I'm no food blogger. Often, I am actually a food killer. I murder food. It's what I do. I should document that more. It would make all of you feel so much better about your cooking. But every so often one of my dinner experiments actually works and it gives me the cojones to keep trying new things.
With Plum's allergies always a factor, I work hard to come up with new and exciting dishes for dinner that are our kind of normal. We aren't fancy. We love pizza and burgers and fries in this house. We have a favorite pizza joint that has been thoroughly investigated and delivers us our weekly pizza. They even are cool when I ask them for no cheese on part of it. They are careful and always do a great job. But I mean....it was high time for me to get into some dairy-free pizza experiments that had more to offer.
So set out to do just that. I pulled everything from the cupboards and let my brain get to work imagining some dairy-free pizza recipes. And dudes...I hit the Mama Pants pizza experimentation jackpot. I made a delicious pizza. So in the spirit of only sharing my recipes when I can toot my own horn, I offer you this bad mamma jamma...
Grilled Chicken Pizza w/ Avocado Sauce
I made this! I made this!
I'm not gonna lie. It was magic. Mouth magic. Here's how to make it.
I bought the dough but surely you could make your own if you're looking to be a superstar.
To make the sauce mix up and mash the following:
1 large avocado
2 large diced tomatoes
some olive oil
red onion (minced)
Spices: black pepper, sea salt, oregano, basil
itty bitty bit of sugar
(all to taste because I don't do silly things like measure. I'm above it or something)
Grilled chicken chopped up (I marinated it with a Greek vinaigrette)
Sliced red onion (we like onion in this house)
Then bake that puppy up. It's best to eat it all fresh. Does not re-heat so well.
I'll be sure to share my next experiment success
when it happens in about 4 months!
Dear Future Dinner Host/Play Date Host/Birthday Party Host/Mom friend,
Cc: Family, Friends,Waitress at Olive Garden, Bounce house worker and everyone else in all the world.
We need to talk. I really want to get together. I love getting out of the house. I love being out in the world. I love it so much but there is something you should know. I'm kind of annoying. Let me explain.
When you have a toddler with food allergies you think about food a lot. Like, a lot. Especially when those allergies are some of the most common ingredients in food. Plum is allergic to eggs, milk, peanuts and shellfish. And while steering clear of shrimp has proven pretty easy (Shit. You're not serving shrimp, right?!), the other three are everywhere. Everywhere, dude. I always carry an EpiPen and I'm always watching, scanning and informing. I'm sure it can be annoying for some. So if during our fun time together, I need to hit the bathroom and I turn to you for the 8th time that night and say something like, "Please just don't let her eat anything at all until I get back, ok?" You might want to say..."DUDE! I freeging know!" but I hope you'll just say, "Totally, I got this." because it's not you, it's me. And her. It's also her.
So yeah, I'm always thinking about food. And not just what I buy at the grocery store but also the food in restaurants and yep, the food at your house. And the food at the park. And random food stuff in just about every place you can think of because I have a toddler and she is every bit capable of stealing a child's snack on the playground. In fact, she's probably gonna do it (She's a second child. She can't help it). So I'm on watch. I can't trust her to do this all by herself yet. So it's gotta be me.
And that means I'm going to ask a few seemingly rude questions. Please don't hate me when you say that you checked for milk ingredients and then I'm all like, "can I see the box real quick?" (Did you know that milk has like seventy-two names?). It's not because I don't trust you. OK, It is because I don't trust you. But not in a bad way! Only in a mama bear way. I'm digging myself in a bit deep here, I get that. Moving on...
Did you know that when I walk into your house, I scan your counters? Also, I might be over here reading the labels of the bags of snacks in the trash can so there's that. If I start moving things further back on the table and rearranging snack placements, please don't think I'm a jerk-face. I'm just trying to set my playing field better to keep my kid safe.
I also probably have a bag of food that I brought so that she can eat. Please don't be offended. It's not your cooking. I love your cooking.
And finally, birthday parties are becoming especially hard. I mean, cake. The heavenly mouth loving celebration that is a plate full of cake. 99.9% of the time, Plum can't have your cake, man. Until recently it didn't really matter much but see, she gets it now. She wants what the other kids are having. And it's just cruel to bring her to a party to watch other kids enjoy cake. And so we will also bring dessert just for her (I'm not the best at baking without eggs and milk but I'm getting there).
