August 31, 2011

Play dates & Allergic Children

"Here is his lunchbox.  He's allergic to dairy, egg, shellfish, and all nuts.  Fruit and water are okay.  If you're not sure, don't give it to him.  Make sure he washes before eating.  Here is his Epipen, Benadryl, eyedrops, and Cortisone cream.  If he seems like he's having an allergic reaction, don't hesitate to give him Benadryl, or his Epipen if he's having trouble breathing.  Oh, and...have a great time!"

Play dates are great.  And play dates are nervewracking and can be a source of much anxiety for an allergy mom.  After hearing what I have to say, parents are probably wondering why they invited Tristan over to their house in the first place (I'm only half kidding...).  Here are some hints to help make your child's play date fun, safe, and a little less worrisome for all:

Pack Your Child a Lunch (and lots and lots of snacks)

The easiest and safest thing to do is to send your allergic child to a friend's house with his own lunch and enough snacks to stave off hunger for the duration of the play date (including one or two favorite treats) with specific instructions about whether or not your child can be served any other types of foods.  I usually ask that they stick with whatever he's brought in his lunchbox, plus fruit or water if they're having that.  This is also a big help for, um, selective--some might say, picky--eaters (ahem...). 

Always label your child's lunchbox with his name, important phone numbers, allergies, and medications.  I write it with a Sharpie directly on the inside cover.

Send your Child's Medications

Your child should never go out of the house without his allergy meds.  I say never, though I find myself (on rare occasions, but it happens), out of the house with the kids and realize I am without them.  Just the realization puts me in a semi-state of panic.  So you can only imagine how stressful it would be for another child's parents to be ill-equipped to treat your child in case of an allergic reaction.  If you're leaving your child in someone else's care, please PLEASE PLEASE send along his meds, too.

Epipen how-to's

If your child carries an Epipen in case of anaphylaxis, do a quick demo with a trainer pen (it comes alongside the Epipen in the box), showing the other parent how to administer if need be.  Also go over when he would need to administer it and that 911 should be called after it's given.

If you have a spare, leave the trainer with the parent; or better yet, bring an expired Epipen and let the other parent practice on an orange.  (I'm not kidding--my allergist recommends this.) 

For tech-savvy parents, there's MyEpiPenApp for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch, and includes a demonstration video and slideshow for administering the Epipen, and the ability to create personalized allergy profiles and to share them via email.  If only I had an iPhone.

Play date Cards

Funny.  My kid has a play date card and I don't even have a business card. date cards and mommy cards are the latest thing in the business card industry.  And that means people are still trying to figure out if they really are the latest thing, and are giving them away cheap.  Yay! 

I got mine from Kodak Gallery because all my pics are stored there and it was super easy to insert Tristan's picture and add information, like his food allergies, meds, and my cell number.  Okay, no offers right now but they usually have some kind of promotion going on.  Another inexpensive option is Vistaprint.  Or opt for fancier ones (yes, that means pricey too!) at Felix Doolittle and Tiny Prints.  For more choices, search "mommy cards" or "play date cards."

Don't forget the bling

The Allerbling, or whatever jewelry your child is willing to wear that somehow lists his allergies.  If he won't wear something, Jeeto's allergy patches and stickers are a cool way to liven up any lunchbox or backpack.


If your child has confirmed or suspected pet allergies, ask about whether pets are in the house and explain your rules for touching or being around the family's pets.  Tristan is severely allergic to cats (as am I), so even stepping foot in any home with a cat (even if the cat isn't home), sets off a unstoppable string of sneezing and puffy itchy eyes that you may never have seen the likes of (nor do you want to).  The fur left on the furniture of even the most spotless of homes will do it to me. 

Keep your cell phone on during the play date and hope for the best, but expect the unexpected.  And when it's your turn to host the play date for your child's food allergic friend, provide the same courtesy that others have provided you.  Your child's gonna have a blast!

August 29, 2011

Kale Smoothie

Yet another way to feed your kids their veggies!

Kale doesn't get as much attention as its other leafy green relatives such as spinach and lettuce.  This doesn't mean kale isn't deserving of some love.  In fact, with high levels of vitamins A, C, and K and a good source of calcium and fiber, kale is definitely a nutritional superstar in its own right.

