Saturday, January 21, 2012

Allergies and your Church

I had a reader email me asking how I deal with my child's food allergies at church so I thought I'd just post about my experience and give you some ideas of ways you can help your church in this area.

I have been very blessed to be in a church where my child's food allergies are taken seriously. I only knew of one child (I'm sure there were more) at church having food allergies before my daughter was diagnosed as a baby. This diagnosis changed our lives in so many ways, not the least of which, was the way we had to train our minds to be on alert every time we were going to have to leave our girl with another caregiver. We are in church a few times a week and almost every time a snack is given in her class. (Especially in younger age classes) We made sure to remind the nursery workers and/or teachers every time we dropped her off that she has food allergies. I remember talking with our nursery supervisor (who is really on the ball and organized) about what I could do to keep my girl safe in her classes. We talked about protocol and then I was able to order allergy alert stickers for our church that were very bright and drew attention to whomever was wearing them. The stickers have proven to be a good alert system at our church. We use a check-in system for the nurseries and the stickers are at the supervisor's stand in the hallway. I would place one on my girl's back and one on her bag. Sometimes I'd put one on her cup. There are several kids in our church now with food allergies because it's just becoming more common.

I would suggest talking with your church leader (who is in charge of the nursery or children's ministry) bout possibly getting stickers for food allergic kids. You can find some good ones on or just google 'food allergy sticker' and you'll find several options. I suggest getting bright colored ones so that they are noticeable on any color of clothing. If your church doesn't want to provide them, buy some for your child. Thy really are a great investment.

Also, speak to the person in charge about what needs to happen in case of an allergic reaction. We are blessed to have name tags (as part of our check-in system) with the parent's cell number on them. I know most of our nursery workers and they know me, but if I don't know a teacher that may be substituting in my girl's class, I will introduce myself and explain the allergy issues. My girl is 6 now and very aware of her allergies, so she knows not to eat certain things. If she isn't sure, she will almost always decline or bring it home so I can check it out first.

Nursery workers change at every service so I know it is a bit scary leaving your child in someone else's hands. When my girl was younger, I would go back to her class between services to let the new teachers know of her allergies. You just have to go the extra mile to be sure your kid is safe. It is very tiring to repeat the same spiel over and over, but that is the norm for a family affected by food allergies.

Another thing I do is to send her own snack with her when I know there will be a special snack. Otherwise, lately, I just don't send one. Her teachers have gotten used to her allergy needs and they normally have something she can eat or else they don't do a snack. The older she gets, the easier it gets food wise. Emotionally, though, it is getting harder. We had another discussion tonight about why God has allowed her to have food allergies. It isn't easy. It's a very difficult thing to live with, but God knows all about it and we just have to trust that His way is best.

If you have any specific questions related to this topic, feel free to email me or ask it in the comment section. I want to help you in any way that I can.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Easy Apple Dumplings {Dairy-Free, Egg-Free}

I came across a recipe for these delicious apple dumplings a few months ago here and kept thinking about making them, but put it off....until yesterday. Don't let it fool you. Just because it has apples in it doesn't mean it's healthy - but it is SO YUMMY! I tweaked the recipe a little bit to make it less sugary and also make it allergy-friendly. So, here it is!

Easy Apple Dumplings {Dairy-Free, Egg-Free}

1 can refrigerated Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
1 apple, washed and cut into 8 slices {skin still on}
1/4 cup Smart Balance Light (melted)
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Roll out crescent roll dough. Wrap each apple slice in one triangle of dough. Place in a greased pan. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of all the 'dumplings'. Mix melted Smart Balance Light and brown sugar together. Pour over each dumpling. Bake for 25 minutes. Serve warm alone or with Tofutti brand {dairy-free} Vanilla Ice Cream. YUM! (You can double, triple, etc. this recipe to accommodate your needs.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Allergy-Friendly Restaurants

We all know that eating out with food allergies is not exactly a care-free event, and in some cases it is impossible. However, in my quest to help my girl live a more 'normal' life, I have found that more often than not restaurants will have either an allergy menu or at least provide a list of ingredients to help you make wise and safe choices. I prefer an ingredient list over an allergy menu because I want to see for myself what ingredients are in certain items. For tips on eating out with food allergies, read this post. Below is a list of restaurants that we eat at or have come across with an allergy-friendly menu. Keep in mind that this list is a work in progress and will be added to as necessary.  You can find this list in the sidebar on the right under 'Pages' and 'Allergy-Friendly Restaurants'.

