Back To School Series Part 3: School and Food Allergy Basics

Back to school is here…in fact, school is about two weeks away for many of us.  It is in that spirit that I make this post, the third part of my back to school series.

In 2011, I was honored to be a guest columnist in the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network’s (FAAN) August/September member newsletter.  This article is still one of my absolute favorites to author because I am so passionate about letting children with food allergies still have the opportunity to be kids.  I hope you enjoy it too!

As The Food Allergy Mom, becoming a member of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) is one of the smartest decisions I made.  If you haven’t become a member of FARE yet, I hope you will take a minute to visit their website and consider signing up to be a member.  This is a worthwhile investment in your child’s safety and their future.  But don’t take my word for it…visit their website on your own and click around to see all the resources they offer families with food allergies and the research and advocacy they do as well!

*This article was reprinted with express permission from FAAN.*

Enjoy Life Hits Home Run With New Baking Mix Line

It’s not really a secret that I’m a HUGE Enjoy Life Foods fan.  You only need to see my Enjoy Life Preferred Blogger Badge on the right for verification.  That said, I’m always honest in my product reviews and the below reviews are no different.

When I received these mixes in the mail, I won’t lie…it felt like my birthday.  I’d been waiting on pins a needles…anxious to get my hands on these baking mixes so my family and I could taste test and I could share the results with you!

*Make sure you read the lid of the box in the above picture, because it pretty much says it all when it comes to these baking mixes.  They are the reasons that set these making mixes apart!

Amazing, right?  But would the mixes be as good as their billing?  Check out my individual product reviews below for all the details…


The brownie mix was the first box we opened and tried.  Hello…chocolate will always be first on my list!

The brownies had a great texture and did not crumble the way some allergy-friendly baked goods sometimes do.  And I love that each brownie contains wholesome ingredients AND a shot of protein.

My son, who has multiple life-threatening food allergies, absolutely loved the brownies…more so than the others I usually make.  That said, of all the 5 baking mixes we tried, this was the only one my husband, daughter, and I weren’t that fond of…but we don’t have nearly as many dietary restrictions as my son.

I STILL say kudos to Enjoy Life for this mix simply because while it might not be a favorite for some that do not have food allergies, by and large this product is geared for those with one or multiple food allergies that can have serious dietary limitations.  For many of those individuals, like my son, this product is a delicious miracle that can be thrown together from a boxed mix in about a half hour.



The next mix we tried was the pizza crust.  The instructions, just like for the others, were ridiculously simple to follow, making preparation a snap!

While I did follow the directions on the box, I ended up having enough dough to make one large pizza and one small personal pizza rather than two equal sized pizzas.  We topped our pizza with all our favorite toppings and were salivating by the time it was ready to come out of the oven.

I like to shape the pizza crust with my hands versus a rolling pin.  It’s just the way I make my pizzas…old school.  To that end, the texture wasn’t picture perfect like maybe Domino’s, but that may very well have more to do with my methods than the mix itself.  Either way, when we sat down to dinner, everyone inhaled the pizza.  We especially loved the rich taste of olive oil in the crust.

This mix is perfect for those busy week nights when everyone in our family is going different directions.  This mix will most likely become a staple in our house.



I was pretty excited about this muffin mix as we bake and eat a lot of muffins at our house (plus they freeze really well).

While if I had my choice in what kind of muffin to make, I probably would have opted for a concoction of SunButter and banana, or cinnamon blueberry, or strawberry, or…well you get the idea.  However, I let my kiddos pick what kind of muffin they wanted to make and they were desperate for vanilla cinnamon sugar, so that is what we made.  Apparently they were that good, because I forgot to take a picture the first day and when I remembered to do so the remaining muffins were M.I.A.   Maybe that’s more of a testament to their deliciousness than any picture could truly deliver.

We all liked this baking mix and would most definitely use this gain…only this time maybe I will sneak in some fun flavor combinations to spice things up a little bit.



Most weeks my family does breakfast for dinner at least once.  It’s comfort food at it’s best and usually fairly healthy.  One of our favorite meals is pancakes and eggs.  My husband, son, and I all like pancakes in general but my daughter isn’t really a fan of pancakes or waffles.

The boxed mix, like the others, only calls for two additional ingredients plus whatever flavors (if any) you choose to add.

We like to change it up and try different kinds of flavor combinations in our pancakes.  Some of our favorites are:  chocolate chip, cinnamon sugar, banana and chocolate chip, and blueberry.  In order to properly review the taste of the pancake mix, we chose to add our flavor as toppings instead of mixing it in.

I served up pancakes with a strawberries and strawberry sauce topped with a little whipped cream.  Both kids’ eyes lit up and they were eager to dig in.

I tried a plain pancake before adding the strawberries, and I loved it.  Most gluten-free pancakes I’ve made don’t quite have that buttery taste a real pancake has and because of that, I don’t eat pancakes very often.  But this Enjoy Life pancake mix was fabulous and something we will no doubt be making over and over in our house.

