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Going to college and cooking with food allergies

Mediterranean Herb Tuna Salad

By Mandygm · June 14, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Tuna is a newer food in my diet. Fish and I have never gotten along in the past. After multiple bad experiences eating fish, I swore that I would never eat it again-until I discovered Pinterest. All the fish recipes looked yummy, and I decided that I would try eating fish again. I tried it during spring break when I had no plans for the rest of the day, and I had no problems. Finding tuna is a little bit harder because I am allergic to soy, and most tuna is packaged with soy protein. My mom found tuna packaged with just olive oil, and I have a new favorite food.

I have been craving tuna salad for the past day. I am normally an early bird, but for the past few days I have been waking up before 6. Yesterday by lunch time I was exhausted and hungry after my early start and a long run. I made a sunflower butter and jelly sandwich, and it was just not as tasty as I had expected it would be. As I was eating it, I remembered that my mom had picked up tuna at the grocery. I immediately wished I could have a lunch do over. Today, I was prepared for a yummy lunch. I searched Food Network and Pinterest for tuna salad recipes. I made a list of ingredients, and started pulling ingredients from the fridge. I was not going to have lunch regret today. I gathered veggies from the fridge and herbs from the garden, and whipped together a tasty tuna salad. It was light and refreshing, perfect for summer. Cherry tomatoes would be a good addition to the salad. I think it would also be good served on cucumber slices. 


Mediterranean Herb Tuna Salad:

1 package of tuna (I used tuna soaked in olive oil)

zest of one lemon

1/4-1/2 cup lemon juice (I used the juice from half of a lemon)

1 scallion chopped finely

1/8 cup cucumber chopped into tiny pieces

1/8 cup red bell pepper chopped into tiny pieces

1 teaspoon capers

Fresh mint

Fresh parsley

Lemon thyme




Mix the tuna, lemon zest, and lemon juice and let sit while chopping the other vegetables. If the tuna was not packaged with olive oil, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to the mixture. 

Chop the vegetables into tiny pieces. We sometimes call them confetti size pieces. Chop (or chiffonade) the herbs as well. Mix into the tuna.

Serve over a bed of argula or mixed greens. 

This year vs. last year

By Mandygm · February 5, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

This picture is from my run today. Today was the perfect running weather-not too hot, not too cold, and no snow (in February)! I had a great run, and I could have run all day in the nice weather -except I had homework to do. I am loving the March/April weather in February, and absolutely dreading the return of winter.

The picture below is from this time last year. A year ago, we had a snow storm that dumped over 20 inches of snow on our school. Classes were cancelled for the first time in over ten years. The snow was pretty until I had to walk to class in it, then it was just cold and messy. On my run today, I realized just how thankful I am for a very mild winter this year. Forty degrees in February and not a flake of snow to be seen in the snowbelt- I call that perfect February weather.

Kitchen Queen

By Mandygm · February 2, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Four years ago, when I started looking at colleges I had two requirements: a small school and warm weather. I didn't end up picking a school with warm weather, but it is warmer than home. I did pick a very small school. Surprisingly, when I looked at schools I did not consider accomodations for food allergies. My family ate most meals at home, so I did not realize the convenience of cooking for food allergies at home. I remember my mom briefly asking the director of the food service if they accomodated food allergies when I signed up for my meal plan. He of course said yes. In the last two and a half years, I have learned that this is not always the case. My school, like other small schools requires students to live on campus in dorms for six semesters (3 years). This also means three years of the meal plan. I have loved living on campus, and being close to my friends, but I have struggled eating in the dining hall with food allergies. My diet has consisted of egg whites, grilled chicken, salads (using vegetables from the sandwich station as toppings to avoid cross contamination in the salad bar), non-toasted wheat bread with honey, cereal, apples and bananas. Not a lot of variety...