What's more awesome (for me anyway) is that Trader Joe's has started selling ready-to-cook bags of chopped kale!  This is a pretty big deal to me because it saves me from having to visit a second grocery store just to get my kale fix.

Here's a simple smoothie recipe that combines kale, orange juice, and banana.  Consider using calcium-fortified orange juice especially if your kids are milk-allergic like mine.  The original recipe suggested using a little honey as sweetener.  I found the smoothie plenty sweet without any honey even though the bananas I used were slightly greenish.  I even packed in extra kale for more nutrients.  It did make the smoothie a little grittier but it didn't affect the taste.  Anyway, this is definitely a recipe that you can play with depending on your tastes.  My brother-in-law puts sun butter is his avocado smoothies so perhaps that might work as a protein boost for this recipe.

Kale Smoothies for Two
Adapted from the recipe discussed on blog Hold The Onions

2 cups of chopped raw kale, packed
1 cup orange juice
1 banana
1-2 Tbsp ground flax seed
Honey (optional)
  1. Combine kale, orange juice, and banana in blender or a large bowl if you are using an immersion blender.  Blend until mostly smooth.
  2. Add ground flaxmeal.  Combine until smooth.
  3. Taste for sweetness.  Blend in honey if desired.

August 26, 2011

Book review: Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

I first heard about Isa Chandra Moskowitz when I opted to go vegan for baked goods.  My kids are milk-allergic and tolerate eggs just fine but I liked the challenge of making delicious treats that could accommodate more people.  Moskowitz's book, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, has certainly helped pave the way for vegan baking by introducing non-vegans to the idea that dessert can be delicious without milk, butter, and eggs.

I am more of a cookie person so I was much more interested in checking out Isa's follow-up recipe book, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  And check it out I did -- right from my local library.  (A little note: do take advantage of your library's catalog.  Test drive recipe books before you buy so that you don't later suffer from buyer's remorse.)

What I like about Isa's recipes is that she does not just substitute a dairy-free milk or an egg replacer for the real stuff.  And she doesn't use a whole lot of unusual ingredients either.  The majority of recipes she has created use a combination of ingredients that, for the most part, can be found in your local grocery store.  For ingredients that you can't find around town (perhaps blue agave sweetener or arrowroot powder?) I recommend checking out for the best prices and selection.

Isa does the classics with flair.  So far I have tried only a handful of the 100 recipes in the book: whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, chocolate crinkle cookies, cranberry walnut thumbprints (without the nuts), peanut butter pillows (subbing sun butter for the peanut butter), and the Mexican hot chocolate snickerdoodles.  I attempted the Lazy Samoas but I added too much baking soda and I ran out of coconut to give it a legitimate test.  They spread like crazy in the oven so I couldn't really finish the job with drizzling them with melted chocolate.  They were still yummy!

With the exception of the whole wheat chocolate chip cookies (too cakey but they did grow on me over time), I liked all the cookies and hope to make them again!
Ryken adds raspberry preserves to our thumbprints.

Callan loved rolling the crinkle cookie dough in two kinds of sugar.

Thumbprint cookies using white whole wheat, no nuts.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles

The original recipe called for peanut butter but I made sun butter pillows.

Ryken loved the sunbutter pillows.

August 24, 2011

Kale Chips: A Healthy Allergy-Friendly Snack

We've been living the small town life for the last few weeks of summer--and enjoying every minute of it.  In Pacific Grove, they have a Farmer's Market on Central Avenue outside the Natural History Museum.  I am a bit of a Farmer's Market fanatic.  I firmly believe that if anything is going to get my kids to eat more fruits and veggies, it's fresh organic produce from a farm--or just as good, from a Farmer's Market.

In addition to blueberries, strawberries, nectarines, pluots, beets, and cilantro, I just had to pick up some kale.  And even though I have limited experience cooking it, I knew I would find a suitable recipe online.  Kale Chips.  I was skeptical, but am now a believer.

SO easy your kids can do it.  All you do is trim or tear the kale into bite sized pieces from the thick stem, wash and dry,

spread out on foil-lined pan,

toss with olive oil and sprinkle salt (I also added some garlic powder at my girl Michelle's suggestion and it was yum),

and into a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until crispy (mine took 14 minutes).

