Vacationing with Food Allergies


So the start of this summer has been super busy and I have been away from Toothless Wahine for several weeks. Since summer is the season of vacations, I thought I would give some thoughts on eating while on vacation for those with food allergies. When you are at home, it is always easier to control what you eat and to be sure foods are allergy friendly. When traveling, this always becomes much more of an issue. I have gotten very good at asking questions everywhere I eat but there are places that make it much easier than others. My favorite vacation place where I know my allergies will be accommodated may surprise you.

I would never have thought that a cruise ship would be super accommodating to food allergies. We have had the fortune to take a cruise several years in a row and have found several things that make these moving vacations amazing. The unpacking once aspect is awesome. It is also fun to see a different port of call, or even a different country every morning when you wake up. And for me, the constant supply of custom-made allergy friendly meals is amazing. As some of you may have noticed, I have a thing for Disney (just look at all of my blog photos). So of course the cruise line that I speak of is the only cruise line that does fireworks at sea, has a ships horn that plays When You Wish Upon a Star, and of course that has Mickey Mouse on the ship funnels. Disney Cruise Line not only offers amazing cruises with the famous Disney magic but great ports of call, and extreme attention to details (especially to food allergies).

With my food allergies we have always been very leery of traveling out of country, especially to someplace where there is any language barrier. Trying to order meals with a language barrier is a nightmare to me. A great way to do this has turned out to be on a cruise ship. We have explored part of Europe, the Caribbean, Alaska, and part of the west coast on Disney Cruise Line (DCL) ships. The wonderful thing here is, I am free to go explore the ports of call during the day, and then I can come back to the ship for meals that I know are safe. That eliminates my fears of dealing with food allergies in foreign countries.

The most amazing part of DCL is how they handle dining on the ships. Each of the four DCL ships (the Magic, the Wonder, the Dream and the Fantasy) have three restaurants on-board. As a guest your family will rotate through each of the restaurants so you get to experience the different menus, themes and entertainments. The best part is that your wait staff rotates with you to every restaurant. Which means you get to know your staff and they get to know your likes and dislikes. For those with food allergies, you only have to explain your concerns and restrictions once. Then you have the same people helping you for the duration of your cruise. A food allergy sufferers dream!! Your head server, server and assistant server will all help with your food allergies all cruise long. We have also had the amazing ability to request the same head server for several cruises in a row, so the service has been AMAZING!! I have the ability to get custom made meals every night. Our servers help me look through the next days menu and pre-order meals that work not only for my allergies but also for my lack of chewing ability. They have helped to come up with customs desserts every night so there is always something I can eat. DCL is very careful with food allergies, as they have a separate kitchen area for allergies. They also stock certain allergy friendly products. DCL can easily accommodate dairy, gluten, nut (both tree and peanut), vegetarian, vegan and probably many other allergies. I have figured out that DCL always has rice milk and rice dream on board. You just have to know to ask and find somebody who knows where they are stored.

DCL has nightly drink specials (usually one alcoholic and one kid friendly drink per day). By asking our favorite head server, I have been able to get many of these drinks made with rice dream instead of ice cream. Any cast member is always willing to check on ingredients in dishes at any of the breakfast or lunch buffets. There is also usually one restaurant open for breakfast every day, and the servers there are always able to get custom plates made. I have also been able to get packed lunches to take with me to port days by arranging it the night before with our head server. Your server also has the ability to get custom meals ordered for lunch on Castaway Cay if your cruise includes a day there. (Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island in the Bahamas that all Caribbean cruises will spend one day visiting.) Cruises are one of the few places that I get taken better care of, and I eat better than my family without food allergies. And I love it and cannot recommend DCL cruises highly enough if you have food allergies!!

