Wardee: I'm so glad Sonya is sharing this today, not only because it's jam-packed with an inspiring can-do attitude and great ideas, but also because it is perfect timing to announce our brand-new 8th class — the Allergy-Free Cooking eCourse. This class is included with all memberships. If you're not already a member, I'd love for you to join us as we explore the ins and outs of simple, nourishing and delicious allergy-free cooking!
Trust me. Feeding a Boy Scout for a day at home is a big enough challenge, especially if said Scout has the appetite of the typical American teenager. At our house, we've officially entered the phase of adolescence where we routinely hear, “What's for dinner?” — during breakfast.
Add in the extra challenges of preparing traditional foods and working around food allergies, and the task of providing a balanced and nourishing diet for a week-long adventure away from home becomes even more daunting. Fortunately, I am usually ready to rise to the occasion. 🙂
The occasion this past month just happened to be Scout camp. My husband, Shawn, and our two oldest boys — Kellen and Kerrick — decided to join other members of their troop at Camp Geronimo in the mountains of northern Arizona for a week of tent camping, hiking, swimming, rifle shooting and merit-badge earning.
Meals were included in the camp fee, but I knew that really didn't apply to Kellen, who has had lifelong allergies to dairy, eggs, wheat/gluten and some nuts. I also knew that I couldn't count on the camp staff to be knowledgeable about food allergies — or willing to accommodate them.
Kellen had a not-so-stellar experience at a different camp last year, despite our repeated interactions in advance with the head chef, who assured us that plenty of safe foods would be served. Many close calls and disappointing meals later, Kellen returned home after a week hungry and understandably unhappy with his first mess-hall experience.
We were determined not to repeat it.
Several weeks before camp this summer, we contacted the staff to ensure that Kellen would be permitted to bring all of his own food, and that he would have a way to keep it cold all week and also heat some items when needed. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that he could keep his food (labeled with his name and troop number) in a huge walk-in refrigerator, and that he would also have access to two toaster ovens in the camp kitchen. Perfect!
I asked Kellen to write up a menu of meals he might like to take. We figured that he would need to plan three meals a day for eight days — plus snacks to tide him over.
Here's what he came up with:
Breakfasts: sourdough pancakes and waffles with butter and syrup, bacon and homemade turkey sausage patties.
Lunch: turkey sandwiches on sourdough English muffins; beef tacos with corn tortillas, guacamole and refried beans; chips and fruit.
Dinners: turkey burgers on sourdough English muffins, beef hot dogs.
Not bad for starters.
I embellished a bit — in particular for one special dinner on his 13th birthday: spaghetti and meatballs, plus a slice of chocolate birthday cake left over from our early family celebration.
And I added a few other surprises, too, including banana-chocolate chip muffins, strawberry applesauce, strawberry-apple fruit leather and a special s'mores kit — complete with allergen-free marshmallows and chocolate bars, and homemade grain-free graham crackers.
We spent the week before camp preparing and cooking all of it, freezing some of it, and packaging everything in meal-size portions in labeled plastic containers and zipper bags, as well as a few glass jars.
Here's exactly what we packed, by the numbers:
- 24 strips of bacon
- 22 homemade grain-free graham crackers
- 20 banana-chocolate chip muffins
- 12 sourdough pancakes
- 9 sourdough English muffins
- 8 gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free waffles
- 7 rolled strips of strawberry-apple fruit leather
- 6 corn tortillas
- 6 Enjoy Life allergen-free chocolate bars
- 4 turkey sausage patties
- 4 turkey burgers
- 4 grass-fed beef hot dogs
- 3 cups soaked, cooked and refried pinto beans
- 3 1-cup servings of strawberry applesauce
- 2 cups cooked gluten-free spaghetti noodles with 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce and 4 meatballs
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1 cup seasoned and browned grass-fed beef taco meat
- 1 package large Dandie's allergen-free marshmallows
- 1 bag organic barbecue potato chips
- 1 bag organic corn chips
- 1/2 cup guacamole
I am happy to say: Kellen did not return home hungry this year!
In fact, he actually brought back some of the food I'd sent. Turns out, the staff at this camp this year actually DID understand food allergies and went out of their way to provide something that Kellen could safely eat — even if it wasn't traditionally prepared — at almost every meal.
And on his birthday, the head chef surprised him with a special loaf of gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free apple-banana bread; a thoughtful gesture and a much-appreciated gift. After this year's successful trial run, Kellen is ready for a repeat next year!
As for MY next challenge, it looks like it will probably be: How to fuel a junior-high athlete for an entire basketball season.
Suggestions, anyone? How do you handle a week away for a loved one with food allergies or sensitivities?
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