Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I'm taking a vacation this week.  No, not a real one.  Just a blog vacay.  We are redoing our homeschool room - it's currently a disaster area.  My hubby has had some crazy work scheduling stuff going on.  And we have a big appointment with our immunologist on Friday.  I've got to write out my list of questions to get ready!  Not to mention that Easter is coming up and I need to pull together some fun Easter ideas.  So, family is first and I've got to get caught up with some things around the house.  I'll be back next week to finish all the blog posts I've started and to share about our newest cupcake creation!

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Link Between Food and What Ails Your Child

If you had asked me several years ago the role food played in children's sicknesses and behavior issues, I probably would have thought you were crazy.  Well, if you asked me now, I'd tell you that I absolutely feel that food plays a huge role in just about everything! 

Here's a book on my wishlist:

The author draws connections between various foods and childhood illnesses and includes information about treatment.

I can personally vouch for the connection between dairy consumption and ear infections and gluten consumption and rashes.  What a difference our crazy diet makes for us!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Enjoy Life Products

We love many of the Enjoy Life products and I was so excited that they were coming out with some new things.  Yay!!  Then I went to their site and read through all the ingredient labels.  And we can't have a single flavor!!!  {Can you hear me crying in the closet??}  Every single flavor has quinoa in it.  Quinoa is a seed.  We are allergic to all seeds (at least all the seeds we've tried so far, and I'm not about to try any more......4 different seeds and 4 reactions is enough, no?)

So, I hope everyone else enjoys these!  But we sure won't be!  Ugh!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Allergy Free Chocolate Granola Bars

I have been meaning to make granola bars for forever!  But so many recipes contain so many things we can't have and I just didn't have the will power to try to change all the ingredients or create my own recipe.  I found this recipe at French Press and with some slight tweaking, I made it allergy free for Bee. 

These are so simple to make that Curly actually made them.  She loves working in the kitchen with me and I've been working to find some simpler recipes that she can make on her own.  

The granola bars were a huge hit and are the perfect thing when I'm in need of a chocolate fix......which with 5 small kids, I'm in need of about every day!

Chocolate Granola Bars
1 1/2 cup GF rolled oats
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 T Earth Balance Soy Free
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips

Whisk oats, rice cereal, cocoa powder, and salt together in large bowl.
Melt the brown sugar, honey, and Earth Balance together in small saucepan until just starting to bubble.
Stir in the vanilla and remove from heat.
Pour over dry ingredients.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Press into a greased jelly roll pan.
Store in fridge.

I'm going to be doing some granola bar experimentation in the upcoming weeks.  I need one with pea butter, one with marshmallows, one with raisins, and one with cinnamon and chocolate chips!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Allergy Free Cooking and Substitutions

Ok, not everyone has the same allergies and sometimes you need substitutions.  I'm not familiar with all the options out there (because we are allergic to many of them), but here are a few simple substitutions that you can make to change some ingredients to be allergy free for you, or to make the recipe "normal" and no longer allergy free.

Can you make my recipes with eggs?  I would think so.  I've never tried, obviously.  But if you do experiment, let me know how it turns out.

I use egg replacer in my recipes.

1 1/2 tsp of egg replacer (whisked with 2 T milk) = 1 egg
You can do some math and convert many of the recipes to an egg version.

You can also make an egg substitute with flax seeds-ground flax seeds that is.

1 T ground flax seeds mixed with 3 T water (let it sit for a while until it gels) = 1 egg
You can do some math to figure out the eggs in each recipe and substitute your flax seed eggs.

In some recipes, I use a mixture of rice milk whisked with olive oil to help bread things.  This is my "egg white" substitute.  You could use 2 or more whisked egg whites instead of this substitute.


All of my recipes should be possible to make with any type of milk that you choose, keeping in mind that some milks like nut milks and coconut milk can have stronger flavors.

Rice milk is more like a skim milk and so coconut milk may not always be a good substitute.

When my recipe calls for rice milk mixed with lemon juice, this is a butter milk substitute.  You can use the same amount of butter milk in the recipe.