The texture was sort of similar to roasted seaweed, and there was a slight bitter aftertaste, but I'm convinced that if they're hungry enough, they won't notice it.  :)

Result?  We finished the bowl easily.  Two of the kids and I.  Perfect for munching on before dinner when hungry stomachs are rumbling. 

Warning: kale chips can be really addicting (which might not be such a bad thing!).

August 22, 2011

Book Review: Food Allergies

Food Allergies by Christine Taylor-Butler is a straightforward book about -- you guessed it -- food allergies.  The book explains the body' immune system, what allergic reactions might look like, unexpected foods and products that often contain common allergens, food labeling rules, and the risks of cross-contamination.

This is a very detailed book that goes beyond listing the most common food allergens and possible reactions.  My 6-year-old read parts of it by himself and it reinforced his need to avoid food-sharing and be vigilant with label-reading.  Much of the scientific/clinical language (immunoglobulins, antibodies) and in-depth information on government regulation will be too difficult for elementary school readers to fully understand on their own.  This would be good to read with your kids so that you can explain some ideas and gloss over others that are too abstract.  For younger audiences, definitely focus more on the diagrams, photos and accompanying descriptions. 
Common foods with allergens you might not have suspected.

Photo of a girl's swollen eyes during a mild allergic reaction.

This book is actually a terrific read for adults working with food-allergic children.  The visuals in the book are helpful and to the point, especially those that show what a child's body might look like in the midst of an allergic reaction. 
The book asks if it's safe for a peanut-allergic child to eat a friend's cookie.
Photo of a child's swollen lip during an allergic reaction to peanuts.

You can find this book for sale on Amazon.  I am planning to loan this book to Ryken's and Callan's teachers as a quick introduction to the world of food allergies.  I recommend all school libraries should have a copy of this book on their shelves as a resource to its teachers and curious parents. 

August 19, 2011

Allergy Ready: preparing educators for anaphylaxis at school

Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network and Food Allergy Initiative of Canada have helped to create a comprehensive online program for educators amidst the growing risks of food allergies. 

Allergy Ready's C.A.R.E. (Comprehend Avoid Respond Enact) course encourages school communities become "allergy smart" to prevent, recognize, and respond to anaphylaxis.  The online tutorial includes education on common food allergies and insect stings, recommended schoolwide sanitary practices, symptoms of anaphylaxis, spreading allergy awareness throughout the school community, and staff-training on when and how to use of Epi-Pens.  Along with the narrated slides, detailed explanations, and step-by-step training, the course also provides quizzes and scenarios to test your understanding along the way.

Among the information in the program, I saw Anaphylaxis Canada's "Think F.A.S.T." poster, an acronym for the four zones of possible anaphylactic symptoms:  Face, Airway, Stomach, Total body (like the skin).  I love the poster.  It is a quick and easy way for educators and students to recognize a potential allergic reaction.  I am planning on ordering copies for both of my son's schools through Anaphylaxis Canada's product catolog.
A cheat sheet on anaphylaxis, this Think FAST poster is up in Ryken's school and our pantry door.

The C.A.R.E. course took me roughly 60 to 90 minutes to complete.  (My studies were intermittently broken up by my kids and sleep...)  It was really informative.  Being a food-allergic mom of kids who do not have asthma, I learned a lot in the section addressing asthma attacks versus anaphylaxis.  The two reactions can look similar but an inhaler will not treat anaphylaxis.  It's best to give an Epi-Pen shot.

A hugely important piece of advice is, when in doubt, err on the safe side and administer the Epi-Pen at the start of a suspected anaphylactic reaction.  Side effects (increased heart rate, shakiness) are mild and short-lived.  However, "the potential side effects are far outweighed by the severe risks of not treating an anaphylactic reaction which could include death," according to the CARE course.   In cases where kids have died of anaphylaxis, epinephrine was underused, delayed, or not given at all. 

Please share with your allergic children's school personnel or print out a flyer.  I forwarded the link as well as the press release to the school/district nurse, principal, and teachers.

Wishing you all a safe school year!

August 17, 2011

Back to School Sandwich Ideas for Food Allergic & Picky Eaters (I happen to have both)

My kids are not particularly good sandwich eaters, and I find myself getting in a lunchbox rut by the end of the first week of school.  So now would be the time for a fresh start, and some experimenting with sandwich ideas.

