Saturday, March 31, 2012

Recipe: Apple & Roasted Parsnip Salad

Posting this recipe was sort of an after through, which is why the picture posted is of my husband's almost finished salad bowl. It was so good, that I decided that it really needed to be shared. If you don't like parsnips generally, here is the trick: leave them in your garden until spring where they will become sweet like candy. We dug ours up today and they are nothing like their fall counterparts!

 Apple & Roasted Parsnip Salad
1 head of lettuce
2 apples, diced in cubes
1 package free-range bacon, cooked till crisp and diced
1-2 cups, parsnip chips**
1 small shallot, minced
Rosemary-balsamic dressing*

*Rosemary-Balsamic Dressing
6 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tblsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tblsp stone ground mustard
1 small shallot, diced
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 sun dried tomato, diced finely
1 Tblsp dried or 1 tsp fresh rosemary
sea salt & pepper to taste

**Parsnip Chips
7-8 spring parsnips, peeled and diced
2 Tblsp clarified butter or ghee
sea salt

Pre-heat oven to 400°C. Prepare parsnips, toss in butter and salt. Spread out on a greased or parchment layered cookie sheet and bake until crisp (slightly browned) - approximately 40-50 minutes. Meanwhile, start cooking up your bacon in a frying pan on medium heat until crispy. In a mason jar, place all of your dressing ingredients and blend with an immersion blender. Chop up bacon, dice apple and shallot and toss together with lettuce, cooled parsnip chips and dressing. Yum!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Striving for Balance

I've been away from this space for a while now, having been busy with holidays and traveling and family and other interests. While away, I've realized just how beneficial it has been for everyone in my family - myself included - to have had that break.

With a little one of three on the verge of dropping naps, the spare time I once had for working on blog posts has all but disappeared. I truly admire the many mothers out there who find the time to balance blogging and motherhood with such apparent grace.

For now, I've found that I parent with more grace without this blog. Perhaps at some point in the future, it will work out for me to come back here to share what I've been doing with you. Until then, thank you all for your readership, words of encouragement and support. It has been an incredible learning experience!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Recipe: Coconut Fingers

The inspiration for this recipe comes originally from The Coconut Mama, and is dipped in chocolate. Unfortunately, chocolate has been bothering us lately, and so we tweaked the recipe to make the coconut portion taste like a stand alone treat. It is such a fast and easy snack to make - not to mention healthy - that I've taken to making sure we have some in the freezer at all times. My son loves these little bite sized morsels. I hope you do too.

Coconut Fingers (makes ~20)
6 dates, pited
1/2 tsp gluten-free vanilla extract
2 Tblsp creamed organic honey
3 Tblsp organic coconut oil
1 1/4 cups flaked organic coconut

In a food processor, blend together the dates, vanilla and honey. In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil. Add in flaked coconut and mix together. Once combined, add coconut mixture to dates in food processor and pulse until blended, scraping sides as needed. Line a bread pan with parchment paper and press mixture into pan evenly until condensed and firm. Place in freezer for 30 minutes and then remove and cut into "finger" sized portions.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Recipe: Mulled Apple Cider

It has become a tradition for us to make mulled cider in the days leading up to Christmas. However, this year's apple cider has been particularly special because we've been making it from the apples we picked via fruit sharing this fall. You can definitely use store bought apple juice in this recipe, but if you have a juicer, I highly encourage you to juice your own apples beforehand. It will turn this beverage into an especially tasty treat.

Mulled Apple Cider
3 cups apple juice, fresh or canned
4 whole cloves
2 tsp organic orange peel, grated
2 cinnamon sticks (3 inches)

In a medium pot, place all ingredients together and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit 5-10 minutes. Strain, serve and garnish with cinnamon sticks if you want to be fancy.

Linked to Wellness Weekend, Sugar-free Sunday, Butter Believer, Barn Hop, Monday Mania, Ruth's Real Food, Fat Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tea Party Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, WFMW, Gluten-free Wednesday, Health2Day, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter Thursday, Thursday's Cupboard, Full Plate Thursday.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Start a Harvest Sharing Organization

