Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods

The Superbowl is near and the children of our household are all aflutter!  It isn't because we are die-hard football fans, (although I do love a good football movie!), it is because it's the only day of the year we let the kids eat dinner in the family room!  As soon as Superbowl time draws near, the pressure to create a fun and tasty football feast is on!  

One of our family favorite, salty and sweet snacks for game day is a perfect one for parents and children to make together: Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods! 

Roast Chicken - It's what's for dinner, and lunch, and dinner....

Go to youtube and check out my latest show, in three parts - Roast Chicken!

Learning how to make roast chicken can help give you plenty of raw material for many meals: chicken dinner, chicken salad, chicken stock, chicken gravy, chicken soup, chicken tacos...and the list goes on!

For all of the families just starting out in the "allergy world", this is probably the first roasting endeavor you should master, assuming that your family is not allergic to chicken.  (That isn't a joke, there are those who are allergic to the oils present in the chicken skin.)  But if chicken CAN be on the menu at your house, head on over to youtube and learn how to open up a world of safe meals for you and your family without having to break the bank with expensive "allergy friendly" products! 

"Allergy Safe Kitchen" presents:  Roast Chicken, part 1

Friday, January 27, 2012

What to do with an orange in "The Allergy Safe Kitchen"

Sometimes fruit gets treated a little differently in the kitchen of a food allergic family.  In our house, the oranges better look out.  They are a delicious fruit and so useful for juices, keeping poultry moist, and having on hand as a healthy snack.  But here's a secret about the bright and cheerful orange: it can be used to train people to save lives!  Yes, that's right!  The humble orange can help you teach care givers, grandparents, and even your children how to use an Epi-pen correctly. 

Epi-pens come with a needleless trainer, and we have used them to train others in the proper technique of administering the Epi-pen, but there's nothing like practicing with the real thing.  Before you throw away that expired Epi-pen, or the one you left in the car, (heat or cold - we've all been there), grab and orange and someone to train!  The skin and flesh of the orange are a good mimic for what it might be like to administer the Epi-pen through a pair of pants.  This little training experience has helped our babysitters, grandparents and instructors feel more knowledgable about Epi-pen administration.  When our son Aidan started carrying his own Epi-pen in a belt, we had him practice on an orange or two, and I think it has helped him to understand a little bit more about what the Epi-pen is and how it works. 

So the next time you find yourself ready to replace an unused Epi-pen with a fresh one, head to the store and get an orange!  Train someone to save a life! 

As always, I wish you "Good Cooking, and Safe Eating"! 

Oranges - training everyday heros in your kitchen!
Sunday, January 22, 2012

Broccolini Basil Spaghetti

Head on over to my youtube channel to see the latest installment of our "in home" cooking show, "Allergy Safe Kitchen"!  We're making Broccolini Basil Spaghetti. 

"Broccolini" is the trademark name, and the actual vegetable is sometimes labeled as "baby broccoli" or "broccoletti".  Is is a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kale.  If you cannot find it in your grocery store, feel free to substitute regular broccoli in this recipe! 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Before and After - a cook in the making...

When my husband and I first married, I knew how to cook very few dishes from scratch.  I was always calling my mom to find out how to do this or that, and I depended on a fair amount of box/frozen meals to round out our dinners for the week.  I made spaghetti sauce from the jar, defrosted meatballs from a bag, and popped frozen texas toast in the oven,  and I really thought I was COOKING, baby.  And truly, for a newlywed, it wasn't bad! 

I went from defining "baking" as boxed mixes and canned frosting to from-scratch dairy free, egg free, peanut/nut free cake, frosting, and fondant. If I can evolve like that, so can you!  This cake was made at a beach cottage for my sister-in-law's baby shower!
Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Love Note about "Enjoy Life" Mini Chips

