Tag: organic

The Little Things about Food Allergies Most People Don’t Even Realize

I was chatting with a few of my girlfriends yesterday over coffee about how our dog had recently been sick.  As unfortunate as it is, our two year old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Scout is a sock eater.  Yes!  He loves to eat our boy’s stinky socks when left on the floor!  No matter how often I remind the boys to put their dirty socks in the laundry bin, they still end up on their bedroom floor from time to time.  It’s been a challenge since Scout was a puppy.

Recently, Scout ingested something…we’re not sure what it was but he started acting peculiar last week and was not eating like normal.  I took Scout to the vet on Tuesday and thankfully after X-rays, he didn’t have an obstruction.  However, he did have lots of inflammation and irritation in his gut from whatever it was that he ate and then passed.

Long story short, our vet recommended we feed Scout canned dog food for the next couple of days since it’s more easily digestible.  The canned dog food at the vet’s office contained dairy and eggs so I had to take a pass.

I went to our local feed store and explained to the staff that I was looking for a canned dog food that didn’t contain dairy, eggs, or nuts.  We had about 3 people, including myself, reading every canned dog food label in the entire store.  Finally, we found a grain-free lamb dog food that was dairy, nut, and egg free.  To top it off, Scout loved it thank God!  And yes, Scout’s normal dried dog food is dairy, egg, nut and grain free too just in case you are wondering!  He’s on basically the same diet the rest of the family is on and he never complains!

My girlfriends couldn’t believe that I have to read the ingredient listings on the dog food labels.  Reason being, if Scout ate dog food that contained milk, eggs or nuts and then licked either of our boys it could mean TROUBLE!  Allergic reaction!  My friends said to me, “Challenges that you face on a daily basis with kids that have food allergies are not even on our radar, such as reading the ingredients on the dog food bag.”  For once, I felt like my friends actually understood what it was like to walk in my shoes.

This recent conversation with my closest friends struck a chord for me…my brain went into overdrive as I started thinking about all of the labels I have to read on a daily basis on all of the products in our home and when I’m grocery shopping.  For example, shampoo, dish soap, laundry detergent, body lotion, makeup, chapstick, sunscreen, prescription medications, hand soap, kleenex, deodorant, cleaning supplies, dog treats (most of which contain eggs, nuts, and dairy), etc.  The list goes on and on….now I have a HEADACHE!  These are not even food items mind you!

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that parents of children of food allergies obviously have to be diligent with food labels.   That diligence extends beyond to so many more products that we come into contact with daily.  Most people would have a permanent headache if they had to continually check everything the way that we do.  I wouldn’t change it for the world…I’m just trying to help people gain awareness about the challenges parents of children with food allergies face encounter regularly.

I digress…Namaste and have a wonderful weekend

~Erika

 

ALDI is Rivaling U.S. Grocery Store Chains with Low Cost Organic and Allergy Friendly Foods

 

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Last year I authored a post about how I started shopping at the German-owned grocery chain ALDI and how I absolutely LOVE IT!  ALDI is one of my favorite stores to grocery shop at because it offers many low cost organic produce options.  They also have a corporate policy to sell foods that do not contain certified synthetic colors, partially hydrogenated oils, MSG from all its private-label products, pesticides, synthetics, and hormones.   ALDI  is constantly increasing their line of Gluten Free Foods, which are private labeled under the Live G free name to keep costs low.  Many of the Live G free foods are also free from many Allergens!  And I might add- DELICIOUS!

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I have spoken to many of my friends about the benefits of shopping here and unfortunately the buzz I have received on the street is that many people think it’s a “low-income” type grocery store.  They are just not informed about the many wonderful products this store sells and the fancier foods they carry to compete with the consumers that frequent Whole Foods.  They now carry higher end specialty products such as artisanal cheeses, quinoa, coconut oil, and smoked salmon according to a Business Insider article.

In a recent press release from ALDI corporate, the Vice President of their Saxonburg Division stated, “ALDI has a different style when it comes to grocery shopping and that differentiation has helped make us one of the fastest growing retailers in the US,” said Hart.

ALDI is currently in the midst of a huge expansion plan in the United states.  By the end of 2018, it will bring fresh and high quality groceries to more than 45 million customers each month.  To reach its aggressive goals, ALDI will create more than 10,000 new jobs at its stores, warehouses, and division offices in the United States alone!  Once this $3 billion expansion is complete,  ALDI will have nearly 2,000 stores marking close to a 50% increase in only five short years!

ALDI has taken away market share from popular grocery store chains such as Walmart, Kroger and Whole Foods in the U.S.  They are able to continue to keep their costs low by offering consumers low pricing by limiting inventory to a lean selection of private-label items.  Whereas, traditional supermarkets  typically carry several different brands of a single product.  ALDI also invests far less in customer service and merchandising than traditional grocers.  Most of the store’s grocery items are placed in their shipping cartons to keep restocking quick and easy.  Consumers must pay a quarter ($0.25) deposit for a grocery cart (which you get back when you return the cart), bag your own groceries, and either bring your own grocery bags, or purchase bags they have for sale.

I certainly don’t mind taking a few extra minutes to bag my own groceries if it means heathy LOW COST organic foods free from chemicals for my family at a cheaper price!

If you haven’t shopped at an ALDI yet you are definitely missing out!  I encourage you to try it.  Here is a picture of many of the allergen-friendly products our family loves from ALDI’s:

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In addition the products above my family also loves these allergy-friendly products from ALDI: pickles, many cereal varieties, hormone free turkey and ham lunch meat, all kids of fresh organic produce, whole wheat bagels and bread, jam, many varieties of Clancy’s chip products, coffee, organic spiral ham during the holidays, frozen wild mussels, canned albacore tuna fish, German red and white sauerkraut, hormone free maple bacon, frozen chicken fingers.  I like these paper products too: quart sized zip lock baggies, aluminum foil, paper plates, ultra strong paper towel and toilet paper.

