Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW, Psychotherapist; Specialist in Food Allergy Management, Speaking At Mylan Specialty / EpiPen Event (© Noel Malcolm 2013)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking

Betty Crocker created a gluten-free line of some of their classics last year including cake, brownies, cookie mixes and even  Bisquick. They have now combined those mixes with a book on how to use them and incorporate them into a gluten-free lifestyle. Published by Wiley (also, my book publisher), Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking has 150 recipes, all gluten-free. They sent me a review copy to check out. (On their website they also have a listing of allergen-friendly cookbooks, not just their own, including my faves like Cybele Pascal’s Cookbooks:  )
What I didn't love about
Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking:Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking: uses every allergen but wheat, barely and the major culprits of gluten. There are diary, eggs, soy, tree nuts, peanut, fish and shellfish ingredients all throughout Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking. So, if you have a celiac plus multi-allergy or multi-sensitivity household, Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking may not for you. Or if you want to be gluten-free but have severe allergies to any of those ingredients you will be making many substitutions and there is no way to know how the recipes may turn out as they don’t provide for substitutions.
The recipes in
Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking call for gluten-free items to be added (like yogurt or deli meats) but have no listing of where to get those items or what substitutions are safe (many specialty cookbooks provide lists of safe flours and purveyor, for example). For new gluten-free cooks, this will pose an issue and may cause some unintentional gluten-free mistakes.

What I have mixed feelings about in
Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking i.e. I see this as a con and a pro:
Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking recipes use a lot of American processed foods and convenience foods. Those foods are usually high in sugar, salt and fats.  However, Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking also gives the nutritional information so you can make an educated choice for you and your family about each meal plan and how much sugar, fat and salt intake you are consuming
The recipes in
Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking remind me of a baking or cookbook from the 1950s e.g. sloppy joe pie.  As I've never had tuna casserole or sloppy joe I don't know how these recipes stack up but I can say it seems the trend has turned to healthier choices. So, if you're a eating a classic bake, Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking has updated these classics adding the nutritional information per serving added as well as making them gluten-free.
The good news about
Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking:
The information about celiac disease is correct which is not always the case with GF baking or cooking books.
The recipes use both homemade flour mixes (the recipes for which they give but again no hint of which flour purveyor is safe) and Betty Crocker brand prepared mixes which gives the reader more flexibility.
The recipes that use the pre-made Betty Crocker brand mixes look easy (NB: I haven’t yet tried them).
For a newly diagnosed celiac or gluten intolerant person,
Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking has lots of easy dishes both sweet and savory, appetizers and entrees that you can whip up in no time using both processed foods and fresh produce.
Upshot on
Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking
There is no one book that is perfect for everyone. But the more books out there, the better for anyone who has celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or gluten intolerance. Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking will be helpful to many in the GF community who are newly diagnosed, teens just learning to bake, cook and experiment or extended family members just learning how to bake yummy GF treats for loved one.
As for me, I've flagged three new recipes to make for my next dinner party: snickerdoodles, coffee cake and whoopie pie cake. And I'm betting, given the quality of the Betty Crocker mixes, they won't know the difference.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cochinita, Brooklyn, NY

As an Allergic Girl who coaches the food allergic community about living well with food allergies, I love hearing about new, potentially safe dining-out spots. I was excited when a little bird, GFBird on Twitter, told me about a new restaurant in Brooklyn that she thought I'd want to try: 

"I came across an eatery in Brooklyn that may be Sloane-friendly. It's called Cochinita, and is 100% GF, save for a few brands of regular bottled beer. In chatting up the owner, Adam, I found out that he has severe nut and shellfish allergies, so I know he "gets it", as far as cross-contamination, etc. It's a very casual place, with a small space for indoor seating and a backyard patio opening in mid-May...a great place to have in your back pocket if you'll be out and about in Brooklyn." Here’s her review on her blog, GF Bird.

An allergic boy running a restaurant? This I definitely had to check out. I had some back and forth over email with Adam Frank, the owner and chef about his allergies and about what he serves. He is peanut, tree nut and shellfish allergic. They have no tree nut or peanuts or shellfish on site and one fish dish, fish tacos. He asked me if being near fish would bother me. No, I replied but so kind of you to ask. (Very important to know your food allergic situation – go back to your board certified allergist if you have questions about aerosolized proteins.) So off we went to talk with Adam and try his cuisine. Here’s a video about our wonderful experience.

