Monday, August 29, 2011

Asian style mince with noodles

I'm of Chinese heritage, while my husband is Australian. Our son knows he is "half Aussie and half Chinese." That doesn't sound very interesting in type, but it is gorgeous when he says it in person.

I'm a little dubious about using imported products, especially asian products which could easily be contaminated by peanuts or something similar. If they can stuff up baby milk powder then you just don't know what could happen with other products.

But alas, in my desire to feed our son a little more variety, I am on the search for products I can use. I look for products that specifically have allergy advice on it. If it has a label saying "gluten free" I'm hoping that their manufacturing controls are more seriously enforced and therefore safer for our son. Australian made always inspires a little more confidence but that's not always easy to find.

If you're in Australia, I'd be most interested to know what sauces other allergy mums use. You'll give me more confidence to try and expand to even more flavours.

So here's my recipe for Asian style mince - actually my picture is when I served it with San Remo Soup Pasta, but you could do anything - rice noodlse, spaghetti, soup pasta ... I believe it's called fusion!

Eskal rice noodles - cook according to packet directions.
Or serve it with pasta, rice or potato.

500g beef mince
1 onion, diced
1 medium sized carrot, diced
1 handful of beans, diced or perhaps 1C frozen peas
2T Abundant Earth Tamari rdeuced salt soy sauce (wheat free)
1T Chang's Tamari Hoi Sin sauce (gluten free)
1 stock cube (optional)

Brown the beef and onion in whatever oil you use. We use sunflower oil.
Add vegetables and sauce, bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer.
Our son doesn't use any store bought stock yet, but to flavour the adult portion I added a stock cube and sprinkled chilli flakes on top.
Simmer at least 5 mins to cook the vegetables, or longer if you want the mince to break up more.
Add water if it starts to get too dry.
Add cooked rice noodles or pasta, stir to combine.

Best served in a character bowl like Bob the Builder!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Look and Find Tigger - Book Review

A toddler's life is full of fun, and hopefully the life of their mother and father can be equally as full of fun if we take the time to relax and enjoy.

We've just completed a census in Australia, and it was interesting and slightly scary, just how many hours I spend on housework every week. This included cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, washing etc. Realising that it is nearly equivalent to a full time job explains why I do seriously get so sick of it! I just can't imagine how mothers used to handle it in the days before automated washing machines, microwaves, dish washers and late night shopping! I still can't imagine those mums who use cloth nappies either, but that's for another post. Sorry, I didn't mean to allienate some of you super conscientious mums.

Being a mum of a child with life-threatening food allergies means a slightly increased load of washing since any splash of milk or sauce that I get on my clothes means it has to go into the wash. Perhaps I need to eat more carefully and not just shovel food into my mouth?? But sometimes mums have to eat very fast indeed!

Anyway, so this post is dedicated to the fun we have, in the midst of life-threatening food allergies.
I just borrowed a book called Look and Find Tigger. It's gorgeous and similar to the Where's Wally series, except it features Tigger, Winnie the Pooh and friends. Most kids will already be familiar with these characters so the aim is to find them in the midst of all the crazy pictures. The pictures are quite detailed, so the book can amuse them for quite some time. Once you find the characters, there are lots of other little things to look for. The uniqueness is in the attention to detail.
The reason I mention this book is because of the importance of a child being able to read food labels in the future. Words can be quickly recognised, but I didn't really want our son's first reading words to be all the foods he can't eat. Talk about demoralising! Plus, even when he can recognise the word milk, egg or nut. What if the labels says Milk-free or Egg-free? What if he reads that, but then the food isn't Nut-free? So reading labels will be important but obviously not yet.

It is actually the ability to scan and recognise characters in different forms that is being developed by these books or games. For mums who have to read food labels, being able to quickly scan very wordy labels is definitely an advantage. For those who are interested, this ability features in your standard IQ test, so check out this book if you want your child to score well in this sort of test. Or, if you just like Tigger and want to snuggle up with a good book and lovely child, this book is for you too.

Friday, August 12, 2011

How to teach a young child about their anaphylaxis - Part 2

This is Part 2 of tips and tricks for teaching a young child about anaphylaxis. This doesn't include teaching a child how to inject themselves... we haven't got to that stage yet. Our son is only 2 at the time of writing. But if your child is older than this and you have other tips, please feel free to add them.

When our son first discovered wild mushrooms he just couldn't help himself. He'd be climbing on some play equipment and stop suddenly when he noticed a mushroom, seriously, as small as a pin head. At this stage we hadn't tried mushrooms at all, so it wasn't something I wanted him to play with. So my first point of call was "No, that will make you sick." That didn't work... so I decided to allow him to play with it, but only using a large stick. Yup that's right folks, if you can't beat them, join them! On some occasions, I'd tell him, "No, that stick is too small, you need a bigger one." Of course, which boy wouldn't want to find a bigger stick. So this technique seemed to work, and I guess could be employed for things that aren't life-threatening, but still not desirable. We also used this opportunity to distinguish between food bought at the shops and things found in the wild.

Bath games - my husband is responsible for this one. We've got toy cups in the bath, so they'd fill up cups, pretend that one was soy, the other milk, then offer it to each other. Sometimes, they'd get it wrong, and the person would start coughing. Other times, they'd get it right, "Mmm, delicious." Then if there are bubbles in the bath, it'd be coffee made from cow's milk or soy.

