Ep.22 – Kitchen Hacks

Ep.22 – Kitchen Hacks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Bean Chili

3 Bean Chili

In just two weeks, on February 27, it will be National Chili Day! 

 

I am not surprised at all that we celebrate chili day in the middle of winter because it is a perfect winter meal! Warm, filling, and versatile.

 

As a food allergy family, we are always looking for recipes that allow us to customize the ingredients – and chili fits the build. Chili is one of those meals where substitutions and flexibility do not ruin the integrity of the dish.  

 

Here is what I mean 

 

  • Bean type does not work for you? Pick a different bean variety 
  • Make it super spicy or not by increasing or removing the hot sauce or hot peppers  
  • Pick your protein! Beef chili, turkey chili, chicken chili, bean chili 
  • Add corn or diced peppers

 

As long as you maintain the proportions of the original recipe, you can substitute to your allergy needs and taste! 

 

Although our family has a few tried and true chili recipes, this option requires almost no planning to get on the dinner table. 

 

In our house, we have all the ingredients called for regularly. Perfect for a night when the fridge and pantry seem empty. Or the times when you forgot to take something out of the freezer for dinner. 

 

This 3 bean chili recipe got added to my recipe collection when my mom and I were early in our home daycare career. We provided breakfast, lunch, and a snack to the children in our care. USDA food programs that supported us sent the recipe in a monthly newsletter. 

 

And you guessed it; this recipe appeared in the February letter.

 

Over time the recipe has changed little by little to accommodate my taste (the original was a bit under-spiced in my opinion) As well as to accommodate Shaun’s food allergies.

 

Here are the reasons I LOVE this recipe: 

 

  1. It is yummy – For me, the taste of a dish is always #1. The flavor should not be compromised in something allergy-friendly.

 

  1. It is a quick, simple meal. – one cutting board, one-pot: easy clean up too! 

 

  1. It is packed with protein. 

 

  1. It is a plant-based option – We are not vegetarian or vegan, but I do like to have a few plant-based meals that we can filter into our weekly meal rotation, helping to balance meat consumption.

 

  1. Toppings are customizable in the dish! Make it easy to accommodate allergy needs and personal taste.

 

I hope you give it a try! 

 

 

 

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Allergy Friendly Back to School Snack: WowButter Oat Bars

Allergy Friendly Back to School Snack: WowButter Oat Bars

 

It has been a busy week here in our little blue house on the hill! 

 

Shaun and I have spent the week savoring … 

 

Savoring our slow, playful days together before he heads to kindergarten on Wednesday. And savoring little bites of all the food we prepared in an attempt to ease the inevitable bustle of busy school days.

As an allergy family we have to think ahead to premake what so many other people can grab at the store. Yes, it’s probably better for us anyway, but it does lack convenience. (Which I took for granted most of my life) 

This week I focused on pre making Shaun safe food that can be frozen to help with breakfast & snacks.

If I have not said this already, let me share this allergy montra with you now … 

 

“The freezer is my friend!” … Say it with me this time, “The freezer is my friend!” 

 

We made:

Pancakes … Shaun’s favorite food 

Waffles 

Bread 

And WowButter Oat Bars 

 

All of these recipes are staples in our house but the WowButter Oat Bars are exceptional! 

Exceptionally tasty! 

Exceptionally  easy!! 

Exceptionally flexible to modification!!!  

 

These WowButter Oat Bars are an exceptionally perfect substitute to all the manufactured granola, seeds, nut bars that always have at least one of Shaun’s allergens. 

They are perfect for a grab and go snack! 

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. And for those of you with kids heading back to school, or heading to school for the first time, prayers for a safe and smooth transition. 

 

~ LC 

 

 

 

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Learning to Live With No Answers

Learning to Live With No Answers

 

Is that a hive? Eczema? Other unspecified rash? All of the above?

 

 

Having food allergies involves numerous changes to your lifestyle and approach to everything. Especially if multiple food allergies are involved.

After the months it took to get Shaun’s skin cleared up, and finally getting the laundry list of allergies he has, we spent the next several months in a panic every time he had a single hive or eczema flare.

 

What did we feed him?

 

Double-check all ingredients and packaging

 

Pace around with the Epi-Pen and watch for more or anaphylactic symptoms

 

We finally reached a breaking point. We consulted with Shaun’s allergist and she helped ease our minds a bit. Here is the big take-away:

 

Not every hive means anaphylaxis.

 

This is incredibly important. 

 

Our allergist describes Shaun, like many others with food allergies, as a “hive-y kid”. Meaning he is probably just going to get random hives, sometimes for no reason at all. More than that, we will likely never know why he got that random hive, or what triggered it.

Shaun gets random hives (anywhere from 1 to 3 or more) almost on a daily basis! On top of all the normal levels of parental exhaustion, there would simply be no way to investigate and figure out the root cause of why he gets every single one of the hives he gets.