Cochinita, which means little pig, is a Mexican-based restaurant and Chef/Owner Adam is clearly passionate about that cuisine and his restaurant. A clean, tidy, modern space with an open kitchen, they were prepping their mini-flans, fish for tacos and afterwards, beef for tacos.  Everyone was properly gloved and washing up (I watched) in their separate preparation sections.

The Cochinita menu is tailored (read: small) which is good for those with dietary restrictions as there are not many ingredients nor allergens to contend with.  Adam went over how he creates the recipes himself, they have a recipe book behind the counter if you have questions about the ingredients of a dish (love that), all the necessary sanitizing steps they take, as well as cross contamination precautions. Feeling secure enough to try (on camera!), with all my emergency medications on me, my emergency plan in my phone and my safe friend with me (the producer, Heidi Bayer of Numodo and Brooklyn Allergy Mom), I dove in.

I tried the beef taco (made with a tiny amount of gf tamari) which is, I think, my fave. A brisket-like cut of beef, with that background note of extra umami from the gf tamari equaled delish. The pork was next up, so flavorful, perfectly pulled, well-spiced and seasoned. The chicken, that’s the plate with the rice and beans in the video, was like the chicken you’d pull after you made a chicken soup – tender, tasting of carrots, celery and onion and simple. The rice – what is in there Adam? Green love? (and some cilantro). They have one fryer and all it makes are fried tortilla chips, dedicated to corn chips, only in canola oil.

And if you needed more incentive, everything is green - plates, forks, spoons, cups - all compostable - which they do as well. LOVE!

Everything was delicious, well-seasoned and totally yummy. OK, now are you ready to watch the video? Here it is!

Thank you Adam and Cochinita for creating a safe space for those of us who love homemade, authentic Mexican cuisine. And like to be green. And happen to have dietary restrictions.

Contact Adam at if you have additional questions and tell him Allergic Girl sent you!

922 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Monday, May 14, 2012

"Yes, and..."

My childhood was all "Yes, but...".  

Yes, I'd love to come over for a play date, but I can't because you have dogs and I'm allergic. Yes, I'd love to have a piece of your birthday cake but it has tree nuts and I'm allergic. Yes, I'd love to go outside and play but I'll get asthma and be allergic. 

Real yes, buts, serious ones one that if I ignored had serious health consequences, but yes buts all the same. And it conditioned me and my interactions with the world in a very specific way.

I became aware of this subtle and powerful conditioning in my teens and twenties and worked very hard in the ensuing years to undo all those "yes, but..." sentences, thoughts and perceptions; to increase spontaneity while staying safe. I started this blog to explore that concept; I wrote my book about how to say "yes, and..." stay safe, and I coach adults, families, children and teens about how to do say "Yes!" in their every day lives while having a plan.

I thought I had excised all of my yes, buts. Then I signed up for a comedy improvisation class at The Pit. It was a stressful, unknown, new situation and I discovered all of those yes, buts waiting for me and flying out of my mouth at any chance they got.

The core premise of improv is to say "Yes, and..." to your partner. It means not merely being spontaneous, which again, as someone with a severe medical condition can be challenging at the best of times, but to say "Yes!" to everything presented, which will open up you and the scene to new pathways or to something potentially funny or brilliant or clever or goofy or simply bring the scene to the next place.

Here's an article New York Times article about the tenets of improv in a business setting.

Here is a podcast that will go live on Thursday May 15, 2012 by my Level 0 instructor, Rachel Oakes.

Even considering an improv class was a huge yes but as in my head, I thought: "Yes! It sounds like fun but I'm terrified of acting on stage." I love speaking in public to groups large or small. Love it! Have no fear. Training during graduate school for my poetry master's degree is a huge contributor to that love, no doubt. When you have to get up there week after week, reading your own poetry, which is usually very personal, you overcome any fear about being exposed and become easy with being at the podium or on stage - at least I did. But acting?! As someone else?! On stage?! Terrifying. I have experience in that as well as I took after-school classes at The Actors Studio starting at seven, continued for years, and disliked every second of it. So, knowing this about myself and that the core of improv was acting and that yes, and, I challenged myself by signing up.

