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Dec 24, 2013

Merry Christmas from our family to yours...

Dec 9, 2013

Happy Birthday to the tiny human who changed my life forever.

As I tucked my four-year-old into bed for the last time tonight, I reflected on our life together as I have so many times before.

From the first sounds of his heartbeat, to the flutters I felt when he first kicked. From the first strained, beautiful cries to our quiet moments alone in the hospital, me staring into his tiny angelic face.

Nov 25, 2013

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cream Pie {dairy + gluten free}

When I was a teenager, my mom and I spent weeks trying to make the *perfect* pumpkin pie recipe. We tried several variations and finally found THE ONE. I still have that recipe and have made it nearly every Thanksgiving since then.

This year, while planning my (dairy & gluten-free) shopping list/menu for two family get-togethers, I actually left the pumpkin pie out of my plans. I still love it, don't get me wrong. But I was in the mood for something different this year.

Nov 8, 2013

Food Allergy Bloggers Conference :: 2013 Recap

When I first began writing this blog nearly a year ago, I never imagined the amazingly supportive community of bloggers and advocates that exists. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural Food Allergy Blogger Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, with so many of them. You may have seen my posts on various social media platforms about how excited I was for this journey, but those posts cannot truly capture the excitement I was feeling.

View of the New York New York Hotel & Casino

Nov 7, 2013

Halloween :: Staying Safe from Allergies

Traditionally, Halloween is a time of fun, festivities and food. But if you are managing food allergies, school parades and classroom parties, trick-or-treating the neighborhood, and even a trip to the grocery store can cause excruciating anxiety.

(This time of year always brings back so many memories for me...this post is a little flashback and a little bit of the present.)

I have learned over the years that keeping my son safe from his allergens and managing these stressors takes a lot of work. Preparing teachers, other parents, and your child(ren) is crucial. 

Oct 30, 2013

Pumpkin Carving Party :: 2013

At the request of one of a very persuasive niece, we hosted a family pumpkin carving party this past weekend. It is something we have done before with the intention of making it an annual event. Unfortunately I always forget until after Halloween is over. 

Two of our nieces grow pumpkins in their garden each year, giving us a ton of them to choose from. I made a big batch of homemade chili and some festive snacks (everything was dairy-free and gluten-free). Here are a few quick pictures I snapped: 

Oct 18, 2013

Product Review :: Enjoy Life Chewy Bars

Last month at our local Walk for Food Allergy, I stumbled upon some samples of these Enjoy Life Chewy Bars. We happen to be lovers of all things Enjoy Life. Much to my surprise, we had never tried these bars!

Let me tell you...the Caramel Apple flavor is to die for. I think all of our samples had been devoured by the morning after the walk. Since then, every time I've made my grocery shopping list for the week, both boys are right there, asking... "Can we please, please get more Enjoy Life Bars??"

Sep 16, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats {gluten free + vegan}

I used to be a morning person. Mainly when Mason was a baby and I didn't sleep much anyway. I would wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning every day, make a healthy breakfast, watch morning news shows, get all of our 58 bags together for work, daycare, etc., and still have plenty of time to cuddle with my babe before heading out the door.

Now that I have a 5 1/2 year old and have rediscovered how much I love my sleep, our mornings are slightly more hectic. Thankfully we live right next to our school, but I also have about a 20 minute drive to work each morning. If I don't pack everything we need the night before, there's a really good chance something will be forgotten.

#glutenfree #dairyfree #vegan #pumpkinpie #overnightoats #fallrecipes

Sep 2, 2013

Pumpkin Pecan Coffee Cake {gluten free + vegan}

I love fall. It is my favorite season of the year. Crisp temperatures, beautiful colors, football and all things pumpkin. We have actually had a very mild summer this year...until the past two weeks. With 90+ temperatures every day, I am wishing fall will get here that much sooner.

#glutenfree #vegan #pumpkin #coffee_cake

Aug 16, 2013

Steak + Pepper Stir-fry {dairy + gluten free}

This is a quick and flavorful stir-fry that works perfectly using my Grilled Balsamic Steak recipe. Throw the marinade together in the morning and when you get home from work, cook the vegetables quickly while the meat is grilling. You'll have a delicious, easy weeknight dinner in less than 20 minutes! My kids and husband like to wrap the meat and veggies up in tortillas like fajitas. 

#glutenfree #dairyfree #steak #grilling #recipes

Aug 3, 2013

Be the Change.

I realize I've been a little quiet this week and it's not for lack of things to say. I just don't know how to put into words all of the emotions I've gone through this week. 

