Enjoy Life Debuts New Chewy Bar Flavors That We Love

If you read my blog with any regularity, you know I am a fairly devoted Enjoy Life fan.  I especially love their sugar cookies, seed and fruit mixes, and chewy bars.  It makes me downright giddy to have safe, yummy, AND portable snacks that make my family happy!

Enjoy Life is never one to sit back and get complacent with the products they have.  They are always pushing the envelope to make their existing products better and introduce new products as well.

The folks at Enjoy Life were kind enough to send me a free sample of three new flavors they are adding to the Chew Bar family:  Caramel Blondie, Carrot Cake, and Lemon Blueberry Poppy Seed.  Not only are these new flavors, they’ve added some innovative ingredients including their Pure Life Balanced Dry Blend (TM) flour made from sunflower kernels, cassava, sorghum, and quinoa.

Have food, will travel. Took this picture in our hotel room on vacation with our Enjoy Life Chewy Bars.

Interested?  It gets better.

These new bars are 15% bigger.  Sweet!  They are also certified gluten-free, free-from the top 8 allergens (wheat, dairy, soy, egg, peanut, tree nut, fish, and shellfish), verified Non-GMO, certified Kosher, and are made with no artificial ingredients.  This makes this food allergy mom’s heart all kinds of happy!

So now you know about the 3 new products.  Here’s what my family had to say:

  • Caramel Blondie:  This flavor was very rich and decadent.  It is a perfect treat for the fall because it tastes somewhat similar to diving into a caramel apple…minus the apple.  The chocolate chips are a nice touch as well.  When eating this flavor, I felt like I was getting to indulge in a cookie-like treat.
  • Carrot Cake:  I’ll be honest, my husband is pretty much the only carrot cake person in our family.  So while my son, daughter, and I all liked the carrot cake bar, we had other favorites.  I think my husband liked this one the best.
  • Lemon Blueberry & Poppy Seed:  I saved the best for last.  This bar was hands down the favorite for my son, daughter and I.  It has a light summery taste to it, but with robust flavor.  The flavor tasted fresh and true to its name.  I have a feeling there will be a free-for-all to see who can snag this one first out of the next box.

Bottom Line:  My family will be purchasing these new additions to the Chewy Bar line again!  I love that these snacks are delicious, safe, and portable for families on the go.  Way to go, Enjoy Life!

Now…if only they would make a Chewy Bar that featured their amazing Seed & Fruit Mix.  I would be first in line for that one!!!

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Safety Lessons From Hurricane Harvey Natural Disaster

We are almost a week post-Hurricane Harvey here in Houston and life is anything but normal.

I haven’t seen a national newscast in more than a week, so I don’t know what is being said and shown, but here’s a window into what is happening in my Houston neighborhood.

Homes in all directions are standing but eerily bare.  The downstairs, and sometimes upstairs, framework of the house is all that is left inside after wet sheetrock, insulation, wooden floors, cabinets, and more have been quickly removed.  Piles of trash (destroyed furniture, insulation, tile, etc.) so fully line the curbs of houses, the structures themselves are hard to see.  A stench of mold, water, sweat, and tears permeates the neighborhood…literally.

But in front of those piles of trash, the streets are lined with bumper-to-bumper cars of friends and neighbors that are helping each other.  Facebook is inundated with people asking who still needs help with their houses or who could use some cold water or cleaning supplies.  Neighbors and groups from different states are driving in and banding together to prepare and deliver lunches.  Hot meals are being delivered for free to those hardest hit and the people who are helping them.  Families are reaching out to house complete strangers because they need to feel safe and have nowhere to go…and won’t for months.

The highways that we used to travel to downtown were completely submerged in water until the end of last week.  The flow of water was so strong across those highways that it moved the concrete barriers making it look like a child’s toy train that was snaking along s-shaped tracks.  It was truly an unbelievable thing to see.

In our neighborhood alone, we’ve lost a couple of grocery stores, pharmacies, doctor offices, restaurants, mom & pop businesses and even our library to the flood…in addition to hundreds of homes. There has been a run on food in the stores that remain, causing them to reasonably limit the amount of each item you purchase.

One of our local high schools took on water all the way up to the second floor.  The structure is so damaged, it has been closed for the coming school year forcing the students to find a learning alternative.  A neighboring community reached out and has agreed to house our students and teachers for a split schedule at their facility…a selfless act that is beyond appreciated so our kids can stay together after all the trauma they’ve endured in the last week and for the weeks to come.  In addition to the stress of starting school amidst the aftermath of a flood, some students have lost their clothes and school supplies.

We still aren’t receiving regular mail or packages yet, making it difficult for some to have access to safe foods and/or medicines.

Special Note:  I’m aware that a picture often speaks a thousand words, but these pictures would be of people’s lives and heartache and I just can’t bring myself to take pictures of other’s devastation.  If pictures really help you visualize the situation, I’m sure national media have some on their websites.

