Saturday, July 27, 2013

Vacation Preparation

Going on vacation for any extended period of time calls for some planning and preparation.  But when you are going to visit two different states and have two children with severe food allergies, you really have to plan ahead!

My sister is getting married in Washington DC, but we were already planning on trying to go to Disneyworld this summer.  So when we found out about the wedding plans, we decided to visit Florida and Washington DC in one big trip.  The kids know we are going to DC and that their aunt is getting married (the girls will be flower girls), but they don't know we are going to Disney.  I can't wait to see their faces when we surprise them upon arrival!

I began food prep weeks ago, baking and freezing lots of snacks, meals, and treats.  They don't eat a lot of junk food, but vacation is a special occasion that calls for lots of treats (especially when your little one has a food allergy -- treats are all that more special).  I've also stocked up on packaged foods that Bubs and GirlyGirl can have for snacks and treats, such as Enjoy Life bars and cookies, fruit strips, Surfs Sweets all natural candies, Fruit Crisps, and more. 

Cutie (3 years old) was having trouble conceptualizing how long it was until our vacation began.  She kept asking if we were leaving after nap.  :)  So I made one of these timeless countdown chains which we dubbed the "Vacation Chain."  And the kicker:  The child who has been most well behaved gets to tear off the next chain.  These kids were on their best behavior.  It's funny what motivates a child!

Our vacation chain

I also made sure to stock up on the necessary extras -- fast melt generic Benadryl and EpiPens, which was really easy this year since Mylan is offering their special $0 copay.

There's also the obvious vacation planning including reserving hotel rooms, purchasing Disney park tickets, renting a stroller, etc. 

Finding a hotel room that accommodates six is more difficult than I thought.  I figured we'd be OK with one bed, and the kids could sleep on the floor in their sleeping bags.  But I guess there are regulations that we have to follow.  (We don't travel often.)  So our search for a large hotel room that has a full kitchen and washer/dryer and is also affordable led us to book a room in Orlando rather than on the Disney resort.  We will have about a 30 minute commute to the parks, but our hotel offers a free shuttle, which will be an adventure in itself for the kids.  And apparently there are no hotels that accommodate six in DC.  So again, we are staying outside of the city, but we are close to the metro line which will take us anywhere we want to go!  Another adventure for the kids!

It is also a small ordeal to purchase park tickets.  Curls is still free since she is under 3, which helps tremendously.  We searched for deals on tickets, but they are hard to come by, especially if you are not staying in a Disney resort.  I found an online agent that offers a small discount on each ticket price, but which also includes tax in the ticket price (unlike Disney), so we saved around $100 total on a 4-day park pass and Sea World tickets.  Not bad!  They need to be mailed to your home, and we didn't plan far enough ahead, so we did pay a small fee for express shipping just to be sure we had them in time.

Then we had to think about stroller rental.  I originally thought about just renting the park strollers, but they are awfully expensive and there are no good pockets or baskets for the mountains of stuff I carry with me.  I read this review on SuperJenn and decided to rent a stroller through Kingdom Strollers.  They will deliver right to our hotel (and pick up there too), and it's ours for the week!  And it's much cheaper than the Disney park strollers.

Next come the cleaning and packing.  I really am a neat freak, but I have lost some of OCDness since I've had kids.  While I wish my house were spic and span all the time, it's just not possible if I want to keep my sanity (and spend precious time with my kids)!  But I do like my house to be clean before we leave on vacation.  So I spent some time sorting through toys and taking loads down to the basement to declutter the living room.  I will do the usual bathroom/kitchen/floor cleaning right before we leave.

It is so nice that we will have a washer and dryer in our hotel in Orlando so I can pack a bit lighter.  Clothing packing is not a big deal, but food packing takes some work.  I have two Rubbermaid tubs and a large cooler full of food for the two weeks.  Once we get there, I'll hit the local grocery store to buy food for the rest of us.  I plan on carrying most of our food each day to cut costs (it's great that Disney allows you to do this).  I'll just prepare lunches, snacks, and suppers each morning and pack them up for the day. 

