Friday, December 25, 2009

In which I wax sentimental.....

So this isn’t a post about allergies, not really. I haven’t posted in awhile, and I’ve decided I need to end 2009 with a few thoughts. Those of you still reading at this point are probably family and friends, and this is really aimed at all of you.

When I lost my job this year, allergic husband and I sat down and drew up a very strict budget to which we needed to adhere (ok, I drew it up and he nodded), and even though I knew we’d be ok if we stuck to it, I was terrified. Fear doesn’t always have a rational basis, and mentally, I felt as if I’d been hit by a train.

Two weeks after I was laid off, I was in the local supermarket with a pen and paper. I was adding the cost of the groceries as I placed them in my cart. I was calculating the cost of something in the meat aisle when a woman next to me asked me a question about the ground beef. We struck up a conversation about recipes and what she was making that weekend, and then we both went about our merry way. A few minutes later, she found me adding the cost of tissues in the paper goods aisle and said to me, “Here, I won’t be shopping enough to use this, and you look like you will be. Have a nice weekend.” It was a coupon for $5 off my shopping order. It may sound incredibly stupid, but that simple random act of kindness solidified for me that everything was going to be alright.

And it was. We have two wonderful families who would do anything for us, and made that fact known immediately when they thought we were in trouble. Our friends couldn’t offer their assistance quickly enough (be it their company, offers to pass on a résumé, or simply checking in to make sure we were alright).We were (and are still) nothing short of grateful (and at times, simply dumbstruck).

So as 2009 draws to a close, I leave you, my readers, with a sentiment in which I put my faith. I believe that you are simply an extension of the way you treat people (consider this the adult version of the golden rule). I have never felt more loved or blessed than in this past year, and I cannot thank anyone enough. It is my hope that the family and friends who have surrounded us do so in part because of the relationships we have with them, and will continue to do so. Oh, and if it matters to those reading, I am working :) (always a firm believer that when one door closes, a window opens).

To my husband, my family, my friends, and even to the random grocery lady, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Your walking Hallmark card,
The Allergic Diner

P.S.- If I must tie in one wonderful allergy/intolerance related note, I have discovered that Halloween candy no longer necessitates Lactaid pills!

BRING ON 2010!!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

the holy grail...

This, my friends, is the holy grail....LACTOSE-FREE cheese. I've waited two solid weeks to post about this, because I wanted to do a real food test. See that yellow label on the package picture below? It states, "naturally lactose free." Over the years I've found that with lactose food tests, you need to try it not only more than once, but multiple times over consecutive days. That "lactose-free" cottage cheese made by Lactaid doesn't upset my stomach on day 1, but by day 2 I'm sicker than I'd like to explain. It isn't naturally lactose-free, but treated with the enzyme to help digestion.
Everyday for the past two weeks, I've been eating this! I'm fine, and it's INCREDIBLE, and healthy (hooray for calcium!). I've purchased the Gouda as well, and it's even tastier than the Muenster.
Before I understood what the upset stomach meant, I was the kid who came home from school, opened the fridge, and broke out a block of Cracker Barrel. Not the world's greatest idea, mind you, but there you have it. Now I have my favorite food in the world back!
To cheese!
Allergic Diner

Monday, October 12, 2009

A great article, and a child whose parents should be proud

Good evening!
I found this quite interesting and wanted to share....

"Boy Pushes Congress for Food Allergy Deadlines" -

Next? I've found lactose-free cheese. Real cheese, not the lactaid cheese that's treated with enzymes. I don't miss ice cream, I don't miss sour cream, but I miss cheese terribly. Now I have it back!

Yours in the pursuit of allergy-free eating,
Allergic Diner

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy Rosh Hashanah

So when I say I'm off to enjoy the rest of my summer, I really did enjoy the rest of my summer. More outdoors, less computer. However, as fall is upon us, I am now indoors more, and NAH has kindly made me wireless (oh, the places I'll go). For starters, back to blogging I go. Allergy stories and travels coming soon, but for now, as tomorrow evening marks the start of the Jewish New Year, I wish a l'shana tovah to my Jewish readers.

Your Allergic Diner

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Trust in Food.

Yesterday I ran out to the local ACME to take advantage of a few choice sales. While I was there, I picked up two items I've been interested in food testing: nectarines and chocolate eclairs.
Desserts are hard for me. I never order one in a restaurant, but I've found that supermarkets, with the ingredients used by the bakery printed right on the label, tend to bring me good luck. Yesterday afternoon, I went to take the eclairs out of the fridge. I had purchased them pre-packaged by the bakery, so I could read the ingredients and determine the proper number of Lactaid pills. I stopped cold when I saw what appeared to be one label over the other on the package. When I peeled up the top label, with an expiration date of August 20th, underneath was a label with the date August 16th. I checked the calendar, to make sure I wasn't losing my mind. It was August 17th. I was really, really upset.

This morning I drove to ACME right after I took my shower b/c I wanted this out of the way. I asked to speak to a store manager, and showed her what I had found. She was appalled (good start!). Then she summoned the bakery via the intercom, and asked someone to come to the front of the store. Except - when the woman arrived - it was grandma. Not my grandma, mind you, but everybody's grandma. How am I supposed to argue with grandma?

