Sushi Adventures

A number of years ago, my wonderful sister-in-law Yukiko taught me the art of making sushi. For a few years it even became a standard appetizer for family meals, until we realized that we ate too much sushi and there was very little room for the main course LOL.

But along came Allergies, and I was baffled. My Japanese is insufficient to be able to call a Nori company and find out if it’s safe, and besides which I hadn’t added any of the usual filling items back into my diet. I skipped it sadly for two years instead.

This year, my parents were visiting, so I wanted to eat what everyone else was eating. Sushi night appeared on the calendar… and it occurred to me that I could cook rainbow Swiss chard, bean paste, and some ricotta cheese as a filling. I can eat sushi rice & rice vinegar, so that part was easy-peasy! Then I rolled it in a silicone mat to prevent cross-contamination, and… IT WORKED!

It wasn’t the prettiest sushi roll I’ve ever made, but I was in a huge rush.

As I was eating… it occurred to me that I could probably make something nori-like out of puréed green vegetables. I’ve been looking for something to do with Cooked Swiss chard (my garden was plentiful this year), and I thought maybe I could cook it in salt water, then blend it, and dehydrate it.

Today I suddenly remembered that I can make mayonnaise with Aquafaba… and that Onigiri is a delicious and easy sandwich substitute. Perfect for my supper tonight (I’m working late and won’t have much time to re-heat & eat a meal)!

So I got to work. I threw in some peas because the bulk of my Swiss chard is currently in barrhaven, blended, spread a thin paste in my dehydrator, and an hour or so later:

It’s *almost* dry. Which is perfect. I might try flipping it over.

I settled on chicken salad as a filling for my Onigiri, and some rice. I debated making normal ones or the very pretty panda shaped ones… then thought maybe I’ll make both!

By the end, the fake nori was a bit too crumbly to actually wrap the Onigiri properly… but I did manage to make the little panda bear anyways. And I’ll eat the rest on the side, à la Elizabeth nori-monster style.

Any ideas on making my not-nori a bit better?


Beaver’s Tails


I’ve been skating twice now this winter, and growing up in Ottawa, this means that I have now been craving those amazing BeaverTails that are so delicious straight off the Canal.

So without further ado, here is my current top-11-allergen-free adaptation! Heavily adapted from this recipe until I could eat it, and hopefully so can you. Enjoy.

  1. Blend together the dry ingredients:
    • 1 1/4 c tapioca starch
    • 1/2 c coconut flour (or another absorbent GF flour like Oat flour or Brown rice)
    • 1 cup white rice flour
    • 1 1/8 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/8 tsp powdered ginger (or nutmeg)
    • 2 tsp ground chia (or flax would probably work too)
    • 3/4 c sugar
  2. Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl, or stand mixer:
    • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar (or another strong acid)
    • 1 cup (minus 1 Tbsp) milk substitute of your choice
    • 6 Tbsp Aquafaba (this is the water drained from cooked beans, cooked chia, cooked flax, etc… it works like egg whites. It is miraculous.)
    • 1/4 c vegetable oil of your choice (eg. corn or canola)
    • 2 c mashed sweet potato
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix until combined.
  4. Chill the dough in the fridge 2-24 hours. Pro tip: Go skating!
  5. On a floured silicone mat (or parchment paper, etc), roll out dough to 1/4″ thickness. Using the blunt side of a table knife, cut out shapes as desired.
    • Note: that the delicacies served on the Rideau Canal are ~3″x8″ ovals.
    • I found that size was difficult to handle without a frying basket, so I made shapes the size of my utensils instead. It was much easier.
    • Or make them 3/4″, cook them longer, and make regular doughnuts!
    • This dough can be frozen, then thawed before frying… I think.
  6. Find things for helping you flip the doughnuts. Metal ones with slots are ideal. I might go ahead and buy a frying basket… Then pre-heat oil for frying- you want to aim for 375F-425F.
  7. While the oil is pre-heating, you should also get a plate ready for the finished creations, and also get a container ready with the topping:
    • white sugar
    • raw sugar (or light brown sugar)
    • a light sprinkling of powdered ginger (or cinnamon)
  8. Add the doughnuts when your oil is hot, and flip them over once they are golden brown. When both sides are golden brown, remove, and toss immediately into your topping mixture.

This makes plenty- definitely enough to share! Let me know if you have an allergen that you’re trying to avoid- I might have an idea of how you can adapt the recipe 😀

PS I was reminded that topping options on the canal vary. Topping above is similar to the originals. But you can also try Killaloe Sunrise with Cinnamon, white sugar, and a squeeze of fresh lemon; Chocolate icing with pumpkin seed butter; or mashed garlic in margarine with your favourite safe cheese.

