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Cooking advice from Lidia Bastianich

Lidia Bastianich

EYB Members love Lidia Matticchio Bastianich's many cookbooks. In addition to writing several books, Bastianich has been a regular contributor to the PBS cooking show lineup since 1998, including her most recent series, 'Lidia's Italy'. Viewers of her program often ask her what is the one thing they can do to improve their cooking. Since teaching people to become better home cooks is one of her biggest passions, Bastianich is happy to answer this question. She recently shared 7 tips for becoming a better home cook.

Number one on her list: respecting the seasons. Fruits and vegetables purchased from local producers in season have the best flavor, are more affordable, and can offer better nutrition. Another important principle that she adheres to is adding flavor at the end of the cooking process. "We all love the flavor of butter and olive oil in our foods, and we usually begin the cooking process with them. But to maximize that flavor, save most of the butter or oil to add at the end of the cooking process since heat dissipates flavor," she says.

Keeping an eye on temperature is also key, as the level of heat often affects the final texture of the dish. Bastianich, like many chefs, extols the virtues of a good cooking thermometer. The article provides a few other tidbits, offered with Bastianich's signature saying: "Tutti a tavola a mangiare: Everyone to the table to eat!"

The connection between cookbooks and history

 Brunswick stew

Cookbooks can serve as snapshots of the period in which they were written. Many books from the 1990s, for instance, feature the sparse plating and ingredients that rose to prominence during that decade (hello, truffle oil). But even beyond the obvious connections with what we eat during any given time, cookbooks can shape how we view historical events. An Epicurious interview with professor Carrie Tippen explores the ways that differences in a specific recipe's narratives speaks volumes about how the writers "formulated Southern history, memory, and identity."

Tippen approaches the subject by studying different recipes for a single dish -  Brunswick stew. As with many foods, the origin story for the stew varies, with three different areas claiming it as their own. The most frequently quoted story is that the stew, a combination of barbecued meat and vegetables, was created by an enslaved cook named Jimmy Matthews, who concocted the dish one evening at his owner's hunting camp in Brunswick, Virginia.

In examining recipes for the stew from nine different Southern cookbooks published from 1981 to 2011, Tippen found that earlier books included some version of the Jimmy Matthews story, although many of them were whitewashed. For instance, one cookbook describes Matthews' owner as his "employer". Some newer descriptions of Brunswick stew skip the origin story altogether. These recipes describe the stew in terms of a family tradition or other personal narrative. This omission is essentially the rewriting of history, says Tippen. "Erasure is the inevitable consequence of this turn from history to memory," she writes in an article published in Food and Foodways, "supplanting the innovations of African American and Native American cooks and marginalizing their share of Southern culture and identity."

The article examines how Tippen became interested in this field of study, and how she chose Brunswick stew as the focus of her recent research. It also explores how cookbooks could explore history in a different way that doesn't marginalize people.

Photo of Official Brunswick stew from The Washington Post, indexed by an EYB Member

Foods that you grow to love


When I was a child, there were a few foods that I never wanted to eat. My parents never forced me to clean my plate, but I did have to at least try a food before proclaiming that I didn't like it. I know why I didn't like a few of the items - certain vegetables were often overcooked and once I had them properly prepared, I realized their appeal. But others were more of a mystery. My mother's vegetable soup, based on an old family recipe, was one of those foods. Despite trying a few spoonfuls each time it was served, I balked at eating the soup throughout my childhood and adolescence, even though it was well made.

The soup had a definite Ukrainian influence, containing a hefty quantity of beets, although it wasn't quite borscht. Since my great-grandparents - although of German descent - grew up in western Ukraine near the Moldova border, this is not surprising. I am inclined to think that the pronounced beet flavor was what put me off of the soup, but whether that was the case or not, I never developed a taste for it while I lived at home.

After I had lived away from home for a couple of years, I came back for a routine visit during which my mother served the same vegetable soup that I hadn't liked as a child. Now, however, there was a difference: I found it delicious. While the soup was cooking, the familiar aroma that I once despised now had me salivating.

What was the reason for this change? Was it because I had been exposed to many new and exciting flavors since I left home? I had not yet tried borscht - that came a few years later - so that wasn't the answer. Had my tastebuds changed as I got older? Was it just nostalgia for something that reminded me of home? I don't really know why I suddenly enjoyed the same food that I had found unpalatable just a few years before.

