'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!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Homemade Almond Butter

Since peanut butter is not an option for us to eat, Nutella has more sugar than any other ingredient, store bought almond butter is usually processed in a facility with peanuts (or may contain peanuts) and Sunbutter and Wow butter are disgusting, we aren't left with many options for quick and easy sandwiches. So, I decided to attempt my own almond butter. I think it has changed my life!! It is so delicious, super nutritious and very easy (with the right tools).

It took me a few batches to get my recipe perfected, so don't give up if it doesn't work out just right the first time. I am going to give you a few tips that I learned in my journey for making the perfect almond butter.

Homemade Almond Butter

2 cups raw almonds (if you have a large food processor, you can add another cup or two)
pinch of sea salt
sweetener (if desired)

1. The nuts release their oils better when they are warm and I prefer the flavor of roasted almonds for my almond butter, so the first step is to roast the almonds. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F . Place almonds in a baking dish and spread so they aren't stacked on top of each other. Cook for 10-12 minutes. You will begin to smell them when they are finished (and it smells good!).

2. While the almonds are still warm, place them in your blender or food processor (I prefer using the twister jar with my Blendtec)***Since I have only used my Blendtec to make almond butter, I don't have a  detailed description on how to make it in a food processor. There are plenty of tutorials online if that is your preferred method and you want more information.*** In the twister jar, it takes me about 5 minutes (and usually 4 cycles) to get the consistency that I want (when I start with warm almonds). If you are using a food processor or the four side or wild side jar on the Blendtec, it will take a bit longer and a bit more work (scraping the sides). 

3. Turn on the blender to speed 3 or 4 and begin twisting. Allow it to run a full cycle.
Notice it is still a bit chunky

Check the consistency - if you want a smoother almond butter, turn blender to speed 5 and run a full cycle.

After cycle number 3 (at speeds between 3 and 5) - we are almost there.
Getting creamier, but still has a few small chunks

I ran it one more cycle just to get it super creamy. Sometimes, I use a spatula to move it around a little in between cycles. Beware!! It is super loud and your blender will get really warm - there may even be smoke that escapes when you open the lid in between cycles. This is normal (although it freaked me out a bit at first... I thought I was burning out my blender!)

4. When your almond butter has reached your desired consistency, add the salt and any sweetener you desire (we prefer about 2 Tbsp of raw sugar but you can use anything you want - honey, agave, maple syrup, powdered sugar, etc...) and pulse until well blended.


5. Scoop into jars and enjoy!! To fill this quart size jar - I made 2 full recipes.
The Princess's new favorite way to enjoy almond butter - on brown rice cakes. Yum!!


Friday, February 22, 2013

The Talk

We are going to begin this post with a story... which we haven't done yet on the blog. There is a first time for everything.

One morning, I was getting after Brother #1 for not cleaning out his lunch box the night before and leaving it on the floor in his backpack. He had taken a PB sandwich to school for lunch the day before and the remnants were still in his lunch container. I reminded him what could happen if The Princess was to get her hands on it.  After this conversation with Brother #1, Brother #2 decides he is going to teach The Princess a thing or two about her food allergies. (I have already started talking to The Princess about peanuts and peanut butter and how they can make her sick -- even though she is not even 2 1/2 yet, but that is as far as we have taken it.) This is the conversation:

Brother #2: "Princess, if you eat peanuts, you will not just get sick, you will DIE. Do you know what that means, DIE!!" (emphasis on the word die, said with a low, raspy and dramatic voice).

The Princess: "You eat peanuts, you will die. You eat peanuts, you will die" (This was repeated many times over the course of the day.)

That conversation reminded me of the seriousness of The Princess's allergies. Not that I had forgotten, but sometimes I think I get too complacent. It is always good to have simple reminders when dealing with the life of my daughter - simple reminders that aren't life threatening.  It also had me thinking of the appropriate time to teach food allergic children the seriousness of their allergies.

As mentioned earlier, we have already begun telling The Princess that she can't eat peanuts or peanut butter because it will make her sick but I'm pretty sure she doesn't understand. She usually asks for peanut butter after we talk to her about it because it is on her mind. I wonder at what point will she understand. At what point will she be old enough to understand what could happen if she ate peanuts or peanut butter. I asked that question to some friends who also have kids with food allergies. One of them said it took a trip to the ER for her son to figure out the severity of his allergies. Yikes! Luckily he was ok.

