We Are Moving!
We are officially moving our site to www.allergy-warriors.com. If you follow our blog or subscribe via email, you will need to sign back up on the new site. Our followers did not carry over to the new site. If you do not sign up, you will not continue getting updates from us. :0(
The new site is currently under construction, so please bare with us as we get new features and fun things set up. The look will probably change a few more times also. We are tweaking it to make it perfect. We have a new recipe card program, and will be adding tabs for recipes, amazing products, and other great things. The new recipe card allows you to save or print (in various sizes) right from the site. We are excited to bring you lots more great things as we work on the new site and add lots more great features!
The www.allergywarriors.wordpress.com site will be shut down by the end of the month, and we will not be posting on this site after that.
We want to thank everyone for supporting us in this endeavor and look forward to seeing you on the new site! Your support is greatly appreciated! If you have a minute, we would love to hear your feedback about the new site, and get your input on things you would like to see on the site!
Allergy Warrior Annie & Gluten Free Gal Lizzie
A quick online search will lead you to about a million and a half different ways of toasting coconut. Since we often want to incorporate this into our meals, I really wanted to learn how to do it properly. Well, I tried quite a few of the methods I found online and found that none of them worked to my satisfaction. So, through some trial and error, I was able to come up with my own way of doing it and it works great. I wanted to share this with you guys so you don’t have to go through all the mistakes and mess that I did.
First, you are going to make sure you prep your coconut. Once you have cracked the coconut and have pulled away the meat, get out your old fashioned kitchen grater. You know, that bulky metal thing that always happened to just be in the kitchen? It always looked so scary to me as a kid, but I love how many things I can use it for now! But, back to business… Take your chunks of coconut and start grating them on the grater. Tip: Only grate as much as you’ll need for your recipe and maybe a bit extra for snacking later… coconut keeps longer in larger chunks than after it has been grated.
Once you have your small pieces of grated coconut, you’ll have to decide how toasted you want it. It really depends on your preferences and what kind of crunch you want it to have. If you are mixing in the coconut, or prefer slightly less crunchy toasted coconut, then use the frying pan method.
To do this, take a medium sized frying pan and spread your coconut out in a single layer. Turn your heat to high. As soon as you see the coconut begin to tan (about a minute), turn your heat down to medium low and stir the coconut around while continuing to toast until it reaches desired color/texture. Note: this method does not toast coconut evenly, so I would not recommend this method where the presentation of the toasted coconut will be visible. The advantage to this method, is you get the great coconut flavor without tons of crunch as soon of the coconut stays a bit on the softer side. This is great for those who have issues with texture differences.
However, if you are looking for either more crunchy or more uniformly toasted coconut, use the oven method.
To do this, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spread your coconut in an even layer on a cookie sheet and place into the oven. Let it roast for about 5-7 minutes and give it a good shake and stir to ensure even toasting. Continue toasting until desired level of color and crunch is achieved.
Store your toasted coconut in an air tight container. If you happen to have any left that is! I hope this helps out those who are looking for a better way to toast their own.
If you haven’t tried toasted coconut, I highly recommend it! Its a great addition to salads, main dishes, and desserts. Its also great to have on hand as a quick snack!
BD’s Mongolian Grill – The SAFE Restaurant
I had the pleasure of talking to Ken Leetch, the General Manager, at BD’s Mongolian Grill in Bolingbrook. He was nice enough to take the time out of his busy schedule to discuss their safety practices with me. This restaurant can be allergen free, gluten-free, Paleo, or Vegan. You pick, and they will try to accommodate. First off, BD’s Mongolian Grill is one of my favorite buffet type restaurant. Most buffet type restaurants are not very safe for Bean with her peanut allergy, due to cross contamination issues. I was comfortable taking her to BD’s before, but now that I know more about their safety practices I am confident that BD’s would be a safe place for her to eat.
If you have never been to BD’s Mongolian Grill, it is essentially a place where you pick the ingredients and then take it up to the grill. It’s amazing stir fry. You can purchase one bowl or unlimited bowls. With your bowl, you also get their soup and salad bar. Their soups recently changed to being 100% home-made in-house by BD’s. After you start off with the soup and salad, then you take your bowl and go up to the buffet and choose your ingredients. You have several choices of meat, vegetables, noodles, sauces, and spices. Once you have all your ingredients picked out, you can take your food up to a grill to be cooked.
