Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, Food Allergy Counselor (Picture © Noel Malcolm 2013)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Suffolk Celiac Fair, 2010

Walking into the Fair:


Busy fair!


King Arthur Gluten-Free flour:


Heather of Udi's Gluten-Free being Udi-ful:


Bob's Red Mill has launched a corn meal line that's GF:



Me and Marlisa Brown RD, author of Gluten-Free, Hassle Free and the upcoming ADA book on Gluten-Free:


I also ran into Joan’s (which is completely nut-free now, more on that soon), saw Kinnikinncik's (I’m waiting for those lemon crème sandwich cookies, oh boy), met King Arthur Gluten-Free flours, which are made in a top 8 allergen-free facility (I know, OMG) and many more.

Hopefully, I’ll taste some of these goodies soon and shall report back. (Maybe even on You Tube!)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

You Tube, Allergic Girl

I’ve launched a You Tube channel just for us!

Over the next few weeks and months stay tuned as this Allergic Girl goes on allergy-friendly food factory tours; has sit-downs with allergy-friendly chefs; explores “my new thing a week”, beams video reports from fun food shows and much more. I’m super excited to be able to share this You Tube venture with you.

Here’s the address: http://www.youtube.com/user/SloaneMiller

First up: A factory tour with Lori Sandler, Diva of Divvies and author of the Divvies Bakery Cookbook. Seriously, I wish you had smell-o-vision with You Tube - that chocolate tempering room smelled de-vine. Let me know what you think!

And, yes, I'm Elvira's Food Allergic Twin with those are dark blue nails.

Friday, August 27, 2010

GF Vendor Fair, Suffolk County Celiacs

This Saturday, I’ll be walking around at the GF Vendor Fair in Hauppauge. If you’re there too, come find me and say "Hi!" For more details go to www.suffolkcountyceliacs.org:

Date: August 28-29th, 2010, Saturday & Sunday
Time: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Location: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 25
370 Vanderbilt Motor Parkway
Hauppauge, NY 11788

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Boar’s Head, Gluten-Free

Lately, I’ve been eating a lot of sliced deli meat. Like daily. As a lacto-ovo vegetarian for seventeen years this still surprises me: I’m eating turkey right now. But during the writing of the book, I put on a couple of pounds, as I mentioned earlier. I joined Weight Watchers and my best weapon was Boar’s Head deli meats. I hit my goal, and then some, in under three months - I know, insane.

All Boar’s Head products are gluten-free and most are allergen-friendly. I met representatives of Boar’s Head recently at Food Fete and had a chance to get some more information about their policies through an email interview with RuthAnn LaMore, Director of Communications at Boar’s Head:

ALLERGIC GIRL: All Boar’s Head products are gluten-free. How long has Boar’s Head been GF? Who certifies your GF status?

BOAR’S HEAD: Boar’s Head Meats Cheeses and Condiments are all Gluten Free. Most of them have always been gluten free, and the balance we received confirmation of over 10 years ago. We do not participate in any of the gluten free “certification” programs. None of the ingredients in any of the meats cheeses or condiments are derived from Wheat, Rye Oats or Barley.

AG: What about other allergens? Soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, dairy and eggs. The FAQ says “Contact Boar’s Head ”, but can you tell me more.

BH: We maintain an extensive data bases that tracks the ingredients within our ingredients. This is why we ask people to contact our nutrition line so that we can be certain that we are answering the needs of their specific sensitivity.

AG: Is Boar’s Head FALCPA compliant? What extra or special measures does Boar’s Head employ in regards to all allergens?

BH: Yes, we are in compliance with all FALCPA regulations. Each Boar’s Head manufacturing plant has an allergen control program in place that supports their HACCP programs. (see above for extra measures).

AG: A major food allergy/gluten-free concern with ordering any deli meat is cross contamination at the deli counter. Can you give us your best tips to avoid cross contamination when ordering your Boar’s Head products?

