chatting with ginger park and frances park about allergies, away! + two scrumptious chocolate recipes

Ginger, Justin, and Frances show off Justin’s Pizza (photo by Trish Moreis-Stiles)

Chocolate Chocolate, yum yum, happy happy!

Look who’s here! As promised, the fabulous Park Sisters are visiting today to tell us more about their new cookbook, Allergies, Away!: Creative Eats and Mouthwatering Treats for Kids Allergic to Nuts, Dairy, and Eggs (St. Martin’s, 2013).

If you remember my previous post, you know that Ginger’s son Justin was diagnosed with severe food allergies when he was just a year old. The new cookbook contains 70 of Justin’s favorite recipes developed specifically for kids like him by his beautiful and talented mom and aunt.

Some of you may know that food allergies are growing by epidemic proportions in this country. Six million kids (or 1 in 13) are affected, and this number has grown by a startling 50% since the late 90’s. Affected families are having to learn different coping strategies that can sometimes prove pretty daunting. What do you cook for your allergic child to keep him safe, make sure he’s adequately nourished, and actually enjoys the variety of foods on his plate? Since eating is also a social activity, how do you ensure he doesn’t miss out on the fun of birthday parties and other special occasions?

Adorable Justin at his third birthday party.

Justin has given all the recipes in this new book his highest *five star rating*. You don’t have to suffer from food allergies to enjoy them either. You’ll find many familiar comfort foods included, and I love the diverse mix of dishes, everything from Korean bulgogi and half moon dumplings to Mexican quesadillas and chili, to Italian pizza, lasagna and risotto to Greek tzatziki (thanks, Koomo!). Of course they’ve included chocolate. Did you have to ask?

Seoulful Half-moon Dumplings!

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guest post: shelley rotner and sheila m. kelly on yummy!

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How do you get kids involved in making healthy food choices that will set them on the right track for the rest of their lives?

Feasting on Yummy!: Good Food Makes Me Strong by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly (Holiday House, 2013), is a good place to start. 🙂

This gorgeous photo essay features an adorable, diverse group of kids reveling in the pleasures of growing, preparing and eating healthful foods. They’re shown in a variety of everyday settings (kitchen, playground, grocery store, garden) stirring oatmeal, pouring milk, devouring fruits, sandwiches, pizza, yogurt, and soup (!), picking fresh veggies, assembling tacos and green salads, making fruit shakes and freezer pops, even reading package labels in the supermarket. Just look at those happy, eager faces on the cover — who wouldn’t want to eat exactly what they’re eating?

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Of course since it’s actually parents and caregivers who buy and cook the food, Shelley and Sheila have also included helpful tips for them, all in accordance with the new USDA MyPlate Guidelines. Additional photos showing kids engaged in active play illustrates the importance of daily exercise along with a healthy diet, reinforcing the overall theme of “Good Food Makes Me Strong!”

I’m happy to welcome Shelley and Sheila, who are here today to tell us about how they created Yummy! You’ll be inspired to share this delectable book and eat some feel-good food with your favorite munchkin(s) very soon!

Note: Because of copyright restrictions, the photos used in this post are close facsimiles rather than actual photos from Yummy!.

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friday feast: caregiving through poetry

“I told myself, I don’t care how ugly and hard caregiving can be. It’s okay because I’m writing these poems. It’s the process of giving life to something versus the process of dying.” ~ Frances H. Kakugawa

Last week I read a poem that stopped me in my tracks.

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Auntie Ella sitting behind me at my birthday party.

It was written in the voice of an Alzheimer’s patient and reminded me of my Auntie Ella, who suffered from dementia. Some of you may remember my Thanksgiving post from a few years back, where I mentioned how grateful I was to have seen her in Hawai’i just two weeks before she died.

It was of course heartbreaking that someone I had been close to for so long didn’t recognize me at all. Instead of the always-up-to-something, forever baking, reading, and talking-a-mile-a-minute aunt I’d grown up with, I saw a faraway stranger wholly dependent on her son, the victim of a baffling disease that daily threatened her human dignity and robbed us of a beloved member of our family.

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chatting about the goodbye cancer garden with janna matthies and kristi valiant (+ a special giveaway!)

Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I invited children’s author Janna Matthies and illustrator Kristi Valiant to tell us about their critically acclaimed picture book, The Goodbye Cancer Garden (Albert Whitman, 2011).

Kristi and Janna

This sensitively written, uplifting story is based on Janna’s personal battle against breast cancer and is an invaluable resource for families facing similar struggles. Without downplaying the seriousness of this life-threatening illness, the book illustrates the importance of focusing on the positive, acknowledging sadness and worry, expressing gratitude and sticking together.

In January, when Janie learns her mom has cancer and probably won’t be better until “pumpkin time,” she suggests the family plant a vegetable garden:

Watching it grow, and eating healthy veggies, will remind us Mom’s getting better. Then before we know it . . . Hello, pumpkins, goodbye cancer!

They continue to nurture their garden of hope and healing as Mom has surgery and endures chemo, hair loss, radiation, aches and fatigue. Step-by-step, day by day, they move toward their goal with the kindness and support of friends, relatives, and of course, each other. Their harvest time celebration, marking the end of treatment with a bounty of homegrown veggies, couldn’t be sweeter.

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