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Christmas Cooking with Corey

Here at Casa Campbell, we are gearing up to hit the road in a couple of weeks for a five hour road trip north to gather with Ted’s extended family for a few days.  We have always spent Christmas with Ted’s side of the family and we rotate between all of the siblings’ houses.  The boys will be in hog heaven because there will be 12 cousins there (well, as Ryan points out, really only 10 kids because two are “just silly babies”!)  For my part, I will enjoy sitting back and sort of letting the herd discipline take over.  You mommies know what I mean – I’m not going to ignore my kids, but it will certainly be nice to enjoy the collective influence of about 20 adults.  Yippee!  For once, I won’t be playing zone defense while my spouse is traveling for work.

A few weeks ago I posted about trying out some slimmed down/healthier versions of Thanksgiving staples. I have been trying some of those same recipes out in preparation for the Campbell Clan’s big sit down Christmas lunch.   All of the Campbell women pool their culinary expertise for the big family meal.  I’ve been assigned side dishes and I didn’t want to show up with a dud recipe – in other words, some dry runs were necessary.  Here is the link to the article I originally referenced: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/collections/thanksgiving_collection_1

First up, I tried the gourmet sounding “Cranberry, Cherry & Walnut Marmalade” http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/cranberry_cherry_walnut_marmalade.html   I love canned cranberry sauce (complete with the “lines” on the sides!) but this version of my childhood favorite was really a revelation.  The cranberries burst in my mouth, the cherries were a nice complement to the other flavors, and the crunch from the walnut was pretty good.  I actually enjoy cranberry flavors all season long, not just at Thanksgiving, and think that this festive dish will work perfectly well for our Christmas lunch.  It was fast to prepare, it looked impressive on the table, and I even liked it enough to put it on the shortlist for our own New Years Day Open House.

Next up was “Green Bean Casserole. “ I tried this upscale version: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/green_bean_casserole.html   Honestly, this one wasn’t my favorite.  I expected it to taste vastly different from my go-to recipe based on condensed soup and canned beans, but the “new” taste was just not pleasing to my palate.  Also, it was labor-intensive and called for special ingredients (sherry and buttermilk powder).  Because I was trying out this recipe for the family, I didn’t want to deviate from the recipe. I bought everything required and followed the recipe precisely.  This one will not make its debut at the Campbell family Christmas lunch; I’m going to make my tried-and-true version.  I only eat this stuff about twice a year anyway, so this is not a dish where calories will be saved!

Finally, I tried out the “Cider-Glazed Roots with Cinnamon Walnuts”: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/cider_glazed_roots_with_cinnamon_walnuts.html   I’m a huge fan of roasted vegetables.  (I remember the first time I saw Ina Garten roast a pan of carrots with nothing more than kosher salt and olive oil.  I was blown away.)  I already had walnuts on hand from the cranberry sauce experiment, anyway, so I gave it a whirl.  Oh my goodness – this was absolutely marvelous!  Sophisticated and elegant and E-A-S-Y.  This one is a winner!  I made this with beets, turnips and  carrots because I had all of those in our CSA box this week.  I’ll spring for parsnips when I make it for the entire clan later on Christmas day.  This is a keeper and I am going to put it into heavy rotation all winter long at our house.  The boys loved it and begged for seconds.  William later said it was “just like eating candy, Mama.”  Um, OK, whatever makes them clamor for more vegetables works for me.

I’m dying to know if you’re trying anything new this year.  Are you relying on your tried-and-true standbys or are you channeling your best Martha Stewart?  Or are you (lucky girl) invited to someone else’s house for the big Christmas meal?  Whatever you choose, may your Christmas cooking go according to plan, may you enjoy those gingerbread cookies, and may someone else do your dishes!

