12 years of Allergy Friendly living…


“Let me love you a little more before you’re not little anymore” – that says it all about my state of mind as my little one celebrates his 12th birthday!

My dad often jokes, ‘Eat to live, live not to eat.’ but I love how we can express our love through food. Dishing out Allergy-Friendly/ Arjun-Friendly fun foods gives me ultimate joy especially on his special day so, every meal on his birthday is carefully thought through…

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Birthday Cake: A no frills (he hates icing) Organic Chocolate cake using wheat flour and eggs since he is no longer allergic to wheat and can eat eggs in baked products 🙂
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Birthday Breakfast: Savory Spinach pancakes made with parboiled rice and Matpe beans + crispy bacon
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Birthday School Lunch: Rice flour dumplings stuffed with delicately spiced mashed potatoes + corn bread + piece of his birthday cake. And, of course a note to say how proud mommy is ❤

Needless to say, by the end of the day, mommy felt like this…

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So the big family dinner was at Houlihans – a nice steak dinner which he loves but mommy still doesn’t know how to make!

I often hear how sons are not as caring as daughters. There must be some truth to it since generalizations exist for a reason but so far, I have not had a reason to generalize – he is the first one to notice the break in my voice even on the phone or the beginning of a tear when I am sad and my days are replete with hugs and ‘I love you mommy’ moments. ‘Yes, I gave you life but really you gave me mine…’ 

I wonder if my boy’s personality has been shaped by his food allergies and the constant fear he has learnt to live in as a result. He is still a shy, hesitant, wary and quiet kid but then that may just be his personality – after all, his parents were not gregarious at that age either and look at us now 😛 I can see his confidence slowly but surely emerging as he made his own choices in middle school this year. His drums teacher at School of Rock has just managed to push him to the next level and he has found a joy in playing the guitar. But, his favorite thing to do still is art – he loves sketching and his dream came true over Fall when he learnt to draw his favorite Super heroes from a well-known cartoonist. Aah the joy when he could draw Spiderman hanging upside down from a skyscraper on a dark night against the New York skyline! However, the biggest surprise this year has been his new found joy in ‘reading’ – that kid who would find every excuse in the book to avoid reading now gets yelled at every night to stop reading and hit the sack 😀 Thank you to his dedicated teachers and the amazing Ms Rowling!

An update on his allergies – the last few years hasn’t brought about significant change in his list of allergies. He continues to be allergic to all tree nuts, peanuts, shell fish, sesame, chick peas (garbanzo beans), poppy seeds and he can still not tolerate milk, eggs or soy if it is not processed. However, he can eat larger quantities of processed dairy like cheese, yogurt, curd, kefir and ice cream than he could even a year back. He is ecstatic about that since those are the fun forms of milk anyways! He can eat eggs in very small quantities but only in cooked products like pancakes, waffles, cakes and cookies. However, we have to be careful and mostly avoid products with eggs. The one big change has been soy. Until a year back soybean oil and soy lecithin were the only forms in which he could tolerate soy but now he can eat small quantities of processed soy like tofu but he still cannot drink soy milk. Luckily, he doesn’t really care much for soy but it is one less food item we have to be paranoid about!

One of the truly special moments of the past year was when we celebrated his thread ceremony. This ceremony is a centuries old Hindu custom from a time when once children were old enough to start formal education they were sent off to a boarding school. Before the tearful send off, the parents organized a huge party for family and friends to wish the child well. Of course, kids today don’t go away to boarding school but the celebration with friends and family still continues to mark the child’s journey towards becoming a young adult. We decided to celebrate it in India so his paternal and maternal grandparents could easily be a part of this festive occasion without having to endure a long plane journey in their advanced years. The highlight of this event – obviously, that it was completely allergy friendly.  The chef and I went back and forth for months before the event to ensure Arjun could partake of anything without fear – it was to celebrate him so why have food he could not eat!. Fish, Shell Fish and eggs was automatically taken care of since the menu was entirely vegetarian. Soy is not a part of Indian cuisine so that was not an issue either. However, it was a huge challenge avoiding chick peas, Bengal gram, sesame seeds and nuts which is an integral part of a traditional festive South Indian meal. The chef and his team managed it with aplomb and the food was so delicious that even after a year many of our guests mention it. I will write more about it in a separate post.

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Matru Bhojana – ‘Meal with mom’ is a special part of this beautiful function

This was also a year of huge learning and narrow escapes. Sometimes food allergic families relax; forgetting how dangerous food allergies can be just because nothing serious has happened in a while.  Like the time when on a casual summer stroll in New York City, I almost gave a French macaron (and why are French macaron stores popping up all over ?!) to my son assuming the cookies were made of white wheat flour. Fortunately, it struck me to ask the sales girl in the nick of time and to my horror realized that that it is made almost entirely using almond flour. Almond is the one tree nut that Arjun is deathly allergic to. These near escapes have taught Arjun to double check everything even if mom has okayed it. The latest learning was on his 12th Birthday when we were at his birthday dinner outing and I accidentally gave him a piece of lavash bread with sesame seeds on it. But, the seeds did not escape his keen eyes.

