Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Adventus 2011: Celebrating Allergy-free

The Christmas season is a favorite time of the year for many families. Decorations are hung, cookies are baked and everyone seems to have a little extra bounce in their step.

Our family is no exception.  Even before we hit the Black Friday sales, everyone begins to talk about our favorite Christmas tradition - the Advent Calendar.  Beginning December 1st, our family takes a moment each day to focus on something related to Christmas.  Whether we watch a movie, sing a song or make a craft, we enjoy this moment together ... and allergy-free!

Often times, advent calendars include chocolate, cookies and other allergic foods.  For us, these foods take the fun out of the celebration.  During our advent activities, we take the focus off of food and place it on the other activities that make this season so special. 

This year, consider joining us in our little tribute to this magical holiday.  Each day, I will share what we are doing to remember Christmas.  You may then read along or gather your family or friends to do the activities with you.  We will begin on December 1st by making a garland to help us count the days.  Then, each day through December 25th (Christmas Day), I will tell you the stories, links and materials that you need to complete the days activities with your loved ones.  We begin our countdown tomorrow by creating an advent garland.  Check back at the beginning of each day to see what supplies you will need to complete the evening's advent activity.

I hope that you will celebrate this month of Joy with us.  I hope that you will share how you are counting advent down in your homes so that we may celebrate with you, too.  Whatever you do, I hope that you will take a moment from life's business to remember the meaning of this season. 

Merry Christmas and may your advent season be filled with blessings.

I will post the advent topics as I plan them along with the items that should be placed in our advent bags.  Here's the list:
December 1:  The Advent Calendar
December 2:  The Christmas Cast (baby Jesus or a recipe for salt dough)
December 3:  Why the Pine?  (star, tiny brown, and different sized green buttons)
December 4:  The Beginning (a tiny flashlight and the word "Genesis")
December 5: Two Letters and a Phone Call (stationary, envelope, and a pen)
December 6: Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree (picture of Charlie Brown's tree)
December 7: Give and Be Blessed ($10 gift card for each child)
December 8: Be Ready! (popsicle sticks or craft sticks)
December 9: The Light of Christmas (a tea light)
December 10: A Hint of Christmas (fake snow, pine sprigs, and berries)
December 11: Let Compassion Shine ($15 grocery store gift card)
December 12: God With Us (flashlight and a paper or salt dough angel)
December 13:  Our Elf Story ("An Elf's Story" and peppermints/cocoa mix)
December 14: The Gift of Family ("A Charlie Brown Christmas" Record-a-Book)
December 15: The Trip (picture from a family trip)
December 16: Las Posadas (pinata or advent bag full of small toys)
December 17: Hold the Gingerbread (a paper gingerbread man)
December 18: A Living Nativity (a map to a living nativity)
December 19: Wrap It Up!  (folded paper pieces each with a family member’s name)
December 20: Your Christmas Story (copy of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”)
December 21: "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" (leave bag empty)
December 22: Three Kings (aluminum foil)
December 23: A-Caroling We Go (tapered candle)
December 24: Feed His Servants (cookie)
December 25: Let's Party! (birthday card telling angels to look in the refrigerator)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Roasted Beet and Potato Vinaigrette Salad

In Russia, a table is usually set with some kind of soup and a variety of salads.  The salads served change with the seasons and vary depending on which vegetables are available.  Made primarily of beets, carrot and onion, Roasted Beet and Potato Vinaigrette Salad gracefully combines the vegetables most commonly found during the very long, cold winters in Russia.

Traditionally, the beets in this salad would be steamed or boiled.  In fact, if you don't want to cook your beets, you can purchase them pre-cooked by babushka at the local market.  In the US, you can cut a corner by using the pre-packaged steamed baby beets found in your grocery's produce department.  I tend to use beets that I have leftover in my refrigerator.  Today, I have chosen roasted beets to enhance the flavor and texture.

