Category: Gluten Free/Dairy Free/Egg Free

Choffy – Delicious Brewing Chocolate

Choffy 100% Ground Cacao Beans When you open a bag of Choffy the delicious aroma of chocolate tickles your nose. It’s not a super sweet smell, but rich and decadent like the best chocolate you’ve ever tasted. Choffy is 100% premium cacao beans that are roasted and ground. It brews like coffee, but it tastes like a grown up hot chocolate. It’s not sweet (unless you add sweetener), but it sure scratches that chocolate itch.

I first read about Choffy on blog, that was doing a giveaway of Choffy. I was so intrigued, I didn’t even enter the contest, I went straight to the distributor’s site and ordered a bag. Yummmm. I’ve been drinking it both hot and cold for a few years and I decided it was a product I could really get behind, so late last year, I signed up to become an Independent Choffy Distributor (you may have seen references to Choffy on my DreamBoard and my 2014 Goals).

Choffy doesn’t have any of the negative side effects (that hard crash or the jitters), of caffeine and there are only 40 calories in a 12oz cup! You can fulfill that craving for chocolate without going over board on calories. Choffy is naturally high in anti-oxidants and can even improve your mood. Don’t take my word for it, visit the Choffy website for more information on the science behind the health benefits of cacao and Choffy.

There are several blends of choffy including Ivory Coast, IC Dark, and VoltaThere are several different brews of Choffy. My favorite is the IC Dark made from cacao beans grown on Africa’s Ivory Coast and the new Volta made from beans grown in Ghana. Choffy can be brewed in a drip coffee maker with a gold filter, but for the best experience I recommend using a French Press (you can pick one up from Amazon for around $10 or why not pick up a thermal french press?). Choffy retails for $15.00 per bag (Volta is $16.50, but oh is it worth it). If you are local to me, I keep stock on hand so shipping fees are less because I order in bulk, if not, shipping is just $5.75 for up to 3 bags. Just visit http://www.drinkchoffy.com/leelaughlin to place an order and with a few clicks of the mouse, your Choffy will show up at your door in just a few days.

Here’s my recipe for the perfect cup of Choffy.

Ingredients:

4 Heaping tablespoons of Choffy in a Choffy Tumbler Press

16 oz. boiling water

A healthy splash of vanilla (about a teaspoon)

A pinch of salt

A 1 teaspoon of raw sugar

A splash of milk

Directions

Add the Choffy to the Tumbler Press and set the water to boil.

Add the boiling water to the Choffy and let it brew for 5 minutes.

Add the vanilla, sugar and salt to your favorite mug.

When the Choffy is ready, add it to the mug and stir.

Add the milk to taste.

Enjoy!

Have questions? Please contact me at lee.laughlin@gmail.com or visit my distributor page http://www.drinkchoffy.com/leelaughlin to place an order.

The Disney Dream – Five Magical Days Part 1

About a year ago, my husband announced that the time was right to take the kids on a Disney Cruise. Um, Ok, no arguments here. I did some research and the plans were made.

Me: “When should we tell them?”

Him: “The day we leave.”

Can I just tell you how hard it is to keep a secret of THAT magnitude? Amazingly, we pulled it off. Here’s where the kids found out they were going on a Disney Cruise.

Let me start by saying that the number one objection I hear to Disney vacations is that they cost too much. It’s true, that they aren’t cheap, and a year later our finances weren’t as robust as they had been, but we made the trip anyway and I’m really glad we did. Disney has incredible standards of service that make any vacation with them a wonderfully memorable experience.

Ship: Disney Dream

Departure Port: Port Canaveral Florida

Cruise Length: Four nights/Five Days.

Ports of Call: Nassau, Bahamas, Castaway Key, Bahamas (Disney’s private island).

