Thursday, 19 April 2012

Keep Your Nuts to Yourself

I love nuts.  I mean I love to eat nuts.  They’re yummy and salty.   Ok, that doesn’t sound right either.  Let me start over.  There is nothing wrong with a good peanut.  Nothing that is, except for the fact that their mere presence can send many a kid into anaphylactic shock – my son included, apparently.

At a recent birthday party, Prince was given his first Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.  How is it possible that my kid was able to reach the age of 3 without having one of these?  Well, the kid is smart.  Anytime he was offered peanut butter in the past he always told me that he didn’t like it.  I certainly never forced the issue and hence, we arrive at a birthday party where all the other kids are eating these yummy-looking treats and Prince decided to try one.  Before he even finished biting into it he was gagging and coughing and tuning red.  I quickly took it away from him and get him some water but the coughing went on long enough to force an early exit from the party.

In a nutshell, while he did recover that day without intervention (thankfully he hadn’t ingested any of the candy – only bit into it) we decided to get him tested and, low and behold, he is severely allergic to peanuts and fairly allergic to tree nuts.  Awww, nuts is right.
At first I thought this was no big deal.  I had been eating peanut butter in the same house as him for years and he had been fine.  But after a long talk with the doctor and a large investment in EpiPens I began to get a little stressed out. 
Fact #1 – If we suspect Prince is having a reaction and administer the EpiPen we HAVE to call 911 immediately.  Not just proceed to your nearest hospital in an orderly fashion.  Call 911 and get a professional on the scene ASAP.   I thought that as long as you had an EpiPen handy you could just shove it in and get on with your day.  Apparently not.  Something about how the drug in the pen can affect heart rate or something.  Long story short, one un-read label can really screw up a Saturday.
Fact #2 – Nuts are everywhere!  They are in things you would never think of, like dried cranberries, ice cream, anything at a bakery or Tim Horton’s (so long Timbits!), rice crackers and almost everything made by Mr. Christie.  Nothing is safe anymore.  And forget about eating out.  What with the use of peanut oils in cooking and the fact that many chain restaurants just reheat food that was processed elsewhere it is impossible to know if the food is safe. 
Fact #3 – Apparently the more times Prince is exposed to nuts the stronger his reaction will be.  So although we managed to get through the birthday party incident relatively unscathed, the next time we will probably not be so lucky. 
All of these facts have combined to give me a new clump of gray hair.  While at the outset of this whole ordeal I thought that, since we had never had a problem before, we could just keep going on as per usual.  I was wrong.  Ignorance really was bliss.  Now that I know that there is even the slightest chance that eating an Oreo could harm my child (in ways other than childhood obesity that is) I can’t take that risk. 
Now I am the freaky lady at the park who has to rush her kids out of the playground because somebody else has let their two year old run around with a sticky PB & J sandwich smooched up in her tiny fist.   Previously I would have thought the same thing as you right now – what is the big deal?  It’s not like she’s going to try to force feed it to Prince.  But when Prince goes to climb the slide and gets peanut butter on his hands, which he proceeds to rub in his eye, which causes it to swell shut and requires a trip to the hospital, it is a big deal.  (This is a true story by the way, although it didn’t happen to Prince, thank goodness). 
So please people, keep your nuts to yourself.  There are plenty of other options out there for a quick snack that will not potentially incapacitate other children.  And please be patient with us parents of kids with allergies, no matter what kind of allergy they may have.  Knowing that there is some substance out there that is trying to hurt our kids makes us a little nutty, as I am sure you can imagine. 
So please, don’t make me go nuts.  Go nut-free.

Monday, 16 April 2012

A Mommyland Makeover

I know it may be hard to tell, what with the distinct lack of pink-ness, but you have indeed reached Escape From Mommyland!  In celebration of a whole year of mommy-related mayhem and memories I have had some work done.  To the blog.  And my nose, but that is another story.  Anyway, I hope you like it.  It took me a while to decide between this background and the background picture of cheese and grapes, but that may  just have been because I was hungry.   

