The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook

200 Gourmet and Homestyle Recipes for the Food Allergic Family

allergy cookbook

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Tonight we were down to the bare bones in my kitchen, but dinner still had to be made, so I came up with an almost completely allergen-free kid-friendly hybrid, the "Quesapizza". This quesapizza is a combination of a quesadilla and a pizza, and it was so good, even my son Lennon who has a peckish appetite ate all of his.

It is allergen-free, except for the soy cheese

(so sorry if you're soy allergic, but if so, you can just omit the cheese part). I use Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Cheese Alternative in chedder flavor. It is the only Dairy-Free cheese my kids really like, and since Lennon outgrew his soy allergy, I allow it.

I'm not going to give proportions to the following as it's really a "by feel" kind of recipe, dependant on what you have in the fridge, and how many people you're feeding.

To make a quesapizza, use rice tortilla shells (I used Food for Life, brown rice tortillas). Put tortillas on a baking sheet. Spoon out some jarred marinara sauce, leaving about 1/2 inch uncovered around edges (so little fingers can hold it). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Saute some thinly sliced onions in a little olive oil over medium heat till softened. Add sliced mushrooms, and suate till softened a bit too. Throw a few baby spinach leaves on top of tortilla, top with onions and mushrooms, and add a few slices of nitrite-free salami (tastes like pepperoni, available at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods). Top with shredded or thinly sliced soy cheese. (these ingredients are just what I had in my house. Feel free to alter as you see fit, but be sure to saute your heartier veggies a bit as this quesapizza only cooks 10 minutes in the oven). And not to be redundant, but... put in oven and cook 10 minutes. Remove and cut into quarters, and eat like a pizza, or fold over and cut in half, to eat like a quesadilla (the less messy way to eat it). Here are my boys, Lennon and Monte after their feeding frenzy. Stupidly, I gave them their bath right before dinner.


Monday, August 07, 2006


Dear general readers, Kate and/or Anonymous:

Below is an email from Spectrum, regarding the much debated Spectrum Organic Vegetable Shortening, that I use and highly recommend. Due to the accusation that I am "Lying" to people about this product, I have procured the following official statement. For anyone who still has questions (or wants to threaten legal action) please contact the manufacturer directly. Additionally, I tracked down further info on Crisco Canola Oil, and Wesson Oil, for which I have also provided contact numbers.

"Spectrum's Organic Shortening is produced and packaged in Columbia. Anyone that is saying that our shortening is packaged in the US alongside our other oils are making erroneous assumptions.

The label does indicate "Product of Colombia" and with good reason. Spectrum has to follow very strict and auditable product and raw material chain of custody guidelines and document them all, has to register as a company with various regulatory authorities, has to verify employment eligibility of personnel, has to comply with intermodal guidelines, consumer product safety guidelines, etc. As a handler (trader) of food, we fall under the jurisdiction of several key regulatory Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) titles which include: FDA (21 CFR), USDA (7 CFR), Bureau of Customs and Border Protection/Homeland Security (6 CFR), Aliens and Nationality (8 CFR), Commerce and Foreign Trade (15 CFR), Commercial Practices (16 CFR), Custom's Duties (19 CFR), and Transportation (49 CFR). Also the Kosher certification "KSA" is yet another independent certification that this product is manufactured for Spectrum in Colombia following strict dietary guidelines.

In addition to this, the process to make shortening is quite involved and requires very specialized temperature controlled equipment not only to process the palm fruit but to get it to the nice creamy non-grainy texture the consumer receives (I can give you a brief summary on this if you need it). Remember shortening is actually a fat (solid at room temperature) and not an oil - completely different equipment not only to produce the shortening but to package it. The equipment is specialized to specific packaging types to gain production efficiencies and minimize product cross contamination. One does not and cannot use the same production line to produce shortening in a plastic tub and oil in a glass bottle.

We comply with all the regulations as well as police ourselves, to ensure the integrity of the product and make it as safe as possible for all consumers - including those with allergies.

To the best of our knowledge there are no peanut or tree nut products manufactured at this plant.

Ellen Markham
Spectrum Organic Products
A Division of the Hain Celestial Group
v. 503-289-1082
f. 503-289-1081

I called consumer relations re: Wesson Oil, which Anonymous had obscurely referenced as "Mrs. Brady", saying it was manufactured and bottled in a peanut-free, tree-nut free facility. I'm sorry Anonymous, but this just isn't true, and you are now guilty of doing exactly what you accuse me of -- spreading around misinformation. Wesson Oil is manufactured and bottled in a facility with Peanut Oil, and Soy Oil. Consumers, please feel free to check this by calling 1 800 582-7809, and following the menu through till you actually reach a person. Their recorded allergy information won't tell you about cross-contamination, you have to speak to a person.

But I've saved the good news till last. I stand corrected about Crisco Canola Oil (Sort of). I am wrong that ALL oil manufacturers also bottle peanut or tree nut oils. There is one that doesn't. Crisco Canola Oil is manufactured and bottled in a Peanut-free, Tree nut-free facility. However, it's NOT a Soy-free facility. So if you have severe soy allergies, please be forewarned. For more info on Crisco products, call 1-800-766-7309.

I am very happy to have discovered this about Crisco Canola Oil for the peanut and tree-nut allergic, and thank you to Anonymous, for this info. Next time, just tell me, without going on a tear. We should all be trying to help each other, we're in this together, let's not be divisive.

Happy baking and cooking to all of you!


