5 Misconceptions about Vegans

The word “vegan” can trigger eyerolls and disgusted huffs from grandmas and death metal rockers, alike. There’s quite a stigma attached to the label. Are all of the assumptions wrong? Nope. There are assholes in any group. But there are some generalizations that are just all wrong.

IMG_20180416_125244_322

I was once a serious omnivore who loved to try new food. Goat, sashimi, lamb, raw shellfish, octopus, ostrich, alligator… I ate with adventure. Then came my dairy allergy. Next, an inability to properly digest most meat after my gallbladder removal, followed by an ethical awakening. Then a gluten intolerance. Now — a dairy-allergic, gluten-free vegan — I eat with conscience and consciousness.

MYTH 1: VEGANS EAT SALAD. Vegans eat all kinds of fare — from veggie-based casseroles to soups, stews, curries, and loads of veganized comfort food, pasta to nachos, ice cream to pie, tofu or chickpea scrambles to veggie burgers and mock-meat indulgences — vegan food is delicious and varied. Anyone who thinks vegans just eat salad has never met a vegan. If anything vegans consider what omnivores accept as vegetable dishes sad. Produce can taste and be and do so much more than just sit huddled in a steamed-and-salted pile on the side of a plate.

IMG_20180617_172714_872

MYTH 2: VEGANS ARE MILITANT. Are there some vegans who are out to forcibly shame and shock everyone into joining their ranks? Yes. But the same can be said for various sects of society. Portions of groups as wide-ranging as La Leche League to Evangelical Christians have members who are abrasive and vocal in their beliefs, but that doesn’t mean all are so brutish. Many vegans are just living and eating in a way that suits them. They won’t try to convert you and they don’t judge you. Heck, many ate and lived just like you for decades before something in their life — whether it be an awakening of the conscience, a medical condition, an aversion, an environmental awareness, or something else entirely — took hold and shifted their lives. Sure, they would love if you chose to join their herbivore ranks, but they honor that that’s something for you to choose (or not.)

IMG_20180104_094614_266

MYTH 3: VEGANS ARE DIRTY HIPPIES. Now, I generally prefer a good love-and-peace hippie over a hyper-competitive elitist corporate type, but that’s personal preference. Either way, vegans come from all walks of life. From Ellen DeGeneres to UFC champion, Mac Danzing; from singer and songwriter, Bryan Adams to housewives (like me); from author, philosopher, and neuroscientist, Sam Harris to college students and teens. Raising children not just vegetarian but vegan is becoming increasingly common, so if vegans are becoming increasingly common now (having doubled their numbers in the US since 1994),  they’ll be everywhere in a solid decade.

MYTH 4: VEGANS ARE SICKLY. It’s true that most vegans could benefit from a b12 and possibly an iron supplement, but omnivores are notoriously malnourished and would be advised to take nutritional supplements as well. Despite omnivores being able to eat everything served to them, they rarely consume all of the right nutrients in the right balance in order to live a supplement-free life. However, unlike an omnivorous diet, vegan eating can offer such benefits as reduced arthritis pain, lowered risk of certain cancers, lessened risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. So, all of that said, vegan diets don’t necessitate poor health, just as omnivore diets don’t guarantee good health.

IMG_20180519_130110_438

MYTH 5: EATING VEGAN IS EXPENSIVE. A bag of dried beans will be cheaper than store-bought meat any day. Sure, some vegans can have a pricier grocery bill than others if they rely on mock-meats, dairy substitutes, convenience food, and out-of-season produce. However, I have yet to experience an equivalent monthly grocery bill as a vegan to what we had as a 5-person family of omnivores. We slashed $50-$100 off of our weekly grocery bill (despite our third child eating more solid food than before) as soon as we ditched meat. And the more whole, in-season foods we buy, the deeper the discount. Now, I am aware that veganism isn’t accessible for everyone as vegan options can be hard to find in food deserts, but for those who live with reasonable grocery options, going meat-free is a money saver.

What other myths have you encountered about vegans?

Advertisements

Taco Lasagna: Gluten-free Vegan Recipe

Warm, savory, creamy, cheezy layers of zesty Latin-inspired casserole topped with cool, crisp, creamy, tangy veggies. Delish!

AirBrush_20180525134454

I mean, who doesn’t love tacos? Who doesn’t love lasagna? Put them together and you have family-pleasing, freezer-friendly, make-ahead, meal-prep’able, gluten-free, vegan deliciousness!

Ready for the recipe? Read on.

