Archive | July, 2011

Hot n Spicy

31 Jul hot n spicy

It is the summer so why not take part of a family favorite event like a cook-off. For most people, that would probably mean a chili cook off, but for my family we held our first ever mapo dofu (tofu) cook-off. It was my husband’s brilliant idea of course. Mapo tofu is his favorite dish! It’s a popular Szechuan dish consisting of tofu, pork, and lots of chili spiciness. We invited our friends to this challenge and we had seven amazing entries. Most were family recipes – three of our entrants had the help of their mothers. Two aunties came – one used her own recipe, another found her recipe from an online source. One entry was a take-out order from a local Chinese restaurant. Then there was my husband’s dish.

We had two voting processes, the people’s choice and a judge panel, to decide the winners. The judges got to take the first bites and had a pretty difficult time deciding their favorites. Once they were done everyone else got to dig into the mapo tofu entries and start deciding their own favorites. It seemed to be a challenge, many people had to return for 3rd and 4th servings! It was fun hearing the comments: “That one’s the store bought one”, “Is that beef?”, “That’s spicy”, “The tofu in this one is soft”, “They’re all good”, “The one with peas is from the restaurant, there’s no peas in mapo tofu”.

The time came to announce the winners. The first was the people’s choice winner. “This tastes like beef” dish won out by one vote. That was my aunt’s recipe from the internet! Then the judges announced their favorite. It happened to be my husband’s dish! But because we were also hosting the event, we couldn’t take the prize, so the runner up became the winner. It was my friend Jen…and we learned her mom actually made the dish. One of the reasons one of the judges didn’t give Jen’s dish first prize was because it wasn’t spicy enough. Jen said her mom could have made it more spicy but was afraid if she made it any more spicy than she did that no one would eat it!

We had a lot of fun and our stomachs were very happy. I knew my husband’s dish was good because it was the only dish I could eat (everyone else’s used soy sauce). Once he allows me to post the recipe I will do so – it’s wheat-free!

We All Scream For Ice Cream

30 Jul

If it’s scorching hot outside what do you crave? If you’re like me then the answer is ice cream!!! So Delicious made with Coconut Milk makes a few flavors of non-dairy ice cream. Because their ice cream is made from coconut milk instead of the regular moo-milk, there is a distinct difference in flavor. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but some combinations will taste a little awkward, especially if you’re already used to the regular ice cream made from cow’s milk. My husband was not a fan of the green tea flavor (oh well, more for me!) then again he’s not a big ice cream fan in general (oh the horror!… again more for me!). I’ve also tried their chocolate and mint chip. Both me and my husband thought the mint chip was the perfect mix.

Well, if you find a coupon or sale for these coconut milk based ice-creams you should probably get a whole freezer full because they are pretty darn expensive. I decided to look into making ice cream myself. I wanted an ice cream maker! This was before my anniversary, and before I got my amazing leather-pressed print breakfast tray, so I told my husband exactly what I wanted for our anniversary. Being a wonderful husband, he simply said, “you know I already got you something?” Ah I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t going to get my requested gift, but happy that he didn’t forget about our anniversary. I ended up getting myself one anyways, the Cuisinart ICE-21.

For my first attempt, I wanted something simple with ingredients I already had, and after looking online for different concoctions, I found a Coconut Cinnamon Ice Cream recipe. I ended up using all coconut milk and substituted regular white sugar instead of the agave syrup (haven’t learned how to use agave syrup yet). I followed the instructions, blending the ingredients together first, then slowly pouring the mixture into the ice cream maker. In about 20 minutes the ice cream was ready. I tasted a little but I just put it in an airtight container and kept it in the freezer to harden a little more.

I had guests over that evening so they were my first guinea pigs. When I took the ice cream scooper to it, I found the ice cream a bit more icy than a regular ice cream would be, so the ice cream actually “crumbled”. Not the creamy texture I was expecting. Taste-wise I could probably have used less ground cinnamon; my husband thought it was a bit over powering. My guests said they liked it, so that’s a good sign.

