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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cookies for Breakfast-(Gluten,egg,dairy and nut free)


As allergy moms, we have to learn how to re-feed our families from scratch.  Ten years ago, this was not a simple task as we did not have the explosive array of allergy free items we have today.  However, just because we have more extensive choices, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy.  In fact, I have noticed that the preponderance of allergy items is snack food, cake mixes, cookies, etc… Moreover, I found it curious that many food allergy parents such as myself, were actually gaining weight, probably because we were always baking for our kiddos so they wouldn’t feel left out at school, family events, birthday parties and playdates.  While I felt good about being able to provide these tasty alternatives, my fitness and nutrition goals were less than stellar and in need of an overhaul.

As a trainer and nutrition consultant with a lot of experience in limited diets, I am constantly trying to create healthy alternatives that won’t break the caloric bank, provide nutrition, and are kid and adult approved.  These breakfast cookies do just that. They are chock full of whole grain, fruit, oats, seeds, healthy fat, and my beloved dark chocolate.  They are great with a yogurt for brekkie, or a midday snack, not to mention a great post workout carbohydrate. As with any food, no matter how healthy, moderation is always key!!

Lightly Sweetened Brekkie Cookies-Makes approximately 24

Ingredients
1/3 cup coconut oil* (you can use canola if you don’t have coconut, but honestly the coconut oil kicks the taste up a notch).

¼ cup sugar of your choice (reserve ½ tsp. for sprinkling)

½ TBSP quality vanilla extract

1 tbsp pure maple syrup (optional)

2 small or 1 large overripe banana

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (oat flour if making it gluten free)

1 tbsp wheat germ or golden flax meal (wheat germ is not gluten free, but flax is)

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds (I used SuperSeedz-they are gluten,, nut, egg,dairy free)

2 tbsp. dark chocolate chips (Optional)  (I used Enjoy Life 69%)

¼ cup raisins

2 cups oatmeal (whole rolled oats. You can use minute oats but they wont be as hearty. If using gluten free oats, I suggest you either use minute oats or pulse the rolled oats a few times as they can be a bit chewy in my experience)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 and line baking sheet with parchment

Mash banana with a fork.

Melt 1/3 cup coconut oil and place in large bowl

Mix coconut oil, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla and banana and whisk until smooth and the color of caramel.

Add flour, wheat germ (flax) baking soda, baking powder, salt, choco chips, raisins and pumpkin seeds and mix until stiff dough.

Add oatmeal and incorporate into batter

Use a small scoop to form cookies and then flatten with bottom of a glass or hand.Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. sugar on the tops

Bake approximately 12 minutes-if you want them darker, bake 1-2 minutes longer.
Cool on rack. Freeze.

A Few Notes
Coconut oil- In addition to being the darling of the oils these days, it lends a light buttery taste to baked goods. Be sure you measure it out after it’s been melted in order to get the right amount. If you don’t like coconut oil, good ole canola will work too.

Sugar-At the end of the day-sugar is sugar and one has to use it wisely.  The nice thing about these cookies, however,  is that even though they have some sugar, it is far less than what is in the average breakfast cereals. Also, there is a nice amount of fiber in these cookies, which means that whatever sugar from your cookie won’t send you or your child into a sugar high/crash spiral.

Here's a trick-when you sprinkle a little sugar on the tops, that's the first thing your tongue registers as sweet, so you can lower the overall amount that goes into the cookies. 






Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Fifty is NOT the New Forty


I am the first to admit, I hate aging. My feet are achy as soon as they hit the floor in the morning, my back sporadically hurts, and my knees sound like a bowl of rice krispies. Throw in some hot flashes for good measure, thinning eyebrows, and more grays than I’d like to admit. Yep, sounds like 50 is off to a great start. Nevertheless, when I backtrack to the shadow of my former, younger self, I realize that 50 definitely has its merits.

The Twenties

 I use to roll my eyes at women in the salon who were getting their hair colored and I adamantly swore I would go natural when the time came. Of course, when the grays started to come a little more fast and furious than I would have liked, I went straight to the colorist. Clearly, my twenty-year old self had no idea what lay ahead.  While the twenties were fun, I always felt like something bigger yet inaccessable lay ahead. Being on the cusp of creating a life for myself was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. I worried about career choices and independence. Still plagued with PRTD (post residual teen drama) I obsessed about what ifs, why don’t they like me, why aren’t they calling me which would be the equivalent of why didn't they text me back in today's scenario.
The Thirties
My thirty self didn’t really think about age.Thirties were the beginning of my life, marriage, new house, and I was way too absorbed in processing these huge changes.

