Thursday, July 31, 2014

{Allergy Free} Lemon Vanilla Muffins

Lemon Vanilla Muffins

3 cups flour blend
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp egg replacer whisked with 4 T rice milk
1 1/4 cup vanilla hemp milk
1/2 cup Earth Balance, melted
1 T lemon zest

Glaze Dip
4 T Earth Balance melted
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla 
2 T hot water
1 tsp lemon zest

Whisk together dry ingredients in one bowl.
Mix wet ingredients (except lemon zest) in separate bowl.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just moistened.
Fold in lemon zest.
Pour into greased muffin tin and bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes or until tops spring back when touched.
Let muffins cool on wire rack.

To make glaze:
Whisk all ingredients together.
You can add more hot water if the glaze is too think to whisk well.
Dip cooled muffins in the glaze and let sit on wire rack until glaze sets.

Makes 12 muffins.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fire Ant Allergy and ER Visits

I thought we had been doing pretty good by avoiding the ER since December.  Unfortunately we had another quick trip to our local ER in June.  Little Punkin was swimming at our neighborhood pool with my husband.  She was walking around the edge and playing in the lounge chairs.  There were quite a few ants nearby due to all the sticky spills around the outside of the pool from all the recent pool parties.

As they were leaving the pool my husband noticed that she was very itchy and suddenly became very cranky.  He thought she was just tired and hot.  He brought her home and I placed her in a warm bath while I rinsed out her swimsuit.  When I pulled her out of the tub to wrap her in a towel, I noticed that she was very red.  Within seconds she was covered in a bright red, itchy rash.  She began to shriek as I tried to dry her off.  The red rash turned into huge red, raised hives that were welts covering her entire body.  I noticed that one foot was especially swollen and red.

We gave her some Benadryl and waited for the swelling to go down.  It was getting worse every second and her screaming was starting to scare me.  She was thrashing around and trying to scratch her skin off.  I quickly put on her diaper and tried to calm her as we waited.  Then she got scary quiet as the redness kept spreading up her torso and onto her face and neck.  That's when I began to panic.

I told my husband that I thought I should take her somewhere to monitor her oxygen levels and heart rate.  He agreed so he dressed her while I grabbed the diaper bag and loaded the car.  Soon we were on our way to the local ER which is just across the highway from our house.  By the time I walked in the doors, Punkin was a mass of raised welts and the color of ripe strawberries.  The nurse immediately took us back to a room, took of her jammies, and started checking her vital signs.

Thankfully, Punkin was stable and her breathing was not affected.  We stayed in the ER for monitoring for a little while.  During this time her rash began to get better and the swelling went down.  We were sent home with instructions to give her Benadryl for the next several days and watch the rash carefully.

While we're not sure what caused this severe reactions, we do believe that she was bitten by a fire ant at the pool and that caused her to become itchy and swollen.  We'll be following up with our immunologist to see if we can determine the cause of her reaction and see if there are other insects, foods, or environmental allergens that are triggers.

What is an allergy to fire ants?

It does not mean that you have an itchy or uncomfortable bite or that the area around the bite is swollen, red, or tender.

A true allergy to fire ants will manifest itself in:
  • Hives on other parts of the body
  • Stomach cramps, diarrhea, or vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the tongue or lips

The allergy can progress to anaphylaxis which causes:
  • Dizzyness
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Closure of the throat

Repeated exposure to your allergen can cause you to have a more severe reaction each time you are bitten.

We will have to monitor Punkin closely and try to avoid fire ants in the future.  We have already seen a fire ant allergy in our oldest daughter Curly.  Her reaction has been more severe each time she was stung.  The last time she had a sting, it took 3 days for her rash and swelling to subside. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Allergy Free No Bake Cookies

Don't want to use the oven this summer?  No problem!  Make some no bake cookies.  These are so simple that my kids make them, and then I eat 5 or 6 in a row.  So yummy!

