Monday, January 31, 2011

Dress Up Queen

Curly loves to dress up, but she especially loves to dress Bee.  Thankfully, Bee doesn't mind and enjoys the girl time.  Here is Bee as Snow White with her very own mini-me...
Look mom!
 Think it's time for a new diaper...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Allergy Free Blueberry Muffins


I have found muffins to be challenging.  They are either to mushy or too crumbly and I can never seem to find the right consistency when making them gluten, egg, and dairy free.  I finally have achieved success in a muffin that holds together and is very moist.

Blueberry Muffins
1 1/2 cups flour blend  (I use 4 cups rice flour, 1 1/3 cup potato starch, and 2/3 cup tapioca starch that I whisk together and keep in a large container for when I need flour)
3/4 t xanthan gum
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 t salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup applesauce-unsweetened
1 1/2 t egg replacer whisked with 2 T rice milk
2/3 cup rice milk
1 cup blueberries-fresh or frozen

Combine flour, xanthan gum, sugar, salt, and baking powder.  Add applesauce, egg replacer with milk, and milk.  Mix well.  Fold in blueberries.  Pour into greased muffin tin.

Cinnamon Topping
1/4 cup sugar
1/6 cup flour mix
1/8 cup shortening
3/4 t cinnamon
Mix topping with fork until it resembles coarse meal and sprinkle on top of each muffin.

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How to address food allergies as a disability?

I think food allergies are disabling for not only the individual with the allergies, but for friends and family members of the allergic person.  Talk about a severe limitation!

So, if food allergies qualify as a disability then how would they be addressed?  Remove food from every setting?  Never have snacks in classrooms?  Only serve certain foods at restaurants and social functions?

While one individual might be severely allergic to one food, another individual is just as severely allergic to a different food.  How can you possibly tailor the situation to suit all the needs?

With food allergies, there is no easy answer.

The labeling on foods has been a huge improvement and is one step toward protecting those with allergies.  Now I can look at the bottom of an ingredient label and see a notation that says, "contains: milk" or one of the other top allergens.  This does simplify shopping and saves time.  However, I still have the joy of reading every single label in its entirety for safety's sake.

Foods are also labeled with words such as "processed in a facility that also handles peanuts" or something similar to alert you that the food could be contaminated.  In those cases, you have to decide if you want to take that chance, or you can call the company to clarify how the equipment is cleaned between foods or how they work to limit cross-contamination.  It's just another way to keep you safe and make you even more paranoid....

But what about small children?  It would be nice to come up with a color-coding system to have a small colored bar code under the food label to indicate if any of the top allergens are in a certain food item.  If yellow was for peanuts and a food had a yellow stripe under the ingredient label, then a child would know that food was off limits because of his/her peanut allergy.

I think one of the most important aspects of treating food allergies as a disability is by simply educating others regarding allergies.  Many are not aware of the vast number of people affected by food allergies.  Some do not understand the severity of allergies.  And most are not familiar with all the foods that contain a certain ingredient or all the names a milk product or wheat product could fall under. 

For instance, I have mentioned my child has a food allergy and the person has responded, "Ohh, they they can't have peanuts, right?"  While that is true for us, any food can be an allergic food, and foods other than peanuts and tree nuts can cause severe reactions.

Also, I have called restaurants to talk with a manager or a chef before dining there to make sure that Bee will have some options.  I once mentioned that she could not have gluten or wheat and was told that the chicken noodle soup was safe for her.  Noodles are made from wheat in most cases, and the individual was not aware of this fact and truly believed noodles were safe for her.  In calling another restaurant where I explained her allergies, I was told that several items were safe for her-but they all contained butter.  I had to explain to the manager that butter was dairy.  How do people in the food industry survive without some basic knowledge?

How wonderful it would be for restaurants to become more aware of food allergies and learn how to accommodate those with allergies.

To address food allergies as a disability, people will need to be educated.  They will need to be compassionate and willing to learn.  The best way to do this is to make others aware of the allergies and work to educate them yourself.  There is now a manager who understands that wheat noodles contain gluten and another manager who has learned that butter is dairy.  Food allergic individuals and family members will have to be knowledgeable, but to especially be patient with others until food allergies are more widely acknowledged as commonplace and also as disabling.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

{Allergy Free} Tortilla Soup



We've had some rainy days which make for perfect soup weather here.  The kids love tortilla soup and don't even complain about the veggies.  They love to scoop it out with corn tortilla chips!

