Shout Out to … Food Should Taste Good

I’ve written previously about the labeling of foods. In some cases, I’ve blogged about what I deem as poorly written and unhelpful food labels. [missed that post? check it out here]

Today, I want to give a shout out to a company that is going above and beyond the letter of the law.

[if you are not familiar with the food allergy labeling laws in the U.S., you can read about them here.]

I’ve started to see Food Should Taste Good’s products in supermarkets lately.

First, I love the name of their brand.

And I love that their products are made with real ingredients, have no cholesterol and zero trans fats. And, according to their website, their chips are gluten-free and kosher.

multi-grain chips

their multi-grain chips

Unfortunately for me, their chips contain not one but two of my allergens — sesame and sunflower.

And guess what?

Their labeling makes this abundantly clear.

Check it out:

an example of well-written and clear ingredient list

an example of well-written and clear ingredient list

How cool is that?

While I may not be able to enjoy their products, I want to give Food Should Taste Good a huge Shout-Out for going above the letter of the law and labeling for sunflower and sesame.

I hope you’ll join me in congratulating Food Should Taste Good for going above and beyond! Nicely done!

Do you want to give kudos to another company for their food labeling? Please let us know by making a comment below!

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Wanna Make Key Lime Pie? Read This.

key limes

key limes

One of my good friends celebrated a birthday this past weekend. Since we’re at a point in our lives where we basically have every thing we need, I decided to make him something special that I knew he would love — key lime pie. Mmmmm, key lime pie. Yummmmm.

[smack! STOP day-dreaming about key lime pie and get back to writing about it …]

A few years ago, I spent a few months experimenting in the kitchen to come up with a reliable recipe for key lime pie. This recipe is actually easy to make, it just takes a little time as the pie is made from scratch (well, with the exception of the graham crackers, which I guess you could make on your own from scratch …)

Ana’s Key Lime Pie

  • 5.5 oz graham crackers (yes, I do weight them)
  • 5.5 T melted unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
the crumbs all ready to be formed into the crust

crumbs ready to be formed into the crust

Preheat the oven to 350.

Break up the graham crackers and put in a food processor and process until they are crumbs. (if you don’t have a food processor, you can put the graham crackers in a ziplock bag, seal and then crush the crackers with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer).

Add the sugar and pulse in the food processor until well blended. Then add the butter and pulse until the crumbs are soft and airy.

Pour the mixture into a greased tart pan (pie pan, also works!) and press into place, forming a neat border around the edge, like this:

IMG_2943

Bake the crust until set and golden, about 7 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and leave the oven on.

While the crust is baking, you’ll want to start zesting the key limes. I buy key limes in a bag and I zest the limes before juicing them because it’s a LOT easier this way (trust me, on this!).

bag of limes & the zest

bag of limes & the zest

After zesting the limes, you’ll want to juice the limes. Since the key limes are small, their seeds have a tendency to make it through my juice press. So I use a strainer to catch those seeds, saving me the extra step of straining the juice later.

caption here

“catching” the seeds!

In the end, you should wind up with about 2/3 cup of lime juice. [If you didn’t get enough key limes to generate this much juice and you have some regular limes lying around, you could supplement the juice with “regular” lime juice.]

In another bowl, you’ll want to beat the egg yolks and lime zest with an electric mixture for about five minutes, until the yolks appear fluffy and have almost a charchuse color.

Next you’ll want to gradually beat in the condensed milk and beat another 2-3 minutes.

Finally, toss in the lime juice and beat the mixture – on lower speed – until the juice just combines with the eggs and milk.

Then pour the mixture into the pie crust, bake for ~10 minutes or until the filling is set.

Cool on a wire rack and then put in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it.

caption

HANDS OFF! the key lime pie is cooling!

Some people like to have their key lime pie with freshly whipped cream. Like this:

yummmmm

yummmmm! while I’m eating this slice, can you please cut me another?

