Thanksgiving in Vermont

Thanksgiving in Vermont

This is our first Thanksgiving in the Green Mountain State. It has been like a pleasant dream living here. The people are incredible, the fruits, vegetables, and meat is amazing, and the overall quality of life is beyond anything that we have ever experienced.

We’ve been living in our home for two months now, and each day I fall a little more in love with it.

This space is sacred to us, and it is truly healing to the soul.

Dom’s mom and dad came up for Thanksgiving and stayed a few days. It was great to see them, and for Simmi to get to spend time with grandma and grandpa. The last time we had Thanksgiving with them was seven years ago before we left for New Mexico.

While there were a lot of *firsts* happening for us in Vermont, among the most significant was our decision to remove any and all food allergens from our home. Living an hour away from a hospital prompted us to make the transition to a completely allergen friendly environment for Simone.

What does that mean for the rest of us? Well, that means that the foods that one would normally eat can’t be brought into the home, and all meals are allergen free. We used to allow dairy, tree nuts, eggs, and even wheat bread and products into the house for those who ate them, but now we maintain a very strict no allergen policy in our house.

Will you die if you come here and you can’t eat stuffing for Thanksgiving? How about those dinner rolls? Cheese and crackers? No, you won’t die, AND you might find that the foods we prepare are extremely gentle on the stomach, full of flavor, nutrient dense, and delicious.

On our menu for Thanksgiving 2015:

  • Stonewood Farm Turkey: This turkey definitely gave us a run for our money. It was flavorful, juicy, and delicious. I say “a run for our money” because last year we raised our own turkeys. Ours were spectacular. Stonewood came really close. We needed a fresh turkey that wasn’t injected with any kind of solution. Have you noticed that if you go to the store to purchase a turkey (even organic sometimes) it will say that the turkey has been injected with a solution of water and broth and natural flavors. If a product doesn’t declare the exact ingredients, we don’t purchase it. We don’t take any chances with reactions. Simone had a very bad reaction to store bought turkey injected with a solution. Never again!
  • Straight up roasted sweet potatoes: No need to add marshmallows, or other things. Just a little coconut oil brushed on and roasted up.
  • Roasted turnips and sausage
  • Smashed rutabaga
  • Honey glazed carrots
  • Fresh cranberry sauce
  • Root vegetable biscuits
  • Pumpkin pie

The food was delicious, conversations were light and pleasant, and it was the most stress-free Thanksgiving we’ve had in eight years.

For eight years we’ve stuck to a protocol for doing dishes, preparing food, and even had schedules for when we ate. Because Simone’s food allergies have always been so severe, we would prepare her food first, sit with her while she ate, and then when she was finished, we’d prepare our food. Sometimes we would prepare our food right after we made hers, and then we could eat, but in her early years, we couldn’t take a chance of even having a little cross contact with food. It was less stressful to feed her first, and then feed ourselves.

This type of protocol led to HUGE amounts of dishes, going through 5 or 6 dish rags and drying towels per day, constant hand washing before and after touching food, and worse of all needing to police everyone in the house. That’s the most stressful by far.

Dom and I are always questioning one another about our hands, face, dishes, foods, labeled items in the fridge. Communication is of the utmost importance. It might seem weird that we would question one another about our actions, but there are times when even WE slip up and stick a spoon we just used to stir coffee and cream, with something that belongs to Simone. Have you ever done that? Just innocently used the same spoon from one product to another? A habit like that could cost Simmi her life, so we don’t do it. BUT! It can happen, even with us being so experienced in how to keep Simone safe.

When we removed ALL allergens from the house, the food policies and protocols flew right out the window! Anyone can do dishes without being taught. In the past, we had a few designated dishwashers in our house because if dishes weren’t done properly, Simmi would break out in eczema or have a reaction. Now? Anyone can do the dishes. I don’t need to be hawkish over everyone eating something that could kill my baby.

We used to have to worry when food came into the house that she was allergic to. Especially if the person visiting wasn’t familiar with our policies and protocols. We would need to hover, always watching for those stray crumbs and hands filled with butter or other allergen food to make sure they never come into contact Simone before washing their hands. Walking around with a napkin and bread would nearly cause a heart attack in me. Crumbs where my little girl walks means that little offending crumb could cause a BIG reaction. Yes, it’s that bad.

