Tag: Dairy Free

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

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

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

Pizza Hut “Book It” Reading Program & Food Allergies

book itTaking a jog down memory lane for me back to second grade, I vividly remember participating in the National “Book It” Program.  I would read for countless numbers of hours to accomplish my monthly required reading goals so I could obtain a Coupon, in exchange for a Free Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.  For those of you unfamiliar with “Book It” – It is a national campaign which started in 1984 and has been successful for over 3 decades!  Book It “Motivates children to read by rewarding their reading accomplishments with praise, recognition and pizza (bookitprogram.com).” According to bookitprogram.com, the program “Currently reaches over 14 million students in 38,000 elementary schools annually.”

But what if your child has FOOD ALLERGIES?

A Personal Pan Pizza from Pizza Hut would send my child into anaphylactic shock and possibly “Death by Cheese.”  Not to make light of this situation, but eating pizza in a chain such as Pizza Hut is the last thing anyone with a Dairy Allergy would do if their life depended on it!

I have had to get creative since my oldest son’s class started implementing the Book It program last year, when he was a first grader.  Thankfully, I have a good working relationship with Taylor’s teacher and last year, based on Taylor’s recommendation, we came up with Seven Eleven Slurpee Coupons for him in lieu of the Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.  This reward worked extremely well.  Taylor was not only motivated to read by the delicious slurpee reward, but he started reading extra hours on his own!

Now that my son is in second grade this year he asked me for some additional recommendations other than the Seven Eleven slurpee rewards.  Taylor still loves his Slurpee’s but I think he just wanted a new goal to strive for.  We brainstormed for awhile and decided that Subway sandwich gift cards were an excellent reward for his reading accomplishments during each Book It calendar month.  I ventured to our local Subway franchise the other day and purchased 8 individual gift cards and placed $7.50 on each gift card.  My son likes to eat the ham and turkey 6 inch Sub on Italian bread.  I priced it out with a “meal” which includes a drink and bag of chips and the total I believe was just under $7.50 and came to $7.31!  Not a bad compromise in lieu of Death Pizza!  Plus it’s a healthier option as well!

subway 2

The reward of the Subway gift card will not only continue to keep our son motivated to read every day after school but it will provide a healthy alternative to pizza, a food that he cannot eat outside of our home.

Please note, I did take the time to call the Pizza Hut Book It hotline in Plano, TX.  The customer service representative assured me that Pizza Hut CAN accommodate customers that have gluten allergies.  However, I would have to check with the local franchise to determine if they can accommodate “dairy” allergies.   My boys and I would NEVER set foot into a pizza hut with the possibility of cross-contamination!  It’s unfortunate but SAFETY is our utmost concern! The choice is yours however.

Please refer to my post from a few months back on “Eating at Subway with Food Allergies:”

http://smalltownallergymom.com/2015/09/03/eating-at-subway-with-food-allergies/

Pizza Hut “Book It” Reading Program & Food Allergies

book itTaking a jog down memory lane for me back to second grade, I vividly remember participating in the National “Book It” Program.  I would read for countless numbers of hours to accomplish my monthly required reading goals so I could obtain a Coupon, in exchange for a Free Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.  For those of you unfamiliar with “Book It” – It is a national campaign which started in 1984 and has been successful for over 3 decades!  Book It “Motivates children to read by rewarding their reading accomplishments with praise, recognition and pizza (bookitprogram.com).” According to bookitprogram.com, the program “Currently reaches over 14 million students in 38,000 elementary schools annually.”

But what if your child has FOOD ALLERGIES?

A Personal Pan Pizza from Pizza Hut would send my child into anaphylactic shock and possibly “Death by Cheese.”  Not to make light of this situation, but eating pizza in a chain such as Pizza Hut is the last thing anyone with a Dairy Allergy would do if their life depended on it!

I have had to get creative since my oldest son’s class started implementing the Book It program last year, when he was a first grader.  Thankfully, I have a good working relationship with Taylor’s teacher and last year, based on Taylor’s recommendation, we came up with Seven Eleven Slurpee Coupons for him in lieu of the Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.  This reward worked extremely well.  Taylor was not only motivated to read by the delicious slurpee reward, but he started reading extra hours on his own!

Now that my son is in second grade this year he asked me for some additional recommendations other than the Seven Eleven slurpee rewards.  Taylor still loves his Slurpee’s but I think he just wanted a new goal to strive for.  We brainstormed for awhile and decided that Subway sandwich gift cards were an excellent reward for his reading accomplishments during each Book It calendar month.  I ventured to our local Subway franchise the other day and purchased 8 individual gift cards and placed $7.50 on each gift card.  My son likes to eat the ham and turkey 6 inch Sub on Italian bread.  I priced it out with a “meal” which includes a drink and bag of chips and the total I believe was just under $7.50 and came to $7.31!  Not a bad compromise in lieu of Death Pizza!  Plus it’s a healthier option as well!

subway 2

The reward of the Subway gift card will not only continue to keep our son motivated to read every day after school but it will provide a healthy alternative to pizza, a food that he cannot eat outside of our home.

