Hi, my name is Jennifer and I’m very excited to be co-author of The Two Kitchens blog. I’ve wanted to do something like this for awhile and I’m thrilled to finally be here along side my friend and co-author, Sandhya. Together we created this website to share our favourite plant based recipes and give you an inclusive peek into our two kitchens.
I am a Mom of two young boys and I’m passionate about creating healthy nutrient dense recipes for my family. I don’t title myself as a vegetarian or a vegan, although all my recipes will be dairy free, egg free, meat free, and most are gluten free too! I describe our family’s nutrition as plant based whole foods because as a vegetarian or vegan you could still be consuming very unhealthy processed products. I prefer to focus on a clean eating style when possible, which means avoiding processed products and opting for real whole food. By sharing my family’s favourite recipes, I hope to inspire others to try more plant based meals in their kitchens. For me it’s been quite the journey so far and I know it’s only just the beginning!
My family started on a plant based whole food journey after our youngest son, Lucas, was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder. At one month old, his body starting developing permanant red spots that eventually hived and blistered. These spots continued to spread all over his body. We were told by several Doctors it was just an allergy to something in his environment. We spent months trying to figure out the cause. We stopped using all baby bath products and lotions. We changed our laundry detergent and cleaning products to chemical free ones. We tried all the various formulas out there (lactose free, dairy free, soy, hypoallergenic, etc.). Luc’s symptoms kept getting worse causing severe reflux, horrible diarrhoea, and painful looking blisters.
Desperate for answers, I ended up taking him to the emergency at Children’s Hospital when he was five months old. After endless hours in the waiting room, while Luc screamed non stop and his body broke out in hives, the ER doctors told me they had no idea what was wrong. I remember feeling so helpless. If Doctors didn’t have the answers, how could I help my son. It was a very scary time and I’ll never forget it. Fortunately they referred us to the Dermatologist at Children’s Hospital. The Dermatologist rubbed one of the spots and it immediately hived, which is called a Darier’s sign. We were then told he has a disease called Mastocytosis, more specifically Urticaria Pigmentosa. The Doctor handed us a piece of paper with a few things to avoid and sent us on our way. We were actually so relieved to finally have an answer and felt much more at ease on the way home. The relief was short lived though, as later that night we googled it and learned the seriousness of this disease.
Mastocytosis. This big fancy word actually means his body produces too many mast cells. To gain more insight on how to help our son, we spent countless hours researching online. We also reached out worldwide to other parents of children with Mastocytosis, and adults living with this diagnosis. We have since learned that this disease is a rare blood disorder that has no known cure or known cause, yet. Due to the excessive amounts of mast cells, it causes an overload of histamine and a hundred other chemicals that get released into his body when the cells are triggered. These cells can be triggered by antibiotics, anesthetics, temperature changes, heat, cold, friction, emotional stress, bacterial and viral infections, cleaning products, perfumes and other chemical odours, insect bites, bee stings, alcohol, preservatives, additives, artificial colours and flavours, as well as an endless list of foods. We take several precautions trying to avoid his mast cells from being triggered as they cause mild to severe reactions within his body. These reactions include itchiness, red irritated spots, hives, blisters, fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headaches, gastrointestinal pain, bone pain, cognitive difficulties, anaphylaxis, and more severely anaphylactic shock.
We now carry an Epi-pen at all times and Luc takes daily medication to help ease the symptoms. His diet has also been very restrictive for the past two years to help minimize these reactions. Basically we avoid giving him dairy, gluten, meat, fish, soy, eggs, preservatives, high histamine foods, artificial flavouring and dyes. His food has been mostly all organic and prepared fresh at home. It definitely has been a challenging two years with all these restrictions and plenty of time spent in my kitchen getting creative!
Unfortunately within the past year food has become a major issue with Luc. He’s had several periods of refusing all food and drinking only a special formula. He’s also accepted certain food a few times then completely refuses to eat it again, no matter how we prepare it. He seems to have a genuine fear of most food and refuses to try new foods. We assume it’s from how food makes him feel but the challenge is he’s still so young and can’t explain properly how he feels. We are currently seeking help from a complex feeding program through the hospital that deals with nutritional issues with underlying medical conditions. I am hopeful we can solve his food sensory issues before it gets to the point of requiring a feeding tube. Thankfully even though his calorie intake for the day is extremely low, he’s not struggling to put weight on or grow. This weight gain is from the side effects of his medication and the high nutritional content of the food he does consume, compared to the average child his age.
The silver lining of my son’s diagnosis is it has forever changed the types of food our family consumes. It has made me drastically aware of the additives in prepackaged foods and the detrimental effects it can have on our health. I have become an ingredient reading detective while shopping! Some major changes our family made after my son’s diagnosis was cutting meat from our diet in February 2013. It was actually suggested by my husband, Nick, which was surprising since he’s a weight lifter. He used to consume plenty of meat and dairy products daily for body building protein. I can say proudly after removing these items from his diet, it hasn’t affected his weightlifting abilities or changed his muscle tone. A few months after cutting meat, we made the decision to remove dairy products. This was hard at first since we loved our cheese! First we switched skim milk to almond milk. Then we slowly reduced the cheese and eventually just stopped. Surprisingly I haven’t missed it and have lost the taste for it. We do still consume eggs but minimally. For Luc’s sake I’ve stopped baking with eggs as well, that’s why you won’t see any eggs in my recipes. My oldest son, Mattias, has always ate the creations from our kitchen. His taste for food is
definitely better than when I was as a kid. He also has a higher tolerance for spicier foods than I did at his age. He still eats meat on occasion when outside of our home, as we allow him to decide for himself if he wants to or not. We are very open and honest with him about healthy food choices and how food affects your health and body. I believe it’s important to know the connection and from where your food actually comes from. We still enjoy dining out on occasion and we do so without feeling guilty. It doesn’t mean we go grab a fast food burger though! We still try to eat a plant based meal, but from a restaurant it obviously won’t be unprocessed foods. The biggest benefit to eating this way is you feel great, meals digest properly, and weight isn’t an issue. There’s no need to count calories when consuming a plant based whole food diet!
Our plant based journey has been a long process of slow changes and lots of tweaking to get to where we are today. I strongly believe plant based whole food nutrition shouldn’t be an all or nothing thing, like so many fad diets out there. When people do extreme dieting with harsh restrictions, they eventually revert back to their old habits. I advocate that small healthy changes overtime creates the habits that form and these changes can then become long lasting. For me this blog will be a reflection of my family’s journey with plant based whole foods, as well as the journey of creating various allergy free recipes and getting Luc through his food sensory issues.
From our Two Kitchens to Yours, I hope you enjoy reading our blog and get inspired to try more delicious plant based foods.
Co-Author of The Two Kitchens