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Dining Out: Applebee's Restaurant (Bellingham, Washington)

One of the goals we had at the beginning of this year was to travel somewhere, outside of the province with our peanut and tree nut allergic son on an overnight trip. We decided to achieve our goal in baby steps.

At the end of June, we drove to Woodland Zoo in Seattle for an overnight stay at my sister-in-law's cabin in Marysville, Washington. We had brought our own lunch and relied on my sister-in-law for two meals.

This past Sunday, we ventured down to Seattle again and this time, we stayed at the Westin Bellevue using my husband's Starwood Preferred Guest points. The preparation for this trip was much different as we had three meals (two dinners and one lunch) where we relied on restaurants to accommodate our little man's food allergies. I had performed extensive research on allergy aware restaurants by asking members of a local food allergy group I belong to and checked out the websites of recommended restaurants.

One of the three restaurants we tried on this trip was Applebee's in Bellingham, Washington.

Applebee's in Bellingham, Washington

For those of you not familiar with Applebee's, they are an U.S. restaurant chain that specializes in casual fare. My husband and I have dined with Applebee's sporadically over the years; mostly at their Burlington, Washington location.

This was our first visit to Applebee's Bellingham location and our first visit to Applebee's as a family with a food allergic toddler in tow.

Upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted by the hostess, Jasmine. We informed her that we have a child with a food allergy and wanted to know if they could accommodate us. Jasmine was kind and patiently answered our questions. My husband then asked to speak to the manager, Adam, who came promptly, armed with a food allergy menu.

Adam provided phenomenal service. In the 17 months since our son's diagnosis, we have only been taken care of this well once. Yes, you read that correctly. Once. That other time was at Red Robin in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

Adam discussed at length how they prepare food for diners with food allergies: clean gloves, special handling of food with supervision from him, all to minimize cross contact. Moreover, he went over the food allergy menu with us (which has a three months effective date) and discussed at length which items were safe for our little man. Adam recommended that we avoid ordering anything deep fried as they do not have a dedicated fryer which may be cross contaminated with nuts. We were so impressed by Adam and his professionalism that we happily asked for a table.

Safe food: two mini cheeseburgers, broccoli and milk.

Once we sat down, we were greeted by Morgan, our server. Adam had gone above and beyond and informed Morgan that our little man has food allergies. Morgan was equally amazing, as he recommended safe substitutes our own meals: bread sticks instead of tortilla chips (which are deep fried fresh in their kitchen) for our spinach and artichoke dip and baked potato instead of french fries for my husband's rib dinner.

Riblet Basket: ribs and baked potato.

Throughout the meal, both Morgan and Adam followed up with us to make sure we were happy. I felt like a rock star as a result of their exceptional service and breathed a sigh of relief that I have found a safe restaurant for my little man to eat at. Applebee's turned out to be a great choice: allergy aware, affordable and delicious!

Fiesta Lime Chicken

Prior to my little man's diagnosis, we did not understand the difficulties faced by families with food allergies, especially when dining out. We have discovered that once your child has a food allergy, you gain a deep gratitude towards those who are willing to accommodate and help keep your child safe. In return, you remain a loyal customer to their place of business and spread the word to other food allergy families.

A huge thank you to Adam, Morgan and Jasmine at Applebee's Bellingham for your exceptional service! We look forward to our next visit.

1069 E. Sunset Drive
Bellingham, WA 98226

**Please note that ingredients and menus can change. Always inform the manager/chef/server of your food allergies prior to ordering.**


4 Ingredient Microwaved Gluten-Free Bread (Ready in 3 Minutes)

Baking bread in the oven is the last thing I want to do in the summer when it is hot and sunny outside. When I came across this microwaved bread recipe on Pinterest, I was delighted. The best part about this recipe is that it is ready in 3 minutes.

This recipe was incredibly easy to whip up and required only 4 ingredients: melted butter, coconut flour, egg and baking powder. After allowing the bread to cool down a little, I sliced the bread in half and spread a little raspberry jam on each slice of bread. My little man and I both loved this quick and easy microwaved bread as it was soft and fluffy. This bread reminded me of a dense and unsweetened sponge cake both in taste and texture.

For those with gluten allergies, this recipe is effortless, made to order and a delicious alternative to expensive store-bought specialty bread.

1 tbsp butter
1 large egg
1 tbsp coconut flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

1. Place 1 tablespoon of butter in a small microwavable bowl measuring 4.5 inches across (I used a small Pyrex glass container). Microwave for 10 to 20 seconds until melted. Swirl the melted butter around so that it coats the bowl.

2. To that same bowl, add the egg, coconut flour and baking powder. Mix thoroughly until the batter is smooth and no lumps remain.

3. Microwave on high for 90 seconds until the bread has puffed up and is firm to the touch. The bread will pull away from the bowl once it is cooked. Repeat in 15 second increments if the bread feels soft to the touch or sticks to the bowl.

4. Allow the bread to cool for a minute before loosening it with a knife. Invert the bowl and slice the bread in half. Serve with jam, honey, butter or your favorite seed butter!

Source: Slightly adapted from Healthy Recipes


Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Grilled Lemongrass Pork

We have avoided dining at Vietnamese restaurants for the past year. The last time we went, I ordered Pho, and my husband ordered his usual: Vietnamese rice noodle salad. As a precaution, we brought our little man's food with us, since we realized the risk of cross contamination is high with peanuts being used in Vietnamese dishes.

When my husband's rice noodle salad arrived, it was topped with a generous handful of chopped peanuts. We quietly freaked out and removed our little man from the restaurant, leaving my husband to scoop out the peanuts from his bowl and eat his meal in solitude.

To this day, we are still baffled how both of us forgot that Vietnamese rice noodle salads contain peanuts. We vowed not to put our family into that situation again and make Vietnamese food at home.

With a little help from the internet and a little planning, a peanut-free rice noodle salad was on our dinner table. The only exception was that this time around, our whole family had the chance to enjoy a safe meal together.

I usually serve this rice noodle salad after grilling a big batch of Vietnamese lemongrass pork. If you grill the pork the night before, this allows dinner to be ready in as short as 20 minutes as the grilled pork, pickles and dipping sauce are ready to go. All you have to do is heat the spring rolls, cook the noodles and assemble the dinner.

Serves: 8

1 package rice noodles
1 package of spring rolls
8 generous pieces of cooked Vietnamese lemongrass pork (try this recipe)
1 cucumber, sliced
1 head of lettuce, shredded (iceberg or romaine)
1 batch of Vietnamese carrot and daikon pickles (try this recipe)
1 batch of Vietnamese dipping sauce (try this recipe)
Sriracha hot sauce, to serve (optional)
Hoisin sauce, to serve (optional)
Mint, to serve (optional)

1. Prepare rice noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Different brands of rice noodles contain different ingredients. Always read the label!

2. Bake or pan fry the spring rolls according to package directions. Cut the spring rolls into bite-sized pieces.

Nut-free spring rolls from Costco Canada.

3. Heat the Vietnamese lemongrass pork in the microwave until warm. Slice thinly into bite-sized pieces.

4. Place rice noodles in the bottom of each bowl. Top each bowl with spring rolls, lemongrass pork, cucumber, shredded lettuce and Vietnamese carrot daikon pickles.

5. Serve with Vietnamese dipping sauce, sriracha hot sauce, hoisin sauce and mint.

Source: Frugal Allergy Mom