Summer Update, Busy Bags and Recipes!

So I know it has been a while since I posted so I figured I’d make it a full one!

It has been a busy summer!!  The kids have had summer programs, swimming lessons and the usual summer fun while my husband and I decided to try our hand at installing a paver walkway ourselves (and we survived, marriage intact). Vacation preparations took up most of my time in June and then we drove to Florida for a week.  Our trip was a wonderful success and the kids wore themselves out playing in the sand and swimming everyday.

For our road trip I made oodles of busy bags, which are activity bags for the kids to do in the car or to pass the time in restaurants.  Some are just fun and some are educational.   I keep the individual activities in gallon-size ziploc bags and for car trips I bring along a tote bag full of them.  One of my favorite resources for busy bag construction this year was the site  All Our Days, which had a huge roundup of busy bag ideas.    I especially loved things from this site I could print, laminate and throw in a bag, like Duplo Block Counting.  If you don’t have a laminator, self laminating pouches are available at office stores or on Amazon.   Some of the big busy bag hits with my kids this trip were Button Snakes,  Toy Car Racetracks, and Dry Erase Activities,   I also found a great resource of playdough mats that I laminated and put on a book binder ring.   I took along several  mini playdough containers we had lying around the house which were the perfect amount of playdough for these mats.

busy bag pic

I love our family trips but vacation planning and packing always stress me out.   This year was no different but sometime during our 14 hours in the car my husband and I reflected on our vacation preparation and realized that we are getting faster at  packing and feeling much less anxious about feeding Colin away from home.  The packing is getting easier not only since we have less “baby stuff” to bring along, but we’ve made a master packing list that is expediting the packing process.  I made a list on the computer of everything to pack for everyone in the family and all the food items we usually need. Now I just print out before a trip and update it when we find things we need to add or delete.   Taking Colin on trips is getting easier since his diet is expanding and we have a few trips under our belt to know what works.  We pack A LOT of our safe foods and decide what recipes we will make during our week away.  Easy pasta dishes, Colin’s favorite homemade pizza, a huge stash of safe kids snacks and lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches got us through this last trip to Florida.   For a road trip like this one we bring one giant bag of food supplies for the week and one bag of “Car food” that has safe snacks and sandwich making materials so we can avoid fast food.

As far as Colin’s health, he is doing really well. He is happy and growing well even though his is a super picky eater.  We’ve been doing milk challenges recently by giving him small bits of  baked goods that contain milk, since we heard that is often an early success.  So far he has been doing pretty well, well enough that I am feeling a little more optimistic about his future relationship with dairy!   He will go to a Kids Day Out program at least one day this fall and I had hopes he might be able to eat more of the snacks that the kids take turns bringing.  Cheese and yogurt won’t be on his safe list but items with traces of dairy might be okay.  Other than dairy we are just trying to get him to branch out from eating peanut butter all the time.  He refuses to touch vegetables unless they are  chopped up beyond recognition and on his pizza. So I make a big “Colin Pizza” once a week to make sure he is getting some variety.  We haven’t been doing Neocate smoothies as much lately, mostly since I ran out of it, but I heard Neocate came out with a strawberry flavor which I would like to try. I really wish that stuff was cheaper.  We are giving Colin both gummy vitamins and gummy calcium supplements daily and he is drinking more rice milk, so I am less worried about his calcium intake.   We haven’t been to a doctor in a long time so I don’t know how he is doing for weight/growth but I don’t have any concerns.

In the cooking world, since the warm weather arrived we have been grilling everything we can.   We grill meats and our veggies side dishes so we can sit outside and let the kids play and also keep the heat out of the house.   My husband is the designated griller at our house, so I catch a little cooking break in the summer.  I handle the side dishes.  Mostly I get some fresh veggies, toss them in olive oil and then heavily season them with various spices from our spice cabinet.   I season until they taste almost over seasoned and then throw them in a grill basket.   My husband puts the veggies on before our main dish, since they usually take at least 20 minutes to cook, and lets them coast along while dinner is cooking.  My favorites are zucchini, onions and mushrooms.  I often use seasoning blends from Penzeys like “Northwoods,”  “Sandwich Sprinkle” and/or their “Ruth Ann Muskego Chicken and Fish Seasoning.”

Here are a few other side dishes we have made recently that were well received at the dinner table:

1.  Ina Garten Roasted Carrots with Dill

2.  The Pioneer Woman’s Pretty Fruit Salad

3.  Strawberry Spinach Salad  (If you can’t find soy free worcestershire sauce, just skip that ingredient)

So that about sums up things at our house.  Once the school year starts for both of the kiddos, I hope to be posting more regularly, since I will have a couple hours by myself for the first time. But for now we are enjoying the last few weeks of summer!

If you have a warm weather recipe you love, do share!









Dairy Free Yogurts

August has arrived and isn’t far from being gone! We are wrapping up our crazy summer and sadly waving goodbye to the vacation trips in our rearview mirror.   We put roughly 3400 miles on the cars just from summer trips.  The kids became pros in the car and all the time at beaches and pools has turned them into little fishes.  This summer’s travel was a lot less stressful than last year, since I could eat more, Colin is eating more and I have several “how to pack/travel with food allergies” trips under my belt.  I have a good idea of what to bring from my house, what we need to find, and what meals to make while away from home.

One of the new food finds that went along in our cooler this summer was Almond Dream’s almond based yogurts.   Hannah loves dairy yogurt and since Colin wants to be just like his sister, I’ve been trying to find something he could eat.  We’ve found two brands we like:  Almond Dream and So Delicious  so I thought I’d share them here in case you might be looking for something to replace dairy yogurt in your house.

1.  Almond Dream – almond milk based yogurt-   This is by far our favorite.   The vanilla, strawberry and mixed berry are huge hits in our house.  I will even finish any of Colin’s leftovers, they are so good.  Side by side with a dairy based vanilla yogurt, you’d be able to tell it is almond milk but I like these much better than the coconut yogurts we’ve tried.    I haven’t been able to get the ‘plain’ flavor yet, so I can’t comment on its taste, but the vanilla and fruity ones are great.  The texture is nice and thick, like a regular yogurt.  My one tip is to stir them before eating.  The yogurt on the very top can be slightly different in texture but is fine once stirred.

2. So Delicious brand-  cultured coconut milk –  This is the runner-up in our house that I bought before I found the Almond Dream.  Colin and I both found the vanilla flavor much tastier than the strawberry or raspberry versions, the only other two they carry in our store.  The carrageenan bothered me so I wasn’t crazy about it but Colin did eat some of it without issues.

3. So Delicious cultured almond milk yogurt–  I wanted to throw this one in this post.  We haven’t been able to try this one since it contains pea protein and we haven’t passed peas yet but it is dairy and soy free.

I am still looking for a “plain” flavored yogurt that I might be able to use in place of sour cream.  These days I see lots of recipes using plain greek yogurt in place of sour cream to make dips or add moisture to baked goods.  Some of the yogurts mentioned above do come in plain but our grocery store doesn’t carry them.  If you’ve found one,  I’d love to hear about it!