food

The Wrong Kind of Surprise - Epi-Pen? Check. Clear tote? Check? Potential Disaster? Check.

I was packing for my quick trip to Maryland, having been invited to a pre-season Redskins-Patriots game by my brother. Thanks Mike! It was great fun and my first time Tailgating.

photo 2

My first time - I wasn't enjoying it at all.

Mike knows more about the game than most people, and also about the cheerleaders. If you get an invite, go. If you're lucky, like me, your team might spend their whole first half trying to get out of their own end zone, allowing you ample time to preview the team. It was the third quarter before New England earned their second first down and I think a minute 47 left before they put points on the board. But it was a fun time anyway. #HTTR

 

It's in the Bag

Since the NFL now has strict rules about what can or cannot be carried into a stadium, I had to take a close look at what I planned to carry. A wallet, a couple personal items, and that's about all that's allowed. See the statements and exclusions here. You can also carry a one gallon zip top bag, but I found this regulation clear bag was on sale, so why not?

tote

 

The regulation clear totes are meant to streamline the access to any game, making it easy for staff to check what you're carrying.

You'll Never Believe What Happened Next

Don't you hate those teaser headlines? Me too, but it's important info I'm conveying here, so I need to make sure you're paying attention.

Anyone who carries an Epi-Pen knows it's a pain in the butt. It cannot get too hot or it will lose effectiveness - so do NOT store it in your glove compartment. Not even for a short while. Don't think a gel ice pack is the answer, either. It cannot be too cool. So what does one do if one is tailgating and heading to a game in the heat of August? My plan was to bring my gel ice eye mask and place that next to the ice in the cooler, then wrap that loosely around the Epi-pen and bring that in the clear tote into Fedex Field.

I'm grateful to have an Epi-Pen and hope never to have to use it to save my life. Having been through this before, I can tell you, there's nothing in that experience that tempts me to repeat it. And I'm lucky to have lived to tell the story.

epipen

 

See that little window? Where it says "REPLACE if solution is discolored" -? Well I found my back up pen when packing and thought, "Hm, when was the last time I checked the one in my purse?" I couldn't recall. So I checked.

CLOUDY.

I tossed it and placed the newer (clear window) pen in my bag.

Imagine if I'd accidently ingested something that caused anaphylaxis and then took out my expired pen to save my life? Gives me the shivers just to think of it.

  • PLEASE check your pen NOW. Place a note on your calendar to check at some regular intervals - maybe the first of the month is an easy way to remember? It takes only a second to be sure you're safe. In the event of anaphylaxis you do not want to find out - as you're gasping for air - that your pen has lost effectiveness.
  • Please share this post with your friends and family and followers.

 

Skins

As you can see, we had a fun, safe evening at Fedex Field. My brother was sure to place food items for me in separate bags, cooked with separate tongs, and covered my side of the grill with foil. Bonus: it made cleanup easier. We shared food, but not allergens, safely. I picked up hotdogs and buns that were allergen free and my pen survived, too.

The Pats lost but it could have been so much worse. Get your game on and check those pens!

 

What to pack, how to prep when you're a food-allergic traveler

The thrill of travel is my siren song. I used to dream of filling a passport before it expired. Never happened, but I did manage to get to many great places. Machu Picchu, Xi'an, Tulum. Life can throw you one curveball after another, some good, some not so good. Layoffs, pink slips, food allergies. My high-flying life came to a decidedly more earthbound home. For several years I had time to travel but not the money.

The bitter and the sweet

As we get older, we begin to appreciate that one is enhanced by the other. Fast-forward several years and I am slowly building an entrepreneur's life. This means we swing from one trapeze landing to another, sometimes the grip is so tenuous, the next check so long in coming. But we learn to live with the anxiety that would have done us in before and push on, move forward. Grab and let go. Let go, grab.

This week I'm preparing for my first trip to Europe since my flight through de Gaulle to go to Mali but the last visit when I stayed and explored was a media trip to Valencia, Spain. That was wonderful, too. Both trips like evanescent dreams. Wonderful memories.

New opportunities, new challenges

I'm getting on a plane again 48 hours from this moment. I'm off to Brussels to work with the fabulous Nathan Fong on behalf of sustainable, delicious British Columbia seafood. After our success at  Seafood Expo North America (#sena2014) - stir-frying with the Trade Minister! We're bringing the dynamic duo to the largest seafood expo in the world, Brussels! Now I'm dealing with multiple food allergies. Looking at the food there, dairy is definitely going to be a problem. I won't have time to shop all over and my Flemish is pretty weak. I think I've got this one down though: "Aangenamen Kennismaking" (Nice to meet you) it's just plain fun to say, isn't it?

It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't have food allergies. But imagine you're somewhere unfamiliar, and you literally cannot risk eating food because you may end up in anaphylactic shock. And traveling in a professional capacity, you don't want to make every group meal a tiresome litany of your issue and allergies. "Who knows Flemish for 'allergy'?"

