Recipe: Oatmeal Fudge Bars

bars

There a few things that make me heart leap as much as it does when I can make something that not only my whole family can enjoy together, but that everyone raves over. Especially with Jonah being able to experience flavors he doesn’t get much of, I could cry.

Maybe it’s pregnancy hormones, but watching that little boy double-fist this Oatmeal Fudge Bar on his belly with the cold kitchen floor underneath him made a lasting impression on me as a sweet reminder of why I do what I do, how important my job as Mama is, and why cooking is so much of my passion.

It feeds my family, it binds us together, and it allows us to just be.

Bring yours together with this dairy-free, gluten-free,  & nut-free winner:

OATMEAL LAYER

1/2 c. dairy free shortening

1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed

1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. gluten-free all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 c. old fashioned or quick cooking oats (I prefer old fashioned but use whatever you have)

FUDGE LAYER

1/2 c. gluten-free all purpose flour

1/4 c. granulated sugar

1 1/2 dairy free chocolate chips (Enjoy Life or Divvies)

4 T. dairy free margarine (I use Organic Earth Balance)

1 T. water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8 inch glass Pyrex baking dish with dairy free baking spray. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a medium bowl with a wooden spoon) combine the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add applesauce and vanilla and thoroughly combine. In a small separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Add to shortening mixture and stir well. Stir in oats. Reserve 1 cup of oatmeal mixture for topping. Spread the rest into the prepared glass dish using the back of a spoon or your fingers. Set aside.

Make Fudge Layer: In a microwave safe bowl combine the chocolate chips and dairy free margarine. Heat in the microwave 20 seconds at a time until the chips are just melted. Add 1 T. water and stir with a rubber spatula until combined. In a small bowl combine the 1/2 c. flour and 1/4 c. sugar with a wire whisk. Add the chocolate mixture to the flour mixture and stir until combined. Spread the fudge layer over the oatmeal layer. Sprinkle top with the reserved oatmeal mixture and spread with the back of a spoon or your fingers. Bake 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Source

Annual Allergy Testing

“He is among the worst I’ve seen, and I see a lot.”

“His body is highly reactive like it enjoys going into Anaphylactic shock.”

“His immune system is on fire.”

“I feel for your family because this is life and death.”

allergy

I’m not so sure what I was expecting. I’m not all that surprised by the results, but somewhere deep inside of me was praying, wishing, and hoping for some huge turn-around. Like I’d skip out of the office joyfully and run home to give him a strawberry before they’re out of season and see the joy all over his face over the pure sweetness. TJ was wishing we could just open up his food world a little bit to give him an experience he’s never been able to have with us.

But two minutes into his skin test this morning, I knew we were not going in that direction at all.

He cried, wanting to itch his back so badly and a huge part of me broke for him. Oh, how I wish he didn’t have to carry this.

He’s so brave.

He’s so perfect.

When his Allergist came back into the room, he took his seat and praised us for doing as much as we do every day for his safety.

He acknowledged my flowing tears (hello pregnancy hormones), and assured me I am perfect for my son.

And then he gave me a full picture of what Jonah deals with daily.

It’s not just the worsening of his already existing food allergies. It’s also the addition of many environmental allergies. It’s also the Allergic Rhinitis diagnosis. It’s also very serious asthma that poses a real threat to his respiratory system during any allergic reaction. It’s also his out of control Eczema that is a systemic infection, screaming at us that his immune system is working in overtime.

He is just so brave.

So perfect.

allergy2

Current Allergy List:

  • Dairy* (worsened, if that was even possible)
  • Egg white* (worsened)
  • Peanut*
  • Cashew*
  • Almond*
  • Walnut*
  • Avocado (worsened)*
  • Sesame Seed*
  • Strawberry
  • Banana*
  • Latex*
  • Shrimp
  • Soy
  • Carmine (red food dye)
  • 3 types of grass
  • dust mites
  • cats

*denotes likely Anaphylactic allergens

We love him just as he is. Perfection. Brave. Happy. Protected by a Great God who holds him.

Menu Plan

muffins

Add a dollop of toddler pickiness to multiple severe food allergies plus texture aversions and it’s a recipe for a burnt out, frustrated Mama. There is a lot of work that goes into meal time. I have to meal plan, shop at multiple stores while staying within a reasonable budget (with both kids and my ever growing belly), prep, cook, store and serve the food. Sometimes this tedious process is done and it’s worth the time and effort to make sure Jonah is safe and we are all eating something healthy that we can enjoy as a family.

