Friday, December 30, 2011

Halushki Lasagna

I grew up with a Polish dish from Northeast PA called Halushki. It is this combination of cabbage and onions sauteed in butter along with noodles and kielbasa- good, hearty peasant food. I've decided to switch it up a little and turn it into a lasagna- yummy!


1 lb. kielbasa, diced into bite-sized pieces
1 head cabbage, diced into bite-sized pieces
1 onion, diced into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. lasagna noodles, cooked according to box
1 stick butter
8 potatoes, mashed with butter, milk, salt and pepper to taste

Slowly melt butter in pan. Add onions and saute cabbage until soft and tender. Add kielbasa and cook until warmed throughout. Layer cooked noodles, mashed potatoes and cabbage mixture until you end with noodles. Top with cheddar cheese, if desired. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving has come and gone. After getting my hand in pretty good condition, I wanted to be *somewhat* good in order to maintain it.

The following items that I ate were BOP free:

-Stuffing (bread, eggs, potatoes, onions, celery)
-Hard boiled eggs
-Dinner Roll

The next list of items that I ate (it was Thanksgiving, after all!) did have some BOP:
-Sweet Potato casserole (cinnamon)
-Pumpkin Roll (cinnamon)
-Ravioli and Meatballs (tomato sauce)

Like every good holiday meal, I probably ate more than I should, but I definitely enjoyed myself. I only ate a little bit off the "no-no" list and I did not have any alcohol (fermentation process can really bother BOP allergies).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chinese Take Out

I love Chinese take-out. While not necessarily the most healthy thing in the world to eat, I do love a good General Tso chicken and egg roll. However, add in an allergy to BOP (sodium benzoate is found in soy sauce), and Chinese take-out is off the list. However, I've learned to modify my eating in order to indulge just a little.

You see, when the hubby and I are craving Chinese, he orders whatever he wants (lucky bum!) and I order the steamed chicken and mixed veggies. You can find this under the "diet" section of most Chinese take-out restaurants. They steam the meat and veggies and put the sauce on the SIDE! You get white rice with the meal. So, once you bring the food home, just toss the sauce (that comes separately) and enjoy your rice, chicken and veg! No sodium benzoate, I get to have some Chinese take-out and it's fairly healthy to boot- win-win, if you ask me!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Swanson's Beef Broth

The weather in the Carolinas is cool and fallish. For me, that means it's perfect weather for a warm, comforting bowl of soup. French onion soup is one of my favorites, so my hubby and I set out to make it for dinner, tonight. While he was watching the little one, I went to the store for onions and beef broth. Guess what I found out? Swanson's Beef Broth (both regular and low sodium) contains tomato paste!! However, the store brand did not contain any tomatoes, benzoates or vinegar, so I bought that one (Food Lion My Essentials Brand). Goes to show- you never know where BOP will be lurking. READ. THOSE. LABELS!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pizza Un-Pizza

I never used to be a pizza kind of gal. Don't get me wrong, I liked pizza as much as the next person, but I never, ever CRAVED pizza... that is, until I got pregnant. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I CRAVED pizza. All of that baby weight? Well, it might as well been called personal pan.

I thought that this obsession with cheese and tomato smothered pizza crust would go by the wayside once my baby was here. It did not. Then, I found out that tomatoes were out of the diet due to Balsam of Peru. Bummer. Big Bummer.

So, rather than wallow in self-pity for what I cannot have, I decided to make my own pizza!

1 cup warm water
1/4 cup oil
2 cups of bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
3 TBS brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Toppings of your choice

Once the dough cycle is finished, I roll the dough onto 2 pizza stones. Cover with towel and let rise 30-45 minutes more.

Now, for the fun part! I like to drizzle a little bit of olive oil on my crust and season with Italian seasonings. Then, I add a liberal amount of torn spinach. I "glue" everything together with a healthy sprinkling of cheese. You can mix up the toppings to suit your taste. Pesto would be a great tomato sauce replacer, too!

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Mange!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Light Therapy?

Have you ever heard of Light Therapy for eczema? I went to the dermatologist's, today, and she is recommending it. In her words, "(I) would be a prime candidate because I have suffered from repeated eczema flare-ups throughout my life." I've done creams (oh, have I done the creams!). I've done the fragrance-free, hypo-allergenic, dermatologist-recommended shampoos, soups, creams, etc., etc., etc. I've done various pills, Rx, internal medicines in the hope (less) search for some relief from the red, irritated, inflamed, scaly, dry skin that has literally been a part of my life since I can remember. I am ready to try something else. I.Am.Desperate.

So, what is light therapy? Hmm... after a quick Internet search (and after consulting with my doctor), I found that light therapy for eczema is, "Exposing the skin to UV light suppresses overactive skin immune system cells that cause inflammation." The goal of the therapy is to expose the affected parts to UV lights in order to suppress flare-ups. There are cons to this type of therapy listed on the link above. None of these are terribly bothersome to me except for one; I have to go three times a week to the doctor's office and I can't take my almost-two-year old with me. As a SAHM, I am my daughter's caregiver and finding alternate care- an hour, three times a week- can been burdensome.

So, in conclusion, light therapy seems like a viable path of treatment for my skin IF (big IF), I can figure out childcare for my daughter.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pre-Thanksgiving jitters

Halloween is over. Thanksgiving and Christmas are soon upon us. This should be a happy, joyful time full of fun times, family, relaxing and FOOD! Except, when you have a food allergy, this can be a pretty stressful time of year.

This is the first year that I will be dealing with not only my own Balsam of Peru allergies, but my daughters allergies to eggs, nuts and soy. To complicate matters, we are going to my aunt's house for Thanksgiving dinner where I have virtually no control over dinner. Dun, dun, DUN!

So, I'm racking my brain and trying to think of "safe" things to eat. As I think of them, and as I formulate a plan, I'll be posting recipes and ideas/suggestions on the blog of holiday fare. I am open to suggestions and I'm curious how those out there in cyberland are going to be treating this holiday season when it comes to eating with a BOP allergy. Let the suggestions an comments begin!!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts


1 lb. Fresh Brussel Sprouts
EVOO to drizzle
Salt and Pepper to Taste


Wash veggies. Cut off stems and outer leaves. Spread out onto foil-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with EVOO and salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 30 minutes at 400 degrees F, stirring halfway.

I don't like brussel sprouts, usually, but I love them this way!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween- BOP style

Chocolate! Candy! Chocolate! Candy! What is a girl (suffering from a BOP allergy) to do during this Halloween, candy, sugar- laden season?!