Science may have the answer. Some scientists believe that you will grow to like a food just by repeatedly eating it. Perhaps in the years away from home I had tried enough foods reminiscent of the major flavors to push me over the edge. Or maybe it was just a longing for home. Whatever the reason, I now relish the soup that I once hated. Do you have any foods that you once hated that you've grown to love?

Photo of Borscht from The Hairy Bikers' Meat Feasts by Hairy Bikers and Dave Myers and Si King

Featured Cookbooks & Recipes

Finding the best recipes amongst the millions online is not easy - but you don't have to! The team here at Eat Your Books, searches for excerpts from indexed books and magazines and every week we bring you our latest finds. Every day recipes are added from the best blogs and websites.

As a member, you can also add your own favorite online recipes using the Bookmarklet. With EYB, you can have a searchable index of all your recipes in one place!

Happy cooking and baking everyone!


From blogs:

Summer Tomato Pie from indexed blog Joy the Baker



From AUS/NZ books:

1 recipe from Seasons in My House and Garden by Holly Kerr Forsyth, indexed by an EYB member



From UK books:

6 recipes from Sue Lawrence's Book of Baking: Glorious Breads, Biscuits, Cakes and Tarts


27 recipes from Delia's Kitchen Garden: A Beginner's Guide to Growing and Cooking Fruit and Vegetables by Delia Smith & Gay Search



From US books:

4 recipes from Preserving Italy: Canning, Curing, Infusing, and Bottling Italian Flavors and Traditions by Domenica Marchetti
Enter our giveaway (Ends Aug 12th - US/CAN only)


10 recipes from Pick a Pickle: 50 Recipes for Pickles, Relishes, and Fermented Snacks by Hugh Acheson, indexed by an EYB member


20 recipes from Tarts by Frederic Anton, Christelle Brua, & Chihiro Masui


3 recipes from All About Cookies (The Joy of Cooking Series) by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, & Ethan Becker, indexed by an EYB member

The items that chefs take on vacation

 coffee beans

For those of us for whom cooking is a near obsession, there are essential culinary items that accompany us even when we travel, especially if we are driving. Even when we fly, some of us have certain gear or foods that we hesitate to leave behind. Chefs are just like us in this regard, as The Boston Globe reports. The newspaper takes a look at the culinary items that Boston chefs take with them on vacation.

Chef Tom Borgia of Boston's State Street Provisions always travels with a purse-size bamboo cutting board, a gift from his mother. The tiny board has stood up to ten years' worth of vacations to beaches in six countries and two continents. Patrick Campbell, chef at Cambridge's Café ArtScience, doesn't take equipment with him on his beach travels. Instead, he stocks up on items from his favorite hometown deli. 

For Aran Goldstein, chef at Concord's Saltbox Kitchen, the morning cuppa joe is key. "I enjoy the ritual of coffee. The steps involved [are] really calming and kind of Zen," he says. When he travels, gourmet coffee beans, a scale, and a fancy coffee grinder always make the trip, along with a Chemex carafe, filters, and his favorite kettle for boiling the water.

Steve Johnson, formerly of Cambridge's Blue Room and Rendezvous, bring a spice assortment with him to his Costa Rican getaway. "The last thing you want to do on day one [of vacation] is go to the local supermarket and drop $50 on a bunch of generic dried herbs and spices," he says. Bringing your own is not only economical, it can allow you to put your personal imprint on the local produce.

Do you have certain tools or foods that you always bring on your travels?

Do you have Instant Pot fever?

 chicken tikka masala

If my friends are any indication, thousands of people took advantage of the steep discount on the Instant Pot multi-function cooker during Amazon Prime Day a couple of weeks ago. It seems like everywhere I turn, I discover an Instant Pot devotee.

While electric pressure cookers have been around for nearly 30 years, recent advances in programming have turned what was once a "unitasker" into the Swiss Army knife of kitchen electrics. The Instant Pot claims to be not only a pressure cooker, but also a rice cooker, steamer, porridge maker, a browning device, a yogurt maker, and a warmer. Fans of the device have given it very high ratings on Amazon, and cooking forums are abuzz with a multitude of uses for the Instant Pot.

Indexed blog The Kitchn has discussed the appliance on a few occasions, and has just released a list of 50 things you can make in the Instant Pot. The article focuses on the pressure cooker and slow cooker aspects of the appliance, and features recipes like the Slow cooker chicken tikka masala pictured above.