Moules Frites? Waffles? (butter, dairy) Carbonnade? Waterzooi? (butter, cream) Food, glorious food. It's what I live for, what I organize my life around, what I share with friends, family and clients. But the prospect of being unable to find anything to eat made me realize I now have an extra list of travel prep tasks: researching, prepping, baking, planning. Even the flight to Belgium is a problem. Special diet meals include vegetarian (with cheese, nuts) Asian Vegetarian (may include dairy); Vegetarian (dairy). So what can I eat during the flight? Grab and go in the airport? Can you trust the labels on pre-packed foods? The fast food training? Erm, no. Basically, there was not one option that I could choose that was both free of dairy and free of tree nuts. Swiss International Airlines announced an "allergy friendly" service but to me it sounds like only a baby step further than what other airlines do.

Chips? (made in a facility that also processes nuts) etc. It's impossible!

Luckily, I'm a good cook. And I have good friends. And a very caring husband. He has turned into the best food sleuth!

My goal was to find things easy to pack and dense with protein to keep me going in the worst case scenario.

Tips:

1. Research, research, research. What are the typical foods in your destination? What capacity does your hotel have to accommodate your allergies? (Or even, to speak English?) Check with TSA and your airlines.

2. Pack pouches. Really good tuna, quinoa cereal, and terrific peanut butter all come in these easy-to-pack pouches. Thanks Doc!

pouches

3. Bake ahead. Energy Bites; Crackers, Apple-Quinoa Cake.

choco chunks, fruit

rye crackers

travel snack

4. Try to order Allergy warning cards in the destination language. I ordered cards from Allergic Traveler - hope they'll arrive in time!

 

Recipes:

The energy bites are great pre/post workout snacks. I love that they're not overly sweet and they're super easy to customize. This is based on Kim O'Donnel's original recipe from her Washington Post days. Her Lulu's Cookies became my Choco-fruit Energy Bites.

Choco-fruit Energy Bites

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 C of a combo of: sunflower seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and sesame seeds (I omitted sesame and used a combo of peanuts, bran, amaranth for the third 1/2 C.)
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds.
  • 3 C flour [I used 1 C Irish Wholemeal flour +1 C White Whole Wheat + 1 C AP flour]
  • 2 cups rolled oats [I used rolled instant] + 1/3 C brown rice crispies + 1/4 flaked coconut
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dried fruit - cherries, prunes, apricots
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 3/4 C coconut + canola oil
  • 3/4 C honey + golden syrup
  • 1/2 - 3/4 C cup Enjoy Life chocolate chunks (free of 8 major allergens and made in an allergen free facility)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast seeds on a baking sheet about 8 minutes, or until the seeds turn a golden color. Be careful not to burn seeds.
  2.  Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly.
  3.  In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder and salt.
  4.  Soak dried fruit in hot water for about 15 minutes. Drain, but reserve soaking water.
  5.  Add dried fruit soaking water to dry mixture, plus oil and honey. With a rubber spatula, stir until combined. Add cooled seeds and stir to combine, then add fruit and chocolate chips. Don't over-mix.
  6.  Form teaspoon-sized patties onto a cookie sheet, preferably lined with parchment paper.
  7.  Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Don't over-bake; the cookies will turn into rocks.

Makes about 50 cookies.

I love that these are like two bite energy bars without all the overly sweet, highly processed ingredients. These are like bites of shortbread chunks of sweet dried fruits and chocolate.

 

What are your tips for traveling with food allergies or intolerances?

Next up, the apple quinoa cake!

Plum in Love - Blue to Red Clafouti

Monday morning I awoke, melancholic and drowsy. Blue. I’m not one of those bounce-out-of-bed types. Most days, it’s slow going; a thoroughly caffeinated journey to “awake.” But Blue mornings are different.

Plum in love - Discovery and Gifts of Friendship

Sunday night, I tidied up my weekly spreadsheet of the week’s work, editing, sorting, filing, into the wee hours last night. Even when I’m in the midst of work I love, I love it more in the wee hours of the night.

Regardless of how early I go to bed, some mornings just start this way. I hover on the brink, worries creeping around the edges. This week is the anniversary of my maternal grandmother’s birthday, gone more years than I can remember but still very much alive in my heart. She would have no tolerance for my self-indulgent, late starts, but in other ways, she understood me better than many do.

I know that blue canyon’s call is a siren song. Even in the fuzzy first moments, I know it’s a dangerous thing to flirt with. “Dip a cup in, but don’t go for a swim”, I tell myself. This Monday morning, confident that my spreadsheet would contain any disasters, I did something different. I sat quietly with my coffee and a good book. I reached for Red.

Red is the color of appetite. Of deep, lush fruit. In feng shui it represents fire, passion.  Often it’s the color recommended for dramatic accents, but I like to go big. Like bonfires. Like the chili-colored walls of my old dining room.

12bestplums

Today Red is Small

Like Methley plums I discovered at the farmers’ market. These little gems, about the size of ping pong balls, have deep red flesh and only the slightest tartness in the skin. They are luscious. These are extremely juicy and will squirt, drip, and dribble with only the slightest encouragement. They fit perfectly in a little boy’s hand and can be the perfect “suhpwise” for a day when this days-old baby sister business doesn’t seem like the best of plans. Not at all. A perfect plum gets a big wet smile.