Sadly, chocolate is out of the question. *sigh*

All I can really say about this is READ those labels and study them hard! Some fruit-flavored candies may be okay as long as they are not citrus-y. However, watch out for citric acid and/or the use of lemon juice in fruit-flavored candies.

So, may I suggest popping up some popcorn on the stove for an alternative to the Halloween festivities? Do like the Irish and sprinkle a little sugar on the popcorn for something sweet (think kettle corn). Or, toast some pumpkin seeds from Mr. Jack-O-Lantern and season with salt for something crunchy. If you are feeling really daring, a nice pumpkin mousse (sans cinnamon) with a dollop of fresh whipped cream (that way you can omit the use of vanilla) would be divine!

Happy Haunting!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Have you ever noticed that no matter how well you eat, flare-ups can be triggered by stress? After a couple of weeks of a dry, sore, cracked hand, I was finally getting back on track with my eating (aka, avoiding BOP). However, after having to dunk my 20-month old daughter in the tub after a very messy lunch (hubby usually takes over bathing our daughter in order to save my hand), yesterday, cleaning up the house for dinner guests and eating a tomato-laden dinner of pasta, my hand was in bad shape, last night!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dinner A la Heather

It's been awhile since I've posted a recipe, so here goes!

Dinner tonight was a mish-mash of things that I had in the cupboard. I call it "Dinner a la Heather." Simple, filling and best of all, it's BOP free!

-1 pound cooked chicken, diced
-1/2 medium onion, diced
-2 stalks celery, diced
-1 can mushrooms
-1 can spinach
-1 1/2 cups low fat half and half
-1 tablespoon corn starch
-salt and pepper to taste
-Olive oil to coat pan
-3 cups cooked brown rice

Saute onions and celery in olive oil until tender. Add mushrooms and chicken. Heat until warm. Add half and half and whisk in corn starch. Bring to boil and then lower to a simmer. Add spinach and rice about fifteen minutes before serving. Voila- dinner!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Something in the air...

Fall is coming- I can feel it in the air. Mornings are cool and crisp (even bordering on the chilly side!) and even the sky looks like fall. However, all of this beautiful autumn weather has my allergies all in flux! I believe that it is ragweed season and the extra rain we've been having lately has probably contributed to the growth of molds and the distribution of various allergens. I've been wheezy for the past two morning runs and my poor, poor finger! Right now, I don't think it would matter WHAT I ate, my poor hand would still be in bad shape!

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I had a really bad flare-up with my right pinkie finger, yesterday. It got all purple with little pin-pricks on the tip. It hasn't been this bad for a really long time. I thought I was being pretty careful with my diet. I'm guessing that all of the cleaning I was doing in preparation for my in-laws' arrival is to blame for this flare-up. Sigh...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Colgate Cavity Protection- Regular Flavor

Every since my first attempt at making homemade toothpaste, I've been on the search for regularly manufactured, better tasting toothpaste. Baking soda and coconut oil just weren't cutting it for me. While my teeth felt clean, it was horrible tasting and made me dread brushing my teeth. As far as I know, Colgate Cavity Protection, regular flavor, does not contain sodium benzoates. It is not minty in flavor and it has fluoride and tastes MUCH better than the homemade stuff.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vanicream Cleansing Bar

I've been a little absent from this blog, as of late, but we were on vacation, then getting back from vacation and well, you know how it goes...

Anyway, typically, whenever I go away for any extended amount of time, my skin starts to act up because I'm away from my fragrance free, hypoallergenic, BOP environment. You can't always dictate exactly what you are eating or bring your own bar of soap into public restrooms.

This time, however, my skin did pretty well, all things considered. We joined my sister's family and my parents at the beach for a week in the sun, sand and surf. We took turns cooking, went out to eat occasionally and had fun relaxing. I made sure to bring things along that we could eat (oatmeal, veggie sticks, homemade bread, etc.) but was pretty lax about my eating habit in general during the week- hey, it's vacation, after all!

I brought along my own shampoo and soap. Which brings me to the main topic of this blog post; I brought along one bar of Vanicream cleansing bar for two weeks of vacation (after the beach, I went home with my parents for another week of vacation at home). If you haven't tried the Vanicream cleansing bar, you really must. It's soapy and lathery and I really felt like it cleaned well. The ingredients are all safe to use for those avoiding BOP (or any sensitive skin types, in general). I actually liked the bar better than the liquid cleanser by the same company. My only complaint would be that the bar does diminish quickly (hence the rich lather, I suppose). However, thanks to this bar of soap, my skin felt pretty good during and after vacation.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Not-So-Caprese Salad

Summer is the time for fresh, ripe, juicy tomatoes and one of my favorite ways to eat summer tomatoes are in a caprese salad- tomatoes, basil and mozzerella cheese. Alas, caprese salad is off the list when trying to avoide Balsam of Peru. So, instead of bemoaning my loss of tomatoes, I came up with the following dish that at least integrates two (basil and cheese) out of the three flavors of a caprese salad. Mangia!

1 lb. Mozzarella Cheese cut into small cubes
1 big bunch of fresh basil (we like basil in this household so we use a LARGE bunch of basil)
1/2 lb. warm, cooked pasta (I like to use whole wheat)
Drizzling of olive oil to taste
Garlic Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients, dress with olive oil and garlic salt. Let the cheese melt slightly with the warm pasta and voila- summer salad!

Friday, July 15, 2011


To say that it's hot outside would be an understatement. Here in the Carolinas, we've reached record triple digit temperatures this past week and all I've wanted was some ice cream. Most (if not all) ice cream has a vanilla base and/or vanilla flavoring- a BOP no-no (not to mention not so friendly for the waistline).

Frozen Yogurt is somewhat more redeemable since it does contain live active cultures and (sometimes!) less calories and/or fat. So, in a compromise of heat stroke proportions, I had froyo. Before heading out to TCBY, I checked their ingredient lists online. Be careful on this one- there are more than several flavors containing sodium benzoate (vanilla, strawberry, kiwi strawberry sorbet) and many more that contain citric acid (cheesecake, chocolate, classic tart).