Some of the safety practices they follow are:
- Temperatures are checked on the food lines every few hours to make sure everything stays cold and fresh
- The tongs are constantly changed to avoid any cross contamination
- If you are concerned about possible cross contamination due to a food restriction or allergy, they will make your bowl from fresh ingredients in the back that are kept segregated
- Also, they have an Allergy Friendly cooking station. It is a separate place to have your food cooked to avoid allergens in your food. The pans are used one time before being washed, and then they are heated up to 200 degrees to burn off any remaining allergens
- There is a MAC or MAM (Market Area Manager or Market Area Coordinator) walking around the food area, in a black chef coat. They can help create meals, give ideas, and also can provide you with a nutritional brochure.
They also have a .pdf file on their website that lists every single ingredient used in all of their items. If you are on the go, there is an Android and Iphone app called BD’s Go Mongo. The app lets you create-a-bowl, choose all your ingredients, and view all the ingredients in the bowl you made!
Disclaimer: I did this review, because this is one of my favorite restaurants. I was not given anything and did not receive any compensation in any way, in order to do this review. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.
Kemnitz Family Kitchen Labels & Flags
Kemnitz Family Kitchen has these great labels, stickers, and flags for foods that are gluten free and allergen free. They also have special labels that say “NO” in red if they are not safe. We went to my mom’s for a cookout yesterday, and my cousin has decided to try being gluten free to see if it makes her feel any better. We were able to put flags in the foods that were safe for her. My mom made the homemade salsa, and taco dip. Both were safe, so I was able to put a flag in them.
My cousin brought some Udi’s Gluten Free hamburger buns, which are not only gluten free, but nut free also! Had to put some cute flags and stickers on those too!
My cousin brought a cake she made gluten free, and it was REALLY good. However, my grandmother brought packaged donuts that were not safe for my cousin or my daughter’s peanut allergy, so I put the STOP sticker on them. It was great, because they were both able to see right off that they were not safe for either of them.
I am so excited about these flags and labels. Especially at larger family functions where different people have different food restrictions, and people bring home made foods. People can immediately see which items are safe and which are not.
My cousin said these were a great idea, especially if you are at a restaurant and they bring around desserts to view. They could have the little GF flag in them to show they are gluten free and safe. Another neat idea is if you order lunch from a restaurant and they have gluten free options. They could label your meal with a Gluten Free sticker. Kemnitz Family Kitchen has several little stickers and flags for every occasion and food restriction. These would be great for cookouts, family parties, and school treats.
You say it’s your birthday? Happy Gluten Free Birthday! Imagine getting a cupcake from a co-worker that is gluten free, with a little birthday sticker on it.
Is the food vegan? Is it an Easter, Christmas, Halloween, or Fourth of July? There are adorable labels to label your foods to bring to get togethers. There are even labels to make what items your food does NOT have! This is especially important for home made foods. The possibilities are endless!
Disclaimer: I was sent two packages of flags and labels in exchange for my honest opinion of the products. I was not compensated in any way, and all opinions are my own.
Making the Switch to Paleo!!
As you know, we are gluten free. We have been for awhile now, due to necessity. However, we still have not seen the health improvements that we were hoping. Bear still had an enlarged lymph node in his neck that he has had for years, and Bee was still very moody and bloated. No matter what we did, we could not get the weight off of Bee and onto Bear.
So, I started doing more research. About health, about nutrition, about our history as humans, and about how our eating practices have evolved over time. All of this information, lead me to the Paleo diet.
For those of you that do not know, the Paleo diet mimics the way our ancestors ate thousands of years ago. The diet is simple really. Its all whole foods, fresh, not processed. There are no grains, no corn ( its actually a grain!), no peanuts or other legumes, no processed sugars or added sugars, no dairy ( with the exception of the grass fed butter). Its a diet high in proteins and good fats. For those of you that would like to know more, please let me know. I can get you pointed in the right direction
While it is not hard to follow, as far as knowing what is okay to eat and not okay to eat, there are some more challenging aspects of this type of lifestyle. There is a lot more time put into meal planning and preparation. This is because everything we eat is fresh. Nothing comes out of a package. So, this means making sure that we have enough veggies, seeds, and nuts. This means taking the time to make extra portions at dinner so that we can use them as a base for our lunches the next day. And, because our local farmers market does not open until June, this means lots of regular trips to the grocery store.
