Dairy and Citrus Free, Conveniently

Speaking of dairy free foods, they are difficult to find anywhere, not just in restaurants. Even your run-of-the-mill prepared or packaged foods contain dairy: breads, crackers, soups, frozen meatballs, salad dressing, etc. Add a citrus allergy and then it seems you are going to die of starvation. As a result of nursing a baby who was allergic to both, I’ve had to find the right recipes and make a lot of my own items from scratch. However, since I’ve never had the time to make everything from scratch, I’ve also ferreted out some dairy and citrus free convenience items. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but since it is common for small babies to be allergic to these foods, I thought it might be helpful to others. Just be sure to double check the facts if you have a serious allergy. Then enjoy!

Takeout food

Asian cuisine: Some Southeast Asian cuisine heavily features lime but most Chinese or Japanese food is citrus free.

Burgers: Burger buns usually have dairy product in them. But Ruby Tuesday‘s buns are free of the allergen. Some burgers come with cheese so be sure to ask for no cheese. For a list of other entrees from Ruby Tuesday that are dairy free, see its allergen info here. And of course there are the vegan burgers at Crazy Burger.

Dessert: Pastiche has macaroons and homemade dark chocolate made without dairy. Crazy Burger has vegan options. And Keenwah on Broadway has a fantastic vegan brownie.

Fast food: McDonald’s buns and featured salads contain allergens so I get the Chicken Selects with a side salad.

Mexican cuisine: Avoid Taco Bell; there are virtually no options there. Look for a local spot that doesn’t marinate meat in lime juice. I found SAPO Freaky Burrito, which has pretty plain meats. El Perrito has a variety to choose from and uses fresh corn tortillas (which means no citric acid as a preservative).

Pizza: I haven’t found a chain which makes pizza dough without dairy and/or citric acid but locally, there’s Mama Leone’s. I order my pizza with extra sauce and no cheese. Just be careful about the toppings; lots of sausages and pepperonis contain citric acid so ask about them or avoid them.

Pockets or wraps: The good news is pockets or wraps don’t contain dairy. The bad news is most Mediterrean cuisine features yogurt or lemon so it’s out. One exception may be meat pies. I’ve never had a problem with the meat pies from Sam’s Bakery in Fall River. Also try the Steak Bomb from D’Angelos with no cheese. I’m pretty sure it’s also citrus free since I’ve never had a problem with it.

Sandwiches: An Italian grinder from Marzilli’s or Marcucci’s in Fall River. Hold the cheese.

Pre-packaged food

Breads and buns: You can almost never go wrong with the store brands, which use the least amount of ingredients. As a general rule, go for freshly baked, light and fluffy. Calise & Sons is another option for buns and rolls.

Breakfast sausage, frozen: Jones Breakfast Sausage.

Chicken tenders, frozen: Perdue Breaded Chicken Tenders.

Dessert: Dairy free ice cream such as So Delicious. Oreos, Junior mints, Peeps and Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups. Many brands of dark chocolate.

Meatballs, frozen: Cooked Perfect Turkey Meatballs.

Pasta sauce: Ragu or Bertolli Tomato and Basil varieties.

Pizza crust: Top This Pizza Crust is one of the very few brands that does not contain dairy and/or citrus. It’s made in Rhode Island.

Jelly/jam/preserves: Sorrell Ridge is the only fruit spread I know of which does not contain citric acid.

Salsa: Nature’s Promise, Brad’s Organic, Victoria’s and Mrs. Renfros basic varieties.

Sausage: Aidell’s Cajun Andouille Sausage. This takes like chourico, which is a bonus, because chourico is made with dried milk.

Tortillas: Chi Chi’s is the rare tortilla which does not contain citric acid.

Other Resources

Avoiding citrus: Vicki Clarke’s Citric Acid Intolerance Site

Avoiding dairy: GoDairyFree.Org

Crazy Burger

I don’t go to Narragansett often. Other than the beach, I didn’t visit the town at all. But my in-laws kept raving about a place called Crazy Burger. They insisted, about two times a day every day we saw them for five years, that my husband and I try it.