Coffee and Peanut Butter (my personal favorite), however, do not specifically name sodium benzoate or citric acid in their list of ingredients. That's good enough in my book. Frozen Yogurt, here I come!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sweet Potato and Carrot Casserole

My daughter does not like to eat her veggies. She loves fruits, grains and dairy. She is a good eater (sometimes out eating me!), but when it comes to anything green, leafy or starting with the letter "v" and ending with the letter "e", forget about it! Coupled with her allergies to nuts, soy and eggs, meal time can get a little interesting. The one veggie that my daughter adores is sweet potatoes. I used to think that she'd turn into one big sweet potato because she ate so many as a baby. So, in an effort to get more veggies and vitamins into her, I came up with the following dish:


1 can sweet potatoes
1 can carrots
1/8 cup butter
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup sugar (more or less to taste)


Butter small casserole dish and set aside. Mash sweet potatoes and carrots together. Add remaining ingredients. Pour into buttered casserole dish and top with crumb topping (listed below). Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Crumb Topping:

Mix equal parts oatmeal, brown sugar, sugar and flour. Cut in bits of cold butter. Add raisins if desired and top casserole before baking.

Not only is this dish soy, nut and egg free, but it's safe for a BOP free diet, too! Enjoy!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Food Should Taste Good- Sweet Potato Chips

Have you tried these chips from Food Should Taste Good? These sweet potato chips are DELICIOUS and quite addictive. The ingredient list is simple (Corn, Sunflower oil, Sweet Potato, Corn Bran, Cane Juice and Sea Salt) and best of all, BOP free! So, next time you are invited to a cook-out or BBQ, be sure to bring some of these tasty chips along!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hot! Hot! HOT!

With scolding hot temps and very high humidity, summer is here in full force! With the hot summer temps comes the need for sunscreen. However, I have yet to find a sunscreen that DOESN'T contain benzoates. Even the Free and Clear brand that I use for soap and shampoo has a sunscreen containing benzoates.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fourth of July Menu Recap

When dealing with a BOP allergy there are a lot of things you CAN'T eat. However, the purpose of this blog is to point out things that you CAN eat and still avoid BOP. So, when celebrating America's Independence Day, indulge in the following:

-Hamburgers (sans ketchup, mustard, pickles and tomatoes- load up on onions, sprouts, cucumbers, garlic, cheese).
-Tossed Salad dressed with garlic salt and olive oil.
-Bean salad with olive oil and no vinegar.
-Macaroni salad made without mustard or vinegar.
-Fresh Fruit and cream
-Corn Chips, Tortillas, Pretzels
-Pies, crisps and cobblers tend to be okay as long as they are free of vanilla and cinnamon.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer Lovin'

Is it almost July?! I can't believe how quickly this year has gone! Now is the time of year to enjoy the fresh fruits of summer. A lot of summer fruits- peaches, berries, melons- are BOP free. While I'm allergic to fresh peaches and cherries, I can eat them canned, cooked and dried.

I recently won a Ball Discover You Can party through The kit came with various tools and instructions on how to can. I've never canned before, but I think I might give it a whirl, this summer. I hear that peaches and strawberries are on sale at Aldi's this week... might be worth looking into.

Make the most of these summer fruits and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Honey Butter

Balsam of Peru/Sodium Benzoate pops up on the strangest places. I was eating out yesterday and discovered that the honey butter I had just used for my rolls contains Sodium Benzoate!However, I know that regular butter does not. So, be careful to read ingredients- even when you are eating out and eating things you thought did not contain BOP!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Baking without Eggs

Yes, eggs are on the safe list when you are allergic to Balsam of Peru. In fact, I tend to eat at least one omelet a week and I do like to add hard-boiled eggs to tuna or egg salad. However, my daughter has an egg allergy and I've been learning to bake without the use of eggs. So far, I've only tried quick breads/muffins with fair results. If the egg is intended to be used as a binder, then applesauce makes a great, moist substitute (less calories and no cholesterol, too!). However, don't try substituting applesauce for eggs AND oil in the same recipe. I tried it and ended up with flat little lumps. Tasty lumps, according to my one year-old, but lumps nonetheless.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Johnny Rockets

Since my daughter was recently diagnosed with an egg, nut, soy allergy, I've been doing a lot of research into where we can safely go out to eat. The verdict? Mostly nowhere because EVERYTHING seems to contain soy. HOWEVER, in my search, I came across the menu for Johnny Rockets and noticed that they list benzoates in their allergen list. This is a first! Mostly everywhere else just lists wheat, nuts and soy in their allergen alerts.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend 2011

This past weekend was Memorial Day weekend. We did the typical cook-out fare and I ate. I ate monster cookies with chocolate chips, I had more than my fair share of ice cream and I had BBQ sauce on my sandwich. Pretty much, I threw caution to the wind and ate what I wanted without any regard to avoiding Balsam of Peru in the foods that I ate.

Now, I am paying for it. The rash on my finger is back. It is cracked, dry and irritated. I can tell it's starting to form on the palm of my hand, too. So, lesson learned, avoiding Balsam of Peru really does help control my eczema!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Easy Cherry Raisin Oatmeal Cake

With a nut, soy, egg allergic daughter, I am in search of something sort of sweet to treat (but not TOO unhealthy!) my daughter with (not to mention absent of any BOP ingredients, too!). I'm an avid baker, so not being able to use eggs in my baking recipes is a bit of a disappointment. However, I will not be deterred and I would like to find a cake/muffin recipe that I can use for her. So, here is my take on a recipe originally posted on

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cherries
2 cups water
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease one 10 x 10 inch baking pan.

In a large saucepan boil the raisins and cherries with the water for 10 minutes. Add the butter or margarine and let cool.

In the same pan add the flour, soda, salt, sugar, and oatmeal, mix well and pour batter into a lightly greased 10x10 inch baking pan .

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 minutes. Serves 8 to 12.

*I like to serve warm cake with a dollop of yogurt and maybe some berries sound nice, too. Also, I believe that these would make a nice muffin, too. If you want to get wild and crazy, you could also ice with cream cheese frosting, too!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

I originally found this recipe on Of course the pictures there make everything look decadent and delicious. I am such a sucker for mac and cheese- NOT the box kind- so I knew I had to try this one. However, with and egg allergic kid and my own BOP allergies, I had to modify slightly in order to make it suitable for our family. I added in some chopped ham and spinach in order to make this more of a meal than a side dish.


4 cups Dried Macaroni (I used whole wheat Rotini)
¼ cups (1/2 Stick Or 4 Tablespoons) Butter
1/8 cup Corn Starch
2-½ cups Whole Milk (I used fat free half and half)
1 pound Cheese, Grated (I used a mixture of low-fat mozzarella and cheddar)
½ teaspoons Salt, More To Taste
½ teaspoons Seasoned Salt, More To Taste
½ teaspoons Ground Black Pepper


Cook macaroni until very firm. Macaroni should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain.

In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in corn starch. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t let it burn.