Still not convinced?  My non-pancake-loving daughter who normally turns her nose up at even the mention of pancakes ate ALL of the pancakes on her plate and gushed about how they were the best she’d ever had!



This was the last mix I tried.  We were expecting company and I needed to prepare a snack, so I used the all-purpose mix in place of regular flour for my chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I did make the bar cookies (in a 9×9 inch pan) rather than individual round cookies.

Again, I was very pleased with the final product.  The cookies tasted very similar to my usual recipe except for maybe a hint of earthiness which probably lends itself to the quality ingredients and shot of protein.  My son loved them!


In case you missed it above, these five Enjoy Life Foods baking mixes boast all of the following:

  • Free from the top 8 allergens
  • Probiotics to promote immune health
  • Certified gluten-free and kosher
  • Contain 5 grams of plant-based protein per serving
  • Verified non-gmo

What other products do you know that do all of that and are pretty tasty to boot?!

Enjoy Life products (there are many more than I can review in one post) have drastically improved the way my family and I live with food allergies every day.  I am so grateful to these folks for their dedication in making healthy, delicious, allergy-friendly foods for people with food allergies and various dietary restrictions.  I literally cannot imagine my life without them.

Thank you, Enjoy Life, for all you do!  Your work is such a blessing to my family!

Back To School Series Part 2: Food In The Classroom

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My son had multiple food allergies throughout elementary school and still does now that he is starting middle school.  If you have a child in elementary, you know that much of school still revolves around food.  There are birthday parties, holiday parties, food-based science projects, food-based class activities, and the list goes on.

For a child with food allergies, it can be even harder to participate in these food-related activities…and it’s not just because of the food allergy consequences.  Unfortunately, so many other things can come with this.  Some children feel panicked and shameful if too much fuss is made of their food allergies which could bring unwanted attention from other classmates.  Some children may feel just the opposite, frustrated and angry that no one ever considers their special needs.  So, how, as parents, do we mediate?

Here are a few suggestions that have helped us throughout the years:

1.  Be sensitive for your child’s needs.  No one asks for food allergies.  No one really likes having food allergies.  Some children do not like the unwanted attention of being “the child with food allergies.”  Others are not bothered at all by this extra attention.  So, when planning for this school year…sit down as a family and discuss how you would like to handle food allergies in the classroom and then plan accordingly.

2.  Create an allergy-friendly snack box for school.  Buy a large tupperware container and fill it full of allergy-friendly, shelf life-friendly snacks for your child.  Be sure to include a wide variety of your child’s favorite snacks so it doesn’t become repetitive.  This way, anytime a classmate celebrates a birthday or a special snack is provided to the class that could contain an allergen, your child’s teacher will be able to provide the child with an allergy-appropriate snack.  Be sure to refill the snack container again in January when returning from winter break.

3.  Make the teacher your ally.  Talk with your child’s teacher at the beginning of the year.  Sign up to help prepare special food-based projects or activities.  This will allow you to purchase allergy-friendly versions of the food for the class.   (For example:  My son’s class made gingerbread houses for the holidays, so the teacher let me know and I brought all the necessary goodies for my son’s table.  They were able to use normal candies that I knew were allergy-free and I was able to do the same for the icing.)

4.  Volunteer to be homeroom mother.  Yes, this position does take time and effort, but it will be well-worth it in the long run.   Being homeroom mother allows you control over the food that is bought for class parties.  Even if the teacher requires certain types of food such as graham crackers and chocolate, you can buy allergy-friendly versions of this food.

Now it’s your turn.  What great ideas have worked for your child and food in the classroom?

Back to School with Food Allergies, Part I: The Forms You Need

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During August, I will be doing a back to school post series to help you and your school-age children with food allergies prepare for going back to school.  Today, I want to focus on the dreaded forms.

The forms…there are a lot of them and they are a royal pain, but they SAVE lives.  Please take the time to find and fill out each of the below forms, have your doctor/allergist initial and sign them, and then provide to your child’s school the first day of school.

1.  Authorization and Permission for Administration of Medication Form:  This form allows the school to administer your child’s medications, so you will need to fill out a separate form for each medication your child will be keeping at school.  The form specifies what medications your child needs, what dosages, under what condition the drug is to be given, and any other special instructions.  To find this form, check on your local independent school district’s website and or contact the school nurse.  (NOTE:  This form most often must be completed by a parent/guardian AND a physician.  Please plan accordingly.)  Once the forms have been signed, keep the originals for yourself and make copies for the school nurse.

2.  Student Emergency Plan Form:  This form is much like that of a food allergy action plan, but I prefer to have them both in my arsenal of forms just to be on the safe side.  The form requires that you list what allergic symptoms your child could exhibit and the proper action to take for each.  To find this form, check on your local independent school district’s website and or contact the school nurse.  For this particular form, keep a copy for yourself and then deliver a copy to the school nurse and two copies to your child’s teacher (one is for their substitute binder).

