October 28, 2007

Don't go nuts; another bite of food allergies at school

I saw this link to this current Newsweek piece on food allergies, fear and allergies in the lunchroom courtesy of Sandy over at The Motherhood. There's always a great recommended read or two over at this new site; I peek in several times a week.

Back to the Newsweek article, the Bunning Family of Lake Forest, is mentioned in it. Not only do the Bunning boys have severe allergies, but the parents are big players on the allergy activist scene.

The article also highlights current allergy research and notes what some schools are doing to educate students about this important issue.

"In Connecticut, that's the law—the state's guidelines for schools require
teachers to educate kids about allergies, so they won't harass classmates who
can't indulge in, say, grilled cheese sandwiches. Massachusetts, Vermont and
Tennessee also have statewide allergy guidelines for schools, and this year New
York and New Jersey began to formulate their own. Proposed federal legislation
would take things even further, giving schools up to $50,000 each to voluntarily
implement uniform guidelines so that when children graduate from a school or
cross state lines, parents won't have to start the education process all over

What does your school do to educate teachers, parents and students about food allergies?

Be sure to check out Scrambled CAKE's food allergy series, including the popular essay Don't kill the allergy mom.

October 24, 2007

What's for Supper?

I often wait until about 4:00 to answer that question and then the boys burst in the door from school (if I'm not driving carpool that day) and, well it's another pasta night. For me, the secret ingredient in any great meal is planning ahead.

I enjoy cooking a satisfying meal for my family. When my boys offer up a spontaneous and genuine compliment about food I've made for them it touches some primal maternal nerve setting off a complex chemical reaction that releases a waterfall of feel-good endorphins into my system. All guilt and insecurities wash away, if only for a moment.

So you'd think I'd be better at this meal planning thing. But I'm not. We eat pasta. A lot. Please, send me your menu-planning tips.

Organizationally challenged as I am, I was delighted to be invited along with other blogging Chicago Moms to a complimentary Mom's Night Out at the Super Suppers in Northbrook sponsored by the Dairy Council. Like typical Supper Suppers customers, each mom
assembled six unique, large (dairy!) meals to bring home.

I've seen meal-assembly places that look very industrial- all about efficiency. By contrast, stepping into Supper Suppers was like stepping into a friend's house. It was so much about relaxing and enjoying the process. With pre-chopped ingredients and a staff that does ALL the cleaning up, it's easy to relax. Oh, and there was wine; that sometimes helps, too.

We mixed ingredients and mingled with one another as we moved from prep station to prep station, preparing meals to fill our freezers, and, eventually, our families' tummies.

Read what Kathy B., Marketing Mommy and Grrlfriend Jess had to say about the experience and the food.

October 18, 2007

My Brother was a Rock Star in Atlanta

I just returned from a trip to Atlanta for the trade show of the National Association for Foodservice Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM). I do believe I'm the first person to have ever written that sentence in a blog! NAFEM is similar to the National Restaurant Association show held each spring in Chicago, but with far fewer food samples. Which makes it less fun, but still good for business.

My family makes a niche software product that has quite a following among architects and designers of restaurants and other industrial kitchens facilities. Many people who only know my brother as the long-distance tech support guy stopped by our booth just for the chance to meet him in person. Whenever my brother started to do a demo, he'd draw a huge crowd at our NAFEM booth. Customers would line up to talk to him, sometimes just to say hi, or thanks. He was a total rock star.

I, however, was more like the anonymous roadie. Until I ran into a mom from my boys' school. All the way down in Atlanta! Who'da thunk?

I don't normally let my boys drink Coke, but I couldn't resist these cute 8 oz. aluminum colas cast in the classic Coke bottle mold. So we're saving them for a special occasion, like when Smartypants is over his mono and finally goes back to school (his illness was my little welcome home gift--ugh).

A friend from the South told me that Zapp's are the region's best potato chips and that I *had* to try the Spicy Cajun Crawtators. I leave anything with the s-word to DH and he's yet to open the package. So no report on that.

