Gluten Free Cereal Treats

Did you know that store bought rice cereal treats have malt or barley in the them?  Which is a problem for me. To learn more about this see why I’m barley free.

Rice cereals should be gluten free but many unfortunately are not. So I decided to make healthier gluten free cereal treats at home.

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Aldi’s has recently made new gluten free cereals so I combined two different types: brown rice and flax with chia.

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Also to change things up I  added dried apricots, blueberries, and cherries and white chocolate chips.

Here’s my recipe for Gluten Free Cereal Treats

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Ingredients:

1. 2 boxes of your choice of gluten free cereal; 9-10 oz. each or about 6-8 cups total

Note: make sure the cereal you buy is small and crunchy/hard in texture

2. 5-6 oz or about 2 cups of dried apricot

3. 5-6 oz or about 2 cups of dried blueberries/cherries or your choice of dried fruit

4. 1 1/2 -2 cups of while chocolate chips; depending how sweet you want it

Note: you can make this healthier by using yogurt chips

5. 2-3 cups mini marshmallows

6. 2 tsp salt

7. 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup butter

Note: you can exchange the butter for coconut oil for a healthier dessert

Instructions

1. Chop apricots, blueberries, and cherries

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2. Put dried fruit, cereal, and white chips into a large mixing bowl

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3. Grease two 9×11 pans

4. Heat butter in a small pot on low

5. Once the butter has softened add the marshmallows and salt

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6. Watch the marshmallow mixture on low and fold the butter/mallows together slowly with a spatula

7. Once the marshmallow mixture is completely melted pour into the cereal mixture

8. Mix with hand mixer or I used my kitchen aid mixer

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9. Once mixed, quickly place in pans, it is easiest to press down the gooey mix with greased hands or the back end of a large and wide spatula

10. Give the rice cereal treats time to cool in the fridge, once cool you can cut them into squares. Store the squares in a closed container in the fridge.

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My husband, who is not a huge fan of marshmallows thought these were much better then store bought or traditional rice cereal treats.

These were a perfect camping trip treat and easy summer snack boost.

Good to know: 2013’s Gluten and Tree-nut free Candy Lists

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Some of you have probably already bought (and eaten) bags of Halloween candy to give away or use for your harvest season festivities. But with Halloween approaching it is good to be aware of what candies are allergy-free and which could be harmful or deadly.

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Growing up, this time of the year I knew what candies generally had tree-nuts in them and which did not (for more on this see Why I am tree-nut free). Plus when we came home we would sort out the candy and those I couldn’t eat were thrown  away.

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Now as I think about bite-sized chocolatey snacks to both give-out to kids and to sneak a few for myself, I look at a new list of ingredients including: barley, malt extract/flavoring, or contains wheat (for more on this see Why I am barley-free Part One). It amazes me what candy items have flour or similar in them to give the candy the right texture. For example: a regular shaped reese’s peanut butter cup is safe but any fun-shaped butter cups are not. They are flour in them!

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So whether you have children with gluten/nut allergies, you want to be a conscientious giver of treats, or have allergies yourself and are wanting to enjoy some sugary snacks. I hope you find this information helpful:

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1. Here’s a blog-site called :The Nut-Free Mom Blog where she lists nut-free candy

2. Here’s another blog-site for gluten free halloween candy list from stockpilingmoms.com

3. Click on this link from Celiac Disease Foundation to see their 2013 Halloween Gluten-free candy list

4. Last of all a page from a PDF guide from safe-snack updated earlier this month with candy information that is free of tree-nuts, eggs, and peanuts.

a page from the snacksafely.com PDF on halloween candy

I hope this all helps you have a happy and safe candy-filled day.

 

Why I am tree-nut free: Part 1

Last spring I wrote several blog-posts providing the details of the discovery that I was allergic to barley and how this allergy changed my diet. (for more see Why I am barley-free: part 1Why I am barley-free: Part 2). If you have explored my blog enough you would know that I am also allergic to tree-nuts though I have never really shared how I discovered I was allergic to tree-nuts or how this allergy affect my life. Well here I go:

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Unlike my barley allergy which mainly affects my skin (though it may tear up my intestines a little too) my tree-nut allergy is much more deadly and I have had it my whole life. When I was two years old I was at the San Diego zoo with my whole family: cousins and all. Sometime during our visit I was given half a macadamia nut to try. Still new to harder foods, my family was attentive to see how I would handle it. When they noticed I did not seem to be breathing well they thought I had choked on it. But  fortunately my firefighter uncle recognized the signs: my throat was closing up due to an allergic reaction. We rushed to the hospital. My mom not knowing how bad I was tried to sign us in to wait, but once the medical staff saw my face they rushed us in. With my anxious family unsure what to do, I was taken in and given shots of benadryl. The swelling went down and I recovered.