If you are reading this, than you have probably been one of the many loyal readers that have been here since the beginning.  Either that or you were looking for pictures of cheese and grapes and were enticed into reading this post due to the elaborate blog design and use of big words like 'enticed.' But however you came to be reading this, I want to thank you for doing so.  Although my purpose in writing this blog was to provide an escape for other mom's, it ended up becoming my escape. Now when I am trying to make dinner while one child attempts to climb my legs and the other explores the mysteries of flour (i.e. bathes in it) I am not seething inside but rather am thinking about how I can turn this dinner disaster into an amusing post for you all. 

So thank you, from the bottom of my flour-covered feet to the top of my frizzy perma-ponytailed head.  I promise that, although things may look a little different around here, the witty, moving, inspirational, awesome-sauce... juicy, tangy, delicious... - oh sorry, I was thinking about grapes and chesse again - posts that you have come to love and expect will not only still be here, but will be better than ever. 

On that note, please raise the glass of wine, sippy cup, vanilla soy beverage, or whatever else you happen to have nearby and join me in a toast to new beginnings, old friends and cheese and grapes! 

But seriously, thank you:) 


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Keep Your Crusts On

What is it with kids and crusts?  I have to practically beg my kids not to eat things that have fallen on the floor, been regurgitated, or were found in the litter box, but will they eat the perfectly good outside of a piece of bread?  Hell no.
Sure, crusts can be kind of dry.  And sometimes the jam doesn’t go all the way to the edge.  But somewhere there are hungry children who would be happy to eat those crusts, right?  Heck, I didn’t pay almost $4 for a loaf of bread just so my kids could eat the middle.  And damn it, I don’t want to have to eat all those dried out, jam-less crusts!  I need a little middle too!

When you think about it, learning to eat the crust with your bread is a very important life lesson.   In life you have to take the good with the bad; the bread with the crust if you will.  To get dessert you must eat dinner.  With playtime comes clean-up time.  With great power comes great responsibility – ok, I am lapsing into cheesy movie quotes now, but you get the idea.  As a parent it is my responsibility to teach this lesson.  But how?
When I was a kid and refused to eat my crusts, my grandmother sang me The Crust Song.  It tells the story of a kid who didn’t eat their crust and was later visited by said crust in the middle of the night (lyrics are found below).   Was this scary?  A little.  Was it lying?  Not really.  Did it work?  Totally.  Should I use it on my kids?  Undecided.
My main concern is that it is a little scary and I don’t want scare my kids.  But personally I had more nightmares after watching The Lion King than I ever did from this song (seriously – those hyenas were freaky man).  And how scary can a crust of bread be really?  Yeah, it has eyes and legs in the song, but not pointy teeth or sharp claws. 

Then there is the fact that this is not strictly a true story.  But it isn’t a lie either; it’s just a story, or a myth like that of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, designed to teach children to be good and do what they are supposed to do, thereby making growing up a bit easier.  If nothing else, this song provides an interesting answer as to why we need to eat up our crusts that doesn’t involve me having to explain our household budget in relation to the global economy and the increasing price of bread. 
I wonder if my grandma had this same internal debate before using this song on her children and grandchildren.  Somehow, I think the answer is no.  Not because my grandma isn’t an amazing, thoughtful, caring, wonderful person, because she is.  No, I think my grandma, upon reading my concerns regarding the parenting merits of a song about crunchy bread would laugh and tell me to stop taking everything so seriously.  In the grand scheme of things (which, at her 80+ years, she insists that she has a better view of) hearing one inappropriate story about bread at the age of 3 isn’t going to ruin my kids lives.  Then she would insist that I sit down and eat some cookies.  See, I told you she was awesome.
So for now I think that the all important Crust Lesson will be put on the back-burner in the hopes that my kids will outgrow this annoying waste of dough all on their own.  And if that doesn’t work I will just send my kids to their Great-Gran’s for a week, and if she just so happens to sing them the song, well hey, that’s not my fault right?
Now, I must go eat some cookies.

