Birthday Parties, How to be Nutfree, School Safe List, Snacking, Uncategorized

School Safe Treat Box

20170818_150058.jpgIt’s back-to-school time! If your child has food allergies, now is the time to be pro-active and get your plans and snacks in place. Here’s how we prepare:

  1. Contact the school nurse/office and keep an EPI-PEN on file at the front desk.
  2. Make sure all medical forms are filled out and complete with the front office.
  3. Know your school’s allergy policy. Make sure there is an allergy policy.
  4. Make contact with the child’s teacher (s) and make sure they all know about your child’s allergy, and what the steps are to keep him/her safe. Keep it simple here.
  5. Talk to your child about saying “no” to all classroom treats. This is tough, but it’s the ONLY way to stay safe at school.
  6. Use an allergy bracelet for your child.
  7. Keep an EPI-PEN inside your child’s backpack at all times so it is easily accessible. I like to keep ours in an AllerMates case – it has our phone number and contact information inside.
  8. Build the treat box and have fun with it. We decorated ours with stickers, and I made a special trip to the grocery store with just my daughter so she could take her time choosing treats. They better be good, after all, they are replacing classroom birthday treats! That’s a big deal!

Our treat box is filled with:

  1. Simply Balanced fruit leathers from Target
  2. Hostess Ding-Dongs
  3. Little Bites Brownies
  4. Little Bites Party Cakes
  5. Enjoy Life Chocolate Candy-Bars

Our treat box will be kept inside the classroom for the entire school year. These snacks will replace Birthday treats, holiday treats, party treats and any other time a treat or snack is brought into the class. We used the same size last year and only had to fill it one time. At the end of the year, we had about 6 treats left over.

I also like to reference this website to help prepare for the school year. It can be especially helpful if your school doesn’t have a comprehensive allergy policy.

Food Allergy Resource Center  – I thought this article below was a good reminder, too.

Food Allergy Tips for Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTOs) and Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs).
Today, one in 13 children has food allergies, and nearly 40 percent of these children have experienced a severe or lifethreatening reaction. Many of these reactions happen at school. Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTOs) and Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) are a vital part of the school community, providing an organized family and community component.

As a PTO or PTA leader, you can be a powerful voice for your children and other children, advocating for their health, safety, education and overall well-being.
Children with food allergies need your support to ensure their safety and inclusion. From classroom parties, to school family nights, to after-school fundraisers, keep in mind that all students in the community should be able to participate safely.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published National Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools, available at http://www.foodallergy.org/CDC. The recommendations below are a few examples of recommended
practices to help ensure students with food allergies are safely included. We encourage you to review the complete list of the CDC’s Recommended Practices, on pages 41–43 of the guidelines available at http://www.foodallergy.org/CDC.
• Avoid the use of identified allergens in class parties, holidays, celebrations, crafts, snacks or rewards.
• Use non-food incentives for prizes, gifts, awards, and fundraisers.
• When possible, avoid ordering foods from restaurants because food allergens may be present, but unrecognized.
Have ingredient information readily available for all pre-packaged and/or catered food items.
• Do not exclude children with food allergies from events or extra-curricular activities.
• Make sure that food allergy policies and practices address foods available during fundraisers, class parties, at
athletic events and during after-school programs.
• Have rapid access to epinephrine auto-injectors in cases of emergency and train staff to use them.

Did you know?

Food allergies may constitute a disability under the law. Children with food allergies are entitled to an equal opportunity to participate in all school programs and events including extra-curricular activities. This usually applies to activities held by groups such as PTOs and PTAs. (See Section 5 of the CDC guidelines for more information on federal laws that pertain to food allergies.)

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Sun flowers are so important to us nut allergic families. Sun butter is our alternative to peanut butter.

Have a great first day back to school. I hope your preparations put your mind at ease a little.

 

Birthday Parties, Uncategorized, Weeknight Dinners

May the 4th Be With You!

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Star Wars day was awesome. My kids are really into Star Wars right now, as is the hubs, so when we we were menu planning on Sunday, the kids REALLY wanted to do something fun for May 4th.

(Side bar: I’m drinking Valentine Coffee right now with 1 tsp of Nestle Quick Bunny Chocolate powder, and it’s amaze. You should try it. Seriously. 20 calories, but it has vitamins and tastes like a skinny mocha from Starbucks. No lie.)

