Christmas Vegetable Tree

Appetizers for an Allergic Foodie

Flashback Tuesday: I’m enjoying the holidays with my family as I hope you are. This post appeared last year. The appetizers from my friend’s party were a hit. Enjoy! And Happy Holidays to you and your family.

It took another Amy–my friend Amy Brown–to teach me it’s okay to serve your nonallergic guests allergy-friendly foods.

Maybe it comes from having a husband who has yet to embrace gluten-free, dairy-free foods (to be fair, he doesn’t have to) that makes me think everyone else will feel the same way he does: Not going to try it if  I don’t have to.

So I often go to the trouble of serving “regular” food at our social gatherings. A few years ago when we moved into our new home, I hosted a potluck open house where everyone brought an appetizer.  As you might guess, there was very little for me to eat.

Then last year I hosted a holiday cookie exchange. I figured this was a fun way for my kids and my husband to get treats without me having to touch a stick of butter or sift flour. Ironically, it was over Christmas break last year that my younger son realized gluten was making him sick and my oldest son gave up everything dairy.

So when this holiday season came around,  I decided to skip hosting a party. With our sons home, I just didn’t want to have foods around that they couldn’t enjoy.  And frankly, I didn’t want to do all the work of preparing both allergy-free and regular foods.

Then I went to Amy Brown’s party.  Take a look at this table of yummy appetizers:

Delicious appetizers for an allergic foodie

Photo by Amy Brown

 

The food was incredible!  Amy and her husband, Brandon, follow a “Whole30” diet, eliminating grains, dairy, sugar, and legumes. This made many of the appetizers free of  gluten, soy, and dairy!  They did include some macaroni and cheese the kids devoured and deviled eggs that my husband devoured.

My favorite appetizer was incredibly simple: A BLT on a toothpick!

Bacon, Lettuce, Tomatoe Appetizer

Photo by Amy Brown

 

Then there were these adorable olive penguins.

Gluten-free treats

And the zucchini wrapped around sausage with pesto and olive oil were fabulous.

Delicious sausage/zuchinnin wraps

Photo by Amy Brown

 

Amy also made several types of dips, including one with eggplant and red peppers that she found at She Cooks . . . He Cleans  (recipe follows). I’m not a big fan of eggplant, but I’ll be making this dip soon.  I eat a lot of veggies and hummus, so–cover your ears, Amy–I wasn’t that excited to try the black bean hummus. But I did, and it was delish!

And who wouldn’t want to eat their veggies when presented this way?

Christmas Vegetable Tree

Amy also served the gluten-free crackers on a separate plate and labeled them!

None of the guests seemed to notice the appetizers were “different” or “allergy-free” or “gluten-free.”  The food was just good . . . actually, better than good.  And oh so cute.

Roasted Egg Plant and Red Pepper Dip

(Note this recipe includes sesame seeds)

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded
  • 4 garlic cloves, whole, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (to start with…)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt; freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tahini paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • juice of one lemon
  • lots more good extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut the eggplant up into 1-inch square pieces.  (Before cutting, I like to take off some of the skin in stripes around the eggplant.  Up to you.)   Cut the red bell peppers into 1 inch strips.  Toss the eggplant, peppers, and garlic in a large bowl with olive oil, salt, and several grindings of pepper.

Spread the vegetables on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast for 35-45 minutes, tossing once during cooking, until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Place the vegetables in a food processor; add the tahini, cumin, cayenne, lemon juice, and another glug (or two) of olive oil.  Process in pulses until blended.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  (Try to avoid over-processing or it will become paste-like in texture.)

Drizzle with more olive oil on top, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Appetizers for an Allergic Foodie originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic FoodieRoasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Dip originally appeared at She Cooks . . . He Cleans.  Thank you to Amy Brown for sharing these treats and photos.

Renewed Faith: A Waiter Who Cared

The smiling white-coated waiter glided up to our rooftop table and introduced himself as Paul.

“I understand there are some food allergies at this table,” Paul said,  handing  us leather-bound menus.

When I’d made the reservation for Watermark Restaurant in Nashville on Urban Spoon, I listed my son’s and my celiac disease as well as my allergies to soy and dairy. We were driving through Nashville on our way home to Colorado and wanted to have a special family dinner with our college boy. Watermark was on our bucket list of restaurants to try.

