A Ninja By Any Other Name

Greetings Ninjas in Training!

Names of things can be confusing.

Sometimes, for example, you don’t realize the Australian word for “cantaloupe” is “rockmelon.” After a thoroughly American search of the ancient predecessor of The List, you excitedly eat a slice of totally safe cantaloupe, only to be confounded when you start wheezing and your legs stop working and you need your 90 lb friend to half carry you back to your dorm.


(This has happened to me multiple times with multiple 90 lb friends. I’m not sure what this says about me.)

“Look at me!” you cry, “I can’t walk across the room, all because I didn’t know the Australian word for cantaloupe.”

Sometimes, you can’t remember the name of the website that teaches important Ninja skills like “label reading” and “not dying,” because it’s ridiculously long and could be a variety of things. You need to look up a food, or share it with a friend, but… is it citricacidallergies? citricacidallergy? citricacidintolerance? citricacidisevil? No one knows.

(This has happened to me multiple times with multiple friends of a variety of sizes. I’m not sure what this says about me.)

I’ve been considering a name change for quite awhile, but it’s a complicated process so I don’t want to do it unless you, my Ninjas in Training, find it useful.

Based on the large number of searches for “Lemon Ninja” that result in hits for this website, it seems to me that LemonNinja.com (or LemonNinja.wordpress.com) is the most sensical change. Also, it just sounds awesome.


The thing is, this name change is something that would cost money. I’ve had a surprising number of kind Ninjas (let’s be honest, more than zero would be surprising, so more than more than zero is kind of blowing my mind??) offer to support this website with a donation… I’ve always said no thank you, because I love sharing knowledge and helping people sharpen their mad ninja skillz.

But maybe, just maybe, it would be worth accepting donations in the name of a name change. A Ninja by any other name does smell as sweet, but quite frankly, I don’t want to smell any of you; I just want to make it easy for you to find information, and if a name change facilitates that, I’d be happy to oblige!

So now we turn to our handy dandy poll to sort this out. Please know you are more than welcome to vote for a name change even if you aren’t up for donating. I am absolutely not asking for donations from anyone – I’m simply accepting from those who have oh so kindly offered, and if you’re like, “Hey, I have a million dollars and I totally don’t mind supporting my most favoritest website,” that’s cool too🙂 Regardless, this website will always be available to everyone who needs it.

Edit: don’t worry, the original URL will still work! Saved links and posts will not be broken thanks to the magic of redirects.

That’s all for now. Until next time, when life gives you lemons, RUN!

The Lemon Ninja

Saucy White Sauce

Greetings Ninjas in Training!

I hope you all are having a fabulous summer. It is ten million degrees where I live, which may or may not explain/excuse this post title. The sauce recipe I’m going to share is not particularly saucy – in fact, it’s a nice basic recipe that can be adapted for millions of different dishes.

Everything’s in the millions today, I guess.


(I wish.)

(For you Orphan Black fans out there, you have no idea how hard it was for me to not use a gif of Alison and Donnie rolling in their soap money. I had to think of the children.)

Anyways, without further ado, a recipe for sauce!

Actually, just kidding. Quick announcement: I am working on restructuring the recipes page, so it may look derpy for a little while. I will be publishing all the recipes as individual posts, which should be much easier to use than a giant page.

Ok, NOW the recipe.

White Sauce
Courtesy of Lemon Ninja’s Mommy

White sauce is used in a variety of dishes and is the base for many sauces.   Here is our dairy free/citric acid free version for a basic medium white sauce, with adjustments for other thicknesses.

Organic rice milk (read label for citric acid)
Spelt flour
Organic expeller pressed Canola oil or lard
Time Required: 15 minutes


  1. In a small, heavy saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of canola or lard over medium low heat.
  2. Blend 2 tablespoons of spelt flour into the melted oil.
  3. Cook over low heat, stirring, until it just begins to bubble.  You don’t want to overwork the spelt flour, its fragile gluten breaks down easily.
  4. Slowly add 1 cup of rice milk, stirring constantly.  I like to use a flat whisk to stir this.
  5. Continue cooking slowly until smooth and thickened.

Notes: For thin white sauce, follow instructions using 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon flour. Thin white sauce is often used for cream soups.  For thick white sauce, follow instructions using 3 tablespoons oil and 3 tablespoons flour. Thick white sauce is for things like soufflés.  For heavy white sauce, follow instructions using 4 tablespoons oil and 4 tablespoons flour. Heavy white sauce is used to make croquettes or croquetas.

That’s all for now, ninjalings. Until next time, when life gives you lemons, RUN!

The Lemon Ninja

How to Succeed in College Without Really Dying

Greetings Ninjas in Training!

And most special greetings and congratulations to you recent graduate ninjas! I’m sure you all look adorable in your weird square hats.

ninja training graduation

That’s me at my high school graduation – a fledgling ninja, still blindly navigating the waters of exercise-induced anaphylaxis. I wouldn’t face full-blown ninjahood until my sophomore year of college, but I still understand the alarming reality that is trying to eat in college without dying of food allergies… while also learning to semi-adult, making new friends, deciding which non-graded assignments are worth it (answer: if it’s chem, all of them), and not sleeping ever.

