Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Experience at a Food Allergy Camp! AND a recipe!

      On November 15, my three best friends and I loaded up my car and headed to a food allergy camp in Scottsville, KY. It had been years since any of us had been to camp and we were looking forward to staying up late, girl chats, and sharing bunk rooms!  Little did we know, we would learn more from that weekend than we had ever imagined.
Almost immediately upon arrival, we were notified the camp had eliminated the top 8 food allergens as well as the top 3 airborne allergens from the entire campus! (This included corn syrup which is in practically EVERYTHING ... including my diet soda! A whole weekend without diet soda. EEK!)  It also meant no creamer for the coffee, no bread or bread products, no ketchup, and numerous everyday staples. Regardless, we were happy to make it on-time (thanks to Kayla ;] ) and headed to the dorm to unpack for the weekend ahead. We were ready to have fun!
       Shortly after orientation, campers started to arrive and we were soon matched with our weekend "families". The camp did a fabulous job setting up coordinators with campers because my little girl was super awesome.  She was incredibly smart and very polite.  I knew we were going to have a blast together!  After some ice breaker games, everyone headed to the dining hall for dinner....and I was about to have an eye opening experience.
        My 9 year old camper was ecstatic as the buffet tables were being put in place.  I assumed she was hungry (she had a 6 hour drive to get to camp) and was just ready to eat.  It was then that her mom said that this camp and Disney World, which has ServSafe Chefs that specialize in food allergens, were the only places she was able to go through a buffet line/order a meal due to her allergies.  She was allergic to several foods and was unable to go to fast food restaurants or out to eat due to cross contamination and airborne reasons.
         I had just hit a brick wall.  I had NO idea that someone could have food allergies to the extent of this young girl, and she wasn't even the worse!  I was immediately thrown back to the Burger King french fries and McDonald's happy meal's I grew up with. I remembered going to birthday parties and eating cake and ice cream, ordering pizza and watching movies on the couch.  Nearly all celebrations as a child, (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, etc.) all centered around food and this girl was unable to experience that.  99.9% of the meals she consumed her mom prepared at home.  Her mom was telling me how challenging it was to prepare Thanksgiving due to the amount of different utensils and specialized foods she had to buy.  Her mom even had to watch for specific lotions because they often contained cocoa or tree nuts!  I stood there in disbelief as I heard their story.  And for the first time, I realized how challenging life can be for someone with food allergies.  And I suddenly became aware of all I take for granted daily.
        My friends and I learned a lot that weekend and we came home inspired and even more determined to become Registered Dietitians.  The weekend was certainly a period of personal growth and learning.  And we will be forever thankful for the opportunity. So, in honor of that weekend, I decided to post a recipe that is milk and egg free!

Servings: 12
Kcals per serving: 180
Fat per serving: 5.5 g
Sodium per serving: 110 mg

1.5 cups flour   (if you have a gluten allergy, use 1.75 cups GF flour mix with 1 tsp xanthan gum)
3 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
.5 tsp salt
1 tbsp vinegar
5 tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.  Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl and stir to combine. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until you get a smooth batter. Do not overbeat. Pour in a greased and floured pan or cupcake pan.  Bake in oven (35 minutes for cake and 20 minutes for cupcakes)

This was a common recipe used during the depression era when eggs and milk were rationed.  Not Betty Crocker?  No worries!   This is SUPER simple and nearly impossible mess up!

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