No Bake Cookies
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup Earth Balance
3 T cocoa powder
1/2 cup hemp milk
1/2 cup No Nut Butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups rolled oats

Mix the sugar, Earth Balance, cocoa, and milk in medium saucepan.
Boil for 1 minute.
Add No Nut Butter and vanilla and stir until No Nut Butter melts.
Add oatmeal and mix until well blended.
Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper-lined baking sheets.
Cool in fridge until the cookies are set and completely cool.
Store in fridge.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Questions Every Allergy Parent Gets Asked

If you are an allergy parent you find yourself explaining about the allergies at every turn.  You feel like you have a very limited vocabulary.  Your most common phrases are "What's in that?" "Don't eat that!" "We can't have that." "We have food allergies."  You recite these over and over and they become your mantras.  You can recite your list of allergens in your sleep.

And as you explain about the allergies you find yourself being asked the same questions over and over and over again.  You patiently explain and discuss and try to educate.  However, you sometimes find yourself saying some little "snappy comebacks" in your head.  Not that you would ever say them aloud.  But you know you've thought them.....

Will she outgrow her allergies?
You must have me confused with someone else - like God, possibly.  He's the only one that would actually know that answer.  My doctor doesn't even have a clue.

Can she get shots for that?  Is there treatment for her?
If she could, don't you think I would be doing that!?  I mean, if there was a known cure I would be the first one to sign up.  

What happens when she eats that food?
She dies.  Truly.  I don't even want to think about it.

Can she even be in the room with that food?
Do you think that's a good idea?  We don't really have a death wish.

Can she touch that food?
We like to live dangerously and come as close to an allergic reaction as we can without actually ingesting the food.  Why would we touch that food?  Really?  Not smart......

Where did her allergies come from?  Do you have allergies?
Again.  I'm not God.  I have no clue and neither does my doctor.  And no, not a single person in our family has diagnosed food allergies.  Can you say unexpected surprise??

How did you figure out her allergies?
One anaphylactic reaction after another.  No, it wasn't pretty.  Trial and error when the error could be your child's life is not what I would call fun.

What can you eat?
The foods she's not allergic too.
Real food.  Healthy food.  Fresh food.  Food that you should try too.

Don't you miss (insert favorite allergic food here)?
Wouldn't you?  But isn't my daughter's life worth giving up a cheese pizza or a PB&J?

No, no, no.  These thoughts never escape.  But I do think them and I do tire of the questions. 

Do most people know much about food allergies?  No.  Do most people ask in a curious and/or compassionate way.  Yes.  Therefore, I try to educate and respond in kind.

So, here's what I actually say:

Will she outgrow her allergies?
We don't know but we certainly hope she does.  Our doctor did say that her chances are somewhat small because her allergies are so very severe.

Can she get shots for that?  Is there a treatment for her?
No.  At this point she is not a candidate for shots or any type of treatment currently being tested.  Her allergies are too severe as are her reactions.  We hope there are more options in the future.
What happens when she eats that food?
She has life threatening food allergies.  So when she eats an allergen she breaks out in hives, experiences swelling, and her throat closes, making it difficult for her to breathe.  She can go into anaphylactic shock.

Can she even be in the room with that food?
While she can be in the room with some of her allergens, we try to practice strict avoidance whenever possible. 

Can she touch that food?
No.  In the past when she's come into contact with an allergen she has broken out in hives and begun having an allergic reaction.  She has contact allergies which means that she can't even come into direct contact with her allergen and remain safe. 

Where did her allergies come from?  Do you have allergies?
We don't know.  No one in our families have allergies.  The cause of food allergies is debatable and is still unknown. 

How did you figure out her allergies?
Unfortunately, through her having allergic reactions as an infant and then through later testing (and later allergic reactions).  It's a very slow and very scary learning process.

What can you eat?
We have lots of choices and we've developed many safe recipes.  We stick to meats and veggies and she can have a few fruits and a few grains.  We do most of our cooking from scratch to keep her safe.

Don't you miss (insert favorite allergic food here)?
Yes.  But the sacrifice of those foods are worth it for our family.  Plus, we sometimes get a date night out to enjoy all of our old favorites (hello, mac and cheese, frozen yogurt, and pizza!).

