Monday, March 19, 2012

Allergy Free Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake
Ohh, how I have missed carrot cake and cream cheese frosting!  This week my hubby begged me to try to find a substitute.  I experimented in the kitchen and ended up with this recipe.  This was better than my hubby imagined it would be and it's now become a favorite-all this for a guy who claims to "not like" carrot cake.
This cake is made with pureed babyfood carrots rather than grated carrots because heaven forbid I put anything "chunky" in the cake-my kids would revolt.  But it adds moisture and makes the texture perfect, even in an egg-free cake!

2 1/2 cups flour blend (4 cups rice flour, 1 1/3 cups potato starch, 2/3 cups tapioca flour)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 T cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
3 T egg replacer
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup vanilla hemp milk
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
7.5 ounces pureed babyfood carrots

Whisk together flour through egg replacer in large bowl and set aside.  In separate bowl, add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk together.  Pour into greased cake pan and bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes or until top springs back when touched.  (This would also make a great 2 or 3 layer cake but lessen baking time by around 10 minutes for smaller pans.)

Enjoy!  And please excuse the sad cake picture on a paper plate.  I'm trying to take a little break from the dishes this week.....maybe it will help me catch up with the laundry....

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  We celebrated with some festive scones and lots of yardwork!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Gluten Free Flours

I've been sticking with mostly rice and tapioca flour with some potato starch but I know these aren't my healthiest options.  After looking at this comparison chart, I'm hoping to branch out and try some different and more nutritious options. 

Here is an excellent list of the various flours that are gluten or wheat free.  This site has a breakdown of the various flours as well as information about how to store them.

How many recipes will I destroy in the process of trial and error?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Allergy to Dogs or Dog Food?

Bee tested allergic to dogs in her last skin-prick test.  Whenever we are around dogs, she breaks out in hives.  When a dog licked her face we nearly had to take her in to the ER to control her reaction.  So, it would seem that we are allergic to dogs.

But through doing some research and thinking about past experiences, I have a new question:

Are we allergic to dogs or to their dog food?

My parents had a dog that never seemed to bother Bee.  I couldn't figure out why this one dog was different from all the others.  Then I remembered that the dog had been diagnosed with food allergies in the past.  When I spoke with my mom about her dog, she told me the dog was on a dog food that did not have gluten or corn or soy.  The only grain in her food was rice-it was a specialty food for dogs with allergies.

So, Bee is allergic to other dogs but not this one.  Is it because this dog ate a diet that Bee could also eat?

I had to find out what was in other dog foods.  I did a comparison and found that nearly every major brand has a minimum of 2 of Bee's allergens in the ingredients.  Some foods had more than 5.

It would seem to make sense that if the dog ate a diet full of Bee's allergens, then Bee would also be allergic to that dog.  But what if a dog ate a diet that Bee could also safely eat?  Would she have less problems around that dog?

That has been our new question for our doctor.  She felt it was thought provoking and is now working to research it further.  We will be retesting the dog allergy in a month and then decide what our next step should be.  Maybe one day we can safely have a pet, even if I have to make all the dog food from scratch too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Yet another holiday season with food allergies

Halloween has come and gone with all of its unsafe candy and activities.  We made it through another Thanksgiving and Christmas while staying allergen free and visiting with family and friends.  And Valentine's with its chocolate candy and cupcakes has finally passed.

Every year, with each upcoming holiday, I cringe.  Bee's getting older and starting to notice that our traditions our different.  One day I'm going to have to explain just how different our foods and traditions are.  I often wonder at her reaction.  Will she be angry that she's different?  Will she simply accept our lifestyle?  Will she look back fondly on our traditions as we do the best we can to make each holiday special?

I hate the holidays for their constant reminders that our life is not what it was.  I view them for their potential allergens and picture every worst-case scenario.

True, each holiday can be seen as an opportunity to start new traditions and celebrate in unique ways.  But sometimes I tire of being different.

