‘It takes a village to raise a child’


As my little one’s 8th birthday draws near – the many, many people who have helped me keep him safe come to mind. Earlier this week, by mistake I packed pasta that could potentially have been highly allergenic for my son’s lunch. Just one of those mornings when things were rushed and I had woken up in a foul mood. It was mid-morning by the time I realized that I had made a terrible mistake. Fortunately for me – my cousin Shobha lives and works in the same town as we live in and she is one person who has always had my back when it comes to Arjun’s care so little surprise that I called her up in utter panic! Smart sister that she is – she first calmed me down and asked me to inform the school immediately.  Then she dropped everything at work and rushed to his school just so she could drop off an Allergy Friendly lunch for my little boy! So – he was not only safe; he also did not have to go hungry because of a stupid mistake made by his mom. 

In the few moments that followed, the must-do measures to ensure an Allergy Friendly lunch box popped in to my head which I must share with all caretakers:

  1. Prep ahead: Leave the kitchen clean and do some of the lunch prep the night before like packing the dry snacks. A dirty kitchen is bound to delay things and push you over the edge on a busy morning.
  2. Be extra vigilant when doing routine/ repetitive tasks: those are the moments when our guard slips and we inadvertently make mistakes.
  3. Call the school the moment you realize that you have made a mistake. School authorities are very aware and will take action promptly
  4. And, finally if possible be fortunate to have a family member or friend who loves your child and will drop everything and rush to the child’s aid if you are unable to do it. For Arjun – one such person is his dear aunt Shobha! 

Shobha and I – we grew up together and being close in age have bickered and competed all through just like any 2 sisters would. Our own siblings have always lived far away from us but the two of us have inexplicably always been thrown in the same town.  So, through happy and tough times – we have stuck it out together. This has forged a life-long bond of trust and love between us and often in times of crisis no words are needed to communicate. A couple of years back I was at the cross-roads of life and even people whom I had tried to explain did not understand! But, Shobha needed no explanation – she was there for me and understood my predicament like she had lived the crisis herself – go figure!

Birthdays seem incomplete if she is not with me to celebrate it…

So, this post goes out to my beautiful sister Shobha who not only helps me to keep my boy safe but in her own special way makes sure her little sis is safe and happy too! I am often so wrapped up in Arjun’s weaknesses that she is the one who reminds me how he is as lively, intelligent and happy despite his allergies.

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On his first trip to New York City with his aunt!

When I think of preparing a special dish for Shobha – I always think ‘vegetables’ and lots of them! So, I chose this Allergy Friendly recipe which is bursting with colorful vegetables. I am sure it will score a home run with the ultimate health food foodie who loves my Allergy-Friendly spin on dishes. Presenting Allergy Friendly ‘Blanquette de légumes’  aka Vegetable Stew  🙂 Technically, ‘Blanquette’ refers to white sauce but we get a similar creamy albeit AF version -thanks to Coconut Milk!

Ingredients:

  1. Cauliflower: 1/3 – 1/2 of medium cauliflower
  2. Carrots: 1 medium
  3. Peas: 1/2 cup
  4. Beans: 1 cup diced
  5. Potato: 1 medium
  6. Tomatoes: 2
  7. Coconut Milk: 1 can
  8. Oil: 1/2 tbsp.
  9. Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp. (optional)
  10. Serrano chilies: 2 sliced (optional)
  11. Salt to taste

Apart from tomatoes – in all  use approximately 6 cups of vegetables diced small.

Method:

  1. In a heavy bottomed pan heat the oil. Add cumin seeds and wait for it to start changing color. If using chilies, add the sliced chilies at this point and stir. Add a couple of extra chilies if you want to kick up the heat quotient a couple of notches. You can omit the chilies altogether or de-seed them before adding it to the oil if you want to avoid the ‘heat’.
  2. Add the vegetables and approximately 2/3 of the can of coconut milk to the heated oil. Mix it well – it may seem like there is an overdose of vegetables but it will reduce in volume as it cooks.
  3. Cook it covered on low to medium-low flame for about 10 minutes. Stir it a couple of times along the way and reduce the flame if the coconut milk starts boiling.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and desired amount of salt and stir well.
  5. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked to desired level stirring occasionally. I like them cooked but firm.
  6. Now add the remaining coconut milk and cook for 3-4 minutes more. Now the dish is ready to be gobbled up 🙂
  7. I love it as-is – a warm bowl of stew or with an allergy-friendly tortilla or alongside a small bowl of rice (brown or white)
'Blanquette de légumes' - aka Vegetable Stew!
‘Blanquette de légumes’ – aka Vegetable Stew!

