Holiday Favorites, Uncategorized


It’s the weekend we’ve been gearing up for weeks now, Halloween Weekend! The kids are so excited to put their costumes to use, collect some candy and be outside when it’s “POOKY,” according to Carter.

Our trick-or-treat is not your typical collection of candy. We carry two twin-pack epi pens with us, even though we don’t allow the kids to eat candy while we trick-or-treat.  You just never know what they can come in contact with when it’s dark. When the kids are collecting candy, we’ve learned that there are a few homes in our neighborhood that have the teal pumpkin visible, we set that candy to the side. ONLY the safe candy/giveaways from teal homes is the stuff we keep, and allow the kids to eat. The remainder of our candy has always been donated to Meriter Pediatrics Candy Trade in. This trade-in is common practice by doctors and dentists to help kids cut back on all those sweets. They don’t need all that candy anyway.


The Teal Pumpkin Project is about bringing the joy of trick-or-treating to every child. This includes kids with all kinds of food allergies, not just nuts. If you have a teal pumpkin of some sort in your front yard, door step, window, etc. it means that you have non-food items available for trick or treat. At Target and Walgreens, they have fairly inexpensive bulk bags of Halloween pens, notepads, stamps, stickers, spider rings, etc. There are many options. We support the teal pumpkin project and offer 100% nut free snacks. Here’s what we have this year:

  1. mini Halloween pens + paper
  2. tootsie roll suckers
  3. sixlets
  4. Halloween pirates booty
  5. skittles
  6. smarties
  7. bottle caps (not sure how many are actually left. this might be my favorite Halloween candy ever. of all time. not even kidding.)
  8. junior mints
  9. nerds
  10. Annie’s Graham Crackers

We love the candy trade-in at Meriter. We visit our pediatrician and in exchange for our candy bag, the kids receive healthy snacks, and a tote full of coloring pages, etc. It’s a good way to donate the candy. Meriter has organizations that they then donate it to.

To keep the magic of Halloween alive here without candy, we have a visit from THE GREAT PUMPKIN on Halloween. It’s like St.Nick. A small something for each kid is left here at home while the kids are trick-or-treating. The Great Pumpkin wraps up the gifts and leaves them out for the kids to find.  This year Carter is getting a Thomas The Train “Count with me Bank” and Chloe will have some sort of Princess Elena swag.  I’m so excited to see their faces this year when they come home from collecting their treats. At 5 and 3 years old, they are RIGHT in the heart of the exciting kiddo years.

I’m grateful for the facebook posts I’ve seen regarding the Teal Pumpkin Project this year. It warms my heart when we walk to a home that is “safe” for Chloe. She loves it too – the smile on her face is priceless.

After a busy, fun, but long few days in Milwaukee, I’m happy we’re back home and gearing up for the Halloween festivities!  Enjoy your trick-or-treat!


Uncategorized, Weeknight Dinners


This week we tried another HyVee freezer meal. It was a wonderful Jambalaya recipe that included a locally made starter kit.

This meal was super fast. If you’re in a hurry, you could use rotisserie chicken or just the andouille. The best part was the starter kit. Becuase its local, I called to ensure that it was nut free and locally sourced. It was. Winning! Very delicious. Everyone cleared their plates – kids has to use a tiny bit of sour cream to cut the heat a bit. This meal took 20 minutes after I dumped everything onto the Dutch oven.

This weekend is supposed to be amazing , just in time for trick or treat!


How to be Nutfree, Mom Things, Travel, Uncategorized

First Independent Play Date

When you have a child with life-threatening food allergies, leaving your child alone, for any amount of time, is anxiety provoking. Luckily for us, Chloe’s friends and their families have all been amazing and over the top careful about her food allergies. Here’s what we did to prepare for this HUGE step of independence for her:

  1.  We decided to invite her new friend over to our home first. This allowed us to talk as a family with her friend and her family about our serious food allergies. This conversation was a great ice breaker and allowed us to talk openly about many things parents have concerns about.
  2. After the first play date at our home, Chloe had her first play date at her friends house.