Now with Easter soon approaching, I've hit that point of frustration and stress-worrying about the holiday and about how to cope and trying to come up with creative alternatives.

What do we do about dyeing eggs?  Do we try for the real thing or use an alternative?  What about Easter Egg Hunts?  What if all the eggs are candy-filled?

It's time to plan out our holiday and start new traditions and put on our own egg hunt in our yard....and gracefully decline all the invitations to egg hunts or other holiday activities.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mexican Pizza

Now that we can make tortillas, we've tried to find some new ways to use those tortillas.  The kids new favorite is Mexican Pizzas!

Make the tortilla recipe.  Then fry the tortillas individually in a skillet of olive oil on medium high heat.  Cook on both sides and set out on a paper towel, sprinkling with salt.  These make an excellent crust for a Mexican Pizza!

We pile our pizzas with beans, taco meat, enchilada sauce, and sometimes rice and other veggies.  They are one very messy meal but are so yummy!

Or if the tortillas are made in a smaller size, you can fry those small tortillas for rice chips that are perfect for hummus.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Food Cancer

Food allergies are misdiagnosed and misunderstood.  I've often wondered what it would take for doctors to suspect food allergies when symptoms are present and for others to understand the seriousness of the condition.

When you hear food allergy what comes to mind?  Before Bee, my first though would have been peanuts.  Everyone has heard of a peanut allergy.  The seriousness of that allergy has been well-documented.  If you have a food allergy, then you should avoid peanuts!  But wait, you mean other foods can cause allergic reactions as well?

Ok, you have a food allergy, then don't eat the food!  It shouldn't be difficult.  I won't give it to you, please don't take any, know that you can eat something else-bring it yourself.  A reaction can be caused by simply touching or inhaling an allergen?  It doesn't have to be eaten?

Well, this food is free of your allergen, go ahead and eat it!  It's safe!  I checked the ingredients and read the labels.  Were the utensils I used cleaned thoroughly?  Was the food prepared near another food which contained your allergen?  You mean I can't use the same knife for both things?

That was me before the diagnosis and the research.  I simply did not understand the ins and outs of living allergy free or the serious nature of food allergies.

What did it take for me to be hit with the severity of Bee's life threatening condition?  It took a scary anaphylactic reaction and ER visit.  Witnessing the life and death situation first-hand taught me more than any education ever could.  This was serious and was beyond anything I had previously understood or researched.  This was extensive.  This was deadly.

I can say that I'm no longer in denial of Bee's condition; I understand the severity.  But those around us are uninformed and oblivious to the measures we take to keep her safe.  I do my best to educate, to inform, to explain, but how can you understand what you can't see or witness.

The term "food allergy" doesn't carry much weight and it doesn't receive much respect.  When you say "food allergy" you are sometimes brushed aside as an over-reactive, over-protective parent.  Food allergies don't garner much respect and attention from doctors or the media.

Now, if you stated that your child had cancer you would be met with sympathy, understanding, and compassion.  No one would question the diagnosis or the seriousness.  Others would understand the life and death implications of the diagnosis.  Many would be willing to meet your needs and accommodate you.  Cancer is scary, serious, and deadly-no one would deny that.

Why then are other life threatening conditions pushed aside and given no respect?  Do we need to rename food allergies "food cancer"?  Then would people take us seriously and work with me to protect my child?  What would it take to receive widespread respect for this diagnosis?

Food allergies kill.  But many of these deaths are preventable.  No, there is no cure for cancer, or for food allergies either.  However, there is a treatment for food allergies that can be highly effective and life saving-avoiding allergens with strict avoidance. 

If only society would accept that there are other deadly diseases which have the potential to kill.  If only people would realize that while food allergies and other conditions do not receive the media attention of cancer, they are life threatening as well.