Thus, behold: as requested by the young Ninja Rose, a guide to starting college on the right food-allergic foot.

Option 1: Talk to Your School Nutritionist

Make an appointment with your school’s nutritionist as soon as possible. Send an email introducing yourself, and explain that you have some unusual, but serious, allergies. Give them a basic idea: what foods can you not have? Do you need to look at labels on pre-made sauces and seasonings?

If your diet is extremely limited and your home is far from college, ask if they are willing to converse via Skype – the earlier your meeting, the easier it will be to deal with roadblocks.

Sometimes, talking with the nutritionist is all you need to do! Some schools have excellent allergy systems, and with a little adapting, they will be able to help you too. You may have early access to menus of the day, access to labels, or even the ability to request customized safe meals.

Then again, your school nutritionist might be insane.

While some can be persuaded out of initial denial (see also: “You can’t be allergic to that, you’ll die!), nutritionists who also tell your nut-allergic roommate that her allergies aren’t real… probably aren’t going to be much help.

Nope, I’m not kidding.

That’s a thing that happened.

Have a little science speech prepared for the sane but misinformed nutritionist. If you find yourself stuck with one who denies you assistance even after being educated, on to option 2!

Option 2: Make Friends with Food Services

This is important regardless of whether or not your nutritionist is bonkers. It’s not even really an option, but calling it otherwise would have thrown off my header theme. These people are responsible for your life – they are far more likely to take your safety seriously if they have a friendly face to keep in mind while chopping up those lemons.

If you have the nutritionist on your side, chances are there is already a good allergy program in place, and the workers are educated on the basics. Since ninjas are probably a little different from anything they’ve encountered, it’s a good idea to talk to whoever is in charge of the kitchen and teach them a little about your food allergies.

Bonus points for bringing the staff allergy-free treats: it’s a great way to make friends and show you care about them as much as they care about you. (Make sure to find out about their allergies before bringing anything… my Head Chef was allergic to nuts, and he was so excited that I asked first. It’s the little things!)

If you don’t have the nutritionist on your side, things will be trickier. You’ll have to sort out things like early access to menus and labels all on your own.

Initially I worked out a procedure which allowed me to email the head of Food Services the night before with my choice from the menu, and I could ask anything I needed to about the sauces and mystery ingredients.

Unfortunately, this proved to be too complicated for my particular situation. They weren’t always able to find the labels, and were worried about companies changing ingredients in their mixes without notice. My school didn’t have a good allergy safety program, so the disorganization with regard to ingredients didn’t work in my favor. Making friends in Food Services did though – more on that later!

Option 3: Independent Eating

If you’re not able to work out a good protocol for the dining halls, it’s time to turn to self-sufficiency. Get in touch with your Student Health Services and explain that you’re going to need a car on campus and a room with a kitchen.

Trust me, you want a car – if you’re going to be making alllllll of your food, you don’t want to be hauling all of your groceries 10 blocks and then riding the bus for an hour every darn week.


You definitely want to invest in a vacuum sealer. These little miracles let you make big batches of food, then vacuum seal individual portions to eat later. You can keep them for actual months in the freezer. Read: you won’t have to cook during finals.

A kitchen will be nice for the actual making of food, but most likely you’ll *have* to eat in a dining hall for lunch – there won’t be time to go home and cook. You can keep some safe sandwich and wrap materials for when you need a portable lunch.

You may also want to invest in some collapsible food containers for more hearty, but still portable, dinners. College is about two things: learning and food. Meals are your social time, and you don’t want to spend them holed up in your kitchen cave!

Option 4: Independent Eating Redux

Sometimes, getting a kitchen and a car is not an option.

Maybe you’ve already been assigned a kitchenless underclass dorm, or maybe Student Health Services is just as useless as your nutritionist.


Whatever the case, you’re going to need the following:
1) Adoring parents
2) A vacuum sealer in the abode with aforementioned parents
3) A mini freezer and fridge (not a mini fridge with one of those hand-sized “freezer” flappy things, that’s not gonna cut it – you need a separate actual freezer)
4) A giant bowl and an electric tea kettle OR a microwave
5) Optional: a rice cooker

I just spent way too much time searching through my college pictures looking for my freezer-fridge in the background. How it remains elusive in the millions of photos I took is a mystery.

Anyways, when I was a sophomore, I was in a kitchenless suite. My allergies had escalated disastrously over the summer, and by the time I realized school food wasn’t an option, changing rooms wasn’t an option either. Not that I would have wanted to leave anyways – my suite was the party suite.


See what I mean? Man, we were wild.

Pretty sure that picture was taken from atop my elusive freezer-fridge, by the way.

And so, my brilliant mom came up with a solution: she cooked me large batches of food at home, vacuum sealed and froze them, and sent them to me by way of my dad, who happens to be a pilot and can hop on any plane for free.