Ok, that's about it. In closing, I just wanted to thank you for the invitation to share food with you. I hope that after all this jazz, you still will want us to actually come over.
~ Mama Pants
PS: This post was inspired by a very special six year-old's birthday party this past weekend. Her mom, Jessica, stopped off at a vegan bakery and purchased a special cupcake just for Plum to enjoy. I mean, that is some hostess with the most-ess type shiz right there.. Thank you, Auntie Jessica! Can I get a WHAT! WHAT! from all the allergy moms for Jessica? I mean...
Clockwise: Mmmm, vegan cupcake; Pants channels Madonna; then slurps some frosting like a boss;Plum thinks she has the best dessert (she does); HATS! OMG HATS!
To be clear though, I'm not complaining. In the grand scheme of things, allergies and eczema can be for the most part controlled. This comes in handy for a control freak. Not that I am one. What?
Once again linking with the amazing Greta and Sarah for #iPPP.
Click that button and link up!
I have three challenges everytime I think about making dinner. One kid is crazy picky, hates most meat and loves dairy. The other loves food, especially meat, but is allergic to milk and eggs (peanuts and shrimp too). I love butter, bacon and cheese but that's irrelevant. I have moderate skills in the kitchen, so whatever I cook needs to be easy-ish. And fast. Because, if left for too long to their own devices, someone gets hurt. My kitchen is tiny. My goal is always to make the same dinner for everyone with at least one thing on the plate that appeals to everyone. Oh wait, that's more than three challenges.
So, excluding spaghetti night, I usually succeed in making everyone happy about once a week. Which is totally fine with me. This week it was apricot chicken that brought us together in happiness. And while Mr. Pants rejected the chicken meat itself, he drowned his rice in the sauce and licked his fingers clean. And
he ate up all of his broccoli (the side I know they like) and asked for more. Plum ate her serving(s) as though she had just returned from Survivor: Baby Starvation Camp and hadn't eaten in months. Sucking the sauce off the chicken and then
eating it. Enjoying each bite twice. I had to add a little rice at the end to sop up the juice from my plate, otherwise I would have licked it. Which I am not above doing, I just wanted more rice. When Daddy got home from work, he wasn't hungry but he ate a spoonful of the sauce and declared it awesome. Which made me prouder of myself than I care to admit.
So here's the recipe
that inspired it. My friend Lynn, made some modifications when she made it last week and I followed her lead because she had declared it yummy. She wasn't blowing smoke. The only allergy substitution I needed to make was Earth Balance for the butter. And I used boneless boobs instead of on the bone. It turned out like heavan. Heavan.
Oh my God, I did that!
This is what I ended up doing. Get the original recipe from here
1 cup apricot jam (I used preserves
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth (I used water and 1/4 c soy sauce)
8 split chicken breast halves, on the bone (I used skinless boneless boobs)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened (I used Earth Balance)
12 dried apricots (about 4 oz.), cut into thin slivers Make it:
Preheat oven to 375
In small saucepan whisk together the top three ingredients and make a saucy sauce.
Seaon the chicken with S&P and lay it flat in a big old baking dish.
Pour the heavan sauce over the chicken. Coat it up. Dot the Earth Balance on top and sprinkle the apricot slices. Throw it in the oven and bake til done. Baste a few times to keep things nice and juicy.
Ours was done in 35 minutes.
I served it over jasmine rice with trees on the side.
Brilliant idea number 6
This week I have had exactly seven brilliant ideas. Five of those were ways to get Mr. Pants to try new foods. Four of those five failed. He wouldn't even give the array of bitesize Nathan's hot dog with red straw tooth picks and all four of his favorite dipping sauces a sniff. I mean, what kid doesn't like a hot dog? It's a hot dog! And Nathan's aint cheap. You know I had to eat that cold ass hot dog after he left the table. I digress, SO, one of my brilliant ideas succeeded in getting a taste but that was it. He hated it. Sweetheart. But this kid wouldn't recognize delicious food if it kicked him in the shins. Because, I mean, not to toot my own horn (ok yes, I will toot it), this dinner was amazeballs. It was stupid good. And I'm going to take it one step further and say that I'm officially graduated from basic skill/ not very good to level two. Or the "I have a few skills in the kitchen and I'm not afraid to use them" level.
