Hi, I’m Jess.
I am blessed to be wife to Peter and mum to 4 great (and crazy!) kids -Will (9), Harry (8) and Ellie (6), and George (4).
The kids have food sensitivities in varying degrees, ranging from mild itchy skin to anaphylaxis.
Between the 2 of the 4 children we have anaphylactic allergies to peanuts, many tree nuts and eggs. And severe but not life threatening allergies to wheat, eggs, dairy, mustard, sesame, apple, kiwi and cabbage. 2 of the children tolerate only low levels of wheat and soy. Thankfully we have now outgrown the reactions to tomatoes, strawberries, capsicum and watermelon!
For her fist few years, our daughter reacted not only if she ingested these allergens (herself or through breast milk), but also if they touched her skin, or even if someone had eaten them and then kissed her. By some miracle the smallest family member is totally free of allergies – praise God!
In addition to the food allergies we are challenged with asthma, eczema, multiple severe environmental allergies, cold Urticaria, a severe chemical sensitivity and a sensory processing disorder. It sure sounds like a handful but mostly we are now thriving!
We had a challenging and sometimes very frustrating first few years with eating, both for the kids and me. I was on the same restricted diet as the kids while I breastfed, as they reacted to even small traces of the foods just being present in my milk.
It took a long time and numerous GP visits with my first son swollen and his skin bleeding in many places before I was finally referred to a paediatric allergist. Mercifully he was very quick to act and help us with diet and skin treatment. Within a week of our new diet my son looked like a new boy! Harry and Ellie both followed the exact same pattern and showed up with allergies again by 5-6 weeks of age – at least we knew what to do for them, and after strict elimination diets and allergy tests they were on the mend too. We have all had to learn how to eat differently, how to use epi-pens and to make sure we are always carrying antihistamines and creams and to follow a careful skin care regime, including bleach baths. And we have been diligent in teaching our children how to care for themselves and take responsibility.
For 3 years our family lived in Roxby Downs – in the South Australian desert. While it was a great place to live for little kids – it was definitely not an easy place to live with food allergies! We had 1 supermarket with very limited stock of ‘alternative’ foods, and no markets, health food stores or bulk buying places. So there have been very many times when I felt frustrated to the point of tears and limited in my cooking for my family. We are now back in Perth and I am very excited about the world of extra food options that have opened up for us!! Hello markets and bulk buy stores!
My friend, and co-creator of the Itchin’ Kitchen, Libby, understood my frustration, also having kids with multiple food allergies, so we have been sharing ideas and recipes for years. Her family have moved on to mostly ‘normal’ food now so she is leaving the Itchin’ Kitchen (Bye Lib – and thank you!!).
As well as as cooking for allergies, I am passionate about edible gardening, good nutrition and a healthy gut. I am currently studying for a diploma in Nutrition advice.
I plan to reduce food waste and stretch our budget, whilst still providing nourishing food for my large (well, larger than average!) and ever growing family. We aim to eat foods that are fairly low in added sugar, and opt for whole grains when ever possible. Veggies, grains, nuts and seeds, legumes and fruits are the focus of our diet. We enjoy an increasing range of vegan meals.
I use many different methods to cook our food: stand mixers, food processors, thermal cookers, by hand, stove top, oven and slow cookers. I mostly cook in bulk and freeze meals to make life easier!
I hope and pray that as I continue to share these recipes and ideas, they might help you feel like there is hope too, and that you might also be able to say that your family is thriving.