I try to fill in lunches with sandwiches at least twice a week, and they'll often come back half-eaten or barely touched.  I've realized variety and a few favorite ingredients helps tempt hungry little ones a bit more than the old standards day after day.  Some ideas:

Here are our go-to breads, now that Rainbo white bread has added dairy to their ingredients
The following are dairy and egg free:
Milton's Healthy Gourmet White Bread
Milton's 100% Whole Wheat Bread
Market Pantry Round Top Sandwich Bread (Target)

Trader Joe's pita pockets
Trader Joe's handmade tortillas
Trader Joe's fat free english muffins
Some french bread or sour dough baguettes (check labels!)
Some focaccia breads (some have added cheese--please check all labels)
Sliced Bagels (like Sara Lee or Noah's)
Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (bake with mini sausages, bacon, lunch meat, etc.)

SoyNut butter (sold at Target and Safeway)
Fruit jams (my kids like jam and turkey)
Hummus--my new favorite: TJ's edamame hummus (please check the ingredients as different varieties of hummus may contain nuts or other allergens, or make your own)
Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese (mince roasted peppers and mix, or add soup mix for some zing!)
Canned cranberry (with turkey...mmm)
Guacamole or mashed avocado
Allergy-friendly margarine (we use Earth Balance)

Sliced baked tofu, like Baked Tofu from TJ's
Bacon--add to a turkey sandwich or make a BLT with Vegenaise
Smoked salmon--pair with Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese with a bit of lemon juice and chopped chives
Leftover sliced meats from dinner, like chicken or beef
Meatballs, like Aidells teriyaki and pineapple meatballs
Hotdogs, like TJ's turkey dogs (pair with Milton's hotdog buns for a non-dairy option)

Mix and match your sandwich ingredients for a different sandwich and more enthusiastic sandwich eaters every time!

Here's today's lunch concoction: baked tofu, sliced tomato, and Edamame Hummus.  Even my notoriously carnivorous husband ate it and liked it without knowing there wasn't any meat in it!  Ha!  I added sliced cheese to mine, but I'm sure it would be delish without:

OK, so the picture isn't the best, but trust me, it was REALLY good!

August 15, 2011

School year preparations - a visual guide

School starts up for Ryken in less than two weeks.  As exhausting and wrinkle-inducing it has been to have my two boys at home, I'm still not quite ready to say goodbye.  Ryken begins a Spanish dual immersion program at a new school this year and this means getting to know a new community and having them get to know our family, food allergies and all.

Last week Sarah provided an awesome guide for back-to-school to-do's to prepare for the school year.  Below is a list of things that I'll be doing to make sure Ryken's as safe as can be starting from Day 1.  I included sample letters and photos in case you need inspiration.  If the letters are helpful to you, feel free to use to borrow language or use the letters as templates. (No lawsuits over plagiarism, I promise!)  Hopefully, between Sarah's post and mine, you will have what you need for the new year.  
  1. Introduction letter to teacher  -- Introducing Ryken.  Talking about his allergies, how we would like to handle food and class snacks, and how to keep him safe from allergic reactions.
  2. Food allergy alert -- Note with clear rules on what to give or not to give, reminders to check for food/materials safety, and details on his food allergies, types of reactions (mild, moderate, severe), and instructions on when to administer medication.  Make extra copies for classroom teachers and support staff .  Attaching a photo is especially important so that substitute teachers, librarians, prep teachers (PE, art, music, science), and office staff can easily identify your child.
  3. Email or letter to parents -- Be friendly, direct, and open.  I usually simplify the teacher letter for this but describe a couple allergic reaction experiences so that parents understand Ryken's allergies and where our school concerns come from.  I also ask parents to contact me if they are ever planning to bring in a class treat for birthdays because I am always happy to provide a safe treat for Ryken.  So far in my experiences, once a food allergy gets attached to a kid's face, parents are very sympathetic. 
  4. Medication -- up-to-date sets for school, afterschool care, and home.  Be sure to keep original packaging (to verify the medication is prescribed to your child) or else districts may not be legally able to accept this.  Include specific allergy info and instructions.  In an emergency or disaster situation, someone unaware of your child's conditions may need to care for them.
  5. Labeled lunchboxes, water bottles, backpacks -- Label to alert people to your child's food allergies (I love Allergy Alert Stick-Ons) and also to include your child's name and parent/doctor contact numbers in case of emergencies. 
  6. Treat box -- I like to make sure everything in here has a food label for extra safety.   
  7. Suggested reading for class read-alouds or just for teacher education
  8. List of unsafe ingredients(for my kiddo it's milk, peanuts, and tree nuts)  -- Pop these travel-sized lists in the treat box so teachers can easily locate them. 
Don't forget original packaging, info on symptoms, medication and dosage and a measuring cup!
Label your treat box and include avoidance lists to prevent mix-ups with other food-allergic kids.
Flashy allergy ID bands constantly remind teachers and kids about food allergies.
Books can further educate teachers and kids about food allergies.