So, if you're an allergy parent you've probably fielded those questions and more.  And yes, while it is tiring, it is important to help educate those out there who are not familiar with food allergies.  Just think, you're doing a service for all of us.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

{Allergy Free} Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups

These are such yummy treats!  If you've never done much egg-free baking you will learn that egg free muffins and cupcakes can tend to "fall" in the center.  Not fun.  However, this recipe makes gooey cookie cups that are perfect for holding one scoop of rice ice cream.  This is our new favorite summer treat!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups

1/2 cup Earth Balance Soy Free
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer mixed with 2 T rice milk
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour blend
1/2 cup bread flour blend
3/4 tsp xanthan
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 cup rice milk
1/2 bag Enjoy Life chocolate chips

Brown Earth Balance over medium low heat.  You will need to stir it constantly.  It will look foamy and bubbly and then it will look more clear.  Finally, it will begin to look like a light golden, honey color.  At that point, turn off the heat and continue stirring for 1 minute.  Then set aside.

In large bowl mix the egg replacer mixture, the sugars, and the vanilla.  Then pour in the browned Earth Balance and stir well.
Add in the flours, xanthan, baking soda, and salt.  Stir until just incorporated.
Gently stir in the rice milk.
Then fold in the chocolate chips.

Distribute batter evenly into muffin tins that have been sprayed very, very well.
Bake at 350 for 10-11 minutes until golden brown and just set.
Let cool in pans for 20 minutes and then turn out on wire rack.  If any are stuck use a spatula to run around the edges.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Food Allergies and a Visit to Sea World

We live in a fun city that has lots of entertainment and dining options.  Unfortunately, we don't take advantage of many of them.  Very few places are safe and many things are not worth the risk.  However, we have found one place that we visit frequently - Sea World.

How do we safely visit Sea World with our food allergies?

It all began with a phone call to the corporate office of Sea World.  I explained our food allergies as well as the contact allergies and my concerns of cross contamination.  They provided a letter that stated our medical condition and gave us permission to bring our own food into the park.  Now I enter Sea World with our little soft-sided cooler with allergy-free food and we don't have to worry about trying to find something safe to eat inside the park.  In fact, we don't even go near any of their restaurants.  We stick to the shows and the rides.

So, we can get into Sea World with our allergy free food.  But what does a visit look like from my perspective?

Here are the details from our last trip.......

I spent an hour preparing and packing food for our trip.  I divided everything into smaller containers (because they don't allow large containers) and I made sure I had more than we would need.  Then I filled water bottles for each person and started loading the car.

We arrived at Sea World with a double stroller, a soft cooler, our Epi bags, and an armful of waterbottles and towels.  It felt a lot like moving.

Then we had to go through the always fun (and super cheerful) security check.  Did you notice the sarcasm?  The guard took his little silver stick and began to dig through my cooler.  Then he started pulling everything out and saying, "Nope you can't have this.  No, you can't have that."  I started to explain to him about the letter when he interrupted me and told me I had to have a "card."  What on earth?  He told me I had to go to guest services.

I was completely annoyed so I got back in a different line with another guard.  I told him about the letter and showed it to him.  He waved me right on through.  Unbelievable!!!

We were finally inside the park.  As we walked through the crowds I kept Bee right next to me, holding on to the stroller with one hand.  This is the conversation I had in my head as we walked to our first show.

Ohhh, ice cream, ice cream.  Move left!  Yikes!  Yikes!!

No, no, no!  Nachos.  Nachos coming.  They look drippy.  Careful, careful!

That guy is eating turkey leg.  Ok, safe.  Very gross.  But safe. 

What is this coming?  What is that boy holding?  It's a bag.  It's chips.  It's Nacho Doritos!  Oh, panic, panic, panic.  Move over.  

Cups, cups, cups.  Those people have cups with spoons.  What's in the cups?  Ice cream?  Ice cream?  Nope, just frozen lemonade.  Deep breath.  Deep breath.