“I’ve gone over your food restrictions with the chef and I’ve marked what dishes have your allergens.” I looked down at the extensive menu where Paul had placed an X for not gluten-friendly and crossed out the items containing dairy. “Of course, we can also make accommodations, such as leaving off butter. And you don’t have to worry about soy here.”

The chef marked what I could and couldn't eat before I arrived

His words were music to An Allergic Foodie’s ears. I told him how much I appreciated his efforts. Little did he know I had recently had a terrible experience when a chef didn’t want to communicate with the waitstaff and didn’t take my food restrictions seriously. I actually think this demon chef, as I’ve come to call him, intentionally “poisoned” me by including allergens in my food.

After taking our drink orders, Paul then told me because we had decided to eat outside, he didn’t have our table. I panicked. I wanted Paul! The waiter who had done his homework to provide a complete stranger with a safe meal. We considered changing to an inside table, but after a day in the car driving for eight hours, we were enjoying the pleasant evening air.

Watermark Restaurant in Nashville

Paul returned with our drinks. “Well, looks like I’ll be your waiter after all.  The other waiter is uncomfortable with your food allergies.”

This was a first.  A waiter who fully admitted food allergies alarmed him. I appreciated the other waiter’s honesty, especially since it meant I got Paul back. I’ve often witnessed  a waiter’s anxiety over serving me, but I’ve never had someone pass the reigns to a waiter who was more experienced and comfortable with special dietary needs. Kudos to the waiter who didn’t want to serve me for the right reason–not because I was a pain in the neck, but because he wanted to keep my son and me safe.

Executive Chef Joe Shaw’s  food was heavenly. Each of our appetizers and main meals were a work of art and just as delicious as they looked.  For appetizers, Steve had pan-seared scallops with duck confit over a sweet potato puree and poultry demi glace. I had New Orleans style barbecue shrimp, and George had corn and duck egg custard with pan-seared foie gras.

Watermark Restaurant

Watermark uses a wood grill–absolutely no gas–that lended my main dish,  a Niman Ranch pork chop a mouth-watering hickory flavor. Even the rapini melted in my mouth. Steve had lamb on ratatouille and George had his usual ribeye though he said there was nothing usual about it.

Renewed Faith: A Waiter Who Cared

Since developing food allergies and celiac disease I’ve had more terrible experiences than good ones. But Paul gave me hope that there are those in the restaurant industry who do take my son’s and my health seriously–and who take pleasure in serving us.

Thank you, Paul, for renewing my faith.

Renewed Faith: A Waiter Who Cared first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

What a week! I spoke during the online Food Allergy Wellness Summit on a topic close to my heart: Living with food restrictions in college. As a nonfiction writer, I love to research and I read everything available to prepare for this interview. I have enough material to write a book! Well, at least a few blog posts.

I’d like to thank the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and Food Allergy Research and Education for providing PDFs of their college-related handouts. Also, my appreciation to Well Amy, Surf Sweets, and Carrie S. Forbes, author of The Everything Gluten Free College Cookbook, for generously donating giveaways for those who signed up to follow this blog. (A little bribery never hurts. Wink, wink.)  Lastly, kudos to Crystal Sabalaske of Cluttershrink for organizing this valuable summit to help families with food allergies and for including me with such an impressive list of speakers.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

Last night I grabbed a glass of wine and a Daiya pizza–by the way, the crust has been greatly improved!–and listened to NFCA’s webinar on Gluten-Free Labeling with Tricia Thompson, RD. She’s the dietitian behind Gluten Free Watchdog, which if you aren’t following you should be! I learned so much about the FDA’s gluten-free labeling rules and I’m going back today to re-listen. It’s a lot to digest (pun intended)!

Good News: NFCA will be providing the webinar on their website. so you can listen, too. Check here later today.

On a sad note, this week I also learned a nonprofit task force I’ve co-chaired with a good friend would be ending. For 12 years my friend and I provided support to high-risk pregnant mothers on bed rest in local hospitals. We’d both been on bed rest during our pregnancies, and I delivered a baby 12 weeks early. We were the substitute families for these women whose families weren’t always available (we live in a military community). It’s hard to have the door close on something we believed in so much.

