Chive Latke

1 C cooked short grain rice
1/2 C rice flour
2 T chive or green onion, finely chopped
1 T rice oil
1 t salt
1 t dill
1 C water
rice oil for frying
  1. Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir until just mixed.  Do not over-mix.
  2. Allow batter to rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Pour enough oil in a skillet to cover the bottom.  Turn heat to medium or medium-high.
  4. When the oil is thoroughly heated, ladle batter into the pan and gently press to flatten.  Keep your ladle in a bowl of water to prevent the batter from sticking.  If the batter begins to stick to the ladle, just dip the it in the water again.
  5. Cook the latke until light brown on one side.  Watch your heat and only turn them one time.  If the latke cook too slow, they will be hard on the inside or too fast and they will be mushy. 
  6. Once the latke have cooked on each side, place them on plate with a paper towel to cool.
  7. Serve with honey or my Pear Sauce.
NOTE:  Rice flour doesn't perform well on iron skillets.  I find that this batter does best in a non-stick skillet.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Snack Match: Fruit or Veggie Puffs

A snack match is an allergy-friendly snack that nutritionally and/or visually resembles a popular children's snack.

This week's snack is:  Fruit or Veggie Puffs

Snack Match substitute: "Dusted" Fruit and Veggie Bites

This Snack Match is for the newer babies in the bunch! I used to make these for my little angel when she was just starting on finger foods.  Many moms use the puffed fruits or veggies but that wasn't an option for us.  The inspiration came from WholesomeBabyFood.com to "dust" chopped fruits and veggies with cereal so the little ones can pick it up easier. 

"Dusted" Fruit and Veggie Bites

1 banana, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 carrot, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 avocado, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 C Rice Chex cereal
  1. Steam carrots until soft enough for baby to eat without easily falling apart when picked up.
  2. Grind cereal into a fine powder or "dust".
  3. Toss fruits and veggies in the cereal powder.
  4. Place in small bowl that is easy for the little one to manage.
  5. Refrigerate to preserve freshness.
  6. Best eaten immediately but the babies don't seem to mind eating the brown fruit.  My angel happily eat it even after it had been in the diaper bag for hours!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cleaning House: Part 1

This week is a busy one.  I am getting ready for my MIL and nephews to visit.  They will be here for six (6) weeks, so, my mind is spinning with all that needs to be done.  Aside from the usual dusting and laundry, I have set my eyes on cleaning out my office.  My office is the "dump" room.  You know, that room where everyonemakes crafts, repairs toys, shelves books, wraps gifts, and stores all other things that have no home.  Pair that with the reminants of this morning's scissor practice and it looks like Broadway after the Yankees won the penant.

I am sharing this with you in hopes that I am not alone.  We all have our dirty "dump" room, closet, or drawer....don't we?  We all have that one place which we hope our guests never see.  We just close the area off and pretend that no one notices.

For 3 years, I have overlooked the condition of this room, whittling away at the mess whenever possible.  But, in the house of an allergic angel, this will not do!  As you probably know, allergy rule #1: The house should be clean and clutter free.  I need floors that are clear enough to sweep and desks that aren't piled too high to dust.  Rooms like my office harbor dust mites, cockroach feces and mold even though you can't see it.  This pile of papers and  unnecessary clutter is like a breeding ground for environmental allergies and it needs to be cleaned. 

So, before my dirty little secret room is revealed to my MIL (since she doesn't speak English, I am hoping she won't discover my secret here), I am cleaning up this room.  My plan is to separate the work into little jobs that take an hour or so to complete.  By devoting an hour here and an hour there to this task, I hope that the room will be cleaned by the time my guests of honor arrive.

the Plan
Hour 1:  Put teaching manipulatives into their files
Hour 2:  Store baby clothes   DONE
Hour 3:  Remove the old computer. DONE
Hour 4: Shred  DONE
Hour 5: Clean the floor.  DONE
Hour 6: Organize the angel's desk.
Hour 7:  Put away unfinished sewing projects.  DONE
Hour 8:  Sort paperwork.
Hour 9:  File papers "temporarily" stored in boxes and on shelves
Hour 10: Dust, sweep and make sure that everything is back in its place

I have 4 days.  Can I finish?
I'll keep you posted!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Bites

This appetizer should really be called "Thanksgiving on a Cracker".  Use your Thanksgiving leftovers to make tiny bites full of the good flavors of Thanksgiving.  Serve these alongside a bowl of soup or by themselves.  This quick to make snacks will satisfy you after a long day of shopping.   Yum-my!

