A simple camp cookout…

Seems pretty simple and straightforward; hot dogs, chips, apples and drinks. My son’s camp planned a fun lunch cookout today for the kids. They get to eat hot dogs and hang with their friends on the beach. But for my son John, and like many other food allergic kids, it is never that simple.

I got the flyer about the cookout sent home in my son’s backpack yesterday, and already my soon to be 7 year old started worrying about it. “Is it safe for me? Can I eat with everyone else tomorrow?” I answered my usual, “I don’t know, I’ll have to call the director to find out. But I am sure we can work something out, so don’t worry about it, OK?”. I always try to downplay my reaction to these sorts of things so I don’t sound like the food police or some kind of mommy alarmist. But John persisted. “When are you going to find out? Can you call him today?” I said I would try, but thought his director might be gone for the day. “I’ll follow up in the morning”, I finally answered.

Fast forward to this morning. John brought it up right after breakfast. “Did you call?” was the first question out of his mouth. ” No John, I will talk to him this morning. They are probably not there yet.” I assured him, again, that I would make a backup lunch for him just in case, and talk to the director at drop off. I could tell this issue¬†left him unsettled. Once we got to camp I asked the director to check the ingredients of the buns to make sure there were no milk products in it (I knew the brand of hot dogs was OK) and to call me. So that was it, and I waited for his call later in the morning.

I heard from him a short time later and was informed there were, in fact milk products in the buns they bought. The offered to just let John eat plain hot dogs with no bun. No way, I thought. There’s no fun in eating a plain hot dog without a bun, especially when you’re at the beach with all your friends. I picked up a pack of safe hot dog buns and dropped them off before lunch. I am hoping my little guy had a nice, uneventful cookout after all.

One more note on camp dining; it IS different than eating in a lunchroom. Less supervised, no “peanut free” zones and everything in general is more relaxed than in a school atmosphere. What I didn’t realize is how exclusionary it can be for kids with allergies. This whole summer I thought my son was eating in a safe, designated area of the camp shelter with picnic tables and such. But John just let me know that he eats alone every day with his camp counselor on a bench, outside the shelter where the other kids are eating. My heart sank into the pit of my stomach. I asked why, because this whole time I thought he sat with the other kids at a cleaned table. John told me a lot of kids bring peanut butter to camp, and that he felt safer eating elsewhere. He never brought this up to me before, and it really pains me to know he never mentioned anything. It is yet another reminder that food allergies can be very isolating.¬†

After this camp season is over I am going to discuss food allergy management policies and control procedures at our local park district. I think there needs to be some consensus on how to handle lunchtime at camps, and field trips. I think overall our park district has done a great job, but they could benefit from some clearer guidelines at parks, etc. It is my hope that next summer, no child with an allergy ever has to eat alone on a bench.

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Blueberry Buckle

_rkp31231This morning I had a hankering for something blueberry. I have all these wonderful, fresh blueberries from the market and wanted to make a sweet dessert with my kids, mostly to pass the time on this warm, summer day. The first treat that came to mind was my dairy, egg and nut free Blueberry Buckle. What’s a buckle, you might ask? It’s really a fancy word for a coffee cake, but if you look back in old cookbooks they’ll tell you the name is derived from how the dessert is baked: a rich cake with a single layer of berries, topped with a crumb mixture. The “buckle” is the uneven appearance of the top after it has baked in the oven.

This little homey dessert is a true slice of heaven, for so many reasons. For starters, it is super simple to make with your kids. My 4 year old Matthew poured all the ingredients into the bowl and helped me mix. After I poured the thick batter in a 9 inch square dish, my soon to be 3 year old David sprinkled the blueberries all over the batter. After cutting in dairy free margarine into a cinnamon, sugar and flour mixture, the boys helped sprinkle the crumb topping over the layer of blueberries. They loved using their hands to assemble the buckle, and I love that they are enjoying a sensory rich tactile activity too.

This dessert is incredible warm from the oven, either alone or with a scoop of dairy free ice cream. I think it is just as fabulous for breakfast as it is for a dessert after an afternoon picnic. The next time you have a pint of blueberries, make this little gem with your kiddos. I can promise they will love making it almost as much as they will love eating it!

BLUEBERRY BUCKLE

 

This is another excuse for me to serve vanilla soy ice cream with a yummy cake. It is a simple cake loaded with fresh fruit and topped with a crunchy streusel topping. You could substitute another fruit for the blueberries if you wish.

