'Peanut Allergy Princess' is the story of one mom, one Princess with food allergies (to peanuts and brazil nuts) and our journey through the stress of life with food allergies. Here you will find many recipes, tips on living (and enjoying life) with food allergies, thoughts from a mother of 3 kids (The Brothers and The Princess) and insights into our life. Welcome!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween... fun or scary?


The Princess is so excited for Halloween this year. She is old enough to "get it" and has been wearing her costume almost every day for the past week or so in anticipation. She also realizes that with Halloween comes candy - which can be a little tricky (and scary) with a peanut allergy. This is the first year we have really had to worry about it since she wasn't old enough to care in years past. I talked to a few different friends whose kids also have peanut allergies about what they do when it comes to trick-or-treating. I was very interested in the variety of responses.

So, what is our plan of attack? I will be taking The Princess trick-or-treating to a few houses in the neighborhood, than we will look through her candy bag and decide if any of it can 1.) be kept and 2.) be eaten by The Princess. Luckily, all the candy we bought to hand out is peanut (and egg) free. If worse comes to worse, we can sneakily switch out the candy in her bag with the "safe" candy from our trick-or-treating bowl.

When Brother #1 and Brother #2 come home from their rounds of trick-or-treating, we also have to go through their candy bags. Anything containing peanuts or PB is immediately confiscated. Last year, we hid it all in a high cupboard and my husband and I would sneak it out at night and eat it over the sink. We are so mean, we wouldn't even let the Brother's eat it. The trouble we have to go through now just to eat a Reese's PB cup!  Anything that "may contain peanuts" or "is processed in a facility with peanuts" is put out of The Princess's reach. Brother #1 and Brother #2 are allowed to take it to school or eat it when The Princess is down for her nap.

This year, since we are trying to be healthier, we will be letting the kids pick a handful of their favorite treats (without peanuts)  and the rest we will "sell" to a local dentist who pays cash for candy. Brother #1 and Brother #2 sometimes complain about not being able to eat the candy containing peanuts and PB. "Selling" it is a great way to get rid of it while still letting The Brother's get some benefit (money).

Since we are still relatively new in dealing with food allergies at holiday times, I would love to hear any feedback with how you handle the holidays.

And in the meantime, I hope you have a safe Halloween!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Honey Roasted Cashews

Where has the time gone? I had great intentions of posting this recipe a week ago... and the sad part is, I'm not really sure what has kept me from posting. Just trying to recover from vacation and get ready for Halloween, I guess. I always wonder when life will slow down, but if it ever did, I'm sure I would be really bored. So, here's to a busy life!

This recipe can be used in so many ways. We like to use it in homemade trail mix, but it is also great on salads, in pasta dishes and eaten plain as a snack. You can also use different kinds of nuts, like almonds, walnuts or pecans.

Homemade Trail mix

Honey Roasted Cashews

1 lb. raw cashews (approx. 3 1/2 cups)

2 Tbsp. raw honey (preferable local)

1 1/2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup

1 1/2 Tbsp. butter (or coconut oil)

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2 Tbsp. turbinado (or raw) sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with tin foil.

Measure out all ingredients and combine the honey, maple syrup and butter. Microwave until butter is melted. Add salt, vanilla and cinnamon to the honey mixture and stir.

Place cashews in a medium size bowl, pour honey mixture over the nuts and toss. When coated, spread on prepared baking sheet (spreading to form a single layer) and bake for 6 minutes.

Remove from oven as stir. Place nuts back the oven and cook for another 6 minutes.

Remove nuts and pour them into a clean bowl. Toss with raw sugar and a little more salt (to taste) and let cool, stirring occasionally). When completely cool, scoop into glass jar with an air-tight lid.

If tree nuts are a no-no in your house, you might also try this with sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

School Safety

With the diagnosis of food allergies, there comes a host of other concerns. Many of these secondary concerns deal with school. There are places that people with food allergies just avoid so as not to put themselves in danger. Obviously, school is not one of those places. Sending a food allergic child to school can be down-right scary! Especially when the child is young and is still learning about their food allergies and how to manage them on their own. 