On Wednesday, I decided to make it Green Day. All day we talked about green things and gathered all of the green toys to play with. I was pumping up the idea that dinner would be all green too. He seemed to think that was cool. But when I placed his green meal in front of him he looked at me as if to say, "What the hell is this?". It was avocado mac and cheese, kale chips
and broccolli. He took all of the broccolli off the plate to save it and then asked for spaghetti. He's lucky I had some leftover in the fridge because my wounded heart turned a smidgey resentful (I'm human!) and I probably would have made him toast for dinner rather than make a fresh batch of spaghetti. But I try not to die on hills in battle without a good reason, so I heated up some spaghetti and we all sat down to eat.
It's a good thing for my ego that Plum is a food lover. It's a cruel twist of fate that she is my food allergic kid. And I've been trying to find a way to feed them both the same things. So when I stumbled on the avocado macaroni and cheese posted in a FB dinner group by my friend (and vegan sage), Hillary. I thought I was looking at the perfect solution. She vegan-ized this recipe
and her son loved it so I gave it a go. To make it safe for Plum, I replaced the milk, butter and cheese with Earth Balance, rice milk and Daiya shreds. I added more cilantro and garlic than the recipe called for too. Because I figured that since I wasn't using the recommended pepper jack cheese, it would need a little more flavor (I added some red pepper flakes to my serving. Duuuude
, so good). When I placed it in front of her, she laughed. She has never had anything creamy or cheesy
before. Her reaction made me smile. She poked the noodles with her finger for a minute and then brought her finger to her lips to taste. Then it was on like Donkey Kong! Baby girl hummed and rocked back and forth and ate every last bit of her creamy avocado goodness. When she was done, she smeared herself with the leftover sauce. And for two seconds, she was my favorite. Because she obviously knew that I needed that to happen or I may never cook again. I'm fragile. As I reached for my phone to capture Plum covered in avocado cheese sauce, I looked over to see Mr. Pants tasting his serving. He gagged and then scrubbed his tongue with a napkin. I mean, he tried it. Which is a lot more than I can say for the fancy hot dog dippers or the terryaki chicken (covered in his favorite cheese to encourage trying it. BARF!) or grandma's chicken and rice (I mean C'MON! You LOVE rice but noooooo
, it touched the chicken.) or the pot stickers that we tried to convice him were fancy nuggets (Fail). He didn't even smell those things. But he tasted the green mac and cheese. I guess I'll take the progress. At this rate, he'll be eating one new food every two years. Le sigh....
My mama is the best cook ever and I love her
Do you have a picky eater? Any tricks or tips you want to share with me? Seriously, I'm really serious. I need more ideas! Seriously.
When your baby is allergic to foods, eating out becomes difficult. Every menu becomes suspect. Because milk and eggs seem to be included in just about every american food. Chicken is breaded with it, the fries are fried in peanut oil and no one offers vegan grilled cheese around here. So this week we started looking for safe place for us to go out and eat. Just into town we found a little mediterranean place that is perfect. Perfect because 85% of the menu is safe for Plum, cross contamination is unlikely and also because they carry the chicken strips and fries required by Mr. Pants. The only thing we didn't know was if Plum would go for it. I knew she was down with falafel but the rest of the menu would be new flavors for her. So we set out to give it a go and crossed our fingers that we'd found our go to eatery.
Some context for the rest of our story...
About a month ago, Plum started to show her appreciation for her favorite foods by triumphantly holding them in the air and yelling out their praises. Like this cucumber that won her heart. We call this her "F@#K Yeah!" reaction. And when she gives it, we know we have scored. She doesn't give this reaction to just anything. It's got to be the best food ever at that particular time. The opposite of a "F%^k Yeah!" is a "Oh no you didn't" reaction. This is when she brings a new food to her lips, makes a horrible face and looks you straight in the eye as if to say "Oh no you didn't" and chucks it to the floor with disgust. Also not given lightly.
