Kaspar happily piled a bowl-full of veggies onto the pizza... and then ate them ALL.
While I always dreamed Kaspar would one day eat chocolate chip cookies (Alt-Mama style, of course, i.e. super healthy and super delicious), Aaron's big food goal for our very-food-allergic little man has been a slice of pizza. I think it's a guy thing. It seemed appropriate enough, though; Kas hails from Brooklyn, after all. Guy thing and Brooklyn roots aside, however, Pizza seemed a long way off, for a while, given that Kaspar was severely allergic to dairy, tomatoes, and wheat. But as his allergies have slowly improved -- thanks to a certain alchemy of TCM, Ayurveda and time -- the pizza thing seemed increasingly possible, especially over this past year. 

Kaspar can now eat tomatoes and cheese, but wheat is still out of the picture, as far as we know. He was still highly allergic to it last time we tested; this was confirmed last Thanksgiving, too, when a wayward stuffing crumb gave him a swollen face, and gave me a good scare. We avoid wheat and gluten along with all nuts, and Kaspar's various other off-limits foods, and we're planning to run tests again this February, when he turns three, to find out if things have continued to change for him. If wheat were suddenly okay (it happens), that would obviously make daily life a lot easier for our family. In the meantime, we're all about rocking our "something" in style. And I found a way to feed my kiddo chocolate chip cookies, thanks (heartfelt) to Namaste Foods' Perfect Flour Blend. Thanks to the brand's pizza crust mix, which is free of wheat, gluten, and anything else that might aggravate Kaspar's system, Aaron has found a way to feed him pizza. Boom! There's no stoppin' us now.
Sampling? Encouraged.
We don't make a big deal about Kaspar's dinners usually being different from ours, because that's just the way things are for him. When we first found out about his allergies, I thought I'd try to prepare food we could all eat, all the time, so he'd feel included. But aside from quickly realizing this would be impossible, it also struck me that it might be unwise. His sense of normalcy is created in our home; in the interest of his developing an ability to self-advocate, and self-regulate for his own safety, I've chosen instead to prepare separate meals. We all eat together, and mealtime is a pleasurable experience in our home, but Aaron and I often eat things Kaspar can't. Like, every day. As Kaspar's fruit and vegetable options have expanded, I'm able to prepare sides we can all share, and this has been a good opportunity to talk about foods, where they come from, what they taste like (sweet, sour, etc.), and whether we each respectively enjoy those tastes. Allergies are sometimes part of the conversation (Kas might ask what we're eating and if it's okay for him -- which is exactly the mechanism I intended to put in place, so he wouldn't make dangerous assumptions around that question), but mostly we all just chow down on, and enjoy, our respective dinners and mutual company. When Kaspar's at school, or when we're traveling or visiting friends, he knows that he can't just eat what everyone else is eating... but he also knows I'm on top of it, thinking two steps ahead, and will reliably produce something he can eat, and will enjoy.

That being said, the opportunity to cook an entire meal together, and eat it together, is rare for us, and it was a gift we all savored during a recent family pizza night. We talked it up with Kaspar first, explaining all of the steps involved in making pizza: mixing and pre-bakign the dough, layering our toppings on the crust, baking it again, and then eating it -- all of us! He asked, "It's okay for me?" and we said "Yep! It sure is. This pizza is safe for you. We checked." 

Kaspar was, of course, as excited for the journey as he was for the destination. As with making juice -- or even pancakes -- together, I noticed his (methodical) involvement led directly to his enthusiastic consumption of the food we'd prepared. (FWIW, I've noticed this trick works well with adults, too...) I'd filled a bowl with vegetables for him to put on top of the crust, including chopped tomatoes, kale and broccoli, and he munched on them intermittently (raw!) as he placed them on the pizza, and then of course devoured his slices, veggies and all, once the finished product came out of the oven. Score! 
SO good. Even for regular wheat-eaters.
Aaron and I devoured our slices, too; the flavorful crust, which contained Italian herbs, was the perfect chewy (but not gluey -- a common gluten-free fail) consistency. Topped with all of those vegetables and melted raw cow's milk mozarella and cheddar cheeses, we all felt like we were eating something decadent. We'd prepared the entire bag of crust mix, but even with a cookie-sheet sized pizza, Aaron and I had to deliberately hold ourselves back from eating the remaining few slices after dinner. (Or for breakfast the next morning.) We sent them to school with Kaspar, in his lunch box, instead. When I picked him up, his teacher said he'd "had his own little pizza party at lunch", (boy was psyched!) and that he'd told her all about making the meal with us the night before, getting right down to the details. *Broccoli, baby.*
I love Namaste Foods. I really do. Not only do they make foods that taste delicious (seriously, friends LOVE our chocolate chip cookies), but they really go the distance on the allergen-free front. Their products are all gluten-free, and, unlike most other brands that produce gluten-free products, they're also free of the top eight allergens, produced in a 100% dedicated allergen-free facility, and they produce mixes that are made of the kind of stuff I actually want to feed my kid. I usually advise parents with food-allergic or celiac kids to avoid the overpriced, highly-processed products marketed to those folks, and instead make their own food at home, as we do... It's simpler, less expensive, and WAY healthier. No contest. But Namaste Foods? They're different. They're all about the whole grain, whole foods love. And, when I inquired with them about whether they have any knowledge of where the rice in their rice flours is sourced from, due to recent, alarming reports on high arsenic levels in rice products, they got right back to me; not only do they know where their rice comes from, they test ALL of the rice flours used in their products to ensure they contain no arsenic at all. That's what I call going the extra mile; the arsenic thing was just one more threat in a world of threats for people with food allergies (who tend to eat a lot of rice, as other grain options can be limited... they certainly are for Kaspar). Namaste Foods caters to this population, and I appreciate that they pay attention to what matters, on the large and small scale, so food-allergic people can worry less, and eat more. Because, of course, we love our food-allergic family and friends, do we not? It's nice to know when a brand has their backs. And it's extra nice when that brand makes food we can all share together, and enjoy, in good health. (FWIW, it's also extra-extra nice, as a mom of a food-allergic kid, to have a few 'convenience' foods in my back pocket -- or, you know, my pantry -- so that I don't have to cook two meals, from scratch, every time our family eats... Namaste Foods gives me a free pass on those nights I feel like slacking.)

