Back to School…What’s for dinner?

Sept2013_COVER_V3_largeToday all my kids went back to school. I’ve waited for this day for a very, very long time.  For the past 13 years I’ve been very lucky to stay at home with my five children, making bottles, sleep training, potty training, making crafts, watching Barney and Elmo, going to the park, the library, the apple orchard, the museums, baking (LOTS of baking I might add), volunteering at preschool, grade school and now middle school, taken care of sick kids and just trying to be the best mom I can be. It’s been a whirlwind. But now I have to admit I’m ready for the next part of the journey. I’m ready to learn and grow as much as my children have been learning and growing. I’ve always loved school, I’ve always loved learning, and I love being a student of life. Our personal journey and evolution never ends. There’s always something new to do, to learn, and to see. I’ve only scratched the surface. I want to see and do MORE. And I want to share it all with my beautiful, amazing and talented children every step of the way.

So now that they are all in school full-time, I can take back some of my hours to do more of what I love. As mothers it is so important to remember who you were before you were a mom, and even before you were a Mrs. To nurture your own space, inner creativity, and personal needs is the greatest gift you can give yourself AND your children. Let them learn from YOU how to take care of their spirit by showing THEM what it means to love and honor yourself, and as well as everyone else around you.

So tonight, I’m back to school too. Grad school. I’m definitely out of my comfort zone and I love it. I love the feeling of opening my mind to all things new. But I still have to feed my family, and a fast and easy dinner is always needed at our house. So lately, I’ve been trying lots of new recipes that aren’t my own creations. This Chicken-and-Broccolini Mac and Cheese from the September issue of Martha Stewart Living has quickly become one of my favorites. The recipe below has been modified from the original to make it allergy-friendly. I have all of Martha’s books, magazines and many of her Everyday Food mini-magazines. She’s one of the few cookbook authors that I have truly learned from. Martha IS one of the great teachers of everything related to home-keeping and cooking. Since my mother passed seven months before my wedding day, I looked to Martha for all her tips on cooking, cleaning, decorating, and even ironing.

In addition to the recipe above, check out my Vegan Back to School Roundup of my favorite recipes at Martha Stewart Living. They’re super fast and delicious, and ones I’m certain your entire family will love.

Enjoy the new school year everyone…full of hope and promise to learn more and do better! xoxo


Serves 4-6

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for baking dish

2 c. dairy free milk (soy, rice, almond, your preference)

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken-breast halves, cut in half horizontally

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

8 oz. dairy free cream cheese

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

12 ounces allergy friendly (dairy, egg, nut, gluten-free) noodles or small shaped pasta

12 ounces Broccolini or broccoli florets

1 3/4 c. dairy free cheddar cheese, shredded

1 c. fresh allergy friendly breadcrumbs (coarsely chopped allergy friendly bread in your food processor)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 3 quart broilerproof baking dish with oil. Bring milk to a simmer in a pot. Add chicken; simmer until cooked, 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Remove pot from heat; whisk in mustard and cream cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Shred cooked chicken. Cook noodles or small shaped pasta in a pot of boiling salted water, 3 minutes. Add Broccolini; cook until noodles and Broccolini are al dente, 2 minutes. Reserve 1/2 c. pasta water. Drain noodles and Broccolini; toss with chicken, sauce, pasta water and dairy free cheddar. Transfer to a baking dish. Toss breadcrumbs with oil; sprinkle over casserole. Cover with parchment-lined foil; bake 20 minutes. Uncover casserole; increase heat to broil. Cook until top is golden brown in places and breadcrumbs are crisp, 4 to 5 minutes.


Natalie Giorgi…

If you are a parent of a food allergic child, you probably already know who Natalie Giorgi was, and every detail surrounding her tragic death July 26th from an allergic reaction to a rice krispie treat. If you don’t know her story, read and watch the news clip here. I won’t go into all the details, as I think watching Natalie’s mother retell her 13-year-old daughter’s death in tearful angst is enough. Enough, I hope, to send ANOTHER wake-up call to anyone out there who questions the seriousness of food allergies.. a wake-up call to well-meaning parents who still insist on fighting food policies in classrooms that keep food allergic children AND teens safe. Accidents can and do happen. And they will continue to happen and innocent children’s lives will be at risk until we can 1. find a cure or 2. successfully advocate and get the message out that food allergies are dangerous and can kill.

