Happy Halloween!

I have fond memories of trick or treating when I was young with my brother and parents.  But as a kid with a peanut allergy, there were so many restrictions.

Every kid who has food allergies or restrictions should not feel like they are missing out on fun on Halloween. But it is so important to stay safe this time of year.

When I look back, my parents were really good at explaining to me the risks involved when gathering candy from neighbours with my peanut allergy and the rules that went along with my trick or treating days….

  • Wear your fanny pack of your medicine (and it NEVER matched my costume!!!!)
  • Do not eat anything while out collecting until there was a full inspection at home
  • Do not consume anything without the OK from parents.

Two of my mom’s strategies to not restrict my fun and keep me safe were

  • keeping sweets at home that she would trade for all of the candy I collected
  • bringing any peanut candy or treats to other peanut safe households with no dietary restrictions there.

Happy Halloween and safe trick or treating!


A New Friday Theme

I am flattered that my blog name sometimes gets called “fabulous” as an alternative to “fearless”. My friend B has inspired me this week with an idea to combine the two words for a new weekly Friday blog called “Fabulous Fearless Fridays”.

Each Friday I hope to inspire you with a new recipe, idea or meal plan for the upcoming weekend.  Sometimes an extra bit of motivation and encouragement is all one needs to be creative with food.  It has been an honour to have such an enthusiastic audience since the beginning of my blogging journey.  Thank you to you all who listen to my stories.  And thank you for stirring my creative juices. I have enjoyed taking pictures each day to post along with food ideas and information.

As with all my posts, it will be PEANUT, FISH and SHELLFISH free. I also hope to encourage myself in the future to create gluten-free recipes and make other substitutions.

FearlessFoods Goes Camping Part 2

Camping should be a relaxing way to unwind from the hustle of the city. I love to go camping but I am a bit “indoorsy” so I do like to bring the luxury of my indoor kitchen with me to the woods.

A trick for me when I go camping is to make a great meal plan for the duration of the trip and precook at home. Not only does this help me not forget small miscellaneous items (like a can opener or cheese grater) but it helps me create a meal that is exciting, healthy and hits all dietary restrictions.  Long gone is a meal plan that includes tuna salad sandwiches for lunch, peanut butter on toast and boxed convenience foods.

I found with thirty minutes of advanced kitchen time at my house I am able to make quick, delicious and scrumptious snacks. It also cuts down the amount of preparation time of meats if you choose to cook raw products at a campsite.

Some ideas of what to make in advance before a trip to make cooking a breeze:

–          Boil local nugget or baby potatoes for hash browns in the morning (there has been so many times I have been unable to roast potatoes on the fire the night because of a fire ban!)

–          Pancake mix ( the dry ingredients  in a bag and the wet ingredients in a litre mason jar)

–          Cut up vegetables for dinners and fruits for snacks

–          Fresh dips for veggies or a spread for sandwiches

–          Pre marinated meats for barbequing

–          Fresh seasoned ground meat for hamburgers

–          Yummy allergy friendly baked goods to curb any cravings for something sweet so everyone can enjoy a treat no matter what restrictions.

Some ideas of what to pack to take on a camping trip when travelling in a group if you have allergies or anaphylaxis:

–          Salt and pepper from a safe source (I bring my pepper grinder and salt in a mason jar) for no chance of cross contamination

–          Personal plates, serving utensils and cutlery

–          Your own cutting board

–          Knife

–          Dish cloth and dish towels

–          Easy and food-safe snacks for the road

–          Personal frozen water bottles to double as ice packs so there is no sharing of water bottles

–          Fresh herbs from the garden to make dull dinners or sandwiches delicious

Homemade roasted garlic tzaziki made in a peanut and fish free kitchen in Vancouver because I have anaphylaxis. Served on top a marble slab and stored in mason jars.Roasted Garlic Tzatziki

When working with a long English cucumber, cutting the cucumber lengthwise and removing the seeds give the dip a thicker consistency. For an even drier consistency, place the grated cucumber into a towel or cheesecloth and wring out any juice. I find when working with baby cucumbers there is no need to peel or seed when making this dip.

