Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Day Trip Time with Food Allergies: Bring a Cooler Tote and Chill Out! Plus, Nut-Free Lunch Ideas

Life's a beach if you come prepared to deal with
food allergies on your day trip.

With summer, comes day trips and with that comes a need to prepare for all the eventualities. Getting kids ready to go anywhere seems like a military maneuver at the best of times, but when you've got kids with food allergies you've got to take a few more precautionary steps. I got to thinking about this during a recent visit to Brookfield Zoo, located just outside Chicago. But anywhere we go this summer -- the zoo, an amusement park, the beach -- will require the same level of prep.

So, here they are--my tips for successful summer day-trippin' with food allergies:

1. Get an insulated cooler tote bag. The Brookfield Zoo, like many other family-friendly day trip destinations allows you to bring your own food. I bought a chic insulated bag from Thermos (TM) and it was a godsend on our recent zoo trip. During one of my numerous trips to Target, I grabbed this cute, diaper bag-sized tote and some freezer packs for keeping sammies and drinks chilled. The extra front pockets were useful for the epinephrine auto-injectors, my wallet and assorted sundries so I didn't have to bring a separate purse. The best part -- you can find totes that aren't super-huge and don't weigh a ton, which is much less cumbersome to carry and easier on your shoulder blades! I recently saw several great-priced cooler totes at Target, my home away from home. Look for them in the "Summer's Up" section towards the back of the store, next to the gardening stuff.

2. Bring placemats for the picnic table. Lots of paper placemats exist nowadays, or just bring  paper towels or a washable tablecloth or mats to keep it eco-friendly. Since you just never know if the last family was packing peanut butter (and let's face it, they probably were), be ready to protect the table for your child which will reduce the risk of cross-contact from table residue. Besides offering protection from allergenic foods, covering a common table gives you clean surface -- which is just more appetizing for everyone.

3. Locate the First Aid station upon arrival. Many amusement parks, zoos and even large public beaches have these. You may never need this, but it's good to know where it is in the event of emergency.

4. Check and double-check that you have your epinephrine auto-injectors before departure. I don't know about you, but I seem to constantly be transferring my items from bag to bag all summer long. You don't want to leave your epinephrine auto-injectors behind (always bring two), only to discover that it's missing upon arrival at your destination. I place Post-It notes on my dashboard to remind me.

5. Stock up on the Wet Ones Wipes. For wiping hands before and after eating, you can't have too many of these. Great for little faces, too.

6. For restaurant tips on the road, check out AllergyEats. This free service offers peer-reviewed restaurants listed according to city, state and specific food allergies. They just announced that AllergyEats is now an affiliate to Open Table, a reservation resource. You can use your AllergyEats smart phone app to make Open Table reservations. Cool.  Click this link to find out more info.

So now that you've got your cooler and your plan to bring lunch, what do you bring? Obviously, your kids will have their favorites, but here are some ideas for you. I love this fake sushi wrap sandwich idea that I saw on Pinterest. A nice change of pace from a sandwich, and healthy, too.

Or about little fruit kabobs? Or cheese and ham kabobs? Any “kabob” or food on a stick is fun for kids to eat and easy to pack. Just keep the sticks separate and store the fruit or ham and cheese in baggies or reusable food keepers.

For a salty snack or treat, Pirate's Booty is always good and Pop Chips are nice, too as neither are fried in oil. Both are nut-free and Pirate's Booty is gluten-free, but they do have dairy.

Of course you need a sweet treat! If you don't feel like baking in heat, Skeeter Snacks peanut-free, tree nut-free cookies are a great addition to your packed lunch.

I also like to pack two of my favorite nut-free baked treats: Granola Bars and Nut-Free Brownies. The granola bar recipe is found by clicking this link, and here is my brownie recipe. My mom made these for us all the time when we were growing up.

Jenny's Nut-Free Brownies

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs (organic or free range if possible)
2 squares unsweetened chocolate; I use Baker's brand
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder; this gives you a cakier brownie with a higher rise. If you want chewier, flatter brownies, omit the baking powder.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Chop chocolate and butter into chunks. Melt chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl until butter is melted and chocolate is almost completely melted (about two minutes.) Remove from microwave and stir until all of the chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix flour with salt and baking powder if using, in a small bowl. Pour sugar into larger bowl that can hold all of the batter. Using a heat-proof spatula, scrape melted chocolate mixture into the bowl with the sugar and stir until fully combined. Add eggs one at a time and mix thoroughly. Add vanilla.

Gradually add flour mixture into chocolate-egg-butter mixture until combined.

Bake for 16-18 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes up with a few fudgy crumbs clinging to it. (The 9 x 9 inch pan will bake up more quickly). Do not over bake.

Allow to cool, then sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and serve.

What do you like to bring on your day trips? Any tips you've found especially helpful? Let us know.


Zoe said...

I like to take some apple slices and individual cups of Chocolate SoyNut Butter. It gives the kids just enough sweet to be a treat, but enough protein to get them through the afternoon.

vindiebaby said...

They both look adorable :)
Vintage Inspired Girls