Friday, October 31, 2008

For those of you with egg allergies....

Here's a little known fact. Candy corn contains egg whites...find the ingredients, and other interesting candy corn facts here. Please remember to read the labels on your Halloween candy.

Have a Happy and SAFE Allergy-Free Halloween!

Your Allergic Diner

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I was reading an article the other day about a gentleman who bought the license to the 50-yard line seats for the Jets for close to half a million dollars. In the interview, he says that the true measure of a fan is one who is willing to stand by their team until they win, as opposed to just when they win (I'm paraphrasing, of course, but the idea is there).

Congratulations to the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies!!!!!
We always knew your day would come.

Your Allergic Diner

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Elderberries do not deserve your respect!

NAH and I had the loveliest of weekends, a couple we love dearly (and how often do you like BOTH people in a couple?) was married in a beautiful ceremony in Philadelphia. We attended the rehearsal dinner, and the after-rehearsal dinner party/Phillies game viewing. We went to bed around 2 a.m., and attended the wedding the next day a bit bleary-eyed but quite happy nonetheless. It was a perfect day, and A&J had their ideal night. It was wonderful. We drove home that night from the wedding listening to the final innings of our beloved Phillies (and yes, they won that game, methinks in an homage to our friend's wedding, but it could just be my tiredness speaking). We got home, stayed up to watch the game, and then realized in horror that all of the things we normally do over the course of the weekend hadn't been done, because we weren't home. So we set out making lunches, unloading the dishwasher, getting the coffee ready for the following morning, etc. All's well that ends well and we went to sleep (or rather, fell face first onto the pillow only to groan at the alarm the next morning).

Where, you may ask, am I going with this, and how is it allergy-related?

Well, thank you for asking.

I brought a salad to work with me yesterday, and grabbed the only unopened bottle of dressing in the cabinet, an organic strawberry-balsamic that I serve with an amazing blackberry feta salad I make(if I do say so myself, which I do). I've never tried it, but it gets rave reviews when I serve it. Now, sleep deprived and just bone-weary from two nights with next-to-no sleep, I should've known better than to try something new. I should have, but again, I wasn't functioning properly on NO SLEEP. I'm too old for that kind of schedule (and hell, when I was young enough for it, I couldn't keep it, to be honest).

So we partied, we slept, and now we're back to the salad and the new dressing. As I poured it on the salad, I read the ingredient list. The only ingredient I did not recognize was "elderberry juice extract." Hmm. I was coherent enough to know that the extract would be the strong, pure form of whatever an elderberry was, and as I mostly have good luck with berries, I worked and ate my salad at my desk.

It started as a tingling in my throat/mouth...and then it spread. Not anaphylaxis by any means, but the kind of allergy where the allergic person goes, "damn...I have to take a Benadryl, and I'm going to be sick for quite awhile." Now, my purpose of the above was to explain just how tired I was. NO WAY was I getting behind the wheel on less than 5 hours of sleep having taken allergy medicine. So I rushed home with a folder filled with work, took the Benadryl (at home), waited for the onslaught, and yes, was calm enough to get some work done.

Mid-work (and into my second benadryl, my curiosity got the better of me, and I googled elderberry). I wanted to know what exactly had made me so ill, and what I'd need to avoid in the future.

It's a shrub. I was ill from a shrub extract. I love it. Only me. Did I mention I had company coming for dinner (thankfully my husband's family is used to seeing me in pj's)? Or that the lovely wedded couple was stopping by on their way to New York?

See, here's what I've learned in the last couple of years: allergies get in the way. They interrupt your daily life, but you really only as much as you let them. Sure, it took me four doses of Benadryl and some severely swollen and sore insides to get through the evening, but I did (and all on an incredible lack of sleep). I had company over, saw friends and family, and outside of my not having an unexpressed thought last night (seriously, does anyone else talk incessantly when they take Benadryl? I couldn't stop. I couldn't even get all my thoughts out coherently), nobody knew how sick I'd been. Now of course, they will now because they lovingly read this blog. But that's ok. Dinner was good, the company was nice, and the ball game, well, see the below.

The thing is this. I try new things. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't, but I'm not going to stop trying! I may not love food, but I no longer view it as an obstacle or an enemy. That alone has taken a number of years...So it's a trade-off. Pineapple off the list, elderberry on. I think I'm far more likely to find pineapple on a fruit tray, so this is one I can accept without much fuss.

And did anyone else notice how they didn't call last night's game until they allowed the Rays a chance to tie? Grrr...

