Tag Archives: allergy friendly

Gluten-Free Glazed Spiced Pumpkin Cookies

pumpkin cookies

My favorite season hands-down, is Autumn. I love the crisp air, homemade soups, and I especially love pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING – coffee, pie, pancakes, you name it. Seriously, if they made pumpkin flavored shrimp, I’d probably try it (and that’s saying a lot because I HATE shrimp).

So a couple of weeks ago when the temp actually dipped below 75 (I live in Missouri – we really don’t start getting cool whether til November) I got a hankering for pumpkin baked goods. These were amazing, and a big hit with the boys. When I asked Z if he wanted me to put a couple in his lunch box for the next day he responded, “Yes. I’ll take five!” Yup. They’re that good. 

  • Ingredients:
  • 2 cups gluten-free all purpose flour (I used King Arthur)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon guar gum or xanthan gum
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (if you can have dairy, you can use butter)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg or egg replacement
    Z eats cookie

    Lil Z revels in the deliciousness of his cookie.

    boys wanting cookies

    Manimal and Z ogle the glazed pumpkin-spiced cookies but know that mom won’t let them have any until they eat their dinner.

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup dairy free milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk/dairy-free milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl. In a separate bowel, cream wet ingredients together and mix into the dry ingredients. Mix well, and spoon tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. While the cookies are baking, prepare the cinnamon glaze. Apply glaze to cooled cookies and enjoy!

 

I’m gluten free now, too… and I feel a million times better. Thanks, Wheat Belly

Black and white wheat iconOK, forgive me. I have been MIA over the summer months. I have a few confessions to make: Gasp – I hate cooking – can you believe it? Yes, the truth is out. I hate cooking and baking. I hate being in the friggin’ kitchen unless I’m painting something or eating a meal someone else made. So trying to find new, innovative ways to make low-allergen meals often falls by the wayside.

Also, I started my own business, which takes a lot of time. I used to spend the evenings after the boys went to bed blogging, but now I’m painting furniture ’til, well… really, really late.  You can check out my Etsy shop if you care to.

BUT, with that said, I have some really awesome news that I will try to keep short, but it’s kind of hard to because it’s been a pretty-life changing summer.

First I want to give you a little background on my situation: I developed Hashimoto’s Disease (a thyroid auto immune disease) about the time Lil Z was born. To be honest, since I had Lil Z, I have never been the same. I’ve had bad joint pain, I’m constantly exhausted and foggy-brained, and I have just felt off. It got slightly better when I went on thyroid replacement hormones, but really, I have never felt right.

I chalked it up to getting older.

And then the really fun part began. Asthma. In the last two years I developed asthma (well, “bronchial spasms” as my doctor called them because he wasn’t willing to commit to the term asthma yet). Anyway, I really didn’t worry about it much because I only had to use my inhaler like every six months. But then this horrible pollinated summer hit, and I was using my inhaler several times a day, and using Lil Z’s fishy nebulizer machine. But not much was working to keep it under control. I just could NOT catch my breath. I stopped working out and I avoided the outside. When I mowed the lawn, I had to do emergency visit to my doctor so he could prescribe me oral steroids. It. Was. Scary.

About two days after I started taking the oral steroids I realized my joints had stopped hurting and my ankles weren’t bothering me anymore. I also noticed it didn’t hurt to stand up anymore. And when I say “it didn’t hurt to stand up,” what I should say is the excruciating pain in my tailbone (it’s broken), knees, and ankles was gone. I told the hubs this and he said,

“You do realize that pro athletes take steroids not just because they make their muscles bigger, but because it makes them heal faster, right?” – The Hubs

What?! No, I didn’t. But I realized when I went on steroids, all my pain was gone.

Something was wrong with me. Very wrong.

I began to worry about what would go wrong with my body next. I began praying that God would help me get back my health, and I believe He answered that prayer.

Wheat-BellyA friend lent me her book, Wheat BellyShe had recently put her entire family on a gluten-free diet, and the changes in her family’s health were amazing (a story for another time).  I was skeptical about Wheat Belly, thinking it was just going to be a fad diet. But I was shocked. I was reading about me.

Davis explains that gluten helps create a hyper-permeable gut (aka “leaky gut”), which causes various compounds to escape the intestinal walls into the blood stream.