Grandma took a look at the package and stated that the price should've been lower because it was past its date (OH BROTHER - food poisoning, on sale!). The store manager just shook her head and very calmly explained, "No. This is expired. We don't repackage expired products, we get rid of them." "Right," grandma said, "but what I'm saying is that one of the kids accidentally put a label over this one instead of pulling it to be dumped. Without being able to see the correct date, this never would've been pulled." Then she turns to me, patted me on the arm and said, "Am I explaining this correctly so that you understand what I'm saying, honey?" (OY).
I looked at grandma and very, very calmly said "Let me see if I understand this. You expect me to believe that this was a mistake, not some lazy kid who forgot to take the expired label off first before placing a later one on it? That the other packages of eclairs on sale aren't past their expiration date and that's why they were placed on sale? I don't think so. I also don't think I'll be purchasing a baked good at this store again." And then I turned to the manager and asked for my money back. She handed it to me with a sincere apology.
Now, you might think I was being too tough on grandma, but you need to understand this from a food allergy perspective. Say I had done that food test yesterday, and had gotten violently ill. I never would've known the product was expired, and I would've assumed that there was something in the eclair to which I was allergic, or it was too rich for me, etc. I never would've eaten one again, and I never would've known why.

The ONLY thing I need in terms of food is to be able to trust the places in which I buy the food I eat, and the restaurants in which I dine. What ACME did, honest mistake or not (methinks not based on Grandma's first response - it's expired, let's discount it more!), makes me very, very nervous.

So, I food-tested the nectarine yesterday. That did NOT go well. Good grief.
Today will be a better day,

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sorry for the impromptu hiatus, folks. Believe it or not, its been a pretty busy summer!

Two happy food tests to report:
A bosc pear. I will be doing the second part of this food test today. (for some reason, I often find that I need to eat things more than once to get a real result.)
Chicken Marsala. I kid you not. One of my goals this year is to find more "safe" dishes at restaurants, so NAH has kindly agreed to bring in some take-out. Had this one in two parts, and not even a blip in my stomach! Now to try it from other restaurants...

One sad food test:
Plum. Not so much this year. Ah well, I can live with it...

One fun item to report? I received what I think is one of the neatest presents ever from a good friend (thank you K!). I get to create my own cookbook, complete with photos, on a website titled aptly, "Create My Cookbook." I'm toying with titles. Perhaps something along the lines of "101 ways not to kill the Allergic Diner?" Her rationale was that I work so hard to tweak conventional recipes in order to be able to eat them, why not put them all in one place (and she's never even seen the multiple shelves that host my cookbook collection!)? I cannot wait to try this and I promise to blog about the experience!

Off to enjoy the rest of my summer,
Your Allergic Diner

Thursday, July 23, 2009

All's well that ends well, right?

I'd like to start this post by saying, "Yippee!"

I heard from Dr. Rutledge of Wellsphere, and he kindly agreed to remove both my content and feed, and to discontinue my association with Wellsphere. According to the comment he left on my last post, I'm to infer that I (and a whole lot of other bloggers) just have it all completely wrong (HAH). Perhaps the agreement was changed? Ah, well. This concerns me no longer.
I appreciate that this was handled swiftly and professionally, and that there was no need to resort to any of the horrible tactics of which I had read.

Moving on with life.....
Your Allergic Diner

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


So I'm a little disheartened. For quite awhile now, I've been a patient expert and a health maven over at Wellsphere. I allowed them to use my content, as I got a fabulously flattering letter from Dr. Geoffrey Rutledge promising me a bump in readership and yet another vehicle through which to disseminate my information.
I tried answering questions on the site, I really did, but when I received questions daily such as, "Do peanut M&Ms still count as junk food if peanuts are good for you?" (OH MY GOODNESS, PLEASE, I JUST NEED A GUN) or better yet, "My infant has a rash in his mouth that looks like an allergic reaction, what should I do" (TURN OFF THE F*#^ING COMPUTER AND TAKE HIM TO A DOCTOR??!!), I got a little unhappy. I stopped signing into the site, I certainly stopped posting to the site, and I just sort of left well enough alone, content to advertise their site on my blog while they used my RSS feed on theirs.
Then the layoff happened, and with a little more time on my hands, I decided I should give the site another try. I googled "wellsphere," (because that was the original name of the site, though I received notification several months back it had been sold to Health Central). You know how google gives you a list of things you might be looking for as you type? Well, up pops "Wellsphere Scam."
Apparently I was one of thousands of health bloggers fooled by that so-called flattering letter. Dr. Rutledge had several versions that were sent out to us blog folk, all with the hopes of signing us on to his network. That's fine. Not even a problem, really. As far as a form letter goes, it was a damn good one.
The problem? Apparently there was something in the fine print that most of us missed. I have yet to clear up whether this was original to the agreement with Wellsphere, or if this is under the new Health Central rules, but they are claiming intellectual property rights to our content! They can use our material any which way they want, and there ain't a darn thing we can do about it (!). This does not sit well with me. Nor would I ever have agreed to it if I had seen it in the beginning.
I read webpage after webpage of health bloggers, some of whom were doctors and nurses, as to how these writers dissolved their partnership with Wellsphere. Scare tactics, lawsuits, vulgar postings, etc. I couldn't believe my eyes. I wrote to Dr. Rutledge yesterday, asking that he discontinue the RSS feed and remove my content from his site, and sent the same email to their general support. And so it begins....if it is necessary, I will remove this site and start anew. It's just so darn irritating. Here's hoping for an amicable solution.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Capital Grille