Star Wars Day is also my mother-in-laws birthday! So we celebrated big time! Here is the menu:

May the 4th Menu

  • Obe-Wan Kebabies: skewered watermelon balls, strawberries, blackberries and grapes
  • Darth Vader Taters: made Oreida tater tots
  • Han-Burgers: patted out eight burger patties using grass fed organic beef from Madison
  • BB-8 Cake: Betty Crocker cake mix with homemade butter cream frosting. Safe, nut-free, black icing can be found at Target, Wilton Brand. Be careful with Wilton brand. They make a lot of cake decor and MOST of it is made in a facility with nuts. I really lucked out this time. Usually, I cannot buy their stuff. For the shape of the cake, I just used one 9 inch spring form cake pan and one 4 inch spring form cake pan. With each of them, make sure they cool completely, and use a serrated knife to take off the “dome” layer and even it out. With the 4 inch cake, trim the top accordingly and then cut about 1/4 off the bottom of the cake.
  • Luke Sky Water: Just water. Nothing special.
  • At the last minute, we found some Star Wars dinner plates, cake plates and napkins at Target in the kids party section. Also found some cardboard masks with all the popular characters. Except Rey. Seriously? I have so many feels about this topic, but that’s not for this blog post.

Until next time, May the Force Be With You! Thanks for stopping by…

Birthday Parties, Uncategorized

Mini Troll Gardens

Today my lovely daughter is celebrating her birthday at school. We wanted to do something a little different than cupcakes or cake. Since Trolls is very popular with her right now, and the idea of Dirt Cake was intriguing, we combined the two. Mini Troll Gardens it is! 
We made chocolate pudding, topped with crushed Oreo cookies. Michaels had a silk flower sale and we bought two mini boquets and took them apart. Lastly, Target had the mini trolls in “mystery” bags, so we didn’t know which troll we were getting. Luckily we only needed 10.

Happy Wednesday. These are nut free and fun!

Birthday Parties, Uncategorized

Happiest Birthday Party!

Birthday Parties. According to our 5 and 3 year old, these kid-centric events seem to be the best part about going to school and meeting new friends! Both of their classrooms have lots of birthdays + parties and we always look forward to spending time with their friends and families.

First, I never, ever want a family to feel like they need to change a birthday menu or cake due to our food allergies. The birthday girl/boy gets to celebrate how THEY want, and that’s how it should be and we 100% will always default to this. We will bring our own birthday treat. This is why I keep cupcakes frozen and frosting ready. So when it does happen, that we know a family so well, and they easily integrate safe foods into their birthday menu, we are SO appreciative.

Chloe’s friend turned 6 yesterday and we have celebrated almost all of her birthdays together. Exciting!! We know this family well and it was an amazing party. The Mom should really consider her own business becuase her creativity and organization is amazing and beautiful.

Rewind a few weeks ago, the birthday girl’s mom messaged me to work out some menu items to be safe. Here’s what we did to make it easy for all:

1. Text / phone 1-3 weeks in advance to discuss food.

2. Offer to help buy nut-free items and close the loop on who is bringing what.

3. Determine what Amazon Prime can do (basically everything) and make sure it arrives a few days before party.

The birthday theme was “Ice Cream Party” and it was wonderful. As with any dessert item, even ice cream, the trickiest part is finding safe toppings. Here’s what she had:

1. Gummy worms

2. Maraschino cherries

3. Mini oreos

4. Nerds

5. Mini-chocolate chip cookies (allergy free) https://enjoylifefoods.com/

6. Chocolate syrup (Hershey’s)

7. Vanilla Blue Bunny Ice Cream

We are so grateful for this family and their inclusiveness. Chloe never expected to be able to eat at her friends party, but when I said, “Yes, go get in line with your friends, everything here is safe,” she was so excited!

Our standby treats for most birthday parties are:

1. Our own homemade frozen cupcakes and frosting.

2. Hostess cupcake if I’m in a hurry.

3. Mini snack bag with safe chocolate chips, marshmallows and Graham crackers.

4. York peppermint patty.

5. Tootsie rolls

What a fun party. I’m not sure how we got to “6” already, but time sure does fly when you’re having fun. Cheers to many more laughs and fun times with the three musketeers!.💖

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

Ingredients

  • 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!)

Directions

  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 Food.com

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!

 

Birthday Parties, Uncategorized

Preschool Cupcakes

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Today is my daughter’s pre-k end of year party. As a parent of a nut-allergic student, I find it critical to the success of classroom events to be part of the Room Parent Committee.

Unfortunately, Chloe was up all night sick, and is having a couch day with Paw Patrol. I feel so bummed for her that she is missing her party.

This morning I did a quick food drop off and the other room parents took over at the party. We have a great room parent team this year, and I’m so grateful for these really helpful families.

Devil’s Food Chocolate Cupcakes

1. Bake the cupcakes as directed. I used Betty Cocker Devil’s Food Cake Mix (make ahead and store in freezer zip top bags if you like, just remove from freezer night before event and leave on kitchen counter top).