“So what happens if various obnoxious compounds mistakenly gain entry into the bloodstream? one of the undesirable effects is autoimmunity — i.e., the body’s immune response is ‘tricked’ into activation and attacks normal organs such as the thyroid gland or joint tissue. This can lead to autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and rheumatoid arthritis…conditions such as celiac disease, thyroid disease, joint diseases, and asthma.” – William Davis, M.D., Wheat Belly p. 83

Dr. Davis was the first person to actually explain why gluten can be so problematic for many people. I’d heard people say for years, “I don’t eat gluten.” When I asked why they always said, “Because it’s not healthy for you.” Uh, sorry, that explanation sucks, and was never good enough for me to stop eating it. I’d also read that there is a connection to Hashimoto’s Disease and celiac disease, but I tested negative to celiac disease.

Anyway, I went gluten free the day I began reading Wheat Belly. Within three days, my joint pain was gone and I rarely needed my inhaler. Within two weeks I stopped having asthma attacks completely.

Although they were significantly better, the fogginess and fatigue continued. I kept reading that the majority of our immune system is in our gut, and I realized that I needed to make even bigger changes to my diet if I wanted to heal my stomach (i.e. my immune system). I went grain free, sugar free, and dairy free for about month (this is getting long, so I’ll do another post on this at a later date). I also started taking really high doses of probiotics and diatomaceous earth (again, I’ll save those for another post). Basically, I started hitting my gut problem with a cannon, and I noticed significant results.

I’m now eating small amounts of fruit and gluten-free grains (basically when I have a weak moment and eat one of the boy’s cookies). I did reintroduce dairy, but realized it was causing eczema flare ups. I am hoping that in several months after I heal my gut, I will be able to tolerate dairy again.

Results since going gluten free:

  • Joint pain -gone
  • asthma -gone
  • allergies – I rarely take allergy medicine anymore
  • stools – normal now (sorry for the TMI – I didn’t realize mine were not healthy because I have never had GI pain). Let’s just say, if yours float and look foamy, you need to change your diet because you have a malabsorption problem. Sorry for the TMI, again.
  • eczema – greatly reduced. It flares if I have dairy or a lot of sugar/carbs. I notice that when I eat dairy I get dyshidrotic eczema, and when I eat lots of carbs and sugar I seem to just have itchy run-of-the-mill eczema.
  • itchy scalp (I know, this ones crazy) – gone. I know, you’re thinking, “you’re a weirdo.” I have had  an itchy scalp (no dandruff and no rash, just an extremely itchy scalp) for at least 10 years, but it is now gone. I tried dairy last week, and it came back, along with some pretty itchy eczema.
  • yeast infections – Soooo TMI here, and again sorry. I have had chronic yeast infections for about four years now, which are now all but gone. And I think this bullet point can get the BIGGEST whoo-hoo of all!!! Again, I think I’ll save the topic of candida overgrowth for another post!
  • My hair and nails are much thicker/stronger.
  • My impulse control around food is much better. I definitely experience the opiate effect that wheat can have on the brain. In fact, I know if I have been “contaminated” with gluten not because I feel sick (like my boys) but because I want to eat everything in sight.
  • I’ve lost 20 pounds, which I have been trying to do for five years!!!

Wheat Belly is a must read, and it discusses more than just the health impacts of wheat on our bodies. Dr. Davis discusses the history of wheat, wheat’s genetic modification, and he recounts several stories of patients who tested negative for celiac disease yet had dire health problems (ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis) who went gluten free and experienced significant health recovery.

Homemade Sunflower Seed Butter – really affordable and SOY free!

sunbutter bread Manimal loves sunflower seed butter. If I put it in his oatmeal he giggles loudly with every bite, and he almost always steals his big brother’s sunbutter bread (He did this morning, and the day before that). Unfortunately, all the brands that are sold at the stores near my house are made on a shared line with soy, so they are a no-no. That leaves the Trader Joe’s brand, which is really good — except Trader Joe’s is 30 plus minutes from my house. A 30 minute drive to buy groceries when you don’t have small children is an annoyance.  A 30 minute drive when you have small children is like getting a root canal. My boys use up all their patience on the drive over and spend the next 45 minutes in the store making fools of themselves, while making the grocery store unpleasant for anyone in earshot (and Trader Joe’s is small, so that’s everybody). Whew.

With that said, I have not had a chance to make a trip out to Trader Joe’s in a while. But a few weeks ago, I realized I could probably easily make my own. So I did a quick Google search and found this recipe on the really cute blog, Life From the Roof. It was soooo easy to make, and it tastes as good as the main-stream brands.