What would it take for everyone to be compassionate of the conditions of others?  What would it take to garner respect for food allergies?  Do we need to name every potentially fatal condition as a form of cancer?  Or are people willing to educate themselves regarding the needs of others and work to find ways to accommodate them?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Agree and Disagree

I read a blog post a while back regarding food allergies.  The blogger mentioned other allergy blogs and how some were seemingly full of the despair of life with food allergies.  She was striving for her blog to be different.  I agree.........kind of............

Now that Bee is doing well and we have more better days than not, I can write with some hope and some peace knowing that we can make it.  I do hope that our story is an encouragement to others.  It is possible to stay allergen-free and to adjust.  And while it's difficult, it's so worth it!

However, despair, hopelessness, frustration, anger, and grief often creep up on me.  My blog isn't full of negative posts and stories exploring the dark sides of these feelings.  But those feelings exist.  I would be dishonest to even try to pretend that there aren't some days I just want to give up.  Where is the undo button?

So, I think I have to disagree.  I think everyone deserves to read a balance of both the good and the bad.  I can share our triumphs and our struggles.  And I can post about my feelings of excitement and hope as well as sorrow and hopelessness.

This life is hard.  Watching your child suffer is hard.  Radically altering your lifestyle is hard.  Food allergies are limiting and isolating.  I could never pretend otherwise.

And some days those feelings catch up to me.  I look at the future and am completely overwhelmed, and I lose my desire to keep moving forward.  But I'm going to continue to share, because I know every food allergy parent has been there, whether they're willing to admit it or not.

So, my blog isn't meant to be positive and uplifting and I don't intend for it to be a downer.  This blog is meant to be honest.  Someone needs to read this honesty and know they are not alone. 

But I hope that when you come away, you'll leave with compassion, resolve, and optimism, as well as a picture of a family who has come together to find a new "normal" despite the challenges of food allergies.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Allergy Free Easter Part 2

If porcelain eggs are too fragile, try some wooden eggs which can be painted and then sprayed with a sealant.  These can then be keepsakes to use in future egg hunts over the years.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Allergy Free Easter

What do you do at Easter time if you are egg-allergic?  You dye porcelain eggs, of course!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Bee has some exciting news to share with you!!!

Look!  See how excited she is???

This picture is the last picture you will ever see of her sucking her thumb.   That's right!  Bee no longer sucks her thumb!

After many failed attempts to get her to stop, we found a solution.  We used this nail polish and it worked amazingly well!  I had avoided trying any of the polishes because I was afraid she might be allergic to the ingredients, but I was finally desperate enough to try it.  Thank goodness!

Thumb sucking is a huge problem for an allergy kid.  All I need is her to stick her fingers in her mouth after touching a potential allergen-this doubles the impact of her reaction.  How her thumb sucking stressed me out! 

But I also had a terrible time making her stop because sucking her thumb was the only thing that soothed her when she became itchy and rashy.  In a way, her thumb sucking saved my sanity as it quieted her crying when she was younger.  I felt terrible forcing her to quit!

Bee hasn't sucked her thumb in weeks so I think we are finally over that habit.  I keep the polish on her nails just in case though.  At first, she would beg me not to polish her nails but now she asks for the polish-it helps her remember not to suck her thumb if she accidentally puts it in her mouth.  She seems very proud of her accomplishment.

Next up!  Ladybug!  Why was I given a house full of thumbsuckers?!!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Healing Food Allergies

When we first began my experimental diet changes after suspecting food allergies, Bee was not doing well.

She was one miserable, itchy, rashy, red, sleep deprived, underweight, little girl.  After eliminating gluten, we could tell a difference in her demeanor and her skin was less inflamed.  Our next step was a RAST test which helped us uncover more allergies.  We eliminated those foods as well and watched more progress.

Though she was doing better, she still had rashes and she still had bouts of crankiness.  Sometimes the inflammation led us to discover another allergen and other times the inflammation was impossible to explain.  For one year we fought the eczema and the rashes and the hives and the staph infections and the fungal infections.  Much of the time I wasn't sure if we were winning or if her allergies were.