Lately though, meal time has been finished before I can even get it on the table. All of a sudden the little man has major preferences. What he loves one day, he detests the next and honestly, there isn’t a whole lot of room for variance.

While I would love to just call in a pizza and call it a night, that’s not an option. So I girded myself with more ammunition…after all, you give me a challenge, I will rise up and defeat it.

Buah haha.

I bought a couple of new cookbooks from individuals in the world of allergies I have grown to admire in my own journey and reveled in the pages that reminded me to just get back to basics and keep things safe, short and simple.

The biggest reminder to me was that anything we loved pre-allergy, I can tweak and with enough creativity make a safe version of that same meal.

So I guess the boy will somehow learn to not merely survive on green smoothies everyday if I have anything to do with it.

Here’s our plan:

1. Chili

2. Balsamic Seared Salmon Salad & Roasted Broccoli (Jonah will have Turkey since we haven’t tested fish yet. Mama is pregnant and Sadie wants hair as long as Rapunzel so we need those Omega-3’s. We compromise on this one)

3. Leftover Chili Stuffed Baked Potatoes

4. Soup & Grilled Cheese (GF bread and Daiya cheese)

5. Baked Calzones & Peas

Extras:

Trail Mix

Morning Glory Muffins

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Pic credit

Do Hard Things

swim

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. -Deut. 31:6

Funny how being a parent forces you to not only teach hard lessons to your own kids, but reminds you of your own shortcomings where you really aren’t practicing what you preach.

Sadie has done swimming lessons before for two summers in a row now. Neither time has she become totally trustworthy and water-safe. But thanks to her awesome Grandparents, we are at it again and confident she will get it.

Her first lesson happened this week. She was a screaming, crying mess. I figured it would be no big deal like times past and she would move on quickly.

She has been an emotional, weepy, sleepless, little being since.

She woke up this morning after a late night of worry and couldn’t stomach eating any breakfast. She sobbed the entire morning, begging me not to go in the car on the way there.

She clung to me asking me to pray for her bravery. She asked Him to be in the water with her.

Although to you and me, it’s just 20 minutes of swimming, to Sadie it was an impassable mountain she couldn’t conquer.

TJ and I both held firm that the more she did it, the easier it would be even though part of us just wanted to let her let it go.

We said,  “Sometimes we all just have to be brave and do hard things.”

She listened, got in the pool despite her fear and trusted in Ms. Sherry. The first five minutes were torture for her. And me.

And then something clicked. I don’t know if it was Ms. Sherry’s constant encouragement, that Sadie was audibly praying for bravery, or that she saw me right on the side like I promised I would be.

She hit her stride and before we all knew it, she was swimming unassisted under the water to grab rings on the stairs to bring to the surface. Every once and a while Sadie would pop up from the water, boldly confessing something to Ms. Sherry. It was as if getting over her fear of the water was purging other uncertainties in her three-year-old life. She confessed to being afraid of the dark at night, or that Jonah liked the water but she wasn’t so sure.

Each time, Ms. Sherry assured her again that she was still good enough despite her fears.

How powerful to watch my child bring to the surface, openly confess, and move forward with no more chains to bind her.

It was the perfect picture of how God longs for us to come to him with all of our stuff, no matter how bad or how messy. He sits ready to not only listen, but to reassure us we are His. When we openly come to Him, He stands waiting to give us the courage we need to move forward boldly and confidently.

Sometimes it means we simply have to do hard things and trust that God is with us in it.

I am so thankful for my three year old and how she points me to our Savior in such tangible ways.

Back In Session

school1

Sadie woke up so excited to start another year in preschool…but not just any preschool…the BIG KID CLASS preschool.

She got herself dressed, brushed her hair, ate her breakfast, and got that backpack of hers on so quickly I couldn’t believe my eyes.

There were no tears and no hesitation for me to leave even though Daddy was out of town having to miss all the first day action. It was a morning full of smiles and we couldn’t be more proud!

Here’s to another awesome year for our little sponge.

school2

And did I mention that it’s icing on the cake that her favorite treasure-hunting-on-the-play ground buddy is in her class again?! Perfection, I say.

school3Have fun Mrs. Pirus!

Getting Over Yourself: The Emotions Behind Anaphylaxsis

greenmouth

You can easily picture how horrifying it is to watch your child go through Anaphylaxsis. If you’re like our family, we’ve encountered those life and death moments five times now.