 

¬Ĺ c. dairy free shortening

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1 T. water

2 c. unbleached all purpose flour

2 ¬Ĺ tsp. baking powder

¬ľ tsp. salt

¬Ĺ c. Soy or Rice milk

2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp. lemon zest

1/2 c. blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1 tsp. cinnamon

¬ľ c. dairy free margarine

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 inch baking dish with dairy free baking spray.

 

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream shortening and ¬Ĺ c. of the sugar until light and fluffy. Add water and mix until combined.

 

In a medium bowl combine 2 c. of the flour, baking powder and salt with a wire whisk. Add flour mixture to shortening mixture and mix alternatively with soy milk. Pour batter into prepared dish.

 

Combine the lemon juice, zest and blueberries in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over batter in dish and top with crumb topping (See below). Bake 50-60 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Serve warm with soy ice cream.

 

 

 

CRUMB TOPPING

Mix remaining ¬Ĺ c. flour, ¬Ĺ c. sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in ¬ľ c. dairy free margarine with your fingers and sprinkle over berries.

 

Yield: 1 cake

 

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Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Oatmeal Raspberry Bars

When my son John was¬†diagnosed with food allergies, I remember one of the first things I searched my local grocery store for were allergen safe cereal bars. With my daughter, they were were the perfect on the go snack, packed with nutrition, soft and chewy (perfect for little toddlers who like to “gum” instead of chew food) and most important were easy to pack in my diaper bag. At first there were no dairy, egg and nut free options available. So then I trekked to Whole Foods, thinking surely they must have some kind of healthy, all natural cereal bar John could eat. I found nothing. This was six years ago, and believe me when I tell you there weren’t as many options then as there are now.

So I gave up for a while, resorting to fresh fruit, dried fruit and allergen safe crackers.to pack in my diaper¬†bag.¬†But then I came across my mother’s old stack of favorite recipes. They were typewritten on stacks of construction paper, and I recognized an old favorite of mine, Raspberry Bars. That was it…I knew I had to modify it to make it allergen safe, but also to experience the delicious home baked joy of these bars.

With a few adjustments I can proudly say these are safe¬†AND delicious. It doesn’t even matter that they don’t contain dairy, eggs or nuts because they are just plain yummy. The smell of the bars baking in the kitchen can’t be beat either. Use any jam you like, or homemade summer berry preserves would be even better. This is also a really fun recipe to make with your kids as they love to pat the oat mixture into the pan and help spread the jam all over. It couldn’t be any easier. Enjoy!

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DAIRY, EGG AND NUT FREE OATMEAL RASBERRY BARS

  

¬Ĺ c. dairy free margarine, room temperature

1 c. light brown sugar

1 ¬Ĺ c. unbleached all purpose flour

¬Ĺ tsp. baking soda

¬ľ tsp. salt

1 ¬Ĺ c. quick cooking oats

¬ľ c. water

1 1/2 c. raspberry or strawberry jam

1 tsp. lemon juice

¬Ĺ tsp. grated lemon zest

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 13 x 9 glass Pyrex baking dish with dairy free baking spray.

 

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Add to the margarine mixture and combine until mixture is crumbly, scraping down sides as needed. Add the oats and water; mix with a rubber spatula until just combined.

 

Combine the fruit jam with lemon juice and zest in a small bowl; set aside.

 

Spread half of oatmeal mixture into prepared baking pan. Spread the jam mixture on top of base. Add the remainder of the oats mixture and sprinkle evenly over jam mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set. Cool completely and cut into bars.

 

Yield: 36 bars

Beware of Carry-Out with food allergies…

Last weekend I took the unusual step of ordering in dinner rather than making it. I was exhausted and simply not in the mood to fire up the grill, let alone go to the grocery store. I figured, what do most families do when they are tired and don’t feel like cooking? They order in, of course, the way I used to all the time before I had my son John. Pizza, Thai, Chinese, you name it. Living in the city made it very easy to order anything, from anywhere, at anytime.

Ordering in food is something I rarely, if ever do anymore. With four kids, it can get very expensive. But most important, by ordering in, I lose the¬†ability to have a face to face with the manager on site to discuss my son’s allergies with him/her, and to verify ingredients and food handling practices. But on this occasion I figured it would be OK since I was ordering from a restaurant I have eaten often at (Rosebud Italian), and I knew the menu quite well. What’s the big deal about a little plain spaghetti, right?

So I called. And I was so disturbed at how I was treated when I started asking all the normal food questions I usually ask, such as “Does your marinara sauce have cheese in it?”

“Uh, it’s red sauce” answered the guy sarcastically.

