Food Challenge Round 2: Cindy vs. Olive Oil

You know how the American men’s swim team was supposed to win the 4×100 relay in the Olympics yesterday, and there was this huge upset and France won instead? And how Jordyn Wieber was slated to place in all-around but Aly Raisman beat her to it?

That’s how I feel about what happened today with olive oil.

I thought it was a sure thing. I’ve cooked exclusively with olive oil for years and I had been fine. How could I be allergic to it? This morning’s challenge — rye crackers baked with olive oil — was supposed to be more of a formality than anything else.

But, there are always upsets, and that’s what makes life — or the Olympics — interesting, right? It’s precisely because I cooked exclusively with olive oil that I can no longer have it. (Me, to my boss: “I od’ed on olive oil.” Boss: “Oh god.” Me: “Hey, at least it’s not heroin, that’s a win, right?”)

I noticed something was wrong about three bites into the rye cracker. My mouth just didn’t want any more. I figured it’s because rye crackers aren’t so delicious, and these were made really haphazardly in the middle of the night. I was determined not to be allergic to olive oil. So I kept plugging away at the cracker.

One day’s worth of olive oil lasted for eight nights back in the days of the Maccabees. One rye cracker’s worth of olive oil should last me 72 hours, in these days of the Maccabeats. (Yes, I know it’s a bad joke). Reverse Chanukah miracle, anyone?

Nothing was swelling, nothing was itching, the doctor was with another patient. I wanted to power through. “It’s in your head,” I thought. “You feel fine. Keep going. Chewing isn’t hard.” Except it felt so hard. My mouth just didn’t want to comply with my brain.

As I forced the cracker down, I started noticing that I couldn’t really read the book spines on the doctor’s shelf so well anymore. My vision was going and I was exhausted. Sitting was hard. Chewing was hard. Keeping my eyes open was hard.

The doctor returned as I started cracker two.

“You look happy,” he said half-sarcastically.

“I think I’m going to pass out.”

“Yeah, I think so, too. I think we call this one a “no.” This isn’t working.”

“Ok.”

I still had cracker in my mouth.

“You might want to stop eating.”

“That’s a good idea. Can I get water?”

“I think you should.”

So I drank a lot of water, got complimented on my green pants, and then got too tired to stand.

“Was that enough or do you need a pill?”

“I want Benedryl.”

“Looks like we got a positive result.”

“Depends on your definition of positive.” I don’t know why I have to make Chandler-y jokes when I’m uncomfortable.

I took my Benedryl, sat for a bit, and the doctor determined that I was not going to go into anaphylactic shock. Just discomfort. So I was free to go. But not before we discussed next week’s malt challenge.

I asked him which to do: pretzels or cereal. He said cereal, and I said, “Really? Even though I can eat a few kinds of cereal as it is?” And he said, “What about beer? That’s how you should really test malt.”

So, one week from today, I will drink a beer at 7:30am. And I better not fail the challenge.

Excuse me — not fail — “have a positive outcome,” which is my doctor’s optimistic way of speaking. I’m a little too competitive for that. Plus, going to work high on Benedryl, with a trace of a cold that’s exacerbated by allergies (totally see why they didn’t let me try new foods when I had a cold as a child), and having half a voice, a runny noise, and only 85% coherency all day doesn’t feel like a positive outcome. Having a throat that swells every time the Benedryl runs out but not quite enough to warrant the steroids I so desperately want doesn’t feel like a positive outcome.

But I got answers, I guess. My constant reactions to food I cooked myself makes a ton more sense now. So when I feel better, I know I’ll think about this, and simply think, “yay.”