I’d keep the food in my freezer, and heat it up either by microwave, or by letting the frozen food warm up in a bowl of hot water (courtesy of the electric tea kettle). I made rice a couple of times a week and kept leftovers in my fridge. It worked out splendidly.

I am of course, very lucky that my parents were both willing and able to do this for me. If they hadn’t, I would not have been able to stay at school out of state. Four for you, parents. You go, parents.

I do know of others with non-pilot parents who were able to make a similar procedure work sans free flights, so it’s still possible with other means of transport.

I’m also very lucky that I made friends with the Food Services people. Not only did they let me keep an overflow of my food in their industrial freezer (my tiny one could only hold so much), but they also let me heat up food in their kitchen when I wanted to eat dinner with my friends.

This was before I became sensitive to cross-contamination and airborne smells – once that came into play, I was restricted to heating and eating in my room. But for those who aren’t quite that sensitive, heating your own food up in the school’s kitchen is a great way to eat safe food with your friends, without having to figure out how to carry it or what to do with your empty containers if you’re going out after!

But what if my friends want to eat out, Lemon Ninja?

An excellent question – and a whole new topic. Check out some tips on how to survive college socializing (read: socializing that revolves around food) in this post.

So those are the basics – please feel welcome to ask questions in the comments section if you’d like to know more about how to succeed in college without really dying.

Hermione graduation

(Ok here’s the thing, I know nothing about How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, except that Harry Potter was in it. I could not find any pictures of Harry Potter graduating, so here’s a picture of Hermione instead.)

That’s all for now ninjalings.
Until next time, when life gives you lemons, RUN!
The Lemon Ninja

Special thanks to my friend Judith for retouching me like a celebrity in a Vogue shoot. Don’t I look beautiful?

She Looked at the Label, But She Never Expected to Find THIS

Greetings Ninjas in Training!

I’m really sorry about that post title… I think it’s hilarious and that’s kind of a problem. I’m sure you’re all wondering about that label reading contest. Well, let’s get right to it!

Here is the label you were asked to read:


Using the techniques outlined in this post, let’s look for the villains in our ninja hero story:

Any citric acid or citrates?

Nope! Ninjas who only react to synthetic citric acid would be just fine eating this. But the ninjas with reactions to the natural stuff have to look a little further.

Any whole foods above your tolerance level?

Using my tolerance level of zero, here’s what we find:

Palm oil – made from palm fruit #nope
Soybean oil – soy is forever a #no
Cocoa – this one is tricky, because cocoa is magic; however, if we are just looking at “does it contain citric acid or not,” this would be a #no for very low-tolerance ninjas

Any ingredients derived from citric acid-containing sources?

Sugar – can be from cane (safe) or beets (#nope); cane is more likely to be found in “healthy” or organic snacks because it is non-GMO, whereas beets are almost always GMO and common in junk foods like this
Canola oil – another tricky one; expeller expressed canola oil is safe, but typically this will be specified on the label; with no specification, it is likely cold pressed, which means they likely used citric acid as an additive in the extraction process #bye
High fructose corn syrup – made from corn #nothanks
Cornstarch – away with ye! #corn #nope
Soy Lecithin – contains an alarming 0.8% citric acid #rude
Chocolate – careful here – chocolate and cocoa are not the same thing! Cocoa is pure smushed cacao beans, chocolate is cocoa mixed with any number of mystery ingredients. There could be soy, milk, vegetable fat… #nomysterychocolateforyou

So here is what our label looks like after a good read:


What about the other stuff?

Many of you guessed some of the safe ingredients to be unsafe, so let’s go over those:

Enriched flour – all of the vitamins in this particular enriched flour are synthetic, and not derived from or created with anything remotely resembling citric acid. I’d hazard a guess that most enriched flour is just fine, but watch me say that and then die from eating an entire bag of enriched flour to prove my point.
Leavening –


Leavening is almost always unsafe. Typically it’s made with baking POWDER (which contains corn starch) or cream of tartar/tartaric acid (which is made from grapes, bananas, or tamarinds). This particular leavening contains baking SODA (which is safe) and/or calcium phosphate (also safe), which is actually the combination I use in lieu of baking powder when I make delicious baked goods.
Salt – as long as it’s not garlic salt or some sort of weird seasoning, salt is generally your friend (table, Sea, Pink Himalayan, Celtic, etc.)
Vanillin – vanilliN is artificial and not a problem. The real problem is lazy scientists who have only assured us that vanillA “probably” contains citric acid.

So now what?

Now, please go forth and do not eat Oreos if you want to live.

I have contacted the winner of the contest, so expect a new recipe sometime in the next century probably.

Until then, when life gives you lemons, RUN!
The Lemon Ninja

Easter Floof

Greetings Ninjas in Training,

Happy Easter!

Easter weekend in my house has always been filled with wonderful smells and tastes. Since I became a ninja, it’s become a little harder to have a friendly feast – literally all of our classics are now off the table (see what I did there?).

This year, I sit here writing this post as the smell of delicious turkey wafts my way. We got cooking a little later than planned thanks to the turkey’s stubborn refusal to reach room temperature, so we cheated and ate dessert first:


“Lemon Ninja, why are you eating steak and potatoes for dessert??”

