Sunday, October 20, 2013

Honesty Is the Best Policy : Book Review of Jessica Alba's "The Honest Life"

I love Jessica Alba, so when her book "The Honest Life" came out, I had to buy it.  Not only is she gorgeous and glows from head to toe, she is also a very smart business woman who actually cares deeply about others and the planet.  Rare combo, right?!?!?!

In summary, the book is pretty much a guide on how to live a non-toxic, organic, affordable lifestyle while being true to yourself and balancing family and work.  Gosh darn it, Jessica Alba is just perfect! She even finds time to grow her own food.  She has her own product line, the Honest Company, which you can check out at  I have been an avid customer for about 6 months now.  Love, love, love these products!  They are all chemical-free, all natural, organic, and reasonably priced!  Perfect for a mama with a food allergy kid that also suffers from really awful seasonal and environmental allergies. 

But...back to the book.

The first chapter Jessica writes covers food.  She knows the way to my heart.  She talks about the importance of eating organically, locally, and seasonally.  Honest Eating "is enjoyable, fresh and whole, mostly plant based, flavorful, lean, and made with love".  So this is how she gets her glow.  According to the Honest Life's principles, the diet should be free of processed and packaged foods.  GMOs are a no-no.  If you can't pronounce the ingredients, you probably shouldn't eat it.  Alba stresses the importance of eating tons of fruits and veggies, whole grains, and a little lean meat to get great skin and to have more energy.  She has several recipes that I cannot wait to try.  She also has a great seasonal fruit and veggie chart, as well as a list of what you should always have stocked in your pantry.  She includes a section on entertaining, one for kids and snacks, and one weight loss. 

Chapter 2 and 3 are "Honest Clean" and "Honest Beauty", respectively.  In these chapters, Alba discusses how to be clean without the use of harsh chemicals and detergents.  She goes into great detail on her own personal struggle with allergies and the havoc it used to wreak on her skin.  She discusses the hidden chemicals found in almost all shampoos, makeup, fragrances, and beauty products that are not certified organic and non-toxic.  I knew there were some chemicals in make up, but no idea the extent at which they were present in almost everything I put on my body and face.  (Side note: If you are on, check out their shampoo and conditioning mist.  I am a huge fan, it smells wonderful, and Brady even has his own).  She discusses the link between cancers/diseases with the toxicity levels of beauty and personal hygiene products. 

Chapter 4 might actually have to compete with Chapter 1 as my favorite.  Chapter 4 is all about style.  I have a passion for fashion...literally!  There is this awful assumption that when you become a mom, you lose all sense of style and fashion.  Well I am living proof that this is sooooooo NOT true.  Sure, you may not be able to spend $300 on a bag every month like you could pre-kiddo, but you can always find the time to make yourself look put-together and presentable.  Alba gives advice on how to accessorize and do so in an environmentally-friendly way, how to experiment and have fun with your style, how to stick to your budget, how to embrace your post-baby body and how to play by your own rules.  Have I mentioned how much I adore this woman? 

In Chapter 5, entitled "Honest Home", Alba talks eco-friendly design, cleaning, organizing, and remodeling.  She informs about practices that should be done every day in order to reduce mess and toxins/irritants.  She has a great cleaning guide and some awesome tips for getting kids to pitch in.  She discusses the importance of fresh air, how as great as some candles smell they are really not that great for you to be exposed to, and even gives you some steps for growing your own indoor garden.  (This would be amazing if I didn't have a black thing I did not inherit from my mother was her ability to be a gardening goddess).

Babies, babies, and more babies: the subject of Chapter 6.  Another reason I think Alba is so great: she sounds like a down-to-Earth, normal mother.  I am not sure that this exists in Hollywood, but she sure makes it look like a possibility.  She tells how laundry detergents, lotions, diapers, wipes, and bath products all impact babies and toddlers.  She tells how to do a nursery remodel and what to do to make it safe.  She discusses many aspects of pregnancy, your new figure post-baby and how to embrace it, children's sleeping patterns, toxins you may not know can affect children and pregnant women, and expanding your family.  She details how to parent, what has worked and what hasn't, how to raise healthy and happy kids, play dates, and even children's rooms.  How does she do it all? 