Your Phillies fan,

an exhausted allergic diner

Monday, October 20, 2008

A milestone for every married woman

Alright, I admit it. I’m 28 years old, I’m married, and up until several weeks ago, I was a turkey virgin. Now, retrieve your mind from the gutter and follow along. I love to cook. I collect cookbooks and read them as part of the hobby. I have two huge shelves in my kitchen (that are starting to buckle under the weight, actually) filled with cookbooks, and have made recipes from every single one of them. I may not do a lot of things very well, but I can cook like a dream. NAH is forever joking that if I left him, he’d starve. He wouldn’t starve, but he might get hooked on some god-awful food like pork and beans in a can. (Ew. Really?)
I had never made a turkey. Every year I have spent Thanksgiving with loved ones, and I will bring dessert, or an appetizer or two, and help with the dishes, but I always stayed far, far away from the turkey. Damn things scared the hell out of me. I would even get the free turkey from the supermarket after I’d accumulated enough bonus points, and I’d donate it to charity. Turkey breasts? Sure, I can cook those. Turkey loaf? You betcha, but not a whole turkey. Can we say intimidated?
Which brings me to Rosh Hashanah. There are many traditional Jewish foods that are made for the New Year and other Jewish holidays. Here’s something most Jewish people won’t admit (and rest assured, I’ll be catching crap from my allergic parents after this post, but I’ll deal with it). Most traditional Jewish foods are…well…icky. Gefilte fish? It’s a last resort over Passover when you simply cannot stomach another piece of matzo. Carp? Herring? Brisket? UGH. I’m not a big fan of noodle kugel (but I’m in the minority on that) – it does not help that I can’t really eat it, which admittedly clouds my judgement. Stewed prunes (tzimmes)? Enough said. There ARE some traditional Jewish foods that are to-die-for good. Matzo ball soup and challah are fantastic. Knishes, when done properly, are yummy, and I love me some lox and bagels.
NAH and I have worked very hard to introduce both of our religions and cultures to each family. With that in mind, I host Rosh Hashanah now, as my allergic mom has gracefully passed on the crown (and still lovingly makes the best matzo ball soup on the planet). My non-allergic inlaws and brother-in-law attend Rosh Hashanah dinner with us. How could I possibly inflict brisket upon them? My mother makes fantastic brisket. It melts in your mouth. I just DO. NOT. LIKE. BRISKET. So Rosh Hashanah was somewhat of a challenge. 1 – I wanted to make something everyone would eat, and 2 – I wanted to make something that was allergy-free.
Enter the turkey. Everyone eats turkey. It’s a big, festive, celebratory bird, so I decreed it perfect for the Jewish New Year. We still had the apples and honey. We had matzo ball soup and challah. We even had apple cake on the table for dessert.
And boy, did we have turkey. I spent an entire day not only basting and seasoning, but frantically calling both moms (and as my mom-in-law was not in synagogue, she caught the brunt of the questions – non-allergic mom, if you’re reading this, THANK YOU!).
Here’s what I’ve learned: Turkeys have two cavities. You have to pull out bags of icky and disgusting things from both. A 22-lb turkey (because, really, why do anything small?) does not take into account the weight of the roasting pan, 5 lbs. of potatoes, 10 portions of stuffing, or the liquid in said pan. You need serious upper body strength to pull the damn thing in and out of the oven. A turkey should be covered for the better part of the cooking. It takes DAYS to properly defrost. I've also learned that it's better to attempt a meal like this with family, because if it had failed, they'd have had to love me anyway, and we'd have had a good laugh (and then ordered pizza).
The end result? While it was heavy, completely gross to touch, clean, and stuff, it was, however, damn good to eat. I was really proud of what I accomplished (and quite full). We had a lovely Rosh Hashanah dinner with quite a few traditional foods, and I believe I’ve started a new tradition of my own. Oh – and food nerd that I am, that’s a picture of my very first turkey.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Blog Action Day Follow-Up: Stretch Those Dollars!

How NAH & I squirrel away a few cents when we can:

We joined Netflix (and with the rate things go to DVD, there really isn’t a time lag of more than two months anymore). If we see a movie in the theaters every couple of months, it’s a big deal. Netflix is approximately $18 for their 3-at-a-time movie subscription. We keep a running list of movies we want to see, and probably watch 5 a month. That’d be 5 x $5 at Blockbuster (with no late fees assumed), which would be $25. A Saturday night movie in the theater is a minimum of $17 and that’s before the popcorn. Insanity! Just say no.