Roasted Beet and Potato Vinaigrette Salad

2 beets
4 potatoes
2 medium carrots
3 cucumbers
1/4 red onion
1 T dill
2T rice oil
2 T rice vinegar
2 T sugar
1/8 t salt

  1. Peel  the beets and dice into 1/4 inch (1 cm) pieces. 
  2. Place your beets on a roasting pan and toss with oil and a dash of salt.
  3. Cook in a 375 degree oven until just tender.  (Works great in a toaster oven.)
  4. Remove and cool.
  5. Peel and dice your potatoes into 1" (1cm) pieces.
  6. Place in a pot of water with a little salt.
  7. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until just tender (about 3 minutes).
  8. Remove the potatoes from the pot and place in bowl of cold water.
  9. Remove from the cool water and place in a bowl.
  10. Peel and dice your carrots (1" or 1cm pieces).
  11. Place in boiling salt water (you may use the boiling water from the potatoes) and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes.
  12. Remove the carrots from the pot and place in bowl of cold water.
  13. Remove from the cool water and place in the bowl with the potatoes.
  14. Wash cucumbers and remove their ends.  If the cucumbers are seedy, slice the cucumber lengthwise and remove the seeds.
  15. Add the dill and beets to the bowl but DO NOT mix.
  16. Cut the cucumbers into 1" (1cm) pieces and add to the bowl of potatoes.
  17. In a small jar, mix together the oil, vinegar, sugar, and salt to form the vinaigrette.
  18. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and gently toss until all ingredients are coated.  The salad will become a purple color but if overmixed, all of the ingredients will become fully purple.
  19. This salad is ready to eat but if allowed to rest in the refrigerator for an hour, it gets even better!

NOTE:   If your beets are already roasted or steamed, go ahead and dice them according to Step 1, omitting Steps 2-4.

Try these other great beet recipes - all part of FNDish's Fall Beet Fest:

Bay Area Foodie: Baked Beet Ravioli
Thursday Night Dinner: Roasted Beets and Walnut Encrusted Goat Cheese
What's Gaby Cooking: Farro Beet and Herb Salad
My Angel's Allergies: Roasted Beet and Potato Vinaigrette Salad
Cooking Channel: Garlicky Beet Salad With Walnuts and Dates
The Sensitive Epicure: Simply Sauteed Beets
FN Dish: Top 3 Beet Salad Recipes
And Love It Too: Raw, Vegan and Sugar-Free Red Velvet Fudge
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Beet Salad With Crispy Leeks and Bacon
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Roasted Beet Salad With Bacon Vinaigrette

Monday, November 28, 2011

Allergy-Friendly Asian Pear and Winter Squash Fritters

When Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas decorations begin to come out, I am always at a loss for what to do with the winter squash that adorned my house.  Maggie at Momtastic had a super idea for a delicious snack that the whole family (10mo and older) can enjoy - Butternutty Apple Fritters.  Unfortunately, these fritters are not safe for my angel.  So, I set to work and created an allergy-friendly version that is sure to please.

Allergy-Friendly Asian Pear and Winter Squash Fritters

1 Asian pear, grated
1/2 butternut squash, pumpkin or other winter squash, grated
1/4 onion, grated (for savory version only)
1/4 C brown sugar (for sweet version)
1/4 t pumpkin pie spice (if not allergic)
3/4 C rice flour
1 t salt
1 T rice oil
1/4 C water
rice oil for frying
  1. Place all ingredients, except the water, in a bowl and stir.
  2. Add water a little at a time to form a thick pancake batter.  Only stir until just mixed; do not over-mix.
  3. Allow batter to rest for 30 minutes.
  4. Pour enough oil in a skillet to cover the bottom. Turn heat to medium or medium-high.
  5. When the oil is thoroughly heated, ladle batter into the pan and gently press to flatten. Keep your ladle in a bowl of water to prevent the batter from sticking. If the batter begins to stick to the ladle, just dip the it in the water again.
  6. Cook the fritters until light brown on one side. Watch your heat and only turn them one time. If the fritter cooks too slow, it will be hard on the inside; if cooked too fast, it will be mushy.
  7. Once the fritters have cooked on each side, place them on a plate with a paper towel to cool.
  8. Whether sweet or savory, serve with honey or Pear Sauce for a delicious snack.
NOTE: Rice flour doesn't perform well on iron skillets. I find that this batter does best in a non-stick skillet.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Roasted Baby Beet and Korean Pear Salad

Beets and Korean Pears are staple in our house so they often end up on the plate together.  This time, I have combined these two favorites with our favorite dressing to create a beautifully delicious salad.