Check out these restaurants for their allergy menus and/or ingredient lists:
  • Fatz Cafe - located in SC, NC, TN, GA and VA. This is one of the restaurants I've had the best experience with. We took the allergy menu with us to the restaurant and showed the waitress what we wanted to order for our daughter. She took it to the manager who came out to our table to find out himself exactly what her allergies were and assured us that her food would be cooked on a separate surface from all the other foods being cooked. They get an A+ in my book!
  • Chili's - Click their link to find their allergy menu information. Great resource! We've never had a bad experience there, so we continue to go back.
  • Red Robin - I haven't tried this restaurant in the allergy realm of things, but their website does list a menu for the wheat/gluten allergy or you can email them to find out about other specific allergy lists in their menu. Check it out!
  • Chuck E. Cheese - Click on this link to find info about allergens in their foods. If you don't find what you're looking for, they invite you to email them and they will get back with you.
  • Taco Bell - Click this link for a list of all the menu items and what allergens, if any, they contain. Great resource!
  • McDonald's - Click this link for a list of all menu items and their ingredients. If you have a milk allergy - CHECK OUT THE FRENCH FRY INGREDIENTS! In the U.S., the fries contain milk. In Canada, they do not contain milk.
  • On The Border - Click the link for the allergy menus for this restaurant. If you'll notice near the top of each menu, it gives a date that you can expect the menus to be accurate until. So, be sure your allergy menu is up-to-date when you order off of it. If the date has expired, I would definitely have the waiter double check the ingredients.
  • Rita's Italian Ice - Yes! They have an allergy menu! Check them out!
  • Salsarita's - Allergy Menu now available!! One of my favorite places to eat! **Just be sure the preparer of your food puts new gloves on before touching your food. Cross-contamination is also very dangerous for some of us!
  • P.F. Chang's China Bistro - They have only a vegetarian or gluten-free menu in addition to their normal menu, but they do not list ingredients.
  • Longhorn Steakhouse - Offers a gluten-free menu.
  • O'Charley's - Offers a list of common allergens and lists all the foods on their menu that contain those allergens! Great resource!
  • Chick-fil-a - They have a list of their products naming the allergen/s in each food on their menu. Click the link to read their allergy statemtent. *Be advised that they do use peanut oil, but it has been noted that peanut oil does not necessarily cause an allergic reaction in individuals with a peanut allergy.* I haven't personally put this to the test because my daughter can't eat anything there due to other allergies.
  • Johnny Rockets - Click the name to find a list of all the ingredients in each menu item along with each common allergen listed in bold at the end of each item. Very helpful!!
  • The Lady & Sons Restaurant - Savannah, GA - This is an allergy statement from this restaurant. Everything is fried in peanut oil. There is not a list of menu items and the allergies they may contain, so eat at your own risk. Their statement is to talk to your server about any allergies you may have.
  • Outback Steakhouse - This is a link to their statement on allergens. Specifically peanuts, dairy and gluten.
  • SteaknShake - This is a link to their allergy statement and ingredient list for each item on the menu. Great resource!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bite-Size Banana Pie {Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free}

One way to make homework seem a little less daunting after school, is to have a spontaneous, fun after-school snack. It's amazing the power food has over us. I try to give my kids fruit most of the time for snacks, and it usually works, but they can get a little tired of plain fruit so every once in awhile I add some variety. If you are not allergic to wheat or soy, Keebler Ready Crust Mini Graham Cracker Crusts are perfect to keep on hand. You can fill them with pudding, fruit, jello, etc. and the kids love them! Today I made these...

Bite-Size Banana Pie {Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free}

Keebler Ready Crust Mini Graham Cracker Crusts
Hershey's Chocolate Syrup {the regular one is dairy-free, nut-free}
Colorful Sprinkles
Dairy-Free Whipped Topping {optional}

Fill each crust with sliced bananas, drizzle chocolate syrup over them, top with whipped cream and/or sprinkles. I didn't have coconut milk on hand so I couldn't make my dairy-free whipped topping today, but click for the recipe. Serve immediately!

