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16 Jan

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Just a Blur

22 Dec

Wow it’s almost Christmas already and I have slacked big time on my blog posts. It’s not that I have not been cooking allergy-friendly foods or anything like that. I’ve been more busy reading through other people’s blog posts and picking out recipes I want to try. I find that “pinning” them on Pinterest helps me go back to those recipes because it has the picture from the blog (that reminds me how appetizing it is) and I write a little note on what is allergy friendly for us or if ingredients can be substituted. Look for me at

I remember having a few recipes I needed to try for Thanksgiving, however I’m not as obsessed in looking for Christmas recipes. The posts I find relative to Christmas is mostly sweet stuff like cookies. Plus does anyone know how to substitute almond flour with one that is wheat-free? There’s a bunch of gluten-free recipes that look amazing but it’s grain-free, which means it probably has a nut flour. So I’m still on my allergen-free diet and scouring new recipes constantly.

Thou shalt not compare

29 Nov

This past weekend was Mantou’s Mom’s birthday (I won’t reveal which one). Another birthday, another allergen-free cake. I picked the recipe and made it (though MM made the frosting). I quite liked it. It was a bit different from the cake at Mantou’s 1st birthday, but not too different. In general, the wheat-free cakes seem to be dense and spongy. I assume it’s the rice flour that contributes the most to these properties.

My folks called to wish MM happy birthday, and inevitably we talked about the cake. After mentioning the sponginess, my mother asked if it was spongy like angel food cake. It’s at that point that I realized the problem with making allergen-free foods. We always compare them to their allergen-filled counterparts. Every time we make a wheat-free, egg-free, milk-free, nut-free cake, we compare it to our memories of the “normal” cakes we’ve had all our lives. I realized that this is unfair to our new creations. It’s like constantly comparing the baby in the family to the eldest instead of just celebrating the baby’s unique qualities and faults. So I’m determined to stop comparing and start assessing based on our allergen-free foods own merits. Perhaps a new vocabulary is in order. Instead of “wheat-free bread”, maybe we should just call it “pano”. “Wheat-free cake” could be “kuko”. Then when we serve it people won’t jump to make that comparison.

Happy Cows Live in California

15 Nov

Yes, we did it, bought ourselves a quarter cow. Actually since it was our first time doing so, we decided to find 3 other families and split the 1/4 cow so that means my family only gets 1/16th of a cow. With technicality aside, and finally getting the cow from the butcher and putting those cuts into our freezer, we could actually probably fit 1/8th of a cow in our freezer. Good to know!

So we bought our beef from Chileno Valley Ranch in Petaluma, California. The cows are grass-fed (no corn or grain) without antibiotics or hormones. The process was pretty easy, we just filled out a form online and communicated mostly via email. We ordered it early October and we picked it up from a butcher this past weekend. (Redduck drove about 1.5 hours to the butcher to pick it up. He decided it would have been more worth the trip if he had planned a pit stop at one of the breweries out there.)

One thing I’m not sure about is how the flavor will be since I’m so used to getting commercial beef. I’ve read some people say that the beef is tougher since there is less fat. Oh, will have to experiment with that. If anyone knows how “different” to cook grass-fed beef, please let me know!

First Aid Preparation

13 Nov

One of the child preparation classes I did not take before Mantou was born was CPR or Basic First Aid. It was not because I didn’t feel the need for them, it was more of trying to find a reasonably priced place and one that covered adult, child, and infant. I thought I could find a class through the local fire department since they had mentioned training classes on their website. After many failed attempts to contact the fire chief, I figured it was a lost cause… probably lack of funding or interest from the county. Then a friend who is a pediatric hospitalist said he would teach me and my husband, but he never got around to it and then decided to go off to Africa for a year. So now Mantou is almost 21 months and I still hadn’t taken any classes.

So I found a deal on Facebook of all places. (Somehow the “deals” on FB doesn’t work now. I tried to print my voucher before going and the system was down. Fortunately, the instructor was ok with the email receipt I got from FB). For $60 I would get both CPR and Basic First Aid, which normally is $60 a pop. I was not very excited about going because it meant going to two different three-hour sessions. My eyes were already crossing.

The instructor, John, from Safety Training Seminars was so awesome and energetic. He made the whole training go by so quickly. I couldn’t even believe the whole 6 hours was up when it was done. My husband and I took the community CPR class first. There were about 6 people in the class so it was nice and small. John was repetitive but not annoying in ingraining what is important for starting CPR. I felt pretty good about it and we got to practice on maniquins.