Today we’re trying a funky mix with mangoes and purple yams. This should be interesting! Anyone have any suggestions for making ice cream with coconut milk or any flavors that might make a good tasting treat?

Red Duck Soup

29 Jul

Eating out at an Asian restaurant I already know there is a limit to what I can order. For example, most of the items at a Chinese or Korean restaurant include entrees that are soy sauce based. Vietnamese and Thai  foods usually have peanuts sprinkled here and there. I’ve already experienced slim pickings so whenever someone bends over backwards to make sure they can serve you, I am really thankful.  Take this with a grain of salt, as I’m sure there are restaurants out there that will claim to not allow the allergens to co-mingle with your food but actually do allow it. A friend of mind shared a story with me about his cousin who was allergic to many foods. His cousin talked to the waitstaff and explained to them of her allergies. They said they would not use any of those ingredients, however when the food came and she took a bite, she immediately had an allergic reaction. I don’t know what happened and I’m sure these stories occur frequently.

Since I am not the one directly affected by allergies, I can only offer what I think is an amazing restaurant in my area that accommodates my diet. Every time I’ve come to order, the owner is very helpful in providing us with almost customized meals. She doesn’t rush us to order as she helps determine what entrees would be safe. Considering that she’s a busy person with many customers, her service is beyond A+. I’m talking about a tiny little restaurant off of San Mateo Ave called Thaiger Thai Kitchen. Before, this place was a “What’s UP Dog” hot dog stand that lasted a few months, and before that it was vacant for a long time. Their location is actually a little odd right in the outskirts of the auto mall. However, because of their delicious food and high Yelp reviews this place will probably be sticking around a lot longer – and that’s a good thing.

We’ve gotten their salmon and pumpkin curry in the past which our friends had today. My husband and I shared a duck and pineapple curry and we also had a stir-fry veggie dish (green and red bell peppers, stringbeans, tofu, garlic and fish sauce). The veggies dish is somewhat of a custom dish because they substituted fish sauce instead of using soy sauce. I remember the first time she suggested this dish she told us that it would be stinky. I laughed since I’m familiar with fish sauce and knew what she meant, however it was so delicious we asked for it again. It is good to know that there are restaurants who will listen and offer suggestions for making your diet work especially when the food tastes so good.

So what’s up with the title of this post, Red Duck Soup? Well we had red curry with duck tonight and it triggered a story – It’s actually an internal family joke that haunts my husband. When my husband (then boyfriend) came over to my parents for dinner one evening, my mom brought home some Chinese bbq pork and roasted duck. My mom tells him that she bought some duck. My husband having not eaten roasted duck before eats a piece, but wasn’t really into it. He takes a piece of the red meat next to it and really enjoys it. He tells us that the red duck is really good. We all look at him and wonder what he’s talking about since there is no red duck. We then realize he was talking about the Chinese bbq pork. So whenever we have bbq pork we call it red duck and laugh.

Sneaky, Sneaky

28 Jul

Two days ago I wrote about wheat being in gummies and it didn’t occur to me that those chewy, sweet, yummilicious candies may have an element of grape in the mix. The culprit is grape extract. Mantou’s grape allergy is going to make me really look at the ingredients. I went shopping at Costco today and wanted to get some fruit snacks. It suddenly hit me that those snacks usually have elements of fruit juice, and there it was the fourth or fifth ingredient listed, the sneaky allergen.

According to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCP) of 2004, the major food allergens to be listed on packaging include milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. What’s not listed – grapes, that’s why I call it a sneaky allergen. I recently learned about this new allergen because we requested a second round of allergy testing at his last wellness check-up. A couple of days after the results came in and after I had already finished drinking a tall glass of Aloe drink, I looked at the ingredients, which of course was in hind site, listed grape extract. Another time this allergen snuck up was at my anniversary dinner. I noticed there was a lot of A-1 sauce being used when the waiter cooked up our dinner at our table. I didn’t have the bottle at my table so I wasn’t sure what went into A-1 sauce. I actually thought that there would be wheat in the sauce. So the next time I went to Safeway, I pulled A-1 sauce off the shelf  to exam the ingredient list – raisin extract (but no wheat).

