Category: Uncategorized

Taking Advantage of Winter

  
We live in a small Northern Michigan town with short beautiful Lake Michigan summers and LONG cold winters!  Thankfully, we have raised our boys to love the outdoors and embrace the cold snowy winters!

Food allergies aside, it is very important as a parent to teach your children about living a healthy lifestyle which includes exercise and admiring the beauty of nature.  Most importantly, combining the two with fun outdoor activities as a family!

We are a downhill ski family and love to ski together frequently. However, it’s great to mix up the winter outdoor activities with our boys and enjoy a fun experience snowshoeing from time to time. Our boys not only love snowshoeing in the outdoors, but it’s good quality time well spent with our boys, and our dog Scout gets to run freely and it keeps him in shape also.

So if you live in a winter wonderland like we do, don’t forget to include your children in your fun outdoor activities this winter! Enjoy the snow and have a great weekend!

Food Allergy Awareness Video

This collaboration video Food Allergy Voices by FARE (Food Allergy Research Education) and CBS is eye opening for those who are not affected by food allergies on a daily basis. Please pass along and share this to help us spread food allergy awareness.

Lack of Birthday Party Invites with Food Allergies

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This happens all the time and it literally kills me inside.  It is a reality in life for families with children that have life-threatening food allergies.  Often times, our children will be passed over for a play date, birthday party, sleep over, etc. because of their food allergies.

How do I possibly explain these “lack of invitations” to my now 6 and 8 year old boys?  This is, in my opinion, one of the hardest obstacles to overcome as a parent of children that both have multiple food allergies.  Obviously, we have been dealing with this issue for years and I think managed it well, but it is still challenging.

You NEVER want your child to feel left out of a situation because of a silly disability like a food allergy.  I ALWAYS volunteer to help the hosting parents out by providing the food and helping to chaperone.  Many of the classmates in my boys’ classes are very understanding and want their friends with food allergies (ie. my boys) to be able to enjoy the same birthday snacks as the rest of their classmates.  Several of the parents usually call me in advance to ask if there is “safe” birthday snack they can purchase so my children will feel included and not “different” or “left out.”  This is great and I really applaud these parents who are sympathetic and do not want to exclude children from classroom celebrations.  Thank you to all of these wonderful parents!  It really brings tears to my eyes when others go out of their way to accommodate our boys eating challenges.  For the most part, we are blessed to live in a caring and understanding community.

I always  keep “safe” treats in the classroom freezer for my boys to pull them to pull out and enjoy along with their classmates.  This would be in a situation where the rest of the class is eating something “unsafe” of course.

This system has worked extremely well the last couple of years and my boys always seem to feel like they “fit in” with their classmates.

However, recently a situation occurred at school where the parent called me in advance to see what treats they could bring in that were safe.  I thought it was absolutely wonderful they were looking out for every child’s safety in the classroom and I was overjoyed this particular parent took the time to call me in advance of her child’s in class birthday celebration.  After school that day my son mentioned to me that his same friend had an after school birthday party that he was not invited to.  All of his little buddies were talking about it all afternoon at school and he didn’t understand why his close friend didn’t include him in the after school celebration.  A rough concept to grasp at the tender age of only six, I might add.

At first, I was upset that my son was not included but then when I really thought about it, I realized the parent who hosted the party most likely didn’t want to deal with (1) food allergies (2) didn’t know how to handle the situation (3) it was too time consuming to consider inviting my son and then creating a “safe” atmosphere and (4) “you don’t know what you don’t know”…enough said and I was making assumptions of course.  Whatever the reasoning may have been to not include my son, it didn’t really matter at the end of the day.

This situation was an example of the many times my children will be excluded from social events due to their food allergies, in my opinion.  And again I’m making this assumption that this was the reasoning.   Food allergies are more difficult to manage now that our boys are only 6 & 8.  Albeit, it’s easier than when they were 2 & 4!  Hopefully managing their food allergies will only become easier as they mature and become more responsible for eating in a safe environment and carrying their Epi-pens.  Eventually the responsibility will be completely on them and my husband and I have been training them for this since they could talk.

There are multiple situations where our entire family has been excluded from events due to our children’s allergies but that can be covered in a future blog post.

The hardest part of dealing with rejection is how to eloquently explain it to my 6 year old in a way that he understands.  I was not honest in telling our son that he was most likely not included due to the difficulty of people accommodating his food allergies.  Of course I wanted to protect him.  I told him that “the child’s mother probably didn’t have any more room in her car to accommodate more boys…additionally it was a small, last minute party with only a few of your classmates and not a big deal that you were not included, etc…etc. …etc”. 

Thankfully, that landed well with my son and that was the end of it.  I guess it’s easier explaining such situations to our 6 year old than our 8 year old because he now “gets it.”  This is something that our children will have to learn more about overcoming and rising above as they grow and mature.  Always taking the high road.

It’s not easy to watch as a parent but it is OUR reality.  I would appreciate any input, suggestions, stories, etc. of how you and your children cope with rejection and exclusion sometimes during similar situations.