Food Challenge Tally

Cindy – 1

Allergens – 1

Up next: beer. Any suggestions for which beer I try? I’m debating between Stella and Corona. It’ll be the only beer I can drink until I challenge more, so let’s say a year or so…

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Food Challenge Round 1: Cindy vs. Wheat

I went to the allergist’s office this morning for the first of what will be many food challenges. Box of whole wheat matzah in hand, I was half-nervous, half-thrilled. I thought I knew what to expect — all the research I did indicated that the food challenge would consist of the following elements:

1. Rub the food on my arm

2. Rub the food on my mouth

3. Eat the food in small bites, over the course of a couple of hours

4. Wait to see if I stop breathing/swell/etc.

It was nothing like what I expected.

The doctor called me into his office – not the examination room, his actual office, and asked me what I intended to try. He wrote down the specifics of the matzah – company name, where it was made, ingredients. Asked me how much matzah I typically eat. I said 2 pieces, though I don’t really know since matzah is a once a year type food, usually. He said cool, eat up.

I asked if I needed to stagger it. Or do it slowly. He said not to do it quickly, but however I would normally eat matzah, I should.

So I chomped away, trying not to get irritated by the loudness of my own chewing, and ate some matzah. The first bit was awesome. After that, it tasted like old whole wheat matzah, which is really nothing to get excited about.

The doctor went to check on another patient (also a misconception on my part, I had heard that there would be no other patients), and returned to find me starting the second piece.

“How is it?”

“It’s fine, but it’s not April. It’s not Passover. Matzah is like fine.”

He pulled out a mezuzah because we were having a seriously Jewish moment.

I asked him, “What do people who aren’t aware of matzah do their food challenges on?”

He said, “Pasta.”

I nearly spit the matzah out of my mouth. “I COULD HAVE BROUGHT PASTA?!”

He said, “Don’t worry, we’ll do pasta next week.”

HOLD THE PHONE.

Seriously, hold the frickin phone.

Was he implying that my matzah wheat test wouldn’t permit me to eat pasta?

Yes, yes he was.

I stopped eating the matzah. I asked him what the matzah test would allow me to eat and he said, “Matzah.”

“Bread?”

“Nope, come back for bread.”

“Who wants matzah?! Why do I care if I can eat matzah? It’s not April. The nurse said I had to bring in something that was just flour and water, no yeast.”

“You can have yeast. Do you want bread?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Go get bread.”

And he called the Rite Aid around the corner and asked if they sold bread. They did, so he sent me off to buy some.

First of all, I was leaving the doctor’s office in the middle of what I expected to be a life/death event. But clearly, it wasn’t. I mean, I knew matzah wouldn’t kill me and I wasn’t feeling even a hint of sick, so I was comfortable going. Except I was nervous, because a)a lot of packaged breads have traces of other things that I can’t have and b)in LA, it’s almost impossible to find bread that is kosher certified that doesn’t come from a bakery.

I called my mom, and we discussed that, because it was a medical test, it might be possible to use kosher (albeit non-certified) bread for it.  We were uncomfortable, but hey. It’s bread, not pork, and I can’t have most oils anyway. 

I go to the Rite Aid and they had seven kinds of bread.

The first six had any combination of barley, malt, sesame, and flax — all of which I have to challenge on their own.

The last one didn’t seem to me like it would work. It was Hawaiian sweet rolls from a company I’d never heard of or seen — King’s Hawaiian.

I read the ingredients. Out loud. All ok. I read them again. All ok. And I spot a certification symbol.

I will be eternally grateful for this bread.

There is a God, by the way. And He is awesome. I mean, He has to be. This was magic bread that I had never seen before. With a symbol I had never seen before. Without any of the ingredients all the other breads had.

I bought a package and went back to the office, and continued eating. I told the doctor my sad tale about not finding a good selection of breads, and he wasn’t surprised,but he was surprised the bread was kosher. (I could have a PhD in package-reading, I think).

And I ate it. And it was delicious and successful. I can eat Hawaiian Kings bread! After waiting about 45 more minutes, the doctor determined I had no swelling, hives, or breathing issues, and I was ready to go.