I have always bought Dakota-Brand shelled sunflower seeds from Hy-Vee because they are affordable (around $3 for a 16 ounce bag) and they seem to have good allergy practices so their lines are soy, peanut and gluten free. This recipe took all of 5 minutes to make, and yielded about half a mason jar of sunbutter. Because the sunflower seeds I used were salted, I omitted the salt from this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or use sunflower seeds that are salted).
  • 1-2 Tbl sp honey (I used 1 Tbl spoon, but I would have used another had I not run out)
  • 2-4 Tbl spoon oil (I used canola but coconut or olive oil would probably work really well, too).

Directions:

sunbutter processorIn your food processor (I’m sure a blender would work OK, too), pulse your sunflower seeds until they are a grainy mass that looks almost like wet sand. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides (turn the process off to do this, of course). Put the processor’s lid back on and while processing the seeds again, add a tablespoon of oil. Use the same tablespoon to add your honey (this way the honey just slips off the measuring spoon without sticking or having to scrape it off. Add the remaining number of tablespoons to the processor, while intermittently taking breaks to scrape the sides. Process until desired smoothness and consistency.

sunbutter manimal

Manimal enjoys his homemade sunbutter sandwich while giving the camera his newest weird “smile for the camera” face.

Sunbutter mason jar

In My Pantry… what the bleep CAN your kid eat?!

The following is a list of Top-8 and Gluten Free foods that we keep at our house. Please be sure to always read the ingredients before feeding these foods to your child. Some of the foods listed below may have soy oil/lecithin in them.*

Bars:

  • glutino-gluten-free-breakfast-126176Glutino makes several “Nutragrain”- type beakfast bars that my boys love – a little too much. They will eat an entire box in one sitting if I let them, and they are kind of pricey; however, they are great if you are on the road and need an easy or quick breakfast.
  • Enjoy Life has several bars that are all Top-8 and Gluten Free. I love everything I have ever had from Enjoy Life – except for their bars. They are very heavy and dense. I hate saying that because I LOVE the products made by this company.
  • Peso BarsNature’s Path Enviro Kids has a few bars that are Top 8 and Gluten free. I think they are good, but Z hates them. When I bring home the ones with the penguin on the front, he screams, “Peso bars?! I hate Peso bars!” which is a reference to the Penguin in Octonauts). If it’s any consolation, Manimal thinks they rock. But, Manimal will eat anything. He ate a vintage Barbie shoe just this evening. No, in all seriousness, they taste like fruity rice crispy treats and aren’t that bad…

Bread:

  • All of Ener-G breads should be safe, but are like eating cardboard. If you can tolerate eggs, I would recommend Udi’s and Rudi’s Gluten-free breads.

Butter Replacement:

  • When baking, use spectrum shortening or coconut oil (you should be able to use it just as you would butter).
  • To flavor things like potatoes or popcorn, simply use canola oil and salt. It tastes VERY similar to butter. In fact, I am often so lazy, I don’t even waste time getting butter out of the fridge, I just use canola oil – I don’t have to wait for it to melt.

Candy

There are several Top-8 free candy’s on the market (the below list is not comprehensive. Feel free to add any that you may know of in the comments below). Unfortunately, most of them are chocked full of food colorings (namely red food dye).

  • Peeps (most of them are top-8 and GF)
  • Smarties products, including candy necklaces
  • Star burst Original Fruit chews
  • Starburst jelly beans, GummiBurst
  • Mike and Ikes
  • Hot Tomales
  • Swedish fish – Red, Assorted and Aqua life
  • Life Savers hard and soft candies
  • Sweet tarts
  • Heide Gummi Bears and several other Hiede products
  • Jolly Ranchers
  • Dum Dums Spangler Candy Co. said the following about Dum Dum Lolli pops: There is a trace amount of soy oil in the lubricant that we use in our cooking kettles. This soy oil has been refined, bleached, and deodorized and all of the proteins have been removed.

Cereal:

  • Chex (all the GF versions of Chex are safe for my kids). The Hy-Vee and ALDI knock-offs are also safe, but the Walmart brand “may contain gluten” so avoid it.
  • Kix Cereal. My kids go crazy when they eat the Berry ones because of the food coloring.
  • Trix Cereal: We use caution with this cereal. This is the most tantrum-triggering food I have found for my boys (other than gluten). On the rare occation we buy this ceareal, it is only as a small treat right before bed.
  • Cereal Gorilla munchNatures Path Enviro Kids Cereals – Many cereals of this brand are gluten and top-8 free, and my kids really like them. Unfortunately, they are sort of pricey, so we only buy them when they are on sale.