The Forties
Ahhh, the 40’s. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t love my forties so much. Most of the physical changes I complain about started back then and took nearly a decade to resolve. I also didn’t like that I was on the other end of the spectrum at the OB/GYN- emphasis on the GYN because OB didn’t apply anymore. My kids were getting older, my face was stating to show signs of aging and if my night cream could talk, it would say, “what the hell happened?” Emotionally, forties is a crossroad for many. Some have mid- life crises and I am no different. My writing was stalled, I had no career, my kids didn’t need me as much and I knew that college was looming in a few short years. Fifty was creeping up and always taunting me in the background like an invisible forcefield. I didn’t want to be fifty. The number itself represented my life being half over, glass half empty. I desperately wanted to accomplish something big before AARP invited me to the party and my daughter went away to college.

The Fifties

Here I am. Fifty isn’t so bad. In fact, I would venture to say, it started out way better than the decade before. Whoever coined the phrase 50 is the new 40 was probably a 30 something bemoaning the fact that they too will one day be 50 and needed to justify the aging process.I know I clung to adages like that one. I came to 50 kicking and screaming, but now that I’m here, I’m actually okay. In the first few months of being 50, I published my children’s book and started a new career in fitness and nutrition. Fifty is truly the crossroads, where many decide to change for the second act of their lives.

Fifty represents clarity. I look at my daughter and all the teen angst, insecurity and drama that goes along with it. I see myself at that age, and wish she would believe me when I tell her that at some point, none of it makes a difference. I am the ghost of the future telling her, in real time, but I suppose she has to follow her own chronological journey. But if she took one thing away from my experiences, I wish it to be the fact that we don’t have time to worry about who doesn’t like us and that we should be busy loving the people who love us. There’s a 50ism for ya.

WHY CAN'T 50 JUST BE THE NEW 50?
Here’s the thing. Why can’t 50 just be the new 50? Truthfully, the 50-year old’s of today, are very different than the generation of 50’s before us. It’s true. I am a very different 50 than my mother was. There is more available to us now than ever before. We have access to so much abundance regarding healthier food, information, safer hair color and way better moisturizers. We choose differently in terms of careers, life choices etc.  So, why can’t the age of 50 be the new standard? Why do we have to quantify it by trying to be the people we were in our 40’s? 

I’m not glossing over the fact that aging isn’t easy. Fifty represents menopause, colonoscopies, shingles, cholesterol, osteoporosis, and the depressing list goes on. But more often than not, I feel like the same fun person I was in high school but with better fashion sense and wisdom, so I try to focus on that, and not what my bloodwork reveals (event though I get mad every time).

We all want to feel relevant but there is a reality that no matter how good one feels about oneself, there are going to be times where we are aged out of a job, or the checkout kid calls you “mam!” UGH, I hate the mam, but what should they call you?  “Hey sexy, you want me to bag those apples for you?” That’s even worse. So, mam it is.  We are a youth obsessed society and admittedly, when I see an upcoming, youthful actress- I sardonically think, “well one day you will be old.” I know, totally immature, but c’mon you think it too.

So, the point is, it’s okay to want to look better, we all do. There is no judgement if you color your hair, or get Botox, if it makes you feel better, then so be it.  But, at the end of the day, your chronological age is only going up and nothing can change that.  We can complain, even vent, but wishing for the days of yore as opposed to making our present the best it can be is soooo 40’s.




Monday, February 13, 2017

Dessert Shouldn't Hurt-Allergy Free (gluten, nut, dairy, egg free ) Decadence that Won't Break the Caloric Bank!

No matter if you celebrate Valentines day or not, these desserts won't break your caloric bank and have a nice antioxidant punch from the berries and the dark chocolate. They are great anytime and are dairy,egg, gluten and nut free. 


EASY HEART HEALTHY DESSERTS
FOR VALENTINE’S DAY 

Dessert #1-CHOCOLATE STUFFED RASPBERRIES (Approximate Calories 100)
20 Raspberries
20 Dark chocolate chips-roughly one tablespoon
DIRECTIONS
Stuff individual raspberries with chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life Chunks)

Dessert #2-VALENTINE FRUIT SALAD WITH CHOCOLATE SHELL DRIZZLE (Approximate Calories: 140 per cup)
1 Blood Orange, or Cara Cara
20 Raspberries
2 Tbsp. chocolate chips
½ tsp. coconut oil

DIRECTIONS
Divide orange and raspberries equally between two goblets/wine glasses.
Melt chocolate chips and coconut oil in microwave (approximately 1 minute)
Stir until combined.
Drizzle over fruit.
Place in freezer for 2 minutes-chocolate will become a hard shell.

Dessert#3-FROZEN CHOCOLATE CRANBERRIES (Approximate Calories 210)
½ cup frozen cranberries
2 tbsp chocolate chips
½ tsp. coconut oil

DIRECTIONS
Melt chocolate chips and coconut oil in microwave (approximately 1 minute)
Stir until combined.

