Is a Pasture Raised Turkey Worth the Price?

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YES!  YES! and YES!  If you have never tasted a free range turkey this year is the time to try one!  I have been ordering turkeys from our local Duerksen Turkey Farm in Mancelona, Michigan for the last 6 years and the difference is not only in the humane practices they use to raise the turkeys but the taste is AMAZING!

Pasture raised is best according to Duerksen Turkey Farm because, “Omega-3 is one of the two essential fatty acids that cannot be produced by our bodies but are required for good health. Omega-3 fatty acid is found in green leaf vegetables and grass. ..Omega-6 fatty acid is found in grains such as soy beans and corn. Both are essential for our health.”

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At Duerksen Turkey Farm, “Our turkeys spend their lives in wide open spaces. They dine on tender green grass and breathe fresh country air, while chasing after a delicious meal of a variety of insects and grasshoppers. They are not subject to crowding, toxic ammonia fumes, or inhumane practices.”

The above accounts from my local turkey farm are similar to the hundreds of other free range turkey farms across the country.

Some people may be afraid to buy a pasture raised bird because they have grown up accustomed to eating their Butterball and Purdue turkeys since they were a child.  Others may complain that $3.99 a pound for an organic turkey is too much.  I would argue isn’t your health worth a couple dollars more a pound?  Plus, you know where your food is coming from.

Conventional turkeys sold by giant supermarket chains all across the nation are often raised in crowded CAFO (confined animal farming operations) conditions. These conventional turkeys are often caged with limited range of movement and kept indoors. They are fed hormones and antibiotics, which makes them retain water and artificially increases their weight. Antibiotics in the poultry business are given to guard against the many illnesses confined birds are susceptible to during their lives in crowded, unsanitary conditions, but also serve the purpose of water retention, raising the weight of the bird by as much as 15 percent and cutting a week or more off of the growing (and feeding) time. Finally, the finished, packaged turkeys are also often injected with water, salt and preservatives.

Yuck!  I don’t want my family eating a conventional bird!  DO YOU?

The boys and I are driving to the turkey farm this weekend to pick up our 22-24 lb turkey and I’m excited for the boys to see where the turkeys were pasture raised.  Typically we meet the owners at a drop off location in our town every year to pick up our turkey.  This year we decided it would be fun to take a field trip to the turkey farm instead.

Finally, free range turkeys are just as simple to prepare as conventional birds with the “pop-up” timers.  LOL!

This is straight from the Cooking Tips on Duerksen Turkey Farm’s website, “Put away your timer and get a good meat thermometer. Be prepared to use it! Turn down the heat; our experience and advice is LOW and SLOW. Keep covered to preserve the moisture. Ease up on seasonings and sauces. Grass fed turkeys should be seasoned delicately so as not to mask or compromise the true flavor. Allow turkey to rest 30 minutes before serving.” 

Estimated Cooking Times:
(based on 325 oven)

12-14 lbs – 2 ¼ to 3 hours
15-17 lbs – 3 to 3 ½ hours
18-20 lbs – 3 ½ to 4 hours
21-22 lbs – 4 to 4 ½ hours
23-24 lbs – 4 ½ to 5 hours
25-27 lbs – 5 ½ to 6 hours

If stuffed, add 30 minutes to cooking time. Suggested meat thermometer temperature should reach 160-165 degrees internally.

Now please don’t be intimidated by pasture raised turkeys and do yourself and your family a favor this year and try a free range turkey!  The taste is truly worth it!  I promise!

Enjoy!

~Erika

 

 

Vegan Green Bean Casserole for Thanksgiving

 

With Thanksgiving just one week away I thought it would be appropriate to post one of my favorite holiday recipes.  I have been preparing a dairy, nut and egg free Thanksgiving dinner for the last 7 1/2 years.  It is not only healthy, but most importantly SAFE for our two boys.  Not to mention DELICIOUS!

One of my father’s all time favorites is the standard American “Green Bean Casserole” dish.  This is an iconic American Thanksgiving staple and to be honest with you, my father didn’t think I could make a vegan version of it seven years ago that would even come close to his unhealthy “Cream of Mushroom Soup Green Bean Casserole.”  Well, I have proven him wrong year after year and he begs me to make it every Thanksgiving!  I have added my own delicious and healthy twist to an American Thanksgiving classic.

