Our Allergy Friendly Picnic To Stratford To See The Three Musketeers

Sunday, the boys, Nana, my nephews and I piled into my mom’s friend’s Bill’s van for a day trip to Stratford, Ontario…an allergy friendly picnic. (Note the Festival Theatre where we saw the show in the background)

The boys enjoying an allergy friendly picnic at Stratford

And a show…The Three Musketeers.

The boys at the Three Musketeers at Stratford

“All for one, and one for all!”

This was the third Stratford play for my boys…their first was Oliver and then Peter Pan…they were fabulous!

For my nephews, this was their very first ‘taste’ of the theatre…a great introduction to the theatre for the boys.

Everyone made their own sandwiches…which were wrapped up individually. Michael chose to fill his Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Sub Bun with ham and romaine lettuce. (Note: the still wrapped cheese string was not his)

Michael's Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Sub Bun with ham and lettuce for his picnic lunch at Stratford

On the side were fresh veggies (carrot sticks, red pepper and cherry tomatoes) and fruit (cherries, grapes and cubed watermelon).

Containers of grapes, cherries and cubed watermelon for our picnic at Stratford

Slices of Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Banana Chocolate Chunk Bread were a hit.

Sliced Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Banana Chocolate Chunk Loaf for our picnic at Stratford

I saved the Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Chocolate Chip Cookies and Dairy, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Rice Krispie Squares for the ride home with any leftover fruit.

I think the highlight of the day could have been the ducks and swans down by the Avon River where we picnicked.

The boys checking out the ducks and swans on the Avon River in Stratford

The boys were enamoured…I think Michael took about 150 pictures and cut it down to 70!

Picnics are perfect for solving where to eat when you have food allergies…and busy boys that like to get up and run around to expend some energy and explore.

Do you try to incorporate a picnic lunch into your travels?

P.S.  The table was covered with a table cloth to avoid any food contamination from previous picnickers.  A fork was used to take pieces of cubed watermelon, the grapes were cut into small bunches and the cherries were carefully pulled out one by one in order to reduce any cross-contamination.

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Allergy Friendly Baking For The Summer

Summer’s Here…this week I decided to get started on some of my Allergy Friendly Pies to freeze for easy summer desserts.

I started with Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple Pie (click here for the recipe) and a Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Blueberry Pie. (click here for the recipe)

A Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple and Blueberry Pie ready to freeze for a summer dessert

One of each of the boys favourites.

Blueberries are all in the stores so I made 2 more with fresh berries.

Two Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Blueberry Pies ready to freeze

The family favourite.

I happened to have 3 apples left…not really enough to fill a double crusted pie…but just enough to make a Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple Crumble Pie.

A freshly baked Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple Crumble Pie

Much to Michael’s delight!

Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple Crumble Pie

Crust

1 cup plus 1 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/6 cup water (40 mL)

Measure dry ingredients into a bowl.
In a measuring cup, measure the wet ingredients.
Stir together the wet ingredients and swiftly combine them with the dry…do not over mix. I usually finish mixing the last bits of the dry in as I gather the dough together.
Roll dough out between two pieces of floured wax paper to the size of your pie plate.
Carefully pull back the top piece of wax paper keeping the dough attached.
Place dough carefully over the pie plate…remember, do not fret if the dough breaks or tears…pastry dough is very easy to just put back together.
Trim the edges and make a nice edge.

Crumble

1/2 cup Demerara Sugar
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup canola oil

In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients together.
Pour in the canola oil and combine until it is crumbly.

Assembly

Fill the pie with the sliced apples…I had three.
Sprinkle the crumble over top.
Bake 375 F for 25-30 minutes or until the apples are tender and the crust is golden.
Let cool on cooling rack until ready to devour.

Enjoy!

Enjoying a slice of Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple Crumble Pie

What will be on your list of allergy friendly baking this summer?

Tip:  Freezing the pies in the extra-large freezer bags makes them perfect for travelling in the summer…they act as freezer packs, do not thaw out and can be placed right in the freezer or in the oven for an easy summer dessert with friends or family.

Allergy Friendly Muffins For Our Trip To The Cottage

Homemade allergy friendly muffins are a great snack to bring along to the cottage. Perfect for a quick breakfast or snack…the boys opted for their favourite:

Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Lemon Blueberry Muffins for the cottage

I baked a batch Friday afternoon to bring with us for our first trip to my brother’s cottage…the boys were pumped!  I made them in the silicone muffins cups to reduce our waste. Click here for the recipe.

I also made a batch of Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Rice Krispie Squares, baked a batch of Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Chocolate Chip Cookies, baked a couple Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free French Sticks and popped a few bags of air popped popcorn spritzed with canola oil and sprinkled with sea salt.

My sister-in-law was in charge of our only dinner on Saturday. I can always count on her for a fabulous allergy friendly meal for everyone to enjoy…chicken kabobs, rice, broccoli and a salad.

The boys enjoyed a beautiful Saturday with their cousins…playing cards, fishing, tubing, and even taking in a swim.

The boys with their cousins after a swim in the lake

Crazy Canuck boys!

The countdown is on…just 8 more days until the boys are officially on summer vacation!

The Food Allergy Chronicles’ 2012 Summer Rented Cottage Holiday

I have to say, my favourite summertime holiday is when our family decides to rent a cottage in the summer for a week. It truly is, for me, a vacation!

Stunning view from our rented cottage 2012

I sat here every morning eating my breakfast with a cup of tea, watching and waiting for Andy to paddle back from his early morning fishing in the canoe. The water was so still and calm in the morning…it just took my breath away!

Andy’s parents enjoyed an overnight stay. In the morning, Andy’s father accompanied him on his early morning fishing trip.

Andy and his father returning after a morning fishing

This is them returning as I eat my breakfast. Unfortunately, with the water level so low this year, the fishing was very frustrating!

Our ‘little piece of heaven’ came complete with a guide to navigating the birds and the critters of the forest…our ‘forest friends’ were very friendly.

Imagine this…upon our arrival, the boys went to check out the layout of the cottage…they arrived back rather quickly with panicked looks upon their faces. “What’s wrong guys?”, I quiered. “The chipmunks…their scary!”, Matthew replied. “Really?”, I responded as they both nodded their heads, still with a look of horror on their faces. “What’s wrong with the chipmunks?”, I replied. “You know when you see a chipmunk and you walk up to them and they run away…well, these chipmunks came after us!”, the boys explained.

This I had to see for myself! I walked around to the back patio in search of chipmunks while the boys lagged behind…wary that a chipmunk would jump out at them! I didn’t see any chipmunks at the time but what I did notice was a note stuck just beside the back sliding door that stated that the doors must always remain closed as the chipmunks and squirrels would follow you inside the cottage! Another note, left for us to read on the counter, stated that the owner had left a bag of peanuts and seeds for us to feed to the birds, specifically the Blue Jays. (I tucked the bag away and left a note for the owner explaining why we were unable to feed the birds)

Sure enough, it was like we had walked into a live version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves! Chipmunks, Red Squirrels, Blue Jays and Chickadees surrounded us! While eating our Bruschetta that first evening, Chickadees were literally dive bombing us! We had to hold on to the plate as they would swoop down and land on the table…a chipmunk, literally jumped up on to my lap! I kid you not!

I broke some of the bread into little pieces and held it out on a napkin…no sooner had I done that, the little Chickadees were landing all around me…even sitting on my hands and taking pieces of the bread.

A chickadee sitting on my hand ready to take some bread

I really did feel like Snow White!

Before we headed up to our rented cottage, I had a week at home, between arriving back from my brother’s cottage, and heading off to the rented cottage. During that week, I had planned to do all my grocery shopping, prepping of meals, baking, laundry and packing for our week at the cottage…that all fell apart once I injured my neck and back. Click here for more details.

Thankfully, I had already pre-planned the menu for the week, I had pre-purchased some groceries, Andy is handy in the kitchen and the boys are old enough, and strong enough, to be set to work.

During the week, Andy bought, marinated and froze boneless, skinless chicken breasts for Lemon Chicken for Thursday night, marinated and froze 4 pork tenderloins for Monday night’s dinner with his parents, and froze 4 salmon fillets for Andy and I for dinner on Tuesday and our last night on Friday.

Normally, I would have liked to have baked and frozen my Dairy, Egg and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Pies, Dairy, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Date Squares, and Dairy, Egg and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Brownies…I was not up to it.

The boys were soooo understanding it almost made me cry with gratitude!

I managed to prepare Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Rice Krispie Squares (which apparently I burnt), Michael’s Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Sub Buns and French Stick and Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Vanilla Cupcakes…to celebrate Michael’s 16th birthday! How could I not have something special for this big occasion! Michael even helped make the icing to his liking. 

As Michael’s birthday was in the middle of the week, Wednesday, I placed all the un-iced cupcakes in a container that were placed in the freezer upon our arrival. The icing was scooped into a separate container, kept in the fridge, so as I could ice the cupcakes on his birthday.

Dinner for Saturday night would be our first meal at the cottage. On Friday, the ribs were cooked up and covered in barbecue sauce for Barbecued Ribs for Saturday night. (leftovers were frozen for the boys to enjoy on the following Friday, our last night. Last night is always leftover night…anything left is game!)

Saturday morning the boys picked the ripened tomatoes and basil from our garden for our Bruschetta appetizer, cherry tomatoes for the Bruschetta Pasta (recipe will be posted soon) for Thursday night, fresh chives, parsley and dill for the salmon suppers while Andy hit the local farm stand for a dozen corn to be boiled for dinner for Saturday and Sunday with some leftover so I could make Corn Salad and Halendas for some hot and italian sausages for Sunday’s barbecue and chicken wings for Michael’s birthday dinner.

I think we had corn fresh from road side stands with dinner every evening! We initially brought corn up, Andy’s parents brought corn up on Monday and then even more corn was bought for Wednesday’s 16th birthday party which lasted us until we left for home.

A stop at the local grocery store in town, en route to the cottage, we picked up any last-minute groceries…little potatoes for Potato Packets with the pork tenderloin and corn, broccoli for the boys with the Lemon Chicken while Andy and I had a saute of sugar snap peas and mushrooms, a jug of bottled water as we were not sure about drinking the tap water, bread, milk and eggs.

Every day started with the sound of a loon calling, and a magical view of an incredibly peaceful, calm lake. 

Beautiful view of the lake and my boys

Pure heaven! It was just the prescription I needed… to put up my feet and ‘take it easy’!

I enjoyed my days of sitting back, reading my book or the many magazines in the cottage, being entertained daily with the boys’ water sports (water skiing, knee boarding, wake boarding, canoeing, kayaking and paddle boat riding), fishing, minnow, crawfish and frog catching…the days just flew by!

This is Michael slalom skiing…he is a ‘master’ of getting up on one ski! He is in his eliment on the water!

Michael slalom skiing

Picture taken care of Matthew. I stayed off the boat on these runs and enjoyed watching from the safety of the dock! Every evening, Andy took me for a smooth loop around the lake…very romantic! lol

This is Matthew wake boarding. 

Matthew wake boarding

Picture taken care of Michael. I am so proud of Matthew. Water sports are really not his thing but he was a real trouper…I told him I needed some entertainment. Once he started, he was  ‘hooked’!

Everyone took care of their breakfasts and lunches and came together for our simple, allergy friendly, delicious dinners!

Without a dishwasher to worry about unloading and loading, all dishes were hand washed…by me (washing was not a strain on my body, letting someone else do them would have been far more stressful)…lest their be any cross-contamination. I washed all allergy friendly plates, cups, pots, pans and utensils etc. firstly…rinsed off all the food allergens left on any of the dishes then washed them with a separate cloth. I left most dishes to air dry.

Talking about dishes…upon our arrival, I took out all the cutlery that we would be using, washed them all thoroughly, then placed them in a cutlery stand that stood on the table. I also brought some of my own knives, cutting boards and pots. The boys kept the same cups throughout the week, I washed the dishes that we would need and cleaned out any pots or pans before use. Parchment paper was used to cover baking sheets.

I am happy to note…there was not a single cross-contamination issue the entire week!

Our rented cottage vacation was stress free, allergy reaction free, bug free, full of adventures and activities for the boys to keep them busy, beautiful sunny skies in the day, filled with mesmerizing starry nights (we saw the Big Dipper and watched satellites and airplanes fly through the sky every night by the bonfire)…my idea of a perfect vacation!

P.S. The chipmunk was always nearby…just in case we changed our minds and wanted to feed him! The Blue Jay flew in everyday to say hello. It truly was a magical place!

Update: I have finally been able to book my MRI (October) and the results of my total body bone scan supported the results from the x-ray.

Dairy, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Summertime Peach Crisp

Peaches are in season!

Bowl full of fresh summer peaches

Sweet and juicy…enjoying them straight from the basket…summertime at it’s best!

One of my favourite peach desserts to make for a family gathering is Dairy, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Peach Crisp.

Adapting my all-time favourite recipe to be dairy, soy and peanut/tree nut free that all family members can enjoy is easy…believe me…no one will miss the butter!

In fact, a butterless crisp makes for a lighter version…one that I have received many compliments!

The recipe I like to adapt is my childhood favourite by Mme Benoit. The recipe comes from a well-worn page from a newspaper article with peach recipes by Mme Benoit.

Dairy, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Summertime Peach Crisp

Dairy, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Summertime Peach Crisp

14 peaches
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon
2 cups Demerara Brown Sugar
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
8 tbsp canola oil

In a very large bowl, place the peaches and pour boiling water to cover. Let sit for 5 minutes. Peel the skin off the peaches, slice into wedges and place in a flan dish.
Pour over lemon and orange juices and stir to cover.
In another large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Add in the canola oil and using your fingers, combine well.

Peaches and crumble all ready to assemble Dairy, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Summertime Peach CrispSprinkle crumble over top of peaches…do not press down…let the crumble sit loosely on top.
Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbling.
Let cool on cooling rack.

Dairy, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Summertime Peach Crisp cooling

Enjoy!

Tip: This makes a very large peach crisp…I doubled the recipe…half of the recipe will fit in an 8 inch baking dish.

P.S. This lovely Dairy, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Summertime Peach Crisp was enjoyed after a delicious ‘Allergy Friendly Summertime Dinner’

Perfect Allergy Friendly Summertime Dinner of Barbecued Lemon Chicken, Roasted Cauliflower and Brocolli and Bruschetta Pasta

Barbecued Lemon Chicken, click here for the recipe, roasted cauliflower and broccoli and Bruschetta Pasta. (basically cherry tomatoes, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh basil tossed with pasta…delicious cold the next day!) Click here for my Bruschetta recipe.

Tip: I Marinated the chicken breasts ahead of time and froze them. I made the bruschetta the morning of the dinner, covered it and left it on the side. Dinner was simply barbecuing the chicken, cooking some pasta and tossing with the bruschetta, (I also had some plain pasta tossed with extra virgin olive oil) then roasting the cauliflower and brocolli…perfect for a crowd of 12…free of all my boys’ food allergens…I can relax and enjoy!

In fact, as Michael was serving himself firstly he commented, “Mom, can I eat everything that is out?” “Yes Michael”, I replied. “I just love these meals”, he answered smiling at me…”Yes, so do I!” So very worth it…in fact, priceless!

P.P.S. This will be my last post for awhile…I am taking a break!  My next adventure with the family will be heading up into the woods to stay at my brother’s cottage with my Scottish relatives. I hope to write about our experience…stay tuned!

Hope you are all enjoying your summertime with friends and family!

Summer Family Gathering and Multiple Food Allergies

As you may have figured…my boys, two nephews and I have been enjoying some summer fun at ‘Nana’s’!

The boys 'chillin' at the end of the day at Nana's

The boys love to ‘ham it up’ for the camera!

This past week, the family count has increasingly mulitplied with my sister-in-law arriving last Monday, and my husband, brother and Scottish relatives all arriving on Friday! Unfortunately, my American cousin’s family, had to cancel at the last minute due to expired passports! So sad!

My mother has ‘flown the coup’, so to speak, to stay at friends for the evenings. We are quite the houseful at 12!

Feeding this crew has it’s challenges…and then one adds in mulitple food allergies…how do I manage it all?

BY PLANNNING AHEAD!

1) Set out a meal plan.
2) Prep as much as possible ahead of time. (freezed marinated Lemon Chicken Breasts, cooked ribs and tossed with barbecue sauce, stocked up on essentials to limit number of visits to the grocery store and I will do all my baking early in the morning to free up time to be with the family during the day)
3) Keep the main meal food options as allergen free as possible (Barbecued Ribs, Barbequed Lemon Chicken Breasts, Rotisserie Chicken with Albert’s Original French Fries, Rice, Quinoa, Beans, Peas, Corn on the Cob, Summer Corn Salad, Bruschetta Pasta, Potato Packets, Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Banana Bundt Cake, Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Brownies, Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Peach Crisp, Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Rice Krispie Squares, Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Chocolate Chip Cookies,  Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Blueberry Pancakes, Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Lemon Blueberry Muffins)
4) Plan for those meals which include any food allergens (Hamburgers and Steak) by eliminating all possible cross-contamination issues. (washing hands, preparing MIchael’s food first or reheating a previous allergen free meal, allow Michael to serve himself first to those parts of the meal that are allergen free).

Over the years, I have invested in leaving baking pans, a bread machine, baking utensils, silicone sheets etc. to make baking and cooking as ‘safe’ as possible at my mom’s house. I store all my ‘stuff’ in a box in the basement.

Yes, cooking and baking for this number of people while keeping everything allergen free can be stressful!

Yes, a few rules need to be set in order to keep Michael and Matthew safe…for example, wash hands after eating a dish that contains any one of the boys food allergies (dairy, beef, eggs, sesame, fish, shellfish, peanut/tree nuts, mustard and raspberries), maintain a safe shelf in the refrigerator that only contains Michael’s safe foods, and definitely no double dipping.

Yes, there have been some cross-contamination issues…like when my relatives double dipped in Michael’s vegan margarine…no problem…I just went out and bought another and wrote ‘Michael’s Do Not Use’ on the outside. Or when Michael felt a tingling on his tongue after eating one of his Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Rice Krispie Squares…I think one of the boys did not wash their hands well enough after eating one of their grilled cheese sandwiches…no problem…I now make their grilled cheese with the vegan margarine (dairy free) and the boys are to ask for either myself or Michael for one of Michael’s ‘treats’.

Yes, in the end, all the fuss, the preparations, and the extra effort to make everything allergen free is worth it!

Allergen free baking and allergen free cooking for a family gathering can be achieved and be loved by all…just ask anyone of my relatives!

How do you handle family gatherings with food allergies?

Cross-Contamination Series: Romantic Get Away For Two…Biking In Niagara-On-The-Lake

Living day-in and day-out with eczema, multiple food allergies and asthma issues with your children can add up to ‘a heck of a lot of stress.’

The kind of stress that can ‘suck the life out of you’…’put a strain on one’s relationship with their partner’…’put a marriage to the test.’

I seriously got to the point of not knowing who I was anymore…I had so many roles to play…wife, mother, nurse, doctor, teacher, caregiver, special education intervenor, friend, daughter, sister, aunt…I burnt out.

A trip to Scotland with my then 7 month old second son gave me the break I needed to refocus my mind, recharge my batteries…find myself!

It would become my ‘aha’ moment!

Over the years, my husband, Andy and I have made an effort to plan a weekend get- away…just for the two of us…to rekindle our relationship.

A weekend in Toronto for a dinner and show or taking a boating license course together, passing the test and celebrating in Toronto with a dinner and show are a couple of get-aways we have enjoyed.

Our most favourite weekend get-away to date…venturing back to the Niagara region…the setting for our wedding…20 years ago this July.

For the past 3 years, Niagara-On-The-Lake has been our destination of choice. Staying at a Bed and Breakfast in the heart of the town, bringing our bicycles to follow the bicycle paths out to Brock Monument, Niagara Falls and the many Wineries, enjoying an evening at the local pub…heaven!

Victoria Day Weekend is our weekend of choice…Friday and Monday are both holidays for my husband…the perfect opportunity to get-away!

I know what you are thinking…”What about the boys? Who is looking after them? How could you leave them with all their food allergies? Who can you trust?”

Yikes! My anxiety levels are up again!

Leaving my boys with food allergies is not ‘a walk in the park’ for me. First and foremost, I need to feel that I have left my boys in ‘safe hands’.  Trusting your children with someone takes on a whole new meaning when food allergies are involved…anaphylaxis is at stake.

For the past 3 trips to Niagara, my mother has stayed with the boys.

My mother has been as good as my ‘right hand man’ when it comes to looking after my boys with their eczema, food allergies and asthma issues…she has experienced the lifestyle of living with eczema, food allergies and asthma hands on…witnessed allergic reactions…she understands the reality of the situation…I believe she ‘gets it’…I trust her.

When my boys were younger, I would leave explicit instructions covering Michael’s bathing and creaming, their medications, ‘safe’ snacks and meal options. Now that the boys are older, going on 16 and 14 years of age, they are much more independent with their basic hygiene, puffers and understanding of ‘safe’ food choices.

I still make sure there is enough ‘safe’ food in the house…I make Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Rice Krispie Squares, Dairy, Egg and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Chocolate Chip Cookies and Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free French Stick and Sub Buns.

I prep the meals ahead of time…I have the dough all ready to go in the Bread Machine for the boys pizza for Friday Night, the Pork Back Ribs and Pork Tenderloin are defrosting in the refrigerator for Saturday and Sunday night dinners. There are veggies, rice or potatoes for them to choose to accompany their main dishes.

Last minute instructions, extra Epi Pens and the boys’ health cards are all at the ready…just in case.

Back in the day of no cell phones, a quick phone call upon our arrival at our destination was our protocol of communication. I know that may seem ‘odd/selfish’ to some, but if I had to deal with the every day stresses of our ‘home life’ on my time away…I would be stressing the entire time…defeating the purpose of our little ‘get away’.

Times have changed and my boys have grown.Technology these days has me texting our arrival to my eldest son, Michael. He likes to keep me updated with their activities…often we share photos of our trip…any questions can be easily answered…we are just a text away.

The benefits of the ‘get aways’ goes both ways…the boys get to put to good use the skills they have learned living with food allergies, exercise their independence, learn to trust their abilities as well as others and share some quality time with their Nana.

Believe me, even though I have ‘prepped’ as much as I possibly can and I ‘know’ that my boys are in ‘good hands’…I will still be totally ‘stressing out’ right up until the time that Andy and I pull out of our driveway.

My mind will be racing through a check list as we drive to grab a coffee for the road…heading out on the highway my body will start to relax…with the tunes playing, my hubbie by my side and an adventure waiting on the horizon…I will finally feel the tension lessening in my shoulders and back…ahhhh…we are on our way!

Tip: I must thank two great friends/neighbours…Leslie and Linda…with whom I am most appreciative. I know they are both a phone call/walk away…knowing they are both there as ‘back up’ should my mother ever need them…having great friends who would be there for you at the ‘drop of a hat’…priceless!

Question: Does the stress of living with food allergies take a toll on your marriage? How do you keep your relationship with your spouse/partner together? What are some strategies that you find help keep your relationship strong? 

P.S. I am hoping to have a post of our weekend away ready for Monday…it just might be Tuesday! 

Update: Actually….more like Wednesday!

Allergy Friendly Pork Bourguignon

As a child growing up, one of my favourite meals my mother would make for the family was Beef Bourguignon.

A thick and flavourful sauce surrounding chunks of tender meat and mushrooms…welcoming at the end of a blustery Fall day or in the middle of a frosty Winter.

It soon became my husband, Andy’s, favourite meal…that is…with the addition of potatoes and carrots! Blasphemy…according to my mother!

Along came the children…food allergies and all…one just so happening to be to beef. Away went the recipe.

It has been many years since I have had the pleasure of enjoying the intoxicating aroma and delectable flavour of my favourite childhood dish…enough so, that I decided it was high time to reinvent it!

I introduce to you…Allergy Friendly Pork Bourguignon!

Pork Bourguignon with a slice of Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free French Stick

Not only is this dish amazingly delish…it is super easy to prepare!

A bonus in my books!

Basically, one puts all the ingredients in a pot and leaves it to braise…the longer the better!

Recently, on our trip to Stowe, Vermont, I brought along our slow cooker. I thought this recipe would be perfect for dinner after a day of skiing in the mountains…and it was! 

Timing for the veggies was a little off…but a quick high simmer on the stove cooked them up in no time for my hungry crew!

I also packaged up the pre-measured flour, salt, pepper and herbs in a ziplock bag . Just unzip and toss…as if you had a ‘store bought’ seasoning mix!

This recipe comes from Canadian Living Magazine. The recipe came from a special magazine published especially for Christmas 1977. It was called, The Best of Canadian Living’s Cooking, 101 Fantastic Recipes.

Allergy Friendly Pork Bourguignon

2 lbs boneless rib end pork roast, cut into cubes
1 pkg of pearl onion, peeled or 1 onion sliced
2 crushed garlic cloves
3 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 small bay leaf crumbled
lots of cremini mushrooms, destemmed, peeled and quartered
1 28 oz/796 mL can of crushed tomatoes
1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 cup red wine

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large oven-proof dish or in a large slow cooker.

dry ingredients in large oven proof pot for Pork BourguignonPour in the can of crushed tomatoes, broth and wine and stir to combine.

wet ingredients added to pot for Pork BourguignonBake at 350 F for 3 or more hours.
In the last hour of cooking, I like to add peeled and sliced carrots, cubed peeled potatoes, and sweet potatoes. (a new addition as Michael and I love them)

peeled, cubed and sliced veggies added to Pork BourguignonThe amount of veggies is at your own discretion. Apparently, according to my boys, I put too many potatoes in and never enough carrots!


For the slow cooker, I have only cooked this dish this way the once while on our trip. I put it on low for about 8 hours…as we were away all day. The timing was a little off for adding the veggies so I am guesstimating here…I added them for an hour still on low but that was not enough…so I turned it to high but it was still not enough…so I took out what I thought we would eat and heated it up to a high simmer on the stove in a large pot until tender…perfect!

Pork Bourguignon ready to be ladled into bowls

Delicious with a tossed salad and fresh homemade Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free French Stick warmed up in the oven.

enjoying a bowl of Pork Bourguignon

Enjoy!

Tip 1: I brought along two of my Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free French Sticks wrapped in foil and popped them in the freezer when we arrived at our ‘little cabin in the woods’ in Stowe, Vermont. I reheated the bread, from frozen, in the oven at around 350 F for 20 minutes or so.

Tip 2: Great re-heated the next day or take out the potatoes and freeze. Potatoes tend to get mealy when frozen.

Question: Have you ever travelled with your slow cooker?


Allergy Friendly Chicken Fajita’s

I love Chicken Fajita’s!

Especially, when they are allergy friendly for the whole family to enjoy!

allergen friendly chicken fajitas

Simple healthy ingredients easily prepared and arranged together to create your own unique, sumptuous, finger lickin’ bite after bite Fajita.

I knew this would be the perfect dinner to put together, in a pinch, after a day of travelling to our ski vacation in Stowe, Vermont.

Preparing and freezing the marinade at home, and bringing along our favourite President’s Choice tortillas and medium salsa, saved us time and money.

All I needed to purchase was the peppers, onions and shredded cheddar cheese. There was no Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds or Tofutti Sour Supreme for Michael to try in his Fajita.

What a shame!

I bought cheddar cheese already shredded and in a ziplock package to save making a cheesy mess and to keep the cheese constrained. Andy also added it to his sandwiches at lunch. We didn’t bother with sour cream…we figured we could do without as this was the only meal needing it.

This recipe is my neighbour and friend, Linda’s, family favourite.

Allergen Friendly Chicken Fajita’s

1 lb of chicken tenders or boneless chicken breasts sliced into strips
any colour pepper sliced into strips
an onion sliced into strips

Marinade

1/4 cup of fresh lime juice
(Linda’s tip: microwave limes for 20 sec then roll on counter before slicing and juicing= more juice)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (I purchase Spectrum Naturals Organic which is caramel free)
2 tbsp soy sauce (I purchase President’s Choice Soy Sauce which is caramel free)
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp chili powder

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl, pour over chicken and marinade for at least 2 hours or more.
In a frying pan, heat a tablespoon of canola oil and saute the pepper and onion strips until softened. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add the chicken strips and marinade to the heated saucepan and cook until chicken is no longer pink inside.
Add the pepper and onion strips to the pan to reheat.

chicken fajita filling sauteeing in pan

Warm tortillas in between paper towel on a plate in the microwave until warmed.