If you don't already know, a little girl died last weekend from a severe allergic reaction. As the parent of a child with food allergies, the possibility of this outcome is a devastating reality. But when these situations happen to other people, a sort of panic ensues mixed with an overwhelming sadness for her family and what they are going through. 

(photo credit)

Jul 27, 2013

Battered Onion Rings {gluten free + vegan}

When I made my dairy- & gluten-free battered fish tacos, I stated in the recipe that you could also use the batter for onion rings. Here is how! Obviously they're not the healthiest food around but sometimes it is nice to be able to indulge in a special treat! 

#vegan #glutenfree #onion_rings #sides

Jul 7, 2013

Broccoli Salad {gluten free + vegan}

#glutenfree #dairyfree #eggfree #soyfree #simple #vegetable #sidedishes

One of my favorite things to do during the summer is grilling out with friends. Of course, tons of food is always involved. I love to lighted things up with a cold summer veggie salad. This dressing is one of my favorites as well. It is perfectly sweet and tangy, creamy and delicious. It is amazingly versatile too. You can use just broccoli and onion, or add other vegetables like cold peas, cauliflower, or cherry tomatoes. Topping with cooked, crumbled bacon, or shredded dairy-free or regular cheese before serving would be delicious too!

Jul 4, 2013

Product Review :: Salba Chia Seeds

Have I ever mentioned my love of chia seeds on here? Yes, that chia. (Just the word makes you start to sing the catchy tune, right?! Ch-ch-ch-chia!) You're probably thinking, "What on earth would you do with chia seeds, besides grow furry little plants?" Why, eat them, of course!

What exactly is chia, you ask? Well, according to WebMd.com, "Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, grown in Mexico dating back to Mayan and Aztec cultures. 'Chia' means strength, and folklore has it that these cultures used the tiny black and white seeds as an energy booster."

Jun 29, 2013

Freedible :: Because food is not one-size-fits-all {and a little bit of a soapbox rant}

"Because food is not one-size-fits-all."

I love this tag line. It speaks volumes.

So often in this crazy, food-driven society, it seems almost an expectation that everyone is just alike and can eat anything they want whenever they want. We are so focused on food as the center of our daily life. As if our children cannot exert any physical energy without following it up with brightly colored sweets and sugar-laden juices. As if we cannot go grocery shopping without trying a sample of this or that. 

Jun 1, 2013

Food Allergies and Camping: Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 of my Food Allergies and Camping series, I shared my concerns, my lists and food prep, as well as EpiPen storage solutions. After all that work, here is the fun part! :)

Packing the trailer...can't find the boys?

He couldn't make it all day...

It's hard to take clear pics when canoeing into a cave!

Hanging out in the tent.

Grilling kabobs... the foil wrapped one was M's.


Pancake Muffins!
Practicing ball for a bit. 
Catching minnows and crawdads.

Food Allergies and Camping: Part 2

In Part 1 of my Food Allergies and Camping series, I shared some of the concerns I had while being far away from just about anything while going on a camping and canoeing trip.

A large part of my planning included my lists upon lists of groceries, meals, snacks, etc. Here is one of those lists:

Cereal (the boys can't seem to live without it...I buy Mom's Best brand)
Breakfast burritos
Banana Oatmeal muffins
Pancake Muffins

Lunches: (two of these needed to be packed to take on the canoe with us)
Ham & turkey sandwiches
Shredded chicken wraps
Hot dogs & brats

Dinner: (as I mentioned in Part 1, we agreed to each cook two dinners to share, so this includes the dinners my sister-in-law made also)
Turkey burgers, black bean & corn salsa, chips & fruit
Lemon Herb Grilled Chicken, grilled veggies & fruit
Grilled marinated salmon, corn, potatoes & fruit
Steak & chicken kabobs with veggies, bacon wrapped shrimp & fruit

Snacks: (I packed quite a bit more than was necessary, but planned for the 6+ hour drive both directions in addition to the 4 days we were gone)
Go-Go Squeeze applesauce
ClifKids fruit ropes
Kashi soft baked cereal bars
Oreo Handi-snacks
Fruit & nut trail mix
S'mores trail mix

Easy snack mixes: Mom's Best Honey Squares cereal, mini marshmallows & Enjoy Life mini chips; dried bananas, cashews, honey roasted peanuts & blueberry flavored Craisins.

Almond or Soy Milk singles
Gatorade G2 (with no artificial colors or flavors)
CapriSun Roarin' Waters pouches

Breakfast was pretty simple. I made both muffins in advance and just packed one box of cereal for the boys to share. We did bring skim milk for the non-allergic kiddo, but kept it contained in case it spilled so we wouldn't contaminate everything else. I also brought along pre-cooked turkey sausage crumbles, a carton of eggs and a bag of shredded cheese. We cooked up quick breakfast burritos on our last morning.