 

There’s good news in this though!

 

In time, you will learn your own situation and how reaction(s) present themselves. At this point, 4 years later, we can generally tell when Shaun gets a random hive, if it is truly random, or if he is actually having a reaction to something.

We are also fortunate that in Shaun’s case, he is not going to have an anaphylactic reaction unless he ingests something. So at most, we’re going to have to deal with his skin reacting (hives, eczema, swelling or some combination). But we shouldn’t have to Epi him for a contact reaction.

 

This is another HUGE reason that Linda and I constantly talk about teaching your child to self-advocate. We’ve practiced with Shaun since he was old enough to talk. Ways to describe how he is feeling if things are itchy, burning, prickly, bumpy, rough, etc. This not only helps him tell us when he is feeling those things but also helps us to determine the severity of the situation. This is an integral part of us figuring out when he is having a genuine reaction or when he is having a random hive or symptom that will pass either on its own or with minor intervention from us.

 

Early on, there is definitely a lot of frustration, worry, and anxiety over what’s happening, and why it’s happening. In a lot of cases, you won’t ever get an answer. The trick is balancing preparation, awareness, and responses to ensure that you’re able to handle whatever situation you’re presented with, in a way that’s best for everyone, and sustainable long-term. 

 

 

Living with allergies is an art after all.

 

 

 

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How to Meal Plan and Why It Matters!

How to Meal Plan and Why It Matters!

 

It’s 4:30 in the afternoon on my way home from work. I slow down for a red light and Shaun pipes up from the back, “mom what’s for dinner tonight?” 

 

Nothing is defrosted. 

 

I haven’t been shopping in at least a week and a half. 

And we are out of our allergy-friendly staples. 

 

Can you relate? 

 

Food allergies or not I feel like at some point we all struggle with staying ahead of the “what’s for dinner” question. Though having food allergies definitely complicates this problem. (I can’t just pick up a pizza on the way home and call it a day.) 

And although I am aware of a helpful solution I don’t always choose to take advantage of it …

 

The solution?! 

 

Meal Planning!!!! 

 

Here is how I look at it …

When I put the time and effort into making a weekly meal plan I save time & money, eliminate frustration and eat healthier! 

I save time trying to scrape something together for dinner at the last second. And instead, I can spend that time with my family!

I save money when I use a meal plan. I know what and how much food to buy each week. Thus spending less and wasting less. 

I eliminate the frustration of last-minute scrambling to make a meal that is Shaun safe and balanced in nutrition. Instead, I jump into the meal; often finding places for Shaun to help me cook! (When I don’t know what my plan is it is hard to let Shaun help with the cooking, which he loves and is a necessary skill for him to learn) 

We eat healthier because I have more whole foods in my kitchen! 

 

The upshot, meal planning for the win. 

 

So here is my method: 
  1. Block off time on your calendar to plan your meals before the start of each week.
  2. Keep all your favorite allergy-friendly recipes together. This makes it easy to reference them.
  3. Grab your blank weekly meal plan worksheet. 
  4. Start with the first column of the worksheet: menu.  Identify days you don’t need to cook or will eat leftovers (eating out, dinner at moms house, soccer practice) 
  5. Then for the days that remain pick from your recipes to complete your meals for the week. 
  6. Next, pull the recipes you have chosen for the week ahead and figure out what ingredients you need. Use the second column, shopping, to record what and how much you need. 
  7. Cut the columns apart, the menu goes on the frigid with the recipe cards for the week. And the shopping list goes with you … well … shopping. 

 

 

A few tips …
  • I fill out my worksheet on Saturday for the Monday ahead. (That’s why my meal plan page starts with Monday.) You can adjust this by starting with any day that works for you. 
  • I tend to cook extra servings for a meal. I like to have leftovers! Both for the purpose of eating the meal again (John takes leftovers for lunch) or in some cases to use the ingredients in a new dish. (ie. roasted chicken on Monday can be used in a chicken wrap on Wednesday). This type of efficiency is really helpful now that we live with food allergies. 
  • I print my meal plan worksheet a week ahead of the planning. I leave it on the kitchen counter so as we run out of something I can just put it into the shopping list. Then when Saturday rolls around I plan my meals and complete my shopping list. 
  • I do a combination of shopping in the store and online (Yeah for Instacart!!) but in both cases, I fill out my paper shopping list. It helps me stay organized; I have found that if I try to input my list right to the computer I always miss a key ingredient leaving me running out to the store. 

 

Right now, I only plan dinners and leave breakfast and lunch more open. I know what we like to have in the house and make sure it gets included on my shopping list if we are low on something. It works for my family. 

Having said that you can easily plan breakfasts and lunches on your menu sheet if you decide that is what works for you!