3.  Student Emergency Plan for Food Allergies Form:  This form alerts the staff of your family’s contact information, physician information, daily allergy management plan, emergency action steps, medications that should be administered and when.  To find this form, check on your local independent school district’s website and or contact the school nurse.  (NOTE:  This form most often must be completed by a parent/guardian AND a physician.  Please plan accordingly.)  Once the forms have been signed, keep the original for yourself and make a copy for the school nurse and two copies for your child’s teacher (one is for their substitute binder).  *If your child has asthma, make sure you also fill out the Student Emergency Plan for Asthma form.

4.  Food Allergy Action Plan Form:  This is a fantastic form put together by the folks at Food Allergy Research and Education.  It is a two page document that warns of your child’s severe and mild allergy symptoms, medications and doses, monitoring procedure, and step-by-step picture instructions along with emergency contact information.  Be sure to print out a copy of this form for yourself today.  (NOTE:  This form most often must be completed by a parent/guardian AND a physician.  Please plan accordingly.)  Once the forms have been signed, keep the original for yourself and make a copy for the school nurse and two copies for your child’s teacher (one is for their substitute binder).

It is important to do these forms in advance so they can be completed with the most up to date and appropriate information and have all the proper signatures.  Do the forms now while you still have a few relaxing days of summer left and you will beat the rush when school starts up again!

Stay tuned for more back to school tips and, if you haven’t already, be sure to visit Sugarcrafter’s guest post on some great lunchbox meal ideas for your kiddos.

Walt Disney World Is Magical For Those With Dietary Restrictions

My family and I were blessed to vacation at Walt Disney World, Florida earlier this summer.  To say we had a blast is a ridiculous understatement.  We are still going through what we affectionately call vacation withdrawal at my house (the name makes it sound much cuter than it really is).

We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge while at Walt Disney World and had a magnificent experience.  To learn more about this amazing hotel, be sure to visit my post.

Our first full day in Florida, we visited Universal Orlando.  While I’m glad to have enjoyed the experience, the park’s commitment to customer service for those with dietary restrictions leaves quite a bit to be desired.  For more specific information about our visit, be sure to visit my post.

Before I review our dining experience, I want to note:  Every single Walt Disney World park map I picked up had the first aid station clearly labeled with a yellow Epi-Pen icon.   I am so excited about this and am so grateful to Disney for taking such a vested interest in their consumers!

While at Walt Disney World, we did a little bit of sight-seeing outside of the main parks.  One of our favorites was an evening stroll around Disney’s BoardWalk, a circular strip of real estate that boasts restaurants, live entertainment, music, and a stroll around the lake.  Evening is a perfect time to take it all in as the temperature is a bit cooler and the lights of the BoardWalk truly make it look enchanting.  We didn’t eat here during our visit, but rather took in the scenery by way of a surrey bike for four.  We did two laps in under half an hour and thoroughly enjoyed the ride (disclaimer:  there are two rather large bridge inclines on the route, so be sure everyone is pedaling).

We also enjoyed just riding the monorail around the park to take it all in!  One of our favorite stops to make is Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.  Aside from the fact that this hotel is more elegant and gorgeous than words can do it justice, it is where my husband and I stayed for a couple of nights on our honeymoon.  Of all the marvelous Disney hotels I’ve stayed at, the Grand Floridian was possibly the most grand (forgive the pun).  It was wonderful to be back, even though it’s a with a few extra pounds and a few more years!

We had also hoped to take our kiddos to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort Luau (also something my husband and I did on our honeymoon), but found the menu options to be largely difficult for those with dietary restrictions and food allergies.  This broke my heart, because the Polynesian puts on an amazing show that the kids would have loved!  (Special Note:  A travel agent that specializes in Disney vacationing and food allergies (such as Pixie Lizzie) might be able to help you better navigate the luau if you want to give it a try.)

During our actual visit to Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the whole family (even with all our food allergies and dietary restrictions) ate like virtual kings and queens!  Here’s a breakdown of our favorites:

Be Our Guest (located within the Beast’s Castle):  This was truly an amazing place to visit, much less eat.

It felt like I walked into a page of one of my daughter’s Beauty and the Beast storybooks.  No really, I’m not exaggerating.

Guests are seated in one of three locations:  the forbidden West Wing, the Grand Ballroom, and the Castle Gallery.  (Special Note:  Dinner reservations are not required but highly advised.  We made our dinner reservations six months in advance.)  We were seated in the Grand Ballroom which featured breathtaking detail from the ornate chandeliers to the “snow” falling right outside the windows.  Our customer service was a wonderful experience.  Our waiter was advised of our food allergies and invited Chef Ryan Hart to our table to discuss our orders.  Chef Hart has first-hand knowledge of food allergies and our family felt very blessed to be eating under his supervision.  Not only were there safe menu options, there were delicious AND magnificent options.

We started with the most delicious, specially-made warm dinner rolls.

And aren’t the rose shaped napkins the perfect touch for dining at the Beast’s castle.  He is all about the magic rose, you know!