For lunches, I brought along a loaf of wheat bread, gluten-free bread, wheat hot dog and hamburger buns, GF buns, and flour and GF tortillas (all of which were free of any milk products). For the chicken wraps, I bought a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken that was free of any milk products, shredded the chicken and placed it in a zipper bag. This made it easy to prep the morning of.

For the two days on the canoe, I just made the sandwiches and wraps the evening before after we finished eating dinner. This made it super simple for getting around early in the mornings. I packed each of our lunches in separate baggies and placed them inside insulated bags. We had one bag (our AllerMates lunch bag) for Mason and one for the rest of us. Then we just placed the bags at the top of the small cooler of drinks we took on the canoe. The one day we stayed at the campsite for lunch, we just grilled the hot dogs and brats there.

For dinner, I made the turkey burgers in advance at home, formed patties and froze them with a small piece of waxed paper between each one, stored in a gallon-size bag. I also cleaned and prepped the chicken breasts for the grilled chicken and placed them in a bag as well. For the chicken marinade, I just mixed all the ingredients in a plastic container and placed it in the cooler along with everything else. About an hour before dinner, I added the marinade to the bag of chicken while waiting for the fire to get started.

I made my black bean and corn salsa before we left since there is a little more prep work required for that. We had "safe" (milk & gluten-free) chips for everyone. For the veggies and fruits, I debated prepping those ahead of time, but was worried about how well they would keep being in a cooler of ice/water for a few days. So I put the veggies for each meal into separate bags and stored them in one cooler that we only put ice in the very bottom of so that it wouldn't freeze the fruits and veggies too much.

For the grilled veggies, I took potatoes, zucchini, red and yellow bell peppers, and purple onions. For the burgers, I brought along tomatoes, sliced onions and romaine lettuce leaves. We also had watermelon, strawberries and blueberries with our meals. All I needed was one knife and cutting board to prep all of this, along with a couple of plastic containers to put them in. Easy as pie!

When grilling, we were using a community grill and I had no idea what had been cooked there previously. For each grilled meal, we placed Mason's portion on a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the grate. This allowed his food to be cooked without touching a possible source of contamination!

Snacks were simple since everything was prepackaged and easily stored no matter the weather. 

Our kitchen looked as though a grocery store exploded for a few days beforehand...

I also knew I would have to find a way to store our EpiPens at just the right temperature. They need to be kept between 59 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be tricky when you are basically living outdoors with only coolers full of ice to keep things cold and no real way to ensure just the temperature is just right. I also wanted to take two sets with us, just in case we lost one in the river or something. Knowing how far away we would be from help during a medical emergency, it was a big deal to make sure we had constant access to this life saving medication.

I brought multiple insulated lunch bags along with us and used a combination of them to keep both sets of EpiPens just right.

This is one set of EpiPens in their case, inside a small insulated bag which I then placed inside another insulated bag.  This was stored inside my veggie cooler (with ice only at the very bottom) while we were away from the campsite in case it became very hot during mid-afternoon.
The EpiPens we kept with us were stored inside multiple insulated bags as well, and kept out of the sun. We did have a large dry bag to keep everything dry in case we flipped our canoe (which we did not!). It really helped that the water was cold, so I kept the Epi's in the dry bag and placed it all in a corner of the canoe, out of direct sunlight. They were room temperature the whole trip!

Thankfully, we did not have any allergy issues while on our trip and it was a very fun and relaxing time. Check out Part 3 for pictures from our trip! :)

Food Allergies and Camping: Part 1

Months ago my husband and I started talking about planning a summer vacation. We wanted to do something fun with the boys that wouldn't cost too much, but would still be lots of fun for them. We decided on camping and canoeing with his brother's family. They camp and canoe often (and we don't) so they were an awesome resource for knowing where to go, what to take, etc.

Once we began to plan, as the parent of a child with food allergies, the first things on my mind were:
  • How close is the nearest town/grocery store?
  • How close is the nearest hospital?
  • What would be the plan if the worst case (an allergic emergency) occurred?
When I realized the nearest town and hospital was nearly 30 miles away, I began to panic. Panic really isn't the right word, I guess. But my anxiety skyrocketed. I wanted to have a peaceful, relaxing trip without driving everyone else crazy. So, as the planner that I am, I began making lists. 

Luckily, my sister-in-law had a really great list of items to bring from their previous trips. She was also familiar with the area, and happens to be an RN, which made me feel better about being far from a hospital. And...as the wonderful person she is, she planned to bring mostly food items not containing milk to help limit the possibility for contamination. 

