Before I had children, I thought kitchens were for Lean Cuisines and maybe an occasional Thanksgiving Dinner. Then came my little guy with multiple food allergies and it seemed that cooking was all I did for the two years of his life. One of his first words was "deglaze!"
If you have a child with food allergies, you will need to cook more than you used to, but once you have a routine down, it will become second nature. Below I'll share some tips that will help you glide into this new lifestyle with ease.
Recipe for Success
Start by reading through allergy-friendly recipes online. Try the Epicurious Advanced Recipe Search for recipes without specific ingredients like dairy, gluten, nuts, eggs etc. Or browse some allergy friendly websites where you can get recipes and answers to your cooking questions such as Cooking Allergy Free, Food Allergy Kitchen, and the Allergic Living and Food Allergy Support forums.
If you're dealing with multiple food allergies, purchase a food allergy cookbook - even if you don't normally use one. Two of my favorites are The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook and 8 Degrees of Ingredients but there dozens more available. You might also consider Allergic Living or Living Without magazine. Both offer a nice selection of kitchen tested allergy-friendly recipes with detailed instructions and beautiful photos.
When you're ready to start, you will need some new ingredients. Although some grocery stores carry alternative ingredients, it's easier to start by shopping online. The variety is there and if you deal with a reputable online vendor like www.allergygrocer.com your satisfaction is guaranteed.
If you're dealing with a single food allergy or just need a good substitute, check out these Safe Substitutes or 20 Great Food Allergy Substitutes. It's always a good idea to discuss new ingredients with your child's doctor. Foods that might arouse your suspicion like nutmeg (it doesn't contain nuts) might be harmless, while a seemingly innocuous ingredient like garlic or mustard might be one to avoid.
The Big Chill
Since many of our kids are not able to eat the typical fast food or sandwiches, it's helpful to make and freeze meals that you can quickly microwave and serve. I used one-cup or two-cup Pyrex bowls (which can freeze, bake or microwave) to freeze individual portions of chili, macaroni and "cheese," and "buttered" noodles. You can also make a large batch of safe chicken fingers, freeze them on a cookie sheet and then place in a large zip lock bag. Grab and bake as many as you need for a quick lunch or snack.
Any timeyou make a large quantity of rice, mashed potatoes, pasta or soup, remember to freeze a few individual sized portions for a meal or side dish later. You can label the lid of the container with a freezer label or masking tape.
Let Them Eat Cake!
As an allergy mom, treats are something you will always want to have on hand.
Birthday parties, holidays, and social occasions are likely to involve cakes, pies and pastries. Since you will not always have notice, it's good to keep a stash in the freezer. The next time you need a cupcake for your child, freeze the remaining cupcakes without frosting them. You can put a few tablespoons of frosting in individual zip lock bags. On the next occasion when you need one, thaw one cupcake and one bag of frosting and you're ready to go. Cup-a-cake makes individual cupcake carriers that will keep your child's treat intact.
You may also want to prepare other desserts and freeze them for impromptu dinners or picnics. You can prepare a delicious apple or cherry crisp with Cherrybrook Kitchen Sugar Cookie Mix (we use the gluten-free variety) crumbled on top of cherry pie filling or fresh apples slices mixed with cinnamon. You can freeze this unbaked and simply increase the baking time by 10 or 15 minutes when you want to bake and serve it.
Keeping your freezer stocked with a few quick meals and safe treats will keep your little ones safe and included all year long.