Pour in milk and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick (and it does get very sticky and gooey!). Reduce heat to low.

Add in cheese and stir to melt (may need to add a touch more milk to thin out- just don't add TOO much milk).

Add salt and pepper. Taste sauce and add more salt and seasoned salt as needed! DO NOT UNDERSALT.

Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine.Serve immediately (very creamy) or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Icy Coffee Treat

I don't know about anybody else, but it's HOT outside! We are already into the 90's and it's not quite June! I love my coffee as much as the next girl, but don't necessarily like all the extra calories that come with a Starbucks run. So, here's my (lower-calorie/lower-fat) take on an icy coffee treat- enjoy!

1 cup strong coffee
1 cup almond milk
1 T. Agave Nectar
5-6 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Makes two servings. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies (from Rachael Ray)

I'm a big fan of sweet and salty treats. I found this recipe in a past issue of a Rachael Ray magazine but hadn't tried it until today. If you like peanut butter and pretzels, this is a decadent little treat and there is no vanilla or cinnamon involved (typical BOP culprits when it comes to baking). Yum-o (in the words of RR)!

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped
6 cups miniature pretzels, chopped

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°. In a bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and peanut butter on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, beating until just combined; stir in the peanuts.
Place the pretzels in a bowl. Using a 1 1/2-inch-diameter cookie scoop and working in batches, drop a few balls of dough in the bowl and toss to coat. Place the cookies on the prepared pans. Bake, rotating the pans after 10 minutes, until golden but still soft to the touch, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before transferring to racks to cool.

*I didn't have a full six cups of crushed pretzels to use. So, I decided to use crushed up Ritz crackers, instead. Just as tasty- lighter and a little crispier.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pancake Breakfast

Saturday mornings are made for pancakes around our household. Specifically, pancakes made by my hubby and animal-shaped pancake connoisseur. When our daughter was recently diagnosed with a soy, egg and nut allergy, all thoughts of Saturday morning pancakes went out the window. Between the fact that most commercially made breakfast syrups (Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth, Log Cabin) contain sodium benzoate (personal no-no) as a preservative and pancake mixes typically need eggs and/or contain soy, pancakes are just not feasible anymore.

That is, until I found Pioneer Brand no-fat pancake mix! I found it right by the other pancake mixes and it requires no eggs, has no eggs in it and no sodium benzoate! So, top with fresh fruit (non-citrus, of course!) and pancake breakfasts are back in business!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Planter's Nut-rition Heart Healthy Bars

Have you tried the new Planters' Nut-trition heart healthy cranberry almond bars? 160 calories and 3 grams of fiber, this bar is BOP-free! Woo hoo!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hot Potato

Just this last week I read two articles about the poor, beleaguered white potato. Both articles were in the Wall Street Journal. The first was about how the FDA wants to completely eliminate white potatoes from school breakfasts and severely limit it's availability in school lunches to once a week. The second article was about how McDonald's restaurants need to stop marketing fast food (would you like fries with that?) to children because it is leading to the epidemic of obese children in America.

First off, let me say for the record that I am not a medical professional. Nor am I a potato farmer, or affiliated by birth of relation to any such person in the farming industry. I'm also not saying that potatoes should be served at every school lunch, five days a week- I'm just suggesting that we take a closer and reevaluate completely taking potatoes out of the picture.

Potatoes are high in fiber, full of nutrients and low-fat. They contain potassium and vitamin C. A humble baked potato can fill you up, rather inexpensively money-wise and calorie-wise (approximately 160 calories for a baked potato with skin). Also, a baked potato can be a "vehicle" to other vegetables- think baked potato with broccoli. With a vegetable-picky eater at home, this is a HUGE deal for me to get my child to eat- and enjoy- her veggies!

We each have a CHOICE as to what to eat and what to feed our children. We have a CHOICE as to where we go out to eat and what food choices we make when we are there. If you go out to McDonald's, just don't get the fries- get the apples, instead. Choose the fruit option, not the chips. Of course, potatoes are part of french fries and french fries have helped lead American children to the obesity epidemic we are currently facing. However, not ALL potatoes are bad. Ban french fries, not baked potatoes. Ban chips from school lunches, not potatoes found in the form of soups, stews and healthy, nutritious casseroles.

Give children a (healthy!) choice. Offer children (and adults!) a wide variety of vegetables, repeatedly. Mix vegetables into a daily, healthy lifestyle through salads, steamed vegetable sides, mixed in with other carbohydrates and lean proteins. Don't say that potatoes are bad when that is simply not true.

In other words, don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

Control Freak

I have a confession to make that will not really surprise any of my close friends and family. I am a control freak. This need to control things manifests itself in many different ways in my life- from the need to have the Keurig K-Cup holder full at all times (no empty spots!) to my perfectionist , organizational tendencies (past and present).

Fault me if you must, but when it comes to eating right, control is a good thing (in the words of Martha- a fellow control freak). Since working on improving my diet (and my family's diet along with my own) and strictly eliminating allergens such as Balsam of Peru, I have seen great improvement in my skin (I really wish I had known about this allergy before!), my health and the health and general well-being of my family. We have more energy to get up and move, to focus and be motivated.

Right now, I feel like all I do is read food labels and monitor what we eat. Add in the fact that my daughter has a soy, nut, egg allergy and indeed, all I really do IS read food labels! I have never eaten a more healthy diet! After awhile, you start to get sick thinking of all of the JUNK you used to put in your body. Read some food labels and it will upset you- wood pulp with that cheese, anybody (it's true- Kraft adds cellulose to their supposed "healthy" low-fat shredded cheese)?!

Sometimes, I think that being the gatekeeper for our family's healthy eating habits is a full-time job and in some ways it is. It wasn't until I became aware of my Balsam of Peru food allergies and made the decision to seriously do something about it that our "new" healthy lifestyle came about. I'm doing the shopping, the chopping, the preparing of breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

About a month and a half in, and we ARE seeing results. Both my husband and I have lost weight and that is a great motivator. We are able to better hold and keep up with our very active toddler! My skin looks and feels much better with less flare-ups and redness. Had I known what I know now, back when I was pregnant and nursing, I don't think I would have had such a miserable pregnancy.

Along with the physical accomplishments, eating right has led us to exercise more and become more aware of what we put into our bodies. I'm starting to understand more of the "science" of how food works within our bodies. I'm also becoming aware of the staggering amount of JUNK, unnecessary preservatives and additives that we daily, willingly subject ourselves to by eating prepackaged, processed foods. I'm cooking and eating "closer to the ground. I'm getting back to my love of bread making. I'm learning how to do new things like make my own yogurt. I am far from a tree-hugger, and I'm the last person you'd expect to stand up and extol the virtues of organic-back-to-nature farming, but it is starting to all make sense.