It is a joy to see the sincere, caring and curious human being he is growing up to be. But, above all I am so proud that he does not take things for granted and has taken on the responsibility of his welfare in his own hands. My goal 11.5 years back when he was first diagnosed with food allergies was to ‘enable’ him because I cannot always be around to keep him safe and every single day, I can see him making giant strides towards that ultimate goal!

‘If I could keep you little, I’d keep you close to me.

But then I’d miss you growing into who you’re meant to be!’

Happy Birthday my little one!

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A few of my favorite Allergy Friendly Products…


Enjoy Life Soft Baked Minis 

Recently a super fun event occurred in my life – I had the opportunity to visit the world headquarters of Mondelez International, the American multinational confectionery, food and beverage company. So, big deal one might say but my excitement stems from the fact that ‘Enjoy Life’ is an independently owned subsidiary of Mondelez! I use the word ‘independently’ very consciously. Way back in 2015, when Enjoy Life was acquired by Mondelez, I was concerned, very concerned. Would a small Allergen-free snack food company survive in the big corporate world. On that front, am I relieved or what – Enjoy Life has become bigger and better but continues to have the small company feel. They continue to engage with customers like myself on a personal level via social media which has convinced me that they sincerely care that my child with severe multiple food allergies should be safe but not deprived. The highlight of the visit…an opportunity to drop in at the company store and get my hands on discounted Enjoy Life  – yayy! But the best was yet to come…my greedy eyes fell on the the new snack packs. Small packets of soft baked minis by Enjoy Life. Now, my son and I love the fresh box of Snickerdoodle, Double Chocolate Brownie and Chocolate Chip Cookies by Enjoy Life but my one problem with the soft baked Enjoy Life cookies is that it becomes rock hard within days of opening the box. Granted that I can warm it up in the microwave to soften it but the new snack bags are just right for the school lunch box and I don’t have to worry about wastage after having spent an arm and a leg on them and driving miles to find a store that stocks them.

 

These snack packs are a sure winner and a must try for anyone with the top 8 food allergies or even someone who wants to eat healthy and whole grain or gluten-free.

Vermont Nut Free Chocolates:

Now these chocolates are not dairy-free but they are completely tree nut and peanut free. As a baby my son could not ingest dairy even in minute quantities without his whole body swelling up literally like a cue balloon. However, today at age 11 he can have processed dairy like cheese or chocolate – yes, there is hope. But, I was surprised how incredibly difficult it is to find chocolates that have been processed in a facility that do not process nuts. Initially I would take a chance and unless the packaging said ‘May contain traces of allergen’, I would give him the chocolate. That was until I visited the Hershey chocolate factory in Hershey, PA. Since then,  I have realized that we have just been lucky thus far since cross-contamination is very likely if the equipment is shared. So, if one can eat products like chocolate with dairy in it – this chocolate is the best I have found in the market. The packaging is beautiful and the chocolate itself is shaped soooo gourmet – love!

Picture courtesy: store.vermontnutfree.com Our personal favorite the decadent dark chocolate!

‘Tolerant’ range of Legumes based pasta:

First off, I have to gush over the adorably cute packaging of this range of legume pastas – it instantly communicates the image of fun, youthful and organic through the use of earthy tones on a brown paper base. I am a vegetarian and the nutritionist in me firmly believes in legumes as a fabulous source of fiber, proteins and healthy carbs. And then I found his useful nugget of gold on the Why Legumes page of the Tolerant Foods website, ‘Plant protein found in legumes provide the body steady, lasting energy that can last 4-6 hours vs. meat which only lasts about 2-3 hours!’ In my experience, the incidence of soybean and chickpea/ garbanzo beans allergy is quite high. However, lentils and beans like black bean, red lentil, mung bean, peas is relatively rare. My son is allergic to soybeans and chickpeas so lentils and beans are the way he gets his vegetarian proteins. Apart from the zillion lentil/ bean soup recipes that Indian cuisine abounds in, I love the legume pasta version – packs in the vegetarian protein punch despite food allergies.