Bon appetite!

green beans

Vegan Green Bean Casserole

Ingredients:

Sauce:

12 oz. fresh button or baby portabella mushrooms, washed, trimmed and sliced thinly

1 tsp good quality olive oil

4 cloves freshly minced garlic

1 shallot minced

2 Tbsp flour

3/4 cup soy creamer (I use Silk)

Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

1 Tbsp dry cooking sherry

Beans:

1 1/2 lbs fresh Haricots Verts or Fresh Green Beans (I like to use Haricots Verts because they are not only more tender but have a more complex flavor, do not worry if you cannot find them)

2 quarts of water

1 Tbsp salt

Casserole Topping:

1 -7 oz bag French Fried Crispy Onions (I use the Meijer Brand, make sure to check ingredients as many brands include allergens)

3 slices bread (I use All Natural Koepplingers 100% Wheat Bread)

1 pinch of salt to taste

1 pinch of freshly ground pepper

1 Tbsp Earth Balance Butter Spread

3/4 cup organic vegetable stock

Preparation:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Bring the water to a rolling boil in a large pot.  While it is heating trim the beans into 1 inch pieces.  Add the salt and beans to the boiling water.  Cover and cook for approximately 4-5 minutes.  Do not over cook the beans.  Drain the beans in a colander, and plunge into an ice/water bath to stop the cooking process for a few minutes.  Then let them continue to drain in the colander.  Set aside.

For the sauce, heat up a frying pan over medium heat and add a teaspoon of olive oil.  Add the mushrooms, garlic, shallots, salt and pepper.  Cook until mushrooms are soft.  In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and vegetable stock.  Then, add to the mushroom mixture and gently combine and reduce the heat.  Next add the sherry to the sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens.  Once the sauce starts to thicken add the soy creamer and continue to simmer for 5 – 10 minutes until the sauce thickens more. 

While the sauce is simmering, add the bread, Earth Balance Buttery Spread, salt and pepper into a food processor and pulse until crumbly.  Pour into a separate bowl and gently fold in the French Fried Onions with a spatula.

Then gently add the green beans to the sauce mixture and remove from the heat.   Add to an oiled casserole dish.  Top with the bread crumb/onion mixture and bake for approximately 15 minutes until the bread topping is cooked through.  Turn on your oven broiler to medium and broil the casserole for about 1-2 minutes watching constantly until the topping is golden brown.  Remove from the oven.

Serve and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Game Changer- Amazing New Vegan Cheeses on Market

CHsses 2

Over the last 7 1/2 years that we have been practicing an allergy safe diet, our family has literally tried every vegan and nut-free cheese on the market.  And I mean EVERY cheese!  Some cheeses are too sticky, many do not melt well, several taste like rubber, others taste like chemicals, some are artificial tasting, even oily, and a few are gritty.  Gross!

I was at our local Spartan-Brand Grocery Store, D & W Fresh Market, a few days ago and they have completely redesigned the entire store creating a large allergy-friendly/gluten-free area that includes several smaller aisles with a large refrigerator cooler and frozen food section.  I was jumping for joy!  In the refrigerator, I noticed several Follow Your Heart cheeses with “new” written on the packaging.  Since these have not been available to us in the past, I purchased a few different options to take home to my boys and husband and conduct a family a taste test.

CHeese 1

I purchased these cheeses that we then sampled at home on Wheat Thin crackers: Provolone 1 oz packages, Mozzarella slices, American slices, Cheddar slices, and American 1 oz. packages.  The overall consensus between my two boys, husband, and myself was that all 3 cheese flavors, not only had the texture of real cow’s milk cheese, but ALSO THE TASTE CLOSELY RESEMBLED REAL CHEESE!  I was shocked!  I grew up eating dairy until my children were diagnosed with food allergies over seven years ago and decided to give up all dairy in order to support them, live a healthier lifestyle and maintain the safety in our home.

The Follow Your Heart Provolone is a mild semi-hard cheese that has a subtle sweetness.  It can easily be paired with sliced apples, pairs, grapes, etc.  We loved it!  The Follow Your Heart American Cheese holds its own!  I’m actually convinced that many of my “dairy-eating” extended family members would not be able to tell that it is vegan- it’s that good!  The texture was medium and the taste was creamy and melted in our mouths!