There’s always that place that isn’t quite local but close enough to visit easily that just doesn’t get visited. I have a lot of those on my bucket list. So one day I declared that we were just going to cross this one off the list. Or was it that we just wanted to tell my husband’s parents that, yes, we had tried it?

My in-laws described Crazy Burger as a tiny, hole-in-the-wall place with gourmet burgers and vegan burgers. Despite the traffic, parking difficulty and long waits, they said, it was well worth it. They were not alone in thinking so: Guy Fieri tried it for the episode “Stacked, Stuffed and Loaded” on his TV show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Even though it’s named after the burger and pays tribute to the beloved sandwich more than twenty different ways on the menu, Crazy Burger is so much more than a burger joint. It also serves breakfast, salads, pizzas, appetizers, specials and dinner entrees not to mention fresh juices and smoothies and desserts.

The best feature on the menu, however, is the vegan options. I am not a vegan (I can’t give up bacon.) but at times in my life I have found it convenient for my diet and my kids’ diet to go with vegan options. However, it is not easy to find a place that offers vegan dishes. Crazy Burger has more than the one obligatory vegan dish; about half the menu is vegan. The best part is, the offerings are so tasty, I do not miss the meat. It’s true. During one lunch, I ordered a nut burger and my husband ordered a turkey burger. I had a bite of his but did not envy him, even though his was delicious.

It almost made me want to go vegan completely. Almost. But I settled for ordering a different vegan burger each time I went. One of my favorites is the Chana Masala burger. Besides Indian inspired, there are Italian and Mexican inspired foods. Ethnic inspired or not, each dish is served with a creative blend of herbs, spices and sauces.

I haven’t met a Crazy Side I didn’t like but I love to get the sweet potato fries so I can dip them in the homemade ketchup. It tastes a lot like apple sauce – with just a hint of tartness – which, as you might imagine, goes great with the sweet in sweet potato.

Our favorite appetizer is the Sweet Risotto Corn Fritters with the Maple Carrot Reduction. The name speaks for itself!

I go to pieces for a slice of the vegan carrot cake. It’s the best carrot cake I’ve ever had, with Pastiche’s carrot cake only coming in second. (A close second, but second nonetheless.) Sometimes I want to go there for that not-too-sweet, spicy, nutty carrot cake alone. Of course, I will go and order a vegan burger as well but that’s besides the point.

The powerful allure of the best carrot cake that happens to be vegan is enough. Enough to wait the hour and a half it usually takes to dine at Crazy Burger even. I can’t speak to the parking, as I have only been in the off season. I’m sure it’s ridiculous during the summer. It is a bit small, so it’s not good for large groups, but it’s not like you’re within spitting distance of your neighbor’s food. The waitstaff is completely used to and nonplussed by the crowds and very accommodating to children by offering high chairs and even puzzles.

Don’t wait as long as I did to try Crazy Burger. I’ll be there, with my in-laws, having my cake and eating a burger, too.

Fall River, MA

Fall River, Ma

Fall River, Ma has the reputation in Southern New England as being a less-than-desirable place to live and even less desirable place to visit. The city of around 90,000 people is the eighth largest in Massachusetts. Formerly an industrial city, it has become residential. Taxes, however, remain low for both residents and businesses and Fall River Industrial Park is still home to dozens of businesses. Sadly, the last of the major mills, Quaker Fabrics, recently closed down. Fall River, as a blue collar city, never fared well during depressions.

Once the textile capital of the country, the Great Depression hit the city hard. It filed bankruptcy and it’s once swank downtown waned. Recently, the commercial South End has lost a movie theater.

Once a city of great beauty, with a waterfall, of course (hence the name), huge stone mills, quarry cliffs and cathedral spirals, one has to look hard nowadays to notice that most of these are still there. The 1960’s saw a building boom and unfortunately the Quequechan river was routed and the water fall closed. Mills, susceptible to fires, were not rebuilt. Quarry cliffs were filled in and built over. Most visitors to the Southern New England area pass the Fall River exits noticing only the city hall above the highway. However, one can still enjoy part of the Quequechan river; walk or bike around the Wattuppa pond; shop, work out or get scared out of one’s wits in a mill; see the Rolling Rock, which once teetered over a quarry cliff and visit gothic St. Anne’s cathedral.