It was a beautiful Friday afternoon. Chloe was over the moon excited. I was trying to stay optimistic the entire time – she was so happy to see her friend. Suddenly, I remembered the conversation that I had wanted to have with her before we left regarding nuts. She had NO IDEA what nuts actually looked like – she definitely knew the names of the nuts that she’s allergic to, but she’d never actually seen a walnut, pistachio, shelled peanut, cashew. We jumped online and saw a few pictures together before packing her purse with a safe snack, EpiPen and Benadryl.

Once I dropped her off, I didn’t go home. I couldn’t. It felt to far. Instead, I opted to do some grocery shopping nearby and check my phone every 5 minutes. It’s hard. It’s hard knowing your child has this life-threatening allergy and leave them in the care of someone else, even though I trust them immensely. I have seen my daughter have two episodes of anaphylaxis. We know for a fact that her allergies are serious. Life-threatening. She swells up and is unable to breathe if she comes in contact with these foods.

Cross-contamination happens so easily and if you’re not “in it” — in the allergy world, reading all the labels, communicating with the manufacturers, realizing that not all labels are created equal and peanut free does not mean nut free, just knowing all these silly allergy rules! I’d much rather spend my time reading ANYTHING other than damn food labels and websites! But for now, my daughter depends on me to know these things in order to keep her safe. And I will. Forever, even when she’s grown, help her understand her allergy and manage it as safely and effectively as possible.

She rocked her first independent play date, like I knew she would. She had fun with her friend, and that’s what mattered.

Holiday Favorites, Snacking, Uncategorized


Tonight we had our first campfire as a family of 4 in our backyard. We recently purchased a fire pit, and it’s perfect for warming up on fall nights like tonight. Here’s what we did for safe, nut-free s’mores:

  • Plain Honey Maid graham crackers
  • Regular 10 oz Hershey’s  milk chocolate candy bar; not the king size, not the miniatures – those are made in facilities with nuts, and are on shared equipment.
  • Kraft jumbo marshmallows

The kids enjoyed watching the sunset and roasting marshmallows for the first time. We even had a few fire ball mallows, and funny made up ghost stories by Chloe. My husband enjoyed playing with fire. I simply loved being outside after dinner, something that is so rare for us in the fall, especially because it’s getting dark so soon.

Enjoy your evening!

Uncategorized, Weeknight Dinners

Vegetarian Minestrone Soup

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you feel like you take 2 steps forward and 10 steps back? By Friday night you feel like your hair is on fire and no amount of delicious wine will right all the wrongs that happened in the past 5 days?!

It’s during stressful times that you really have to find little things to be grateful for to keep pushing ahead. The show MUST go on. We’re parents.  Our kids rely on us, we’re setting an example all day, every day – we can’t melt down under pressure (even thought I didn’t fall to the ground crying like my kids, I was pretty short and snippy).

This week I found comfort knowing that every…single…meal was already prepared. THANK YOU HY-VEE DISH sessions. And so grateful to know the wonderful lady that introduced me to these marvelous sessions.

DISH meets one time per month at Hy-Vee. A small group meets for one hour and makes 7 meals. The session costs vary, but so far I’ve spent between $100 and $120 for 7 meals for 4 people. Most meals make 6 servings for us, so we upcycle leftovers for lunch the next day. Super good recipes too. I have to be honest. I was VERY skeptical on flavor. I live in a house with people who LOVE food.

Here is one of my favorites that we made for dinner, then had for lunch for the next 5 days. SO GOOD! I hope you enjoy too, you won’t regret it!