Stir cranberries into chocolate and place in freezer for cranberries with a chocolate magic shell.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Kinder, Gentler, Lower Calorie Sugar Cookie (Dairy, Egg and Nut Free)


Here is a cookie that is not only safe for those with food allergies, but you won't break the caloric bank with them either (especially if you don't ice them).  No matter what holiday you celebrate, or if you are just in a mood for a really good sugar cookie, try this one out first. 


Here's what you won't get in these cookies!
  • Loads of sugar
  • No egg
  • No butter
Here's what you get
  • No guilt holiday
  • Healthier cookie
  • Great taste


Makes approximately 18 cookies

Ingredients
1/3 cup canola oil
½ cup Florida Natural Crystals
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1-cup whole- wheat pastry flour
1-cup unbleached flour
1 TBSP milk of your choice (I use So Delicious Coconut)
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1 ½- tsp. pure vanilla
2-3 drops lemon extract

Directions
·         Combine oil, sugar and applesauce. You can use a hand mixer or a whisk until it looks creamy and color is uniform. 

·       
·         Add flour, milk, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and vanilla and mix until all ingredients are fully incorporated (you don’t have to use a mixer for this).

·         Roll dough into a disk (it may be a bit oily) and wrap it in plastic wrap. I use a Ziploc bag that is cut in half.  The dough doesn’t seem to stick as much to the bag.

·         Place in freezer for 1 hour or more.

·         Set oven to 400 degrees and line baking sheets w/parchment paper.

·         Remove from freezer and place it on the half Ziploc bag.  Sprinkle both sides w/flour and place second half of Ziploc over the dough.

·         Flour a rolling pin and roll out dough to ¼ “ thickness.  Turn the dough clockwise to get all sides.  It is so much easier to do this with a Ziploc bag.  I find it works much better than plastic wrap or parchment, especially when you have to “peel” the dough sometimes.

·         Use cookie cutters to shape dough (smaller cookie cutters are best) and place on parchment paper.

·         Bake for 6-8 minutes depending on your oven.

·         Remove from oven and let cookies cool for about 1-2 minutes

·         Slide off baking sheets and place on cooling rack.

A Few Notes for Great Cookies
·       You can double this recipe to make 3 dozen however; I find making one batch at a time yields better dough.  Too much in one bowl is very oily.

·        This is a light, delicious, crispy cookie (make sure you roll it thin) even with the whole-wheat pastry flour.  It is slightly grayer in color (not the full golden color you get with regular flour).  It is slightly grainier, but undetectable to most.  For different results, feel free to play with the flour ratios. 

·        This is very sticky dough.  Use flour to help with rolling and work fast.  As the dough warms up it becomes challenging to work with, so put it in the fridge to firm up for a few minutes.
·         Decorating is the fun part, but I do not like all those artificial sugars and gels.  Here are some other suggestions…

    The most popular cookie so far was the sandwich cookie.  Place two alike cookies flat bottoms up. Fill one cookie with a dark-chocolate ganache, or all natural fruit preserves and press the cookies together.  The preserve-filled whole-wheat pastry cookie was the voted favorite.

·         You can freeze the cookies and any leftover dough.

·         If you have any scraps that aren’t big enough for a cookie cutter…take a small medicine cup and make small circles in the leftover dough.  It’s the perfect shape and you can make mini-filled cookies.


Remember to enjoy your family and your food!! Happy Holiday.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving Recipe-"Cheesecake Cuties"

Thanksgiving is typically the portal to guilty holiday overeating, resulting in New Year's resolutions which are routinely broken by January 15th. Sound familiar? It's a vicious cycle. Moreover, for those of us with food allergies, these types of holidays are landmines. We are constantly surrounded by string beans almondine, pecan pie, walnut brownies, stuffing with egg, and the list goes on. 

As a writer about nutrition, a recently appointed trainer at ThePerfectWorkout, and a mom with children suffering from multiple food allergies, I am trying to balance holiday consumption and safety-not always an easy thing to juggle especially when it comes to dessert.

This Thanksgiving, try this recipe for "Cheesecake Cuties." They are nut, dairy, egg and gluten free. They are petite,creamy and incredibly easy to make. They won't break your calorie bank (unless you eat all 24) they are safe for those allergy challenged, and they really taste great. There is no reason why you can't have dessert (for diet and allergy reasons) and these will definitely fill both those needs. 


Enjoy your holiday. Be grateful for family. Don't sweat the small stuff. Try to get in at least one workout -you will be glad you did! 



