Tag Archives: Chicken

Eating out with allergies the Portuguese Way

I’ll be honest, the last few months have been difficult in more ways than one. M’s broken leg has meant that we’ve been unable to trial any new foods since April, which has been tough for him especially as we’ve just marked one year since we last successfully introduced a safe food into his diet. I knew that his restrictions were taking an emotional toll on M, but nothing expressed that more than when he recently apologised to me for feeling fed up and complaining about the fact that he has to eat the same 5 foods day in, day out. As we were preparing for our Portuguese holiday, we quickly realised that, without doubt, our travels abroad would stretch our keen foodie to his absolute limits and we needed to come up with a plan that would allow him to enjoy himself without too much pressure on his health.

This was particularly important as M had been frustrated to not be able to trial the couple of new foods we had pinpointed as pre-Portugal challenges because of his lengthy recovery and was extremely disappointed at the prospect of only eating his safe foods whilst the rest of us enjoyed seafood and fish galore. img_08971After much discussion, both between ourselves and with M too, Mike and I decided that we would allow him the occasional day off whilst we were in Portugal and let him choose a normally forbidden food or two to enjoy.

From the start we made it very clear that this couldn’t be an everyday treat and that between days he would have to keep strictly to his diet and so we planned accordingly. The holiday was split between a short hotel stint in the capital city and a longer stay in a self-catering apartment on the Algarve, which allowed us to cater for M and G as and when was needed. Our medical suitcase had been crammed full of a selection of safe foods for M including cartons of rice milk, cereal and rice pasta as I had no real idea as to what we would be able to find for him where we were based. img_10511Unlike our recent travels to Italy, where allergy-friendly offerings had been easy to find in the airport and service stations, safe foods were not so readily available in Portugal, but our trip to the Jumbo hypermarket just outside of Portimão proved to be a visit to a real Aladdin’s cave. My Mum and I were impressed with the array of dairy-free milks available and chose some new brands of rice milk for M to taste during our holiday. As for the selection of products on the freefrom aisle, I could easily have spent a lot longer than I did examining each and every one of them to see which were suitable for both children.  I managed to buy nearly everything we needed including cookies for G and rice cream for M and the only disappointment was that I couldn’t find a gluten-free loaf of bread for G. img_10521There was several bread mixes available, but there was no way I was ever going to entertain the thought of baking a loaf of bread for her in 35°C weather and so she managed with some delicious gluten- and dairy-free crackers I discovered instead.

M’s experience of eating out with allergies in Portugal was mixed to say the least with the resounding success of two dinners at the Hard Rock Café in central Lisbon in stark contrast to the disappointing first night meal of plain boiled rice and an apple and it was hard to predict what the rest of our holiday would bring. Our translation cards meant that language wasn’t a barrier to making our needs known, but we did struggle with well-meaning restaurant staff offering alternatives even though it was clearly stated that these were the only safe foods he can eat. To be fair, I can understand their difficulty in believing that M’s diet really is that restricted, but it was frustrating to deal with especially when the viable food options were diminishing before our eyes and a certain 10 year-old was hopeful we’d give up and give in and allow him another unplanned treat. For the sake of M’s health, we did have to insist that some of our meals out were strictly M-friendly and the offerings were often mixed. In the UK we frequently find that most restaurants are unable to provide plain rice and so M often ends up with a meal consisting of chicken and cucumber and occasionally some apple too, all supplemented by a bag of slightly crushed Rude Health Mini Rice thins recovered from the depths of my handbag. Portugal was surprisingly no different. We did discover a few restaurants that could cook plain, boiled rice, but sadly this was rarely accompanied by safe chicken and he ended up with some very odd meals indeed.

