We like to party.

We like to party…we like, we like to party.
I apologize for invoking the Vengaboys, but even after 18 years, I STILL hear that song every time someone mentions a party. It’s terrible, but catchy as hell.  You’re welcome for the ear worm.

It’s true though, we do like to party. We just have to manage things a little differently than we used to.

Or, from time to time these days, though I hate to admit it, we avoid them.

When we do bail, it’s generally a combination of situational factors (e.g., number of people, if there are kids, if the place is going to be filthy with pizza and ice cream, if there are little old ladies with good intentions trying to give our kid ice cream), and location (e.g., an Italian restaurant, an indoor playground smeared with years of pizza and ice cream residue, a cottage or camping event where emergency services may be unreliable).

We’re not any less social than we used to be. Life is busy, but we love the people in ours and we want to actually see them in a social capacity.

However, sometimes it feels a little overwhelming.  Layered in with the factors above, is how much effort we feel like putting into prep and surveillance.

The prep, I’ve talked about before. (See Sesame Seeds of Doubt with regards to events at restaurants, and Excursion Essentials for going pretty much anywhere else.)

The surveillance is something all parents do when we’re fresh to the job and helicopter-y, but it generally fades as kids get bigger and more independent.  With our son, we’re at a point where the right party, at the right house, allows us to release him into a toy-filled attic or basement along with all the other kids and it’ll all turn out ok. Our daughter is two and a half so she’s gaining a little independence, but usually wants to stay nearby, and we’re ok with that because the eight-year-old kids aren’t quite babysitting age (though some of the eight-year-olds we know are waaaayyy more grown up than some of the 38 year-olds we know).

In general, we’re pretty relaxed and will team up to check on the kids, bring them in line if needed, feed, water, change, etc.  However, in certain crowds, at certain events, we have to kick things up a notch.  Not surprisingly, when food comes out, our roles…intensify.  While we haven’t gone full secret service yet (those ear piece communicators are expensive), we lock eyes, exchange hand signals for placement in relation to our charge, and establish clear sight lines around the room.

Once a cheese board or a bowl of dill pickle chips (yup…dairy in those) hits the coffee table, our daughter has a shadow: Someone to cut her off if she approaches the snack table. Someone to scan the room for used napkins or those tempting tiny plates that inevitably get sprinkled all over side tables and the arms of couches. We also scan for orange Doritos residue, chocolate or cookie crumbs, fruit that looks harmless but has been served near yogurt dip…you get the picture.

We do it as subtly as possible, but it’s a delicate balance between trying to keep an eye on her, attempting to maintain adult conversation, and tactfully executing a wipe down of any kids (or cuddly adults) who might make contact with the little one or things she’s likely to touch. If she ever goes into show biz, she’ll be well accustomed to the “starlet at a bar with a body guard” routine.

We hope it’s not creepy or weird or intrusive for others at the party.  We don’t want to dictate how parties are thrown, or what’s there, or how others have to celebrate when we’re around.  We don’t want people to groan when they find out we’re coming and that they have to accommodate us. We also don’t want people to make a huge deal out of it when we have been accommodated. I want to make it clear that we ALWAYS appreciate the good intentions of people making the effort, and the work it takes to do so. But…it can really feel like you’re putting people out when there’s a big “todo” about separating and substituting, or when kids are told “You can’t have that today because R is here.” We want our daughter accustomed to real life and real situations. But, man can it ever suck the fun out of a gathering when it becomes the focal point of your night.

HOWEVER, we are exceptionally fortunate, and New Years Eve this year was a heart busting reminder of that. We have amazing friends who, for several years now, have hosted a two-stage party where the kids get to celebrate a ball drop at 8pm and the grown-ups celebrate in a second shift once the kids (and some partners) have gone to bed.

Without really bringing it up, without fanfare, and absolutely without eye rolling or groaning, this amazing group of people (hosts, guests, and kids) quietly sorted out a snack menu that was completely safe and completely satisfying.  There were fruit and veggie trays, and home made bread. We were asked to bring some dip to contribute. Friends brought guac and nachos. More friends showed up with locally made dairy-free tomato pizza. The hosts went out and found cashew-based “cheese” that was safe (only peanuts are an issue) and really really good.  Packages were casually brought over for a quick inspection as needed. It wasn’t a thing.  It just happened.

We went to the party, prepped and ready to break out our dark suits and hand signals…and promptly put that shit away and simply raised our glasses. When the kids went to bed, the grown-ups busted out the dairy (and maybe a little more booze), but while our daughter was there, we literally had nothing to worry about.

It may seem like a small thing to them, but the fact that it was thought of and done without hoopla or hullabaloo, or highlighting again and again what was being done because our daughter was there, was EVERYTHING. As I type, I’ve got warm, happy tears in my eyes because our friends are fucking fabulous.  We love them dearly and it was so so so good to start the new year with the feeling that things were indeed, fine and dandy.

So, as we ring in a new year where the world in general is feeling less than warm and fuzzy, I leave you with the following message, originally put out by the Vengaboys, but dedicated to the people in our lives who so clearly have our backs:

Hey now, hey now, hear what I say now

Happiness is just around the corner

Hey now, hey now, hear what I say now

We’ll be there for you

You know the rest. Happy 2018!

There’s no food in that food.

Tis the season to be grateful. Falalalala la la la la!

I am indeed grateful for many things in my life, but this season, I am particularly and surprisingly grateful that some of the food we buy is not…really food.

