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Making Valentine’s Day Special

Shortbread Hearts

When I was a little girl my dad always bought me and my sisters Valentine’s Day gifts.  It was usually something small, often a plastic container that was filled with conversation hearts or a heart-shaped box of chocolates, maybe a small knick-knack or stuffed animal.  I remember how that little trinket waiting on the kitchen table in the morning would bring such joy.  I remember showing it off to my friends in school and it being my prized possession for at least the next several days.

This year I am treasuring those memories a little bit more because it is our first Valentine’s Day without my dad, who passed away very suddenly last month.

I’ve got to admit that I was dreading this weekend.  Not only is it the first holiday without my dad, but his birthday is also Monday, a double-whammy of reminders not even a month into our grieving process.

To counteract the sadness that I’ve been feeling, I decided to focus on making this Valentine’s special for E, the way my dad always made it special for me.  So, out came the trinkets!

Car Valentines

I decided that it was only appropriate to celebrate E’s current true love – cars!  So, I came up with these little valentines, one for E and others for his cousins and some special Stroller Strides friends.  I was really happy with the way that they turned out and was super-proud of myself for creating valentines that were non-food (i.e., completely safe and healthy) and something that every toddler loves.  They even leant themselves to a cute, Valentine’s Day-appropriate saying.

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He was so excited to get a car and was surprisingly willing to share the love. (I was a little worried that he was not going to like the idea of giving away cars.)

IMG_4036I added to our Valentine’s Day festivities, with another thing every two-year-old loves – cookies!  We used Ina Garten’s shortbread cookie recipe (by the way, shortbread is egg-free!).  We substituted soy-free Earth Balance for the butter and topped them off with safe red sprinkles (Wilton are safe for us).  They were a lot of fun to make and E gets so excited when he gets a “surprise” for dessert 🙂

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Also, my heart-shaped strawberry project from last year, inspired me to use cookie-cutters to Valentine-ify his standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I love that something as simple as cookie cutters can make so many safe foods more fun!

Heart PB&J

My Valentine’s Day was totally made first thing this morning, though, when E said, “Happy Valentine’s Day Mommy, Daddy” and initiated a big group hug.  Seriously could not think of a better gift!

I hope you are having a great Valentine’s Day with your loved ones.  Hug them a little closer and extra long this year.

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 Happy Valentine’s Day to My First Valentine! I Love You Dad!

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FPIES-Friendly Fiesta

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Today’s Sesame Street “Word On the Street” was Fiesta, which reminded me that I never posted the menu for E’s second birthday party, our FPIES-Friendly Fiesta!  (And yes, we might be watching a little too much PBS during this rainy week.)

Whenever we have any type of gathering at our house I do my best to keep the menu safe for E. This makes him feel included and gives me a chance to let my guard down and relax a little. Of course, with 7 known allergens and my fear of untested foods, it is difficult to come up with an entire menu of food that goes well together and is party-worthy.  I mean, E might be happy eating PB&J with a side of salmon patty, but frankly that’s just weird and we can’t really expect people with no dietary restrictions to enjoy that type of meal.

Luckily, this summer E passed a pepper trial.  Not only did this open up a lot of possibilities for our every day cooking, but along with some of his previous passes – corn, avocado, black beans, etc – he is now able to eat a lot of Mexican dishes (sin queso)!  So, we were able to put together an entire mexican fiesta that was safe for E and delicious.  It’s so rare and exciting to have an entire FPIES-Friendly, company-worthy meal that I had to share it!

Here’s what was on the menu:

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                 E loved everything we served but the corn cakes were by far his favorite!

Corn Chips & Guacamole

We kept the appetizers pretty straightforward and on-theme.  I’ve found that most plain corn chips only contain corn, oil, and salt.  Depending on the type of oil, these ingredients are all safe for E.  Jonathan and I love the Frontera guacamole mix.  E actually hasn’t had it, but I feel comfortable eating it around him.  While there are some foods in the ingredient list that he hasn’t had, there isn’t anything in it that should be a problem.  This combo has been a lifesaver for us at parties – we now have a safe snack that everyone loves and E can eat.

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Fajita Chicken

The main dish was fajita chicken.  I sautéed strips of chicken with onions and red and green bell peppers in olive oil with ground cumin, ground chili pepper, a little sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper.  I don’t have a formal recipe, because that’s pretty much it.  You can add the amount of each ingredient that looks good to you – I just eyeball it.  By the way, this is a super-easy meal to throw together and it was the primary recipe that I used for E’s pepper trial (without the added spices).  We ate it with forks, but you can also serve it on corn tortillas.  I was afraid that serving it that way would make people miss the cheese.