However, all of the new challenges that we have faced have been nothing compared to all of the benefits we are already seeing, and it has not even been a full 30 days yet! Bear’s lymph node has almost completely gone back down to normal. None of us are bloated anymore. Bee is visibly thinner. Our skin and hair is noticeably healthier. The kids both have much better moods and sleep much better. I’ve lost 6 pounds. Not to mention all of the fun we have preparing the food we eat. For me, cooking had previously become a chore, and we were stuck in so many ruts, eating the same types of things over and over and over. But with Paleo, we all get involved. We chose foods together at the store, and have a great time discovering new foods at small local stores. We have had a great time experimenting with new flavors and textures ( one of the latest was masked sweet potatoes with toasted coconut…try them, you will NOT be disappointed!). We do not have to fight as much to get Bear to eat. We all just FEEL better. Not to mention that it has really helped my husband and I become even closer.
It feels so good to know that we our nourishing ourselves and our children with healthy, whole, fresh foods. We are also much more adept at handling our stress. We now participate in exercise as a family, and have the ability to give ourselves alone time without feeling guilty. This has been the most positive lifestyle change that we have ever made, and my only regret is that we did not do it sooner.
I am going to be starting to experiment with some new Paleo recipes soon. Look for new ideas coming soon. And please, if there is something that you would like to see Paleofied, let me know and I will do my best to make it happen!
Bonus: The right kind of bacon (uncured, minimally processed, nitrate free, etc) is totally okay with this lifestyle!! Now, what can be better than that??
To help determine if you or your child has a food allergy, there are a few steps you must take.
- Keep a log – write down very detailed symptoms. Be sure to note the food and how much of the food caused the problem.
- Call your doctor – Bring your log with you and tell your doctor all about it. He will do an exam and further testing.
- Blood Test – If your doctor suspects a food allergy, the doctor will most likely send you for a blood test. A blood test measure’s your immune system’s response to certain foods known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. However, these blood tests aren’t always accurate, and produce false positives.
- Skin Test – This is typically performed on the back for children, and on the inner arms for adults. Your skin is pricked with a very tiny needle, and a tiny amount of the allergens are placed beneath your skin’s surface. If you are allergic to something, an itchy raised bump will form. The doctor will rate the size of the bump with the severity of the allergy.
- Restricted Diet – Depending on your results, you will be asked to remove certain foods from your diet. If the doctor thinks that you may have an intolerance or sensitivity rather than an allergy, he may ask you to remove certain foods from your diet, and gradually add them back in to check for specific symptoms when reintroduced. This will narrow down which foods specifically are causing the problem. If you are truly allergic, the doctor will recommend the food be eliminated from your diet completely.
- Oral Tolerance Test – This test is done in your doctor’s office or a clinical environment, where doctor’s are prepared with emergency medication. A small amount of the allergen is given to the patient to ingest. Typically they start with a very, very tiny amount of the allergen. If that it tolerated, then increasing amounts are given at set time intervals, typically a every half hour or so. If you don’t have a reaction during this test, you can typically begin including this food back into your diet again.
Getting Ready For The Nice Weather
YAAAAAAYYYYYY!!! Awesome weather is back… again. And this time it seems like it wants to stay around. We are already planning on all of the awesome things we can do. It helps the kids get excited and be motivated to spend more time outside, and it also helps me make a nice little mental list of all the new things we will need and all of the things I need to be prepared for.
So, I would like to share with you, a quick little run down of how we prepare for summer, and hopefully it will make your summer a bit easier too.
First, we all know that the return of summer brings the return of sun, and sunburn. Over here we are all almost clear, so we are huge fans of sunblock. As in industrial strength SPF as high as it can possibly be, reapplied every hour sunblock. We use Coppertone WaterBabies SPF 100+ ( see? I wasn’t kidding). Make sure to do your research and verify that the brand you are using is gluten free.
Second, with nice weather come the bugs. Not only the pretty and interesting ones, but those nasty, biting, stingy ones. Don’t forget to make sure you are using some form of protection against those little brats. Slice a lime and push some cloves in it, it helps keep the biting insects away. Also, if you prefer to wear your protection, find a natural based safe alternative. Gluten can hide in bug sprays too. I have a friend that makes ours. You can also make your own, if you are so inclined.