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Picture courtesy: Tolerant Foods website

Recently I tossed the red lentil pasta with Allergy Friendly Harissa paste that a blogger friend gifted me (Instagram – LifeDelicious). Harissa is a North African red chili paste Unadulterated culinary delight and my taste buds screamed in joy 🙂 Love you Kavita ❤

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Tolerant Red Lentil Penne tossed with peas and Allergy Friendly Harissa – 19+ grams of protein / serving

Stay tuned for more Allergy Friendly, AllergyFoodie posts as my baby’s 12 birthday draws near…

 

Ushering in 2016 on a high note: Low-carb, Allergy-Friendly Cauliflower Pizza Crust


A quick blog post to usher in AllergyFoodie into 2016 on a high note – allergy-friendly, low carb slice of heaven…

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Deep dish or thin crust – have it your way guilt-free 😉

Ingredients:

For Crust

  • 1 head of cauliflower with stem removed and riced in a food processor
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal + 3 tbsp water (equivalent of 1 egg)
  • 3/4th cup dairy-free or regular Parmesan cheese (you can completely skip this ingredient too)
  • 2 teaspoons corn flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt to taste

For topping:

  • 1 cup pasta sauce
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free or regular mozzarella
  • Your fav toppings – I used spinach
Cut cauliflower into small florets
Cut cauliflower into small florets
Rice the cauliflower in a food processor
Rice the cauliflower in a food processor
Riced cauliflower
Microwave riced cauliflower for 4-5 minutes
Spread out on a paper towel for 15 minutes
Spread out on a paper towel for 15 minutes
Dry grind raw flax seed
Dry grind raw flax seed
1 tbsp. flax powder + 3 tbsp water for 15 minutes in the fridge
1 tbsp. flax powder + 3 tbsp water for 15 minutes in the fridge
15 minutes later become glutinous like egg
15 minutes later become glutinous like egg
Squeeze water out using thin dish towel
Squeeze water out using thin dish towel
The nearly dry riced cauliflower
The nearly dry riced cauliflower
Add Italian seasoning + salt + 2 tsp corn flour + 1 cup dairy-free or regular Parmesan or you can skip the cheese
Add Italian seasoning + salt + 2 tsp corn flour + 1 cup dairy-free or regular Parmesan or you can skip the cheese
On a warmed pizza stone shape the riced cauliflower into a pizza
On a warmed pizza stone shape the riced cauliflower either into a 1/3″ thick pizza or thinner crust…

 

Bake it at 450 degree F for 20 minutes
Bake it at 450 degree F for 20 minutes
Add your fav sauce
Add your fav sauce
And your fav dairy free mozzarella cheese...
And your fav dairy free mozzarella cheese…
And toppings you love - we are a spinach loving brood
And toppings you love – we are a spinach loving brood
Now bake it for 6 - 8 minutes. 6 minutes with lotsa cheese or...
Now bake it for 6 – 8 minutes. 6 minutes with lotsa cheese or…

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Now bake it for 6 - 8 minutes. 6 minutes of 1/3" thick crust with lotsa cheese or...
Now bake it for 6 – 8 minutes. 6 minutes of 1/3″ thick crust with lotsa cheese or…
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Thin crust with less cheese and more toppings 🙂

And there you have it…

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Happy New Year – Seize the moment in 2016 and live out your dreams!

Much love,

From our hearth to yours ❤

Allergy Friendly Stir-fry okra and peanuts during pregnancy…


‘Eating peanuts while pregnant cuts child’s risk of allergies’ – hmm! This research study made headlines on Christmas Eve, 2013 in Food Allergy circles. Now, I did eat tons of nuts but it did not help my son escape nut allergies. But, it did help me put on oodles of weight :)) However, one example like me does not a study make and it is definitely good news for all of us!

Dare I complain about the cold with Sochi Olympics in full swing?! Oh well – here in the North East we are getting bombarded by snow storms like never before – the only thing that is keeping me sane is the crackling fire and soul satisfying freshly made Allergy Friendly food in the comfort of my family room. Ye ye – it is bad manners to eat in the family room but try eating in a cold kitchenette when the outside temperature is 0 degrees 😀

So, today I welcome you to the warmth of my hearth with my son’s favorite lip smacking allergy friendly okra stir-fry (yup there is more to okra than the deep fried version) and a bowl of warm split mung bean (with skin) soup seasoned with sauteed onions and a dash of paprika (recipe for the soup in my next post)

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Stir-fry Okra

  • Prep time: 30 – 45 minutes
  • Serves : 2

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Continue reading “Allergy Friendly Stir-fry okra and peanuts during pregnancy…”

Allergy Friendly Pigeon Peas Tomato Soup


Brrr – 14 F but the lure of the snow does not allow one to remain indoors…

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A beautiful, brisk hike till my fingers and toes were numb and back into the warm comfort of home…what better time than to whip up a warm bowl of Allergy Friendly Pigeon Peas Tomato soup which is also surprisingly quick to make…Green Brook-20140105-00804

Yield: Serves 2-3 people

Ingredients:

  1. Split Pigeon Peas without skin: ¼ cup (available in any health food store)
  2. Turmeric powder: 1/8 tsp.
  3. Freshly ground 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds + 1/4 tsp. black pepper powder: 1 tsp.  (I like it coarsely ground)
  4. Curry leaves: 4-5 (optional)
  5. Tomatoes: 2 large
  6. Rock Salt
  7. Finely chopped Cilantro: 1 tbsp.