My college offers on-campus apartments for seniors. Selection for the apartments is a lottery. My roommate and I were selected in the lottery, so we get an apartment next year! I cannot wait to be queen of the kitchen next year, and cook all the time. I will no longer have to worry about dining hall cross contamination. I am looking forward to cutting out recipes from magazines, and being to cook and eat whatever I want.

No Recipe Required

By Mandygm · January 13, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Because of my food allergies, learning to cook and bake has been very important. One of the golden rules of food allergies is to only eat foods that you have watched be prepared. I know that foods I prepare myself are safe. Before I was diagnosed with food allergies, I baked a little bit. After I was diagnosed with food allergies, I started to bake a lot! I cannot eat anything from bakeries due to cross contamination issues with peanuts and tree nuts. This means that I must make treats from scratch. In the last year, I have learned to cook.

I love to cook and try new recipes. After learning to bake, cooking seemed easy! While baking is an exact science, cooking is not. Recipes can be easily modified, and sometimes are not necessary. While my food allergies limit me in trying some new foods, I have started to eat a bigger variety of foods since being diagnosed. I had always liked chicken, but once I went to college I became the grilled chicken queen. I can transform a very dry piece of dining hall chicken into a delicious meal using very few ingredients. I have tried many new flavors/seasonings because of this. One of the new flavors I discovered that I like is curry. When I am at home, I like to cook using a variety of ingredients and seasonings. A “new” food that I love at home is spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash shreds apart into “noodles.” I think it tastes just like angel hair pasta-maybe even better.

I had cooked a spaghetti squash, but I did not know what to put with it. I looked through pages and pages of recipes on google, but didn't see anything that looked super delicious. I decided to make up my own recipe. My favorite new meal is a lemon pasta using spaghetti squash. I top a bowl of spaghetti squash with lemon juice, a drop of olive oil, sundried tomato, finely chopped kale and spinach, red pepper flakes, basil, and parmesan cheese. It is a light, healthy, and delicious meal.


1 spaghetti sqash

Juice from one lemon

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Handful of spinach leaves, finely chopped

Handful of kale leaves, finely chopped

a few sundried tomatoes-cut into pieces

1-2 Tablespoons dried basil

1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste



Christmas Cookies

By Mandygm · December 24, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

I have always loved baking and decorating Christmas cookies. When my brother and I were little, we looked forward to the day when we decorated cookies. We loved mixing the colors of frosting and seeing how many sprinkles we could fit onto one cookie. We also loved taste-testing the decorated cookies. We couldn't leave out bad cookies for Santa :) . I never realized how much work the cookies were to make until I started to make and roll out the dough. I decided cut out cookies are high maintence this year. First the dough has to be made, then chilled, rolled, cut out, rolled again (and again!), baked, frosted, and decorated. This year, I found a new trick that made frosting the very delicate cookies quite easy. I piped the frosting onto the cookies using a pastry bag. This prevented the cookies from breaking when trying to spread the frosting. It also sped up the frosting process. The cookies were worth all the work. They tasted delicious!

I have to be very careful about eating Christmas cookies with my nut allergies. Many sugar cookie recipes call for almond extract in the cookie and sometimes the frosting. Typically, I never eat Christmas cookies and treats unless I have seen them being made for this reason. There is no way to detect almond extract in a cookie by appearance or smell. Sprinkles are also a problem with food allergies. While most sprinkles consist mostly of sugar, they are usually made on the same equipment as products containing peanuts and tree nuts. Surprisingly, sprinkles that are safe for peanut and tree nut allergies are hard to find.

We have made the same sugar cookie recipe forever. The recipe is from the Family Fun Magazine cookibook, and has never failed. The recipe in the link is the exact same recipe as the cookbook except the linked recipe only uses the egg yolks. THe cookbook recipe uses the entire egg. The dough is easy to work with and makes a tasty cookie. My brother's only complaint about the recipe is that it does not make enough cookies.

Merry Christmas!


