Friday, October 26, 2012

Our First Trick or Treating with Food Allergies

      It's that time of the year.  Both children and adults' minds are occupied with just two things --- costumes and candies!  (Hurricane Sandy is slowly getting some attention here in the tri-state though). Anyway, as a mom with kids who have food allergies, I know that it can be a stressful, VERY stressful time.
      Since this is our first trick or treating with food restrictions, I decided to make a deal with my children.  We will still go out in our costumes and gather some sweets.  Just like the previous years, they still have to give me all the candies to check out before they can eat any. Once sorted, they will get to keep those that do not contain ingredients they are allergic to. As for the rest, we will all donate it to my son's past pre-school which in turn will send it as part of the care packages for our troops abroad. 
        Did they like the idea? Oh yes!  They are even more excited because they are doing something for a good cause.  Since I am pretty sure that might they will only get to keep about 10% of their hard earned goods, I also started to prepare. 
         After a lot of label reading, I was so surprise to find these treats at the local Home Goods store.  Organic candies and lollipops from Yummy Earth. These candies are all gluten, egg, dairy, nut and soy free. They even use natural food coloring from carrots, beets etc.  A real treat and yes, they do taste great.  Other health food stores carry them too but I suggest get these at Home Goods.  Why? Well they cost a lot cheaper.  As in 30 to 40 percent off the retail price.    

      So, are you trick or treating this year too?


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dairy Free Mango Ice Cream

       "No more Ice Cream?" This was one of the first questions my children asked when we found out that our family has to avoid dairy totally.  Since they already knew that regular baked goodies mostly have wheat and so is pizza, they were at least hoping to get to enjoy this well loved frozen treat.  
        When my husband heard the kids' inquiry, he wanted to immediately say "Yes, no more ice cream." That response would have been the easiest to do and to deal with but it's just not me.  One, I don't like my children feel deprived or outcasts because of our family's new lifestyle. Two, for the sake of my sanity, I want to avoid chaos among the siblings. The situation where the majority blames the one who has the special food requirements thus starting a "victim/bad guy" episode.  So what did I say instead? "Let's see if we can make one without dairy."
        One day, I just realized that I have been eating dairy free ice cream all along. Having spent my childhood in the Philippines, I am accustomed to see an ice cream man or Mamang Sorbetero as what we all call him at almost every street corner. Sorbetes or "dirty ice cream" (I really don't know how that later name came about. Maybe, it's called that way because this type of ice cream was considered street food. I have no clue), is tradionally, made with coconut milk, sugar and natural flavorings such as chocolate, coconut, cheese, ube and my favorite Mango. 

     Since I don't have any access to a real Sorbetero (as if he will share his secret recipe), I tried to recreate this delicious dessert using the most basic ingredients. The result was simply divine.  Armed with my ever reliable ice cream maker, I can now confidently say to my children, "Yes, you CAN have Ice Cream!"
1 13 oz can coconut cream
1 1/2 cups mango puree
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1. In a medium bowl,  whisk together mango puree, sugar and salt until all the sugar is dissolved. 
2. While  mixing, slowly add the coconut cream. 
3. Once fully incorporated, transfer to a container, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
4. Follow your ice cream maker's instructions for churning time.
5. Enjoy!
       - If you have no ice cream maker on hand, you can improvise by placing the container of your ice cream mix (make sure the lid has a tight seal) inside a bigger vessel (at least double the size of the one that holds the ice cream). Fill the bigger container with ice and a tsp of salt, cover and shake/ roll for about 10 to 20 minutes. 
        - You can also just freeze the ice cream mix.  Results wouldn't be as creamy though.
      Do you have a favorite ice cream flavor that you would like me to make dairy free? Let me know.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fish Cakes

       As a Frugalista Mom, I always try to make easy snacks from last night's dinner. Even before our family started to go wheat, egg, dairy, soy and nut free, the practice of creating something out of leftovers is already a must. Not only this habit saves me some precious time but most importantly, it helps a ton in staying within our grocery budget.

       These fish cakes made with already cooked tilapia fillets are a breeze to prepare and are very affordable.  In fact, this recipe enabled me to use the super pricey cheese substitute that we bought and my kids later refused to eat. 

        If you are not concerned about any food allergies, feel free to use regular cheese and mayonaise.  I'm pretty sure, it will turn out good too. 