“Right”, I said, ” but does it have Parmesan cheese mixed in it for added flavor? Many restaurants do this, or they use butter as a base rather than olive oil. Can you verify with the chef as I have a child with a severe dairy, nut and legume allergy, and need to know before ordering.”

“Well, OK, hold on a sec” he replied.

The guy got back on the phone and said, why yes, the sauce has cheese in it after all.

“OK, well then I would like to order the kids’ plain spaghetti dressed with olive oil only, no butter”. Also, I added “is your bread dairy free?”

“Huh, like the bread on the table?”

“Yes…..”

“Uh, hold on” he said, and proceeded to put me on hold to verify, but actually he never put me on hold and I heard his entire conversation with what sounded like a fellow wait staffer, not the manager, and certainly it wasn’t the chef.

It went something like this:

“Does the bread have milk in it?”

“What dude?”

“The bread, some lady is asking if there is milk in it”.

“I don’t know man, it’s bread. Just tell her no” he replied very impatiently.

I was really offended and upset, that a. he acted so nonchalant without any regard for the seriousness of my question, and b. his blatant dishonesty. Don’t come back to me to tell me something is safe, when you haven’t checked the package or verified ingredients. Are food allergies still so misunderstood that people do stupid things like this with no regard as to how it could put some one’s life at risk?

At this point, I was so ravenous and my kids were excited to order dinner for once, that Iordered my dinner and my husband’s dinner, and a small order of plain spaghetti. I let it go, and called the manager back an hour later and let him know the liability Rosebud faced when dealing with food allergies in such a careless manner. As a loyal customer, I wanted him to understand the seriousness of the situation.

The kicker to all this is that I secretly ended up making my own little pot of plain spaghetti and jarred sauce for John because I felt uneasy about the whole situation. My confidence in the order was shaken, but I still wanted John to feel like he had an “ordered in” dinner too.

I just can’t help but wonder how different our lives would be if we didn’t have to stand guard every time we want to go out, order in, send our kids to school, camp, play dates, parties, etc. I sometimes experience this when my son is at camp and or school, and I just have my two little guys¬†with me. We eat lunch wherever, grab ice cream cones, get treated to a donut at the grocery store, the list goes on.

But John never complains. Never. He is so tolerant and understanding of his body’s limitations it often breaks my heart whenever I have to say no to something.¬†Last week I took him shopping for new school shoes at the mall, and¬†we were both starving and thirsty. So we went¬†to the¬†cafe, and he knew he¬†couldn’t have all the cookies and¬†pastries in there. But he knew¬†he could have apple¬†juice, and was totally fine with¬†it. He’ll¬†never be able to order a sweet treat from any of those places, but it doesn’t seem to ever¬†bother him.¬†I guess he takes comfort in the fact I will bake for¬†him most days out of the week!

I just wanted to say hats off to my fellow food allergy mamas¬† and their awesome kids. It can’t be easy living with that fear from an early age, but our kids do it every day and they do it with such class and understanding. I am so proud to be a food allergy mama…

Door County Cherry Pie

_rkp3195For those of you who live in the Midwest you are probably familiar with Door County, Wisconsin. It is a popular vacation destination for families because of its sprawling landscape, orchards, fish boils and beautiful sunsets over the lake. For me, whenever I think of Door County I think Cherries. Lots of beautiful and delicious cherries are harvested in Door County every year, 13 million pounds to be exact. Cherry season starts in mid July so we should start seeing some of those gorgeous red jewels at the farmer’s markets beginning this week.

If you like to pick your own cherries, save the date for July 18th in Door County for Summer Cherry Harvest Fest. They’ll have fun family activities such as a Cherry Pie Eating Contest and a Cherry Pit Spit Contest (although I can’t say I’d participate in that one!). I first fell in love with Door County cherries when I tasted my mother in law’s famous Cherry Pie. Every year she freezes a ton of the Door County Cherries, also known as the Montmorency Tart Cherry, to use all year round in her pies. Everyone loves her cherry pie and it is truly special. I had to adapt the recipe for my upcoming book, because I couldn’t imagine my son John never trying her amazing pies.

I made only a few changes to make the pie allergen free, but it tastes as wonderful as her version. I highly recommend using an OXO cherry pitter to make the pitting task much easier. Also, you could make this with canned tart cherries in a pinch, but I can’t emphasize enough the difference fresh-from-the-farm cherries makes in the pie. I love this pie warmed slightly with a dollop of dairy free soy ice cream. Enjoy!!

