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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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2nd Birthday Construction Cake! (dairy free, egg free, soy free)

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At the end of August my baby boy turned 2! It’s funny how I can so vividly remember the day he was born like it was yesterday and at the same time it seems like he’s been a part of my life forever!

While I never officially got birthday party invitations to his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, I spent most of the summer planning his party, and his cake in particular.  I feel like the birthday cake is the centerpiece of any birthday celebration and refuse to let FPIES get in the way of my son having an awesome cake.  This year has been all about “cars,” which is the label E gives to any type of vehicle.  But really it’s trucks, especially big construction trucks, that excite him.  Inspired by a couple of construction themed cakes I found on Pinterest, I set out to make an awesomely “dirty” cake complete with bulldozers, diggers, and dump trucks.

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I think this is the best $6 I have ever spent!

However, I also wanted the cake to taste great.  Not just “great (for a vegan cake),” but just “GREAT”  This is hard. Not as hard as last year, when it had to be grain-free, but still pretty difficult.  So I started baking.  There are actually a bunch of vegan cake recipes out there but most of them are oil-based.  They are ok, but don’t really do much for me.  They taste different, more like a waffle than a yellow cake.   I like waffles but I wasn’t trying to make a birthday waffle – just a good old yellow birthday cake.

I was just about to start experimenting with a truly new recipe when like a sign from heaven, the Kindle version of The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book by Kelly Rudnicki was available for free download.  I downloaded and scrolled until I found a yellow cake recipe that was not oil-based – Jackpot!  Of course, nothing is really that easy.  The book offers great recipes for those with dairy, egg, and nut allergies.  And, like most vegan recipes, there is a pretty high reliance on soy products to replace dairy.  So it still required a little tweaking to make it safe for E.  But it was really good! Maybe not perfect, but much better than “good enough.”  And come on, this cake is free of milk, butter, soy, and eggs (as well as coconut, rice, oat, and shellfish)!  I promise I did not have to force anyone to eat it 🙂

The recipe below is only a slightly adapted version of the Food Allergy Mama’s recipe but it’s easier to have it in one place than to try to do the substitutions in your head.  It makes one 9 inch single-layer cake or 12 cupcakes, which is probably enough for most of the time.  You can double it for a double-layer cake or triple it for a half-sheet cake, which is what I did for the construction cake.  Just remember that the cooking times will change with the size of the cake (cupcakes will take about 20-25 minutes, the half-sheet took about 40 minutes), so keep an eye on it.

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Yellow Cake (dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup dairy-free, soy-free margarine (I use Earth Balance Soy-Free)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened original almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (cake flour would likely be better but I usually have AP on hand so that’s what I used)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.  This step is actually where your cake get’s the air bubbles that will allow it to rise (the baking powder just makes the bubbles bigger), so don’t be afraid to over-beat at this point.  In fact, while you have the mixer going, this is a great time to get your dry ingredients together.

In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt with a wire whisk.

Slowly add the almond milk, vanilla, and applesauce to the margarine/sugar mixture and continue mixing until thoroughly combined.  Warning: the addition of the applesauce to the batter isn’t pretty.  The first time I did it I panicked, but once you add the dry ingredients it all smooths out – trust me.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined (about a minute). Increase the speed to medium high and beat for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, until you have a nice, smooth mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  Take care not to over-beat once you add the flour or the gluten will bind and it will get tough (replacing the AP flour with cake flour will help to prevent this as it has less gluten in it).

Coat one 9-inch cake pan or a 13×9-inch baking pan with dairy-free, soy-free margarine. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until an inserted cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Frosting (dairy-free, soy-free)

I also used the recipe for Creamy Chocolate Frosting from The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book, again just substituting out the soy milk (see below).  This recipe makes about 2 cups.  I doubled it to cover the half-sheet cake but had some left over.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dairy-free, soy-free margarine
  • ½ cup cocoa powder (check ingredients some contain dairy)
  • 2 tbsp almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the margarine and cocoa powder until smooth.