Inspiration:  Chapter 7.  She gives keys to finding balance, what makes her tick, how she keeps her sanity, and what makes her laugh.  There are recipes for food, beauty scrubs, and beauty masks and rinses.  She lets you in on flea market finds, up-cycling, decorating, play...there is even a guide to finding non-toxic paint to make crafts with the munchkins.  She gives step-by-step directions on how to make a pirate ship playhouse (which I cannot wait to make with Brady). 

At the end of the book, Alba gives many shopping guides, suggested websites, and links to all of the places she obtained research from.  In addition to being Wonder Woman, she is also credible. 

If you get the chance to buy "The Honest Life", do so.  It is a practical guide to living realistically today while trying to manage a family, live a healthy lifestyle, and to save the planet.  Kudos, Jessica Alba.  You inspire me and you rock! 

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby...Says Who???

One of the first things you have to figure out when newly diagnosed with food allergies is how and what to substitute.  Oh the endless possibilities...

What do you substitute for dairy (cow's milk)?  Soy milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, rice milk, etc.  My favorite is coconut milk (although it does have a hint of sweetness).  If you are making mashed potatoes or a cream-based soup, I would stay away from this one and go with rice milk or soy milk. If you need butter in something, Earth Balance makes a great vegan one that is my personal favorite.  It used to be hard to find, but I have been seeing it in all of my local grocery stores lately- even Target.  Like I needed another excuse to step foot into those endless isles of happiness.  LOL:)  If you need a substitute for buttermilk, mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of one of the milks previously mentioned.  Make sure you let it sit for a few minutes to thicken.  (I really like this version when I make Brady homemade Ranch dressing).

What can you use to replace eggs?  My favorite to use in baked goods is EnerG egg replacer.  It is a powder that you mix with water.  It does not have any flavor, but it helps your baked goods to fluff up.  A box usually lasts about 2 months in my house.  You can also use flaxseed meal and water, or in cookies, I like to use a mashed banana or applesauce.  You can also use agar powder and water or...baking powder and water mixed with vegetable oil.

I have come to despise peanut butter.  Actually all peanut products.  We buy a lot of SunButter (made from sunflower seeds) and WowButter (toasted soy).  Sesame seed butter (tahini) can also be used.  You can even get SunButter in individual portion packages and they make for great on the go snacks.  While some replacements or substitutions are not the same consistency as the real product, peanut butter replacements are the most true to form.  The taste is actually really close.  Who says the real thing is always better?

Have a gluten allergy or Celiac?  There are so many alternatives to wheat.  You can pick from about 15 different flours in the gluten-free section at the grocery store.  Brown rice flour, potato flour, coconut flour, tapioca flour, oat flour, etc.  You may have to play around with a few to figure out which one you like the best.  I know several people who combine various flours to reach their desired consistency.  A lot of times texture can be an issue as well when finding a flour alternative. Experimenting is probably your best bet.

The possibilities really are endless when deciding what to use as a replacement.  It really all boils down to a matter of what you prefer.  Make sure you experiment, and keep trying new things.  You never know what you can come up with!

Since tomorrow is Sunday and everyone in my house will be watching football, here is a recipe for a  fun snack that everyone will love! 

Potato Skins
8 small baking potatoes
olive oil (my friend Rini has the best from Spartan Valley Olive Oil)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 c bacon bits (not Bacos- ewww)
sea salt
1/4 c finely chopped scallions
1 c Daiya cheddar shreds
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Poke several holes in each potato and brush olive oil on the skins
3. Bake on the center rack for about 30 minutes (or until fork tender)
4. Once fully baked, cut into halves and remove most of the flesh (leave about 1/4 of an inch)
5. Lightly brush the halves with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic powder and sea salt
6. Place the skins on baking sheet and return to oven
7. Bake for another 5 nminutes
8. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheddar shreds and bacon bits
9, Return to oven and bake another 5 minutes until cheddar shreds are melted
10. Remove from oven and top with scallions
Optional:  You can also top with Daiya sour cream for an extra treat or salsa if you want to make them extra jazzy.
Enjoy:)  Go Cowboys!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Keep on Truckin'

Happy Monday night!  Last week I ordered from a food co-op for the first time in my life.  What an experience.  I am not sure what exactly it is that I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised. 

