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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in women's lifestyle (4)


Biodynamic Wine: A Trip for the Mind & Palate


I hear you. You might be sick and tired of people saying, organic this or non-GMO that. Or how pesticides are killing the honeybees, getting in our livers, and causing cancers, autoimmune diseases, and autism.

But it's true, it's happening, and we need to do something about it. So now I’m about to mention something that you may have never heard before:  a farming practice called biodynamics.  

The practice is entirely fascinating, and takes organic farming to a whole new level.  The essence of biodynamics is that the As seen in Women's Lifestyle Magazine, April 2013 Editionfarm is not just a farm. It’s an organism that is completely self-sustaining, producing its own animal feed and manure, and supports a diverse ecosystem of predator, prey, bird and insect populations. Much like oriental medicine sees the human body as a holistic system, biodynamic farming views plant or animal disease as a symptom of an imbalance in the whole farm, not a single problem to be cured with a “drug”.  Get this:  the farm can also be in or out of balance with the cycles of the moon and planets.  

There is a time to reap, and a time to sow. There is a proper balance of soil and rotation of crops. The plants, animals, the soil and even the farmer are all part of the bigger whole. The same cosmic page. On the same, crazy, tree-hugging trip.

Nutty Idea?  Brilliant?  Or Simply Practical?


Before you dismiss biodynamics as a nutty idea, let’s discuss wine.  In 2004, Fortune Magazine put together a panel of wine experts to test the claims of biodynamic wines. The test was blind, so they had no idea what they were testing. They found that the biodynamic mix of homeopathy, astrology and organic grape growing, produces a better product than regular ‘ole grape growing does. 


Here’s an excerpt from that article:

“Out of ten pairs of wines, only one of the conventionally made wines was judged superior to its biodynamic counterpart. Says Doug Frost, a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier: "The biodynamic movement seems like latent '60s acid-trip-inspired lunacy--until you taste the wines." “

~Taken from:  “Moonshine, Part 2: A blind sampling of 20 wines shows that biodynamics works. But how?”

Is there a Better Way?

Austrian philosopher Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) is credited as being the founder of biodynamic farming, and inspires a certain amount of controversy because of some of his ideas.  But it leaves one to wonder if he isn’t just another brilliant guy who is bringing us back to the laws of physics that existed long before the modern manipulation of the planet. It also leaves us to wonder how much human disease there would be if we listened a little more to how the earth wants to be treated, rather than try to pound the bugs, plants and animals into submission.

OK. Back to wine. Biodynamic wine is becoming more popular. Experts agree that when you get a truly biodynamic wine, you know that it is made without pesticides or chemical processing, and that you will most likely taste the flavors, smell the aromas, and feel the textures of the area where the grapes are grown, or what they call the “terroir.”

One of my favorite vineyards to watch and learn from has been Emiliana Vineyards in Chile.  They produce biodynamic and organic wines. They post pictures on Facebook that are simply stunning.  They also produce a mighty fine drink that is reasonably priced.  You can find one of their brands, Natura Wine, at different specialty stores in Michigan.  You can read more about them at:


Another area where biodynamics is practiced is in raising cattle. I had the opportunity to speak to La Cense Beef in Montana last year and to learn a ton about grass fed meat, as well as organic and biodynamic farming. More on this later, too. In the meantime, you can learn more about La Cense here:

Biodynamic winemakers and farmers are true artists that help bring out the most wonderful subtle, sumptuous flavors.  Flavor brings us so much joy when we drink and eat.  Joy, my friends, is essential to life and health.


About the Author

Owner of Blue Pearl Strategies, Elisabeth is also The Tender Foodie. She started this blog and The Tender Palate, to help those food allergies and sensitivities.



As seen in Women's Lifestyle Magazine's June, 2012 edition.


Too Much "No" in Your Life?

I don’t know about you, but there has been a little too much “no” in my life, lately. Of course, for Tender Foodies, “no” is a word we use a great deal, and we need to learn to say it well. But the issue of turning something away, something that we normally would love to accept, transcends the narrow world of food allergies. “No” is not an easy word.  