Please know that I say all these things, not for your pity or to ask for help.  I DO say these things for two reasons:

  • So you know your monetary and food donations to disaster relief funds DO make a difference.
  • So you can hopefully be better prepared in the wake of a natural disaster.

Monetary and food donations to disaster relief funds do make a difference and are a blessing to many with dietary restrictions when they are visiting local food banks.  That said, I encourage you to check on friends and acquaintances that live in the affected area of a natural disaster to see if they are able to reach those food banks.  If not, band together with others to provide those friends with some care packages (once mail is restored).  Not only will your friends benefit from your blessing, but they will most likely be able to share those goodies with others in their neighborhood that are also struggling to find safe food.

Here are some helpful hurricane preparation tips I highly recommend:

  • Buy enough food and water to last every member of your family two weeks.  Be sure a good 75% of these items are nonperishable in the event that you lose power.  Thank goodness, we had Enjoy Life and ZEGO products on hand.
  • Stock up on high protein items.  My family bought tons of SunButter and bread so if nothing else, we would be able to have sandwiches.
  • Stock up on ice that you can store in ice chests.  It can help keep you cool and refrigerate any food from your fridge for at least a little while.
  • Get refills on all medications in case your pharmacy is affected.  It could be days before you have access to life-saving medications, so make sure you have extra on hand.  Call your doctor to have them renew any medications that you need.
  • Withdraw cash in case you are unable to get to a bank and debit/credit cards do not work in a situation where there is no power.
  • Go in with a neighbor and buy a generator and some long extension cords.  If you lose power you will have enough electricity to run a nebulizer or other important devices.
  • Don’t forget to fill up portable gas cans to supplement your generator and/or car if need be.
  • Fill up with gas…even if you already have half a tank.  Not only is gas not always readily available after a hurricane, but in Texas we managed to create pandemonium with a rumored gas shortage (of which there was not until everyone decided to fill up at one time) making it difficult to fill up vehicles.
  • Wash your laundry and sheets before the hurricane hits.  It could be some time before you have power to do so again.
  • Fill up your tubs with water so you can use it for the toilet in the event your water is turned off.
  • Clear out a designated closet or other safe room with no windows that your family can use to shelter in place if needed.
  • Bring in light-weight outside furniture and/or decor that could become a hazard in high winds.  We brought in several plants, wind chimes, yard signs, and more.
  • Have plenty of batteries of all sizes and battery-operated lanterns and flashlights on hand.  Candles (preferably odorless) are also helpful.
  • Back up your computer and devices.
  • Have a backup charger for devices that is already charged up and ready to go.
  • Consider joining a social media avenue like Facebook.  This social media outlet became a lifeline for those in my neighborhood with addresses of people who needed to be rescued, tips on what to do to help in the aftermath, as well as information about free meals and water.

If you have to evacuate, here are a few more tips:

  • Pack your important medical information in a water-tight bag or ziploc.  As people in my neighborhood were being evacuated from their homes by boat, they were somewhat limited in how much they could bring with them, so make the items you evacuate with count!
  • Pack your home owners and insurance information in a water-tight bag or ziploc.
  • Pack a water-tight bag or ziploc with “safe” food so you have enough to sparingly live off of for a few days.
  • Pack life-saving and important medications in a water-tight bag or ziploc.  For us, we had several back up auto-injectors ready to go so we would have additional meds.  We were unable to get to either local hospital, so life-saving medicine is absolutely crucial to have on hand no matter what!
  • Make sure an allergic friends/family members have on a medical id bracelet in the event you are separated.
  • If room, pack one extra outfit in case clothes you are wearing become contaminated by flood waters or other hazardous materials.

If you think of anything I missed in the categories above, please list them below in the comments section.

 

Our community has been so blessed in that we have all jumped in to help and minister to one another.  Many out-of-towners have flocked here just because they felt called to help.  We are going to be okay…it will take time and a whole lot of God’s grace, but we’re going to make it by carrying each other.

Lastly, I just want to say thank you for all of the many thoughts and prayers you have been sending those who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey.  We are grateful for each and every one!

Wishing you all good health and safety,

Kimberly

Hurting Hearts in Texas: How You Can Help

I am writing you this post tonight from my home which is really a miracle in itself.  You see, Houston is home.

 

At this very moment, our homes (many not in flood zones) are filling with water and washing away a lifetime of memories and belongings that are held dear.

Our highways are so completely covered in rising water that neighborhoods like mine are surrounded with water with no real reprieve.

We sit anxiously by our phones to listen for life-saving flood and tornado warning alerts unable to rest.

We are straining our eyes into the inky blanket of night looking and listening for the rush of water that shouldn’t ever come, but because of the perfect storm just might.