Tortilla Soup

1 onion diced
4 ribs celery diced
1 red bell pepper diced
1 yellow bell pepper diced
1 orange bell pepper diced
1 can diced tomatoes (I blend mind)
2 can black beans (drain and rinse only one can)
1  4oz can chopped green chilis
Cooked chicken diced
2 cups beef broth
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin
salt to taste

Pour small amount of olive oil in large saucepan and saute first 5 ingredients until tender. 
Add remaining ingredients and simmer on low for 30 or more minutes until tender.  Add more beef broth if needed to cover the soup ingredients.
Serve with tortilla chips.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Food Allergies a Disability


Right before Christmas, a young girl died of food allergy anaphylaxis in Chicago as a result of eating a contaminated food at a school function.
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests that ER visits for food-related reactions has significantly increased

Reading some of the recent articles reminded me of the seriousness of Bee's health issues.  You don't want to ever imagine.........

I question how many places handle the topic of food allergies.  Schools tend to be one of the scariest and most unsafe places for any food allergic child.  Every party or function has food, and with one teacher for more than 20 kids, how can any child be kept safe?

So, many parents lobby to have snacks removed from classrooms and to have food-free functions.  They expend so much time, energy, and frustration fighting their battle.  Why even send your child there?  It would not be worth it to me.  That's why I'm glad we have chosen to homeschool.  That's one huge stressor removed.

But it made me wonder why food allergies aren't more recognized, and provisions and safeguards made for food-allergic people.  Why do parents have to fight school districts so diligently in order to keep their kids safe?  Why do I have to be afraid to fly on an airplane?  Why can't we go out to eat anywhere?

Why don't institutions and places of business work to accommodate those with food allergies?

Do food allergies classify as a disability?

My child was born with this problem and it is certainly a very limiting condition.

If handicap ramps and doors are required, parking passes are issued, and many policies are instituted against discrimination for a wide variety of conditions, then how do food allergies not qualify?

A child in a wheelchair would have severe limitations if his/her school was not wheelchair accessible and this would reduce his/her ability to function, get to classes, and ultimately be successful and productive.

You have food with nuts in my child's classroom and this would affect my child's ability to live through that class period. 

I find death to be very disabling, don't you?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Enchiladas

This was my first attempt at a casserole type dish and since this pan was empty only 30 minutes later I must have been successful.......and we had one pan for leftovers the next day.

I made the tortilla recipe and made 16 smaller tortillas using the dough.  That made enough tortillas to fill two pans.  I made the meat using our new taco seasoning.  I made some black bean, spinach spread.  I also made some "cream" sauce and enchilada sauce.  I layered my enchiladas with the black bean spread, meat, cream sauce and then poured enchilada sauce and the extra cream sauce on top.
Here are my two sauce recipes:

"Cream" Sauce
1/4 cup Earth Balance soy free (or olive oil)
1/4 cup plus 2 T oat flour or rice flour
2 cups rice milk, hot
salt and pepper

Warm milk over medium low heat.  Warm Earth Balance or olive oil over medium heat and whisk in flour.  Stir for a couple minutes then slowly pour in warmed rice milk.  Stir until thickened into a cream sauce and salt and pepper to taste.

Enchilada Sauce
2 t olive oil
1 cup diced red onion
2 t minced garlic
1 cup chicken broth
2 T chili powder
2 T honey
2 t cumin
1 t salt
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes, undrained

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat and saute garlic and onion for 5 minutes.  Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer on low for 30 minutes.

You might not need the entire enchilada sauce recipe for both pans.  But when I made the enchiladas, I only had half the recipe and it was not enough for both pans.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chick-Fil-A and French Fries


We don't eat fast food at our house.....we rarely eat out at all.  But when we have an emergency meal or are on the road, we look for Chick-Fil-A and have visited many locations across a few different states.

If we pile in the car late one evening when our dinner plans fall through the kids immediately ask, "Are we going to Chick-Fil-A?" and then hubby breaks into the infamous Chick-Fil-A song.  Yes, we are going to Chick-Fil-A......

Bee can safely eat the grilled chicken breast filet minus the bun and she loves the lemonade.

However, Chick-Fil-A fries their food in peanut oil.  I decided to give them a call regarding their frying oil, because I didn't think it was a good idea to use something that could trigger allergies for so many people.  They told me that peanut oil does not cause reactions in peanut allergic individuals-not completely true!  And they mentioned no plans of changing to another oil.  I think I recruited several others to call and email Chick-Fil-A too.

This week as we cruised through the drive-through after one of those days, I noticed a yellow flag attached to the menu.  "Our waffle fries cooked with canola oil." 

I asked them at the window and they verified that the fries are now cooked in canola oil.  Also, the fries are made in a dedicated fryer so no nuggets or anything containing gluten is made in that same fryer.

I held my breath and gave Bee a fry and nothing happened.  No rash, no hives, no itching, no fussing.  Actually, she asked for more as she pulled the lid off her lemonade and dumped it all over the carseat....

