Chocolate Oatmeal… Mmmmm

Have a picky eater on your hands? This recipe just might fit the bill! It’s so decadent and delicious, you can easily forget how healthy it is.

And it really is healthy, too! Made only of oats, cocoa powder and honey, with optional non-dairy milk and a dash of salt. What’s not to like?

And it’s super easy, too. Just as easy as cooking up regular plain old oatmeal. The only difference is it tastes a lot better!

Chocolate Oatmeal

2 cups non-dairy milk or water

1 cup oats

1 TBSP cocoa

1 TBSP honey

pinch of salt

Stir ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until oats are soft and liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly and serve.

Splash with a bit of So Delicious Coconut Milk or Creamer if you want!

Do your kids balk at oatmeal? Check out my eBook, No Allergens, No Fuss! for lots more delicious oatmeal flavor ideas, as well as many more super easy allergen-friendly recipes!


Easy Allergen-Free Pork Chops

The easiest and best allergen-friendly main dishes are usually basic and unadorned. Basic and unadorned doesn’t have to mean taste-less, though: far from it! These pork chops are easy and pretty much as basic as it gets, but they don’t lack in flavor. In fact, they are some of the tastiest pork chops I’ve tried.

15-Minute Pork Chops

1 lb pork chops

salt & pepper

1/4 cup flour (I used brown rice flour)

1/2 tsp ground sage

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp thyme

1 TBSP olive (or other) oil

Rub salt and pepper to taste into both sides of the pork chops. In a bowl or plate, stir together the flour and seasonings until well blended. Dredge the chops on both sides in the flour mixture. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chops and cook about 4 minutes on each side, covering with a lid.

For more great recipes, check out my eBook: No Allergens, NO Fuss!


Food Allergy Awareness Series!

I am hosting my very own “Food Allergy Awareness Week” over at my other blog, Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy. Please drop by and add your comments if you have additional insights and thoughts to share (which I know you do!). Today’s post is about hosting guests with food allergies. I’m sure you all have lots of tips to help make it easier for hosts, so come on over and share them. Let’s make the world a safer place for our children by spreading awareness and knowledge about food allergies!


Announcing: New eBook!!

My eBook, “No Allergens, NO Fuss!” is finally ready and available for purchase! I am so excited about this and can’t wait for your feedback (hopefully positive:)! Read more about it and purchase it here.


When the Going Gets Rough

There are days when dealing with eczema and food allergies just get to me. Do you ever have those days? Those are the days I allow myself a little pity party, and I ask myself questions like, “Why him? Why me? Why anybody? And when will it end? Will he ever grow out of them?”.

On days like that, I listen to this song, which was written by Steven Curtis Chapman during a time of great personal tragedy and loss.

The lyrics speak to me so eloquently and comfort me immensely.

This is not how it should be.

-My son shouldn’t have to avoid every day foods that most people enjoy without a second thought. I shouldn’t have to guard him like a hawk whenever we go out in public or to public events where there are people who don’t know about his allergies and might accidentally expose him to his allergens. I shouldn’t have to pack him food when we go to a restaurant. This is definitely not how it should be.

This is not how it could be.

-I know that, if He chose to, God could instantly heal him from his allergies. Better yet, He could have created him without them in the first place!

But this is how it is.

-Yes. No way around it. It is what it is and cannot be changed, no matter how hard I try.

Our God is in control.

-Sometimes a comforting thought, sometimes… it just makes me wonder why all the more.

This is not how it will be

When we finally will see

We’ll see with our own eyes

He was always in control.

-Maybe he will never outgrow his food allergies. Even then, one day he will enjoy a brand new body in Heaven that is untainted by earthly diseases.

This is not where we planned to be

When we started this journey.

-Certainly, when I married my husband and we planned excitedly for our first child, we did not factor food allergies into the equation! No, the child of our dreams was healthy without any physical complications.

But this is where we are.

-And there’s no going back to before. Even if I could rewind time, I would still choose to marry my husband and I would still plan excitedly for our first child. I would never exchange them for anything in the world – even if it meant that my world would then be free of food allergies. No, he is too precious to me, just the way he is!

Though this first taste is bitter.

-Bitter is an apt word. There is nothing pleasant or sweet about my experience with eczema and allergies.

There will be sweetness forever.

-Thank goodness we have a hope to hang onto, something to look forward to. One day, this bitterness will be behind us, and only sweetness ahead of us for eternity.

When we finally taste and see

that our God is in control.

-I wonder if, when I get to Heaven, I will just automatically understand the purpose of this earthly suffering? When confronted with the glory and the holiness of God, will I even think about it anymore? Or will it fade away with the rest of my earth experience and all I know for eternity is God?

And we’ll sing holy, holy, holy is our God
And we will finally really understand what it means
So we’ll sing holy, holy, holy is our God
While we’re waiting for that day.