BH: Ask the deli associate if they have a slicer dedicated to gluten free products. Some do. If they do not, ask them to wipe the counter and slicer where the product will be placed before opening it, and then change their gloves before touching your product.

AG: What are some new Boar’s Head products we can look forward to?

BH: London Broil and EverRoast Oven Roasted Chicken Breast are our newest items.


Thank you Boar’s Head!

If you have further questions, check out the Boar’s Head site. Meanwhile, I’m off to lunch of salad and a few ounces of sliced Boar’s Head chicken breast.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Weight Watchers, Food Allergies

In 2006, I hurt my knee during yoga. In 2008, I had knee surgery and just a few weeks ago, I had another small knee procedure. Because of this one injury, I haven’t been consistently active in four years.

Add to that, I wrote a book, under a deadline, which meant I sat at my desk, for 14-16 hours a day, seven days a week for several months.

Then, add to that, my very special book writing diet. Because I didn’t want to leave my desk long enough to make myself real food, I ate corn tortillas and cheese for days, for weeks, for months on end.

Low and behold, those three factors caught up with me and lead to some weight gain.

I know. Duh.

But truly, I was a little shocked. I’ve been the same weight since I graduated college, over a decade, ahem, plus, ago. Generally speaking, I watch what I eat: in part because of food allergies, in part because as a petite Allergic Girl, five pounds is a dress size on my frame.

I knew I needed to take action. I spoke to dear and safe friend Danielle, who suggested Weight Watchers online. I did a one week Weight Watchers trial and lost 4 pounds. (I know, insane.) OK, I thought, maybe I could use some help, track what I'm eating and no more cheese with fried corn tortillas, for a while.

Weight Watchers online is pretty extensive in many areas except one: food allergies.

As successful as I was without online support from Weight Watchers, I did wonder about everyone else, especially those of us who have been newly diagnosed with a dietary restriction who want [or need] to slim down? What about new mothers who have food allergies and are trying to lose weight while still nursing? What about those who are newly diagnosed with celiac disease, how are they navigating these Weight Watchers waters?

*It's vital that if you need to eliminate a vital food group - like eggs, dairy or wheat - that you know how to replace that nutritionally. Check in with a registered dietitian who understands a restricted diet. You can find one near you at the American Dietetic Association's site Eatright.org*

With two for four percent of American adults diagnosed with food allergies and recent studies claiming that one in 133 Americans have celiac disease, I’d love to see Weight Watchers address these huge swaths of the population in their online modules.

Meanwhile, even though I hit my goal weight back in July, I'm still tracking and am still fried tortilla and cheese free. (My secret: lots of veggies and fruit, always, and Boar's Head cold cuts.)

Are any of you on a diet or using Weight Watchers? Do tell!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bisquick, Gluten-Free

I was in upstate New York last week and the local Price Chopper had gluten-free Bisquick, an unassuming little box on the bottom shelf in the cake mix aisle. I scooped up two.



Once back at home, I prepared gluten-free pancakes according to the directions using Lactaid milk, organic eggs and organic Canola oil. We added organic blueberries and topped with organic grade A maple syrup. We cooked the gluten-free Bisquick pancakes on a professional Viking range with a flat top griddle.



So basically, the conditions were close to ideal for pancakes.

The consensus from gluten-free eaters and gluten eaters? Pretty darn close to regular pancakes. In this first tasting, they weren't heavy or sponge-y, crumble-y or glue-y as many of gluten-free brands in the past have proven to be. The gluten-free Bisquick pancake mix could be used thinner for a savory or sweet crepe, as well as the other recipes on the back. (Time to play, I think.) I could see these rolling out commercially.

Betty Crocker do you hear that? If you make these commercially available to restaurant and foodservice, we could have pancakes when we go to brunch! Restaurants and foodservice would simply need to mix in clean bowl with uncontaminated additional ingreds and utensils and make in a clean pan, how hard is that?