I decided after talking to my good friend Milk Allergy Mom (visit her blog at to place an order with Azure Standard. According to the company’s mission statement: “Azure Standard specializes in natural, organic, earth-friendly foods and products.  We deliver directly to customers, buying clubs, and retailers by semi-trucks and UPS.  As of May 2012, Azure is delivering to 27 states including Hawaii and Alaska.  Azure Standard’s mission is to help people throughout the county realize their greatest potential in abundant living by providing the products, information, and services they need to make healthy and empowered choices.”

 I will admit I did have the preconceived notion that I would have a limited selection of allergy-friendly foods that Brady could eat.  Not. At. All. What. I.Got.   I was really surprised when I got on their website ( ) to place my order.   

The first thing I looked for was some kind of sweet for B.  I typed in “dairy-free” in the search box and so many goodies popped up.   The next thing I did was to check the ingredients on the product label to verify there were no eggs or peanuts, and then checked to make sure there was no possibility of cross-contamination.  One product that I ended up buying was Enjoy Life chocolate chips.  The prices offered by Azure were about ½ the cost of what my local food specialty store sells products for.  I was really happy about this too!  And I saw where if you buy them in bulk, the price is reduced even more.

I decided to also check out Daiya products, as they are hard to find in my area.  I have found that the cheese melts much like regular cheese does.  The slices work really well for grilled cheese sandwiches (when Brady will actually eat one.  Ahhhhhh picky eaters, I digress).  They offer Daiya shreds, slices, and even cream cheese.  I ordered some of each. 

I got very excited when I found out that you are able to purchase books at discounted prices as well!  I purchased two new books.  One was on allergies and how they are an emerging disease.  The other was an allergy-free snack cook book.  I was so excited about the second book because I am always looking for new and creative ways to come up with fun snacks that Brady will eat and that I can send to school. 

Figuring out what I wanted to order was the easy part, and so was placing the order.  Azure gives you the option to either pay with a card at the time you place the order, or you can pay on delivery.  Not many places give you that option, and it is nice to have.  The shipping wasn’t too pricey either.  I received a delivery confirmation once I placed my order and got a “drop” date.  You are probably asking, “What is a drop date?”  A drop date is when the truck your order is arriving on stops at your designated “drop” spot.  Our local drop stop happens to be a church on the west end of town that is pretty easy to find. 

The day of the delivery, picking up my order was a piece of cake.  Everything was nicely packaged and ready to go in two boxes.  I told the coordinator my name, she told me where my box was located (they had laid all the boxes out alphabetically making it super easy to find), and then she checked my payment method and I was on my merry little way. 

This method of shopping beats hours at the grocery store any day.  While all of the products that I ordered were packaged and nothing I ordered was “perishable”, Azure does offer a huge variety of fresh produce and meat.   I cannot wait to try them when I place my next order. 

I was really happy with the products I ordered, the quality as well as the price.  I was also really pleased with the customer service, ordering process, and pick up.  I can foresee myself becoming a loyal customer. 

Here is a recipe from the new snack book I bought.   I can’t promise Brady will love it, but as the first attempt at making it, not too shabbyJ

 Double Delicious Bean Spread (AKA Kid-Friendly Hummus)


15 oz. can cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)
15 oz. can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1 small clove garlic (minced)
¼ c lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp dried basil
Pinch black pepper


1.       Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth,

2.       Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve chilled.  Store in the fridge up to 5 days.  Serve with veggies or pita chips, or anything else you desire.


Could this be any easier????


Enjoy J

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Food Allergies Behaving Badly

The number of reported behavior problems in children with food allergies is on the rise.  A growing number of parents, pediatricians, and allergists are reporting connections between problems in behavior and the physical symptoms of an allergic reaction.  Not all bad behavior in all children is attributed to this, but there is a growing awareness that the two go hand in hand.

Let’s take a closer look.  Technically, children (and adults, too) can be allergic to any food or food additive (think preservatives, artificial flavors, and food dyes), but the most common 8 food allergens are: milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.  Most allergy symptoms are caused by a histamine release within the immune system.  This release can cause inflammation, congestion, headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and swollen eyes, lips, and throat.  Severe reactions display symptoms including seizures, suffocation, coma, and anaphylaxis, which can be potentially fatal.

Imagine you are a small child just learning to communicate verbally and you are experiencing one or several of the symptoms mentioned above.  As an adult, we have learned how to respond when we don’t feel well.  We have established a vocabulary that allows us to describe how we feel and what our symptoms may be.  A small child has not yet learned this.  A small child becomes frustrated when they don’t feel well because they do not understand why.  They cannot grasp the concept of time and how long the symptoms/pain will last.  For children, the best method of communication is through behavior. 