Roasted Baby Beet and
Korean Pear Salad

1 bunch baby beets or 2 regular beets
1 T rice oil
1/2 Korean or Asian pear, peeled and finely sliced
1/4 red onion, finely julienned
1/4 head of iceberg or romaine lettuce
1/4 medium head of boston lettuce
1/2 head red leaf or other fancy leaf lettuce
1 batch Apricot Dipping Sauce for the dressing
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil.
  3. If using baby beets, scrub them clean, dry them and place them in the roasting pan.  If you are using regular beets, peel them and cut them into 1 inch pieces then place on the pan.
  4. Sprinkle the beets with salt and the 1 T rice oil then toss to coat.
  5. Roast the beets for 30-45 minutes until just tender.
  6. Cool the beets in the pan.
  7. Wash the lettuces and place them in a bowl.
  8. Tear the lettuce into bite-size pieces and cover with a damp towel.
  9. Place the lettuce in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour before assembling the salad to serve.
  10. Place pear and onion in a bowl with the lettuce.
  11. Drizzle the Apricot Dipping Sauce over the salad and toss.
  12. Just before serving, add the beets to the salad and give one more gentle toss.  If you used read beets, overtossing the salad at this point will turn your whole salad pink.
  13. Serve chilled.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Another Kinda Sweet Potato Casserole

Including sweet potatoes on this year's Thanksgiving menu was a must!  When my angel was 2 we discovered that potatoes are another "itchy food".  Yes, although uncommon, this food was another one of our many foods allergies.  Out went the potato starch.  Out went the potato flour.  Out went all potatoes. 
But, that changed last year when a blood test came back showing "0" IgE levels.  This year, through some trial and error, we now know that our angel can tolerate potatoes in limited amounts.  (Yes, only in limited amounts.  If too much is ingested, reflux and indigestion occur.  This is not an uncommon phenomena when ingesting former allergens.)  VERY exciting for us ...


Another "Kinda" Sweet Potato Casserole
3 American-style Sweet Potatoes (orange flesh)
3 Gogoma-style Sweet Potatoes (white flesh)
1 C rice flour
1/2 C brown sugar
1 C Rice Chex "flour"
2C crushed Rice Chex
6 T maple syrup
6-8 T rice oil
1 T rice oil for pan

  1. Steam or bake your sweet potatoes and allow to cool with their skins on.  (Can be done a day ahead and refrigerated.)
  2. Peel the skin from the potatoes and slice into 1/2 inch thick slices. (This is easier if the potatoes have been refrigerated.)
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Rub rice oil on the sides and bottom of  a 9 X 13inch glass or stoneware pan.
  5. Arrange sweet potato slices in the bottom of your pan alternating colors.  Stack them on upon the other like fallen dominoes.  Do this until you have covered the bottom of the pan. 
  6. Mix the rice flour, brown sugar, Rice Chex "flour", and crushed Rice Chex together in a small bowl.
  7. Add the maple syrup, stirring with a fork to create a lumpy dough.
  8. Continue stirring while adding the rice oil a little at a time.  Stir until the dough stays together when squeezed in your fist.
  9. Crumble mixture over the potatoes.
  10. Place in the oven and bake for 30 - 45 minutes or until brown.

NOTE 1:  This recipe is perfect for a convection/toaster oven.  Cut the recipe in half and arrange in a small oven-safe vessel with sides.  Then bake as instructed.

NOTE 2:  There are several varieties of sweet potatoes.  Some with whitish fleshes, some with orange, and even some with purple.  Don't be afraid to use the varieties available to make a beautiful sweet potato dish!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Creatures of the Forest

Thanksgiving is here and we are all busy planning who to invite and what to serve.  This year, include your little ones in the celebration by helping them make place markers for each of your guests.  I first got the idea from the Leaf People Craft at    Then, as I parused old magazines and caught up on blogs, I discovered lots of people transforming nature's bounty into art.  I sure do feel left out of the idea circle on this one!  As often as we take nature walks and as much "bounty" as we collect, shouldn't I have come up with this idea earlier?

I don't know why I never thought of this but it is never too late to get on the bandwagon.  So, we went on a nature walk.  We brought home our bounty.  I covered the floor withour all-purpose blue tarp.  Then, we set to work for a fall afternoon full of crafting.  Be sure to encourage everyone's creativity. Whether it is abstact or complex, simple or not, praise the children for their efforts.  Art is beauty. And, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Some of the materials that we used:
Dry leaves of various sizes                                            Crafting glue
Pinecones                                                                       Hot glue (if done by an adult)
Seed pods                                                                       Scissors
Pine needles                                                                   Old magazines
Googley eyes of all sizes                                               Pens
Fuzzy balls                                                                     Paper
Pipe cleaners
Other fun crafting items

To Make the Creatures:  Glue together natural items and crafting elements to form turkeys, people, aliens, fairies, or anything else that you can think of. 