Mexican Cauliflower “Rice”

The first side dish was the Mexican Cauliflower “Rice”, that I posted a couple of weeks ago.  It’s a grain-free and flavor-intense version of an old family favorite.  I actually created the recipe for this meal but I am now making regularly.  An added perk to this one was that it was really easy to make ahead and then reheat in the oven right before serving.

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Black Bean Salad with Corn, Red Peppers, and Avocado in a Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette

Another side dish was a Black Bean Salad with Corn, Red Peppers, and Avocado in a Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette from Once Upon a Chef.   I can’t take any credit at all for this absolutely delicious salad.  The only change I made to the published recipe was that I used frozen corn kernels instead of taking them off the cob (because I’m lazy, not because corn on the cob isn’t safe).  We did trial the salad ahead of time because E really hadn’t had cilantro or lime before, but everything else was a known safe and the salad was a hit with E and our guests.  This salad was great for a party because the colors of the veggies made it a beautiful addition to the spread and it actually tastes better if you make it ahead of time.

This picture is from the Once Upon a Chef site.  

Corn Cake Mini Muffins

These corn cake muffins are one of my favorite recent finds!  I made it from a Chi-Chi’s mix.  A mix that doesn’t contain soy is so rare that I quadruple-checked it and then made my husband double-check it.  But it’s safe!  You add water, a can of creamed corn, and butter to the mix and viola – E’s new favorite food!  I used Green Giant Cream Style Sweet Corn, which is just water, corn, and cornstarch and substituted the butter for Soy-Free Earth Balance.  I’ve started keeping the mix and canned corn in the pantry so that I can whip up a safe treat for E at a moments notice.

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A safe mix and can of creamed corn! 

Birthday Cake

We ended the meal with a Vegan, Soy-Free Construction-Themed Birthday Cake with Chocolate-Peanut Butter “Dirt” that was awesome to look at, play with, and eat!

IMG_4469     Vegan, Soy-free Construction Cake

E’s second birthday party was a success!  Our guests seemed to really enjoy all of the food and I didn’t have to worry about anything falling on the floor where E might pick it up or anyone touching E with messy, unsafe hands.  It was a wonderful day and also a turning point for us because we learned that we really can make an entire meal that everyone, even E, can enjoy!   I couldn’t have been happier!

Have you successfully thrown an entirely FPIES-Friendly party?  What did you have on the menu?

 

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Mexican Cauliflower “Rice”

Mexican Cauliflower Rice

After the last recipe that I posted, which is quite possible the world’s most decadent vegan cake, I figured I was due to post something a little more healthy.  This mexican cauliflower “rice” is one of our newest favorites! It’s so easy and loaded with vegetables.  It’s very low in calories but tastes like a splurge.

Rice is one of the top four FPIES allergens, so it is avoided by most kiddos with FPIES, including E.  However, cauliflower tends to have a pretty high success rate (according to the results of a survey conducted by an FPIES parent).  Apparently cauliflower is also high in vitamin C and folate and there are a lot websites that state that it helps prevent cancer (I didn’t take the time to verify these claims).   I think of cauliflower as a basic vegetable staple that is great cooked or raw.  It’s also very low in calories – a cup of cauliflower is only 27 calories (a cup of white rice is almost 8 times that!).  So it seemed to be a good vegetable to add to E’s diet this summer.  I am happy to report that he easily and enthusiastically passed a cauliflower food trial and cauliflower has been a welcome addition to his diet.

Given our success with cauliflower I was excited to try some of the recipes that I’ve come across that use it as a rice-alternative.  It’s always nice to have a new dish for E and even better when it’s suitable to serve as part of a family dinner.  I have to admit that I was skeptical at first, could a vegetable really replace a starch?  The surprising answer is – yes!  I’ll admit that the “rice” is a little more crunchy but the dish is so flavorful!   The best compliment came from my brother-in-law who several hours after dinner said, “wait, there wasn’t any rice in that?”  It really is that good!

It’s actually pretty easy to turn cauliflower into “rice” if you have a food processor but it can also be done by hand.  I used the tutorial on the In Sonnet’s Kitchen blog, but it’s basically just a matter of grating cauliflower.  One thing I would add is to hold the cauliflower perpendicular to the grater, otherwise you’ll get some longer “grains of rice,” which isn’t the end of the world, it just makes it looks less like rice.