That would be a great question if I had a death wish, but potatoes are wayyyy above my tolerance level of zero.

Also, despite the fact that I actually know people who would eat them for dessert, I have me a sweet tooth: brownies and homemade marshmallows it is!

“Lemon Ninja, I guess I see the brownie now, but that does not look like a marshmallow…”

Yeah, well. It was our first time making them and we got a little excited. I promise they taste a million times better than they look.

So, happy Easter to those of you who celebrate. To those who don’t, I hope you have a happy day anyways, and I hope the recipe I’m about to share for homemade marshmallows helps make it even better😀

Quick reminder: the label reading contest (the prize for which is a ninja-friendly adaptation of your favorite recipe!) ends on April 1st. Make me proud, ninjalings!

Maple Marshmallows

Courtesy of Lemon Ninja and her Mommy

Part 1

1/2 cup water, room temp
2 T orange label Great Lakes gelatin

Mix together and let bloom. It will look sort of like applesauce at first. We did this in an 8 cup Pyrex pitcher, so we could add the hot sugar syrup later for mixing.

Part 2

1/4 cup water
3/4 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 cup organic maple syrup (grade A works best for the texture)


  1. Line a brownie pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Add water, sugar, and syrup to a deep saucepan. Do not mix it!!!
  3. Bring to boil on med high.
  4. Heat to 240 degrees or hardball candy stage (use a candy thermometer).
  5. Pour heated mixture into the pitcher with the gelatin mixture.
  6. Start whisking right away!
  7. Mix it all together with large balloon whisk for 10-15 min, until it has the texture of marshmallow creme – it should form soft, stretchy sheets and bubbles. Note: you can also use an electric mixer, but Mama Ninja and I did fine trading off with the whisk!imageGetting there…image




8.  Immediately spread the floof in the brownie pan, and let set at least 4 hours before cutting. Store at room temp in airtight container.

9.  Try not to eat them all at once??

10.  Never ask me what’s up with the formatting in this post, because I don’t know and it’s driving me insane. But that’s ok because I can just eat marshmallows and nothing matters😀

UPDATE: Here are some pictures from our third (much prettier) batch of marshmallows.


“Lemon Ninja, Easter was only a week and a half ago!!! This is your third batch??”


Shhhh. Look at the marshmallows.


Look at them.


That’s all for now. Until next time, when life gives you lemons, RUN!!!

The Lemon Ninja

No Good Read Goes Unpunished

Greetings Ninjas in Training,

Eleka nahmen nahmen ah tum ah tum eleka nahmen.


No idea, Elphaba. But a lot of the time, that’s how I feel when I’m trying to read labels.

Buckle down, ninjalings. We’re gonna learn a few tricks to make it a little easier! This is long, but stick out the tutorial, it will help you in life and stuff, AND there’s a chance for a prize at the end!

Step One

The first rule of label reading is to always read the label.


Ok, so I searched “label reading gif” and this is what came up. This is just my personal opinion, but I think it’s a bit too late for this person to be reading labels. Either they have serious gangrene, or it’s Elphaba, in which case I’m sorry.


Anyways, I’m serious. Read it. Every time.

Ingredients for the same food item can vary from brand to brand, and ingredients in any product vary by region. That is, Oreos in California do not have the same ingredients as Oreos in Missouri; they are manufactured in different facilities, and the non-main ingredients they use are different. (Also, don’t eat Oreos, they are not safe for ninjas or anyone wishing to live past age 50.)

Furthermore, ingredients in any product can change without notice. For example, one of my favorite brands of “safe” chocolate added soy to their product, which means it is no longer “safe” and no longer my favorite because they took away my chocolate.

Step Two

Once you’ve got that label in hand, your next step is to look for the most conspicuous of perpetrators: citric acid or citrates.

In order to demonstrate, we will look at the stuff of my nightmares:


I’m not kidding, I’ve had actual nightmares about Death by Doritos. You will see why very quickly.

Let’s take a look: any citric acid or citrates?



Yep. So right there, you should put down the Deathritos and run. But since we have a few more steps to learn, we’re going to keep looking. Be brave, ninjalings.

Step Three

Look for foods that are above your tolerance level. Since I’m the one writing this tutorial, we are going to use my tolerance level, which is negative zero.


Let’s take a look at each of these perpetrators in detail:

Corn – Contains about 0.2% citric acid, so #nope
Vegetable oil – Corn oil is one of three possibilities here, making this a #no
Cheddar cheese – Made with milk (0.2%) and additional citric acid, bringing it to 0.4% of #nope
Buttermilk – Again with the milk, plus it probably has other strange additives #no
Romano cheese – We don’t have a specific number for this cheese, but it’s cheese #nope
Onion powder – Onions can have 0.1-0.3% citric acid #nothanks
Corn flour – #nope
Tomato powder – Tomatoes are in the 0.4-0.5% range, but here’s the thing: this is percent by weight, and water adds a lot of weight to tomatoes. The CA content of powdered tomato (and any powdered thing, including the onions above and others below) are likely much higher than for the whole food. #nopenopenope
Spices – Vague enough for you? As a general rule, I assume leaf spices to be safe and root or other spices to be unsafe, since root vegetables etc. all contain citric acid. However, I don’t have any numbers to verify this, and even if I did, that would do nothing for determining the safety of the mystery spices in here #vague #nope
Garlic powder – 1.0% plus the rule of powdered things make this a #no
Red and green bell pepper powder – 0.2 and 0.1% respectively, plus powder rule #nope

Are you having nightmares yet?