Since the drive to Orlando will be a two day undertaking, I need to keep Bubs' meals for the first two days easily accessible for each stop.  I'll make them before leaving home and just keep them on top in the cooler.  I also don't want to completely unload our van for a short overnight stay in Chattanooga (we plan on arriving late and leaving early), so I will pack a quick overnight bag with just clothes and toiletries to grab for the night. 

We don't watch a lot of TV or movies, but I have been pouring Disney movies down the kids' throats recently so they will know what all the excitement is all about.  They have tons of Disney toys, etc, and we read lots of Disney stories, but there is something about watching the moves to add to the excitement. 

We will also keep the kids plugged in to a portable DVD player for the two day drive.  Hopefully this will eliminate (or at least decrease) the amount of arguing from the back seat!  We are loaded up on Disney and other kids movies for the trek.

I am packing princess dress-up dresses for the girls since I don't want to pay big bucks at the parks.  I have to sneak them in the bags, along with homemade Character Autograph books for each kid with their name on it.  They turned out so cute (thanks to the idea from SuperJenn)!

Character Autograph Books for each child

Finally we arranged for the neighbors to keep and eye on the house and feed the dog while we are gone.  Seems like everything is ready!  I'm getting excited!

I felt like I was very well prepared with everything ahead of time.  All tickets purchased, all rooms booked, itinerary typed, food made and frozen, Disney research done, flower girl dresses bought.  But it seemed as if the vacation gods were against us!  It seemed as if something were telling us not to go.

First, the hubs' grandmother has recently been diagnosed with cancer and was scheduled to have surgery the week before we leave.  Then his father was diagnosed with a painful autoimmune condition.  Then his mother was hospitalized with severe abdominal pain. Then a few days before departure, two of the girls get the stomach bug!  I called around looking for barf bags to travel with (because it will inevitably travel though the family), but I couldn't find them anywhere!  We'll just have to take our chances.  Then a giant turkey flies into our van (luckily the only damage is a broken side mirror, but it won't get fixed before we leave).  Finally, a tropical storm is brewing and is set to hit Florida right when we arrive!  That's still several days away, so I'm hoping it changes course. 

So no matter how much you plan and prep, you still have to go with the flow.  I'm hoping we are getting all this madness out of the way before we leave so we can have a wonderful, relaxing, enjoyable vacation.  I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cheesecake (Top 8 Free)

Ever since I found out that Daiya came out with a cream cheese, I've been dying to make cheesecake. 

Ingredients:
12 Top 8 Free crackers/cookies (I used EnerG Cinnamon Crackers)
2 tubs Daiya original cream cheese
2 egg replacements (I used EnerG)
2 Tbsp vanilla
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2/3 c sugar
Top 8 Free chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350º.  Spray muffin pan with nonstick spray (I used my kitchen spritzer with canola oil since all the store bought sprays contain or are processed with soy).  Place a cracker in each well.  In a medium bowl (or Kitchinaid Stand Mixer) beat cream cheese.  Add "eggs," vanilla, lemon juice, and sugar.  Beat until smooth.  Fill each baking cup 2/3 full with cream cheese mixture.  Top with chocolate chips (or other topping of your choice - you may want to wait until after baking if topping with fruit, etc).  Bake 15-17 minutes.

 
I baked the recipe this time, but you could probably get away with not baking and simply refrigerating for a few hours (since there aren't real eggs in it).  These definitely did not come out nice and pretty like I had hoped.  Baking them made them boil/melt and get really runny.  But that didn't effect the taste.  They were delicious! 

This is what I used for the "crust."  The cinnamon added a nice flavor.

Product Review: Label It or Lose It

It can be difficult to make sure everyone is aware of your child's food allergy.  As a food allergy momma, I do lots of worrying, especially when I am not around.  I feel much better if my child is "labeled" in some way so others can easily recognize my child's food needs (so they don't feed my monkey). 