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My cauliflower rice! (I think its pretty convincing)
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 If you look closely you notice the longer “grains”

I had a very specific goal for this recipe.  I wanted to substitute Rice-A-Roni spanish rice to be used as a side dish for a mexican fiesta.  I found a couple of recipes online that used real rice and adapted it for the cauliflower.  This recipe calls for about 6 cups, which is about what you get from a medium head of cauliflower.  The recipe is pretty forgiving, though, so don’t feel like you have to use exactly 6 cups.  I decided to go with a vegan option here and use vegetable stock, however I have also made it using chicken and beef stock.  I didn’t notice a huge difference in taste between the three.  I like Kitchen Basics stock because they have an allergen statement on their box (I love it when a company is aware of the difficulties we face) and they are really helpful when you call to ask about their ingredients.  They are also available by phone until 8:00pm so you can talk to a real person when you glance at the box the second before you add it to a dinner recipe at 5:05pm and realize that the ingredients on the box changed since the last time you used it – not that that’s ever happened to me :).  You can probably make the “rice” a little softer (and more rice-like) by cooking it longer, but I’m generally too impatient and don’t mind the slightly different texture.   You can also change the level of spicy heat by adding diced tomatoes with jalapeños instead of mild chilies and changing the amount of chili powder.  I love a versatile recipe!

Mexican Cauliflower “Rice” (dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, grain-free)

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 cups cauliflower “rice” (see link above)
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt to taste (about 1 tsp, depending on how salty the stock is)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • one bunch scallions, sliced

Directions

Heat oil in a large skillet.  Add onions and garlic and sauté until just soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Add the cauliflower to the skillet and stir to distribute the onion and garlic through the cauliflower.

Add the chili powder, oregano, cumin, and salt, stirring well between each one.

Add the tomatoes and stock, stir well.

Bring to a low boil, cover and let simmer until desired tenderness (about 10 -15 minutes).

Remove from heat and stir in the scallions (or use a garnish sprinkled on top).

Enjoy!

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The two recipes I used for inspiration are from Sweet C Designs and Cherished Bliss.
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A Bittersweet “Last Time”

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A poem called “The Last Time” has shown up in my Facebook newsfeed several times over the past couple of weeks.  Have you seen it?  It’s one of those poems written to make parents weep. Seriously. It’s all about how your child will grow up and how there will be a last time for all of the things that you take for granted (wiping a dirty face, holding a hand to cross the street, etc.).  It’s actually quite beautiful and one of those reminders that we need as we struggle with the parental hassles that make up our daily to-do lists. If you need a good cry, you can read it here, but have your tissues ready.

I’ve been thinking about this poem a lot today as we are in the midst of a “last time.”  Today will likely be E’s last full day of Neocate Junior.  And quite frankly, I’m a little emotional about it.  (Jonathan, stop rolling your eyes.)

It never occurred to me that a baby formula would become such a part of our lives and now that we are on the cusp of moving on I don’t really know how to feel.

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Let me explain…

Before E was born I knew I wanted to breastfeed.  I had read all about the benefits of nursing and wanted to provide them for my son.  You know me, I read a bunch of books and articles and even dragged my wonderfully supportive husband to a Saturday morning workshop.  I was ready.  And apparently so was E.  He latched on immediately in the delivery room and I breathed a sigh of relief that nursing was going to work for us.

That was last time that feeding my infant was easy.

Somehow we started having problems with nursing and E lost a significant amount of weight in the hospital.  I could tell that it was serious because the attending pediatrician (who actually happened to be a neonatologist – the kind of doctor who has seen very sick newborns) wouldn’t discharge E until we had made an appointment to see his pediatrician the following day.   At that very first pediatrician appointment, the doctor told me that I had to start supplementing with formula to get his weight back up.  I had read that this was a bad idea and looking back I probably should have tried to nurse for a little longer, but I was scared.  Here I was sitting in the pediatrician’s office with this new tiny person who was completely reliant on ME.  A tiny person who wasn’t even supposed to be here for another two weeks!  I was exhausted and shell-shocked.  I felt like I didn’t know anything so I did what I was told.

And so that was the beginning of our formula story.  I’ve written about this before so I won’t bore you with the details of visits to lactation consultants and pediatricians and falling off of growth charts and trying various formulas to get my child to stop vomiting and start growing.