I’ve recently returned to a money-saving technique I employed right after we were married. I use the sale circular for the supermarket to plan my meals ahead of time. I had stopped in the past year, simply purchasing proteins, grains and vegetables and figuring it all out when I got home. I’m now saving $20 a week on average just by sticking to my list.

Use coupons. It doesn’t make you old. It doesn’t make you cheap. It doesn’t mean you’re adhering to any stereotype. It means you’re smart. Case closed.

SEND in your rebates, and when that check comes in, no matter how much it is for, put it straight into your savings account. It was already spent, it was months ago, and it will serve you better earning a small amount of interest.

Make your own damn coffee. Every advice column in every magazine says the first way to save money is to bring your coffee from home. Saving $2 (conservative estimate, I know) a day, 5 days a week, is a monthly savings of $40, and a yearly savings of $480. If more than one member of your household purchases coffee every day, you can double or triple that savings. If you drink one of those Starbucks candy bar concoctions several times a week, you should be ashamed of yourselves for several reasons. 1 – it’s bad for you. 2 – it’s expensive. 3 – THAT’S NOT COFFEE (whip cream, caramel sauce, and flavored syrups are DESSERT) !!!!! Cut these out and save calories and money.

While we’re on the topic of make your own, make your own damn lunch. As a former teacher, I brown bag every day. I always have. NAH does now, too. I’m not saying we never ever go out to lunch, but $5 once or twice a month is FAR better than $5 a day, every day (yes, I know, conservative estimate again). $25 a week, at $100 a month, is $1200 per year! I showed the math on this to a coworker last year. She saved $700 last year by simply bringing her lunch.

Buy generic when you can. NAH has introduced me to this. We both have a list of things we won’t compromise on (admittedly, mine is a bit longer because of my allergies), but I’ve learned that supermarket cotton swabs work just as well as Q-Tips. I can’t taste the difference between supermarket apple juice or pretzels, etc. Suave shampoo works as well as, if not better than, Pantene. It is amazing what you can learn by trial and error.

Make a budget. Stick to it as best you can. Differentiate between needs and wants. Good luck!

Your Allergic Diner

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day and the Blurring Poverty Line

Participating in Blog Action Day is something new for this particular Allergic Diner. Recently, I've read several blogs on the Internet in which the writers participated in the San Francisco Food Bank Challenge. They were to live for an entire week, 3 meals a day, on $1.00 a meal, the approximate amount of the food stamps per person. These bloggers/food writers were working with the S.F. Food Bank to develop tasty/healthy/filling recipes for their patrons. Some of the recipes were extremely creative and looked quite tasty. You can check them out at: Cooking with Amy, The Inadvertent Gardener, and Vanessa Barrington. I admit to finding Vanessa Barrington's the most interesting because she thought a lot about other constraints of those with limited budgets (i.e., transportation, cooking tools,etc). The link I've supplied you with to her blog shows you what a modest donation to the Food Bank gets them (you can see her other articles about the challenge as well).

This got me thinking, however, what happens to a person with food allergies, or a condition such as diabetes? How do they exist on food stamps with special food needs? Could I feed myself for a $1 a meal? The sad, but realistic answer is, probably not. Someone who had to purchase specialty foods, like sugar-free, would probably be even further out of luck. The thing nobody tells you about having allergies, or celiac, or diabetes, or any other condition that affects what you eat is that it's EXPENSIVE.

$1 a meal. I could probably subsist on beans, potatoes, and frozen veggies, but what about protein? How could I vary my already allergy-proof diet so that I might eat well and still adhere to the system? Lactaid milk at last check was $4 for a half-gallon. I spent days thinking about this challenge and it's possible consequences and ramifications for someone like me, and came up with this: I can't keep my allergy-free diet with that cost factor ($1 meal/day = $3 a day). I'd miss out on calcium, among other things a body needs. This makes me feel angry and very lucky all at the same time. You have my word you will never hear me complain here about the high cost of specialty foods again.

See, my family will forever joke around with me about my not being a “food person.” They’re not wrong, I’m not. I’m definitely an “eat to live” person, not one who lives to eat. I don’t have the luxury of being a foodie. I can’t eat without paying attention to every single ingredient every time. When NAH and I were in Florida earlier this year with my non-allergic inlaws, we were out to dinner at a lovely restaurant, the Lighthouse. I took out my Lactaid pills when my food arrived, explaining that there was cheese in the Caesar salad dressing, the possibility of buttermilk in the fresh-baked rolls, etc. My mother-in-law looked at me and said words that were truly magic to my ears. “Every time you eat, you have to stop and think about it, don’t you?” The thing that she understands, and that sometimes people spend their whole lives not understanding, is that food for any allergic person is a process, and a difficult one at that. Now, I couldn’t ask for better families, as both sets of parents keep their homes stocked with “allergic diner safe food.” But what happens to someone without the same resources and support? What happens to someone with my allergies who ends up on food stamps? How can they do this for $3 a day?