Step Four

If you have very low tolerance like me, it’s time to check for ingredients derived from citric acid-containing things. I keep a running list of sneaky additives here, but said list is nowhere near complete. Please let me know if you discover new things to add to the Nope-dom.



Sunflower or canola oil – These are safe when expeller expressed, but when this process is used, it almost always specifies this on the label. These oils are likely cold pressed, which is a chemical extraction process that often uses citric acid #nope
Maltodextrin – For once the label does the work for us! It says right there, “made from corn” #bye
Enzymes – What even? Why you gotta be so vague, Doritos? Enzymes can be derived from anything, oftentimes fruits or vegetables, so #nope
Whey – Extracted from milk #nope
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – Often made by doing strange things to beets #no
Enzymes again – #why #no
Whey protein concentrate – More whey? #excessive #no
Natural flavors – Citric acid is considered a “natural” flavor because it is made with corn and mold. You can’t make this stuff up. #ew #nOpe
Dextrose – Derived from corn in the U.S., but may be made from wheat elsewhere #redwhiteandnope
Lactose – Derived from milk #no
Lactic acid – Derived from milk #noagain
Sugar – Can be derived from either cane (safe) or beets (unsafe). “Healthy,” organic, less processed foods are more likely to use cane, but in a junk food like this, beet is a likely source #nope

Something to keep in mind while reading labels: things are listed in order from “most stuff in here” to “least stuff in here.” Someone with a moderate tolerance might be able to tolerate something with corn as a last ingredient, but not as a first ingredient. Figuring out what you can tolerate in what positions takes a little trial and error, so if you’re going to experiment, be safe and make sure you won’t be anywhere near your celebrity crush/Elphaba/other people you want to impress in the near future.

Ok, so using my -0 tolerance level, it looks like we’re left with…


Cheese cultures (bacteria), salt, more cheese cultures, more salt, artificial color, and two weird chemical things.

Yum. #not

Step Five

You thought you were done?

Alas, ninjalings. I don’t know about other countries, but in America, we don’t tell people what’s in their food unless it’s 1% or more of the total weight.

If you are ridiculously sensitive, you might want to call the manufacturer to ask what else is in their food. They probably won’t tell you, but it’s worth a try for certain items, like unprocessed meat (which is often washed in citric acid for sanitation). I’ve been pretty consistently able to get responses from meat manufacturers, but not from manufacturers of processed foods.

Story time: once upon a time I found a cereal whose label indicated total safeness. I was thrilled, but called the manufacturer anyways to make sure there was no sneaky citric acid. They assured me there was not, so I ate it.

My body was not pleased. I called again, and asked them to please tell me all ingredients that were not on the label; they insisted they could not do so because it was “proprietary information” (my least favorite words). I tried it again. I got sick again. So I wrote to my doctor, who wrote to them with all the authority of his M.D.

Two months later, I got a letter stating that I would be sued for eternity and my doctor would lose his license if I shared the super secret information they were about to share with me. The cereal contained 0.12 ppb citric acid.

0.12. Parts. Per. Billion.

Moral of the story: trust no witch.


Except Elphaba. She knows what’s up.

Alternate moral of the story: if you’re ridiculously sensitive and will die from eating 0.12 ppb citric acid, do your best to stay away from processed foods. However, for the vast majority of ninjas, this should not be a problem, so don’t worry about it!

The Contest

Ok ninjalings, now it’s YOUR turn to read a label!


Using my tolerance level, please comment on this post with a list of ninja-unfriendly ingredients.

Whoever gets the closest by April 1st gets a special prize!

What is this prize, you ask? Well, I’ve gotten approximately 50 million emails as of late requesting more recipes.

So, recipes you shall have! Winner gets their favorite recipe modified into a ninja-friendly version. I will contact you by email and we’ll work together until it’s delicious. If more than one of you gets it right, I’ll be selecting a random winner.

Happy label reading!
Until next time, when life gives you lemons, RUN!!!
The Lemon Ninja

Chocolate of the Carribbean

Greetings, Ninjas in Training!

At last, the most anticipated post topic of the century.


Can you eat it? Can you not?

The short answer is:

See what I did there? There is no short answer. Hold on to your nunchucks, ninjalings. Let’s dive in and take a look at the mystery that is chocolate.

What is Chocolate?

Excellent question. What exactly are we talking about here? Chocolate can mean a lot of things.

I could tell you all about how cacao beans are fermented, dried, and roasted, but that took me months of research to sort through and I’m not going to bore you with it.