It is no surprise that seeing Shobha’s unadulterated love for my boy, her entire family dotes on him. Her two adorable daughters, Shruti and Soumya have helped raise money for food allergy research, participated in erstwhile FAAN (now FARE) annual walks, prepared allergy friendly meals for him and above all loved him like he was their little brother. And, in her husband Sudhakar, my soon to be 8 year old has found an uncle who pampers him like a little prince – massaging his legs, listening to his long-winded stories and just making him feel smart and very, very special!

To a cousin whom I love for her unparalleled zest for life, innate curiosity, hard-working and straight-forward approach, true appreciation for all that life has given her and above all for her ability to laugh like a child even when the chips are down – thank you! Wishing you the best now and always…

When I was younger, mom would say that people hesitate to help me because I would pretend to be a little too independent.  We are social beings and need each other – I learnt that important lesson only after Arjun was born. It is often said that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ – clichéd but oh so true! And, if you have extended family in that village – you can be sure that your child will be one coddled happy camper 🙂 Reminds me of the beautiful song by the same name sung by Grammy nominee whose life has been dedicated to raising ‘social consciousness through music commentary’ and goes out to Arjun’s beloved aunt…

It takes a village to raise a child – Mickey Carroll

So, remember – a parent is not the only one who can keep a child with food allergies safe because we can’t do it all…

Allergy Friendly High-Protein Vegan Burger


The history buff in me has always loved Thanjavur, a town in the Southern part of India, steeped in astounding architecture and art (music, paintings, metal work and more!) for over 1000 years.

Brihadeshwara Temple - 1010 AD!
Brihadeshwara Temple – 1010 AD! Photo courtesy: http://wikitravel.org/

It is also home to lip-smacking vegetarian cuisine – one such dish is the high protein Thavaladai. Traditionally, this vegan patty/ burger uses chickpeas which I have substituted because chickpeas is a relatively allergenic bean. It also usually uses Matpe beans which is not easily available except in South Asian stores so, I have substituted it with split lentils. The substitutions help make this vegan burger less calorific too – that works for me any day 🙂

Before I go any further, I must mention that I first heard of this dish via Pratibha Jain. Pratibha along with her friend, Jigyasa are the brains behind Pedatha.com which in their words, ‘is a space for tradition, for tribute, for culinary inheritances’. One of the posts that inspired me from this traditional cuisine haven, Pedatha, was the ‘Thavaladai Tamilian Snack‘ recipe posted by Chithra Viswanathan, another delightful food connoisseur who inspires and delights me everyday. Thanks ladies…

Now, without further ado, the thavaladai…

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Allergy Friendly Buckwheat Crepes and more…


The past weekend was unadulterated Blogger nirvana for me…my boy went away for a final weekend of snowboarding with his dad. That meant I got uninterrupted time to try out allergy-friendly recipes, write about it and even catch up on reading about the latest in the world of food allergies.

Before I share the recipe for the scrumptious allergy-friendly crepes I fixed myself for lunch, sharing a couple of epic news items from the world of food allergies:

  • 2 organizations that have been doing outstanding work in the field of food allergies by spreading awareness and investing in research, FAI (Food Allergy Initiative) and FAAN (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network) came together to form FARE (Food Allergy Education & Research). A must-visit website and the food allergy conferences organized by them around the US of A are all just around the corner.
  • Something that most moms with food allergic kids already know by experience – AAAAI (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology) released the results of a study that basically says, ‘Food Allergies May Affect Children’s Growth‘ .  There is a reason why my little one is still small and his 2nd grade heart breaks when people think that he is a Kindergartner – he simply has not had the essential nutrients essential in the early stages of life!
  • A conveniently designed epinephrine shot that talks and walks you through the injection process in emergency situations was approved by FDA…Sanofi has definitely delivered a breakthrough form of this life saving drug – Auvi-Q

