Sunday, February 28, 2010

Allergy Free Olympic Hockey Game Menu

Allergy free cooking for this afternoon has begun with Adobo Marinade. As I've said before, Mexican cooking (without seeds, peanuts and tree nuts) lends itself brilliantly to the allergy-free lifestyle. With its emphasis on big flavor, simple ingredients and fresh vegetables, it is not only delicious, but has tons of antioxidants.  (I'm sounding like an advertisement now...I'll stop!)  I made enough of the marinade so that I'll have some leftover to put in the fridge for next time - or perhaps our daughter would like to try some on her chicken this evening. I know you'd think she'd love it, but just remember, because one has allergies doesn't mean they're not picky!  This is a child whose food cannot touch and who likes to eat in courses.  More on that later.

Today's Olympic Hockey viewing menu:

Marinated Flank Steak (child allergic to beef - note: make chicken first)
Chicken Adobo (using the same marinade for the flank steak)
Chipotle Salsa
Roasted Tomato Salsa
Mango Salad
Tortillas (corn of course)
Roasted Vidalia Onions
Jalapeno pickles (made last weekend without mustard!)

All recipes are free of wheat, milk, eggs, gluten, soy, nuts, tree nuts, seeds, and more.  Our most difficult allergy is now Mustard as it means I must make my own pickled Jalapenos.  But it's worth it - they're delicious!  The only thing on this "allergy free" menu that our allergic kid can't have is the steak - so I'll make that up separately and most probably after I make up the chicken.  And the other good news is that with the exception of the salsa (already made by my husband) almost everything else only requires either roasting, chopping or tossing.

Friday, February 26, 2010

26 February 2010: Snow Day!

Photo credit ©2010 by Heidi Bayer All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

23 February 2010: Photo of the Day

  Photo credit ©2010 by Heidi Bayer All Rights Reserved

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How I Unlearned How To Cook

@Ruhlman posted on Twitter yesterday a request that people (I guess this means bloggers) write about why they like to cook.

I thought I would take that a step further and write about how I unlearned how to cook.

One Christmas, before our daughter was born, my mother sent me My Aunt's self-published cookbook with her families favorite recipes.  A number of them were quite good.  All of them called for either butter, cream of mushroom soup, milk, eggs, and nuts.  It was a functional cookbook, and I, for the most part, was a functional cook.

I always enjoyed cooking and one Christmas tackled roasted chestnut stuffing, and home made egg nog.  I drank the egg nog while making the stuffing, and nine months later, our first (and so far only) child was born.

The food allergies that we discovered in her first year went the usual food allergy route. As one would expect the full body eczema and anaphylactic reactions were caused by wheat, eggs, milk, rye, millet, nuts, tree nuts and soy.  Yes, I say the usual and expected, because the unusual and unexpected food allergies were yet to come when she was around three.

Faced with the challenge of over 30 food allergies when our daughter was three I was forced to unlearn everything I knew about food and cooking.

Eleven years ago, I realized I had to learn about organic farming and how it differed.  I was forced to research high fructose corn syrup (corn allergy).  It was a requirement that I know just how and why hydrogenated oils came into our food supply. What was the reason why sugar was so white while raw sugar was not?  I discovered which manufacturers added Dextrose (corn) to salt. I researched how many chemicals were being added to our tap water. I had to find out what those scientific words in the ingredients list really meant.  I learned about mercury in the fish supply.  I learned what animals were being fed antibiotics, and why buy local.  I learned about pesticide use all over the world and how they differed from country to country.  I stumbled upon the early raw vegan movement.  I called food manufacturer after food manufacturer making sure that packaged foods were going to be alright to feed to my toddler. I learned how to make sure my child was getting all her nutrients without being able to eat the normal American diet and without being able to tolerate supplements.

Which leads me back to cooking.

I had to learn how to make cookies out of four ingredients - yes, four ingredients only.  And I had to learn how to make a birthday cake using only rice flour, water, olive oil and pears.  And so it began.  My love for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.  My own recipes for gluten free, egg free, milk free food  - ALL FREE - are proof.

Life is much different now - with the plethora of amazing cookbooks on the market, and the awareness of food allergies in the medical community, restaurant community and general population - our lives have changed for the better.  Although I now have reading glasses, being able to read ingredients list on a package that doesn't read like a science experiment is a godsend.  Manufacturers printing "may contain" and information on how their product is stored and whether or not they use shared equipment has increased our quality of life ten fold.

But the best result from all this unlearning how to cook?  Our daughter.  Tall, beautiful, healthy...and always hungry... ;)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Food Allergic River: Grandma's Visit

While I was making jambalaya and chili ancho rubbed skirt steak this afternoon I was thinking of how I could explain to those aspiring to cook for my family how best to approach preparing safe food that is "separate" but being cooked on the same stovetop as an unsafe food.

I divide the stove into two parts, left and right.  On the left is the "unsafe" food that my husband and I can eat.  On the right is "safe" food for our food allergic child who cannot have steak (among many other things).  Her (and our) jambalaya is made with chicken sausage (and no shrimp in case you're wondering).  The outcome is we have one dish we can all eat, and one dish that Jim and I will share.  We will also have a veggie that is shared - today it was plain steamed broccoli.

We've developed our strategy over the past 12 years and perfected it to be second nature.  Different spoons that only go into their respective pots and/or pans; timing on frying unsafe foods next to safe foods to minimize splatter.  The moment the spoon "crosses the line" we have to figure out what to do with the meal.  Do we forget it and move onto a new meal?  Or, do we take a clean utensil and get rid of the contaminated food at the point of impact and around.  Luckily this is something we rarely have to confront anymore.