I need to find a new fruity sweet snack – I guess it’s fresh fruit for me. I hear it’s nectarine and peach season.

Bubblelicious

27 Jul

I was surprised today turned out really warm. It was cold this morning with overcast skies so I didn’t think that the fog would lift. When I went to go pick up Mantou from daycare later in the afternoon I put on one of my fleeces expecting it to be cold. After I walked out the door I wished I just left it at home, but I was anxious to go pick up the little guy. I’m glad the day turned out nice anyway. For one, it’s summer, it’s suppose to be warm but also because my husband and I decided to meet downtown. We needed to pick up some more lotion for Mantou and some Blue Bottle coffee beans for the hubs. What did I get? I wanted bubble tea!

There’s about five different places downtown that we can get our bubble tea fix. I’ve been to four of them and I like going to each one for different reasons. At TeaWay it’s a “do-it-yourself” type of place. You order at the counter the tea you want, they give you a cup, you fill it with whatever type of goodies you want, then they pour in the tea and seal the cup. Quickly is a chain that’s everywhere in the Bay Area. The one near me has been pretty consistent with their tapioca balls – these have to be made well – in Chinese there’s a term we call “q” it has to have the right bounce and chew, in other words mushy or hard = bad. Plus I like getting their taro milk tea because it’s their anniversary “special” so it’s cheaper than the other flavors. At Dessert Republic, I like to sit at their tables and order because they have this fun way of serving. At each table they have a little placard with options for you to press; for example, when you press the “order” button you hear a “ding” and a waitstaff person presents them-self to take your order. The most recent find is a place called Tpumps. It’s owned by a super friendly guy named Alex who is really passionate about healthy tea. He serves up some awesome taro milk tea with real taro pieces.

Ok, so why a review on the bubble tea places in my neighborhood? Well, if you have noticed, I had been ordering my favorite milk tea! Gladly most of the menus at these tea places have a variety of teas that do not include milk, just straight up tea. Alex at Tpumps says he will think about using soy milk since his patrons have requested non-dairy concoctions. However I have a tolerance for strong tea, I grew up drinking oolong black tea, plus there’s that added sweetness in bubble tea. I wonder if any of these places would welcome the suggestion of using coconut milk? While visiting Portland, OR in May I found a tea place called Fat Straw (on “TrendyThird” street – which is the same street as my favorite chocolate place “Moonstruck”). Their unique ingredient? You got it – coconut milk. It is a great alternative to regular milk however coconut milk has its own flavor so it will affect the taste a bit and is a little bit denser. If you like coconut milk, then that’s not a problem.

One more thing, those bubbles are made from tapioca starch so no worries about wheat there!

Where’s the Wheat in BuckWHEAT

26 Jul

Mantou’s pediatrician read off the results from his 1st blood allergy test (RAST -Allergen-specific IgE antibody test). Class IV for egg whites. Class IV for walnuts. Class II for peanuts. Class II for wheat. The class levels range from a spectrum of 0, where the allergen is absent, to VI, where there is an extremely high level of allergen specific IgE. Class IV is considered Very High, and Class II is considered moderate.  Then he explained what foods I would have to avoid. “Try avoiding the whole egg, even the yolk since you can’t really separate the egg white protein from the yolk”. Ok, can do that. “Even though we only tested for walnuts, since it is a tree-nut, I would avoid eating all tree-nuts”. Oh wow, I just ate a bag of trail mix before I got here. “Peanuts – peanut butter, peanut oil”. Hmm, no more Reese’s peanut butter cups! “Wheat – this one is hard so you can try to avoid it if you can”. Oh that’s easy. Husband then intercedes, “That means no bread – it’s made from flour which is from wheat” WHAT?! I didn’t think I needed the breakdown but that was a very enlightening conversation.