I found these labels from Label It or Lose It that are fantastic!  They make specific food allergy warning labels as well as a variety of other labels.  They are even dishwasher safe!

I ordered the allergy warning labels for Bubs and the regular stick-on labels for GirlyGirl. 


The allergy warning labels allow for up to four allergies to be listed in addition to your child's name.  They are bright yellow which draws attention to the warning.  I have stuck these on water bottles, lunch boxes, backpacks, etc.  They have been through my dishwasher over and over and have yet to come off.  These things are durable!  (I must say that these adhere much better to solid surfaces than fabric surfaces.  This type is better for short-term fabric use.  They do make specific iron-on labels if you need a permanent label on fabric.)



The personalized stick-on labels are smaller and more subtle.  They are also dishwasher and microwave safe.  There are a variety of images that can be chosen from to be placed on the sticker.  I chose to use the medical alert symbol.  Where it prompted me to enter a name, I typed her name and "Peanut Allergy" so it was all listed on the label.  This type of label comes in a pack of five colors.  GirlyGirl loves the variety to chose from!  I have stuck these to her water bottles, lunch box, and backpack, and more as well.  (Same goes for fabric use as above.)

What a great way to send the message that your child has a food allergy!  The kids love these stickers.  GirlyGirl wants to wear them on her shirt every time she goes to a party.  So cute!

I would definitely recommend Label It or Lose It as an easy and fun way to communicate your child's needs. 

Product Review: Hope Paige Medical ID Marketplace

Be Safe.  Be Stylish.  Be Sure.  This is the motto for Hope Paige Medical ID Marketplace, and I think it speaks for itself.

Medical ID bracelets are a great way to help keep your food allergic child safe.  It alerts others that he/she has a medical condition and will also stimulate conversation to raise awareness. 

It has been a challenge to find a bracelet that my 8 year old son will wear.  He's not much for jewelry, but he does like sports-type bracelets and necklaces. 


I came across Hope Paige which offers a wide variety of medical ID jewelry.  I saw this bracelet, and I instantly knew my son would love it.  It is sporty, comfortable, and lightweight. 

 

Hope Paige also offers free, customizable engraving.  While Bubs has a long list of foods we are avoiding, there are three foods that he is anaphylactic allergic to, including milk, eggs, and peanuts.  These are the life-threatening foods that others need to be aware of.  I chose to have those three foods engraved, along with "I carry Epi" so others would know how to help.  In the event of an emergency, a medical ID bracelet will quickly let others know what the possible problem could be.  This leads to proper intervention and potentially preventing mistakes in treatment.  So important to have, especially when parents are not around.
 

This style of bracelet has an easy clip that Bubs can manage himself.  One less thing for me to do!

 
The downside to this style of bracelet is that it is not adjustable.  Be sure to measure your child's wrist before ordering to ensure a proper fit.
 
Hope Paige offers hundreds of styles for men, women, boys, and girls.  You could spend hours trying to decide which piece of jewelry best suits you.  I certainly had trouble deciding.  And I may need to order more in the future so the kids have a selection to choose from.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Snickerdoodle Donuts (Top 8 Free)

More donuts?  Why, yes!  I recently got a new donut pan, and I've been baking like crazy.  I'm prepping for a 2 week vacation, baking and freezing food for Bubs. (I'm packing his food for the whole trip....that's a lot of food!)

I saw these snickerdoodle donuts on The Frugalista Mom's Instagram, and I begged her for the recipe.  She posted it here, and it looked like something I could make.