My husband and I are adamant about always telling our boys that their food allergies do not define who they are.  They are like every other little boy and girl their age.  They ski, they swim, run, play, go on vacations, eat out at restaurants…they are SPECIAL and LOVED!  In fact, we tell them that they are lucky because they eat healthier foods than most children which will benefit them in the long run.

I digress….have a great weekend!

~Erika

 

 

Dairy Free Hot Cocoa Mix

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I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year!

We finally have excellent snow in northern Michigan and the downhill skiing at Nub’s Nob Ski Resort has been wonderful!  My husband, boys and I have been season pass holders here for years and we’re happy to call this resort our home during the winter months. 

Many children that ski often look forward to hot cocoa breaks in the lodge to warm up their cold bodies from being out in the elements.  Obviously, our boys cannot drink the hot cocoa from the vending machine in the cafeteria since it contains “milk” as one of the main ingredients. 

Over the years I have been making my own dairy free version of powdered hot cocoa mix.  I make several individual servings for my boys to use throughout the ski season. They simply put the zip lock baggie in one of their ski jacket pockets, add hot water from the cafeteria “hot water” machine, stir,  and they are the happiest kids in the lodge.

Here’s my recipe which has taken a few years to really perfect:

Dairy Free Hot Cocoa Mix

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hersey’s)

1/3 c. granulated sugar

1/3 c. powdered soy milk (I use Better Than Milk Vanilla Soy Powder purchased in bulk from amazon.com- it’s the creamiest!)

Method:

Mix all of the ingredients together with a wire whisk in a bowl.  I will often double or even triple the recipe making a huge batch that I store in an air tight container for the winter.  I will then scoop about 3 Tablespoons of the mix into several small ziplock bags for my boys to take skiing each day.  It stores well and is easy for them to grab out of the pantry in individual servings.

You can also add dehydrated or mini marshmallows to the individual baggies.  I usually add these since my boys love marshmallows with their hot cocoa like most children.

Just add hot water to the mix, stir and enjoy!  This powdered hot cocoa is not only Dairy Free but it’s creamy and delicious as well!  Not to mention easy to take on the go whether it’s skiing, sledding or ice skating!

 

DOVE CHOCOLATE RECALL

Please click on the link below to see the detailed information about the voluntary Dove Chocolate Snowflake recall for eggs, wheat and peanut ingredients that are not listed on the packaging:

http://breaking911.com/recall-alert-chocolate-recalled-nationwide-mars/

 

Vegan Egg Quiche

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Vegan Egg by Follow Your Heart is a revolutionary new egg product that is vegan, dairy free, gluten-free, non-GMO and soy-free!  I have to say, this product has been an amazing addition to my recipes enabling my boys to have eggs for the first time in their lives!   The day Vegan Egg became available for purchase, I immediately placed an online order for 3 cartons of Vegan Egg on amazon.com.

I have made scrambled eggs, omelets, sugar cookies and now quiche with the Vegan Egg.  My two boys as well as husband have deemed all of the Vegan Egg recipes as WINNERS!   Vegan Egg has the consistency of real eggs and can be substituted for eggs specifically in most recipes.  The product is made from whole algal flour and algal protein which is the protein source.  It is low in cholesterol and healthy all around. 

The directions on the egg carton state to use “ice cold water” and whisk vigorously with the Vegan Egg mixture.  I recommend following these directions precisely and you will achieve the delicious Vegan Egg result that I have on multiple occasions.   Once again, Follow Your Heart has created a delicious product and I am now a new loyal customer for this product!

My Vegan Egg Quiche is a dish that can be enjoyed for any occasion.  I’m excited to make it for our annual Christmas morning brunch this year and hope you will enjoy it as much as my family does!

Vegan Egg Quiche Florentine:

Preparation Time:  20 minutes

Cook Time:  50 minutes

Ingredients:

3 eggs (6 Tbsp of Vegan Egg whisked vigorously with 1 1/2 cups ice cold water)

3/4 cup organic soy milk (or other non-dairy alternative)

1/2 cup organic chopped spinach

1/4/ cup organic deli ham diced

1/4 cup Follow Your Heart American Style Slices diced

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon fresh parsley chopped

fresh Italian parsley for garnish

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1 Pillsbury pre-made pie crust

Preparation:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees;
  2. While oven is heating vigorously whisk the ice cold water and Vegan Egg together in a large bowl and set aside;
  3. Form the pie shell into an ungreased pie dish and place in the oven for 10 minutes;
  4. While pie shell is in oven add parsley, peppers, and salt to Vegan Egg mixture;
  5. Remove pie shell from oven and reduce temperature to 350 degrees;
  6. Add the diced ham, spinach and American cheese to the bottom of the pie shell and spread out evenly;
  7. Using a spatula gently pour the egg mixture into the pie shell on top of the ingredients;
  8. Once oven temperature has decreased add quiche to the oven and cook for approximately 50 minutes or until a took pick inserted into quiche comes out clean.
  9. Serve hot and garnish with fresh Italian parsley.
  10. Enjoy!