 

Chips/Crunchy Snacks:

  • Freetos (we also buy the ALDI brand for $.99 per bag, but they have soy lecithin. Soy lecithin doesn’t seem to bother my boys anymore). I believe the flavored Freetos are not Top-8 free, so read the ingredients!
  • Corn Tortilla Chips: Most corn chips are safe, but always read the ingredients. Sometimes they squeeze things like soy or oats in them. In fact, some of ALDI’s corn chips say “naturally gluten free” but have oats in them. I doubt these chips are made with specially-grown oats, so I have never given them to my boys.
  • Pretzels: Glutino and Snyders of Hanover (both contain soy oil/lecithin). Glutino’s pretzels glutinoare the best hard pretzels in my opinion, even over gluten ones, which makes sense since they are around $8 a bag!!! Energ-G makes some as well, but these are for highly allergic people and thus have very little flavor.
  • Popcorn: unfortunately, I don’t know of any microwave popcorn that is dairy-free. When my boys want popcorn I make it on the stove top (an air popper would work too) in canola or corn oil. Instead of using butter, drizzle canola over it before salting. I can barely taste a difference between that and buttered popcorn. Sooo good.
  • Kettle corn – several bagged kettle corns are safe. Orville Redenbacher makes a really good one that my kids plow through.Kettle corn
  • Potato Chips – Most potato chips should be safe; however, beware of Pringles, which has gluten. Original Stax are safe for my kids but contain soy oil.

Convenience Main dishes:

  • Hot Dogs – many hot dog brands are gluten and top-8 free. Oscar Meyer even makes ones that are nitrate free, so if you or little ones can’t have nitrates, these are a great solution.
  • Ian’s chicken nuggets – These are really tasty!ians chick nug
  • Mission corn tortillas and tostadas are also top-8 and Gluten Free. We also buy the ALDI tostadas, but they have soy oil/lecithin.

Cookies:

  • We trust anything by Enjoy Life. My favorite are the crispy cookies, but the hubs prefers the soft-baked cookies. They are all pretty good (except their bars – avoid their bars).
  • Hodgson Mills has a great mix, but other companies make them too. See my recipes for egg and butter replacers.

Egg Replacer:

  • Make your own egg replacer by mixing a tablespoon of ground/milled flax seed and 2 table spoons of water (stir them together and let them sit for several minutes until they are goopy like an egg-Do you like my scientific lingo?).
  • Ener-G makes an egg -replacer you can buy at any health food store.

Frozen Treats

  • Most popsicles are gluten and top-8 free – yay!
    Sorbet is a great replacement for ice cream. Don’t confuse it with Sherbet, which has dairy.
  • Coconut Ice Cream – I’ve never tried it, but I hear it really good.

Fruit Snacks:

  • Many fruit snacks and candies made by Betty Crocker (a General Mills company) are gluten and top-8 free, and are safe for my boys; however, they go nutso when they eat certain food colorings (i.e. they have trouble falling asleep and they throw lots-o-tantrums).
  • fruit snacksLunch Buddies All Natural Assorted Fruit Snacks (ALDI)– These are soooo good, and they are made with fruit juices and natural vegetable dyes (like red cabbage), so you are not dealing with crazy children when the food coloring hits their systems. I think they taste better because they don’t taste artificial like other fruit snacks. We buy these by the truckload!

 

Milk

  • Rice Dream – I have not found any other rice milk brands out there that are soy free. I am sure some exist, so if you know of any, please feel free to post comments! The people who run Rice Dream are great, and if you write them telling them how much you appreciate their product they will send you kick-butt coupons to use on their products.
  • Almond milk – I know almonds are a top-8 allergen, but if you can tolerate tree nuts, almond milk is better tasting in my opinion than rice milk, and it tastes more like cows milk. It also makes me feel more full than cows milk or rice milk. I often find it cheaper than Rice Dream if I use coupons or buy it at ALDI. Unlike rice milk, every almond milk I have found is free of soy and other top allergens. But please, always read the label!

Pancakes/Waffles:

  • Be sure to check out my egg replacer/butter replacers when making mixes!
  • Hodson Mills makes a really good pancake mix I buy at Walmart for about $3.50 a box
  • Bob’s Red Mill has a good pancake mix; although it’s good, I still perfer the flavor and texture of the Hodson Mills mix better.