You beg and plead with God to make them keep taking a single breathe, just one at a time until help arrives.

You panic as you watch your child swell into something unrecognizable, changing colors everywhere from pink, to purple, to blue.

It’s simple as a parent, whether you’ve been in that scenario or not to understand where your heart aches in those moments of uncertainty in the frailty of life.

But there’s more to it.

I remember sitting in the hallway of the hospital ER this last time I had saved Jonah’s life by giving him the EPI-Pen after TJ had discovered he was crying in his bed because he couldn’t breathe. I was holding on to him while digging for my phone with our allergy list, because in an emergency I can’t trust myself to remember all fourteen of them. The nurse ran through their typical questions and in my blur of sadness, worry, and panic another unexpected wave hit me, just as it always does.

Guilt.

Inadequacy.

Remorse.

Unforgiven.

Whenever I know we are in the clear, immediately these emotions rear their ugly head screaming at me, telling me I’m not good enough to take care of my son for weeks after the fact. Even bringing myself back to the scene in my head takes me there.

I could have double checked the nutrition label instead of wondering if people around me would think I was paranoid. I should have asked to speak directly to the chef at the restaurant to see if the recipe changed instead of relying on the waiter for right information. That I should have stayed at home instead of trusting him with another person because I would be in close proximity standing at the ready should something go wrong. That I should have been more of an advocate for him.

Especially in the beginning of our journey, I made a lot of rookie mistakes.

But the reality is that I am learning along the way. I was thwarted into this new allergy world and have taught myself everything I can every day that I get. I have dedicated my life to researching food, making my home a safe haven, planning ahead, cooking, double-checking cross contamination, educating those around us for his safety.

I have endured the looks, the disbelief, the rude comments, the sh-luffing off by general society all in the name of keeping my son alive. Breathing. Laughing. Playing. Happy.

Whether I could have prevented any episode of Anaphylaxsis or not, the point is that it is never my fault. What I am doing will always be enough because I’m giving him all that I have and all I am capable of giving.

And whether or not I feel it that day or not, my daughter and my son’s lives rest in the hands of a God who made them perfect just the way they are. Anaphylaxsis and all.

I will always be enough of a Mom for them.

I pray that where ever you find yourself on your journey, you have a renewed confidence knowing you are exactly who God had in mind. Imperfections and all. -Psalm 139:14

Menu Plan

salmon

Being pregnant with morning sickness all day long means we keep things insanely simple around here.

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

Last week I had stuff to make some allergy-friendly Chicken Piccata on hand.

Well, that’s just hilarious.

Somebody please keep telling me to menu plan while I’m throwing up so I have realistic expectations of myself.

Seriously.

This week is simple. So simple that if the do-it-all hubby can’t do it, we’re going to be eating cereal for dinner. I’m okay with that too at this point.

You’ll notice that we aren’t eating as plant-based as we normally do. We’ve hit a whole new level of picky with Jonah refusing most plant-based protein sources. Since it’s imperative for him to eat enough protein for his conditions, we are temporarily winging it with him until we can move past it.

I still prefer to augment my meals to more plant-based because I’m picky too, I guess.

You know, a sprinkle of nutritional yeast here. A cup of lentils there. Yadda, yadda.

Here’s what we’re eating:

1. Organic Angus Burgers & Sweet Potato Fries

2. Ancho Lentil Tacos & Salad

3. Roasted Cajun Salmon & Roasted Broccoli

4. Cheese-less Skillet Enchiladas (adapted)

5. Brinner (Blender Oatmeal Waffles & Green Smoothies)

DIY: Kombucha

kombucha

I was elated when my sister-in-law called me, SCOBY in hand ready to get Kombucha started with me. I’ve only been obsessed with the idea thanks to a slight love affair with my Synergy Kombucha that leaves me easily busting my well-controlled grocery budget and my pins on Pinterest drooling over the flavoring possibilities. And I have to admit, I sort of get a thrill out of grossing TJ out with another “crunchy” idea fermenting in the house.

He’s absolutely grossed out and I’m just giddy.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea made with a starter culture (SCOBY), tea, sugar and water that is left to ferment for 5-30 days. You can drink it plain or add fruit, ginger, fruit juice to flavor to your liking.

Why drink it?

Kombucha is known especially for it’s probiotics, but it also contains ingredients from fermentation that aid in cancer prevention, immune boosters, joint relief, and detoxification properties. If you want details, this is a great article on the benefits.