 
 
I didn't have all the ingredients she had listed, so I made some minor adjustments.  Here is my ingredient list:
 
Ingredients:
1 1/2 c gluten-free flour (I used King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multi-Purpose Flour)
1 Tbsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 c sugar
1/4 c sunflower oil
1 tsp guar gum
1/2 c rice milk
1 egg replacement (I used EnerG Egg Replacer)
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 c unsweetened applesauce
 
Topping:
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
 
The original recipe called for a flax egg, but I used egg replacer instead.  I also chose to add guar gum which should be mixed with the oil before combining with other ingredients.  The original recipe also called for using a donut maker, but I just used my donut pan.  Bake at 425º for 6-7 minutes.
 
For the full recipe and instructions, click here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Chocolate Chip Donuts (Top 8 Free)

My donut baking journey continues.  I saw a pic of some scrumptious looking chocolate chip donuts on Keeley McGuire's Instagram.  They are top 8 free and looked so yummy!  I had to give them a try.


I changed up the original recipe a bit, making do with ingredients I already had (including omitting oats).  Here is my ingredient list:

Ingredients:
2 medium ripe bananas
6 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1/2 c milk-free yogurt (I used a small container of So Delicious vanilla yogurt)
1 egg replacement (I used EnerG Egg Replacer)
1/4 c maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c gluten-free flour (I used King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multi-Purpose Flour)
3/4 tsp guar gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 c safe chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life)

Click here to get the full recipe and instructions from Momables and enjoy some delicious safe donuts!

Vacation Bible School

This week the kids attended Vacation Bible School at our church. We usually participate in the evening session, and I have volunteered in one of the kids' classes each year. I volunteer for two main reasons: To help out and to keep an eye on the food situation.

This year there was no evening session offered. Since my husband and I both work, we were planning on skipping it this year. But both kids really wanted to go, so we signed them up at the last minute. Since we were signing them up so late, I didn't expect anything special to meet their food needs. I told them I would just bring a snack each day.

Of course, I brought fruit chips the first day (trying go healthy), but when we arrived I found out they were providing s'mores that day. The gals in charge were apologetic for not getting in touch with me ahead of time to find out what my kids could eat. I told them we had just signed up the day before, so we weren't expecting anything special. But they listened and watched intently to my demo of EpiPen use and led me to the kitchen to check labels of all the food being provided for the week. All of the food was safe for GirlyGirl. Of course Bubs couldn't have any of it, but I got a list for the week so I could replicate the snacks with his food from home. 

Fire Pit for the rest of the kids

Bubs' Fire Pit ingredients (I didn't have red grapes at home, so green it is!)

While he missed out on s'mores the first day, I was able to come close to matching the snacks for the rest of the week.  The second day was a fire pit. The third day was Rocky Road Pudding Cups (chocolate pudding cups mixed with mini marshmallows and crushed graham crackers).  The fourth day was fruit and cheese.  And the last day was ice cream cups. The ice cream hasn't been purchased yet, and since that is more likely to be processed with peanuts, I volunteered to bring ice cream for both kids for the last day so they wouldn't have to worry about checking labels.  I actually brought So Delicious Fudge Bars (instead of ice cream) which the kids adore!  

Bubs' Rocky Road Pudding Cup


Fruit and Cheese Day (they all made these cute butterflies)

It all worked out so well, and I didn't even have to run out and buy anything special. I had all the foods on hand at home already. They had a great time and enjoyed great food!

Our ice cream alternative -- Fudge Bars

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Frozen Chocolate Banana Popsicles (Top 8 Free)

What a super easy snack/treat!  I cut bananas in half and inserted a popsicle stick.  Simply dip into melted Top 8 Free chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life), place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and freeze!  The kids loved this summer treat!


Curls loves it!

Plain Cake Donuts (Top 8 Free)

I have been seeing homemade donuts all over the internet, and my mouth has been watering.  I was wanting to get one of those donut makers that is similar to a waffle maker.  But I really don't like washing my waffle iron or George Foreman since the plates don't come out.  Sometimes the difficulty of cleanup will deter me from cooking.  :)  I found a Wilton 6 cavity Donut pan (I was debating getting 2 and now wish I had) and decided this would be much easier to wash. 