5 cups cooked white fish (I used tilapia fillets)
1/2 cup Daiya mozarella style shreds (If you can have cheese, feel free to use it)
1/2 cup Earth Balance Original Mindful Mayo (You can also use regular mayonnaise)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
pinch of chili flakes
1 tbs chopped scallions
1 tsp fresh lime juice

1. Using your hands, flake the fish into small pieces.
2. Add the remaining ingredients to the fish.  Mix until well combined.
3. Form into patties about 3 inch in diameter and 1/2 inch thick.
4. Heat a non stick pan or griddle. (medium heat)
5. Place about 4 patties and cook about 4 minutes or until the side near the pan is golden brown.
6. Flip carefully and cook for another 2-4 minutes.
7. Serve hot. 

     - I used leftover cooked fish in this recipe.  If you don't have any available, you can either bake or steam the fish fillets. Then cool before using. 
     - Since mayo was included in the recipe, you don't need any oil to fry the fish cakes.  In fact, you will see some oil in the pan as it cooks.
     - Make sure you are using a non stick pan and is properly heated before adding the fish cakes.  This prevents it from sticking to the pan.
     -  Depending on your diet, you can serve this over rice, salad greens or even with bread.     


Monday, October 15, 2012

Turkey and Pasta Dinner

     Pasta is always a favorite in our household.  It's versatile, affordable, healthy and easy to prepare. So when we first found out that our family needs to totally avoid wheat in our diet, the kids got worried if they will be able to enjoy their beloved recipes.  Thank God, there is now an abundant selection of gluten free pasta - corn, rice, brown rice, quinoa and more.   Oh, they do come in different shapes too.
      Though I have to admit these gluten free pasta are quite pricer than their regular wheat based counterpart, they do pass the taste challenge. In fact, my kiddos like them better than the whole wheat variety which tends to be too hard or grainy. With little alterations in ingredients, we are now able to enjoy pasta dishes that are gluten, egg, dairy, soy and nut free. 

       This ground turkey and pasta dinner is one of the easiest to prepare and is always a crowd pleaser. Yes even those who aren't concerned about food allergies love it. I tend to make a big batch all the time since my children request it for their school lunch the next day.  Plus the extra sauce is an excellent dip for chips too.

1 16 oz package of fusilli pasta (I used the Wegman's Corn Pasta)
Big pot of hot water for cooking the pasta
1Tbsp. salt (for the pasta)

2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 lb ground turkey
1 23.5 oz Marinara Sauce (I used Wegman's Organic Chunky Marinara)
1 23.5 oz Wegman's Organic Grandpa's Sauce Goes Vegetarian
1 cup water (I used 1/2 cup each to "rinse" or get the leftover sauce out the jars)
2 tsp salt
1tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves (chopped)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Put the salt in the boiling water before adding the pasta.  In my case, I took out the pasta 2 mins before the suggested 14-16 minutes because I don't want my pasta to be very soft when I add it to the sauce.  Rinse the pasta in cold running water. Set aside.
2. In a large pan, heat olive oil and saute the garlic until fragrant. About 1 minute.
3. Add the ground turkey and brown the meat. Stir often to prevent sticking on the pan and to cook evenly.
4. Once the meat is cooked all the way through, pour in the marinara, grandpa's sauce and water. Bring to boil.
5. When the mixture starts to boil, season with salt and pepper.
6. Lower heat and simmer for about 5-7 minutes or until thick. Transfer about 2 cups of the meat sauce to a clean storage container. Set aside.
7. Add the cooked pasta to the remaining sauce in the pan. Mix well to coat all the noodles. 
8. After 5 minutes. Turn off heat and sprinkle the basil leaves.
9. Serve hot.

   - I found out that rinsing the pasta is a very important step.  Not only it stops the cooking of the noodles prevents it from being soggy but it also removes some of the starchy or grainy taste most non wheat pasta often possess.
   - Feel free to use your favorite homemade pasta or marinara sauce.  I just specified the brand I used because it gave me good results, the ingredients complied with our family's food allergy requirements and each costs less than $3.00.  Making this dish really affordable. 
Try it and let me know what you think.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

30 Days and Counting

         We made it!  Our first month going wheat, egg, dairy and soy free has just passed.  Okay, I confess, we have cheated a few times.  Come on, a Frugalista Mom can't just throw 2 dozen eggs!  So my husband and I had to finish the whole batch.  I let my daughter no.2 finish the jar of peanut butter coz she has no allergy to it.  Plus, we did eat out a few times too.  After all my children's food allergies aren't life-threatening (I thought?). So what could go wrong if they'll have a few bites of something with allergens.