The second class was the Basic First Aid, with 5 people. This part of the training was mostly by video with occasional “interruptions” by John to emphasize certain parts of the scenarios being shown. We did have a couple of hands-on training opportunities with our classmates (I even got to pretend I had a gun shot wound). The first few minutes of any injury is so vital and important. The section on Allergies and Asthma really got my attention since it’s a valid scenario for my family. It’s not to say that the rest of the scenarios were not equally important; handling poisoning and burns was also eye opening.

I’m very glad I finally had the opportunity to take CPR and First Aid training. I feel pretty confident that if a situation occurs, I could help an individual in those first crucial minutes before the EMS/EMT comes along to take over. I am also more confident that I will know what to do if Mantou or any child is in harms way. Today was a good day!

Not A Spook Out of You

2 Nov

One more year not to worry too much about the aftermath of Halloween. Why? Because Mantou does not realize that those sugary treats that he’d been going door-to-door for, will not be consumed by his little mouth. Last year for Halloween, Mantou dressed up as a little tiger. We went to Stanford Shopping Mall in Palo Alto, CA and met up with my cousin and her little monkey. For the most part, Mantou stayed in his stroller and had no idea what was going on around him. All his little treats were consumed by his parents throughout the following week. 

This year Mantou dressed up as a little purple and green dinosaur. It was a hand-me-down costume from his cousin A. It fit a little snug but did it’s part.

He got to dress up for 3 different occassions. I took him to a shindig at Whole Foods Market to get a picture of him with the pumpkins in costume.  He wasn’t amused. We got a couple of treats at the cheese department but instead of grabbing the cheese snack (since he’s allergic to dairy) we got 2 dark chocolate mini bars.

The 2nd time he dressed in his dino costume was at his cousin C’s birthday party, she so happens to be born on Halloween day – what a day to share with little ghosts and gobblins! No trick-or-treating then since we were celebrating the day before Halloween.

His 3rd time dressing up in costume was on Halloween day. After picking Mantou up from day care I put on his costume, which by this time he was excited to wear, and drove him straight to the mall. The place was already bustling with kids. I didn’t think Mantou would know what to do but this guy was a pro! He went up to one of the scariest costumes, stared at the guy (like a stare down), and the guy gave him candy! So the next store we went to he did the same and that person gave him candy. When we got home, Redduck was back from work he took him across the street from our place to a small court. There were only a few houses giving treats. Mantou did what he learned at the mall and put out his little Frankenstein bag and waited for someone to put a treat in it.

At home I poured out his little stash of candy and started to separate what he I mean me and his dad can eat for him. Out with the chocolate (milk chocolate), out with nutty chocolate bars, out with the toostie rolls (dairy), out with the twizzlers (wheat), out with the silly bands (choking hazard). We did save the couple of lollipops, the banana flavored taffy, peppermint, sweet tarts, sweeties, and stickers. So why did we even go trick-or-treating? Mantou is still too young for sugary sweets anyways, but how can I deprive him of the whole childhood experience. We can’t keep Mantou in a social bubble and I want him to go out and do things like other kids. It’s a matter me being a mom and teaching him what he will have to avoid. So what if he’s only 19 months old… he’s soaking up everything like a sponge so I’m sure he’s taking some notes.

Food Allergy Blogs

29 Oct

Just found this website with a listing of Food Allergy Blogs. Exciting for me to see more blogs related to a huge topic like mine. I’m going to be checking out these blogs myself, one never knows what recipes and tips can be found. Whoohoo, very excited to check them out.  I even entered my blog up there – just in case someone else is interested in what I have to say 🙂 Go ahead and vote for me if you visit.

Mom and Pop, throw us a bone

14 Oct

Being new to food allergies, I can only guess what it was like a decade or two ago for folks with allergies to navigate restaurants. I would assume that it was awfully challenging. I also assume that things are better these days. We get surprised every once in a while by a restaurant, like BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, when they post allergens on their menus. I think some of the big chains are seeing the value of this, but we don’t really eat at the chains. So what are we supposed to do? Why is it so hard for Mom and Pop? Certainly some of the high-end Mom and Pop’s change their menu frequently and thus it’s probably difficult for them to post all the ingredients on the menu, but most Mom and Pop’s serve the same thing day in and day out. So what’s so hard about list common allergens on the menu? Or training servers on which dishes have ingredients on the top 8 allergens list? It doesn’t seem like much of a burden to me. There are so many people these days with allergens. Wouldn’t it make sense as a restauranteur to be a bit prepared?