I've seen people rave over a cheesecake made in the Instant Pot, and there are plenty of other uses being proclaimed as fantastic. The EYB Library contains a handful of recipes featuring the Instant Pot, although you can use any of the slow cooker or pressure cooker recipes already indexed. I've yet to make the plunge, so I can't comment on how fabulous the Instant Pot is or isn't. After reading the cheesecake recipe I am not sure I'm convinced - it takes 40 minutes to cook, and requires you to carefully wrap a 7-inch springform pan in paper towels and then foil to prevent moisture from getting on the cheesecake.  I think I'll stick with my boring silicone cake pan/water bath in the oven method.

For those who've tried the Instant Pot, do you like it? If so, what are your favorite uses for it?

Skipping a step


Recipe instructions run the gamut from sparse to confusing to insanely detailed. But no matter how specific the instructions, there are seven steps that Tommy Werner at Epicurious always skips. These instructions either waste time or actually do more harm than good. Washing chicken falls into the latter camp. While it may remove bacteria from the skin, it can also splash those same bacteria all over your sink and counter top, so it's best to just skip that step entirely.

Several of the steps that Werner doesn't bother with involve peeling various foods. Ginger generally doesn't need to be peeled if you are grating it or making a paste from it. The thin skin won't be noticeable in these applications. If you are using a garlic press (whether a press is good or bad is a discussion saved for another day), you don't need to peel garlic, either.

Sifting flour is another mostly unnecessary task. You can usually just use a whisk to blend dry ingredients and remove any lumps. Werner saves the sifting for special applications like making angel food cake, "where properly sifted flour can guarantee a light, springy texture."

One thing that I often forego is a complete mise en place. Professionally-trained chef and popular TV cooking show host Sara Moulton backs me up on this, noting that in the home kitchen, fully completing all prep in advance can cost a lot of precious time. What recipe steps do you usually skip?

Soda science

 gingersnaps from Serious Eats

When you inspect almost any cookie recipe other than shortbread, you'll probably find baking soda in the ingredient list. Most people generally understand how baking soda works to make cakes rise, but why do cookies need this pantry staple since they don't really rise that much? Stella Parks at indexed blog Serious Eats has the scoop and explains the multi-faceted role of baking soda in cookies.

It turns out that leavening isn't the only effect soda provides; it "also raises the dough's pH, and that's a pretty big deal. Creating an alkaline environment slows protein coagulation, which gives the dough more time to spread before the eggs set. This promotes a uniform thickness from edge to center, helping the cookies bake more evenly," says Parks. Additionally, the alkalinity of the soda impedes gluten formation, which helps tenderize the cookies. But wait, there's more! Baking soda even speeds up the Maillard reaction, causing the cookies to brown faster and develop more flavor. That's a lot of work for one simple ingredient.

Parks illustrates the different roles for soda using a gingersnap recipe. She changes the amount of soda from none to a full teaspoon, noting the changes to the cookies after each tiny bump. Since even a small change to the amount of soda can have a big impact, Parks warns not to go overboard when making changes to any cookie recipe.

Many times when cookies or cakes fail, stale baking soda is often blamed. Chances are that the baking soda is not the culprit, as it can last almost indefinitely at room temperature in most climates. It would have to be held at high temperatures and/or at very high humidity levels for extended periods for it to significantly diminish in quality. So if your soda is past its "expiration" date, it's probably still good to use.

Photo of The best gingersnaps from indexed blog Serious Eats

Review of Summer Berries & Autumn Fruits by Annie Rigg

Summer Berries, Autumn FruitsAnnie Rigg is a freelance food stylist and a prolific cookbook author. Her latest endeavor, Summer Berries & Autumn Fruits: 120 Sensational, Sweet & Savory Recipes appears to be the most beautiful of her collection, in my humble opinion. I have a few of Rigg's previous titles and this one seems to be a larger body of work and the selection of recipes are more varied. It may very well be that I need to pull out her titles and refresh my memory.

This title is a page turner - as I was reading it I found myself looking forward to the next recipe or beautiful photograph. Each page has a dish more fabulous than the last. The whole combination of sweet and savory with regard to berries and fruit dishes is appealing to me. I've always been a fan of brightening up a main course with citrus or adding fruit to bring another flavor to a protein entrée.

Recipes are organized by variety of fruit utilized starting with Citrus; Berries & Soft Fruit; Stone; Tropical; and Orchard, which is almost seasonal in nature. Selections vary from the usual suspects of cakes, cookies and pies but also include curds, marmalades, jams, bitters, salads and savory dishes.

From the first recipe, Bergamot and Mandarin Mini Financiers, I was taken with the different flavors she employs as well as the gorgeous photography by Tara Fisher. By the third recipe, Chocolate Orange Delice, which looks like it could be in the window of a French pastry shop, I knew this book was a keeper.