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After that my parents were cautious of foods with tree-nuts; keeping any far from my reach and being careful when baking with them in the house. Many times there were baked goods made in two versions nut-free and with nuts. By the time I was in elementary school I knew what to watch for: homemade desserts, certain candy bars and the like. I learned quickly to always ask, to read labels, and not assume something was tree-nut free.

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I always carried benadryl on me, just in case something happened, there were few instances at school were a treat for the class or special event meant unfamiliar dishes with unknown ingredients that I thought were safe. But after a bite I could tell my mouth would start itching,  then my chest would get tight, my eyes well with tears, my nose would run and then I would get what almost looked like scratch marks around my face. Now this did not happen everytime. It really all had to do with how much I ingested before realizing the harm. For the most part I would only get a itchy mouth, take some benadryl and I’d be set.

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Now before I go any further let me make this clear, I am not so allergic to tree-nuts that if I touch one and get the oil on me I go into shock, in order to go into any form of shock I would have to ingest a large amount (and I mean a huge amount) of nuts and not know it. I also am not allergic to peanuts which are technically a legume or peanut butter. That is a different allergy all together. I love my pay days, apples and peanut butter, and the occasional reeses or reeses pieces. So no issues there.

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I as I already stated, had learned to expect tree-nuts in desserts mainly but as I got older I learned they can be found in unusual dishes as well. At a holiday meal, again with the whole family, I decided to try a family member’s chili, after a few bites and recognizing the familiar crunch, I mentioned I thought there were nuts in the dish. This was not stated on the menu. My family was skeptic but when we asked the waiter sure enough there were cashews. A little benadryl and again I was fine.

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In high school for a friends birthday party we went to a restaurant that sells huge warm cookies in small pizza dishes. I ate half of one that was oatmeal raisin. It tasted great, until the very end, when my stomach started to cramp up. I asked to look at the menu: the whole thing had macadamia nuts in it.  How would I know that? The crunchy texture I took to be only crispy oats. I was taken home quickly and fed plenty of benaryl. My parents had me stay awake in front of the TV and monitored my breathing etc. I broke out into hives, and could barely breath between the tight throat and running nose. My eyes were swollen and watering. I had a hard time, unlike other instances staying calm. But like previous experiences  the medicine did it’s magic and I was fine.

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These are some of my early life experiences with my tree-nut allergy. In all of these encounters I have never discovered what any of the individual nuts taste like. Name it: pecan, walnut, cashew, pistachio, hazelnut, macadamia, almond, I do  not know what any of them taste like -to me no matter how delicious you say a dish is if it has nuts in them all I taste in a itchy tongue.

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So that is the start to my story of why I am tree-nut free my experiences with my tree-nut allergy are different as an adult as I have traveled to other countries and discovered more foods and languages. But more on that to come.

Barley-free living

Last month I shared with you my journey to discover I was allergic to barley. I also explained what it looks like to be married to a beer loving ex-bartender (See Barley-free means no beer right?)

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            When I shared about my allergy to my family, my grandmother told me her father is allergic to barley-Wow!  I didn’t know allergies went that far back genetically.

See the barley-allergy was probably always there, but latent until I was exposed to a large amount. On my trip to the Philippines in ’07 (see Part One) we drank something called Milo every morning instead of coffee. One of the main ingredients=barely. And while I was on prednisone and starting the new job (see The Conclusion) I was eating Cliff Bars every morning; their main grain=barley.

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My first step towards living barley-free was reading labels at the store for “barley”. I have grown up reading labels and asking questions because of my tree-nut allergy (that is a different story). But in addition to this, I also had to look  for “malt” or “malt flavoring”. This obviously includes malt based items like: beer, whoppers candy, malt shakes, or malt vinegar. But malt flavoring is common also in: soups,  protein/candy bars, cookies, brownies, and most cereals. Unlike my allergy to tree-nuts, I soon also learned my reaction to barley does not occur immediately. Three days after eating barley I will get a rash and/or itchy skin.

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If you remember Why I am barley free: The Conclusion the PA at the dermatologists said to me “Well fortunately barley is not in too many foods, so you should be ok” .  Boy was that misleading!

