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!
This is such an exciting moment for me!! For years – I have hungrily watched my Facebook news feeds fill up with pictures of the many dishes my friend Lakshmimakes for her family. Finally I couldn’t resist it anymore and requested her to write a guest post and she readily obliged and agreed to write a post on Quinoa based dishes. Now AllergyFoodie readers know how much I love nutritious and allergy friendly Quinoa. Just the past year my Holiday gift contained this homemade Allergy Friendly bar…
So, thank you Lakshmi for an awesome post based on a grain that I particularly love despite your hectic schedule. As summer draws to an end in my neck of the woods – a light summery dish bursting with flavor and fresh vegetables…
Thanks Anu for asking me to write a guest post for your popular blog – AllergyFoodie. I was introduced to Anu by a common friend 3 years back since I am a caretaker to a food allergic child too and since then have been following her blog and reading all the useful tips and news she keeps us updated with from the world of food allergies. I am yet to meet her but her enthusiastic and exuberant personality just shines through every post. But above all it is her eternal positive spirit that makes the thought of living with multiple food allergies not so tough!
Severe multiple food allergies are extremely tough to handle and we caretakers/ moms go through an inordinately high level of physical and emotional stress on a daily basis. Little wonder that I greatly appreciate people like Anu who invest time and effort to do the research on behalf of so many moms and share that valuable information through the written word and make life a wee bit easier for food allergy sufferers.
My name is Lakshmi Priya Vijayabaskar and am mother to two adorable boys aged 5 1/2 and 31/2 – now, that should give you an idea you how my day begins and never seems to end. I am a full time working mom and when I get back home from work I have a laundry list of chores awaiting me like every other mother. My older one was diagnosed with severe nut and egg allergies at 7 months and from then on we have been avoiding nuts not only for him but for the family as a whole. He is slowly outgrowing his egg allergy – we are able to give him certain baked goods that contain a small quantity of eggs. My younger son showed signs of mild nut allergies in his tests and since he is a sibling of a highly allergic child the Allergist wanted us to wait 1 more year before challenging him.
My kids health and allergies encourage me to explore different cuisines and to choose allergy friendly recipes and since dining out has become less possible I end up cooking most of the time and this exploration has helped me open up creative and smart choices towards food.
In recent times Quinoa has been in the news so much dues to its superior nutritional value that I have consciously tried to adapt it in our regular meals instead of white rice which used to be a staple earlier.
Red, green, yellow and orange bell peppers: 1 cup (diced)
Black bean: 1/2 cup
Corn: 1/2 cup
Spinach: ½ cup
Juice of 1 Lemon
Chili flakes: 1 tbsp. (You can add jalapeño peppers diced small if you want more of a Mexican spice, i used chili flakes)9. Black pepper powder: ½ tsp.
Few sprigs of cilantro
Salt to taste
Oil: 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp.
Cook quinoa in 2 cups of water with a little salt and fluff it with a fork to make sure the grains are separate. You can add a tsp. of oil while cooking to avoid grains sticking together.
Place the wok or pan on a high flame and add a tbsp. of oil and add the diced onions and bell peppers and sauté them until the vegetables are cooked to desired level.
Then add the pepper powder and a pinch of salt (adjust with a little salt since you already cooked quinoa with salt) and give it a stir and then add the corn and black bean and spinach and sauté them for a 4-5 minutes. Add the cooked quinoa, combine and toss it with the red chili flakes. Switch off the stove and finally add the juice of a lemon and minced cilantro, mix it well. Serve either hot or cold. Note (if you are having a cold salad then you can top the salad with avocados, shredded carrots, cucumber or any other vegetable of your choice.
Heat a tbsp. of oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds after it splutters add the ginger, green chilies and onions and sauté for a few minutes until onions are translucent.
Purée the tomato and add it and cook it until you no longer get the the raw smell.
Add turmeric, curry powder/garam masala and salt to taste.
Add cooked beans
Pour 2 cups water and a cup of quinoa and allow it to cook on medium flame, until the quinoa is cooked perfectly. Garnish with cilantro.
Tip: Both these dishes taste better with a dollop of freshly made dipping sauce. Sprinkle chili flakes atop a cup of chilled plain coconut yogurt. Or, mix the coconut yogurt with 1/4 cup chopped fresh tomatoes or cucumber – yumm!
Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) works on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies. Food allergies affect 1 in 13 children in the United States. FARE works to support research and educate the community to create a safe environment for all food allergy sufferers. FARE also works with organizations worldwide to battle this growing epidemic.
FARE Walk for Food Allergy for 2013 is well under way but there are still many coming up across the country and you can do your bit to help FARE say ‘FARE well to Food Allergies’. I plan to take part in 2 walk this year – yes! One in my home state of NJ and other Las Vegas.
Why should you do it?
Well as the FARE website puts it…
‘40% of children with food allergies have already experienced a severe or life-threatening reaction, such as anaphylaxis.’
Walk for them…
‘Scientists estimate that as many 15 million Americans are living with food allergies, including about 5.9 million children.’
Walk for them…
And, the returns you get is a healthier you. Not a bad bargain at all 🙂
Some walks are right around the corner so put on your walking shoes and head out for a fun and meaningful summer outing…
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.
I truly believe that a memorable birthday is one of the best memories you can gift your child. I still remember every birthday party my parents threw me despite their extremely modest means from the special birthday frock to the cake. My baby – all of 8 years old and maybe, just maybe even I have to admit that he is a baby no more!
This year he wanted a pirate themed birthday party…
But, for me the best part about his birthday party was when one of his dearest friends who has a severe dairy and egg allergy felt so special because I had made allergy friendly Cherrybrook Farm chocolate cupcakes and pizza with Daiya mozzarella cheese for her. The child was ecstatic to have her first slice of pizza albeit allergy friendly in her 8 year old life and cupcakes that other kids wanted too!
It has become a tradition for my boy to start off his birthday with a very special breakfast. This year he wanted black beans and cheese grilled sandwich. Yes, now he can eat small quantities of processed dairy products…
And a ‘Dari-free’ banana berry shake…
Steps to an awesome Dari-free Berry Shake:
Dari-free: 2 heaping tsps.
Water: 3/4 cup
Berry Mix: 1/2 cup
Prepare Dari-free milk according to directions with the water and dari-free powder. You can use Oat milk, Rice Milk, Coconut Milk or Hemp milk instead.
Mix the fruits, Dari-free milk and ice in the blender and there you have it…
Of course, his lunch box had to have a special note from mommy…
And, he has to pick out an outfit from his favorite store, Naartjie! Yes – he is quite the metrosexual little boy who swears by this South African designer because of her attention to detail 😉
And, then dinner was his first time trying what he had been begging for ages – a steak dinner with steamed broccoli at Uno’s Chicago Grill. Now why does mommy like Uno’s?! Quite simple – they were among the first restaurants in my knowledge which have a detailed ingredient listing and waiters that are aware of the precautions to be taken when ‘food allergy’ is mentioned!
My young man has had such an eventful year where he has thrived despite his multiple food allergies. He has learnt that one does not run away from the ball in soccer as his team went on to win the championship…
He has learnt to be a graceful loser as his coach pitch team had an undefeated season but went on to lose the championship. Yes – he and his best pal ran off for an ice cream the moment the last game ended 😉 Arjun’s fav allergy-friendly ice cream is the Spongebob Popsicle though he does hate their awful gum ball eyes!
Yes, he found his love in playing drums – thanks to the awesome atmosphere in School Of Rock…
He also has grown to love skateboarding, snowboarding, golfing, basketball, swimming and chess! He is yet to excel at anything but I am convinced he is on the right path because he has found a joy in learning and is passionate about the journey.
Above all he is a goofy child…
Whose mommy loves him to death and wants to make the world a safer place for all food allergy sufferers…
Yes, my son is small compared to his peers in large part because of his food allergies. Numerous studies have shown that children with multiple food allergies tend to be much smaller but thanks to his personal challenges he is blossoming into an aware, thinking and curious child!
Ending this post with his favorite lullaby…’Into my arms, oh Lord‘! Yes – he listens to it three times every night before he falls asleep 🙂 And, with good wishes to everyone out there!
Child-like wonder akin to how my 8 year felt before his pirate birthday party engulfed me as I headed to hip and happening Austin, TX for BlogHerFood 2013 on June 7th – 8th. Aah, to be able to rub shoulders with awesome bloggers from across the United States – bliss!