Peanut Butter Replacement:

Sunflower Seed Butter is the BEST replacement for peanut butter around. It is very similar in flavor and texture to peanut butter. In fact, when it’s in a “PB&J,” I forget I am not eating peanut butter.

  • Trader Joe’s Sunflower Seed butter is soy-free and costs around $5.
  • Sunbutter makes some, but it has soy oil in it. You can find it at Target (and probably Walmart) for around $6.50).

*some of these foods may have soy lecithin/oil, so always read the ingredients! Usually, soy oil/lecithin is refined and the proteins are removed. Because of this, it is usually not an issue for those who are intolerant/allergic to soy. However, my boys could not handle any soy oil until they were about a year and a half or older.

Left-Over-Chicken Black Bean Soup

black bean soupThe Hubs hates “chicken on the bone,” as we call it at our house. Hates it. His dad doesn’t like it, so he never really had it growing up. Unfortunately, it is much cheaper than buying boneless chicken breasts, so with our ever-tightening budget, I figured out that if I make a bunch of chicken on the bone, he will eat it in other things (once it’s been de-boned, of course!).

I made this soup the other night and it will definitely be one I make again and again. It was fast, easy and delicious. I was actually excited to eat the leftovers the next day for lunch (and that’s saying a lot because I detest leftovers).

Black bean soup chickenIngredients (Please keep in mind I didn’t measure anything, I just eye-balled it):

  • 8 oz shredded, cooked chicken
  • 1 onion
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbl sp cilantro
  • 2 cans prepared black beans (I used the Aldi, “Dakota Brand”)
  • 1 can Mexican Tomatoes (i.e. Rot-Tel — I actually used the Hy-Vee generic brand)
  • 1 box chicken broth (I used the Aldi GF Broth)
  • the juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1 Tbl sp olive oil
  • 1 tsp crushed red  pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Black bean soup saute veggiesPreparations:

Saute chopped celery, onion and crushed red pepper in olive oil until caramelized. Add the remaining ingredients and let simmer until soup is hot and to your desired thickness. Serve with Fritos Corn Chips sprinkled on top for a nice added crunch.black bean soup with Fritos

Weird Birthday Cake and Bad Butter Replacements

Weird Cake 2Z Weird cakeLast week was Lil Z’s birthday. He is off dairy again, so I tried to figure out how to make his cake without butter (while not running back to the store to buy an expensive butter replacement like Spectrum Organic Shortening or coconut oil). One thing any PIC and allergy mom knows is that cooking and baking often is just fits of trial and error.

Using sunflower seed butter instead of butter was definitely an error. It turned the cake green (so weird), and the cake was dense and heavy. Granted, gluten-free baked goods used to be dense and grainy, but not anymore, especially not Betty Crocker GF cakes.

I was able to mask the fact that Z had a friggin’ weird birthday cake by telling him it was a dinosaur cake, and he’s 5, so he bought it.

Z alligator hat

Lil Z wearing his “dinosaur” hat.

How did I pull this off? Well, luckily The Hubs just happened to buy dinosaur cake decorations the night before, and I had gotten Z an alligator hat to wear instead of a party hat (which for some reason Z and I both thought was a dinosaur until The Hubs whispered to me, “You do realize that’s an alligator, not a dinosaur, don’t you?).

Anyway, the weird green cake was turned into a positive and a good lesson was learned: Sun flower seed butter is NOT a good butter replacement. Stick with Spectrum or coconut oil.

Roasted Carrots – Another great, easy Top 8 Free side dish

roasted carrots 2The other day I made Crash Hot Potatoes and pork steak. But when I grabbed for a bag of frozen vegetables from the freezer, I realized we were totally out. I had gone to the grocery store that day and had stocked up on regular, long carrots because The Hubs (a weirdo in my opinion) prefers them to the easy, sweeter-tasting baby carrots. I immediately Googled roasted-carrot recipes and I came across Ina Garten’s recipe on the Food Network Web site. I didn’t follow her directions exactly (I rarely do!), but they turned out well, just the same.

Ingredients

  • carrots
  • oil (Ina calls for olive; I did canola because I really don’t like the flavor of olive oil)
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • parsley to taste (Ina also suggests dill – I just used only roasted carrots parsley)

Peel carrots and coat them in oil. Place them on a cookie sheet and sprinkle them with salt, pepper and parsley. Bake them in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until tender and brown.