When I sat down to write Hiking Free: Allergy Friendly Recipes For The Outdoors I knew it wouldn’t be my best seller of all our books, but it was a work of love. I wrote it for our youngest son, Alistaire. And for the rising number of children (and adults) with severe food allergies, Celiac, Asthma, and chronic GI issues.
I was reading a recent review of the book, and it pointed out “The cooking merit badge requires a Scout create menus “keeping in mind any special needs (such as food allergies)”, but doesn’t provide a source for allergy-friendly recipes.” That is exactly why I wrote it! To give a hands up. To allow those with special diets the ability to go backpacking and camping.
I have talked about how Alistaire’s food allergies changed us. You go from a normal way of life and that stops the first time you have anaphylaxis. It changed how, and where we hiked. Parents of allergy children don’t let go well, and it isn’t easy. Like with regular life, I am 100% responsible for Alistaire’s well-being while hiking. He goes to public school, but eats nothing but what we send is a good example. It keeps him healthy. Well meaning, but misguided, people can wreak havoc in a child’s body “It’s just a piece of candy, it won’t hurt them” or “Those crackers are fine for you to eat” but they are wheat based. They don’t understand that an allergy means no cheating. Being exposed to allergens can have many side effects, with anaphylaxis being the harshest. From painful stomach aches, to breathing issues (allergens can cause asthma to flare up quickly), to painful cracked skin and eczema flare-up on the face and body, to severe GI issues, it isn’t something to take lightly.
Now imagine you are sending your child to a Scout event or camp, but you have no idea how to make their food safe while they are gone. You know that while a leader might be well-meaning, they don’t understand the nuances of what is safe, and what isn’t. Life in the trenches leaves parents often nervous and very skeptical. Trust nothing but in your Epi-Pen? Maybe. I live by that.
You know what they can eat and what they cannot. But if you don’t have experience in making portable, shelf-stable food you won’t be getting out. But if you had a cookbook that would allow you to easily pull meals together? Or as a textbook for leaders who want to include all children – imagine how it would feel to be able to say to a parent “Don’t worry: we have recipes for your child! And all the kids will love the menu”.
Tips for non-allergic people working with food allergies:
- Ask every person on trips if they have any allergies or medical issues that must be known about. You don’t need surprises 2 days in. Don’t be shy. And ask people to not down play it.
- If there is allergies present, know what their reactions are like. Children can and will hide reactions. For example, Alistaire gets quiet when he doesn’t feel well. It pays to keep an eye on them.
- Learn how to use an Epi-Pen and what the procedure is for an emergency. Many who have Epi-Pens have expired ones hanging around. Ask to be taught how to use one (tip: an orange makes a good practice surface).
- Carry unscented baby wipes to use for cleaning. Everyone should clean their hands, including under their nails, before preparing food. It’ll cut down on getting stomach viruses as well, so that is a bonus….. (especially with kids and not washing hands after going #2).
- Make a clear menu, with all ingredients fully listed. Do not skimp here – or leave anything out. Have the person or parent go over it to ensure it is safe.
- Don’t pack ANY allergens to have when they are not there in front of you. That is like carrying lit matches in a dry forest. At best it is being indulgent and self-centered. You can survive without a feed bag of tree nuts or peanuts. Seriously.
- Reinforce to others on the trip how important it is to not have allergens present. This can mean to other parents, who may roll their eyes and complain that their child “only eats peanut butter sandwiches and will simply fade from hunger!”
- With Scout trips and similar, to ensure safety you may need to do a last-minute safety check of backpacks to remove any potential allergens (you would be surprised how many people don’t understand Nutella is hazelnuts….).
Ready for a recipe or two to try?
Herbed Chicken Pasta
In a sandwich bag:
- 8 ounces gluten-free angel hair or spaghetti (break in thirds)
In a snack bag:
- 1 Tbsp dried parsley
- 1 Tbsp dried chives
- 1 tsp dry celery flakes
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 Tbsp or 1 packet olive oil
- 7-ounce pouch chicken
Add the dry pasta to 4 cups water and bring to a boil in your pot. Cook for time on pasta package. Turn off the heat and drain the water off carefully.
Toss with the oil, herbs, chicken and spices. If desired, heat through on very low heat for a minute or two.
In a sandwich bag:
- 1/2 cup powdered coconut milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp vanilla powder
- 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 Tbsp or 1 packet coconut oil
Add the mix and 2 cups cold water to your pot. Using a small whisk stir well while bringing to a boil.
As soon as it boils and is thick, turn off the stove and whisk in the coconut oil.
Serve warm or chill in a snow bank or cold stream.
Serves 2 to 4 depending on appetite
Find vanilla powder where coffee/espresso products are sold, or online through gourmet baking supply sites.
For an easy banana pudding add in 2 Tbsp powdered freeze-dried bananas with the dry ingredients and top with gluten-free vanilla cookies.