How do I make it?

Making it is way more simple than I pictured and I’m loving the project. Save yourself some money and give it a whirl.

When you break down the cost after recouping money spent on the jars if you had none in the beginning of your journey, you’re looking at $0.12 cents per serving vs. $1.50 if you drank half the bottle of Kombucha bought at your local health food store. I don’t know about you, but I drink that whole sucker right down in one sitting.

Please say you do too.

Severe weakness for Whole Foods salad bar and my Synergy Kombucha.

Severe weakness for Whole Foods salad bar and my Synergy Kombucha.

Supplies:

  • At least 2 4-gallon glass jars with flip lids and tight seals
  • White sugar (organic)
  • 5 black tea bags
  • Filtered Water
  • SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) If you don’t have a friend with an extra SCOBY of their own ready to share, you can always order them online and they will be shipped to you in a dehydrated form ready to go.
  • Ginger, fruit or juice of your choice
  • Rubber band
  • Wooden spoon
  • Mesh strainer

Directions:

1. In your glass jar pour 1 1/3 c. sugar and 5 black tea bags.

2. Boil water and pour into jar about 2 inches full so it is enough to dissolve sugar and steep tea.

3. Stir tea and sugar with a wooden spoon and let it sit for 10 minutes.

4. Fill up the rest of the jar with cool water and take tea bags out.

5. Place SCOBY on top.

6. Cover top of the jar with a dishcloth and rubber band.

7. Set in a dark place at room temperature for 5 days.

8. At the end of 5 days, remove the SCOBY and prepare a new jar (repeating steps 1-7).

9. In your first jar add something that has sugar in it (1/2 c. grated ginger, berries, non-pulpy juice, etc.).

10. Seal the jar with the air-tight lid and let it sit for at least 2 days.

11. Strain out the fruit or whatever you added with a mesh drain and transfer to serving jars or plastic tea container in the fridge.

*Be careful when you open your air-tight container. The longer it sits, the fizzier it can get and will explode. It is recommended to hold one hand over your lid while you open with the other hand to maintain control.

Five Things to Never Say to a Pregnant Woman in Her First Trimester

Morning-Sickness-Symptoms

People are funny. So often they mean well, and it comes out wrong. Or sometimes they just don’t have a filter and say whatever they want with no thought of any emotional repercussions for the individual their comment is geared toward.

Although somewhere down the line these comments will be a distant memory that will most likely make me chuckle, I still have to just put it out there that these are the top five comments I am encountering on the rare occasions I attempt to make it out of the house and away from hugging my toilet for dear life.

Oh, pregnancy…

1. Wow! You look like you’re ready to pop!

This is my third pregnancy. By now, my uterus is like a deflated balloon that easily remembers how to stretch itself back out and didn’t take long to do it. It seems like we found out we were having a baby and the next day I was in maternity clothes and looking down at the familiar round hump almost blocking my toes. I’m okay with it.

2. Want a glass of wine?

This just makes me want to cry. I blame the tears on fluctuating hormones, really.

3. You having twins?

Although we did have a few days of waiting for a diagnostic ultrasound to see if we did in fact have twins. We do not.

4. My pregnancies were a breeze.

This pregnancy so far has really taught me that each one is so different. I felt like being pregnant with Sadie was a breeze until we actually had her in our arms and things for me went downhill quick. Jonah was pretty uneventful and predictable. This one has already thrown me for a loop with the excessive amount of morning sickness I have been experiencing. Some days I have honestly felt like I was dying…not that I’m dramatic or anything.

I never thought in my life I would take any sort of medication while pregnant, certainly not in my first trimester. You’re talking to a crunchy granola, natural medicine cabinet, currently trying my hand at brewing Kombucha, moisturize with Coconut Oil and wash your face with Olive Oil kind of a woman.

My idea of a natural pregnancy is out the window since I’m currently as medicated as I can be and it’s still not enough.

In all seriousness though, when I am struggling through my day with two busy toddlers and attempting to function like a person with the flu, the least encouraging thing you can tell me was that you didn’t even feel like you were pregnant most days.

I love you. Tell me later.

5. Three kids is a lot.

When you have one kiddo, it’s a lot. Two rocks your world. No matter the number, each one is a gift, each one is completely unique, and each one is exactly what we prayed for God to allow if it was His will. It will always be a lot…a lot of just what we were meant to have.

So there you have it….the next time you see me, don’t speak. Just hug it out!