-And so, while I’m waiting for that day when everything is made plain, and all wrongs made right, I will sing in expectation:

Holy, Holy, Holy is our God!


Allergen-Free Super Bowl Snack: Crispy Chickpeas

I’m not a huge fan of football, which is kind of an understatement. The truth is more like football isn’t even on my radar even when it’s on the television. But it’s kind of hard to escape the hype surrounding the Super Bowl, and I have to admit that even I enjoy going to a Super Bowl party. Not for the football, of course, but for the snacks!

Most Super Bowl snacks will add a few inches to your waistline, a few pounds to the scale, and a few more clogs in your arteries, but you won’t feel the least bit guilty popping these guilt-free crunchy crispies like they’re candy. Even my Certain Little Someone was thoroughly enjoying munching away while he watched his favorite Thomas!

A major plus is that they’re super easy to make!

Crispy Chickpeas

adapted from All You magazine

2 TBSP olive oil

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. paprika

2 15.5oz cans chickpeas

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Lay on a towel, and pat dry. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and spices. Add the chickpeas, and stir until thoroughly coated. Line a baking sheet with foil and lay the chickpeas on it in a single layer. Bake at 450F for 45-50 minutes, stirring the chickpeas often. Remove from oven when they are browned and crunchy. Cool before serving.


Yummy, Easy, Allergen-Free Breakfast: Muesli!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted! Oops! Perhaps you’ll forgive me if I tell you the reasons why:

  1. I had a baby! A cute little Baby Boy, who is rapidly gaining weight, which makes me hopeful that food allergies are perhaps not on his horizon.
  2. I’m working on an eBook entitled “No Allergens, NO FUSS!: 70+ Easy Kid-Friendly Recipes Free of the Top 8 Allergens”. Sound good? Stay tuned; I’m close to the end, and will be offering it soon here and elsewhere.

I do have something to offer you today – a delicious easy breakfast that is also easy to make allergen-free. AND easy to customize, so if you have non-allergic eaters, you can make theirs with regular dairy, nuts and other allergens if you so desire.

This recipe makes 1 serving. If you need more than that, I would recommend simply filling each bowl with one serving’s worth of ingredients rather than trying to double the recipe in one bowl and then divvying it out. That also makes it easier to customize for each person. Alternatively, you can set out all the ingredient options on the table and let everyone mix their own muesli.

Allergen-Free Muesli
1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup non-dairy milk

1 small apple, chopped

1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins

1 tsp honey

1 tsp cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir. Allow to sit overnight in the refrigerator, or on the counter at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. The liquid will soften the oats.

Optional and alternate ingredients:

Chopped Nuts (if tolerated)

Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, etc.)

Pear

Berries (fresh or dried)

Brown or raw sugar

Candied ginger

Dark chocolate shavings or little chunks

Dried (or fresh) coconut

… the possibilities are practically endless! Experiment, and enjoy!

 


Baking With Your Food-Allergic Toddler

Just because your little toddler has food allergies doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the fun of baking Christmas cookies together! My Certain Little Someone and I had so much fun together the other day, making a mess… and making yummy cookies! Here are some tips to help the process go smoothly and incident-free:

  1. Choose a simple recipe that includes some fun elements that your child can do with you or by himself. I chose Peppermint Snowballs (see below), which require rolling in powdered sugar after baking. My Certain Little Someone had fun helping out with that part!
  2. Don’t do anything on the stovetop. Your child will want to be part of the entire process, and of course that’s not possible with a hot stove! And it goes without saying that the adult in charge should handle all the responsibility of putting the cookies in and out of the oven.
  3. Clean the work area thoroughly. Choose a counter (or table-top) where the mixing will take place and make sure it’s free of all potential allergens.
  4. Gather all the ingredients, measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls and pans before you begin. Toddlers have famously short attention spans, and if you have everything collected beforehand, there will be less time spent searching for necessary items and losing their interest.
  5. Involve your child in the process. Even toddlers can help with scooping and pouring (with a little assistance on occasion!).

And now for a great recipe you can make with your food-allergic child: Allergen-Free Peppermint Snowballs. I adapted a recipe from the Holiday Cookbook produced by the  FAAN. The only flour it uses is rice flour, which makes it super easy and inexpensive. The peppermint adds a touch of holiday flavor, making these little bites delicious enough for anyone, with or without food allergies! They don’t have to be rolled in powdered sugar, but they sure taste great that way! These little morsels will remind you of “wedding cookies” or “tea cookies” as they’re sometimes called.