Cucumbers! F$%K Yeah!
Ok, so we head to the little mediterranean joint for a family test drive. We order the traditional strips and fries for Mr. Pants with the hopes that he will also try the falafel and grape leaves. He does not go beyond the sniff test. But at least he sniffed it. That's
progress. He goes on to be completely adorable and spends the remainder of our family dinner flirting with the counter girl. Classic.
Plum is offered falafel, grape leaves, and some lamb from daddy's gyro. Bypassing the lamb, Plum dives into what she knows. Falafel. She loves falafel. I make a mental note to try and make tempeh for her at home. A few minutes go by and she has trained her eyes on the grape leaves. She thinks about it. And then...
What the hell?
This could go either way. Lemon flavor is new for Plum.
Daddy and I watch and wait. What does she think? Does she love it? Does she hate it?
Placing it back to her lips, she tried again.
And with a squeal she reserves only for good food, she lifted that grape leaf into the air to
proclaim it awesome. And Daddy and I smiled. We have a winner!
Grape leaves! F$@k Yeah!
So the Pants Family has found a place to eat out. Approved by both tiny humans and both parents. Good food. Safe food. A counter girl who thinks Mr. Pants is a sweetheart and chicken strips. The search is over.
I am not very creative in the kitchen. I can make a few things that are pretty easy but beyond that, I'm lost when it comes to cooking. Praise the heavans I married a chef. Seriously, praise them. Because this guy has been feeding me for six years now and I am grateful for his talent. So so grateful. Because when he found me, I was eating bagels for dinner on the reg. But it's time to chuck my fear of making crappy food out the window. I mean, I'm never gonna get any good at it if I am too afraid to try. All because I am too afraid of the look on the faces of my loved ones when they are trying not barf through dinner. I think this fear grew unmanagable on my Dad's 60th birthday. I had invited the whole family to my house for a celebration and I was making a roast. I was so excited to play hostess and serve up a delicious down home meal. Long story short it was awful. Shoe leather and raw potatoes. We ordered pizza. Since that day my confidence in my cooking has never recovered. Until tonight.
I can't sit back like a whiny baby anymore and indulge my fear of cooking for people. Because now my lil lady has food allergies and I have to make her food because if I don't, that makes me a terrible mother. And I'm not one of those. I'm not! So here I go. I have no choice but to cook more. And I have to be creative. Because when one kid is the pickiest eater that was ever born and the other is food allergic, well, you have to get creative. And I can't fear the face anymore because it's gonna happen. I can recall a few meals when I was child that were downright awful (Mom! I love you! Don't hate me!) but that happens. I also remember that my mom made killer meatloaf.
So tonight I made a safe dinner for the whole family. I am not a foodie. I am no expert. But it was good. And I know this because Plum ate it hand over fist. I made this.
It's nothing fancy. It's corn pasta carbonara. It's gluten free, dairy free and egg free. And it has bacon. These are all good things. Because I don't want to live in a world without bacon and I don't want my baby girl breaking out in hives because of food ever again. So I'm going to keep looking for new and exciting things to cook for all of us that don't exclude her. I will embrace the fact that I'm gonna mess up. There will be nights when we have to pull out the "peanut butter" and jelly and cut up some fruit because Mama ruined the shiz out of dinner. But I'm not gonna let it stop me from trying. Because this lil chunker right here, gave me all the confidence I needed to keep on cooking.
Do you have dietary restrictions in your family? I'd love to know about them. And maybe, just maybe, you'd want to share it here? Cause one of these days my Friday idea is gonna stick.
Immediate egg reaction. First few seconds.
I didn’t need an allergist to tell me that my girl is allergic to milk. She blew
up like a red balloon the day I let her have cow’s milk for the first time. It was her first birthday. And I felt like a giant butthole for having given it to her and then leaving to decorate her cake at her god mommies’ house. I got a call from a frantic Daddy, “How much Benadryl can I give her?” his voice shaking. “Half a teaspoon, WHY?” I shot back. “She’s covered. COVERED in hives”. I think I shot home faster than I have ever driven before. I probably would have led the Po Po on a chase had they decided to try and pull me over. I needed to get to her and see her. “Watch her breathing, if she starts having trouble, call 911!” I immediately called her pediatrician (who still didn’t think she needed allergy testing, I might add. Yeeeeah, she’s fired) to see if we needed to take her in to the ER. She hemmed and hawed and told me that as long as she was breathing ok, then to just watch her and give her the Benadryl. The Benadryl got her hives under control and I stayed up all night long watching her breathe. It sucked.