Thanksgiving Bites

12 1-inch pieces thinly sliced turkey
3 T cranberry sauce
1/2 C cooked, seasoned pumpkin or sweet potato
12 Onion Garlic Brown Rice Snaps
  1. Mash up cooked pumpkin or sweet potato.  Leftovers from Thanksgiving work great.
  2. Spread the mashed pumpkin, sweet potato (or even pumpkin pie) on an Onion Garlic Brown Rice Snaps.
  3. Top cracker with a slice of turkey and a dallop of Dressed-up Cranberry Sauce.

A special thanks to Edward and Sons for the Onion Garlic Brown Rice Snaps sample.  They were my inspiration.

And thanks to the "Thanksgiving crew" for your help.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dressed-up Cranberry Sauce

Growing up, as many did, I thought that all cranberry sauce needed to be sliced.  Imagine my surprise when someone introduced me to traditional, chunky cranberry sauce.  I was in love.

I was taught that traditional cranberry sauce had 4 cups cranberries, 2 cups sugar, and 2 cups water.  But, everyone knows you should get dressed up for a dinner party.  So, my sauce is a dressed up version of the old classic. 
Dressed-up Cranberry Sauce

6 C fresh cranberries
3 1/2 C sugar
zest of 3 oranges
juice of 3 oranges
1/2 C water
1 t ginger
1/4 t salt
  1. Wash cranberries in a large bowl of water removing any that are spoiled.
  2. Place all of the ingredients in a pot.
  3. Turn on medium heat and stir.  Allow to come to a simmer.
  4. Stirring periodically, cook until the cranberries pop and the sauce is bubbling (around 5 minutes).
  5. Turn off heat.  Taste and add more sugar at this point, if needed.
  6. When the sauce cools, it will thicken.
  7. Chill to allow the flavors to blend.
  8. Serve hot or cold.
You may make this sauce just before Thanksgiving and it will last through Christmas.  Or, for those of you who have mastered the art of canning, you may can this to last throughout the year. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pumpkin No-nuts with Maple Glaze

Throughout November, I have been working on a recipe that I was calling Pumpkin Muffs... Muff-cakes.... Muffies.... etc.  As often as I changed the name, I altered the recipe.  I changed ingredients, cooking methods and even gave up altogether a few times. 

This weekend, I hit the jackpot and, although the verdict is still out, I think it is a winner.  Make the batter the night before so that they are ready to cook when you wake up. Hot from the pan, you won't want to share these little treats!

Pumpkin No-nuts with Maple Glaze

1 1/2 C rice flour
1 1/4 C pumpkin, cooked and mashed
2 T brown sugar
3 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1 T oil
1 C water
1/4 t ginger, grated
zest of 1 orange
1/2 C orange juice

Ebelskiver Pan  (may be purchased at Williams-Sonoma or Cooking.com)

1 C powder sugar (see note for corn-free version)
3 T maple syrup
1 t water

Pumpkin No-nut Instructions:
  1. Place all No-nut ingredients in a blender.  Mix until batter is smooth.
  2. Refrigerate batter overnight. 
  3. Heat Ebelskiver pan. 
  4. Place 1/2 T oil in each Ebelskiver hole followed by 1 T batter. A 1 T scoop like the one from Pampered Chef, make prettier No-nuts and help the batter cook more evenly.
  5. Allow No-nuts to cook on medium heat until the bottom is crispy brown and the center of the tops are uncooked (see the picture below). DO NOT touch these until ready to turn.
  6. Using a tiny silicone spoonula and a wooden chopstick, quickly turn each no-nut. 
  7. Allow no-nuts to cook until they are brown and crispy. 
  8. Remove from pan and stack on a plate.
  9. Drizzle with Maple Glaze and serve immediately.
NOTE:  If you do not have an Ebelskiver pan, you may just pour small amounts of batter onto a well-greased, non-stick skillet.  It is harder make theese flat cakes crispy but my angel didn't seem to mind!

Maple Glaze:
  1. Place ingredients in a small bowl and stir until they make a sauce.
  2. Drizzle over stack of No-nuts or serve along side for dipping.  If the glaze is too thick to drizzle, heat in the microwave very briefly to loosen it up.
NOTE:  Standard powdered sugar has should not be eaten by those with corn allergies.  There are corn free versions available which generally use tapioca starch as an anti-caking agent.  However, my angel is allergic to both of these.  It is not hard to make your own powdered sugar in seconds.  Place white sugar in the bottom of a dry, powerful food processor or grinder (a blender may even work).  I use my Magic Bullet for this.  Pulse or grind until you have fully powdered sugar.