I’m thankful that the ingredients have the allergen label included on the product packaging. In the first couple of months I spent a good deal of time in those grocery aisles looking over the ingredient lists. I concluded it was not worth shopping down the fresh bread aisle and I didn’t think I would ever eat pasta again. There are however special breads in the freezer section like Food for Life‘s Millet or Brown Rice bread. And there’s all kinds of wheat-free pasta – made from corn, brown rice, or quinoa! At first, it was disappointing to find wheat in everything I ate. Cheerios the cereal, the little cute O’s that little kids are always snacking on? Well that has both oats and wheat flour. I ended up giving Mantou Kix as tasty portable cereal snacks. Love my gummies but these ones vary, not all gummies have wheat listed in their ingredients – I prefer the Haribo brand. Well now did you know that buckwheat is not a wheat, they aren’t even related! We’ve had a couple of meals with buckwheat and that stuff is good. I just simmer some in a saucepan with onions and carrots, add some spice like cumin and chili pepper. Then add some pork chops or sausage to the mix. Simple, easy, and Mantou approved.

Side of Bacon, Please

25 Jul

Weekends, oh how I love to sleep in when I can. It’s even more awesome to have a hot breakfast with pancakes, potatoes, and bacon.  The weekdays are usually rushed – our typical morning ritual is to get Mantou out of bed, nurse him, get his dirty diaper off (unless it’s a poopy one then we try to change him first), get him his bath, slather him with lotion and topical steroids (for his eczema), put a clean diaper on, clothe him (usually in long sleeves because he scratches himself silly), let him run around a few minutes, then feed him his oatmeal. Yup, oatmeal is his breakfast food, about 99% of the time. No sugar added, just the whole grain oats. My little boy just gobbles this stuff up!

Some days I just want someone else to make me an elaborate breakfast, so why not go out and let that someone else do it? Well, as many times as I’ve gone to a restaurant serving breakfast, I’ve learned time and time again that it is not really worth going anymore. The only entrees on the menu that is available for my diet includes oatmeal and corned-beef hash. I eat oatmeal everyday so their stuff better be good. I guess if they offer steel-cut oats then it’s “okay”. Luckily I like corned-beef hash too. The rest of the items like fresh fruit, home-fries, bacon, sausage can be ordered on the side. Let’s pile on the sides then!

This past weekend we went to a restaurant in Carmel called”From Scratch“. I emailed them ahead of time to check what menu items they would be able to provide and as I listed above, those exact items were pretty much all I would be able to order. However, their food was absolutely worth it. Everything we ate was very good. I could tell that the corned-beef dish wasn’t the canned stuff and it was good to the last bite. It’s nice to know that I can still frequent breakfast serving restaurants, you just won’t be seeing me digging into the pancakes and waffles.

I know it is nice to go out but it is just as well to make a good breakfast at home. I can serve myself up with buckwheat pancakes or cornmeal waffles. No need to ask if there is eggs, dairy or wheat in that.

Breast is Best

23 Jul

Have you heard that breast is best? I guess I’m taking it a little far as Mantou is already 16+ months old. Some mothers who have breastfed have probably stopped already. Why in the world am I still doing it?  I feel like we are in a “bubble” and it’s just time for me and my son to bond. So yes, it’s partially selfish but I don’t find it a hardship to continue. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding to the two years and beyond. I work from home. I breastfeed him in the morning and before he goes to bed. At this point, I’m only pumping two times a day. But this also means I have to maintain a strict diet so that the allergens don’t pass through the breastmilk to him. Most people I tell think I should have stopped breastfeeding right away and start giving him formula or other sources  like soy, hemp, or rice milk. They believe I am making an unnecessary sacrifice.