While checking out food allergy blogs today... I came across this on The Food Allergy Mama's website. This is just a clip - click here for the entire article. 

"I’ve said it before but it’s worth mentioning again; classrooms ARE NOT secondary lunchrooms. They are a child’s safe haven, a place to learn and socialize in an inclusive, positive environment. I’ve never advocated for food bans, especially in school lunchrooms. My son also has a severe dairy allergy, and I would never expect any school to ban milk, or cheese from children’s lunches. John knows it is HIS responsibility in the lunchroom to eat at a peanut free table and to wash his hands and not share food. However, the gray area lies within the classroom. Schools should consider more food free celebrations, and snacks in the classrooms should be free of potentially deadly allergens. To the reader who posted the comment above, and to any other mom or dad who is annoyed at possibly having to buy certain snacks for the classroom only, I would hope they could try for just a moment to consider the food allergic child, and that no granola bar or cupcake is worth losing a child over. Ever.

When I read the above blog comment, it saddened me that we can’t all just come together and put these children’s lives first, and think about what’s best for them, not what’s best and more convenient for parents. We need to think more logically and compassionately about the issue of food allergies in schools. I respect and value the opinions of non FA parents who wish to fight these types of changes in schools, but I hope that they can respect our food allergic children’s lives and well-being too. Change isn’t easy, but it is possible to do with everyone’s support from the top down, as long as the right information is put out, and more people are educated that food allergies are not a choice or a dietary fad."

Reading this article reminded me of a conversation I heard while at a PTA function. Two mothers were discussing their frustration and inconvenience at having to accommodate a child with Celiacs during the end of the year pizza party for that particular grade. They were annoyed at the added cost of having to bring in a gluten-free pizza. They talked about how, if this child (who happened to only be 7), CHOSE to eat this way, they ought to get used to being "special". This child should get used to sitting out of special parties and celebrations because of their "choice" to eat gluten-free. I chose not to make a scene and argue my point as I was so shocked and saddened at the thought of what The Princess (and other kids with food allergies and intolerances) have to face and deal with on a daily basis. I felt sorry for this child, who I'm sure just wanted to celebrate with the rest of their classmates and feel included.

I am with The Food Allergy Mama in that I do not support school-wide bans on peanuts (or other allergens). But I am a firm believer in keeping food out of classrooms (as much as possible). A friend and I took this issue to our school Principal last year and had a very open discussion about why we felt it was important and how food allergic kids could be safer at school.  Even thought The Princess is not in school yet, I would like to have policies and procedures in place BEFORE she starts school to ease the stress on both of us when we get to that point. Although our Principal listened and discussed the issue with us, I didn't feel like many changes would be made. When the new school year started, I was pleasantly surprised to see many of the teachers had opted for "food-free" Birthday celebrations. Even though there are other times when food is brought into the classroom, I felt that this was a step in the right direction.

I was not prepared for the amount of backlash my friend and I would receive when others learned we had spoken to the principal on this issue. I never imagined that this would be so hotly debated and so personal to some people. I feel like I am understanding of others points of view and would ask that others be understanding of why this issue is so important to me. When it comes to the safety of my daughter, I will not back down and will do whatever it takes to keep her safe - especially at school. 

Food in the classroom (and food bans) are a hot topic in many areas of the country as food allergies become more common. While I am grateful that so much progress has been made, there is much work to be done to educate society about food allergies (and other dietary intolerances that aren't 'choice'). I agree with The Food Allergy Mama that change can happen but it will require an open-mind and a willingness to see another perspective. 


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Healthy Snacks (and road trippin')

This past weekend, we spent approximately 14 hours in our car driving to (and back from) the sunny state of Arizona to visit cousins. It was great to go back to "summer" for the weekend - playing outside, going swimming (even if it was so cold we only lasted a few minutes) and getting away from school and responsibilities.. We were able to relax - despite the fact that there were 8 kids under the age of 10 in the same house - and enjoy time with family. We are very lucky that one of The Princess's cousins also has a peanut allergy so when we visit them, we don't have the added stress of worrying about what she will eat.

