I can honestly say that our household diet wouldn’t be as healthy if my child didn’t have food allergies. I like to cook and I enjoy making things at home because I enjoy the creative process and the outcome (the flavor!) is usually much better than foods that are not made from scratch. However I have two young children and there are days when cooking is the last thing I want to do. Because I have to feed my daughter food that is safe and healthy, I push myself to cook far more often than I otherwise would.
Abby is allergic to dairy, eggs, nuts and almost all fresh fruits and vegetables. There was a time when the entire family ate what she could eat. Did I mention that we don’t eat much meat? I have many, many vegan cookbooks that have served me well these past few years. Lately we have been adding more and more dairy into the adult meal. I am not a vegan at the moment. Neither is my husband or my other child. Abby’s diet, with the exception of her food therapy diet, is vegan.
Breakfast is easy in our house. The girls eat granola (made by me in the fall, winter and spring), cereal (whatever natural brand is on sale that week – cereal is expensive!), or toast (I make my own bread in the fall, winter and spring. It’s too hot in the summer, so I purchase Freihofer’s brand because it doesn’t contain dairy). When I make bread from scratch, which I do about twice a week (often using Liz’s recipe), I always use a recipe with eggs because it’s part of Abby’s egg immunotherapy – she eats baked goods to build up her tolerance for eggs. It’s working.
My husband makes a juice for breakfast and I will have one 50% of the time. Somedays I hold off until mid-morning and eat one brunchy meal instead of breakfast and lunch. If I do eat breakfast, it’s a zucchini muffin that I’ve made or a piece of toast.
Lunch is also easy, because I hate to make lunch, I hate to eat lunch, I hate to break for lunch. I dislike everything about lunch. That’s why I often make one mid-morning meal for myself. My brunch meal may be leftovers from dinner the night before, like the bruschetta and greek salad I had yesterday. Or it might be eggs, fresh from my hens, scrambled with shredded zucchini from my garden. I still have onions left from the 40 pound box I bought last year from a local farmer, and I have been adding them to most of my dishes. Yes, they’re very shriveled at this point.
I homeschool my girls and we’re often home at lunch time. They eat soynut butter sandwiches or spread soynut butter on crackers (usually Wheat Thins because they don’t have dairy and they don’t use high fructose corn syrup) but lately Abby has been obsessed with Ritz. Ritz do taste very buttery, without the dairy, and I love that she has a chance to experience that taste. Abby usually has a type of cooked fruit – either canned mandarin oranges or dried fruit snacks, with water to drink. Heather, who is not allergic to anything, prefers a piece of fresh fruit with her meal. This week I’m buying peaches from the farm down the street. I buy bananas pretty regularly, understanding that every time I do I’m supporting wicked environmental and political practices with my wallet. I have to at least admit it to myself.
Sometimes we’re out and about at lunchtime and we need to eat on the run. Where does someone take kids with food allergies for lunch? We go to the grocery store. Yes, we eat at the grocery store, and we love it! They have tables and everything – perfect for us. We all get something different: I have sushi rolls made with brown rice and seaweed salad as the filling. Abby eats hummus with pita chips, and Heather has pizza. Grocery store lunches are my favorite.
Before I know it, it’s time to prep for dinner. Where does the afternoon go? Now the fun of planning three separate meals begins. Lately, I’ve played “Mix & Match” for the girls’ dinner:
One of these
Boca Chickn Burger (Abby eats hers on bread with tofutti cream cheese spread; Heather eats hers cut in pieces with ketchup. I buy organic)
Pasta (Abby gets Earth Balance margarine on hers, and sometimes pureed summer squash to thicken it; Heather likes Annie’s shells and cheese)
Roasted chickpeas (seasoned with chopped rosemary)
One of these
Carrots (cooked for Abby, raw for Heather)
One of these
Grain mix (last night I served a boxed Quinoa with Rosemary. Sometimes I make my own mixes.)
The girls drink rice milk with dinner, and will sometimes ask for dessert. It might be homemade coconut milk ice cream, other times it’s a lollipop, sometimes it’s a cupcake I make as part of Abby’s egg immunotherapy. I use boxed mixes for my cupcakes and cakes. I haven’t figured out how to make a good from-scratch cake yet. I use Duncan Hines because there’s no dairy in the mix.
Our adult dinner is a little more involved. I like dinner, it’s my favorite meal of the day. It always includes seasonal produce. Every night is different, but I do have a few staples that are in the rotation.
Stir fry is easy to adapt to whatever produce I have on hand. I use brown rice as a base. At this time of year I would use onions, garlic, carrots, cabbage and zucchini for the vegetables. Tofu or shrimp fills the dish out, and sometimes I scramble two eggs into the dish at the end. In the winter I serve this with bok choy salad. In the summer I serve it as is. It’s so full of veggies that I don’t feel guilty about not having a side salad.
Pasta with homemade pesto is another staple. In the summer I make a lot of pesto and freeze it in 4 oz. portions. It goes beautifully over pasta! In the summer I chop up tomatoes and add them, or roast zucchini slices and mix them into the dish. Pasta with pesto goes great with a simple side salad – lettuce with fresh herbs sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Warm crusty bread with olive oil is good too, but we try to eat that in moderation.
In the fall and winter, we eat soup – tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches are a sinful treat. I preserve tomato soup during the summer so we can enjoy it in the winter. I make my grilled cheese sandwiches with thick slices of homemade bread, using a filling of shredded cheese and cream cheese. Then I bake them until they’re golden on both sides, flipping once. Yum. If I don’t make tomato soup, I make a basic vegetable and bean soup. White beans and carrots often show up in our soups. I don’t use homemade stock. I never quite got the hang of making it. I buy Better than Bouillon, the organic vegetable stock. I also don’t cook my own beans, although I would like to learn how this year. I buy organic canned beans at the grocery store. If I buy the store brand, they’re generally less expensive than the name brand organic label.
My favorite meal that I keep in the every-other-week rotation is “appetizer dinner.” I love appetizer dinner! It generally consists of a few plates: crackers or bread with my homemade jam and goat cheese or quark from Argyle Cheese Farmer (this year I made fruit jams with cardamom and I love the way they taste with the soft cheese); grilled bread with either pesto and chopped tomatoes or grilled shrimp and radishes; and greek salad. This is the time of year to eat greek salad, because the peppers are local. I generally do not buy peppers from the grocery store during the off-season.