But not before I asked him a BILLION questions. Because I wanted to eat pasta, and I was not leaving questions for the nurse (who is lovely, but obviously my case is not standard).

Q. Can I pretty pretty please try pasta at home? It was the only food I ate as a child, practically. I’ve eaten it my whole life. When I could eat nothing else, I ate pasta. 

A: Yes, if I promised to eat it during his office hours so that he could conveniently take care of me, and just this once. But if I called him after hours about the trial going wrong, I’d be on the bad list.

Q. Can I eat other breads, or only King’s Hawaiian?

A: Only King’s Hawaiian, unless I bake the bread myself, or speak directly to the baker. Packaged breads are a no-g0. Bakeries and restaurants must be called.

Q: Can I eat cookies, cake, cereal?

A: They all have to be challenged separately, but I am free to make anything myself so I can monitor the ingredients.

Q: This will take basically a year, then, if I have to test every product in his office?

A: Yes, and he’s insulted that I don’t want to spend the quality time with him.

Q: Is it the same thing for all foods, or just wheat? Meaning, when I try olives, does that mean I also have to try olive oil separately and vice versa?

A: Yes.

Q: How does one try malt, which is in everything?

A: I bring in a product that has malt that I can have every other ingredient, no question. And then keep bringing in malt products.

Q: When does it end? How can I try every product in the world under his supervision without being crazy?

A: That’s a good question, and we will be realistic, but let’s start with different categories and see.

Q: How often can I challenge food?

A: Once a week, at least 24 hours between.

Q: Can I eat things processed with wheat or containing traces of wheat?

A: Yes

Q: Can I immediately incorporate the foods I tested negatively to that I had previously avoided?

A: Yes, but in small portions because I can’t overdo it. And yes, I can try them all at once. For instance, I can eat rice and potatoes in one meal as long as I don’t eat too much rice or too many potatoes.

Q: Do I have to stick to the 3 times a week rule?

A: Yes, and organic, and peeled.

Q: What about no processed foods or things I don’t make myself?

A: If they don’t contain a challengeable item, eat them.

Q: Herbs and spices?

A: Fine, if I tolerated them in the past.

Q: What foods do I not challenge?

A: Anything that I tested too high for (hazelnuts and fish), anything I have reacted to knowingly (walnuts, blueberries), anything that is not important to me.

Q: Can I eat at restaurants?

A: If I speak to chef or know the chef/owner. Same with bakeries, etc.

Q: Can I eat at my cousin’s upcoming catered bat-mitzvah on a weekend in NY?

A: Absolutely not. I cannot try any of these things in NY.

Q: Can I eat processed meats like hot dogs or deli?

A: Not without challenging them, and I have to challenge each company’s meats.

I think my challenges are different than the ones I’ve read about because I am an adult with a history of success with these foods, and a history of mysterious reactions. Most of the available information is for children, and children outgrow allergies quicker and have less of a case of, “But I’ve eaten it before.” Twenty fours years of pasta is good enough to try it at home, but given the mysterious reactions that were happening daily a year ago, I have to assume there are some products that just don’t work for me. Some mixtures, or manufacturing plants, or ratios, or what have you.

My new boss, like my old one, is being really nice about the fact that I will have to spend 2-3 hours a week at a doctor for the foreseeable future (though I am trying to get 7:30am appointments). So that’s good — I think I’ve determined that I should only ever work for people named Jason, because I really shouldn’t be this lucky twice in a row. Also good — since every processed cookie or whatever will have to warrant time off and I’m a workhorse, I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting aboard the junk food wagon any time soon. That’s a step toward a healthy lifestyle.

It’s a little irritating that I can only eat this King’s Hawaiian bread, but it’s delicious bread — seriously, I almost cried when I ate it and I have been craving more all day, and not just because it’s the first bread, but because it’s damn good. I called two of the bakeries I like here — Bagel Factory and Got Kosher — to figure out if I have to bake challah, and Got Kosher’s is ok. Bagel Factory’s enriched flour included malt and barley.

