First of all, happy 35th birthday, Dave! We celebrated with his parents Sunday night by eating a birthday cake his mom made using a Duncan Hines German chocolate cake mix and Pillsbury vanilla frosting with sprinkles (she used egg replacer so the cake would be safe for Ainsley, and it turned out great).
Yesterday, I took the kids up to his office in the afternoon and we gave him a bag of his favorite candy, most of which was also safe for Ainsley (they share a particularly strong love of Twizzlers). He enjoyed walking the kids around his office and showing them off to his coworkers.
Then this morning Ainsley and I made him breakfast in bed, with bacon, toast (from some challah bread I made this weekend), and wholewheat/applesauce/strawberry/blueberry pancakes we made this morning using the pancake recipe in the Kid-Pleasing Cookbook (see sidebar, "My Favorite Cookbooks"). He loved it!
Second, I am sorry I haven't posted more lately. Honestly, until today, I haven't had anything much to say. Things are going really well but I haven't done many new things, especially on the food allergy front. Instead, the last couple of weeks we've been taking it easy and enjoying the summer.
Today, however, I do have an important request: Ainsley's annual allergist appointment is tomorrow so I would appreciate any good vibes you could send us. Specifically, we are hoping (but not particularly optimistic, given our past experience) that some of Ainsley's allergy numbers have gone down.
For those of you not familiar with food allergy appointments, once a year, we meet with Ainsley's allergist and tell him about any significant food-allergic reactions she's had within the past 12 months (like the now-infamous yogurt incident) and whether we think she's allergic to anything new (thankfully we don't). Then he gives us a lab form and we go get her blood drawn to test her immunoglobulin E ("IgE") numbers for the foods we know she's allergic to (a food-allergic reaction is caused by the body's creation of IgE antibodies to the food; when these antibodies react with the food, histamine and other chemicals are released, causing hives, asthma, or other symptoms of an allergic reaction).
About 5 days after the blood draw we get a call from the allergist telling us what her numbers are and what he thinks they mean (for example, last year Ainsley's number for peanuts went from a 12 to a 6, suggesting she might be outgrowing the peanut allergy. Boy, wouldn't it be great if that number were a 0 this year!).
I've learned over the last three years not to get my hopes up too much about this appointment, because so far she hasn't outgrown any of her allergies and the studies I've read suggest that she may not outgrow any until her teens at the earliest. Still, there's always that little flame of hope in my heart that this will be the year .... I can say her eczema has gotten markedly better since last year, so perhaps that means something in her little immune system is correcting itself. As I've said before, if I could choose an allergy for her to outgrow, it would be milk, so COME ON MILK I say as I kiss the dice and throw them on the table.
Finally, I have collected a few more excitingly easy, safe dishes that I wanted to share below. I found the chicken couscous recipe in Family Circle magazine in an article on dinners ready in under 20 minutes. It was, indeed, quite easy, and the family really liked it (the kids gobbled theirs up and Ainsley said more than once, "Mmmm, this is good!").
The vegetable skillet and cobbler recipes are from my wonderful friend Elena, who is so considerate when it comes to Ainsley's allergies. We've eaten over at her house several times and she always keeps safe snacks and prepares safe foods for Ainsley. She is also careful to note when something she prepares for her family looks safe for Ainsley and sends me the recipe. Thanks so much, Elena - every food allergy mom should have a friend like you!
Chicken Couscous with Grape Tomatoes
2 chicken breasts or 3 tenderloins (to make things easy on yourself, you could use a package of safe, precooked chicken - I often use Hormel Natural Choice oven-roasted chicken, found near the refrigerated deli meats)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 C safe chicken broth
1/2 chopped onion (okay, you do have to chop one vegetable, but I promise that's it!)
2 C thinly sliced carrots (I use fresh matchstick carrots so I don't have to do more cutting)
1 C uncooked, plain couscous
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
If chicken is uncooked, saute in the oil until fully cooked and then remove chicken from saute pan. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to the pan the chicken broth, onions, carrots, spices and seasonings and simmer for 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender (also add the oil if you didn't add it before while cooking the chicken). During that 10 minutes, cut the grape tomatoes into quarters. After vegetables are tender, add the chicken, tomatoes, and couscous to the pan and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes before serving (time enough for the couscous to fluff up). Makes about 4 adult servings.
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Hearty Vegetable & Rice Skillet
1 15oz can black, garbanzo, or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 14.5oz can stewed or diced tomatoes, cut up
2 C loose-pack frozen mixed vegetables
1 C water
3/4 C quick-cooking brown rice (if you use instant brown rice, use only 2/3 C water)
1/2 tsp dried thyme or dillweed, crushed
1 10.75oz can condensed tomato soup (optional - still tastes good without!)
In a large skillet, stir together beans, undrained tomatoes, vegetables, water, uncooked rice, and thyme or dillweed. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 12 to 14 minutes or till rice is tender. Stir in soup; heat through. If you are not allergic to cheese, you can add some shredded cheese on top. If not allergic to almonds, you could also top with slivered almonds. Makes 4 servings.
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Ultra-Simple Fruit Cobbler
4 Tbsp safe margarine
3/4 C flour
3/4 C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C soy milk
2 C sliced fresh peaches or nectarines, or whole blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or a combination of fruits (or a 12-ounce package of frozen berries)
1 Tbsp sugar
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put margarine in an 8-inch square or 9-inch round pan; set in oven to melt. When margarine has melted, remove pan from oven. Whisk flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt in small bowl. Add soy milk; whisk to form a smooth batter. Pour batter into pan, then scatter fruit over batter. Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tbsp of sugar.
Bake until batter browns and fruit bubbles, 50 to 60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of safe whipped cream (Soyatoo, available at Whole Foods, is safe for some) or soy ice cream, if desired.