Thursday, November 28, 2013

My Thanksgiving menu

I'll be honest, I have not always been an enthusiastic cook.  Complicated dishes and exotic ingredients used to scare me.  I used to think that making a chicken pot-pie from scratch meant using a refrigerated pie crust, canned broth, and leftover roasted chicken.

Managing multiple food allergies has brought me a whole new understanding of homemade.  And over time I've developed confidence tackling tricky recipes, and a daring to embrace exotic ingredients.

Something else snuck up on me in the process.  A true enjoyment of the challenge of making mainstream foods into allergy friendly delights.  It's so rewarding to craft creatively tasty treats that help my children feel 'normal', and make them smile.

So, I now volunteer to cook for my extended family on holidays.  I love it.  I know that all the foods will be safe for my munchkins, and I enjoy the process of cooking it all.  Really!  (The bonus is a freezer full of whatever leftovers there may be!)

Here's what I'm fixing this Thanksgiving day, all free of the top 8- and then some!

mashed potatoes
sweet potato casserole
roasted cauliflower
roasted brussels sprouts
cranberry sauce

apple pie with coconut whipped cream
pumpkin pie with a rustic pumpkin seed crust
pumpkin roll
sunbutter mouse with chocolate sauce drizzle

The biggest surprise for my family was our discovery that everyone LOVES the roasted vegetables.  Even the kids.  We never have leftovers.  Ever.

Here's hoping that your Thanksgiving day is full of safe, satisfying food and friendly family gatherings!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

Time to gear up for another week of eating, for tomorrow I grocery shop.  My pantry is almost bare, so this week will be a large trip, stocking up on basics that I have allowed to disappear entirely from my shelves.  I'm sure everyone there will think I am over reacting to the tiny amount of snow in our forecast this week, but that's alright.  I'm used to people looking at my shopping cart in disbelief.

Here we go.  Same rules as always: rotate the protein, fill in the veggies and fruits in a somewhat rotated fashion with whatever is on sale at the market this week.  All links are to the original recipe and may not reflect changes that I make to accommodate our dietary restrictions.

Breakfast: pork sausage, sauteed veggies, pear slices
Lunch: pork sausage
Dinner: salmon, brussels sprouts, pineapple and pomegranate arils

Breakfast: cream of buckwheat
Lunch: sunbutter and apples
Dinner: Turkey meatloaf, dairy free 'mac-n-cheeze', broccoli

Breakfast: turkey sausage, sauteed veggies
Lunch: meatloaf
Dinner: vegan split pea soup with cornbread

Breakfast: black bean and sweet potato chipotle sauté
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: slow cooker beef stew with quinoa

Breakfast: cranberry orange muffins and green smoothie
Lunch: beef stew
Dinner: keilbasa with fried cabbage and mashed potatoes

Breakfast: bacon, spiced peaches, orange smoothie
Lunch: italian sausage soup
Dinner: costa rican tilapia, honey glazed carrots

Breakfast: pancakes with blueberry reduction
Lunch: fish sticks
Dinner: herb crusted turkey breast, roasted maple acorn squash, green beans with caramelized shallots

Eat well, and enjoy your week!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Let them eat deliciously!

I was lucky enough to attend the first annual Food Allergy Bloggers Conference in Las Vegas recently, and wanted to share with you what I consider a feat worth noticing: the food.

Chef Keith Norman of the Southpoint Hotel and Casino stepped up to the plate in a big way.  I can only imagine his first reaction when learning  that the hotel had agreed to host a conference for people that specialize in (and have) multiple food restrictions.  I'm sure he wasn't exactly tingling with excitement at the thought of accommodating so many special needs eaters.

But accommodate he did.  Chef Norman showed he has mad skillz by providing not just a tasy meal, but an impressive spread of allergy friendly choices that allowed every person there to enjoy a safe meal.

The food was creative and well executed.  It made a powerful demonstration that when they so chose, a high quality chef can create fabulous food with minimal ingredients, avoiding allergens without sacrificing flavor.  I can not count the number of times my family has dined out and gotten a meal that the chef failed to attempt any type of flavor, including salt or pepper.  Plain meat: broiled, plain veggie: steamed,  fresh fruit.  I appreciate that they are taking our restrictions seriously and avoiding any cross contamination.  I appreciate that they aren't taking risks.  But, as a chef, if that is the best you can do there is room for professional growth.