And yes, I called up two stores and said, “What do you enrich your flour with?” and yes, it came off suggestive, and no, I’m not ashamed.

Many thanks to my mom, who spent my childhood calling up restaurants and companies to see if I could eat their food.  Having made two of those calls, I’m already worn out, and I know there are more to come. But hey. I’m educating the public and learning about food myself.

But for now…I basically got the greenlight on Captain Crunch, which was my go-to at the start of this madness. So if you’ll excuse me, the Cap’n and I have to go make it happen.

Chocolate is Probably My Favorite New Food

I had chocolate earlier today. It was AMAZING. I’d say to die for, but considering I didn’t eat chocolate when death was potentially on the table, that’d be inaccurate.

Anyway, I found an essay I wrote in 1995 (the beginning of fourth grade, I was 8 years old) about almost trying chocolate. And I feel quite similarly now, 17 years later.

Oh, and [sic] in advance.

Y.of F.
Cindy Kaplan
Sept. 19, 1995
Tuesday

The Best Day of My Life

The best day of my life was today. Why? Well I’ll tell you. It may seem weird to you, but it’s awfully normal to me and to people who know me. Here I go…..

Today when I came home from school I took a snack and then my mother wanted me to go shopping with her. So I went. We went to Glatt Mart to buy dinner. We didn’t buy only that, we bought half of the store to. We were buying so much, it seemed that we were like pigs. (We really aren’t.) Well, then we came to a rack of chocolate. My mother said that I could look for white chocolate. So I did. I found one with hazelnuts. Then I found plain white chocolate. Finally! I gave it to my mother and she bought it. Yipeeeeeee! Yipeeeee! I am finally going to try chocolate. I am so happy. That was the best day of my life.

This drawing accompanied my essay. I’m not much of an artist, but I’m so glad I drew myself in a long skirt, long sleeves, and with giant teeth. Good self image, 8-year-old Cindy.

***

I remember that day so vividly. And even more vividly, the day (months or even a year later, I think) when I finally was able to try the chocolate (as I’m relearning, getting your body to a place where you can introduce a new food is tough, especially when you’re not under the supervision of a doctor. Because when I was a kid, allergists weren’t really the same as they are now).

I was sitting at my dining room table after a Shabbat lunch. Everyone had had dessert, and it was my chance to try chocolate. My mom and sister sat at the table with me as I took a bite of that white chocolate bar (white, because there’s less cacao). I let it sit for a minute and then I said, “Oh, it tastes like chocolate! It doesn’t take like carob at all!”

I knew my life had changed. When I didn’t react to that small square, I knew at the very least, I’d be able to have white chocolate and live like a kid.

And then soon after, my family went to dinner at Tevere 84, I think to celebrate my parents’ anniversary. It was a fancy, delicious, Italian kosher meat restaurant on the Upper East Side that had just opened up. and for dessert, I ordered chocolate cake. It was dark chocolate. I was so excited because since it was a meat restaurant, their cake would be more pure than the dairy one (milk chocolate is a little harder to try) and I’d get to participate in the celebratory dessert. That cake was one of the greatest foods I have ever tasted. Both because it was objectively good, and also because I learned that I loved dark chocolate, that I could eat it, and that I would be able to eat chocolate for real. M&Ms! KitKats! Hershey’s Kisses! Milky Ways!

Today’s chocolate reminded me so much of that cake. I had only a tiny bite, at the end of the work day, but it filled my mouth with an incredible taste. I felt stress pouring away and happiness setting in. Hours later, I feel whole again. Chocolate is the greatest food known to man (or woman, let’s be real), and I have it back in my life.

Today, June 24, 2012, is the second best day of my life.

Success!

And We’re Starting With…Egg Yolk

I’m about to have my first egg yolk since March 6.