I may try gluten-free Bisquick scones next. Have any of you tried the mix yet?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Divvies Fudge Contest


(courtesy of Divvies)


As you may have read, I made some fudge from the new Divvies Bakery Cookbook. I made a mint batch, a bacon batch and a candied bacon batch. My book editor, who had a chance to taste all three, called the candied bacon fudge: “man-catching”. It was really stellar. And super easy. Actually, It was the ease of the fudge recipe called out to the mini-chef in me to play. I told Lori of Divvies about my happy fudgey experience and she suggested opening up a contest to let to everyone reading this come up with some fun recipe ideas and win some chocolate. So, in conjunction with Divvies I’m running fabulous fudge flavor recipe contest.

***

Fabulous Fudge Flavor Recipe contest details:

Over the next two weeks [August 16 – 30] submit your favorite allergen-free fudge recipe using Divvies chocolate chips.

Submit your email and your recipe to Divvies at this link. There’s a space to put a message after you enter your email, that’s where you should submit.

Divvies Bakery Cookbook recipe:

(From The Divvies Bakery Cookbook by Lori Sandler. Copyright (c) 2010 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC.)

The entries will be judged by me and Lori.

The winner will be announced after Labor day.

The prize: 5 bags of Divvies chocolate chips.

Remember, email Divvies here to enter.

Good luck!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Biltmore Estate, Food Allergies

The below comes from a regular Allergic Girl blog reader, Portside. It was a such a nice story, I wanted to share it with all of you. (With her permission, natch.)

"I was in attendance at a wedding at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC this past weekend. As per usual, I passed along my list of allergies to my good friends who were getting married and they in turn passed along my info to the chef for the weekend. My good friends assured me that the chef assured them that if he had any questions he would get in touch with me ahead of time. All of the servers were briefed about my allergies and knew all of the ingredients on my plate - special consideration was made in assembling my courses and in some instances received a completely different course.

After the dinner and during the dancing on Saturday night, I got a chance to speak with the chef and he was so sweet and very understanding. Apparently, his wife also has a handful of severe allergies and food intolerances. I have never felt as comfortable (save for my own) as I did during the rehearsal and wedding dinners.

If you ever find yourself in Asheville and at the Biltmore Estate, definitely check out the Executive Chef."


I love it when that happens, thanks for sharing, Portside!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Divvies Bakery Cookbook, Sandler

As a child I always thought I was allergic to chocolate because eating it gave me hives. I’m not allergic, it was just contaminated back in the olden days before FALCPA and there was no way to know. (Sorry, Mars but it’s true.) Because I repeatedly got allergic from all kinds of chocolate bars as a kid, it was like aversion therapy for chocolate; I lost a taste for it.

To wit: I’m not really a chocolate person.

As an adult, and really only in the last five years or so, since excellent quality allergen-free chocolate has come on the market I’ve started reintroducing chocolate back into my life. I still don’t lurve it the way many of you do but I eat the safe brands without fear of hives and with joy.

Divvies, the manufacturers of the Benjamint Bar – my all-time-fave-ready-to-eat-safe-and-minty-chocolate-bar - has a gorgeous new allergen-friendly cookbook out. All the recipes are dairy-free, peanut-free, tree-nut free and egg-free. (The Divvies Bakery Cookbook recipes do employ soy products and wheat products so if those are your Kryptonites (or intolerances like me), you’ll need to use substitutions.) I received a copy from the publisher and I jumped to make the fudge.

So PS, I’ve never had fudge. Before you start thinking my childhood was seriously lacking, don’t worry I had plenty of other sweets but I never had fudge, probably because it usually had, and still has, nuts. So I ran to try the Divvies Bakery Cookbook recipe for fudge and let me tell you if this is what fudge is like (rich, silken, melt in your mouth), I see the allure.

Here’s the journey of the Divvies Bakery Cookbook fudge recipe and this Allergic Girl.