Over the last few months, I’ve listened to more than a few women say, “yes” when perhaps a little (or a lot) more self-protection might be in order.  My heart was disquieted as these pretty amazing chicks described their choices. A couple of friends were getting mixed up with people who were not treating them with even a modicum of respect.  They stood up and said, “Hey, that’s out of line.  If you want me to trust you, knock it off,” but then felt guilty and apologized. Or they manipulated the situation to a perceived advantage.  I’ve also listened to stories from people with Celiac Disease who had trouble turning away a dish that their well meaning, but untrained friends made “just” for them, even though that dish contained ingredients that would harm them and make them suffer horribly.  

But as I listen to myself become the dreaded voice of reason, I wondered if the many “no’s” that I’ve had to say lately have given me a more negative outlook on life. “No” is a gift.  So, why is it so hard to say, and when do we get to say, “yes”?

Maybe it’s simply physics. Since every action has an equal and opposite reaction, perhaps too many “no’s” build up like needy vagrants begging at our doorstep unless we find that shy “yes” hiding just around the corner.  These “yes’s” are the gifts of “no” but we must go through the work to look for them.  

Here are a few of the "Gifts of No" that I've found.


“No” Creates Safety

I asked Joan Hofman, MA, LPC for some guidance with this one.  Joan is a licensed professional counselor, who uses a variety of progressive (and super interesting) energy therapies in her practice.  

“For most people, “no” creates a sense of boundary so you can stay safe and secure, but there are additional challenges for someone with food allergies.  “No” keeps you safe from a potential allergic reaction, but you also need to find a way to keep from implicating to another that their level of caring is not enough. It’s an incredibly awkward moment to say, “Thank you for loving me but the way you’re showing it could kill me.” “

When we reject a friend’s offer of food, or anything well-meaning, it can feel like we are accusing them of not caring. In reality, they don’t have the knowledge, the tools, or the power to create a dish that is safe enough for us to eat.  It’s not their fault.  It feels wrong to put them in that position, and in a sense, it is. But it isn’t wrong to say “no” and we certainly don’t need to put ourselves at risk. It’s not our fault either.

So how do we handle it?  Realize that it’s not just about the food.  Since everyone responds differently to rejection, address each host’s natural need to feel good about themselves as care givers via the food.  Let them know that you are fine and that you appreciate them without eating a bite.

“No” Helps Us Be Authentic

My secret crush, Anthony Bourdain, would probably hate me.  Anthony is a chef, author, and the star of Travel Channel’s “No Reservations”.  He is a true believer in eating whatever is put in front of you because if someone went through the trouble of making it, you should be gracious enough to eat it. As I watched him swallow an unwashed warthog rectum in Namibia, knowing full well that powerful antibiotics were in his future, I knew he meant what he said. This is the guy who calls vegetarians, “the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit” for, I believe, this very reason.  Obviously, I don’t share his disdain of my vegetarian friends but I am terribly amused by his Agatha Christie-like mistrust of them. On the flipside, I also believe that food is a gift to be graciously accepted, and as a Tender Foodie, I am in constant conflict because of this belief.

I imagine standing in front of Anthony in his kitchen, with my little allergy card, squeaking.  “Uh, Chef, I have to go over the ingredients with you.  I can’t eat this, this, this…oh and this…and this…by the way, were those nuts processed in a gluten-free facility and can we sautee the ingredients for that foi gras without dairy?”

But if I had to, I would do it, for two reasons:

1.    If I don’t question my hosts about ingredients (or simply withdraw from the meal and opt for strictly social interaction), I would be worthless to society.  I couldn’t function.  Maybe right then and there, and maybe for the next 5 days starting tomorrow.  Either way, life is too important to let myself be incapacitated or incur long term damage. Health is freedom and I’ve got shit to do.

2.    For better or for worse, this is who I am.  If I can’t embrace it, how can I expect anyone else to?  

One of the many things I admire about Anthony Bourdain is that he is true to himself. He is authentic. I trust that he would at least respect me for being the same.