Add the vanilla, and salt.  Mix thoroughly. Slowly add in the confectioners’ sugar, mixing on low for 1 minute. Slowly add the almond milk as needed to reach the correct consistency.  Increase the mixer speed to medium, and beat 4 to 6 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Chocolate Peanut Butter “Rocks” Topping

Finally, I used my recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs for the topping.  Instead of shaping the peanut into egg-shapes I just spread it out on a parchment-covered cookie sheet before putting it in the freezer.  Then I poured and spread the melted chocolate right on top.  Super easy!  I made sure it was nice and hard (froze it overnight) and then used a good sharp knife and meat tenderizer to break it up into “rocks.”

Once you have all the parts, the cake is easy to put together.  I frosted the entire cake with chocolate frosting.  It’s so relaxing to frost a cake when you know that your goal is to make it look like dirt!  I cut out a “2” and laid it on the cake then piled on the “rocks.” The final touch were the trucks, placed so they look like they are working hard.

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I was so happy with the end result!  And E loved it too!  As soon as he saw it he wanted to play.  I managed to distract him with an extra backhoe until after we sang “Happy Birthday” and then let him have some fun before we cut it.  I must say – it tasted as good as it looked.  It’s so rich!  You would never know it was vegan and free of so many allergens!  It got rave reviews from the whole family!

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To complete the “road work” theme, my wonderful husband decorated the table, complete with orange “cones”

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It was a wonderful party, complete with an awesome centerpiece cake. I was really impressed by how well the cake looked and tasted.  And so was E!  He continues to play with the construction vehicles (he even takes them to bed!) and frequently goes to his high chair and says “happy,” his adorable way of requesting more (happy birthday) cake. I’ve got to say, he has made this mommy very happy!

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IMG_4483The digger even doubles as a spoon! You don’t want to waste any chocolate!

 

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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!
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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!
0

Keep It Simple, Supermom!

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There is NOTHING simple about FPIES.  It is difficult to diagnose, difficult to understand, difficult to manage, difficult to explain, and very difficult to live with.  When your child has FPIES everything becomes more complicated.  Having dinner at a relative’s house means preparing a meal (as well as snacks and dessert) that travels well that you are pretty sure your toddler will eat with minimal intervention from you.  It means spending a holiday running interference between your child and the appetizers.  It means stressing about finding a shampoo that won’t be harmful.  It means spending who-knows-how-long on hold waiting for a customer service representative to confirm that “natural and artificial flavors” aren’t code words for allergens.  It means always being on the lookout for other toddlers who might try to share their goldfish crackers with your son.  It means being on trash patrol wherever you go so that your curious child doesn’t pick up (and God-forbid put in his mouth) a discarded candy wrapper or dropped Cheerio.  It means avoiding untested foods and going through crazy food trials before you can comfortably feed something to your child.  I could keep going, but you get the picture.  FPIES turns your world upside-down and adds a couple of extra layers of work to the easy, walk in the park that is raising a toddler.

But we rise to the challenge.  We are ready.  We are super-parents, ready to don our capes and do whatever it takes to keep our children safe and their lives as normal as possible.  That being said, sometimes we get ahead of ourselves. Sometimes we are so prepared for the extra layers of difficulty that we factor them in when it isn’t necessary.   We anticipate unlikely problems or create improbable scenarios.  Sometimes the crazy takes over and we make things more difficult then they have to be.

I’m often grateful that my husband, who is incredibly involved in E’s care and supportive of all that I do, is removed from E’s minute to minute care just enough to be objective.  It is his job to tell me when I’m being crazy.  He’s the one that reminds me that we aren’t leaving the planet for a dinner party and that our hosts will probably have a refrigerator to store E’s safe food.  He’s the one who reminds me that E already has a safe chocolate and convinces me to turn that into Easter candy.  He’s the one who reminds me that while a short nap is annoying, it is not the sign of an impending reaction.  He’s my crazy-meter and is usually pretty good at sounding a warning bell when I’m approaching a full-on crazy attack.

By the way, he’s also the one that reminds me that I have more resources than I realize, that I am capable of  supermom status, and that I can handle all of the challenges that FPIES brings.  