DIY Tortillas

One of the benefits of having visitors in town is that I’ve been more inspired to make the same meals as what everyone else is having. My niece made a lovely meal-plan, so the other night I tried making enchiladas with flattened pieces of my safe bread as the tortillas, my “tomato” sauce, and ground beef. Keeping it simple. Lesson learned: that bread does not easily flatten with a rolling pin!!! It was pretty good, though.

Then they made tacos… and while I couldn’t decide what to put in the taco… I decided it was time to try tortillas again. My last attempt accidentally involved rancid corn flour (YUCK), so I figure that may be responsible for the failure.

Anyways, this time it WORKED! I added water to some oat flour (Only oats brand is what I use) until it held its shape and wasn’t too sticky, then rolled it flat between silicone mats, and fried it with a little oil.

My filling ended up being plain ground beef, some leftover lasagna bits, and I think some leftover cheese-like sauce. I ran out of time… next time I might try marinating the beef somehow (maybe in chicken bouillon? Or chia?), and I might use some fresh green beans to give a bit of crunch.

I was actually really impressed by how well it all held together!

I sense some quesadillas and empanadas in my future- YAY! And maybe I will also figure out the hard taco shells eventually… anyone want to help me test them out?


I miss junk food. Fries, pop, chips… all of these take significant chunks of my time to make safely now and as a result, I’ve basically been forced into eating healthier. There are some upsides, like the fact that my weight is actually at a healthy point, and staying stable.

But recently, I have discovered my new favourite fast food. Grilled sandwiches! There is, however a slight catch. While I recently re-added cheese to my diet, it’s only ricotta, and I have to make it. Ricotta does not melt. I’ve tried. A lot. It still makes a decent grilled cheese sandwich. Good enough that I ate them all before even thinking to take a picture to share them with you. Mine. My sandwiches. My preciousssssss….

But then one day I was running low on ricotta cheese, and I had a grilled cheese craving… and I happened to have some puréed chickpeas (memories of hummus?). I made two grilled chickpea sandwiches… and they were AMAZING. My sister keeps commenting on how awesome it smells whenever I make them. Which has been frequently, because they’re SO easy! 

I’ve also been making grilled dessert sandwiches too; with mashed banana, or blueberry jam, plain ricotta, and chocolate chips. Any or all of those make for a pretty epic dessert sandwich.

Grilled sandwiches totally rock. *happy janice*


I’ve had a few successes lately- one was PIZZA back in April; a fair bit of work, but it was well worth it after not having had pizza for a year. 

I ended up using purple corn flour as the base for my crust, and then my beet/sweet potato/rice vinegar “tomato” sauce. I made ricotta, and a sticky stretchy mess of a tapioca starch roux to make it more melty-cheese like. It was pretty awesome!

The Emergency Kit: How to survive unexpected (and long) trips to the ER

It didn’t take long last year for me to start making a list of things to bring with me EVERYWHERE and to remember to bring to the ER. My little ’emergency kit’ serves me really well for other reasons too, though, so I thought I’d share! The list isn’t long, but I’ll explain the items afterwards in case you want to know why…

On me: Medication Card, Epipen, Ventolin, Benadryl.

In my ’emergency kit’, my little red zip bag:

  1. Medication Card
  2. Regular Daily Meds
  3. Cell Phone, Brick & Charger cable
  4. Earplugs
  5. Microphone/headphones for phone
  6. Benadryl
  7. Bandaids
  8. Hair Elastics

On the checklist of things to be sure I have when I travel in an ambulance:

  • Wallet (health card!!! and fare for a taxi)
  • Dry Socks
  • Pillow/blanket?

1) The medication card

You know when you meet a new medical professional, and they give you an intake form to fill out, with the tiniest section ever to list allergies and medications? If you’re like me, you aren’t a fan.

Many years ago, though, I came up with my solution: a Medication card. It came about after I’d taken a number of first aid courses, and they mentioned how your secondary first aid (once patient is stable) includes getting medication information ready. I remember once calling an ambulance for my mom, and the paramedics had us hunting down all her medication bottles, to bring to the ER, because of course WE didn’t know her meds… and she was not well enough to know them either.

So I started using the little ‘medication summary sheet’ that pharmacies give you with ever prescription refill. I’d cross off the non-regular meds like antibiotics, and write in why I was taking the others in the space I could find. Then I put packing tape over the whole thing.

