‘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)
Brrr – 14 F but the lure of the snow does not allow one to remain indoors…
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…
Yield: Serves 2-3 people
Split Pigeon Peas without skin: ¼ cup (available in any health food store)
Turmeric powder: 1/8 tsp.
Freshly ground 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds + 1/4 tsp. black pepper powder: 1 tsp. (I like it coarsely ground)
Curry leaves: 4-5 (optional)
Tomatoes: 2 large
Finely chopped Cilantro: 1 tbsp.
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)
In a heavy bottomed vessel add the cooked pigeon peas and the remaining ingredients.
Add 3-4 times water and cook over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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 😉
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.
Merry Christmas to all! Santa loved the Dari-Free chocolate milk and allergy Friendly Chocolate Chip and Sugar cookies. He also left some mighty fine toys for my not so ‘Naughty’ 8 year old 🙂
So, on a day that embodies love, family and the spirit of giving I am reminded of my granny and my gorgeous aunt – everyone says I am a splitting image of her so I gotta say she is gorgeous 😉 But my aunt and I do share a beautiful camaraderie.
The last memory I have of my beautiful and sprightly grandmother, or avva as all her grand-kids called her is of her sitting on the front porch of our family home in India in a bright green saree and a big bindi waiting to welcome me – her ‘special’ granddaughter. Or, that’s what I believed – she had a way of making each one of her 7 kids and numerous grand-kids feel as if they were important to her in a way no one else could be – shrewd, huh 🙂
My family likes to believe that I am a chip of the grand old block in terms of courage and zest for life. But, I can never hold a candle to my avva who in her last days was a frail 81 year old woman, back bent with age and life’s travails. Even as her health failed and she could hardly sit up – she was a source of immense strength for each one of us and she has left a void which the entire family has been hard-pressed to fill even after 15 years!
What do you talk to a friend who is an army dude ensconced thousands of miles away in the mountains of northern India. Well, since most topics are ‘classified’ – if you are a couple of foodies albeit one a steak-lover and the other a vegetarian – and the vegetarian is a mom who is on a constant quest for new, fun and safe things for her boy – you talk ‘food’! One such discussion led to him telling me about the many delicious recipes made using water chestnut flour (not to be confused with chestnut which is a tree nut and an absolute no-no for those with a tree-nut allergy!). This flour has been found to be naturally gluten-free and there is no recorded incidence of allergy to this flour. In India it is also referred to as ‘singoda flour’ and is available in most South Asian grocery stores. It is used extensively in parts of western and eastern India to make pudding, desserts, tortillas, fritters and more. It is also used in other Asian countries as a thickener and to dredge food before frying.
Starting off my series on Water chestnut flour based delicacies with a dish that my friend, Ashwin swears by – Tortillas or ‘parathas’ as they are referred to in large parts of India. This was my first time eating it and in one word…’abso-delish-azing’. Loved the rustic, country feel of this unleavened bread…
Gluten-free and Allergy Friendly Water Chestnut Flour Tortillas
Water chestnut flour/ Singoda flour: 1 cup
Water” Approx. 1/3 cup
Finely chopped cilantro: 1 tbsp. (optional)
Serrano chili (finely chopped): 1 (optional)
Salt to taste
Oil: 5-6 tsp
Mix the flour, salt, cilantro and chilies in a wide vessel.
Add the water slowly and bring the flour together to form a pliable dough. It should not stick to the hand.
Divide it into 6 equal sized balls. In a plate add 1 tbsp of any allergy friendly flour like rice flour or water chestnut flour and roll the balls gently on them till it is coated all over.
Take an 8″ long Saran wrap and lay it flat on a marble board. Place one ball lightly dusted ball in the center and press it down lightly using the edges of your fingers. Place another 8″ long saran wrap atop the ball.
With a rolling pin start rolling the ball into a 6″ – 7″ circle.
Meanwhile heat a cast-iron or non-stick pan on low to medium flame.
Gently peel back the top Saran wrap from the rolled out tortilla.
Now slowly transfer the tortilla with exposed part of the tortilla resting to the palm of your hand. Now peel back the wrap from the bottom and place it in the center of the heated pan.
Cook on each side for a couple of minutes or till it turns a golden brown with brown spots on them. Use about 1 tsp of oil to coat both sides of the tortilla.
Serve immediately as-is or with a chutney of your choice.
Add 1/4 cup of mixed vegetables like finely chopped spinach, onions, grated carrots.
Mash in 1 small boiled potato to help the dough hold together even better.
P.S: Technically, one could be allergic to anything so use caution before trying out any new ingredient by talking to your allergist and/or starting off in small quantities.
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:
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.
Be extra vigilant when doing routine/ repetitive tasks: those are the moments when our guard slips and we inadvertently make mistakes.
Call the school the moment you realize that you have made a mistake. School authorities are very aware and will take action promptly
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!
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.
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!
Cauliflower: 1/3 – 1/2 of medium cauliflower
Carrots: 1 medium
Peas: 1/2 cup
Beans: 1 cup diced
Potato: 1 medium
Coconut Milk: 1 can
Oil: 1/2 tbsp.
Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp. (optional)
Serrano chilies: 2 sliced (optional)
Salt to taste
Apart from tomatoes – in all use approximately 6 cups of vegetables diced small.
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’.
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.
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.
Add the chopped tomatoes and desired amount of salt and stir well.
Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked to desired level stirring occasionally. I like them cooked but firm.
Now add the remaining coconut milk and cook for 3-4 minutes more. Now the dish is ready to be gobbled up 🙂
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)
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…