Unfortunately we recently had a situation where my crazy-alarm malfunctioned.  I think it started when my husband was forced to spend a day in my cape.  Right after Christmas E was recovering from an ear-infection and had to see his pediatrician on the same day that we had previously scheduled a dietician appointment.  It was incredibly bad timing that I woke up that morning with an awful stomach bug, the kind that prevents you from leaving the bathroom, let alone the house.  Jonathan was on his own.  He seemed to take it all in stride but I know how stressful one doctor appointment can be, let alone two in the same day. The dietician was especially challenging because I am generally in charge of preparing E’s foods and it’s hard to have a useful adult conversation while a toddler explores a new office.

One of Jonathan’s take-aways from the dietician appointment was that E needed more calcium in his diet and that we could accomplish this by feeding him salmon-potato patties made with canned salmon.  It took us a couple of months to get around to the salmon trial but when we did, super-dad was in charge of making the salmon into patties to feed our son.  Jonathan woke up one Saturday morning and reported to the kitchen where he started grinding chia seed, flaking salmon, chopping garlic, and who knows what else. It wasn’t a difficult recipe but it was somewhat time-consuming and in the end E was not a fan.  I used every supermom power I could think of to get him to eat.  We were way past generic airplanes of food flying into the hangar.  I was acting out scenes from Dinosaur Train and Curious George (and a little bit wishing that we allowed him to watch more TV so I had a larger repertoire).  I was singing, dancing, using bad accents, and generally making a fool of myself.  It was exhausting and my audience was not appreciative.  I had even resorted to bribing E with other foods.  If he took a bite of the salmon patty, he was rewarded with a bite of avocado (I don’t know where this kid came from but he’d take avocado over chocolate any day!).  After a couple of days of forcing my son to eat food so that I would know it was safe (but never feed it to him again) I was ready to give up on salmon all together.

But it was still important to me to know that a fish was safe.  This would open the door to other fish and answer a question that the allergist was sure to ask at our next appointment.  So we went back to the drawing board and decided to change our approach.  While the canned salmon was best for calcium intake (because it contains skin and bones – yuck), maybe it was as unappetizing to E as it was to me and we should just try another recipe.  I bought a frozen salmon filet and Jonathan consulted with some friends to develop a lovely, safe poached salmon recipe.  So he spent another Saturday morning stinking up our house lovingly creating a gourmet meal for our toddler.   Luckily our son is generally open to trying new food and readily ate about two bites before he decided he was finished.

poached salmonChecking out the poached salmon. 

Maybe he really hated salmon, or maybe he decided he liked his new mealtime entertainment.  Either way, I was not interested in another week of theatrics and fighting with him to eat a food that wasn’t going to become a regular menu option.  I was just about ready to give up on the salmon all together when I remembered the KISS principle. KISS stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid.  It’s a reminder to stick with the basics and not make things more complicated than they have to be. Hmm.  Were salmon patties and poached salmon for a one year old unnecessary complexities? I’m not sure why I didn’t see it sooner.  Typically I try to conduct food trials with the purest form of the food possible – keep it simple.  I decided to harness the power of the avocado and simply mixed the canned salmon with avocado, mashing them together like a salad.

Magically, he ate it! More accurately – he shoveled the salad into his mouth as though at any minutes I might take it away from him! I couldn’t believe it!  The rest of the salmon trial was a pleasure.  Most importantly there were no reactions! All this was to say that salmon was a pass! And now I have a SIMPLE new recipe that I can use to increase E’s protein and calcium intake.

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Shoveling the Salmon/Avocado Salad into his face.

I know that I have a tendency to make things more complicated than they have to be.  While my husband is usually an awesome crazy-meter and can stop me in my tracks, he travels and sometimes he gets wrapped up in the complexity of our lives too.  So, my new mantra is going to be KISS – Keep it Simple Supermom!  I believe that mantras should be positive and I’m not making things complicated because I’m stupid, I’m making them complicated because my supermom cape prevents me from seeing the simple solution 🙂

We are about to start our crab trial – I bet you can’t guess the recipe we are using…

1

The Easter Bunny’s Research Assistant – Chocolate Candy

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The centerpiece of my childhood Easter baskets was always a huge chocolate bunny.  So large that it took several weeks (or at least days) to finish.  Of course now when I look back the whole thing is a little sad – slowly maiming a bunny as you ingest hundreds of calories and piles of sugar.  Nonetheless, it is tradition.  Thus, it’s important to me that E get to experience all of the joy and creepiness that comes with finding a large chocolate bunny in your basket on Easter morning and slowly gnawing on it until it disappears.

