We are a family of four. We are photographers, naturalists, hikers, beach combers, tennis players, musicians, artists and cooks. One of us happens to have food allergies, one of us has food intolerances and one of us is a vegetarian. And all of that makes one of us an expert in food substitutions. This website was started to record our experiences and recipes we’ve created while navigating these challenges, but it was also created as a celebration with gratitude of this same experience.
More about me
When I was growing up I had absolutely not a care in the world when it came to eating healthy. We ate sugar and junk food with out much supervision. We downed sodas, sometimes several at each meal, including breakfast. Nearly everything we ate originated in a box, a can or some pre-made frozen meal dotted periodically with pizza nights, Taco Bell and McDonalds.
Somewhere in the early 80’s I stumbled upon cooking shows and I watched with interest Julia Childs, Yan Can Cook and the Frugal Gourmet. Before long, I was recording the shows on the VCR (that was a method of recording television back in the old days) and I would play them back slowly hitting pause and play repeatedly to write down the recipes. Soon I was experimenting with homemade bread, won ton soup, pie, cakes, soups and roasted chicken.
By the time high school came around, I announced I was a vegetarian which completely left me to cook for myself. I gave up meat and sometimes went so far as to become a vegan for the better part of 17 years. Flash forward to the late 90’s – meeting my vegetarian husband.
In 2004 I became pregnant with our first child Autumn. That pregnancy would prove my greatest health challenge to date. I was so desperately sick through that whole pregnancy. My morning sickness never let up and turned to vertigo at times. I actually ended up 10 pounds lighter after giving birth than when I started.
Autumn was a breast-fed girl, happy and chubby, but we noticed very quickly there were foods I ate that caused her to be upset, get rashy or spend sleepless nights with reflux. I decided to go on an elimination diet. I soon found out that dairy and eggs did not sit well with her so I removed them from my diet and she became a new baby – sleeping through the night finally, rashes had disappeared, and she was a lot more calm . When we introduced solid food to her, one tiny bit of egg left her covered in hives and a tiny bit of yogurt caused her to get a rash and throw up. She had eczema throughout her early years, but I didn’t really think much of it, removed the offending foods and we hoped she would just outgrow it. One day she had a little bite of my husband’s cookie and we soon found out she was allergic to nuts as well as her lips and face swelled immediately and had us running for Benadryl. Upon testing we would learn she had severe allergies to tree nuts, cashews, pistachios, dairy and eggs.
That started our food allergy adventure… When I first found out, I recall crying thinking about her missing chocolate cake on her birthday. I soon dried my tears and got to cooking. I very quickly decided I would just reinvent the recipes I loved so dearly and our little girl would not miss a thing. It was at this time my health was going down hill as well. I had headaches, daily stomach aches, and a bad miscarriage that left me looking for answers. I decided to join the meat-eating population again and discovered the Weston A. Price Foundation and started adopting many of their prinicples.
First grade for Autumn would bring asthma and a series of illnesses that would have her miss nearly 2 months of school, but school sicknesses were not our only challenges.
I soon found out that it would be tricky having a child that could not eat in a restaurant or a party. Grandparents and family would make fun of us and I would even lose friends who would call me a liar. We have had parents, teachers and the school principal roll their eyes at me and my child. I would watch as my girl would be excluded from nearly every class party, birthday party and yes even Thanksgiving with family the year as they insisted on a menu centered around chestnuts. She’s been teased and left out more than anyone should in a lifetime. But she has taught us all tolerance and understanding as she has not ever wanted ill will of anyone who has overlooked her. As she approaches 12 years old, she is healthy, has friends, is a stellar student, hard working tennis player and wonderful musician.
2005 would bring little brother Benny. My pregnancy went better and he would prove to be a more settled baby, but he suffered terrible eczema. In hind-sight I should have probably taken it as an early warning that things were not completely well with him. He was not a great sleeper, but his appetite was good and he never showed a sign of rash. Around the age of 3 he became very shy and defiant – refusing to speak or look at anyone outside our small family. Around the age of 4 he developed an eye tic, a strange rolling of the eyes that scared us and caused great concern. Just as I cried over cake, this time I cried over his normal future that I saw disappearing. At times it was so severe I believed he would never be able to attend school. I took him to the doctor, the allergist and the neurologists but they seemed to think it was not that much of a problem. One neurologist told us he may grow out of it or it could become Turettes syndrome. His own son has the same problem, so when the kids start teasing him we can put him on drugs that may suppress it.
The negativity of these doctors had me upset and motherly intuition kicked in. What was causing this? There had to be something I could do. I spent many sleepless nights researching and concluded I had to take action and try something. His sister was dealing with so many food allergies and stomach problems, perhaps food is something we should be looking at. I immediately cleaned up his diet. I took out the processed foods, food dye, excessive sugars and added as much nutrition into the diet as possible. I also got rid of as many toxins in his environment as possible. I also limit screen time. He improved. But it would prove to be a wave of improvement followed by unpredictable waves of worsening symptoms. As he turns 8, he now is dealing with asthma as well but the tics are barely there, so he goes to school and is a very dedicated tennis player.
I’ve gone a step further with both kids. I concluded that my daughter suffers from bad digestion issues and went about clearing out foods that caused her gas and upset stomach – it mostly meant wheat bread and cereals. My son stopped eating gluten and dairy and they both improved. And that is where we are now. We do our best to eat the most nutritious food possible.
Day to day challenges
These days we eat at home mostly. I cook nearly every single meal. My daughter brings a lunchbox and an Epipen to every party, restaurant and outing she attends. That’s how we named this blog – her lunchbox is always with her because she’s always hungry. The only one who loves to eat more than her is her brother. He as well now carries his own lunchbox to many meals out and parties. Finding recipes and meals that we can all sit down to is a challenge – they must be egg free, dairy free, nut free and gluten free – and when my husband is included, vegetarian. When possible we avoid gums, excess sugars and weird chemicals. I also spend a lot of time just cooking and trying to remake recipes – sometimes with success and sometimes not (my last brownies turned to soup). I source nearly all our food from local organic farms and do my best to make things nutritious and delicious with the best of ingredients I can find.
This website is our journey through these challenges and we hope to help others who are struggling with the same problems. You can find us on Facebook and Instagram where we post a lot of our daily cooking hits and misses.