She never had a reaction and now happily can eat her chicken and her fries with her lemonade-at least what's left in her cup.  Healthy?  No.  But sanity saving.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Interpreting Our RAST Test Results

I still don't quite understand how the RAST test works.  Some numbers are higher than others, but some of our lower numbered test result items garner larger reactions.  Whatever!  I give up trying to understand a lot of the results.  However, we had some surprising and encouraging news when our latest test results came in.  Even our doctors were shocked at how low some of Bee's numbers had dropped.  So, whatever all the results mean, we are headed in the right direction.  Here's our current break down:

Rice-our control - 1.69  safe
Mango - 1.26  safe
Egg yolk - 2  questionable  We'll wait on trying this
Melon - .54  Should be safe right?  But when Bee eats watermelon she breaks out in a rash.  Avoiding all melons for now.
Walnut - 4.15  unsafe
Oat - 7.85  unsafe  We're back off oatmeal for now.  Darn!
Almond - 26.2  very unsafe  We know that this allergy is life-threatening for Bee.  Had some experience with this one.

These items were all new items that were not in our previous RAST tests.

We also tested for some foods that we tested over a year ago.  Here is a comparison:

Egg white - 16 - Down from 65
Milk - 14 - Down from 54
Wheat - 47 - Down from greater than 100
Sesame - 20.5 - Down from 53
Peanut - 27 - Down from 73.8
Soy - 9.6 - Down from 27

We've seen some major improvements in her numbers and we are hopeful that eventually some of these allergies will be outgrown.  For now, we know we are on the right track.

And here is a comparison of her total IgE levels from one year ago, six months ago, and present.

Total IgE - Original test 3100
6 months ago - 1188
Present - 419

So encouraging!  Bee's results should be less than 100, so we're not there yet.  But 419 is so much better than 3100.  Her doctors could not believe how much her numbers had dropped.

We hope to test again in 6 months for at least some of these foods.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Casein Point

We know that Bee has a dairy allergy.  It shows up on her tests and many of her reactions are due to dairy products.  This was one of our big discussions at our appointment last month.

Her doctor feels that Bee's dairy allergy is very strong and could be triggered just by coming into contact with dairy-whether it's on her skin or simply in the air.  The doctor believes that if someone were to have dairy protein particles on their clothes and then Bee was in contact with their clothes, a reaction could happen.  If dairy is in the air, then Bee could possibly have a reaction.  If someone ate dairy and then kissed Bee-reaction.  Or if someone had dairy and simply breathed on Bee-reaction.

This was probably the most frustrating and disappointing news at our appointment.  Bee's dairy allergic is considered extremely severe and the doctor repeatedly cautioned us regarding dairy products.

First, I cannot understand why her numbers on her lab work are not highest for dairy.  In her previous lab results, wheat had the highest numbers.  Yet, dairy seems to be the culprit behind most rashes.  Why are her numbers not reflecting the severity of her reactions?

Secondly, I have always thought the "peanut kiss reaction" or the talk of peanut particles in the air causing reactions to be completely ridiculous.  I have heard of people who cannot walk into a restaurant where peanuts are served just because peanuts are in the air.  Overly-dramatic....Then I get the news that we are one of those people!  How do you eliminate floating dairy particles from the air?  How do you eradicate dairy breath?

We're still hopeful that Bee will outgrow many of her allergies.  The doctor isn't sure dairy will be one of those foods.
With that being said, why is dairy in absolutely everything??
Potato chips-can contain milk!
Lunch meats-can contain milk protein!
"Natural flavoring"-can contain milk!
Caramel coloring-can contain milk!
Can the food industry possibly be more vague or irritating??

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stew


My new quest is easy crockpot meals since casseroles are a thing of the past.  Although, I am going to experiment with casseroles again someday.......

Here is hubby's stew recipe which is one of his favorites.

2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
4-6 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 small onion, diced
1 pound stew meat-we use bison meat that we cube
1 T salt
1 t dried thyme
1/2 t black pepper
1 bay leaf
beef broth

Combine first nine ingredients in crockpot then add beef broth until crockpot is full.  Cook on low 8 hours.  You can always adjust the amounts based on how large your crockpot is...I need to find a bigger one.  Serve this with some cornbread and you have an easy make-ahead meal.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tacos

Now that we have tortillas we must have tacos!  I've learned that many packaged taco seasonings are out for us due to at least one ingredient.......milk protein in taco seasoning?  Really??  So, I decided to make my own.