My 30 days are over, and after much deliberation, I’ve decided to slowly introduce foods I tested negative for back into my diet. Kind of excited, kind of nervous…

Mostly, remembering the last time I tried new foods. The one that sticks out to me most is when I tried green peppers for the first time, about 15 years ago.

“How do they taste?” my family asked, when I took my first bite.

“Like spoons. You know, how peppers smell like metal spoons right out of the dishwasher? This tastes like a spoon. Not in a bad way. Just in a spoon way. I kind of imagined it would taste like this.”

Of course, I was greeted with blank stares, because peppers don’t actually taste like spoons to most people, but hey. They did to me, and sometimes they still do.

Will this egg taste like spoons? Or like egg? Is it different to introduce a food I ate 4 months ago to a food I’ve never had before?

Stay tuned…

UPDATE 1:20PM

The egg yolk tasted remarkably like egg yolk. Delicious. A new taste! I have a renewed love for the blessing “shehechiyanu,” which is traditionally said before doing something new — Blessed is God, who has kept us alive, sustained us,  and brought us to this time.

And I feel ok. A little antsy, definitely nervous energy, but it’s been ten minutes and nothing is swelling or itching or blocking. Have a minor headache, but that could also be the nerves/lack of water since I woke up…

Egg yolk = success!

 

 

How Long Is this Allergic Diet Sustainable? Thoughts on the Diets and Willpower.

It’s now July 19, and I have yet to try a new food or a processed food or anything that my 30 days would have allowed. The nurse at my allergist’s office suggested holding out until my wheat challenge on Thursday (ONE WEEK!), and then with the whole nuts-in-my-raisins incident, it seems best to just wait at least a few more days.

BUT I AM DONE.

Part of me feel silly complaining when I had great meals today. Ivory teff for breakfast, turkey leg and delicata squash for lunch (oh, how my office dog — yes, my new job comes with a puppy — was jealous!), and lamb and japanese yam for dinner (a rhyming dinner? so money). If I wasn’t on this diet, I imagine my day would have been no breakfast, Starbucks white mocha, a few cherry cokes, leftover pasta with sauce and cheese for lunch, a bag of potato chips as a snack, and a baked potato with melted cheese for dinner, or maybe like rice and chicken. (~1600 calories)

Obviously, my current diet kicked pre-allergic-craziness diet’s ass.

But still, I am done. I’ve reached my limit on how many times I can eat lamb, teff, sweet potatoes, squash, quinoa, green beans, corn, zucchini, chicken, turkey, bison, and millet. And the fruit. My god. I am done with raisins, pineapple, cherries. When I type it all out, it seems insane. How have I lived 4 1/2 months like this?  For perspective: I have had three different employers since this diet began. (I know people have it worse. But this is America in 2012, so I’m spoiled).

Soon by me.

I wonder if I’m cranky about it because it was supposed to be over and it’s not, or if it’s because it’s been over a 1/3 of a year, or what. Probably a little bit of both. But honestly, what gets me is that the diet was easier when death was on the line.

The doctor assured me that any of the foods I tested negative to could not set me into anaphylactic shock. I might get sick, I might screw up the challenges, but I will not die.

The immediacy of death made the diet easier to deal with. Is cheese worth your life? Chocolate? No. On some days, I debated those questions, but I always quickly realized I should just eat what I can and not be tempted. Those particular foods were not food to me, and there are some things I stopped even seeing as food – like chips. The other day, I saw some bags of Lays, and I could not fathom eating them. Previously, I would eat a bag of chips every day or so.

I understand now why diets are hard to keep. Non-allergic ones, I mean. Sure, you know the food is bad for you. You know it will interfere with your health down the line. But right now, it won’t hurt too badly. So why not just eat it?

That’s how I felt tonight about chocolate. I want chocolate so badly. I know it will not kill me. It will potentially ruin the challenge (but do I want wheat or chocolate more?), and it might make woozy and itchy and swollen if the nuts aren’t gone yet (that could take 72 hours, maybe a week), but I won’t die. So how bad is it?