I want The Princess to be safe and have the knowledge she needs to make her own decisions as she gets older, but I don't want her to have anxiety and be paranoid to eat food in general. There is a very fine line that parents of food allergic children and food allergic people themselves have to walk. Enough paranoia and anxiety to keep your child (or yourself) safe but not so much that you can't function when eating outside your own home.

The Princess is a very care-free child and not one to worry too much about things. I would like to keep her that way and wonder how I will teach her about her allergies without filling her full of fear. So far, I have let her be babysat by a few individuals (who have either been trained or have kids with food allergies) - which sounds harmless, but is in fact, a very scary thing. I have also allowed The Princess to attend church class with other little kids her age - even though there is food served (which I have screened, of course) and the remote possibility that someone could have brought peanuts or peanut containing products into their classroom during the week and there could be residue or crumbs left behind. Hopefully these small steps allow her freedom and room to grow and become independent.

My hope for The Princess is that she will feel like a normal child who just happens to have food allergies and not a child whose entire life is consumed and dictated by food allergies.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Homemade Mac and Cheese

I am happy to report that my back is feeling much better and so is my hip (although I haven't done any dancing or yoga since Wednesday... ). My grandpa's funeral was lovely and gave us a chance to visit with family who came in from out of state. Now, after a chaotic weekend, I am ready to get back to "regular" life.

Mac and Cheese is a comfort food for a lot of people and a favorite of a lot of kids. But the stuff in the box is full of additives, preservatives and not a lot of real cheese. We like to make our own at home. This recipe takes a little bit of time (and quite a bit of cheese) so we don't eat it very often. But every once in awhile, it is just what a kid (and an adult) needs.

1 lb pasta (any shape. I buy all my egg free pasta at Costco. It is also organic)

1 1/2 cups milk (we use original almond milk)

2 Tbsp whole grain flour

2-3 cups shredded cheese (the sky is the limit here depending on your taste - we like colby jack mixed  
                                                         with mozzarella and a little parmesan)

12 tsp salt

1/4 tsp powdered mustard

Steamed Broccoli (or any other sides or mix-ins you prefer)

Bring about 4 quarts of water to boil over high heat in the pasta pot. Add the pasta and a pinch of salt. Cook until the pasta is al dente. Drain and set aside.

When the pasta has finished cooking, prepare the cheese sauce. Begin warming 1 cup of milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and the flour until there are no lumps. When you start to see tendrils of steam rising from the warming milk, whisk in the milk-flour mixture. Continue whisking gently until the milk thickens slightly to the consistency of heavy cream, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Turn the heat to low and begin mixing in the shredded cheese, one cup at a time, into the milk. Stir in the salt and mustard. Stir until all the cheese has melted and the sauce is creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Remove the sauce from the heat.

Serve mac and cheese immediately with steamed broccoli. Leftovers can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. If the sauce is a little dry when reheating, mix in a splash of milk to make it creamy again.

If you can't do dairy - check out this recipe for vegan mac and cheese. We have tried this with mixed reviews - Brother #1 loves it, Brother #2 and The Princess not so much.

Recipe lightly adapted from The Kitchn


Friday, February 15, 2013

Photo Booth Pictures

If you are wondering what photo booth pictures have to do with allergy free foods, the answer is nothing. I popped my upper back and neck out of joint (on my birthday - proof that I am old now), pinched a nerve in my hip and my grandfather passed away this week. I have not felt much like cooking or writing blog posts. So, you get to enjoy this project that has taken me almost a year to finish. It turned out super cute though, so I think you will like it. Now, don't get worried that it took so long because it is complicated... I am just slow at doing certain things.

I got my original idea for doing photo booth pictures after seeing this  picture online.  I wanted something to hang over my bed and I thought this would be so cute. Here is my version...

Here are the basic steps:
1. Take pictures - I took The Princess and The Brothers out in front of some rocks in our neighbor's yard. I took the pictures from the the same distance and angle to they would all look the same. I left the faces up the the kids themselves... and I think they did an awesome job! Definitely not your run-of-the-mill photos - which I didn't want anyway.

2. Choose the size of pictures you want and get them printed. I chose 8x10's. I did not want to pay to get 12 photos printed on canvas so I modge-podged my finished pictures onto canvas. Check out this blog for a tutorial. (FYI... I painted the canvases black before modge-podging the pictures onto them.) One thing I learned about modge-podge while doing this, DO NOT stack the photos afterwards, even if they are dry!!! I did this and my photos stuck together. If you look close, you can kind of still see some spots where the canvas stuck to the photo. Luckily it wasn't too bad, but I did have to remodge-podge everything. If you need to store them, put a piece of wax paper in between each canvas/photo.