Then, my son and I each ordered this for dinner:

The steak and veggies were flavorful and delicious.   See, I told you we ate like kings and queens.  But…Oh.My.Goodness…the french fries were out of this world.  And this is coming from a girl who isn’t all that big on french fries to begin with.  The main entrée was simply fantastic!

But dessert was down right decadent.

I enjoyed every-single-bite of this decadent, gluten-free cream puff.  As if getting to eat such a beautifully made treat isn’t enough, I love the special touch of the “Be Our Guest” chocolate tile that sits on top of the puff.


Pinnocho Village Haus

A fast-food favorite for us inside the Magic Kingdom is Pinnochio Village Haus (right beside the It’s A Small World attraction).  I pulled aside a cast member inside the restaurant to let the know about our food allergies and she was kind enough to present me with this menu to review while she fetched the manager.

When the manager arrived a few minutes later, my son and I picked out the items we wanted for lunch.  The manager was extremely patient with us and walked us through if the item we selected was safe and then let us review each of the ingredients (found in a large white binder most Disney restaurants keep on hand).  Both my son and I decided on pizza, although each of ours was made differently and personally watched over by the manager.

My pizza was made on an Udi’s crust and was quite delicious as you can tell by the way I ate half before I remembered to take a picture.

Then I enjoyed this delicious brownie from OMG…It’s Gluten-Free.

You can find these brownies and chocolate chip cookies readily available throughout the parks and resorts.  They were sinfully delicious and quickly became a favorite of mine!

The food at this restaurant was tasty and safe and the scenery was amazing as if you can grab a table by the window on one side of the restaurant, you have a view of the inside of the It’s A Small World attraction.


Coral Reef Restaurant

We spent one day at Epcot and dined at the Coral Reef Restaurant on our dining plan.  The restaurant was quiet and fancy.  If you sit down at the front of the restaurant, your table sits next to a huge aquarium that is almost the size of the entire wall.  The aquarium is home to hundreds of fish and a ginormous sea turtle!  To be honest, I felt a little bad eating fish in front of the fish!

I will say this restaurant has a fancier fare with less of the “normal” foods you see at other establishments.  Here’s a view of the allergy friendly menu the waiter gave us to review while he alerted the chef.

Our waiter was wonderful and very careful to work with us on our orders.  Although the chef did come out to the table and was kind, I felt like the allergy menu information he gave us had been thoroughly rehearsed and not as personalized as it could have been.  Regardless, I was grateful to both men for their help in finding my son and I safe meals to enjoy.  My son and I both ordered the Seared Rainbow Trout, which was very tasty.

Although dinner was good, I can tell you that my son and I were blown away by the dessert.

This may very well have been one of my favorite sweet treats during our Disney vacation.  Decadent doesn’t even begin to cover it.  This dessert is a masterpiece all on it’s own.  Too bad they don’t mass produce these for purchase at grocery stores!


Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

For dinner in Epcot, we escaped the rain and dined at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.

This is definitely a restaurant you need to make dining reservations far in advance for as Disney Princesses come by your table to chat and take pictures during your meal.  The decor is charming and has quite a bit of the same designs and shapes you see in Disney’s Frozen (as the story takes place in Norway).  My daughter loved being able to meet the princesses and dine like a princess too.

Once you’ve ordered your drinks, guests are allowed to visit the appetizer bar.  Let me be perfectly clear, this is no ordinary appetizer bar.  The spread is full of fancy Norwegian meal favorites.  But I’ll be honest, as soon as I saw it, my heart sank.  Some dishes obviously had our allergens and the buffet style made it a resounding no for me and my son to participate in…until we met with the chef.

The female chef who visited our table listened intently to our allergies and guided us in ordering safe meals for me and my son.  In addition, she offered to bring us some safe items from the appetizer bar (but straight from the kitchen to ensure our safety.)  She asked if there was anything specific we wanted, but I told her we were delighted to be eating part of it at all and to surprise us.  Boy did she!

To be clear…this is just MY appetizer plate.  My son had his own that looked just like this!  The food was amazing…we especially loved the potato salad and cucumbers!

For dinner, I ordered Norwegian meatballs…a tradition for specific to that country.  It was a little unusual, but still very good.

My son ordered this pasta dish, which disappeared so fast, I’m thankful I snapped this picture quickly!

Overall, this was a treat.  The restaurant was beautiful and the princesses’ visits delightful, but what really made our dinner was our chef’s careful attention to detail of our dietary restrictions!


Toy Story Pizza Planet

When visiting Hollywood Studios, we ate lunch at Toy Story Pizza Planet.

We ate a little on the early side as we did for almost every meal as it helps your servers ensure you get their full attention.  I enjoyed a gluten-free pizza and my son also enjoyed a pizza, but each were made differently to ensure our safety for our separate dietary restrictions/allergens.

Because of the fast speed of counter-service, I’ll admit to being a little concerned about getting the meal right, but it was unnecessary.  The cashier was extremely knowledgeable and still had the manager come out and go over our orders with us.  They were thorough and we did not feel rushed.