But as the saying goes–when one door closes, another opens. I truly believe helping others with celiac disease, food allergies and EoE is my new calling. This blog is just the start. If you have ideas for how I can do more to help you, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Okay, enough musings–on to a few morsels!

As I’ve mentioned more than a few times here, I react to soy worse than any of my other allergens. So when I saw Soy Allergy Survivor’s helpful one-page soy list I immediately printed it. Because I have so many allergies including corn and dairy which can hide in many, many foods, I always appreciate guides like this one.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

Speaking of hidden allergens and labeling, which seems to be a theme this week, a new FDA consumer report, Finding Food Allergens Where They Shouldn’t Be, says the FDA is working to reduce undeclared allergens on labels by:  researching the causes of these errors; working with industry on best practices; and developing new ways to test for the presence of allergens. From September 2009 to September 2012, about one-third of foods reported to FDA as serious health risks involved undisclosed allergens. This is frightening, to say the least. You can help the FDA by reporting  food-allergic reactions to the FDA consumer complaint coordinator in your district. 

I’ll end with a little gossip. Who doesn’t like gossip? A little bird told me that the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference would be held in a different state than Nevada next year. Turns out it’s true! Pop on over to their Facebook page to learn more. If you aren’t familiar with FABlogCon, it’s a wonderful conference and opportunity to connect with the food allergy community and learn from experts. It’s for everyone–not just bloggers.  I, for one, am pretty excited about a new venue in a new state.  Come to think of it Colorado would be an excellent choice . . . hint, hint.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14 first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

The Waitress Who Went to Bat for An Allergic Foodie

The Close-Minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me

Just getting over a few days of food-allergy misery. I’ve been eating out a lot–just check my Facebook or Instagram photos!–so I’m not all that surprised a bit of gluten, soy, dairy, or corn snuck into my food. I guess I tempted the Food Allergy Gods one too many times.

This may sound slightly paranoid to some of you, but I kind of wonder if this time at this particular restaurant the chef didn’t intentionally leave an allergen in my order. It’s horrible to suspect someone who is preparing your food isn’t taking your food restrictions seriously, but we all know it happens.

The Close-minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me

Here’s how the dining experience–er, dining disaster–played out. The waitress is terrific–very aware of my needs because she herself is gluten sensitive. She asks myriad questions and goes over the menu in detail. To be safe, it’s decided I’ll order plain grouper and steamed broccoli and cauliflower. The table will share crab legs for an appetizer, butter on the side.  The only unanswered question is what kind sauce of the six offered I can have on my fish. She goes back to the kitchen to find out.

When she returns, her face is flushed  She explains that the head chef is “old school” and believes the front of the house–the waiters and servers–shouldn’t converse with the back of the house–the chefs.  I thought this only happened in the movies! How in the world is our waitress suppose to find out if  food is allergen free without talking one-on-one with the person preparing the food?

“I told him you’re not going to have to use an epipen on my watch!” she says. Her pen flies up in the air like a sword.

This waitress went to battle for me. How awesome is that? But that’s also why it makes getting sick from this meal even worse–and why I suspect foul play.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t just leave the restaurant then. In hindsight, I should have. But it was late, few other restaurants were opened, and we were so enjoying this view of the full moon.

IMG_2772

So I ate my plain grouper that was nondescript, which was fine if it meant not getting sick.

Of course, you now know how that panned out.

While rolled up in a ball on the bathroom floor, I rehashed that meal in my head. I pictured the chef ignoring that lovely waitress. I wondered what he missed–or added–to my order that made me so sick. I kept asking myself, If this chef had a wife or a child with food allergies, how would he feel about interacting with the front of the house then?

I’m often quick to blame a waiter for leaving croutons on my salad or butter on my vegetables, but maybe I don’t know what he is dealing with behind those swinging steel doors. When a hierarchy exists in restaurants–when good communication between all food staff members doesn’t exist–those of us with food restrictions pay the price.

The only time I’ll return to this restaurant is to see the sunset. I’m pretty sure this chef could care less about losing me as a customer, but the waitress may. She did her job exactly right. I’ll give her a high-five the next time I see her.

The Close-Minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Some Restaurants Shouldn’t Have Gluten-Free Menus

Ten days ago I posted a photo on Instagram of an awesome gluten-free pizza using Udi’s Gluten-Free crust that I enjoyed at Flatiron’s American Bar and Grill in Colorado Springs. I hadn’t eaten at this restaurant for over six months because all I could ever order was salad. You all know what that’s like.