We used a Spanish alert sticker and a luggage tag.

The crazy yellow color and huge sticker will help kids avoid mix-ups.

A last bit of preparation that has been ongoing is making sure Ryken does not share food with anyone.  No matter how confident he is that he has had a treat before, I do not want him eating anyone else's food.  There is still a risk of cross contamination with allergens on munching kids' fingertips and allergens in the same lunchbox, or the possibility that the food's ingredients have changed.  Ryken generally accepts that he isn't allowed to accept friends' foods but, at the self-righteous age of 6, he sometimes lets his desire for snacks and overconfidence in a familiar snack's safety to overtake the safer choice.

We are looking forward to hearing about everyone's new school year experience.  I'm crossing my fingers that everything will go smoothly, health-wise and education-wise.

Epipen Reminder for School

Please please PLEASE store your Epipens in their boxes!  My son is at school today without an Epipen on hand because they won't take an Epipen out of its box.  Not a happy mama today...

August 12, 2011

Earthbound Farms: Farmstand Summer Saturdays

You've seen Earthbound Farms at the market.  Deliciously fresh local organic produce like baby greens and strawberries.  During our trip to Monterey Bay, we visited the Earthbound Farms Farmstand in Carmel Valley, which includes an herb garden and kid's garden, and what looks like a corn field that will someday be a corn maze.
They couldn't resist.  They may have just had a teeny tiny tasting of fresh raspberries.
Saturdays they have events at the Farmstand, so we visited for some heirloom tomato and olive oil tasting one Saturday morning.  When the kids were finished running around the garden and picking up ladybugs, they went straight for the tomatoes at the Farmstand, and gobbled them up during our makeshift picnic.

Tristan had five ladybugs crawling all over him at one point.
Our allergy-friendly picnic from the Farmstand: raspberries, tomatoes, bean salad, and beet salad.
Visiting farms is a fantastic way to get our kids--especially our food allergic kids with limited diets--to eat more fruits and veggies, especially a kid-friendly farm like Earthbound Farms!  This time, Tristan found his inner love for persimmons, and Addison for raspberries.  Excellent.

August 10, 2011

Back to School (with food allergies)? Already?

I am deep in vacation mode.  You could probably tell from my lack of posts lately.  I am without any of my usual distractions from home: my DVR, sewing machine...and even our laptop is usually monopolized by my husband's attempt to work.  Surprisingly, relaxing is very hard work.  Just left with a few library books brought from home and daily ritual of sleeping in and napping in the afternoons.  Who knew I was so sleep deprived?

Slowly, slowly, though, thoughts of back-to-school have crept into my mind.  And with them, my thoughts of anxiety over a new teacher, classmates, birthday parties, soccer practice snacks...

And then I realized I never even collected Tristan's allergy meds from his camp director.  Wow.  I am not organized.  And school starts in less than a week.  Yikes!

A few things to do to get yourself back on track for back to school (if you're like me, and let summer get the best of you):

1. Locate your extra allergy meds bag and label or relabel it appropriately.  I will need to relabel Tristan's high tech freezer bag with his name and his new classroom and teacher's name.

2. Get your school medications forms filled out.  For me, I will have to locate them first (Remember when the school secretary gave them to me way back in May for the upcoming school year?  Unfortunately neither do I), then bring them to the allergist to have them filled out if necessary.  The allergists generally don't like it when you bring them a 6 page packet and tell them you need it asap.  If you don't have your forms yet, you can probably contact your school district's office or school directly about a week before school resumes and get them.  After some searching, I found San Francisco Unified's Allergy Emergency Care Plan (scroll down) and Medication Form (three more bullets down) under "Medications and Emergency Care Plans."