Behavioral symptoms triggered by food allergies are: aggression, tantrums, mood swings, anger, depression, and inability to concentrate.  Many of these may be strictly related to the physical discomfort caused by allergic reactions, but some symptoms are present because of the existence of certain chemicals in the immune system which alter hormone levels and neurotransmitters in the brain.  One major cause of concern (which I recently learned about) is how toxic histamine releases can be.  I did not realize they directly trigger inflammation on the brain.  This can cause major behavioral and cognitive changes within children.  New studies also suggest that food allergies may imitate ADHD and other psychiatric conditions.

Again, I would like to clarify that I do not believe all bad behavior in children is caused by food allergies and allergic reactions, but I do believe that there is a direct correlation between the two and the research that supports this theory is advancing at a rapid pace. 

So what can you do as a parent to help with food allergy-related behavioral problems???  Well…

1.       Strict avoidance of all known allergens and intolerance is the key to great food allergy management!!!!!!!!

2.       Read labels and be meticulous.

3.       Strictly avoid all chances of cross-contamination.

4.       If you notice that certain behaviors present themselves during or after your child eats a particular food, seriously consider eliminating it from the child’s diet. 

5.       Educate yourself and anyone who comes into contact with your child, so that everyone is on the same page, and maintain good communication.

6.       Make an action plan.  Give everyoe who is caring for your child a copy!

7.       Make your family doctor, allergist, nutritionist, and other medical and professional staff aware of your concerns. 

Most importantly, do not let the child’s poor behavior make you behave like a child.  You are the adult, the care taker, the one in charge.  Ultimately, you can make or break the situation.  Do not give in to the bad behavior, but instead, do something positive to redirect it and to change it.  Get the necessary help to get the behavior under control.  Many psychologists and psychiatrists will agree that is almost impossible to get a child’s behavior under control If there are underlying medical problems which are left untreated. 

If you take away one thing from this post, please let it be this:  Remember that it is not the child behaving badly on purpose if there is an underlying medical condition that needs to be treated.  The child is not deliberately trying to upset you by not brushing his teeth before school; it might just be that his mouth hurts from something he ate.  He isn’t trying to frustrate you on purpose by letting you know that he doesn’t want to go to school for the 100th time today; in reality he really probably does have a tummy ache from the abdominal pain caused by something that he ingested that he was allergic to.  More likely than not, the child probably just doesn’t know how to tell you that he doesn’t feel well.  Remember the last time you didn’t feel well?  How did you behave?  Put yourself in the child’s shoes and try to be compassionate. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

You Can Never Be Too Educated

I'm back!!!!!  After a temporary break caused by planning the 5k, working full time, a doctor's appointment out of town for B, and my newly-found ulcer, I am happy to be posting again.  I guess we all need to take regular breaks from time to time in order to refresh ourselves...


Tonight I want to talk about how to educate yourself on allergy definitions and to familiarize and make yourself comfortable with them.  There are so many medical terms and diagnoses that come with food allergies.  If you do as much research as I do, then I am sure you are fully versed in all of them.  If so, this should just be a quick refresher.  If not, you are about to get schooled.  My grandpa (the wisest of wise men that I have ever encountered) is famous for saying "You can never be too educated", and when dealing with food allergies, it is CRITICAL to educate yourself.  DOING SO CAN SAVE YOUR CHILD'S LIFE!!!!! (Or your life, or your friend's, or someone else you care deeply for).

So let us start with the most basic of definitions:

Food Allergy: A specific type of adverse reaction involving the immune system.  Eight foods account for almost all food allergy reactions: milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, soy, wheat, fish, and shell fish.  If you feel you may have a food allergy (or intolerance), consult your physician for blood and skin testing. 

Now that we have covered the most basic, I will alphabetize the rest for convenience if you need to print and refer back to various terms.

Adrenaline: (aka Epinephrine): The hormone given via auto-injection (EpiPen) for emergency relief of food allergy symptoms (mainly anaphylaxis).

Allergy Band: (aka allergy bracelet or medical ID bracelet): used to communicate medical issues or allergies to medical and emergency professionals.  The band should include medical alerts and if possible, contact information.  Check out this site for some really fun ones for children with food allergies

Allergy Card: These cards look like a credit card and conveniently fit in your wallet.  They help to explain allergies with ease when dining out and to ensure safe dining.  The card can easily be given to your server and then given to the chef.  Sometimes these are also called chef cards. 