So, maybe being a control freak isn't such a bad thing, after all.

Whole Wheat Oat Bread Using KitchenAid Stand Mixer

Since my 100% whole wheat bread didn't rise like I wanted it to, but I want to eat more than just plain white bread, I decided to mix the two recipes and come up with a multigrain bread. The following is what I came up with:

1/2C milk

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast or 2 teaspoons Instant Yeast (.34 oz.)

1-1/2 C warm water (105 F to 110 F)

2 C Whole Wheat Flour

1/2 C Oat Bran Flour

3 C White flour


1. Combine milk, sugar, salt, and butter in small saucepan. Heat over low heat and stir until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool to lukewarm (less than 110 F).

2. If using active dry yeast, dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. If using Instant Yeast, just add it to the flour and mix it in before adding liquids.

3. Add lukewarm milk mixture and water to 2 C Wheat Flour, 2 C White Flour and 1/2 C Oat Bran Flour. Attach bowl and dough hook. Turn to speed 2 and mix 1 minute. Continuing on speed 2, add remaining White flour, 1/2 C (2.5 oz.) at a time (slowly so it doesn't fly out of bowl), until dough clings to hook and cleans side of bowl. Knead on speed 2 for 2 minutes longer, or until dough is smooth and elastic. Dough will be slightly sticky to the touch. (At this point I take the dough and knead it for 5-7 minutes, adding flour as needed, until I get the feel I want from the dough.)

4. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about an hour. 5. Punch dough down and divide in half. Shape each half into a loaf and place in a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. 6. Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire racks.

Whole Grain Wheat Bread Using KitchenAid Stand Mixer

Nothing is better than homemade bread with a slathering of homemade jam! I made this recipe a couple of weeks ago (after I made some white bread in my KitchenAid Stand mixer), but forgot to post the recipe. This recipe is from the instruction manual that came with the mixer. I love that it uses 100% whole wheat flour.

It was very humid the day that I made the bread, so one of my loaves didn't rise as much as I would have liked but it sure tasted DELICIOUS! The bread was dense, grainy and wholesome. I feel good about feeding my family good, nutritious foods that I know we can safely eat.

1/3 cup plus 1 T brown sugar, divided
2 cups warm water
2 packages active dry yeast
5-6 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup powdered milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup oil

Dissolve 1 T brown sugar in warm water in small bowl. Add yeast and let mixture stand.

Place four cups flour, powdered milk, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and salt in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and dough hook to mixer. Turn to speed 2 and mix about 15 seconds. Continuing on speed 2, gradually add yeast mixture and oil to flour mixture and mix about 1 1/2 minutes longer. Stop and scrape bowl if necessary.

Continuing on speed 2, add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl, about two minutes. Knead on speed 2 about 2 minutes longer.

Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft about one hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down and divide in half. Shape each half into loaf. Place in greased loaf pans. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.

Bake at 400 degrees F. for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake 30 minutes longer. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire racks.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Typical Day of Eating- May 10, 2011

On the menu yesterday was the following:

Breakfast- Omelet made with two eggs and a splash of almond milk, filled with one slice Canadian Bacon, handful of spinach, a sprinkle of low-fat mozzarella cheese, mushrooms and onions. One small piece of homemade whole wheat toast with a thin layer of homemade strawberry jam.

Lunch- Microwave meal of Mac and Cheese (not necessarily completely BOP-free as it contains citric acid). However, if you were to make it on your own, I'm sure you could do it safely without any harmful ingredients.

Dinner- Brown Rice and veggie pilaf.

So, not every day is perfect, but you've got to work with what you have.

Other Food Allergies

We went to the allergist, yesterday, for my 15-month old daughter. It turns out that she is allergic to soy, eggs (both yolk and whites) and nuts (tree and peanuts). So, combined with my personal allergies to Balsam of Peru, pears, peaches, apples and carrots, cooking and eating in this household should be interesting...

Friday, May 13, 2011


So, I've been following a Balsam of Peru diet for about three weeks, now. Of course, I started out strong avoiding everything on the "no-no" list. My skin cleared right up without the help of medicine! I actually felt comfortable taking a warm shower without it stinging my skin. I could give my baby baths without severe cracked hands. In short, avoiding BOP, let me be a "normal" person.

Then, this last week, I let myself slide a little- a little chocolate there, a little ice cream on a hot day won't hurt me... you know the drill. Well, after a couple of days of that, I can definitely feel the difference in my skin!! My face is itchy and irritated. My arms are starting to break out and I can tell that avoiding BOP is in my skin's best interest because when I follow a BOP-free diet, my skin cleared up, it wasn't dry, irritated or cracked.

Homemade Yogurt

I love yogurt and my family goes through a lot of it! We put it in smoothies, we eat it plain, we put it in parfaits and my one-year old daughter has an almost unhealthy obsession with it! However, when you look at the ingredient list of most major brands of flavored yogurts, they contain things like citric acid, benzoates and other un-pronounceable ingredients. Do you really want to be putting all of THAT into your body?! So, that is how I arrived at the decision that I would attempt to make my own yogurt at home- crazy, I know- but I figured I could make my own plain base and add fruit and flavoring to my liking. Here goes!


-8 cups (half-gallon) of whole milk

-frozen/fresh fruit for flavoring


-Plug in your crockpot and turn to low. Add an entire half gallon of milk. Cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours.

-Unplug your crockpot. Leave the cover on, and let it sit for 3 hours.

-When 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt. Then dump the bowl contents back into the crockpot. Stir to combine.Put the lid back on your crockpot. Keep it unplugged, and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the crock for insulation.

-Go to bed, or let it sit for 8 hours.In the morning, the yogurt will have thickened-it's not as thick as store-bought yogurt, but has the consistency of low-fat plain yogurt.

-Blend in batches with your favorite fruit. When you blend in the fruit, bubbles will form and might bother you. They aren't a big deal, and will settle eventually.

-Chill in a plastic container(s) in the refrigerator. Keep 1/2 cup of plain yorgurt for a starter for your next batch of yogurt. Your fresh yogurt will last 7-10 days.

Instead of blending the yogurt while it was warm, I added fruit as I ate it. I had some fresh, homemade strawberry jam that I used and mixed it with the yogurt- kind of like "fruit on the bottom." Let me tell you, this stuff is delicious! My baby ate three bowls of it today, already. This is way better than the store-bought stuff and I can feel good about the ingredients that go into it and goes into our bodies.