When under pressure in class, I fell back on old habits of yes buts. I set up challenges, blocks or yes, butted my partners versus yes, anding them. What an incredible insight and learning experience and three hours of laughing at each other and our selves. It was liberating in way I hadn't expected, insight-giving in a way I hadn't anticipated and fulfilling in a way I couldn't have known ahead of time. I'm going back for another round, the next level of classes and this one has a show at the end of it. (Eek!) That truly is my worst yes but - a live show - and I'm doing it anyway!


Do you find yourself or your food allergic loved one yes, butting or yes, anding their life? Start listening closer and see how many yes and or yes buts you say in a day, or a week, when stressed or when happy?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Maialino, Gluten-Free Pasta

Two gluten-free pasta dishes side by side.

Chef Nick Anderer has taken "gluten-free" to heart.

Last summer, when we did the NY1 restaurant week spot, Chef Nick, Executive Chef and part owner of the beautiful Maialino in the Gramercy Park Hotel talked about how accommodating his restaurant is for their patrons with dietary restrictions. He then told me that they had dried gluten-free corn-based pasta in the back in case anyone requested it. I had my first taste that day, on camera (I think that shoy was cut) and it quickly became my favorite dish on the menu (before that I hadn't ordered any pasta mainly proteins and veggies - all fab and allergen-free for me).

As of January 2012, Chef Nick and his team took it several steps farther by creating their own fresh, gluten-free pasta in-house with a base of rice flour. I was at Maialino for a meeting last week, and I was able to try this new, and rather, miraculous creation.

Before I did, Chef went over the ingredients used in the new pasta and brought out a bag of their  dried pasta for me to look at, as well. We went over the ingredients in both pasta sauces - the sausage they make in house, no nuts only fennel seeds - and all passed my internal vetting process. I tried a new pasta and new pasta sauce and compared it to my now favorite corn-based gluten-free pasta.

My favorite dish, picture below, was wonderful as always: all'Amatriciana. The dried corn-based pasta tastes very close to its wheat-full cousin - I had some additional non-gluten-free testers on this project who agreed.

Penne all'Amatriciana

However, the gluten-free fresh, rice based fettuccine should be in its own category of "oh my goodness". I haven't had fresh pasta since, well, the mid-2000s and I don't know if I recall that it was this good. This pasta was light, fresh tasting, soft but perfectly cooked and the yellow color comes from the addition of eggs - which just made me happy to look at. The fettuccine strands were clearly made with skill, and I have to say it, love.

Fettuccine with sausage

Very Important Nota Bene: Chef Nick said they make the fresh gluten-free pasta in the same room that they make their fresh wheat-based pasta. They use all precautions to keep ingredients separate and uncontaminated but he stressed that it is important for a potential fresh GF pasta diner to know that. I had no issues but I am only wheat intolerant, not allergic nor celiac. So, this pasta may or not be appropriate for your needs
, depending.

Thank you Maialino Team - I am over the moon with this dish and Chef Nick for taking the initiative to create it. I can't wait to head back!

2 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10010

(212) 777-2410 

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

FAAN, FAI Merge, 2012

Just in from Facebook: FAAN and FAI to merge by the end of 2012. Press releases from FAAN and FAI [Disclosure: I have a relationship with FAAN]:

We are pleased to inform you that the nation’s two leading food allergy organizations are uniting to advance a cure and promote education for food allergy. The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) and the Food Allergy Initiative (FAI) today announced their intent to merge, pending regulatory approvals.

Here is a helpful Q&A from FAAN about the merger. 

Friday, May 04, 2012

Sisterhood, NYTimes

I talk about safe friends on this blog, in my book, in coaching sessions and in the talks that I gave during the FAAN conferences about building food allergy confidence. Generally speaking, a safe friend, in my definition is: non-judgmental, supportive, flexible, open, understanding that food allergies are a medical need ("safe" for you is whatever you make it).  