I use coconut yogurt in some baked goods.  You should be able to substitute any type of yogurt for the coconut yogurt.  And in some recipes you can even use sour cream.

I use Earth Balance Soy Free as our butter substitute.  You should be able to use equal amounts of butter or margarine in these recipes.  In some recipes, vegetable oil or olive oil would work as well.

 Flour Blends

My flour blends are very basic because I have not branched out much with different grains as Bee as had reactions to other types of grains and flours (like quinoa).

So, you can make your own flour blend with the flours of your choice.  However, if you are using gluten free flours, make sure you have some type of starch (potato, tapioca, arrowroot) or your flour will be too heavy.  Also, make sure you use xanthan gum or guar gum with all gluten free recipes.  Without one of these ingredients, your baked goods will crumble.

All my recipes should work with regular wheat flour as well.  If you make the recipe in a version that is not gluten free, you can omit the the xanthan gum as it is only needed for gluten free recipes.


All of my recipes are soy free.  Instead of soy sauce, I use coconut aminos which is a great substitute for soy sauce.  You can substitute equal parts soy sauce for the coconut aminos.  However, regular soy sauce is not gluten free so if you need to remain gluten free, use Tamari soy sauce or another gluten free brand.

Peanut/Nut Butters

We are allergic to all nuts, seeds, and peanuts so we use No Nut Butter which is made from peas.  You can substitute the peanut or nut butter of your choice for the No Nut Butter.  However, you may need to reduce the amount of salt in the recipe (No Nut Butter is not salted).  In addition, you may need to slightly reduce the amount of liquid or oil in a recipe as No Nut Butter is not as creamy as most other nut butters. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Allergy Action Plan

We have an allergy action plan.  Do you?

What's an action plan?
This is an explanation of what to do in the event of an allergic reaction.

  • Our action plan has Bee's information: her name, her birthdate, and a list of her allergies.
  • The plan also has our information: our contact information and our insurance information.
  • The plan details what to do if Bee has a reaction: what to do if she's itchy, has a rash, breaks out in hives, is wheezing, or has trouble breathing.
  • The plan also includes a list of her meds with instructions on dosage and how to use them.
  • Our plan has our doctors contact information and is signed by our doctor.  

Why an action plan?
It's true-we don't often leave Bee.  She's usually close by.  But we always have an action plan with her in her Epi bag.  This is for Sunday school teachers or any other caregiver.  I feel more comfortable leaving Bee in someone's care (I still stay in the building), if they have a list of allergies to avoid and a protocol to follow if Bee has problems.  The plan spells out what to do and who to contact if there are questions or a problem.  It contains specific directions for all her meds and how to administer the Epi pen.

It's also for any emergency worker.  I learned the hard way that sometimes the emergency response team or the ER doctors may think you're crazy.  They might even have the gall to argue with you.  But now, I just hand over my action plan and they can see all of Bee's important information.  It keeps me from having to repeat the information a dozen times in an emergency and it also validates the information I tell them.  If they argue with me, I tell them to take it up with our doctor-her numbers on the page and her signature's at the bottom.

You can make your own plan or use one of the plans online.
Here's a food allergy action plan and here is one for asthma.  Here's a combined form for asthma and allergies and this form is from FARE's website.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Our Allergy Kit

We have an emergency allergy kit.  We travel with two small bags hooked onto my purse, our diaper bag, or Daddy's belt loop.  Our bags are hot pink so they are hard to miss, and the words "Epi Pen" are embroidered on the outside.

The bags are simple zippered pencil bags that were purchased through 31 Gifts.  They are attached to a bag or belt look with a giant carabiner.

Want a look inside?

In the first bag:
Twin Epi Pens
Our action plan and the instructions for the Epi pens
Benadryl cream
Cortizone cream

In the second bag:
Inhalers (Xopenex)
Spacer for inhalers 
Benadryl tablets

We're always prepared!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Allergy Free Pea Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

I'm still experimenting with our No Nut Butter and we have a new recipe!  We made pea butter cupcakes with some chocolate frosting.  These tasted like a Reese's Cup!  
They are peanut buttery with great texture.  The chocolate on top goes so well with the pea butter.  Tiger yelled for me to "Make this again; make this again!"  I'll do that!