The next day, the hives were gone. And I knew I wouldn’t be giving her any dairy until we saw an allergist. But there had to be something else. Because even after I eliminated dairy for both her and myself, she was still having hive outbreaks and it never really coincided with what I could determine was a new food. And something truly sucky about eczema is that stress makes it worse. And having hive outbreaks and itching like a mo fo falls squarely into the stress column. So her eczema went berserk. Cracked and bleeding, she woke upwards of ten times a night. Crying. Itching. She broke my heart. Pediatrician be damned, we were going to an allergist. Can I get a what what?
Well after what felt like four years, our appointment day finally arrived to find out the score. It was egg. Egg was the evil little hider in her foods that was messing with her calm and sweet sensibilities. Eggs, the food that even though I put them in front of her probably about 5 different times, she never even touched. Actually she wouldn’t even look at them. I guess she knew all along.
So milk, eggs, peanuts and shrimp are no longer welcome in mine or Plum’s diet. And after just five days her eczema is back under control and she’s had no hives.
So here we are. New normal town again. The Pants Family knows a thing or two about adjusting to a new normal. It’s gonna
take some time to figure it out but I have no doubt we will. Plum needs us to figure out how to eat so that she can too. And you know what? I really needed to give up the chocolate anyway. Like for riz. Also I’m thankful that we figured this all out a few days shy of Easter. The day when you give your kids hard boiled eggs, deviled eggs, quiche and chocolate. I’m super thankful for that.
I’ve got some new rules and attitudes in place. It's just new. We will figure it out. And it's ok to be stoked about going to Trader Joe's again. Hey, you gotta find a silver lining somewhere. And driving forty minutes to grocery shop is like an adventure. I think we'll head there once a month to stock up on stuff.
Not a bad first haul
So this week I've learned more than I ever thought I could about one subject. The good news is that there are places to go
and get this information. Our biggest issue right now is in keeping Mr. Pants from giving Plum non safe foods. So the first order of business is to replace all snack foods with ones that are safe. At least for now. Until he gets out of the "Isn't it fun to throw food around the house" phase. I mean, that's a phase right? Someday he will stop crushing graham crackers into the floor, yes? Sigh. And any not safe foods are only during meal times at the table so that I can be there to monitor.
Second order of business? Become knowledgable about labels. Read everything. Reading labels is completely insane and takes forever. Did you know there are seven million different ways to say “milk”? Cause there are. And even if a food is free of milk, eggs and peanuts, they are often made on machines that have those things on them so cross contamination is possible. It sucks so hard to get excited that a food is safe and then go on to read that it was a neighbor to and may contain traces of the devil, er allergens.So I thought it was super nice of these folks to make this particular label a little quicker to read.
In related (completely unrelated?) news, I’m 36 years old and I am finally going to give tofu the old college try. I am super proud of myself for this because I have always considered tofu a non-food. But maybe, just maybe I'll like it? And just when I got super stoked about all of this, Plum reminded me that she is still in charge. Because no matter how excited you are to offer your food allergic baby her first safe “peanut butter” and jelly sandwich, she is still a baby and she will probably still chuck it to the floor. Silly girl.
And finally, these last few weeks I have been shown that I am surrounded by amazing people. We have the luxury of not doing this alone. Along the way I have made friends that have been through this. Most of these friends I know only through the magic of the internet and have never met face to face. And still more that I haven’t seen in years. All of these amazing people have messaged me recipes, support sites, information and practically came through my computer screen to hug us and tell me that it's going to be just fine. That we can handle this. These friends of mine are amazing. I am this confident, not because of my superior adjusting skills but because I know we are not doing this alone. Not anywhere near alone.
You know who you are. Thank you. From Ms. Plum and all of us, thank you. Thank you.
Does your child have food allergies? Do you have any words of wisdom to share? I'd love to hear it.