2.  Make butter cream frosting (can also be made ahead and store in fridge for 1 week. Make sure you bring to room temperature before working with it).

A.  Cream together two sticks of unsalted butter with 8 cups confectioners sugar. I also add a dash of vanilla and milk. But those two things are not necessary.

B. Sample frosting to make sure butter and sugar consistency is good.

3. Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, select your favorite piping tip. I like the star tip. Place in piping bag. Put piping bag with tip in, into a wide mouth Mason jar and fold the sides down around the outside of the jar. This makes it easy to put the frosting into the piping bag without having the piping bag collapse on you.

4.  Pipe the frosting on to the cupcakes. Start on the outside of the cupcake and work your way in to the center.

5.Enjoy!

A great piping set is around $50-$75 and can be found at Sur la Table or Macy’s. I use mine all the time, making this purchase worth it!  🎂

Birthday Parties

Birthday Party Blues

My original post for the week has been scrapped since a birthday party is more important. I received a call this weekend from another Mom asking which brand of chocolate chips we prefer for baking chocolate chip cookies for an upcoming birthday party. Chocolate is by far the trickiest part of having nut allergies. There are so many RULES!

First, very happy to have this discussion with the other Mom, who also has nut allergies in her household.  The difference though is that her house is just peanut allergy, whereas my house is peanut and tree nut. Sometimes you’ll see this abbreviated as PN/TN. We are PN and TN.

The ONLY chocolate chips that I have been using with my PN/TN allergy kiddo is the Enjoy Life brand. You can commonly find this brand at Target in the baking section on the bottom shelf. Today, I paid $5.05 for one bag. They aren’t cheap. I needed two bags. That’s a bummer. $10 in chocolate to make some chocolate chip cookies really makes me sad. If my husband didn’t have such an awesome job, there is no way we’d be making chocolate chip cookies today. Period. End of story. Sugar cookies it would be.

Chocolate is an everyday essential. Like coffee – I need it or I’m a grump. Not  a lot. Just a nibble. Dark chocolate preferably. Chocolate is always stashed in our house. Ghirardelli is probably my favorite, but unfortunately, not safe for my home. Just like their chocolate chips, hot chocolate mix, coco powder, baking squares, various chocolate bars and individual candies, none of it is safe if you have PN/TN allergies.

Chocolate that we CAN keep in the house:

  • Hershey Kisses (in the classic bag, not holiday bag or wrapper)
  • York Peppermint Patties
  • Girl Scout Cookies, Thin Mints
  • Oreos + Oreo Thins (I LOVE the mint)
  • Junior Mints (snacksafe.com)
  • Tootsie Rolls (and all tootsie products)
  • 1.55oz  Plain Hershey Chocolate Bar (snacksafe.com)

For special events and holidays, I’ve ordered from Vermont Nut Free Chocolate  which is what I’ll be working on later this week, Easter preparations.

If a chocolate is not labeled, I deem it unsafe for eating. When in doubt, throw it out. Not worth the risk.

How do you prepare for a birthday party when you child is 5?

There is nothing scarier than dropping your child off at a birthday party, only to find out that there is nothing safe for them to eat (all while the other kids are enjoying cakes, cookies, pizzas, etc.).  Since the school that my daughter goes to Preschool of the Arts is 100% nut free, the parents are OVER THE TOP AMAZING at communicating with everyone about ingredients, etc. to INCLUDE everyone at birthdays + parties. Seriously, I’m so blessed to have found this school and the community we belong to. I know how hard it is to create a kids birthday cake/cupcakes/cookies etc from scratch, and I’m so so so thankful that every birthday party we have been to has been inclusive for our daughter. When she can participate with the other kids and have the cake, it’s such a special treat.

Avoid the Birthday Party Blues by following my simple advice:

  1. Be upfront, tell the parents and the venue about the allergy
  2. Have the EPI-PEN at all times
  3. Have a cell phone ready + charged
  4. Prepare your child for the possibility of not being able to eat the food at the party
  5. Pack your own meal + birthday treat. We pack Chloe her own lunch/dinner with special birthday themed snack to eat while at the birthday party. I make cupcakes and freeze them in bulk, then thaw during the day of the party and frost with homemade buttercream frosting. It’s easy, looks like a birthday snack, and totally safe (Just incase the birthday cake is from a bakery, or the parents are not 100% sure).
  6. Stay at the party if you’re unsure of the handling of the allergy (I know the nutfree moms + dads very well at our school, and I trust them to use an epi-pen on my child in the event of an allergic reaction. If there are no nut-free families at a party, I’m a little more hesitant to leave my child alone at a party.)
  7. Breathe – it will be fine. Your should not live in fear because of a food allergy.