Honestly, it’s very difficult for me to even talk about Natalie’s death, and watch her mother’s plea on TV to educate others about how a peanut allergy took her daughter’s life. Because no matter what is said about it, the reality is, this woman’s daughter is gone, forever. She watched her daughter dance. Then she watched her daughter get violently ill. Then gasp for breath. Then she heard her daughter say “I’m sorry” before she ultimately died after three epinephrine injections that were SUPPOSED to save her life, failed. THIS MOTHER WATCHED HER DAUGHTER DIE FROM SOMETHING SHE ATE. Can you imagine? The innocence of a 13-year-old girl just having fun on a camping trip with family and friends, only to end up dying because she took a bite of something that was made with food that could kill her. Can you imagine, just for a moment, what this mother, father, siblings, extended family, and friends are all feeling?  I have tried to imagine, and my heart breaks in two. My world would be shattered. Please pray often for this family.

So it’s the end of August, the beginning of the school year for children across the country. It’s a tough time for many parents who are sending their children to school with life-threatening food allergies. They must go in every year to review food policies in classrooms, snack lists, and stock nurse’s medicine cabinets with life-saving medication. They must sign up as the resident “snack mom” and “field trip chaperone” every year, in order to ensure their food allergic child is safe and feeling included in his or her own classroom. They must have meetings with their child’s teachers, principal, and school nurse about policies and (hopefully) Section 504 Plans, all designed to keep their kids safe. They also must endure the stupid and ridiculous comments and rants from some parents who howl at the thought they won’t be able to send in certain foods to class anymore because it’s dangerous for another food allergic child to be around. It’s tough all around. No matter what grade, or what age your child is, you’re always starting from scratch with new teachers, new classes, new everything.

I do believe things are shifting in a positive direction. I had the opportunity to attend a summit sponsored (and full disclosure, paid for) by Mylan. This summit was an incredible opportunity to talk about everything related to food allergies with top FA advocates, bloggers and activists. We literally holed up in a room and tweeted live about the latest research, listened to an informative and engaging panel discussion surrounding anaphylaxis and epinephrine access at schools across the country, learned about public policy and legislative updates and also discussed Mylan’s incredibly successful EpiPen4Schools program.

I was truly blown away by the knowledge, passion and purpose displayed by everyone in that room. I am also inspired by the leadership at Mylan. They are committed to the food allergy community through helping schools get access to epinephrine as well as offer a $0-Co-pay Card to help patients get afford up to three EpiPen 2-pack or EpiPen Jr. 2-Pak cartons per prescription. (see here for more information). I am very proud of all their hard work on behalf of food allergy awareness.

Looking forward, there is still much work to be done on behalf of food allergy awareness in our schools and in our communities. With the new school year here, now is the time to schedule a 504 Meeting with your child’s school to determine eligibility. My former state in IL did and EXCEPTIONAL job in creating everything you need to get your school up to speed on food allergy policy including sample 504 Plans, sample classroom letters, sample food free classroom celebration ideas, etc. I am still trying to get my current state of CA to start drafting some of these important protocols, but it’s definitely a work in progress. Follow this link to get you started with the right tools.


Finally, I will be at three events coming up this fall and would love to see you there if you are in the area:

October 12, 2013 Bay Area FARE Walk/Run for Food Allergies in Memory of BJ Hom: I am honored and excited to be a part of this amazing day. I will be selling and signing books and a portion of proceeds will go directly back to FARE.

October 27, 2013 Los Angeles FARE Walk/Run for Food Allergies: SO excited to be back at this walk. We had a blast last year! I will be selling and signing books and donating a portion of proceeds directly back to FARE.

November 2-4, 2013: FABC: Food Allergy Bloggers Conference: This is an inaugural year for the FABC conference and am SO excited to be a part of an amazing group of speakers! Please see the website for ticket information and the schedule.

Enjoy the last days of August!!!! xoxo

Join me tomorrow at Google+ to talk all about food allergies and more!

Hi everyone! Is it really August already? Many of you already have kids going back to school starting today, and many of you will send kiddos to school in the coming weeks. It’s the perfect time to talk about food allergy awareness, 504 Plans, classroom safety, tips, recipes and everything else you need to get organized for the beginning of the school year! Join me, as well as editor, April Peveteaux and author of “Gluten is My Bitch”, and Monique Ruffin LIVE for a Google+ Hangout at 10 am PST/1 pm EST TOMORROW August 8th. We will talk ‪#‎Gfree‬ and ‪#‎FoodAllergies‬…perfect as everyone heads back to school.

We will talk about the biggest misconceptions of food allergies, fears of moms with a child who has food allergies, and the best tips! Comment in advance with questions and we’ll answer as many as we can! Come back for the live stream even Thursday, August 8th at 1pm EST / 10am PST. RSVP HERE. 