***

Divvies Bakery Cookbook recipe:

(From The Divvies Bakery Cookbook by Lori Sandler. Copyright (c) 2010 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC.)

Because I couldn’t leave well enough alone, I gilded the Divvies Bakery Cookbook fudge lily. I split the fudge recipe into threes.

I made a mint batch by adding half a teaspoon of peppermint flavoring to a third of the batch. It tastes like molten After Eights, my British college boyfriend, Rudyard’s favorite. Addicting and refreshing.

The other two batches I laced with lardons and candied lardons. I took a special trip to get house smoked and cured, thick cut bacon i.e. lardons from Marlow & Daughters in Williamsburg Brooklyn.

Marlow & Daughters:


Happy piggy:


Marlow & Daughters lardons going in the oven:


I sprinkled the lardons with some organic turbinado sugar and let them cook in a hot oven for about 30 minutes. They came out all candied and glorious. I waited until they cooled to chop into smaller pieces. When the fudge was ready (made according to the directions) I put down a layer of fudge, then sprinkled the candied lardons on top and covered it with a second layer of fudge.

Cross-section of candied bacon fudge, not for the faint of heart:


The resultant fudge was creamy, luxurious, sweet but not too sweet, decadent and vegan, kosher (not the bacon one, natch) and allergen-free!

I look forward to exploring more recipes in the Divvies Bakery Cookbook . Thanks Lori!

PS I will be running a fudge recipe context starting next week with a generous prize from Divvies, so stay tuned!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Health Department, Food Allergies

Back in 2007, when I interviewed Chef Michael Lomonaco he said: “I consider food allergies a public safety issue and part of standard and mandated safe food handling procedures.”

I totally agree.

Does the city of New York?

According to the New York Times: “On Wednesday, [July 28, 2010] as the New York City health department begins letter-grading restaurant inspections, designating an A, B or C to rate the cleanliness of more than 24,000 restaurants in the five boroughs, it is also activating a new Web site that will “offer much more information and be more user-friendly,” said Daniel Kass, a deputy commissioner.”

My question is how does cleanliness (i.e. “standard and mandated safe food handling procedures”) relate to allergen-free-ness?

I don’t have a hard and fast answer - but I wonder.

What do you think?

Friday, August 06, 2010

Poster, NYC

There’s been a quiet roll-out of the mandated food allergy poster in the city of New York.

Here is the letter from the Department of Health:


Here is a sample of the poster:


Here is the poster in the kitchen of a restaurant in NYC:


And here is the law.

Initial reactions?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Le Veneziane Gluten-Free, Gremolata

Trust is the cornerstone of every good relationship; with food allergies, it becomes even more vital. Having friends, partners, dates and restaurants that you can trust is ideal: ultimately you want to be able to trust everyone in your orbit.

Trust with a restaurant is a beautiful thing and like any other relationship, it’s created over time and trial. With a resto though, it involves lots and lots of eating.

Nizza has been one of my haunts for the last year, as in I go weekly. I usually have the same dish; I know it, I trust it and I like [ahem, love] it. Every time I go, I remind the manager, the chef and the server of my food allergies. Even though they know them by heart. Recipes change, formulations change, staff changes; it’s my job to remind them of what my needs are.

Last week, GM Benjamin said they had a special of gremolata with pasta [le veneziane gluten-free pasta for me] and peas and asparagus. I thought, that sounds safe - is it? Trying a new dish or straying away from a safe favorite is scary. It’s starting all over again. And even with a trusted restaurant, with trusted staff and a trusted chef, I do the routine: go over every ingredient and remind them of what my needs are. And I smile, a lot.

Because I’m a regular (tips on becoming a regular here and here), I find restaurants are ready and willing to work with me and my milliondy questions.

In this dish, it was fairly straightforwardly delicious: le veneziane gluten-free pasta, the gremolata (which is totally my new favorite thing and I will be making some at home and adding it to everything), grated Parmesan, a little butter, a little GF pasta water and the veg.