Finding allergy friendly chocolate is SO difficult!  When Aidan was first diagnosed with food allergies (about 7 years ago), there weren't that many companies that specialized in making allergy friendly food.  When Enjoy Life came on the scene in our local grocery stores, it was right around Easter (several years ago).  I couldn't afford to send away for the expensive "safe" chocolate bunnies, which you have to order WAY in advance, so  I was trying to find creative options for the kids' Easter baskets, and browsing through the tiny organic section in our local chain supermarket. My eyes fell on a new product:  "Enjoy Life Mini Chips".  The other organic chocolate morsels our store had always carried were dairy-free, but they had the dreaded "may contain" statement for peanuts and tree nuts.  But HERE was a beautiful bag of hope in the form of mini chocolate chips!  I read the label 5 times, just to be sure I could trust what I was seeing!  Enjoy Life products are free of all top 8 food allergens!!!  My kids could finally have chocolate in their Easter baskets? I could concoct CHOCOLATE CHIP cookies?  I could put morsels in our rice flour pancakes as a special treat?  My mind went spinning with birthday desert possibilities!  I am not ashamed to say that I cried right there in organic section.  It was like we were being gifted with a small bit of what other families would describe as "normalcy".

An acquaintance from church saw me and I was so excited that when she asked if I was okay, I could only choke out "They can have chocolate!"  I really don't think she knew what to make of the whole situation, but she knew our children had life-threatening food allergies, so she gave me a big hug and said something along the lines of "I'm sure that's wonderful news!"  As anyone on the inside of a food-allergy lifestyle knows, those on the "outside" don't always understand how hope-filled these seemingly small triumphs can be.  I am grateful that this particular acquaintence just "went with the moment" and shared my joy. 

We have used this one ingredient to create countless special treats, birthday desserts, molded chocolates...we used them in the Peppermint Patty recipe featured earlier on this blog! 

So, from my family to the Enjoy Life company:  Thank you.  We love you! 

 As always, from The Allergy Safe Kitchen, I wish you "Good Cooking, and Safe Eating"!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Make Your Own Pizza Night!

Nearly every family has pizza night once or twice a month...or week!  This convenience dinner IS still possible for families dealing with food allergies.  With a little preparation, you can be eating homemade, personalized pizzas in "take-out time". 

First, the dough.   If you are fortunate enough to be able to use a ready made, refrigerated dough, by all means, make your life easier, and use it! If not, here is one of our favorite recipes:

*Tree nut-free
(If you have other food allergies, please read the recipe carefully to determine if it is safe for your needs.) 

For a Basic Pizza Dough -

1. Dissolve 1 Tbsp sugar in 1 1/3 cups of warm water. 
2. Sprinkle 1 packet of dry active yeast on top of the water (1/4 oz packet). 
3. Wait about 10 minutes, until the yeast is foamy and then stir in 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil. 
4. Combine 3 3/4 cups cups of flour and  1 1/2 tsp of salt in a large bowl. 
5. Make a well in the middle and add the wet mixture. 
6. Stir to combine and then turn the dough out onto a floured surface.
7. Knead for about 5 minutes, or until the ball is smooth and elastic. 
8. Form into 2 balls, coat each in olive oil, put in bowls and cover the bowls tightly with plastic wrap.
9. Leave the 2 bowls at room temperature for about 1 1/2 hours until the dough has doubled in size. 

*At this point, you can roll out, top, and bake the dough OR you can wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it for up to a month!

10.  For a regualr sized pizza bake at 475 for 15-20 minutes - depending on topping load and desired crispiness!  (When we make 'mini-pizzas'  we start checking them at 10 minutes.) 

One of the great things about this dough, is that if you double or triple this recipe and freeze the dough balls, you can have enough fresh, safe pizza dough to have one pizza night a week for the entire month!  This is where one afternoon of preparation can set you up for success for a month!  Use the dough to make calzones, and other dough based treats.  We've even used it to make cinnamon sugar donut holes in the deep fryer!  Food allergy families know just how expensive organic and allergy friendly convenience foods can be.  This dough can offer convenience in the kitchen without breaking the budget!

When you want to have a pizza night, simply take the dough ball out of the freezer in the morning.  Place the frozen dough in a large bowl. Coat the ball of dough lightly with a fresh layer of extra-virgin olive oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or kitchen towel and leave it alone on a counter for 4 to 8 hours. At dinner-time, you'll be all set to go!  You can top it and bake it in as much time as it takes to order take-out!