Test batch of No-nuts
I thought you might enjoy seeing what one of my early batches of No-nuts looked like.  I am not even sure which trial this was but I just love how inconsistent the results were.  Can you see the blob in the upper left corner?  My angel was begging to eat that! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Snack Match: School Thanksgiving Feast

The school's Thanksgiving Feast plate
A snack match is an allergy-friendly snack that nutritionally and/or visually resembles a popular children's snack.

This week's snack is: Rolled Turkey, Roll, Corn, Cranberry Sauce, Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream, Apple Juice

Snack Match substitute: Rolled Turkey, Crackers, Dressed-up Cranberry Sauce, Orange Ginger Pumpkin Muffies with Maple Glaze, Water

With over 50 food allergies, all of the foods that my angel eats come directly from my kitchen or my control.  In fact, if you follow my blog, you know that there is a difference in which brand of meat or which flour we use because of factory cross-contamination or additives.  So, when it came time for the school's Thanksgiving Feast, I had a challenge to match their "snack".

The final result was a plate that didn't look much different than that of the other children.  You can see details about the menu and links to my recipes on my blog entitled "A Thanksgiving Feast Fit for a Kid".

Snack Match Thanksgiving Feast
 Some things to note about this plate, the Pumpkin Muffies with Maple Glaze that you see on the plate are samples from a recipe that I am still working on.  My angel ate the failed samples from a trial run of the recipe.  Also, while the other children had apple juice, I opted out of the apple juice because my angel was already eating so many other ingredients that she can only eat in limited amounts (pumpkin, cranberries, and orange).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Garlicky Cauliflower Buds and Baby Brussel Sprouts

I can thank a dear neighbor in Chicago for introducing me to brussel sprouts.  Each Thanksgiving, she cooked up a big dish of onions and garlic with brussel sprouts.  So, AR - this interpretation is dedicated to you!

Garlicky Cauliflower Buds and Baby Brussel Sprouts

1 pint baby brussel sprouts,julienned
1 head cauliflower
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 C water
1/2 t salt, adjust to taste
1 T rice oil
  1. Break or chop cauliflower into tiny pieces. Rinse.
  2. Place rice oil in bottom of a large sillet with a lid.  Heat.
  3. Add ingredients to the skillet and stir.  Cover.  Cook on medium heat. If the water evaporates before brussel sprouts and cauliflower have steamed, add water and cover again.
  4. When ingredients have cooked to a bright color, uncover and increase heat.  Check the taste at this point and adjust salt.    Cook until water evaporates and vegetables are done.
NOTE:  I like to cook the brussel sprouts and cauliflower separately to allow for a prettier presentation.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fun with Turkey

Turkey is one of those meats that we really only eat in my house at this time of the year.  I am not sure why that is because, although I always complain that it makes me hungry, my hubby and daughter think it is "the best". 

So, I made my call to Boarshead to verify ingredients then took my early morning trek to the neighborhood grocery.  I gave them the story, "My angel is allergic to everything in this cooler. Do you have a clean slicer that was broken down and thoroughly cleaned last night?  Do you have an unopened package of Boarshead Premium Lower Sodium Turkey?  Are you willing to open it?"  Feeling sorry for this young man, I continue on and finally buy 2lbs of sliced turkey to put in the freezer although I only need 1/4 of a lb  (I always feel sorry putting these guys through this and figure that is better than having to do this very often).  "I am set for the next millenium," I thought, as I put the turkey in my basket.

With all of this turkey in hand, there is no need to ask what we had for lunch!  My angel and I began using what we had on hand to have a little food fun.  We mixed dried cranberries with sticky rice and kneaded it into a ball which we formed to shape a mouth.  We sliced some baby beets to make "eye plops" and put pieces of dried mango for the pupil.  The remaining stip of mango was used for a nose. Then, we rolled up slices of turkey, delicately placing it around the top of the plate to make what I thought was hair.  "Voile! A happy little girl," I said.  "A girl? That's not a girl, momma.  That's Little Red Hen!"  Said my angel.  We smiled and laughed then gobbled her up!

I really never thought that such an impromptu moment with that sleepy turkey could bring such a memorable moment for us.  I know that there are lots of fun things you can do with turkey or you can just roll it up to dip in your cranberry sauce.  But, sometimes, it is just those simple moments that bring the greatest joy.  Go make memories and let me know how your luncheon turkey is adding to the fun!