I want to try several varieties of flavors, but I thought I'd start with something simple.  These are just plain cake donuts.

Ingredients:
2 c gluten-free flour (I used King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multi-Purpose Flour)
3/4 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 tsp guar gum (or xanthan gum)
3/4 c buttermilk (fill a measuring cup with rice milk, or other dairy-free milk, to just below the 3/4 cup line, add vinegar or lemon juice until reaches the 3/4 cup line; stir and let set)
2 egg equivalent (I used EnerG Egg Replacer)
2 Tbsp milk-free butter, melted (I used Earth Balance, Soy Free)

Preheat oven to 425º.  Spray donut pan with cooking spray (I used my kitchen spritzer with canola oil since most cooking sprays contain soy).  In a large bowl combine dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients and whisk together until just combined.  Fill each donut cavity about 3/4 full.  Bake 7-9 minutes.  Allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes before inverting onto cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely before icing.

 
 
This time I used an icing to top the donuts, but you could also dip the donut into melted milk-free butter, then dip into cinnamon sugar for a tasty treat.
 
To make the icing I combined (1 cup) powdered sugar, (1 tsp) vanilla, (1 tsp) melted milk-free butter, and rice milk.  Of course, I don't have exact measurements since I just dump and mix, but approximate amounts are listed.  I added just enough rice milk (a little at a time) to make it nice and runny.
 
Dip the donut into the bowl of icing, then scatter sprinkles over the top before it dries (which happens quickly).  Since we are avoiding artificial colors, I used Let's Do Sprinkelz which are free of artificial colors.   I just found them at our local natural grocery store.  The colors are not very vibrant, but they taste delicious!
 
I cannot wait to try more recipes!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cutie's Trip to the Allergy Doctor

About 2 weeks ago Cutie woke up with a rash and hives on random parts of her body.  My mind immediately tried to search for what may have caused this.  I checked her face and mouth to look for signs of swelling.  We were all clear there.  I gave her a Benadryl and sent her to daycare.  I spoke with her teacher to explain what we were seeing and what out plan of action was. 


Since our two older children have food allergies, of course my first thought was that a food had caused this.  We had Almond Crusted Chicken the night before, but Cutie has had almonds and almond butter before without a problem.  Additionally, she has been tested (when she was 1 1/2) for the top food allergens and was cleared of having a food allergy.  Plus, the fact that the rash/hives didn't arise until the next morning, and that it lasted for 2 days, lead me to think it wasn't food related.

But what was the cause?  My next thought was that it was something in the environment.  GirlyGirl has a variety of environmental allergies for which she takes a daily Zyrtec.  I had given Cutie Benadryl 3 times in this 2 day period, but it didn't seem to help.  Her rash/hives were migrating to various parts of her body, but they didn't go away completely.  Hydrocortisone helped reduce the rash, but, again, it didn't eliminate it completely. 

I thought this was worth a trip to the doctor.  Of course, we are ultra-sensitive to any kind of skin reaction due to our family history.  I'm pretty sure that I know more about allergies than our pediatrician (no offensive to him, it's just not his specialty), so I decided to go to a specialist. 

For Bubs' allergies we went to a nearby children's hospital for two reasons.  First, our local allergy clinic does not have the best reputation.  Second, I wanted to go to a place that specialized in kids.  We have had a great experience there the several times we have visited. 

For GirlyGirl's reaction, I wanted to take her to the children's hospital as well.  But it was a four month wait to get in, and I wanted answers quicker than that.  I figured that since I was already well versed in food allergies and all I needed was a test, I would suck it up and go to the local allergy clinic.  Unfortunately, they lived up to their reputation.  I had to push for a blood test, and their bedside manner left much to be desired.  But we got the blood test for peanuts along with an environmental panel that exposed a whole slew of additional allergens, including dog (we have an indoor yellow lab).  So at least we got some results to work with. 