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Accommodations

My Daughter waking up (slowly) on the bottom bunk The thing about Disney is that they get the important stuff right. Our room was tight, but comfortable, we had opted for a room with a balcony, something I highly recommend. We had a queen sized bed and the kids had bunk beds. One dropped out of the ceiling and the other was the couch converted into a twin bed. Both kids said they were comfortable and our mattress was fantastic. The bathroom was in two separate rooms, a shower and sink and then a second space for a sink an the toilet. I’ve cruised before and one of my big complaints is the size of the shower. This one was down right spacious in comparison. It even had a little bench.

Disney Cruise Food

Food is a big factor for us when we travel. Fish is intolerant to gluten, eggs and dairy and allergic to red food dye. The combination means we rarely eat out at home, but Disney is amazing at handling food allergies. The staff went out of their way to accommodate her needs, even planning ahead to have an extra, sushi style appetizer on hand when they knew she’s love it. I may have been a little jealous that I didn’t think to order two myself. It was THAT good.

My one complaint was that outside of meals it was sometimes hard to track down snacks. On other cruises I’ve been on something has been open 24/7. But there were times when I just wanted a little nibble and couldn’t find even a strawberry. Truth is I probably saved myself a few pounds. I never starved, I was just looking to fill in a few cracks here & there.

Disney Cruise Activities

Fish is 13 and Mim is 9. Neither child participated in the planned activities as much as we thought they would, but in hindsight I attribute that more towards their personalities then a flaw in the programming. Her age group was automatically given the right to enter and leave the activities as they pleased. Their activities mostly started at 4pm. It’s a hard age to program for, but there was a variety of events, including cooking, movie making, movie viewing, video games and dance parties.

3 pictures horizontally, Mim & Mike from Monster's Inc. In the Oceaneers Lab, A snap of The Edge, teen hang out, The Sail Away party on the big screen on the ship's funnel.

Mim’s group, The Oceaneers, had a two spaces just chock full of fun all day long. There was a Toy Story themed toy room, a craft room a dance floor, a science lab and gobs of video game stations. There were plenty of staff available to organize games and trouble shoot where necessary. We opted to give Mim the same freedom to sign in and out of the activities as he desired, with the understanding that if he didn’t behave responsibly, he would be glued to our sides. Some people were aghast that we’d let our 9 year old run around the ship unattended, but we know our kid.Close up of my Son & Daughter in a porthole window. He was great about making sure we knew where he was at all times. It was actually nice to be able to feel comfortable enough with the environment to give him that taste of freedom, and even nicer that he lived up to our expectations.

Our schedule leading up to the cruise precluded a lot of family time, so the kids were keen to stay with us or do things as a family and that was fine with us. They even sought each other out to spend time GASP together! One highlight was a scavenger hunt that took them all around the ship. A-Man and I also managed to snag a few minutes to ourselves in the 18+ sections.

Ports of Call: Nassau. Bahamas

Here we opted for an excursion to the Atlantis Resort. Where we paid an exorbitant amount of money for access to Aqua Adventure (their water park), a lunch voucher and a tour of the aquarium. I should say we started off this trip by visiting Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. In comparison, Atlantis Aqua Adventure has fewer attractions and longer lines that Typhoon Lagoon and we were at TL a sunny Saturday in August. The only attraction Aqua Adventure had that was better than Typhoon Lagoon, was the river ride. TL’s is actually a relaxing lazy river. AA’s is a river rapids adventure. There are calm parts, but there are also narrow passages and with rapids and waves. There are several paths to follow, on one, you are transported via conveyor up into the tower of one of the water slides. Where you then go down a series of slides until you are eventually released back into the river. That was fun and it was the last ride we rode, so we left with a pleasant feeling. The aquarium is small and in my opinion, not worth the trip. Atlantis is like a mini Las Vegas in the Carribean complete with gambling and high end shops. Nice, but not really my scene. If we hadn’t visited Typhoon Lagoon we might have had a more favorable impression of Aqua Adventure, but having visited both in such a short space of time, Typhoon won hands down.