Pea Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
1  1/4 cup flour blend
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup pea butter
1/2 cup Earth Balance Soy Free
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3 tsp egg replacer whisked with 4 T rice milk
1 tsp vanilla 
12 T vanilla hemp milk

Mix first four ingredients in large bowl and set aside.
In mixer cream pea butter, Earth Balance, and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
Add in the egg replacer and mix well.
Add in vanilla.
Slowly beat in the flour mixture, alternating with hemp milk until just combined.
Do not overmix.
Pour into greased cupcake tins and bake at 350 for 22-24 minutes.
Cool on wire rack.

Makes 12 cupcakes 

*Note-you may need more or less hemp milk.  I just added hemp milk slowly until I had a smooth batter consistency (it originally looked more like cookie dough).*     

If you want to make this recipe with a different type of butter, reduce the salt to 1/4 tsp and reduce the amount of hemp milk. 

Allergy Free Chocolate Frosting
1/2 cup Earth Balance Soy Free
1/2 cup shortening (I use Spectrum brand)
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
3 T vanilla hemp milk

Whisk together 3 cups powdered sugar and cocoa powder and set aside.
Cream Earth Balance and shortening together until well mixed.
On low, add in dry ingredients.
Next add the salt and vanilla.
Slowly add milk until frosting reaches desired consistency.

 photo 9c2d3d39-9e5d-4351-b060-d6251ee13eaa_zpseda17cd5.jpg


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chalk and Dairy Allergies

Did you know that chalk can contain casein?  Learn something new every day!

Now, we use sidewalk chalk all the time at our house and Bee has never had a problem.  Apparently Crayola and Cra Z Art are both free of the allergen.  Since we use those brands, we've been safe.  But now I'm going to be reading all the ingredient labels.  Apparently, it's the type of chalk used in classrooms that I have to worry about.

Chalk - I'll add that to my list of things to be paranoid about.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Denied and the Difference Between Albuterol and Levalbuterol

I was having a just wonderful day........not.........and I went to our pharmacy to pick up a prescription for Bee's inhaler.  She has a Xopenex inhaler that our doctor gave us.  Our doctor also gave us a prescription to get a few more inhalers to keep at home and in the car.  After all of Bee's asthma and breathing issues with the weather changes I decided we needed to have another inhaler on hand.  I went to pick up the inhaler and the pharmacist told me that our insurance had denied coverage.  What?  Our insurance is refusing to pay a single cent for Bee's prescribed inhalers.

I came home, hopped on the computer to look up inhaler options and gave our insurance a call.  I learned that they will cover almost every inhaler but the very one that Bee is using.  I learned a few little things about inhalers while I was trying to get things worked out.  Since I don't have asthma and have never had to deal with nebulizers and inhalers before Bee, I didn't realize there were so many different kinds.  Asthma kids and parents usually refer to them by their color combinations.  Bee has the "blue one" and our insurance will pay for the "red and white one" and some of the other colors.

Here's what I learned:

Inhalers are bronchodilators-they open up the airways to allow more air into the lungs.  There are two types of medications used to open airways:
  • albuterol
  • levalbuterol

Most inhalers are albuterol.  This medication is cheaper (aha!  This is why my insurance will pay for it).  It's effective.  But it can have more side effects, or at least more pronounced side effects, than the alternative medication.  Albuterol can increase heart rate, cause shakiness, and jitters.  Also, albuterol has a shorter duration of action.  Its effects usually only last for 4-6 hours. 

Levalbuterol is more commonly referred to as Xopenex.  That's the inhaler we have.  It's more expensive but just as effective with minimal side effects when compared with albuterol inhalers.  It also has a longer duration of action and the effects can last for 5-8 hours.

I don't know about you but I'd rather pay more for longer lasting with less possible side effects or at least minimized side effects.

I think I'm going to fight them on this one.  I've already put in a call to our doctor and she's going to help me appeal by writing a letter of medical necessity.

