Allergy-Free TV Dinners
Have you ever wished you could just pop a TV dinner into the microwave and let it heat up, only to take out a delicious meal that took you minutes to make rather than hours?! A few years ago I thought about this problem. Having food allergies, we soon learn that food takes a long time to make from scratch. But, believe it or not, it's possible to make meals fast and easy.
Everyone groans at the thought of leftovers. But TV dinners are more fun, using cute, special plates, and allowing for family members to pick their own favorite food combinations. They give a sense of normalcy to those who cannot eat "normal" foods. For children, a flat toy can be placed inside the meal (to be removed before heating) for a surprise, just like "real" kids' TV dinners!
Finding the perfect TV dinner dish can be a bit of a search, however. Check in department stores (such as ones where Tupperware-type items are sold, as well as plates). Find a dish that features all of the following:
* Segmented -- usually three segments are enough for a decent meal.
Now comes the next question...what goes into each segment? The simple answer is pre-cooked foods. Make sure all foods are pre-cooked, except for things such as canned veggies, which will cook in the microwave.
* Removable lid -- test it in the store. The easier to remove, the happier you'll be with it.
* It must say that it is microwave-safe.
* Dishwasher-safe is best.
* If you plan on using it for soups, deep dishes are better than shallow ones. (Note: TV dinners containing soups must be thawed out first, because soups take longer to heat up since they turn into ice.)
We've found that it works best to have a dessert, a vegetable, and a main dish, one in each segment of the dish. What microwaves well? Just about anything will work, except for things like pasta and rice, which generally don't reheat very well. Here are some ideas for each chamber:
1st small section:
2nd small section:
Meals take about four minutes to heat up, depending on what you're heating. I heat it for about two minutes, turn the dish, and heat it another two. Food gets hot quickly in a microwave -- so be sure to use oven mitts.
Pizza (use white bread recipe)
This article is adapted from Food Allergy Survivors Together Handbook, registered copyright 2002. Because this is a registered copyrighted work, if you want a hard copy of this article, please support the book and purchase a copy from your local bookstore instead of printing out the article. Thanks! Find out more here.
Article written 2000 by Melissa Taylor.
Tips from Mylène
No publicity here, this is just a good product. I bought a lot of Ziploc sandwich containers (you can use similar plastic containers (Glad and some store brands have them too)). I prefer the cheaper ones than the name-brand kind... I can have a good stock of them without costing a whole pay cheque! I bought all of them at the same size, so if one breaks, or I lose a lid, I can use another one no problem.
All my lunches have one part meat, one part veggies and one part rice. Because they are frozen, they don't mix when carried in my backpack. I leave them frozen in my lunch bag until lunch.
Rice freezes well. I haven't had much luck with freezing wheat pastas...they end up all mushy. Maybe rice pastas freeze well. That's my next challenge (I keep trying different recipes to try not to eat the same thing every day...although I tend to not mind eating the same thing every day).
I also buy some forzen vegetables (no need to cook or unfreeze them before re-freezing them). I'm allergic to carrots so I buy peas, green beans, corn and sometimes others depending on what's available.
For the meat part:
Meatloaf balls: I use ground beef (this can also be done with chicken, turkey or others), mixed with bread/cracker crumbs and tomato sauce. Optional for taste/texture variances: oregano, egg, worcestershire sauce (the vegan one for me), salt, and/or pepper. For the one with chicken/turkey, I changed the tomato sauce for carrots and celery (before the allergy to carrots!). Mix all and form into balls or hamburger type patties. Put in a turkey-size pan or smaller and let cook at 350 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours. Cook your rice in a seperate pot. You can put your lunches together now or depending on the time/your energy, put it in the fidge until the next day to put the lunches together.
Chicken pieces: I buy some boneless chicken tights (not sure if it's the right word... I just call them boneless drumstick legs). Put them in a large pan with some water and seasoning if you can. I use this recipe in the oven or stove top. Let steam/boil/cook for about an hour or until cooked. (I sometimes add a honey-garlic type or chicken wing type of sauce... home made of course).