I recently had the opportunity to say a few words in our community about the value of starting a local harvest sharing organization. It is such a fantastic way to preserve fruit producing trees and shrubs in a community. What follows is some of what I had to say:
Harvest sharing is the idea of linking up people with unwanted fruit trees or berry patches or even extra garden harvests with those who want of it via a fruit sharing organization. It works something like this: a homeowner would register and 'donate' their fruit tree to a harvest sharing organization for the season. Volunteers would come to pick the fruit. A portion of the harvest would go back to the home owner (if they wanted it), a portion of the harvest would go to the volunteers and a portion of the harvest would get donated to the local food bank, soup kitchen or other organization that had need of it. Essentially, harvest sharing is about rescuing and redistributing food.
In the last few years, the idea of harvest sharing has gained a lot of interest and organizations are popping up all over Canada. This past year, an organization called Fruit for Thought started in Regina. Their first season of picking brought in over 3000 lbs of apples from 30 trees! An organization in Toronto called Not Far From the Tree, which has been active for a few years now, harvested almost 20,000 lbs of fruit from just over 200 trees in 2010. In both instances, they received more fruit tree 'donations' than they had volunteers to pick.
In walking through my own neighbourhood, I've noticed that there are a lot of apple trees that go unpicked every year. It's really hard to see that perfect fruit go to waste, especially when there are people in our community that do not get enough to eat.
Harvest sharing is also a great way to help out the elderly who have fruit trees but no longer have the desire to climb up a ladder or to bend down to pick up what may have fallen on the ground. Or perhaps they have garden space that is sitting empty that they would like to see maintained. Harvest sharing organizations are a great way to keep food producing spaces in production.

Apples grow abundantly in our climate, and yet, in Canada, for every apple we export, we import five. The numbers are even worse for pears. In Canada, we import many foods that our climate is capable of growing. But, in the case of fruit trees, that produce is being provided to us year after year for very little effort. From a food security standpoint, harvest sharing organizations can help us change these numbers - on a local level at least - for the better.
Harvest sharing is such a win-win situation because it fills several needs and takes advantage of an underutilized local resource. If you're thinking about starting a harvest sharing organization in your community, take a look at the following established groups for some ideas on how to go about it:

Harvest Sharing Organizations in Canada
Toronto: Not Far from the Tree 
Winnipeg: Fruit Share Manitoba
Regina: Fruit for Thought
Saskatoon: Out of Your Tree Saskatoon
Calgary: Calgary Harvest
Edmonton: Operation Fruit Rescue
Vancouver: Vancouver Fruit Tree Project Society
Victoria: Life Cycles Fruit Tree Project

If you know of more Canadian harvest sharing organizations, please leave their contact information in the comment section so I can add them to the list!

Linked to Real Food Wednesday, WFMW, Simple Lives Thursday, Real Food Friday, Living Well, Freaky Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Gallery of Favorites, Barn Hop.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Recipe: Lazy Strawberry Coconut 'Yogurt'

The best way to eat coconut 'yogurt' is by culturing it first, like Lexie does here. However, when we're running short on time, we make this recipe instead. This dairy-free yogurt tastes amazingly like the real thing. It's thick, not overly sweet and somehow has that tangy aftertaste of a cultured food. The secret lazy ingredient is the added pro-biotic cultures.

Lazy Strawberry Coconut 'Yogurt' (makes 6 cups or ~12 servings)
1 can organic coconut milk (we use Native Forest)
1 organic avocado
1 organic banana
2 cups strawberries, fresh or frozen
Pro-biotic blend**

In a blender, mix all ingredients until smooth. Store in the fridge for 3-5 days. Use it anywhere you would in place of traditional yogurt.

**The amount of pro-biotics you add will depend on what brand you're using. Divide the instructed pro-biotic dose by 12 servings to determine how much you should add. For example, 1/4 tsp per person multiplied by 12 servings would equal 3 teaspoons.

Linked to Wellness Weekend, Sugar-free Sunday, Sunday School, Monday Mania, Barn Hop, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, WFMW, Gluten-free Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Thursday's Cupboard, Pennywise Platter Thursday, Real Food Friday, Allergy-Friendly Friday, Allergy Lunchbox Love, Living Well, Freaky Friday, Fresh Bites Friday.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Traveling with Food Allergies

Today's post has been generously written by Rebecca Hirt of Peanut Butter, Passports and Epinephrine. Not only does Rebecca provide some excellent tips on how to travel with food allergies, but she also demonstrates the extent a mother has to go to protect her children from an allergic reaction while still trying to lead a normal life. Whether you have allergies in your family or not, I hope you will take the time to read this article.

I’m honored to be able to share some of my travel tips here on Food Farm Health. Travel has always been a huge part of my life, and when I had kids I wasn’t going to let that slow me down. I traveled frequently when my son, Connor, was a baby and never had any problems. When my daughter, Eva, was born she suffered from horrible eczema and stomach distress. I flew with her a couple times until, at 14 months old, she had a severe allergic reaction to peanuts while visiting a friend. Then all my traveling stopped.