NOTE:  Boarshead Premium Lower Sodium Turkey contains: turkey breast, water, salt, sugar, and sodium phosphate.  It is corn-free, gluten free, dairy free, soy free, and egg free.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Thanksgiving Feast Fit for a Kid

This week we are busy preparing for the fun and food that comes with Thanksgiving.  The menus have been set and the ingredients are being purchased.  Our first feast will be at school - a Traditional Thanksgiving Feast.  While there may not be a giant turkey at the center of this table, all of the elements that make up a traditional American Thanksgiving Celebration will be represented. 

As the teachers prepare this feast for the other children, I am busy matching it with allergy-friendly alternatives that will safely portray Thanksgiving for my angel.  Over the next few days, as I experiment with recipes and remember how to make older ones, I will post what I am the results so that you too can create an allergy-free Thanksgiving Feast Fit for a Kid.

The Menu

Rolled slices of All Natural Smoked Turkey by Boarshead

NOTE:  The school's menu will consist of Turkey rolls, Cranberry Sauce, Rolls with Butter, Corn, Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bacon and Chive Rice Balls (Jumok bab)

Ju-mok bab is a Korean picnic food.  In its most basic form, it is exactly what the word means, a "rice ball".  Historically, jumok bab would be taken to work, when traveling or on a picnic.  Nowadays, these rice balls are made with vegetables or meat mixed in so that they truly are a balanced meal on the go.

Here is the version that I most often make for my family:

Bacon and Chive Rice Balls (Jumok bab)

4 cups cooked short grain rice
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/4 lb bacon, crispy fried and crumbled
1/2 carrot, finely diced and par boiled (optional)
2 baby bella mushrooms, finely diced(optional)
2 T rice oil
salt, to taste
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until the ingredients are evenly mixed throughout the rice.  Add salt and taste.  Now is the time to make any adjustments to the meats, veggies or salt to ensure the flavor that you like.
  2. Place about 2 T of the mixture in your hand and squeeze.  The rice should stick together.  If not, add a little more oil and test again.  If you are still having trouble getting your rice to stick, add a little more rice.  Sometimes, if there is not enough rice or too many veggies/meat, the balls will fall apart.
  3. Once the mixture is ready, wet your hands slightly and begin forming balls.  Place 2 T of rice in your hand and squeeze until it sticks together.  Turn and squeeze the rice until it forms a ball.  The balls may be as large or small as you would like.
  4. Place the balls in a container and continue until all of the rice is used. 

NOTE 1:  There is a frozen short grain rice which can be microwaved to readiness for those who need a quick and simple cooked rice. 

NOTE 2:  Korean women wear gloves while forming the jumok bab.  I find the gloves to be a nuisance and use my bare hands or plastic wrap.  Whichever method you use, be sure to wash your hands well before beginning.  This rice is sticky and whatever is on your hands will end up in the ball, ultimately altering its flavor.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Brown Rice Snaps

I can't adequately express to you the excitement, disbelief, and amazement that I feel as I tell you about our new favorite product - Edwards & Sons Brown Rice Snaps.
As you know, in our house, everything is done the old fashioned way.  We don't buy many pre-made ingredients and so I only endorse a handful of food products.  Well, this one is our newest fav!

When we first began dealing with foods and allergies, we found this product.  However, the store where we purchased them quite carrying them.  We didn't have a product name and only knew what the package looked like.  We tried other stores but with no luck.  To our surprise, we recently happened upon them again.  This time, being much wiser in dealing with food allergies and products we fed them to our angel with reservations.  To our suprise, we had no problem.  I couldn't believe it.

This morning, I started the day by searching the Edward & Sons website then calling customer service.  Two things shocked me: 1- their full disclosure of each product's ingredients on every label, and 2- the easy access to allergen information, both in the plant and in the product.  In fact, the information is so straightforward on the website that the customer service representative did nothing more than clarify their policy on cross-contamination.  It is so unusual to find a compay with such a high level of product transparency that I find myself in disbelief.  I am both relieved and worried all at the same time.  Can it be possible that this company has even one product that my child can eat safely?  Indeed, it is!

While the crackers that we bought the first day, Edward & Sons Plain, Unsalted Rice Snaps probably won't work for us (there are nuts processed in the same plant on the same line), because of this companies easy to access information, I was able to find a product that will.  This was the first time that my angel remembers eating a cracker and everyday asks for more.  As I type this with tears in my eyes, I am scared and excited by the possibilities that one little cracker brings.  My angel will eat crackers that look and taste like those of other children.  She will know the crispy joy of a ham and cracker snack.  And, most importantly, she will safely enjoy the variety of tastes and textures that most of us take for granted. 