(And I know it may sound like I am a spokesperson for Disney Cruise Line but I am not. We have traveled and visited Disney parks for years. They have always been willing to work with me on my food allergies. In my opinion DCL goes above and beyond to help with food allergies and with all of my allergies and my current inability to chew, I cannot express how much I enjoy being catered to. I have even had our head waiter helping to cut my steaks since I have to cut them to tiny pieces so I can just swallow and not have to do any chewing. I cannot say enough how wonderful Disney Cruise Line has been for me, which is also why we are vacationing on a ship with Mickey Funnels yearly!)


Toothless Cooking Tools


Today I thought instead of looking at a recipe, I figured I would share all the wonders of my two favorite kitchen gadgets. I am still learning how to cook for me (the toothless one) and my husband, the carnivorous and toothy-one. I have found a couple of wonderful kitchen tools that help me to make meals that I can eat (without having to put my whole plate in the blender) and that keep my husband happy. He will eat anything I make, but I would feel bad if every single thing I made was mush, plus I couldn’t stand that either.

My first gadget that is a must have for any household with somebody on a soft (toothless or no chew) diet is simply called a Mix n Chop. The one we have is a pampered chef version, but these gizmos can be found at cooking stores and online. I have seen giant versions of this tool used on some of my favorite cooking shows too. Did you ever wonder how to get ground beef finely smushed for entrees like tacos or spaghetti? Any Mexican restaurant we eat at always seems to have such fine ground beef. I had tried putting it in my little chopper after I had browned it, and the beef just gets this nasty texture that is not appetizing. This little black gadget is the answer. As you can see from the above picture, this little black tool has curved paddle type blades on the bottom. I simply use it to smash up the ground meat in the pot while I am browning it. This allows me to get all the ground meat into smaller than pea size pieces (it also allows me some anger management time ☺). This helps me a ton because then I never get that random grape or almond sized chunk inside my burrito that I have to try to gum to death. This tool is also dishwasher safe, which makes me even happier. I use my smasher friend on ground meats in Mexican food, hamburgers, meatballs, soups and Italian meat sauces. This little tool really has been a game changer for me!

My second essential kitchen gadget is my immersion blender, also known as a stick blender. These little guys are available all over. They can be found locally at places like Target and Kohl’s as well as at high end cooking stores and of course online. There is quite a bit of variation in these tools as far as quality of construction and attachments. This also means there is a lot of variation in price. I have had three of these guys, in the period of about a year. My first one had a plastic base and was very inexpensive. That was not a great investment as the plastic cracked after just a few uses, which allowed soup to get inside the housing and ickyness followed. Version two had several different attachments on the bottom with different blades. The problem with this guy was the place where those attachments clipped on, also did not seal, so there was ick pretty quick on that blender. My current favorite is the Breville (pictured above) and I love it. This one cost a lot more but it is so worth it. It had a plastic bottom lining to protect the coating on my non-stick pots. The whole lower half of this blender is stainless steel and it is all sealed. So no more ick getting into the blender! This version also has different speeds, so I have the ability to very gently blend dessert items, or I can throw down the hammer on pots of stew or pasta sauces. Quick note, immersion blenders do not seem to have the same effect on potatoes as a food processor, so fear not if you are blending a dish with tomatoes.

I could not cook without my immersion blender. It seriously has changed the way that I cook because I can use it in almost any container. I use this tool to blend my veggie soups right in the pot as well as I can slightly blend meat sauces to make them a little more smooth (great for spaghetti sauces with big chunky tomatoes). It is perfect because I control how blended the dish become; I can blend until it is totally smooth, or I can leave some texture and small chunks behind. This tool is also a lifesaver for me on nights when my mouth is just really sore and my gums hurt too much to keep trying to gum that beef stew or pot roast or other dish. I can simply use my immersion blender right in my bowl of stew or on my pot roast, carrots and potatoes and smush it just enough that I can simply swallow the food, but it still has texture and taste and it does not look like baby food. The only drawback is that the blender part is not dishwasher safe, but I will happily hand wash this guy, for all of the help that is has given me!!