Goodbye, Cheese

I’m not someone who backs down from a challenge. Truth is, sometimes I even go after it, smack it in the face and go “whatcha gonna do??” So when my husband came home from the doctor a few months ago and told me he had to avoid the most common food allergens for the next five to six months . . . well, I’ll be honest, first I thought about cheese.

I’m Southern, okay? There is no main dish that cannot be improved by the addition of cheese. I knew that would be the hardest thing for him to give up. And for me to cook without. I mean, when you remove dairy, eggs, gluten, shellfish, soy, and nuts, you’ve basically just got . . . meat.

But fine. Okay. I’m smart and resourceful. I’m an awesome wife who does my best to make life easier for both of us. (I’m also unbelievably humble, can you tell?) Once I stopped thinking about cheese, I began brainstorming foods, doing research to augment my list. Thank goodness for the internet. There’s basically no subject I can’t research for hours. I never get bored or tired of the monotony.

So I dug deep and compiled lists of meals. Main dishes weren’t so hard—steak and potatoes with green beans, chicken soup with white beans and veggies. But snacks? Breakfasts? We wandered the aisles of our fanciest local grocery store, checking ingredients to see what options we had.

“Hey this is gluten-free, no soy, no nuts, no milk . . . oh. Eggs. Dang it.” Repeat every possible variation of that and you’ll have a good idea of our experience.

And then I discovered the Enjoy Life brand. (Cue the heavenly, hallelujah music.) Surprisingly, their stuff also tastes good. I could eat their lentil chips alllll day. And they have an all-purpose flour blend that has basically saved me from spiraling into frustration and despair.

So now I keep my husband supplied with a steady supply of muffins or banana bread for breakfast. (Told you I’m an awesome wife.) And after reading the allergen guides for nearly every restaurant in a twenty-mile radius, I found a few places we can eat at. I have a list of favorite websites where I can find recipes. We’re making it work. Because that’s what you do when life throws a curveball: you swerve. And I can swerve with the best of them.

The truth is, having to avoid specific ingredients is pretty minor when you consider the struggles of so many other people. But I have tons of respect for people dealing with severe allergies. It’s not a simple thing to be on guard with every bite, constantly assessing potential meals for something that could make you sick. And multiply that stress by a million if you’re a parent of someone with allergies.

The great thing is, there are so many resources available, ones that have made my life so much easier. In case it’s helpful to anyone else, I’m sharing my favorite allergy-friendly resources:

Sarah Bakes Gluten Free This may be one of the best recipe sites out there. The muffins! The breads! And I make them using the Enjoy Life all-purpose flour blend that I think is pretty similar to the blend she uses.

Cinnamon Roll Muffins by Vegetarian Mamma A simple and tasty recipe!

The Neat Egg Substitute It’s a bit pricy, but worth it. I used this for the first time a few days ago and while it’s a weird consistency at first, it definitely improved the structure of the muffins I made.

Enjoy Life Like I said, this stuff is awesome. Snack bars, flour mixes, lentil chips. You can probably find some of their products at your local grocery store. But if not, Amazon’s got you covered. I can personally vouch for the quality of their snickerdoodles. And those garlic parmesan lentil chips . . . it’s hard to believe they’re dairy-free.

If you’re no stranger to food allergies, feel free to share your favorite resources too!

It’s a fall of premieres

If you’ve been anywhere near a tv or the internet lately, you know there have been a ton of new shows premiering this fall. But how’s a person to figure out which ones to watch? Well, you could quit your job and watch one after another until you run out of money to pay your rent/mortgage and have no food to eat.

Or you could just let me make suggestions. Cause I’m helpful like that. For me, a few new shows stand out from the rest. Let me break down my top three for you. (All air times are in EDT. Cause, East Coast girl here.)

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World – charming, heartfelt dramedy (think Brothers and Sisters meets Eureka or Parenthood meets Good Witch)

Tuesdays at 10 pm on ABC; Hulu

Premise: guy who can’t get his life together ends up with the power to save the world. It’s a common enough premise but that’s because it’s a good one. Add the fact that the lead is Jason Ritter (who legit proved his acting capabilities to me in Parenthood) and I was willing to give it a shot.

What I love: I seriously underestimated this show. Fifteen minutes in and I was already telling my husband he needed to watch it. It surprised me with nuance and warmth. The humor is honest, the characters relatable. As others have pointed out, the mystical black woman as spirit guide can be a cliché, but the creators have promised they have given the character more depth and plot that will ensure they avoid cliché land, and Kimberly Hébert Gregory absolutely sparkles in the role. Add Joanna Garcia Swisher (who has that Sandra Bullock-esque quality of being likable in every role she tackles) and I’m so invested already.

The Brave – military drama with a strong, complex ensemble (think NCIS meets Chicago Fire or Quantico meets The Closer)

Mondays at 9 pm on NBC; Hulu

Premise: a Special Ops squad and a team of analysts work together to protect and defend American citizens. Unlike a lot of military action dramas, this one shows both sides of the spectrum, giving the analysts their own recognition. And each character has complexity and a backstory that unfolds throughout.

What I love: you mean besides the fact that there’s a female sniper? While there are certainly some cowboy moments, this show stands out from other cop or military shows in the way it focuses on tactics and intel. Both sides of the team have to be adaptable, making quick decisions to achieve the best outcomes, instead of just bursting in with guns blazing. The head of the ops team isn’t your usual over-the-top alpha male (thank goodness), but a perceptive leader who values his team, and the director of the analysts is an intelligent, decisive woman with her own tragedies to process. There’s a lot to explore, so I’m interested to see where this show goes.

The Good Doctor – emotionally complex medical drama (think House meets Switched at Birth or The Night Shift meets Monk)

Mondays at 10 pm on ABC; Hulu

Premise: as he begins a new job, a surgical resident’s autism and savant syndrome provide both advantages and disadvantages, helping him see the world in a unique way while also making it difficult for him to communicate and understand human behavior.

What I love: I was entirely unprepared for the way this show would casually reach in and rip my heart out. In my experience knowing people with autism, this show is one of the few to express it accurately (although, I have to point out, autism is a broad spectrum that varies widely in characteristics). This protagonist, played brilliantly by Freddie Highmore, is no emotionless, robotic character, but a young man who clearly feels deeply while having difficulty processing or expressing those emotions. The struggles of his past, revealed through flashbacks, provide context and show more of his humanity, while the present day storyline shows him adapting to life in the medical world. He’s underestimated, misunderstood, wholehearted, and brilliant, exactly the kind of character I want to root for.

There you have it, folks. Three solid options that range across genres and styles. What do you think? What new shows are you watching this fall?

 

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