Shortly after E turned 4 months old we found ourselves sitting in an allergist’s office.  When we got to that appointment we were exhausted and bewildered.  We had this adorable baby who was finally growing but continued to spit up constantly.  He always seemed uncomfortable and didn’t sleep (so neither did we).  I remember the comforting relief as the allergist listened to us, validated our concerns, and agreed that something was wrong.  I remember the confusion when his scratch test was positive for milk and the fear and disbelief as we were trained on how to use an epipen.  And I remember the hope that I felt when we were presented with Neocate, a hypoallergenic amino acid formula.

I felt confident that Neocate was the answer.  This can of powder was going to nourish our son without poisoning him the way everything else had.

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Loving his cup of Neocate at about 9 months

Well, it took several weeks for the allergens to work their way out of E’s system and in the meantime we actually added more!  But eventually he started to thrive on Neocate.  As we learned more about his reactions, eliminated his allergens, and found out that he had FPIES, we started to feel more confident in our ability to safely nourish our little boy, thanks to Neocate.

When E turned one, as most families were switching over from formula or breast milk to whole milk, we switched from Neocate Infant to Neocate Junior.  His diet was still very limited and his nutritionist explained to us that while non-dairy milks have high levels of calcium, there was no substitute for the protein and fat in cow’s or soy milk.  So we continued to give E Neocate several times a day.  He looked forward to his “cups.”  In fact, when he was 16 months old and had a stomach bug we fed him only clear liquid for a day.  He practically jumped for joy when we gave him a “cup” of Neocate the next morning and he said “yum” for the first time 🙂  This formula has been his comfort food, the first food that didn’t make him sick and the stimulus that finally helped him to grow into the rambunctious boy that he is today.

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Ok, I may be romanticizing Neocate a little.  There were definitely some things about it that we didn’t love.  For the past two years, every morning (before coffee) we have to pull out the scale, and measure, scoop by scoop, the amount of powdered Neocate for the day.  This results in various degrees of powdery mess, depending on how tired we were or how (im)patient E was.  Then each night we had to hand-wash the container that we mixed it in so that it was ready to go for the next day.

Relying on Neocate, especially when it was E’s only form of nutrition, was sometimes stressful.  We always had to have enough of it with us.  You can’t just run into a grocery store and pick some up if you forget it.  We never left home with an “emergency cup,” enough powder to make one extra cup if something happened and we found ourselves needing it.  Oh, and it wasn’t cheap!  At one point E was going through about two cases every three weeks.  These two cases had a $255 price tag that we paid out-of-pocket for several months.  After much stress and fights with our insurance company, they finally agreed to cover it – but I’m pretty sure that we grew several gray hairs in the process.  Neocate wasn’t always easy or perfect, it has been our constant. And I really believe that it saved our little boy.

Yesterday, we returned to the allergist.  This appointment was so completely different from that first time.  Instead of carrying our thin, tired, spit-up soaked infant into the office like zombies; our chubby little boy in his clean button-down shirt led the way to the exam room.   The answer to the nurse’s “how is everybody doing?” was an enthusiastic “great!”  We didn’t have any reactions to report since our last visit in April.  We were continuing to successfully add fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish to E’s diet.  We didn’t really have any concerns.

Everyone was pleased to see how well E was doing.  The kid sure knows how to work a room, too!  He had all of the staff ogling over him in minutes.  He had IgE skin tests for all of his allergens and they were all negative! And so the plan moving forward is to start to challenge the allergens that he’s been avoiding for over a year (more on that later).  Then the doctor said it – Neocate Junior is no longer necessary.  

E can now safely drink almond milk and cashew milk.  We are almost finished a hemp milk trial, too.  The doctor is confident that with his diverse diet and these milk-alternatives, he doesn’t need the Neocate.

IMG_3474Nothing like hanging out at Starbucks with a good book and some almond milk

It’s definitely a relief.  It’s amazing that after two years, we are finally off of formula.  But I can’t help to be a little bit sad that it means my baby is growing up.  Sure, it’s been over a year since he has had a bottle, but something about the formula allowed him to stay my baby.  I guess I am feeling the same way all parents feel at all milestones, it’s exciting to watch our children conquer another new skill in life, but sad that we have to experience another last time.  I think I also feel kind of like my therapy clients feel at their final session.  Neocate has been like therapist to us.  It has guided us through some really tough times.  It helped us pick up the pieces when we were at our lowest point.  It gave E the nutrition that he needed to grow and the ability to branch out and try new foods.  It has been our support for so long.  But, as I always tell my clients, the goal of therapy is to provide them with what they need so that they can move forward on their own, without the need for a therapist.  And that is what Neocate has done for E  (and for me and Jonathan, too).