Except when Grandma comes.

When Grandma comes, our normally well controlled food allergic kitchen becomes confusing and chaotic. Within moments of arriving in the kitchen, Grandma has spoons dipping into Steak laden sauces, and quickly mixed with our child's Turkey chili.  Dishes are ill-washed with rags that cleaned up the steak juice spill on the counter, leaving Jim and I to merely gasp.  Though Grandma means well, her presence and inability to sit idly by while we do the cooking is a source of incredible stress for us.

The other unique phenomenon that happens with Grandma, and many other family members, is that they're never quite sure what our daughter's allergies are. And instead of asking before they come, they'd like to make it into an hour long discussion during their visit. If there's one thing we've learned, it's that having long drawn out discussions about food allergies in front of a food allergic child is uncomfortable for us and for them. We try to limit those conversations when at all possible and deflect with sentences like, "She's thirteen now and has an exemplary diet, is right on track for weight and height, and is very intelligent."

Life isn't all about food. Or is it?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wonder Wednesday: The Thinker

Photo Credit ©2010 by Heidi Bayer All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 11, 2010

Music Monday: Konceptions at Korzo Tuesday 12 Jan 10

Today (taking a cue from Twitter) is Music Monday featuring a weekly round up of live music in and around Brooklyn, NY.  (Until I can manage to fragment these disparate and random ramblings, please bear with me while I place them here on this blog.) Firstly and perhaps entirely is Konceptions, a musical series curated by James Carney (disclosure, he's my husband).  Konceptions is presented at Korzo on 5th avenue between 20th and 19th in Brooklyn every Tuesday night with sets at 9:30pm and 11pm. Konceptions was conceived to be a simple jazz series that encouraged musicians to try out their new tunes, form new groups, spread out and explore in a laid back supportive environment.

Tuesday, which would be tomorrow for those of you who have not yet had your third cup of coffee, boasts a lineup of two power trios: At 9:30pm Todd Sickafoose, Erik Deutsch, and Ben Perowski. Then, at 11:00pm the irrisistible Tom Rainey, Ingrid Laubrock and Mary Halvorsen.

My very own very biased opinion about Konceptions and the quality of music coming out of Korzo on Tuesday nights is that it's a series that is not to be missed.  Where else in Brooklyn can you see the best of the best for the price of a hamburger ($7) and no pressure to purchase the amazing European beers on tap?  Do you really want to travel into Manhattan and have a $125 night on a Tuesday?  Don't answer that.

But wait!  There's more.

Other places worth a mentioning in Park Slope & South Slope Brooklyn:

Enjoy the week with music.

Friday, January 8, 2010

2010 Review: Cookbooks from a Food Allergic POV

Photo ©2010 by Heidi Bayer.  All Rights Reserved.

Managing my own food allergies along with those of my husband and twelve year old can be daunting.  After twelve years I think I've got it down.  It still takes a good two hours of my day, every day.  Here are five cookbooks in my kitchen cabinet that I use often.

The first cookbook is the one that I will say I could not live without is:

1.  SPECIAL FOODS FOR SPECIAL KIDS by Todd Adelman and Jodi Behrend
A huge shout out to Todd and Jodi for devising this cookbook. Parents and kids will enjoy sitting down and devouring this book together. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Todd through one of his taste testers. This cookbook is so well thought out and written that I have not found a recipe yet that didn't come out perfectly.  From the snickerdoodles to the cornbread and main dishes, this is a must have for any food allergic parent. The recipes are clear and the line art illustrations are wonderful.  It also has excellent substitution suggestions for those of us with multiple food allergies.

2.  VEGAN LUNCHBOX by Jennifer McCann
Although some of the recipes are a bit daunting and time consuming, who can argue with trying to get more veggies into your children?  The recipe for Sneaky Mama's Tomato Sauce incoporates kale without sacrificing color or taste.  This book is worth it just for Jennifer's recipe and her step by step instructions for sushi rice.  You'll never order out for vegan sushi again! 

This is a difficult book for us since we avoid chickpeas, quadrapeds, lentils and nuts; however, I mention it because of some of the incredibly tasty recipes for veggies and the different way of looking at food preparation.  Of gastronomic and nutritional interest to us are the Syrian mushrooms, the carrot spread, cauliflower saute and the white bean dip.  Claudia presents simple, delicious recipes for everyday food. Additionally, learning how to integrate a dried lime into lamb stew (for those of us who can have quadrapeds) is a real taste enhancer and the chicken dish with honey and rosewater is perfect for a cold winter night.

4.  THE GOODHOUSEKEEPING COOKBOOK edited by Susan Westmoreland
Solid recipes and an updated appendix make this book a must have in every cook's library  I've used many of these recipes as a base and substituted ingredients when necessary with very little disappointment.

5.  MEXICAN EVERYDAY by Rick Bayless and 
ROSA'S NEW MEXICAN TABLE by Roberto Santibanez
These two books are for everyone who loves Mexican food.  Rick's book is contains recipes that can be made within an hour, where Roberto's book is for advanced cooks who really want to dive into Mexican food like your abuela (grandmother) did.  Roberto's book taught me how to make amazing pinto beans from scratch after eight years of trial and error.  His recipe is simple, and I'm not going to reveal it here - buy the book, it's worth it!  Rick's book contains a wonderful skillet upside down cake which easy and deliciouso! (of course I had to change it to be gluten free, egg free and dairy free, but I found it wasn't difficult!)  We eat a lot of Mexican food since we find that it is very forgiving to food allergics and it agrees with our tastes and our cravings.  We couldn't live without these two books.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year's Walk with Angels

     photo ©2010 by Heidi Bayer. All Rights Reserved