Finally, the Follow Your Heart Cheddar Cheese was medium flavored, not too sharp and everything you would expect from a cheddar cheese!  It’s smooth and firm texture was absolutely perfect!  A real winner!

My children were so excited after the tasting that I went back to the grocery store the next day and loaded up on more of these amazing cheeses.  I now feel like I could even entertain non-vegan guests with these cheeses and they would simply enjoy them without the standard questioning, “Is this dairy-free? Is this vegan?”

Kudos to Follow Your Heart for developing such amazing new products that have become Game Changers for my family!  Follow Your Heart is a company that has been in the vegan business for a long time since 1970 and they know how to create yummy foods that we all love! I have to admit, I cannot stop snacking on these cheeses!  They are delicious with everything!

Now, I just need to figure out if I can order this cheeses by the case at D & W Fresh Market or our local organic co-op, The Grain Train, where I’m a member/owner.

These cheeses are Life-Changing for our family!

Enjoy and Happy Cheese Eating!

#Cheese#DairyFree#Vegan#Allergy#NutFree#PeanutFree#AllergyFree#Anaphylaxs#Cheddar#Provolone#AmericanCheese

~Erika

Game Changer- Amazing New Vegan Cheeses on Market

CHsses 2

Over the last 7 1/2 years that we have been practicing an allergy safe diet, our family has literally tried every vegan and nut-free cheese on the market.  And I mean EVERY cheese!  Some cheeses are too sticky, many do not melt well, several taste like rubber, others taste like chemicals, some are artificial tasting, even oily, and a few are gritty.  Gross!

I was at our local Spartan-Brand Grocery Store, D & W Fresh Market, a few days ago and they have completely redesigned the entire store creating a large allergy-friendly/gluten-free area that includes several smaller aisles with a large refrigerator cooler and frozen food section.  I was jumping for joy!  In the refrigerator, I noticed several Follow Your Heart cheeses with “new” written on the packaging.  Since these have not been available to us in the past, I purchased a few different options to take home to my boys and husband and conduct a family a taste test.

CHeese 1

I purchased these cheeses that we then sampled at home on Wheat Thin crackers: Provolone 1 oz packages, Mozzarella slices, American slices, Cheddar slices, and American 1 oz. packages.  The overall consensus between my two boys, husband, and myself was that all 3 cheese flavors, not only had the texture of real cow’s milk cheese, but ALSO THE TASTE CLOSELY RESEMBLED REAL CHEESE!  I was shocked!  I grew up eating dairy until my children were diagnosed with food allergies over seven years ago and decided to give up all dairy in order to support them, live a healthier lifestyle and maintain the safety in our home.

The Follow Your Heart Provolone is a mild semi-hard cheese that has a subtle sweetness.  It can easily be paired with sliced apples, pairs, grapes, etc.  We loved it!  The Follow Your Heart American Cheese holds its own!  I’m actually convinced that many of my “dairy-eating” extended family members would not be able to tell that it is vegan- it’s that good!  The texture was medium and the taste was creamy and melted in our mouths!

Finally, the Follow Your Heart Cheddar Cheese was medium flavored, not too sharp and everything you would expect from a cheddar cheese!  It’s smooth and firm texture was absolutely perfect!  A real winner!

My children were so excited after the tasting that I went back to the grocery store the next day and loaded up on more of these amazing cheeses.  I now feel like I could even entertain non-vegan guests with these cheeses and they would simply enjoy them without the standard questioning, “Is this dairy-free? Is this vegan?”

Kudos to Follow Your Heart for developing such amazing new products that have become Game Changers for my family!  Follow Your Heart is a company that has been in the vegan business for a long time since 1970 and they know how to create yummy foods that we all love! I have to admit, I cannot stop snacking on these cheeses!  They are delicious with everything!

Now, I just need to figure out if I can order this cheeses by the case at D & W Fresh Market or our local organic co-op, The Grain Train, where I’m a member/owner.

These cheeses are Life-Changing for our family!

Enjoy and Happy Cheese Eating!