Thank you, Edward & Sons!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Eczema: Our solution

Merriam-webster.com defines eczema as: 
an inflammatory condition of the skin characterized by redness, itching, and oozing vesicular lesions which become scaly, crusted, or hardened
As I understand eczema, it is not curable but rather controlled or managed and is a common problem for many people with allergies.

Even before we knew of my angel's allergies, we began managing the eczema.  I guess that should have been a clue of what would later be in store but, as a new mom, I had no idea!  I had never seen eczema and I didn't know what caused it.  My sole concern was that my little angel's skin would be scarred forever by the little rashes that we battled daily if I did not find a solution.

I spoke with doctors, friends and family but none of their suggestions adequately managed my angel's condition.  So, I began my own search in books and on the internet, to find a solution.  By piecing together information from an endless variety of sources coupled with weeks of trial and error, we came up with a regimen that works for us.  When I asked the doctors about our ideas, they were familiar with the various elements of our routine but didn't know of anyone who had tried it all.  Once we began the following the routine regularly, we slowly notice improvements.  We first noticed that the irritations were not increasing before we actually noticed some healing.  After following the routine religiously for a few months, we began to receive comments from medical professionals about the good condition of our angel's skin.  At that point, it would have been hard for anyone to know that our angel had eczema, even under careful scrutiny.  And, as long as we followed this routine and managed her diet, we controlled the eczema.

While this regimen is a little time consuming and a bit of a burden, we felt that it was worth the effort to ensure that our angel would not be have scars from the eczema nor feel uncomfortable from the itchiness which accopanied the eczema.  We are not doctors and encourage everyone to share this routine with their doctors. Other friends, to whom we have recommended this regimen, have found success and also found the effort worth the while.  I hope that you find the same to be true for you.

Eczema Contol Regimen

1-Don't use soap or any scents to bathe. Cetaphil for sensitive skin (usually in a pump jar) seems to work well for hair and skin. Don't use warm water....just room temperature....warm water dries the skin.

2-After bath, don't dry your angel, just put hydrocortisone 1% (I like Aveeno with aloe) where needed and cover head to toe with aquaphor, paying special attention to knees elbows, wrists and ankles. Don't use lotions, they dry the skin. Creams are good but petroleum jelly based products seem to work best. Some recommend not using hydrocortisone on the face but I did it sparingly and had no problems.

3-The aquaphor and other petroleum jelly based products soemtimes clogged the pores on my angels face.  So, I often used a cream such as Cetaphil cream or Serave on her face.  I found that the lotions dried the skin more than creams or petroleum based products so I steered away from lotions.

4-Do this religiously every night or 2-3 times a day if the eczema is really bad. Some recommend not bathing unless needed, I thought that the cetaphil bath actually helped.

5-Be aware of products that contain things that might irritate like grains, soys, lavender etc. Your angel can react to allergens on skin or if it gets in their mouth. Read all labels paying special attention to the inactive ingredients.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

$25 Cooking.com e-Gift Card Giveaway

Whoo-hoo! I just love giveaways!

I have a $25 e-giftcard from Cooking.com that I would like to give one of our lucky followers. 

Here is how you may enter:
  1. "LIKE" My Angel's Allergies on Facebook.
  2. "FOLLOW" the AllergicAngel on Twitter.
  3. "Follow" our blog publicly at http://www.myangelsallergies.com/.
  4. Have a friend LIKE or FOLLOW us on one of these methods.  Then, have that friend post a comment on this blog entry ($25 Cooking.com e-Gift Card Giveaway) telling us your name and where they linked to us (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, or our website).  If they are a new follower or friend, then we will enter you in the contest one more time!

More Details:
  • Participants may enter the contest one time for each of the four methods explained above.  Entrants may not participate with multiple e-mail addresses. Any entrant who
    attempts to enter with multiple e-mail addresses, under multiple identities or uses
    any other device will be disqualified from participation in the promotion and all
    entries submitted by that entrant will be void.
  • One winner will be selected at random from all eligible entries at the time of drawing on Thursday, November 18, 2010.
  • The winner will be notified via the My Angel's Allergies blog, Facebook page, and Twitter handle.  In the event that we are unable to contact the contestant within 48 hours of the first notification, the prize will be forfeited and an alternate winner will be selected. 
  • This giveaway has not been sponsored by, endorsed by, nor is affiliated with Cooking.com.
  • All entries and participants are subject to these rules and those set out in our Contest and Giveaway Rules.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dad's Famous Onion and Mushroom Steak Topping

My dad loves to cook a version of this to put on his steaks, rice, and eggs.  As any good southerner would, he makes it rich with sticks of butter and worschester sauce.  My version is a little bit healthier and also allergy-friendly.  I hope you like it.