So when this came up with Cutie, I didn't want to wait four months.  With pictures in hand, we paid a visit to our local allergy clinic today.  I explained our family history and current situation.  Again, I was unimpressed and left feeling very frustrated!

I explained that we have had her tested for food allergies.  He thought that was completely unnecessary since she hadn't had any kind of reaction to any foods.  I told him that I thought it was warranted for my peace of mind and her safety due to the fact that my two older children have severe food allergies!  He continued to disagree.        

He ran through a whole list of questions with me regarding possible allergens she could have been exposed to, including food, insect sting, latex, meds, as well as things like heat, pressure, sun, etc.  He told me that since there was no known exposure and that sometimes people get unexplained rashes, that no test was needed.  I told him that I already knew that the rash was not caused by any kind of known exposure, and that I also already knew how to treat it.  The reason for my visit was to find the cause.  He explained that he didn't think it was anything in the environment because those types of allergies also involve respiratory symptoms and/or runny/itchy eyes.  But the rash had to come from something!

The allergist did not want to run tests at this time because there was no known exposure to an allergen and because people often have idiopathic rashes that come and go.  He thought we would get some false positives that would confuse things even more.  But rashes/hives are not normal.  There is a reason why our bodies would act like this.

I didn't push the issue too much.  I did explain that I am well educated about allergies, and that I pretty much already knew everything he was telling me.  Again, the reason for my visit was to find the cause  of the rash.  As he droned on, I began to wonder if actually knowing the cause would change anything for me.  We know how to handle it and what to look for.  We already have all the meds on hand.  So I decided that for this single incident, I wasn't going to push it too much more.  I spoke my piece, and he still recommended against testing. 

I debated whether it was worth paying a visit to my pediatrician since I know he will order testing if I ask for it.  But I think for now we will wait.  If it happens again, I will ask for testing so we will know exactly what to avoid.  And since I'm 99.9% sure it isn't food related, and since it's not life-threatening, I think it is safe to wait.

So while I left his office today feeling very frustrated, I have calmed myself down a bit this evening.  Most of my frustration stemmed from the way the doc talked to me, like I was an idiot, even after I told him how familiar I am with allergies.  He was also very condescending about testing her at this time.  If you are an allergist, please be aware of your audience and be kind to your patients' concerns.

For now, we don't know any more today than we did two weeks ago.  I guess we'll just take it one day at a time.
 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Monkey Bread (Top 8 Free)

For special occasions we like to have a yummy breakfast.  On Christmas and Easter I will make monkey bread the night before so all I have to do is warm it up in the oven the morning of.  Makes breakfast quick, easy, and delicious.  But Bubs has missed out on this due to his food allergies and sensitivities. 

That is, until I came across this recipe for Monkey Bread on Gluten Free Gigi.  I followed her recipe exactly, except we didn't do the drizzle that she adds to on top.  I think it would be a nice addition, but we decided to leave it off.  The great part is, this version of monkey bread wasn't that much more time intensive than the traditional version I have made in the past.  I love quick and easy!


Click here to get her full recipe and instructions.  It's worth your time.  All four kiddos ate it up and asked for more.  We will definitely be adding this to our recipe box.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Blueberry Muffins (Top 8 Free)

Every summer we take a trip to a local blueberry patch.  We love blueberries, and they are such a healthy snack. 

Picking blueberries

In years past we have eaten as many blueberries as we can before they go bad and freeze the rest.  But I haven't been happy with the texture of the frozen blueberries once they have been thawed (except in smoothies).  So this year I am looking for ways to use up the 13 lbs of blueberries we came home with.  Of course we will have blueberry pancakes tomorrow night for breakfast for dinner (one of the kids' favorites).  And the hubby is planning on making lots of blueberry jam. 

Our pickings
In my recent search of Top 8 Free baking, I've been looking for a good muffin.  Today I tried two different types of blueberry muffins, one from a mix and one from scratch.  The kids did a taste test for me and determined that the from-scratch kind were the best (although they like the other kind too).