(Wait, months??? “It’s right there on Wikipedia,” you say. The thing is, more than one ninja has sent me a particular scientific paper about cacao fermentation, which contains information on the citric acid content of the beans and how this is important for flavor. The thing is, we don’t eat the whole bean, so I basically got lost in the tunnels of the Internet trying to find information that did not include the word “fermentation.” It’s harder than it sounds, I swear.)

Anyways, the part we care about is what happens after the fermenting, drying, and roasting. They crack open the beans, get rid of the hull (a source of citric acid in many hulled foods), and smush up the inside part, the “nib.”

(I deserve a medal for finding information on those darn nibs.)

The nib gets annihilated into what is called chocolate liquor, which, despite the name’s suggestion, is not going to get you drunk.

Because, Jack Sparrow, we are talking about chocolate.

Apologies. Captain Jack Sparrow, we are talking about chocolate liquor, which is comprised of roughly 50% cocoa butter, 50% cocoa solids, and 0% rum.


Oh well, we have more important things to do anyways, like discuss what it means when you look at a chocolate bar and it says “Blah% Cacao.” What it’s referring to is the total content that comes from cacao – in other words, the chocolate liquor content. If you want to learn more nerdy things about cacao percentages, check out this page where I got all the info!

Now, I could start giving you science numbers, but first I’d like to give you some ninja numbers.

Ninja Survey Results

Roughly 100 years ago, I asked you whether you’d had a bad reaction to chocolate. The answers were broken up by tolerance level: High (1.2%+, can probably eat grapefruit), Moderate (0.4-1.2%, can probably eat tomatoes), Low (0.1-0.4%, can probably eat apples), or Saddest Tolerance Ever (<0.1%, should never eat anything) (I fall into this category) (see here if you want to figure out your tolerance level).


The results:


We will come back to these momentarily.

Science Results

After trekking through the wasteland of fermentation and lies, I finally happened upon a paper that gave me the citric acid content of cacao nibs.

Drumroll please…

30 mmol/kg.

Uh, ok, so that tells us nothing. Let’s convert that into something we understand:

30 mmol/kg = 0.030 mol/1000 g
(0.030mol/1000g)(192g citric acid/mol)(1/10) = 0.56g/100g = 0.56%

Thank you to my chemistry nerd friend Maria for checking my math, because I was pretty sure I’d forgotten how to do math when I saw that result.

Please click here for an appropriate emotional response: D:

But wait. We don’t just sit there eating chocolate liquor (I hope). Milk chocolate contains roughly 10% cacao, and dark chocolate must contain at least 43% to be considered dark (in Europe at least… let’s be real, in America it’s probably 5% but we won’t get into the inferiority of American food right now) and can even be found up to 85%.

So really:
Milk chocolate = (0.56%)(.10) = 0.056% = safe for ninjas with a low tolerance
Dark chocolate = (0.56%)(.43) to (0.56%)(.85) = 0.24% to 0.47% = safe for most ninjas with a moderate tolerance

Please click here if you need to respond emotionally again: D:

Ok, But Why Aren’t We Dead?

Ah, yes, the survey results. Roughly 2/3 of our moderate tolerance ninjas had never had an adverse reaction to chocolate; the same goes for more than half our low tolerance ninjas, and nearly 2/3 of our sad tolerance ninjas.

What’s up with that? Let’s break it down by group. You may have had a bad reaction if…

Moderate Tolerance Ninjas:
*You were eating super dark chocolate with 85% or more cacao
*You were eating chocolate with extra rude ingredients like soy lecithin (which contains citric acid and is in everythingggggggg)
*You are independently allergic to chocolate

Low Tolerance Ninjas:
*You were eating dark chocolate
*That nasty soy junk again
*You are independently allergic to chocolate

Sad Tolerance Ninjas:
*You should not survive chocolate
*How did 2/3 of us survive this?
*Are 2/3 of us crazy?

Are We Crazy, or is Chocolate Magic?

Here’s the thing, ninjalings. I have an exceptionally low tolerance to citric acid. I cannot breathe if I am in the same room as someone who was next to someone eating an orange 3 hours ago.

And because there was no information on citric acid to be found back when I was inducted into ninjahood, I found out everything the hard way. I went on the assumption that everything but citrus fruits and tomatoes were ok, then paid the price after eating dumb things like sweet potatoes and carrots and yes, even lettuce.

I did not find the list until after I’d found out pretty much everything the hard way – all it did for me was confirm that I was not crazy.

Many, many times, I have eaten a favorite food (see: sweet potatoes) fully assuming it was safe, and then I started wheezing and needed my friends to half carry me back to my dorm.

If only I could sing like Kristin Chenoweth

If only I could sing like Kristin Chenoweth

In other words: expectation does not influence whether or not I have a reaction.

I’m assuming the same is true for most, if not all of you. It’s not like we are talking about dairy or gluten – who the heck expects to react to citric acid? How many months and years did you suffer, researching and swinging wildly with your nunchucks at an unknown target? You are not here because you’re crazy, you’re here because you understand your body well enough to figure out what’s bothering it.