Dad's Famous Onion and Mushrom Steak Topping

1 onion, julienned
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1-2 containers of bella mushrooms, sliced
1 T salt
3 T oil
  1. Place all of the ingredients in a shallow pot, preferably enameled cast iron.
  2. Heat ingredients on medium-low heat and allow to cook slowly for 30 minutes to one hour until the ingredients have softened to a sweet taste.
  3. Alternatively, if you are using an oven safe pot, you may place the pot in the oven to cook for one hour.
  4. Adjust seasoning.
  5. Serve warm over steaks, rice, and potatoes.

NOTE 1:  You can alter the ratio here to suit your taste preferences.  When my husband is eating this, I increase the mushrooms.  When it is just my angel and me, I decrease them.  If I am eating by myself, I ditch the mushrooms altogether!

NOTE 2:  I prefer enameled cast iron because most cast iron companies pre-season their cookware in the factory with either soy, corn or vegetable oil.  If you are sensitive to any of these oils or ingredients, you should be careful.  See my review of Le Creuset enameled cast iron for more details.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Review: Oval Dutch Ovens by Le Creuset, Enameled Cast Iron

I was recently given the opportunity to review a piece of cookware for Cooking.com.  While excited by this opportunity, I am not at ease with "selling" anything.  I knew that I only wanted to review a product if it was meaningful and heartfelt.

With that on my mind, I set off to the kitchen to cook for some dinner guests.  I wanted to cook my dad's famous mushroom and onion topping for our steaks.  However, the pot that I would usually use was too small for the amount that I needed to cook.  As I reached for my "go to" pot, a 5qt Dutch oven by Le Creuset, I realized how versatile this pot is.

This dutch oven is what I would list as one of my kitchen essentials.  I have both a 5qt braiser and a wide mouth dutch oven.  While I swear by both of these, if I had to choose one, it would probably be the wide mouth dutch oven.  Made of enameled cast iron, this dutch oven goes from stove or oven to table then to the sink for easy clean-up.  I use it for everything from roasting chicken to braising vegetables.  I love, love, love this dutch oven! 

While the price is nothing to joke about, this dutch oven is well worth the expense.  With proper care, it will last a lifetime.  This dutch oven will be a piece of cookware that you can pass on to your children.  If you don't already own one of these, consider adding it to your Christmas list - I don't think you will regret it.  If you already own a Le Creuset enameled cast iron product or have purchased a product from Cooking.com, I would love to hear about your experience.

You can purchase any of the Le Creuset products at Cooking.com.  You may also become fan of Cooking.com on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/Cookingcom) or follow Cooking.com on twitter(http://twitter.com/#!/cooking).  They frequently offer contests and feebies to those who follow them.

TIME: What the world eats

As I make plans for Thanksgiving dinner, I found this collection of food photos particularly interesting.  These are pictures of what people around the world are eating.  They are the things that you might find in pantries around the world.

As I flipped through these pictures, the pictures of American food was alarming.  How much of it was pre-packaged or delivered?  How few fresh fruits and vegetables were in the diets of these families?  How similar are the diets of these families to that of my family?

TIME: What the world eats, Part 1

If this isn't awakening enough, there is a What the world eats, Part 2

With a home full of food allergies, what we eat is often different from those around us.  Most of our food is made the old-fashioned way - from scratch.  Food very rarely comes from boxes or cans and is never pre-made.  There are few short-cuts in our house.  It is utterly important for my family that I know how food has been prepared.  I need to know even the smallest details about what ingredients were added, where they were cooked, and what they have touched. 

Because of this, the food in my house is as close to what you would find in nature as they would be if you grew them yourself.  I often forget what other families are eating.  I sometimes feel so clueless to discover how often families eat out or how much of their food is wholly or partially prepared outside of their home.  My husband has always been a beacon reminding me that fresh fruits and vegetables are a delicious addition to any meal or snack time.  And, I believe, this is what has always encouraged me to fill our table with homemade foods even before we discovered our angel's allergies. 

This is why these photos intrigued me so.  I couldn't help but wonder how different are we from other American families.  Help me out:

What are you eating?  Even if your family doesn't have allergies, how close is it to its natural state before it enters your kitchen?  What does a balanced diet look like in your home?