#Cheese#DairyFree#Vegan#Allergy#NutFree#PeanutFree#AllergyFree#Anaphylaxs#Cheddar#Provolone#AmericanCheese

~Erika

Epi-Pen Scripts All Finally Refilled After Recall Debacle

As I have posted a few times within the last week since the Auvi-Q recall, it has been a week of STRESS trying to fulfill refills to replace the total of 9 Auvi-Q two packs for my boys that were recalled.  After countless hours on the phone with doctors, pharmacies, insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers and multiple visits to many different pharmacies, I’m happy to report I just picked up the last script of Epi-Pen Juniors at Meijer pharmacy for my boys. 

That said, I have to mention a HUGE shout out to the AMAZING customer service I received from the pharmacy staff at the Petoskey Meijer! They were compassionate, understanding and determined to get our insurance company to fill the multiple refills this week! I sincerely thank you all!  Oh and thank you to the wonderful customer service at Mylan Pharmaceuticals who manufacturers the Epi-Pen Junior.

We are now safely armed at school, home and on my person  with the appropriate number of Epi-Pens my husband and I feel is necessary to be safe at all times with our food allergic boys. This includes 4 auto injectors at home, 4 on my person at all times, 2 per son’s school classroom, 2 per child in the school office medical cabinet and 2 posted in the school cafeteria….Phew!  Now I’m completely relieved!

Just thought I would share this update as many have been following and praying for us during this difficult journey over the last 7 days. Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers. It is a good feeling to know we now have safe medicine in case we face an accidental food exposure.  Time to relax a bit!

~Erika

Earth Balance Buttery Spread Vs. Smart Balance Light

butter

I have been a big fan of Earth Balance Buttery Spread for the last several years since it’s dairy, nut, and egg free.  Plus, it’s low in cholesterol and actually taste delicious and has a nice flavor in baked goods.  However, I have NOT been a fan of the price.  I get it– manufacturers price gauge those with food allergies or special food sensitivities because they know that we HAVE TO purchase their products and have limited alternatives.

I spent about 20 minutes at our local grocery chain Meijer last week reading ingredient labels for different types of margarine.  Come to find out, Smart Balance Light w/Flaxseed Oil is actually distrbuted by the same company (Boulder Brands, USA, INC) that distributes Earth Balance Buttery Spread and it’s only $2.99 for a 15oz container compared to $3.99 for a 15oz container.  This may not seem like a big deal to most, but for our family it is a nice savings.  Especially during the holiday season when my homemade baking increases by about 70% and I use vegan butter like it’s going out of style!  Additionally, the container states on the bottom it is, Non-Dairy, Vegan, Lactose-Free, Gluten-Free, Gelatin-Free, Expeller-Pressed Oils, Non-GMO and has 0g Tans Fat.  WE HAVE A NEW WINNER!

I try to find little savings everywhere because, as you most likely know, grocery shopping with multiple-food allergies on a budget is very challenging.  I posted a great article last year that was based on a survey done by Northwestern University on families with food allergies.  The conclusion was that $25 billion dollars is spent each year on food allergies and thus roughly $4200 on each person with food allergies.  I’m sure this number has since grown and is probably closer to $10,000 for our family of 2 boys, each with multiple food allergies! This is a good reminder that families with food allergies are paying much more than the average consumer.  If we can find little savings here and there it is definitely worth it in my book!

http://www.peanutallergy.com/news/food-allergy-news/childrens-food-allergies-cost-25b-per-year-4200-per-affected-family

Auvi-Q Return & Reimbursement Process

Please click on the link below and follow the instructions about how to return ALL of your recalled Auvi-Q Auto Injectors for reimbursement:

https://www.auvi-q.com/recall-return-and-reimbursement-process

ALL AUVI-Q’S NOW RECALLED THAT ARE ON MARKET AND SET TO EXPIRE OCT 2015- DEC 2016

Last week I posted the voluntary recall of Auvi-Q’s and now the recall has expanded to include ALL auto injectors on the market. 0.15mg and 0.3mg.  The lot numbers included in the updated recall have expanded quite a lot!  This means the Auvi-Q’s I left at my children’s school that were deemed to be safe under the original recall last week now need to be removed!  Now I’m definitely not sure how I’m going to quickly replace the 6 sets of 2 packs at my children’s school.  I’m open to ideas from any followers if you have any recommendations on how to quickly refill the Epi-Pen Junior 2 packs???