We still have some of our Neocate stash so I think we will slowly work it out of his diet over the next couple of days.  Honestly, this is probably more for me than it is for him.  As much as he loves his “cup” I think he’s just as happy when it has almond milk or hemp milk in it.  In fact, E can’t seem to get enough hemp milk! I can’t predict if he will miss his Neocate or not.  He only stared at me blankly when I tried to explain the significance of his last full day of Neocate.  I think I’ll miss it for now but someday I won’t even be able to remember why it felt sad to me to leave it behind.

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Of course, part of my baby growing up, also means that he is getting closer to outgrowing his allergies!  We were told from day 1 that he will likely outgrow the allergies by age 3 (though the current research isn’t as optimistic).  That is officially less than a year away now!  We have scheduled his hospital-based challenges for milk, rice, and oat in November and December.  It’s possible that by end of 2014 he will be able to safely eat these three foods that we have been avoiding for most of his life! I can’t even wrap my head around that.  I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high but as I made my last 22 ounce pitcher of Neocate this morning I couldn’t help to wonder if this is the beginning of our FPIES “last times.”  And the beginning of so many firsts!

 

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“Cheers!”
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Happy 4th of July!

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I hope everyone is having a wonderful and safe Independence Day!  After a very busy week we are enjoying a lot of family time this weekend.  We had a wonderful, though slightly wet, morning at our local parade.  E is very into any type of vehicle lately, the bigger the better, so he was in heaven watching dozens of fire trucks drive by him.

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E was also pretty thrilled by the toothbrush a local dentist was handing out.  The excitement of the toothbrush was more than enough to distract him from the candy that was being distributed by other groups 🙂

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We are home now and preparing to host a small picnic for our family tomorrow.  The ENTIRE menu will be safe for E: hotdogs and hamburgers on homemade (safe) buns, corn on the cob, tomato salad, and cupcakes for dessert. The preparations are underway and I am super-excited!  Hopefully the recipes will be winners and I’ll share some next week.  Here’s a sneak peek of the in-progress goodies:

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My wonderful husband is making homemade hotdog and hamburger buns

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We are very optimistic about our new cupcake recipe. 

What are your holiday plans? Are you attempting any new recipes?

Have a fun and safe holiday weekend!
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Banana Chocolate Chip French Toast Casserole

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My mom makes the world’s best banana chocolate chip pancakes and they have become the centerpiece all of our best family celebrations, especially holidays such as Christmas or Mother’s Day.  As we approached last Christmas I started to feel sad that E wasn’t going to be able to eat the pancakes.  I had tried to do a dairy free version the year before (when I was avoiding dairy while I was still breastfeeding) but they didn’t come anywhere close to my mom’s and that was before we were eliminating soy and egg, which are of course major players in the deliciousness.

As I scoured the internet trying to find an allergen-free substitute I came across Strawberry Banana French Toast Casserole on C Mom Cook.  It wasn’t too hard to make it a little less healthy by switching out the strawberries for Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips.  And it was amazing!  It’s definitely not the same as pancakes but it provides the right flavors and the proper amount of carbs to serve as a base for any good celebration.

This recipe also holds a special place in my heart because our trial of it was E’s first taste of chocolate.

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December 2013: E’s first taste of chocolate!

It is also a really easy recipe to put together.  E helped me make it for the Mother’s Day Brunch that we hosted this year and we both had a ball.  He was able to help me put everything into the blender and loved watching it get pulverized. The sneaky little boy also stole tastes along the way, which was fine because it was completely safe for him!

The casserole held its own on a table that was covered in quiches and pastries, which is a testament to its yumminess and E had something that he could enjoy with the rest of the family.  I hope that you and your family enjoy it as much as we do

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E was not interested in waiting until the end of the photo shoot to enjoy this breakfast treat!

Banana Chocolate Chip French Toast Casserole (Egg-Free, Dairy Free, Soy-Free)

Ingredients

  • Approximately 4 cups safe bread cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk (or any other safe milk, coconut milk would be awesome)*
  • 1 banana*
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground chia seed*
  • approximately 1/4 cup enjoy life chocolate chips
  • 2-3 tablespoons light brown sugar (to taste)
  • Soy Free Earth’s Balance Buttery Spread to grease the casserole dish

Directions

Place the bread cubes in a large bowl.

In a blender, combine the milk, banana and ground chia until smooth and creamy.

Pour the milk mixture over the bread and gently mix to coat all of the bread.* 

Fold in the chocolate chips.

Grease a casserole dish with Earth’s Balance and carefully pour the mixture (and any of its extra liquid) into the baking dish, cover and set it aside.

