October Food Finds

Recently I’ve found quite a few dairy and soy free snacks for Colin and myself.  This group I found at Trader Joe’s.  Hopefully you are lucky enough to have one near you.  They have a unique selection of items and great prices.

1.  Trader Joe’s Freeze Dried Banana Chips- These are just freeze dried bananas.  They are great for us because they are just bananas, no other ingredients and they dissolve pretty quickly compared to the usual dried bananas.  I can eat them and if I break them up into little pieces, Colin can eat them.

2.  Trader Joe’s Coconut chips -These are little flakes of coconut.  They are small, like a little piece of tape.  They aren’t quite what I would think of as flakes and not quite chips.  They are sweet and crunchy and something I can have when I need that little something sweet to munch on.

3.   Trader Joe’s Top 8 Allegern Free Soft Baked Snickerdoodles –  I really like these cookies.  They are free of the top 8 allergens and are soft and chewy right out of the box.  If you’ve tasted my snickerdoodle recipe, they taste nothing like that.  They are much closer to a soft ginger snap in my opinion.  I think the dates and brown sugar in the cookie create a molasses-like flavor.  They are very very yummy!

4.   Trader Joe’s Spiced Cider – I have to put this on the list because I tell everyone about their cider.  Yes, you can get cider just about anywhere these days and adding mulling spices yourself isn’t hard, but I love this cider.  It is cider, not just apple juicen and the spices are just right.  All you need to do is warm up a mug and find a quiet place to enjoy it!

What a year!

I can’t believe that Colin is actually a year old.  Time has just flown. I think with the second child, you are always so busy that you don’t even realize that time is passing by so quickly. No, this isn’t the end of my blog, just a big moment in Colin’s life and a good moment to stop and reflect.

It has been an amazing year with Colin.  He started smiling the second day he was home from the hospital and never stopped. He is a happy, easy-going guy when things are going well.  He laughs a lot, is curious about everything and loves his big sister so much.  It has been such a joy to see the two of them growing together and forming the sibling bond. I’ve loved all the wonderful “baby” moments and milestones of this past year. With the giant learning curve and anxieties of first time parenting behind me,  I could relax and enjoy things differently and appreciate the baby stages, knowing that they are gone in a blink.

Although incredible, this year has been one of the hardest years of my life.  The challenge of learning to care for two children, to divide myself to care for everyone and changing everything food related in my life were a lot to take on.  The early months when we didn’t know what was wrong with Colin, surviving colic, finding information on food intolerances, being Colin’s medical advocate, feeling exhausted and deprived and all the emotions of this rollercoaster were tough.  Much has gotten easier but it still isn’t easy.  Although many foods no longer tempt me, I still miss many of the old foods I can’t have and we are constantly searching for safe things for Colin and I to eat.  Food = work.  As my husband could tell you I’ve complained many many a day, asked God to let me “quit” the food/breastfeeding job, and yelled “I’m Done With This” too many times to count. Despite these moments of frustration,  I know that this challenge was set before me for a reason.

In this last year I’ve come to see resources and support in my life I might not have appreciated enough before.  I am more thankful than ever that I am a foodie and I am a stay at home mom.  I’m not sure how I would have made it through otherwise.  When I realized we couldn’t eat anything made in a store I was able to start making everything that went on our plates.  I have a wonderful husband and daughter who, without complaint, took to eating my diet.  They gave up all the yummy cheesy dishes we used to eat, gave up nights out at restaurants and they put up with all of the failed experiments that come out of the kitchen (not to mention the dishes I create doing all this).  I also have amazing family and friends are so thoughtful and have graciously changed their menus and even vacation plans for us.  In addition I’ve met wonderful moms and kids also dealing with food issues that I would never have met otherwise.

This challenge has helped me to see the strength in myself, that I can rise to the occasion, daunting as it might be.  I learned how to be a better advocate for my child and a smarter consumer.  I also became a better cook, making things I never contemplated making like mayonnaise, chiffon cake, and edible baked goods made with water and no butter.

The end of Colin’s first year is also the beginning of his second year.  I know there will still be obstacles in his future but I’m willing to bet he will have a lot of food successes.  I’m looking forward to seeing him turn into a toddler and see his personality continue to emerge.  I hope that weaning will happen sooner than later and that it will be an easy process for the both of us.  To get there he needs to take in more calories in “food” so this year will be a year of many food trials.  It will definitely be an interesting and challenging year ahead!

Cherrybrook Kitchen-First Birthday Cake

As I mentioned in my last my last post, I found a soy, peanut, dairy, egg, and nut free cake mix at Whole Foods.  It is made by Cherrybrook Kitchen and it is my new favorite allergy friendly cake mix.

The first thing I loved about this cake mix was the ingredient list.  It is simple and contains real foods.  I checked the company’s website and although it doesn not say it on the box, the mix is also soy free.

It does contain wheat, which fortunately is a safe food for Colin. For those of you looking for gluten-free, their website shows several gluten-free mixes as well but I have not tried them.

I also love that the cake was easy to make.  You dump the mix, water and oil or melted margarine in and mix.  Do notice that the ingredient list shows “melted margarine” with a star next to it.  The footnote says that you can substitute oil or butter according to your needs.  I used canola oil and it was great.

This cake mix wasn’t cheap but it was a huge time saver since I didn’t have a lot of time to create an egg and dairy free cake for Colin’s first birthday.  A week ago I decided to give this box mix a trial run and I was very surprised at the results.  It tastes good! It does not taste like cornbread like every other allergy friendly or organic box mix.  I wouldn’t go as far to say it tastes like yellow cake, it’s more like a light banana muffin.  No, it doesn’t have any banana flavor, but the sweetness, brown sugar and muffiny texture remind me of the banana muffins I make.  It is really tasty, just don’t expect it to taste like the typical grocery store birthday cake and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  In the picture below you can see the uneven air bubbles that more closely resemble a muffin texture than a store made yellow cake.  You can also see that the cake is a light brown, not yellow, which was fine with me.  The cake was very moist and liked by all the cake eaters in my house, including Colin.

Looking for a simple frosting, I tried to make frosting out of solidified coconut oil (not my usual coconut milk or spread) and powdered sugar.  The resulting “frosting” was strongly coconut flavored and a bit grainy.  Not wanting to waste it and trying to make the best of my experiment, I topped it with flaked coconut.  I’m not sure I would ever serve it to strangers but I sure didn’t mind it.   I wanted something a little less sugary for Colin’s cake and decided to go with the coconut whipped cream I’d made in the past and use just a wee bit of sugar for sweetness.

Now for those of you who have kids with allergies, you may be thinking, “Did you trial all of these things?”  Well….sort of.   Colin had previously had most of the ingredients in the cake mix except for baking powder and vanilla flavor.   We gave him a small piece the night I made the cake to make sure he didnt’ have any major reactions.  He slept great (for him) and so a few days later I gave him some coconut, the solidified stuff from the top of the coconut milk can.  Again, no issues.  He’s had corn so I figured the cornstarch in the powdered sugar would be fine.  The cake and coconut didn’t get full-on trials, mostly just brief exposures to make sure he wouldn’t have some terrible reaction on his birthday.  I wouldn’t say coconut milk is a safe food for his diet just yet, but for the sake of his birthday, I thought it was fine.

I baked a tiny little cake and right before serving, whipped up some coconut whipped cream.  I piped it on the cake and voila!  Colin had a GREAT time smearing the whipped cream around.  He mashed the cake up a good bit and put his face into it several times to take bites.  He enjoyed himself, we got lots of great messy photos and his tummy was happy that night!  A very successful first birthday cake! Thank you Cherrybrook Kitchen!