It’s so easy to make whipped cream. If you don’t know how to make it and you want to learn, please leave a comment below and I’ll provide you with the info. Cheers!

Shout out to … Grandma’s Kitchen of Northvale, NJ

I was recently in my hometown to celebrate my nephew’s baptism. And to become his godmother, which I was — and still am — absolutely thrilled to bits about!

As is the norm for my family, we can’t have someone in the family reach a milestone without a party. With lots of food and maybe even some more alcohol ;-)

what did i tell you? ;-)

see? ;-)

When my food allergies reared their ugly head last fall, I dived head-first into the world wide web of knowledge scouring for any information I could find. One of the items I discovered was that my hometown had a peanut-free and nut-free bakery.

Nobody in my family knew about this place.

And my hometown is fairly small — after all, it just has three traffic lights (and they are all on the same street).

So getting back to my godson’s baptism … we were having a huge shin-dig at my parents’ house and (as any great mom would do) my mom wanted to ensure that the cake for my nephew’s special day would be Kate-friendly. So off she went to Grandma’s Kitchen in Northvale, NJ.

It turns out that Grandma’s Kitchen is a bakery that is entirely free of peanuts and tree nuts.

Woo-hoo!

So my mom ordered a half-sheet cake in our family’s “go to” flavor — rich chocolate cake with vanilla icing. Yummm ..

I picked up the cake myself because I wanted to check out the bakery. When I got there, they were in the middle of holding a cooking class — I am no cake decorator, but I believe they were having a fondant-related class. Waaaay above my skill level! The bakery looked cute and they had some gorgeous treats on display. I found myself half-wishing I was there to pick out treats, not just pick up a sheet cake and a bunch of black-and-white cookies that were pre-ordered.

the delicious cake to celebrate the baptism of my nephew - and now godson :-)

the delicious cake to celebrate the baptism of my nephew – and now godson :-)

The cake was … amazing!

The chocolate cake had just the right level of moisture and the perfect amount of chocolate. It was divine. And the icing! The icing was sweet, but not too sweet and had just the right amount of texture and firmness to it. I had more pieces of cake than I will to admit to having ;-)

The dozen black & white cookies were also delicious! The “cake” was dense, just how I love. The vanilla icing was my favorite; it always is ;-)

a bite out of Grandma's Kitchen's yummy black & white cookie!

a bite out of Grandma’s Kitchen’s yummy black & white cookie!

I brought back a small collection of black & white cookies home to Virginia; they didn’t last long once I got home :-)

Knowing that these delicious sweets were made free of peanuts and tree nuts made it so much easier to enjoy them! I knew I had nothing to worry about – especially since my mom had visited the shop days before and let them know about my food allergies.

I’m absolutely thrilled that my hometown has a peanut- and nut-free bakery! I plan on stopping by every time I pay a visit home. And they will now be listed on the right-hand side of my blog under “Awesome Allergy Friendly Chefs.”

Grandma's Kitchen -- go check 'em out!

Grandma’s Kitchen — go check ’em out!

Live in Bergen County, NJ, or Rockland County, NY, and have food allergies? Please think about paying a visit to Grandma’s Kitchen. In addition to being a nut-free and peanut-free bakery, they offer dairy-free, egg-free, and gluten-free sweets, along with parve and vegan treats too.

Ana’s Recipe: Cheesy Quinoa

A couple of dear girlfriends came over on Saturday to enjoy the almost-autumn-like weather on my patio. We fired up the grill and make some chicken and squash.

We also experimented in the kitchen and made some Cheesy Quinoa, aka a “healthier” version of mac & cheese.

I loved it. So much so I think I had three four helpings! ::blush::

cheesy quinoa with grilled squash

cheesy quinoa with grilled squash

Ana’s Cheesy Quinoa

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 oz cream cheese (softened at room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (divided)
  • 1 t onion powder
  • 1 T garlic powder

First, cook the quinoa. This means bringing the chicken broth to a boil, stir in the quinoa, put a lid on the pot, turn down the heat and simmer until the quinoa absorbs all the chicken broth. This took about 18 minutes for us.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Stir in the cream cheese, parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese, onion powder and garlic powder. Mix well.

