Monday, December 29, 2014

It’s Not New Year’s Without Black-Eyed Peas (Allergy-Free!)

By Kelley Lindberg

My grandmother always said, “Be careful what you do on New Year’s Day, because that’s what you’ll be doing all year long.”

I don’t know if she was right or not, but I always try to do things on New Year’s Day that I wouldn’t be ashamed/annoyed/mad/tired of doing all year. So I generally avoid cleaning house, and I try to avoid arguing with my son. On the positive side, I always try to do some writing (even if it’s just a sentence or two), and have a nice day with my family.

The other thing I have to do every New Year’s Day is eat black-eyed peas. My family is all originally from Texas, so eating black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year’s Day is mandatory. No questions. No resistance. You WILL eat black-eyed peas. You WILL have good luck whether you want it or not. Fortunately, I happen to love black-eyed peas!

I know other parts of the South also like collard greens (for money), but in my house, it was always about the black-eyed peas. Sometimes called Hoppin’ John when they’re served with rice, black-eyed peas are easy to make, and they’re delicious topped with chopped onions and jalapenos, and served over rice or cornbread. (The non-sweet kind – here’s my favorite recipe for Albers® Corn Bread. Just use soy or rice milk and your favorite egg substitute like Ener-G, and leave out the sugar). Black-eyed peas go great with ham, a beef brisket, chicken, seafood, or just about any main dish, really. And if you like the idea of greens representing money, saute some collard greens, Swiss chard, spinach, or kale in a little olive oil and safe margarine, along with some chopped garlic and salt and a bit of water to steam them.

So if you’re in the mood to have a really lucky year, be sure you put some black-eyed peas on the table. Just please don’t used the mushy, flavorless canned ones. Yuck. They’re so easy to make from scratch, so try my grandmother’s recipe instead (below)! (Of course, they’re even better if you use fresh peas, but frozen works fine this time of year.)

My son hates peas and beans of all types, but he learned early on that he wasn’t allowed to leave the table on New Year’s Day until he’d eaten at least one—count ‘em, one—black-eyed pea. That’s all I ask. Now he eats it without complaining (mostly), so I know he’s going to be okay for another year. Somewhere up there, my grandmother is looking down on him and smiling.

Have a Happy and Lucky New Year!

Black-Eyed Peas

3 slices bacon, diced (or you can use diced smoked pork or ham)
1 bag frozen black-eyed peas
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
Chopped onion and/or jalapenos (optional)

Fry bacon in pan. Pour off grease. Add black-eyed peas and enough water to cover about 1 inch above peas. Add salt. Bring to boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Serve over rice or cornbread, and top with chopped onion and/or jalapenos.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Food Allergy Survival Tips for Holiday Parties

By Kelley Lindberg

Christmas is this week (just in case you missed those subtle signs, commercials, wish lists, non-stop music, mall Santas, and frenzied looks in everyone’s eyes). If your holiday celebrations include visits with family and friends, you may be worried about the kind of food you’ll be surrounded by, and whether those celebrations will be safe for the food-allergic members of your family. Here are some tips I’ve found that might help.

1. If you’re going to a pot-luck, volunteer to bring a dessert. Those are usually the most likely to contain all the things you’re allergic to (nuts, dairy, etc.), so if you bring the dessert, you can control it.

2. Call the hostess and mention your food allergy. It’s not rude – trust me, most hostesses would rather serve something everyone can eat than spend a lot of time making something and THEN discovering that you can’t eat it. That’s more rude, if you think about it.

3. If it’s your child that’s allergic, take a lunch sack of safe food for him or her. No one wants to have a child suddenly get sick at a family event – or worse, have to be rushed to the ER. So don’t be embarrassed. Pack and take a simple meal for your child to eat, so you and your hostess don’t have to worry. I used to make up a package of sliced turkey, safe crackers, grapes, and other cold finger foods for my son, and I called them “Mom’s Lunchables,” like those prepackaged things at the store (but safer!). My son liked it just fine, and hostesses completely understood.

4. Of course, keep your epinephrine auto-injectors and Benadryl or Claritin within reach, just in case.

5. Remind other parents to make sure their kids wash their hands after eating unsafe foods “to keep Johnny safe.” Most kids are much better than adults at understanding and wanting to keep a food-allergic buddy safe, so if you remind them to wash their hands, they usually will willingly. Don’t be shy. Shy never helped anyone.

6. Make a deal with your kid. Before going to a party, I would promise my son that if he couldn’t eat some of the treats there, that we’d have a special treat when we got home instead. He’s not big on delayed gratification, but he was still able to process in his mind that Mommy would make up for it later, and he has always been okay with skipping foods at a party.

7. Make a big show of thanking people who bring safe food to the party. It will make them happy and more determined to bring safe things again to the next party, and it might make those who didn’t bring safe foods think twice the next time. You never want to shame anyone, but positive reinforcement really does work!

8. Understand that people forget, they get spacey, they make mistakes. They don't usually do things to be mean on purpose. So don't be nasty if someone brings something unsafe. But you don't have to stay in an unsafe environment, either. You can always say, "We didn't want to miss the opportunity to stop in and say hi, but we can't stay." Then leave. It's okay. You've made an appearance, you've fulfilled your obligation. It's your holiday. You have the right to spend it in ways that make you happy, not in ways that make you nervous or upset. Then go drive around and look at Christmas lights. Spend time with your children. Watch a movie together. Remember what Christmas is all about. Relax.

Got any other tips for surviving holiday gatherings? Be sure you share them with us!

Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Boxing Day, and a Wonderful Everything! (Hanukkah is just ending, but I hope you had a great one of those, too!)

Monday, December 1, 2014

An E-Book for Parents of Food-Allergic Kids

By Kelley Lindberg

If you or your child has just been diagnosed with food allergies, you probably headed straight for the internet to find out how to eat, cook, and live with this new challenge in your life. Fortunately, there is a massive amount of information about food allergies out there.
This new 28-page e-book is a nice intro
to food allergies

Unfortunately, there is so much information it can feel overwhelming, like trying to drink from that proverbial fire-hose.

That’s why it’s always nice to find a resource that distills all that information down into a nice, easy-to-understand overview to get you started.

That’s why I was happy to learn about a new e-book from Kathy Penrod and Mary Ellen Ellis, called An Overview of Food Allergies for Parents in Need of Answers. It’s short (just 28 pages), easy to read, and covers a lot of territory without getting too technical. As an introduction for the newly diagnosed, it hits all the crucial topics, such as what food allergies are, how they’re diagnosed, current and experimental treatments, how to avoid reactions, and tips for living in today’s world with food allergies.

The best part? It’s free!

This e-book would also be a great resource to share with family members, babysitters, or other people in your life who need to understand just how serious food allergies are and how to keep you or your food-allergic child safe. (It might be just the thing to finally convince that one family member to stop serving her nut-filled casserole at every family party. I’m just sayin’.)

The e-book is in .pdf format, so you can read it on your computer or tablet using a pdf-reader like Adobe Acrobat, or you can load it onto an e-reader (like Kindle or Nook). To download your free e-book, go to, then enter your first name and email address. They’ll send you a confirmation email (which you click on to verify you’re a real human), then they’ll send you another email with a link to the e-book, which will automatically download to your “downloads” folder. It’s fast, easy, and free, so check it out!