Allergen: A substance that can trigger an allergic reaction.  Common food allergens include: dairy, eggs, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, soy, and wheat.

Allergic Reaction:  The hyper reaction of the immune system after exposure to an allergen .

Antihistamine: A drug that blocks histamine released by the body during an allergic reaction, such as Benadryl.

Anaphylaxis: A severe, life-threatening allergic reaction.  Usually two systems of the body are involved, such as the respiratory and circulatory systems.  Symptoms of this type of reaction are difficulty in breathing and a drop in blood pressure.  (It should be noted that symptoms are not just limited to these two).

Asthma: A disease of the lung airways which causes swelling and inflammation of the airways and makes breathing difficult.  If someone is asthmatic and suffering from an allergic reaction to food, they are at an increased risk for a more severe reaction.

Auto-Injector (aka EpiPen): The medical device for administering adrenaline (epinephrine) to treat an allergic reaction.

Ok, I think we have discussed all of the "a" terms.  So onto the only "b" term I could come up with that is food allergy-related: Bullying

Bullying has become an epidemic in our world today.  It amazes me how cruel people can be.  Children, of course, but adults are often the ones partaking as well.  Bullying is defined as "When a person uses their power to control or harm someone by physically, verbally, visually, or emotionally threatening another person, either directly or indirectly.  The person has the intent to cause harm to the victim while creating a sense of power and satisfaction in the bully.  Bullying is abusive since the behavior can affect the victim over a long period of time and can be repetitive" (The Allergy Table).  It is my sincere hope for future generations that this type of behavior ceases and that people start respecting and caring for one another and live in peace. 

On to the rest of the terms which have been deemed necessary to be aware of in the food allergy world...

Celiac Disease: An autoimmune disease that attacks the small intestine after ingesting any and all foods containing gluten.

And one of my favorites, that so few people understand...Cross-Contamination: The transfer of a food allergen from other foods, cooking surfaces, eating surfaces, manufacturing equipment, utensils, etc. to another food.  Cross-contamination will be a post devoted entirely to itself.

Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA): An amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act which requires that the label of a food that contains protein from a major food allergen declare the presence of the allergen in the manner described by the Act. 

Food Allergy Action Plan: A specific action plan listing all allergies, reactions, and treatments.  A copy of the plan should be with the person at all times.   Specifically with children, copies should be on hand in the classroom, school office, with a school nurse, daycare, babysitter, family members, and on the bus or with a carpool parent. 

Food Intolerance: An abnormal response to a food or additive.  It is different from a food allergy because it does not involve the immune system.  The severity of the reactions are much less with a food intolerance versus those of food allergies.

Gluten: Foods that contain gluten come from the wheat family, also known as the Triticum spp. 

Hives: Itchy areas of skin or rash, raised above the surrounding skin.

Immune System: The system of the body which protects and reacts again infections.  In the case of an allergic reaction, the immune system mistakes the allergen for something that the body needs to fight against.

Lactose: Sugar found in milk.

Lactose Intolerant: An intolerance caused by difficulty ingesting lactose.  It is different from a dairy allergy, which can be life-threatening because it is not an immune system reaction.

Self-carry: A child that is old enough to "self-carry" has their meds with them at all times, a child that is too young relies on an adult as being responsible for the meds.

Hopefully these terms are now part of your vocabulary.  If not, re-read this until they are!  It is crucial to know these basic terms when you or your child have been diagnosed with a food allergy.  Remember, you can never be too educated:)

Here is a yummy recipe that is a cool weather favorite in our house (from Coffee with Us 3):

Slow Cooker Fiesta Chicken Soup
1 lb. boneless chicken breasts
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 c onion (diced)
1/2 c carrots (diced)
1/2 c corn
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 10 oz can of Rotel Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles
1 14.5 oz can of chicken broth
1 lime (juiced)
1 c salsa verde
1. Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray.
2. Add all ingredients into slow cooker and cook for 6 hours on low.
3. 1 hour prior to finished cooking time, take out chicken breasts and shred.
4. Return chicken to soup and finish cooking time.
5. Optional: garnish with vegan sour cream and tortilla strips
Enjoy!  :)