Some Restaurants Shouldn't Have Gluten-Free Menus

So imagine my surprise when I learned Flatiron’s now had a huge gluten-free menu that could also accommodate my dairy and soy and corn allergies. We’d just picked the College Celiac up from the airport and I was thrilled we went to Flatiron’s because he could eat safely. I even tweeted my appreciation. The restaurant is locally owned and I like to support neighborhood businesses.

Last night I was craving that pizza. So my husband and I went to Flatiron’s and I ordered the exact pizza I ordered ten days earlier: Veggie pizza but substitute the poblano peppers and garlic for pepperoni. I clearly stated that I was celiac and needed the pizza to be as clean as possible.

The pizza arrives with cheese, which was entirely my fault. I sometimes forget pizza typically comes with cheese! I send the pizza back and the next one arrives with no cheese and no pepperoni. Overcooked, barely any sauce, it tastes awful. And I know that Udi’s Gluten-Free pizza crust tastes good when cooked correctly.

I whip out my camera and show the ten-day-old Instagram pizza photo to the manager who says matter-of-factly, “That doesn’t look like our gluten-free crust, it looks like our regular crust.”

Here’s a photo of the one I got last night. The only difference I see is this one is overcooked and lacking sauce and pepperoni.

Bad Gluten-Free Pizza at Flatiron's

I turn to my husband. “So I guess I can eat gluten now.” I was being sarcastic. It was late and I was hungry.

The manager says, “Maybe you’re not allergic anymore, I’ve heard that can happen.”

I just stared at my husband with my mouth wide open. Here is a manager of a restaurant with a huge gluten-free menu–they even advertise 20 percent off gluten-free items on Thursdays–who clearly has no understanding of celiac disease or a wheat allergy.

I should have said something like, “Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease with over 300 symptoms and it is not reversible. The only cure is to not eat gluten.” But at that point, I just wanted to go home and get in my jammies and heat up a can of soup.  We left cash to cover our wines and bolted out the door.

Of course, as soon as I got home I tweeted about my bad experience.

People jumped to my defense and were appalled by the manager’s ignorance.  I just love my Twitter friends.

So here is what I woke up this morning thinking: If a restaurant is going to offer a gluten-free menu, every single employee must be educated and trained. They must understand what celiac disease and food allergies are, and why preventing cross-contamination is so important. They must understand that one wrong ingredient can be life-threatening. They must take their customers’ health concerns seriously.

Otherwise, don’t even bother offering a gluten-free or allergy-friendly menu.

I’d rather order that boring old salad than risk getting sick. I certainly don’t want my youngest son with celiac disease and my oldest with dairy and egg allergies to think they are ordering safely when they aren’t.

Ten days ago, I thought I’d re-discovered a restaurant I could eat in. Obviously I was wrong. Just because a restaurant has an extensive gluten-free menu doesn’t mean you should eat there. I’m pretty sure this restaurant, like so many others, jumped on the gluten-free diet movement to make a profit. If they are serious about serving their celiac and allergic customers, they’ll immediately remove the gluten-free menu while they get proper training for the waitstaff and the chefs and the managers. This experience makes me question every restaurant’s reason for offering gluten-free choices–unless I see a certification from a third-party or talk to a manager who clearly “gets it,” I won’t feel safe dining out.

Here’s the other thing that bothers me about this whole experience. As a blogger and social media guru, I recommended this restaurant to my celiac and food-allergic brothers and sisters. Less than two weeks after doing so, I realized this is not a safe restaurant to eat in. So should I stop reviewing restaurants and posting food photos on Instagram? I’m still trying to figure this one out.

Oh, and by the way, I did get sick the next morning–even after eating one small piece of the pizza.

Some Restaurants Shouldn’t Have Gluten-Free Menus appeared first on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Making Mayo with Colette Martin (The Allergy-Free Pantry)

I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen while growing up so I wasn’t much of a cook when I left home. My husband will attest to that. Most of what we ate came out of a cardboard box, the freezer aisle of the grocery store, or Pizza Hut. Then there was that year, two kids still in diapers, when I got most of our food from the Schwan’s delivery guy. When my husband couldn’t button his pants and I hadn’t lost any post-pregnancy weight, I decided I needed to learn to cook.