I’m headed out the door to stop at all of the pharmacies and see how they can help me.  I still have not received any type of response from my emails or voice messages to Sanofi from last week.  Still never received a phone call from Walgreens where I filled 12+ Auvi-Q scripts last year about the recall!  Can you believe this?

This is straight from the Auvi-Q website:

“Sanofi US is voluntarily recalling all Auvi‑Q® (epinephrine injection, USP). The recall involves all Auvi‑Q currently on the market and includes both the 0.15 mg and 0.3 mg strengths for hospitals, retailers and consumers. This includes lot numbers 2081278 through 3037230, which expire October 2015 through December 2016. The products have been found to potentially have inaccurate dosage delivery, which may include failure to deliver drug.”

https://www.auvi-q.com/

auvi a

Halloween Party Treats

pumpkins

Halloween is finally here and like every other year we are hosting our annual Halloween Open House.  Because we live north of the 35th parallel and right on Lake Michigan, the weather can be pretty cold for trick-or-treating.  Our friends usually stop by our house throughout the night to warm up, give their kids a break from trick-or-treating, and to enjoy the special Halloween treats and baked goods I prepare every year.

My boy’s favorite Halloween treats, in addition to my donuts, are my Chocolate Pretzel Rods with Sprinkles.  They look really cute and are always a huge hit!  Plus, they are dairy, egg, and nut free.

Ingredients:

Gordon Food Store Pretzel Rods

1 bag of Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

A few containers of your favorite Halloween sprinkles.  Make sure they are free of allergens

pretzel 3

Preparation:

  1. Cover a few cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Add about 1/3 of bag of chocolate chips to a glass bowl;
  3. Microwave chocolate chips for 60 seconds then stir constantly;
  4. Microwave again for about 40 seconds and then stir repeating this process until all of the chips are melted.
  5. Take a pretzel rod and use a spoon to add the chocolate to it, spooning off excess chocolate.
  6. Gently roll the rod into the sprinkles that you have poured onto a plate.
  7. Repeat until you make desired amount.
  8. Refrigerate until chocolate hardens, place rods in a festive glass or mug, serve and enjoy!

pretzel 1

pretzel 2

Auvi- Q Epinephrine Auto-Injector Recall

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This recall couldn’t have come at a worse time with Halloween less than 2 days away!  We switched over to the Auvi-Q Epinephrine 0.15 mg auto injectors over two years ago for my boys because of their ease of use.  They are also smaller and easier for my sons to fit in their coat or jacket pockets.  Plus, they even talk to you so it makes it easier for teachers and caregivers to know how to properly use the device in an emergency situation. We love our Auvi-Q’s!

Thankfully, one of my friends who also has children with food allergies, sent me a text this morning notifying me of the massive recall.  Sanofi states on their website below that the recall includes lot number 2299596 through 3037230, which expire March 2016 through December 2016. 

I just left my boy’s school and sure enough I had to pull a total of 2 two packs that had been expired.  In addition to that I had 3 more recalled 2 packs in our kitchen and my purse where I always carry 4 auto-injectors.  Thankfully, I had enough Auvi-Q’s that were not recalled to replace at school.  As I was walking out of my children’s school building holding the ziplock bag that contained the 6 two packs that I pulled from the school I ran into one of my best friends.  She asked what was going on and I quickly explained what had happened, then started to burst into tears!  My anxiety level is about at an all time high today trying to figure out how to replace all of these injectors in a hurry so I have some on hand when I pick my boys up from school.  Ugh…the stresses people with food allergies face daily.

Since I do not have any on my person right now and I’m anxiously awaiting my son’s pediatrician to call in new scripts for the Epi-Pen Junior 2 packs.  This is my recommendation to everyone who may be in the same boat as myelf right now.  In the interim, until Sanofi figures out how they are going to replace/reimburse us for the thousands of dollars of recalled Auvi-Q’s, we can have our child’s doctor call in new scripts for the Epi-Pen Junior packs.

Also this is what the Auvi-Q site states, “Due to high volume of calls being received on the Auvi‑Q customer service phone line, callers may periodically receive a message that the line is down. We appreciate your patience and please call back.”  I recommend not calling them like I did and being placed on hold for a decade.

Please click on the link below for more detailed information from Sanofi…hopefully my day will get better once I’m armed with new Epi-pens.

https://www.auvi-q.com/