Luckily, a conversation with my mom convinced me to stay true to the diet. But I understood diets in a way I previously hadn’t. I understood willpower. It’s not easy to stick to a diet. It hurts. It involves breakdowns in Whole Foods (2 in a week, woohoo!). It involves bitterness. It involves hunger, and hunger leads to anger. My body is so pissed at me for giving it too few calories (1046 today!!!), so it wants more.

And yet. It doesn’t, really. It will reject those foods, and be unhappier for longer. Immediacy is not the ideal here. If I can hold out just a little longer, if I can keep this willpower for just a few more days…maybe even a week…I’ll be healthier in the long run.

So for now, it’s about creative problem solving. I want chocolate because it’s sweet and fun. What else is sweet and fun? Soda. What soda do I have in my house, 4 1/2 months later? Sprite. What’s in Sprite? Lemon/lime flavor.

Excuse me while I go try homemade lemon/lime ices. If they’re good, I’ll post the recipe. If not — well, at least nothing’s swollen. And if it does swell, ice reduces swelling right?*

*disclaimer: do not use ice to reduce allergic swelling. use benedryl and/or consult a doctor.

It’s Not What You Label, It’s How You Label

I’ve gotten really good at reading the ingredients and allergen information on various packages. Not that it’s a real skill, but you know, you read, you double-check that you read correctly, you triple check, and then you’re good to go.  Even if you’ve bought the product before, you read it each time to be sure they didn’t change the factory or anything.

On the right: ingredients, and a whole lot of non-life threatening related warnings. On the left: life threatening warnings. Fuck you, Sunridge Farms.

So imagine my surprise when I’m eating raisins, and I decide to read the package because the raisins taste less sticky than the other company’s raisins that I tend to buy.

And I notice under the ingredients — organic thompson raisins — that it has a whole list of things the raisins don’t have, like sulfur. And that they may containy a stem or seed trace. This is all in bold.

And then I keep reading, trying to solve the stickiness conondrum and I see on the bottom left side of the package — whereas the ingredients were on the bottom right, and slightly higher — the phrase “(May contain wheat, soy, treenuts, peanuts, milk) written not in bold, in a smaller font, underneath the company’s address.

FUCK.

I spit the raisins out, wash my mouth out with steaming hot water (whatever, it’s not like a doctor-mandated thing but it’s soothing), and drank half a bottle of water to flush whatever treenuts, peanuts, or wheat that may have been contained straight out of my system. I’m pretty sure I’m fine. I’m having a minor reaction but 95% of me thinks it’s anger and psychosomatic. Took Benedryl anyway, because 95% of me always thinks it’s anger and psychosomatic, and the doctor keeps trying to tell me that’s bullshit. Whatever.

But why was the labeling done so poorly? If you’re used to reading for allergen information, and you see a whole host of other, bolded info, you’d assume “Hey, that’s where the allergen info ought to be, don’t see it, okay, moving on.” Why is the fact that it may contain a stem more important than it may contain a treenut. A raisin stem is not a choking hazard for anyone who is old enough to eat a raisin. A treenut is a life threatening poison to more than 1% of children in North America. The heimlich cures choking. An epipen is lot more arduous.

All I’m asking for is some logic, good layout, thoughtful packaging, and maybe a little bit of bold. How hard is that, Sunridge Farms?

Apparently very hard. You’d think Sunridge Farms would’ve gotten the memo about clear allergy labeling when their products were recalled by the FDA in September 2011 for not listing that their chocolate cranberries contained peanuts. Or in 2008, when Canada recalled their raisins and chocolate for not declaring the presence of milk.

For shame.

Why Aren’t More Gluten-Free Products Nut-Free?

