Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I was just looking around on my computer and came across this article on AOL's home page.  I have a lot of interest in asthma and diet, because I feel that changing my diet really improved my life.

I had asthma for most of my life.  I had nasty attacks two or three times a year that required me to take oral steroids.  Every day, I took rescue inhalers and steroid inhalers.  Then I had Casey, and his allergies required me to change my diet.  I had been a vegetarian for years, but I still ate dairy and eggs.  Because I was breastfeeding my food-allergic baby, I had to give up dairy, eggs and nuts.  Although I did it for him, I really benefited. Since I became a vegan (no more cheese, no more eggs), I have not needed a steroid at all.  It's been seven years, and I've run several races, work out regularly and chase after two very active boys.  Now there are lots of reasons that I'm vegan and happy about it, which I'm sure I'll write about in the future, but it all started out of love for Casey and the amazing bonus of good health.

I'm not suggesting that this will help everyone who has asthma, and the article suggests eating fish, which I do not, but maybe someone who reads the article will give dietary change a try and find better health.

I really want to bake something, but it's 90 degrees here again today, so maybe tomorrow.  It's supposed to rain.  Hopefully I'll have a recipe post for you soon!

Happy Cooking!
Kim and Megan

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Today, I had the pleasure of teaching a cooking class at the Whole Foods in River Forest (outside of Chicago).  Because we are smack-dab in the middle of summer, I wanted to show how delicious an al fresco menu could be, while keeping it safe for most everyone.

On the agenda today ... Jerk Portabello Mushrooms (from our upcoming Welcoming Kitchen book), the chickpea and cucumber salad from this blog, and sundaes made with So Delicious coconut milk ice cream and homemade blueberry syrup (also from the WK book).

I had a blast, and I hope the folks who came to the class had a good time, too.  My mom served as my lovely assistant and also took this not-so-great photo.  Lauren White, the concierge at the Whole Foods, made me feel so welcome.  It was really a great day!

Working on the menu also helped me to remember that there are almost limitless possibilities for great meals that help everyone feel welcome.  Even an outdoor kitchen can be a Welcoming Kitchen!

Happy Cooking!
Kim and Megan

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

When Casey was first diagnosed with food allergies, I was so overwhelmed.  I felt a little better about life when I came across a copy of Cybele Pascal's Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook at my local Whole Foods Market.  Even though the book wasn't a great fit for my vegetarian family (there's a good amount of meat-centered recipes), it made me feel so much better to know that there were other families out there living with similar challenges.  It also provided some confidence that I could mount the learning curve required to change my family's diet.

Wow, how times have changed!  Seven years later there are so many more resources available to folks living with restricted diets.  There are great websites and blogs, cookbooks and products.  It makes this challenging journey a little easier, not to mention a little sweeter, to negotiate.

When someone from St. Martin's Press asked if I would review the new food-allergy cookbook, The Divvies Bakery Cookbook, I was a little torn.  Megan and I believe that it is important that every recipe and every product review featured here on our Welcoming Kitchen site follow our inclusive model.  Everything should be free of the top 8 allergens, gluten-free and vegan.  We want to create a safe place for most everyone.  Lori Sandler, the founder and owner of the food-allergy products company, Divvies, has written a cookbook that features baked goods and treats that are free of nuts, eggs and dairy.  These recipes are not, however, gluten-free or vegan, so they might not work well for some of our readers.

I decided to go ahead and tell you about this book, however, because, I want to be supportive of another food-allergy mom and her efforts to make the world a safer place for kids with allergies, and to provide information on a resource that might be helpful to some of our readers.

We won't review any products that don't meet our model, but I think making an exception for a book makes some sense, since even though there are more resources out there, there still aren't enough. I hope that's ok with you.

The Divvies Bakery Cookbook is a good-looking, hard-cover baking cookbook that features cookies, cakes, brownies and other treats that are all free of nuts, dairy and eggs.  For the most part, the recipes are not-too-complicated and sound yummy.  We tried out the scones (contained wheat and soy according to the recipe), and they were tasty.  There are also some tips for dealing with school and social situations.

As an allergy-mom, I'm grateful that there are so many wonderful people out there coming up with ways to get more kids included.  This book will not meet everyone's needs, but it could sweeten the day for some families.

I'm working on a new recipe post that should be ready in a day or two -- pesto pasta with brussels sprouts!

Happy Cooking!
Kim and Megan

p.s. If you live in the Chicago area, I'm doing a cooking demonstration at the River Forest Whole Foods on Saturday, July 24.  We're going to make a couple of great recipes from our upcoming Welcoming Kitchen book, Jerk Portabello Mushrooms and sundaes made with coconut ice cream and Blueberry Syrup.  We also will make the Cucumber Chickpea Salad from this blog.  For more information, or to register for the class check out the Whole Foods website and click on the Special Diets Fair info on the right side.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Vegan Cucumber and Chickpea Salad

Trying to keep family harmony (always a precarious task!), and put only one dinner on the table is my goal for the summer.  Last night, this tenuous peace was put to the test when I made the HUGE mistake of giving my boys two choices for dinner.  Of course, Casey picked one choice, while Evan insisted on the other.  What to do?

I decided to go with Casey's choice of pasta, but make a nutritious, filling salad that I knew would please Evan, even if he continued to insist that our family staple of pasta was now gross.

I had some beautiful cucumbers in the fridge from the farmer's market, a tomato and chickpeas.  A quick, easy vinaigrette with fresh herbs resulted in a dish that was crunchy and fresh-tasting.  Since some folks like a more-dressed salad than others, I'm leaving the exact proportions up to you.

My sister taught me the Weight Watchers tip of tossing your salad with oil first, then adding the other dressing ingredients, so that you can use less oil.

We shared this recipe as part of Cybele Pascal's Allergy Friendly Fridays. Allergy Friendly Lunchbox Love and Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and Allergy-free Wednesdays. Please check out the other recipes!

2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded
1 tomato
1 15-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
small bunch of fresh basil
small bunch of fresh chives
olive oil
red wine vinegar
agave nectar
salt and pepper

Thinly slice cucumbers and tomato.
Combine vegetables with chickpeas, and minced herbs.
Toss salad with  oil, then other ingredients.

Happy Cooking!
Kim and Megan

Find tasty recipes in Welcoming Kitchen: 200 Delicious Allergen and Gluten-free Vegan Recipes. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I've got to say ... the Gluten-Free Cooking Expo rocks!  We're still trying to keep up with all of the great products we got to sample while we spent a fun weekend this past spring meeting folks living a gluten-free life. 

One of the first products that we tried from the Expo was an AllerEnergy Allergen-Free Nutrition Bar.  The nice folks at AllerEnergy gave us a few flavors to try.  I ate my chocolate chip-flavored bar in the car on the way home from the Expo.  Meg got to try the Apple Cinnamon and the Wild Blueberry flavors.

These bars are good.  They have a nice texture and good flavor.  Because they are free of peanuts, gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, tree nuts, corn and animal products, they are Welcoming Kitchen-friendly.  Lucky us!

Check out the AllerEnergy website for more information.

Happy Cooking!
Kim and Megan