3. Choose the method in which you want to hang your finished canvas. I chose to super glue mine to a ribbon and tie the ribbon onto a cute little knob (which I bought at Rod Works - they have the best stuff!). The worst part was getting the canvases even on the ribbons so they looked ok hanging next to each other. It isn't perfect, but close enough for me.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Egg-less Double Chocolate Waffles with Berry Sauce

Chocolate waffles are a tradition in my family. When I was younger, we would have them every Christmas morning at my grandparents house.... smothered in whip cream and strawberries. Yum! I didn't realize until a few years ago that they weren't something my grandpa had just made up but that other people ate them too.

My grandpa used to make them by mixing some dry chocolate milk mix in with prepared waffle batter. As a kid, I didn't care, but as an adult, I wanted something a little more... sophisticated (not to mention made from scratch). I have found a winner! Waffles are notoriously hard to do without eggs, but these waffles taste equally as yummy as their counterparts with eggs.

Obviously it isn't Christmas (when I ate these growing up) but the rest of my family prefers another Christmas breakfast. Since I have to eat these at least once a year, Valentine's is another perfect time for this scrumptious breakfast (although I may or may not eat these more than just once a year).

Egg-less Double Chocolate Waffles
1 3/4 cups wonder flour (or 1 1/2 cups other whole grain flour or all-purpose flour)

1/2 cup cornstarch*

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup no-sugar added applesauce

1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp raw sugar

1 3/4 cups milk (I used almond milk)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup coconut oil, softened

1/3 cup chocolate chips

Berry Sauce 
3 cups berries, diced if large**

1/4 cup naturally sweetened jam (any flavor you want!)

2 Tbsp hot tap water

Whipped cream (optional)

**You will need about 3 cups of berries - you can use any combo you would like.You can use fresh berries, frozen berries or a combo of both depending on the season.  I used 1 cup of frozen strawberries and 2 cups of a frozen 3 berry mix from Costco (blackberries, raspberries and blueberries). If you think in advance, you can thaw in the fridge overnight, otherwise, pop frozen berries into the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Start by making the berry sauce so it can sit while you make the waffle batter. Combine jam and warm water and whisk until combined. Add in the berries and gently stir until combined. Gently mash berries with a fork to break up larger berries (you can leave as chunky as you want). If  your berries are still a bit frozen, you can blend them in a food processor (which I prefer to do).

Set berry sauce aside and make waffle batter.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt. Combine well and set aside.  * If you don't have cornstarch on hand - feel free to just use another 1/2 cup of flour. The cornstarch helps make the waffles more crispy, but using more flour would be just fine!

In another bowl, whisk together the applesauce, vinegar, sugar, milk, vanilla and coconut oil.

Blend the dry ingredients with the wet until just combined. It is ok if your batter is lumpy. Don't overmix! Fold in the chocolate chips into the batter. Pour batter onto a greased waffle iron and bake according to your waffle iron's instructions.

Top waffle with a generous helping of berry sauce and a dollop of whip cream. Try not to moan as you eat... it'll be hard, I promise!

Waffle recipe adapted from Vegan Heartland
Berry sauce from Our Best Bites
This is the yummy, gooey mess you are left with when you have eaten half of your waffle! 
And, I might have overdone the whip cream on this one, maybe. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Chocolate Graham Crackers... and a Valentine Treat

I can't believe Valentine's Day is next week. Really? How did that happen? I always have these great intentions for fun, crafty projects at every holiday for decorations or games for my kids or just fun stuff. Yet, it never seems to happen because holidays seem to sneak up on me so quickly. I should start now for next Valentine's Day, but...  that will never happen so on with the recipe!

The Princess loves graham crackers (and I do too). I remember making them with my Grandma when I was a little girl. So, when I came across some recipes for homemade graham crackers, I was so excited to try them out. These chocolate ones were one of our favorites. I mean really, combining two of my great loves... chocolate and graham crackers, is bound to be a winning combination. Now, these aren't the easiest things to make - they require a little patience when working with the dough. But they are definitely worth it!

Chocolate Graham Crackers

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup wonder flour (or other whole grain flour)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup sucanat (or brown sugar)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup butter, chilled and cubed

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F.

In a food processor or mixer, combine first 7 ingredients and mix until incorporated. Add cubed butter to the mix and pulse/mix until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add honey and water and continue to mix until it all combines.

Remove and shape the dough into a flat disk and place between two rolls of parchment paper - and trust me, you will want the parchment paper for this!