500 ml Greek yogurt

1 tbsp olive oil

½ cup grated cucumber

2 tbsp chopped mint

1 head roasted garlic, pureed

Juice and zest of ½ a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and mint in a bowl until well combined. Add yogurt and cucumber and mix thoroughly. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and store in the fridge and let sit one hour before serving. For a stronger flavour, let sit overnight.

Homemade roasted garlic tzaziki made in a peanut and fish free kitchen in Vancouver because I have anaphylaxis. Served on top a marble slab and stored in mason jars top left and bottom right. Mint leaves from the garden.

FearlessFoods Goes Camping Part 1

A couple years ago our family planned a trip to a local island to go camping.While packing I had my mind on other things but remained organized enough to make salted caramel popcorn though, recipe here).

At the ferry terminal, as we inched pasted the long line of cars and passed through the booth, the manic search for my purse occurred. Due to the rush to get out the door to “relax” I had forgotten not only my wallet and cell phone…but the more important medicine for my food allergies. I couldn’t continue this trip without my medicine so I parted ways with my family and went home while they continued on. The guilt of forgetting my medicine and missing a vacation was a feeling I would never forget.

We all look back and laugh…and caramel corn made the rainy weather more tolerable.

I am heading out on my first family camping trip of the season.  I am super excited to get out on the road to vacation in the woods.  Where the main focus is everyone catching up on sleep and seeing how much food we can stuff in our faces. An important time to be organized and ready for any events that could arise!

As an adult with anaphylaxis, I’m in control of my decisions and take full responsibility for my actions when it comes to my safety. I chose to travel with people who are dependable and conscientious because they make me feel at ease.

Road trips always include my mental “safety first” checklist:

  • Who am I travelling with?
  • How long am I going to be out of my house?
  • Do I have enough food for that amount of time?
  • Do I have all of my medicine?
  • Is everyone that I am travelling with aware of my allergies?

This year I’ve prepared a travel kit for my household for when we travel in a car. These are things I that stay in the trunk of my care .  A trip to the dollar store, a discount grocery store and previous purchased items made this an under $5 project.

In a plastic bin:

  • A box of tissues (great in a box because they do not smush and also do not get damp or fall out when camping.
  • Disinfectant wipes (doors, tables etc but also good for minor cuts or accidents in the woods)
  • Sanitizer
  • Biodegradable toilet paper (just in case!)

It is simple technique and most already do this especially if they have kids. But it has a convenience and a place when travelling which makes it an important safely must.

Check Your Labels!

Foods in Canada have to declare all ingredients that are present in foods. Recently a bill in Canada has been passed that all “hidden” allergens, gluten or sulphates need to be declared in the food product. This will be in complete effect by August 4, 2012, but already many companies are adjusting their labels.

Food Allergy Labelling Regulations:  http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/nr-cp/_2011/2011_23-eng.php

Checking the ingredient list is very important when purchasing food or products if you are concerned with allergens being present. If you (or people you are serving/buying food for) have allergies, this is a very important place to confirm that it is safe.

 Note: people who are allergic to certain ingredients may not feel comfortable consuming items that say “May contain traces of…”, or “Made in a facility that processes…”

1.)    Check all labels for the ingredient list.

2.)    Keep all packaging if you are serving guests with anaphylaxis or allergies to be able to show them if they want to read the information themselves.

3.)    Do not assume a product is safe just because it is something you or your guest is not allergic to. There could be trace amounts or hidden ingredients written on the label. (i.e.- pesto contains tree nuts, Caesar salad has anchovies, sauces may contain soy)

4.)    Ingredients can change in your favourite store bought foods! Do not take this for granted and always check.

5.)     Submit questions to the company who made it if you have any questions or concerns.

6.)    If it is not you with the allergy but a guest, never hesitate to ask questions about allergies or ingredients. This shows your concern, and it is not at all annoying even if it is the twentieth time.

7.)    If you are hesitant about the ingredients, DO NOT CONSUME!