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

~Erika

 

 

First Friday for Foodies at Crooked Tree Arts Center Today

Please come out to Crooked Tree Arts Center today at 11am and support local Food Allergy Awareness.  I will be offering delicious samples from some of my favorite allergen friendly healthy recipes.

http://www.petoskeynews.com/calendar/community/first-fridays-for-foodies-small-town-allergy-mom/event_bf7e097a-dd83-11e5-90d2-10604b9ffeb6.html

Please Follow Me!

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I just transferred my blog domain name to a new host site.During this challenging transition, I did not retain all of my BLOG followers.Please click on the link and FOLLOW ME to receive updates from Small Town Allergy Mom™ on social media.

I sincerely appreciate your support and I promise to keep adding useful content!

~Erika

Melt Organic

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I have been reading about this fairly new product for a few months now and I finally noticed that my local grocery store chain Meijer had it on their shelves the other day.  I thought to myself, what better time to try it than now?  I purchased 2 containers of the Dairy, Gluten, Soy, Egg, and Nut Free Buttery Spread.

So here’s the skinny.  We (my husband, 2 sons and myself) were not overly thrilled about the taste of the organic buttery spread on toast, bagels, steamed vegetables and popcorn.  The reason being was because it tasted too much like coconut.  Its main ingredient is “Virgin Coconut Oil” so the taste made sense but was not a favorite on the tested foods. 

On the plus side, Organic Melt took my homemade buttercream frosting for my son’s recent birthday cake to a new level!  It was AMAZING and the best tasting frosting I have ever made!  My grandmother used to make me a homemade birthday cake when I was a kid with creamy homemade frosting that she topped off with toasted coconut.  This recipe brings back those wonderful memories of enjoying my birthdays, surrounded by my entire family, as a young child. A REAL WINNER!  My boys and husband raved about the delicate taste, not too sweet but creamy with a subtle hit of coconut flavor.  Plus it is heart-healthy too!

This product is a vegan, gluten free, soy free and a nut free alternative to standard cow’s milk butter and margarines.  The virgin coconut oil is a stable saturated fat and a fruit-based source of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) according to Melt’s website http://www.meltorganic.com/our-products/rich-creamy-melt/.  I definitely recommend using this product in a baking capacity.

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Here is my buttercream frosting recipe which is delicious on cupcakes, cakes, brownies, etc.  Enjoy!

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

Yields: 2 1/2  Cups

Ingredients:

1 Cup Melt Organic Rich & Creamy

1/2 Cup Spectrum Organic All Vegetable Shortening

1 1/2 tsp Good Quality Vanilla Extract

2 Tbsp Organic Soymilk

2 1/2 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar

Method:

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream the margarine, shortening, soy milk, vanilla until  well incorporated. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar and mix on low for 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and beat for 4-6 minutes until light and fluffy.  Feel free to add more sugar to taste as some recipes call for up to 3 cups of sugar. I think 2 1/2 cups are sufficient and taste delicious! ~Erika

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dairy Free Pizza Pockets

One of my boy’s favorite meals are my pizza pockets.  They are dairy, nut and egg free and pretty simple to make.  In fact, my youngest son who turned six yesterday even requested them for his birthday dinner!  This was the perfect simple and easy item to make for dinner last night because we had to be at my son’s school by 6pm for his annual Christmas choir concert.

The pizza pockets were a huge hit, as always, and in the essence of time, I decided to use Pillsbury Crescent Roll Dough in lieu of making my own.  A good pizza dough recipe will also work well if you have one on hand.

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Prep Time: 15 minutes                                                        Cook Time: 14-16 minute

Ingredients:

3  (8oz) cans refrigerated Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough

1/2 cup marinara sauce – I use a good quality store bought marinara sauce (Meijer Organic)

1/2 cup sliced organic deli ham (I use Applegate Naturals Uncured Black Forest Ham)

1/2 cup sliced Salami (I also use Applegate Naturals Salami)

1 1/2 cups Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds

1/4 cup washed and sliced mushrooms

1/4 cup chopped organic spinach

 

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Spray a large cookie sheet with non-dairy cooking spray like Pam.  Set aside.
  3. Unroll each can of Pillsbury Crescent Roll Dough.  You will be able to separate each can into a total of 4 rectangles (2 triangles for each rectangle).
  4. Press each rectangle firmly to form a 6 x 4 inch larger rectangle.
  5. Spread approximately 1 Tbsp of marinara on half of each rectangle leaving about 1/2 from the edge.
  6. Add 2-3 Tbsp of Daiya cheese and your preferred toppings to each rectangle.
  7. Fold the other half of the rectangle over the filling and seal by pressing a fork along all of the edges.
  8. Repeat until all of the dough has been made into pizza pockets.
  9. Poke a few holes in each pizza pocket with a fork to allow steam to escape the dough.
  10. Bake 14-16 minutes until the pockets are a beautiful golden brown.
  11. Serve hot and enjoy!

 

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Small Town Allergy Mom is Interviewed During “Live Podcast”

Just prior to Halloween on October 24, 2015, I was interviewed by Sean Miller at the Petoskey News Review for the “Teal Pumpkin and Food Allergies” live Podcast.  Please click on the link below to listen to my live interview and learn more about food allergies in general.

Enjoy and thank you for your listening support!

http://www.petoskeynews.com/podcast/

 

 

 

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!

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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

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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.

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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