Teaching on Food Allergies

I had the absolute privilege of teaching in two classes this morning on food allergies. This all came about because there is a little girl in my daughters first grade class that puts her cheesy chip fingers in the faces of the food allergic kids to tease them at lunch. I figured this was my opportunity to teach and train on this important topic instead of get angry. This little girl is 6 or 7 and I can’t expect that she knows or understands the risk that she is putting her food allergic classmates in. I kindly emailed the teacher to let her know my concern and told her that I would be more than happy to come teach in her class. She had the best response any of us food allergy moms could hope for. The next day she talked to the whole class and then requested that I come in the following week to teach her students as well. When my oldest daughter, in 4th grade heard this, she begged that I come into her class as well. I know her teacher pretty well so I also asked her if I could come in. She too said she would be happy to have me come in.

I planned and prepared with my two food allergy kids what would be important for me to teach about. While there are a myriad of things I could teach on, we picked the few that seemed the most important. We decided to talk about how to treat our food allergic friends with kindness and understanding, the dangers and severity of some people’s allergic reactions, and how we all can keep our food allergy kids safe. I took the book “Show and Tell Scout” written by Disney and Mylan which talks about a boy named Scout with a severe milk and peanut allergy, what it is like to go to school for him, and what it means to have a severe food allergy. This book is long, but covers so many of the topics we need our non-food allergy friends to know. Then I did a little hands on activity, which I love to do when I teach, to show what cross contamination means and how it can affect our food allergy friends.

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The kids in both classes had amazing responses to what I was able to teach them. In both classes, they all learned new things they didn’t know before, they asked great questions to help understand their food allergic friends better, and seemed to really appreciate what they learned. It was such a joy for me to be back in the classroom teaching about a subject that I believe it so important and doesn’t get taught about.

The reaction that I wasn’t prepared for was the reaction of the teachers. In the 4th grade class I was in, a teacher from next door came in to use the printer. He leaned over to me and said that two of his boys have a severe peanut allergy and requested that I speak to his class as well. On my way out of the school, I ran into this teacher again and he encouraged me to go cause a raucous in the office about food allergies because it’s about time someone did. 😉 My daughters 4th grade teacher said she learned things she didn’t know and said I need to talk to the PTA and staff. She said she would talk to the Principal about having me come to train the staff and talk seriously about why the school serves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the cafeteria. I’m not sure if anything will come of this, but the one thing I do know is that these teachers went away knowing more deeply the dangers our kids with food allergies face when they go to school. More than that though, is they care so much about our kids that they want everyone to hear what they heard today. That is victory in my book!!

Bulk Baking

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I have been asked several times how I keep my family fed when I have to make the vast majority of what we eat. The answer is simple, but making it happen takes time. Bulk baking is the only way that I can realistically keep bread on the table, literally. Early on, we invested in a large freestanding freezer that sits in our garage, which holds meat, sauces, fruit, and a few other random items. In our freezer that attaches to our refrigerator which feels small, I put desserts, breakfast items, bread items, and frozen veggies. Without all of the freezer space we have, I wouldn’t be able to bulk bake the way I like to.

Typically, about twice a week, I spend several hours baking. Since I still have two daughters at home during the day, they bake with me or I bake while they nap. The items that I typically make in bulk are, muffins for breakfast, sandwich bread, egg cups for breakfast, buns, tortillas, and any dessert. I choose to bake all of these in bulk because they aren’t items that can be baked quickly, they disappear quickly, and/or we don’t eat them daily so they aren’t on the top of my head to make when I really need them.

Ziplocks and permanent markers have become two of my best baking friends. I freeze all of my baked goods in Ziplock freezer bags and then label the item with what it is and who can/can’t eat it. Since our family has a very long list of allergies and intolerances between us, labeling is really important for us. I want to be sure that anyone (babysitter, grandparents, friends, etc) who opens my freezer to pull an item out knows who can eat the contents in the bag.

A few weeks ago, I had one of my dear friends over that lives in another state. We ate dinner and then I asked if she wanted dessert. She asked what I had so I went over to my trusty freezer to tell her. To my surprise, I listed at least 10 different dessert choices. Clearly I have a sweet spot for making desserts even though I can’t eat any of them myself. I find myself seeing amazing desserts online in so many places, tell myself that I can surely make that yummy dessert for my family, and enjoy the smell of baked goods. Since this time, I have put myself on a no baking new desserts restriction. ☺ When the dessert stockpile begins to dwindle, I have some amazing recipes to fill my freezer back up. HA!

I would love to work with you to help learn to bulk bake, or just to begin the journey of allergy friendly baking. Contact me to find out how I can help you.

*Note- This picture was taken the day I brought home 1/2 of a grass fed cow. My freezer isn’t normally that full. I just snapped this with my phone to show my husband that I did in fact get all of the meat in the freezer, barely.

Kids Can Cook!

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Kids really can cook! All of our lives depend on food, whether we have food allergies or not. Just like anything else, I believe that the younger we teach kids to cook the better. To be sure, they will make huge messes and lengthen the time it will take us to make anything. Isn’t that they story of our lives as parents though? My three girls, pictured above, love to spend time with me in the kitchen. From the time they can sit well on their own, they have spent countless hours with me making all kinds of food that is safe for them. We have created lasting memories cooking and baking and my kids have also learned a ton of life skills. They have all learned to properly weigh and scoop flour, what their allergies/restrictions are, what ingredients work best, and of course their taste buds love the end result as well. 🙂   Below is me as a little girl learning to cook, but I had a LONG way to go to learn to cook for food allergies.

My youngest daughter has spent the most time with me in the kitchen as she loves to “help” in any way she can. Just two days ago, we were in the kitchen and I had set out an open can of pumpkin to make breakfast bars. I briefly turned my back. While I did, my youngest decided to stack lots of ingredients on top of each other with the pumpkin on top. I turned around and asked her to take the pumpkin down, she tried to but the pumpkin slipped and landed right side up on the floor. This sounds great, right?! Well, not so much with an open can. In slow motion, the can hit the floor and exploded like a volcano spraying orange pumpkin everywhere. I told my husband that I’m not sure why I ever mop. Anytime I mop, it’s guaranteed that my floor will be a mess the next day. Feel free to laugh, it’s the only way I’ve learned to survive life with three kids.

In all seriousness though, my girls all can cook well. Even my youngest is the best stirrer (is that even a word?!) I know. She can stir like nobody’s business and not spill any out of the bowl no matter how full it is. Since she’s my third, I let her try far more things in the kitchen (that are safe of course) than my other girls. In the last few months, my older girls have learned to love to make breakfast and lunches for all of us. I don’t make my girls cook, they just really love it. Maybe my rule that they only get to taste if they help me has encouraged them to still enjoy their time in the kitchen.

You kids can cook too, I promise! It does take patience, encouragement, and a good sense of humor, but it’s all worth it. For those of us with food allergies/restrictions it is imperative that we know how to cook and bake at least the basics. Join me for a 1:1 cooking class or set up a group class with or without kids.  I would love to help you on your journey of learning to cook and bake for food allergies!

 

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