I knew I needed to plan and prep meals ahead of time, to be sure we had plenty of meals and snacks that all of us could eat at the camp site, but we also planned to canoe during two of the days. The canoe trips were 11 miles each and would take about 4-6 hours. Meaning we would have to pack lunches to take out with us. 

We agreed that it would be easiest for each family to make our own breakfasts and lunches, and to each make two dinners that we could share. She provided me with a list of ingredients (with pictures!) so that I could review the labels in advance. I really didn't want her to have to go out of her way to accommodate us, but she was great and made me feel SO much better about everything. 

Food prep worked seamlessly and was a breeze due in part to the enclosed trailer we had with us. We were able to pack everything in it for the trip, then once we unloaded it, we set up a table and kept the coolers inside so that all of our food was in one place and we didn't have to get everything out for each individual meal. 

We also had a water jug, hand soap and paper towels easily accessible at all times for everyone to wash up. This worked out very well with the kiddos, even though the majority of our foods were milk-free and they wouldn't really have had to wash up as diligently (even though it's a good idea for hygiene's sake!). 

I'll be sharing my meal lists and how I prepped everything in my next post, so check out Part 2

Summer Corn Chowder {Gluten Free & Vegan}

I have been intrigued by Panera Bread's Summer Corn Chowder. Unfortunately it is full of dairy and gluten and does not meet our dietary needs. So I decided I would make my own safe version. Most of the similar recipes I found included a base with cream, butter and flour. I instantly knew that I could recreate a creamy texture with So Delicious Culinary Coconut Milk.

The culinary coconut milk is an 11-ounce container formulated to work in recipes calling for a 14-ounce can of coconut milk, so if you can't find the So Delicious Dairy Free version, just use a can of full-fat coconut milk instead. There is also a Lite version that contains the same ingredients but has a lower calorie and fat count. I like the thickness of the Original and this chowder is filled with so many veggies, that it doesn't pack a ton of calories to begin with.

#glutenfree #vegan #chowder #dairyfree #summerrecipes

Summer Corn Chowder {Gluten Free & Vegan}

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 small white onion, diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp each fresh thyme, oregano, and chives, finely chopped
3 cups stock
3 ears sweet corn, kernels removed from cobs
2 small-medium yellow potatoes, diced
1 container So Delicious Original Culinary Coconut Milk
Salt & pepper to taste

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat olive oil over medium. Add onion, bell pepper, zucchini, garlic, and herbs. Saute until vegetables begin to soften and become translucent. Add stock and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add corn, potatoes and Culinary Coconut Milk.

#dairyfree #vegan #glutenfree #allergyfriendly #coconutmilk #sodelicious

Simmer for another 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. If you want a thicker base, lightly mash the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I love to sprinkle in a few crushed red pepper flakes and enjoy this sweet and savory chowder with a side of cornbread muffins.
#glutenfree #vegan #chowder #dairyfree #summerrecipes

#glutenfree #vegan #chowder #dairyfree #summerrecipes

Lemon Herb Grilled Chicken {Dairy & Gluten Free}

About 10 years ago, I was scared to death to try and grill something on my own, especially chicken! The couple of attempts I'd made were not at all good and the chicken always ended up dry and flavor-less. I stumbled upon a recipe that looked so easy, it had to be too good to be true. But it wasn't! Between that recipe and a few gazillion Food Network cooking shows, I finally gave it a shot. It was, hands down, the best grilled chicken I had ever had (not just from my own cooking experiences).

I couldn't tell you now where I found the recipe, but I still use it 99% of the time. I love it because the marinade uses ingredients I always have on hand, and is very versatile.  It's also super easy to mix the marinade in advance, pop the chicken into it for about an hour, then toss them on the grill. I've even whipped up the marinade and taken it on camping trips in our cooler. Just keep the chicken in a gallon-zipper bag in the cooler, pour the pre-made marinade in, let it meld together in the cooler for awhile and then pop it on the grill. Such an easy and delicious main dish!

#glutenfree #dairyfree #grilled_chicken

Lemon Herb Grilled Chicken 

Makes 4-6 servings                                                    Printable Recipe

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken pieces (I've used both breasts and thighs with great results)
1 cup vegetable or olive oil
1-2 Tbsp minced garlic
1/4 fresh herbs, finely chopped (I like to use thyme, oregano, parsley & sometimes chives)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Juice of 1 whole lemon

In a lidded container, whisk together all ingredients except for the chicken. Once combined, add the raw chicken and seal. Place the container in the refrigerator for 1-4 hours to marinade. (The outside of the chicken will turn slightly white. This is just because of the acidity of the lemon juice. It is actually a good thing as the acid helps to tenderize the meat!)