And these are not all Fall River has to offer visitors if they try hard enough. Fall River is home to a railroad museum, marine museum, the nation’s largest collection of WWII naval ships – and, yes, the Lizzie Borden museum and bed and breakfast.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Lizzie Borden, she was the first woman in the nation to be tried for murder. Fall River is infamous for her but boasts a well-known chef named Emeril Lagassee.

Now we come to my favorite part of Fall River – the food! Since a lot of immigrants came to work in the mills, there is a lot of ethnic food in Fall River. Of course, being about 50% Portuguese (hence the nickname “Little Portugal”), you can find chourico, sweet bread and malasadas among other European delights. Speaking of bread and pastry, the bakeries of Fall River are my favorite. Come here for lunch to try Sam’s Lebanese meat pies or Marcucci’s Italian Grinders especially! If you are in the mood for something upscale, try Georgio’s for dinner. The owner is locally renowned for his fine dining restaurants and his cooking school in the city, which, sadly, was recently an unfortunate victim of the mortgage crisis.

For those of you who are afraid you’re going to get mugged or have your stuff stolen, rest easy. The number of violent crimes is not nearly as bad as those in Providence, in whose metro it is. Take it from a cop’s daughter, most of the crimes are domestic. Just use common sense!

And for those of you who don’t want to meet the residents of Fall River because they aren’t white or can’t speak English even if they are, stop being prejudiced! Sure, some green horns can be heard throughout the neighborhood but you’ll never find a harder working set than the Portuguese. Really. Just try to find an old Port-a-gee man who hasn’t renovated his three tenement home by hand, raised his own meat and worked at least two factory jobs.

Fall River is diverse. Yes, you will pass some projects. Yes, you’ll pass three-deckers. You’ll also pass half a million dollar Victorian mansions. You’ll pass pajama-wearing street kids and you’ll pass pass old men in deck shoes. You’ll pass litter and you’ll pass glorious sunset views of the bay.

Fall River may be a little uneducated, but it offers plenty of opportunity. Bristol Community College is the best community college in the region, offering more classes, more times and more qualified professors than the Community College of Rhode Island. I saw ONE six pack ring in the pond.

Also, there ARE some arts – Spindle City Ballet, Fall River Little Theatre and the Narrows Center for the Arts. And at least one good hospital – Charleton Memorial.  It is worth a visit.

Not Your Average Joe’s and Baker Books

I was starving.  He was not hungry at all.  But we had to seize the moment to have a quiet dinner, just the two of us.  We were sure it would not happen again for at least a week.  The thing is, when you’re starving, you’re in the mood for everything and when you’re not hungry at all, you’re in the mood for nothing.

Solution: Not Your Average Joe’s, a local chain restaurant of “creative cuisine.”   Surely, we could find something here for the both us – something to appease my rampant desires and something to rouse my companion out of apathy.  The problem with Not Your Average Joe’s is that every Joe is there.  We hardly ever visit because the wait time is always 40 minutes, even on a weekday night.

But as I said, it was our only option for happiness.  We sat in the cold, small breezeway and jumped every 10 seconds or so when the door slammed open and squeaked shut.  After a minute, I suggested we walk over to Baker Books, a local bookstore.

When we guessed our time was nearly up, we sat in the breezeway of the restaurant again. Finally, our pager told us that our table was ready.  We were pleased to be seated in the back of the restaurant, away from the bar, kitchen, hostess podium, restrooms and the blasted door and settled down to look at the large list of daily specials and unique menu.

While our waitress set down our basket of fresh Ciabatta bread and poured olive oil into a mound of Parmesan cheese and sprinkles of red crushed pepper, we ordered our usual drinks.  They came just when we had just settled on an appetizer, Crispy Asian Chicken Rolls.

While we waited for those, we deliberated on our entrees.  Not surprisingly, I settled on a creative dish , barbecue chicken pizza, while Micah chose a classic, cheese pizza.  Again, we had barely settled before our waitress was ready to take our order, which was a relief to my now famished-to-the-point-of-survival-mode-self.  Overly grateful, maybe.  But I also have to admit that at some restaurants, you are seated soon enough but end up waiting a lot during your meal.