I never expected them to deny coverage of a widely used inhaler.  They are going to get an earful.
Would they rather pay for ER visits for asthma attacks or pay for something to prevent the asthma attack from progressing?  They need to do the math!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Referral to Our Immunologist

Ok, so our immunologist no longer takes patients with a self-referral.  You can't just call up and make an appointment anymore.  You have to be referred to them by a doctor.  But, I need an appointment!

Well, little Punkin is having some allergy issues.  I want her to be seen by our immunologist.  Our pediatrician (who is brand new to us) thinks I'm a little uptight and he could possibly think I'm completely nuts.  I don't care though.  I called and told him my concerns about Punkin and said I wanted her to see our immunologist.  He wasn't sure what that doctor could do for us.  I don't really care at this point.  I just want her to be an established patient.  So, he grudgingly agreed to issue a referral.

If there's one thing I've learned on our food allergy journey, it's that you have to advocate for your child.  If you feel that a different doctor is a good decision, go for it-find a new doctor.  If you disagree with the doctor, speak up!  If you are completely lost with what the doctor is telling you, ask those questions!  You know your child and no one else knows them (or cares for them) the way that you do.  Speak up and don't be afraid to ask questions, get other opinions, or find a new doctor.

It's also ok to say "No."  You can tell a doctor "no."  It's really really hard to do though!  But after doing it a few times, you'll have the courage to say that little word when you need it.  I've had to pull out that word a few times.  Some doctors were furious (and that was the last time we saw them) and others were shocked.  A few others I think respected my decision and were a little proud that I didn't back down (I'm sure they would never admit it).

But what I've learned in saying no, asking questions, and trying to find the best answers and treatment plan for our kids-is that I'm often right.  When I have that horrible nagging feeling that something is not ok, I'm usually right.  When I have huge doubts about what the doctor is telling me, there's usually a reason for those strong doubts.  I've let my mommy instinct do that talking a time or two.  And after lots of prayer, we've made decisions to switch doctors, ask different questions, or refuse certain options.  I don't regret any of it.  I'm so thankful I was able to speak up.

And I'm glad that we "shopped around" until we found a doctor who listened to us and worked with us.  I trust her and she trusts me-she trusts what I tell her and she backs me up when I have a suspicion about Bee's allergies.  She has told me that I can always call and I can always blame her-she wrote Bee's strict allergy plan and she encourages me to hand it to everyone and tell them that it's "doctor's orders."  It's so important to have a doctor on your team.  

Back to Punkin - I'm fairly certain that something is a little off with her.  I firmly believe that she has some food allergies and sensitivities.  I'm going to keep working to find the answers.  And I'm going to make the long drive to our immunologists office and see what she thinks.  She's one doctor that's definitely worth keeping-she listens, asks great questions, asks what I think about her plan, and always respects my decision.  She's a rare find when it comes to doctors.  I'm excited that we can take Punkin to her.  She told me at our last visit to call her first thing if I had any questions about Punkin.  So, we'll be seeing her soon!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Allergy Free Green Bean Casserole

I do not like green bean casserole.  Never, ever have.  I don't like canned green beans or canned soups or green mushy foods.  But my hubby has been sweetly asking me for green bean casserole for months.  I finally relented and searched around for recipes, made tons of changes, tried it a few different ways and finally found a recipe that he loves.  And I have to admit, I kinda like it too.  You know, it's not half bad when it's made with fresh or frozen green beans and made from scratch.  It also helps that my hubby made homemade onion rings for the topping.  I no longer hate green bean casserole and the kids thought it was pretty good!  I guess I'll make it again for the hubby.......