Totally easy and yum and now I have something new to add to the menu of my faves at this resto.

Do you have the same dish over and over? When was the last time you tried a special or an off-menu item at a trusted restaurant? What happened? Do tell!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Allergic Girl, Make-up

A few weeks back, I was involved in a TV shoot (more on that soon). I hired Ivan, a makeup artist, for the day, to help control the Allergic Girl dewiness.

I’ve worked with Ivan before for other shoots as he uses a brand of make-up to which I’ve never had an allergic reaction. Before we started, I reminded Ivan that I have very sensitive skin, am highly allergic and to please keep the corners of my eyes clear as I tend to tear and rub thus creating some nice redness. (I know, so glam.) It was probably the third time I reminded Ivan about my Allergic Girl-ness over the course of 24 hours. It’s my job (and yours, too) to gently remind someone of any allergic needs – repeatedly if necessary. He assured me he’d be careful.

Ivan started with the eyes. He’s a dabber, not a sweeper. So dab dab dab - three different white shades for the eyes. As he was dabbing I thought, “Oh, that brush feels a bit rough,” but I ignored it. I’m unused to professional make-up application, maybe it's suppose to be like that. (It's not.)

He continued applying, face and cheeks, then lips last and before I knew it, crew and camera people and producers had arrived to set up. Excitement! Ivan quickly finished up and said, "Go look at yourself."

In the mirror, I was confronted not with Glam Sloane but Allergic Girl herself: clusters of welts around both eyes – red, raised and uncomfortable-looking.

A ripple of panic rushed through my body.

First question: Are these hives? Under layers of make-up, it was hard to tell. Definitely raised, definitely red, and definitely many bumps of various sizes around both eyes and upper cheeks. Nicht gut.

Second question: Are they getting worse or spreading? If this was an allergic reaction to something I ate, for example, they would be itching and spreading. I had eaten safe food at home and had only safe snacks with me, so probably not a reaction to anything I ate. No one had kissed my eyes with beard stubble (like that happens every day) nor had anyone eaten nuts or fish at 8am and then kissed me. I did a quick body scan: no spreading to my cheeks, neck nor chest; no itching (important point); and I wasn’t wheezing – all signs of an allergic reaction and escalation.

Good news, kinda.

So maybe these weren’t hives but an irritation to something.

Third question: source. To what was I reacting so I could get rid of it? As I had used this make-up before, I figured I probably wasn’t irritated by that. Then I remembered that when he was brushing on the makeup, it hurt: maybe that was it. But what to do about that now? Wash everything off and go on camera with nothing but welts and a smile?

I walked out of the bathroom and showed Ivan. His jaw dropped. “Oh my god,” he said. “Are you okay?”

“I don’t know, I’m going to give it a few minutes and see if they go down or get worse and we’ll go from there.” We discussed what make-up he used; all clear there. Then we talked about the brushes. They were new and clean. Maybe too new, though, too stiff. He was using natural animal hair brushes and as they hurt when he was applying the make-up, I deduced that that was the culprit. He had softer synthetic brushes with him and we decided to move forward with those. And a much gentler hand.

Just then the producer was calling everyone to places. I showed her my face, “Oh my god, what happened?”

“I think I'm reacting to the make-up in some way. Let’s give this a few minutes to see if it calms down before we start.”

They continued setting up and then: “Places everyone!” As I was fairly certain it wasn’t the beginning of a dramatic allergic reaction, we started. I had my medication nearby and Ivan was keeping an eagle eye on me now - he was my allergy ally. If the welts worsened, if I flushed or they spread it would be time for Plan B (wash off and medication). None of that happened and by the time I saw my face again about an hour later, the welts had lessened considerably.

My analysis: not an allergic reaction, just sensitive skin.

The lessons:

Disclose allergic needs early and often.
Be prepared for the unexpected.
Try to remain calm during an emergency.
Have an emergency plan and know your best options.
Always have your medication on hand.
And on with the show!