Monday was allergic mom's birthday. Yesterday was the allergic brother's birthday. We decided to all meet in Cherry Hill on Monday for the birthday celebrations, and allergic mom was dying to try the Capital Grille.
The experience was equal parts fascinating and allergic-diner friendly. Dinner isn't so much dinner at the Capital Grille as it is an experience. My allergies had been inquired about with the manager prior to my arrival, and Sharyn had assured my mother they would be able to take care of me.
Boy, did they ever!
After a lengthy recitation of the specialties of the house (all from memory), our server, Jason, had a chat with me about my allergies (apparently his wife is another of our kind, dear readers - she's allergic to the planet, too!). He even offered me a look at the ingredients of each dish, if I wanted. I declined, and simply asked for salmon, broiled plain (you know the drill, no seasoning, no oil, no dairy, and certainly nothing under the salmon to keep it from sticking to the skillet). I was even told I could have a baked potato (also plain - and they went so far as to leave it uncut to show me it was safe!), and that's not offered on their menu! Jason returned to the table, and asked if they could steam the fish for me, to guarantee no cross-contamination whatsoever. His words, not mine. I readily agreed.
The table had a calamari appetizer so spicy it cleared my sinuses, and I didn't have any! After allergic mom and NAH had their favorite lobster bisque, at which point both declared they couldn't eat another bite (I can report that it smelled phenomenal), dinner was served.
A kona-rubbed steak for allergic dad, halibut for NAH, a porterhouse for allergic brother, filet for allergic mom, and some light-pink, perfectly steamed salmon for yours truly. They served the baked potato uncut, still in the tinfoil to show me that it had touched nothing else.
At one point, the manager, Sharyn, even stopped by our table to check and make sure everything was perfect. When I was identified as the "allergied one," she spent some time talking to me about her son's allergies. It's amazing what a quick bond people can form over something like this.
Knowing that both our waiter, Jason, and the Capital Grille's manager, Sharyn, perfectly understood both the severity and complexity of my situation put me at ease. I had a fantastic meal, and could not have been any happier with the service.
Capital Grille, thank you for putting this allergic diner at ease. I never once felt out of place.

Your allergic diner
PS -- It is important to note that I did ask our waiter if I could include his name in this review, as I was that happy with his attention and service throughout the evening. He informed Sharyn, who returned with the business card of another manager (corporate), and asked me to clear my review with her. I did no such thing. In my view, having a corporation clear my review would taint it. Luckily, this review is so glowing, they have nothing to worry about!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

puffballs and the Bonefish Grill

So, my parents have puffballs. Not those weeds that grow on their lawn, but two pint-sized adorable balls of fluff that may one day grow into dogs. They're puppies, and they're adorable. (They're just so darn TINY!)

However, this presents a fabulous allergic problem. I'm allergic to dogs (it may have been mentioned in this blog before, no?). I don't begrudge my parents their decision at all, in fact, I'm really happy that they got the puppies. We have an understanding that my visits inside their house will be limited, and thankfully, with Atlantic City next door, it's not like we don't have anywhere to go out for a good meal, or candy(!), or shopping, or a movie, etc. Summer makes this allergy easier, as we can sit outside on the deck for the better part of the day.

This is Father's Day weekend, and what my dad wanted more than anything was an afternoon of card playing and a good ole' BBQ (allergic-diner friendly, of course). Well, mother nature had slightly different plans (seriously, if this keeps up, I'm purchasing a canoe! Good grief!). I Benadryl'ed up, we spent a couple hours in the house playing cards, and then we went out for an early dinner to Bonefish Grill.

We had a 5:30 reservation, of which they had no record, which might have been an ominous start, but they simply apologized profusely and seated us immediately. I'd been there once before with my family, and we knew they could accommodate my allergies.

So we placed our orders, Atlantic Charr for the allergic dad, fish and chips for the allergic mom, chicken marsala for NAH, and salmon for me "the absolute plainest you can possibly make it. No butter, no oil, no seasonings, not even parsley to make it look pretty." Not a problem. I was impressed.

I was MORE impressed, however, when 5 minutes later one of their CHEFS walked out of the kitchen, over to our table, and introduced himself, then spent a few minutes talking to me about what I needed from him. He offered to cook the fish on the grill in a non-stick pan to prevent cross-contamination, and then promised not to put a single thing in the pan (usually would use a non-stick spray, etc), if I promised not to be upset that it didn't look as nice as it normally would if he could play with it. I really liked this guy.

The food came, perfectly, and we had a lovely meal. I highly recommend Bonefish Grill to any allergy-affected patron (well, unless of course your allergy is to fish. This may not be the place for you). It was a fantastic evening!

To my allergic dad, and my non-allergic dad-in-law, HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!

Thank you, Bonefish Grill,

Your Allergic Diner

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Atlantic City

So Atlantic City is hurting from the economy, my friends. With a complimentary stay at the Tropicana, allergic mom and I decided to do what we could to help boost their economy.
I must say, I love Atlantic City not for the boardwalk, or the casinos, or the ocean, but because of the candy store! Naturally, the pier at Caesars was our first stop, for a visit to IT'SUGAR. Oh, how I love their wall of jelly beans.