 

 

Is a Pasture Raised Turkey Worth the Price?

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YES!  YES! and YES!  If you have never tasted a free range turkey this year is the time to try one!  I have been ordering turkeys from our local Duerksen Turkey Farm in Mancelona, Michigan for the last 6 years and the difference is not only in the humane practices they use to raise the turkeys but the taste is AMAZING!

Pasture raised is best according to Duerksen Turkey Farm because, “Omega-3 is one of the two essential fatty acids that cannot be produced by our bodies but are required for good health. Omega-3 fatty acid is found in green leaf vegetables and grass. ..Omega-6 fatty acid is found in grains such as soy beans and corn. Both are essential for our health.”

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At Duerksen Turkey Farm, “Our turkeys spend their lives in wide open spaces. They dine on tender green grass and breathe fresh country air, while chasing after a delicious meal of a variety of insects and grasshoppers. They are not subject to crowding, toxic ammonia fumes, or inhumane practices.”

The above accounts from my local turkey farm are similar to the hundreds of other free range turkey farms across the country.

Some people may be afraid to buy a pasture raised bird because they have grown up accustomed to eating their Butterball and Purdue turkeys since they were a child.  Others may complain that $3.99 a pound for an organic turkey is too much.  I would argue isn’t your health worth a couple dollars more a pound?  Plus, you know where your food is coming from.

Conventional turkeys sold by giant supermarket chains all across the nation are often raised in crowded CAFO (confined animal farming operations) conditions. These conventional turkeys are often caged with limited range of movement and kept indoors. They are fed hormones and antibiotics, which makes them retain water and artificially increases their weight. Antibiotics in the poultry business are given to guard against the many illnesses confined birds are susceptible to during their lives in crowded, unsanitary conditions, but also serve the purpose of water retention, raising the weight of the bird by as much as 15 percent and cutting a week or more off of the growing (and feeding) time. Finally, the finished, packaged turkeys are also often injected with water, salt and preservatives.

Yuck!  I don’t want my family eating a conventional bird!  DO YOU?

The boys and I are driving to the turkey farm this weekend to pick up our 22-24 lb turkey and I’m excited for the boys to see where the turkeys were pasture raised.  Typically we meet the owners at a drop off location in our town every year to pick up our turkey.  This year we decided it would be fun to take a field trip to the turkey farm instead.

Finally, free range turkeys are just as simple to prepare as conventional birds with the “pop-up” timers.  LOL!

This is straight from the Cooking Tips on Duerksen Turkey Farm’s website, “Put away your timer and get a good meat thermometer. Be prepared to use it! Turn down the heat; our experience and advice is LOW and SLOW. Keep covered to preserve the moisture. Ease up on seasonings and sauces. Grass fed turkeys should be seasoned delicately so as not to mask or compromise the true flavor. Allow turkey to rest 30 minutes before serving.” 

Estimated Cooking Times:
(based on 325 oven)

12-14 lbs – 2 ¼ to 3 hours
15-17 lbs – 3 to 3 ½ hours
18-20 lbs – 3 ½ to 4 hours
21-22 lbs – 4 to 4 ½ hours
23-24 lbs – 4 ½ to 5 hours
25-27 lbs – 5 ½ to 6 hours

If stuffed, add 30 minutes to cooking time. Suggested meat thermometer temperature should reach 160-165 degrees internally.

Now please don’t be intimidated by pasture raised turkeys and do yourself and your family a favor this year and try a free range turkey!  The taste is truly worth it!  I promise!

Enjoy!

~Erika

 

 

Epi-Pen Scripts All Finally Refilled After Recall Debacle

As I have posted a few times within the last week since the Auvi-Q recall, it has been a week of STRESS trying to fulfill refills to replace the total of 9 Auvi-Q two packs for my boys that were recalled.  After countless hours on the phone with doctors, pharmacies, insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers and multiple visits to many different pharmacies, I’m happy to report I just picked up the last script of Epi-Pen Juniors at Meijer pharmacy for my boys. 

That said, I have to mention a HUGE shout out to the AMAZING customer service I received from the pharmacy staff at the Petoskey Meijer! They were compassionate, understanding and determined to get our insurance company to fill the multiple refills this week! I sincerely thank you all!  Oh and thank you to the wonderful customer service at Mylan Pharmaceuticals who manufacturers the Epi-Pen Junior.

We are now safely armed at school, home and on my person  with the appropriate number of Epi-Pens my husband and I feel is necessary to be safe at all times with our food allergic boys. This includes 4 auto injectors at home, 4 on my person at all times, 2 per son’s school classroom, 2 per child in the school office medical cabinet and 2 posted in the school cafeteria….Phew!  Now I’m completely relieved!

Just thought I would share this update as many have been following and praying for us during this difficult journey over the last 7 days. Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers. It is a good feeling to know we now have safe medicine in case we face an accidental food exposure.  Time to relax a bit!

~Erika