banana cream disaster

My husband, Chris, doesn’t have a real sweet tooth like I do. The man passes up cake at birthday parties and doesn’t even give brownies a second glance, I’ll never quite understand. But he DOES love banana cream pie, and not a real fancy, complicated pie. Chris is happy with pre-made graham crust, instant pie filling and a big-ol’ tub of cool-whip. So I decided to attempt my first ever allergen free banana cream pie. I was really surprised to see that the graham crust and jello instant pudding mix were JT safe, and I had just recently learned this amazing trick, magically turning coconut milk into “whipped cream”. So, I thought I would just use a pre-made crust, make some instant pie filling with rice milk and experiment with the coconut milk whipped cream…simple right? It’s not like me to just wing-it without researching first, but I did, and…I failed. Apparently you can’t make instant pudding with milk alternatives, unless you drastically change the amount of liquid you use. And apparently when you attempt to make pudding with rice milk and pour it into a pie crust and let it sit overnight in the fridge with hopes that it will firm up (which it won’t) the crust gets way too wet and big chunks start to fall into the “pudding” filling. And then your kids sit at the table, looking at you with big,sad eyes, wondering where their pie has gone. Oh well, fruit snacks it is!

At least I’ve learned a few things….
* I’m bad a winging it, research is good
* Instant jello doesn’t work with rice milk
* Coconut milk makes delicious whipped cream (At least that was a success!)
* My kids are just as happy to get fruit snacks as they would be to get pie

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New dairy and soy free butter

For years we have been on the search for the perfect dairy and soy free “butter”. We have tried many along the way and while they work for the purpose needed we often find that they are too artificial tasting. By we, I mean my husband and I, as JT has never tasted real butter in his life and Molly is too little still to really recognize a difference.  But my M-I-L, Jan, just recently discovered a new alternative, and in the regular old grocery store! coconut_02

New Olivio Coconut spread.

Ingredients : : Organic Tropical Oil Blend (Coconut Oil, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Sustainable Palm Oil), Filtered Water, sea salt, organic canola lecithin, organic guar gum.

We tried it this morning and it does not taste like fake butter at all! It’s really light and delicious. Neither kid batted an eye at the change on their toast and I was very pleasantly surprised. Not sure how it would be in baking, but I will be trying it next time.

Enjoy Life Gingerbread Cookies

I’m hoping to get all my Christmas cookie baking done soon, and when I do I will share my allergen-free gingerbread and sugar cookie recipes. Until then, I just wanted to quickly share one of JT’s favorite store-bought cookies. Enjoy Life Foods are free of the 8 most common allergens, gluten-free and made in a dedicated facility. They make cookies, breakfast bars, chocolate chips and other snacks. JT (and even Molly, who could eat the real thing) loves their soft-baked cookies, especially the snickerdoodle and gingerbread spice. They are perfect in a pinch to take along to a holiday party or to pack as a special snack for school. In my dream life I always have the time and energy to have fresh-baked cookies for my kids…until then, these cookies are a great alternative.

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.

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!

Meatloaf substitutions

Woke up to a really gray and rainy morning. On days like this I always crave comfort food. It’s still hot and muggy though, so I turn to my slow cooker  instead of my oven so that I don’t heat up the whole house. I love using my slow cooker all year round. Being able to get dinner started early in the day when I still have energy is a huge plus. Any busy parent knows how crazy that hour before dinner can get and using my crock pot usually makes that time of day much more enjoyable.

I make meatloaf all the time when I’m craving comfort food. I don’t really have a hard and fast meatloaf recipe so I’m not going to share a recipe today. Rather, I’m going to share my substitutions and how I adapt my meatloaf. I like to change my meatloaf up a lot. Sometimes I put bacon and BBQ sauce in it, sometimes peppers, onions and tomato sauce, sometimes I make a quick glaze with ketchup and brown sugar. Regardless of how I make it, I have to avoid a lot of common things that go into a meatloaf. For example, beef, eggs, milk, soy or Worcestershire sauce, and some bread crumbs.

Here is how I substitute for those missing ingredients:

Beef – I use ground turkey

Eggs – I increase the amount of sauce I put in (whether it is BBQ, ketchup or tomato) this helps bind it all together.

Milk – I usually just remove this all together, but you could use rice or soy milk to substitute. Adding chopped veggies will also help keep your meatloaf moist.

Soy or Worcestershire – The increased amount of the sauces above usually does the trick here, but I also came across this recipe for a soy substitute. We have not tried it because of JT’s beef allergy but give it a shot!