The one thing I don't have to do, when I'm visiting a place I've been previously, is allergy-obsess. I didn't need to pre-determine where we would eat our meals. In a city that caters (ALOT) to the elderly, chances are good I can have anything I want anyway I'd like it.

We had a lovely lunch at Cafe Roma (Caesars' coffee shop), and I'd like to give a shout-out (my former students would be so proud of me) to our waiter, Orlando. This gentleman made me so comfortable, allergy-wise, that I'm contemplating having my birthday dinner there. Yes, allergic mom, you read that a coffee shop!I asked as to whether the egg salad or chicken salad had the dreaded evil green stalk, and he assured me that it didn't. I placed my order of a chicken salad sandwich and french fries, and allergic mom placed her order (yummy lobster salad sandwich and potato chips). About 10 minutes later, Orlando returned with my mom's sandwich, he said to me, "I was wrong, there is celery in both salads, I think you need to place another order." He handed me the menu, and waited with me and answered all my questions. I was blown away! He even arranged it so that I could have french fries with my egg white omelet with mushrooms. It was the best meal I had all weekend!

Dinner at the Tropicana (roast turkey dinner at the Seaside Cafe) was delicious and uneventful, as was breakfast there the next morning. It was a lovely, fun, active 24 hours. Thanks allergic mom!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Allergy Alert Recall

Tofutti has issued a precautionary recall of 12 pallets of Vanilla Cuties. Read about it here.

WholeFoods was out of my usual SO brand of soy ice cream sandwiches (the vanilla taste like the real thing, the chocolate and Neapolitan flavors are AWFUL). So I picked up mint chocolate chip tofutti cuties today. I will be calling their hotline just to make sure it's ok to eat them, and I'll check back in with you to let you know if they were any good!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

when life hands you lemons, make lemon zest...

Another food test:
Deli ham : Yes!
This was something I could eat as a kid (AND LOVED), but was forced to give up when I went through food testing. Deli meats in general have a ton of preservatives and spices, and tend to be discouraged for the allergic community. Case in point: Did you know a good portion of deli turkey has milk infused in it? Read the labels sometime, it's a real eye-opener.
I can't seem to digest meat flavored to taste like other meat, such as turkey bologna or turkey ham, but regular deli ham was o.k. That may seem like a weird comment (meat flavored to taste like other meat), so if you need me to explain, let me know.

Meanwhile, confessions of the allergic and unemployed?
I can food test without having to worry, because I'm in a safe environment.
If my allergies bother me, I can take medicine without having to worry that I will be unable to function at work. The low-dose allergy medicine never worked while I was out in the world (my work environment was not allergy-friendly), and the strong allergy medicine always made me feel like I was chewing on my tongue (thereby rendering me not productive). Unemployment: the solution to one's allergy problems! I am kidding, of course, but if ever there had to be a silver lining, I'm o.k. with this one.

Off to chase that whole "relaxation" thing that everyone keeps talking about...

Thursday, May 07, 2009

More food test results...

Pumpkin and nutmeg: YAY!
This post brought to you by non-allergic mom's amazing pumpkin bread. YUM!

Thank you!
~Allergic Diner

This time, camera in hand!

I am here with pictures of that fantastic chicken, referenced in the previous post. About a week ago, I had a package of chicken with which I knew not what to do. NAH kindly suggested, "You know that chicken you made that you said was orange chicken, but doesn't taste like fruit at all? Let's have that." It was Sunday, ergo, I bring to you, Sunday Chicken...

In the pan...

And on the plate! Served over couscous with broccoli......YUM!

Happy allergy-free eating,
Your allergic diner

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It doesn't have a fruity taste, which is wierd, right?

So when life hands you lemons, make lemon rind (right, K?). A good friend of mine considers that the foodie's guide to life. Lemonade is apparently just too easy.
I stumbled across a recipe on one of my many cooking sites I've been visiting in my newly found spare time (lemons) that I tweaked until it was allergic-diner friendly (lemon rind!).
How good was it? I wasn't allowed to throw away the last, lonely piece of chicken (we had devoured his friends and were just too full). It was removed from the fridge this a.m. when I went looking to take its picture. Sorry about that. This may be one of the greatest things I've ever made!

1.5 lbs of chicken thighs, bone-in
1 cup of orange juice
2 to 3 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 envelope of onion soup mix
2 Tbsp. of garlic powder
1.5 Tbsp of minced garlic
1 Tbsp. of ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350. Rinse chicken thoroughly (LEAVE SKIN ON) and place in 9x13 Pyrex dish. Mix all other ingredients in a bowl, and pour over chicken. Bake for 1.5 hours. The chicken will brown, the skin will crisp, and this will be quite tasty! YOU MUST MAKE SURE YOU CHECK AND BASTE THE CHICKEN OFTEN.

We had ours with couscous and broccoli, and used the extra chicken sauce to pour over everything. It was scrumptious! Promises for a picture next time (which will be soon).


Saturday, April 18, 2009

The following is not an allergy post....

Well, my friends, it looks like I will now have ample time to write to you. I was laid off this week. I'm angry, I'm frightened, and I'm now a statistic in this fantastic economy.