The meal did take considerably longer to make, but I’m not complaining because I was grateful to have something safe for my son and I to eat.  Pizza really hit the spot!


50’s Prime Time Cafe

This place was so. much. fun!  In 50’s Prime Time Cafe everything is styled as it was in the 1950s from the decor to the food to the way your server interacts with you.  He/she might remind you not to put your elbows on the table, to eat all your vegetables, and wash your hands before dinner.  Our waiter, Eric, was hilarious and we had a really great time.  I think this was one of our kids’ (and my husband’s) favorite places to eat.

Both the waiters and chefs were very knowledgeable and kind and we had a great experience!

I ordered the chicken and dumplings which the chef was kind enough to make gluten-free.  It was absolutely delicious.  Any time I get to eat comfort food that is gluten-free and still delicious…feels like my birthday!  That’s exactly how this was!

My son ordered Aunt Annie’s meatloaf and enjoyed it!

Dessert was a special treat…allergy safe ice cream, brownie, chocolate sauce, whip cream, AND Mickey Mouse sprinkles.  Get outta town!  We felt so special…even the non-allergic family members at our table were drooling over our food!

I highly recommend this restaurant…for the food and the atmosphere!


Chef Mickey’s

Our only bad Disney experience was unfortunately on our last day at Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary for breakfast.  Breakfast is set up as buffet, but in the past a chef has been wonderful to bring us safe options straight from the kitchen.

After being seated, I asked to speak with a chef.  When the chef arrived he didn’t once crack a smile.  He seemed irritated to be speaking with me about food allergies at all.  He told me what I could get off the buffet.  When I explained my concerns about cross contamination he almost sighed out loud.  He begrudgingly took my requests and a staff member delivered them too us.  I’m sure the food was really better than what I remembered, but I was so put off by the experience, I don’t remember much good about it.  I even found a wayward tater tot on my breakfast plate (not something I asked for nor am I sure it was safe).  The entire experience was very disheartening.  With that said, we’ve had great and safe meals here in the past.  I feel that under a different chef’s direction, our meal could have been a different experience all together.


Walt Disney World is simply an amazing place for those living with food allergies and dietary restrictions.  It is my favorite place to vacation because I don’t have to pack any safe food or worry about my son feeling left out.  Disney just simply makes the vacation a more magical place than you can ever imagine!

From the bottom of The Food Allergy Mom’s heart, thank you…thank you…thank you, Walt Disney World!

Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free Bagel Line Simply Delicious

Good gluten-free bread is hard to come by.  Really good gluten-free bread is even harder to come by.  In my opinion, Canyon Bakehouse is one of the best gluten-free breads on the market.

When I tire of regular toast for breakfast, Canyon Bakehouse’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread is my go to.  It has just a touch of sweet and is the perfect thing to brighten up a Monday morning!

Actually Canyon Bakehouse uses 100% whole grains and no GMO’s in all of their products, so it’s something I feel good about eating.

Since I’m gluten-free, the company contacted me a few weeks ago to ask if I would mind reviewing their new line of gluten-free bagels and brownies.  I jumped at the chance since this is one of my favorite brands.  And while they are a favorite, please know that this product review is an honest one and no compensation was received other than the free sample I am writing about.

Canyon Bakehouse Bagels and Brownie Bites (2)

Before I get to my product reviews, let’s talk allergen statements.  I asked the company to discuss the allergens at Canyon Bakehouse and this was the response:  “All of Canyon Bakehouse products are free from the following allergens: gluten, dairy, casein, all nuts (tree nuts, peanuts) and soy. Their production facility is also free of these allergens; they never enter the facility so there is no chance of cross-contamination. Additionally, they do test their final products for all of these allergens.  However, please note, they do use eggs.  Specific to gluten Canyon Bakehouse’s standard is ZERO gluten. The best testing available today can detect gluten down to 5ppm (parts per million). The results of their tests are “undetectable,” meaning, at least below 5ppm. This is the strictest standard available.”

I also asked about the use of sesame and this was the company’s response:  “We do use sesame seeds in our Everything Bagels but have recently removed them from the Cinnamon Raisin and Hamburger Buns. Although they are not considered a “Top 8 Allergen” we do treat sesame seeds like an allergen in our facility. We clean thoroughly after every run that contains sesame seeds and verify that all equipment is allergen-free by doing an allergen surface swab before beginning production on the next product.”

I have to say, I truly LOVE Canyon Bakehouse’s commitment to thoroughness in their allergen statements.  If only all companies went the extra mile and were this honest with their consumers…

I’ll start with reviewing the Canyon Bakehouse Brownie Bites. To be honest, I didn’t have high hopes for these because most of the store-bought, ready-to-eat brownies can be, well, let’s say lacking in taste.  But, fortunately this was not the case with Canyon Bakehouse’s Brownie Bites.  These are positively and sinfully delicious…so much so that I’d almost swear it was a regular gluten-filled brownie.  They have great texture and are not the least bit crumbly like some gluten-free products can be.  Let me just say, these are dangerous.  Don’t say I didn’t tell you.  Seriously, I ate the sample in…ahem…record time.