img_10841However, as well as the Hard Rock Café, we did achieve great success in 2 restaurants in Alvor, where not only was M well-fed, but G enjoyed some great dinners too. The first was at what has long been a favourite of ours, Vagabondo in Alvor itself, a place that the children were keen to go back to again this year. Every year since our first visit there, M and G have loved their chicken kebab starter because of the delicious peanut sauce it is served with and it’s a dish that they’ve asked me to recreate at home time and time again. Peanuts have never been a problem for M in the past, but I was anxious about him suffering an unexpected reaction to them and wasn’t keen to trial them for the first time whilst we were abroad. M was disappointed by my decision, but reluctantly agreed to eat his safe foods only. By the time it came to dinner there, he was still suffering from the effects of some of the other “treats” he’d enjoyed during the week and was happy to stick to his normal diet for the evening. Once our waitress grasped M’s exact needs, she was fantastic at sorting out his meal and advised us brilliantly about what would be safe for him from the menu. img_10851Unfortunately the wild rice was marinated with garlic beforehand so we chose not to order for M, but the plate that arrived contained a huge piece of chicken as well as some cucumber slices and a specially prepared apple from our thoughtful waitress. The apple had been cut and served to resemble chips and so M’s plate looked similar to G’s dinner of a chicken and bacon kebab and chips. It was a large meal, beautifully prepared and he managed to eat every single mouthful.
The second and surprise success of the entire holiday was our final lunch, which traditionally we have always enjoyed at the poolside restaurant at the hotel Pestana Alvor Praia. img_10871In the past the children have chosen gluten-free hot dogs and chips, but we had spotted that they served grilled chicken and rice and were hopeful that these would be safe for M. Once again, a well-informed, attentive and extremely helpful waitress advised me that there would be no problem in preparing these dishes to ensure they were safe for M and in the end both children enjoyed a delicious grilled chicken breast, which was served with chips for G and plain rice, cucumber and apple for M. We enjoyed our meals out on holiday and found all of the restaurants eager to help us as best they could when it came to encouraging M and G to eat out with allergies the Portuguese way.

Popcorn Chicken

You might not have realised it, but last week saw the celebration of “National Popcorn Day” in the USA – a day dedicated to “drawing awareness to popcorn and the never-ending amount of fun you can have with it!” Unfortunately, popcorn is currently yet another treat that M cannot enjoy due to a failed food challenge, but a revisit to my Kracklecorn post from last year reminded me of a popular chicken fast food chain and its popcorn chicken nuggets, This dish brings back fond memories of Mike’s grandmother, who loved this treat and of trips to the nearest KFC to pick up a portion or 2 for dinner whenever we were back in Canada and making a visit to see her.


January has been something of a grey month for M, who has struggled with giving up the foods unsuccessfully reintroduced during his GOSH admission. His health is infinitely better than it was 6 weeks ago, but my plucky 9-year old has found it tough to see eggs, potatoes and bananas disappear back out of his diet after such an intense period of eating them, no matter how ill they made him. Determined to develop a new recipe to cheer him up a little, and inspired by my Canadian recollections, I researched a number of popcorn chicken recipes to see if I could recreate this fast food treat. Despite a continuing absence of safe foods for M, we have been able to successfully expand his repertoire of herbs and spices and I wanted to introduce some quite bold new flavour combinations to tantalise his taste buds. Some of the recipes I found suggested using an Indian spices theme and, as India just happens to be M’s topic for the new school term, this seemed the perfect opportunity to prepare an Indian-style popcorn chicken for dinner.

Thanks to the ever-present box of Nature’s Path Crispy Rice Cereal, the only safe cereal M can eat and actually enjoys, my trusty deep fat fryer and a selection of Indian-esque spices from my kitchen cupboard, I blitzed up a crumb coating, added my chicken 20160106_180748and kept my fingers crossed. The first batch looked delicious and I couldn’t wait to take a sneaky bite or two to…ahem…”taste test” before serving them to my discerning public. The smell wafting through the house worked better than a dinner bell and first one child, and then the other, drifted to the table with washed hands, ready to try dinner. For that first meal, I prepared 2 chicken breasts worth of popcorn and left my youngest bitterly disappointed that there was absolutely not another morsel left for him to consume. Subsequent meals have seen bigger portions prepared and disappear in similarly quick fashion, and I’m delighted to have found another winning recipe for dinner. Mike has also declared my popcorn chicken a huge hit, even though all he’s been able to scrounge has been the sparse crumbs left once G and M have emptied the bowl. They really were “finger lickin’ good!”.

Yet another chicken recipe!

We might be nearly 9 months into life with a NG-tube and in theory should have long since said goodbye to its presence in our world, but the reality is very different. M hasn’t been able to progress beyond our 4 staple foods and it is becoming increasingly challenging to make rice, chicken, cucumber and apple into a tasty and interesting combination for 3 meals a day. 20150710_203444M’s steady consumption of new favourites tempura batter chicken nuggets and arancini di riso has resulted in the purchase of our first-ever deep fat fryer – a piece of kitchen equipment I never envisioned gracing my kitchen’s counter-tops – and I have been concerned about the amount of fried foods he’s now eating on a regular basis. Thanks to a recent post on The Recipe Resource’s Facebook forum, I converted the cornflake-covered chicken balls to a M-friendly version and found a healthier twist to chicken nuggets for him to enjoy.

They were really simple to prepare and it would be easy enough to adapt the recipe to suit your tastes and dietary needs. I’ve added both sage and thyme to the mix and both proved popular with M and G alike and I’m sure you could spice them up with chilli flakes for a more “grown-up” flavour.20150723_190656 The quantities would be easy to adapt too, so that you only make what you need for a meal-time, although M has enjoyed them cold for his packed lunches recently too. I also took the basic recipe and made some crispy fish balls for M’s white fish challenge, which I’m sure, with a little bit more time and effort, could be moulded into all sorts of interesting shapes. It ultimately turned out to be yet another food fail, but M definitely enjoyed the bite-size fish nuggets whilst he could.