Out came the wedding gift crockpot. We ate a lot of beef stew and chicken with potatoes for a long, long time.

No one in our young family had food allergies (that we knew of). While my kids grew into young adults, we blissfully ate all types of foods without any worries—-until yours truly developed multiple food allergies and celiac disease and eosinophilic esophagitis (an allergic esophagus).

That was the game changer.

Suddenly I had to eliminate gluten (wheat, rye, barley, spelt), dairy (no more cheese!), soy, eggs (are there eggless cookies?), and more foods. It was hard. Really, really hard.  What I struggled with most was finding the staples I relied on for decades . . .  salad dressing, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, mustard, and marinades, to name a few. Even the staples that were supposed to be “allergy-friendly” contained at least one of my allergens or were not certified gluten-free.

I was still struggling with my new way of eating and cooking when I met Colette Martin on the shuttle bus heading to the  Food Allergy Bloggers Conference in Las Vegas. Because I knew Colette was the author of a well-respected cookbook on allergen-free baking and because she was pretty much captive on the bus, I complained to her about how I couldn’t find any decent allergy-free mayo.

Turned out she was in the middle of writing her next cookbook and she was working on a mayonnaise recipe! (I didn’t admit this at the time, but I ‘d never even considered making my own mayo from scratch! Who does that?).

Fast forward eight months. A reader’s copy of The Allergy-Free Pantry: Make Your Own Staples, Snacks, and More Without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts (The Experiment, September 2014) by Colette Martin arrives in the mail! Of course, I immediately flip to the mayo recipe.

Oh-oh. Sounds kind of complicated for a novice like me. First, I have to make “eggs” using flaxseed, which I just so happen to have in my pantry because I buy all the food-allergy cooking ingredients but never actually cook with them. I add water to the flaxseed and make the “eggs.”

I follow the steps to make the mayo using a hand-mixer that I’ve moved  into three houses but have never plugged in.

 

Hmmm, not so difficult after all.

Wait!  This mixture is actually starting to look like mayo! Using my finger, I put a little on my tongue. It tastes like mayo. Maybe even a little better than what I remember mayo tasting.

I decide to make Colette’s potato salad. Did I mention I have really missed potato salad since becoming allergic to eggs/mayo?

Allergy-Free Short Ribs and Potato Salad

 

 

I serve the allergy-free potato salad and short ribs to my family. I don’t tell them about the flaxseed, which might turn them off.  No one notices the mayo is eggless or made with flaxseed–they all help themselves to seconds.

_________________________________

Since that fateful day of making mayo, The Allergy-Free Pantry hasn’t left my kitchen island. Using this book, I now make my own allergen-free ketchup and mustard and barbecue sauce. I’m planning to branch out to crackers in a few weeks. For anyone with food restrictions, this cookbook will become your most-used kitchen tool. You can pre-order a copy today at Powell’s, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.  Thank you to Colette Martin for writing this book and for sharing her flaxseed mayo and potato salad recipes (below).

Recipe from The Allergy-Free Pantry: Make Your Own Staples, Snacks and More Without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts, copyright © Colette Martin, 2014. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. 

Recipe from The Allergy-Free Pantry: Make Your Own Staples, Snacks and More Without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts, copyright © Colette Martin, 2014. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. 

 Potato Salad

Makes 10 to 12 servings

 Friends and neighbors will have no idea that this allergen-free version of potato salad was made without traditional mayonnaise or off-the-shelf salad dressings. Instead, Flaxseed Mayonnaise (page 99) is used to make a salad with added fiber and essential fatty acids—and that tastes marvelous! Add some blue potatoes, if you can find them.

 Even though this potato salad contains no eggs or dairy, be careful not to let it sit out longer than an hour; it’s the potatoes, not the mayonnaise, that contain the bacteria that can make you sick.

10 to 12 medium Yukon Gold and Red Gold potatoes, with skins, cubed

1 teaspoon salt

About 5 cups (1200 ml) water

1 medium red onion, diced

2 tablespoons diced Dill Pickles, optional

½ cup (120 ml) Flaxseed Mayonnaise (see below)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Place the potatoes and ½ teaspoon salt in a large pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Lower the heat to medium and continue boiling for 10 to 15 minutes, until fork-tender but not falling apart.
  3. Place the potatoes in a strainer and run cold water over them for 30 seconds to halt the cooking. Drain the potatoes well.
  4. Combine the onion, pickles (if desired), flaxseed mayonnaise, herbs, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add the potatoes and stir to coat.
  5. Cover and chill the potato salad for at least an hour before serving. It will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator.