As I stepped into the Hilton Austin with a happy song in my heart, this sign greeted me…don’t miss the whacky spoon mouse in the logo.
A mélange of feminine colors and chatter invaded the registration lobby on 7th morning and the intoxicating excitement in the air was palpable. Thanks to BlogHer staff and volunteer food bloggers, despite the long lines – I was registered without a hitch and was handed a goody bag full of fun food gifts – yes, the thrill of ferreting through a well put together goody bag never wears out 🙂
The eager bloggers, the blogger-specific workshops, panels, excursions and food corporations resulted in a fail-proof recipe for a successful conference!
For me, the people I met at the conference was what made it so inspiring…
I have to start off with a funky and vivacious food blogger who somehow manages to bring art to food – Niv Mani of Panfusine. She is the one who gave me the extra nudge to ensure that I attended the conference…
And the list continues…little did I expect to meet food allergy bloggers whom I have admired for long in the blogosphere. Of course, we got so carried away talking about our mission that we forgot to take pictures – go figure! But Colette Martin, blogger at Learning to Eat Allergy-Free and Cheryl Thomae at Freedible were some of the people that made the trip totally worthwhile!
Ever wonder where good blogging can actually take you?! Meeting power blogger and celebrity Food Network chef ‘The Pioneer Woman‘, Ree Drummond answered that question for me. The few moments with this graceful and modest star will remain etched in my memory! She even tolerated my long-winded story of how she reminded me of my avva (grandma) who would cook to feed a town…
And, as I walked out of one of the workshops, who should I meet but yet another celebrity video blogger Hetal Jannu of Show me the Curry fame which led to another party on 6th street…
Like my pot of joy was not overflowing enough – met the stunning Jaden Hair, the successful blogger at Steamy Kitchen too!
Meeting Stefani Pollack, blogger at the utterly cute Cupcake Project was a blast from get go – dancing at the reception to the after-party on 6th street to swapping ideas on how to make an allergy-friendly cupcake – loved every moment! Would have never guessed that she is a Brooklyn gal 😉
Laughter comes easy around her…
And more food bloggers,
With my funny, talented blogger pal, Niv! Yup – I could hardly suppress the giggle as I tried my hand at the snobby chef look…
And, so many more amazing food bloggers…
Workshops and speaking panels galore…the conference covered every conceivable blogging topic I could think of. Would have loved to attend them all but obviously many were concurrent sessions but loved those that I did attend!
Brand/Blogger Relations: The marketing prowess bloggers wield in the consumer’s decision making process today is mind-boggling. Little wonder, I ran into so many social media professionals from large food corporations.
Fun excursions to soak in everything from hipster Austin to the dirty 6th kept the BlogHer party going! The Vegan Food Trailers with Christy Morgan from The Blissful Chef …funnn!
The company was so perfect that food took second place tho ‘me so hungry’…
The Food truck Luncheon excursion – now, this is Filmore from the movie ‘Cars’…
My lunch spinach and mushroom ‘Mmmmmmmpanadas’…
Of course, all this would not have been possible without the Corporate sponsors…
They lined the hallways like a fun food fair but what caught the AllergyFoodie food blogger’s eyes were the allergy friendly companies. A vegetarian who swears by lentils – I was ecstatic to find the company Canadian lentils. The dishes they had laid out were delectable – lentil wraps and lentil samosas were winners but lentil brownies not quite as much 🙂 AllergyFoodie readers will definitely see variants of the wraps and samosas very soon!
Udi’s – though many of the products do have common allergens like eggs, it is gluten-free!
Bob’s Red Mill: Mr. Bob definitely figures in my favorite old men list – have long used the many allergy friendly grains and flours and never been disappointed.
The gluten-free mixes and Allergy Friendly Sorghum flour particularly caught my eye…
Lundberg: The Rice Chips would have made the cut for Allergy Friendly snack but for sesame which counts in the top 10 food allergens! However, the brown rice and wild rice samples – definitely allergy friendly and nutritious too!
Pompeian: The flavorful popcorn – the grapeseed oil blends were pretty darn good!
As a food allergy blogger, the one thing that made this conference a success for me… the spread of allergy-friendly choices at every meal including the grand finale reception. Definitely a step in the right direction…
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…