To Make Placecard Holders:  We cut the faces out of pictures of people coming for Thanksgiving lunch.  We glued the faces on bodies made from our supplies. If we didn't have a picture of the person, we made their faces using craft items and labeled their "shirt" or "hat" with their name.

Party Favors:  If you don't want to use these on the table, you may attach a ribbon to the top of the creature or person.  This can be hung on an old tree branch and given as a gift.

Proudly Display:  Once all of the art is finished, you may proudly display it or pass it along as Thanksgiving gifts.  At our house, I hung pieces of cotton twine in the windows like garland and used wooden clothespins to string the leaves that were decorated along with the Thanksgiving artwork that accumulated throughout the fall.  I also ended up with lots of pinecone people, turkeys and pheasant. I piled those in a rustic basket and kept it on a shelf for all to investigate and enjoy!

ALLERGY NOTE:  There are all kinds of fun things to be found in nature.  But, these items can be allergens.  Whether it is the pollen coating the items or the seeds and nuts that can be gathered, this activity is a perfect opportunity to educate your allergic child.  Help them to understand how to properly handle allergic ingredients.  Teach your angels to wash after crafting and never to touch their face or eyes while playing with these natural items.  It is important for children to develop a healthy awareness and knowledge of how to manage situations when they encounter allergens.  Natures bounty is all around us and it is better for them to address any allergens while they are with you rather than when they are not.

Friday, November 18, 2011

This year, we are keeping Thanksgiving simple.  We have been invited to a neighbors house so I do not have to cook..... or, do I?  When living with an allergic child, there really is no break from cooking.  While restaurants may be able to avoid nuts or eggs or grains, they can not accomodate the two page list of foods which we must avoid to keep our angel healthy.  And, no matter how well intentioned friends, neighbors, and even relative may be, it is not long before they realize what a task it is to prepare foods when avoiding so many allergens.  So, while I may not be cooking a Thanksgiving feast for all to enjoy, my angel eagerly waits to see what safe foods are on "Four Angels Only" menu!

A Feast for an Angel

Cranberry-Glazed Cornish Hens

Downhome Mirepoix Rice, substituting long grain white rice for medium grain rice

Dressed-Up Cranberry Sauce

Another "Kinda" Sweet Potato Casserole

Roasted Baby Beet and Korean Pear Salad

Pumpkin No-Nuts with Maple Glaze

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cranberry-Glazed Cornish Hens

With their petite stature, cornish hen's are a fun addition to the Thanksgiving table.  Particularly loved by children, these small chickens are small enough to cook in a convection toaster oven and perfectly adorn the kids' corner table!  Our Cranberry-glazed Cornish Hens boast quick assembly and a mouth-watering flavor that are almost as exciting as the easy clean-up!  Use your favorite cranberry sauce or whip up a batch of our Dressed-Up Cranberry Sauce to turn these hens into a masterpiece.

Cranberry-Glazed Cornish Hens
1 recipe Dressed-Up Cranberry Sauce
4 cornish hens
1 orange, quartered
1T rice flour
1 large browning bag
garlic powder
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Open a browning bag and  put 1 T rice flour in the bag.
  3. Place the browning bag in the bottom of a roasting pan.
  4. Wash your cornish hens and lay them, breast up, in your browning bag.  Leave space between the hens so that they are not touching during cooking.
  5. Place one or two orange quarters in the cavity of each hen and throw a few around the bottom for added flavor.
  6. Sprinkle each bird with salt and garlic powder.
  7. Spread Dressed-Up Cranberry Sauce on the tops, wings and legs of the cornish hens. 
  8. Insert the probe of a cooking thermometer into the dark meat of one hen.  Be sure that your probe is remote or has a long high-heat wire.
  9. Seal the browning bag with its tie and cut a small hole in the top of the bag for ventilation.
  10. Roast the hens at 350 degrees F until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees F, approximately 1hour 15 minutes (or until juices run clear).  NOTE:  If you decide to try this in your toaster oven, check your manual for cooking times.  You may want to split the hen and place them cut-side down in the cooking pan to ensure the hen gets cooked through.  I would also recommend cooking the hens without the browning bag to allow for good air circulation.
  11. Remove from oven and, using kitchen shears, carefully cut down the center of the bag to open.  Rest the hens in place for 10 minutes, allowing the internal temperature to rise to 180, before serving.