Now let’s chat about Canyon Bakehouse’s Everything Bagel.  I’ll be honest again, I don’t have much love for gluten-free bagels in general because they usually don’t resemble anything close to an actual bagel.  But once again, Canyon Bakehouse surprised me.  Th Everything Bagel is probably the best gluten-free bagel I’ve tried to date.  Not only does it have great texture (doesn’t get crumbly and fall apart), but it is bursting with taste.  With hints of garlic and onion it is the PERFECT way to add a little zip to whatever you are making.  Although I’ve had half a bagel for breakfast a time or two, my favorite way to eat this bagel is by using half for an open-faced sandwich.  It is simply delicious!  I’m so excited about this bagel and plan to make it a staple in my freezer!

Canyon Bakehouse Bagels and Brownie Bites (1)

The last item I’m reviewing is Canyon Bakehouse’s Plain Bagel.  All that I said about the Everything Bagel still applies here, minus the hints of garlic and onion.  Because it doesn’t have that seasoning, this bagel is a favorite for breakfast.  I’ve also used it for half a sandwich some days and although I haven’t tried it yet, I think you could make a fantastic appetizer out of these as well.

Canyon Bakehouse Bagels and Brownie Bites (3)

So, yes, I am a Canyon Bakehouse customer for life as they have a tremendous dedication to making quality products with real ingredients that taste amazing.  Thank you for all you do, Canyon Bakehouse!

Universal Studios in Orlando Florida: A Food Allergy Destination Review

My family and I were blessed enough to vacation in Florida a few weeks ago with Disney and Universal Orlando as our destinations.

Our first day of vacation we spent at Universal.

The main draw of going to the park was to see Harry Potter World.  My son and I are both HUGE fans of the novels, so a trip to Hogwarts and Diagon Alley was a dream come true for us.

*Special Note:  The below review is primarily dining-centered.*

Before I begin with my review of our dining experiences at Universal Orlando, it is worth noting that a month before our trip I did contact someone at the park to inquire about dining with food allergies.  I received a short form letter with only a personalized sentence or two at the bottom from a chef.  Although I did appreciate the response, I felt it did not adequately answer my specific questions and ultimately left me somewhat disappointed.

We ate breakfast prior to arriving at the park (in our hotel room) to cut down on cost.  And let me just say, you will need to save every dime you can for once you are in the park.

One of our “have to” experiences was to visit the Hog’s Head for a mug of butterbeer.  After extensive research, I felt reassured that the beverage would be safe for both my son and I.  The butterbeer was delicious and came in a cute souveneir cup.  The Hog’s Head had a great atmosphere that very closely mirrored both what I remember seeing in the movie and reading in the books.

For lunch, we ate at the Leaky Cauldron.  Despite eating early (which I highly recommend) the line was long for this counter-service establishment.  As we approached the front of the line, I let the hostess know we would need to speak with the chef about our dietary restrictions.  She was very kind and collected the chef who was gruff and seemingly irritated with having to make a personal appearance.  He did visit with us though as we asked about the specific dishes we wanted to try.  The women at the register, thank goodness, were ironically more knowledgeable than the chef appeared to be and took great care placing our order to ensure the safety of our meals.  Both my son and I ordered the same thing, a grilled chicken sandwich on a gluten-free bun.  It wasn’t anything fabulous, but we were grateful to have something safe to eat.

After our less than stellar lunch chef/dining experience, we opted for a late dinner after leaving the park.

It is worth noting, that while we did not experience them personally, I’ve heard that the Universal Resort Hotels and restaurants of CityWalk are simply wonderful about accommodating those with food allergies and special dietary restrictions.

Overall, the park was all that a regular amusement park should be.  However, for the amount of money it cost to experience the park and eat there, I felt the dining experience lacked satisfactory (if any) food allergy/special diet training to park chefs and staff.  For those reasons, it is not someplace I’m eager to visit again soon.

That said, if Universal Orlando were to establish a required and effective food allergy/special diet training program for park staff, I would be willing to give it another try.  Such a program, I believe, would lead to an entirely different experience and one that would make patrons sincerely appreciative of their efforts.

If you feel so inclined, take a few minutes to contact Universal Orlando to let them know what an effective park-wide food allergy training would mean to you and your family.

Disney World’s The Wilderness Lodge A Great Hotel For Those With Food Allergies

This summer my family and I were blessed enough to vacation at Walt Disney World.  In my opinion, Disney is fabulous in and of its own right, but the amazing vacation experience they provided to visitors (especially those with food allergies) is simply unparalleled.

For this trip, we stayed at The Wilderness Lodge (a favorite spot of ours as it is where my husband and I stayed when honeymooning in Disney World).  The hotel is like walking into a wilderness mansion where no detail is overlooked.  Everything from the building materials to the light fixtures adds to the overall experience.


