Food Allergy Counseling

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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Recipe: Allergen-Free, Dark Chocolate & Pomegranate Bark


Bark about to go into fridge to cool
I saw this recipe in the New York Times for "Dark Chocolate and Pomegranate Bark"
and as I just tried Enjoy Life Foods new dark chocolate morsels I thought what a great idea to combine the two. 


I followed the recipe to a tee and here are my additional notes to make it as allergen-free as possible:

1. I made my own candied ginger using a Food52 recipe. It was quick and easy and meant I didn't have to search for a candied ginger that was tree-nut free. (Here are some other recipes: David Lebovitz, Alton Brown and the Kitchn.


 2. I pulled fresh pomegranate seeds from this technique video from Food52.
In many stores, you can buy pomegranate seeds, but I don't who or how they were pulled. Doing it yourself is quick, easy, a perfect task for little hands if you have kids joining you in making this recipe and you know there has been any cross contact.

3. In the instructions for the recipe, there is a missing step and it's crucial. Once you sprinkle the second half of the pom seeds on top, press them down into the bark. Otherwise, when it cools, they will pop off. As mine did. It wasn't any less delicious, but it was messier and not as elegant looking; there were pock-marks where the seeds once were.


***

Allergen-Free Dark Chocolate and Pomegranate Bark
Adapted from Melissa Clark & The New York Times


TOTAL TIME
10 minutes, plus chilling

Ingredients

9 ounces dark chocolate morsels by Enjoy Life Foods

2-3 T minced candied ginger
2 c fresh pomegranate seeds (from one fresh pomegranate)
2 t flaky sea salt

Preparation

1.  Fit a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Place the chocolate in the bowl and stir until fully melted, about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the pot and stir the crystallized ginger and half of the pomegranate seeds into the melted chocolate. 


2. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour melted chocolate mixture onto the sheet. Use a spatula to smooth the chocolate into one even layer about 1/4 inch thick (it does not need to fill the entire sheet). Sprinkle chocolate with remaining pomegranate seeds and press into the chocolate. Then add sea salt. 


3. Chill the chocolate for 20 to 30 minutes or until firm. Break or cut into pieces and store in an airtight container, separating the layers with wax paper. This is best served the same day it’s made, otherwise condensation may form on the surface.
 


 ***

The result is an adult tasting treat that’s juicy, spicy, sweet, fruity and salty. I served it at my holiday party and it received oohs and ahhs from the little jewels that are those pomegranate arils. Once someone took a bite, the dark chocolate, the hint of salt and the juiciness of the seeds - wow.




Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Recipe: Short Ribs, Allergen Free

As I’m Jewish and don’t celebrate the Christmas holiday, these weeks are usually fairly quiet and relaxed, once everyone leaves New York and the emails slow down. But this year, I thought: why not throw a Holiday Party? So, we’re cooking for over a dozen people; ages 4 to 80; Jews, Sikhs, Muslims; family and friends.
The main rule of the party: no outside food allowed. Sure, flowers and wine fine but no food or candy. That rule makes it so much easier for this allergic girl. I can’t tell you how many people, all with completely wonderful and generous intentions, bring my allergens (tree nuts and fish) to holiday parties. So the rule, without apology is simply: no outside food, candy, chocolate or treats -  just come and enjoy!

This, of course, means the onus of cooking is on me, which I love. It gives me a chance to try out some new recipes as well as perfect some old realiables. 


Notes




***

Short Ribs, Allergen-Free 
Serves 6-8 people

Ingredients
10 - 12 beef short ribs, bone-in (or  3 pounds boneless)
Kosher salt to taste (I prefer coarsely ground)
1-2 T extra virgin olive oil (extra oil if needed for sautéing vegs)
1 yellow medium-sized onion, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
½ bottle 750-ml bottle good dry red wine (about 1 1/3 cups plus a few sips for the cook)
15 ounces of organic diced tomatoes 
32 - 48 ounces of water or stock (32 ounces if not bone-in; 48 ounces if bone-in) basically enough to cover the meat (I used Swanson’s 33% less sodium chicken broth, it’s GF)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. While you’re prepping the vegetables, take the meat out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature. 

2. Get your mise en place ready. Pat the meat dry. Season the ribs/rib meat on both sides with salt. Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed ovenproof pot over high heat. Add ribs and brown them on all sides. Work in batches so that the ribs aren't over-crowded.

