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