Half the recipes I read on those blogs were things I was unable to eat. By tweaking them so that I could eat them (i.e., removing the tomato paste, canned milk, etc) I would either lose a good portion of the nutritional content, or I would’ve been over my budget on that particular day (substitutions of chicken broth are EXPENSIVE).

Blog Action Day 2008 is about poverty. Every night, more children are going to bed hungry. Hardworking, decent people are living paycheck to paycheck, and praying that they will be able to put food on the table and keep their roof over their heads. Animal shelters are bursting at the seams because pets have become a luxury most families can no longer afford. Our economy is in the toilet, and what nobody seems to understand is that this isn’t a “poor” problem. It isn't a Republican problem, or a Democrat problem, or even just a government problem. It’s an everybody problem. The poverty line is blurring. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, "there were 37.3 million people in poverty in 2007, up from 36.5 million in 2006. " That was before the current economic tailspin in which we find ourselves.

Lest I be one of those bloggers who opines, but offers no real solutions about anything, tomorrow I will share with you the ways in which NAH and I work diligently to cut costs wherever possible (tomorrow’s post). When you sit down to dinner with your family tonight, take a moment to think about someone who might not be so lucky. Then DO SOMETHING about it. Donate food, money, and/or time to a charity that works with the poverty-stricken. Nobody judges your donation, the point is to do something, because as trite as it sounds, EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS. The newspapers state that more and more middle class families are reaching out to food banks for assistance. These centers, and others like them, need the most help when it isn't the holiday season, because that’s when most people open up their hearts, wallets, and homes.

You can make a difference without altering your lifestyle. Please know that I am not suggesting you feel guilt or shame about your ability to purchase food, or own a home. That's not who I am or what I'm about.

What I am suggesting is that you teach your children that civic responsibility isn't just a notion, and be thankful for what you have.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

Allergic Diner

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Right at Home

I've recently joined a website called Right at Home, which shares tips for cleaning and organizing and offers coupons and trials of new products. However, I didn't sign up for any of those reasons (though I do love me some cleaning and organizing, just ask anyone). I signed up because of this article, which is currently headlining their website (link to full text at bottom):

Welcoming the Allergic Guest
Here's how to make sure guests with allergies are as comfortable as possible in your home.

Entertaining guests with indoor allergies? Try these tips for throwing a great party that's literally nothing to sneeze at!

Communicate: While some people are open about their allergies; others are more reserved, requiring that you, as the host, ask the right questions to get the information you need to make them comfortable.

Talk well in advance. If you're inviting guests to a party, ask well ahead of time if they have any indoor allergies. Communicate clearly—and allow for an open-ended discussion.

Chat about pets. Fluffy the cat may be an important member of your family, but try to inform potential guests about your pets before they show up. Some people are extremely allergic to animals—so much so that even a thorough cleaning may not stop an allergic reaction. So don't let them show up and be unpleasantly surprised when Fluffy comes over to give them a big welcome. Putting your pets in a separate room away from the festivities might work well, but if your guests' pet allergies are severe (bothering them even when a pet is in another room), it might be best to leave pets with a friend or a neighbor for the evening.

Prepare: Now that you're armed with details about any of your guests' allergies, here's how to prepare your home for the evening.

Find the full text of the article here.

Thank you, Right at Home! Always nice when attention is paid to an allergic issue. It makes those of us who suffer feel a little less alone...
Your Allergic Diner

Monday, October 13, 2008

Supporting a friend.

My goodness, how time flies. I've been meaning to post since Rosh Hashanah about my very first turkey and our lovely dinner, but that post will come in a few days. I need NAH to upload the pictures from our camera. Yes, I took a picture of the very first turkey I cooked. Problem? Didn't think so.

Anyhow, I wanted to share with you the website of a start-up company of the wife of a friend, Wellspring Trading. They sell a lot of neat organic, aromatherapy, and massage-related products, but I'm a big fan of the bamboo and hemp shirts. Interested? Click here.

In the meantime, I wish you no allergic reactions,

Your Allergic Diner