How is it an unnecessary sacrifice? I don’t mind it, I’ve already learned a lot about being an allergy-free family. It’s unfortunate that people who are not affected or unaware of all these allergies don’t realize the potential lethal consequences nor treat allergies seriously enough. I used to think that I can just pick-up a walnut from my plate and that would be good enough to “remove” the allergen from my food. I’ve since been educated that yes a trace of that nut’s oil can lead to an allergic reaction as serious as anaphylaxis! I have yet to reach that point with my son nor am I looking forward to it. We’ve got his Epi-pen ready just in case, but I really fear that I’ll have to use it at all. We had a scare at daycare when he broke out in hives (and to this day we still don’t know what triggered it).

I am fortunate that both my husband and I work and we can afford a lifestyle with our diet change. I used to avoid going to Whole Foods Market because I knew they were called “Whole Paycheck” for a reason. However, that store hands down has all the options available for me to pursue my new allergen-free diet. I am also thankful for all those other parents with similar situations who share their stories and post their revised recipes so that there is really an alternative to making food available to those with multiple allergies. It’s a creative challenge that I see will help my son realize that he’s not growing-up in a life deprived of certain childhood favorites like chicken nuggets, pizza, ice cream – there’s a recipe for that!

I’ll introduce an alternative to breast milk in due time, it could be tomorrow, next week or month, or even when he turns two. That decision will come but that’s my decision and for now I’ll take any time with my son as I can get – even if it’s on the boob.

MMM… Delicious

22 Jul

When I first started removing wheat from my diet I had major cravings for carbs – you know the stuff that is sold in stores made of wheat flour.  Since then I learned that there are plenty of processed snacks sold at stores that I can eat. Unfortunately I find myself in those snacking aisles a lot more than I should be. However now that I also follow some of the bloggers with similar allergens, they are so good at tempting me to eat sweet sugary snacks, like cookies, brownies, cakes, and ice cream that I can make at home.  It’s amazing what snacks they can make. I drool over the pictures… seriously they seem like really good cooks and/or really good food photographers! When I read the recipes they post I think,  “I can totally do that”. Very cool! Anyhow, I say I’ll try them but I end up not re-creating the recipe mostly becaue I have not yet invested in all the different flours and substitute ingredients – therefore I shop in the snack aisle. So, what I do now is bookmark these bloggers websites. I use a online bookmarking site called Delicious ( isn’t that appropriate for me?).  I can tag and categorize them so that I can find my favorite websites. Go and visit my bookmarks at http://www.delicious.com/mantousmom. Otherwise you can find the Delicious link at the footer of my blog. As I come across websites that share recipes, tips, product reviews that are devoted to eating allergen free, I will do my best to bookmark them here to share with others as well.

Whey(t) A Minute

21 Jul

I should read ingredient labels more carefully. I just saw “rice crackers” and assumed it was good to eat. I bought the Lundberg Rice Chips in Sesame Seaweed yesterday and started snacking on them. It didn’t sound to me to be harmful. Big mistake, I re-read the ingredients after collecting some of the “munchies” and found that the label clearly listed Milk as an allergen. Argh!

Then today I knew I was going out for dinner with friends and I had seen that our restaurant had a gluten-free menu. BJ’s has a “food & allergen sensitivities and gluten-free selections” menu that lists the menu items and indicates if it is free of particular allergens. It was amusing to me that anything that was gluten-free contained milk.  I ended up choosing something that was “new” and wasn’t listed on their special diet menu – The Maui Glazed Porkchop. Does this description sound bad? – “One center cut pork chop, lightly seasoned and glazed in a sweet and tangy sauce, grilled and served with oven roasted red potatoes, steamed green beans and topped with grilled sweet red onions”. I’m guessing they might have some soy sauce (not wheat-free) but no other allergens. Double Argh! Eating out is quite difficult with multi-allergies.

It doesn’t sound like I’m doing too well with my diet 3- 0 in the past 2 days is not very good stats. It just tells me I need to cook at home more often.