Black Bean Burgers

I love Garden Burgers, but they tend to be a bit pricey AND contain items that are not so good for a BOP diet (read the ingredient list and sometimes you have no idea what goes into the burger you are eating!). Therefore, I did a little searching for a recipe for an equally tasty meat-free "burger" and this is what I found (I did some minor tweaking). This recipe is quick, easy, filling, very healthy and best of all it doesn't contain BOP, vinegar, citric acid or benzoates! I will definitely be making these burgers again- yummy!

Servings: 8


3 (16 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups uncooked oats
1 medium onion, diced
2 sweet peppers
1/2 cup chopped spinach
2 large eggs beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
vegetable oil to saute burgers in
8 hamburger buns


1 Coarsely mash the beans with a fork or potato masher.
2 Mix together the mashed beans, oats, and next 5 ingredients.
3 Shape mixture into 8 patties.
4 Mix together the flour and cornmeal; dredge patties in flour mixture.
5 Let the oil get hot in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat; cook the patties for 5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned; drain on paper towels.
6 Serve on toasted buns.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Learning to *Tolerate* Bananas

I have a confession to make- I do not like bananas. In fact, I really detest them and for years, I would not let one cross my lips. It's a texture, taste, smell thing for me. Yuck!

Well, introduce a Balsam of Peru allergy and all things citrus are out of the question and I already know that I'm allergic to apples, pears and peaches (that's why you'll see so few of those fruits listed in recipes on this site). SOOOoo, that means that doesn't leave me with many fruits in which I can safely consume without an eczema breakout.

So, I'm learning to tolerate bananas and even voluntarily buy them at the store. *Gasp!* I've used them in a couple of recipes and some smoothies. I can still taste them, but at least I don't go running away, screaming. I've got to start somewhere, right?! ;-P

Monday, May 9, 2011

(Another) Homemade Protein Bar Recipe

Here is another protein bar recipe that is BOP-free. The original recipe called for a layer of chocolate on top (doesn't that sound yummy?!) but I omitted that for the sake of eliminating BOP from my diet. While I love eating bars- FiberOne, Cliff bars, and other protein/granola bars out there on the market- most include chocolate, vanilla, citric acid and/or cinnamon. So, I'm on a quest to find a bar recipe that I enjoy as much as the store-bought ones.

1 mashed banana
1 1/2 cups dry oatmeal
2 Tablespoons flax seed, ground
2-4 scoops protein powder
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup water

Mix all ingredients together well (mixture will be somewhat sticky). Line an 8×8-inch pan with foil and spread the mixture evenly in the pan.

Place the pan in the freezer for at least 2 hours. Cut into 10 -12 bars and wrap in plastic wrap and/or foil and store in the freezer.

Thaw slightly before serving.

1/1o th of this recipe = approximately 260 calories and 11 to 13 grams of protein (depending upon how much protein powder you use, per Calorie Count.)

Sunday, May 8, 2011


When you are allergic to BOP, it's really hard to find a toothpaste that doesn't contain vanilla, mint or cinnamon. So, enter in the idea to make your own toothpaste. After a little searching, I came across a homemade recipe in which I can omit the flavoring.

Homemade Toothpaste

2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
3 Tablespoons Baking Soda

Mix ingredients and store in airtight container.

Now, I tasted this one and admittedly, it tastes AWFUL! I was hoping that with the use of coconut oil, the taste would somehow be better and I wouldn't miss the mint or cinnamon flavorings, but not so. We'll have to tweak this one a bit. For now, I can at least rest assured that I'm cleaning my teeth with something that won't aggravate my allergies.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Energy Bars (Pseudo-Cliff Bars)

Since chocolate, vanilla and cinnamon are out when following a BOP-free diet, that severely limits the variety of pre-packaged energy/protein bars out there that one can consume. I really like bars in general because they offer me a nutritious, quick, all-in-one, eat-with-one-hand (I have an active toddler in the house!) meal/snack option. So, I've been searching for something that I could make at home omitting any necessary ingredients (i.e. cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate chips, etc.). This is what I came up with:

1 and 1/4 cups crisp rice cereal
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking oats
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/4 cup finely chopped dried fruit (e.g., raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, etc.- I used cranberries)
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
1/3 cup honey/real maple syrup/molasses (I used Light Agave Nectar and I don't think that it's sticky enough to hold the bars together so next time, I'm going to try honey)
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

Combine the rice cereal, oats, flaxseed meal, dried fruit, and nuts in a large bowl. Combine the syrup and nut butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until melted and well-blended. Pour nut butter mixture over cereal mixture, stirring until coated. Press mixture firmly into an 8-inch square pan (sprayed with nonstick cooking spray) using a large square of wax paper (really tamp it down). Cool in pan on a wire rack and chill at least 30 minutes to help it set. Cut into 12 bars. (Wrap bars tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator).

Now, here is what I learned: Currently, my bars are chilling, so I'll have to wait to see how they taste- they look good, though! I used Agave Nectar instead of honey and I really wish I had used honey because Agave just doesn't have the "stickiness" needed to hold the bars together properly. Also, next time, I'd like to try using crisp brown rice cereal because I believe that would help with the overall nutrition of the bars. There's lots of room to play with this recipe and make other flavor combinations- shredded carrots with raisins and walnuts for a carrot cake flavor, dried cherries with almonds, flaked coconut for a tropical twist, dried apples with raisins for an apple pie flavor. The sky's the limit! Any other flavor combination suggestions would be most welcomed- just leave a comment.

**Update- I ate one of the bars for a snack, this afternoon, and it was pretty tasty, if I do say so myself. However, it was not as soft and chewy as I would have liked (Cliff bars tend to be softer and more in line with a no-bake oatmeal cookie texture). The bars stuck together- putting it in the fridge helped.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Basic White Bread Using KitchenAid Stand Mixer

While following a BOP-free diet, I'm learning that not only do I need to start eating more foods in it's most natural state (veggies, salads, grains, meat, etc.), but I also need to start making more from scratch so that I know EXACTLY what is in it (i.e. no BOP)! As I'm reading more labels and learning how to decipher the ingredients, I'm becoming more aware of the JUNK put into processed and manufactured foods. I was so angry when I read that high fructose corn syrup was the second ingredient in the loaf of labeled "100% whole wheat" bread sitting on my shelf. Seriously?!