3. Transfer the ribs to a plate. Using the fat that came off the ribs combined with the oil to sauté the celery, carrots and onion, stirring often, until softened, about 5 - 7 minutes. Then add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the wine, deglazing the pan, scraping off any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Boil the wine / veggie mixture for 10-15 minutes until slightly reduced and fragrant. 

4. Return the ribs and any juices to the pan. Add the stock and the can of tomatoes, making sure the liquid covers the ribs. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat; cover with foil (or pot top) and place in the oven. Braise the meat, cooking in the oven, until the meat is fork-tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Allow the ribs to cool in the liquid, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

5. The next day about one hour before you are ready to serve, remove the excess fat that has solidified at the top from the overnight chilling. Remove the ribs/rib meat; boil the liquid until it has reduced a bit, about 20 minutes. Taste for seasonings - should be salty enough from the chicken broth but if you used water, adjust seasonings. Place ribs/rib meat back into the pan with cooking liquid and cook over medium heat, uncovered until bones of the ribs have detached about another 20 minutes or the meat is spoon-worthy (yes you can spoon this meat dish!).  

***

Serve over a starch of your choice - potatoes, rice or gluten-free noodles. 

Method With Pictures

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. While you’re prepping the vegetables, take the meat out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature. 

2. Get your mise en place ready. 

Vegs cut, ingredients all ready, surfaces all cleaned and cleared

Pat the meat dry. Season the ribs/rib meat on both sides with salt. Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed ovenproof pot over high heat. Add ribs and brown them on all sides. Work in batches so that the ribs aren't over-crowded.

Don't move them as they brown, they won't stick, I promise
Here they are, browned on one side

3. Transfer the ribs to a plate. Using the fat that came off the ribs combined with the oil to sauté the celery, carrots and onion, stirring often, until softened, about 5 - 7 minutes. 

Happy sautéing vegs

Then add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the wine, deglazing the pan, scraping off any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.   

This is the brown stuff on the bottom that you want and will deglaze with the wine

Boil the wine / veggie mixture for 10-15 minutes until slightly reduced and fragrant. 

Wine and veg about to meld flavors as the boil and reduce

4. Return the ribs and any juices to the pan. 

You want those juices from the browned meat!

Add the stock and the can of tomatoes, making sure the liquid covers the ribs. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat; cover with foil (or pot top) and place in the oven. 

Looks grey at this stage but it will reduce and become simply wonderful

Braise the meat, cooking in the oven, until the meat is fork-tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Allow the ribs to cool in the liquid, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

5. The next day about one hour before you are ready to serve, remove the excess fat that has solidified at the top from the overnight chilling. 


Meat removed, excess fat removed

Remove the ribs/rib meat; boil the liquid until it has reduced a bit, about 20 minutes.
Reducing, reducing
Taste for seasonings - should be salty enough from the chicken broth but if you used water, adjust seasonings. Place ribs/rib meat back into the pan with cooking liquid and cook over medium heat, uncovered until bones of the ribs have detached about another 20 minutes or the meat is spoon-worthy (yes you can spoon this meat dish!).  


Spoon-worthy!
Serve over a starch of your choice - potatoes, rice or gluten-free noodles. 


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Interview: Anna Curran, Cookbook Create

Anna Curran of CookbookCreate.com (Photograph Copyright Anna Curran)

When a family receives a diagnosis of food allergies (or celiac disease, FPIES, EoE or EGID) it can be a challenge for everyone, especially in the kitchen. "What’s for dinner?" turns into "What’s safe for dinner?" 


As food allergy families learn how to cope with these challenges, many of them start amassing specific recipes for their specific needs. Also, friends and family will ask, what can I cook for you? Wouldn't it be great to have a personalized cookbook dedicated to your food allergic loved one’s needs and their favorite, safe-for-them dishes?

Enter, CookbookCreate.com.
 