"Cheescake Cuties"
(adapted from The Sweet Spot)

Ingredients
1 cup nut butter ( I used WOW Butter-soy nut butter-you can use any kind of      nut butter)

2 overripe medium sized bananas(I had one so I use about 1/3 cup of pumpkin with 1 banana)

2 "eggs"- I used 3 tsp. Ener-G Egg replacer+4 TBSP water (make this in advance and let it sit for a few minutes before putting in food processor)**

2 TBSP pure maple syrup

1/2 TBSP pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. cinnamon

mini chocolate chips

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place muffin liners in pan (these make 24 minis or 10-12 full size muffins)
2. Place all ingredients in a  food processor.
3. Blend until well mixed
4. Scoop batter (use small scooper) into muffin tin
5. Sprinkle mini chips on top
6. Bake 10-12 min. for minis- 15 min. for full size. 
7. Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes and then place on baking rack. They need a few minutes to cool and come together. 

**Notes on Egg replacer-you can use regular eggs, or if you don't have Ener-G, you can use a flax egg-1 tbsp golden flaxseed, 3 TBSP water (mix well and let sit for 5 minutes before adding).



PS-Looking for an amazing workout? 

Go to www.theperfectworkout.com-you will be amazed what you can accomplish in only 20 minutes, twice a week with NO CARDIO!  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

An AfFARE to Remember



Hey everyone! This past Sunday my son and I worked one of the tables at the local FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) walk in Maryland. It was a beautiful day and a great event. What struck me the most, however, was my 11 year old's metamorphosis. Most of the time, I'm telling him to "cut it out," "calm down" or "stop being so silly and focus." I know, these are typical statements used in reference to most 11 yr. old boys! Nevertheless, what I witnessed this past Sunday was eye opening. Here was a boy full of poise, maturity (always relative) showmanship, salesmanship and totally being in the moment.

For the first time in a very long time, he was able to be himself without worrying that someone was judging him as "weird" for having a food allergy. He talked to little kids and shared his experiences, and just as easily conversed with adults, impressing them with his allergy acumen and his passion. Who was this kid?

I have always firmly believed that doing good for others makes for a well rounded child, yet due to  generally letting life and all it craziness get in the way, we haven't done enough of it lately. What I witnessed this past Sunday only reinforced the idea that gratitude and good deeds truly are an essential part of our children's upbringing. Sometimes we need reminders to just smack us in the face bringing us out of our complacency.

Below is the link to the live impromptu video we did on Facebook. I love this video because it truly demonstrated our genuine feelings about the day along with our gratitude to being an important part of something greater than ourselves.


https://www.facebook.com/rachel.o.packer.7/videos/10210696648880763/

Friday, September 9, 2016

You Can't Put a Price on Life-But Mylan Did



When our 20 year-old television started cutting off tops of heads, my husband and I decided to purchase a flat screen. We didn't need a lot of reasons to make this investment. The culminating factor was when  my 11 yr. old had to start wearing his glasses specifically to see the Netflix descriptions because they were too small-OMG tragedy!  Sure, it was an expense, and yes, we researched it for weeks, poring over Sunday circulars and stalking Amazon until we found the right size at the right price. Press the button-CLICK-and a new TV comes to our door through Prime magic. TADA! Now, could we have waited a while longer? SURE. Did we HAVE to get a new one? NO. Could we have survived? ABSOLUTELY!

The television is a luxury, a frivolous source of entertainment. If it's on the fritz or it cuts off tops of heads or the news crawler at the bottom of a newscast, I can pretty much live, or find another gadget like my phone or Ipad. On second thought, it's probably better that I can't read the news at the bottom of the screen. The point is, it's an OPTION and I won't die if I had to live with the status quo. Moreover, I had thousands to choose from. Admittedly a little overwhelming.

Not so much with an Epi-Pen purchase.  It's not an option. It's not something my kids can live without. I can't run to Amazon and price compare. There's one choice. LIFE. They say you can't put a price on life, but evidently you can, to the tune of $600.

The Mylan Epi-Pen scandal has been an unfolding  news story these past few weeks and while I have remained relatively  quiet on the subject, (which is unusual for me) it has been bubbling up within. Both my children have severe food allergies. We live with the reality everyday. The Epi-Pen is an appendage, It's basically attached to us even if it's a non-food related activity. That's our life. An asthmatic wouldn't be without an inhaler; a diabetic needs their insulin. These are the things that help keep us alive, so we take it pretty seriously, even though much of the population thinks that food allergy folks are over dramatic sensationalists.

The fact that a company can gouge it's customers who basically have no choice, is not only reprehensible but a complete violation to human beings on this planet. I'm not naive. I know the world can sometimes be a nasty place, however, this isn't the first time a company's greed reached a pinnacle where the Senate woke up and decided to launch an investigation. HO HUM. Like that hasn't happened before. Then what? In the meantime, while they're scrambling and acting self-righteous, we (the allergy community) are still stuck in the trenches shelling out thousands of dollars (because one needs more than one Epi-Pen) to keep our children alive. My wish is that this issue will have an expedient resolve before a tragedy unfolds because you can't put a price on life, even though Mylan did.