Emergency information - I've laminated a card with emergency information and approved foods for our son,. This is placed in the pocket in front of our son's car seat. I've told our son that if we are in an accident, then he has to give that "ticket" to the policeman or to get into the ambulance. He already likes policemen and ambulances, so that's an important thing to encourage too. I'm not sure if he'll actually remember this when the time comes, but the best I can do is try. I'll put the logic and details of this emergency information in another post.

Books - the more books and other people you can reference about food allergies the better. That means you can say, "No, you can't eat that food, it'll make you sick. If Mia eats it, she will get sick too." This is particularly helpful if they actually like the person you're referring to of course.

That's all I can think of at the moment - if you think of another good way, please let me know. The more we can educate our kids, the better. And the more fun we can make it, perhaps the better they'll remember it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How to teach a young child about their anaphylaxis - Part 1

Our son is only 2 years old. By no means am I the expert. I thought I'd start this post in the hope that other parents who have more experience than me will be able to contribute their ideas on what has worked and what hasn't. When you add your comments, could you include what age group it applies to? That will help other readers to... and if I get enough comments, I'll try and collate it according to age.

Some of the ideas I've listed are based on general parenting principles, but they have specific relevance I think when it comes to teaching children how to deal with their anaphylaxis. I am sure that as time passes, we will learn more and more about how to teach our child. We'd better anyway!

Responding to "No!" or "Stop!"- I have to admit that this is clearly an area where we struggle.Teaching a toddler to stop when they hear your stern voice would be soooooo helpful, especially when there are so many dangers around (allergy ones in particular). But we also have to work within the knowledge that curiosity is such a driving force for young ones. Sometimes their impulses are much faster than their ability to transfer hearing to thinking to action or stopping of an action.

Understanding what is a toy and what is not - from an early age we've taught our son that some things are not for him. "That's mummy's, it is not a toy. Your toys are over there." So the principle is redirection. They pick up your phone, you say no and redirect them to their toy phone. They go to your bookshelf and start pulling everything down... you say no and show them what is theirs. How is this helpful? I think it helps later on when there is food on the the table, and you say no, this is not where you play, your toys are over there.

Increased understanding of food - this includes knowing the names of foods, but also how to describe food and to some degree how foods are made. One of the fun things we have been doing is cooking with our son. He absolutely loves tasting all the ingredients. Today he tasted raw onion and pretty much spat it out. Funny! But then I told him that we have to cook it... then he gets to eat it again... Yum! Learning the different ways to describe taste encourages him to think about what is in his mouth. So learning how to detect sweet, sour, hot, cold and bitter. Even learning textures, like crunchy, soggy, smooth or rough.

Learning what makes him "sick" - this is the word we have used to describe his allergies. He knows that eating milk, eggs and prawns will make him sick. For some reason we haven't covered nuts... better put that on my to-do list. So when he asks if he can eat something, I'll say, "No, that's got cow's milk in it, so it'll make you sick."

Food toys - At a younger age, I avoided buying toy food. I didn't want my son putting a toy egg in his mouth, then finding a real one and eating or even touching it. However, now that he knows he can't eat some of these foods, I've found the toy foods very useful. He'll pretend to eat a slice of plastic cheese (the toy one I mean) then start coughing because he's sick. Sometimes we'll get him a piece of something else to eat, and I'll get the cheese. Or sometimes, I'll ask him, what kind of cheese is that? Soy or cow? If he says Soy, then we cheer and get to eat it.

The food chain - we often play with toy animals pretending to feed them. Who gets to eat grass? Who gets to eat a bone? If a cow eats a bone, he'll get sick. If dogs eat grass, they won't get bigger and bigger. What food makes you get bigger and faster? What food makes you sick? What happens if you eat grass? Yeah, best to cover all options :-) Obviously not all these questions are asked in one sitting, or the poor child won't want to play with you anymore!

Boy, this is a really long post... Ok, this is Part 1. I'm sure a Part 2 will follow soon enough. Don't forget to let me know what other ideas you have. I'm all ears!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Soy everything!

The most amusing aspect of using soy products is that our son now thinks that if everything is soy based, he can eat it! I tell him that he can't eat cow's cheese, but he can have soy cheese. He can't have cow's milk, but he can have soy milk. So when Playschool, a children's program he absolutely loves, had adults making crackers with peanut butter, he asked if he could eat it. I said, "No Matthew, peanut butter will make you sick." His reply? "Not peanut butter, SOY peanut butter." Ah, if only life was that simple!

Our son has tried a lot of new Soy products recently - I'm not necessarily a fan, but he seems alright with some of them. There's a peculiar taste about them, but if you've never had the dairy equivalent, perhaps you wouldn't mind. Ice-cream is a particular favourite, especially since the children on TV always seem to be eating it.

I serve it in mini cones made by Altimate - they contain wheat and soy, but apart from that, are everything else free. Actually, our son used to eat them plain before he was allowed icecream - I told him it was a rocket and he was pretty happy with that. The mini cones are perfect for small hands and mouths, but expect some mess as it starts to melt.

Our son still has digestive problems with long life or UHT soy milk, so I only give him small serves of these products at a time. As with anything else, always check the labels every time you buy it.

So Good Soy Icecream - chocolate flavour

Kingland Soy Cream Cheese - our son quite likes little spoonfuls of this stuff - a little bit sour for some reason, but not too bad. I think some people use this in lasagna type recipes, so perhaps if it's melted it could be nice too.

Kingland Soy Youghurt - I really dislike this one, and our son was not keen either. We only tried the plain flavour - perhaps the fruit flavours are better. I thought I'd put it in the list, just in case others have different taste buds.