In my many years of travel, I have read numerous labels.  It is crazy how many items I took for granted to be safe that I did not consider safe to my standards. For example, when I was backpacking in New Zealand I did not always have access to a full kitchen so I tried to purchase some processed items like sauces or dry ingredients when cooking on the go. Always making my own pasta sauce at home, I never experienced purchasing it until New Zealand. I was shocked that when in the pasta aisle that out of twenty options, only ONE did not contain items I was not allergic to or was not processed in a fish, shellfish or peanut free facility. It drove travel companions nuts to find something that was suitable for me to eat with them. “What the heck do you eat!!?!?!”

But, I’ve never gone hungry.

5 Tips to Have a Safe Environment for a Guest with Anaphylaxis

Dealing with anaphylaxis can be scary for a host because it is such a severe health condition. Of course there is more than these five tips, but these are really important things to consider. Being clean, organized and aware are key components to being a wonderful host.

5 Things to Do in Your Home When Having a Guest with Anaphylaxis or Allergies Over

  1. Wash all surfaces where there is food preparation and consumption. Use soap and water to thoroughly wipe and sanitize so that all surfaces are clean and uncluttered.  Being uncluttered shows that you have diligently considered their allergies because you are aware of all items on your counter.
  2. Wipe down all handles (like fridge and oven doors) and faucets.
  3. Change all tea towels and dish cloths. If you do not feel comfortable using yours, paper towels are a good go-to cleaning towel.
  4. Think about dedicating a cupboard or fridge shelf to contain the items that your guest is allergic to. Tell your guest that you have taken the time to decontaminate the other cupboards and you are aware where you keep and store these items. This information can also give your guest the areas to avoid in your kitchen.
  5. Be aware of items that could have come into contact with allergens so that there is no cross contamination. These are items like jam, margarine containers, mayo jars or ingredients from bulk food bins.  Squeeze bottles, spice jars that shake, and brand new containers can make your guest feel more comfortable.

There are a few other things to consider:

Offering to tell your guest the last time you cooked something they were allergic to in your kitchen is very thoughtful. My friends and family try not to cook or bake something that I am allergic to if they know I am coming over for a few days before. They always like to tell me what they have done to make me more at ease.

Be aware a person dealing with anaphylaxis may not feel comfortable eating at your house. They also might offer to bring their own food.

Honesty is the best policy and make sure there is good communication between you and your guest!

Be Proud and Say It Out Loud!

Understanding the severity of anaphylaxis and allergies is important when dealing with your personal health and safety. It has taken me many years to not be embarrassed about my condition and to not be shy about how comfortable I feel in a situation.

Stick up for yourself. If you cannot be bold enough yet, find a close friend or family member to be your advocate. Their guidance will help you build the confidence you need from within to stand up for yourself.

My personal experience in professional kitchens has made me come into contact with allergens. This was clearly not a safe environment for me but I was determined to have a successful career cooking in a kitchen. At the time I did not let my allergies stop me, nor did I complain about cleaning squid, barbequing salmon or baking peanut butter cookies. I felt very strongly about becoming a professional cook and baker and went against doctor’s and family’s orders not to. I do not regret my choices that I have made in the previous 12 years but I now know that my health and safety comes first. Hiding behind my food allergies was unsafe to myself and clearly put me in danger.

*This is my personal opinion and experience, always consult your allergist or doctor with any questions or concernes about your allergies.

What IS Worcestershire sauce?

Worcestershire sauce is a key ingredient that has anchovies in it. This secret hidden allergen can be found in many store bought salad dressings, marinades and barbeque sauce. Worcestershire sauce adds a huge punch of flavour (so I have been told) because it contains a concentrated blend of vinegar, sugar, anchovies, tamarind, garlic and other spices. You can also find it as a component in Caesar salads, hamburgers, and alcoholic beverages such as Caesar’s (Also note that Caesar’s contain Clamato juice which has clam juice as a key ingredient) or Bloody Mary’s.

  • Many people do not know that anchovies are in Worcesteshire sauce! So do not assume they know this information
  • Always check ingredients in any store bought dressing or sauce
  • I like to specifically ask “Does this contain Worcestershire sauce?” as well as “Does this contain fish or shellfish?”, because if it is something like a burger or other food, it may be seasoned with it. The first question assumes the cook or server knows the ingredients in Worcestershire sauce.

