Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Thanksgiving Menu...It Doesn't Have To Get Complicated...

Busy never seems to quite cut it this time of year.  With all of the hustle and bustle of the Holidays, you can't help but overextend yourself for the fear of missing something great.  For a few weeks now I've had our itienerary's made for the coming weeks; so much to enjoy and participate in.  This year is already so much better than the last due to the fact that I am now a Food Allergy Holiday Veteran.  Last year was my first, and I knew going in to it that I was in for it; I didn't disappoint.  This year, however, I am still cooking but with a much happier attitude.  Our menu plan is for a group of 12 at my In-Law's.  I share the duties with my Mother-in-law.  My responsibilities this year:

My Thanksgiving Menu
Green Bean Casserole
Macaroni and Cheese
Thumbprint Cookies

She will have prepared a baked ham, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and corn.  My father-in-law's cousin makes the baked beans, and my brother-in-law smokes a turkey and a deer shoulder.  I know it will all be great.  This year I am attempting to make the old-school Green Bean casserole from the TV commercials, only my way.  I plan to make my own onion rings with thin slices of onion battered with cornmeal and deep fried until crispy; set aside.  Steamed green beans from the garden; set aside.  A basic cream sauce beschamel with thin sliced portabello mushrooms.  When cream sauce is correct consistencey- add green beans and pour into baking dish; top with onion rings.  I'll set aside and warm through before sharing with the family.  I was so excited to find gluten free cream of mushroom soup, but it unfortunately had soy listed.  A great dairy free option would be with almond milk, and sliced almonds included in the topping.  If we weren't tree nut free I would be all over that one.  The dressing is super simple for us.  I save all of our end pieces from our loaves of bread, I use for bread crumbs, croutons, and starting in August I save for Dressing.  I add it to crumbled Bob's Red Mill Cornbread that I pre-made.  Stir in chopped celery and onions that I sauteed until translucent, along with 2-3 eggs whisked.  I place all ingredients in crock-pot and add 4 cups of chicken stock to start.  Place crock-pot on low and leave for a few hours (5-6), adding chicken stock later if needed.  I know it's a bit "out of the box", but this is the way my uncle makes his and it's always super delicious.  I may even add chopped turkey cutlets for an even yummier addition.  My Macaroni and Cheese is my super yummy infamous Kentucky Hot Brown Mac n Cheese!  The recipe is listed here!  This year I am changing up my Vanilla Bean Cheesecake recipe just a bit.  Instead of using my vanilla wafer crust, I bought Bob's Red Mill Brownie Mix.  I plan to follow the directions for the brownie mix and then spread batter thinly on the bottom and up the sides of my spring form pan; and using my traditional vanilla bean cheesecake recipe  for the filling.  My husband is super excited about that one and even suggested I make it in the first place.  As for the thumbprint cookies- a shortbread cookie recipe I'm working on with a bit of jam in the "print".  I'm not sure where I'm going with the flavors of this one yet... I'm thinking possibly cranberry? maybe.  Anyway, there is a definite theme here....Easeness.  So what if I'm using the crock-pot and prepackaged mixes!  This year is about spending time with my family and the joy of the holidays, I missed that last year.  Last year I was so worried about everything with the food allergies that I forgot about the fun of everything and seeing everyone. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving as well!  If it's your first with facing these challenges I would like to remind you that It really will be okay.  Don't let the stress of it takeover, and if you feel that happening-take a step back.  Don't forget about those great moments of just enjoying homemade hot chocolate whether yours is with dairy, almond, soy, or even coconut... That's a great way to step back and remind yourself that this beautiful time of year only happens once... So make it count!!
Don't worry, I do plan on taking notes for all of these recipes so that I may tweak and/or share with all of you.  Lots of recipes are out there for food allergies, the key is to not get overwhelmed by the ingredients.  Sometimes they are intimidating on their own.  Remind yourself that cooking is supposed to be a little fun as well...
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!  I Hope It's Wonderful!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Great Halloween and Looking Forward to November..