Third, what would nice weather be without cook outs and get togethers? Word of warning…those grills…cross contamination issue!!! While it may not be for some, for those that are very sensitive, it can be a source of concern. So, how to remedy that? We went and bought one of those table top charcoal grills. They are pretty inexpensive and easy to transport. Any grill party that we go to we just toss it in the trunk and we are good to go. This way, we know that there is no way bread or gluten containing meats or what have you have been near it, and we still get to have all the yummy grilled food.
And who can forget about all the great carnivals, festivals and street fairs that happen while the weather is at its best? So… what’s the best way to navigate those potential gluten havens? First, look for information about the fest. More often than not, if community restaurants are going to be present at the fest, it will be listed on the flier or other paper work advertising the event. You can then call the different places and find out what will be served and how it’s prepared to make your safe list. If you do not see places listed, call the city or village where the event is being held. They can give you more information about the type of vendors that will be showcased. If you find out that there will be no safe options while you are there, pack yourself a nice picnic lunch and bring it along. There are a lot of great fair type foods that you can make gluten free. Look for a post containing some of those great recipes coming soon.
This is the basic way that I try to plan out our summer, and some of the tips that I have found to make our lives easier and more manageable. Hopefully this has helped some of you. I welcome your tips as well. And don’t forget to let me know if any of these help you out!
I can’t help but to be frustrated right now. I have several friends that have children that are similar in age to my kids. And of course, my kids love getting together and being able to play. Recently, we had some time to spend with a friend who I have not seen in a very long time and her three little ones. We had a great time. But…..
She knows that my kids are eating gluten free. She knows that it is because of an issue they both medically have. She knows how much I struggle trying to make my kids feel like they fit in.
When she invited us over, she mentioned that we should come for lunch. I began to explain to her my hesitation…and went down the whole list. The foods contents, the cross contamination issues, etc. She still insisted. I offered to bring our own food, that I knew would be okay. I even offered to bring enough for everyone to share. She still insisted everything would be fine. But, if this lifestyle has taught me anything its to be prepared, so I brought food anyway.
And its really a good thing that I did! We got there, and the kids played for awhile, which was awesome. But then I noticed that she had thrown in a pizza. I knew immediately that it was not going to be anything safe for my kids. So, I asked her. I wanted to know why she was making a pizza when she had offered to provide a safe lunch. She then said, well it is a favorite of the kids, so I was going to give them that, and I have salad and fruits and veggies for your kids. I was appalled.
I, luckily, brought a nice hearty lunch for the kids. But, still not the point. She knows that I do everything I can to NOT alienate my kids. Sorry, but eating something that they can not have right in front of them is awful. To top it all off, she even offered me the pizza. I remained calm during the whole thing, but shortly after lunch my kids were getting tired and had asked to leave. I was more than happy to oblige.
While I did take the time to explain my frustrations to her, I still can not help but to be upset to this day. Please do not take medical issues, especially those revolving around kids, lightly. It is hard enough for the kids to feel like they fit in, try not to make it any harder.
Winning the Food Allergy War?
Every day more and more children, and adults are diagnosed with allergies. Food allergies, environmental allergies, seasonal allergies. Oh, and don’t forget there is asthma and eczema included too. My almost 8 year old, has all 3, plus asthma, and we went through a bought of eczema this past winter. The child takes more medications than I do. Inhalers, nasal sprays, and pills. Packing her an overnight bag is like packing her a small pharmacy. I am seeing this more and more with children, and even adults are having seasonal allergies who have never had them before. It all makes me wonder WHY?
Scientists are doing a crazy amount of research to find out why, but no one really has a definitive answer. There are so many theories out there… GMO’s, fast food, lack of breast feeding, eating the allergen during pregnancy, the rise of planned c-sections, & use of hand sanitizer – just to name a few. The list goes on and on. There are many experimental food allergy trials out there, with things like desensitization (ingesting small amounts of peanut flour). Now they are saying to start children on foods with allergens as early as 4-6 months. Before they could not have peanuts until age 2. Do they really know what will actually help or are we all just guessing? They claim that they are making great strides in the right direction. Personally, it all sounds like a bunch of trial and error, along with lots of hoping that somewhere along the lines something will truly make a difference.
How do we truly know what will work to help win the food allergy war, until we know the cause of the war and what we are actually fighting against? Until they find a cause and a cure, I am thankful for support groups, and other Allergy Warriors who are fighting this battle right along side my allergic child and I.