Today, Bee has more days of clear, beautiful skin than the rashy, inflamed skin of her babyhood.  What we've learned is that healing takes time.  Dietary changes were an essential step in Bee's healing as were the cool tub soaks and keeping her skin hydrated-inside (through drinking water) and out (through lotions to seal in moisture).  But the changes did not cause her condition to improve over night or in a week or even in a month.  We slowly saw improvements and our journey was two steps forward and one step back.  We gradually moved in the right direction but experienced many setbacks as well.  At times, we were frustrated and other times elated with small steps of progress.

After about a year, we were having more positive moments and more breakthroughs than setbacks.  I am so thankful we did not give up before we reached the point of forward progress.  Many times we were tempted to quit, to put her on long-term daily medications, to use steroids, to forego dietary restrictions.  All of the hard work, the time consuming bath and lotion rituals, and the painstaking label reading and careful cooking has paid off huge dividends.

Closely monitoring Bee's diet was the key to our success, but that success was not achieved over night.  It took weeks for her system to cleanse itself of the allergens.  Then it took months for her body to begin to heal itself.  And it took a year to discover how to stay one step ahead of the inflammation to keep it from becoming out of control.  Through the process, I have been given so much respect for the way our bodies function and how they were created.  Healing from the damage of undetected food allergies takes time, but healing is possible.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Allergy Free Pumpkin Muffins

I meant to make these during the fall but I never got around to trying to make pumpkin muffins.  I finally experimented and these were a huge hit.  Ladybug was a big fan!

Pumpkin Muffins
2 1/3 cup flour blend (4 cups rice flour, 1 1/3 cups potato starch, 2/3 cup tapioca flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine in large bowl, whisk together, and set aside.

In mixing bowl combine the following:
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons egg replacer whisked with 4 Tablespoons rice milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

Mix well.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients alternating with 1/2 cup vanilla hemp milk.  If the batter is still too think, add up to 1/4 cup more hemp milk.  Spoon into greased muffin tin and bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until domed and golden-the tops should spring back to the touch.

This recipe was modified from the Gluten Free Goddess site.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dentist Disaster

Sometimes simple things like finding a dentist can be a nightmare.

I am paranoid to allow the dentist to use their toothpastes, with its flavoring and food coloring, on any of the kids.  I know Curly is sensitive to some food colorings and I don't want to learn that Bee has reactions to some of the flavorings.  Therefore, I insist that the dentist use something called Nada Pumice Paste on my kids.  Nada is just that-no flavors, no flavor oils, no fluoride, no color.  Anything else just makes me too nervous.

So, to find a dentist, I have to call and call and call.  I have to explain our situation and ask if they use Nada Paste or if they are willing to order it for us.  It's surprising how many dentists refuse to work with us.

I had an especially fun time with one office the other day....

I called and explained the situation to the office staff.  I asked my questions and was not met with a very positive response.  I asked her to verify with the dentist or hygienist about what paste they used and if I could bring my own toothpaste for Bee-since I knew she did not react to what we used at home.  I was told a resounding, "NO."  I explained our situation again, thinking that surely the staff did not fully understand our situation.  I was told, "No" again.

I then asked them if they were not concerned about a reaction.  I was told, "No."  I then asked if they were willing to work with us.  "No."  I asked if they were concerned about Bee's safety.  "No."  I asked one more time just for my own clarification, "Do you mean to tell me that my daughter's safety is not important to you?"  The woman told me no in a very serious and unapologetic tone.

Wow!  I could not believe what I heard.  The office had a policy that they only used one type of paste and they would not consider any changes, no matter the circumstances.  I explained the allergies and the anaphylaxis and the Epi-pens multiple times to no avail.  That the staff could be so uncaring about our situation was shocking.  They could have at least pretended to be sympathetic.  Needless to say, we won't be patronizing their office.  Thankfully I found another office willing to order Nada Paste for us so maybe we finally found a dentist-it only took 8 phone calls and 3 failed dentist visits.

Why must everything be so complicated???