Check out my Grandma sing for you!
The Crust Song:
Last night I didn’t eat up my crust.
I tucked it in under my plate.
I thought no one would find it there
But when it got dark and late
And I was in bed all covered up tight,
All covered up but just my head,
I saw that same old crust I did
Come walking up over my bed.
It had two long legs
And great big eyes
And he grinned and he said to me:
“I’m the crust you tucked in under your plate;
You couldn’t hide me, you see.
You must never, never, never do that again.”
“Alright, I won’t” I said.
“I will eat you up to the very last crumb,
If you’ll please get down off of my bed.”
So he jumped off the bed and he disappeared,
I’ve searched for him early and late.
But he comes no more, cause I never poke
My crust in under my plate.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Real Life Recipes

If I ever get rich, the first thing I am going to do is hire a cook, because I can’t.  Cook that is.  Well, technically I can cook, and while the results are (usually) edible, the mess generated, the time wasted and the kids trying to climb up my legs while I sauté kind of ruin it for me.   

It is just too much pressure.  Back in the day when all a good dinner had to do was to taste good it probably wasn’t so stressful for moms to throw something together.  But nowadays what with the fact that my dinners have to be healthy, peanut-free, easy to make, quick to prepare, inexpensive and yet filled with variety while still being yummy – well, I am starting to twitch just thinking about it. 

Every week I go through the same routine.  In the few spare minutes I manage to squeeze out of my weekend I end up sitting in front of my computer anxiously scanning site after site full of recipes trying to find 5 recipes that fit my criteria.  Most are too damn fancy for everyday meals.  Many require ingredients I cannot pronounce let alone identify, and many are so long and detailed that I don’t even have the time to finish reading the recipe let alone make it. 

Then, of course, come the inevitable failures.  Sure, they looked good on screen.  But whether it was through some mistake of mine or whether it was just a crappy recipe, when it hits the table and we bravely shovel in a few forkfuls even my husband (a.k.a. the human garbage disposal) can’t stomach it and we order out for pizza.
So after 4 long years of this routine and approximately 416 hours spent on meal planning, I have compiled an entire week’s worth of Real Life Recipes (i.e. healthy, peanut-free, easy to make, quick to prepare, inexpensive yet filled with variety, yummy dinners).  I guarantee that I have actually prepared and eaten all of these meals numerous times and, more astonishingly, my kids have as well.  So spend your free minutes this weekend soaking in a nice bubble bath and reading something besides cookbooks – you’re meal planning for this week is done. 

Bon appetit and you’re welcome.

1 Tbsp.oil1 lb. (450 g) pork tenderloin, cut into bite-size pieces 2 cups quartered fresh mushrooms
1 cup fresh snow peas
1 small yellow pepper, cut into strips 2 cloves garlic, minced 1/4 cup Calorie-Wise Catalina Dressing1 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce2 green onions, chopped 2-2/3 cups hot cooked long-grain brown rice
HEAT oil in wok or large skillet on high heat. Add meat; stir-fry 1 min.
ADD next 4 ingredients; stir-fry on medium-high heat 3 to 5 min or until meat is lightly browned. Stir in dressing and soy sauce; stir-fry 2 min. or until vegetables are crisp-tender and meat is done.
TOP with green onions. Serve with rice
1-1/4 lb. (565 g) red potatoes (about 4), cut into chunks
3 large cloves garlic
3/4 cupfat-free sour cream
1/2 cup shredded Cracker Barrel Light Cheddar Cheese, divided
1 lb. (450 g) extra-lean ground beef
2 Tbsp.flour
3 cups frozen mixed vegetables (beans, carrots, corn), thawed
3/4 cup25%-less-sodium beef broth
2 Tbsp.ketchup
COOK potatoes and garlic in boiling water in large saucepan 20 min. or until potatoes are very tender. Drain; return to saucepan. Add sour cream. Mash potatoes to desired consistency. Stir in 1/4 cup Cheddar.
HEAT oven to 375°F. Brown meat in large nonstick skillet. Stir in flour; cook and stir 1 min. Add vegetables, broth and ketchup; cook 5 min., stirring occasionally. Spoon into 8-inch square baking dish; cover with potatoes.
BAKE 18 min. or until heated through. Top with remaining Cheddar; bake 2 min. or until melted.