Aren't road trips so fun? Well, we all know that when little kids are involved they might not be the best of times in the moment. But when the kiddos are good and you are driving through beautiful and scenic areas, they can be somewhat enjoyable. Of course, I forgot my camera so there aren't any pictures of the fall leaves and red rock we encountered on our drive. We got a few pictures of the cousins, but you know how it is when kids don't want to be in pictures (especially after 3 hours of church). If you look at them all collectively, you can catch a glimpse of everyone looking and smiling.

Part of road trips is, of course, the snacks. Generally, though, they aren't the most healthy. Here are a few snack ideas that are allergy safe, healthy and yummy! All of these snacks are kid friendly (and great for adults too) and are safe for those with peanut allergies. If you have other allergies, make sure to check labels. 

1. Stretch Island Fruit Leather is one of our favorites. They are 100% natural and have no food additives. They have no added sugar - all sugar comes naturally from the fruit. They are made with gluten and lactose - free ingredients. The only problem is... I have to limit The Princess or she would eat 10 in a sitting. I buy them at Costco for about $0.50 a fruit leather.

2. Go Go Squeez Applesauce is another crowd-pleaser. They contain no genetically modified ingredients, are gluten-free and vegan. They also include no added sugar! These can be found at any grocery store.

3. Kids always love crackers and Triscuits are our favorite. They contain only a few simple ingredients that are natural and not created in a lab. We love them paired with string cheese.

4. Popcorn is always a kid pleaser and this version of Homemade Kettle Corn is a hit at our house. This recipe is super, duper easy, can be made very quickly and is healthy!

5. Trail mix is a great choice for road trips because it adds some protein. Because most store bought trail mixes contain peanuts (or the other nuts 'may contain peanuts'), we always avoid them. They generally contain added salts and oils as well. We love to make our own Homemade Trail Mix using raw almonds, raw cashews, raw sunflower seeds, raw pumpkin seeds (when we have them) and some kind of dried fruit.  You can also roast any of the above for a different flavor. For a sweet tooth, try making your own honey roasted almonds or cashews.
*I buy most of my raw nuts separately at Costco because their nuts (walnuts, almonds and pecans) have not come in contact with peanuts. I buy my raw cashews at Good Earth (after checking to make sure their nuts come packaged separately and haven't contacted peanuts). Just avoid anything that makes you feel uncomfortable as everyone's allergies are different. 

6. Obviously whole fruits are always a good choice. The Princess loves grapes, apples and bananas. Other choices that are great are pears, oranges and clementines.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Aren't they sweet?

There are many things that come with the beginning of the school year - one of them being school pictures. I seriously dislike school pictures. They (generally) aren't the best quality (especially if you forget it is picture day and your child wears a t-shirt and forgets to comb their hair) and in order to get them, you need to buy some ridiculous package with 1000 wallets that you couldn't possibly use. Obviously I am exaggerating (only slightly), but I really don't like them.

This year, I learned of a lady in my neighborhood who takes "school" pictures on her own. What a fabulous idea! They were very reasonably priced, they were done outside with natural lighting and I received a disc with the images (touched up as well). I get to order what I need (no wallets) and I am not stuck with extra prints. Needless to say... I will be doing this every year. Now if I could only find some way to use these pictures for The Brother's class pictures, I would be set!

So, here they are... Brother #1 (3rd grade), Brother #2 (Kindergarten), The Princess. Aren't they sweet?

And more... because they are so cute!


Friday, October 5, 2012

Asian Beef Bites

The watering continues here at our house... but there is good news. I can see little blades of grass starting to grow when I squat down and inspect the ground really closely (while hoping the neighbors aren't looking)!! I never thought I would be this in tune with grass - or my yard in general. Luckily I have our watering down to a fine science - and a system involving 5 sprinklers and 1 hand-held nozzle sprayer.