I was devastated by her diagnosis, not because I wanted to travel but because I wanted her to see the world. I’ve always felt very strongly that experiencing other cultures is key to self-discovery. I wanted her to have the same opportunities that I did when I was younger. It took me quite a while to come to terms with the fact that we’d never again be able to book the cheapest flight two days in advance, pack all we’d need for the trip in a tiny carry-on, and eat at any old restaurant along the way. Things that were second nature to me had to be relearned and reprogrammed. The traveling spirit never left, however, and I knew I had to find a way for my little girl to see the world.

After I found out about Eva’s allergy, I made an appointment for my son to be tested. It turns out that he is allergic to shellfish and melon, and he tested positive to corn even though he’s never reacted to it (Genetically modified corn and its overuse is a post for another day). I am allergic to latex, which sometimes manifests itself in food. So between the three of us, we have to avoid quite a lot of things. Eva’s peanut allergy is by far the most severe, so I tend to focus on that; however, know that with food  allergies, the reactions tend to get progressively more severe, so even if your child only had a mild reaction to something don’t dismiss it. The next reaction could be very serious.

Traveling with a child who has severe food allergies is always scary, and it’s never easy. I won’t lie – I’m always terrified before we leave. I don’t sleep. My mind won’t turn off. Did I pack all the food? What did I forget to cook? Did I count our days correctly? Do I have enough emergency safe snacks? I’m constantly checking and rechecking, adding to and crossing off my numerous lists. It will always be hard, but there are a few things that you can do to make it a little easier on yourself and safer for your little ones.
  • Always call the airline before you book your flight, talk to a real person, and make sure they can make it a “peanut free” flight. If they offer to create a “buffer zone” DON’T fly with them. I cannot stress this enough! A buffer zone does nothing to prevent air-borne exposure. Also, ask if you will be allowed to board the airplane early in order to clean your child’s seat area. FAAN has a list of cleaners that effectively remove the peanut allergen from surfaces.
  • I recently flew with Delta (a “buffer zone” airline) and there literally were peanuts everywhere – in the seat, on the floor, in the seatback pocket. I was astonished at how little cleaning was done prior to boarding. Thank goodness Eva wasn’t with me on that flight. Once you feel comfortable with an airline, book the flight.
  • Make sure your child wears a medic alert bracelet, and label her luggage and EpiPens with allergy information cards. Peanut Free Plane has a great example.
  • Bake and cook enough snacks for the entire trip, not just on your flights. It sounds strange, but I typically fill a third of my suitcase with food. That seems like a lot, but as we eat it there is more room to bring home souvenirs. I also always have some safe chocolate on hand. It’s a bummer not being able to eat what everyone else is eating, and a little chocolate treat helps Eva feel better. Here are some of my favorite travel food recipes.
  • Make sure you remind the airline of your child’s allergy when you check in. Depending on the airline, they may have flagged you child’s ticket, and they may print out a medical voucher which informs airport security, the pilot, and the flight attendants of your child’s situation. Your going to feel like a broken record as you tell people the same thing over and over, but I truly believe that the more people that know, the safer your child will be on the trip.
  • Keep your EpiPens in their original box and make sure your child’s current prescription is attached. Take them out of your bag at security and run them through the x-ray machine separately.
  • Give you child a dose a Benadryl before boarding the plane - speak to your child’s allergist first about the correct dose as it sometimes varies from what is printed on the box. I find that this offers some protection against air-borne allergens.
  • Familiarize yourself with any foreign languages you may be using. Learn how to say “My daughter/son is allergic to peanuts.” Write a list of all the words for “peanut” in that language so that you can quickly decipher food labels and communicate with shop owners and waiters.  There are a lot of resources on the web to help you do this. Tour guides can be especially helpful with translating. Every time you eat at a restaurant ask for a peanut allergy menu - and I mean EVERY time. I don’t have to tell you that peanuts like to hide in everything from chili and pizza sauce to egg rolls and enchiladas.
If you are staying with friends or relatives there are a few more things to look out for. Beware of open jam and fruit preserve jars in the refrigerator. I was once staying with a friend when I got out the jam to spread on Eva’s tartine for breakfast. As I was spooning it out I noticed a small brown smudge mixed in with the jam in the jar. Someone had made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and had used the peanut butter knife in the jelly.

Additionally, most people don’t realize that a large number of popular dog treats and food contain peanuts as a main ingredient. If you’re staying with a person who has a dog, ask to read the labels of their dog’s food and treats. I know it sounds silly, but if the dog eats these and then licks your child, he could develop hives.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’m still learning myself. If you have any other tips or tricks please feel free to share them in a comment. I believe that as the number of children with food allergies continues to rise, the world will become more aware, and traveling will become easier. Until then, plan ahead, be prepared, and go show you child this amazing, diverse, and beautiful world!