Please note, I did take the time to call the Pizza Hut Book It hotline in Plano, TX.  The customer service representative assured me that Pizza Hut CAN accommodate customers that have gluten allergies.  However, I would have to check with the local franchise to determine if they can accommodate “dairy” allergies.   My boys and I would NEVER set foot into a pizza hut with the possibility of cross-contamination!  It’s unfortunate but SAFETY is our utmost concern! The choice is yours however.

Please refer to my post from a few months back on “Eating at Subway with Food Allergies:”

http://smalltownallergymom.com/2015/09/03/eating-at-subway-with-food-allergies/

Heart Healthy Panko Crusted Chicken Tenderloins

What child does not LOVE chicken fingers?  What adult doesn’t love them for that matter?  I have developed a heart-healthy/allergy-friendly recipe I guarantee everyone will love and they will beg for seconds, I promise!  I usually serve my Panko Crusted Chicken Tenders with steamed organic brown rice and steamed broccoli.   It’s fun to serve with a few different vegan dipping sauces like honey mustard, my ginger dipping sauce or even ketchup. Place them in cute ramekins for serving and enjoy!

Panko Crusted Chicken Tenders

 Prep Time: 20 minutes                                                                                   Cook Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 6-8 servings (leftovers are good!)

Ingredients:

2 pounds organic chicken tenderloins

2 cups organic soy milk

1 tablespoon white vinegar

3 cups Panko Japanese Style Bread Crumbs

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon olive oil or olive oil spray for greasing the pan

Preparation:

Preheat a conventional oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the soymilk and the vinegar in a glass bowl and set aside to form a buttermilk consistency. Then set up a “dredging” and “bread crumbing” assembly line.

Mix together the bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt and pepper with a spoon. Set aside. Grease your baking sheet or place a piece of parchment paper on it. Set the baking sheet at the end of your assembly line station. Once your station is set up, take each piece of chicken separately and (1) dredge into the buttermilk mixture (2) then coat the chicken with the panko mixture on both sides (3) place neatly on the baking sheet. Repeat these steps until you have coated all of the chicken.

FullSizeRenderpanko

Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook for approximately 30 minutes or until the chicken has clear colored juices and is cooked through. Once the chicken is cooked, turn the broiler on high heat and broil until the chicken is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Be sure to watch it so it does not burn.  Look at the beautiful golden brown crust below.

panko 3

Serve with my garlic ginger dipping sauce and enjoy!

Garlic Ginger Dipping Sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes                                                                                               Serves: 4-6

Cook Time: 20 minutes

 Ingredients:

4 cloves garlic minced

2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger minced

1 teaspoon shallot minced (if you have on hand)

¼ cup scallions (roughly 2)

¾ cup Low Sodium San-J Tamari soy sauce

¼ cup water

Preparation:

Add the water and soy sauce to a sauce pan and gently bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling whisk in the garlic, ginger and shallots. Reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes. Once the ingredients are nicely softened add the scallions and turn off the heat. Pour into separate dipping ramekins and serve warm with Panko Crusted Chicken for Dipping.  Note:  If you would like to add a little kick to your dipping sauce add a pinch of chili peppers.

The Upside to Food Allergies

Although it’s not ideal to have to cope with two children that each have multiple anaphylactic food allergies there are actually lots of positives that come out of this challenging medical situation.

For one, my boys are both amazing eaters with a huge palate. They enjoy many foods that most kids won’t touch with a ten foot pole.  We experienced this to the fullest when we traveled to New York City for Thanksgiving 2 years ago and dined in wonderful accommodating restaurants with our boys!

Although both my husband and I joke that we each enjoyed ordering escargot when out for dinner with our parents only at the tender age of 6! I kid you not! I’m sure there is a genetic component to our boys eating foods like kale, spinach, asparagus, tomatoes right out of the garden, squash, mules and frites- muscles for those not in tune with the delicacies of shellfish. They love clams, Alaskan King crab legs, shrimp prepared every which way, even cold shrimp cocktail, salmon, whitefish, steak, venison which we have a freezer full of since we are sustainable hunters, duck, rack of lamb, trout, pork, veal, perch, sole, and my oldest’s favorite all time fish is grouper! This list probably goes on and on.

You may be asking yourself yeah so what is her point? My point is that my children’s food allergies HAVE NOT kept them from enjoying the delicacies and diverse food options available to them! Thankfully they don’t just eat hot dogs and Mac and Cheese. And not meaning to toot my own horn thankfully they have a mom who  loves to cook!

From  day #1 when my boys could eat solid foods they ate what my husband and I were eating for dinner.  No separate meals for the kids in our family! I don’t have the time, nor the energy to prepare two separate meals daily.  As a mother and passionate cook it gives me great pleasure to try new things in the kitchen knowing that my children will most likely enjoy what I have prepared…even if it’s a little “off the wall.”

All we can do as parents is protect our children from harm and teach our children to grow up as outstanding citizens. And hopefully to enjoy their veggies along the way!

~Erika

Below is a picture of the Fruti de Mari with fresh organic garden heirloom tomatoes and mules I made last night for dinner. My boys devoured dinner and each asked for second helpings.