Next, use cooking spray to prepare a square, glass baking dish.

Spread the cheesy quinoa in the baking dish and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or whenever the cheese has completely melted and is bubbly.

It’s like baked mac & cheese … but better! :-)

I can’t wait to experiment with this recipe by trying other cheeses, spices and maybe I’ll even add some beans or veggies to it!

Another really cool item accompanied this dish last night — a bottle of wine from Maryland. I dig the label and I totally dig the name of the wine – am I a child of the ’80s or what? lol

awesome name, great label & yummy wine!

awesome name, great label & yummy wine!

First comes food allergy, then comes … airborne allergy. Seriously?

Something seemingly random and out-of-the-blue occurred to me a few weeks ago that has rocked my world.

I’ve waited this long to tell you all about it because — well, in the interest of “let me focus on seeking out information before I let my emotions get the best of me” — I wanted to discuss it with my allergist first.

Now that I’ve focused on facts, sought out information and hashed this out with my allergist, I can say something that terrifies me to my core: I have now experienced my first airborne reaction to a food allergen.

My allergy to peanut is no longer just a “read labels and don’t ingest any” food allergy, it has now expanded to include “be aware, be very aware of your surroundings” food allergy.

I’m still having a difficult time typing out that I have an airborne allergy now. Admittedly, it’s a heck of a lot easier to type it than to speak it. I’m still working practicing verbalizing this phenomenon out loud.

Anybody else out there have airborne reactions to food?

I now feel your pain.

I now understand your hypervigilance.

I now sympathize.

I now get it.

I mean I, really, really, get it now.

PB-caution

So here’s what happened … back in late June, I had a kick-ass party to celebrate my birthday. [did you miss my post on how to successfully manage food allergies while hosting a potluck event? check it out here I had family come in from three different states and friends from practically all aspects of my life (wine friends, yoga buddies, food allergy friends, scrapbook friends, work friends, you name it, they were all there). Everyone got along, there was some dancing, a little more drinking, a boat-load of laughs and lots of amazing food; all of this took place at a local picnic pavilion.

After the festivities wrapped up and all my friends headed home, my family and I headed to my house to relax and have the “post-party wrap up.” My brother decided he wanted some Five Guys so off he went to pick up some burgers and fries for himself, his wife and our dad. My mom and I decided we would munch on leftovers from the party.

For those of you not familiar with Five Guys … they make some amazing burgers and fries. I know this to be a fact because I’ve had my fair share number of burgers and fries from them. Of course, that was all BPA, Before Peanut Allergy. Five Guys not only offer peanuts in bulk containers to their customers but they also make everything using 100% peanut oil. So, once Peanut Allergy came along, I had to say good bye to Five Guys. Trust me, it was a terrible break-up. Lots of bitter feelings on both sides.

So my brother came home with a Five Guys-signature greasy brown paper bag, full of three burgers and one order of fries. All of us crowded around the table for our post-party “snack” and my brother wound up sitting next to me.

His fries smelled great! So, not knowing any better, I picked up his plate of fries at one point and gave them a good whiff. Oh, man, did they smell amazing! I knew I couldn’t eat them, but I figured there would be no harm in smelling them. Little did I know. Oh, and that greasy brown paper bag? It was sitting on the table in front of me and my brother.

A few minutes into our “snack” my nose started running. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate … my nose started pouring! Seriously. It was as though my nose had a faucet and someone turned the faucet open all.the.way.

And silly, ignorance-is-bliss me doesn’t think anything of it. And lazy me doesn’t even get tissues, I just try to sniffle it all up. [ok, gross, I know, but … I’m keeping it real!]

My mom doesn’t have much tolerance for sniffling so she asks me at one point if I’m OK. After all these years, I know that’s mom speak for “you better get yourself a tissue because you’re starting to irritate me.”