“No” Offers Possibilities

When I lived in New York City, one of my yoga teachers (Amy Ippoliti at Elena Brower's Vira Yoga) said something that forever changed me.

“Make the sweeter choice.”  

This statement was so profoundly different than my own learned system of veiled self-sacrifice that it struck a bell in my head. Ding! Choices fly by at every moment, so why take the distasteful one, the “should” that limits you to only one option?  (Uh… sacrifice is pretty final, eh?)  

A “yes” to that second brownie is enjoyable, but a “no” to a 3rd might leave us open for a healthier tomorrow.  That’s not so hard.  But even if life itself presents a series of very harsh realities, there is a choice that is sweeter than the other.  The options may not be “what we want”, but if we look for the possibilities and choose the sweetest of the lot, we can get ourselves out of some pretty serious jams.  Let go of the toxic and make space for healthier interactions that offer an increasing number of sweet possibilities.

“No” Builds Trust

I am a pleaser, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to please, and receiving pleasure from pleasing. Plus, saying “no” is risky. People don’t like hearing it and sometimes they become angry or disappointed.

Still, the biggest mistakes in my life (so far) have come from saying “yes” when the core of my being was telling me “no.” Hard lessons have taught me that if I’m feeling stressed in a relationship, it’s time to immediately dive down to the center of my being and become honest with myself. Life will change for the better, however unpredictably, if I can find those two little letters, purse my lips, and say them as truthfully and as kindly as I can.  

I don’t know Mike Robbins but I love what he has to say about this:

“Our ability and capacity to say "no" with confidence is one of the most important aspects of creating peace and power in our lives. This is about creating healthy boundaries, honoring ourselves, and being real -- it's not about being closed, cynical, or unwilling.”  

~Mike Robbins, Author, Motivational Speaker

When we choose to focus solely on external qualities like being a nice gal or a faithful friend, and ignore our priceless, internal intuition, trust is more easily broken. People don’t feel that we mean what we say. Communication disappears. But if we balance those external values with the gifts of honoring our “Yes’s” and “No’s”, others can tell when and how they can count on us.  If we receive the same in return, we know when and how we can count on them.  Eventually, we simply trust each other.

This balancing the gift of “no” with our quest for “yes” takes lifelong practice. But like a muscle, perhaps the more we work it out, the stronger and more beautiful we become.  Like returning daily to the piano to practice our scales, listening to our intuition is the most humbling of work that builds a foundation for an effortless and magnificent life.

About Elisabeth

Elisabeth VeltmanWriter, owner of Blue Pearl Strategies, and lover of all culinary delights, Elisabeth is a Tender Foodie. She started The Tender Palate, a website for foodies with food allergies where she consults with experts from every area of the Tender Foodie life. She believes that everyone should live deliciously and have a healthy seat at the table. Find her at


Organic? All Natural? GMO’s? What’s Happening to Our Food?


As seen in Women's Lifestyle Magazine's April 2012 EditionRead the Full Magazine.


Photo Courtesy of Women's Lifestyle Magazine


It's Not Just About Food Allergens Anymore

When you become a Tender Foodie, you start to read labels.  As entertaining as this sounds, it is a necessary and regular exercise that helps keep people with food allergies safe.  Labeling gives us important information, and it helps build trust with manufacturers.  But as you apply this label-reading practice to your daily life, you begin to see how essential each ingredient is to your overall health.  It is as important to read what’s ON the label as it is to understand what is NOT on the label.  ‬

‪In this article, I’ll help decipher some of the labels you see every day, and then outline important events that are happening off- label, so you can better understand your choices.  It isn’t just about food allergens anymore. ‬


Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.