We ate at two establishments at Wilderness Lodge during our stay.  Our absolute favorite was a full-service restaurant (sit-down meal) at the Whispering Canyon Cafe.  What an experience!  Where else can you get up mid-meal and do the Hokey Pokey and ride stick horses around the dining tables…and not get into trouble?  Pixie Lizzie, a friend and fabulous travel agent who understands food allergies firsthand, highly recommended this particular restaurant and I’m so thankful she did.  We did the dining plan and so our reservations were already set and my son’s food allergies and my gluten-free accommodations were already on record.

We were seated at Whispering Canyon Cafe in less than five minutes and the waiter said he would be bringing the chef to our table to discuss safe menu items…without me even mentioning we had food allergies.  Talk about having your ducks in a row!  Within minutes Sous Chef, Williere Justin, arrived at our table to discuss safe menu options for my son and I.  Mr. Justin was extremely knowledgeable and understanding and made it clear from the beginning that he would do whatever he could to ensure that my son and I had a fabulous dining experience. Never once did he act rushed or frustrated with our special orders (food allergy parents…you know what I mean).  Even more refreshing, was the spirit of fun in which Mr. Justin conducted himself.  He smiled always, laughed often, and was unfailingly kind.

My son ordered the quesadillas and enjoyed an indulgent fudge-filled chocolate cake topped with ice cream for dessert.  (And no I don’t have a picture of his dinner, because it really was consumed that fast!)  I was able to snap this picture of his dessert, even though he was already halfway through it when I took the picture.

The smile and enthusiasm on my son’s face gave me so much joy, I doubt I will ever fully be able to put into words the gift Mr. Justin gave our family that night.  I ordered roasted chicken, vegetables, mashed potatoes, and baked beans.

When I completed my order, Mr. Justin asked if I’d like some gluten-free cornbread with that.

When I paused and smiled at the thought of getting to indulge in my favorite gluten-free treat, he smiled and said, “You have to!  It’s vacation!”  For dessert, Mr. Justin made me a decadent crustless cheesecake.


All I can say is Y-U-M!  Both my son’s and my dinners were absolutely delicious.

My son and I left the restaurant that night with two “safe” breakfast muffins for in the morning.  And sadly, I have no pictures of those either because they disappeared even faster than my son’s dinner the night before.  The muffins were chocolate and a gluten-free grain muffin with chocolate chips, and were such a treat for breakfast the next morning!

Our dining experience at Whispering Canyon Cafe was one of the top dining experiences of our trip.  It was most definitely the perfect way to kick it off in style.

My absolute love and thanks to Sous Chef Williere Justin and his incomparable service to all diners and their right to a delicious, fun-filled dining experience.

Sir, Disney is truly blessed to have you on staff!!!


The second restaurant we visited at The Wilderness Lodge was Roaring Fork.  This is a counter-service meal for those of you utilizing the Disney meal plan.  I simply asked the manager on duty if he would be able to accommodate my son’s and my special dietary restrictions (we did not have a reservation) and he was more than happy to comply.  He reviewed our dining options with me verbally and then let me review ingredients lists for meals in an organized food allergy binder they keep on hand at the register.  It took less than five minutes to order and the manager personally prepared our meals to ensure our safety.  The meals were delivered quickly and were great.  My son ordered a flatbread pizza that didn’t last very long (aka…no I didn’t even have time to snap a picture). You work up quite an appetite walking all over Disney!  I ordered a turkey sandwich that was divine with a fabulous cucumber side salad.

The cucumber salad had great flavor and was one of my favorite side dishes of the trip!

Thank you Walt Disney World and The Wilderness Lodge for an amazing stay.  It just isn’t the same now that we are back at home.  We are already counting the days until our next trip!


Auggie Maturo An Ambassador for Mylan’s EpiPen® On Location™

A few weeks ago, I was blessed to attend a Mylan Blogger’s Summit in Disneyland.  Be looking for a future post to learn more about this summit and the things I learned and want to share with you.

One of our activities for the summit included an up close and personal look at Mylan’s EpiPen® On Location™ intiative with campaign ambassadors Auggie and Maha Maturo.

Auggie Maturo is a 7-year-old actor on “Girl Meets World,” that knows first-hand what it’s like to live with food allergies.  As a young child, he experienced anaphylaxis before being diagnosed with multiple life-threatening allergies.  Maha Maturo is Auggie’s mother.

The goal of Mylan’s EpiPen® On Location™ initiative is to help people with potentially life-threatening (severe) allergies and their caregivers understand the importance of avoiding allergic triggers and having access to two epinephrine auto-injectors, such as EpiPen® (epinephrine injection) Auto-Injectors, at all times — whether at home, school, work or on vacation.

I have to say, I am truly impressed with this mother-son duo, and not because anyone asked me to say so.  Maha is both endearingly kind and very down-to-earth.  Although she is a paid spokesperson for the EpiPen® On Location™ campaign, there is no denying her personal commitment to educating others about food allergies.