I heard people all around the room remarking how wonderful it was to be able to eat the food provided without concern for it's safety.  I know I certainly didn't feel deprived, or feel that the food was bland or boring.  Bland and boring often happen at allergy conferences when so many dietary restrictions are present and the chef is trying to create a universally safe meal.

Huge accolades to Chef Norman, who has set the bar high for other allergy friendly events.  Equal appreciation goes to Sanofi, who sponsored meals, because they know they way to a food bloggers heart is to feed them well!  The generous spread at each meal shows that the sponsor and the organizers all recognize that creativity must have proper fuel, and the learning and inspiration happening at this conference would create bodies that need recharged with high quality fuel.

The organizers, Jenny Sprague and Homa Woodrum should be quite proud of the way their hard work came together with the fabulous support of Sanofi and the superb execution of Chef Norman.

Thank you to everyone involved in creating such wonderful and safe food!

Friday, November 8, 2013

FAB Bloggers Convention

I had the enormous pleasure of being able to attend the first annual Food Allergy Bloggers Conference in Las Vegas earlier this week.

It was invigorating, inspiring, and exhausting all at the same time!  Being surrounded by the positive energy of a community that understands the challenges of living with dietary restrictions and is driven to support anyone who is also facing that challenge is uplifting.  The conference was full of people that had to develop a new way of thinking about food because of the way their body reacts to it, and took that challenge into the world with a determination to make sure the road is easier for others to navigate.
I can't describe how inspiring it is to be able to call them my community, this room full of people that are striving to make the world a better and safer place for everyone to live and eat.

The exhausting part? A twofold challenge of trying to push my body to adapt to the time zone difference (Three hours later, THEN toss in daylight savings time for fun. Bedtime is when?!) and trying to push past my normal tendency toward being a shy introvert and remain engaged in and open to the interactions around me.

I love that the community I am part of is so welcoming.  There were no assumptions made about the validity of the dietary restrictions each person had, just a desire to help boost fellow advocates to success.  A desire to help leverage the strengths in the room  to advance awareness and acceptance for anyone who needs to eat in a way outside the socially accepted norms.

Sanofi came through in a big way, sponsoring Chef Keith Norman's culinary ability to deliver allergy friendly fare that was by far the tastiest I have ever had an an allergy function.  Southpoint Hotel is lucky to have someone who recognizes that it is possible to cook safe food that is still flavorful!  So many safe choices at each meal, but not one bland dish in sight!  Many thanks to Sanofi for sponsoring meals, and thanks to Chef Norman for delivering such high quality.

The swag bags (yes- that was plural!) were ridiculously generous.  I think I need another post to talk about the full size samples and products contained within.  I am elated to have increased the allergy friendly library of books and products that I can show to my coaching clients before they decide to buy!  Nothing beats a hands on review to determine if a product suits your needs.

The material covered within the sessions ranged from basic to high level advanced knowledge, all of it flowing to include every level of learner.  Speakers shared facts, ideas, and inspiration to fuel our desire to engage the world around us and pull them along on our allergy aware journey.

I would love to share with you the highlights of the conference information, but there is not a better way to capture it than to search #FABlogcon on twitter, where many of us were live tweeting the information as it came out.  Good stuff.

Here's a glimpse at information covered in just the sessions that I attended:

  • How to build the brand that is YOU.
  • The way your child's age impacts the challenges of managing dietary restrictions.
  • How to create your OWN recipe, free from foods that you can not eat.
  • The fine art of taking pictures that showcase the foods you create.
  • Deciding if self publishing or traditional publishing is right for the book living inside of you.
  • How to craft a professional and attractive blog that lets readers focus on the message rather than the look.
  • Tips for pushing through adversity with your sanity and your smile intact.
  • Mind blowing coverage of research advances with the potential to change the way we handle allergies.
  • How to advocate effectively at any level: personally, locally, or larger.

For detailed breakdown of lessons learned, search the #FABlogcon tag on twitter.  Lots of information nuggets there from those of us live tweeting as we learned.  If you don't do twitter, there's a compilation of blog summaries you can cruise through to learn about the conference from other attendees as well.

I look forward to sharing more with you in the near future!