Anna Curran and I met through the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance several years back and she is the founder of a print-on-demand startup CookbookCreate.com

From Anna: 
CookbookCreate.com combines the best of Web 2.0 and print-on-demand technology delivering a fun, easy to use tool to make your own custom cookbooks. Prior to founding her startup, she was selected by Startup Weekend as the New York co-founder of the pilot program called The Startup Foundation sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation. Current and past client work as a digital strategist includes Lama Surya Das, a national best selling Tibetan Buddhist author; America: Now and Here, a cross-country journey of art and artists with Eric Fischl, Paul Simon and Chuck Close; and Personal democracy Forum— the leading conference on politics and technology. She is formally trained artist, printmaker, and dancer. Anna is a Pipeline Fellow and is the founder of Startup Weekend's Partnership Series that brings together Fortune 500 companies who want to collaborate with startups. You can keep up with her on Twitter @AnnaCurran.


Recently, I had a chance to ask Anna a few questions about Cookbook Create. Read on!

Allergic Girl: Can you tell us, briefly, the history and mission of Cookbook Create?


Anna Curran: We help people tell their story through food by providing a print-on-demand platform for cookbooks. Our product helps people collect recipes from different sources and design their own custom cookbooks to be ordered by mail. Here's a video about

Cookbook Create.


AG: Super fun! What was your inspiration for Cookbook Create?


AC: I was inspired to found this company when one day I was looking for my grandmother's chocolate drop cookie recipe in my mother's cookbook. My Aunt had given my mother this notebook in 1969 with a dozen handwritten recipes, and my mom added to it over the years. 


Photograph Copyright Anna Curran

As I turned the pages, I saw recipes from my great grandmother, Aunt, and grandmother's recipes from both sides of family. Paging through the notebook that was coming unbound, I realized that this cookbook, was the story of my family told through food. On that day after looking through my mother's cookbook, I was left with a question that inspired me to found Cookbook Create, "What is digital version of this cookbook?"

Photograph Copyright Anna Curran

AG: What does Cookbook Create do?


AC: Cookbook Create helps you keep all of your recipes in one place and make a personalized cookbook with any recipe you have saved.


AG: Who is the ideal user of Cookbook Create?


AC: Initially, we are focused on helping families preserve their recipes. Many of our customers will make family cookbooks as a gift, collecting recipes from various family members and compiling them into a gift cookbook. We also see a lot of cookbooks made as wedding gifts.


AG: How can we get started with
Cookbook Create?
 

AC: Visit us on Cookbook Create, and create an account. Then you'll be able to add your own recipes and collect them from friends. Any recipe you save to your account can be used in making your own personalized cookbook with color photos and custom fonts.
Social Links
Twitter: www.twitter.com/cookbookcreate
Facebook: www.facebook.com/cookbookcreate
Website: www.cookbookcreate.com




Thank you, Anna of Cookbook Create.  

Stay tuned to my Allergic Girl Facebook page for details on how to win a gift card for Cookbook Create!

Friday, December 06, 2013

Recipe: Brisket Soup, New York Times





I love brisket and have been waiting during the summer month to cook something, anything that was stewed, braised or soup-ish. So this brisket soup by Melissa Clark in the New York Times wherein the brisket would cook low and slow, was looking mighty good to me. And with a very simple, and familiar flavor profile (basically the veg you’d put into a chicken soup), this recipe seemed like an easy win.I say seemed because although not a disappointment, this soup didn’t enter my personal pantheon of recipes like Melissa Clark's brisket with wine and plums did last year. 

*Here’s that food allergy free recipe of brisket and plums and here’s the original New York Times recipe of brisket with port and plums.*

So regarding the Brisket Soup, here's the great:
  • Top Eight Allergen-Free. Super.
  • Uses water, no prepared stocks. Great.
  • Uses vegetables I have in the pantry. Yay.
  • The only thing I needed was brisket. Easy.

The less great aspects of the Brisket Soup recipe:

  • The meat wasn’t "spoon-tender" -- After two hours or cooking, as the recipe indicated. That can happen with brisket; I’ve seen recipes call for three hours when it really needed six to be falling apart delicious.
  • The vegetables were mush -- As I needed to cook the soup another hour plus to approach spoon-tender, by that time, the veggies were complete mush, which is not particularly pleasant.
  • I didn’t add barley, as the recipe called for [I'm wheat intolerant, not gluten- intolerant but still I didn't add it.] -- So the soup was thin, which I expected. But I think I wanted it to be lusciously thick and stew-y looking, like in the New York Times Brisket Soup video. The end result was what I expected (thin) but I didn’t feel excited about it. It needs something to give it more body or at least concentrate the flavors further.
  • The flavor was very mild. Not a negative but it didn’t taste very specific. To me, it tastes like chicken soup with brisket instead of chicken.
  • And after over four hours including cooking and prep, I realized I’d rather end up with a gorgeous braised meat dish that's falling apart versus just a soup.