Travel safe,

Corey

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Food Allergies Part 2

I’ve been doing some more reading about allergies.  Immediately after I published my previous blog entry, a girlfriend called about a mutual friend whose 14 year old son Brent had spent the night in the ER for anaphylactic shock. Brent has a severe peanut allergy.  Although his school is a “nut-free zone” it appears that Brent was exposed to peanuts sometime in the first 10 minutes of lunchtime.  I should also note that Brent is a savvy kid who knows how to avoid peanuts and peanut by-products.  Fortunately, Brent carries an EpiPen and is well-versed in how to use it.  Still, he wound up hospitalized overnight and the experience terrified his mother.
Brent’s horrible scare made me want to read up a bit on food allergies.  I wondered how prevalent these types of allergies are and I wanted to identify allergens besides peanuts.  During my research, I stumbled across a landmark study which was completed only a few months ago.  Billed as the “largest study to ever track childhood food allergies in the U.S.,” the study came to several alarming conclusions.
First, the study showed that 8% of children under age 18 are allergic to at least one food.  This percentage doubles what was previously believed to be the number of children with food allergies ( 4%).  Even with my very poor math skills, I can figure out that this percentage equals at least 2 kids per average-sized public school classroom.  That’s pretty scary!
I also learned that, as expected, peanuts are the main culprit.  I was not surprised to see milk and shellfish allergies in the #2 and #3 slots, but I was surprised to see strawberries make the list of top food allergens.  Who knew?
The scariest thing I read was that while food allergies peak in the preschool years (between ages 3-5), teenage boys are the most likely to experience severe/life-threatening reactions to food allergies.  As you may or may not remember, I’m the mother of two boys. If you want to read more about the study I referenced, and about food allergies in general, check out http://children.webmd.com/news/20110620/food-allergies-in-kids-more-common-th…
More in a few days,
Corey

Allergies

Allergies are everywhere these days.  Both boys are in peanut-free classrooms this year, but I was surprised to recently receive a note from Ryan’s classroom prohibiting baked goods on birthdays and other special occasions.  Apparently, there are five kids with gluten allergies and one child with an “unspecified allergy” (I have no idea what this might be, but that’s what the note home said.  Strange).
Like many children of the 1970’s, I like to remember things being just plain easier when I was a kid.  Allergies were not omnipresent like they are now.  Although my little sister Lisa was allergic to all sorts of pollen, dust, and dander, I don’t remember anyone in my immediate or extended circle with any food allergies.  I know for a fact that peanuts were in heavy rotation on the Sunday School snack schedule, and other than my sister getting a weekly allergy shot (how I hated being dragged along to those visits!), it just wasn’t on my radar.
I mentioned the no-cupcake directive in passing to my girlfriends the other night and we were off to the allergy races.  Several have children with environmental or food sensitivities or allergies, and everyone in the group (including yours truly) knows one or more kids with food allergies of the scary, life-threatening kind.  We pondered whether there really are more kids with allergies these days or whether we just know more about them, I decided to take a look.
I was surprised to learn that 50 million (not a typo) Americans have some sort of allergy and that “allergic disorders” are the #1 chronic health problem among children.  I also learned for the first time that untreated allergies can lead to more serious problems such as speech delay!  (I know that sounds like the worst kind of ignorance, but we have been very lucky inasmuch as the boys don’t have allergies).
My sister Lisa has settled in Austin which she claims is the Allergy Capital of the World.  Not the Live Music Capital of the World, but Allergies.  Poor Lisa goes through weeks of abject misery every year when the dreaded Cedar Fever runs rampant, and, in turn, my precious niece and nephew (18-month-old twins) are already under the care of an allergist.  This makes total sense, as I also read that children of allergic parents are more likely to suffer from allergies.
To read more, check out http://www.acaai.org/allergist/allergies/children-allergies/Pages/default.aspx
I’m interested to know if allergies are an issue in your world.  Do you or your children suffer from allergies?  If yes, when were you or your kids diagnosed?  What do you do for treatment?  Are there particular environmental allergens in your neck of the woods?
More in a few days,
Corey