The boys always get to choose their birthday dinner menu. I’m sure it’s the same with your kids. But with multiple food allergies, we have to figure out the best way to meet those menu requests!
Michael decided on Spaghetti and Meatballs with French stick and Vanilla Cupcakes.
Normally, when I make spaghetti, I like to make a meat sauce. Why? It is less time consuming than making individual meatballs of course. But, as this was his birthday celebration, I made an exception!
In the beginning, Michael enjoyed his pasta plain with extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt. Tomatoes were considered too acidic. We tended to keep him away from acidic foods as we were told they could aggravate his atopic dermatitis. As his skin improved and his desire to try tomato sauce increased, we started to introduce tomato sauce a little bit at a time. Of course, now pasta with tomato sauce is one of his favourite go to meals!
As sauces go, we have finally found a keeper that everyone loves…I mean loves! The best part is that it incorporates hidden veggies that I cannot get my youngest, Matthew, to eat enough of. Carrots and celery! I always add more than what the recipe calls for. It just makes it yummier in my opinion!
(Unfortunately, Matthew tends to find the whole bits of carrot which I find pushed off to the side on his plate!)
The recipe for the sauce is from Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis. I cannot rave enough about this cookbook. The recipes are delish!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Her Marinara Sauce in particular! I always double it and freeze it so it is always on hand! I either make a meat sauce or meatballs using minced turkey or chicken.
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I tend to use more – if you don’t care for garlic, you can leave it out)
2 celery stalks, finely chopped (I tend to use more)
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped (again, I use more)
½ tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (I use two 28 fl oz cans)
2 dried bay leaves
In a large pot, heat the oil on med-hi. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 min. Add the celery, carrots and ½ tsp of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 min. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered on low heat until the sauce thickens, about an hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. (At this point, I puree the sauce with a hand emulsifier in order to blend and hide the veggies.)
The sauce always tastes better the next day and is perfect to freeze.
All three of my boys (I’m including my husband here) love their meatballs! I keep them simple, without any filler. They are so, so easy to make, I promise you. And they’re always a hit! Just double or triple the recipe depending on how many meatballs you like with the sauce (or to freeze some for later).
450 g minced turkey
1 tbsp canola oil
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
3-4 cloves of garlic minced (if you don’t care for garlic, you can leave it out)
In a bowl, mix the turkey, salt, pepper, oil and garlic until just combined. Shape into whatever size meatballs you like.
Heat a fry pan on medium. Add about 1 tbsp of canola oil. Fry the meatballs until browned on all sides. Place on a plate with paper towel to take off excess oil. Drop into sauce and continue to simmer in the sauce for an hour. Enjoy!
Meat sauce is my preferred choice of sauce to make. My husband likes to make the meatball version. When I double the recipe I use 3 packages of 450 g minced turkey or chicken. I use the same ratio of ingredients as for the meatballs with the addition of one diced onion. Heat a fry pan on medium heat with the oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add the meat of your choice and brown. Drain the liquid and add the browned meat to the sauce and continue to simmer for half an hour or longer. Enjoy!
SHOPPING TIP: Minced Meat: Michael has a beef allergy, therefore, I get worried about cross-contamination in the deli case with the pork, chicken and turkey meats that he can eat. Especially, minced meat. I tend to favour companies that only sell minced pork, turkey and chicken that is prepackaged outside of the grocery store. Call me crazy, but Michael has never liked minced meat until I started to purchase minced meat in this manner. Our Compliments (Foodland, Sobeys, etc) sells such a product in 450 g packages. Perfect for my meatball or meat sauce recipes!
SHOPPING TIP: Allergen Free Pasta: If you have an egg allergy, choosing a dried pasta can be a challenge. Over the years, pasta companies have added to their ingredient list: “This product is manufactured on equipment that processes products containing eggs.”Your risk assessment will determine whether or not you will choose that product. Frankly, I take a pass.