Allow the mixture to rest at least 15 minutes, but, if you wanted, you could prepare this the night before and put it into the refrigerator at this time.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you refrigerated your casserole overnight, remove it from the refrigerator about half an hour prior to baking.

Sprinkle the top with light brown sugar and bake for 30 minutes.

*Depending on the type of bread and amount of bread that you use, you may want to double or triple the milk mixture part of the recipe.  I recommend making it a batch of liquid at a time and then adding more if it looks dry.  We prefer it a little on the wet/mushy side so I tend to use more of the liquid mixture.

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The pictures really don’t do this recipe justice 🙂

This recipe was (very slightly) adapted from the Strawberry Banana French Toast Casserole on C Mom Cook.

 

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Veggie Bites – A Great Way to Sneak in Some Calcium & Veggies!

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I realize that most of the recipes I have posted are of desserts and sweet treats.  I don’t necessarily hear anyone complaining (who doesn’t love cookies and candy?) but I want to assure you that there is also some healthier cooking taking place at our house.

A couple of months ago I learned that E’s Neocate wasn’t covering his daily recommended dose of calcium so I started to look for creative ways to incorporate more calcium into his diet, which is difficult when you are avoiding all dairy products.  E’s dietician recommended we try salmon and green leafy vegetables, like kale and spinach.   I came across a recipe for spinach bites that sounded great.  Unfortunately they didn’t turn out right for me so I tweaked it a little and made my own version.

I love these Veggie Bites and so does E!  I usually make them with spinach but I have also had success with broccoli and I’m guessing you could use just about anything. Not only are they a good way to sneak some veggies into my little guy, but they were also a good way to transition him to more flavorful food.  I have a tendency to get caught up in pure food trials, during which I try not to add too many variables, like spices.  This was a good opportunity to trial a bunch of spices that were likely going to be passes.   It also contains three chia “eggs,” which helps boost the fiber, calcium, and omega-3.

I won’t lie – they are a little bit time-consuming to make and I always end up with a sink full of dirty dishes, but they are totally worth it.  Besides all the nutritional benefits, they are a great make-ahead dish.  This recipe makes about 12 good-sized servings, so I usually freeze about half of the try.  If you pre-cut them, you can just pull them out of the freezer and defrost/reheat as needed.  I love having them on hand for use as a side dish whenever I need them. I think they would also work well as a quick, healthy snack.

I usually just cut them into square or strips to serve but I’ve been wanting to try to make them a little more fun, so today I pulled out the cookie cutters.  I recommend letting them cool completely before your try cutting them, or you’re likely to get more of a veggie mush (which still tastes delicious).  If you are feeling creative and want to use cookie cutters, refrigerating them overnight will help you get a more workable consistency.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

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Spinach Bites (egg free, grain free, dairy free, soy free)

Ingredients: 

4 Russett or White potatoes

1 8oz package frozen chopped spinach

3 chia seed “eggs” (3 tbsp ground chia seed + 9 tbsp water)

½ tsp onion powder

½ tbsp garlic powder

½ tbsp Italian seasoning

¼ tsp pepper

¼ tsp sea salt

2 Tbsp Canola oil

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F.

Peel and cut the potatoes into small pieces.  Boil with a dash of salt until they are soft.

Steam or lightly cook your spinach.  Drain any extra liquid.

Mash the potatoes.

Blend the spinach until creamy.

Mix the spinach with potatoes.  I use an immersion blender for the mashing and blending, this results in a creamy, well-incorporated mixture (and cuts down on the dishes).

Make your chia egg: mix the ground chia with water and let sit to gel while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

Add the spices and oil to the potato/spinach mixture.

Stir well.

Fold in the chia eggs and stir until well combined.

Spray a 13×9 glass baking dish with olive oil (or other cooking spray).

Pour the mixture into the prepared dish.  Make sure you spread it out so that it’s flat and even in the dish, It won’t settle at all in the oven.

Bake at 350º for 40 minutes.

Let cool (refrigerate for a couple of hours if you have time), cut (into fun shapes if you want) and serve!

Enjoy!

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This recipe was adapted from the one I found here: For the Love of Food!
1

Hooray for a Successful Easter (and Peanut Butter Eggs)!

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This weekend was crazy-busy for us and I’m exhausted.  But every last detail was worthwhile! I am so excited and can’t wait to tell you about how well everything went!