I do one better and go to the bathroom. I happened to look at myself in the mirror … what was staring back at me was some really, really old lady with swollen eyes, bags down to her mouth and a face covered in a reddish rash.

Oh, shit.

Once I got passed the whole “this is YOU, not an old lady”, I realized I was having a reaction to something. At that point, I went into automatic pilot – I did not focus on trying to figure out the cause – I just focused only on getting the reaction under control.

So off I went to find Benadryl. Thankfully I knew exactly where to find it so I didn’t waste any time and I promptly swallowed two.

I then sat back down at the table and inside my head I’m telling myself “You’re going to be OK. This is a reaction. Remain calm and wait for the Benadryl to kick in. You got this.” As I waited for the Benadryl to kick in, my nose continued to run so I did the only “adult” thing I could think of — I grabbed some paper napkins off the table and blew my nose. I kept this up for a few minutes … until I ran out of napkins.

And I was not feeling any better. In fact, I thought I may have been feeling even slightly worse so I started to think about epinephrine.

And then it hit me … I had been blowing my nose using the napkins that had been in the Five Guys greasy brown bag.

Oh, holy shit.

So with that, I left the table, found tissues in another room and continued to blow my nose. I’d say within two minutes, I was starting to feel better. Yeah! Let’s hear it for Benadryl. :-)  I was totally ready to use my Auvi-Q, but thankfully it didn’t come to that.

After a little while, I took a shower, put on fresh clothes and was feeling my normal self again. My eyes were still puffy; they needed almost 24 hrs to return to normal.

I then had a chat with the family about what happened and the consensus was that it must have been the Five Guys food/bag since that was really the only “new” thing introduced into my home when the reaction occurred.

Last week, I sat down with my allergist and explained everything to her. We had (as always) a great conversation; this time around it focused on the difficulty of confirming an airborne allergy and, ultimately, she agreed with my family’s consensus.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around this and process it all … I hope sharing my story with all of you will help me “own” this new dimension of food allergies for me.

Do you have any tips/suggestions as to how I and others can safely manage an airborne food allergy? Please feel free to share in the comments below or via Twitter (I’m @DofAnaPhylaxis). Many thanks!

An Amazing Sequel to My Rock Bottom Brewery Experience

Something amazing has happened. And I want to share it with all of you.

Not too long ago, I was vacationing and visiting with friends in Colorado. It was on this trip that, thanks to some dear and long-time friends giving me the courage, I walked out of a restaurant for the first time.  [if you missed the post, you can read about it here]

Like I always do when I write about a restaurant or product, I tracked down the eatery’s Facebook page and Twitter handle and shared my thoughts with them. Knowing that my thoughts were not the most glowing, I was curious to see how – or even, if – any response would come.

I got a response. In fact, I received multiple responses. And I am so giddy about what my one blog post has created that I just had to share it with all of you.

As they say in the sports world, let’s go through this play-by-play:

  • Sat, 20 July – attempted to eat at Rock Bottom in Westminster, CO. Left feeling defeated yet also grateful I was with supportive friends who helped me focus on the positive side.
  • Wed, 24 July – published the blog post about this experience; also tweeted @RockBottom   [note: normally I wouldn’t blog so soon afterwards but since I was on vacay from my full-time job, I had some time on my hands ;-)]
  • Thurs, 25 July [as in the next day] — @RockBottom tweeted me, apologized and provided an email address to send my feedback

Rock Bottom Brewery’s tweet back to me

  • Sat, 27 July – I emailed Rock Bottom, provided some background about me and provided a link to my blog post [would have done this on Friday but I was on an airplane a good chunk of the day]
  • Mon, 29 July – I received a response from a Marketing Coordinator in Chattanooga, TN, who forwarded my note to the Regional Manager, who works closely with the operations of the specific restaurant I visited [seriously? that was fast! I wonder if this is going to go anywhere or if this is the typical/automatic response to something on social media]
  • Thurs, 1 Aug – the Regional Manager (RM) emailed me. Highlights/snippets from her note:

– Your “experience is very concerning to me” [wow … ok, I guess Rock Bottom is really serious about this.]

