Monday, January 31, 2011

Navigating Food Allergies With ConAgra and TheMotherhood

In our house, we often have to be careful with food. My husband is allergic to onions, so anything we prepare must be onion-free. This often means carefully scanning ingredients, and relying less on prepared meals due to the high chance of onions being present.

My older daughter has a food sensitivity to cinnamon - not a full-out allergy, but if she eats more than a small amount of it she develops a rash. She is also extremely sensitive to food additives like artificial colors and flavors. If you've ever bought pre-packaged foods and read the ingredients, you'd know that nearly everything has some kind of artificial color or flavor in it, unless you're shopping exclusively organic.

(Mira has no food allergies that we know of. She's just picky, which can present similar challenges.)

So when we do cook, we often have to modify recipes to make sure everyone in the house can enjoy the food without discomfort later. Thankfully, onions can often be removed from a recipe without drastically altering the flavor. And when making food with cinnamon, nutmeg can be used as a substitute for many dishes.

This week, I'm joining part of an exciting new project with The Motherhood and ConAgra Foods called Cooking Connections. This is an 8-week live blogging series led by some fabulous food bloggers (with some other non-food bloggers like me joining in!) where they will tackle many of the common struggles moms and dads face when it comes to preparing a healthy meal for their families with little time to spare.

My session this week covers the topic of food allergies, and I hope you'll stop by to learn about cooking for family members with food allergies. (Applies to picky eaters, too!)

Here’s what you need to know to participate:

When: Wednesday, Feb. 2, at 1 p.m. ET

Where: TheMotherhood – here is the link to the page where the class will be held:

And here is the registration page for all seven Cooking Connections classes:

What: The class I am co-hosting is called “Navigating Food Allergies,” and it is hosted by Lori Sandler, founder of Divvies Bakery and author of The Divvies Bakery Cookbook, During the class, we all will share our experiences and expertise on cooking for kids, family members and friends with food allergies. Lori will also lead us through the basics of clean preparation and understanding ingredients, and then we’ll present a food allergy-friendly recipe that looks good and tastes great – whether you have allergies or not!

The class is sponsored by ConAgra and hosted by TheMotherhood.

My other fabulous co-hosts are:

Kelly Rudnicki, Food Allergy Mama,
Emily Paster, West of the Loop,
Caryn Bailey, Rockin' Mama,
Christy Matte, Quirky Fusion,
Nirasha Jaganath, Mommy Niri,
Mary Jo Strobel,,
Piera Jolly, Jolly Mom,
Nicole Shields Smith, Allergic Child,
Stefany Thode, To Be Thode,
Clarissa Nassar, The Posh Parent,

I hope to see you there!

Full disclosure: As a co-host of this class, I am receiving compensation for my time.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Bosch Tassimo Home Brewing System: Coffeehouse Quality In Your Kitchen! (Giveaway)

In my family, both my husband and I like tea and coffee, although our tastes seem to be opposites. When I want coffee, he wants tea. When I want tea, he's into coffee. And our kids both like hot chocolate. It seems like we can never agree on what we want, but brewing up a pot for each of us seems like a real waste.

We bought a single-cup brewing machine about a year ago, and while I like it, there are some limitations. Mainly, I can't get it to make my favorite drink: a chai latte. And it can take a really, really long time to warm up. So when I was offered the chance to try out a new single-cup brewing machine that promised it would be faster and would even give me the perfect chai latte, I couldn't pass up the chance.

The Bosch Tassimo T20 Brewbot (such a cool name, no? Can't you imagine a little robot brewing your coffee for you?) is the smartest little beverage maker you can find. It can brew 40+ single-cup drinks for you in about a minute, including coffee, tea, lattes and even hot chocolate. Not only does it brew each drink, but it's smart enough to know which type of drink it's brewing and how to make it so it'll be just right.

OK, so the T20 doesn't get all of the credit. Part of the credit goes to the bar codes on each T-disc you put in the machine. The T20 has a bar code reader that scans the bar code to determine how much water to add, what temperature to brew the water, and how big the drink will be. Want a latte? Just grab a milk T-disc and use it with a coffee or chai tea T-disc to create the perfect frothy drink. Also, if you want a little more coffee than the T20 automatically prepares, you can hit the button near the end of the brew cycle to add a little more to your cup.

I've had the chance to use mine for two weeks now, and I love it. I've made coffee, tea, hot chocolate and lattes with the Tassimo, and all of them were excellent. Christmas was a breeze, because whenever anyone wanted a drink, I offered up the T-disc selection and let them make a cup of whichever drink they wanted. Everyone was impressed with how easy it was.

As for my chai latte? Perfect. It tastes just like the pricey one I buy at the coffeehouse. And is ready in my kitchen in about a minute. 

What I like about the T20

- Easy to use: Insert a disc, close the compartment, and push the button - that's it! No temperatures to set, no brew times to configure, and certainly no messy grounds to dispose of. When you're done, simply take the disc out (the grounds are still container in the disc) and throw it away. Even my kids can make a cup of hot chocolate without my help.

- So much variety: If I want tea and my husband wants coffee, we can each have what we want without brewing enough for several people. He can use the T20 to make a cup of coffee, and then I can use it for tea, with nothing to clean in-between. And with the ability to use milk discs to create lattes and cappuccinos, there are endless drink combinations you can create!

- Saves counter space: The Tassimo T20 is amazingly compact for all it can do. It fits easily on my counter without taking up too much space. It's also easy to transport - I took it to work and made drinks for myself all night from my desk, while still having plenty of desk space for work. (I could see the T20 being perfect for apartment or dorm dwellers as well!)

- Brands I like: Some of the T-disc varieties include Starbucks, Gevalia and Twinings tea, all favorite and trusted brands. The Starbucks coffee tastes just like what you'd get from the store, only at a fraction of the cost. (And without leaving the house in your pajamas.)

This is an amazing little beverage machine, and perfect for a busy family with different tastes. With the T20, everyone gets the drink they want, it's cheaper than buying it from a coffeehouse, there's no messy cleanup, and with one machine to brew so many different drinks, you conserve precious kitchen counter space.

Win a Tassimo T20!

Of course I couldn't tell you all about this brewing beauty without giving you the chance to try it as well, right? That's why I'm excited to tell you that I'm giving away a Bosch Tassimo T20 to one lucky reader!

For a chance to win, visit the Tassimo site and then leave a comment below telling me which brewed beverage you'd most like to try. In your comment, include a link to the specific product from the Tassimo site, as well as your e-mail address so I can contact you if you're selected as the winner.

Entries will be accepted until January 9, 2011 at 11:59pm EST. One entry per person, US residents only. Winner will be selected by random drawing after January 9 and will be contacted by e-mail. Winner will have 3 days to respond to the e-mail or another winner will be selected.

Good luck and happy brewing!

Full disclosure: I was given a Tassimo T20 machine and a couple of T-disc packs to facilitate this review, with no further compensation received. I've already purchased several more T-discs, and my old single-cup brewer is now collecting dust, so I think we can agree that I genuinely like it. All opinions expressed in this review are my honest thoughts. As always, your mileage may vary.