I asked my two favorite M.D.s, my allergist and my homeopath, what the actual heck was going on. Is chocolate made of magic?

Yes, Chocolate is Magic

Both of my doctors agreed that chocolate is, in fact, magic.

“It certainly would make sense that some of your chemical reactivity causes neurological changes that might be reversed by any or all of the mechanisms you mentioned,” said the allergist.

“Cocoa powder is a magical substance indeed. It is so full of nutrition and antioxidants that in the old days tribes indigenous to where the trees grow used the number of them on their territory as a measure of their wealth!” said the homeopath, who then literally proceeded to prescribe me chocolate.

Sidebar: these are my physicians talking to me. Please don’t go prescribing yourself chocolate and then dedicating your Darwin Award to me and the doctors on my dope squad, ok?

Anyways, you may have gathered from my allergist’s response that I wasn’t just asking about my lack of reaction to chocolate – something in chocolate was not only preventing me from reacting to the citric acid it contained, but seemed to be taming my allergic responses in general: chocolate works better than Benadryl for me, especially when my reactions have neurological symptoms. But what’s the secret ingredient?

Turns out, there could be several. Here are just a few:

Nitric oxide – A vasodilator, which means it helps oxygenate your body and brain. It also acts as a neurotransmitter. These two actions might explain why it helps with my neurological symptoms.

FlavonoidsAnti inflammatory and antioxidant. Inflammation is a biggie, ninjalings. Pretty much every symptom ever is the result of an inflammatory reaction: everything from hives to an angry tummy to anaphylaxis. Antioxidants are also important because they keep those little jerks called free radicals from running around in your body and punching everything they touch, though this is more of a long-term helper and not an immediate one.

MagnesiumReduces histamine, which is the instigator of allergic reactions.

There’s probably other stuff, but if I keep researching I’ll never post this😉

That Was Way Too Long, What Even Did You Just Say

In sum:

  • We’re not invited to Captain Jack Sparrow’s garden party
  • Milk chocolate contains roughly 0.056% citric acid
  • Dark chocolate contains anywhere from 0.24% to 0.47% citric acid
  • Lots of ninjas who shouldn’t be able to eat chocolate can eat it
  • Chocolate is magic


So What Should *I* Do, Lemon Ninja?

Well, Ninjas in Training, this is a highly individualized question.

Bottom line: listen to your body.

Every ninja is different and some of you will not be able to eat chocolate. Some of you will. Either way, please be safe if you decide to experiment! Listen to your intuition and don’t try something you’re unsure about. If you’re prone to dangerous reactions, talk to your doctor about it first – if you get the green light, try a VERY SMALL AMOUNT, and do so in the company of emergency meds and a friend who knows what’s up.

A general procedure to follow:

  1. If you’ve been eating chocolate without a problem, eat on
  2. If you’ve had a reaction to chocolate, check the ingredients. If it contains anything other than chocolate liquor, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and cane sugar, you may be reacting to the extra ingredients (especially if there is soy involved)
  3. If there were no additives, either the cacao% was too high for you, or the magic of chocolate does not work for your body
  4. If there were additives or you think you can handle a lower cacao% (plus you feel brave and desperately need chocolate in your life), find a low cacao%, additive-free chocolate and give it a small try in a safe environment (I recommend Enjoy Life!)
  5. If the magic of chocolate still doesn’t work for you, that’s ok. The recipe I’m about to share tastes absolutely delicious even without chocolate!


Lemon Ninja’s Chocolate (or not) Custard

Courtesy of Lemon Ninja, her Abuelita, and her Mommy


Chocolate Sauce
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/4 cup water
6 Tablespoons organic powdered cocoa

Crema Pastelera
3/4 cup organic sugar
2/3 cup spelt flour
1 1/2 cup rice milk
6 egg yolks

Notes: This recipe is equally delicious with or without chocolate. It is also equally delicious as a pudding or a frozen custard. You can use anywhere from 4-8 egg yolks – more makes it richer and more flavorful, especially in the non-chocolate version. If you can, get organic chocolate. You’ll thank me later.

Part One: Chocolate Sauce

  1. Dissolve sugar in water in a small sauce pan while heating; it should get a little thick.
  2. Add cocoa and stir till dissolved.
  3. Set aside to cool.

Part Two: Crema Pastelera

  1. Mix flour and sugar in saucepan.
  2. Add in rice milk.
  3. Stir while warming over medium heat; when it begins to steam, turn the heat down and continue mixing until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat, add eggs and mix thoroughly.