Aah – enough of news and time for some Buckwheat crepes that I whipped up and which turned out to be unbelievably delish!! This is a dish made in many households in Western India and is commonly referred to as a buckwheat ‘dosa’ aka crepe! Don’t the holes on the crepe dosa look totally gourmet 🙂North Plainfield-20130331-00225

Continue reading “Allergy Friendly Buckwheat Crepes and more…”

Times of change, challenge and triumph…


The past couple of years have been about constantly reminding myself to keep walking though personal conflicts and challenges have constantly threatened to derail me. A landmark Birthday came and went but my spirit could not rejoice and I packed on a whopping 15 pounds. Now, when I look back – I feel humbled and thankful for how far I have come even though its still a long road ahead.  To celebrate, recently I threw myself a much delayed birthday party recently with a few of my dear friends in one of my favorite cities in the world…New York City 🙂

Snowflakes, joy and friends!
Snowflakes, joy and friends!

I also have gone back to my older self of working out and eating right with an occasional drink 😉 That tub of ice cream neither makes you feel better nor does it make you look better the next day!

Continue reading “Times of change, challenge and triumph…”

Dari-free Chocolate Fudge-Caramel ?! :-)


One of the best perks of being part of the blogosphere is the amazing people I get to meet from across the world – people I would have never had the good fortune of meeting otherwise. One such person is Ms. Chithra Vishwanathan who writes http://www.askChitVish.com (Facebook page: Ask Chitvish). I adore her recipes because it takes me back to my roots in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu – the dishes tantalize my olfactory senses and transport me instantly to my avva’s (grandmother) kitchen. I still miss avva so, so, so much – even in the ICU her worry was if others had remembered to pack my favorite dish for my lunch box. What can I say – I was an indulged granddaughter 🙂 I have never met Ms. Chithra in person but even online she emanates the graceful strength, modesty and beauty synonymous with the quintessential beautiful Indian woman! I have adapted many of her recipes to make it Allergy Friendly and one such recipe that I re-invented over the holiday season was the Chocolate Burfi.

Burfi is an Indian dessert and has a consistency akin to a fudge and in its most essential form it is made with dairy and sugar. It has numerous variations and of course the one with cocoa powder is my fav…

Cocoa + Sugar + Dari-Free = Candy Nirvana!
Cocoa + Sugar + Dari-Free = Candy Nirvana!

Continue reading “Dari-free Chocolate Fudge-Caramel ?! :-)”

Allergy Friendly Buckwheat unleashed…


Buckwheat pancakes, savory steamed Buckwheat cake and more – this post is the 1st part that attempts to begin unleashing the powerful Buckwheat…

Ok – call me boring but one of my favorite things to do is walking down the aisles of grocery stores and discovering lesser known food items! And, if it is a small store with an informed owner manning it – even better! One such store that I love to visit on a lazy afternoon is ‘Bhavani Cash & Carry’ in Green Brook, NJ. The co-owner, Bela Patel is informed, helpful and an all-round good human being.

Over summer, she let Arjun and his dear friend Jack and fav cousin Soumya set up a Lemonade stand in front of the store and they raked in a tidy sum – half of which went to the FAI (Food Allergy Initiative) and FAAN (The Food Allergy Anaphylaxis Network). By the way, these two amazing organizations have joined forces to form FARE – ‘Food Allergy Research & Education’. Pheww – FARE would have been thrilled seeing 2 little boys chase down potential customers with a cup a lemonade 🙂

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AF Sauteed Broccoli Slaw with sprouted Mung Beans


I love days when I get a simple Allergy Friendly brainwave and it works as a tasty, healthy and novel dish for everyone. This was one such dish! After a big party – I had an extra packet of broccoli slaw laying around in the fridge. Suddenly it struck me – here is a packet of delicately cut cabbage, carrots and broccoli…just saute it and make it come alive! Presenting AF (Allergy Friendly) Sauteed Broccoli Slaw with sprouted Mung Beans…

Allergy Friendly Sauteed Broccoli Slaw with sprouted Mung Beans…

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