Recently, the New York Times agreed (more or less): “Researchers have lately gathered abundant evidence that female friendship is one of nature’s preferred narrative tools.”  From the New York Times, The Spirit of Sisterhood Is in the Air and on the Air

"You have to have somebody to hang onto,” Dr. Seyfarth said. “A friend gives you an element of predictability and certainty, and you can use that to buffer you against all the things you don’t have control over. There’s a biochemical component to this.” A familiar friend calms and equilibrates, mops up the cortisol spills that can weaken the immune system, and in so doing may help lengthen life — in baboons, humans and other group-minded kinds. “Yes, having coffee with friends is good for you,” Dr. Silk said, “and we should all do it often."

Can you equally point to the supporters in your life who truly get your dietary restrictions? I hope yes! Now take that knowledge and help your child to find those people in their lives. Whether two years old or 20, safe friendships abound. Find them, lean on them. Need some assistance finding a safe friend? I’m here -  ask me!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Wine, Food Allergies

I wrote about allergens in the wine making process eons ago (here and here) but now there’s a new trend about transparency in labeling. See this story from The Washington Post:

"Wine’s dirty little secret is that it isn’t just fermented grape juice. It might include added sugar, tartaric acid, various yeasts and yeast nutrients, color enhancers, gum arabic, gelatin, egg whites, fish bladders (isinglass) and any of a long list of other additives allowed by the federal government but not required to be listed on the wine label. That color and mouth feel you love, even the flavor, might come not from grapes, but from a jar."

Questions? I know you’ve got them. Go back to your board certified allergist about what is right for you and your needs concern wine and allergens. Need an allergist? Go to AAAAI, or ACAAI to find a local allergist near you.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Plentils, Enjoy Life Foods

I’m mental for Plentils. I received samples from Enjoy Life Foods of each flavor a few weeks back and thought: oh, I’ll just try one chip of each flavor, to get a sense, ya know – no biggie. Ahem, I had one bag. Of each flavor. By myself. Which means, I liked them. A lot.

I’m not a snacker by nature; I’m not a chocolate person or salty treat person but I gobbled these up. My favorite right now is the pizza flavor but the dill and sour cream is a close second.  Truly, I loved them all and they are all the more delectable because they are made from one of my trusted brands Enjoy Life Foods who makes top 8 free goodies.

Yes, top 8 allergen-free. So even though they have dairy-tasting flavors they have no diary in them. Here is their nutritional information and Enjoy Life Foods's allergen policies.

When I asked point blank how these tasted like dairy yet contain no diary, here’s Enjoy Life's official statement: “We utilize the assistance of flavor manufacturers, who, through the use of natural flavors create a proprietary mix that reproduces the taste and olfactory properties of dairy without using actual dairy ingredients.”

If you have a dairy allergic loved one, contact Enjoy Life Foods directly about your needs. Take into deep consideration that eating a dairy-tasting product, may not be for you either emotionally and physically.

If you have a peanut and/or legume allergic loved one, check with your board certified allergist about the best course of action for you with a product made from lentils.

If you want to try some for FREE, please sign up to my newsletter. For Food Allergy Awareness Month (May 2012), Enjoy Life Foods will be giving away the whole line (4 flavors) to three lucky winners. But you have to be signed up to enter! Good luck and thank you Enjoy Life Foods for another delicious, safe treat!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Tarrytown, NY, FAAN Conference 2012

What a wonderful day in Tarrytown this Saturday for the FAAN conference speaking, meeting and interacting with all of you!

First, in the morning session, I conducted the Adults with Food Allergies Workshop. Many adults had children heading into college or just graduating, so we turned our attention to my strategies to assist young adults as well as help parents cope with this life transition. 

Just getting starting in the adult workshop.
Next, I spoke in the big room to all attendees about food allergy confidence and my motto: Just because you have a restricted diet, doesn't mean you have a restricted life.
Get that woman a step stool.

And lastly, I spent about an hour with the teens, talking about food allergy confidence, dining out, and comparing asthma notes (and inhalers). 

In between sessions, I had a chance to meet all of you, your wonderful children, your supportive spouses, your outspoken teenagers and sign books and take pictures. 

About to head into keynote speech & signing books!
I won't be in Anaheim, CA this year (I have a destination wedding that weekend - which I will be writing about I'm going to handle the food situation there), but I will be rolling out some news ways to connect with the information presented in these conferences if you weren't able to attend.

So stay tuned to this space. Also, I have extra books from the conference. If you'd like a signed copy, you can purchase one from me here for a limited time only!