I also feel the need to say that overall, I wasn’t impressed with Nassau. There are a lot of empty storefronts down town and in hindsight, I wished we’d picked an activity that supported the local economy rather than a mega-corporation headquartered thousands of miles away.

3 Frames My son & husband floating in a calm section of the river ride, a wave headed right for my daughter, the conveyer to the tube ride

 Stay tuned for part two later this week!

 

Eating Allergen Free – Buffalo Wild Wings

Fish is now living gluten free, dairy free and egg free. Sounds easy right? Just don’t eat foods with gluten, dairy or egg in them right? Yep, that’s it. *Snort* if it were only that easy.

Seven years ago, we discovered that A-Man’s migraines were caused by maltodextrin, a thickener, I started reading labels and stopped purchasing about half of the convenience foods normally in my pantry. I learned how to make home made versions of dips, crispy coatings and gravies and other processed foods I’d come to rely on. I knew from my previous label reading experience, in removing all of Fish’s trigger’s from her diet would be no picnic, but I honestly had no idea how complex it would be.  Most labels don’t say “contains gluten”.  Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s book The G-Free Diet has 12 pages of information about ingredients that can contain gluten.  Some labels say “gluten free”, but then I have to look for dairy and eggs and their derivatives. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are many more gluten free foods in the grocery store than there were even 5 years ago, but you still have be very careful especially with multiple sensitivities. Many people were quick to point out that Udi’s makes the best gluten free bread, but their breads contain egg whites, so they aren’t an option for Fish. The same is true for a number of GF pastas. I read every label and I try to remember to read them every time I shop (manufacturing practices can change quickly).

I can honestly say that eating out and quick meals have been the hardest part of this whole process. It’s one thing to stand in a store and read a label and be able to make a judgement about the safety of the food with regards to your child’s allergies, but it is entirely another to rely on a perfect stranger who has limited knowledge what goes in to the food he or she serves and doesn’t really understand the consequences. Then there’s cross-contamination, when a “clean” food comes in contact with an allergen during preparation. For example when french fries are cooked in the same oil as breaded onion rings or chicken nuggets. It’s enough to make you never eat out again. Oh, but some nights, some nights, eating out is the only option.

Recently we ate at Buffalo Wild Wings. I had heard they had a number of allergy friendly options on their menu. One had just opened nearby and the kids had been nagging me to go. We don’t have that many restaurant choices locally, so anything new is always a novelty, especially a potentially allergy friendly option.

When we sat down Fish immediately notified the server of her allergies and asked if they had a gluten free menu (it’s the easiest place to start). The server said she’d be right back. When she returned, she brought with her 5 lamented sheets of paper. Every menu item was listed along with a complete ingredient list. There was a also grid that listed each menu item and which of the most common allergens it contained. I was floored. This meant we could also determine if any of the sauces would trigger a migraine for A-Man (best as I could tell, none would). If only it was always that easy!

5 laminated pages of allergy information at Buffalo Wild Wings

It was small print (hey you can’t have EVERYTHING), but we poured over the sheets until Fish identified some wings that sounded good and were allergy free for her. She loved it and it was nice to watch her relax and enjoy the meal. Mim ordered his standard grilled cheese and fries and I had a combo platter with cole slaw and fries.

I’ll be straight with you, this is not gourmet cuisine, but it was decent and reasonably priced. I would make different choices next time, (I didn’t realize the boneless wings were breaded and deep fried. DOH!) but I’d go back for the allergy friendly environment alone. I wish more restaurants would follow their lead.

Have you found any restaurants that handle food allergies well?

Live Free or Feel Like Crap

'allergies?' photo (c) 2009, miheco - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ Almost 3 years ago *shudder* Fish started to complain that she wasn’t feeling well when she ate. She felt nauseous and was having some difficulty swallowing. At first it seemed this only happened when we were eating something she didn’t want to eat. She’s always been a selective *ahem* eater, but this was pushing it. She was also beginning to have trouble with dairy. Lactose intolerance runs in my husband’s family, so this issue wasn’t a total shock.