My kids loved these and it made this cloudy day seem so much more exciting! {Nevermind the fact that they are excited to get to see their Grammy & Papa tomorrow - I'm sure that has nothing to do with their excitement. yeah, right.}

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Coconut Oil: The Good Saturated Fat

I have long been searching for a good coconut oil to use that hasn't been processed around peanuts. I finally found one thanks to Surviving the Stores who posted this deal last week for a great deal on organic extra virgin coconut oil. Nutiva brand has not been processed around peanuts, unlike most other coconut oils that I have come across in the grocery stores. I am really looking forward to using this and seeing some lasting benefits.

The jar of coconut oil from Nutiva states: 'Coconut is one of the world's most nourishing foods.' Nutiva's brand is:
* Cold-Pressed & Pure White: Not refined, deodorized or bleached!
* Organic: Made without pesticides, GMO's, or hexane.
* Versatile: Ideal as a high-heat cooking oil (up to 350 degrees), as a nutritious substitute in baking, and as a "better-than-butter" replacement on bread, vegetables, or popcorn. Also, a luscious oil for skin care, hair care, and massage.

Dr. Mercola has a few things to say about coconut oil here. A few of the benefits he listed stood out to me:
* Improves heart health
* Boosts your thyroid
* Increases metabolism
* Promotes a lean body and weight loss, if needed
* Supports your immune system

Go get yours today!

*Nutiva did not ask me to promote them, nor did I receive compensation for blogging about them. I simply wanted to make you aware of this coconut oil that has NOT been processed around peanuts.*

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Great Panini {Dairy-Free, Egg-Free}

I'm pretty sure I fooled some people last year into thinking I was a really good girl because I got some great stuff for Christmas this year! One thing I got was a panini press from my sister and bro-in-law. I've had my eye on these for awhile, but never had bought one and this was my lucky year! So, Hubs and I have been experimenting with our favorite food combinations and I thought I'd share a couple with you.

Ham & Cheese Panini {Dairy-Free, Egg-Free}

Bread of your choice {Preferably thick bread, but sandwich bread works.}
Sliced ham of your choice
1/4 c Tofutti Cream Cheese, softened {this is Dairy-Free}
1-2 Green Onions, chopped
2 T Worcestershire Sauce
Garlic Powder {optional}

Heat up your panini press according to manufacturer's instructions.
Mix together Tofutti Cream Cheese, onions, worcestershire sauce and garlic powder.
Spread Smart Balance Light {Dairy-Free} on the bottom slice of bread. {If you are not allergic to eggs, use Mayo - it browns very nice!} Place on the panini.
Spread cream cheese mixture on top of the bread, add ham slices.
Spread cream cheese mixture onto bottom of the top piece of bread and place cheese side down on the ham.
Spread Smart Balance Light on the top of the top piece of bread and close panini press.
Heat until bread is golden brown.
Serve hot!

Buffalo Chicken Panini {Egg-Free}

Bread of your choice {Egg-Free}
Grilled Chicken, sliced thin
1/4 c Blue Cheese Dressing
3 T Frank's Red Hot Sauce
Blue Cheese Crumbles
Pepper Jack Cheese Slices

Heat up panini press. Mix together 1/4 cup Blue Cheese Dressing and 3 T Frank's Red Hot Sauce. Set aside. Spread Smart Balance Light {Dairy-Free} on bottom of bottom slice of bread. Place on panini press. Spread Hot Sauce mixture on top of that piece of bread. Place a slice of pepper jack cheese, then 4 thin slices of grilled chicken. Add blue cheese crumbles. Place another slice of pepper jack cheese on top of that. Then, spread hot sauce mixture on the bottom of the top slice of bread. Place face down on top of cheese. Spread Smart Balace Light on the top of the top piece and close panini press. Grill until golden brown and cheese is melted.
Serve Hot!