Green Bean Casserole
3 T olive oil
4 T Earth Balance Soy Free
1/2 red onion, diced
3 T rice flour
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp granulated garlic 
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
16 oz fresh or frozen green beans (I used French style)

Thaw and drain green beans.  Or rinse and dry if using fresh.
Add olive oil and Earth Balance to sauce pan.  
Heat on medium until Earth Balance melts.
Add diced onions and saute until onions are translucent.
Turn heat to low and whisk in the flour.
Slowly add in chicken broth and spices.
Heat on medium high until thickened slightly.
Pour over green beans in greased casserole dish.
Heat in oven at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly.
Top with diced onion rings.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Weather Changes and Asthma

None of my kids have officially been diagnosed with asthma.  But Bee sometimes has some asthma symptoms.  Hers are mostly associated with sickness though.  Whenever she has a bad cold or a respiratory infection, I can just plan to pull out the nebulizer and be ready for breathing treatments late at night.  Thankfully she can run and play all day and she's never had problems when exercising.  She also doesn't seem to have terrible environmental allergies.  She occasionally has a cough but doesn't need any daily meds to control her allergies.  It seems like it's just sickness that gives her breathing trouble.  But this weekend, we discovered a new cause of breathing problems - drastic weather changes.

My family was in town for the weekend and Bee was spending the night in the hotel with her grandparents.  Late that night we got a call that Bee wanted to come home-this NEVER happens so we were really surprised.  My mom said that she was coughing and having a hard time breathing and they thought she might need some breathing treatments.  My dad brought her right home and when she came in the door we could hear her wheezing.  She had circles around her eyes and looked utterly exhausted.  What happened???  She had been fine that day and the day before.  She did have a slight cough but nothing serious.  She went from active and happy to completely worn out from trying to breathe. 

My husband had the nebulizer ready and we started a breathing treatment right away.  6 hours later we were finally getting her breathing under control.  My poor husband was up almost all night with her.  She had breathing treatments every 2 hours, hot steamy showers, humidifiers blasting, inhalers, cough medicine, and so so much coughing and wheezing.  She has not ever had that much trouble breathing before.  By morning she was finally able to breathe and she decided to take a nap.  By the afternoon she was ready to play and feeling good again.  We could not figure it out!

Then we realized that we have had drastic weather changes-from temperatures in the 30's at night to 50's in the day, followed by a day in the 70's.  From one day to the next the temperature can vary by more than 20 degrees in the daytime, not to mention the crazy lows it hits at night.  After talking with some other parents of asthma kids, all their kids are struggling this time of year as well.  Not only have we had super windy days with lots of pollen and dust, but the crazy temperature swings make it hard for their kids to breathe too.  So, the weather changes have been affecting Bee and making her miserable!  I can't wait for consistently warm days.  I think I'm ready for summer!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Gluten Free Stats and Facts

Stats and Facts:

  • Fact:  Food allergies and intolerances are ON THE RISE.
  • Fact:  One in every 3 Americans modifies his or her diet in the believe that they, or a loved one, have a food allergy.  In many cases, it is a food intolerance causing the problems.
  • Stat:  At least 30 MILLION Americans suffer from some sort of food intolerance.
  • Fact:  Doctors are reporting an increase in food allergies in the USA.
  • Stat:  8 Foods account for 90% of all food allergies.  (cow's milk, eggs, wheat or gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, and shellfish)
  • Fact:  American parents with autistic children are experimenting with gluten-and-casein-free diets as a means to manage the symptoms of this condition. Many doctors are recommending such special diets to parents of autistic children.
  • Fact:  Other health conditions (i.e. ADHD, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and candida, to name a few) have been suggested to benefit from specific food avoidance, especially the avoidance of gluten.
For parents of children with special diets, make sure friends, other parents, teachers, and coaches understand the necessity of the diet. Build a network of parents who can share your concerns and successes.  Don't live in a bubble- plan ahead to assure there is a treat your child can enjoy at parties and activities.  And, check out fun camp programs for kids with celiac disease or food allergies.  Each step taken to allow your child to participate in "normal" activities will help to ensure he or she feels comfortable in a social setting and can also be included in birthday parties, activities, and much more!

Additionally, remember that eliminating allergens can mean losing out on very important nutrients.  Look for allergy-friendly foods that are higher in fiber and fortified with vitamins and minerals.  Children and adults need a total balance for proper nutrition and and a healthier future.  A certified nutritionist can help in determining proper foods to help families with special diets realize ways to "fill in" the blanks.  Offer lots of different veggies and enjoy fruits, but don't overdo on fruits and fruit juices.  Be creative!

Life can still be good even without certain foods!
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