Finally, we dug into the bread that had been tempting to distract us from our immediate task.  Caramelized onions baked into a golden crust atop fluffy yet almost gooey goodness did not disappoint.  And did the Parmesan actually melt into the oil, turn the oil dip into a rustic type cheese dip?  Savory.

Before we could finish the basket (thankfully, because it was too good to stop eating but filling) our Crispy Asian Chicken Rolls arrived.  Deep fried egg rolls were sliced in half and sitting atop Asian slaw.   I helped myself to a scoop of slaw and a half roll, pouring peanut sauce over the noodles cradled inside.  I love any kind of slaw and really enjoyed the different kinds of vegetables in this one but my enjoyment was eclipsed by the chewy noodles and crispy, flaky shell of the egg roll.  Our waitress told us they were very spicy but I have a high tolerance for heat and thought there was enough tang to balance it.  Satisfying.

We finished our appetizer but didn’t wait long for our pizzas.  I took a bite of mine and thought it tasted rather plain and remembered it was supposed to come with red onions and scallions.  We found our waitress and inquired about the description on the menu.  After she confirmed my memory, she brought the rest of the pizza back to the kitchen and came back to explain how the onions were left off  (no onions were the number one request and I had already made a request) and how long I could expect to wait.   In the meantime, she could keep my companion’s pizza warm.

When my pizza finally was topped, it looked and tasted much better.  The crust was as savory, thin and crispy; the barbecue sauce was spicy and tangy; and the onions added the sweetness it was missing while the scallions added a slight green bitterness.  Flavorful.

I could eat only half my pizza but was tempted to get dessert.  After all, if the meal was this good, the dessert had to be worth pushing myself.  Instead I got an espresso drink called Mocha Madness – espresso, chocolate, steamed milk, Kaluha and Bailey’s topped with whipped cream and garnished with a piece of cinnamon biscotti.  I lingered over the biscotti and sipped a couple of ounces of the generous portion before I had felt like I had eaten a box of liquor-filled truffles.   Rich.

Savory, Satisfying, Flavorful and Rich.  I hadn’t gotten that in one meal in a long time.  We were both happy with our experiences, also something that hadn’t happened in a long time.  More than 40 minutes time.  So by the end of the night, we were glad we had waited only such a short time.

Baker Books is located in a huge, building in the German architectural style that immediately captures the imagination.   Inside, along the walls, books climb all the way up to the ceiling on shelves accessed by rolling ladders.  In one corner, wrought iron tables and chairs in the French style are arranged in front of a pastry case.  On the opposite end of the store is a little wing dedicated to the children’s section and in between are shelves at head height donning stimulating and educational categories such as “Our picks,” “On NPR,” “Local Authors” and “Irish” (in recognition of St. Patrick’s Day).

I found a magazine of interest but did not find the second Harry Potter book. However, the latest, still a bestseller, was 20% off.  And the store stocked books by all kinds of independent and small publishers, making it a great place for browsing and either the latest and bestselling or hard-to-find but not so much the in-between.  Apparently, it, too, is not so average.

Firefly Fun

Me as Inara SerraOkay, so, that one time I dressed up as a character was apparently not a fluke. Blame it on my friend Becky, hostess of costume parties for every season of the year. And Joss Whedon, director of Firefly . Because I did it again; this time, instead of dressing up as an au-naturale highschooler, I dressed up as a gussied up, eh hem, companion.

And you know what? I loved this look, too. Even more. The problem is it’s not always appropriate to run errands in gold and pink eye shadow up to the brows and deep red lipstick. However, I’ve tried to capture the feminine look without, well, looking like a companion.

I highlight the insides of my eyelids with gold, swipe the lid with pink and instead of deep red lipstick I use pink lipgloss. This means pink blush and it is a lot of pink but it is fun and I highly recommend it for feeling flirty but not floosy.

Thoughts on Racism

I’ve been processing my thoughts on race basically my entire life – at least according to scientists, who now believe that humans develop racial preference beginning at infanthood, when they study faces. But apparently the movie Avatar, which I reviewed in my last post, has spawned discussion about race. And in light of the most recent holiday, I thought it would be an appropriate time to get some of my thoughts, as they presently stand, in order.