3. Label your child's lunch stuff, including thermoses, food containers, and lunch sack with her name and allergies if you can.  You can use stickers or just write all the info clearly with a Sharpie.  You may also include his doctor's name and number, and your name and number.

4. Write a letter to your child's teacher with enough information so that she understands the severity of your child's allergies and a short health history.  Be sure to include a recent picture, some of his common symptoms and words your child uses to describe his allergies (tongue feels itchy, food tastes spicy, etc.), an Epipen Jr. cheat sheet (find printable version on this page), and other resources.  I like to provide Tristan's teacher with an age-appropriate picture book she can read to the class, and some birthday party treat suggestions that are safe for your child (I started a streak of soy ice cream Cuties at Logan's school).  I also like to ask at this time if I could send a letter to the other class families about his allergies (this usually gets distributed at Back-to-School night).  This year I'll also include our blog address, along with my other contact info.

5. Write a letter to the other families in your child's class so that they also understand his allergies.  This might contain information similar to the letter to the teacher.  Keep a friendly and open tone so that they feel they can come to you with questions now or in the future.  Include a cupcake or cookie recipe that is safe for your child (be very specific in terms of products you use), in case other families are inspired to bake something your child can partake in.

Here is a Wacky Cake recipe you can copy and paste onto your letter (egg, dairy, soy, nut free):
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vinegar (I use balsamic)
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup cold water*

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Add vanilla, vinegar, oil, and water (some recipes say to make three wells for the vanilla, vinegar, and oil, and then add the water over all of it and mix.  I just throw it all in and it seems fine) and stir until moistened.  Pour into a lightly greased 8x8 baking pan or lined or greased cupcake pan (makes about 12 or so).  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it springs back when touched lightly.

6. Consider getting some play date cards with essential allergy info, in preparation for the inevitable play date season.  Tristan's have his pic, name, allergies, meds, and my cell info.

7. Locate your allergy bracelets, necklaces, or other jewelry to help your child, his teacher, and everyone around more aware and confident about his allergies.

8. Plan on discussing your child's allergies with other parents in the class.  This may take some mental preparation, not to sound too pushy or anxious, while still straightforward and friendly.  It is my job to help Tristan become "that Star-Wars-loving kid in the class who loves building stuff" instead of just that "food allergy guy".

9. Buy a box of allergy-safe snacks (individually wrapped are good choices) for your child's classroom teacher to stash in case of birthday parties and other celebrations.

Some dairy, nut, and egg free options for classroom stashed snacks
10. Take a deep breath, take a mental picture of your vacation/staycation (better yet, print out and frame some to put around the house), and get ready for a whole new school year.  Because before you know it, your child will have made a few new friends, grasped concepts he never could have before, and maybe even completed his homework without any nagging from you (ok, maybe I am stretching it a little...).  Happy new school year!

August 8, 2011

Back to School Snack Review: New Products at Target

I was happily surprised at the variety of new allergy-conscious products I found on shelves at Target the other day, just in time for back-to-school.  At the beginning of the school year, I always buy at least a box of snacks for Tristan and Logan's classroom teachers clearly marked with their names to keep in case of birthdays and other celebrations.

Some of the stuff I saw included:
Gluten-Free Fudge Brownies, French Meadow Bakery  (sign into their website for a coupon)
Gluten-Free chocolate dipped donuts, Kinnikinnick Foods
Dairy-Free So Minis (ice cream sandwiches)
Purely Decadent Ice Cream
Enjoy Life Bars
Back-to-Nature Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I decided to pick up some Enjoy Life Bars (a new potential snack) and Back-to-Nature cookies (an old favorite).

Enjoy Life Chewy On-the-Go Bars

These came in 4 flavors: caramel apple, sunbutter crunch, very berry, and cocoa loco.  I picked up sunbutter crunch and cocoa loco for my sunbutter and chocolate loving kids.

The cocoa loco had a good dark chocolate flavor, and for a bar, wasn't too sticky or hard.  That being said, it wasn't my most favorite thing in the world.  Chocoholic Addison ate almost a whole bar at the beach one day.  But the next time I gave one to her, she wasn't as thrilled, and ate about a quarter of the bar before searching my bag and asking, "What else do you have?"  Hmmm...

