FreeYumm Treats

 I always get excited when I discover new brands that are allergy friendly, especially with school starting up soon…..It’s very easy to resign to the fact that not all companies are allergy aware. My friend Lauren shared a FreeYumm cookie with us at the beginning of summer. Leo’s always game to try new treats so we read the label and were surprised  to learn it’s a Vancouver brand! They come in different flavours, so far Leo’s favourite is the double chocolate. 

FreeYumm was started by Sarah. She said “My son was my inspiration for starting up FreeYumm. Seeing him excluded from sharing food with friends was an everyday experience and it was difficult to watch. And it wasn’t just my son… there are so many kids now that have various and numerous food restrictions, and they were all being left out. I was determined to find a fun, healthy way to make delicious food inclusive!”

They just released crackers, which is also hard to find as sesame seeds are hidden in everything. We tried the sea salt and the herbed one and loved them!

Natalia and I LOVE these as a treat. Again, it’s very hard to find chocolate covered treats that are not cross contaminated. They are crunchy, sweet and salty.

You can purchase these from well.ca, London drugs, Choices, Whole Foods, and Save on Foods.

images from : FreeYumm Website

Chia seeds

Who knew it would be so hard to find chia seeds that are not cross contaminated? I’m finding more and more companies aren’t disclosing shared lines. Or, they are all made in the same facility and don’t have separate lines. I’ve read a lot of may contain or processed in a facility that also processes… It can be so discouraging but don’t give up! Typically, larger name brand companies have the resources and funds to have dedicated lines. It’s just a matter of finding them. But who wants to spend hours and hours researching companies. This is where google and FB groups come in handy. If you don’t already belong to a group, I highly recommend joining an allergy aware group in your area. They have great tips and share which companies they have called and their responses.

I stumbled upon Go Go Quinoa today from Quebec and they advertise in their FAQ’s that they are allergy aware and state they are peanut, tree nut, dairy products, soy, corn, meat ingredients, shellfish, fish, mustard and gluten free. Basically exempt from Canada’s top 12 principle allergens. Always read the label before you buy. I’ve made many a call standing in the grocery store to double check shared lines. You can purchase them on <a href="http://<iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?ref=tf_til&t=happyallergym-20&m=amazon&o=15&p=8&l=as1&IS1=1&asins=B07HXJFL7B&linkId=4733950a23562e58c234b2c3d74623eb&bc1=ffffff&lt1=_blank&fc1=333333&lc1=0066c0&bg1=ffffff&f=ifr"> amazon. Which companies do you purchase from that are allergen free?

Alexandra xo

Mackles’more Cookie from Hello Robin

Who doesn’t love a good s’more? My kids are obsessed with s’mores so of course I need to source allergy friendly ingredients. As always, I recommend reading the labels very carefully. I always choose name brands as opposed to no name because of cross contamination issues. Even though a brand may not have the statement “may contain” on it, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s free from that allergen. Sad but true.

Leo passed his almond challenge 2 years ago so we are fine with almonds. Hershey has been dedicated to clearly labelling all their chocolate and is very transparent with their procedures as they do process almonds. In this recipe I used : Hershey Chipits dark chocolate chips , Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar, Honey Maid Graham Cracker, Dandies Vegan Mini Marshmallows. I do not recommend getting the regular size marshmallow and cutting it up into small pieces. We ended up with a very sticky blob of marshmallows.

Click here for Female Foodie’s blog for the recipe.

Let me know how it goes and if you have discovered other chocolates that are allergen free.

Xo Alexandra

Hello again!

Hi! How is everyone holding up in all this craziness? As you saw, we moved across the country and trying to set up new systems in place for home with school and trying to find allergy friendly food during a pandemic. Honestly, I can’t believe I’m writing these words. It was a huge stress trying to find our foods that we love that are allergen free. We have had to pivot and adjust our expectations and embrace this new way of living. I will be creating some new posts with our new favourite snacks and some alternatives. I’m still on the hunt for almonds, walnuts and pecans that are free from cross contamination of other nuts and sesame seeds. What kind of foods are you still looking for?