I hope everyone had a fantastic Halloween; I know we did.  We did things a little differently this year and ended up with a great result.  We opted to participate in our Church's Trunk or Treat this year.  My husband and son decorated our "trunk" while I visited every other "trunk" with a food allergy goodie bag for my daughter in a very Kristina from Parenthood kind of way.  Though I did run the risk of appearing as the "crazy lady", it went pretty well.  I took her and our neighbor's trunk or treating while the Husband and son passed out food-allergy friendly candy.  No, she didn't just get her goodie bags; but that was okay.  She did get mostly her goodie bags and passed the other candy onto her friends.  We also participated in the chili supper with my chili staying in the truck as to not risk contamination or none left when we got there.  We had a blast "tailgating it", there were no tears and lots of smiles; therefore I would say it was a huge success.  We did also participate in the traditional trick or treating, it was a request from my son.  We discussed it as a family (yes, we discussed trick or treating; we discuss everything) and decided it would be fun in the traditional sense of dressing up and running through the streets (not literally).  We went with neighbors and drove into town and had a great time and divvied up all the candy to friends.  It wasn't nearly as scary as she was thinking it would be and that was the point.  She needed the confidence to know that it really wasn't a big deal; that she could still participate and have fun with just choosing to not eat the candy.  That simple.  I guess that's the point of discussing everything as a family; we never want our kids to feel overwhelmed with decisions we make for them.  Don't get me wrong, it's still a dictatorship over a democracy; only we choose to lay everything out ahead of time for questions/discussion.  While Halloween was very successful, it was only two days later that we headed to the Allergist for our tree nut challenge.  Yep, it had been over a year since her initial diagnosis and her bloodwork showed levels appropriate for a challenge.  She was so excited, my husband was super excited, my son was happy for his sister, and I was an absolute nervous wreck.  What would happen?  So many questions and scenarios were in my mind.  We were told to bring 30-40 grams of each tree nut to challenge along with enough for her to do for the many hours we would be there.  She couldn't eat breakfast that morning because her stomach was supposed to be empty and her appointment was at 8:30 in the morning.  We gathered school work, her dvd player, and some toys and headed off.  We chose pistachios, walnuts, and almonds for her challenge.  The only reasoning for my choice was her initial diagnosis lab work showed specific allergy to walnuts and the pistachios and almonds because I couldn't find anything else.  No really, we only have a Wal-Mart and Kroger here and all of the other nuts were flavored and included wheat and soy.  Kinda sucks.  The MD office crushed all of the nuts together and gave them to her in 3 different doses starting small and ending with a larger dose.  I brought vanilla yogurt for her to mix nuts with to make it easier to eat texture-wise.  By the end of the third dose it was going on 11 o'clock and she started with the itching.  By 11:40am her back was breaking out and she was getting pretty uncomfortable, antihistamines were given along with a small dose of steroids.  The good thing?  It was not an anaphylactic reaction, but we are going to continue to stay away from tree nuts and opted to not do a peanut challenge for now.  Besides, this is going to be a fabulous, busy time of year.  I love, love, love Thanksgiving.  It's my favorite holiday.  It starts the most wonderful time of the year.  It's the first time everyone comes together and shares a wonderful allergy-friendly meal.  When I say everyone, I mean everyone on my Husband's side of the family as my family isn't with the whole food allergy thing.  Sad for them as they are missing out on a yummy meal and two fantastic kids' lives.  Is this your first food allergy Thanksgiving?  If so, it's not as hard as it seems.  Yes, it's a bit overwhelming when you thing of the grand scheme of things, but it's really not hard.  This is my second, and I am ready for it.  Next week's post will be a bit more inclusive on the easiness of it.  For now, I'll just include a fabulous fall recipe to help get you in the mood....

Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Chutney

Preheated oven to 350 degrees

Cranberry Chutney
1 can whole cranberry sauce
¼ cup maple syrup
Dash of cinnamon

Over low heat to reduce and thicken.

Pork Tenderloin

Baking dish
Place pork tenderloin in baking dish.  Cover top with ½ cranberry chutney.  Pour 1-1/2 cups apple cider around tenderloin.  Bake uncovered for 40 minutes.  Take out and leave alone for at least 10 minutes to allow meat to rest.  Serve other ½ of cranberry chutney
alongside pork tenderloin.