GLUTEN-FREE VEGAN TACO LASAGNA 

IMG_20180505_081026_699

Ingredients:

2 cup salsa (I used this)
1 pkg Beyond Meat Feisty Crumbles
3 cup marinara (or 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes)
2 pkg frozen corn niblets
1 Tbl cumin
1 Tbl chilli powder
1 Tbl garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pkg corn tortillas
1.5 pkg Chao Original Creamy Slices
1 cup Go Veggie Vegan Cheddar Shreds
1.5 cup Just Mayo
1 pkg Kite Hill Ricotta
2 limes (juiced)
* Shredded lettuce (optional)
* 2 tomatoes (diced)
* 1/2 cup Just Mayo (optional)
* 2 Tbl apple cider vinegar (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Add the crumbles, marinara (or crushed tomatoes), corn, and spices to a pan and cook — stirring often — on medium heat until heated through.

In a medium size bowl, stir together the Just Mayo, ricotta, and lime juice; mix well.

While the crumbles cook, spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray, the spread a thin layer of salsa over the bottom of the pan.

Lay corn tortillas in a single layer over the salsa.

Spread 1/3 of the crumble mixture over the tortillas.

Lay Chao slices in a single layer over over the crumble mixture then top with a layer of 1/2 the ricotta mixture.

Top the ricotta mixture with a single layer of corn tortillas.

Spread another 1/3 of the crumble mixture over the tortillas, top that with a layer of Chao slices.

Spread the remaining ricotta mixture over the Chao slices then top with a final layer of tortillas.

Use the remaining crumble mixture to create an even layer on top of the tortillas then sprinkle with Go Veggie shreds.

Place the casserole dish in the oven And bake at 375°F for 30 minutes.

For best results, remove the baked lasagna from the oven, let cool for at least an hour (or refrigerate to use the next, or freeze for later use), then reheat at 375°F for 10-15 minutes.

* Optional: Mix Just Mayo and apple cider cinegar together to make a dressing then stir in the lettuce and tomatoes and top each slice of warm taco lasagna with the cool, crisp, creamy, tangy garnish salad. Yum!

What I Ate: Gluten-Free Vegan Edition

“But what do you EAT?” People ask when they discover my dietary restrictions. I am a dairy-allergic, gluten-intolerant vegan with dairy- and peanut-allergic kids. Food restrictions are rampant here.

But, really, though. What do I eat? I start my day off simply with tea and easily digestible whole foods grazed upon in a specific order that allows for a comfortable belly and a well-fueled day. My biggest meal — lunch — is leftovers, as I purposefully make extras for our dinner to allow for easy heat-and-eat lunches. Next, I sip some tea, have a plant-based dinner, then snack while watching a show with The Hubs. Scroll on down and see products and recipes from a typical day of food.

20171105_094031

5:50AM- Green tea and a banana Plain and simple is the way I have found I need to start my day. Banana seems to be the easiest thing on my tummy in the morning. So this is how I fuel my morning yoga.

20180420_062825

6:20AM- Green tea and raw almonds The banana provides a soothing base layer to my belly, so a handful of almonds can land right on top as filling fuel.

20180420_063040

8:50AM- Homemade kombucha and a Clementine I used to drink my “bucha”, as my kids call it, in the afternoon, but I’ve found mornings to be an even better fit for this probiotic powerhouse. (This day, I foolishly let the kids see me sipping… they stole half of my kombucha and my clementine. Scavengers!)

20180420_085350

11:40AM- Leftovers for lunch (Morrocan-style split pea stew with rice) There’s no real recipe for this slow-cooking but flavorful plant-based dish, beyond a crap-ton of herbs and spices simmered with some food staples. I added chopped onion to a large pot greased with olive oil then tossed in 5 cloves of minced garlic. I let that cook, then stirred in 5 chopped carrots, a handful of white mushrooms (chopped), 1lb of soaked split peas, a hearty dose of coconut aminos, and — after a few minutes — a container of vegetable broth. Then came the seasonings: salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, coriander, chili powder, cumin, and a hefty helping of cinnamon. I let the mixture boil for 5 minutes, reduced it to a simmer, and let it cook until the split peas were tender. I served it over rice. (This would freeze beautifully and works great for meal prepping.)

20180420_114727.jpg

12:15PM- Green tea This is “rest time” in our house and, considering how active our days are, we ALL need it. The boys watch a show or play in their rooms while I sip my tea. It eventually descends into raucous, of course, but we keep trying!

