Updated: Aug 2, 2020
I know what you are thinking, she's crazy! But - you know what? Sometimes you have to be crazy to make something work, am I right? Well, maybe not...but when it comes to feeding my crew, this is what has to happen. When our son starting eating solid foods, we were having so much trouble - it took 5 different kinds of pediatric doctors to help us realize he had severe food allergies. It turns out he is allergic to Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish with Fins and Sesame. Yes - that is a long list of foods that will make his body go into anaphylactic shock. It is definitely scary and hard to believe that in the year 2020, food allergies still exist.
According to www.worldallergy.org, Food Allergies impact 2.5% of the general population. As new parent, you have a lot to learn, and raising a child with food allergies was just one more new thing to learn on our list. So, that is when I accepted the title of Short Order Cook. For the last 10 years I have learned how to minimize my time in the kitchen and maximize my output knowing that we were feeding everyone safely.
Let's take the last 125 days and break that out by 3 meals a day times 4 people to equal 1,500 individual meals. Sure, we have had the occasional take out, but for the most part, it has been me and my kitchen doing the heavy lifting. Everyone in this house eats a little differently. Child #1, mainly dairy and carbs with the occasional fruit and veggie. Child #2, dairy free with mainly protein and fruit and veggies. Husband, mostly gluten and dairy free. And that leaves me - somewhere in between all of them. So, how do I do it? I know that is what you want to know.
I anticipate the needs in advance and know what I am getting myself into. We just can't be that family where everyone eats the same thing for every meal and that is ok.
I meal plan, like crazy. I know what staples I always need and start from there.
I'm an expert at reading food labels which unfortunately means we cannot buy a lot of prepackaged foods. Did you know at the bottom of all packaged food ingredients is a bolded list of top allergens in the food? And below the ingredients it will say if something is made in a facility that uses nuts, etc. I couldn't find the statistic on how many items are in fact made in a facility with allergens, but I will tell you - it's high.
I let breakfast and lunch be very personalized. Breakfast for example: Child # 1 eats a smoothie while Child # 2 eats breakfast sausage and fruit. Husband and I eat eggs with spinach and avocado. To make that happen, I place the sausage on the skillet and place ingredients in the blender for the smoothie. While it is blending I scramble the eggs for the adults. Smoothie is finished and I pour it into a glass, flip over the sausage and heat up second skillet with spinach. Pour eggs into that skillet and take sausage off the heat. Slice up some avocado, scramble the eggs and plate everyone's food. The entire process takes 10 - 15 minutes and everyone is happy. Same goes for lunch.
Dinner is always 75/25. Meaning, I make one meal for 3 of us that is gluten and dairy free while one meal is gluten and dairy heavy every single night. That always includes a veggie and a fruit. For example, last night we had pasta with grass fed meatballs and marinara sauce. I also made zucchini noodles, marinara sauce without meat and put parm cheese on the side. And when all else fails, I give the option of the old stand by Cheerios!
Yes, it is a lot to do for each meal, but I have made it work. Everyone is fed, eating what works for their body and for the most part is happy. Food allergies are not fun. It takes an extra layer of protection to ensure that what you are eating is safe. Pre- COVID when we would eat at restaurants, we would always ask the chef and inform them of our needs. It doesn't mean that instances never happen, because sadly, they have- but it is important to advocate and be prepared. It is not fun to be the parent or child to always ask who made the birthday cake or if the classroom cookies have nuts, but it is what we have to do to stay safe.
How does cooking go at your house? Do you want more meal ideas? Let me know, I'm happy to help. XO, The Short Order Cook