Blueberry muffins made from a mix

I found this blueberry muffin recipe on allrecipies.com, but of course I had to modify it to meet our needs. 

Ingredients:
1 1/2 c gluten free flour (I used King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multi-Purpose Flour)
3/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 c oil
1 egg equivalent (I used EnerG Egg Replacer)
1/3 c rice milk
1 c fresh blueberries

Crumb Topping (mix together with a fork):
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c gluten free flour
1/4 c milk-free butter (I used Earth Balance Soy Free)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400º.  Place liners in muffin pan.  Combine dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, mix together oil, egg replacer, and milk.  Add to flour mixture and mix well.  Fold in blueberries.  Fill muffin cups to the top and sprinkle with crumb topping.  Bake for 20 minutes. 

Next time I would like to try adding about 1 tsp of xanthan gum to see if it makes them more light and fluffy, but, really, they are already pretty cake-like as is. 


Blueberry muffins made from scratch




Friday, July 5, 2013

Packet Potatoes (Top 8 Free)

Packet potatoes are one of our camping/cookout favorites!  They are so easy to make.  You can even prep them ahead of time to take with you on your camping trip so all you have to do is throw them on the fire.

Here's the original recipe, but of course we make way more than this to feed our crew.

Ingredients:
4 medium red potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
1 small white onion
2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried dill weed (I used fresh dill weed from our garden -- much better flavor)

Preheat oven to 450º (if baking).  Spray foil with cooking spray or lightly brush with oil to prevent sticking.  Center onion on foil.  Layer potatoes evenly on top of onion.  Drizzle with oil.  Sprinkle with seasonings.  Bring up sides of foil and double fold.  Double fold ends of another piece of foil to form one large foil packet leaving room for heat to circulate inside of packet. Bake 30-35 minutes on a baking sheet or 15-20 minutes on a covered grill.  You can also place over a campfire for about 20-30 minutes.  Serve it up with your other favorite foods and enjoy!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Cake Pops

Cake pops are all the rage.  I have made them a few times with allergy-filled ingredients, but I thought I could make this a great bite-sized allergy-free treat for the kiddos.  But I'm still on my mission to find the perfect Top 8 free (white) cake.  So I tried a new recipe which turned out pretty good.  Still not as good as the real thing, but getting closer. 

Once the cake was made and cooled, I crumbled it into small pieces.  Simply take the cake crumbles and mix with whatever add-in you like. Form bite-size balls and freeze for about 10-15 minutes (for easier dipping).  Melt some allergy-free chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life) over low heat and dip away.  Place a stick in the chocolate covered cake ball if desired to create a cake pop.  (I saw some similar cake pops on Keeley McGuire's blog.  See how she makes them here.)

I wanted to try three different kinds of cake balls to see which was the favorite.  One was mixed with  buttercream frosting, one with dedicated peanut-free almond butter (I used Barney Butter), and one with soy butter (I used Wowbutter).  For the almond butter and soy butter, I microwaved it for 30 seconds to make it easier to mix.

The favorite was the one mixed with buttercream frosting, but the others were good too.  It just depends how sweet you want it!


 

Freedom From Food Restrictions on This Fourth of July

Any family get-together is sure to involve food.  Especially a holiday celebration.  Our family likes to do big meals potluck-style so no one person is responsible for all the food.  This can be challenging with a variety of food allergies and food sensitivities to accommodate. 
 
It can be a bit tricky to get a decent pic of all four monkeys!
 
In our house, Bubs is allergic to milk, eggs, and peanuts and has a whole slew of other food sensitivities, including gluten and soy.  GirlyGirl is allergic to peanuts, my nephew is allergic to milk, and my sister-in-law is sensitive to gluten.
 
This is how our Fourth of July lunch looked:
 
The main dish was ribs, which were prepared at a local grocery store (so who knows what's on them or what they are contaminated with).  We also grilled hamburgers (and added cheese to some).  Bubs had a turkey burger on a Top 8 free bun, and my nephew and SIL had a hamburger sans cheese or a bun.