20180420_124123.jpg

5:00PM- Lettuce wrapped taco with spiced corn Lentils + Beyond Meat Feisty Crumble make this gluten-free, plant-based taco filling. Lettuce cups serve as the shell for the taco filling, diced tomato, Go Veggie Vegan Shredded Cheddar cheez, and “sour cream” (Just Mayo mixed with apple cider vinegar.) For the side dish, I heated frozen corn with Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Spread, salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin. Then I heated a bag of frozen riced caulifower. I mixed the warm veggies with chilled pico de gallo and served.

IMG_20180420_172421_567

8:00PM- Plentil chips This is my indulgence time. I don’t  (and can’t) eat many packaged foods or treats, so after the kids are in bed, this is my treat. I often nosh on popcorn or gluten-free vegan chips while lounging on the sofa catching up on shows and chatting with The Hubs. It’s my reward at the end of the day.

20180421_062651

This is what I eat in a day. What do you eat?

What I Ate: Gluten-free Vegan Edition

“You’re a gluten-free vegan? What do you eat???” Lots. I eat lots of food.

I recently got an Instant Pot and love using it to make big batches of beans or lentils and rice. I like to use those goodies for breakfasts, lunches, and even quick dinners. That said, this is what I eat on a typical Wednesday amidst drop-offs, pick-ups, appointments, homework, and extracurriculars.

5:50AM

20180205_083415~2

Banana and green tea… perfect early morning yoga fuel! I used to start my day with an apple but then I began realizing that was a tad harsh on my belly. Since switching to a daily banana, I’m feeling much better.

8:00AM

AirBrush_20180206133434

Beans, rice, hummus, and fresh spinach… it takes but a minute to throw together from my big Instant Pot batches, and keeps me healthfully satiated until lunch.

10:00AM

AirBrush_20180206133110

Jasmine green tea. A coffee shop chat with a dear friend means jasmine green tea for me! Warm, hydrating, and mildly caffeinated, it leaves me feeling cozy comfort without the energy plunge.

11:30AM

AirBrush_20180206133251

Leftovers for lunch. I generally make enough for dinner that my husband and I can have leftovers for lunch the next day. This lunch was savory gluten-free veggie cakes topped with marinara and Follow Your Heart vegan parmesan-style shreds, and a salad on the side topped with Just Chipotle Ranch.

2:00PM

20180205_124916~2

Kombucha. The Hubs has a beer home-brewing hobby which paired with my chewy granola’ness to make for homemade mango-orange kombucha on tap in my fridge. (On the granola spectrum — with untamed body hair and commune yurt living existing as the crispity crunchiest on the “crunchy” scale — I’m like one of those packaged chocolate chip granola bars)

5:00PM

AirBrush_20180206191918.jpg

Quick dinner. My 6-year-old and 4-year-old have Tae Kwon Do at 5:30, so fast and filling is the name of this dinner game. Instant polenta topped with sauteed garlicky spinach, broiled cherry tomatoes, and herbed cannelini beans did the trick.

5:20 PM

AirBrush_20180206192024.jpg

Dessert. After school pick-up and homework and dinner prep and a mad shuffle out the door, this mama needed chocolate. So a piece of Theo’s vegan gluten-free chocolate covered coconut came along for the ride to Tae Kwon Do. Yum!

8:00 PM

AirBrush_20180207064921

Popcorn. The Hubs and I sit down together most evenings to watch a couple of shows and rehash the day. It’s “our” time. What better snack than popcorn to go along with a TV and chat session?

And that’s my day in food. Yummy, satisfying, and far from flavorless. One really can eat more that twigs as a gluten-free vegan… who knew?!

Gluten-free Chicken-less Noodle Casserole

Who doesn’t love a good crowd-pleasing, belly-filling, comforting casserole? Enter my gluten-free, vegan version of the childhood classic: chicken noodle casserole. Considering I found The Hubs hovering over the casserole dish scooping forkfuls of noodley goodness into his mouth during dinner clean-up, I’d call this recipe a win.

GLUTEN-FREE CHICKEN-LESS NOODLE CASSEROLE

IMG_20171204_192649_469.jpg

INGREDIENTS

Casserole Base:
1.5 box gluten-free rotini (or any style of gluten-free short cut pasta)
1Tbl Earth Balance
3 cup frozen mixed veggies

“Chicken”:
Olive oil drizzle
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1.5 cup oyster mushrooms (chopped)
1/4 cup water
2Tbl Better Than Bouillion No Chicken Base
1/2Tbl poultry seasoning (this one is gluten-free)
2tsp garlic powder (this one is gluten-free)

Creamy Sauce:
1/4 cup Earth Balance
2 cup gluten-free vegan creamy portabella soup 
Roughly 1 to 1 1/2 cup gluten-free flour
2 tsp Braggs Coconut Aminos
Salt and pepper to taste

Topping:
Vegan parmesan style shreds
Gluten-free panko
Cooking spray

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Boil the noodles according to package instructions.