But we've got to do something to take care of those pearly whites!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Allergy Free Chocolate Cake

This is a perfect fluffy chocolate cake that would be great with chocolate or vanilla icing.  My kids requested vanilla icing this time and it was a big hit!

Chocolate Cake
1/2 cup Earth Balance
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
4 1/2 teaspoons egg replacer whisked with 6 T rice milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup rice milk
1/2 cup boiling water
2 1/2 cups flour blend (4 cups rice flour, 1 1/3 potato starch, 2/3 tapioca flour)
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
7 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine flour through salt in a bowl and set aside.  In mixer, cream Earth Balance and sugar.  Mix in applesauce, egg replacer mixture and vanilla.  Add flour mixture, alternating with the rice milk and the boiling water.  Pour into greased cake pan and bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pizza Varieties

We've been experimenting with pizza lately and have found a crust recipe that we enjoy.

For the crust we adapted a recipe out of the Allergen Free Baker's Handbook.

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 packet rapid rise yeast
1 T olive oil
3 cups bread flour blend (1 1/2 cups millet flour, 1 1/2 cups sorghum flour, 2 cups tapioca flour, 1 cup potato starch)
1/2 cup millet flour
3 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt

Combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast and let proof.  Combine the dry ingredients.  Add the olive oil and the dry ingredients to the yeast mixture and mix in mixer on low speed for several minutes until dough comes together.  Turn out dough onto pizza pan and let rest.  Roll out dough and brush with a little additional olive oil and then sprinkle with garlic salt.  Let rise covered with plastic wrap for 1 1/2 hours.  Top with desired sauce and toppings and bake at 425 for 12 minutes.

The kids have 3 favorite pizzas so far:  breakfast pizza, pepperoni, and BBQ chicken.  And we have a dessert pizza too.........

Breakfast pizza has a gravy cream sauce with sausage and hashbrowns.   Mom and Dad's side has bell peppers and onion too.
I make my gravy recipe but add a little extra flour when I'm making the roux.  I allow it to get really thick while I'm stirring.  After I have spread the gravy on the pizza dough I add cooked and crumbled sausage and fried potatoes.  We dice our potatoes and cook them in olive oil on medium high heat.  We take them out and put them in a strainer lined with paper towels where we sprinkle them with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic salt.  We add the sausage and hashbrowns and then add diced onion and bell pepper to our pizza.

Pepperoni pizza has a cream sauce with diced pepperoni.
I make the cream sauce recipe, adding in some garlic powder.  We used this brand pepperoni because it is free of nitrates.  I'm also going to be searching for turkey pepperoni that is nitrate free but I haven't seen any yet.  At first Curly refused to eat this pizza because she sincerely believed it contained cheese.  Nope, none.  But the creamy sauce with the pepperoni was the closest we have come to a "real" pizza in a long time!  This pizza would also be good with a red sauce........if Tiger and Curly would eat red sauce......

BBQ Chicken pizza is my favorite and has Prince Charming's BBQ sauce and grilled chicken with red onion and green peppers.
We use this BBQ sauce on the pizza and Prince Charming grills chicken, basting it with this sauce.  He dices the chicken and then we pile it on our pizza with extra red onion (for me) and green peppers (for him).  The kids love this BBQ pizza, and although the toppings don't stay on well without the cheese, it's still a hit.

Dessert pizza is cinnamon sticks with glaze.
I use 1/4 Earth Balance and soften it.  I spread it over the dough and sprinkle a cinnamon sugar mixture on top-1/3 cup brown sugar, packed and 2 teaspoons cinnamon.  We bake it at 425 for about 12 minutes and then drizzle on the glaze.  For the glaze combine 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 1/2 Tablespoons rice milk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 1/2 teaspoons Earth Balance soy free, melted.  Whisk together and pour over the warm pizza.  I make this pizza in a jelly roll pan and we cut it into strips for our cinnamon sticks. 

Enjoy the experiments!

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