Because barley is in more foods than you know. The real shocker came a few months into barley-free living.

I went with Luke to the store to buy flour for homemade pizza (see Pizza a la Greene). Out of curiosity, I looked at the back of the all-purpose flour we picked up. Guess what?  Barley is a secondary ingredient to all-purpose flour! I proceeded to check every brand of flour in the store and even most of the organic flours contained organic barley!

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That is when I realized this allergy would change my diet for life.  I began to eat gluten-free at all restaurants. And I now often fix gluten-free meals at home (as you know from some of my recipe posts).  So this means when I go out to eat I cannot have: hamburger/hot dog buns, pizza, sandwiches, croutons, or any other form of bread, (most) cookies, dough-nuts, anything breaded or fried, flour tortillas or pita bread, pies, or sauces or soups thicken with flour.

For all of my at-home baking I use Gold Medal Organic all-purpose flour or their whole wheat flour. As I left the grocery store that day with Luke I thought back to every Christmas season in which I felt sick to my stomach and got a headache. I now realize it wasn’t because I ate too many pieces of coffee cake or had too much sugar (although I probably did sometimes) but more so because of what I ate.

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What is  difficult about a barley-allergy is it not common.  I can have wheat and many other grains but it is a gamble to determine whether flour is safe or not.  If I am lucky ,when I read labels at the grocery store, the ingredients will say what the flour is enriched with. If it is enriched with chemicals and vitamins I’m fine, but often it is enriched with barley or it is not specifically labeled.

Still I have also found some wonderful exceptions.  Most pasta places use pure semolina, and cake flour doesn’t contain barley. So I was blessed at my wedding to be able to eat the same cake as everyone else.

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My wedding cake: bottom and top layer were chocolate with raspberries in a french creme and the middle layer was spice cake with a cream cheese filling

In the end, barley-free living has helped my skin cleared up. I’m not irritated, frustrated, distracted, or itchy (most of the time) and I can wear tank tops without a care. Healing from this has required time, prayer, sacrifice, and support from family and friends. You know who you are and thank you.

Have you been on a similar journey?
How have you learned to live with restrictions?
How have your family or friends helped you along the way?

Why I am Barley-free: The Conclusion

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This is the conclusion to a three part blog about how I discovered my barley allergy. If you need to get caught up click on : Part One or Part Two.

I was discouraged and tired of the games by the fall of 2011. I didn’t feel the dermatologist and his team were listening to me .

In one meeting they explained to me that “dermatitis” was a generic term for some internal irritation causing an external reaction. That got my mom and I thinking. We asked if an allergy could be included in this list? They said yes.

So we requested another blood test-this time for allergies. Allergies run rampant in my family so why couldn’t it be an undiagnosed allergy resulting in a rash?

During all this, the dermatologists recognized my frustration and pulled a last resort move: putting me on prednisone. Prednisone it is a steroid (with a lot of side effects) and my type A personality doesn’t do well on steroids.

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To add to this, October of 2011, I started my first career job teaching and substituting at a private English Language Institute. I was under a lot of stress and my skin began to break out on my neck and face. I was concerned about my students reaction to my appearance even though I tried to hide marks with make-up.

I scheduled an appointment, sooner than my check-up not only because the my skin had gotten worse but also  because the prednisone was making it impossible to sleep.

After assuring me the rash was not related to the prednisone they shared the results of my allergy test. As  they read the results I nodded: She said you are aware you are allergic to: mold?-yes, grass?-yes, cats?-yet, tree-nuts?-yes dust?-yes you have had hay-fever?-yes.

Then she said “barley?” and I said “excuse me?” I told her that was a new one. And her response: “Well fortunately barley is not in too many foods so you should be ok” (boy was that misleading! But that is another blog).

After announcing this, she looked at my charts and got very upset. I asked why? The person in charge of writing out my prescription had made a huge mistake: I was on more than double the prednisone I was supposed to be!!! No wonder I couldn’t sleep! After that appointment I never went back.

I began to wean myself off the steroid as they had instructed and started the journey to remove barley from my diet. As I did I discovered: it was the barley causing the skin problem all along! Such a simple issue that cost so much time, money, and frustration.

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I am now barley-free it has required some adjustments to my diet, label reading at the grocery store, and limited the foods I eat out, but is well worth it-the puzzle was finally complete.

Any of you discover that final puzzle piece for yourself or with a family member?

Still in the middle of a frustrating puzzle?

Anyone else have similar accounts to share?