Allergen-Free Peppermint Snowballs

1/2 cup palm oil shortening

1/4 cup sugar

1 TBSP water

1/2 tsp peppermint extract

1 1/4 cups rice flour

1 tsp cornstarch

powdered sugar

Beat shortening in mixer together with sugar until well blended and kind of creamy. Stir in water and peppermint extract. Add flour and cornstarch; mix well. Add more water if dough is too crumbly to form a ball. When the dough is firm enough to form a ball, but still flexible, begin rolling it into small balls. Drop onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes at 375F. When the bottom is just beginning to turn golden brown, they are done. Transfer carefully to a wire rack to cool. (They can be crumbly, like all rice flour-based goods, so be careful). When cool enough to handle, roll in powdered sugar.


Allergen-Free Fudge for Christmas!

This fudge is so simple, it’s hard to believe it’s made from scratch, let alone allergen-free! Theoretically, I suppose, they should be called “Fudge Bars” rather than actual fudge, but in all practicality… it’s fudge!

Easy, delicious, and allergen-free: not necessarily words that often go together. But I promise you it’s true, and I’m pretty sure that if you try these, they will become a stand-by in your house, especially this time of year.

I did use Bakers’ semi-sweet baking chocolate in this recipe, which contains soy lecithin. Soy lecithin is not a problem for my Certain Little Someone, but I know that some people’s soy sensitivity is so high that they cannot consume it. In that case, an allergen-free chocolate chip like Enjoy Life brand might work, although I haven’t tried it myself, so I can’t guarantee that.

Coconut Chocolate Fudge Bars

1 lb semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup canned coconut milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

1/2 cup chopped/flaked/shredded coconut

In a double boiler (I use a medium sized Pyrex glass bowl set over 1 1/2″ simmering water in a medium sized pot), slowly melt 12 oz. of chocolate with the coconut milk, stirring to prevent burning. When mixture is smooth and thoroughly melted, remove from heat and add vanilla and salt, stirring well. Set aside to cool slightly. In the microwave at 20 second intervals, melt remaining 4 oz. chocolate, stirring in between until melted and smooth.

Thoroughly grease an 8″ square baking pan, then line with wax paper. Spread the 4 oz. melted chocolate in a thin layer over the wax paper, and chill for approximately 10 minutes (or until set) in the refrigerator. When it is completely set, remove from refrigerator and pour chocolate/coconut mixture over the chocolate layer. Use a knife or spatula to smooth the top. Gently press coconut into the fudge. Allow to come to room temperature, then refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.

After refrigerating, remove contents from pan by lifting the wax paper. Turn upside down onto cutting board, and carefully peel off the paper. Use a sharp small knife to score the bottom of the fudge bars into approximately 64 1″ squares. Once it is scored, use the knife to cut them apart. Allow fudge bars to stand at room temperature for a few minutes to soften before serving.

**You could also use safe mini marshmallows on top in place of the dried coconut.


New Guidelines for Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention of Food Allergies

The NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) announced new guidelines and recommendations for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of food allergies. You can find a summary of their guidelines here.

I read through the summary, and for the most part, it did not depart from the usual practice, at least as far as I have experienced it. They recommend medical history (history of immediate allergic response to food) combined with oral food challenge as necessary as the gold standard for diagnosis of food allergy, and the use of skin tests and blood tests to determine specific allergens.

One recommendation strikes me as particularly useful, and that is that the skin tests and blood tests should not be used to make the initial diagnosis of food allergy. Those tests are known for potential false positives or negatives, so it is important to combine them with the patient’s history of reactions (and/or use of an elimination diet) to be sure of the diagnosis.

I will admit, though, that I am grateful my pediatrician chose to start with a blood test to diagnose my Certain Little Someone’s allergies. Unfortunately, with a breastfeeding infant, it’s difficult to determine exactly what the specific food allergens are, especially if there are multiple ones. Trying an elimination diet via breastfeeding would be incredibly time-consuming, and his eczema was so bad that time was of the essence.  I can see, though, where the initial blood test has created some issues: in particular, peanut showed up as a slight positive, but his allergist is convinced he’s not truly allergic to peanut. However, because of his age, his propensity to allergies, and the severity of a peanut allergy, we continue to avoid peanuts and peanut products until a future blood test and/or oral food challenge can prove otherwise.

One recommendation in the guidelines I found interesting, and was glad to see: they do not advise pregnant or nursing women to eliminate allergenic foods from their diet as a preventative measure for infant food allergies. Furthermore, and what is perhaps even more surprising, they do not at all recommend avoiding potentially allergenic foods from infants even as young as 4-6 months of age. Finally the recommendations are catching up with the research! There has been some confusion within the medical community and society at large about this issue, and hopefully these recommendations will start clearing that up. It is my firm belief that if you are allergic, you will be allergic no matter when you are exposed to the food in question. In some ways, the earlier you discover the allergen, the better!

Have you read the new guidelines? What do you think about them? Agree? Disagree?