Roll the dough out until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into crackers or shapes with a cookie cutter. *

Place grahams onto a silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes.

Cool and serve.

* If you would like to freeze the grahams, after rolling and cutting the dough, place shapes on a baking sheet and freeze for 20 minutes. Remove, place in a ziploc bag, label and freeze for up to 4 months. When ready to bake, follow the remaining steps, adding an additional 1-2 minutes baking.

And, I forgot to take a picture of the grahams all by themselves, so you will have to use your imagination... or just make some for yourself.

Now, for the Valentine's treat. When cutting the grahams into shapes, use a heart cookie cutter (it is best to use a medium to large cutter). When grahams are completely cool, scoop a generous serving (how generous depends on how big your grahams are) of ice cream** (we used vanilla) onto a graham and smash between another graham. Tada! Homemade ice cream sandwiches!! I found that my ice cream did not need to be super soft, just soft enough to be able to scoop and mold to fill the entire graham shape. I rolled mine in some red sprinkles (but that is optional). 

** If there is a dairy allergy, you prefer homemade ice cream or you are vegan, check out this recipe for dairy free homemade ice cream. I had plans to make this and use it on our ice cream sandwiches but I ran out of time. At least I had good intentions.

These are best served right away or wrapped in saran wrap and put in the freezer for later use.

Recipe adapted from Weelicious


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Teriyaki Bowtie Salad

Since yesterday's post was really supposed to be last weeks post, I decided to reward you and post again today. Yeah!

Everyone needs a delicious go-to salad for family gatherings. Something to spice up a regular green salad or spinach salad. This is one we love. It is great as a side dish or even a main dish (on those warm summer nights which I must be dreaming of since I am posting this when the temperature is barely above freezing). Chicken can be added, but we like it vegetarian.

I use my homemade teriyaki sauce in this recipe. You can make the sauce in advance and keep it in the fridge.


10 oz. egg-free whole grain bow-tie pasta, boiled until just tender (I buy mine at Costco)

1 cup water chestnuts, drained (I like mine sliced in half)

1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

1/2 bunch green onions, chopped

1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries

1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds

1/2 cup honey roasted cashews

Grilled chicken breasts, cut into strips (optional)

2 cans mandarin oranges, drained and well-rinsed (optional, we choose not to use these)

5 - 10 oz spinach (or we like using romaine lettuce)

1/2 cup olive oil*

1/4 tsp salt

2 Tbsp raw sugar

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

1/2 cup teriyaki sauce (I like to add a bit more)

1/2 tsp pepper

Whisk all dressing ingredients together.

Combine all ingredients except oranges and spinach (or romaine). Place in a large ziploc bag with dressing and squish the bag until everything is covered in sauce. Place in refrigerator overnight (I have been known to put the recipe together in the morning and eat it that same night - you just need time to let the flavors blend).

Immediately before serving, pour the salad into a bowl and add the oranges. Serve over a bed of spinach or romaine lettuce.


Monday, February 4, 2013

My Food Philosophy in a Nutshell

I thought that this post had posted last Tuesday... but I'm not sure that it did. I can see page views, but it it doesn't show up on the blog. Weird!! I was using the internet at a hotel that obviously wasn't reliable. Hence.... there may (or may not) have been a post on Tuesday and there was no post on Friday. I might have forgotten to post on Friday, but even if I hadn't forgotten it probably wouldn't have posted anyway. So, my apologies for dropping the ball and going on vacation again where there was only unreliable internet. Now I am paying the price big time for that vacation... a super dirty house, tired, ornery kids and no energy due to eating junk food for a week. But anyway... back to the post. 

Every person has some kind of food philosophy... something that guides the food choices they make. Some food philosophies are based on convenience and ease, some are based on taste and pleasure, some are based on nutrition and health and obviously many are a combination. And, of course, some food philosophies are dictated by food allergies.

We develop our food philosophies from our parents and even grandparents and other family (things we learned growing up), from roommates, spouses and friends. Our philosophies can also be influenced by what we hear and read, research we have done and our current situation in life.

I am going to lay out my food philosophy in this post  (so stop reading if that doesn't interest you), not because I think you need to adopt it, but to explain why I choose to make what I do and where I am coming from when I create/recreate recipes and choose ingredients.

I feel like I have always eaten a 'healthy' diet and therefore my family ate a 'healthy' diet (because I am the family chef). But the definition of a 'healthy' diet is so arbitrary. So, when someone says they eat healthy, what does that really mean? I asked a bunch of people (on Facebook - very scientific, I know) what their definition of healthy eating is and everyone's answer was a little bit different. So instead of just telling you that we eat "healthy", I will lay out my definition of healthy.