Anyway, I digress. Back to the topic on hand- making more things from scratch. First up- bread. What is more basic than bread? I love, love, LOVE bread! I especially love homemade bread. Now, I've made bread in the past- both using a machine and the good ol' fashioned way by kneading the dough, but I decided that I'd give my Kitchenaid stand mixer a try for this one.


1/2C milk
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast or 2 teaspoons Instant Yeast (.34 oz.)
1-1/2 C warm water (105 F to 110 F)
5-6 C Unbleached bread flour

1. Combine milk, sugar, salt, and butter in small saucepan. Heat over low heat and stir until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool to lukewarm (less than 110 F).
2. If using active dry yeast, dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. If using Instant Yeast, just add it to the flour and mix it in before adding liquids.
3. Add lukewarm milk mixture and water to 4 1/2 C (1# 6 oz.) flour. Attach bowl and dough hook. Turn to speed 2 and mix 1 minute. Continuing on speed 2, add remaining flour, 1/2 C (2.5 oz.) at a time (slowly so it doesn't fly out of bowl), until dough clings to hook and cleans side of bowl. Knead on speed 2 for 2 minutes longer, or until dough is smooth and elastic. Dough will be slightly sticky to the touch. (At this point I take the dough and knead it for 5-7 minutes, adding flour as needed, until I get the feel I want from the dough.)
4. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about an hour.
5. Punch dough down and divide in half. Shape each half into a loaf and place in a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
6. Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire racks.

My dough at step three was very, very, very sticky and I ended up adding closer to seven cups of flour. I was concerned I was going to make it too dry and knead the dough too much making it tough. However, miracles of miracles, the dough rose perfectly and formed a beautiful golden brown crust when baked. The stand mixer makes it easier to assemble-I did it one handed while holding my 14 month old daughter in one hand and measuring ingredients with the other- just measure, dump, let the stand to the mixing and then you are ready to form the loaves and voila! Fresh, homemade bread! However, it's harder using a stand mixer because you can't FEEL how the dough is forming and a lot about bread making is how the dough feels- the texture, the softness (or hardness). So, note to self, dough in the stand mixer is stickier than making it by hand.

I wanted to start out trying to follow the recipe to the T since I was unfamiliar with how the stand mixer works when making bread. Next time, though, I'd like to tinker with the recipe and incorporate whole wheat flour, make some flax seed, oats and/or bran to make the bread healthier.

A Typical Day of Eating- May 3, 2011

Today's menu included the following:

For breakfast, I had a 1/2 cup Quaker Oat Bran Cereal with some blueberries and almond milk mixed in. I also had some cantaloupe.

For a morning snack, I had a Blueberry Crisp Clif bar. Clif bars do contain citric acid as one of the last ingredients, so they aren't totally BOP-free. Also, be careful when eating Clif bars because a lot of flavors contain cinnamon, too.

Lunch included a mixed greens salad with red, yellow and orange peppers, onions and roast beef. I dress my salads with s spritz of olive oil and some oregano since most salad dressings include either vinegar, sodium benzoate or citric acid- read those labels carefully because the ingredients may surprise you (and not in a good way!)!!

For snack, I had some more cantaloupe and a Babybel light cheese wheel.

Dinner was a frittata made with eggs, a splash of milk, peppers, onions and celery. I also had a slice of homemade bread with butter (the bread was truly the main dish- yum!).

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kashi Blueberry Waffles

Have you tried the new Kashi frozen Blueberry waffles, yet? They contain 23 grams of whole grains AND the don't contain any BOP ingredients! Two waffles are 150 calories. They are hearty, healthy, contain real blueberries that I can see (and don't need a microscope to find) and delicious! Due to the fact that many syrups contain BOP ingredients, I topped mine with more frozen blueberries. Yum!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ricotta Cheese

Today, while I was eating 1/4 cup of part-skim ricotta cheese with a drizzle of honey- one of mine and my daughter's favorite snacks- I read the ingredients on the back of the ricotta cheese container. Vinegar is the third ingredient listed. Since vinegar (think pickles, pickled beets, etc.) should be avoided in a BOP-free diet- Yikes!

Since my mother's side of the family is Italian, ricotta cheese is a BIG deal! So, I wanted to brain storm some alternatives to ricotta cheese. The best I could come up with is cottage cheese. You could use it to layer in lasagnas. You could alternate layers of pasta, thinly sliced zucchini and mozzarella for another variation on lasagna.

Ravioli is basically a stuffed pasta so the possibilities are endless. You could stuff with pumpkin, walnut and butter. or, perhaps you could make a pesto- basil, olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese- ravioli. Or, simply, you could just use cheese. Of course, if you stuff the ravioli with cheese, onion and potato you've got a pirogi and you traveled north a bit in ethnicity :-).

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Before I get to far into this blog, I want to mention that I am NOT a medical professional. I do not have an medical training and I do not claim to know all of the facts. The purpose of this blog is to record my findings as an everyday person dealing with a severe allergy to Balsam of Peru. Because of my lack of knowledge about the allergy before being diagnosed and the lack of information out there listing "safe" foods for those suffering from a BOP allergy, I started this blog. This blog is not only my informal record of things that work and things that don't, but it is meant to be an encouragement to others with similar allergies. This blog should NOT be used as a medical diagnosis, nor should it be taken for medical basis of any kind. All results are personal and meant strictly for the reader's information.

Also, I specifically name products and name-brands so that others that suffer from BOP allergy can readily find the foods/products and not have to go searching or deciphering ingredient lists. I do not get any monetary reimbursement for these product endorsements.

Steel Cut Oatmeal

1 cup Steel Cut Oatmeal (do NOT substitute quick-cooking, rolled oats!)

4 1/2 cups Water

Butter to taste

Sweetener to taste (I used a little bit of brown sugar)

Mix all ingredients together in a 2 or 4 quart crock pot. Cook for six to eight hours. Top with dried fruit, a dollop of plain yogurt or nuts.

I turned the crock pot on right before I went to bed and had a warm, filling breakfast ready when I woke up. Now, talk about easy!

Eat as close to the ground as possible

After a trip to the grocery store and a long hard study of the current state of my pantry, I've decided that the best possible way to BOP-free is to eat as close to the ground as possible. What I mean, is, eat food as close as possible to it's natural state. While frozen entrees and pre-packaged foods are convenient, quick and easy (trust me, I enjoy easy dinners as much as the next girl), there is absolutely NO control over what goes into them and you risk exposing yourself to either BOP, sodium benzoate or citric acid.