– She had already spoken to the General Manager [Already?]

–  “As a company, we take food allergy concerns very seriously and take pride in a made from scratch kitchen so that we can accommodate our guests that have dietary restrictions.” [I realize that may be their goal but that message obviously hasn’t been communicated to every member of their team given my experience. And it appears as though this RM gets that.]

–  “I read your blog as well as the comments listed below and obviously we have some work to do in this department.” [wow … now that is what I call taking ownership.]

– “Thank you … [we’ll] use it as a coaching opportunity moving forward.” [mission accomplished! I mean seriously … that’s all I can ask for!]

  • Fri, 2 Aug – I replied to the RM expressing my gratitude and delight that food allergy awareness is important to Rock Bottom.
  • Sat, 3 Aug – The RM emailed me again and said that she was requesting all of her General Managers to read my blog in hopes that they can work to improve how they communicate with guests who have food allergies and dietary restrictions.  [say what??!?!! I was speechless. And those of you who have met me in person, let’s face it, speechless is not something that this extreme extrovert often experiences. ;-) ]

All of this happened within 10 days of my blog post. TEN days. I am thrilled beyond words.

Why?

Because I have made an impact.

This blogstarted less than a year ago with the original and sole purpose of keeping my family and friends updated on two anaphylactic incidentshas made an impact.

My words made an impact.

I realize it’s just one restaurant in a state where I don’t even live. Yet …

I have made a difference.

So now it’s time to give a Shout Out to Rock Bottom!

Last month, I never would have dreamed it … well, it’s now a new day. And I can’t wait to visit Rock Bottom in Westminster, CO, the next time I’m out there!

To my readers, I hope this story will inspire you to provide restaurants feedback, to try new restaurants and to be true to yourself. I know it has done just that for me.

Tasty Tuesday: Honey Mustard Bean & Barley Salad

I was in my hometown over the weekend for my nephew’s baptism. I was also anointed (is that the right word?) as The Godmother – so I was pulling “double duty” ;-)

My mom, as expected, did everything she could to ensure that the weekend was full of all food that was Kate-friendly. She rocks. This included ordering sweets from a nut-free bakery (more on that in a later post), visiting the Sunday brunch restaurant ahead of time to talk about my food allergies and making some food ourselves.

So this week’s recipe actually comes from Mom — it’s for a bean and barley salad that was THE hit of the post-baptism party. I’m pretty sure some heated discussions took place regarding who was taking how much of this salad home. Mom has always said that fighting over leftovers is a sign of success!

the leftovers I got to take home -- yum!

the leftovers I got to take home — yum!

So with that, here’s the recipe …

Mom’s Honey Mustard Bean & Barley Salad

  • 1 cup barley, cooked
  • 1 can red beans (mom used kidney)
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • ¼ cup finely chopped scallions
  • ¼  cup olive oil
  • 2 T Acai Pomegranate infused red wine vinegar (feel free to try any red wine vinegar)
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 T honey
  • ½  t salt
  • ¼  t fresh ground pepper

Prepare the barley. If you’ve never made barley before, I recommend boiling 3 cups of water and adding the 1 cup of barley into the boiling water. Let simmer for 45-60 minutes and then drain.

Rinse and drain all the beans.

Mix the beans, scallions and barley together in a large bowl.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper together. Pour over the beans and barley mixture and toss.

Chill salad in the refrigerator before serving.

Shout Out to … Artie’s of Fairfax, VA

I had a very special treat this past Saturday night — not only was I going out to eat with a dear friend but I was also going to a wonderful restaurant that I had not been to in quite some time.

So it was basically a “double treat” for me.

Enter Artie’s of Fairfax, VA. Artie’s is one of the Great American Restaurants in northern Virginia. Every eatery of theirs I have been to has great food and great service.