This year we hosted Easter for the first time, which was an honor and a little stressful.  My great-aunt has hosted  an Easter open house for nearly 60 years but was unable to do it this year, so I offered to have her traditional party at our house.  This was great because it gave me some control over the menu and we had all of E’s toys which were great distractions from all the food (it also gave me a good reason to do some intense spring cleaning).  We stuck pretty much with the traditional menu – kielbasa, ham, potato salad, and pasta salad.  There were some allergens on the menu but we decided not to mess too much with tradition.  We felt confident that we would be able to keep E away from those foods and decided to make a special meal for him.  It turns out that he doesn’t really care if he’s eating what everyone else is eating, as long as he’s eating when everyone else is eating.  I tend to get caught up with making a safe version of the traditional holiday meal for E, which causes me more stress and then he may or may not even eat it.  Luckily my husband was able to step in and prevent me from embarking on crazy recipes or rushed food trials this time.  We decided to keep it simple and went with tried and true favorites.  After all, what toddler wouldn’t be thrilled with an Easter hot dog?  

However, as you may recall, I was determined that we were going to pass down some Easter traditions.  Last Easter E was only about 7 months old and we were still dealing with the end of chronic FPIES so we weren’t feeling up to dyeing eggs.  I was a little torn about it this year too.  I figured it could either way – he could totally love it or not be interested and make a huge mess.  And then there are the eggs – one of E’s allergens.  Dyeing eggs doesn’t really require eating the eggs, but the kid still puts everything in his mouth!  And what was I going to do with a bunch of hardboiled eggs? Eggs were fairly easy for us to eliminate from the house after we found out E was allergic – my husband and I never ate a ton of eggs so it wasn’t hard to just not have them.  I didn’t need to start now.  I wondered if I could find something else to dye, so I started scouring the internet.  I found a company that makes ceramic dyeable eggs, but they were a little expensive and I was afraid they were too fragile to give a one-year-old who doesn’t have a gentle bone in his body.

I was ready to give up when a friend and fellow FPIES mom told me about plastic dyeable eggs that Walmart was selling.  I was so excited – completely allergy-safe and rough-little-boy-friendly.  It’s like they were made for E!  I will generally go out of my way to avoid Walmart, but I’ll do anything for my son, so off to Walmart I went.

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We finally got around to dying the eggs on Saturday afternoon and it was a blast!  E loved it!  I also think I will seriously consider using plastic eggs forever.  He was able to throw the eggs into the dye cup, smash them down with egg holder, and drop them on the floor without having to worry about any broken eggshells.  And the eggs were beautiful!  The sentimentalist in me is also excited to save one of E’s first dyed Easter eggs.

IMG_2940Next up was the Easter candy.  So after a day of cleaning, egg dyeing, last minute Easter outfit shopping, and cooking, I started to make candy.  I was glad I had done a test run of the giant chocolate bunny and smaller chocolate candies that I made out of enjoy life chocolate chips.  That was easy.  But I also decided to make allergen-free peanut butter eggs based on a recipe I came across on Pinterest.  These were fairly easy, but a bit time consuming and I started around 10pm (which is past my bedtime, I know I’m pretty lame).

The results were totally worth it! The peanut butter eggs are delicious! Seriously.  Better than than Reese’s.  There’s about 5 ingredients in them – so they are pure yumminess!  But even better than the yum-factor is the safe-factor.  E can eat them and he loves them!  I love having a safe snack for him and watching him enjoy the indulgence.  It’s also nice that I can treat myself to one without hiding in the kitchen and going through an entire decontamination procedure afterward.

On Easter morning, the Easter Bunny left a basket that contained the safe chocolate bunny, a few smaller chocolates and two peanut butter eggs, along with a Curious George lunchbox, safe crayons, a new book, and a couple small toy cars.  E loves cars and Curious George, so I didn’t know which was going to be the bigger hit in the basket.  Turns out it was the peanut butter eggs!  He didn’t even hesitate – he grabbed one and took a bite as soon as he saw them! I thought my heart was going to burst with pride, love, and joy!  He was so excited and happy to see a candy that he could eat.  I loved that he loved them!

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He didn’t waste any time digging into the candy!

We set out some small chocolates and peanut butter eggs on the coffee table when our guests arrived.  Everyone raved about them.  I love finding things that are safe for E that other people can also enjoy.  It was also so exciting that E could walk up to the coffee table and indulge in a little treat.  I guess it’s a feeling only an allergy-parent can understand.  I spend so much of my time anxious about E being exposed to allergens and preventing him from eating things that other people take for granted.  Being able sit back and relax as I was watching him enjoy a safe treat was the best Easter gift I could imagine!