I have been eating lots of salads, sandwiches, omelette's, fresh fruit and cheese. Not only are all of these items free of BOP, but they are really healthy for you. Also, they are quick to prepare (often without much cooking involved). So, in exchange for giving up foods that you normally consume, you might get a trimmer waistline in return. Now, who doesn't love that?

A Typical Day of Eating- May 1, 2011

So, I'm on day four of my elimination of BOP from my diet and I'm already experiencing marked improvement with my eczema. While the rash is still present on my hand, it is not as dry, cracked and painful and I can see signs of healing.

For breakfast today, I had steel-cut oatmeal made with steel-cut oats, a dollop of butter, a little brown sugar, a splash of almond milk, and a sprinkling of chopped walnuts and dried fruit. And of course, I had a cup of strong coffee with powdered non-dairy creamer and a packet of Splenda.

Lunch consisted of a bed of spring mix greens, grapes, a sprinkling of chipped walnuts and cranberries (this was before I knew about the benzoate relationship), diced onions and slices of cucumbers.

I had a light dinner, this evening. It was a large lavash wrap made with flaxseed and oat bran and sold at BJ's. I spread a wedge of Laughing Cow Garlic and Herb cheese on the bread, piled on some spinach, cucumbers, two slices of roast beef and called it a day. I must say, it was quite tasty and filling!

Dessert (even on a BOP-free diet, a girl has to have dessert, right?!) was a yogurt parfait made with Dannon non-fat plain yogurt, organic frozen mixed berries and a sprinkle of homemade granola. With the berries and granola, I didn't even realize that the yogurt was plain and not flavored or vanilla. In fact, I almost thought I had mixed up my parfait with my hubby's vanilla yogurt.

Sodium Benzoate

In my last post, I wrote that it was prudent to avoid benzoates while trying to follow a BOP-free diet. This led me to find out what exactly IS a benzoate?

According to Wikipedia, benzoates are a preservative. It- specifically sodium benzoate- can be found in salad dressings, carbonated drinks, jams, jellies and even as a preservative in medicines and makeup. It can also be found naturally in low levels in cranberries, cinnamon, prunes and apples.

While making a marinade for our salmon dinner the other night, I reached for Kikkoman's Low Sodium Soy Sauce. Guess what? It contains sodium benzoate.

While brushing my teeth and going through the usual routine, I reached for the Listerine Fresh Mint Mouthwash. Guess what? You've got it- it contains sodium benzoate.

Hmm... this is getting complicated.

So, instead of using soy sauce in my marinade for dinner, I just brushed the fish with olive oil, gave a generous dollop of minced garlic and broiled. Fifteen minutes later, accompanied with a side of sauteed spinach, I had a healthy, quick dinner free of Balsam of Peru, benzoates and citric acid.

As for the mouth wash, well, I had to skip it and I'm now looking into how to make my own toothpaste free of mint, vanilla or cinnamon flavoring. More on that, later.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Avoid Benzoates and Citric Acid

Web research uncovered that I should also be avoiding benzoates and citric acid while trying to eliminate BOP from my diet because of their close relationship to Balsam of Peru. Do you know how many millions of products out there use these ingredients?! Salad dressings, frozen fruits, jams, frozen meals, yogurts, pasta dishes, baked goods, etc., etc.- you name it, it's got either BOP, benzoates or citric acid in it!


Here is a good fact sheet that I found while surfing the web for more information on BOP allergy.

Now What Do I Eat?!

After a quick perusal of my pantry, I deemed 85% of it's contents as unfit to eat because it either contained chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, citrus, tomatoes, etc., etc. all related to Balsam of Peru (BOP) allergy.

I did a quick web search to see if there are others out there with this condition and it appears to be that there are many BOP sufferers out there. While most of the web hits listed the things that you CAN'T eat while trying to avoid BOP, none of them listed what you COULD eat while trying to eliminate BOP from your diet. So, my intent with creating this blog, is to be a (albeit small) voice out there in cyber-land giving hope and encouragement to those out there searching for BOP-free foods to incorporate into their diet. I love to cook and eat, so I'm determined to find edible, safe foods to eat on a regular basis.

So, at first glance, here is a quick list of things that I found in my fridge/pantry and are safe to eat:

-Kidney/Garbanzo beans
-Ricotta Cheese
-String Cheese
-Plain, non-fat yogurt (regular and Greek)
-Sweet Peppers
-Pesto Sauce
-Olive Oil
-Natural Peanut Butter

Hmm... there has got to be more foods than that!

Balsam of Peru Allergy- Definition

After years of dealing with severe eczema on my face, neck and hands, I was recently was diagnosed by my dermatologist with a Balsam of Peru allergy. What exactly is this said allergy? Well, according to a quick web search and confirmed by my doctor, Balsam of Peru is defined as, "Balsam of Peru is a sticky aromatic liquid that comes from cutting the bark of the tree Myroxolon balsamum, a tree that is native to El Salvador."

Basically, Balsam of Peru is a flavoring/fragrance added to foods, cleaning supplies, scented candles, oils, etc. to give it it's flavoring and scent. Balsam of Peru is sneaky because it goes by many different names and can be found in just about EVERYTHING! Balsam of Peru can be listed in the ingredients column as follows:

Eugenol and isoeugenol
Component of essential oils obtained from spices including cloves and cinnamon leaf. It smells and tastes like cloves. It is also found in pimento, nutmeg, camphor, roses, carnations, hyacinths and violets.
Benzoin, benzoic acid, benzyl alcohol
Rosin (colophony)
Citrus fruit peel
Tiger balm (Chinese proprietary ointment)
Balsam of Tolu

On the no-no list of things to eat while trying to eliminate Balsam of Peru from one's diet:

-Products containing citrus (including oranges, grapefruit, mandarin oranges, jams, juices and bakery goods)
-Flavoring agents such as those found in Danish pastries or other bakery goods, candy and chewing gm.
-Spices such as cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, curry, allspice, anise and ginger.
-Spicy condiments such as ketchup, chili sauce, BBQ sauce.
-Pickles and pickled veggies
-Wine, beer, gin and vermouth
-Perfumed or flavored tea
-Cough medicines and lozenges
-Ice cream
-Chili, pizza, Italian and Mexican foods with red sauces
-Tomatoes and tomato-containing products.

In addition to topical medicines, I must cut out any Balsam of Peru containing food and severely limit my contact with any product containing Balsam of Peru in order to get my skin back to feeling normal. Living with severe eczema like mine gives a whole new meaning to not being comfortable in one's own skin!

It's hard to eat when EVERYTHING seems to be off limits! So, all of that being said, what is left for a girl to eat??!