Door County Cherry Pie

 

My mother-in-law, Jeanne, makes this pie all year long using the fantastic tart cherries of Door County, Wisconsin. She gets them fresh during cherry season and freezes them in quart-sized freezer bags. Get in the habit of picking in-season fruit and freezing for later; your pies will thank you.

  

Yield: 6 servings

 

1 recipe Easy Pie Dough 

6 cups fresh red tart cherries, pitted (or use 6 c. frozen cherries or 2 cans tart or sour pitted cherries, drained)

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon dairy-free margarine, cut into pieces

 

Prepare Easy Pie Dough recipe as directed. Line a 9-inch pie plate with 1 rolled-out disk of dough.

 

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine cherries, cornstarch, and sugar, and microwave for 3 to 4 minutes, until thickened. Stir in vanilla, and pour into prepared pie pan. Dot the top with pieces of dairy-free margarine. Roll out the second disk of dough into a large 11-inch rectangle. Cut the pastry into 1/2-inch strips, and weave dough into a lattice design.

 

Preheat oven to 400¬ļF. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until fruit is bubbling and crust is nicely browned. Cover edges with foil if the crust is browning too quickly. Cool completely on a wire rack.

 

Tip: If you are using canned cherries, make sure they are well drained and rinsed thoroughly. Add drops of red food coloring to give the canned cherries some of their red coloring back. Alternatively use frozen cherries.

 

_rkp3213Easy Pie Dough

 

 

Yield: Makes enough dough for a double-crust 9-inch pie

 

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup dairy-free shortening chilled and cut into small pieces

5‚Äď7 tablespoons ice water

 

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in food processor. Add small pieces of shortening, and pulse a few times until mixture resembles small crumbs. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to flour mixture, pulsing until the dough just comes together. Transfer mixture to a sheet of plastic wrap. Use wrap to pull sides of dough together to form a rounded disk. Chill at least 30 minutes before using.

 

 

 

An All American Dessert for the 4th of July

_rkp2827The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays of the year. It’s a time to gather with family and friends for fireworks, carnivals and parades. It’s also the perfect time for a summer cookout. In my family, I am the one who does all the grilling, not my husband. But truth be told I don’t mind because I love to cook and would much rather do all the grilling, cooking and baking anyway.

This year we’re doing a basic grilling menu: Mini Turkey Burgers, Hot Dogs, Grilled Corn on the Cob, Herbed Pasta Salad and Watermelon and Blueberry Salad. I love to offer two options for desserts, Chocolate Chip Soy Ice Cream Sandwiches (made with my homemade chocolate chip cookies which are the perfect size for sandwiches), and one of my all time favorite desserts, an Apple Pie.

Apple pie is the¬†quintessential All American dessert. It’s homey, delicious and perfectly paired with a scoop of dairy free ice cream. It’s also easy to whip together in a hurry if you have fresh, crisp Granny Smith apples. I have also included my Easy Pie Crust recipe which is quickly made in the food processor. If you are short on time you can make this pie even faster by using store bought Pillsbury Pie Crust (it contains wheat). Homemade is always better, but¬†Pillsbury is a good substitute.

I hope you all have a very Happy Fourth of July!

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Classic Apple Pie

 

Yield: 6 servings

 

1 recipe Easy Pie Dough (see below), divided

1 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

11/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

61/2 cups apples (use a tart variety for best results), peeled, cored, and sliced into thick wedges

2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine, cut into small pieces

Granulated sugar, for sprinkling

 

Prepare Easy Pie Dough recipe as directed. Split recipe in half and set aside.

 

In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt with a wire whisk. Add apples, and mix well using a rubber spatula.

 

Preheat oven to 400¬ļF. Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate with dough, letting dough hang over sides. Fill with apple mixture, and dot with pieces of margarine. Place other dough round over the apples, and seal and flute edges. Sprinkle top of pie with sugar and a few drops of water. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until apples are bubbling and crust is lightly browned. Cover edges with foil if the pie is browning too quickly.

 

Remove from oven, and cool completely on wire rack.

Easy Pie Dough

  

Yield: Makes enough dough for a double-crust 9-inch pie

 

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup dairy-free shortening chilled and cut into small pieces

5‚Äď7 tablespoons ice water

 

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in food processor. Add small pieces of shortening, and pulse a few times until mixture resembles small crumbs. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to flour mixture, pulsing until the dough just comes together. Transfer mixture to a sheet of plastic wrap. Use wrap to pull sides of dough together to form a rounded disk. Chill at least 30 minutes before using.