In addition, if you are in the LA/OC area, come hang out with me and allergy-friendly bakery Sensitive Sweets in Fountain Valley on Thursday August 15th at 6 pm PST. Space is limited so be sure to RSVP.  Along with FARE, I will be talking about 504 Plans and food allergy awareness in school, as well as answering your questions. AND if you order from Sensitive Sweets on August 15, 20 percent of the proceeds go directly to FARE.

You all know how passionate I am about food allergy safety at schools, and the importance of 504 Plans for your food allergic child. I’d love to take your questions too, so please fire away with any comments or questions you may have.

Have a happy day!!


Summer update and a recipe for my daughter’s favorite breakfast….

Kelly Rudnicki book Hello Peeps! Hope everyone is having a peaceful and relaxing summer. I wish I could say the same; it’s been crazier than usual as all my kids are home for the summer (translation; NO SUMMER CAMP) and I’m going back to school getting my masters in professional writing. I’m also working on a new book (stay tuned…details to follow later.) It’s been a fun and exciting few months, but busier than usual. I promise I will try to post a few more new recipes for y’all to try this summer. As always, I’d LOOOOVE it if you would post a review for my new book The Food Allergy Mama’s Easy, Fast Family Meals on Amazon. So many of you have written me saying how much you love the new book. I can’t tell you how much this means to me…and I would love it if you would tell the rest of the world as well. Spread the word by sharing your reviews!! Huge thanks….I am so grateful to my fans and readers for their dedicated support to my books, website and work over the years.

This past weekend was my daughter Chloe’s 13th birthday…omg I have a teenager!! Where has time gone? I remember the day she came into this world like it was yesterday. I was a young mom (by today’s standards) and was one of the first of my friends to have a baby. My mother passed away two years earlier and I didn’t have family around. It was such an emotionally challenging time, especially the first six weeks. I had no idea what I was doing. I was exhausted. I was still huge from gaining 65 pounds during a difficult pregnancy (sick 24/7). And my sweet baby girl had colic and reflux. In fact, when Chloe was only three weeks old, her reflux was so severe that she vomited, choked and started to turn blue. For the first time in my life I called 911. Thankfully she was OK after that terrifying episode, but I was changed forever. I was even more concerned and anxious about protecting my only child, and wanted to do everything I could to keep my daughter safe and healthy.

At times I went overboard…making sure Chloe was signed up for a million mommy and me classes, joined several playgroups and read T. Berry Brazelton’s book every day just to make sure I was covering all the bases. I will be honest, it was exhausting. I desperately wanted to be the perfect mom at any cost. However, trying to achieve such a high level of perfection cost me my sanity. And by the time my oldest son John was born and diagnosed soon after with life-threatening food allergies, I was at my wit’s end. I stopped caring so much about the latest trends in toddlerhood and got back to what really mattered; just loving my kids the best way I could. I learned to embrace the messiness of being an imperfect mom in a perfect-obsessed world. I also learned that there is really no right or wrong way in raising kids…just YOUR way. Who cares what everyone else is doing in their homes? Everyone has their own version of what works and what doesn’t. Moms today are so incredibly hard on themselves. We don’t need to be everything to everyone all of the time. As author Jill Churchill once said: “There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one”.

In honor of Chloe and her sweet 13 birthday, here is her favorite breakfast, lunch and dinner: yogurt parfait (dairy free of course!) with homemade granola. Happy Cooking everyone!!


Serves 4


The granola you find in most grocery stores often contain nuts and are packed with oil and sugar. We never bought it, and I never thought I could make a yummy granola, until I made this one. It is easily adaptable to whatever you and your family like. This granola keeps for a week in an airtight container.


½ cup Soy, sunflower butter or other nut butter alternative

½ cup honey

2 tablespoons vegetable canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 cups dried fruit of your choice; raisins, currants, golden raisins, blueberries, cranberries, banana chips, etc.


Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, combine soy or sunflower butter, honey, canola oil, vanilla and ground cinnamon over low heat until the mixture is smooth.

In a medium bowl combine the oats and salt. Add the butter mixture to the oats and stir well. Use your hands if needed.

Spread the granola mixture onto prepared pan and bake 15-20 minutes, or until the granola is lightly browned and toasted. Remove from oven, let cool on sheet and add dried fruit as desired. Serve with dairy free yogurt and fresh fruit.



Dairy Free Mac and Cheese….& a signed cookbook giveaway!


Before my newest book, The Food Allergy Mama’s Easy, Fast Family Meals came out in February, I used to get emails all the time about how to make a dairy free, classic kid favorite, Mac and Cheese. I know the blue-boxed version is an orange, chemical disaster, but as a kid of the 1970’s and 80’s…I grew up loving the stuff and thinking it was a real “dinner”.