Flaxseed Mayonnaise

Makes 1¼ cups (300 ml)

 Because this mayonnaise starts with flaxseeds rather than eggs, it has the benefit of being both healthier and tastier than traditional mayonnaise. Even if you aren’t allergic to eggs, this might just be the best sandwich topping you have ever tried!

 Use measuring cups with a spout to measure the oil; this will allow you to pour the oil directly into the container for your blender when making mayonnaise.

2 Flaxseed Eggs

2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds (measured after grinding) or flaxseed meal

6 tablespoons warm water

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon Mustard, or ¼ teaspoon ground mustard seed

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ cup (120 ml) organic canola oil

½ cup (60 ml) light olive oil

  1. Combine the flaxseed eggs, salt, mustard, and lemon juice in a working glass or the container for your immersion blender, blender, or food processor. Pulse four or five times to combine the ingredients.
  2. With the blender running continuously, pour a few drops of canola oil into the container. The slower you pour, the better. The mixture will start to become creamy as emulsification occurs.
  3. Continue blending and adding oil in a slow trickle until all of the oil is incorporated; add all of the canola oil first and then the olive oil. If the oil starts to pool on top of the mixture, slide your immersion blender up and down ½ inch, or stop pouring until the oil combines.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. The mixture will set further as it chills.

To substitute

A single oil or any combination of oils (up to ¾ cup/180 ml total) can be used to make this mayonnaise, with the exception of coconut oil or palm fruit oil (which behave differently). Use less oil for a thinner spread.

Variation

Make Chia Seed Mayonnaise by substituting 2 Chia Seed Eggs for the Flaxseed Eggs.

Making Mayo with Colette Martin appeared first on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Grass-Fed Beef Isn’t Always Best

I’ve been a big fan of grass-fed meat since developing multiple food allergies and celiac disease. After all, why would I want to eat meat from an animal that’s grazed on wheat, soy and corn–all three of which I’m allergic to. And with a sensitive stomach, I surely don’t want to eat meat from any animal that’s been given supplements, hormones and antibiotics.

Over the last six years I’ve noticed more and more “grass-fed” beef hitting the supermarket shelves. While almost always more expensive than the grain-fed brands, I figure my health is worth the added cost.

Then this week I was strolling though our local farmer’s market and came across Sangres Best Grass-Finished beef from a Colorado Ranch.

Grass-Fed Beef Isn't Always Best

Notice this beef from a Colorado ranch is “grass-finished”

I wondered what is the difference between grass-fed and grass-finished. Turns out not all grass-fed beef is created equal. If you think about it all cows can be called “grass-fed” as they all start out eating grass on a pasture. That’s how some brands can label their meats “grass-fed” even though they are finished on a diet of grains.  Sneaky, huh?

Grass-finished beef means the cow has never eaten a grain of grain. You can also look for “100 Percent Grass-Fed or “USDA Certified Grass Fed Beef.”  A stamp of approval from a third party, such as the American Grassfed Association, can also guarantee the grass-fed beef you are buying is the real thing. The next time you’re in the grocery store, take a look at labels on beef.

Here’s something else I learned this week: Not all bison is grass-fed. Since food allergies, I’ve often chosen bison over beef thinking all bison roam the range freely nibbling on grass. Wrong.

Is Grass-Fed Beef Always Best?

This package of ground bison from Great Range, which I bought this week at Costco, is finished with natural grains and hay. According to their website, “environmental variations on the high plains, coupled with changing market conditions, make supplemental feeding necessary to produce fresh, premium quality Bison year round.”  When in doubt, check the company website.

So where can you find true grass-fed beef?

Much of the 100-percent grass-fed beef in North America is produced on small farms and sold directly to consumers at such places as farmers’ markets, natural food stores, and specialty meat markets. These online directories can also help you locate grass-fed beef in your area:

American Grassfed Organization

Eat Well Guide 

Eat Wild

Local Harvest

U.S. Wellness Meats

Grass-fed Beef Isn’t Always Best first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie