slow cooker whole chicken

Until last night I had never cooked a whole chicken. Sure I’ve cooked chicken tenders and breasts but never the whole bird. I used to joke with my Mom that if I ever took over hosting Thanksgiving I would serve turkey breast. It seemed such an intimidating task. Enter my slow cooker….I had never considered cooking a whole chicken in a slow cooker, but after coming across a few recipes online I decided to give it a try. I am SO glad I did!! Technically this isn’t a special “allergen free” recipe, but it’s got so few ingredients that it fits the bill for JT and maybe it will for you as well. If you have allergies to any of the veggies or spices you could easily make this without them. Oh…and it’s super healthy!

Slow cooker Whole chicken

1 whole chicken (mine was 4 lbs.)

1 Large potato, cut into chunks (I would have used red potatoes halved, if I had them. Also my kids refuse to eat potatoes so you might want to add a little more)

Baby carrots, about 2 handfuls

1 garlic clove diced or minced jarred garlic equivalent

1 teaspoon paprika

salt and pepper

aluminum foil or 1 onion cut into large chunks

Wash your chicken and pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with paprika, garlic, salt and pepper. Make 3 balls with aluminum foil and place into the crock pot, you will place your chicken on top of these (You could also place onion chunks on the bottom of your slow cooker if you prefer). Place potatoes and carrots around chicken. Cook on high for about 4-5 hours. No need to add liquid and no need to stir, although I did pull the carrots and potatoes away from the sides of the crock a few times.

The chicken will fall apart after cooking so I’m not sure you could pull the whole thing out, I just pulled the meat out and served on plates. I read that you could keep the bones in the slow cooker and make a stock with them, one step at a time for me though!

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Kitchen Basics chicken stock

Early on in our search for JT safe foods I was surprised by how many products contained ingredients that were unexpected. I was really surprised to find that some chicken stock/broth contained milk. Since then we have found several chicken broths (or stocks) that are safe for JT. Recently, though, I found Kitchen Basics chicken stock and was really pleasantly surprised. Not only does this stock have a really rich and delicious flavor they actually test their stock for trace amounts of allergens.

From their box:

We reduce the risk of allergen reactions by specifying that our ingredients must not contain milk, eggs, peanuts, gluten, soy, tree nuts, fish, shellfish or corn. Each production run is tested for the absence of these allergens to 5ppm.

our health plan

During our meeting with the principal, head teacher and nurse at JT’s school we created a heath plan for JT. Officially it is called a “Food Allergy Individual Health Care Plan”. I would have prefered a 504 plan, but I’m happy with the accommodations that were made by the school. I came to realize that as long as a plan was put in place to safeguard JT,  it’s title wasn’t all that important to me. Of course, we were not happy about the transportation piece of the plan but I’ve talked enough about that for now. The allergy health care plan appears to be a basic plan that can be individualized for each child. I wish this plan had been offered to us by the school prior to the school year.  I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t requested the meeting we would still be without a plan. But now that we have one, I feel much better.

Here is a brief overview of the plan, It’s pretty long so I only included a few key points. The plan states his allergies, which medications he is to take if he were exposed to said allergens and where those medications are located. It explains how the staff is educated about epi-pen use and about JT’s allergies specifically (including substitutes). It covers how food will be handled in his classroom, in the lunch room and on field trips.  It also lists responsibilities for JT and for us. JT’s responsibilities include, wearing a medic-alert bracelet and notifying an adult immediately if he ingests an allergen. Some parts that were individualized for JT are that he will have extra space around him at the peanut free table in order to reduce risk of exposure to his other allergens (I was really concerned about milk spills),  and  that students in his class will clean hands after lunch before returning to the classroom and in the classroom after snack. I feel like it covered everything I was concerned about but I hope I didn’t miss anything.

Safe soap

I’ve often looked at the ingredients of things like sunscreen, chapstick, or lotion before applying them to JT when we are out, and I think a lot of times people think I’m crazy. They wonder what “food” would be in one of those products. My answer is always “you’d be surprised”, and you would.  I’ve mentioned this many times, but I check the ingredients for EVERYTHING! And I’ve found lots of ingredients that could cause a reaction to JT in all sorts of bath and beauty supplies. Before JT my lotion had almond oil in it, one of my hair products contained soy protein and I used a mango body wash. I doubt that me using any of these products would cause an anaphylactic reaction in JT but I don’t want to take that chance. And even if they didn’t, they would make him itchy and I don’t want to make my kid itchy. So now I check the ingredients of everything that goes on our bodies.

Recently we visited family in Maine. I went with JT to the bathroom and as he was about to wash his hands I noticed that the soap had a milky white consistency. I checked it and lo and behold it had milk protein and lactose in it. Sometimes “milk” might be in the name of something but not in the ingredients but this soap (Milk protein and honey made by softsoap) actually contains those ingredients. Disaster averted, we just washed with some hand sanitizer I had on me.

I didn’t think much more of it but last week his teacher pulled me aside and double checked with me that he could wash with soap. She was really concerned that she was unaware of a soap allergy he had.  Apparently at school JT was not using soap to wash his hands! The poor thing was so nervous that he would be allergic to it. So now he washes with soap at school and so far (somehow) I think he has avoided getting sick despite a day or two of using only water to wash!

Soy Allergy

JT’s soy allergy has been a little bit tricky because he has grown in and out of it a few times. When he outgrows the soy allergy he unfortunately still maintains a soy intolerance and is unable to ingest it. But because there is no way to test for an intolerance the only way to know if he is really able to have soy is to try it (under the guidance of a doctor is best).  The first time he outgrew the soy allergy we were so excited! Not even considering that he may have an intolerance, we gave him a very small cup of soy milk and he loved it. We were thrilled because he hates rice milk and we thought we had found an alternative. Instead he spent the ENTIRE day vomiting. We tried again about a year later, this time with only a 1/2 of a Tablespoon mixed into his oatmeal and again he was sick all day. His last skin test revealed that he is in fact allergic to soy (again).

JT, like many people with soy allergies, is able to tolerate both soy oil (sometimes called soybean oil or soya oil) and soy lecithin. So, if the packaging has allergy info separate from the ingredients it will sometimes say “Contains Soy”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t eat it. If you are unsure about soy oil and lecithin check with your doctor.

Things he can NOT eat are:

Soy flour (In many breads, tortillas and pitas)

soy fiber

soy albumin

Soy milk (soy yogurt, soy cheese, etc…)

Soybean

Soy protein and hydrolyzed soy protein

Soy nuts and soy sprouts

Soy sauce

Tofu

Textured vegetable protein

Edamame

Miso

Some Worcestershire sauce

Not sure how we will handle soy if he outgrows his allergy again. I’m not comfortable with trying soy another time knowing that there is a good chance it will make him very sick for the day. We will just have to wait and discuss it with the allergist when the time comes. As for now, it’s not one of the more difficult allergens to avoid.

Remember to always read ingredient labels carefully!

The school bus – part 2

 

I wanted so badly to be able to sit down at my computer tonight and tell you “I did it! I got my kid on the school bus!”. I wanted to be able to tell JT that it doesn’t matter that he has allergies or needs to have his medication with him EVERYwhere he goes, he can still do anything that any other kid in his school can do. But I can’t tell him that because regardless of us trying, he can’t ride the school bus. Or rather, he can ride the school bus, but his epi-pen can not. Part of me feels like I’ve failed him and part of me knows that it’s really the system that has failed him. I think the meeting we had with the school today could have gone on for hours with us talking in circles, but I could tell it wasn’t going to get us anywhere. I guess I could have pushed even harder but I need to be on good terms with these administrators to ensure JT’s safety. I am trusting them not just with my child’s education, but with his life. Although I feel defeated JT is safe and that is all that REALLY matters.

On the positive side, the school is making many accommodations for JT. His health plan covers every concern his Dad and I have (aside from the bus, of course). We REALLY love his teacher and the school nurse, they have been extremely kind, helpful and honest. I feel more comfortable with him being at school than I expected and I can tell he is in good hands. And, he likes it…He is safe and he likes it!

Next year he will attend a different school (grades 1-3) and I’m sure we will take this up again then. As parents, we will be more experienced and better prepared. And I’m hoping that if there are other parents out there who feel this way that we can somehow take this on together. So… for now, he is a “car rider”. Am I giving up to easy? Is my giving up allowing an unfair policy to continue? Is it enough that JT is happy and safe?

So far, So good…

First day of Kindergarten!

JT started Kindergarten this morning! I still can’t believe it. He woke up excited for the day and ready to go. By the time we got to the school it was clear that although he denied it, he was a little nervous.  I, on the other hand,  was actually much less nervous than I expected. No tears!!!! When we arrived at the school with our giant bag o’ meds we were directed right to the nurse’s office. She double checked all of JT’s paperwork and verified all of the medications. She also showed me where his epi pen will be kept and although I would prefer it be with him, it’s a small school and I’m comfortable with the arrangement since her office is always accessible.  Everyone was very helpful and cheery. JT was most excited to see his teacher.  We chatted with her for a minute before leaving, said our good-byes to JT and that was it. All in all, I felt really good about it. Yay!

Tomorrow we meet with the head teacher, the principal and the school nurse to discuss JT being able to go on the school bus (WITH his epipen). I’m also going to request that he be put on a 504 plan. I’m really hoping that everyone works well together and that it never feels like a fight. I’m willing to go to battle for my kid but I really think we are all on JT’s side so I’m hoping it’s not necessary. Him being as safe as possible is my one and only goal. So, fingers crossed that it goes well tomorrow. As for today, I already can’t wait to go scoop my big boy up from his first day of school. I hope he is having the best time!