Yup. It felt like all that and I’ve only got a soup. Perhaps I  had a more emotional response to the dish versus a real quibble with the recipe. Maybe when it comes to soups, I’ll stick with a hearty vegan bean (like this  sweet potato and lentil soup, or this Caprese lentil soup or this white bean and escarole soup) and keep the meats to a braise. 

Or I'll make some modifications. See below.


***

Brisket Soup
Adapted from the New York Times
 

Total Time


Ingredients

  • 3 pounds brisket, fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt, more as needed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
  • 3 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks


Preparation


1. Season brisket with 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
 
2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add brisket in batches and cook, turning occasionally, until well-browned, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Drizzle in additional oil if pan seems dry. Transfer browned meat to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Add leek, celery and garlic to pan; cook until soft, about 7 minutes.
 
3. Return meat to pot. Pour in 12 cups water, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring liquid to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, part covered, for 1 hour. Stir in carrots, parsnips and remaining 1/2 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, uncovered, until meat is tender, 1 to 2 hours more. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. 


*UPDATE & RECIPE NOTES* 


I upped the size of the cut veggies, if cut too small, they disappear. But you can cut any way you like.

I added cooked fingerling potatoes when I reheated the soup and that really changed the whole soup.

When I heated it up, giving it a quick boil (i.e. reducing the soup, concentrating flavors and tenderizing meat) for about ten minutes, that made the soup way better.

Brisket is usually better the second or third day. This soup reheated gets kinda magical.

***


Next up: Mark Bittman’s braised lamb with prunes

Monday, December 02, 2013

Food Allergy Counseling: Thanksgiving & Your Host

This year, dear friend Heidi, Brooklyn Allergy Mom, kindly invited my mom and I to Thanksgiving at her house. Her daughter has severe food allergies, some that intersect with mine, some that don’t. Add to that Heidi and her husband have food intolerances to different ingredients from their child’s food allergies and each other. And add my mom, who also has food allergies. Oy. That’s a lot of special requests to handle.

Heidi, a food allergy mom through and through, was equal to the task, checking in with me about her ingredients, double checking labels (good thing too, as she found changes) and triple checking with me about my needs.

Independently, I made a “Shadow Thanksgiving” (think Britain's Shadow Cabinet but way less contentious), which included a few things for “leftovers” at my house. These are essential dishes that I love, the way I love them like cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, spice cake, roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. Who doesn’t like to have those Thanksgiving goodies around the house for the week?

This turned out to be prescient as Heidi decided to go off book on a recipe, adding an ingredient about which I was unsure. She also wanted to use some gluten-free flour mixes that don't work for me but work for her allergic child.So, having a back-up, or three, allowed Heidi to make the dishes for her allergic child the way she wanted to (easier for Heidi), it allowed me to bring my safe food from home (easier for me) and everyone had what they wanted – win for all.

Heidi wrote it up on her blog this way. So sweet.

For me, the bottom line of my blog post is that:

-The point of getting together is getting together. 
-Food is merely a vehicle for that togetherness. 
-Don’t let food stand in your way. 

If there’s something you can’t eat at the party (or the whole party is off limits): 
-Eat beforehand.
-Bring your own food.
-Talk to the hostess. 
-Or do all three. 

Bottom line: Do whatever you need to do to stay safe and stay social with the least amount of anxiety.

Even the New York Times agrees with me on this point in a recent article called: In theEnd, It’s Not About the Food: "I hope my approach to hosting doesn’t come across as didactic or officious. It’s all intended toward a singular goal: making sure that other people have a good time. I don’t care if you put your elbows on the table. I care only that you are happy."

And this was Heidi’s goal, to ensure that I had the information I needed to make an informed decision about my food allergy needs and what she was cooking and to give me the space, as a gracious hostess, and without judgment, to bring my own food to her spectacular table, if that was my need.

For me, this Thanksgiving was cooking, baking, bringing and eating. And it was lovely. 

PS Heidi, Brooklyn Allergy Mom's turkey was de-lish!