Taco Seasoning
1 T chili powder
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/8 t cayenne red pepper
1/4 t oregano
1/2 t paprika
1 t cumin
1 t sea salt
1 t black pepper

Combine in small container.  Use 2 T per each pound of meat.  Once meat is browned, drain, and put back in skillet with 2/3 cup water and 2 T seasoning.  Simmer on low until most water is absorbed.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Recipe Box

I did something really drastic last night.  I cleaned out my recipe box.  I took out all the wonderfully delicious recipes that I had been collecting for several years.  I sorted through all of the recipes and only put back in the allergy-friendly recipes.  That left me with about 10 out of my entire collection.

Depressing.....

I'm no longer in denial.  The food allergies are going to be with us for a while.  I can't make any of those recipes probably for a long, long time.  It was time to stop gazing at them as I flip through my box trying to figure out what to make for dinner.  For the next few years, I'm only going to save allergy-friendly recipes.  I'm going to refill my box.

Here is the carnage
Shhhh, don't tell, but I did save them all, the entire stack, which is 3 inches thick.  Wishful thinking...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year! A Review of 2010

 January 2010 (9 months)
My sweet eczema baby.  Still miserable and covered in rashes, but diagnosed and working toward more answers.  No longer on growth chart due to weight loss.  Lost many developmental milestones because of malnutrition and malabsorption due to the allergies.
 February 2010 (10 months)
Enjoying snow with Mom.  Still rashy but recovering.  Gaining back milestones quickly and starting to smile more often.  Finally sleeping through the night on a regular basis and beginning to take naps.
 March 2010
Moving van arrives to take us to a new state.  Hubby begins a new job and we half-unpack in our rent house.
 March 2010 (11 months)
Enjoying her first ever pancakes in our rent house as we work toward closing on our new house and finding Bee some new doctors.  Had a major reaction to almonds and added those to our list of allergens.
Bee starts to buzz....she's walking!  
 April 2010 (1 year)
Happy 1st Birthday Bee!
Eczema is more under control with fewer outbreaks.  Finding more foods for her to eat but still cooking all her meals separately as allergen-free cooking is so overwhelming.
Bee learns that not only can she walk, she can climb!
 May 2010 (13 months)
Newly-moved into our new house and getting settled.  Beginning to find more recipes and experimenting in the kitchen.  Bee is enjoying to eat for the first time. 
Anaphylactic reaction to pineapple in a smoothie which results in an ER visit on Mother's Day.  Another food is added to our list.
 June 2010 (14 months)
Our first appointment with Texas Children's and the immunologists there.  RAST tests and skin prick tests and more answers.  Barely on the growth chart, but on the curve nonetheless.
I have a willing kitchen helper as we dig in to allergen-free cooking with the new cookbooks I received for Mother's Day the month before.
We learn that Bee will be a big sister in 9 months as baby number 4 is on the way.
July 2010 (15 months)
Still wearing jammies every day (with princess dresses layered on top) to keep Bee from itching and thus breaking out.  The heat also makes her rash.  Slowly gaining weight and moving up to another clothing size, finally.
Learned that Curly has a severe allergy to fire ant bites.  She spends her entire 4th of July swollen from one bite.  Epi-pens are necessary not only for Bee, but for Curly now too.
 August 2010 (16 months)
Kissable eczema-free cheeks.  
Bee's personality is starting to shine as she loves to play and laugh and to climb on everything.  
It's been one year since our initial diagnosis and things are only slightly less overwhelming.
 September 2010 (17 months)
Started our new school year with Bee as my helper.  She enjoys her homemade playdough and loves to color and to paint with water.  Her itching is more under control and we try out some "regular" clothes.
We're seeing more skin reactions with dairy and questioning the severity of her dairy allergies from contact with a person who has had dairy.
 September 2010
Our first family vacation with Bee--to Sea World.  Lots of planning and food packed to take with us.  Special permission granted to bring all of our food into the park.  Was reminded how the heat makes her rash.
October 2010 (18 months)
Pumpkin patch visits, a family Halloween party, and a trip to visit grandparents.
We plan special trick-or-treating for the kids where I provide snack sacks to neighbors ahead of time so they can hand out safe foods.  Bee, dressed as a ladybug, enjoys her suckers and special chocolate candy.
 November 2010 (19 months)
Beautiful baby skin!  Bee gets to be jammieless more often when she's not itchy.  
We have Thanksgiving at our house and I cook an entirely allergen-free meal.  Scary, but everything turns out ok.  Bee enjoys a completely normal meal at the table with everyone else.
December 2010 (20 months)
Merry Christmas Bee!  She enjoys homemade cinnamon rolls as her Christmas breakfast!
We have a follow-up visit with our immunologists and see some improvements in her labwork.  She's also gained almost 4 pounds and is tracking up the growth chart.

Happy New Year!  Looking forward to a new year as our hive continues to grow and life gets a little sweeter.
 
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