Why I am Barley-free: Part Two

I thought my skin issues were over after the Philippines, but I was wrong. As I said in Part One of this story the bug-bites were only the beginning. I had only connected the borders to the puzzle-it was time to begin to separate the colors,  shapes, and fill in the middle.

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Not long after the summer of 2007, I notice the skin breaking out on my arms, neck, back, chest and sometimes my face. It looked almost like ache but itched like a rash (much like the bug-bites did). It got so red and inflamed I began to wear long sleeves, scarfs, and higher cut tops even in the summer. I feared it was a foreign staff infection similar to what I had in the Philippines because it grew worse in humidity and irritated areas were warm to touch.

I began to inconsistently seek medical help, mostly when I had holidays and summer visits back to California. The doctor that cared for my initial staff infection referred me to a dermatologist. That dermatologist struggled to diagnose the problem working with several theories and  numerous forms of antibiotics, topical steroids, and even cortazol shots. She concluded that it was a manageable but not curable hair follicle irritation. We were not convinced by her diagnosis and eventually decided to seek other help.

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After I moved home from college I decided it was time to get to the bottom of this issue.  I was tired of hiding. So I decided to see a different dermatologist.

They unfortunately had even more crazy theories. I was told I could have an sun allergy, or even an auto-immune disorder including celiac disease. I and the rest of my family considered the possibility of celiac disease since my cousin and grandmother had recently been diagnosed but all specialist appointments and blood work came back inconclusive or negative.

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This dermatologist even took several biopsies of the irritated bumps on my shoulders. These biopsys required circular cookie cutter punctures and stitches which I still have scars from.
The Nurse Practitioners who I worked with (I rarely saw the dermatologist himself through all of this) eventually gave up trying to find the root of the problem. They determined that I had an unspecified form of dermatitis and started appeasing the external side-effects. This once again led to a variety of of steroid creams, antibiotics, topical gels, etc.
 These three years were all apart of that process to fill in the middle of the puzzle. Just when I thought I had found the right place for that awkward piece it wouldn’t fit so I tried another, and another. It  was annoying, embarrassing, and frustrating but the worse was still to come.
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(Don’t worry this all has a good ending-stick with me for one more blog and it will all make sense).

Any of you ever had to deal with the run-around from doctors?

Struggled with a mystery diagnosis?

Get anxious having to go back again and again to the same doctor’s office?

Why I am Barley-free: Part One

Everyone has their own stories on how they discovered a health issue or allergy. To me it is like a puzzle; some issues are short and quickly resolved like children’s puzzles. But for most people discovering a health issue or allergy it is like an advance jigsaw requiring many doctor’s visits and patient time.

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This was true for discovering my Barley-allergy.

My puzzle began summer 2007. I went on an intensive 7-week global internship in which I lived out of a backpack. Although I faced many bug bites while in Guatemala I didn’t deal with skin problems until I went to the Philippines.  Almost over-night my legs were covered in bug bites.  These bites were more painful and itchy then any mosquito bite I had encountered. It was near impossible to get enough band-aids to cover them all-and I had no long pants with me.  I tried to avoid scratching them but would find myself tearing at them in my sleep.

Coral beach in the Philippines

Coral beach in the Philippines

The bites kept me from focusing, made me easily frustrated, and irritated. It wasn’t long before my legs began to feel warm and swollen. By the time we arrived a week later in Hong Kong my left foot had swollen to an unusual size and both ankles had become stiff. Movement such as the vibration of an escalator would cause shooting pain up my legs. The places where the bug bites had been became red and inflamed. Those on the team with medical experience did what they could to provide me with advice, some basic pain meds., and hydrogen peroxide.

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Hong Kong skyline

On the trip back to the states I struggled to not limp, my legs were warm, and circulation was bad. On top of this I was running a fever.  I called my mom when we landed in Chicago and calmly told her she needed to schedule a Doctors appointment ASAP. I got the rest of my luggage and was bandaged up again before heading to Las Vegas where my parent’s would picked me up.

After a drive back home we went to the doctors. I was unsure what they would do considering I had been in a foreign country with different medical issues than most American Doctors see. He said I had a staff infection which was secondary to the bites. I was put on a 3 day steroid and then on antibiotics. The swelling went away and the bites marks became scars which eventually faded.

I thought that was the end of my health issues but it in reality it was just the beginning. . . .

To be continued-sorry for the suspense but this is a three parter.

Anyone else have fun-bug encounters while traveling?