We started buying Lactaid, but after six months she was still complaining, even if there was no dairy in the meal, so it was off to the doctor. The first idea was acid reflux, after 3 months on otc medications, there was no improvement. Time to up the stakes and make a trip to a pediatric gastroenterologist. You have to be a special person to talk about poop with kids and actually get more than giggles. Dr. Anthony Repucci is that person. Let’s face it burps, poop and tummy troubles are the stuff that giggle fits are made of. Dr. Repucci owns his profession. He’s great with the kids and reassuring and explanatory with parents. If we had to go down this road, I’m really glad we got to go with him.

After more than a year of office visits, medications and testing, including an endoscopy, a swallow study and an MRI, we still didn’t have a distinct cause for the problem and she was still in pain. The next step was an off label use for a long term medication.

'Gluten Free tag at New World' photo (c) 2007, Aidan - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ I’m not against medications, but I felt we hadn’t exhausted all of our investigative options. It seemed like Dr. Repucci had exhausted all of his diagnostic tools, but I felt there was still more learning to be done.

After talking to a family member who was diagnosed with food sensitivities, I decided it was time to explore that. We had nothing to loose. If we struck out on this path, the medications would still be waiting for us. I didn’t want Fish to suffer, but I really wanted to find a cause rather than just Band-Aid. Enter, Dr. Kristen O’Dell, a naturopath and physicians assistant. After an office visit and a food sensitivities panel and we had a theory. Fish showed level three sensitivities to eggs, dairy and gluten. *Facepalm*. Eggs? EGGS? Seriously EGGS?

Somewhere in the midst of this diagnostic process, the Lactaid had stopped working. As a result, she’d basically already removed dairy from her diet. Next up was removing eggs. Not a huge deal until she discovered all of the cookies and cakes she likes to make have eggs in them. Grumble, grumble grumble … until, a week passes and she’s starting to feel a little better and then another week passes and things are still improving. Hmmm, might be something to this.

Fish made the decision to drop gluten just for two weeks. I’ll be honest, I really wanted to solve the whole problem, but I was hoping it wasn’t gluten. Of course, I should be counting my blessings it wasn’t corn, but still. One week without gluten and she’s feeling better. Two weeks without gluten and bingo! We have a winner.

In the two years that we’d been exploring these issues, Mim had expanded his palette and I’d finally gotten to the point where most nights I was making one meal for everyone. *fist pump* The thought of going back to 2 different meals just made me want to cry. That’s the selfish side. The upside is that she IS, finally feeling better.

I ache for her because although food allergies are more common (a topic for ANOTHER blog post). It’s still a tough row to hoe. Until you live it, you don’t understand the complexities and the fear that accompanies food sensitivities. We’re fortunate her reactions are not anaphylactic, but no one wants to see their kid in pain.

After about three weeks, we had an incident that confirmed we were on the right path. I pack dinner when we ski, but the “treat” is an order of french fries. On this night, about an hour after eating, Fish came to me and said “I don’t feel good, I feel nauseous like I used to.” Oh crap. I knew what I prepared was allergen free so that left the french fries as the only variable. It turns out, the snack bar at the ski resort also cooks chicken nuggets and onion rings in the same grease as the french fries. Welcome to the world of cross contamination. So much to learn, but we are SUPER fortunate to have a ton of support. We’re getting better at this every day.

Dr. O’Dell feels there is a chance she’ll out grow at least some of these issues, but there is also a chance she won’t. The plan for now it is to keep her eating “clean” as much as possible. She’s done an amazing job adjusting. There are times when the limits are frustrating, and she has “cheated”, but her body reminds her why cheating is not the best idea. According to others who have followed this path, it gets easier the longer the toxic-to-you foods are out of your system.

Despite the challenges, I’m glad to finally have a diagnosis.

Do you have food sensitivities? How do you deal with them?