Method:

  1. Pressure cook the pigeon peas with turmeric powder and 1 cup water till completely soft. You can cook directly on stove top too – it will just take longer! (I keep a cooked batch handy in the freezer almost always)
  2. In a heavy bottomed vessel add the cooked pigeon peas and the remaining ingredients. Green Brook-20140105-00799
  3. Add 3-4 times water and cook over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes. Green Brook-20140105-00801
  4. The flavors of the soup have reached its peak when a whitish red froth forms on the surface – it’s time to switch off the heat. If desired garnish with 1 tbsp. of finely chopped cilantro leaves. Green Brook-20140105-00805
  5. Serve it hot with your favorite allergy friendly bread. For a hearty twist, add 2-3 tbsp. of cooked brown or white rice to the soup.     Green Brook-20140105-00809

Yesss – winter just got better even if you were part of the audience as the 49ers and Green Bay Packers battled it out in Wisconsin’s sub-zero temperatures 🙂

Allergy Foodie wishes you a ‘Safe Eats’ 2014!


Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy 2014! I rang in the New Year quietly – watching the ball drop over Times Square from the warm comfort of home with my little boy cuddled up next to me and a glass of Conundrum red wine.

It’s at in that mellow moment that some random allergy friendly tips popped into my head which I feel compelled to share with all Food Allergy sufferers and caretakers…I will add more as we cruise through the year!

  1. French Macaron: Did you know that this fancy, brightly colored French confection that has suddenly become omnipresent in the US is not a humdrum flour based cookie with a jelly filling? They are made with Almond flour. I almost gave it to my son since he is no longer allergic to wheat and can even have dairy and eggs in baked items. Of all his allergies – my son is most severely allergic to almonds so you can imagine what an accidental bite might have done to him.
  2. Thai food: The crunchy vegetables and healthy meats seem the right choice but wait…very often this cuisine uses fish or shrimp paste in many of its dishes. Thai cooking also uses Soy, Sesame, Peanuts and Tree Nuts extensively. So, unless you understand the nitty-gritty of Thai food – this is best avoided.
  3. Chinese cuisine: I love Chinese fare but then I don’t have any food allergies. Peanuts, Soy, Sesame and Tree Nuts are an integral part of this cuisine hence better avoided completely even though it is the most easily available food when traveling apart from the quintessential pizza slice!
  4. Indian cuisine: Now this is one cuisine I understand well and that is exactly why it freaks me out. Tree nuts and Peanuts are used in gravies, chutneys in such sneaky ways that it isn’t funny. On top of that dairy, mustard seeds and poppy seeds are used across the board – stay away from Indian or any South Asian dishes unless it is homemade or you understand the prep process completely.
  5. Some other cuisines to watch out for: Definitely Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese – all of them use Soy and Fish extensively
  6. Hidden sources of food allergens: As I have learnt from my readers who have contributed to spreading awareness about flax seed allergy through Allergy Foodie – a food allergen may creep into our lives in insidious ways. An allergen may be present in cosmetics, toiletry, pillows/ cushions, jackets and more. In other words – always be conscious of what you come in contact with.

Safe eats!

Love,                                                                                                                                                      Anu

A family legacy and allergy friendly fryums – Part 2


The warm Saturday afternoon sunshine, family gossip and fryums – life just does not get better. Oh wait, it did get better…the one thing I have loved even as a little girl – a handwoven string of fresh fragrant flowers to adorn the hair. That was my kiddie cousin’s spontaneous gift for me from their kitchen garden 😉 India-002

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And the next part of our Allergy Friendly cooking journey continued with ‘Tapioca Pearls Fryums’. What are Tapioca Pearls?  They are white starchy balls (usually 2-3 mm in diameter) made from processed cassava (Manihot esculenta).  Cassava is a shrub that is cultivated in large parts of South America and Asia for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates. The starchy part is often referred to as Tapioca. In recent times – it has been made very famous thanks to the tasty and pretty looking bubble tea. Do not confuse Tapioca pearls with Sago pearls – they look very similar and are cooked in similar ways. However, Sago is extracted from the starchy center of various palm trees. 

Continue reading “A family legacy and allergy friendly fryums – Part 2”