The pictures posted by TIME caused me to reflect on my habits and I hope that they will do the same for you.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Snack Match: Granola Bars

A snack match is an allergy-friendly snack that nutritionally and/or visually resembles a popular children't snack.

This week's snack is: Granola Bars

Snack Match substitute: Cranberry Bars

Cranberry Bars

These bars are perfect snacks for kids to make by themselves or with a little assistance.  They would even be a great classroom cooking project.  I hope you enjoy them!

1 C Rice Chex cereal
3 t honey
2 t sugar
1/4 t salt
1 t dried cranberries (or other safe dried fruits in small pieces)
1/4 t rice oil
2 individual Silicone cupcake holders or very small glass dishes

  1. Place Rice Chex cereal in a sandwich size ziploc bag.  Crush the cereal leaving no large pieces.
  2. Pour cereal into a bowl and add honey, sugar, salt, and dried cranberries.  Mix thoroughly.
  3. Place oil inside each cupcake holder and spread it around bottom and sides. 
  4. Put 1/2 of mixture into each cupcake holder and push down lightly to compact mixture.
  5. Place holders on a microwave safe plate.
  6. Microwave for 30 seconds.  Remove from microwave and allow to cool until just able to handle.  DO NOT leave in bakeware too cool completely or it will stick.
  7. Turn bars out onto a plate and allow to finish cooling.
Makes 2 individual sized bars.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Deli Counter Safety

When buying deli meats, people with food allergies must be cautious.  Many deli meats contain grain, corn, dairy or soy products.  I have found that my angel can eat two of the Boarshead meats, one of those being prosciutto.  However, the deli counter is a dangerous place for cross contamination.  So, unless, you are going to buy the whole, unopened package of meat (and I have....safety first), here are few helpful rules that I follow:
  1. Always have your meat cut from an unopened package.
  2. Be sure the deli worker handles your meat with new clean gloves.
  3. Don't slice your meat at the deli.  Have the attendant place clean paper on a cleaned surface then slice the meat one time with a newly cleaned knife.  If you have any doubts, re-cut the end when you get home.
  4. If you must slice the meat at the deli (as is often the case with prosciutto), the best time to get your meat cut is first thing in the morning.  Be sure that the machine was taken apart for cleaning and have the attendant wipe down the machine one more time before cutting.
  5. Have the worker place your meat into a bag then onto a clean paper on the scale before weighing.
  6. If you have any doubts, they do not want to open a new package or they do not have a new package to open, then......DO NOT BUY THE MEAT.  It is better to be safe than to deal with a reaction later.
It is possible to eat meats from the deli but please do exercise caution.  Plan ahead and do not hesitate to contact company or speak with deli managers to ensure safe deli eats!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bacon-wrapped Asparagus

I originally set out to wrap the asparagus in prosciutto.  However, finding a safe deli meats is a challenge for those with food allergies.  (See Deli Counter Safety for more info) For this party, I was not able to find safe prosciutto so I substituted a safe bacon.  To my surprise, the bacon-wrapping worked wonderfully and they were the hit of the party.

Bacon-wrapped Asparagus

1 pound asparagus
1 pound bacon or prosciutto

Cut 2 inches cut off end of asparagus and wash.  Bring pot of water to boil and salt liberally.  Place asparagus in water and cook until bright green.  Remove from pot and run under cold water or dip ice bath to stop cooking.

If using bacon, cook the bacon until done but not crispy.  Do not cook the prosciutto.

Wrap each asparagus piece in prosciutto or bacon leaving the pretty tip sticking out.  Chill and serve.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Great Pumpkin Carving: Part 2

This Halloween, I was reminded of how easy it is to host a pumpkin carving.  These parties naturally lend themselves to great success with minimal effort.  They can be as fancy or as simple as the host desires while innately offering entertainment for all ages.  Here is how we did it if you would like to throw a pumpkin carving yourself:

THE GUESTS:  We hosted the carving at our home.  Because we don't have a lot of space, we limited the invitations to our closest friends.  In considering who to invite, remember that, especially the first year, about 1/4 of the invitation list will not come.  But, if your carving becomes a tradition, be aware that people will often plan ahead for it and your number of guests may increase. 

THE TIME:  You should begin your party before dark considering that you will need time for guests to arrive and carve pumpkins ideally finishing around the time of dark so that you can sit back and admire the lit pumpkins. We usually begin around 4.  This allows 30 minutes for appetizers and late arrivals then another hour or so for carving before the sun begins to set. 