Rather than mope (too much), I am attempting to search for the good in this. All I've been saying for the last 6 months is how I've had writer's block, and would like more time to write. So my question to you is this, can anyone point me in the direction of some freelance work? I write, I edit, and I am incredible on paper (if I do say so myself). I've been laid off for 48 hours and already submitted two articles for publication. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, I am going to do the unthinkable. LEARN TO RELAX (no laughing, you family members reading this!!)....we'll see if the adage about the old dog actually holds...

Your allergic diner

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Great Loss

Harry, we will miss you!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Shortest post ever

Food allergy test result:
Tangerines - YAY!

I've been sidelined. Will resume posting when I resume cooking. Though NAH does make some darn good allergy-free meals (THANK YOU!)

Friday, March 06, 2009

puppies and kiwis, oh my!

Well, it's been awhile. My apologies. I'm busy with work, and in this economy, I'm very, very, very thankful to be able to say that.

Here's an interesting tidbit: My dentist has a new puppy.

How is that allergy-blog related? Well, I'm so glad you asked. When I went for my appointment this week, I found out about the puppy. SHE BRINGS THE PUPPY TO THE OFFICE. Now as an allergy-phobe, this presents a whole set of problems, no? Also, just from a cleanliness standpoint, this is kind of unnerving.
I was very upfront about insisting she wash her hands (I saw her handle a freaking dog toy), and don the latex-free gloves. But I think I'll be switching dentists soon.

Good grief! In other not-s0-fun news, Kiwi Food Test? Bad. Didn't eat enough for a full-blown reaction, just enough to be very uncomfortable for a while. You know what, though? I'm still glad I tried!

Your Allergic Diner

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Happy Accident (or the adventures of the teeny-tiny chicken), whichever suits your fancy

I'm a creative cook, but I also love the basics. One of my favorite meals is a stuffed, roasted chicken.

Several weeks ago, I purchased a teeny-tiny roaster chicken for my crockpot. I chopped two baked potatoes (peeled, of course) into the bottom of the crockpot, chopped up an onion and placed it in the chicken's cavity (after I had rinsed the whole thing), and then lovingly sprinkled some garlic powder, onion powder, and salt and pepper on top. 1/4 cup of water went in the crockpot, and then I lined the top with fresh carrots.

Typically, slow cooker recipes suggest 6-8 hours for a roast chicken. Not a problem. Anal-retentive cook that I am, At 4 hours I went in to flip the chicken, so that it would cook evenly on both sides. My first clue that something was going to go wrong was that when I flipped it, the wings came loose. Or rather, came right off. I was not using much force (it was a 4 lb chicken, after all), so I was simply pleased that it was cooking that well, and decided it would just be a rather juicy chicken.

HAH. When I went back 2 1/2 hours later, and poked the chicken, it FELL APART. Not kidding, it shredded in the pot. I'd never seen this happen, and I momentarily freaked. Then I checked the remaining contents of the pot. I removed all the chicken (an arduous process if you've ever seen one fall apart). Picked all of the bones out and threw the chicken back in, but there was a lot of liquid. Thinking fast, I glanced in the cupboard and pulled out the whole wheat couscous. Added about 1 cup (it absorbs liquid as it cooks). Yum - but no color outside of some carrots - I now had somewhat-passable chicken MUSH. I reached into the freezer and pulled out a steam-in-bag broccoli and cauliflower, microwaved it, and then added it to the MUSH. Presto change-o, the mush became stew, I had salvaged the meal, super-hero style, and NAH LOVED the CHICKEN STEW!! (I even had about 3 cups of cooked chicken left over for chicken salad, an allergic diner fav.)

It was so darn good, in fact, that I replicated it yesterday. And this time I took pictures.....and the cost?About $10. And we have leftovers for at least another night. About $10 for two nights for two people. Three servings of vegetables, 1 of whole grains, and a lean protein. No dairy, no allergic ingredients....what a happy accident!
The adventures of 1, teeny-tiny chicken...
Start with an Allergic Diner's best friend....

Take 1 teeny, tiny chicken, 3 baking potatoes (added an additional one this week), 1 cup fresh carrots, 1 cup of fresh mushrooms and 1 onion. Sprinkle with seasoning....
Give it 4 hours, then flip. At 7 hours, remove whole chicken (CAREFULLY), and shred, removing bones. Add 1 cup of whole wheat couscous to pot, stir. Return chicken to pot. Microwave bag of cauliflower. Add to pot. Stir. Allow to simmer about 15 minutes. Chicken stew!!!

The BEFORE and AFTER...and while it may not look like much, it tastes incredible!

How am I so sure that it was about $10, you'd like to know?

