By DANA BORICK
Special to the Sun-Gazette
It can get pretty tricky to put a meal on the table for a family with food allergies.
You know, those sneaky foods that can cause hives, swelling, gastrointestinal issues or, worse, the life-threatening anaphylaxis.
As the mother of two young girls with multiple food allergies, I consider myself experienced with this topic: They got most of their allergies from me. To complicate matters, each girl has different allergies, which differ from mine. And my husband doesn't have any food allergies, so he's not accustomed to our new lifestyle.
Yes, it's a lifestyle now. I was raised in a family that didn't taunt me by eating foods they knew I couldn't have, and I'm determined to raise my girls with the same attitude in mind.
Growing up, I was annoyed to be the one at the birthday party who said, "no, thank you, I'm allergic" to nearly every party food served. Although I outgrew several of my allergies - and I hope my girls do the same! - I still have to make sure everyone in my family gets the proper nutrition without risking any cross-contamination.
It isn't easy, but I've found a few things that work. Of course, you can make substitutions if allergies to any of these ingredients are a concern. (The foods my family avoids include: Tree nuts, peanuts, coconut, dairy, eggs, oatmeal, chocolate, raspberries, boysenberries, blackberries, citrus and shellfish.)
Homemade white bread
This yeast bread recipe is quicker than most, and easy to make. Bread flour is best, but all-purpose flour produces a nice result as well. It was worth the investment in bread pans, because we usually make about two loaves each week. And what we don't eat up becomes crunchy croutons as the next loaf is baked later in the week.
3 3/4 cups of bread (or all-purpose) flour
1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water
1 packet (1/4 ounces) of dry yeast
Dissolve yeast in the warm water.
In a mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of flour and yeast with water, and mix until thoroughly blended. Cover tightly (plastic wrap works well) and let sit for 30 minutes.
Mixing with pastry hooks, slowly add 2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture and knead until smooth. The dough will be very sticky and just needs enough additional flour so it can be handled.
Sprinkle a work surface with the remaining 1/4 cup of flour and turn out the dough, kneading briefly by hand, pulling in the flour, until it doesn't stick to hands.
Shape into two loaves, place on a nonstick cookie sheet, and place on the middle rack in a cold oven for 15 minutes.
Turn on oven to 425 F and bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes or until golden. Cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container.
Stuffed green pepper soup
This soup is hearty and tastes just like a stuffed green bell pepper without all the work! Put everything in the pot and you've made a batch of soup that lasts for days or can be frozen for nights when you don't want to cook.
2 pounds ground beef
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 (29-ounce) can tomato sauce (I used 1 quart of frozen, pureed garden tomatoes)
2 cups cooked brown rice (1/2 cup uncooked)
2 cups chopped green bell peppers (about two or three large peppers)
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup diced onion
2 beef bouillon cubes (I used 2 packets of Herb-Ox sodium-free instant broth and seasoning)
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
In a 6-quart sauce pot or Dutch oven, brown beef and drain. Saute onions, mushrooms and green peppers to soften. Add remaining ingredients; bring to boil.
Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender. Add more water if needed.
Pasta with vegetables
Pasta with vegetables also is known as "garbage" pasta in our house because we usually make it to use up the leftover veggies in the crisper drawer.
1/2 box of multi-grain pasta (make sure there is no egg listed in the ingredients)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Boil pasta according to package directions. Cut vegetables into 1-inch pieces.
In a saucepan, lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Saute onions and green peppers. Add in mushrooms, tomatoes and parsley.
Cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt and black pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
If desired, add soy or vegan shredded cheese to top.