Part Three: The Third Part

  1. Once both the chocolate sauce and crema are cooled to room temp, mix them together.
  2. Pour the custard into a freezer friendly storage thing, or into individual plastic cups for easier nomming later on.
  3. Let cool in the fridge for about an hour.
  4. Move the custard to the freezer and impatiently wait for it to get frozen.
  5. Eat it. All of it. At once.😀

That’s all for now, my ninjalings.
Until next time, when life gives you lemons, RUN!
The Lemon Ninja

We Wish You Molasses Cookies, and a Happy New Year

Greetings Ninjas in Training,

As the year 2015 draws to a close, bloggers everywhere are writing sentimental posts… summing up their super productive year, and sharing their hopes for a super productive-er 2016. I thought I’d share my thoughts too:

  1. You guys really need to try these molasses cookies
  2. I really need to write more on this blog
  3. Lists need three things

In order to address this list, I plan to do the following:

  1. Share the recipe for these freaking delicious cookies
  2. Ask you all to comment on this post with topic suggestions, questions, and marriage proposals for 2016
  3. Make both of these lists have three items even though I only had two things to say

So. First thing’s first:

Molasses Cookies!


1/2 c white cane sugar, plus extra for just before baking
1/2 c brown cane sugar (NB: many brands of brown sugar are actually just white cane sugar sprayed with beet molasses. This is not ninja friendly! Read the label, always!)
3/4 c lard
3 egg yolks
3 1/2 Tbsp unsulfured blackstrap molasses (again, make sure it is cane, not beet!)
2 c spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp pink Himalayan salt


You may notice these cookies have no spices. I am currently not sure of the CA content of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, but they make me sick, so I don’t eat them. Ginger definitely contains CA, at 0.1% by weight when raw. It is likely that ginger as a spice has a much higher CA%, since water contributes a lot to the weight of raw ginger, but there is no water in the spice. Luckily, you don’t need spices to make delicious cookies! As for other modifications, you can use 1 whole egg, regular flour, and regular salt. Do not use shortening as a replacement for the lard, it’s made from vegetables of doom. I have not tested the recipe with any of those replacements, nor have I tested it with a gluten-free flour. Please leave a comment if you do and it tastes good! Or if it tastes bad, so others don’t suffer your fate😀


  1. In one bowl, set the lard out to soften.
  2. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Back to the first bowl! Add in the sugar, and cream together with the shortening.
  4. Add the egg to the sugar and shortening. Beat until light and fluffy.
  5. Stir in the molasses.
  6. Stir in the dry ingredients from the other bowl. It should form a nice big ball.
  7. Chill the dough for a few hours (overnight is fine too).
  8. Roll the chilled dough into 1″ balls. Then roll the balls in sugar!
  9. Place the balls of sugary dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 2″ apart.
  10. Bake at 375° for 8-10 minutes. Don’t let the cookies brown, or they won’t be chewy and delicious.
  11. Let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for a few minutes after taking them out of the oven. Then put them on a cooling rack.
  12. Eat all of the cookies. Eat them NOW.
  13. No seriously. I dare you to stop eating these cookies.
nom nom nom

nom nom nom

Now that you’re full of cookies, I do hope to help you have a ninja-tastic new year, so please leave comments about what you’d like to see on this blog next year! All citric acid-related questions, from cooking to real world survival to treatments are fair game. My goal is one post per month: January will be (drumroll please) CHOCOLATE! Finally🙂

Have a wonderful start to 2016, ninjalings.
Until next time, when life gives you lemons, RUN!!!
The Lemon Ninja

Caramels and Computers and Cats (oh my!)

Greetings, Ninjas in Training!

Have you missed me?

(I’ve missed you too.)

I’m afraid I have no excuse for abandoning you, except that I’m a small bit healthier than I was when I last wrote, and now I’m doing super important things like sleeping more and finding new ways to keep you all from finding out that I’m not human.

Actually, I do have a better excuse: I have been busy making caramels and eating them.

As a peace offering, here is the recipe, along with a recipe for rice milk! I will add them to the recipe page soon…

Homemade Rice Milk

1 cup cooked rice
4 cups water

  1. Throw it all in the blender.
  2. Turn on the blender.
  3. That’s it. Seriously.
  4. Actually you might want to stop the blender before you drink it.

Maple Caramels

Courtesy of Lemon Ninja and Ninja Mama

1 cup rice milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (real stuff only – the fake stuff is ninja poison)
2 Tbs lard

  1. Go here.
  2. Read the entire thing before starting. Caramel happens fast, yo.
  3. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, familiarize yourself with the old-fashioned cold water testing. I cook phase 1 (just the sugar) to the soft crack stage, and phase 2 (everything) to the firm ball stage, but you can play with that a little if you want.
  4. Follow the article’s directions with my ingredients. The rice milk is in lieu of the heavy cream and the water, the lard is in lieu of the butter, and the maple syrup is in lieu of the corn syrup. Don’t worry about the vanilla (as you may recall, it “probably” has citric acid), and you can add salt if you want, but I think it’s excellent without!
  5. While the caramels are cooling, cut some individual wrappers out of parchment paper.
  6. Don’t cheat and try to eat the caramels before the 2 hour waiting period. It will crystalize and you will be sad.
  7. Eat the caramels all at once, because how can you not?

That’s all for now, ninjalings. Thank you for all of your wonderful messages, questions, and marriage proposals; I promise I will make that post about chocolate eventually. Until then, when life gives you lemons, RUN!

The Lemon Ninja