Since being diagnosed with food allergies less than a year ago, eating out (while one of my favorite things) has moved from the routine to a “let me give this a little thought beforehand.” When my dear friend suggested Artie’s — especially knowing how terrific their food and service has been — I figured “let’s go for it!”.

And I’m so glad I did.

I got to Artie’s a few minutes early and discovered that they were more than happy to seat me, even though my Eater in Crime had not yet arrived.

As an aside: one of the unique things I’ve observed about GA Restaurants is they take a team approach. So throughout any meals I’ve had at their eateries, I’ll be served by a team of staff members, rather than just one.

So when a woman came up to my table, greeted me and asked me if I wanted anything to drink, I figured I’d take advantage of having a few minutes before my friend arrived. So I asked the woman if she would be taking care of our food orders and explained that I had some food allergies. She indicated she would likely not be taking our food orders, but took my allergy card and assured me she would pass the information on.

Soon after my friend arrived and more drinks were ordered!

When our lead server came to the table, he indicated that he had received my food allergy card. He also indicated which ingredients are not present in their kitchen (like lentils and sunflower) and highlighted some dishes that would need a little adaptation should I choose to order them (like leaving nuts off salads). And then we joked about how I should just stay away from their Spinach & Artichoke Dip. :-)

So let me get this straight … Joe not only told me he received my FA card but he also did homework before chatting with me about the menu so that he could guide me appropriately through their menu.

Wow.

Unreal.

I knew Joe had my back.

Another deliciously amazing thing about GA Restaurants is their bread basket. I don’t know what they put in their bread (maybe some sort of drug? ok, just kidding!) but their bread is always amazing!

I’ve learned these last several months to approach bread baskets at restaurants with some trepidation. And even though I was pretty darn hungry, I was mentally preparing myself to stay away from the bread when it arrives.

This is when Joe outdid himself.

When he brought the bread over, he turned to me and said that he had checked with the kitchen and that I could eat everything in the basket. He did swap out the spread and gave us pure butter because … well, shoot, I gotta confess I don’t remember exactly what he said because he.had.me at “you can eat everything in the basket.” :-)

I gave Joe a fist-bump.

I didn’t know what else to do because I was so excited!

So I ate bread. :-)

an almost empty bread basket!

an almost empty bread basket!

We were having such a great time enjoying the food and talking about hopes and dreams that I forgot to take a picture of our appetizer, Tex Mex Eggrolls. All I’m saying is if you ever find yourself at Artie’s, order these. Awesome.

I decided to go veg for dinner so I ordered their grilled portobellos with warm goat cheese. My friend ordered the crab cakes.

grilled portabello, peppers and asparagus with warm goat cheese over a bed of angel hair pasta

two crab cakes with sweet potato fries and colesaw

It was not a surprise that everything was delicious and that everything was devoured.

I passed on dessert because … well, I ate too much bread! LOL

And we shared an appetizer. And I knew I was going to be pigging out at a winery the following the day. ::blush::

So in case it hasn’t been clear, let me given an official Shout Out to Artie’s of Fairfax, VA.

And to Joe!

Thank you, Joe, for having my back and raising the bar on what I should expect when I eat out with food allergies!

And thank you Artie’s for training your wait staff and kitchen on how to embrace food allergies!

Ana’s Recipe: Grilled Lettuce

OK, admit it … you saw the blog title and thought “Huh? Grilled lettuce? What is that? Sounds kinda gross.”

I’m here to turn that perception upside down :-)

A couple of awesome friends of mine were recently on vacation and, seeing this item on a menu, they confessed to having a similar reaction. For them, however, their initial reaction morphed into intrigue. So they decided to give it a try. They told me later it was one of the best dishes they have ever had.

So they invited me over to help them make their own version of it.

Did someone say food experiment? With a grill? Oh, and there will be wine involved too?

Done.

I have to confess as well — my reaction at first was similar to how I started this post.  Of course, then my engineering mind took over and I started thinking “Grilled lettuce? How in the world is that made? You mean they really put lettuce on the grill. Sounds a little hokey to me.”