When you're ready to cook, preheat the grill to medium heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place it on the hot grill. Discard the remaining marinade. Grill for about 5-7 minutes on each side and until the chicken is cooked through. (Try not to overcook the chicken or it may become dry.)

Remove the chicken from the grill and cover with foil. Allow it to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve the hot chicken alongside some steamed or roasted vegetables, a baked sweet potato, or with gluten-free pasta or rice. Any of your favorite side dishes will go perfectly with this delectable dish!

#glutenfree #dairyfree #grilled_chicken

Tip: I buy fresh herbs, finely chop them and lay them on paper towels to absorb any liquid. Then I place them (with the paper towel) in snack-size zipper bags and freeze them. These work great for cooking and you don't have to worry about using all of your herbs before they go bad.

I do the same thing with veggies like spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bell peppers and onions. This also makes it really handy for cooking quick dinners since these items are already prepped and only need a short time to thaw!

I'm linking up with Skinny GF Chef for Savoring Saturdays!

Mini Pancake Muffins {Dairy, Egg & Gluten Free}

During my week of list-making and recipe-creating for our camping excursion, Tanner mentioned that his teacher had made "pancakes in the shape of muffins, served with syrup" on one of the last days of school. What a brilliant idea! I had been trying to come up with breakfast ideas for our trip that could be made ahead and then served one morning at the campsite. These little muffins are perfect to make ahead and freeze them in a large bag. We like to take ours on camping trips. So fun and simple!

#glutenfree #dairyfree #eggfree #pancake #muffins

Mini Pancake Muffins {Dairy, Egg & Gluten Free}

Makes 24-30 mini muffins                                                 Printable Recipe
2 cups gluten free all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup almond milk (or other dairy-free milk), at room temperature
3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 Tbsp vinegar
1/4 tsp maple extract

Optional mix-ins or toppings:
Chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life chunks)
Pecan pieces
Bacon, cooked and crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini muffin pan with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond milk, coconut oil, vinegar and maple extract. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. (At this point, you could fold in any additions you would like, or they can be added just to the tops after the next step.)

Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, fill each well of the muffin pan nearly to the top. (Add toppings if desired.)

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until top of muffins are set and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to cool approximately 5 minutes. Carefully remove each muffin and allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack.

Serve with maple syrup for dipping or a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

#glutenfree #dairyfree #eggfree #pancake #muffins

#glutenfree #dairyfree #eggfree #pancake #muffins

#glutenfree #dairyfree #eggfree #pancake #muffins

#glutenfree #dairyfree #eggfree #pancake #muffins

#breakfast #camping #pancake #muffins

#glutenfree #dairyfree #eggfree #pancake #muffins

#glutenfree #dairyfree #eggfree #pancake #muffins

May 25, 2013

Safe Play Dough {Dairy & Gluten Free}

A week or two ago, I stumbled across a box of food coloring at Mason's preschool and read the label out of curiosity (I do that in my free time...I know I'm obsessive) ...which (of course) said "May contain traces of milk..." 

I mentioned it to the teacher and was told they use it to color homemade play dough and for other art projects. When I suggested that another brand of food coloring that doesn't contain traces of our allergen be used, I didn't receive the response I was hoping for. Instead, it was suggested that I bring Mason his own play dough, safe for him to use, if I don't want him using the community play dough. I have found sometimes you have to pick your battles wisely, so off I went in search of homemade play dough recipes. 

I found that Heidi at OneCreativeMommy.com had already done the difficult task of testing multiple recipes and judging her favorites. The recipes she used are also gluten-free, which isn't a necessity for Mason, but I like a good challenge and figured it wouldn't hurt. 

The recipe I decided to try was the Easiest Gluten Free Playdough Recipe from Celiac Family. (<---Check out the original recipe there or see below!)

Easy Gluten Free Play Dough  

1 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup cornstarch 
1/2 cup salt
1 Tbsp cream of tartar 
1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil (I used olive oil and it worked fine) 
1 cup water (hot but not boiling)
Food coloring, as desired

Mix all dry ingredients in a medium pot. Add oil, then water and mix until thoroughly combined. 

Heat on low for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. When the dough starts to pull away from the sides, turn out onto parchment paper or a Silpat liner.

Allow to cool enough to handle. Knead the food coloring in until it reaches the desired color. 

*Note: my dough was pretty sticky once I began kneading, so I alternated adding more flour and cornstarch until it became the consistency I wanted. 

Mason chose lime green for the color of this batch. It makes enough that you could probably split it up and do multiple colors.

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