         This week after a thorough consultation with my son's allergist, my less cautious attitude towards Food Allergies changed. What I thought before as nothing unusual, might have already been a symptom of an allergic reaction. The one hour question and answer series has opened my eyes to the real world that families such as mine are challenged with everyday. 

         That day I learned that my son's condition (He got 5 out of the 8 common food allergies) is not something to be taken lightly. Though I haven't seen him with hives and swelling, he could have described an allergic reaction whenever he says:

              "This food is so spicy."

              "My ears are itchy. Can you remove the bugs in my ears."

              "I can't remove the hair on my tongue."

              "This food is too hot."

              "It tastes funny."          

           So far, there is no cure for food allergies. Over the years, a child may or may not outgrow it. The best way to prevent a reaction is Total Avoidance of the allergy causing food.  For our family, that means no more "cheating" and absolute overhaul of our home.

          Living with allergies is quite overwhelming but we are doing it one day at a time. Do you have any tips?  I would love to hear from you.  After all, it's just been 30 days. So, let's start counting towards an allergy friendly home.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Ginisang Mungo (Green Mung Bean Stew)

      Looking for an easy and very affordable stew that can feed an army?  This mung bean recipe is one of my favorites.  While growing up in the Philippines, my grandmother used to cook this dish every Friday and serve it with rice and fried fish.  As for me, I prefer to eat it as is.  
      When I first learned that our family needs to be wheat, egg, dairy and soy free, this dish was one of firsts that came to my mind.   With just simple basic ingredients, this recipe can easily be converted to suit any diet. It is packed with protein and makes use of whatever meat you have on hand.  You can even use fish or tofu (if your diet permits).     

2 tbs. canola oil
1 tbs. minced garlic
1 medium sized yellow onion sliced
1 cup tomatoes (chopped)
1/2 pound pork chunks (1 inch cubes). You can also use shrimp or bone in chicken thigh meat 
1 bag 400g green mung beans (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 quarts chicken stock (Feel free to use beef or vegetable stock)
4 tbs fish sauce (or you can use Salt. Just start with 1 tbsp and add according to your taste)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 bags spinach
1. Heat canola oil in a dutch over or big stew pot. (medium heat)
2. Saute garlic, onions and tomatoes for about 3 mins or until the tomatoes becomes mushy.  Make sure to keep on stirring to avoid burning.
3. Add pork or chicken. Brown meat about 5 mins. (If you are using shrimp, add it at step 8)
4. Stir in mung beans and saute for about 3 mins.
5. Add stock. Cover with lid. Increase heat to high and bring to boil.
6. Once it started to boil, lower heat and simmer for 20-30 mins or until the beans are tender.  
7. Season with fish sauce ( or salt) and ground black pepper. Start with 2 tbsp fish sauce or 1 tbsp salt and taste before adding more. Remember most stock has some added salt already.
8. If you are using shrimp or fried tofu (if you are not allergic), add it at this point. Stir until shrimps turn pink.
9.  Add spinach and mix the stew. Cover and turn off heat. 
10. Wait 5 minutes before serving.  The heat of the stew will cook the spinach making it soft but not mushy.
- The key to this stew is adding flavor. So make sure you use a good brand of stock or if you can make your own, the better.
- I find that using bone in meat produces a richer flavored dish.
- Fish Sauce can be found in the Asian Aisle of most groceries.  It is also readily available at the Asian Market.  If you have soy allergies, make sure you read the label because some brands (the cheaper ones) tend to have additives. Don't be afraid to try it.  Though it smells really fishy, it adds a really nice flavor to dishes.  If you like to taste it purely, dip a finger on it and lick it.  I don't recommend using a teaspoon because it's like salt water. A little goes a long way.
- The dish will thicken if you save it for later. Yes, you have to refrigerate the leftovers.  Just add some water to lighten the consistency when you reheat it.
      Try it and let me know what you think.  Have a great Saturday!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

FREE Jules Gluten Free Thanksgiving E-book

     Looking for Gluten-free recipe ideas for Thanksgiving?  Just for today (Oct.3, 2012), you can download this E-book by Jules at no cost.  It's filled with more than 20 recipes (with substitutes if you're GEDS free like us), holiday tips, 6 week planning timeline and more.
      I just got mine and I can't wait to try the recipes.  Hurry! You have a few hours left.
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