Six Simple Tips for an Allergy-Free Picnic

 

Party Trays

A durable and reusable helper for parties, picnics and barbeques.

A picnic should be a fun gathering of family and friends where everyone can relax and have a nice time together. However, for many people attending a picnic can cause stress and panic. No, I am not talking about the dreaded conversation with your awkward uncle or the pressure from grandma to find that special someone. I’m talking about coping with the spread of dishes put out for meals.

For many, the serving table full of its tasty fare, chock-full of traditional picnic dishes can cause stress. In a time when there are so many fad diets, intolerances and medical needs involving food, there are many people that can’t just eat what everyone else is eating. At our typical family gatherings there are folks with food allergies, diabetics and vegans all needing to eat. So here are six simple steps we always use to help everyone have a nicer mealtime. Continue reading

Stock Up: Get the most from your big bird!

Turkey

Get the most out of your holiday turkeys (or even chickens)- make some stock!

We always get at least one extra turkey at Thanksgiving because the prices are so good. And when we did, we realized we still had a 23 pound bird in our freezer.

To make room for this year’s extra turkey, we had an early Thanksgiving feast. I really enjoyed this week of good eats. We had easy, tasty protein to add to our rice bowls, salads and sandwiches. We also could split the favorites of the classic meal into many different meals throughout the week.

As an added benefit I can freeze some so I have safe roasted turkey on the ready for my daughter, who has several food allergies. It’s great to pre-prep a quick snack or meal for her.

I like to cook my turkey in a roaster. I always make a large pot of stock from the neck and gizzards, liver and heart while the meat is roasting. I put the neck, the ‘innards’, fresh sage, garlic and a quartered onion to simmer in a large stockpot. I let it bubble away all afternoon and used it for gravy, basting and stuffing.

Turkey StockAfter I’d made gravy for our early turkey dinner, I canned the stock that was left and had five quarts of stock just from the stockpot.

Since it was such a large turkey for the four of us, John sliced it down, while I picked off all the usable meat for some turkey salad and other future dinners.

Then I took the bones and returned them to my now clean roaster with some more onions, garlic and this time a couple carrots and celery stalks. I filled the roaster with water and let it simmer all night through the next day.

Fat SeparatorIt was some work to get the fat off the top, but I found that cheese cloth or a paper towel along the top skimmed well. (A gravy separator will work well too.) From the simmered bones, I got another thirteen quarts of stock.

It only takes 25 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure to can stock. In years past I have frozen it and while it may be a bit quicker to freeze stock, I have had to dodge large frozen blocks of it falling out of the bulging freezer.

Then when I would go to use it I would need to defrost it and often the container it was may have been cracked from an escape attempt, and the whole thing was just a production.

With canned stock, it is just easy breezy ready to use. I just pop the top and go. It’s definitely worth the time invested to clean the jars and do the canning properly.

I also plan to make some vegetable stock with the veggies that tend to be on sale for the making of thanksgiving feasts. I also freeze any of the celery or carrots that aren’t crisp enough to eat or use the trimmings from other dishes over time.

It is super simple because you can just toss the cutting and leftover bits into a container and pull that out when you are ready to make veggie stock.

When you add the garlic and onions, don’t stress about peeling perfectly. I just pour mine through a strainer to get all the big chunks out. I leave the garlic whole, and quarter the onions.

So for much less than what the turkey stock alone would have been at the grocery store, I got gallons of turkey and veggie stock.Turkey Stock Plus we got a fresh roasted turkey, yummy turkey sandwiches, and all the other favorite leftovers.

I can season the stocks to taste when I am ready to use it and I know every ingredient. It doesn’t get more perfect or basic than that.

One recipe that I love to make with the stock and some frozen turkey is dumplings. Just google gluten free vegan chicken dumplings if you need to avoid wheat, milk or egg. We have to avoid those things, and searching for vegan recipes makes things simpler. I just don’t tell the vegan dumplings that they’re cooking up in my meaty turkey stock!

If you don’t have food limitations, make your favorite dumplings, and toss them into a pefect, homemade stock. Really in a rush? You want these pot pie noodles. They’re great, and locally made.

The Mystery of the Teal Pumpkins

When you see this poster, you'll know there are safe treats!

When you see this poster, you’ll know there are safe treats!

I am not usually a bandwagon jumper. I like to go along with the crowd enough to fit in but I did not do the ice bucket challenge, succeed at posting 3 thankful thoughts a day or any of the other social media movements.

I tend to be practical, to take direct action, to try make the world a little better for others. So why am I in the craft store stressing about teal paint?

Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has launched a campaign to create an inclusive environment for food allergy children at trick or treating. They are encouraging families to paint a pumpkin teal if they are going to offer a non-food treat. (The poster is downloadable, by the way.) Continue reading

It’s Super Simple to Freeze Fresh Fruit!

fresh blueberries

Fresh blueberries, clean and ready to freeze.

Recently, I got to share how I can foods for my allergy-aware family.

And I realized I need to share how I freeze seasonal fruit too. It’s just like canning: I know exactly what’s going into my produce, and (even better) my kids love it!

One of my daughter Moriah’s favorite breakfasts is frozen blueberries. Last year we were gifted a large bag of them. I’m going to talk mostly about how I froze blueberries, but the idea is the same for any seasonal fruit. Continue reading

Canning Makes It Easy To Handle Special Diets!

Here you can see my 'pineapple' zukes, left, and drink concentrates, center and right. I use Ball® and Kerr® jars.

Here you can see my ‘pineapple’ zukes, left, and drink concentrates, center and right. I use Ball® and Kerr® jars.

When I was growing up in Kent, Ohio my mother and grandmother canned tomatoes every Labor day. I hated it, I just wanted to be normal and buy tomatoes from the store in a real can not a jar that we said was a can. I didn’t want the bees swarming our hot house and I wanted to tell my friends of some fun activity that we did- not can tomatoes!

I smile when I think of that young girl that so desperately wanted to fit in and be cool. Now I have given up and embraced the country world I am in and love to can. I love the freedom I have when I pull a jar off the shelf and don’t need to read the fine print or call the company to make sure it won’t harm my family. I also love that I can look at recipes in canning cookbooks and not have to make any real dietary changes. Continue reading

The Wheels On The Bus…

Ecobags lunch sack at Lehmans.com.

A blank, recycled canvas! Ecobags Lunch Sacks are fun to decorate, and are washable, great for allergic kids. At Lehmans.com or Lehmans in Kidron, Ohio.

Where did time go? My  baby girl is suddenly five years old and getting ready for her first day of kindergarten. Wasn’t it just yesterday I held her in my arms and sang the song with her- soon she will be stepping on the bus.

I had hoped that she could be a carefree lunch eater and able to participate in every pizza party- but that is not her reality. Around age one she was diagnosed with milk, egg, wheat and sunflower food allergies. While we were hoping that she would outgrow them by now, she still has reactions to all.

So along with the normal supplies there will be an Epi-pen and care plan for the school follow. I hope that she will not carry all my fears and worries, but that she can find a safe balance of being cautious and being normal. Continue reading