By Mandygm · December 1, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The entire day revolves around cooking, family, and a fabulous meal. I have loved Thanksgiving since I was a little girl. One year, when I was little we had a disco ball in our playroom for a Thanksgiving "dance" with my cousins. I remember we had so much fun! One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is eating the leftovers.


I always bring frozen leftovers back to school with me. I can't eat many foods in the dining hall because of my food allergies, and so my frozen leftovers add a little variety to my diet. After Thanksgiving break, my mom and grandma made sure that I had plenty of leftovers to bring back to school. I have a couple containers of Thanksgiving dinner, turkey soup, chicken soup, chicken chili, and other leftovers. I brought back 22 containers of leftovers for 18 days. I am very thankful for all the meals. I have had the flu for the last few days, and the only meal that has tasted good to me is soup.

While I was home, I had some cooking difficulties. After going a month or two without cooking, my kitchen skills were a little rusty. My mom and I decided to make a pumpkin roll cake for a Thanksgiving dessert. The cake is baked in a jellyroll pan on greased parchment paper. This is a slippery combination. After the cake is finished baking, it has to be flipped onto a towel covered in powdered sugar. Instead of flipping the cake onto the towel, my mom and I flipped the cake right onto the floor. We tried to repair it, but decided that the cake was beyond repair. We sampled the cake, decided it was worthy of remaking, and quickly prepared a second cake. Thankfully, we did not drop the second cake, and it made a lovely and delicious cake roll.

Peanut butter is not evil

By Mandygm · November 1, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

After being diagnosed with food allergies, I began to characterize peas, peanuts, soybeans, almonds, hazelnuts, and peaches as evil. Everything about foods containing these ingredients was bad! They taste bad, they are not good for you, and they can make people miserable. This was my justification for my new evil classification of these foods. Only one of my three justifications is completely true, but that didn't matter. I missed eating foods that I once loved. Now eating something I loved such as peanut butter could be deadly. It just didn't seem fair. For the last few years, I stuck to my "evil" characterization of my allergenic foods. I had the attitude that these foods should be banned everywhere. I thought that because these foods had the potential to make one person fatally ill that no one should eat them.

Over the past few months, I have began to de-classify my allergens as evil. I think part of this de-classification has to do with time. It has been nearly five years since I have eaten foods containing peas, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peaches, shrimp and soybeans. I rarely crave foods containing these ingredients anymore. Over a five year period, I have encountered all my former favorite foods. In the beginning, it was really hard to come across my favorite foods and discover that I could no longer eat them. Now, it is no big deal to encounter one of my former favorite foods. I have new favorite foods. Sometimes, I think about what I would eat first if a cure for my food allergies were discovered. Honestly, I don't know what I would eat first-maybe a peanut butter cup???? I can't imagine not reading labels anymore.

As a biology major, I am required to take one plant class. I chose to take a class covering all plants of economic importance. Today, we started to cover legumes. Most of my allergens are legumes. Initially, I was dreading this section of the class. I knew this section of the class would break down the "allergens are evil because they are bad for you argument". Legumes are extremely nutritious. They contain many of the essential proteins and fatty acids necessary for proper nutrition.

Besides breaking down my nutrition argument, today's class on legumes also broke down the allergens are evil argument in general. Because of the high protein and healthy fat content of many legumes, they are used to feed and save the lives of starving children worldwide. Feeding starving children peanut butter and peanut paste could save their life, and help in healthy development of toddlers. US food pantries often request peanut butter to give out. One jar of peanut butter can make many sandwiches. In areas hit by disasters or famine organizations like the Red Cross and UNICEF distribute peanut paste. Recently, peanut paste has saved children's lives in Haiti and East Africa. US peanut growers donate peanuts and peanut butter to organizations like Peanut Butter for the Hungry that provide therapeutic nutritional products for starving children worldwide. While peanuts are a common allergen, peanut allergies are often extremely low in areas where the peanut paste is distributed.