When listening to Maha, I felt as though I was chatting with a close friend over a cup of coffee.  Maha understands the triumphs and obstacles families with food allergies face today…and she knows what it is to walk in those shoes.

As an every day mother, I think of all the daily things I take into consideration for my own child’s allergies:  meals, activities with friends, school, travel, sports, and more.  Then I think of Maha doing each of those things for Auggie PLUS taking on Hollywood and all the food allergy obstacles that must come along with it.  Yet, the number one thing I picked up on when Maha spoke was her willingness to educate others with kindness and the opportunities those actions have afforded her family.

Maha and Auggie Maturo bottom center on front row *Photo Courtesy of Mylan*

Maha and Auggie Maturo bottom center on front row
*Photo Courtesy of Mylan*

Then, there is Auggie.  This is a truly an amazing kiddo that sounds so much wiser than his seven years.  Honestly, it was a joy to see this young man walk in a room and show the same kindness and wisdom his mother exhibits and see how that shapes his world view of food allergies.

Photo Courtesy of Mylan


Auggie is a child who loves lemonade, enjoys school and spending time with his family, and…oh yeah has multiple, life-threatening allergies.  Auggie most definitely does NOT let his food allergies define him and lives life with great gusto and enthusiasm.  He knows his allergies, understands the triggers, and still lives a very full life!

As the parent of a child it was a pleasure to visit with Auggie and I wish children living with food allergies across the globe could hear his message of positivity and perseverance!

But Auggie isn’t the only one with a life-saving message about food allergies, when you visit you can also read and watch testimonies given by Chef and Restaurant Owner Amanda Freitag and “Project Runway” Judge and Marie Clair Creative Director Nina Garcia.

To learn more about the campaign visit, and share the Ambassador videos to help spread the word.  In addition to sharing important information about anaphylaxis, participants could win a vacation to Walt Disney World® Resort from Mylan during the Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival between Sept. 25 – Nov. 16, 2015. For each share include #OnLocationTips and #promo. Up to three shares per week will be counted as entries for the sweepstakes. For the official sweepstakes rules, visit

PhillySwirl Frozen Novelties A Friend To Those With Food Allergies

A few weeks ago, Brian at PhillySwirl contacted me to see if I’d be willing to try out a few of their products and then share my reviews with you, the reader.  Although PhillySwirl did send me the products to try at no cost to me, my reviews of this product are my own and my family’s own, honest reactions to these products.

My family and I live in Texas and gets downright HOT here in the summer months…and early fall too.  We are all about cold, frozen snacks that help lower our internal temperature a little bit.  I wouldn’t be totally honest here if I didn’t fess up that I’m a Blue Bell girl through and through (and will be again when they are up and running).  But that’s ice cream.

PhillySwirl falls into the Italian ices category, and boy, is it a delicious one!

There are three categories of these frozen novelties that I’ll be reviewing.  Brian told me all three of the items I sampled are free of the top 8 allergens and are made in a peanut and tree nut-free facility.  In addition, he said they are fat-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free and contain no high fructose corn syrup.

  • PhillySwirl Stix – swirled Italian ice bars
  • PhillySwirl Popperz – assorted Italian ice flavors in a squeeze up tube
  • PhillySwirl Candy Spoonz – classic Italian ice in a cup with lollipop-like candy spoons

The PhillySwirl Stix swirled Italian ice bars were fabulous and boasted a variety of flavors like cotton candy, very berry, orange dream, banana split, rainbow, and even a mystery flavor.  My kids (and husband) loved the flavors.

The PhillySwirl Popperz were also a hit.  I especially loved these…they brought back a lot of childhood memories!  My kids were equally fascinated with popping the flavored ice out as they ate it.

But hands down, the favorite in my family was the PhillySwirl Candy Spoonz. And when I say favorite, I mean they didn’t stand a chance.

My husband ogled the box first, our two kiddos were right behind him.  The box was gone in a matter of days.  And let me tell you…it was a monumental decision for them to decide what kind of spoon to have with their Italian ice…candy (a variety of flavors) or plain with no candy.  This box was open and devoured so fast, I never even had a chance to try one!

My favorite thing about all of these frozen novelties is that they have a burst of flavor but are generally a much lighter fare in terms of the “heaviness” of a snack.  It’s the perfect summer treat!

It is worth noting that not all PhillySwirl products are top 8 free as not all products are Italian ices.  For example, the Fudge Swirl Stix and Sweet Delites products do contain dairy.  As always, be sure to carefully read the ingredient label on each box.

I discovered in a subsequent visit to my H-E-B grocery store, that they carry some PhillySwirl products.  In fact, PhillySwirl is in a number of grocery stores.  Check out their listing here to find a retailer near you.

Bottom Line:  The rain here in Texas is finally subsiding and we have warm sunshine forecast for the entire week.  Somehow I think the PhillySwirl Italian ice products I reviewed above will be a welcome part of our “it’s almost summer” celebration.