Ingredients cocoa loco Enjoy Life Bars

The sunbutter crunch bar had a harder texture than the cocoa loco.  It wasn't that appealing to me.  The kids wouldn't touch it.  Oh well.  I tried.

Ingredients Enjoy Life Sunbutter Crunch bars
After all that, I would still keep a few bars in my car as emergency snacks.  If they're hungry enough, they'll probably eat them, and being an Enjoy Life product, are free of the top 8 allergens in a dedicated nut and gluten free factory.

Back-to-Nature Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These cookies remind me of Chips Ahoy cookies, but better.  They are egg and dairy free, which I love, and they actually taste really good.  The chocolate chunks are actual chunks, not chips.  They make a great stashed snack for your kids' classroom, as they're always satisfied with having these cookies instead of the egg and dairy-based cupcakes being served at most of the birthday parties.

Have fun browsing the Target aisles!  (I always do!)

August 5, 2011

12" x 12"

That's the size of a bag allowed into the galleries at the SF Asian Art Museum.  I mean, neither my new leather satchel nor my diaper bag would be allowed into the galleries. 

Not that I make it a habit of reaching for my Kiehl's lip balm or changing a diaper during a glimpse of the Princess Rangkesari, but in some cases there must be exceptions to the bag rule...(I promise you my point is just around the corner).

A classroom teacher takes 22 first graders on the school bus to the Asian Art museum, 6 with asthma and 3 with severe nut allergies.  His bag is filled with emergency forms, inhalers, and Epi-pens, and is definitely exceeding the 12" x 12" restriction.  He opens it up to a security guard, its contents practically spilling out, and the guard hassles him about the size of his bag. 

As a former teacher and mother of three children who loves to visit the city's art galleries (watch out Legion, here come those darn kids again!), I am always flabbergasted at how behind the times various restaurants and venues are when it comes to food allergies.  And this is just another example.

There have been countless times I've found myself in a cafe asking about the presence of dairy, egg, or nuts in certain foods to a cashier or server replying, "I don't think so, um, I'm not sure..." or, in a confrontation with someone about bringing outside food into a venue for my food allergic children (usually ending in a teeny tiny rant about guaranteeing the safety of my children from anaphylaxis after eating their food, followed by swift entry in).

So come on, Asian Art Museum.  Let's think about your policies and educate your staff to protect our littlest patrons...because who knows?  They could be your future benefactors.

August 3, 2011

Avocado OJ Smoothie

Don't judge a smoothie by its color.

My brother-in-law, Gene, was in town for a visit last week.  A newly retired Navy SEALS, Gene is the epitome of strength and good health.  He introduced our family to an easy and nutritious smoothie using avocado, orange juice, water, ice, and honey.  The result tasted just like those Orange Julius drinks sold at malls that I used to beg my mom for when we were growing up.  

Gene didn't measure out his ingredients so I don't know the exact ratio of orange juice to water in the drink.  I tried to recreate it the next day (serious love at first sip for me) and used no water, just all orange juice.  Still delicious...even if it wasn't quite as good as Gene's.  We used calcium-fortified orange juice as our milk-allergic kids could always use the extra boost. 

Avocado OJ Smoothie

1 large very ripe avocado
2 cups orange juice
crushed ice to taste
Honey to taste (for this recipe's proportion, I used about 1.5 Tbsp)
  1. Remove pits from avocado.  Dice avocado and lightly mash with a fork. 
  2. Blend avocado and orange juice with blender.  Add crushed ice and blend until you reach a consistency you like.  (Ours was a little thicker than juice, not as thick as a milk shake.)  
  3. Blend in a teaspoon of honey.  Taste for sweetness and add additional teaspoons until you get your desired sweetness.
My kids loved the ultra-smooth smoothie.  My husband did, too, and he has our eagle-eye for texture and odd aftertaste having been the guinea pig for my unusual concoctions for many years.  No one could even tell there was avocado in it. Not only was it yummy, it seemed to satisfy my sweet tooth.  This was a pleasant surprise since I'm trying to kick my addiction to refined sugar.

I've seen similar recipes that add banana, raspberries, or additional vegetables.  I may try variations in the future but I have to say, I do love this simple recipe and could live without messin'.