For a stunning presentation:
  1. Remove the orange wedges from the inside of the hens and discard. 
  2. Scoop wild rice onto the bottom of a platter or individual plates. 
  3. Place whole or halved birds (cut side down) on top of the rice. 
  4. Drizzle each bird with the juice from one orange wedge. 
  5. Drizzle a little warm cranberry sauce over each bird.
  6. Place oranges on the platter with the birds and serve alongside a bowl (or scoop) of cranberry sauce.

NOTE:  I always can a little bit of my cranberry sauce each year.  You never know when you will want some in the off season.  And, in the event that you have any left when November rolls back around, you will already have homemade cranberry sauce without lifting a finger!

What a party!  Take a look at all the great recipes at Food Network's The Communal Table.
Which one will you be trying next?

Cocktails, Appetizers, Soups and Salads:
Sweet Life Bake: Pumpkin Margarita
Easy Peasy Organic: Thanksgiving Ginger Cocktail
Dishin and Dishes: Butternut Squash Bruschetta With Sage Pesto
Mooshu Jenne: Green Salad
Two Peas and Their Pod: Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash Apple Salad
Jones is Hungry: Roasted Vegetable Salad
Purple Cook: Pasta and Bean Stew With Tomatoes and Broccoli Rabe
From My Corner of Saratoga: Curried Pumpkin Soup

CIA Dropout: Turkey and Stuffles Roulades With Squash Mash
FN Dish: Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey

My Angel's Allergies: Cranberry-Glazed Cornish Hens

Cafe Terra Blog: Cranberry Pumpkin Stuffing
Virtually Homemade: Twice-Baked Cheddar and Chive Potatoes
Easy Eats Magazine: Sausage and Dried Cranberry-Walnut Stuffing
The Sensitive Epicure: Oyster Dressing and Gravy
Daily*Dishin: Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes Supreme
What's Gaby Cooking: Rustic Herb Skillet Stuffing
Family Fresh Cooking: Coconut Brown-Butter Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Silvana's Kitchen: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Mushroom-Rye Stuffing
The Cultural Dish: Cranberry Sauce

I Am Baker: Pumpkin Cake
Heather Christo: Pumpkin Vanilla Ice Cream Pie
And Love It Too: Pumpkin Custard (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)
Haute Apple Pie Girls: Double Pumpkin Mini Pies With Candied Pecans
Ladles and Jelly Spoons: Not Your Same Old Pumpkin Pie
Daydreamer Desserts: Cuban Diplomatic Pudding
Thursday Night Dinner: Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Caramel Apple Pie

The Communal Table: Thanksgiving Edition

I just love a party, even a virtual one. We've been invited to Food Network's Virtual Thanksgiving and I just can't wait!  I whipped up a batch of our No-nuts, steamed our favorite Wild Rice, and popped open a jar of Dressed-Up Cranberry Sauce from last season.  Now, I am working on a Cornish Hen recipe that will knock your socks off.  All of it is easy and sure to be ready for Thanksgiving!

So, #pullupachair on Twitter, stop by here to see what we're cooking, or join FN's Virtual Thanksgiving tomorrow, noon EST to see what everyone brings to the Communal Table: Thanksgiving Edition.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Autumn Fun

As we begin to think what we will serve with that turkey and what football games will be on TV, let's not forget something special for the young ones.  Here are some activity sheets to keep those little ones busy during the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving:

Coloring Pages by Crayola

Easy Autumn Word Sudoku Puzzle

Leaf Countin Puzzle - Medium Difficulty
Easy Leaf Counting Puzzle

Windy Day Maze

Fall Animal Finger Puppets

Wishing each of you a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Get your PEAR on...

Here is a contest that I can really get behind:  Pear-ca-so!   The Pacific Northwest Canned Pears Service is holding a pear art contest for children age 5-18.  The children are asked to create an original artwork with their pear.  It may be edible or inedible, stand-alone or animated.... whatever it is, it must be creative and original pear art.  The winner of the contest receives $500 in art and school supplies from Smilemakers.  What fun!

With an allergy to apples, pears are a major part of our fruit intake.  I can't wait to get our pear on and make some fruity fun!

Contest details can be found at