We once had a family member walk into our house with an open can of peanuts. He was not only eating them before he came into our house but used his peanut oiled fingers to open the door to our house. Shoving peanuts into his mouth, we all freaked out and asked him to leave. The floor and doorknobs needed to be properly cleaned. If Simone would have opened the entrance door after he touched it, she would have gone into anaphylaxis.

For so long we tried to accommodate everyone’s needs while keeping Simone’s needs front and center. When the hospital is so far away, satisfying everyone else’s needs takes a backseat and allows others to experience a new way of living for just a short while visiting us. It’s weird that for eight years we tried to make everyone who came to visit feel comfortable when we were screaming inside. It’s not their fault that our child has so many food allergies right? Yet, we often went beyond accommodating when it would have been just as simple to just ask our visitors to partake in the foods that Simone can eat. This is her home too after all. Why not be more inclusive? I’ve always looked at our situation from the perspective that this is just how she needs to learn to navigate the world. I never truly looked at it from another angle…her angle.

What would be the problem in others sharing the food she can eat? For eight years we have purchased or allowed food into our home that SHE could never eat. I’ve watched her sit at the table watching people eat things that could kill her, and yet not one person shared a “Simmi meal” with her. How strange right? To accommodate a visitor, but not our child? My stomach is turning as I write this because the realization that we’ve done it all wrong is beginning to creep into my soul.

How could I have been so callous? In believing that Simone’s food allergies were ours alone, I’ve put a huge line in the sand when it comes visitors. On one side is Simmi, and on the other side is everyone else. They can come across the line to see her, but she can’t cross the line to see them. You see, most people who come to see her or us aren’t allergic to the foods she eats, however, she is allergic to what they may be eating. Is it a terrible thing to have a meal with us if everything is allergen free? Can we offer a more inclusive menu?

Even though this does NOTHING for the real world outside of our home, it gives others the opportunity to share a meal with a child who can’t eat everything you eat. Your superpower is that you can eat food she eats. You also have the superpowers called empathy, grace, maturity, compassion, and love to walk a day in her shoes by including yourself in her life. Her superpowers are unconditional love and acceptance of your very being. All other superpowers she will acquire when those she looks up to lead by example. Compassion is a precious commodity, and empathy at times is akin to an endangered species. Grace is a lavish gift filled with the fragrance of love, and maturity contains the wisdom of how to employ all your superpowers.

Perspective is everything, I guess.

After having an allergen-free home for a month now, we no longer need to question one another about what food is “Simmi-safe” and what she can’t eat.

Here’s the rub….

Now that we are allergen free, bad habits of old are slipping back into our lives. We would never in a million years share food off our plate with her. We would never use the same utensil for more than one food we’re preparing. We would NEVER not wash our hands after eating and before giving her a kiss or a hug. Now? None of that seems necessary.

That will make us soft. Forgetful. Being less vigilant will cause us to slip up when we’re out at a gathering where there are offending foods. We still need to keep up our protocols despite the fact that the allergens aren’t present.

We’ve grown comfortable in our new stress-free bubble of bliss we’ve created here.

We shouldn’t. She’s going to school in January where food protocols I set in place will be super strict!

I can honestly say that we love eating allergen free. We transitioned to the Autoimmune Paleo/Protocol diet (AIP) and we haven’t looked back. My inflammation is still there, and Simone still has some eczema, but we’re getting there.

The balance comes when Simone learns that home is the place of absolute safety. She doesn’t need to fear death from eating something accidentally in our home. While she is at school, that is the outside world she needs to learn to navigate. We can keep hyper-vigilant with the food/medical policy and protocols we set in place and when she walks through our door at home, we can all drop our guard until the next day.

Here are some photos from this past week:

Thanksgiving Recap

Thanksgiving Day turned out awesome and I had a great time making all the food.
I woke up to snow covered cars (a nice surprise!). Simone was up early that morning and then fell back to sleep which gave me a good amount of time to cook without her under my feet.

I was definitely a little nervous cooking all that food around her since she has life threatening food allergies, and almost all the things she is allergic to were present, minus the tree nuts and peanuts.

Everyone pitched in to keep her safe especially as things went out onto the table.

Dom was fast asleep since his shift didn’t end until almost 5:30am Thanksgiving morning, Noah was busy feverishly washing pots and pans and other utensils for me since I need to use double the amount of utensils and things in order to prepare food for a food allergic child and avoid cross contamination.

