Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Give A Little

Go on; it'll make a difference in some one's life.

Charity is always a popular concept around the holiday season. I still contend we need that spirit all year round. People don't stop needing just because December's over you know. But for our lazier personalities who live inside our generous ones, many opportunities present themselves over the holiday season for which you can volunteer your time and/or money to good causes.

I wanted to post about two easy ways to give this season and to challenge yourself to help those who may be in need:

1) The fabulous and always hysterical Jen who runs Cake Wrecks has decided to give to a different charity every day for two weeks. She's already started, but has urged all her readers to donate just $1 a day to the charities her and the hubby have chosen. I say, catch up with her and donate-a-long. It's a total of $14 by the end of two weeks from you, but if all of her readers did it... Start now, it's fun and hey if you've got more than $1, that's good too. For the full explanation and first day of givings, check out her post.

2) The amazing and sweet-as-pie Chez Pim is co-hosting Menu for Hope 6, a fantastic fundraiser that's gathering monies via raffling off unbelievable, I mean UNBELIEVABLE, prizes. Each electronic raffle ticket is only $1o and for what bloggers world-wide have donated, that's really not that much to fork over. For full explanations of the beneficiaries, the prizes, and anything else you need to know, visit Chez Pim's blogpost.

Giving is sometimes hard in hard economic times, but I was always told if you can only give a penny, give that penny. It's a penny someone else doesn't have. I also encourage everyone to keep feeling charitable throughout the year. Remember the whole people/organizations still need help after December thing? Well, keep remembering that.

As a side note, I promise to post some actual recipes soon (as I've been cooking up quite a storm, successful or not) but since we're approaching the holiday season I thought I'd take a moment to say, give a little.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I Love... Earth Balance Soy-Free Spread

I knew I was allergic to soy at about the age of 12 or so when I ate some Tofutti at a Bar Mitzvah, and things did not go so well for me. This had never happened before with Tofutti. It was the same reaction I had gotten when I had tried to continue to eat fish at the age of 9 like I always had, but the Tofutti reaction was worse. From then on, I stayed away from tofu and isolated soy protein, but I let myself live in a fantasy world thinking that soy oils, soy lecithin, and soy sauce were different than soy protein. That is until two years ago when I took an actual allergy test (blood-test) as opposed to the oh so intuitive body-is-rejecting-it test and I learned just how allergic to soy I was. And it was a high number. I couldn't pretend it was okay to enjoy products laced with soy, and I now accept the risks when I occasionally ingest it, usually in the form of oil or lecithin. I'll admit it. It's the one allergy I have a hard time avoiding all-together because in the US, soy is in everything (especially commercial gluten-free baked goods/mixes.) It's as American as corn. Corn is also in just about everything. Hell, they're making cups, plates and silverware out of it now. According to most sources, soy is an excellent source of this and that, but it's also one of the top 8 allergens, and we can't ignore that what may be healthy for one individual is dangerous for another. I also believe this big conspiracy theory when it comes to price points, agriculture lobbying and the FDA and what ends up in our food or being praised as being good for you, but that's just my own brand of crazy.

When I was growing up, my family was totally into the health-food thing. When the sprays came out to replace greasers, we were all over that. When spreads came out to replace margarine, we were all over that too. Butter was a four letter word in my house. In fact, I'm pretty sure at one point in my little-girl mind I thought one bite of butter could give you a heart attack. I had to break my pre-conceived notions of butter about three or four years ago when I stopped to notice that vegetable oil had gone from blends to just being soy oil (in most cases) and spreads had all become soy oil-based. The soy was making me too ill to ignore it anymore. And thus I've learned how good fats in olive oil and yes even some organic butters and cheeses won't kill you; they might even improve your health.

I went home for Thanksgiving to cook a gluten, soy, corn and dairy free meal for the family. Wait, no dairy? What do you mean no dairy? This was a challenge for me. My parents are not meat/dairy mixers and I had to find another way of flavoring and greasing my dishes. I had olive oil and veggie broth at my disposal, but I really wanted the butter there too. THANK GOODNESS Earth Balance, a fantastic company producing buttery spreads to fill just about anyone's needs, recently came out with a soy-free spread. The spread is vegan and soy-free and can be used to do anything you would use normal butter for. The nutritional facts are comparable to that of 365 organic unsalted butter; however Earth Balance Soy-Free has less saturated fat and instead replaces it with some good fats. Earth Balance Soy-Free also does contain some sodium which obviously unsalted butter does not contain. All in all, this is a revelation for allergic bakers and cooks I think. I can attempt dairy-free baked goods easier than before and certainly without any concern for soy being present.

I thank Earth Balance for noticing that they had a gap in their massive product line and continuing to strive to serve all consumers, whatever their needs. Every time I bake with you when I'm home in December, I'll smile.

*Fantastic allergy chart on their website too showing they care about you and disclose info!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'm Sick so it must be November or December

Without fail I become ill the first chance my body has to rest. This usually takes place during holiday breaks from work either around Thanksgiving or December break (which you non-Jews call the Christmas holidays.) I think this is because I'm a go, go, go kind of person, within reason. I work full days, I have hobbies that I exercise in the evenings and I tend to pack my weekends with errands and seeing friends. I can't get sick when I'm so busy all the time; it's just inconvenient. But well, because my sleep schedule got all messed up between the red-eye home for Thanksgiving, Black Friday madness and never really adjusting. It also didn't help that my office has become a bit rife with sickness itself, and since I'm at work, I'm sure I'm just perpetuating the problem.

Thanksgiving was a great success though, and I can't wait to tell you all about it. I'd just like to wait until this very tiny, evil man in my head stops hitting my brain repeatedly with a very large mallet. Then I might be able to focus long enough to write something a bit more useful than this whine-fest.

See you soon!