Our grocery stores and pharmacies are closed because they are inundated with flood waters and we wonder how we will be able to get the necessities if we can’t get out and no one can get in.

Many of us are without power, and some for the foreseeable future.

Even though the rain is softer now, it is still falling and trees that have rain-soaked roots are giving way and toppling over- some narrowly missing our houses, some not.

We are carefully measuring out the food we have to make it last until more comes.

Our churches and schools and airports have closed.

We are hugging our people and telling them everything is going to be alright, when we don’t really know how alright it’s actually going to be.

BUT…

Houston is so much more than home to me.  Houston is HOPE!

Person after person climbing out of rescue boats are not rightly bemoaning all they lost, but giving thanks for the life they have gained.

First responders have volunteered in droves to risk life and limb, literally, to help us…all while they leave their own strong and gracious families at back at home so they can serve and save.

Neighbors and good people from all across this nation have thrown caution to the wind to bring trucks and boats to wade into flood waters and save strangers who need a helping hand.  Not because they expect anything in return, but because they love.

Reporters covering the flood suddenly become rescuers and perhaps a little more human to the rest of us as a tears slide down their faces at the courage and smiles of the family in their boat that just lost everything.

Flooded stores and businesses have opened with abbreviated hours amidst threatening flood waters, just to help neighbors with basic needs.

Power crews are working overtime to restore electricity to neighborhoods that have gone dark.

And we are finding that sometimes we learn on the job instead of a flooded classroom.  We can be the church when we love our neighbors: smile with them, cry with them, grieve with them.

 

My sweet friends, thank you for reaching out to those of us in Texas with your love and prayers.  They mean far more than you will possibly ever know.  Please keep them coming.

As I sit here, typing this I am so grateful to God for all the comforts of home I am still blessed to have amidst all the rising flood waters and rain and tragedy.  We’ve had limited damage and are doing okay with allergy-safe food for now.  But my heart aches for all those who have lost the comforts of home, who are wet and hungry, and scared.  On their behalf, would you help be a voice that advocates for them?

If you feel so inclined, please know that you can help by donating through JJ Watt’s Houston Flood Relief Fund or the Red Cross.  As for Texans with food allergies that have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey, please get in touch with your favorite food allergy companies and advocacy organizations to see how they might be able to help.

God bless y’all and thank you for loving on us and praying for us!

ZEGO Snacks Product Review & Giveaway

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel like it is a challenge to find safe and portable snacks (that are also delicious) that make eating on the go possible during the fast pace of the school year.

Colleen from ZEGO Snacks contacted me to see if I’d be willing to taste test a revised recipe of several of their snack and fruit bars.  I was delighted to do so.

photo courtesy of ZEGO

Before I go into my review of ZEGO’s products, let me give you some background on the company.  Colleen and her family were dealing with Celiac Disease, intolerances, and multiple food allergies and had great difficulty finding a “nutrient-dense convenience food” that could accommodate all of their needs.  So, like so many other amazing mom’s I’ve had the pleasure of championing on my blog, Colleen took matters into her own hands and she and the folks at ZEGO decided to create their own line of safe snacks.

Any mom that turns life’s lemons into lemonade is a superhero in my book.  But ZEGO Snacks decided to take things a step further by testing every batch of their recipes for cross-contact as part of their Z-Code Food Safety System.  So what does the this fancy sounding system mean?  Here are the main talking points:

  • ZEGO says their facility is free of the top 14 most common allergens, including peanuts, tree nuts except coconut, dairy, soy, gluten, oats, and sesame.  ZEGO sources their coconut from a nut-free supplier.
  • ZEGO tests each batch for cross contamination and gives you the results of that test via a QR code found on every snack and fruit bar they produce.  To read the test results of your particular snack or fruit bar, simply download the QR Reader app to your phone or tablet and scan the QR code on your bar.

Now that we have all that business out of the way, here are some of the snack bar flavors Colleen and ZEGO Snack graciously provided me with to taste test.

ZEGO Snack and Fruit Bars

While the ZEGO snack bars (the three larger bars on the left) are indeed good, the Fruit+Chia and Just Fruit Bars were my favorite.  Every bite was bursting with robust flavor that almost feels indulgent.  Out of all the fruit bar flavors, The Strawberry and Peach Just Fruit Bars were my favorite, but I’ll also say there wasn’t a flavor that I didn’t like.

Know someone who needs some ZEGO Snacks in their life?  Be sure to visit The Food Allergy Mom on Facebook and tag that friend before Sept. 1, 2017.  A name will be selected at random on September 1,2017 to receive a 12 bar sampler pack of ZEGO Snacks.  (Winner must live in the contiguous United States.)  Pass the word!

photo courtesy of ZEGO

So when you are stocking up on all your back to school snacks, don’t forget to keep ZEGO Snacks in mind…because who couldn’t use a little extra peace of mind when sending your children off for the beginning of a new school year?