Xo Alexandra

Pancake Day

Photo by Olena Sergienko

Pancakes for dinner?! Heck yes! Today is Pancake day, traditionally it’s feast day before lent because you fast for the 40 days lending up to Easter. The kids are so excited to have breakfast for dinner tonight. We make this recipe weekly and Glen is the best pancake chef. My mother-in-law shared this recipe with us and it’s one of our favourites. I suggest you do not over mix if you want your pancakes to be light and fluffy. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Shirley’s Pancake Recipe

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 beaten egg

2 tbsp cooking oil

1 1/2 c of milk

  1. Preheat your grill to 380 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix your dry ingredients.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk your egg, oil. Gradual add the milk.
  4. Pour your egg, milk mixture to your dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  5. Pour 1/3 cup of batter on to non stick grill and flip once bubbles form and it’s golden brown.
  6. Serve warm with syrup.

New Beginnings

Guess what?! We are moving back to Vancouver at the end of March! My husband starts his new job in March with a new company and I’m feeling very grateful that we will be moving back west. This last week I took a break from social media prepping for our move. I’m in the process of sorting through our house one room at a time, mentally preparing myself for what this means for our family. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions, one minute I’m happy to be moving back home to our family, to the mountains, to the ocean, to SUSHI. The next, I’m in tears thinking about all the friends I have made here over the past 4 years that I will be missing. Thank goodness there’s social media that keeps us connected and for FaceTime! There’s never a right time for a move, there’s never a right time to do anything actually. You just have to take that leap and do it. We went back and forth over staying until the school year finished but ultimately decided we wanted him to make some friends before the summer started to help with the transition in the fall with Natalia.

I’ve noticed my anxiety has heightened since we made the decision to move back. Leo was diagnosed with allergies 2 months before we moved to Toronto. We have spent the last 4 years here controlling Leo’s environment, what he ate and where he ate. Now we are moving back to our family who hasn’t had to experience his allergies in their home. We would vacation back to Vancouver over the holidays but everyone would come to us. Now we have to think about HOW is the food prepared, are they food safe? Did they eat peanut butter in the morning? Did they wash their cutting board where they had their peanut butter before chopping the carrots or did they just rinse it? All the things that we do to ensure his safety, that come naturally, don’t come naturally to other people that don’t have allergies. I feel like there’s a huge disconnect between what an allergy is and what people think it means. I was that person, I had NO idea what cross contamination was and the impact it would have if I touched something with nuts someone could have a reaction if they touched the same surface. I thought it was just simply by ingesting it and if there were no nuts in it, it was considered nut free. I have learned to read labels and contact companies and ask the right questions. My goal is to help people understand that this is very serious. I recently met a woman who also has a food allergy and is also from Vancouver but lives here in Toronto. I asked her how she does it and she reminded me that this is just what you do, this is your new normal and you have no choice but to roll with it and do it.

I have huge goals for this blog, more to come on that. My plan is to create a file that I can share with friends and family on what does it mean when something is cross contaminated and how to be food safe. How can I help you navigate allergies? What kind of resources would you like to see on this blog?

Valentine’s Day

My kids love this holiday, most because it’s on my birthday. They think it’s hilarious that my birthday is on Valentine’s day. When Leo was first diagnosed, I found myself going down the rabbit hole grumbling about how he can’t participate in anything because of his allergies. We are fortunate that companies are more allergy aware now than they were 10 years ago. We went to Shoppers Drug Mart to check out their nut free Valentine’s treats this morning.

Carnaby ( owned by Shoppers Drug Mart) sells many different options. Please read the label on the back and check the front for the peanut free symbol as some are NOT peanut free.

Nestlé always carries nut free options. One thing you do need to watch out for is the peanut free symbol. They are not on all of their Smarties boxes. You fill find them only on the small snack size ones or specialty boxes.

We love Kinder Eggs! They have nut free options as well. This Kinder Egg says peanut free. As always, I recommend you read the label before giving to your child as everyone has different allergies and the labels are not always consistent.

Laura Secord has peanut free options and even a gluten free option. I haven’t tried these chocolates out yet as I’m not a big marshmallow fan.

What are your go to treats for Valentine’s Day?

Donuts!

I love donuts. Anytime there’s a holiday, I always research some fun recipes. I found this recipe a few years back by Tori from Fraiche Nutrition. It’s a great way to get the kids involved but not TOO involved. They liked picking their icing and decorating their own donuts. I highly recommend following Tori Wesszer and Jillian Harris as they have some amazing recipes that are very easy to follow and adapt to allergies. I have adapted her recipe below. Allow for an hour to refrigerate the dough. I like to prep the dough first in the morning and then have the kids decorate them afterwards.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½-3 c. flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. each cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ c. melted butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • oil for frying

Icing

Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  1. Sift sugar and cocoa powder together.
  2. Slowly stir in water and vanilla slowly to make a smooth glaze.