Linked to Real Food Wednesday, WFMW, Health2Day, Simple Lives Thursday, Fight Back Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Freaky Friday, Sunday School, Monday Mania, Barn Hop.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Canary in the Coal Mine: Honey Bees

If you have about an hour to spare, I highly recommend watching this video. It is a great introduction to what is happening with the honey bee. While I am not a bee keeper (yet), I am keenly interested in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and how it is affecting our bee population. Not only is the world's population very dependent on bee pollination for one quarter to one third of all food production, but their decline may be a warning sign to us all. What we are doing to our environment we are doing to ourselves - only in bees, a generation or two can turn over in just one year, so the damaging effects are amplified much, much faster.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Recipe: A Good Soup Stock

A good stock includes four main ingredients: meaty bones, apple cider vinegar, water and time. These ingredients, before vegetables and herbs, will make a very tasty soup base all on its own. Adding a few vegetables and herbs like parsley, celery leaf and lovage will improve the flavour and add even more nutrients.

Making broths is an excellent way to let nothing go to waste. Vegetable peelings, vegetable water (water from cooking vegetables in) and leftover meaty bones can be saved and reused, and the result is very nourishing for our bodies. Sally Fallon has an informative section on the health benefits of bone broths in her book, 'Nourishing Traditions'. Here is an excerpt:
"Properly prepared, meat stocks are extremely nutritious, containing the minerals of the bone, cartilage, marrow and vegetables as electrolytes, a form that is easy to assimilate. Acidic wine or vinegar added during cooking helps to draw minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium, into the broth."1
The gelatin in stocks is extremely important for anyone suffering with digestive disorders. It not only facilitates nutrient assimilation in those having trouble digesting food, it acts as a "protein sparer, allowing the body to more fully utilize the complete proteins that are taken in."2 For anyone trying to minimize their animal protein consumption, bone broths are really great. Now that the weather has turned cold, soup made with homemade stock is usually on the daily menu.

My stock is never quite the same because I believe in using whatever happens to be on hand, and that will vary depending on the time of year or what's in the fridge at any given moment. However, in an ideal world, the following ingredients make it into our stock pot whenever we're making broth.

A Good Stock (makes a big potful)
8 cups cold water, or saved vegetable water
2 Tblsp apple cider vinegar
2 ham hocks, beef bones or chicken back, neck and feet
1-2 carrots, roughly chopped
3-4 parsnips ends (the parts too skinny to use)
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
A handful of parsley (fresh or dried)
A handful of celery leaf (fresh or dried)
A pinch of lovage (fresh or dried)
Sea salt
Cracked pepper

Starting early in the morning, on a day you plan to be around, place all ingredients in a stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to simmer - all day. The longer the better. Strain the broth once the broth is cool enough to handle. Store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days or freeze until needed.

1, 2 Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon, pg 116

Linked to Sunday School, Sugar-free Sunday, Sunday Soup Night, Monday Mania, Barn Hop, Fat Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, WFMW, Gluten-Free Wednesday, Health2Day, Simple Lives Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Full Cupboard Thursday, Fight Back Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Allergy-Friendly Friday, Freaky Friday, Living Well.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Recipe: Roasted Carrots & Parsnips with Fresh Herbs

This is my fancy vegetable 'go-to' recipe. With Thanksgiving just around the corner for my American friends, I thought I would share one of the dishes that we make for our Thanksgiving here in Canada. It's such a lovely way to showcase those carrots and parsnips from the garden, and any fresh herbs you brought inside for the winter. If you're not a fan of parsnips, you might just find you enjoy them once they're tossed with rosemary and thyme.

Roasted Carrots & Parsnips (serves 4-6)
6 carrots, peeled and cut matchstick style
6 parsnips, peeled and cut matchstick style
3 Tblsp grapeseed oil
Sea salt & cracked pepper
3 Tblsp coconut oil
1 Tblsp shallot, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped fine
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped fine
1 garlic clove, minced

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, toss prepped carrots, parsnips, oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to a 8x11 glass baking dish and roast until browned, approximately 45-50 minutes. Be sure to stir vegetables frequently during this time. Meanwhile, combine coconut oil, shallot, garlic and fresh herbs in a small bowl. Remove vegetables from oven and toss with herb mixture until evenly coated. Serve immediately!

