Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Respect, Kindness and Food Allergies

Before kids, I had heard of food allergies, even was diagnosed with a couple myself, that I eventually outgrew.  But truly, I didn't give food allergies much thought before I had kids.

That all changed when R was in preschool and my PB&J loving (at the time) son's classroom posted a sign:

"This is a peanut-free zone."

My first reaction?  What about me, me, me?!  As in, "guess I have to find something else to make R for Lunch Bunch--that's a hassle."

I am embarrassed by my quick, initial reaction, but I think it is a common first that thankfully quickly passed.

For whatever reason, and we could debate it until the cows come home, there are increasing food allergies ranging from anaphylactic to milder sensitivities, especially amongst children.  And for many children, these foods greatly affect their physical and emotional health.

My boys don't appear to have any food allergy or sensitivities at this time, but we've seen a strong correlation between diet and their overall well-being.

After going gluten-free for much of the spring, I have a few thoughts:

1.  Parents who have children with food allergies and sensitivities deserve a rousing, standing ovation.  (Pause for you to stop reading and start clapping.  Really.)  Parenting is a hard enough gig, but when you add a food allergy or sensitivity you are adding a whole host of other issues:  special health needs, learning special diets, managing social settings and helping your child feel as typical as possible.

2.  Children who have food allergies and sensitivities deserve our respect, empathy, support and encouragement.  I've been blown away and impressed with friends' kids who have food issues and seemingly take it all in stride.  I know it isn't easy so as a parent, let me give you kiddos a virtual big ole' pat on the back and a high five being more responsible with your eating habits than many adults!

3.  There are a few parents who have the initial "me, me, me" reaction to food allergies and sensitivities, and seem to get stuck in this mindset.  I think most of you out there are kind and understanding, but I've also seen some pretty judgmental behavior too.  Why on earth would a parent insist on a special diet for their child unless it was necessary?  I would challenge those who lack empathy for food allergies and seem inconvenienced by them when they intersect with their lives:  if you think it is tough for you, put yourself in the shoes of the child and his or her parent!

With school starting soon and lots of new friends and classmates for our kids to meet and greet, I challenge you and your family to proactively support all the kiddos you come across who need special dietary needs.

Life is sweet (especially when we live our lives in kindness!),

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Herbed Chickpea Salad with a Dijon Vinaigrette

Our local Market District has a great, simple Chickpea Salad that I l-o-v-e.  Since R is a big chickpea fan too, I decided to work on a homemade version for us to enjoy anytime.

A balance of the fresh, crisp herbs and a light dijon vinaigrette marry well with the earthy chickpeas.  Try this recipe, it is a quick, unique side dish!

Herbed Chickpea Salad with a Dijon Vinaigrette

2 - 15oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 3 cups cooked chickpeas)
2 tablespoons fresh chives (or green onions)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh mint (or use 4 tablespoons total parlsey instead)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, removed from stems
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Place the chickpeas in a bowl (this recipe is so easy, you can use the serving bowl to mix):

Gather your fresh herbs, rinse and pat dry.  Chop the chives, parsley, mint and thyme.  Add to the chickpeas:

In a bowl or jar, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper.  Stir or shake well.  Pour over the chickpea mixture and stir well to combine:


Serves 6 as a side.

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Taco Kale Salad with Chipotle Ranch Dressing

Growing up, one of my favorite summer dinners was my mom's taco salad, complete with French Dressing and crumbled Doritos.

Now that I am the mom, I love taking childhood favorites and upping the nutritional ante.  So for my rendition, I've:  

--Swapped the iceberg lettuce with finely chopped kale
--Replaced the French Dressing with homemade Greek Yogurt Chipotle Ranch
--Switched the ground beef with black beans
--Added chopped avocado and red pepper instead of shredded cheese
--Used baked chips instead of Doritos

Yes, this salad has all the great flavors of my childhood but with a huge boatload of extra nutrition.  

And for her part, my mom has also started using kale in salads too!  Go mom!