I’m not a marketing guru, or even a product development guru. I did a pretty mediocre job in AP Economics in high school (though, in my defense, my class was before 8am, I had zero friends in it, and the teacher used to say “thousand” like “thousthand” which was distracting. And he only spoke in terms of the supply and demand of apples, which always got me thinking about other foods, other possibilities, and why he couldn’t be more creative).

The point is, I don’t know very much about targeting a consumer base, but I do know this:

It makes no sense for the only gluten-free oat flour and gluten-free oats available in LA to contain traces of tree nuts.

The backstory:

I’m invited to attend a Shabbat dinner at a friend’s house. Said friend asks if I can bring dessert. I say sure, because I make killer pumpkin oat muffins. Turns out another friend, with a wheat allergy and celiac is attending the meal as well.

“Great,” I think. “She can never eat dessert, but since oats don’t have gluten, and I only bake with oats, I can give her a treat. How wonderful for us all.” (Sometimes, I think like an old woman who might think she’s in a terrible rendition of “The Importance of Being Earnest.”)

So I ask my gluten-free friend which oats to buy, because I know some oats contain traces of gluten (would it kill them to put it on the package though? #complaintsforanother time #thisisn’ttwitterwhyamipretendingitis?

She tells me Bob’s Red Mill is the only brand, and maybe something “Valley” but that’s harder to find. Bob’s it is!

So I go to Whole Foods, where said flour and oats presumable are stocked, and I can’t find any that say Gluten Free. Awkward. But I pick up the regular Bob’s and it’s manufactured in a facility that also processes tree nuts and soy. I get it. Because they make like almond flour or whatever. But it seems silly that they can’t take more precautions to ensure lack of cross-contamination, like a different floor in the facility or a neighboring one, or something. Anyway, I look for gluten-free oats – just rolled oats – thinking I can adapt my baking to use no flour, or just make flour from my oats in my food processor (I have gotten creative, crazy, and ballsy). But every single gluten-free rolled oats was connected to tree nuts in some way. And every non-gluten free oat? Not connected to tree nuts.

Notice the allergen information.

You’d think a company that fills such a niche need would a) want to make sure they cover the entire niche, ie gluten free people with nut or soy allergies or sensitivities and b) want to cover multiple niches to expand their market base (ie tap into the people who need nut-free flour and the people who need gluten-free flour.

But alas. We don’t live in that world, yet. So even though I can only bake with oats, I still can’t bake for someone who can’t have gluten, because my oats are glutenous. That is beyond lame.

It also begs a question I’ve been thinking for a while — can’t all products with nuts just be manufactured in a facility that processes nuts, and all products that don’t have nuts be manufactured elsewhere? Like a nut factory that all the food companies share so that the nut-free population can eat foods that don’t have nuts themselves and no longer have traces of nuts? There are just so many random products that may contain nuts or are processed with nuts (salsa, for instance, WHY?), and it seems silly. I wonder how much nut isolation would increase sales, compared with the costs associated with a nut factory.

I’m half kidding.

Any donors?

(ps I love Bob’s Red Mill, as they introduced me to teff and anasazi beans, two of my favorite new foods. So no hard feelings, Bob.)

Strawberry Overdose!

So cheap and juicy!

Regina Spektor sings, “Hey remember that time when you OD’ed? Hey remember that other when you OD’ed for the second time?” in her song “That Time.”

It’s a great song, and while I know she was talking about drugs, I can’t help but relate right now. Because I totally OD’ed on strawberries, and a part of me knew I was going to.

I’ve had an inkling for a while that the three times a week rule is more of a ballpark. Sometimes, I can get away with 4-5 times. And sometimes, 1-2. It depends on the food. Strawberries, it seems, are more of a 1-2 time food.