Plums remind me of a girl with freckles in fourth grade named Melissa. She was taller than anyone in the class, she had curly pig tales and freckles. One day at lunch, Melissa was eating a plum. I was so intrigued. I don’t think I’d had one up till then. “Fruit” in our house was a Red Delicious apple. This plum had black skin, with a purply-red edge and a golden interior. She gave me one. I was smitten.

Red can be the symbol of danger.

Years later, the next Melissa I met was also tall. Melissa #2 was thin, had bouncy hair and had a cat that fetched pencils. We still used pencils back then. This Melissa was was so smart and beguiling that more than one professor was rumored to be her lover. We also heard that she’d married some striking, exotic man to enable him to get a green card. In that era, this was a mysterious, maybe even heroic, countercultural sort of thing to do. It was not a dangerous deed that landed you on a watch list. My boyfriend at the time (Mr. “Massive Potential for Growth”) was among the smitten and proved himself untrustworthy already. So, while this Melissa was perfectly friendly, I steered clear.

 

So, red plums and black plums, but not Melissa, entered my life as I could afford them. I thought I knew a thing or two about plums, about seemingly friendly and possibly threatening women, about seemingly trustworthy, and utterly-not, men. Turns out, I still had much to learn.

When I got the chance to travel back to Japan with my Mother years later and years ago now, I discovered hazelnut-sized pickled plums in a vending machine. A vending machine! They were unlike the wrinkly, soft umeboshi I’d already added to my expanding plum universe. These were tart, a taste representation of an exclamation point. ! They were hard and round and crunchy. My mouth waters for one now.

Plums are friendly fruit. Perhaps it’s because of that first Melissa, who was open and without an agenda just as I was learning that other girls were beginning to plot and plan. It all seemed too difficult and treacherous to me. Melissa #1 offered plums with no strings attached and that may be why I always think of them in that way. Slightly magical, innocent, in their friendly simplicity. And plums are also beguiling like that second Melissa, they can be charming, they can hold dark secrets.

In this Summer, a late Summer afternoon of my seasons, I discover again something wonderful in a simple plum. The wide-eyed joy of a little boy’s face as the ruby red juice squirts into his mouth and onto his chin, his shirt. The new-to-us Methley plum quickly devoured in a shared moment.

When Romney Steele’s Plum Gorgeous: Recipes and Memories from the Orchard arrived, I was bowled over by the deep red cover, and of course, the plums. This book, like her earlier one, My Nepenthe, opens a window into the bohemian life of coastal California. My Nepenthe looks back in time while Plum Gorgeous is firmly planted in here and now. Now as in the season of perfect Summer plums.

Plum Gorgeous, true to its title, contains recipes and stories from Romney’s orchard wanderings lead you to an enchanted life. Like the meandering garden path in the last pages of the book, it leads me away from the edge of Blue. It leads me to Red with a stop to taste a plum along the way. To share a plum, tender a plum as a surprise; to feel the shift from Blue to Red is a gift from a friend we hardly know, on a day when it is most welcome.

 plumgorgeouscover-269x300

 

 

Julia Child's Clafouti, sort of.

This is not from the book, but since it was Julia Child's birthday, and I had those plums, and this book was an important part of the day.

Clafouti - besides being the most fun word to say, (I mean, what other dessert rhymes with Djibouti?!) - is so easy and so versatile. It's something between a crêpe and a pancake when it's finished, but it puffs up like a popover or soufflé while it bakes. Serve it hot, warm or room temp for breakfast, if there's any leftover.

I adapted this classic recipe to incorporate blueberries (going with the Blue to Red theme) and replaced milk with soy milk to make it dairy-free. Also, my plums were ripe so I didn't blanch them, but I did let them macerate, along with the blueberries, in a couple tablespoons of Cointreau. Pretty sure Julia would have approved.

Ingredients:

My modifications (in parentheses)

  • 1 pound firm, ripe plums (combination of ripe Methley plums and blueberries)
  • 1 1/4 C milk (Soy milk, and maceration liquid to make 1 1/4 C)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (Neilsen-Massey Tahitian)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 extra cup sugar (not needed as these plums were so juicy sweet!)
  • icing sugar for dusting (used confectioner's)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut plums in half and sprinkle with some sugar. (not needed! macerated with Cointreau) Set aside.
  2. Place all of the ingredients except the last 1/3 cup sugar in a blender in the order they are listed. Cover and blend at top speed for 1 minute.
  3. Pour a 1/4-inch layer of the batter in a buttered fireproof baking dish or pyrex pie plate about 1 1/2 inches deep. Place in the oven for about 5 minutes–until a film of batter has set in the bottom of the dish.
  4. Spread the plums over the batter with the skins facing up. Sprinkle with the extra 1/3 cup sugar (can be omitted). Pour on the rest of the batter.
  5. Bake in the middle position of the oven for about an hour, until the clafouti has puffed and browned and a toothpick or knife plunged into its center comes out clean. Sprinkle the clafouti with icing (confectioner's) sugar before serving.

 

 

Cut plumsMethley plum, halved.

 

 

Clafouti The finished clafouti, sprinkled with confectioner's sugar.