Microwave the frozen veggies with Earth Balance until mostly thawed.

While the noodles cook and veggies warm, heat a drizzle of oil in a large pan.

Add the onions and mushrooms to the pan, stirring in the garlic once the onion has begun to soften.

Stir in the Better Than Bouillon, garlic powder, and poultry seasoning.

Let the mushroom mixture cook until the mushrooms are tender.

Deglaze pan with water.

Cook mushrooms until the water has evaporated.

Transfer the noodles, veggies, and mushrooms to a large casserole dish.

In the same pan that was used to cook the mushrooms, add Earth Balance and heat until melted.

Stir in the mushroom soup and aminos, then gradually whisk in the flour until a roux has formed.  (Use more or less flour depending upon how your roux thickens. Add a touch of non-dairy milk to thin if needed.)

Gently fold the roux into the casserole mixture.

Smooth the casserole flat then sprinkle parmesan style shreds and panko over top.

Spritz the topping with cooking spray.

Bake the casserole for 10 minutes then broil briefly just until the topping is golden.

Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Vegan “Tuna” Melt

Who doesn’t like a good melt sandwich? Crispy, buttery, cheesy, gooey, savory deliciousness in a sandwich. There’s nothing better. Except making it gluten-free and vegan!

GLUTEN-FREE VEGAN “TUNA” MELT SANDWICH

IMG_20171202_112932_624

Ingredients

1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)

1/4-1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (I like Just Mayo) depending upon your texture/creaminess preference

1.5 Tbl yellow mustard (Wegmans Yellow Mustard is gluten-free)

1 Tbl pickle juice (poured straight from pickle jar… Claussen and Vlasic are gluten-free)

2 slices of vegan cheese (I like Follow Your Heart Provolone Slices and Creamy Original Chao Slices)

2 slices of gluten-free vegan bread (I like Bloomfield Farms Gluten Free Vegan White Sandwich Bread)

Earth Balance Buttery Spread

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Stir together the chickpeas, mustard, mayo, and pickle juice in a mixing bowl.

Mash the mixture to suit your texture preferences then add salt and pepper to taste.

Plop a pat of Earth Balance into a pan over medium heat.

As the buttery spread melts, top 1 bread slice with 1 slice of vegan cheese.

Scoop a few spoonfuls of the chickpea mixture on top of the vegan cheese.

Top the chickpea mixture with the second slice of vegan cheese.

Once the Earth Balance in the pan is sizzling, gently place the open-faced sandwich into the pan (bread side down.)

While the sandwich cooks, carefully spread Earth Balance on one side of the unused bread slice.

Close the sandwich by placing the buttered bread slice naked side down on top of the sandwich.

After roughly 30 seconds, gingerly flip the sandwich to toast the other side.

Once both sides of the sandwich are golden and the cheese is soft, move the sandwich to a plate.

Enjoy!

 

How to Survive Holidays with Food Allergies

Over four years ago, I realized my dairy allergy. Adjusting to the massively food-limiting restriction was rough. One of the biggest issues: how to handle holidays.

I dropped all dairy just before Halloween 2013. Bad timing for my taste buds — as I only enjoy chocolate candy and dislike fruity treats — but appreciated by my waistline. It was a hardship that first Halloween learning to abstain from all of the fun-size goodies, but I did. I knew it’d get easier with time. And it did.

Then came Thanksgiving. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, pies, green beans, corn, rolls, even the turkey are more likely than not to contain dairy. Around the holidays, milk/butter/cheese/cream/whey is in everything. I mourned missing out. It was a death, of sorts. I thought Thanksgiving was dead.

At first I adjusted by making and bringing some of my own dairy-free versions of traditional dishes and — my then-omnivorous self — asked for the turkey to be made dairy-free. My family kindly obliged. However, despite all loving intentions, I got inadvertently dosed with dairy that year. It was awful; a holiday meal wasn’t worth a week of suffering, especially when I had an infant and a toddler to wrangle.

A month later, Christmas came and I tried my approach again. Fail! Dosed yet again, I decided from then on not to attempt others’ contributions unless the cooks, themselves, were dairy-free.

