Easy Peasy Peppers & Popsicles-TWO Allergen Free Recipes

As soon as I start typing this the kids are going to wake up, but for now they are still asleep so I’m hoping to squeeze out a quick post with some yummy new recipes.

A couple of weeks ago the fridge was getting bare, and I didn’t have time to go to the grocery.  We were having pork chops, and the only veggie I had in the fridge was 4-6 random bell peppers, mostly red, orange, and yellow peppers.  With no veggie dip or hummus in sight, I tossed them in a frying pan with some oil and started cooking them down a bit.  That was going to be pretty boring, and I eyed some quinoa in the fridge that had already been cooked.  Hhmmm, toss it with the peppers?  Definitely!  Still, this was going to be pretty bland, so to kick it up a bit I threw in some garlic salt and some dried parsley for flavor (& color).  Once the peppers were tender, I through in the heaping one cup of quinoa, added the garlic salt and parsley and stirred it all up and I got this….

IMG_4710I wish I was a food photographer, but I’m not.  I made this again just a few nights ago and we paired it with roasted chicken this time….

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So, to make this side dish you’ll need….

IMG_4708Ingredients:

cooking oil of your choice, roughly 4-5 tablespoons

4-6 bell peppers (pick your fave colors_

2-3 tsp garlic salt

3-4 tsp dried parsley

1 heaping cup of cooked quinoa

salt & pepper to taste

Cook the peppers in the oil until soft, add everything else and stir to coat the peppers in the quinoa, garlic salt, and parsley-that’s it!

Now let’s make a dessert-homemade popsicles!  I’ve researched several homemade popsicle recipes recently and some of them are pretty involved, but I like easy.  I wanted an orange creamsicle-type popsicle.  I looked at a recipe, decided it was too involved, so I grabbed what I had, plus a little sugar.  This were incredibly easy to make.  As in, 5 minutes-ish of dumping, mixing, pouring.

IMG_4712Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups orange juice

1 small container of vanilla yogurt (we used coconut milk yogurt, but you could use dairy or soy yogurt depending on your allergy needs)

2-4 T sugar, depending on your sweet tooth.  The more sugar, the more creamsicle-like, less sugar was more like frozen orange juice

Throw these ingredients in the blender

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Then pour into your popsicle mold and stick them in the freezer.

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Do these in the morning so they’re ready in the late afternoon and evening when you just need something to cool the kids (and yourself!) down.  To get the popsicles out once they are frozen, run warm water over them and they’ll come right out.  Here’s a picture of Nathan and little sis enjoying the popsicles.  Nathan is soaking wet because he loves to run through the water with his new swim goggles while I’m watering my flowers.  Little sis likes to stay dry 🙂

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So there you have it-two incredibly easy-peasy summer recipes that are kid friendly (yes, Nathan ate the peppers!) .

What are your favorite summer, allergen-free recipes?  Have you ever made up a recipe that turned out really well?

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An Allergen Free 4th Birthday Celebration!

Today has been pretty relaxing for a change!  This whole past week I have been preparing for N’s 4th birthday party.  Like all parents, I absolutely am in shock that he just had his fourth birthday!  It seems just like yesterday that I was holding him for the first time, unknowing all the parental ups and downs that were to befall me in just four short years ahead.  Here’s a picture from N’s 1st birthday where he’s eating his first dairy and egg free cupcake.  It’s crazy to think that is all he’s ever known.  I am comforted to know that  he loves his cupcakes and I make sure that he always has a safe one at every party we attend.

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Since then I have tried many recipes, gotten comfy (as in not so crazy-nervous) in the allergen-free world, and have become used to throwing great parties with yummy food that is ALL safe for N.  My brother (the one who named my blog!) always asks, “Everything is safe for N, right?”  This time it was everything except the mayo, which I don’t find as a huge threat to him.

Alright, let’s get this party started, and let me tell you what we served for N’s 4th birthday!!

He LOVES Disney’s Cars Movie, and that was our theme!  I wish I could say all of these decorations and accents were my idea but they’re not.  I am lazy and always scrambling, so I hopped on Pinterest and found some Over Achiever Moms who had already designed all of these things and done the hard work for me.  Follow me on Pinterest if you want to see those things.