Easy - teeny tiny chicken ($5.17); 1 onion ($0.69); 1 cup carrots ($0.67); 1 cup mushrooms ($0.79); 1 cup whole wheat couscous ($0.89); 3 baking potatoes ($1.45); cauliflower - steam in bag variety ($1.99) = $11.65 (ok, not $10 exactly, but pretty darn close!)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Evil Blob. Happy Ending

Last week, my allergic family all went to Restone American Grill in Marlton, NJ. We'd been there over the summer and had wonderful food and a nice dining experience, so I was confident in their abilities to handle my allergies.
When I ordered, I told our waitress to please "bring my salmon and baked potato as plain as possible, no dairy, no oil, no seasoning on anything, and please tell the chef to resist the urge to make it look pretty as it leaves the kitchen. Most importantly, the vegetable side with the tomato marmalade (coulis?) can not GO ANYWHERE NEAR/ON MY PLATE. I have terrible allergies (cue showing of med-alert bracelet here)"
The last time we went, I took pictures of how lovely the food looked. You'll note that there are no pictures this time. As everyone was handed their plates, mine was given to me by a different runner. It was evident that my plate had been kept separate so they could monitor it more carefully, and this made me very happy. Until I actually looked at my plate. There it was, about 2 inches wide. An evil red blob of tomato-ness. The waitress, who had come up behind the runner to check on our table caught my look of horror and said "is everything alright?"
"NO. There is tomato on the plate. I can't eat this. Please take it back."
Under my breath I muttered to NAH that I would simply eat at home, that after a mistake like this I wasn't feeling comfortable enough to eat.
She insisted upon having a new plate made for me.
ME: "You don't understand how serious this is. I appreciate that this isn't your fault, but I need you to make sure that the fish and potato aren't simply rinsed off and put on a clean plate. I also need you to make sure that the tomato isn't simply removed from the plate and the plate wiped clean. If you want to re-do this, please please please make sure it's a clean plate and brand new piece of fish and potato."
The manager comes over--the waitress disappears (I assure you I wasn't making a scene). He was alerted by the runner that there had been a problem. "What can I do to make this better?" Waitress reappears. I wanted to crawl into the nearby fireplace. Appetite was long gone, to say the least.
ME: "Honestly? I would like the same meal with the reassurance that it is a clean plate, new piece of fish, and new potato. I don't need anything other than that, honest."
Waitress: "I just went back there and personally disposed of both the fish and the potato, and put the plate in the dish pile. They're currently cooking you a new fish and potato, and they'll be fired and out here in 10 minutes."
Damn, was I impressed.
10 minutes later, brand new dinner, sparkling clean plate, no traces of butter,oil, or evil blobs. And I believed her, and trusted them, and ate it with no anxiety, and it was delicious.
As I was eating, Mr. Manager reappeared, leaned into my ear, and said very quietly "the house would like to treat you to your next glass of wine as an apology for what happened, and please let me know if there is anything else we can do to turn this experience around for you."
WOW. And completely unnecessary.
ME: "That's very sweet, but there is no way I can have a second glass of wine, and you don't need to comp me anything. I just needed a safe meal. I really appreciate your attention to all of this."
Evil Blob. Happy Ending.

Monday, February 02, 2009

This was news to me....

Did you know that in the City of New York, not all responding EMS ambulances have epinephrine available?

Rx for EMS Allergy Roulette: Mom urges city to put lifesaving remedy in all trucks

I wonder if this is the case in other cities as well. I will try to follow up and report back. Frightening. Make sure you carry an epi-pen and that your prescription is up-to-date.

Your Allergic Diner

Friday, January 30, 2009

Food Boredom 2

I wanted to take a picture of the bright orange color of these perfectly glazed carrots. I really, really did. And then NAH and I ate the WHOLE thing. 8 oz of carrots per person. If we keep this up, we will have superhero vision. Or we'll turn orange, as one of my friends had happen to her palms growing up. To be fair, she ate so many carrots we used to joke about her previous life as a rabbit. Anyway...

The recipe (sans picture, my apologies)...

Glazed Mini Carrots (to make dairy-free, substitute soy butter!). Eating Well is 2 for 2 in my book.

The Internet is the best cookbook EVER!
Your allergic diner

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Food boredom

Ever get tired of cooking the same things? Or eating the same things? As someone with allergies and an extraordinary amount of limitations on things I cannot eat (seriously, no tomatoes, olive oil, oregano, anything heavily dairy, and the list goes on), I find that 'food boredom' occurs several times a year. I have about 20 allergy free meals that I can cook rather well, and I'm proud of that. The challenge is always to find more. I've previously admitted to being a cooking nerd, but the fascination with all things culinary was born out of a necessity not to eat the same safe foods all the time. I did that during my "food testing/allergy diagnosis/7 million doctor visits until it was determined that it was allergies making me ill" years, and I never want to eat that many turkey sandwiches again. I just don't.

Here's an easy, allergy-free (FOR ME - this is NOT gluten free) recipe to share. I adapted it from an Eating Well recipe.

"New side dish NAH will eat and then finish off b/c he enjoyed it so much"

1/2 cup of whole wheat couscous
3/4 cup of chicken broth
1/2 cup of chopped scallions
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. onion powder
dash white pepper

It's this simple: bring to a boil all seasonings, chicken broth, and scallions. Stir in couscous and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and let sit for 5 minutes (in which it absorbs all broth - like magic!). Fluff with fork. Serve.

I give him credit for trying something new. It certainly helps alleviate my food boredom!
I hope you enjoy this as well.
Your allergic diner

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


This, my friends, is obviously a sign that the end of the world is upon us. I need a panic room.

Enough said, no?

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Year, New Look

You may have noticed the drastic new look. If you didn't notice, the allergic diner blog has a drastic new look. I'd love your thoughts. This is what happens when I have to stay put too long (yes, I'm referencing the below). If you're new to the site, welcome!