This is what goes through my head as we walk around the park.  I notice what every single person is eating.  Sometimes I throw my body between Bee and the person walking by if I see ice cream or something with cheese on it in their hands.  I have mini panic attacks and silently scream in my head as I count the unsafe foods that pass us.

Show time is not much more relaxing.  I sit with Bee either right next to me or right in my lap.  I watch everyone who sits around us.  When I see that they have snacks I watch until I can determine what they are eating.  If it's unsafe I have all the kids shift around so I can keep Bee away from those foods.

Neurotic?  Probably.  But we've stayed safe at every visit and I know every. single. food that you could possibly purchase at Sea World.  However, my kids can't hear my crazy internal conversations and panic moments, so they have an absolutely wonderful time.  And for a few hours I feel slightly normal as I wander through the crowds and enjoy the shows.  We look like any other family - well maybe except for the part where I fling myself in front of people as a human shield to keep ice cream away from Bee.  We're almost normal..........

Thursday, July 10, 2014

{Allergy Free} Chocolate Dipped Pea Butter Donuts

These are rich and wonderful!  Next time I'm going to be doubling the recipe because they disappeared in no time.  I may have licked the bowl of chocolate glaze clean myself......

Chocolate Dipped Pea Butter Donuts

1/3 cup Pea Butter
1/4 cup vanilla coconut yogurt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer mixed with 2 T rice milk
1/3 cup vanilla hemp milk plus 2 T
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour blend
3/4 tsp xanthan
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

In mixing bowl, beat pea butter, vanilla yogurt, and brown sugar until creamy.
Add in the egg replacer mixture, hemp milk, and vanilla and mix well.
In separate bowl combine flour blend, xanthan, baking powder, and salt.
Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
Put dough into a large ziploc bag, snip off one end, and pipe into greased donut tins.
Bake for 8 minutes at 350 until the donuts feel firm and spring back.
Let cool on wire racks.

Makes 12 donuts.

Chocolate Glaze

1/2 bag of Enjoy Life chocolate chips
2 T rice milk

Place chocolate chips and rice milk in microwave safe bowl.
Microwave for 30 seconds and then stir.
Microwave for another 30 seconds and stir well until smooth.
Dunk the donuts into the bowl of chocolate and set out on wire rack to let chocolate harden.

Note: If you make this with a different type of nut or sunflower butter, cut the salt in half.  Pea Butter is not salted so it needs extra salt.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Epi Pens and ERs

Thankfully Bee doesn't have many ER visits.  However, her most recent ER visit was in December of last year.  That was not a fun day.

Bee was spending the day with her grandparents at a local hotel.  They were eating at a restaurant in the hotel where they know the chefs.  They always prepare gluten free oatmeal for Bee.  This day they were eating in a different dining room but should have been eating the same food.

For this special day it was meet Santa during breakfast and the kids were very excited.  Not long after eating, Bee began to get itchy and rashy.  She was sneezing and coughing.  When my dad took a close look at her, he could see that her eyes were beginning to swell.  He called me to tell me what was happening as he took her back to their hotel room to give her some Benadryl.

That's when her eyes began to swell shut.  I told him to give her the Epi pen right away and that I would be at the hotel in a few minutes to take her to the ER. 

When I arrived he rushed her out to me and I quickly put her in the car to drive to the ER where my husband was waiting for me.  I ran in as the nurses opened the door and put her directly into a room to start an IV line with Benadryl and steroids.  Her entire face was swollen and puffy and her eyes were almost swollen shut.

I spent the next 4 hours watching her sleep as the swelling slowly came down and her breathing became calm and steady.  It took 3 days for all the swelling to finally disappear.

The worst part of our ER visit was that we have no idea what caused her reaction.  We can only assume that the hotel must have cross-contaminated her food or prepared something incorrectly.  But we will never know what it was.

So now I worry that there could be another allergy that I don't know about yet.  Or maybe it's just because people were not as careful as they should have been.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

{Allergy Free} Chocolate Cinnamon Cookies

These are yummy, gooey, and full of chocolate and cinnamon.  They taste like a cross between brownies and Texas sheet cake.  But next time I'll know to double the recipe!