Enjoying a holiday lunch free from food restrictions

I made four versions of pasta salad.  The main type was made with regular noodles and hunks of cheese.  I also made a pot of gluten free noodles and used milk-free cheese (Daiya shreds) for the boys'.  There was also plenty of veggies, baked beans, salad, chips and salsa, and fruit kabobs (in the shape of an American flag, of course).  Plenty of food for all!
 
 
 
For dessert/treats we had several allergy-safe options including brownies (I used Namaste mix with less oil than it called for, added applesauce, used egg replacer, and added Enjoy Life chocolate chips -- they were AMAZING!!!), Rice Krispie treats, and cake pops. I was tempted to add red, white, and blue sprinkles to the cake pops, but since we are avoiding artificial colors, I had to nix that idea. We also had homemade ice cream, so the boys had So Delicious milk-free ice cream. 

Three types of cake pops to accommodate various tastes

Even though we have to deal with several food restrictions, on this Fourth of July we did a pretty good job of allowing our peeps to feel safe and unrestricted. We had a great time enjoying family and good food.  
   
Even the kiddos without allergies love the Top 8 Free treats!
 
A plateful of allergen-free treats
 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Product Review: King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multi-Purpose Flour

Learning to bake gluten-free can be a bit tricky.  It was a bit of a challenge to find the right gluten-free flour to meet our needs.  Many of the brands I came across have "May Contain" statements listing tree nuts, soy, or milk.  These are off limits for us, so I kept searching.  I found recipes to make your own gluten-free flour blend, but all the components I needed were also "Processed With" these same ingredients.  I had given up.  But every time I see a product I haven't seen before, I turn it over and read the label.  One day I came across King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multi-purpose Flour.  I turned the box over and discovered it is not "Made in a Facility With" anything.  Hooray!  I could bake again! 


I set to work in my kitchen and have made several yummy treats with this flour.  Cinnamon Rolls, Mini Pancake Muffins, Pizza Puffs, cupcakes, cookies, gravy, and more.


Cinnamon Rolls
Mini Pancake Muffins
Pizza Puffs
You can make just about any recipe that calls for wheat flour with King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multi-Purpose Flour, replacing the flour cup for cup.  You will want to add the appropriate amount of xanthan gum or guar gum to thicken your dough and trap air bubbles to make your product light and fluffy.  (This is what gluten does in wheat flour, so you need to substitute the gluten with xanthan gum or guar gum). 
 
If you are in the market for a gluten-free flour to meet all your baking needs, King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multi-Purpose Flour is the way to go!  I would love to read your recipes and hear about your experiences with this flour.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Italian Breaded Chicken Fingers (Top 8 Free)

Chicken can be boring.  And having it every four days can lead to burn out....quickly.  I have tried preparing it different ways -- baking, grilling, pan frying, etc.  Even with some added seasoning, it still gets boring.  We used to eat Shake N Bake quite a bit, and the kids would gobble it up.  But since going gluten-free, I've had trouble finding a breading that works for us (Top 8 free).  I've often thought about crumbling up bread to make the breading, but life is busy, and I just haven't gotten around to it. 

The other night I made Almond Crusted Chicken, and it was a big hit!  So tonight I thought I'd give Italian Breaded Chicken Fingers a try.  After all, cutting chicken into strips or chunks and calling it chicken fingers or chicken nuggets makes it more appealing. 

Ingredients:
Chicken breasts (thawed and cut into strips)
Gluten-Free Bread (I used EnerG Brown Rice Bread)
Italian Seasoning (or any other seasoning you like)
Water

Preheat oven to 425º.  Break up four pieces of bread to a breadcrumb consistency.  Mix in Italian seasoning (I used about 2-3 Tbsp).  Dip chicken breasts into water, then coat with bread crumbs.  Place on foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.  Watch it disappear by kids and adults alike!