Our menu for the party was sloppy joes, salsa, guacamole, corn salsa, tortilla chips, watermelon, veggies & dip (hummus and soy based ranch dip), and homemade Ranch seasoned (dairy free) Chex mix.  We also had Rice Krispie Treats and, of course, cake!  The cake was a Cherrybrook Kitchen mix, Nathan’s request.  To wet our whistle we had unsweetened tea, lemonade, and good ‘ole water.

Check out this spread….

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IMG_4621Did you catch the stoplight theme for my tortilla chip dips?

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I just LOVE these labels I found to customize for our food!  Not that food needs to be labeled, but it was just fun!  Are ya hungry yet?  Cause I am!  My husband and I are munching on leftovers right now 🙂  Mmmm, chips & corn salsa!

Here’s a picture, too, of our fun “road” tables.  Loved this idea I found on Pinterest, as well!

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Alright, I know you want to see the cake.  I STRESSED over this.  If you saw one of my FB statuses last Saturday, I mentioned spending nearly 3 hours working on eggless royal icing decorations.  Um, that became a royal mess.  By Wednesday, it was starting to shrivel up and the colors were bleeding.  I was bummed, but actually I’m kinda glad it didn’t work out, because look at this cake….
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Pretty awesome, huh?!!  I had already planned on putting the plastic cars on it and had bought the checkered flags at the local cake supply shop.  My mom found the giant “4” candle and I went to work.  The “sand” on the cake is Golden Oreos that I put in the food processor, the “road” is Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips, and the white icing is yummy Pillsbury.  The green, blue, and red icing is a homemade recipe I found and I adapted to be dairy free.  I was surprised to hear comments such as, “Did you buy that cake?” and “Did you make the cake, Rachel?”.  The kids were saying, “I want a part of the road!”.  I have to admit, I wanted his cake to be awesome.  I didn’t want a “That’s a cute cake” kinda cake, but a “Wow!” cake.  I must admit I have taken cake decorating classes in the past, so that helped.  This will probably be the first birthday Nathan will remember and was really aware of the details like the theme.  I think these pictures show his excitement and how overwhelmed he was with all of the attention.

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I think in the above picture, he was getting a little embarrassed, overly excited, and overwhelmed and how happy he was!

I was so happy to get the perfect picture of him blowing out his candle.  Makes a Momma happy!

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I had made these cupcakes with sprinkles for the kids, but I’m pretty sure the adults got stuck with them!

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And, here’s the aftermath…..

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Gone.  ALL gone.  Plates were scraped clean and hardly a crumb left.  Success.  Sometimes I wonder if anyone would know everything was dairy, egg, & peanut free (and 7 other foods) if they weren’t aware of N’s allergies.

About 5 leftover cupcakes were there for me to indulge in after the party guests had left and the kids were in bed.  I only ate one.  I promise 😉

I slept so good last night knowing that the party was a success, the cake turned out better than I had hoped, and above all Nathan was happy, content, and safe.  I’m looking forward to the the coming year and watching him change, learn, and grow.  As I sit here wrapping up this post while on my patio under the party lights I put up for my own enjoyment, I realize I am so blessed.  Food allergies and all, he’s still a happy 4-year old boy.  He’s healthy.  He’s determined.  He loves baseball and trucks.  He loves trains and books.  He’s normal.  He’s mine.  And I’m so proud that I can say that Nathan is mine.  All mine, and I’m so proud of him.

What do you say Food Allergy Moms & Dads….how do you throw an awesome, allergen-free birthday party?  What recipes from the party menu do you want??  Leave me feedback..I love to hear from you!

I Love Stuff….That Makes Food Allergy Life Easier

I am really striving towards simplicity lately, because it keeps me much calmer.  Except shoes.  The more the merrier.  You too, huh?  Allergies, on the other hand, don’t have such a place in my heart.  But, if it’s something that helps this allergy journey a little less painful, a little more tolerable, or even a little more manageable, then who cares about simplicity?  I say, “Bring it on!”  Here’s a few things that help our daily life, and definitely made our  vacation activities possible.