Getting sauced

I have two small confessions to make here in blogland. One, I have an extraordinarily hard time staying put for long periods of time. Two, and not to make my other kitchen appliances jealous, I LOVE my crockpot. I'm actually aiming to be the first woman to need a replacement crockpot as a result of overuse in the first several years of marriage.
When you combine both of the above you're left with a house that always smells fantastic. As a food nerd, I'm always cooking something. I prefer to be doing so in the crockpot, so that I may do several other things at once.

Last week I hit the mothership of all food blogs, at least for myself. A Year of Crockpotting. I won't fill you in too much, but it's a lady who loves her crockpot and uses it everyday. I could tout her virtues, or the treasure trove of recipes on the site (some for us food-intolerant folk), but instead, I will give you this. This, reprinted with her permission, is the world's greatest crockpot applesauce recipe. I love applesauce, and I love my crockpot (have I mentioned that?). This will make your house smell as if you're baking a dozen apple pies....and it's incredibly tasty as well! And healthy! Thank you, crockpot lady!

This makes enough for 4 people. If you would like to freeze or can, use more apples.
--4 large apples, skinned ,cored, and cut in quarters
--juice from 1 lemon
--1/2 tsp cinnamon
--1 tsp vanilla
--1 T brown sugar
--1/4 cup H20
Skin, core, and cut your apples into quarters. Plop the pieces into your crockpot. Add the juice from the lemon, and the water. Pour in the vanilla (I used imitation--we were out of the good stuff), and add the cinnamon and brown sugar. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours. When the apples are super tender, mash with a potato masher or large fork. My apples were very tender after 6 hours, and I used a fork.
Now, she made hers in a 4-quart crockpot, while I used my 6-quart and it was finished a little quicker (about 4 hours). I added raisins and extra cinnamon to the finished product, but it was FANTASTIC on it's own. I cannot stop eating this!
Here's to allergy-free HEALTHY recipes!
Your allergic, crockpot-lovin' diner

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

File Under "B" for Bizarre

Dreams are a funny thing. Lately I've been having these fantastic dreams about places I like to go, and then I wake up, and I'm not on Main Street in Disney World, and I have to drag myself out of bed. It isn't that I don't want to get up, mind you, it's simply that I'd rather be waking up in a Disney Resort then heading out the door for a day of work. Who wouldn't?!

Anyway, back to dreams. As an allergic person I find that I dream about food, a lot. Usually its my anxiety manifesting itself in my sleep, as I accidentally ingest a teaspoon of celery seed and then can't find the epi-pen, or the Benadryl. Sometimes I dream that I'm catering a big, fancy dinner, and other times I just dream about missing ice cream. In the past few weeks, I've had this recurring dream with which I have no idea what to do: I'm eating spaghetti and meatballs, in red sauce (in case that isn't readily apparent).

Red sauce. The kind with chunks of tomato, oregano, and cheese. I sit, I eat the whole plate while I'm at dinner with NAH, and I'm fine. Completely fine. Is my subconscious trying to tell me I should try tomato again? Doubtful. In fact, I'd bet money on the fact that I'm just yearning to be a normal out-to-dinner person. However, it's got me thinking, and in the past week I've made a list of the foods I want to try (some of them fall in the 'again' category) this year. Some of them fall into the "is this too much lactose or spice for me to stomach" category.

pears (green and brown)
butternut squash
goat cheese
blue cheese
refried beans
red velvet cake

There is a part of me that wants to try the tomato. I even know how to do it, as a processed, small bite, sitting outside of the hospital with NAH next to me and an epi-pen in hand. And really, that's enough to stop me, right there.

This past year I tried a few food tests, in a safe environment, and discovered this:
I'm highly allergic to fresh blueberries, but can eat raspberries without a problem. I am no longer allergic to pineapple. I still cannot eat fresh peaches, nectarines or apples, but I can eat any of them cooked (and especially in a pie!).

Thanks for listening,
Your allergic (tomato-free ) diner

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Paul Blart, Mall Cop. Enough said.

A walk down memory lane...

Every once in awhile someone newly diagnosed with allergies will ask me about my experiences dealing, well, with idiots. That was part of the purpose in creating this blog. I wanted to help allergic patrons become proactive in their experiences. I also, secretly, wanted to help them in combat with the idiots.

As you've seen, I have my ups and downs in restaurants, just like the rest of you. One of my favorite stories, is from back when I was in college. This, my friends, is one of my favorite idiot experiences....

Allergic Mom and I were in Tysons Corner for a girls' weekend about 8 years ago. We stayed in a nice hotel and went to the in-hotel restaurant one day for lunch. Our waiter approached and began to tell us about the specials, and he seemed like a nice enough guy. One of the specials was tomato bisque. We politely said no thank you, and as allergic mom went to order, the gentleman asked us if we were sure we wouldn't reconsider, as tomatoes contain lycopene, which is important for health and combating diseases, especially cancer. I said, thank you, but I can't, I'm allergic to tomatoes. This man looked me right in the eye and said (I swear I'm not joking), "Well then you're going to get cancer!!!!"
Allergic mom and I were appalled, and it was perhaps the only time I can ever remember not leaving a 20% tip.