AirBrush_20171118140450

The next year, I made more side dishes to bring, ate beforehand, and stuck to my meal offerings. No accidental dairy dosing! I had my new holiday survival technique. This was key, now that two of my children accompanied me on the dairy-free journey.

Three years later — now a dairy-allergic, gluten-free vegan — I will absolutely maintain my tried-and-true holiday survival technique. It’s my safest route.

Is it hard not being able to eat everything? Not really, anymore. Once I shifted my focus from food to people, it made a world of difference. The day after a holiday, I won’t look back on the celebration remembering how the green beans tasted or how the squash was flavored. I’ll reflect on the people, the experience, the laughter (and eye rolls… because what’s a family gathering without that balance?) And that’s where my focus should be.

So what do I bring? This year, I will bring herbed green beans sauteed in olive oil, baked squash (delicata, butternut, and acorn) seasoned with herbs and Earth Balance, and a garlicky lentil-mushroom dish. Often, I bring dairy-free rolls and herbed carrots. Usually my belly is too full for dessert after Thanksgiving dinner, and I’m too busy wrangling my tiny trio while helping with dish clean-up to indulge, but if I did want to bring a sweet to enjoy it’d probably be this.

Looking for some gluten-free vegan holiday recipes? Try here. On the hunt for sweet recipes? Look here for some vegan dessert finds.

When it comes to food allergies, there’s no dish worth risking a reaction, no matter how delicious. It is hard at first but, like any adjustment, it gets easier. Life is about so much more than just food.

 

Product Find: Vegan Yogurt

On the hunt for a creamy dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan yogurt without the weird aftertaste or powdery mouthfeel? I found it!

Back in my dairy-eating days, I ate yogurt most mornings. Whether straight out of the small peel-and-lick-top container or scooped into a bowl with fresh berries and dry cereal, it was my go-to morning meal maker. Then, my dairy allergy hit.

Lots of product sampling later, I landed on So Delicious. Their dairy-free yogurt alternative was a good option. It was accessible, my kids loved it, and it was a passable yogurt substitute. Still, I didn’t crave it like I did dairy yogurt. Then, I found this:

AirBrush_20171116203531.jpg

Game over. Creamy, smooth mouthfeel, no weird tangy flavor, zero powdery texture, no sugar headache, and just the slightest yummy hint of lemon and vanilla. Kite Hill’s vanilla yogurt could easily go spoon-to-spoon with Dannon vanilla yogurt.

Kite Hill, you win again.

Fudgy Gluten-free Vegan Brownies… from a box!

Want the ooey-ooey, indulgent tasting brownies without all the added fat of eggs and butter, or the gut-busting gluten? Well then, make these… STAT.

AirBrush_20171111125718

Warm, fudgy, chocolatey brownies, is there anything better? The answer is no. No there’s not.

Being a gluten-free vegan, I thought my days of delicious, fudgy brownies were behind me. Then I came across Wegmans Double Chocolate Gluten-free Brownie Mix. I contacted Wegmans to ask if the mix was vegan, waited anxiously for a reply, and happily got the all-clear. Cue the shameless happy dance!

I ran out and bought the box mix the next day. Then contemplated how to veganize the required butter and egg additions. Flax egg and Earth Balance (or coconut oil) seemed like the logical path, but what’s the fun in that? I had some leftover baked yam and an awkward portion of unsweetened vanilla coconut yogurt staring at me from the fridge. So I put them to work. Then (im)patiently awaited the results.

AirBrush_20171111125933

Verdict: WIN!!

So, wait no more. Bake yourself a batch and savor the deliciousness of homemade brownies (without all of the badies.)

FUDGY GLUTEN-FREE VEGAN BROWNIES (from a box)

AirBrush_20171111130228

Fudgy Gluten-free Vegan Brownies

Ingredients:

1 box Wegmans Double Chocolate Gluten-free Brownie Mix

11/4 cup baked yam (skin removed)*

1/2 cup unsweetened dairy-free yogurt (such as So Delicious Dairy Free Yogurt Alternative)

1/3 cup water

*Drained canned yam or canned pureed pure pumpkin may be used in place of baked yam.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Using a hand mixer, beat the yam in a large bowl until the yam is smooth.

Add in the yogurt and beat until blended with the yam.

Gradually pour in the dry box mix, beating on a low setting until there is no more loose powder in the bowl.

Once the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet ingredients, increase the mixing speed, adding the water if needed to thin out the batter to reach a standard brownie batter consistency.