1.  A waterproof container.  When we go on our vacation to the lake house, we float down the river to the ice cream shop at least twice.  Obviously we have to take my son’s Epi-pens as well as his inhaler, so we put it in a waterproof bag.  Last year the one we used leaked a little, so we had planned on just using Ziploc bags inside this same waterproof bag.  Instead, my sister-in-law, Jenny, let us borrow her new Aquapac, which she had purchased to protect her tablet at the beach.  It was perfect!  There was enough room for a twin pack Epi-pen, an inhaler & spacer, and still had room to spare.  We had Benadryl meeting us at our destination, so we didn’t send that along for the 35 minute float down the river.  The Aquapac worked really well, and I recommend it for those of you going to beaches, pools, spending time on boats, or anything that involves water.  You could even throw your small tablet or cell phones in it.  Thanks to the Aquapac, floating down the river safely was possible!  My husband is the one in the blue shirt, and he had the Aquapac over his shoulder, and N is in his own little floaty.

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2.  A Frio Cooling Wallet.  This summer we’ve gotten much more diligent about keeping our Epi-pens at the proper temperature by not letting them get too hot.  We spend a lot of time outside, so we opted to get the Frio Cooling Wallet, which is originally used for insulin.  It works perfectly for Epi-pens!  We have the Frio Duo Cooling Wallet, and it’s an exact perfect fit for a twin pack Epi-pen.  Once the cooling pack is activated it puffs up a bit and so I have to push the Epi-pens down in the sleeve, and it’s snug.  Do-able, but snug.  If you want it roomy, get the Large so you have plenty of room for  your Epi-pens and maybe something else.  We have two, one for the diaper bag and one for N’s mini-back pack for when we don’t have his sister’s diaper bag with us.

3.  Insulated Lunch Box.  We love our Bento Laptop Insulated Lunch Box with the Bento Buddies Containers.  Awesome lunch box.  Love it, ’nuff said!  The Ziploc brand lunch containers fit perfectly in a Bento lunch box, and are probably much cheaper than the Bento version.

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4.  Bug Repeller.  We used Jason brand natural bug spray and the Off! Clip On Bug Repeller.  We had no allergy trouble with either product, but do your own research, as I only researched for our particular allergy set.  I’d love to make my own bug spray sometime, but until then, these two things are doing the job when the mosquitos are trying to suck the life out of us!  I know this isn’t food allergy related, but we used it a lot on vacation, and I’ve heard of people having some pretty nasty reactions to mosquito bites.

5.  A mini backpack.  We use a mini backpack when just my husband or I take N by himself and just need his Epi-pens, inhaler & spacer, and Benadryl.  He’s too young to self-carry his Epi-pens, so this was a gender neutral alternative for my hubby and I.  We have another set of these things in the diaper bag for when the whole family is together.  The mini backpack is also big enough to put a few light snacks and a small water bottle.

6.  Safe Sunscreen.  We use Coppertone Kids Pure & Simple and N has done really well with it.  It doesn’t have any peanut derived oils that I am aware of, which so many sunscreens do.  It is also oat free, which is something else that is common in lotion type sunscreens.  It’s affordable and even makes the EWG’s list of best sunscreens with a rating of 2, meaning it is a minimal hazard to use.

Then there’s food products that I love, but I think that’s going to have to wait until another post.  I hope this list of products help you manage your family’s food allergies when you’re out and about .  They sure have helped make outdoor fun-in-the-sun much more attainable while staying safe!

Alright Allergy Moms (& Dads!), what are your favorite products to make life with food allergies less of a pain in the neck?  Leave a comment and share your awesome ideas!

Vacationing With Food Allergies: Make It Happen and Enjoy It To The Fullest

On Sunday we returned home from a full week in Northwest Michigan, one of the most beautiful places this side of the Mississippi.  I love it there with the tall pine trees, the beach just beyond them, and the constant breeze keeping the sweat from rising up on my forehead.  If it weren’t for family here at home, I’d buy a house on a lake, pack up and move in a heartbeat.  My husband would be leading the way.

It was a lot of prep work to get ready for this vacation, but this view from our deck every day and the fun we experienced was totally worth it.

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Here’s how we did it.

1.  We rented a house with the family (and thanks to my in-laws for footing the bill!).  With a house, we could cook all of our meals which took a lot of stress out of the whole week.  I cooked most of the meat ahead and then prepped the sides once we were there.  My husband and I did all of the dinners.  That way, we knew exactly what N was eating, and he was safe all week long.  Renting may seem expensive, but it’s usually about the same as a hotel with a mini kitchen once you add it all up.  Plus, we went home with CLEAN clothes because we had a washer & dryer.  Not having to tackle the Mountain-O-Laundry once you get home might make renting a house worth it right there!