Friday, January 6, 2012

BBQ Popcorn {Dairy-Free} Taking Movie Night to a Whole New Level

One thing I love about popcorn is that it is so versatile! It's a great snack to eat instead of chips and it's a whole grain, so it's healthy {minus all the dripping butter}. I posted awhile back about taking popcorn to the next stage - stepping outside the 'movie theater' popcorn box, so to speak - and showed you how to make Pizza Popcorn. That was yummy! Today I made some of this:

BBQ Popcorn {Dairy-Free}

1/2 cup popcorn kernels
Spray Crisco or Pam
BBQ Seasoning {I used Paula Deen's}
Black Pepper

Pop the pocorn according to package directions. I used an air popper so no oil was used during preparation. Once popped, spray a light dusting of Crisco or Pam on the top layer and sprinkle some BBQ seasoning on top. With a large spoon or your hands, mix the popcorn up and repeat the spray & sprinkle steps. Mix again and sprinkle more if needed. Finally, sprinkle a bit of black pepper on the very top. Spoon into bowls and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Healthy Living 2012

No, this isn't my new year's resolution. I'm just trying to rethink how my family eats. I need to eat healthier and kick the soda habit...yes, I love Coca Cola. And sweet tea. And it doesn't help that Sonic Happy Hour is right after school gets out and I have to drive past it to get home. But anyway, this isn't just about soda and sweet tea. I think it's all great in moderation, but this is more about changing my family's daily sugar habits. My kids eat pretty healthy already {I don't buy juice, etc. - they drink water.} and they love fruit. So, it makes my life as Mom easier. But, if you're an adult and wanting to eat healthier, I may post some of my daily menus here in the coming days.

Today's Menu:
1 serving Uncle Sam's High Fiber Cereal {contains wheat}
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 serving strawberries
2 pieces turkey bacon
Hot tea with Raw Stevia

Mid-Morning Snack:
1/2 cup plain, low-fat yogurt {or coconut milk yogurt} mixed with 2T sugar free blackberry jam

Black Bean Chili
{1 can black beans, 1 can HOT Rotel - Heat together in a saucepan until beans are tender. Serve with Tofutti brand sour cream and other veggies you might like in your chili.}

Afternoon Snack:
1 whole apple

Grilled Chicken
Green Salad with lots of raw veggies
Balsamic Vinagrette {balsamic vinegar and olive oil mixed together with garlic salt, onion powder}
Roasted Asparagus {Lay asparagaus on pan, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper; Bake at 400 for 8-10 min}
Serving of fruit for the kids

Monday, January 2, 2012

Potato Pancakes {Egg-free, Dairy-free}

Who doesn't love mashed potatoes? Well, if you are with me on the I {heart} mashed potatoes! bandwagon, you will love potato pancakes. My family reminded me of these at Christmas when we were sitting around the dinner table staring at a bowl of half-eaten creamy mashed potatoes. I'm pretty sure my brother-in-law had never heard of potato pancakes before or had never had any, so that night when the leftovers made their appearance, he made some. I got to taste it and it was pretty good! Brought back lots of memories - like the time my grandparents were staying with my siblings and I and my Mamaw made these for dinner {some with onion, some without}. My brother thought he'd be funny and placed one of the onion ones on the non-onion plate where my sister would be sure to grab. Sure enough, she took that one and it only took one bite for her to know somebody was up to no good. We all laughed, but my sister got the last laugh when my papaw made my brother take the one he tried to get my sister to eat and made him eat the whole entire thing. That is one memory we will never forget.

So, all that to say - You need to try these!!

Potato Pancakes {Dairy-free, Egg-free}

{Serves 2} Recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc.

2 cups mashed potatoes
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 1 Tbsp. water
1/4 cup flour
chopped onion or minced onion, optional
oil or Crisco for frying

Mix ingredients together until completely combined. {You want the consistency to be a little thicker than a normal pancake batter, so add a bit of almond milk if needed to achieve desired consistency.} Heat oil or Crisco in skillet until hot. Add a spoonfuls of potato mixture to hot pan, leaving space in between each pancake. Flip pancake when edges start to brown. Set on paper towel to drain oil. Serve hot with a dallop of Tofutti brand sour cream, if desired.