Mix on high for 1 minute.

Once smooth — except for the chocolate chips — transfer all of the batter to a greased, square baking pan.

Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes for extra fudgy brownies, or bake for the full 28 minutes noted on the brownie mix box for firmer brownies.

Let cool before cutting in a hashmark pattern.

Enjoy!

 

What Halloween Taught My 4-year-old: Life as an Allergy Mom

No one wants to be an allergy mom. But you really have no choice in the matter. It’s your life. It’s your child’s life. Deal with it.

20171027_074441

My middle son’s severe peanut allergy became glaringly obvious when he was not even a year old. I was at work a state away, my husband was at home simultaneously trying to send work emails and wrangle our not-yet-3-year-old daughter and our 11-month-old son. Our daughter took that opportunity to act upon our often-ignored requests to share with her brother, and gave him a nice big bite of her PB&J. Hives covered his tiny body — scalp, face, legs, feet, ears — he vomited, his bowels evacuated, Benadryl didn’t touch the reaction. My husband called me at work. I called the pediatrician, rushed home, raced to the pediatrician’s office, and they called it: peanut allergy. Just to be safe, they ordered a blood allergy test. He reacted to 5 of the 7 peanut proteins. He was severely allergic. He also had an egg allergy that he, like our daughter and eventual second son, outgrew by the age of 2.

We were Epi-Pen carrying allergy parents. Crap. And I had once been that snotty know-nothing teen who bemoaned the lack of free peanuts on planes. How inconvenienced I felt to be handed pretzels instead of overly salted legumes! Clearly karma was biting me in the ass. Those same peanuts I now regard with the same level of mortal dread as a rattlesnake.

By 2.5-years-old, “pants explosions” as we called them (sudden, explosive diarrhea) and rash made our middle son’s dairy issues clear. In an odd twist of fate, I had developed not just a milk aversion during his pregnancy but a dairy allergy after his birth. So, I had been the initial dairy-free guinea pig. By the time his dairy problems undeniably presented, I had dairy-free living down pat.

Then came our daughter’s dairy issues. First it was the undereye circles, the belly distention, the moodiness. All foolishly excusable… poor sleep, seasonal allergies, toddler stature, potty-training. Then constipation gave way to belly pain and bowel evacuation. Clearly, dairy was her body’s enemy. We were now 3 for 5 on dairy issues, and The Hubs’ belly was already firing warning shots after cheesy quesadillas and ice cream sundaes.

Then came Halloween. With two kids unable to eat dairy and peanuts regarded as asbestos, the holiday was tricky. We rehashed the “no eating candy until we sort it” rule and showed them examples of what candy to avoid verses choose if presented the option (Snickers = bad, Starburst = good, Milky Way = bad, Swedish Fish = good.) Then we handed them their empty candy collection sacks and off we went — a pint-sized airplane pilot, unicorn-mermaid, and a flamingo — going door-to-door for treats.

20171031_181848

Midway through the venture my middle son looked up at me, unicorn-horn-topped rainbow wig obscuring his blue eyes, and said he didn’t want anymore candy. I asked why. He said, “All I get are peanuts and dairy.” My heart sank. I felt so sad for him. It was true, those two delicious allergens were prevalent in his loot bag. “I still want to trick-or-treat though,” he said. The sadness left and my heart filled with pride.

He happily continued the outing, bouncing up to each door — rainbow wig dancing with each step, green scaly fin-bedecked leggings glinting in the jack-o-lanterns’ light — and chirped, “Trick-or-treat!” With his empty hands clasped in front of him. Every so often, if he saw a bowl contained only safe-for-him treats, he’d grab his bag from me and open it happily for the giver’s goodies. Otherwise he enjoyed the holiday in his own way.

20171031_182352

That night my 4-year-old learned a valuable lesson: how to enjoy a celebration without letting dietary restrictions get in the way. Could he eat all of the candy he received? No. Did he still have fun? You bet! And that is truly what matters. The memories, the fun, the enjoyment… not the food.

Will he remember that pink Starburst a day, a week, a year from now? No. But he sure as heck will recall the pirate who answered the door with a treasure chest of treats or his sister’s teacher (our neighbor) who so warmly invited us into her home. Those are the keepsakes.

As food-centric holidays unfold, this lesson will be invaluable for him. Not everything will be centered around his dietary needs, but that doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy himself. Food is not all there is. The company and the experience mean far more. Enjoy what you can and forget the rest.

I guess he is a pretty smart kid after all.