Taco Kale Salad with Chipotle Ranch Dressing

1 bunch kale, removed from the stems
1 - 15.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed, or 1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked black beans
1 small red pepper, diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 avocado, diced
1 lime
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh salsa (jarred or use this Homemade Salsa Recipe)
a couple handfuls of baked tortilla chips

Rinse and pat dry the kale.  Take the kale, after it has been removed from the stems, and chop well.  Place in a large bowl with the black beans, red pepper and red onion:

Next, mix the Chipotle Ranch Dressing, stirring well.  Add a few tablespoons at a time:

Mix well until all the leaves are coated.  Add more tablespoons of the dressing until the desired dressing amount has been achieved:

Combine the diced avocado, lime juice and salt.  Mash with the back of a fork.

Once you are ready to serve the salad, place a serving of the kale leaves in the bowl, and top with avocado mixture, salsa and some crumbed chips:

Serves 6.

The zesty, bold flavors of the salad toppings enliven the kale like you've never tasted.  And since the kale is crispy and hardy, it holds up well to the dressing without becoming soggy.

A great summer salad!

Life is sweet,

Monday, July 8, 2013

Peach Raspberry Muffins (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

We have new back-door neighbors that moved in about a year ago.  Their family has blessed us in so many kids in the neighborhood (with a trampoline!), lots of sharing of "do you have an extra egg?" and such, and a mom who loves cooking and food.

Last week they surprised us with fresh-picked raspberries.  They were literally the most gorgeous berries I'd ever seen.  Our family devoured them that very evening, but I did save a few for these muffins.

Sporting both peach bits and raspberries, these muffins are very moist.  I used a whole-grain gluten-free flour mix, but you can make these with whole-wheat flour too.  Either way, the whole grains hold up well to the moisture in the fruit.

Enjoy these within a day or two of baking, or pop them in the freezer and keep them for future snacking!

Peach Raspberry Muffins
(adapted from Gluten-Free Baking Classics)

2 cups whole-grain gluten-free flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if making with traditional flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup soy or almond milk (use dairy milk if you don't need it to be dairy-free)
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 large peach, diced
1/4 cup raspberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt and ginger.  Mix well.

In a medium bowl, combine the milk, oil, vanilla and eggs.  Combine until the eggs are fully incorporated into the other wet ingredients.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Stir until just combined.

Add the peaches and raspberries.

Line a muffin tin with 12 liners.  Add the batter until each liner is about 3/4 full.

Bake 22-27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.


Makes 12 muffins.

*The skin of the peach will turn purple during the baking, but tastes perfectly wonderful.  If this change in color bothers you, you can peel the peach before dicing and adding to the batter.

Life is sweet,

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lemony Orzo with Shrimp and Feta

I love a good pasta salad (hold the mayo, please) in the summer, and they're the perfect make-ahead dinner or picnic dish.  This one features shrimp, fresh lemon, parsley, zucchini and feta, all mixed together with orzo (use quinoa or rice if you are gluten-free).

As with any pasta dish, feel free to change it around to fit your family's tastes.  Don't like zucchini?  Try broccoli, peppers or green beans.  Feta isn't your favorite?  Goat cheese, fresh mozzarella or cubed swiss can work.  Switch out the parsley with basil or cilantro.  The sky's the limit!

Lemony Orzo with Shrimp and Feta

1 1/2 cups orzo, uncooked
1 small zucchini
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
1 pound small shrimp
1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh chopped parlsey
4 oz feta cheese
1/4 cup sliced red onion (or scallions, shallot or Vidalia)

Cook the orzo according to the package instructions.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the zucchini and place in a large bowl:

Drain the orzo and pour over the zucchini.  Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and let sit so the heat of the cooked orzo softens the zucchini:

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Cook shrimp 4-5 minutes or until pink and no longer translucent.  Add the shrimp, zest of the lemon, juice of the lemon, salt and pepper to the orzo and toss well:

Once cool (you may want to pop the orzo mixture into the refrigerator for a short bit to ensure the pasta is cool, so it doesn't wilt the parsley or melt the cheese), add the parsley, feta and red onion:

Mix and serve:

Serves 6-8.

Life is sweet,