Bread crumbs – Some flavored breadcrumbs have other ingredients in them so always read your labels. We have used Ian’s plain panko or crushed Ritz crackers. If you have a wheat or gluten allergy think about crushing up cereals that work for you. For example, Gluten free Rice Chex or Rice Krispies

The most important thing is to use the slow cooker (just make a mound at the bottom of the slow cooker and cook on low for about 8 hours or high for about 4). I’ve been making JT meatloaf for years and before the slow cooker it was always a little bit crumbly. Putting it in the slow cooker helps the consistency of the meatloaf so much. It always comes out fantastic!

Brands I lOVE!

As a busy Mom it’s really important for me to have some go-to, pre-packaged items for snacks and lunches for my kids. For Molly that is easy but for JT it can sometimes be difficult. I need to be sure that any snacks we buy are safe for all of his allergies.  In a perfect world I would make all of my kids meals and snacks from scratch….and JT wouldn’t have any allergies and Molly wouldn’t throw all her vegetables on the floor! Luckily, some companies are now making allergen free foods, and some are even made in dedicated allergen free bakeries. Learning about these brands helped so much in the beginning when I didn’t quite have a handle on all of JT’s allergies. Knowing a quick, easy and safe snack was available was such a relief!

Divvies – If you haven’t tried Divvies cookies you have NO idea what you are missing! They are delicious, even for the rest of us. They also have chocolate, candies, cupcakes and frosting . These cookies are the allergen free dessert that is served at Disney World and I’ve also seen them in airports. They are a little more expensive but totally worth it for a special treat!

http://www.divvies.com/

Enjoy Life – Enjoy Life cookies and bars are a staple in our house. JT really likes them and they are easy to find. They also make “chocolate” chips for baking!

http://www.enjoylifefoods.com/index.php#page=page-1

Nana’s cookie company – These cookies are yummy and I love that they are individually wrapped. They are easy to just grab and go and they stay nice and fresh. JT’s favorite are the Nana Banana cookie bars.

http://www.nanascookiecompany.com/index.html

Ians natural foods – Before JT had outgrown his wheat allergy we used Ian’s chicken nuggets and corn dog bites all the time. Now that he can have wheat we have found other alternatives, but for about a year these were always in our freezer for quick lunches.

http://www.iansnaturalfoods.com/our-food/category/allergy_friendly

Cherrybrook Kitchen – I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m a horrible baker. Boxed mixes I can handle a little better than from scratch so I was excited to learn about cherrybrook kitchens mixes. They carry cake, cookie, frosting and pancakes mixes.

http://www.cherrybrookkitchen.com/aboutus/index.php

Bob’s Red Mill – Bob’s carries all sorts of different flours, oats, seeds and grains. But what I love best is their pancake mix, I just replace the milk with rice milk and the egg with banana. It makes really tasty pancakes!

http://www.bobsredmill.com/

Where to buy? I have found these products in all sorts of grocery stores. Whole foods would be your best bet if you wanted to find them all in one place. But I have found some of these products at Market Basket, Shaws and Hannafords. You can also order some of them online, just watch out for shipping charges, sometimes they cost more than the food you are ordering!

Just a reminder…Always check your ingredients. ALWAYS! I can only speak about what works well for JT. Also, ingredients can change any time, always keep an eye on them!

I will do another post later  this week about regular foods that you can find at any grocery store that I trust for JT. I hope this list helps you to find something new to try! What allergen free brands do you love?

The best tip

Once I learned of all my son’s allergies I thought I would never be able to bake again. I’m not a baker to begin with, I don’t have enough patience for all of that precision and measuring. Baking without ingredients like eggs, all-purpose flour and (cows) milk seemed like such a daunting task.  Especially baking without the egg! There are other kinds of flour and there are other kinds of milk but there aren’t other kinds of egg. There are some egg replacers out there but they are difficult to find and some contain soy, which my son is also allergic to.  My hairdresser also has children with food allergies and in the beginning she was a great resource for me. She shared recipes and tips and helped me to feel like this allergy thing was something I could handle. The best tip she ever gave me was that in a baking recipe you can replace one egg with one mashed up banana. It helps to bind everything together just as an egg would, it adds great flavor and it’s healthier!  Now, if the recipe calls for more than one banana you can add more banana but it does change the recipe some. It will have more of an obvious banana flavor and the consistency will be more dense. Over time I’ve started using one stage 1 jar of baby food bananas (or bananas in a jar as JT calls them) instead of mashing up a banana because of the longer shelf life. When I hear that someone has an egg allergy I’m always sure to share this great tip!