Anyway, I'm starting a new feature on this blog, which I will call, "REALLY?"
For all those moments in your life (like the above) where you wish you could pause what was going on, turn to your imaginary friend/viewing audience/coworkers/family members and say "Really?"
This is for you. It will NOT always have to do with allergies. Basically, I'm now going to use this blog for a little bit of snark in addition to all the fun anecdotes, reviews and information. Happy 2009!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why I'm a dumbass. My apologies if that language is objectionable

But really, I call 'em as I see 'em. And my friends, I have sincere moments of dumbass-ery.
Last week my asthma started bothering me, pretty badly. I started breathing treatments, but it wasn't an easy week of breathing. When you can't breathe, everything else is more difficult. It is a little harder to sleep, a little harder to do normal chores, and exercising? Completely out of the question. Now, I know from experience that if I use the medications and take it easy (rest...that dreaded "r" word), that I will be alright in a relatively short amount of time.

After two days of medicine, I noticed I seem to be much worse at work. MUCH much worse. As I'm figuring this out, someone in my office points out that there is a terrible mold smell wafting in from the hallway. DING! (that is the sound when the allergic diner's light flicks on). I'm allergic to mold. Several of us spoke with the powers that be, and then it was nothing more than a waiting game. My Dr. was nice enough to give me something called Singulair (?) and said to me "If you have asthma problems that last more than 3-5 days, I want you to start on this, and then come see me three days later if it hasn't cleared up." In the cabinet it went last year, and I only remembered it on Sunday. I woke up Monday morning feeling AWESOME. I don't even have words to describe the joy of the deep breath, or a good night's sleep, or feeling like my old self. I'm sure the asthmatics out there know exactly what I mean.

On Monday afternoon, I was one of the few people left on my level of our office building, and one of the Big Cheeses brought in a mop and bucket and asked me if I was one of the people having difficulty with the mold problem.
I was.
Would I mind smelling what he was holding to see if that was the source of the foul smell?
Of course not.
I bent down.
It was.
Mold found.
Problem immediately removed.
Lungs on FIRE.

Sometimes I worry about what NAH has to deal with,
Your Allergic Diner...

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Children of the world, EAT MORE DIRT!

Happy New Year, allergic and non-allergic readers. It is 2009 (thank goodness).

Starting off this posting with a link to Sunday's article in TIME magazine, "Have Americans Gone Nuts Over Nut Allergies?"

In short, yes, we have. I'm sure that some of my readers will give me crap for this, but we have. I hold out hope that any children NAH and I might have one day will eat dirt, dig for worms, and behave, well, as CHILDREN. I will not be there squirting anti-bacterial onto their hands the moment they walk through the door, or frantically looking up the chemical component of said dirt to ensure their health and safety. You see, it isn't that I will be a lax parent, I won't. The article above confirms/suggests what a lot of people believe, that over-conscious hygiene has caused somewhat of an allergy surge. It might. My parents never met me at the door and yelled at me to immediately wash my hands (just before dinner), and my allergies have developed and changed (gotten worse or gone none-existent - again, how good is pineapple?) over time. Say what you will, but I think my tomboy childhood worked for me. In my case, I believe (as does my allergist) that it was just unfortunate genes (and I've saved years on therapy bills simply by knowing I can blame my parents). It happens.

I believe that allergies have become so over-hyped that people have stopped listening and started rolling their eyes. That's a serious problem. You hear waiters and columnists say time and again to PLEASE, do not tell a server you don't want a food b/c you're allergic if you're really not (people do this all the time-damn them!). I worry that people will go on autopilot after simply hearing too much information, and that's the worst thing that could happen to true allergy sufferers.

A family who has a child with an allergy, especially when it isn't an anaphylactic one, who becomes a champion of the cause, educating those around them ad nauseum, becomes part of the problem. To whom? To their child! You see, a child with an allergy already has a limitation. The bigger deal made of that allergy (especially when it isn't a life-or-death allergy, and YES, there are differences in allergies and allergic reactions, you skeptics) the harder it will be for that child. What you don't want is a kid who can't eat raw carrots b/c they make his throat itch equating himself with a peanut-allergic child who carries an epi-pen and wears a med-alert bracelet. Now, nobody wants to be the parent of the kid who taunts the peanut-allergic child, either. But there is a MASSIVE difference between educating and understanding and hysteria.

The other problem, that no one talks about? Part of the over-hyped allergy madness is directly correlated to the fear of lawsuits. I have friends who believe that whatever the reason for the allergy madness, it's a good thing people are finally listening. That may be. But to the woman who's school insists on a 504 and a special allergy lunch table for her child because he has a minor allergy to fish? Even after the doctor told mom that it was ok for him to sit with the other children? It's irrational, and it's unfair to the child. It's unfair to the parents.

Yes, I say this as a highly-allergic person. BRING IT ON, my friends!

Moving on...
We had a very fuzzy (and by fuzzy I do mean fuzzy lined shoes) and lovely Hanukkah, and a very warm and thoughtful Christmas (Non Allergic Mom found me allergy cookbooks!, about which I will be writing in the future). NAH and I have been able to watch some football recently (GO EAGLES!). I am happy to report that the month of December, though incredibly busy, was allergy-free. I'm back....
Your Allergic Diner