Orange Scented Churros with Caramel Orange Chocolate Sauce, Portuguese Lemon Tarts, and Lemon and Almond Roulade with Red Currants and Raspberries are a few of the dessert variety of recipes. Examples of savory recipes are: Lamb Kofte with Cherries, Turkish Pide with Lamb and Pomegrante Seeds and Green Papaya Salad with Crispy Fried Beef are standouts.

Ruby Grapefruit Curd, Seville Orange Marmalade with Whiskey and Ginger (a personal favorite of the author), and Pickled Redcurrants are tasty ways to preserve nature's bounty and enjoy a favorite flavor out of season. Rigg's recipes spark inspiration and I look forward to playing with more flavor combinations in my cooking.

I tested two recipes in this title - the Portuguese Lemon Tarts and the Lemon and Poppy Seed Madeleines. Portuguese Tarts have been on my culinary bucket list to make for quite a while and I welcomed the opportunity to mark that task as completed.

The dough for the Portuguese Lemon Tarts is very similar to puff pastry and while it takes a few hours of hands-off chill time - it was easy. I've made rough puff pastry before but this was my first attempt at a laminated dough. This is not a humble brag - this is an out and out full fledged brag: I made puff pastry and it was fabulous. Over the last few years, I have conquered pie and pastry crust and I never thought I would make homemade puff pastry but thanks to Annie Rigg - I can check that off my list as well.

The lemon custard for the Portuguese Lemon Tarts was a breeze. I wish the authorPortuguese lemon tarts would have specified an estimated time for thickening the custard. In my case it was about 15 minutes, but for someone who hasn't made custard before an approximation would be helpful. One other little thing that gave me pause is when water is used in a recipe, it isn't listed under the ingredients. I like to double check and prep in advance to have everything ready. If you are like me, read the recipe in total before proceeding. Not a major fault and I do know some authors don't list water as an ingredient but in a baking book it is helpful. My tarts were outstanding but those gorgeous little brown spots typical of a Portuguese tart never appeared and after 16 minutes (the recipe calls for 12 minutes) I was afraid I was going to burn my pastry. I tried putting them under the broiler for one minute and even sprinkling a little sugar with a brulee torch, but no. Regardless of that missing element - this pastry was perfect in every way and the custard was tangy and not overly sweet. I made only 12 tarts and will use the leftover custard to make a pie this week. The second log of pastry will be used to make a beef wellington type dish with leftover pot roast.

Lemon & poppy seed madeleinesAs a fan of lemon and poppy seed as a combination, the madeleines were another easy choice. Since moving to Colorado, I have made madeleines twice and while they were delicious they were off in texture. Madeleines will be made frequently in my home now that I have a recipe that works well and now that I know I can fill them with all sorts of deliciousness.

All in all, Summer Berries & Autumn Fruits earns a spot on my shelves and deserves a spot on yours as well.

Photos for test recipes by Jenny Hartin. Jenny is an enthusiastic home cook who lives in Colorado, owns the website The Cookbook Junkies and runs the Facebook group also called The Cookbook Junkies. The Facebook group is a closed group of 30,000 cookbook fans - new members are welcome.

Lemon and Poppy Seed Madeleines

This is a multi-cultural bake if ever there was one, with a nod to France from whence the buttery madeleine originated, a wink to the US and Eastern Europe for the addition of poppy seeds, and a cheeky grin to Great Britain for the nifty use of lemon curd. Madeleine pans can vary in size and shape, so the number of cakes that you'll get from this recipe will vary according to whatever pan you're using. They are best eaten on the day of making.

Makes about 20Lemon & poppy seed madeleines

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon poppy seeds, plus extra for scattering
3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
a pinch of sea salt
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
12-15 teaspoons lemon curd (see page 33 for homemade)
For the lemon glaze
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, plus extra if needed

Melt the butter and use a little to grease the inside of the madeleine pans, ensuring that you get it into every groove and corner. Dust with a little flour, tapping out the excess, then pop in the fridge while you prepare the batter.

Sift the flour and baking powder together in a bowl, stir in the poppy seeds, and set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a hand-held mixer), beat the eggs, sugar, and salt for about 5 minutes (longer if using a hand-held mixer) until thick, pale, and doubled in volume. Add the zest and mix to combine.