Sometimes, as an allergy parent, a near or complete lack of natural food products is a big old win. If there’s nothing real, there’s nothing to trigger a reaction.  If it’s good and processed, it might be processed enough that the body doesn’t even recognize it anymore.  I’m not saying it’s good all the time. I know carnauba wax is NOT something one should consume in any great quantity.  But…sometimes…it’ll do the trick.

You see, my five-year-old was PUMPED to make a gingerbread house. My two-year-old, fuelled by her brother’s enthusiasm, also had visions of candy construction dancing in her head. But…I am not a gifted or patient baker. Life is currently pretty full of life-type stuff, and I had no idea how to make vegan icing harden enough to be used as adhesive. I do have a vague memory of my mother fusing gingerbread together with some kind of melted sugar concoction, but a significant part of that memory is actually her swearing as she burnt the crap out of her fingers while the pieces slid apart. In my memory, whatever she used was the candy equivalent of hot glue…my crafting arch nemesis.

I was determined to find a solution that was safe for my daughter, without being a huge pain the ass. There had to be something.

And there was! Was there ever!

After a month or so of calling around natural grocery stores, pestering alternative bakeries, and scouring the depths of Pinterest for a vegan gingerbread house that I could and would actually make, the clouds parted and a miracle occurred.

On a windy, miserable day at ToysRUs, as I debated between Thomas the Tank Engine and Paw Patrol advent calendars (three days into December…because I’m cheap and they’re on sale if you buy them late), I glanced to the left and found this magical answer to my problem:

cof

It was peanut free, dairy free, egg free, the icing and candy balls were pretty much just sugar with some weird binders and oil, and it totally blew my five-year-old’s mind.

I don’t know if the kit was strictly vegan and it’s definitely not advertised as such, but a good close look through the ingredient list confirmed it. There was little to no food in that “food.” Juuust unnatural enough not to be a threat. Score!

The results (sneak peak in the lower right corner there) were a little more abstract than the box, but it was super fun!  Got a pile of safe candy from the grocery store, some old stale marshmallows (for snow on Hoth that turned into clouds on Takodana), and went to town.

img_20171210_125634.jpg
Fully assembled.
Ready to get started.
Ready to get started.
Tada!
Tada!

Happy holidays everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

The Game of Scones

Ok, this is more bread/muffin-related, but the pun really works better with scones. Let’s just call it a brilliant play on baked good words and move on.

There’s a game I play, as a parent of an allergic kid.  When I pull a recipe, I skip right to the ingredients list.  If I have to substitute any more than three ingredients to make it edible, it’s exiled.

If it’s really good and there are maybe four substitutions, but I KNOW they’re going to work, I’m willing to negotiate.

Let’s just say that in the past couple years, my kingdom has become very exclusive.

However, there’s a thing in my family with this cookbook. Some of you may be familiar with it. It’s called “The New Purity Cookbook: A Complete Guide to Canadian Cooking.” (Insert joke about Canadians and maple syrup/poutine/blah blah blah…)

Purity Cookbook Cover

The version we’ve always worked from is from 1945. I’m not sure where exactly it came from or what made it so influential in my family, but my Grandma had it and now I have it, and there are so many things I love about it.

It features awful gelatin-based monstrosities and pineapple glazed things that ought not be pineapple glazed. Typical stuff for the era. I have major issues with the texture of things and there are a lot of recipes that both repulse and fascinate me in there.

However, it also features kick-ass cakes, muffins, and quick breads (SCONES!) from a time before people thought butter and lard were bad. Short story…it’s always been my goto for baked goods, waffles, etc.

Unfortunately, the winds have shifted and these days, that shit generally doesn’t fly. The oldies I know and love have to be remixed like dub-hop or trip-metal, or whatever the kids are listening to these days.

Most goods CAN be adapted but often they’re pretty terrible alternatives, or a huge pain in the ass.

The average person without dietary restrictions tends to take this kind of thing for granted, but this is a good one.  It freezes well, and everyone likes it.

This my friends, is how I take an old favourite and bend it to my will.

The Original: Banana Nut Bread

Banana Nut Bread

The Non-Deadly Remix:

Three essential substitutions, the quantities are the same, and there’s nothing weird or hard to find.

  • (Optional) Whole grain or wheat flour subs in for all purpose. (Fibre! Fibre!)
  • (Optional) Maple syrup takes the place of sugar. (Ok…Canadian stereotype validated.)
  • Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips replace the nuts. (Who wants nuts in banana bread anyway…really?)
  • Skip the egg and use a flax egg. (The key is to remember to do this before everything else. Logistics! It has to sit a few minutes to hit a good goopy consistency.)
  • Soy milk knocks out the dairy. (Oat milk is good here too, but soy has a closer nutritional profile to dairy so that’s why I use it.)
  • (Optional) Extra banana. (Why? Because my baker sister said to always add more. She’s right! Makes a big difference in texture. Texture can be an issue when you mess with baking ingredients, because chemistry.)

The Result: Nutless Banana Nut Bread

  • 1 flax egg (make 5 min early)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup soy milk
  • 2 very ripe mashed bananas
  • As many dairy free chocolate chips as you like. I won’t judge you.  (Enjoy Life is the brand I find most often)

I dump all the dry in one bowl and mix and then add all the wet in the same bowl and mix. Then I dump that in a glass baking dish with parchment paper in it so I don’t have to work too hard to clean it.  Bake at 350ºF for about 45 minutes (depends how big the dish is). Same mix makes muffins, just bake for shorter time…more like 20 minutes.

Winter is coming…banana bread up bitches!

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