As with anything in life, I cycle in and out of meal planning but when I stick to it my week is much more enjoyable! 

So let’s start together, right now! 

Let’s put in the extra time upfront, save money, ease the stress of dinnertime and eat healthier!!  

 

Happy Planning! 

 

~ LC 

 

 

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BBQ & Picnics: How to Embrace Summertime Fun with Food Allergies

BBQ & Picnics: How to Embrace Summertime Fun with Food Allergies

 

For anyone living with food allergies, summertime gatherings bring many stressful complications. Although BBQs and picnics are about sharing time with friends and family, they are also about good food!

 

Here are some ideas to help you prepare and navigate these events!

 

Know your host

Consider your host’s personality. Has this person been supportive of your food allergy needs? Have they been willing to learn and make accommodations? The answers to these questions will help you prepare to attend (or sometimes not attend) the event!

If the answer to these questions is yes, you should feel a little more at ease about talking to the host about any concerns or needs you want them to be aware of.

If the answer to these questions is no, you might need to take a more direct approach to talk to your host about any concerns or needs that you might have about the event so you can feel safe attending the gathering. Be open to sharing your experience and knowledge if the host seems open to it but be prepared that some people in our lives are not going to want to understand and make accommodations.

In any case, with food allergies, you have to assess the risk and if you are willing to take it. This looks different for everyone! And can sometimes look different at various times in your allergy journey.   

 

Know your allergy

Okay so I know you know what your allergies are, but how sensitive are you? How fast does a reaction escalate?

Maybe you only experience anaphylaxis if you ingest the food (like Shaun) and therefore as long as you don’t eat a lobster roll at the picnic you will be safe.

However, it is possible that you are much more reactive to lobster and you are unable to be near it cooking on near someone eating it. In this case, talk with your host, again assessing the risk. Maybe they will make a change to the menu to accommodate this or perhaps they won’t, BUT the key is to communicate!   

 

Food

Many times the most straightforward course of action in these situations is to bring your own safe food! In my experience, this lowers stress for you as the guest and your host.  

If you feel comfortable eating the food at the picnic, consider making your plate from the safe choices BEFORE other guests. This allows you to avoid any possible cross contamination while people are serving themselves.

 

Know your care plan

This is as simple as it sounds. Bring your necessary medications and know what to do if a reaction happens.  Whatever action plan you have established with your doctor, review it, and be prepared to use it! We manage risk, but we can not eliminate it.

 

Practice with your child

Part of our job as parents is to guide our children, to teach them. This is no different when it comes to their food allergies!

Practice with them the essential things you want them to remember!

For our family that is Shaun’s allergy list, what and where his auto-injectors are kept, and that he is not to take food from anyone but mom and dad. We also practice what  he would say if someone offers him food, even if it looks safe, we repeat the words, “No, thank you, I’m allergic.”

 

*** THIS IN NO WAY MEANS I BELIEVE MY 4 YEAR OLD, OR ANY 4 YEAR OLD, CAN OR SHOULD MANAGE THIS THEMSELVES! ***

 

We watch Shaun like a hawk and make sure we are mitigating all foreseen aspects of the gathering. The purpose of this is to start to make him aware of what he will one day need to do to advocate for himself and to put an extra possible safeguard in place as a last resort to unforeseen risk.  

 

Build a safe space

As you arrive, take a look around and see if you can build an area in which you can feel comfortable! (Depending on your host this might be something that you can discuss beforehand)

  • Look for a spot away from where the food is being served
  • A location off to the side of things
  • A table or place in the grass where a safe space can be created is perfect
  • Keep food and medications at this spot
  • Wipe down the area if necessary
  • Set up the stroller or playpen (if it’s your young child with a food allergy)

This provides a small area at the picnic that you can eat at and retreat to if things become stressful or if you are concerned, a reaction may be occurring.

 

Leave when you are ready to go

 

This is not to say that you should plan to leave early.

 

However, social food-based gatherings can be stressful! You may encounter unexpected risks, you may find yourself with a contact reaction, or any number of other things may heighten your stress. For some living with food allergies, they will manage this in the moment, BUT if you are not in a place to do that there is nothing wrong with gracefully leaving.

 

Now, to change perspectives!

 

If you are hosting and you invite a guest with food allergies, keep these thoughts in mind:

  • Reach out and talk with your guest before the day of the picnic! Ask if you can do anything to make them feel more comfortable about attending. (Even if they say no they will be so grateful you asked!!)
  • Don’t take it personally if they bring their food. I am sure they would love a break from cooking, but in many cases, it is just safer!
  • Expect that your food allergy guest might not stay for the entire event, and that’s okay!!

 

Picnics and BBQs can be fun even with food allergies! It’s about preparing and communicating to lower risk.

 

 

Happy Picnicking!

~ LC

 

 

 

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