Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hooray for Halloween lollipops!

I am glad to say that over the years I've found a wide array of Halloween candy that Ainsley can have, including Dum Dums, Smarties, Sweetarts, Twizzlers, Starburst, Laffy Taffy, Mike & Ike, Dots, and Act II Popcorn Balls, just to name a few. The one thing missing from this list, you might notice, is any chocolate candy ... which is my favorite type of Halloween candy.

In the past, I've spent a fortune buying safe chocolate from places such as Amanda's Own, but in the past year I've begun making my own because it is so much cheaper and is very fun and easy. As I did with our Easter chocolates, for Halloween I bought a couple of candy molds (you can get them online from a place like this or from a craft store like Michael's or Jo-Ann's) and a bag of safe chocolate chips (normally I use Enjoy Life, but this time I went cheap-o and used Kroger Value chocolate chips, which contain soy but none of Ainsley's allergens). The molds I got were for lollipops, so I also purchased a bag of lollipop sticks. Total cost of this endeavor was about $5, and it made about 20 pops. Not bad!

I made the pops in the same way that I made the Easter candy - by pouring the chips into a glass bowl and microwaving them for 1 minute, then stirring, then microwaving and stirring for 30-second increments until the chocolate was melted and smooth. I then spooned the chocolate into the molds, tapped the molds lightly on the counter to get the air bubbles out, and stuck in the lollipop sticks. I refrigerated the molds for about an hour and then pulled the pops out of the molds and put them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator to store (you can also wrap the individual pops in small strips of saran wrap or press & seal before putting them in the bag - this might protect them a bit more).

Here are pics of the lollipops, of Leighton's face after eating one, and of us at a pumpkin patch this morning. I love this time of year!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Italian extravaganza!

Lately I've had a hankering for italian food - not the fancy pastas, but the pizza/calzone/breadstick-type food. As those of you dealing with a milk allergy know, italian food is particularly tricky because almost all popular italian dishes contain cheese or cream. I have tried a couple of vegan recipes that substitute tofu for cheese, such as in calzone and lasagna, and they've come out okay, but those recipes typically take a lot of time.

These last couple of weeks, I haven't had time for recipes like that, so instead I whipped together two very quick, very easy, and very yummy dishes: (1) cheeseless pizza with sliced tomatoes and olives and (2) pepperoni roll-ups. Both, of course, involve some sort of quick-baking Pillsbury canned bread (and by the way, did you know that if you pay attention, you never have to pay full price for those things? My Kroger frequently runs sales on the crescent rolls and pizza crust, and I've also found oodles of coupons for them).

Anyway, here is #1, the pizza:

All I did was unroll some Pillsbury thin-crust pizza dough onto a cookie sheet, put 1/2 can of pizza sauce on it (I like Muir Glen brand) and cover it with some thinly sliced tomatoes and sliced black olives (straight from a can). I also threw some ham on it too. Pepperoni would have also tasted awesome on it.

And here is #2, the pepperoni roll-ups:

The secret recipe is this: I rolled 3 slices of pepperoni up in each crescent roll and sprinkled some garlic salt, basil, and oregano on them. After baking them according to the package directions, I used the 1/2 can of leftover Muir Glen pizza sauce for dipping. As you might note, I tried to counterbalance the relative unheathiness of the pepperoni roll-ups by adding broccoli to the plate. I used a lemon sauce for the broccoli, the recipe for which is in the Vegan Lunchbox cookbook (see sidebar for cookbook details).

Given their ease and yumminess (not to mention that it's fun for the kids to dip them!), these roll-ups are probably going to make a regular appearance at our dinner table.

Camping trip - a success!

I am so sorry it's been so long since my last post. For the past couple of weeks, my husband has been working crazy hours so I have been trying to hold down the fort while he's been basically unavailable.

Dave did manage to take an approximately 28-hour-break to take Ainsley on one night of the first Adventure Princess campout, which was at a large campground 2 1/2 hours away. He had to bring so much camping-related stuff that I seriously didn't think he was going to be able to carry it all. Add to that the safe food he had to bring for Ainsley and I realized how difficult it was going to be to pull off this camping thing.

Thankfully, we did manage to figure out a camping-food strategy that is perfect for short trips to places where we're not expecting much of the food to be safe. We organized the food by meal and put all of the meal bags in a giant, soft-sided freezer bag. As an example, we put in Ainsley's Saturday lunchbag a soybutter & jelly sandwich, sweet potato chips, and a chocolate-soy-milk drink box. We put in her Sunday breakfast bag a covered bowl of her favorite cereal, a bagel, bacon, a drink box of rice milk (for the cereal), a drink box of apple juice, and a spoon. For the meal bags, we used gallon-sized ziplocs, but you could also use paper bags or large Glad/Tupperware containers.

Dave called ahead and made sure he could use the dining hall's refrigerator and microwave. After he arrived, he put the whole freezer bag in the refrigerator and would grab a meal out of it at mealtime. He kept a separate bag of snacks in his backpack and gave those to Ainsley while they were out during the day.

Because all of the other dads were very understanding of Ainsley's allergies, they were more than happy to supply safe foods for the big Saturday-night cookout (Dave had sent a safe list in advance). She ate hot dogs, chips, and smores just like the other kids, except her smore was made with an Enjoy Life chocolate bar instead of Hershey's. Her favorite part, of course, was roasting the marshmallows over the fire.

All in all, a successful campout and wonderful daddy/daughter bonding experience. The only unfortunate part was that, within an hour of their arrival back home, Dave had to go back up to the office. Hopefully he'll actually be able to enjoy an entire weekend of camping and relaxing next time.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Camping with food allergies

Ainsley and Dave are doing the YMCA Adventure Princess (dad/daughter) program for the first time this year, and it involves a lot of camping. Dave is not exactly the camping sort (we have gone camping exactly 0 times in the 13 years we've been together) but Ainsley is quite excited about it so he is being a good sport and planning on taking her to all of the campouts. Much to his relief, Adventure Princesses is really "camping lite" - they will get to sleep in air-conditioned cabins with normal bathroom facilities. So there's not a lot of roughing it involved.

The first campout is coming up soon so Dave has started to communicate with the other dads about Ainsley's allergies and safe foods for her. He and I have also talked about accommodations he needs to check on at the various campsites, including whether there's a refrigerator or microwave available to prepare her meals.

So far Dave has done a wonderful job of making sure the other dads in the group know about her allergies, and we were quite pleased that, at the group's first meeting, the host family provided fresh fruit as the snack so that Ainsley could eat it. Likewise, the dad in charge of buying some "camp food" (hot dogs, smores) for the upcoming campout was very understanding when Dave emailed him the safe-food list. It turns out that that dad's daughter has a tree-nut allergy, so he is quite familiar with food-allergy issues.

It is actually a really nice change having Dave coordinate Ainsley's food-allergy issues with regard to a special event. So much of the time, the burden falls on me as the mom to take care of everything like this. I have years of experience in coordinating food-safe playdates, packing safe foods for vacation, and dealing with preschool food-allergy issues. Dave has gotten used to me taking care of these things, which is fine, but it's nice that he's now learning all that is involved in making sure Ainsley (a) stays safe and (b) enjoys the event. Now if only I can get him to volunteer to be the room mom for Ainsley's kindergarten class next year ...

Anyway, since this group camping thing is all new to us, does anyone have any specific camping-with-food-allergies tips?