Linked to Wellness Weekend, Living Well Weekend, SOS November Ingredient, Sugar-Free Sunday, Sunday School, Monday Mania, Barn Hop, Fat Tiuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, WFMW, Gluten-free Wednesday, Health2Day, Simple Lives Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard, Pennywise Platter Thursday, Allergy-Friendly Friday, Fight Back Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Freaky Friday.

Friday, November 18, 2011

This Moment

A moment from the week to savor and remember via Soulemama. A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

With Gratitude

Having never entered in something like the Circle of Mom's Top 25 Allergy Blog contest before, I really had no idea what to expect. Though, I can tell you, given that I registered for the contest over a week late and given that I have been writing in this space for less than a year, my expectations for making it on that list were quite low.
To be listed among the top 25 was a far off hope. To have finished among the top five exceeded my wildest expectations! I'm touched beyond words to know that so many people took the time to vote because they felt this blog should be there. Thank you again to all of you for your support.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What Type of Allergy Test Did You Have?

If you see a doctor about being tested for allergies, you are likely being tested for IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibodies. IgE antibody production "occurs right after ingestion or inhalation of an allergen and is referred to as a Type I immediate hypersensitivity reaction."1 This is the kind of allergy that can be life threatening and often requires EpiPens to be carried at all times. An IgE response is considered to be a 'true' allergy.

However, there is another type of allergy test that looks for a different kind of antibody, IgG (immunoglobulin G), and this test may or may not be offered by your doctor. IgG antibodies "are produced for several hours or days after exposure to an allergen and are called Type III delayed hypersensitivity reactions."2 Due to the delay in reaction time - sometimes up to three days - this type of allergy or 'sensitivity' is particularly difficult to connect to specific foods without first having an IgG test done or completing a very diligent elimination diet.

There is some controversy over IgG tests because the results are not always accurate. If a specific food has not been consumed within three weeks of testing, the body may not have produced sufficient IgG antibodies for the test to pick it up, causing a false negative. Some proteins are so similar (bananas and pineapple) that a person might test positive for both even if they are not allergic to both. This is considered a false positive. Due to these "inaccuracies" this test is often not offered when you request allergy testing from your doctor.

Despite the flaws of the IgG test, it does provide useful information. Results showing antibodies to a large percentage of the foods tested strongly indicates the presence of a leaky gut, or perforations in the intestinal lining that is allowing food proteins to enter into the blood stream. Results that you feel uncertain about can be challenged by proceeding with an elimination diet and then gradually reintroducing the suspected allergen over three days and noting any symptoms.

If you're sure that a certain food is causing your symptoms, but your results come back negative for IgE antibodies, you may also want to consider being tested for an IgG antibodies. It is quite possible for test results to come back negative for an IgE test, but positive for an IgG test and vice versa because they are testing for different antibodies.

If you're having allergy testing done, be sure to understand which type of test is being performed so that you're getting the complete picture.

1, 2

Monday, November 14, 2011

Learning About Food Allergies

Later on this winter, my son will turn three. We've started having conversations with him about why we don't eat certain foods, why we don't partake in bread or cake when visiting company. It's hard to know how early is too early and how much he'll comprehend at this age.

When telling him about his food allergies, we always try to give him a reason why, keep the sentences short and easy to remember. Our conversations go something like this:

"Eggs give you the runs and a rash all over."
"Chocolate makes you angry."
"Bread or cake gives us a tummy ache."
"Nuts make you act a little nuts and gives your skin spots!"

I'm always worried I'm going to overwhelm him with the number of foods we're avoiding, but amazingly, he is storing this information away for when it is needed.

Just the other day he surprised me. I was attempting to rework an old Christmas cookie favorite - Peppernuts - when he told me he couldn't have them because he couldn't have nuts! No matter how I tried to explain that they contained no nuts - that it was just the name - he remained steadfast that he couldn't have them.

That definitely warmed my heart and eased some of my fears about his eating the wrong thing when I'm not around. Kids are smarter than we sometimes give them credit for.

I may just have to rename that cookie recipe.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thank You

Being nominated in the Circle of Moms Top 25 Allergy Blogger contest has been an incredibly humbling experience. Through it, I've met some amazing moms doing some truly amazing work with their blogs for the sake of allergy awareness and health. I am so very honored to be listed among these well established and informative sites.

But, the fact that so many of you have taken time out of your day - each and every day - to vote has been the truly moving experience for me. So many people - people that I don't even know - have reached out to support me and this blog generously with their votes. I know many of you have passed on the details of this contest to others and have encouraged them to vote for me as well. I cannot describe the depths of my gratitude for all of these unselfish acts of kindness.

To all my friends, family and unknown supporters, thank you so very much for your continued generosity and support. I will do my best to be worthy of it.