Using a large metal spoon and a figure-eight action, fold in the sifted dry ingredients. Carefully pour the melted butter around the edges of the bowl and fold in. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Drop a rounded teaspoon of batter into the middle of each madeleine indentation and gently spread to fill, leaving a little dip in the middle.

Spoon a scant teaspoonful of lemon curd into the dip and cover with a little more batter. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 12 minutes until well-risen and golden.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze: Whisk together the lemon juice and confectioners' sugar until smooth. You want the glaze to be thick enough to just coat the back of a spoon, so add more sugar or a drop of water to adjust the consistency if necessary. Turn the madeleines onto a wire rack, let cool for a couple of minutes, and then brush with a little glaze and finish with a light scattering of poppy seeds.

Portuguese Lemon Tarts

My pastel de nata, or custard tarts, aren't quite classic, as they are laced with lemon, but hopefully they are simpler to make. The pastry dough, which is similar to puff, takes a bit of forward planning and needs to be started the day before you plan to bake. Nothing, in my opinion, compares to homemade, but if you're short on time, then store-bought all-butter puff pastry would make an acceptable substitute. They are best eaten on the day of making.

Makes 20 to 24Portuguese lemon tarts

For the dough
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
a good pinch of sea salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

For the filling
1 1/2 cups whole milk
juice of 2 lemons
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 level tablespoons cornstarch
6 large egg yolks

Two 12-hole muffin pans or similar-sized individual pie pans

Start by making the dough: Pour the flour into a mixing bowl, add the salt and 3/4 cup cold water, and mix until you have an almost smooth dough. Lightly dust the work surface with flour, remove the dough from the bowl, and knead very briefly until smooth. Pat into a square, cover with an upturned bowl, and let rest for 15 minutes.

Lightly dust the work surface with flour again and roll the dough into a neat rectangle three times as long as it is wide (about 18 x 6 inches) and with one of the shorter sides nearest to you. Mentally divide the rectangle of dough into thirds-each third a rough square shape-and spread 9 tablespoons of the butter evenly over the middle third. Fold the bottom third up to cover the butter and the top third down to make a neat square shape. Turn the dough 90 degrees clockwise so that the open flap side is now on the left. Roll into a rectangle again and fold the bottom third up into the middle and the top third down again. Carefully wrap with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Lightly dust the work surface with flour and again roll out the dough into a rectangle (about 18 x 6 inches). Fold and roll the dough as before, then chill again for 1 hour.

Lightly dust the work surface once again and roll out the dough into a neat rectangle about 16 x 20 inches. Spread the remaining butter over the surface, being careful not to tear the dough. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll the dough into a tight spiral log, trim the ends, and cut the log in half to make handling easier. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill for about 4 hours or overnight until firm.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring the milk, ⅔ cup cold water, and the lemon juice slowly to just below boiling point. In a bowl, whisk the lemon zest with the sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolks. Pour in half the milk mixture, whisk until smooth, then return to the pan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until it has thickened and no longer tastes of cornstarch. Remove from the heat, pour into a clean bowl, and cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool, then chill until needed.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Lightly dust the work surface with flour and cut the dough logs into 1/2-inch thick slices. Roll out each one to a thin disc about 4 inches across. Press the dough into the pans so that it comes up the sides. Don't worry about trimming off the edges. Scoop a rounded teaspoonful of the custard into each hole. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 25 minutes until the filling is tinged with brown and the dough is crisp and golden.

Leave in the pans for 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack until cold.

Summer Berries & Autumn Fruits by Annie Rigg (c) 2016 Kyle Books, and the photographs (c) Tara Fisher.

Excerpt from 'Pure Delicious'

Chocolate brownie mud cake

Food blogger and author Heather Christo was once "openly skeptical about the very existence" of food allergies, but when her young daughter had repeated unexplained illnesses, she reluctantly came to the conclusion that food allergies could be the problem. After extensive testing, she learned that not only did her daughter, Pia, have many food allergies, but so did she and her other daughter, Coco. Heather made it a point to transform their diet and the results were astonishing. She explains what happened in her new cookbook, Pure Delicious. (You can enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of the book.) Heather has graciously provided EYB with an excerpt from the introduction of Pure Delicious, plus a bonus recipe!

So right before Christmas 2013, the three of us went through the extensive and specific blood-3 antibody ELISA testing (see page 15) that assessed our reactions to 160 foods, spices, and herbs. And then, doing what any normal person facing the knowledge that she might never be able to eat certain foods again would do, we gorged over the holidays.