You are now ready to create your one of a kind Chicken Fajita with shredded cheese or Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds, salsa, shredded lettuce, sour cream or Tofutti Sour Supreme and extra hot sauce if you have any…we did not.

Wrap it all up…and enjoy!

Tip 1: If you want your marinade a little spicier add 1/2 tsp of hot pepper flakes.
Tip 2: Marinade can be frozen with our without the chicken strips for an easy go-to supper.
Tip 3: At home, I make rice to go along with the Chicken Fajita’s. Matthew doesn’t usually put his meat in the tortilla…as we didn’t have rice he tried it with the tortilla and surprised himself by liking it! Michael likes to add the rice to his tortilla. Go figure!

P.S. I am thinking this will be perfect meal to marinade, freeze and then take to the cottage!

Question 1: Do you have go-to meals that you like to make ahead and bring when you are travelling?

Question 2: How do you handle travelling with food allergies? Do you eat out or book a place with a kitchenette and cook your own meals?

I would love to hear your stories of travelling with food allergies.

Cross-Contamination Series: Travelling with Food Allergies to Stowe, Vermont: An Overview

Destination: Allergen Friendly Skiing Vacation to Stowe, Vermont.

at Stowe Mountain in Vermont

Travelling with food allergies takes some forethought, prepping and organizing…but then again, most trips do require some planning.

However, I don’t recall thinking too much about where my food was going to come from on a vacation before food allergies entered our lives.

Now…it’s all about the food!

pre-made and food products to take on trip to Stowe, Vermont

Above is a picture of the assortment of food I pre-made and purchased for our trip. Plus extras: slow cooker, popcorn maker, cutting boards, paring knife, dish cloths and towels. It all fit between the cooler and the blue plastic bin.

Departure was at 7 a.m….my Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Lemon Blueberry and Banana Bran Blueberry Muffins were the perfect breakfast to eat on the road…with a pit stop for coffee!

I packed a lunch for us to eat en route: Maple Leaf Natural Selections Black Forest Ham sandwich for Michael on my allergy friendly homemade bread, a Blueberry jam sandwich for Matthew with a cheese string, a ham and cheese sandwich for Andy and a NoNuts Golden Peabutter and Banana sandwich for me. Carrots, bananas, apples, Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Chocolate Chip Cookies and Rice Krispie Treats were also packed to snack on.

For our family ski trip to Stowe, Vermont we booked 4 nights at the Golden Eagle Resort in their ‘cabin in the woods’. A comfortable two bedroom cabin with kitchenette, full bathroom and living area.

Our 'little cabin in the woods' at the Golden Eagle Resort, Stowe, Vermont

This turned out to be perfect!

After dropping off our luggage at our ‘little cabin in the woods’, we headed to the local grocery store…Shaw’s.

I easily found packages of chicken tenders for the Chicken Fajitas, packages of ground turkey for the Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and a boneless Rib End Pork Roast for the Pork Bourguignon.

We managed to find packaged sliced ham by Hillshire Farm that did not contain caramel or dairy products for Michael’s ham sandwiches for lunch.

The most exciting discovery was in the bread section!

There we found Hot Dog Buns by Freihofer’s which did not contain any dairy,egg or sesame ingredients.

Checking the U.S Food and Drug Administration website, I learned that the top 8 allergens that are required by law to be on the labelling are: milk, egg, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. (Note sesame is left out)Manufacturers are not required by law to label anything about cross contamination with allergens. However,  the FDA is ” developing a long-term strategy that will help manufacturers use voluntary allergen advisory labeling…”

Checking Freihofer’s website, they state that they “adhere to Good Housekeeping Practices as established by the FDA.” They take “abundant precaution to prevent cross contact of allergenic ingredients between batches…” They go on to “disclose that the following allergen ingredients are used in some of our manufacturing facilities and that inadvertent cross contact is remotely possible: milk, eggs, soy, almonds, walnuts, peanuts and hazelnuts (filberts).” To read the entire statement, click on Freihofer’s link above.

Do to the fact, that the Freihofer’s company seems to make an effort to avoid cross-contamination of the top 8 allergen ingredients, I felt comfortable letting Michael try one of their hot dog buns.

Of course he loved it!

I also found Lender’s New York Style Bagels, Weight Watchers English Muffins and Shaw’s Whole Wheat bread that did not contain dairy, eggs or sesame. Unfortunately, their sites do not indicate any allergy information or how their companies deals with cross-contamination of the top 8 food allergens. I was not as comfortable with Michael trying these products. (although he did try the bagel and english muffin without any problems)

I feel, further research, involving contacting the companies to enquire about the safety of their products for those with food allergies, would need to be undertaken, before I made a habit of letting Michael eat their products.

Question: How do you decide if you let your child try a product that does not disclose information about cross-contamination issues?

Upon our arrival, I filled up the kitchen sink with soapy water and proceeded to wash all the utensils, plates, bowls, glasses and pots and pans that we would be using in the kitchen. I used my kitchen spray, to clean the counters and table.