‪~USDA National Organic Program‬

The label “Organic” is important for the many reasons stated in the above quote.  One of the most important issues of our time, however, is that it’s one of the only ways to know that your products do not contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).  You could also get to know your farmers and vineyard owners, learn about their practices, and trust them.  It’s not scientific, but there are responsible farmers out there who grow organically, even bio-dynamically (above and beyond organic), but who do not use the USDA certification process.  We’ll get into GMOs in the next section.  ‬

‪First, let’s roll up our sleeves, get out our magic decoder rings, and review organic labeling.  ‬

‪“100% Organic” / USDA Certified Organic Seal‬

‪Only manufacturers who have met the USDA requirements and who have been certified by a licensed agent may use this claim and use the USDA Certified Organic Seal.  All agricultural aids and processing agents must be 100% organic, must not be irradiated, and may not contain GMOs, or anything (including chemicals) from the National List of Prohibited Substances.  ‬

‪“Organic” / USDA Certified Organic Seal‬

‪At least 95% of the product must be composed of certified organic agricultural products.  The remaining 5% must consist of organically produced agricultural products if commercially available. If not, the product may consist of certain non-organic agricultural ingredients or non-agricultural or synthetic ingredients listed in the regulation.  No genetically modified organisms (GMO), sewage sludge or irradiation are allowed in the remaining 5%.  ‬

‪Food producers can use the above terms (“Organic” & “100% Organic”) anywhere on the package, as long as it doesn’t interfere with other legal labeling requirements.‬

‪“Made with Organic Ingredients”‬

‪Up to 3 organic ingredients can be highlighted anywhere on the package.  This practice is often used as a marketing tool to underscore that the product contains organic ingredients.  An unlimited number of organic ingredients can be marked as such in the ingredient list.  For a food producer to use the “Made with Organic Ingredients” label, however, at least 70% of the ingredients must be certified organic.  The remaining 30% may be substances from any non-organic product produced without GMO, sewage sludge, or irradiation.  ‬

‪What Happens When a Product is Less Than 70% Organic?‬

‪If a product is made with less then 70% organic ingredients, the manufacturer is not permitted to use the term “organic” anywhere on the label, EXCEPT in the ingredient list itself (such as “organic carrots, peas, organic tomatoes”, etc.)  The USDA Certified Organic Seal may not be used.  The label must, however, identify the certifying agent, identify which ingredients are organic, and may include a statement or organic percentage in the ingredient information panel.‬


‪. . . Ah, the wild west of food marketing.  I hear people say, “But the label says that it’s All Natural?  How could that be bad?”  ‬

‪Steve Kluting, an attorney with Varnum, who focuses his practice on food industry issues, including product labeling, explains:  ‬

‪While the use of "organic" and its related terms is strictly regulated, the use of "natural" and "all natural" on food labeling is much more loosely dictated under the law.  To label a product as "natural", a food business does not have clear and straight-forward rules to comply with so, as a result, the grocery aisle is filled with "natural" products that a consumer might purchase despite that consumer having a definition of "natural" that's vastly different from the FDA, the USDA, or the food processor that labeled it.

‪In short, the FDA does not consistently define this claim, nor regulate it.  It’s policy (not law) is that natural foods contain no added color, synthetic substances or flavors, and that nothing artificial or synthetic has been included in, or added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in food.  But what is considered “synthetic”?  High fructose corn syrup is one example of an inconsistency and is under scrutiny by a number of courts.  GMO products are also allowed with this label.‬


‪According to the USDA Economic Research Service, 90% of soy crops produced in the United States, 86% of corn and 93% of cotton are genetically modified.  About 80% of our processed foods contain GMOs (think soy lecithin, sugar from GM sugar beets, and high fructose corn syrup).   At least 30 countries (including Japan and the entire European Union) have either banned, demanded labeling, or have greatly restricted GMOs.  According to Reuters in February 2012, China, the 2nd largest corn consumer in the world, is considering approval for GMO corn for 2013.  ‬

‪The U.S. has been using GMO crops since around 1996 without any labeling.  There is also no standard definition of “Non-GMO” labeling.‬

Photo Courtesy of Women's Lifestyle Magazine
‪Petitions created by consumer and farmer groups raise important questions about the wisdom and safety of GMO crops.  In March 2012, 45 Congressmen and women and 10 Senators have recognized that GMOs are a critical issue and have prompted the FDA to look at GMOs much more closely.  ‬

‪In January of 2000, a group of 828 concerned scientists from 84 different countries have issued an open letter to all governments, urging them to immediately suspend all release of GMO crops:‬

‪We urge the US Congress to reject GM crops as both hazardous and contrary to the interest of family farmers; and to support research and development of sustainable agricultural methods that can truly benefit family farmers all over the world. ‬

‪We, the undersigned scientists, call for the immediate suspension of all environmental releases of GM crops and products, both commercially and in open field trials, for at least 5 years; … and for a comprehensive public enquiry into the future of agriculture and food security for all.