2.  We packed our meals for travel days and ate at rest stops.  This is a two for one.  Safe food and the kids get to RUN!  The kids love the picnic atmosphere and the fresh air energizes you for the next leg of the trip.

3.  Severe allergens were not allowed in the kitchen.  My sister-in-law and her man graciously kept their peanut butter upstairs in a bedroom and the door stayed closed.  At the end of the week, the dirty dishes/utensils came down and went straight into the dishwasher.   Thank you to Sharon & Adam!

4.  Relax.  Seriously, try to RELAX.  Yes, stay vigilant and cautious, but relax so you can think clearly and keep your food allergic kiddo safe.  One thing that helped me relax was locating the nearest hospital ahead of time.  Another thing that helped me was taking a TON of safe food.  Not knowing what the grocery stores were like there was nerve wracking, so knowing I had plenty of safe food on hand was comforting.

What did we do on vacation?  It’s more like, what didn’t we do?  We hiked, fished,

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floated down the river,

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ate (safe) ice cream at least twice, played in the sand,

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had s’mores, boat rides, beach trips, sunset walks, playground exploration,

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dune climb,

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and junior explorer class to search for bugs.

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You name it, we did it!  Food allergies don’t stop us very much, and our Epi-pens were with us every step of the way….even on the float down the river.  I want my son to be a kid, and experience things just like I did as a kid.  I try not to freak out (at least outwardly) so that the anxiety doesn’t rub off on him.  He had a blast, and this face…..

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….is totally worth it.

In my next post, I’d like to share some products that helped make this trip a little easier, and some foods that made this excursion lip-smacking good!

So…when it comes to vacations and managing food allergies, do you hold back and get scared, or do you relax and enjoy yourself?

What’s for Lunch? Allergen Free Lunches For Home Or On The Go

Sometimes I get in a huge food rut.  Let’s face it, we are avoiding 10 foods that my son is allergic to and it’s just plain difficult to be creative sometimes.  N is allergic to dairy, oat, egg, peanut, carrot, pumpkin, celery,  and strawberry.  We also avoid tree nuts because of cross contamination and have to skip raw tomato.  We recently went on a semi-spontaneous road trip and I had to pack all of my little man’s meals in advance.  I was agonizing over what to pack for him, and I was given a bit of inspiration while perusing Facebook one day.  A friend of mine posted Chicken Nugget Kabobs.  Brilliant!  A lot of the time, it’s all in the presentation or an Oldie But Goodie with a twist.  Now, I couldn’t do this exact lunch idea for on the road, but it did give me some inspiration for these mini-kabobs made with ham, Daiya cheese cubes, and fruit all stuck onto toothpicks.  I even got a little help assembling them and they were a hit!  I served them up with sugar snap peas with hummus for dipping, and 2 mini muffins.  For an at home lunch, this would even be a great fine motor activity for the little ones, and we all know kids will eat better if they help create their meal.

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The next meal I packed for him was similar, but involved him “building” little sandwich crackers.  I used a pizza cutter to slice some ham into squares, cut some Daiya cheese into small, thin squares, and added a bag of Wheat Thin crackers.  Basically, it’s a homemade Lunchable…but much more healthy!  I paired it with fresh watermelon (a favorite!) and another mini muffin.  This is another fun lunch for at home.


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We recently were able to welcome some new foods in our lives!  Finally, we can now make our allergen free version of PB & J sandwiches….with SunButter!  I am sooooo excited for SunButter.  It’s so creamy, and has a wonderful, satisfying flavor.  The flavor is oddly close to peanut butter but without a side of anaphylaxis.  Score!  I made the sandwich the morning he would be eating it for lunch so it wouldn’t get soggy, so that’s why it’s missing in the picture below, not because I ate it 😉  N loves berries and cucumbers, and of course the Golden Oreos I put in his lunch for a treat.

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One of my favorite ideas that I found on the internet a year ago or so (but can’t remember the source), was the following idea of serving lunch in an ice cube tray.  N loves it when I serve his lunch this way, and it’s a great way to get a variety of fruits and veggies in the kids.  Like I said before, sometimes it’s all in the presentation.  This tray has cantaloupe, watermelon, and broccoli.

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I wish I had time for cute little cut outs and such, but I just don’t.  I’ll leave that to those Super Moms that don’t have kids that follow them around all day wanting to be held.  If you are one of those moms, more power to ya!  I’m happy if the kids get a mostly whole foods diet and they actually eat it before I have to mop it up off of the floor!