Chocolate Cinnamon Cookies

12 oz of chocolate chips - divided
3/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp xanthan
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp corn starch (or tapioca starch)
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup Earth Balance Soy Free
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tsp egg replacer whisked with 4 T rice milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

Melt 8 oz of chocolate chips in microwave. (I microwaved mine for intervals of 30 seconds, stirring in between).
Combine next 7 ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk together.
Cream Earth Balance and sugars together in mixing bowl.
Add egg replacer mixture and vanilla and mix well.
Slowly add flour mixture and stir until just combined.
Stir in remaining chocolate chips.
Chill for 30 minutes to an hour.
Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes until cookies are slightly cracked on top.
Cool on cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes before moving to wire rack.

Makes about 24 cookies

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Our Allergy Journey - Year 5

Bee celebrated her 5th birthday this past spring.  It's hard to believe that our little allergy baby is growing up and will be a Kindergartner next year! 

Before I talk about where we are today, I want to take a look back on where we've been.  We've come so far in our allergy journey but we still have such a long way to go.

Bee was diagnosed at about 8 months old even though I had suspected that she had some health problems since she was about 6 weeks old.  After our initial diagnosis of severe food allergies we've spent years learning about food allergies and discovering her additional allergies that were not a part of the original test.  We've been through various tests and have experienced many severe allergic reactions.  We have changed how our entire family functions in order to keep our allergy baby safe.  It has been a long, difficult, and emotional journey to where we are today.

Today Bee is a happy and healthy 5 year old.  She loves bugs - especially the grasshopper and the roly-poly.  She is just learning how to read and she enjoys books when she can make herself sit still.  She loves to dress up and can be found dancing through the house in one of her fancy costumes.  She loves music and is always whistling, singing, or composing new pieces on the piano.  She is quite the creative little mind and is the "other mother" at our house; she loves to take care of her younger sisters.

  • At this point, Bee has not outgrown any of her allergies.  It's so discouraging to think about the hope that we had when she was a baby.  We were told that many children start outgrowing allergies around age 5.  That hasn't been true in our case.  

  • We still experience severe reactions.  Bee had her latest ER visit last December for anaphylaxis.  Her eyes swelled shut, she had trouble breathing, and she was red and itchy all over.

  • We could possibly have unknown allergens.  We're not always sure what causes Bee's reactions and some of the causes might still be unknown - or could be the result of cross-contamination.

  • We still eat most of our meals at home.  Even though many restaurants are allergy-friendly or at least allergy-aware, we still choose to eat mainly at home.

  • Bee has begun to develop asthma.  When she runs for a long time or is very active she sometimes becomes short of breath.  She also has difficulty breathing and taking deep breaths when pollen counts are high.  This means that we keep an inhaler close at hand.

  • Bee is showing signs of environmental allergies.  She has yet to be tested for these allergies but I'm certain that they are there.  When she spends a day playing outside, she spends the next day recovering-with a stuffy or runny nose and a persistent cough. 

  • Bee is slowly learning to be an advocate for her allergies.  She is able to tell others about her allergies and knows what foods to avoid.  Even though she's only 5, she is articulate and outspoken and not afraid to try to explain her allergies to others.

  • Bee has accepted her limitations.  I'm so blessed that Bee (and all of my children) joyfully accept that our lives are very different.  I try to cook and bake alternative meals so that they don't feel left out when going to different functions or when having friends over to our house.  But it's still glaringly obvious that we have some strict limitations.  However, all of my children do whatever it takes to keep our family safe - even when that means turning down a cookie or saying no to a particular activity.

I still answer the same questions over and over again about our allergies.  I still have the same worries and fears.  I still battle fear when we got out to different places and I still fight discouragement that we have had so little improvement with Bee.  I stress about what the future holds and I still wonder if things will ever look at least a little bit more "normal" here.  

So, even though it feels like so little has changed, I see the improvement in Bee.  She's a bubbly little person who looks perfectly healthy.  While the food allergies are still there and we maintain our allergy-free lifestyle, things have changed and she is thriving despite the may allergies and limitations.  We are very blessed indeed!

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