After hearing about how peanuts save lives in class today and quick research before writing this blog post, it is difficult to say that peanuts and peanut butter are evil. While peanuts are dangerous for individuals like myself, they have the potential to save many lives. Having food allergies leads to days where I feel sorry for myself. It can be frustrating not being able to eat anything. It is on these days that I tend to characterize peanuts as evil. The next time I have a bad food allergy day, I can think about all the lives that peanuts save.


Royal Tea

By Mandygm · October 30, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved anything related to princesses and fairy tales. I temporarily forgot about my love of princesses until my roommate and I went to see Princess Diana’s wedding dress last winter. The details on the dress were amazing and it just seemed fairy-tale like. My love of princesses and fairy tales had returned. Shortly after viewing the wedding dress, it was time to register for classes. Posters advertising a class about the lifestyle of British royalty and aristocracy caught my eye. I signed up for the class, and I am taking it now. I absolutely love the class. In a couple of weeks we start discussing Princess Diana, William, and Kate.

Tomorrow we have a test covering the history of British royalty and aristocracy from the 1500s all the way through the early 20th century. I have been working on getting all of my Georges, Henrys, Catherines, Janes, James, Williams, Marys, and Edwards straight. I have to say that the British royal family is not very creative when they name their children! It is cold and rainy tonight, and after walking back to my room earlier I was completely chilled. My cousins brought me royal wedding tea this weekend when they came to visit. I had a nice warm cup of royal tea while I was studying for my royal test. I’m hoping it will bring me good luck! I was wishing that I was drinking my tea from a cute teacup like my mom and I do at home. When I went to the popsugar website to log onto my blog, I saw that the royal wedding was exactly six months ago. It was a good day to have royal wedding tea!



By Mandygm · October 12, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

I can't believe how long it has been since I blogged last! I guess the saying "time flies when you are having fun" is true. I have been so busy with school work and activities that I have not had a free minute to blog. I cannot believe that I am nearly a quarter of my third year has passed! Despite having a lot of homework and tests this week, everyone here is in a good mood because we have now had a week of 85 degree sunny weather in October!! Besides the warm weather, fall break starts Friday-yay! I have been loving running outside in the warm weather. The campus is so pretty right now with all the leaves changing colors. I love the sound of the crunching leaves when I run. It reminds me of when I was little, and would jump in the leaf pile. The leaf-covered running trails remind me of when my family used to go mountain biking. I don't think I ever appreciated the beautiful surroundings because I was too scared of hitting a stump or seeing a "scary" animal. I remember seeing a tiny snake one time and freaking out!

Besides not having time to blog, I have not eaten anything exciting in the past 8 weeks-except the frozen leftovers from home. At the beginning of every year, I am always optimistic thinking maybe I will have more options in the dining hall this year. However, after three days, I remember that peas and soy are the two most common ingredients in college cafeteria food. I have eaten nothing but cereal, grilled chicken, and taco salad (meaning lettuce and salsa). I can't wait for real food during fall break next week! I  had a hard time adjusting back to my limited diet at the beginning of the year, but now I am used to it. In the last few weeks, my friends and I have been laughing so much at dinner that I have hardly noticed the blandness of my meals.




By Mandygm · August 18, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

At times, I can be a bit of a perfectionist. I like to make sure that things are exactly right (most of the time). I don't like giving up, and I often keep trying things until they work. When I was ready to give up making and eating angel food cake, my grandma called me with a new recipe.  My grandma, Nonny, searched through her cookbooks, and found a recipe for angel food cake. The recipe had detailed instructions that we followed very closely. The recipe was almost the same as the other ones I had tried. It instructed to sifting the sugar and flour together, and let the egg whites sit for an hour before mixing them. Nonny also taught me how to properly fold ingredients into the egg whites. I think that this trick may have helped.  We made sure the oven was adjusted to the exact temperature as well. Our precision paid off! The cake turned out fabulous. It tastes just like I remember angel food cake to taste-light and fluffy.

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