But, alas, procuring said bunny for E is a little more difficult.  It has to be free of all of his allergens – dairy, soy, egg, coconut, rice, and oats.  The Easter Bunny has to be on the ball this year.  No procrastinating and last-minute shopping trips.  This magical confection would not be on the shelf of a local grocery store.

So a couple of weeks ago I started the research.  I was pleased to find a couple of websites that sell dairy-free chocolate Easter candy, however most contained soy.  Amanda’s Own was the one exception, the problem is that we’ve never had it.  Buying this chocolate would be taking a chance and, while all of the ingredients appear to be safe (cane sugar, unsweetened chocolate, and cocoa butter), I felt like it would require at least a mini-trial to be sure.  Nobody wants the Easter Bunny to accidentally bring an FPIES reaction.

We have, however, already passed Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips, which are free of all of the top 8 allergens as well as rice, oat, and coconut.  These things are a God-send and they actually taste good!  Given that we already had some safe chocolate, it seemed logical that I should make my own bunny.  This made me incredibly uncomfortable.  I’m pretty sure my last candy-making experience was my 8th birthday party, which was held at a candy kitchen. Eight-years-old was a long time ago!  After a night of trying to convince myself that I could do this, I became empowered by a few fellow FPIES-moms on the FPIES Facebook page who assured me that making my own Easter candy was quite possible and I decided to take the plunge.

I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to find large bunny chocolate molds at this time of year!  The local craft stores were a bust but I was able to find a few online.  I ended up ordering a very large one because it was the cutest.  It is unlikely that E will come anywhere close to finishing this bunny, but being the helpful mom that I am, I am willing to step in and assist 🙂

My step-by-step instructions are below.  It was so easy! Seriously, the hardest part was finding a spot in the refrigerator for it to sit while it hardened.  I felt so good about my results that I even made bite-sized easter-themed candies just for fun.  AND I got a little carried away and went all pinterest-y and made E-safe chocolate-covered peanut butter eggs (which need a few tweaks so you’ll have to wait a bit for my post about them)!  One of the things I was most concerned about was the texture.  I was afraid that the chocolate would turn out rock-hard.  But they are really perfect, the texture and consistency is just like any store-bought candy.  I think the oil might be the key (but I won’t pretend to be an expert). I really couldn’t be happier with the end result!

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Chocolate Easter Candy – Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Egg-Free, Peanut-Free, Nut-Free

Ingredients:

10 oz bag Enjoy Life Mini Chips

1 Tbsp Canola Oil (I’m pretty sure any safe oil would work)

Directions:

1. Mix the chips and the oil in a microwave-safe bowl

2. Melt the chips in the microwave on high for about 1.5 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.  At the end of the minute and a half, the bowl of chips didn’t look smooth, but once I started stirring it they continued to melt enough that I didn’t need to heat them anymore.

3. Poor the melted chocolate into a mold.

4. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, until solid.  (15 minutes wasn’t enough for my mold so I left in the fridge and then got distracted.  It was in there well over an hour and it was fine.)

5. Turn the mold upside down to pop out the chocolate.

6. Marvel at how easy it was to uphold an Easter traditional in a completely easy and FPIES-safe way

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UPDATE: Two days after I made the candy I noticed that it is starting to get a little discolored.  Some quick internet research suggested that this is probably because it was exposed to changes in humidity or temperature.  There also seems to be some debate about where to let the chocolate harden (room temperature vs refrigerator vs freezer).  My mold directed me to use the refrigerator, which I did, but you might want to experiment with where is best for you.  I think I’ll aim to make the chocolate the day before I need it next time, which is fine because it so easy!  Let us know if you have any tips or hints.  Have fun!