Now I’ve typed it into a handy chart. I have one column for the reasons I take medications- in order of importance. Allergies, Asthma, Chronic Back Pain, Etc… then the next column lists medications (both brand and generic names), and dosage. Next column is when I take it, and then I added a column for the prescription number or DIN so that it’s easy for me to refill my prescriptions even if I’m out of the house.

The other side of the paper has my picture, my name, the important medical conditions listed again, emergency contacts, and contacts for my doctors. I laminate two copies, keeping one in my wallet and the other in my epipen belt.

2) Daily meds:

One of the most frustrating things about allergies is that most of my medications now have to be specially compounded. So if I’m in the ER when I’m supposed to take my morning or evening meds… it’s not always possible that the ER will be able to easily have them on hand. Plus, it’s not ideal to have to get the nurse to hunt around for meds that aren’t immediately related to keeping me alive. So I always keep a mini ziplock with my morning meds, and one with my evening meds, in my emergency kit. I *ALWAYS* check with the nurse/doc before I take them, so that they are aware of what I’m taking and can avoid any drug interactions.

To be honest, though, I use these most when I’m at work and realize I forgot to take my morning meds.

3) Cellphone Charger, Brick (& Cell Phone)

It’s hard for me to imagine a time when I’d be less happy to be out of touch with my family & friends… than in an emergency. I have, however, learned not to text while a blood pressure cuff is inflating (OW- don’t even hold it then!!!). I don’t often have any company for the 3-6 hr mandatory “let’s see if this reaction returns” wait, so keeping at least my sister up-to-date is important. My phone has downloaded movies, music, books, games… not to mention the ERs in my city all have free wifi… but of course all of that is USELESS without a charger.

I found a retractable charger online, and a small brick. It’s neat, tidy, and is also the thing I pull out most frequently when I’m not in an ER. Be sure to get something as long as possible, since it’s really nice to be able to keep it plugged in while you hold it.

4) Earplugs

ERs are LOUD when you’re trying to sleep off an allergic reaction. Beeping monitors, the occasional patient next door moaning or screaming… so a few pairs of these are really helpful for overall sanity.

5) Headphones/microphone 

ERs are LOUD… and you don’t want to be contributing. Or bugging your neighbour while chatting on the phone (I do that very, very rarely) or watching a movie or listening to calming music. I’d like to find a pair that retracted or some way to cool them more neatly, though.

6) Benadryl 

If you have allergies, talk to your allergist about what emergency procedure you should be following. Because I have chronic hives AND anaphylaxis, I have been instructed not to use my epi at the first symptom, and thus I carry Benadryl (for the hives). Usually, though, if you have a history of severe reactions, and you start exhibiting symptoms… Call 911. Take the epi. Go to the ER by ambulance. As with many things in my life… I am an exception to what is normal.
The things I keep on me at all times are for really good reasons: without an epipen where I could reach it, I’ve had difficulty breathing… thankfully my brother-in-law intervened that time when he heard me coughing. Without ventolin on me, I’ve had to send colleagues running to get it from my locker as it felt like my lungs were on fire during an asthma attack… These are things I have learned to keep within reach, period. Usually in a belt around my waist, or a special pair of pants. Even when I sleep I can reach an epi. If I swim, I let the guard team know who I am & what the belt is at the side of the pool… When I have massage therapy or chiro appointments, they know where my belt is. It’s key.

7) Bandaids

I have first aid knowledge, but the most handy thing to have with me at all times? Bandaids. I keep cool “Planes” bandaids because they make me (and the patient) laugh.

8) Hair Elastics

If you have long hair like me… this one can really be helpful. In the ER you’re already tangled up in wires and cords, and getting your hair tangled too? Not cool. I usually keep two because i prefer to braid my hair into two braids when i’m not feeling well. Keeps my hair out of the way, but also doesn’t make a big bump on the back of my head when i’m trying to sleep.

The Other Stuff:

The last few items on the list are really just for comfort; my socks always manage to get wet somehow… probably from the paramedics tracking in snow and me walking beside them. And the pillow/blanket came from that one time the ER was out of pillows and heated blankets. It was not a fun night, but it’s pretty rare so sometimes I skip that option.

Hopefully you’ll never need to use these items, but… as I learned in girl guides many years ago, it’s always good to #beprepared!

Ask Allergies Out! 

Whether you’re just friends or looking for more romance in your life, allergies tend to complicate things. But have courage! People who’ve dealt with allergies are people who are resilient in the face of danger, and are incredible problem solvers. In my case, the worse the allergies… the better my cooking has gotten… and my general survival skills! We’re the people others come looking for in an emergency, and we’re usually prepared for most situations.