Until I helped make it.

Until I took a bite.

Until I devoured the lettuce.

So I had to — no, I was compelled to — share the recipe with all of you. I truly hope you enjoy the simplicity and the taste behind this super-quick-to-make and super-delicious-to-eat summer treat.

Ana’s Grilled Lettuce

  • 1 head of romaine lettuce
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper [if you wish]
  • Cheese for grating (we used pecorino romano)
  • Balsamic glaze (or balsamic vinegar)

First, fire up your grill!

While the grill is warming up, take a head of romaine lettuce and slice it in half, along its length. Brush both sides of the lettuce halves with olive oil.

the "oiled" lettuce waiting to go on the grill.

the “oiled” lettuce waiting to go on the grill.

When the grill is ready, make sure the grates are oiled. [Here is where I confess to using olive oil spray – from a distance to ensure I don’t set myself on fire. Those of you trying this at home may want to use a safer method. Just sayin’.]

Place the lettuce halves on the grill and let them grill for 90-120 seconds.

side one on the grill

side one on the grill

Then flip the lettuce halves over and grill on that side for 90-120 seconds.

The lettuce halves should just be starting to wilt and may have a couple of grill marks on them. [I love those grill markings!]

getting ready to take the lettuce off the grill [thanks to the tongs photo-bombing this pic!]

getting ready to take the lettuce off the grill [thanks to the tongs photo-bombing this pic!]

Remove the lettuce halves from the grill and place on a platter. Drizzle balsamic glaze (or vinegar, if you don’t have glaze) and grate some fresh cheese over the lettuce halves.

all dressed up and ready to eat!

all dressed up and ready to eat!

Find yourself a cozy place to sit and devour your lettuce!

Now where did I leave my wine glass…

Have your friends ever talked or bribed you into trying a new dish that sounded a little sketchy to you? What happened — did you go for it, or did you pass?

Ana’s Product Review: Divvie’s Cookie Sandwiches

Spending a couple of weeks away from home when you’re single has it’s challenges. Like coming home late in the evening, wanting to sleep in your.own.bed and taking full advantage of your own pillow by sleeping in as late as possible. Only to remember the following morning that the cupboard and refrigerator are bare.

Sigh.

Time to hit the supermarket.

Since I had a lengthy list in tow, I decided to go to my local Whole Foods Market. After filling up the cart with produce — bananas, various berries, local squash, avocado (to name a few) — dairy and meat products and (don’t forget!) nut-free chocolates, I found myself at the register.

As the cashier started scanning my items, I discovered a basket next to the register.

A basket full of Divvies cookie sandwiches.

Wait.

Does that say Divvies?

As in the food-allergy friendly sweets?

As in the food-allergy friendly sweets I’ve been hearing about but have never seen in person?

Until now, that is.

Woo-hoo!

I wound up taking home two kinds — Molasses with Lemon and Brownie with Vanilla.

two cookie sandwiches from Divvies -- why didn't I get more?

two cookie sandwiches from Divvies — why didn’t I get more?

Divvies products are made in facilities where no peanuts, tree nuts, eggs or milk enter the doors.

Woo-hoo!

I first tried the Molasses with Lemon. Wow. The cookie was rich in flavor and soft in texture. The vanilla cream was a perfect compliment to the molasses cookie. The cookie sandwich was amazingly delicious!

I then couldn’t help myself and had to try the Brownie with Vanilla. Holy cow. Talk about delicious-ness, ridiculous-ness. The cookie tasted just like a soft, moist brownie. And, like the previous, the vanilla cream just made the already awesome cookies even better.

These cookie sandwiches are unreal — I can’t believe they egg and dairy free! And I am thrilled to bits they are nut-free!

I hope my local Whole Foods has more of these cookie sandwiches when I go back next.

If you need to avoid nuts, egg and dairy — and sunflower — and have a hankering for a delicious treat, I highly recommend Divvies.

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