Truth be told, I still love Mac and Cheese, but not that boxed kind. Homemade is the only way to go, whether you have food allergies or not. My version is completely dairy free, fast, easy and tastes like the real thing. Pinky swear.


Hope you like it as much as we do around here. One more thing, It’s Food Allergy Awareness Week. Take a moment and email your school; principal, nurses, teachers and administrators to educate them about the importance of using Section 504 Plans in schools to protect our FA children in their classrooms. Emphasize that food allergies can and do KILL. It’s called Anaphylaxis, not an intolerance. Tell them food allergies are not a choice, but a real disability and that our children’s rights should and will be protected under the American with Disabilities Act. Educate every chance you can. We are all in this together, and it’s so important we speak out on behalf of our food allergic children across the nation.


In honor of FA Awareness week, I’d love to give away a signed copy of my new book! Comment below about how you made a difference in food allergy awareness this week and I will choose a winner at random this Friday! Good luck! And love you all! xo


Serves 4


The stove top portion of this dish only takes 20 minutes start to finish–almost exactly the same amount of time it takes to make that other boxed, powdery, fake cheese brand.


½ pound elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions, drained

1 ½ cup soy or rice milk, slightly warmed on stove top

4 tablespoons dairy free margarine

¼ cup unbleached all-purpose or gluten-free flour blend

½ teaspoon dry mustard

1 ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 cup dairy free cheddar cheese, shredded (I use Follow Your Heart, this doesn’t have pea protein. If you are fine with pea or legume protein, you can also use Daiya)


In a medium saucepan, melt dairy free margarine over moderately low heat. Add flour and whisk for 1 minute. Add 1 c. of the warmed soy milk and whisk constantly for 3 minutes until the mixture is thickened and coats the back of the spoon. Add the dairy free cheese and stir with a wooden spoon for about five minutes. Then add the remaining ½ cup warmed milk, salt, pepper and dry mustard and pasta. Stir until the dairy free cheese is nearly melted, about five minutes .  Once the cheese sauce is smooth and melted, add the drained, cooked macaroni. Stir and serve.


Serve immediately.




Allergy Friendly Pesto Pasta with Green Beans and Potatoes

_RKP6355Allergy- friendly Pesto Pasta with Green Beans and Potatoes is the epitome of springtime’s finest produce. The success of the dish relies on the quality of the ingredients so choose only the freshest, most vibrant ones you can find. Peruse your farmers’ markets or organic produce section at the store for bright green basil and green beans, along with gorgeous red or yellow waxy potatoes. The only specialty ingredient you must have on hand is Vegan/Dairy Free Parmesan Cheese Alternative (I use Galaxy Nutritional Foods brand, available at Whole Foods).

I first fell in love with this dish when I was newly married. I ordered it one night out to dinner with my husband, and couldn’t believe the delicious combination of fresh pesto with crisp green beans and just barely cooked potatoes. Over the years I routinely made it at home as it became one of my husband’s favorite meals as well.

Pesto is a food allergy nightmare as it’s routinely made with pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and sometimes extra pats of butter. My version has none of that yet it tastes nearly identical to the real thing. It’s easy to whip up in a blender or food processor and freezes well for a quick weeknight dinner or weekend lunch.

I’d also love to thank Babble for naming Food Allergy Mama a Top 100 Food Blog for 2013. I’m honored to be included in this amazing list of food bloggers for the third year in a row.

Hope everyone is having a great spring! Happy Cooking!





Serves 4


Be sure to reserve a little of the pasta cooking water to thin out the sauce when adding to the pasta.




For Pesto:




2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed, dried and packed


½ cup extra virgin olive oil


2 medium garlic cloves, chopped


½ teaspoon kosher salt


¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper


2 tablespoons dairy free margarine, softened to room temperature


1/3 cup dairy free Vegan Parmesan cheese



In a processor or blender, puree the fresh basil, olive oil, garlic cloves, salt and pepper. Pour mixture into a bowl and stir in softened dairy free margarine and Vegan Parmesan Cheese. 




For the Pasta with Green Beans:




1 lb. allergen friendly or gluten free spaghetti or penne pasta


2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and washed


5 small, new potatoes, peeled and cut in half



Vegan Parmesan cheese for topping, if desired



Cook the pasta according to manufactures’ directions.



Meanwhile prepare a medium saucepan by filling halfway with water, put a cover on it and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and cook just until it can be pierced with a fork, about 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the potato. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl. Add the green beans to the boiling water, and cook five minutes. Remove the beans with a slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the potatoes.