January found us all sick and exhausted, not just from our holiday binge but from the shocking test results. Among my allergens:

  • cow and goat dairy
  • eggs
  • pineapple, bananas, passion fruit, kiwi (highly, triggering, bordering on anaphylaxis)
  • coffee beans, vanilla beans (there go the lattes)
  • whole wheat, gluten, flaxseed
  • black pepper, bean sprouts, lima beans, navy beans
  • clams, scallops

Pia tested positive for these:

  • cane sugar, eggs, cow and goat dairy, ginger, curry, and garlic
  • oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, cranberries
  • gluten, whole wheat, rye, flax, spelt, barley, Kamut (a variety of wheat)
  • psyllium (think of all those fiber supplements)
  • hazelnuts, peanuts
  • string beans, lima beans, navy beans, coffee beans, soy

And Coco had her own list:

  • gluten, whole wheat, spelt, Kamut
  • eggs, cow and goat dairy
  • oranges and cranberries

With so many foods to avoid, how was I possibly going to feed my family? Even garlic was on the verboten list, along with virtually all of my Greek Husband's traditional family foods! And what about my blog readers? Some of my most popular posts that year were recipes for Cheese-and-Cream Baked Potatoes, Skillet-Baked Stuffed Rigatoni, cheese-dripping Caprese Soup, and Slutty Halloween Brownies. 

As upsetting as the prospect of living without all those foods was, I knew I had to find out what would happen if we did. Having been openly skeptical about the very existence of food allergies - I had been known to smirk at those who went on about what I privately dubbed their "New Age" allergies - I knew I may have to eat crow. I had to put our health before my ego. Drawing on my skills as a chef as well as the true grit and determination of a mother who loves her children, I vowed to dismantle our routines, habits, and social lives, and then rebuild them on a new, sturdier, healthier foundation, piece by piece.

That January, we went cold turkey on all of the items on our ELISA test. The whole family went gluten, dairy, egg, soy, and cane sugar free, and then we had various other ingredients that we individually avoided based on our results. Differences between and definitions of allergies, sensitivities, intolerances, and inflammation are in flux and sometimes hotly debated. The Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) website is a good place to get an overview, but much is still unknown. The one thing that everyone seems to agree on at this point is this: If you have a life-threatening allergy to, say, peanuts or shellfish or strawberries, you already know to avoid those foods at all cost. For those with more subtle or more chronic reactions, the avoid-and-reintroduce approach is inexpensive and pretty reliable: take suspect foods out of your diet for a while, and then add them back in one at time and see what happens. For me, the ELISA was helpful because it motivated me to get serious about eliminating suspect foods and gave me a starting point. (And I should note that the test was expensive, and insurance paid only for my girls' testing, not mine.) My real conviction came from the drastic improvements I saw as the result of my own experimentation and tracking.

Within three days, Pia's stomachaches stopped. Within a week, her skin rashes had cleared up and she had no more headaches. Within two weeks, her eyes were no longer puffy and their dark circles had faded, normal healthy bathroom habits resumed, and her nasal congestion and constant throat clearing began to wane. I also noticed that her wild emotional swings, which I had chalked up to "being a little girl," seemed to even out. While she would normally cry every afternoon and be drooping with exhaustion after school, she started coming home in a great mood and full of energy. She was a different girl!

Sound hard to believe? All I can say is, I began this journey as a nonbeliever who considered food allergy nuts fussy, demanding, and self-absorbed, whereas I was all about cooking with abandon and eating with passion and loving life through all the senses! Little did I know I was dulling our senses by chronically stressing our systems.



These jaunty mug cakes are the first dessert I came up with post-allergy diagnosis to satisfy Pia's chocolate cravings, and they are so easy that my little girls can make and microwave them all on their own. The result is a fudgy mix between a cake and a pudding, a perfect hot chocolaty dessert that takes seven minutes, max, from start to finish. Add a generous dollop of coconut whipped cream to really put this over the top. If you like, make a double batch of the batter and fill mini mason jars so you can pull one out of the fridge and microwave to order throughout the week.

1⁄2 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
1⁄2 cup granulated beet sugar
1⁄4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of kosher salt
1⁄2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil

In a blender or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, coconut milk, and oil and purée until the mixture is smooth and free of lumps. Divide the batter between two microwave-safe mugs.

Microwave on high until the mixture is cooked through, 1 minute 40 seconds to 2 minutes. It should still be moist in the center, not dry.

Let cool for a minute and serve hot.

Reprinted from Pure Delicious by arrangement with Pam Krauss Books/Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2016, Heather Christo LLC


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