And then I found it. At my local grocery store. Yes…vegan Worcestershire sauce. You got it! It is an expensive little bottle, but a worthwhile purchase for the fridge.  I can see why people do love the stuff, and why a pantry should keep stock of it. And now my hubby, J, is addicted. I think he may have added it to some grilled chicken that he made last night and it was delicious.

Here is a link to the The Wizard’s line of sauces. The company also has a line which includes gluten free Worcestershire sauce. http://www.edwardandsons.com/thewizards_info.itml


Lattes, anaphylaxis and putting safety first

Coffee is a delicious and indulgent treat that I have huge appreciation for. The experience of going out for coffee, whether it is alone or in a group, is a common trend found in Vancouver.  It is a universal spot because there can always be one found while on the go. For me, meeting at coffee shop to catch up with friends is convenient and easy as it is not always feasible to host a gathering at my place.

Having severe allergies, I tend to avoid restaurants as a meeting place with friends and they understand and respect my circumstances. But I do love meeting and going to coffee shops for my usual caramel latte. (Working in the back of a cafe spoiled me because I got my lattes served to me in my favourite cup every morning*teehee*)

It was shocking when one day a few years ago I had a mild allergic reaction after a sip at a local coffee shop. I knew from the first sip that something was wrong. My analysis of the situation was that there was peanut butter flavoured syrup on site and somehow there had been cross contamination. I was blown away that something like that would happen and now take better precautions when ordering my coffee.

Here are some steps I take when I order my coffee:

  • Go to a coffee shop where you can develop a relationship with the owner and/or workers
  • Look to see if they serve peanut butter syrups or baked goods
  • Look to see the contents of their readymade food for example how many peanut or seafood related items they sell. For me, it is a judgement call of whether I feel comfortable ordering from the drink menu at all.
  • Assess the general hygiene of the coffee bar and condiment areas. I never use stainless steel utensils that can be washed, I only used individually wrapped stir sticks (it is usually straws).
  • I bring my own mug!
  • If I am sitting at a table or bar, I never touch the top with my hands. I place my mug onto a clean napkin so my mug never touches the surface of the table.
  • I wash my hands once I leave the premise if I have touched any unnecessary surfaces.

The Joy of Cookbooks

Learning, reading and cooking from cookbooks helped me to become empowered in the kitchen. When managing my allergies I feel that cooking in my own kitchen is the safest environment. As a kid being exposed to my family cooking everyday was wonderful, and as I look back on my childhood, cookbooks were just as important. I never once felt that my edible world was small. Reading cookbooks opened my imagination, challenged my skills and gave me a freedom from anaphylaxis.

From childhood memories of forcing my mom to stay in bed while I made her breakfast in bed to working full time in professional kitchens, reading cookbooks stimulated my mind and mentally challenged my culinary foundation.  I read about muffins and why not to overmix the batter. I read about marinating and how they helped create added flavour and balance. I read about seafood to gain knowledge about a product I would never be able to eat. The most important lesson I learned about cooking was that I could be in control of what I ate if I cooked it. And if opened my imagination in the kitchen I could create a world where I felt like I was not missing anything. I could ignore all those comments like “Oh my, what CAN you eat!” or “Meh, you are not missing anything, it is gross anyways.”  Of course the challenge is with allergies to feel safe, maintain a nutrient rich diet and not feel excluded from group events.  We do not have a choice to not eat something; we have a responsibility to put our health and safety first.

I am thankful to have been reading books from the library for as long as my memory can jog backwards. It was a weekly event in our house; my mom drove my brother and I to the local branch to pick up books to read (it was common to have as many as our arms can carry with our chins resting on the top of the pile). Man, I loved it. The only thing I hated was the smell of the carpet. That was my least of my worries once I got into the children’s section. Highlights were the blasting through the cookbook section by the age of eleven, twirling the paperback stands to find another book in the newest novel in a children’s series, and trying to ignore the feeling of nausea because I started to read in the car.

Thank you to all the authors and chefs for allowing us readers to read about wonderful dishes, create a sense of freedom and stimulate our own creativity.