‪  ~ From an open letter to all governments Signed by 828 scientists from 84 different countries, including Majory U.S. Universities.‬

‪What is a GMO?‬

‪A GMO food contains genes replicated in a lab from other plants, animals, bacteria or even viruses that give these foods different characteristics – such as a resistance to insects, increased yield, or drought resistance.  This is not crossbreeding.  GMO crops are specifically engineered to withstand the direct application of herbicide, and /or to produce insecticide.‬
‪ ‬

‪What’s Wrong with GMOs?‬

‪Some of these new characteristics sound noble and helpful.  GMO manufacturers have made claims that genetic engineering will “feed the world”.  However, they have released new genes into our food supply without knowing how these genetic alterations would affect human, animal or farming health.  ‬

Independent, long- term studies have exposed serious health and farming concerns.  The Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving non-GMO foods, has compiled an impressive, but frightening list of scientific research using large and small animals.  According to these studies, GMOs have caused problems with immune, reproductive, and gastrointestinal systems; and have also caused organ damage and accelerated aging in these animals.  ‬

‪In one of only a handful of human studies performed at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital in Quebec, Canada, 93% of pregnant women had traces of insecticide present in their blood, namely, the bacterial toxin, “bacillus thuringiensis”, or Bt, found in GMO Corn.   The health effects were beyond the scope of this study, but significant, none-the-less.  ‬

‪GMOs are an experiment, plain and simple.  It is not the consumer’s responsibility to prove that GMOs are safe or to put their health on the line in the name of science.  GMOs must be removed from the market and then be properly and independently tested.  Until then, we have the power to act.  We can demand labeling of GMO foods.  The FDA has until mid-April to respond to the petition to label GMO’s.   Go to to learn more.‬

‪7 Simple Actions You Can Do Now‬

‪1.    Read every label – every time‬
‪2.    Know your brands‬
‪3.    Stay away from the top GMO 8:  corn, soybeans, canola, cottonseed, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, yellow squash and zucchini (buy these organic, but be aware that cross-breeding between GMO & Organic can easily occur for certain crops, like corn)‬
‪4.    Go Organic whenever possible‬
‪5.    Look for the “Non-GMO Project” Seal‬
‪6.    Shop using the “Non-GMO Shopping Guide”‬
‪7.    Ask the FDA for Labeling.  Nearly one million people have sent their comments to the FDA through the “Just Label It!” campaign at  The FDA has until mid-April to respond to the petition to label GMOs.  ‬


‪The Institute for Responsible Technology (‬

‪Just Label It!  (‬
‪ ‬
‪The Non-GMO Shopping Guide  (‬)


About Elisabeth

Writer, owner of Blue Pearl Strategies, and lover of all culinary delights, Elisabeth is a Tender Foodie. She started The Tender Palate, a website for foodies with food allergies where she consults with experts from every area of the Tender Foodie life. She believes that everyone should live deliciously and have a healthy seat at the table. Find her at



The Tender Foodie in Women's Lifestyle Magazine

"Me" in The Leonard at Logan House chef's kitchen - an historic Bed and Breakfast in Grand Rapids, MII was very honored to be interviewed and profiled in Women's LifeStyle Magazine for their October Issue.  The issue is all about "home", a timely topic as we draw in, bundle up and find sanctuary from the business of life. 

Click to read the full article, "Making Tasteful Choices" and to visit Women's LifeStyle Magazine's e-edition.


“Food is the center of social gatherings. At first, I would try to hide my food allergies,” explains Veltman, who would call ahead to order meals when meeting clients or attending parties at restaurants. “In doing so, I realized I was not alone.”
Food allergies are not just a health issue – it becomes a social issue.