What’s your favorite allergen friendly lunch at your house?  

Green Monster Smoothie

Bedtime snack in our house is one of those things I wish we could just skip, but we can’t.  If we skip it, then the kids wake up soooo hungry in the morning and it’s just not worth the extra grouchiness.  I love it when the kids want smoothies, because they are easy to make, quick, and the clean up is almost non-existent-a mother’s dream!  Last week we made what I named Green Monster Smoothies, which in Mom Talk translates to “Sneaky Veggie Smoothie”.  After making them, they both drank two smoothies.  I made them again tonight, and, again, they both wanted a second smoothie.  This is a keeper!

Here’s the recipe :

Ingredients

1 banana (peeled, sliced and frozen if you like them extra cold)

1 cup cold rice milk like Rice Dream (or other dairy free milk alternative)

1 cup raw, organic spinach with the stems torn off

Dump it all in a blender like this….and notice his stellar, backward dumping technique.  And notice the time on the clock-that’s 9:02 PM, not AM.   Now you know why I wanted a QUICK bed time snack!

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Blend on high for a minute or two, then pour and serve.

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N, like a lot of food allergic kids, is a tiny guy.  We try our best to pump as much healthy fat, high protein and low sugar nutrition in him as possible, but he’s still skinny as a rail.  He is often times kinda picky depending on his mood, so getting things like spinach in him is hit or miss.  Smoothies are a great way to get healthy calories and high nutrient veggies & fruits into your FA kids.

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I bet you or your kids will like this smoothie as much as N & J do, and with a name like “Green Monster Smoothie”, what kid won’t love it?

Here’s my favorite part…..cleaning the blender.  No, really, I love cleaning the blender after smoothies.  Just add a tiny squeeze of dish soap, fill up halfway with water….and give it good blend on high for about 20 seconds.  Rinse.  Put in the dish drainer and you’re done!  Anybody else do this?

What’s your favorite smoothie recipe?  Share with us by leaving it in the comments!

It’s Cobbler-tastic! Summer Blueberry & Peach Cobbler (Dairy, Egg, & Nut Free)

“It’s Cobbler-tastic!”. That was what N said after he was finishing his first of two bowls this evening.  I have to admit it was pretty tasty.

A couple of weeks ago my mom mentioned that you could make cobbler by using a cake mix.  I immediately thought of our favorite allergen-free Cherrybrook Kitchen Yellow Cake mix that was in the cabinet, and almost expired.  An almost expired cake mix is the only excuse I need to make a cobbler!  So, I searched on Pinterest for a few minutes and found a cake mix cobbler recipe and pulled out my ingredients.  It ended up just being a guide and I didn’t follow that recipe at all, really.  Here’s my version:

Ingredients:

1 dry yellow cake mix (I used Cherrybrook Kitchen Yellow Cake)

1/2 cup dairy free margarine, melted (I use Earth Balance Dairy and Soy Free)

a can of peaches in light syrup (next time I’m using two cans)

1 tsp. cinnamon (I actually didn’t put this in once I added blueberries on a whim.  Add cinnamon if you’re just doing peaches)

one cup of fresh blueberries

**Remember to read all labels carefully, making sure this recipe fits your allergy needs.

This really is so simple to make!
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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom of an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish.  Pour in 2 cans of peaches, juice and all.  Put the blueberries on top of the peaches and mix them a little to incorporate it all.  Now is the time to add the cinnamon if you’re going to.  I actually forgot it, and it was for the best since I added the blueberries.

Next, add the cake mix by sprinkling it evening over the peaches and blueberries.  Smooth it out a little better than I did here in the picture.

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The next step is to pour the melted margarine over the cake mix.  Below is what mine looked like before I stuck it in the oven.  I would have mixed up the margarine and the cake mix a little more because I had a couple of dry patches once I brought it out of the oven.  No biggie, though, and definitely didn’t affect the yum factor 🙂

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Bake at 350 degree F for 30-40 minutes, or until done.  It’ll look like this, but without the dry patches, hopefully.

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And now you’re ready to scoop some up for a summer treat.  I think it’d look prettier if it had a dollop of Rice Dream on top 🙂

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I’m thinking that next time I’m going to make a mixed berry cobbler with raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries….what do you think, sound good?