Vegetarian Minestrone Soup

  • 1 cup carrots, sliced or diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cups zucchini
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 tsp garlic
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans
  • 6 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock) – Hy-Vee Brand is safe
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning – Penzeys or Hy-Vee brand is safe
  • 2 cups small pasta (such as: ditalini, penne, small shells) – most pastas are safe
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • salt and pepper
  1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, sauté the carrots, celery, onion, zucchini, garlic and in the hot oil, until crisp-tender.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low heat. Add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes and beans.
  3. Slowly add the stock, pasta and spinach.
  4. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste.
Holiday Favorites, Uncategorized


It’s that time of year – baking season. Starting with Halloween yummies, then Thanks Giving pies and Christmas cookies (hopefully not followed up by the “well, why not, I’ve eaten so much crap already, Happy New Year cake”). There is no doubt that I’ll be on the phone and emailing manufacturers like crazy over the next 3 months. Today alone, I’ve sent out three emails to manufacturers to make sure manufacturing facilities haven’t changed from last year. Here is a little cheat sheet (AVOID THESE) below. We never use the Wilton Brand because MOST of their items, including food colorings (yes, I made an entire cake with their food coloring only to find out it wasn’t safe, and had to throw the entire 3-day Elsa Ice Palace compelte with rock candy, into the garbage), are made on a shared line with nuts.

The following is a list of Cake Mate items to avoid. The items listed below either contain nuts or were processed on lines that many contain nuts. Don’t use them:

Marble Mixins
Parlor Perfect
Cake Make Fruit Flavored Decor
Cake Mate 26 oz Rainbow Sprinkles (UPC code–5210032626)
Cake Mate 26 oz Chocolate Sprinkles (UPC code–5210030247)

Also, the Cake Mate rep reminded us to always read the labels for any ingredients updates or line changes.

You can also call the company Helpline for more info: 877-726-8793. The line is open M-F, 8-5, CST.

I’ve contacted cake mate today since we have a party coming up and I need to make sure we’ve got some safe decorations to use!  If I can’t get an answer, I’ll be using some of my old backups that are safe:

  1. Bag of smashed oreo cookies
  2. maraschino cherries
  3. enjoy life brand mini chocolate chips
  4. fairy dust – nestle quick bunny cocoa powder
  5. kraft mini marshmallows
  6. banana
  7. chocolate skippers from Vermont nut free chocoaltes
Birthday Parties, Holiday Favorites, Snacking, Uncategorized

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

It’s been a while, hey? I’ve been working on a home-improvement project and I blew away my goal. Happy dancing! The timeline was tight considering I still had adulting to do during the daytime (SAHM stuff) and most of this project had to happen after the kids would go to bed, and before I got too tired. Painting after 10pm is not a good idea.

So this brings me to my favorite term, opportunity cost. My most utilized take-away from my master’s degree 5 yeas ago. The things we must give up to have something else. In this case, I gave up a LOT to complete this project in 4 weeks. My daily work outs = gone.  I was so tired from painting ceilings and sanding trim that I literally couldn’t work out, much too sore. Hello Advil. Extra time with kids over two weekends, which were gorgeous by the way – nope none of that. And lastly, my blog. I had no extra time to write.  There were other things too, sorry friends!!!  I literally was closed out from the world – I HAD to get this project done!

Here I am. Loads of new recipes that I’ve tried over the past few weeks, I’m going to try and play  a quick game of catch-up, starting with my most recent, and favorite one, Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins. No pic, my phone battery was too low. Next time.

This is my second rendition of this recipe, and definitely my favorite. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins


  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 (15oz) can of pumpkin
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 + 1/4 cup of vegetable oil (YES, ALL OF IT, NOM NOM NOM)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (I used pumpkin pie spice this time, good substitute)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 package of mini chocolate chips (Enjoy Life are my FAVORITE!)


  1. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, pumpkin, vanilla, and oil until smooth.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl
  3. Mix in the dry ingredients to wet ingredients
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Fill cupcake pan 3/4 full
    1. Try using a small ice cream scooper for accuracy
    2. Grease or paper line the cupcake pan (I use Pam)
  6. Bake at 400 for 16-20 minutes
    1. I bake at 18 and they are perfect every time

Yield: 30

*Adapted from

Have you seen this new show on ABC? Notorious? I’m hooked – it’s on my DVR and I’ve got a date with my couch tonight. This cold needs to go away now. Enjoy your week everyone!

Thanks for stopping by!