From my food allergy perspective, dating is quite daunting. How can I find a way to let someone new meet me… without being overshadowed by meeting my allergies? I recognize that I am not defined by what I can eat, but would a potential date? Would a guy understand why he can’t kiss me without eating my food for 24 hrs beforehand, since that’s really what the experts recommend? It seems such a strange concept to me, dating without food or kissing involved… so I thought I’d go over some things that I’ve learned thus far. In case you wanted to ask me out… or someone else with allergies!

1) It’s ok. 

It’s ok to ask questions. 

Knowledge is the best way to prevent a reaction, and I’m happy to answer any question you might have. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll tell you, and maybe we’ll bond over finding the answer together.

It’s ok to be afraid, to feel overwhelmed and unable to help

So… Gentlemen, I know you’re not likely to admit it, but I know that allergies are really hard to cope with. Especially because you *can’t* fix it. Well, you can avoid my allergens, but you’ll have to eat them sometimes! In any case I’m going to put this out there: please, please, tell your allergic date if you’re freaking out internally. I really value honesty and communication, and when it comes to allergies? TOTALLY OK to freak out. I’ve had professional allergy conscious chefs swear in sympathy with my list… it’s ok. It’s normal to be overwhelmed by this.

It is NOT OK to lie to me, tell me that you know more than you really do, to goof around with my food or to joke about my allergies. Be respectful to the fact that food produces an incredible amount of stress for people with allergies, and the paranoia we have around our food is actually healthy, and necessary. Recognize that trust around food is almost impossible. I keep poisoning myself- so if I can’t trust myself… how can I possibly trust someone else? As my friend, or as my date, I need you to be paranoid on my behalf when you’re dealing with my food.

Which brings us to how to balance that fear:

2) Be prepared

Living by the Girl Guide motto has served me well for allergies, and as it turns out astronauts live by it too. They plan, and practice what to do for every different emergency. The same can be true for dating someone with allergies!

Be prepared for a reaction: we all hope it won’t happen, but if it does… I need my date to be ready to help. Ready to call 911, to help me take the epipen if needed. Ready to ditch the date plans to chill in the ER instead. Food Allergy Canada has free online courses on how to recognize & deal with Anaphylaxis, and there are lots of smartphone apps for general first aid, too.

Be prepared for the date: If you invite me somewhere, I will need to know details in advance in order to plan allergy-wise. Are we leaving Ontario? What is the 911 response time where we are headed? What sort of airborne environmental things might I need to be prepared to deal with? Much more importantly… what should I wear??? A girl’s gotta know the dress code!

Be prepared for food: For most people with allergies, calling a restaurant a week ahead is more than enough time. In my case…I have thus far found one restaurant capable of feeding me, and they request a month’s notice. So, because of that, it’s much easier to go on a picnic or eat in. Please remember that food feels very much love/hate for those of us with allergies, and that the words “I want to learn to cook a meal we can both eat” are just about the most loving words I’ve ever heard. That said, I would probably not be comfortable cooking in my date’s kitchen right away… so… that brings us to:

3) Non-Food First Date Ideas

  • Museum
  • Bowling
  • Mini Golf
  • Urban Quest
  • Escape Room
  • Geocaching
  • Cycling
  • Skating
  • Fly kites
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Swing Dancing
  • Laser Quest
  • Painting
  • Croquet
  • Giant Sandcastle or Snow-Fort building
  • Winterlude ice slides (tubing!)
  • Board game night
  • Jigsaw puzzle night
  • Canoeing on Dow’s Lake

4) Non-Food Later Date Ideas

Once I get to know you, then these are great date ideas:

  • Watch fireworks together
  • Multi-player computer games (I have AoE3)
  • Hiking- Champlain’s Point, Hog’s Back Falls, behind Parliament
  • Roller coaster?
  • Little League Baseball Game?
  • Wash cars together
  • Tree planting
  • Sailing
  • Clean-up a park
  • Star-gazing evening
  • Making a meal together
  • Concert/ Movie
  • Theatre- eg. Shakespeare in the park!
  • Swimming
  • Archery tag
  • Play music together
  • Make a care package together for a friend
  • Taking a community centre class together to learn a new skill
  • Photography mission somewhere in the city
  • Quilt show!
  • Volunteering together
  • Water balloon fight!


And… that’s it. Good luck on your allergic date 🙂 Feel free to ask questions, or comment below with your favourite non-food date ideas!!!