2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil, divided
2 cups (500 ml) sliced mushrooms
2 leeks (white part only), split lengthwise, thinly sliced (or one large onion, thinly sliced)

2 Carrots, diced

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

3/4 tsp (4 ml) salt

2 tbsp (30 ml) all-purpose flour

1 cup (250 ml) green beans, cut into 1/2-in. (1 cm) pieces

1 1/2 cups (375 ml) Low Sodium Chicken Broth

2 sprigs fresh Thyme, leaves only, or 1/2 tsp dried thyme (2 ml)

3  Phyllo Pastry Sheets, thawed

Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). In a medium ovensafe saucepan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until water evaporates and mushrooms start to brown, about 7 min. Add leeks or onions and cook until softened, 5 to 7 min. Stir in carrots and cook, 2 min. Season chicken with salt and add to pan, stirring until chicken is lightly cooked on all sides, about 7 to 10 min.
Add flour and stir until flour turns beige. Stir in green beans, broth and thyme and cook over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken, 5 to 10 min. Remove from heat.
Place 1 phyllo sheet on countertop and brush with a bit of remaining olive oil. Fit sheet loosely over chicken mixture inside pot, covering right to edges. Tuck excess phyllo under itself. Repeat with remaining 2 sheets. Sprinkle with pepper. Bake for 20 min. or until phyllo is brown and juices are bubbling. OPTION:  Make individual sized pot pies in smaller dishes. 

1 lb (500 g) extra lean ground turkey
1 cup (250 mL) dry breadcrumbs
1 cup (250 mL) grated, peeled apple (about 1 apple)
2 eggs
1 tsp (5 mL) onion powder
½ tsp (2 mL) black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400º F (200º C) cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl combine all the ingredients and mix very well. Using an ice cream scoop, form the mixture into balls, smaller than a golf ball. Make 15 meatballs.
Place the meatballs on the cookie sheet and cook for 15 minutes. Flip them over and cook for an additional 10 minutes and until they are no longer pink inside.

Cheating Broccoli and Mushroom Alfredo*
1 jar prepared Alfredo sauce
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 tbsp olive oil
1 package Fettuccini noodles
Pepper to taste
Prepare noodles as per package directions.  Heat alfredo sauce in saucepan over low heat until warm.  Sautee mushrooms and broccoli in oil until cooked, then stir into alfredo sauce.  Poor over noodles, mix and serve with salad of your choosing.
*I call this cheating because I don’t make my own sauce for this – sauces and icings are the bane of my cooking existence.  Feel free to throw in some chicken to make this a cheating chicken alfredo if you so choose. 
 Italian Chicken Quesadilla Recipe
1  (10-inch/25 cm) wheat flour tortilla 
1/2 cup cooked chicken 125 mL
1/3 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese 75 mL
1/4 cup finely chopped green (or regular) onions 60 mL
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese 30 mL
1 tbsp finely chopped green pepper 15 mL
Cooking spray 
Marinara or pasta sauce (optional) 
Preheat oven to broil. Arrange the cooked chicken, mozzarella cheese, onion, Parmesan cheese and green pepper on one side of the tortilla. Fold the tortilla over into a half-moon shape; transfer to a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray.
Broil quesadilla about 3 inches (8 cm) from the element for 2 minutes per side or until tortilla is golden and cheese melts. Serve with marinara sauce (if using) on the side. (Recipes doubles  or quadruples easily.)

1 tsp (5 mL) olive oil
1 lb (500 g) diced beef (inside or outside round)
2 cups (500 mL) sliced onion
1 clove garlic
½ tsp (2 mL) dried thyme
½ tsp (2 mL) black pepper
1 cup (250 mL) whole button mushrooms
1 cup (250 mL) 25% sodium-reduced soup broth (beef, chicken or vegetable)
2 cups (500 mL) turnip, peeled and diced small
1 cup (250 mL) carrot, peeled and diced small
1 cup (250 mL) sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 cups (500 mL Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup (250 mL) cold water
½ tbsp (22 mL) cornstarch
Preheat oven to 350º F (180º C).
In a large oven proof stove top pot, heat oil over medium heat.
Add meat and brown for about 10 minutes. Add onion, garlic, thyme, black pepper and mushrooms and cook until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.
Add soup stock, turnip and carrots and bring to a boil. Cover and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
In a small bowl mix cold water and cornstarch. Remove stew from the oven and stir in cornstarch mixture, sweet potatoes and potatoes. Cover and return to the oven for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Serve.