Children and Racism

In “Imagine a World,” (found in the December 2009 issue of Parents magazine) Katharine Whittemore cites a study which concluded that babies prefer faces belonging to those of their own race. This preference, she claims, can easily morph into prejudice, unless parents talk to their children about racial differences.

Rejecting the notion of color blindness is the current trend in race and race relations dialogue. Besides stating that color blindness does not exist it suggests that color should not be ignored and further that differences ought to be celebrated.

I agree because I know what can happen when race is ignored. In one unprejudiced family, race was not discussed because it was not an issue with the parents. It never occurred to them to define it with their children. They had a niece of Indian descent and dark colored skin. One of their children, then no older than 5, had no concept of other-than-white skin and assumed her darker color was because she needed to take a bath! He called her “dirty” and refused to play with her until it was explained to him that her skin was simply a different color! Understandably, it took awhile for him to take in this new information and warm up to his cousin.

Culture and Racism

The criticism of Avatar, like it was of The Lord of the Rings films, is that the heroes are White and the villains are colored black or, er, blue, as the case may be. The argument is that this is not just ethnocentrism but racism. This is a poor interpretation of both stories, even on the surface, since the villains are actually White. Colonel Quaritch, the White Marine from Earth, not the blue colored Na’vi of Pandora, is the villain in Avatar. Sauruman, not the charred-black-by-the-fires-of-industry Urukai, is the villain of The Two Towers. And the most dreadful villains of the trilogy is embodied in a piece of jewelry.

So I will give these critics that Western stories are ethnocentric and nothing further. But as Whittemore pointed out, gravitation towards similarities can become rejection and even hatred of differences. To prevent this, our self-aware culture has created Race and Race Relations classes, public announcements, organizations, awards and holidays to recognize minority races, spread the message of tolerance and remember our ignorant times so they don’t happen again. But, as well intentioned as these measures may be, they can go too far, opponents say. As one young woman, who was a White minority in another country for her growing up years, said, “It’s re-opening wounds.”

Perhaps it is important to remember how difficult the Civil Rights Movement was – how hard it was fought for and how hard it was resisted – but perhaps it is equally important to forget it. Would the Y generation be prejudiced if they didn’t know that at one time people held onto it dearly? Won’t our children long to use it because it is obsessed over and forbidden at the same time?

When I think back on the story of the little boy who wouldn’t play with his darker skinned cousin now, it’s not so horrific. His prejudice was remedied by a candid conversation about skin color, exposure to his cousin of a minority race and – time. Had the conversation happened earlier, it would have been a rather easy remedy if one were needed at all. Wouldn’t it be beneficial to our society to treat it as a baby rather than an adult – to have a fresh start? Would prejudices be defended and passed on with such passion if they were regarded as immature and passe? A healed wound may cause a scar but an open wound hurts.

New Moon

As embarrassing it is to admit it, yes, I did go to the New Moon premiere and yes, I did dress up — as Bella. It could be worse, though, right? I mean, I didn’t have to put glitter on my body or put red contacts in my eyes. I was just your average near 30 curvaceous matron dressing like a skinny 17-year-old girl. Except I avoided skinny jeans. Here is my costume (please, please PLEASE ignore the life-size cutouts):


The green camp shirt by Old Navy, dark jeans and Keds Champions (not visible in photo) were directly inspired by a still photo from the set, but I figured I could have a little fun dressing up and still be a bit normal. Okay, LOOK normal. There IS a difference.

Hair and makeup were also a factor in choosing my character and costume. Bella’s look is natural and I am a low-maintenance kind of gal. As in, I wear mascara for evening weddings — maybe four times a year. Ironically, imitating Bella’s makeup included eye cosmetics. But since I liked the look (I even accidentally wore my costume one night), I found the absolute least I could do while still finishing it:

A cosmotoligist would probably cry anathema but I don’t bother to highlight my brow line or the corners of my inner lids or to use even two shades of eye shadow. I have a creamy silver shade that I use on my lids. I curl my eyelashes and use mascara only on the inner top lashes and then eyeliner only on the outer bottom lash line — just where the black thins out a bit. It’s not a camera face, but it’s in character and fits my character as well.