THE FOOD:  While a potluck would work beautifully for this party, I always cook safe food for parties where we will have a number of children.  I do this because it is impossible to watch what the kids are eating then touching or what parents feed the kids before they play with a toy.  I try to keep our house a safe-haven for our angel.  A place she can live and play freely without worry.  By cooking all of the food and planning safe foods for everyone, we all enjoy the party much more.

This year, we had Bacon-wrapped Asparagus, Smoked Salmon Crepes, Ham and Chives Wraps and an Edible Arrangement for appetizers.  All of these foods were free off all major allergens including corn.  I will post recipes for these in weeks to come.  For dinner, we had Pork and Pumpkin Stew over rice.  I had whole, washed fruit out as edible decorations and water, apple juice, beer, tea and coffeee to drink.

THE ENTERTAINMENT:  The pumpkin carving is the highlight of the party.  Guests are asked to bring their own pumkin and carving tools, although I always have extra in case someone forgets theirs.  Before the guests arrive, I gather pumpkins, large tarps, a few bricks, carving tools and stencils, a seed bowl and trash bags.  I place these in a bucket or wagon so that they are ready when we are. 

When it is time to carve, the guests help place large tarps in the driveway with bricks to hold down the corners.  I place a variety of carving tools from saws, knives, wood carving instruments etc on a tray.  You may print jack-o-lantern stencils off of the internet for those who need a little help but I have found that most people go at it the old-fashioned way.  I provide bowls for the seeds and trash bags for the extra parts.  Then, I help everyone find work space and the fun begins.  I have found that most guests are timid at first.  However, once the hosts get down and dirty on the tarp, the guests soon feel at home and dig in. 

THE GAMES:  The little angels will help with the pumpkins for a little while, but eventually their attention turns elsewhere.  This year, I prepared an outdoor relay to help the angels burn up some energy before dinner then some crafts to keep their attention while inside.

For the relay, I had enough legs to the race so that each adult could man a station while one took pictures and I oversaw the process.  This relay works best for ages 2-7 with the adaptions for ages 5-7 in parenthesis. 
  1. Grab an oversized t-shirt from the bag and put it on (pants, too, with socks on their hands).
  2. Jump through hula hoops lined up on the ground (on one foot).
  3. Roll a pumpkin to the wagon and put it in the wagon (carry the pumpkin on your head to the wagon).
  4. Get a "wart" - large jewel sticker - from an adult, chase the "witch" -an adult wearing a witches hat - and put the "wart" on the "witch" - the witch may run ("witch" runs more for older kids).
  5. Take off clothes and put in bag.
Not surprisingly, the kids didn't eat much and they were soon ready for crafts!  I gave the kids a giant pumpkin cutout and told them about "The Great Pumpkin" as seen in the movie "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown."  Then, I gave them a basket full of harvest themed stickers, glue, scissors,  and a big sheet of paper so that they could decorate their pumpkin, a pumpkin patch and even cut out jack-o-lantern faces to put on them.  I had  also had a basket of masks and decorative headbands for the kids to play with when they finished their pumpkins.  Once that was done, I turned on the movie "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" so that they could hear the whole story. 

THE RESULTS:  Everyone enjoyed the outdoor activities and the adults got into the relay race as much as the kids!  The indoor activities worked out well also.  While the adults were enjoying conversation, I could engage in the conversation while periodicaly slipping out to re-engage the kids.  I think these crafts were the real "saver" since a party with small kids can often be crazy as they search from something new to entertain them or an adult to direct them.

The food also seemed to be a hit.  However, I underestimated how hungry people would be when they arrived and after pumpkin carving. The appetizers were polished off and most of the Edible Arangement eaten.  At dinner, the soup went over well, but I felt that something heavier was needed.  In hind-site, I might offer the soup as an appetizer, too.  It would warm everyone up before heading out to work on their pumpkins.  After carving, I would again offer the soup but would probably add something heavier to the mix like chicken fingers and potato wedges with a salad.  For dessert, I think that the fruit was fine but I would also probably offere a bowl of safe candy for those with a sweeter tooth.

As we said goodbye to our guests and headed back inside, my husband and I agreed that the party went off without a hitch.  Every time that we do a pumpkin carving, we have the same feeling.  People enjoy themselves, we don't have to do as much work as for other parties and we can easily imagine doing it again.

It was a great party!  We had such a good time carving pumpkins, playing games and eating good food.  The Great Pumpkin Carving party will probably become a tradition for us here just as it did in the midwest. I know that we are already looking forward to the next year.