Drain the cooked pasta, but reserve about a ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.  Add just enough of the pasta cooking water to the pesto to make it a little creamier, then add the pesto mixture to the pasta. Add the green beans and potatoes and stir the entire mixture gently until combined. Serve with additional grated Vegan Parmesan cheese if desired.




Valentine’s Day…from a food allergy mama’s perspective….

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all. I hope you all have had a great day making your allergy-friendly pancakes, waffles, cookies, cupcakes and cakes. I hope your sweet little kiddos got everything they wished for today…and felt love and acceptance during what might be a difficult day at school.

Yesterday, John came home to tell me something that happened to him at school that broke his heart and spirit…not something you want to hear from your child. He was made to feel excluded and different, and as a 10-year-old boy, that kinda sucks. As his mom who has worked tirelessly for several years to give him and kids like him the opportunity to feel normal, included and safe in their very own little safe havens, aka their classrooms (classrooms, NOT lunchrooms), I felt defeated and just tired of it all. So I immediately went home, typed up this email to his school peeps. I want to make clear….his teacher and principal have gone above and beyond to make healthy and inclusive changes at our school.They’ve been outstanding. I know this issue could not have been prevented by them, because they have been awesome at asking me what THEY can do to make kids like John feel more secure, safe and included in their classrooms. I couldn’t ask for more. What seemed obvious to me, however, is that we really are a culture that is obsessed with giving lots of food and sugar to kids not just during class parties, but for birthdays, or for doing something great at school etc. All I’ve ever asked for with regard to serving food in classrooms that are potentially life-threatening to a food allergic child is to take a moment to stop, think and imagine what that child’s life is like. Think of THAT child…and what that world of exclusion and terror FEELS like. That if they made a mistake, inadvertently ate something, they could DIE. In minutes. Just for a moment. I wish we all could remember that Valentine’s Day, like every other day of our lives, should be about LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, COMPASSION AND KINDNESS of others. None of us are perfect…but if we remember to love, we’ll remember to be cool with kids who have food allergies, disabilities, challenges, etc.

Here’s an excerpt of that email…sent with a broken heart. ;(

“I wanted to reach out to you both to let you know about an incident that happened today with John. He came home from school very upset, and hurt about a comment made regarding Valentine’s Day treats. A classmate was responding to a discussion that no candy or food would be allowed with valentines this year, and this classmate said “why don’t we put John and XX, the other food allergy kid, into the pod so we can have our candy?” or something to that effect?  I also heard from John that another classmate grumbled about no candy, and that even a couple more said their parents were annoyed because they already went out and bought a bunch of candy and now what were they supposed to do?

I truly appreciated the concern and care in asking me what to do about food in the classroom for the party in order to keep FA kids safe AND included. XX, you have gone above and beyond in helping raise awareness about food allergies at our school and keeping all our kids safe and included. XX, you’ve been wonderful and have always protected John and put his safety and well-being first.

As I’ve always advocated, I don’t believe in food bans, but I do believe in food free celebrations in order to keep children with LIFE THREATENING food allergies safe, and included. And, there are also a whole set of parents who actually wish there were LESS food, candy donuts cookies, etc. that was distributed to their children. Parents in general are trying to keep more tabs over what is being served to their kids at school. When you throw in the whole food allergy factor, and it could jeopardize a child’s life by having unsafe food in their own classroom, it’s even more important to establish clearer boundaries.

I am always teaching parents of FA children to never apologize for their child’s health condition. Because it is a condition, it is not a choice, or a dietary intolerance, etc. Food allergies can and do kill, and have killed children in their own classrooms. I just don’t understand why we can’t promote a fun, happy Valentine’s Day or other celebration WITHOUT food? Are games and projects not fun enough? Don’t 99 percent of these children get whatever food they want, whenever they want? Should kids like John feel like they need to be quarantined to the pod so their classmates can have food that John can’t even be near because it puts his life at risk? Shouldn’t we be teaching ways to look out for another, take care of each other, put others first?

Finally, I asked my first grader, who is brutally honest about what Valentine’s Day means to him…is it about candy and treats? Cards? His answer? Love, Valentine’s Day is all about LOVE. To that I’d like to add, any celebration at school should be about love and the inclusion of others. And if there are kids in the classroom who could die or feel totally left out because of food for a party, then we should be thoughtful of them by having celebrations that are fun and inclusive for EVERYONE.

John’s bummed, and hurt, but it’s par for course because he’s had to deal with these types of comments since preschool, kindergarten and first grade, until the time our school district enacted Food Free Celebrations. After a year of griping about the change, no one cared, loved the change and it became a healthier way to celebrate parties at school…something EVERYONE can appreciate.

Thank you again to you both for all your help and support. It is truly appreciated.”