My son Matthew’s peanut/ tree nut allergy was discovered after he injested a cake from a bakery. Traces of any allergen, in my mind, is not a risk worth taking. We adhere to a strict avoidance policy when it comes to my boys’ allergens. The pasta of choice for Michael (as he has an egg allergy) is Smart Pasta by Catelli. Not only does it not have the disclaimer of eggs, it is a white pasta with the fibre benefit of whole wheat. Best of all…..it tastes great! (always check the label before purchase in case this changes)
WHY I MAKE MY OWN BREAD
I make all of Michael’s bread. Bakeries are out of the question (I can’t control what goes on in their kitchens) and as for commercial bread in a bag….I have yet to find a wheat flour loaf that doesn’t have “may contain milk ingredients and sesame.” Dempsters used to have a loaf that didn’t have that clause. That isn’t the case now.
I cannot stress enough the importance of reading labels each time you purchase any food item for your allergens! Ingredient lists change. Be sure to double check each time you shop. It’s a pain, I know. But a heck of lot less of pain than an allergic reaction!
Honestly, making bread is NOT hard. And it tastes great. All I can say is, I love my bread maker!!! What a lifesaver when you are pressed for time! I make buns for burgers, pizza dough for pizza night, French stick for garlic bread and mini French sticks for sandwiches and pulled pork, loaves for sandwiches and toast, and sweet dough for cinnamon buns!
In Michael’s grade 9 geography class, the students were asked to come up with a traditional food from their culture. They were to help make it and bring it into the class to share. This proved to be a bit of a puzzle. My husband’s heritage is Ukrainian and mine is Scottish and English. Unfortunately, there isn’t a traditional food that I have adapted that has taken hold in our family. We were at a loss! That is, until I started to think about the traditions that we, as an allergy friendly family, have created through the years. When we thought about it, there was clearly only one choice: French stick! Whenever we are hosting a party or invited to a dinner we always serve or bring French stick.
Michael and I had a lot of fun sharing in the making and baking of the bread. Each of us made one French stick. I pre cut and wrapped the fresh bread for him to take to school. As you may have guessed, Michael was unable to try any of the traditional dishes that day. He was, however, able to ‘break the bread’ with his fellow classmates and share what he could have. The reality is, Michael is going to be in situations where his food allergies will bring limitations. Being prepared for these types of situations will allow him to participate, at least, at some level.
Back to the bread
My first bread maker was the All-In-One Deluxe by Black and Decker. It came with a recipe booklet that I am still using today. I am currently using the Black and Decker All-In-One Automatic Bread Maker. It offers 3 gluten free bread recipes for the gluten free setting.
French stick is a staple in our home. Michael likes the mini French sticks for his sandwiches/subs. One batch of dough yields enough for two large French sticks or one large French Stick and 4 mini sticks or 8 mini sticks. Whatever your fancy!
CLASSIC FRENCH BREAD (DAIRY AND EGG FREE)
1 ¼ cups of water
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
3 1/3 cups of all purpose unbleached flour
1 ½ tsp bread machine yeast
Measure the ingredients in the order listed into the Baking Pan. Insert Baking Pan into the oven chamber making sure it is secure. Select the Dough setting on your machine.
Press Start. When it has finished, remove dough from the machine to a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half and roll each half into a 10”by 8” rectangle. (For mini French sticks, divide one half into 4 small balls and roll each out to approximately a 8” by 5” rectangle) Beginning at long end, roll up tightly as for a jelly roll. Pinch seams and ends to seal. Place each loaf, seam side down, onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise 30 min. Spray lightly with canola oil and with a sharp knife, make 3-4 diagonal cuts about ¼ inch deep across the top of each loaf. Bake at 350 F for 30 min.
Remove breads from sheets and cool on wire rack.
A WORD ABOUT LEFTOVERS (AND HOSTESS GIFTS!) When visiting friends and family, I like to help pitch in with the meals. I feel it is a nice way to thank your hosts for having us. It can also help ease the worry that a host may have wondering what on earth to feed us. That is where Spaghetti with Meat Sauce comes in handy! I bring along a batch of meat sauce, (which can easily be made well in advance and frozen) boxes of Smart Spaghetinni by Catelli, and French stick (which can also be frozen, wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil and reheated in the oven). Leftovers are great for lunch the next day!
Always CHECK INGREDIENTS before you purchase products.
Have you adapted similar recipes for your own food allergy needs? I’d love to hear about them. Please share in the comments!