Here's a list of toppings we like to use:

Follow Your Heat Vegan Gourmet Cheese  (for our dairy-free eaters)
Al Fresco Organic Chicken Sausage  (Slice and saute for pizza topping)
Artichoke hearts
Bell peppers
Mini pepperoni
Carmelized onions
Fresh mozarella (for our dairy eaters)
Homemade marinara sauce (I freeze it in 2 cup containers and defrost in the microwave)

Personal Pizza Pan Set
We use these mini pizza pans by "Doughmakers". They are just the right size for children, and they allow each person to make their own SAFE pizza without having to worry about possible cross-contamination of ingredients on their portion.  Children love to eat food that they have created and mini-pizzas are no exception! 

I hope you enjoy your pizza night!  As always, I wish you "Good Cooking, and Safe Eating"!

Check out my new youtube channel!

I set up a youtube channel to be a companion to this blog.  The channel will feature our "in home" cooking show "Allergy Safe Kitchen"!  Please visit and subscribe!  Many more episodes to come! 

From Sunday Brunch to Grab-and-Go Breakfast - Part 1

From Sunday Brunch to Grab-and-Go Breakfast - Part 2 (plus out-takes)
Saturday, January 14, 2012

Peppermint Patties

As I watched the snow finally fall outside, I felt the urge to bake something.  Since we'd all recently had our fill of cookies, I got out a recipe for Peppermint Patties that I had tucked away.  This recipe originally came from Family Fun magazine, and I am sorry we waited so long to try it! These little beauties are scrumptious, and better yet, ALL the kids loved them!  


Hello everyone! Welcome to "The Allergy Safe Kitchen"!  I'm very excited about sharing my recipes and kitchen tips with you.  I have 5 children, and several of them have food allergies.  So many people in my life, especially with newly diagnosed food allergies, have asked me for recipes, tips on substitutions, hints for getting picky eaters to try new things; so I thought I might be able to help them, and others out there, by starting this blog!  Our home is currently egg-free, peanut-free, tree-nut free, and many of the dishes I make are dairy-free.  We spent several years as a gluten-free family, so this blog will include those recipes and tips here and there too.

My eldest son  is 7 years old; he has life-threatening allergies to peanuts and eggs, along with a host of environmental allergies.  When he was first diagnosed, he also had allergies to wheat, soy, dairy, and tree nuts.  Due to the high potential for cross-contamination between peanuts and tree-nuts, we still do not eat tree nuts.  After blood and skin tests suggested it was safe, we have successfully integrated dairy, wheat and soy into his diet. 

My 6 year old daughter, was recently declared "allergy-free" after spending her life up to this point with a dairy allergy.  While she still prefers organic, soy-based products, we are slowly integrating dairy into her diet. 

My soon-to-be-5 year old son, has no confirmed food allergies, although we notice significant behavioral problems when he eats dairy.  When he does not eat dairy, his tantrums are rare and mild.  When he eats dairy, his tantrums are record breaking in length and...shall we say, stubborness?  We strictly limit his dairy intake and err on the side of giving him a nearly dairy-free diet. His blood tests show no evidence of a dairy allergy, but his behavior suggests otherwise.  It's important to remember that allergies can manifest themselves in different ways.

My 3 year old son, is the only child who appears to be completely allergy-free, praise God!  He is also the only child of ours for whom we delayed vaccines until 6 months.  Just an interesting side note to share... 

My 1 year old son, was diagnosed at 3 months with a dairy allergy.  He has not yet undergone any further allergy testing.

We have a range of adventurous and picky eaters at our table and I do my best to make meals that are safe, tasty, and nutritious.  I'm happy to have a forum to share everything I've learned in the past 7+ years of being a food allergy mom.  I remember how daunting it all seemed when we first heard the diagnosis and cleaned out our pantry, and I hope I can help those of you out there who are just starting your journey.  And for the veteran food allergy moms, I hope you can find new recipes, fresh tips, and the comfort of knowing you aren't alone.  Let's all walk this road together!