Cinnamon Sugar

  • ½ c. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  1. Combine ingredients in a small bowl.

Directions:

1. In a large bowl combine 2 ½ cups of the flour, baking powder, salt, 1/3 cup sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Make a well in the center and add the milk, melted butter, and egg.

2. Mix together with a fork to combine, adding more flour as needed to make a dough that doesn’t stick to your hands but is still soft.

3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

4. Heat oil to 370 F (185 C). Combine the remaining ½ c. sugar and 1 Tbsp. cinnamon in a small bowl.

5. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin( ½” thick), cut into heart shapes. Re-roll the dough once as it will get too tough.

6. Keep flipping the donuts so that they are browned on all sides.Once done, remove the cooked donuts from the oil using a slotted spoon and place them on a cooling rack.

7. If you are using the cinnamon sugar mix, lightly roll them and place on on the cooling rack.

8. If you are glazing your donut, carefully dip one side and place on the cooling rack.

Tried and True Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve always been interested in cooking. Baking is a whole different ballgame. When your kid asks you to make chocolate chip cookies, you google the heck out of it. Best chocolate chip cookie. You first have to decide what KIND of cookie you want to make. Do you want it chewy or crispy? I stumbled upon a food blogger’s page called A Bountiful Kitchen and instantly fell in love with her recipes. Si gives great tips and makes recipes that are easy to put together for quick meals. Leo’s school does a cookie program to help fundraise for the school. With his allergies, we have decided to not participate in any food program, even if they advertise they are nut free so that he gets used to only accepting food from home. This has helped him become more aware of what he is putting into his mouth. I make a double batch of these and put them in a tupperware container with an allergy sticker on it for the school to store in the freezer. That way he can have his cookie and on any treat day that comes up, he can also participate. I also like to bring cookies as dessert to dinner parties and these have quickly become a fan favourite.

Si also has few helpful tips( also listed in recipes notes) that make a big difference. Click here for recipe. Let me know when you have made it and what you think!

Eating out

Eating out can be nerve wracking with a child with allergies. But it doesn’t have to be! We are so lucky that restaurants have become more aware and are willing to accommodate. The last thing you want to do is show up with hungry kids and be told that they can’t accommodate you and be scrambling to find a restaurant. Here are some things I do when I am researching a restaurant.

Call ahead

I always call ahead of time and ask to speak to the manager. Some questions that I ask :

1. Are you willing to accommodate food allergies?

2. How will the food be prepared, what precautions do you take?

3. Is there a risk of cross-contamination?

If they falter at any point in your conversation and aren’t 100 % confident, I will find another restaurant.

Now, everyone’s comfort level is different. Our allergies are very severe and we do not feel comfortable with the risk of cross-contamination. Some chefs will refuse to prepare certain foods and that’s ok. I would be happy to eat at a restaurant that takes the time to consider all of these things.

Come prepared

I always travel with 2 EPI pens, cleaning wipes and our own utensils. I find restaurants never have the right size forks or spoons and it makes life a whole lot easier. Before anyone sits down, I wipe down the chairs, the table top to bottom and we always wash our hands before eating.

Do your research

Our new favourite restaurant is Joey at Yorkdale. Their service was impeccable thanks to our server and the manager. We are on a first name basis now and I only make reservations on the days that she is working, that way Leo gets used to eating there and comfortable with eating out. I’m always on the hunt for restaurants that will accommodate us and to add options as it can be limited. Prior to our visit, Sarah took the time to go over the menu with me and see what foods would be safe for Leo. We narrowed it down to hamburger without the bun, pasta or an avocado roll. We looked at the chicken strips and fries and saw that it wasn’t safe as they use the same fryer for their fish. She brought out the ipad that has every ingredient used in preparing the dishes and where any cross contamination would come from. For instance, the pasta said may contain sesame seeds. It turns out it would be coming from the bread crumbs that they use to put on top of it before they serve it. So, we omit the bread crumbs and his pasta is allergen free. She confirmed with the chef . Winner winner chicken dinner.

That sounds like a lot of work…

Why do all this? It’s probably easier to just eat at home. Well, #1, I would LOVE a break from cooking. #2 Leo feels safe, included and gets used to eating out. I plan on travelling with my kids and want to get him used to the idea of eating in other places. I hope that this gives you the confidence to try new restaurants and that it gives you a break in the kitchen. This was our unique experience and I wasn’t compensated for this review. I always recommend you do your own research and find a server that goes the extra mile, who makes you feel comfortable and who really pays attention.