Enough on my yard... lets talk about dinner! I realized that I have not posted a "dinner" recipe in awhile. Despite what one might think, we do not eat only muffins and dessert here. I do actually cook dinner. With food allergies and the amount of who-knows-what in processed and fast food, I cook (from scratch) almost every night. I used to hate cooking, but I have learned to enjoy it. There is a simple satisfaction in cooking for my family when we can sit down together and enjoy a delicious dinner. That sounds so perfect, right? Well, we do have those nights when my kids complain about what we are eating and The Princess is throwing food on the floor because she doesn't like it. Those kind of nights come with being a mom, I guess.

When it comes to meat, we don't eat very much - which my husband complains about but since I do the cooking it is my way or the highway. When we do eat red meat, we like to buy grass-fed beef from a local rancher. The cost might be slightly more than store-bought meat, but the taste (and health benefits) are so much better!

My family LOVES Asian style food - pretty much all of it. Brother #1 has been begging for sushi with raw fish for some time now - that is how much we love Asian food. Asian restaurants are taboo though - much to our dislike - so I am always looking for new recipes to try at home. I came across this one and knew it would be a hit. I hope you like it as much as we did!

Asian Beef Bites

1 lb. extra lean ground beef (preferably grass-fed)

1/4 cup wheat germ

2 Tbsp. fresh ground flax seed

2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce (or Bragg's Amino Liquid)

1 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger root

1/3 cup no-sugar added applesauce (or 1 egg)

1/4 tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine ingredients. Gently form into about 30 meatballs, each one inch in diameter.

Bake on a foil-lined baking sheet for 10-15 minutes until cooked through.

I served mine with an Asian Cabbage Salad, but you can pair them with rice (or whatever you want). I skewered mine for the picture, but without the egg they are fairly crumbly and didn't stay on their skewers very well.

If 30 meatballs seems like a lot, you can freeze what you don't use for another night when you are in a big rush to get a healthy dinner on the table and everyone in the family is going 20 different directions and you don't have time to think, let alone cook!

Recipe adapted from Suite 101


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Functional... and in style

Remember when I said I might post about some crafts I have been working on. Well,  this post would be the one craft post for... we'll say the quarter. I told you early in the summer that I had been working on project that was taking up all my time and promised to show you when it was finished. Well... it has been finished for awhile now and I never showed you, so here it is. Ta-da!

I have always wanted a buffet of sorts in my "entry way" which is really just a wall in my living room, and after  months of looking, I found this one at just the right price. I bought this dresser used and while not in terrible shape, it was the wrong color and needed just a bit of love. It started out navy blue, but I wanted a "pop" of color in my living room. That is where the "project" came in. Adding the "pop" of color required some sanding, priming and repainting. Of course, the yellow paint color I bought wasn't the right shade, so I had to get creative and add some watered down craft paint on top of the yellow. I think I ended up using 5-6 coats of paint (in various colors) to get the finished product. I sanded it again to distress it a bit (this is where the navy underneath actually came in handy) and than sealed it. At the time, I didn't realize mustard yellow would be such a hot fall color. How exciting to be ahead of the style trend!

Not only does this add color to my living room... it is very functional. Which is a must!!

 We hide the kids shoes (any my husbands shoes, but I didn't think you needed to see 2 pictures of shoes) in the big drawers.

The small drawers house my husbands "stuff"(so it doesn't end up on the kitchen table), the mail to be sorted and current magazines and my crossfit workouts (which are currently written on scraps of paper, but will hopefully someday be organized in some way).

Of course we display pictures of the kids on top. All in all, I am very pleased at how it turned out! What do you think?

Now, here is a little taste of what is keeping me occupied at the moment.

We brought in top soil and seeded (with grass seed) our back yard last week... and 3 days later our irrigation water was shut off for the winter. Our new sprinkling system runs on that irrigation water so we are left with the task of hand-watering the entire yard (with culinary water) for the next few weeks.  This picture shows less than half the yard. It is a muddy and time consuming task and since the hubby is at work all day... it falls to me. The past 2 days have been unseasonably warm (in the mid to upper 80's) and it takes at least 2 hours to run and move all the sprinklers - and I am supposed to be doing it 3-4 times a day! Ok, enough complaining...  until the water bill comes and we see what this predicament has cost us.