I have chosen to take a "real" food approach to eating. It hasn't always been the case, but in the last year we have made some changes in our diet and it revolves around whole food (or "real" food). For those who might be confused when I use the term "real" food (because what else would we eat, right?), here is a definition:

REAL FOOD is defined as…
  • Whole foods that typically only have 1-ingredient like “brown rice” or no ingredient label at all like fruits and vegetables!
  • Packaged foods generally made with no more than 5 unrefined ingredients.
  • Dairy products like whole milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and cheese (organic).
  • Breads and crackers that are 100% whole-grain.
  • Wild caught seafood.
  • Locally and humanely raised meat like chicken, pork, beef, and lamb.
  • Dried fruits, nuts, and seeds.
  • Naturally made sweeteners including honey and maple syrup.
  • Foods that are more a product of nature “than a product of industry”*
REAL FOOD is not…
  • Labeled as “low fat” or “low carb” or “low calorie” (in most cases).
  • Made with refined or artificial sweeteners like sugar or aspartame.
  • Deep fried in refined oils like canola oil.
  • 100-calorie packs or any foods made from refined grains like white flour, which is
    often labeled as “wheat flour” without the word “whole” in front of it.
  • In packages with loads of ingredients, some of which you cannot pronounce or would not cook with in your own kitchen.
  • Highly processed foods that are labeled as organic (like organic cheddar crackers, organic cookies, or organic candy).
  • From a drive through window or gas station.
*Source: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Now, just as a disclaimer, this is what we strive for. It can cost more to eat this way and as of now, we pick and choose certain things to stay in our budget. We currently don't do organic dairy or all organic fruits and vegetables... only what I can find that fits in our budget.

I prefer to make things from scratch with ingredients I can buy and read/pronounce. Now, before you freak out, we do NOT eat perfectly all the time. I do have 3 kids who can by picky at times. We do our best and don't feel guilty when we aren't perfect. Yes, my kids eat fast food on occasion (but only seldom on occasion, not "once a week" on occasion). I try to have fruits and vegetables and other healthy snacks always available (raw nuts and seeds, homemade muffins, granola bars, popsicles, etc...) but sometimes we do crackers, bagel and other convenience items. But, when it comes to cooking in my house and what recipes and ingredients I choose, I have a few guidelines that I follow:

1. Some of you may have noticed that I (almost) never use all-purpose (or white) flour. We have chosen to do only whole grains (whole-wheat, spelt, kamut, wonder flour... those kind of whole grains). Does this mean my recipes can't be made with all-purpose flour? Of course not - sub away if you like.
2. When possible, I choose to use raw sugars (like turbinado sugar, raw sugar and sucanat) and sweeten with natural sweeteners (like honey and maple syrup). This isn't in everyone's budget (sometimes it isn't in our budget). No worries though, sugar is sugar and it is best to eat it sparingly in any form (natural or processed). To minimize our sugar intake, we also choose to buy the "plain" version of many things and sweeten them ourselves.
3. I have chosen to use only coconut oil, real butter (never margarine), olive oil, flax seed oil and sometimes grapeseed oil. I realize others have their opinions on coconut oil, canola oil and other oils (and what is healthy and what is not).  Choose what is best for your family and situation. 
4. We eat a lot of whole fruits and vegetables... namely leafy greens. We try and have a salad every night for dinner and (are still working on) green smoothies every day.

5. We eat (or try very hard to eat) "dessert" once per week. You can read about my reasons for this here.
So, are you wondering why I am even posting this? Well, first because I want you (my reader) to realize why I choose the recipes (and ingredients) I do. Please feel free to make adjustments according to your food philosophy. And don't feel guilty if your philosophy is different from mine (or your neighbors, or best friend or the lady at the gym etc...). Just make sure that your philosophy is working for your family in providing the healthiest food and lifestyle possible.

Also, I have noticed that The Princess seems to be very sensitive to food (especially preservatives, additives and food colorings that are added to processed foods), lotions, soaps, laundry detergent and many other things (as I believe many people with food allergies are).  As the person who is most involved in the care of The Princess (along with her daddy), it is my responsibility to make sure she is as safe and healthy as possible. I feel this is best done by feeding her the most healthy, highest quality "real" food that we can afford (with minimal preservatives, additives and artificial and processed ingredients). This not only keeps her safe, but gives her (and The Brothers) the best chance of a healthy future!