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Debbie Adler’s Sweet, Savory & Free: A Cookbook Review

Friends!  I cannot wait to introduce you to a sweet friend of mine, Debbie Adler!  She is a wonderful advocate for those seeking to live a healthy and allergy-friendly lifestyle and a chef extraordinaire to boot.

                                           This is Debbie and I at an Austin Gluten-Free Fest a couple of years ago.

One of the things that makes Debbie so charming is that she is simply a down-to-earth mom of a child with food allergies.  She saw a need and she decided to meet it head on.  I think so many parents of children with food allergies can relate to that statement, but Debbie took it to a whole new level.  The difference for me is that I don’t have Debbie’s mad cooking and baking skills, so I am doubly thankful she authored Sweet, Savory & Free and Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats Allergy-Free & Vegan Recipes.

If you are new to my blog, be sure to check out my previous review of Debbie’s cookbook, Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats Allergy-Free & Vegan Recipes.  This cookbook is a treasure for those with a sweet tooth that still want to keep things healthy and allergy-friendly.  And if you are close to the Los Angeles area, you can visit Sweet Debbie’s Organic Cupcakes in person.

But for today, I am reviewing Debbie’s latest cookbook, Sweet, Savory & Free.  The book includes dozens of delicious plant-based recipes that are free of wheat/gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, added sugars, and oil.  Her recipes include breakfast dishes, soups, muffin tin meals, main dishes, breads, and even a few sweets.

                                                                            used with permission from Debbie Adler

Her new cookbook was born of a desire to share healthy, plant-based recipes after doing some in-depth research about what goes into the food we eat and the effect it has on our quality of life.  By simply reading the introduction to the book, the reader can feel her passion for this healthy lifestyle bleed through every word on the page.

For me, the most intimidating part of using a new cookbook is knowing where to start.  Luckily, Debbie lays out the basics including some staple items to have on hand the basic equipment the reader will need to get started before she begins sharing her tried and true recipes.

And for any of you who might be skeptical of these recipes being too healthy to possibly be delicious, it is worth noting that she tried out these dishes on unsuspecting dinner guests who happily dug in and green lighted them before they knew what was in them…or rather what food wasn’t in them.  Even actor Ray Romano is a devoted fan of Debbie’s healthy recipes and their appeal to the whole family.

                                                                        Debbie’s Chipotle Mexican Omelet Tostada
                                                                          used with permission from Debbie Adler

 

                                                                                          Debbie’s Nectarine Salsa
                                                                            used with permission from Debbie Adler

In full disclosure, Debbie was kind enough to send me a copy of her book to review so I could share my thoughts with you.  That said, I wanted to follow up with a short behind the scenes interview that might give you some extra insight into Debbie and her book.

The Food Allergy Mom (TFAM):  “How did you choose the recipes for this book?”

Debbie Adler (DA):  “I chose the recipes for my book based on what foods I have always loved. Before going vegan/allergy-free/plant based I loved things like crab, eggplant parmesan and Chinese food. So I thought of ways to make all these dishes adhere to my restrictions without sacrificing any taste whatsoever.”

TFAM: “What is your favorite recipe?”

DA:  “Spanikopita Enchiladas. I tend to like fusion.”

TFAM:  “What is your son’s favorite dish?”

DA:  “The Green Mac & Cheeze!”

TFAM:  “What is your thought process for creating a new recipe from start to finish?”

DA:  “My thought process for creating a recipe from start to finish is how do I make the substitution of whatever food it is I’m trying to imitate.  So, for instance, if I want to recreate crab, I think ‘What is plant based/allergy-free that tastes like seafood? Hearts of palm!'”

TFAM:  “For those that are starting on a small budget and have financial constraints, what are some ways they can start small and still have an impact on the meals they are making?”

DA:  “Start small by shopping at your local farmer’s market and buying all the vegetables and fruits you can hold. This is the best and most economical way to eat healthfully and still keep within your budget. I don’t suggest buying in bulk at grocery stores since cross-contamination issues will make it not safe.”

TFAM:  “What is the number one benefit you see in your own personal life from eating a plant-based diet that is sugar and allergen free?”

DA:  “There are so many benefits to eating this way! I feel more energetic. I look younger. I’ve maintained my weight without even trying. I feel healthy every day. I feel better than I did in my 20’s. I highly recommend this lifestyle for EVERYONE!!!”

I really love Debbie’s advice to start small.  Sometimes I can be an all or nothing kind of gal and can tend to forget there’s no shame in starting small and working my way through something.  So I think the first recipe on my list to try is the Paella.  Yum!

A special thanks to Debbie for sharing her brilliance in the kitchen so that it is accessible to all of us!

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