I barely made it out of the convention center on my quick business trip, but I did get a peek inside the new Georgia Aquarium. More than a peek really, I touched a bonnethead shark and a type of ray! Billed as the world's largest aquarium, it's must-see and has some very child-friendly exhibits. The New World of Coca-Cola, dedicated to all things Coke, is adjacent to the aquarium. And the nearby children's museum looks good from the outside. Atlanta might just be a great place for your next family vacation. Or ours.

October 09, 2007

Gluten-free Dining in Chicago

Why re-invent the wheel, or, in this case, the gluten-free dining guide? My webfriend Jenni Prokopy, who runs an excellent website called Chronic Babe, already wrote an informative piece about celiac disease and where to dine around the city on a gluten-free diet. It appeared a few months ago in the local webzine Gaper's Block Click here to read it.

You can also check out this recent Newsweek piece Waiter, Please Hold the Wheat to learn more about celiac disease and gluten-free dining on a broader scale.

And if you or someone you love is touched by celiac disease, you'll want to look at this brand-new book by (I'm guessing) the world's most popular gluten-free blogger Gluten-free Girl.

October 01, 2007

A Martini goes gluten-free

Adrienne Martini, author of Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood and mother of a child with a gluten-free diet is back, and this time she's guest blogging at Scrambled CAKE. She agreed to do this even before she knew I was going to send her some of the organic gluten-free lollipops I snagged at the Candy Expo. Check out Adrienne's regular musings at Martininimade.

The old adage about surprises is doubly true when it comes to kids. Expected joys and challenges seem to follow the small set like puppies follow peanut butter.

My husband and I didn’t expect to have a kid with Celiac disease, which means that any form of gluten will destroy the villi lining her small intestine. Her diagnoses came quickly. It took six short weeks, a blood test and a biopsy to figure out why she’d stopped growing, had a host of bowel issues and was generally lethargic.

In six short weeks, her entire diet had to change. Wheat, barley and rye had to be eliminated.

At the time, it was monumental. Finding the gluten turned out to be a larger problem than eliminating the gluten. Wheat is pretty easy to ferret out, thanks to the FDA’s new labeling laws but it and barley extract can sneak past you in things like tomato soup or butterscotch chips.

You learn to get on top of it – and describing that process is worth its own very long essay. To sum up, our little Diva –who is almost five now and growing like a weed – eats rice pasta like she chowed on the wheat kind. We focus on what she can eat, like apples and blueberries and cheese. She knows how to protect her own tummy and will give you an earful about her needs in that special way that a preschooler can.

Still, one obstacle remained. We had no idea what to do about birthday parties. Whether they were at her preschool or at someone’s house, kids’ parties always have cake. Always. It’s a rule of childhood. So what could we serve her when all of the kids were snacking on their iced confections?

For a few months, I simply let her eat as much ice cream as she could hold. If I were feeling daring, I’d scrape off some frosting that hadn’t touched any of the cake beneath. (This is fraught with cross-contamination hazards and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are truly desperate.) Then I was flipping through our newspaper and discovered the recipe that changed everything: magical cream cheese cupcakes.

Essentially, these are mini-cheesecakes without any crust. What’s fabulous is that you can make a huge batch (with your kid, if he or she is interested) and freeze them. When a party arrives, you pop one in your bag and go. What’s even more fabulous is that you can dress them up in any gluten-free way that you like. Smear ‘em with frosting. Sprinkle them with colored sugars. Top with nuts and/or jam. The options are limited only by your kid’s imagination.

The magical cream cheese cupcakes

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened (I recommend using name brand cream cheese. My experiments with the store brands have been less than satisfying. Edible, certainly, but lumpy.)
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
1.25 tsp vanilla extract
jam, sprinkles, fruit, frosting, nuts

Preheat oven to 325. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Beat (by hand or with a mixer) cream cheese, sugar and eggs. Add vanilla. Pour batter into muffin tins and bake 40 minutes.

These will settle a bit in the middle as they cool. Fill the resulting divot with whatever topping moves you and your kids. Enjoy!

Next up in the food allergy series: gluten-free dining in Chicago.


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