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Pandora's Box

Dear readers:

I understand your concerns over cross contamination. I've done a lot of research on the matter of cooking oils, and here's the bad news: all vegetable oils, except for some brands of olive oil, are bottled in facilities that also bottle nut oils. Yes, that's right, all oils. Call the Allergy Grocer, and they'll tell you the same. If you call around to the various oil manufacturers, they'll reveal this horrible truth. Spectrum just happens to declare it. Most companies don't. Even California Rice Bran Oil, which is often recommended as a risk-free oil bottles along with nut oils. If you follow this to its ultimate conclusion, this means that even allergen-free products made in dedicated allergen-free facilities still often contain oil, and if they do, that oil was bottled in a facility with nut oil. So if you're eating an allergen-free cookie that contains canola oil, or safflower oil, or any other type of oil, that canola oil or safflower oil was bought from another manufacturer where they bottled it along with nut oils. And I'm sure I'll get an angry email about this calling me a spoiler, but I'm telling the truth, no oil (except for olive), and no product made with oil is 100% risk-free. Dedicated allergen-free foods are a wonderful thing, but they don't have to declare anything about the manufacturing practices of their raw ingredients.

I don't mean to be an alarmist here. Truly, you could take this info and it might make you never want to eat again, considering that vegetable oil is used in all restaurants, and most prepackaged products on the market. But there is some good news.

The good news is that some oil and shortening manufacturers practice extremely strict manufacturing practices where they flush the lines. You can make yourself a lot more secure by educating yourself about which brands practice GMP (good manufacturing practices) and HACCP (hazards and critical analysis control points) as well as finding allergen-free dedicated plants and dedicated lines.

Again, though Spectrum (please bare with me to the end of this) does list a disclaimer, if you call them or go to their website, they'll tell you "Spectrum has never had an allergy problem arise from the use of its oils. However, some of our oils do share equipment with that which has been used to process nut oils". Additionally, they will tell you that though they bottle several nut oils, that these oils come to them already pressed, ready to be bottled, meaning that the actual nut or fiber from the nut is not present in their manufacturing plant (meaning the peanut or nut proteins are not present in the plant, just the oil). The oils do share an immediate finishing line and filler with their flaxseed oil. From Spectrum: "To prevent any cross contamination, Spectrum thoroughly flushes the filling lines between the bottling of our different types of oils. In addition, we also flush many pounds of the new oil to be bottled through the lines and filler before actually bottling the new oil".

California Rice Bran Oil has the same flushing practices. I, for one, feel much safer with a company like Spectrum or California Rice Bran Oil that has addressed the issue, and gone to the effort to take huge precautions to avoid cross-contamination than one who hasn't even bothered to mention the disclaimer on their label. Because again, all these oil manufacturers are bottling in facilities with nut oils, and they always have. My hunch is that the manufacturers who list the warning may in fact be a safer bet than the ones that don't. For example, a large company that uses shared lines but has allergen policies, and HACCP procedures in place (which most large companies do) may in fact be safer than a small company using dedicated lines. And FYI, Spectrum is not a small company at all, they are owned by Hain Celestial.

And no, my son does not have a peanut or a tree nut allergy. He has a dairy allergy (and used to have a soy allergy, which he has outgrown). He has never been exposed to either peanuts or tree nuts, and thus has never had the protein introduced, thereby creating the allergy. I have been very careful to keep him away from peanuts and tree-nuts, because as I'm sure you know as other food allergy parents, the child must be exposed at least once to the allergen for the immune system to create the antibodies against the offending allergen. I have purposefully kept my sons away from peanuts and tree-nuts so that they will not develop either allergy. My son Lennon is a hyper-allergic individual, and I avoid peanuts, tree-nuts, and shellfish like the plague.

About Sponsorship:

I was not sponsored by Spectrum when I wrote my cookbook. But I did use Spectrum products. At that time, there was no mention of bottling along with nut and peanut oils on their labels. I used their oils, because I and my publisher thought they had the lowest risk of cross-contamination due to their strict cleansing practices (which i still believe to be true). Again, they go so far as to say on their website:

"Spectrum has never had an allergy problem arise from the use of its oils."

After my book came out, they wished to sponsor me. But labels have changed in the past year. And due to this, I have been hesitant to recommend any of their products but the Organic All Vegetable Shortening. The reason I have continued to use this shortening in my recipes is because it is the only soy-free, dairy-free, tree nut-free, peanut-free shortening on the market (that I have found). I have been told on repeated occasions that it is manufactured and also packaged in Columbia, not in the US in the bottling plant with the Nut Oils. I was last told this in May, 06. However, they can not promise that it is 100% risk free (as nobody really can). When I called Hain Celestial again today, they wouldn't give me any info at all, saying that consumer relations is not privy to information about where a product is packaged, and that they will not guarantee that it's risk free. Smart for them, but extremely frustrating for all of us. I wish I could find just one vegetable oil or shortening product that was 100% risk free of every possible allergen, but I can't make that promise, because nobody can make it to me. So ultimately, it's up to every individual to call manufactures on their own (as I've said many times before), to ask about the GMP, and HACCP....

I am trying to help you, not harm you. Only you know what your own comfort level is, and how severe your or your loved one's allergy is. Not to mention the fact that manufacturing practices change frequently, sometimes on a weekly basis. So even if I know something this week, I won't know if it's true next week.

I think the most important thing to do is to try to be educated. Learn these manufacturing terms. But most importantly, make sure you always have epi-pens, and that whomever is taking care of your child has epi-pens, and truly knows how to use them. Because there is no way to live a completely risk-free life, but we can be prepared, if the risk suddenly presents itself.