8 Oct

This morning Mantou and I trekked out to San Jose, CA for the FAAN Walk for Food Allergy. I had just heard about it earlier this week and wasn’t sure if I could make the event. Fortunately, things worked out and I was able to check it out. There was actually a 5K run earlier that morning held in honor of a young individual who died from an allergic reaction. It was sad to hear that this individual died while on a vacation celebrating his graduation from high school and that his death was due to consuming a chocolate mousse dessert that had trace amount of peanuts. How tragic for the parents to watch their son die in a matter of minutes!

I registered for the walk that morning and donated a little cash to the cause. I was given two ribbons, one green to represent those walking for the cause, and a blue ribbon for Mantou to represent that he had food allergies. We also picked up some celebratory t-shirts (which Mantou was swimming in). They held a raffle with cool prizes and tickets to sporting events like the San Jose Sharks and the San Francisco Giants. There was a dj and other local entertainment. For the kids, there were a couple of jumpy houses, a rock climbing wall, and an interesting looking blown-up ball that a kid can “roll around” in like a hamster. There was a tent set up from Dev which allowed us to register our Epi-Pens and enter into their raffle for an iPad, which I didn’t win. Other vendors included Galaxy Veggie (alternative cream cheese), Sunbutter (alternative of peanut butter spread), quite a few cookie companies -Lucy’s, Enjoy Life, and Home Free. I picked up many free samples and coupons. There were also a couple of local non-profit and for-profit organizations.

The walk itself was supposed to be about 2.5 miles but I don’t think it really was that long. It was easy and mostly flat with only one small hill. I brought along my B.O.B stroller so it was a comfortable stroll. The weather was great for all of us walkers. There were teams of walkers – and I think I should get one going for Mantou next year.

I was a little too eager to get going on the event that I left my car headlights on and when I was ready to leave the event, I was unable to start my car. It took the kindness of strangers and fellow FAAN participants to get my car rolling again. Overall the experience was good, I only wish that there would have been more attendees. But considering I only found out about it via a friend whose friend’s company was one of the sponsors, it probably wasn’t advertised widely enough. I’ve now added the FAAN Bay Area chapter as a friend on Facebook so that I can stay aware of local activities and can now spread the word.

Rock Hard Ice Cream

4 Oct

I’ve made a ice cream a few times. If I eat the home made ice cream right away or on the same day then I get the consistency that I expect from ice cream – soft and creamy. However I can’t eat the quart of ice cream in one day so I need to freeze it. What I find though is that after a day in the freezer the ice cream comes out rock hard! I’ve read a few alternatives to having home-made ice cream stay soft is to used either alcohol, avocado, xanthan gum, or arrowroot starch. For the mint ice cream recipe I used avocado as one of the ingredients (maybe it wasn’t enough) and  practically needed an ice pick to chip away at the block.

So I tried to make another recipe of ice cream using xanthan gum. Actually the recipe called for arrowroot starch, but I didn’t have any in the pantry so I decided I could substitute the xanthan gum with the arrowroot starch. A knowledgeable person would have known to do a little more research to figure out if there was a 1:1 conversion of the two. Well, of course I did not and as the recipe called for 1 tablespoon of arrowroot starch, I substituted 1 tablespoon of xanthan gum. As soon as I did that, I watched 2 cans of coconut milk get clumpy. I tried whisking it quickly to try to get rid of those clumps but the mixture just congealed even more. I put it in saucepan to tried to dissolve it, but it seemed to get even more clumpy. I was about to put it in the blender and disintegrate those clumps once and for all but decided to go to the internet for some further information.

Arrowroot is not the same as xanthan gum. I only needed to use 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum in my ice cream mix not 1 tablespoon! According to eHow,  to calculate the amount of xanthan gum is the following formula: multiply the number of quarts of liquid used in the recipe by ¼ to calculate. This will be the number of teaspoons of xanthan gum needed in the recipe. From the amount of xanthan gum I put in my recipe I would have to be making 8 quarts of ice cream! I tossed that mix away and watched two perfectly good cans of coconut milk go down the drain (slowly).

I was pretty upset that I didn’t do it right, but my husband assured me that it was an honest mistake and that we just learn and move on. He was right, so I went to the store and bought another 2 cans of coconut milk and started the recipe over.

Still the next day my ice cream came out rock hard.  I found that if I leave the container out for half an hour then the ice cream gets softer and more manageable to scoop. I need some advice on how to make it less solid… help!