I ate about 5 strawberry cherry muffins early this week, and I used about 6 strawberries for the batch of 10. So that’s like 3 strawberries, over the course of 4 days. Not a lot, but a lot of times. Today, on my drive home from work, I wanted sugar so I had some freeze dried strawberries. One handful, fine. Two handfuls, fine. Third handful, verging on mediocre and I thought, “Hey, I think I’m overdosing.” But then, like a drug addict, I guess, I got hungry and wanted more and decided I was invincible. So handful number four, and it was like FIRE in my mouth. I feel hives on my tongue. It’s unlike most of my allergic reactions, because it’s not swelling per se, but it feels exactly like a hive only on the back of my tongue, not my skin.

I had one more to see if I was crazy and of course the hive flared back up. So yes, I am crazy, but probably for experimenting. While driving. Um, clouded allergy judgement anyone? (I was safe, though, hives just hurt they aren’t like fatal or anything, and I knew I wasn’t at risk for anaphylaxis, just discomfort. Sure it was dumb, but I promise it was not as dumb as it seems).

I then decided to do what any normal person does. Stop to pick up dry cleaning that’s been waiting at the cleaner’s for over a couple of weeks. There’s something about proving to myself that I’m not sick that makes me really want to do chores. I bet that these days, if I had an anaphylactic reaction, I’d consider cleaning my apartment before using my Epipen. I’m motivated by stubbornness and control issues. You can’t stop me, I say!

Anyway, as I climbed the stairs to the cleaner (4 steps), I noticed I was not as spry as I usually am. That confirmed this reaction. This burning on my tongue is not a hallucination, it’s not insanity, it’s not psychosomatic, it’s a real reaction. And since I am not allergic to strawberries, it must be an overdose.

I’m Cindy, and I overdosed on strawberries. But hey. I also finally picked up my dry cleaning.

Win/win?

Vote for Breakaway Bakery, the best kosher dairy-free, peanut-free, gluten-free bakery in LA!

My friend’s aunt runs an amazing bakery in LA that’s kosher, gluten-free, casein-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, wheat-free, gum-free, whole grain, organic, transfat-free, preservative-free, and almost soy and tree nut free (some of their flours are processed in facilities that process treenuts and soy, though the equipment is cleaned before the run of the flours they use — allergens may still be present in the air around the flour, though. None of their products contain soy or treenuts).

The baked goods are delicious, and the owner is lovely. She’s well-informed and responsive to questions. And it was her informing her niece about the dangers of xanthan gum that helped her niece realize my corn bread reaction was likely to the xanthan gum in it. Niece tested, doctor approved.

Anyway, the bakery — Breakaway Bakery — is competing in Intuit Go Payment’s Get Business Growing contest. Please take a second to vote for them and grow this business. It’s great to have a local bakery that meets these needs, but by selling their goods in other areas, more people will have access to the baked goods they need.

And yes, I believe baked goods are a necessity. I’d much prefer buying muffins to baking my own.

Click here to vote. Click here to visit Breakaway Bakery’s website.

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Cherry/Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins – Gluten Free, Dairy Free, and Potentially Egg Free

I got a little bored of my pumpkin muffins, and after a friend (who happens to be a pastry chef) made a delicious strawberry merengue dessert for me a few weeks ago, I’ve decided to experiment with strawberries. Especially now that I am definitively not allergic to them.

This recipe is so easy and I made it up so feel free to tweak it as you wish…I wound up with about 10 muffins. Play with proportions for more.

1 cup oat flour

1 1/4 cups rolled oats

2 egg whites (or 1 egg, or apple sauce or egg subsitute)

1 cup sugar

1ish tbsps brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

a drizzle of oil

5-6 strawberries

10ish cherries

Preheat the oven to 400. Puree the strawberries and cherries in a blender. I didn’t de-pit the cherries, so I spit the pits out of the muffins which I’m ok with, but I guess you can de-pit them or buy pitted cherries if spitting bothers you. Mix the dry ingredients, eggs, and oil in a separate bowl. Add the cherry/strawberry puree. Mix well. Pour into a greased muffin cupcake tin.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes.

Enjoy.