IMG_2605

Delicious Vegan & Nut Free Protein Powder

Protein Powder 3

I have been meaning to post this product review for awhile now and after an exhausting weekend with my family filled with lots of fun outdoor activities what better way to start off a Monday than with a delicious smoothie made with —  Orgain Organic Protein Plant Based Powder in Vanilla Bean.  My husband, boys and I were on a mission last winter to find the most delicious “non-chalky” tasting vegan/nut-free protein powder.  Thankfully, our local organic co-operative grocery store the Grain Train, carries several 1-serving sample packages of protein powder.  I think they were about $3.00-$4.00 per sample package.  A bit pricey, but definitely worth it and a good way to narrow down your choices.

After we tried roughly 6 different brands and flavors by mixing the protein powders with frozen fruit and blending them into a smoothie, this product we determined was definitely the WINNER, hands down!  It is smooth tasting, delicious, non-chalky and does not have a gritty taste that many of the other brands we sampled had.  Each serving size, which is 2 Rounded Soups of the powder, includes 21 grams of Organic Protein derived from Organic Brown Rice Protein, Organic Chia Seed, Organic Hemp Protein and Organic Pea Protein!  I said 21g of protein, can you believe it?  Additionally, each serving of protein powder has only 3g net carbs, 5g organic fiber and NO ADDED SUGAR – music to my ears!!!  It packs quite a punch and I will typically make a delicious smoothie for my boys at least 4 mornings a week to give them the protein they need in the morning to energize them for an entire day of school!

Here is the recipe I usually use for my children’s Protein Smoothie Shakes:

  • 2 Rounded Scoops of Orgain Organic Protein Plant Based Powder – Vanilla Bean
  • 1 cup Frozen Organic Mixed Berries
  • 1 medium banana or 1 container (5.3oz) Silk Soy Yogurt
  • 1 handful (about 1 cup) fresh organic spinach
  • 8-10 oz water or organic soymilk
  • Blend well together in a blender or Vitamix
  • Serve Immediately and enjoy!

My husband and I are avoiding carbohydrates right now so in lieu of the banana and soy yogurt above I usually add a little extra spinach and then add a total of either 8-10oz water or 8-10oz organic soy milk and a squeeze a lemon wedge into the blender.  If I really want an extra kick to jump start my day I will add some freshly grated ginger into my smoothie…mmmmm… delicious!

I should also mention Orgain Organic Protein Powder is also free of the following: dairy, lactose, eggs, nuts, gluten, soy, and GMO’s.

Enjoy!

~Erika

Ingredients 1

Delicious Vegan & Nut Free Protein Powder

Protein Powder 3

I have been meaning to post this product review for awhile now and after an exhausting weekend with my family filled with lots of fun outdoor activities what better way to start off a Monday than with a delicious smoothie made with —  Orgain Organic Protein Plant Based Powder in Vanilla Bean.  My husband, boys and I were on a mission last winter to find the most delicious “non-chalky” tasting vegan/nut-free protein powder.  Thankfully, our local organic co-operative grocery store the Grain Train, carries several 1-serving sample packages of protein powder.  I think they were about $3.00-$4.00 per sample package.  A bit pricey, but definitely worth it and a good way to narrow down your choices.

After we tried roughly 6 different brands and flavors by mixing the protein powders with frozen fruit and blending them into a smoothie, this product we determined was definitely the WINNER, hands down!  It is smooth tasting, delicious, non-chalky and does not have a gritty taste that many of the other brands we sampled had.  Each serving size, which is 2 Rounded Soups of the powder, includes 21 grams of Organic Protein derived from Organic Brown Rice Protein, Organic Chia Seed, Organic Hemp Protein and Organic Pea Protein!  I said 21g of protein, can you believe it?  Additionally, each serving of protein powder has only 3g net carbs, 5g organic fiber and NO ADDED SUGAR – music to my ears!!!  It packs quite a punch and I will typically make a delicious smoothie for my boys at least 4 mornings a week to give them the protein they need in the morning to energize them for an entire day of school!

Here is the recipe I usually use for my children’s Protein Smoothie Shakes:

  • 2 Rounded Scoops of Orgain Organic Protein Plant Based Powder – Vanilla Bean
  • 1 cup Frozen Organic Mixed Berries
  • 1 medium banana or 1 container (5.3oz) Silk Soy Yogurt
  • 1 handful (about 1 cup) fresh organic spinach
  • 8-10 oz water or organic soymilk
  • Blend well together in a blender or Vitamix
  • Serve Immediately and enjoy!

My husband and I are avoiding carbohydrates right now so in lieu of the banana and soy yogurt above I usually add a little extra spinach and then add a total of either 8-10oz water or 8-10oz organic soy milk and a squeeze a lemon wedge into the blender.  If I really want an extra kick to jump start my day I will add some freshly grated ginger into my smoothie…mmmmm… delicious!

I should also mention Orgain Organic Protein Powder is also free of the following: dairy, lactose, eggs, nuts, gluten, soy, and GMO’s.

Enjoy!

~Erika

Ingredients 1