“I like rice…

..Rice is great if you’re hungry and want 2000 of something.”

– Mich Ehrenborg

I never realised just how daunting food could be until we embarked on our dietary journeys with our children.  It might sound ridiculous, but having achieved such a resounding success from M’s move to the elemental diet, the prospect of food reintroductions caused my heart to beat a little faster, my palms to grow a little sweatier and several middle-of-the-night awakenings to contemplate just how the whole process would work.  A big part of the problem was the lack of useful any information from the dietetics team about…well about anything I wanted to know.  I like to have a clear plan to follow and needed to understand how we would choose which foods to start with, how each food should be prepared, how much to give and how often.  The vagaries of sweeping statements such as serve M “a portion”, with no hard and fast details of the specifics drove me insane, but with lots of discussion, frantic e-mailing and a move back to our old and trusted dietitian rather than the one I’d had run-ins with during M’s admission, we finally got the answers we were after.

Courtesy of alternative-doctor.com

Courtesy of alternative-doctor.com

The decision was to begin with rice, commonly considered to be hypoallergenic and therefore a great starting place for M.  Whilst many children reintroducing foods following the elemental diet might trial potato first, this was one of the known triggers for M’s allergic reactions and so we needed to find a basic food that was likely to be safe.  Despite being told that we could comfortably start with a “portion” of rice, I chose instead to take things slow and M had just 1 tablespoon of plain, boiled rice on that first night.  He enjoyed his mouthful and, looking forward to having more the next day, carried on somewhat oblivious to the anxious monitoring I was trying desperately to hide.  The evening passed without event and we all went to bed happily – well, the rest of the family went to bed happily, I went battling the usual Mummy-paranoia that accompanies anything and everything that involves my children and their welfare.

Courtesy of smartwebsite.ru

Courtesy of smartwebsite.ru

Since that day, around 4 weeks ago now, we have been able to gradually increase the amounts of rice M eats each day and have branched out to include rice milk, rice cakes and gluten-free rice cereal – a veritable feast!  This week I even managed a rice batter, using rice flour and sparkling water and made some deep-fried rice balls to tantalise his taste buds.  M has shown an occasional atopic reaction to the rice as it triggered a rash across his shoulders and back, although the hives have now calmed down as his body has become accustomed to eating once again.  Despite this rash, we have seen no reaction in his bowels and are able to count rice as a “safe” food for him.  Even better, we have also been able to add chicken to the mix and this week have been trialling pineapple, though the jury is still out as to whether this may be causing a mild behavioural reaction akin to the one we’ve seen him experience before to soya.  Assuming all is well with the pineapple, we have plans to trial pork, cucumber and carrot over the coming weeks and may even have time to squeeze in another carbohydrate before we head back to GOSH in April.

Who feels like chicken tonight?

Who remembers that advertising slogan from 20 years ago?  I couldn’t quite believe it when I googled to see just how long it’s been since the “Chicken tonight” adverts first started being played on TV – 20 years and that song is still reverberating around my head as if I’d heard it yesterday.  For those who never had the joy of seeing these the first time round, here’s a quick sample to show you what you missed:

The reason that jingle came to mind is that I decided to attempt a M-friendly version of that other classic, Chicken Kiev.  My reason?  G read something in one of her books where the main character was sitting down to a dinner of Chicken Kiev and she had to ask me what the dish was.  I realised that, as a result of the multiple allergies we deal with in our household, there are several meals I remember from my childhood that G and M have never had a chance to try.  Chicken in any form is a meal they will eat, so I thought it might just be one they could both enjoy and something new to add to their repertoire.

As always, I searched around for an easy recipe and then converted it for the family’s dietary needs.  I always keep any left-over bread crusts or pieces in a bag in the freezer as they are perfect for making into breadcrumbs.  20141003_201701I’ve also used frozen wraps, which work similarly well when making crumbs and add a slightly different texture.  Everything prepped, I coated the chicken breasts, popped them into the oven and kept my fingers crossed.

The finished dish looked delicious and both children commented on how wonderful dinner smelt as they washed their hands and came to the table.  I served it with rice and a mixture of steamed vegetables the first time and with mashed potato (or sweet potato) the second time at G’s request.  The chicken was beautifully succulent and the garlic butter oozed across the plates as the children cut into the Kievs.  Both plates were quickly emptied and G and M have asked me to prepare it again soon.