Hannah was excitedly waiting at her house in Albuquerque, calling every 20 minutes and saying “are you coming yet?” LOL The house was buzzing with activity and the aromatic smells of the upcoming feast filled our home as only a feast can do!

The turkey was only 12 lbs since it was only going to be the six of us this year, and as much as I would have loved to stuff the turkey, I couldn’t because of Simone’s food allergies.

Stuffing that has been placed inside the turkey tastes so much better to me since all the juices from the turkey penetrate into the stuffing making it moist and heavenly. (Can you tell I love stuffing?)

So how do you make a stuffing that is to die for that hasn’t touched the inside of a turkey?

Add Italian sausage or turkey sausage to the stuffing.

What I did was cook the sausage first until almost fully cooked, then cut the sausage up into smaller pieces, and add onions and celery and continue cooking.

The celery and onions pick up the flavor of the sausage. I didn’t drain the fat of the sausage but instead let the onions and celery simmer in it.

When the onions are almost fully cooked, I added about four thinly sliced cloves of fresh garlic and about five minutes later added chopped apple to the mix.

I then added a half a can of chicken stock to get everything cooking together, threw in some fresh mushrooms and let that simmer a little longer.

Some sea salt was added at the last moment before I poured the sauteed mix onto my cubed dry bread. As I mix everything together, I poured the rest of the can of chicken stock onto the stuffing mix…then I needed one more can.

I put it into the fridge for a few hours until I was ready to bake it, and the moment of truth came when I’d find out what everyone thought of this new stuffing of mine. It’s very different from what I have made in past years. Everyone loved it. Success.

Vegan roasted red potatoes, beets, onions and carrots. Marinated overnight in olive oil, 8 cloves of garlic, sesame seeds, rosemary, sea salt and fresh crushed black pepper.

Spinach balls and stuffed mushrooms. Spinach balls were prepared with sauteed onions, finely grated mozzarella cheese, sour cream, bread crumbs, lots of fresh garlic and Romano cheese.

The stuffed mushrooms were prepared with sauteed onions, fresh garlic, sea salt, lemon, chopped mushroom stems and bread crumbs. Each were baked and topped off with a drizzle of garlic butter. Yum!

We also had of course the sweet potatoes with marshmallows, vegan lentil soup, a special stuffed portabello mushroom dinner for Hannah, dinner rolls (I used all the butter up LOL so no butter for the bread!) glazed carrots, fresh cranberry sauce, salad, apple pie and pumpkin pie.

Here are a few more photos of our day:


Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I was up bright and early this morning so I could get a jump on cooking. I am really looking forward to upcoming years when most of the food we have harvested will be eaten and enjoyed on Thanksgiving and during the holidays (and everyday!). At some point I’d also like to have a price comparison of purchasing all the food for Thanksgiving vs. growing it. This year we spent over $250 on foods for this day, and in the upcoming years I’m hoping that is reduced to about $20.
As I was shopping on Tuesday and Wednesday, I kept putting things into the cart and saying to myself “geez, we can grow that too!” It made me very grateful to know that we are in place where we can grow apples, pumpkins, squash, carrots, beets, scallions, oranges and lemons (in a greenhouse), cranberries, potatoes, turkey, chicken, goose, duck, beef, goat, lamb, milk, cheese and butter, eggs, salads, broccoli, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, mushrooms, honey, and so much more! We don’t have a big plot to grow different grains, but that won’t stop us from trying! I’m truly thankful to be on a plot of land that will allow us to grow all that we want and need…especially if we manage it properly.

I’ll be taking pictures of our feast today and maybe some video too and I’ll post it all tomorrow.

On the menu today at our house is:

  • Turkey (of course)
  • Stuffing
  • Glazed carrots
  • Roasted potatoes, beets, onions and carrots
  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Spinach balls
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes with marshmallows (old classics die hard!)
  • Fresh cranberry sauce
  • Vegan lentil soup (for my Hannah bear)
  • Vegan stuffed portabello mushrooms (for Hannah)
  • Salad
  • Asparagus
  • Apple pie
  • Pumpkin pie

All the favorites are here. I’m so thankful for our lives, my family and friends, and for the opportunities we now have to move forward into homesteading.

What are you thankful for this year?