By this time, it was on to making the Chicken Fajitas. (recipe will be posted on Wednesday) They were quick and easy to prep, cook and serve. Not to mention yummy!

allergen friendly chicken fajitas

Michael enjoyed his with some President’s Choice Medium Salsa on a President’s Choice large size tortilla. (I brought these from home)

Breakfasts consisted of Cheerios for both Andy and Michael. Michael enjoyed his with Natura Rice beverage. While, Matthew and I enjoyed a bowl of oatmeal…his with milk and pure maple syrup and mine with Natura Soy beverage and sliced banana.

breakfast in our 'little cabin in the woods' Stowe, Vermont

Lunches were made and packed in a small cooler with an ice pack. Michael made his ham sandwich for the first few days and then moved into the Pita Chips with ham slices on the side. Andy made himself a ham sandwich, Matthew a grape jelly sandwich, (wish we had brought his Blueberry jam from home), and both had a cheese string. I had my NoNuts Peabutter sandwich with banana with some carrot sticks and an apple. Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Chocolate Chip Cookies for dessert. Other days, I brought a Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Banana Blueberry muffin with cheese string.

eating our packed lunch at the base of Stowe mountain

Once at the base of the mountain, we left the cooler in the car until lunch. On a sunny day, there are tables outside to eat. We ate our lunches inside on one of the many tables available. I even noticed a girl going around cleaning the tables with a cleaner. Never the less, we ate our lunches off the napkins the sandwiches were wrapped in.

We left our cooler in the cubbies (seen in the background) and picked it up after our day of skiing. Very much the honour system here…on the last day we forgot it and it was there the next day at guest services!

I have to say, bringing the slow cooker to cook our dinners slowly throughout the day was perfect!

Spaghetti with Ground Turkey Meat Sauce

I served the Spaghetti dinner with a salad, warmed up French stick made and brought from home and we had the Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple Pie for dessert. I served this the night Andy’s sister and kids stayed for dinner.

Spaghetti with Ground Turkey Meat Sauce

Pork Bourguignon with Salad and a glass of red wine.

Pork Bourguignon with Salad and a glass of red wine

Bringing along the marinade for the Chicken Fajitas, and the sauce for the spaghetti dinner allowed me to have more quality time with my family.

A little prep in the evening (sautéing the ground turkey, onion and garlic), in the morning (putting all the ingredients in the slow cooker for the spaghetti and cutting up the roast pork and mushrooms and mixing them with the other ingredients) and after a day skiing, (adding the potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots to the Pork Bourguignon, making a salad and baking the frozen Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple Pie I brought from home)…et voila…dinner was served!

The last two nights were super easy…we just reheated leftovers!

I had been planning on going out for dinner on our last night but with all the leftovers it seemed too much of a waste…this way, we saved some money!

Besides, the boys were happy enough to stay in, watch Lord of the Rings and relax!

boys relaxing on the couch in Stowe, Vermont

On the day of departure, we packed up our lunches and snacks…stopped for coffee and washroom breaks and were home in 7.5 hours…around 5 p.m.

the boys on the ride home

The boys kept busy on their Ipods!

Once home and unpacked, (being Friday night) I whipped up a batch of quick pizza dough and thawed the pizza sauce…while Andy headed out for some mushrooms and onions.

Enjoying our pizza dinner we decided…this was a trip to remember!

Our family ski trip made me think back to the ski vacations I had with my family. My dad and I learned to ski together…he was in his early 50’s and I in my early 20’s. I never saw him so happy as when we were all together skiing on a mountain.

Skiing in Stowe with my boys…I now totally get how my father was feeling on those family ski vacations.

The memories we created will last a lifetime!

P.S. Michael experienced his very first hot dog the day after we got back.

Michael bbqing his Schneider's all natural hot dog and toasting his Freihofer's hot dog bunA Schneider’s Country Naturals hot dog nestled in a Freihofer’s hot dog bun with a touch of Heinz Ketchup.

Michael's Schneider's all natural hot dog in a Freihofer's hot dog bun

Michael’s verdict…”It tastes good!”

P.P.S. Lately, Michael has been talking the talk about starting to run. I believe, witnessing first hand ,his parents out skiing him…endurance wise…and the fact he had built up his endurance over the course of 4 days skiing, was the turning point.

Saturday he donned a pair of running shoes, took a puff of his Ventolin and set out for his first run. I followed closely on my bike to make sure he set a good pace for himself and his asthma was in check.

He had a hockey game later that evening…he actually felt a difference in his endurance and ability to breathe…he was pumped!

He was back out the next day…a little sore but not deterred in the least.

Michael’s goal: to sign up for the 2 km EpiPen Take Action Event on May 12, 2012 in Brooklin, Ontario.

Overall Vacation Verdict: Trip of a lifetime! Would do it all again in a pinch!

P.P.P.S. Click here to see the first post in the series of our trip.