So guess what. It's giveaway time. Namaste Foods has generously offered to send one of you a reusable tote bag containing 3 Namaste Foods products, a copy of their Simple Pleasures cookbook, a copy of Living Without magazine, and assorted recipe cards. Here, have a look:
Want to win? Simply leave a comment below (don't forget to include your email address -- it won't be displayed online, and I won't sell or give it to anyone else) and tell me one way you and your family enjoy mealtime together. And feel free to participate even if no one in your family is food-allergic. Trust me-- these products really are yummy and wholesome for everyone!  I'll randomly choose a winner next Wednesday, December 12, so let's get this party started. Good luck!
12/05/2012 21:40

Thanks for hosting the giveaway! Have been meaning to check out Namaste rice ever since you wrote about them.

Our family life probably revolves too much around food, but if I had to let my 6-year-old choose, he would probably remember our tradition of doing chocolate fondue at Valentine's Day. Other than that, we also still cook (partially) a separate meal for him. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but he eats a much healthier, well-rounded meal that way. It's also foods he's used to (he's not a sauce guy) and at this point, it's worth the extra time for me.

12/06/2012 00:42

Awesome! Pizza making is definitely fun for the whole family. Now I'm craving pizza! :)

Sarah Horaczek
12/06/2012 14:59

I would say we actually enjoy the pre-mealtime shopping together most and I am glad my kids can meet the farmers and know where their food is coming from!

Diana G
12/07/2012 14:03

we enjoy mealtime together by trying to eat dinner together every night. I try to make things everyone likes even with our dietary limitations. Thanks.

Jasmine Waite
12/07/2012 14:15

My family enjoys mealtime together by creating meals that everyone can eat- even the gluten-free and allergic crowd!

12/07/2012 14:53

We all eat separate meals in our house, as each one of us has different food restrictions. (I'm the only one that's gluten-free!) But we don't have to eat the same food to share mealtimes.

12/07/2012 15:43

I am gluten intolerant as well as a few other food allergies. My wonderful fiancée has adapted to my diet in many ways... We make GF pizza together and he just loves it! He absolutely loves Namaste Spice Cake with cream cheese frosting!

Cindy Kesbey
12/07/2012 15:49

I would love to have a chance of winning this. It seems like every time i try to do this in a contest i never win. Would like to be able to try your products. Gluten free is new to me so i'm still learning. Thank you.

Ian Kesbey
12/08/2012 16:46

I'm a type 2 diabetic and have gluten allergy. Thought this would be a good way to try your products. Thank you for a chance to be able to do it.

12/10/2012 05:13

I look forward to family pizza nights when Chauncey get's a little older, but for now we just let him stand on a stepping stool with a few toys or snacks while we prepare our meals. He loves to feel like he's part of the process and it's a great way to spend time together as a family being that both my husband and I work.

12/10/2012 10:47

This looks so great! I've really been trying to find more gluten free recipes/products.

12/12/2012 18:33

Omigosh, it's Wednesday the 12th already! And, as promised, we have a randomly chosen winner. Congrats, Chrissy! I'll email you directly to get your deets so you can get your gluten-free goods. :-)

Thanks everyone for your comments! It's great to read snippets of food and family love. Just gives me the warm fuzzies. Stay tuned for more giveaways soon. You just might win somethin' special.

Much love! Taylor Alt-Mama

12/12/2012 23:42

Gosh, saw this post too late! It's 13th Dec :( I came across your site, from your post on breastfeeding at Parenting. Am mom to an eczema child, drop by my blog when free!


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