We had a wonderful Easter surrounded by family and sharing traditions with our little boy.    I hope you also had a wonderful and safe Easter! I know that it’s a bit late, but below is the adapted recipe for safe peanut butter eggs.  I will definitely be making these year-round (maybe as just balls or other shapes if I’m feeling really ambitious) and I hope you enjoy them too!

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In all of the craziness of this weekend I forgot to get a picture of just the peanut butter eggs.

Peanut-Butter Eggs: Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Egg-Free, Grain-Free

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Peanut Butter (I used Crazy Richard’s 100% Natural Creamy Peanut Butter – I’d assume you could use any safe nut/seed butter)
  • 1/4 cup Soy-Free Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 10 oz package Enjoy Life Mini Chips
  • 1 tbsp canola oil (or other safe oil)

Directions:

  1. Melt peanut butter and Earth Balance for 1 minute in microwave.
  2. Stir until blended.
  3. Add vanilla and powdered sugar and mix well.
  4. Scoop out about a tablespoon of the mixture and shape into an egg shape.
  5. Place on parchment paper lined sheet and place in freezer for 15 minutes.
  6. Mix the mini chips with canola oil.
  7. Melt the mini chips in microwave by heating for 30 seconds then stirring and repeating process until it is melted and smooth. (This should take about 1 1/2 minutes)
  8. Using a fork, dip egg into chocolate and flip to cover completely. Lift with fork and gently tap on edge of the bowl allowing excess chocolate to drip off.
  9. Place back on parchment paper.
  10. Refrigerate 10 minutes until chocolate has set

If you have the freezer space, I recommend freezing in two batches. This will allow you to get started with the freezing process while you shape the remainder.  It will also keep half frozen while you are dipping the other half in chocolate, which is easier to do when they are more solid.

The original recipe is here: http://www.raininghotcoupons.com/chocolate-covered-peanut-butter-eggs/.  I removed the allergens and also made them much smaller.  
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Our beautiful dyed plastic eggs! 
Happy Easter!
8

Dairy, Soy, and Egg-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies!!

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I feel like I’ve been neglecting the blog a little bit lately so to make up for it I baked cookies!

I love chocolate chip cookies!  There are few things in life better than a homemade chocolate chip cookie.  They seem to be the perfect fit for any situation so I always try to have the ingredients on hand.  You just never know when you’ll want (or need) to whip up a batch.

I think I make a pretty good chocolate chip cookie and I have even been told that they are the best part of our Christmas party menu (which is fairly elaborate).  I love that people enjoy them as much as I do and love to share them (after some are safely put aside for my own enjoyment, of course).

Sadly, after E’s dairy allergy diagnosis, baking just wasn’t as fun as it used to be.  Besides, I barely had time for a shower when E was an infant, let alone baking.  Also, as I started to spend more and more time in the kitchen making safe foods for E, it didn’t make sense to waste time baking something he couldn’t eat.  Not to mention the fact that I was depressed that he might never get to eat my cookies.   So I went a long time without baking cookies.

By this past Christmas we had a pretty good grasp of FPIES and E’s allergen and I was feeling fairly confident about my E-safe cooking skills.  So I decided to adapt “my recipe” to be safe for E*.  With a bunch of substitutions they turned out well and we thought they were pretty tasty.  I’ll admit, they aren’t quite the same as good ol’ buttery, eggy, milk chocolatey cookies.  But I like them and still manage to eat way too many.

Also, E loves them! Words cannot describe how full my heart gets while watching him finally enjoy one of my cookies.

cookie eatingDecember 2013: E’s first taste of a chocolate chip cookie! 

Chocolate Chip Cookies – Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Egg-Free (can also be Barley-Free)

Makes about 60 cookies

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (before we passed barley I used white whole wheat flour, which also worked)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup (2 sticks) Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Sticks

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 chia “eggs” = 2 tbsp chia seed + 6 tbsp water

1 10 oz bag Enjoy Life Mini Chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 375º

Make your chia eggs: Grind the chia seed and add the water.  Let sit until you are ready for them (at least 5 minutes).

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat Earth Balance, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until creamy.  Slowly add the chia eggs a tbsp at a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually add the flour mixture.

Stir in the mini chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool on the cookie sheet for about 2 minutes then move to a plate to cool completely.

Enjoy!

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*Ok, true confession time: “my cookie” recipe is actually the recipe that is on the package of Nestle Toll House Morsels.  I dare you to find a better recipe that can even hold up to all of my substitutions!