Thursday, August 28, 2014

{Allergy Free} Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

These are rich, creamy, and amazing.  The cupcake is moist and the frosting is thick, but my favorite part is the cookie crumbles throughout the cupcake and icing. 

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes
4 cups flour blend
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup vanilla hemp milk
4 1/2 tsp egg replacer whisked with 6 T rice milk
1/2 cup melted Earth Balance
1 cup water
1 package of K-Too chocolate cookies (Oreo substitute)

Pull all cookies in half, leaving cream on one side.
Put the cookie pieces with cream on them on bottom of lined muffin tins, cream side up.
Crush remaining cookie halves.
Mix dry ingredients.
Add all wet ingredients and mix well in mixer until smooth.
Fold in 3/4 of the remaining crushed cookies, reserving the last 1/4 of the crushed pieces to put in icing.
Pour over the cookies in muffin tins.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

For icing:
1/3 cup Earth Balance
1/2 cup cream cheese substitute
1 T vanilla hemp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups powdered sugar
remaining cookie crumbs

Mix together all ingredients, adding more milk or powdered sugar to reach a thick, creamy consistency.
Fold in the cookie crumbs and pipe icing onto cupcakes when cool.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

If you use one package of K-Toos you will not have enough cookies for each cupcake.  I just left a few cupcakes without a cookie on bottom rather than open a new package.

*These should probably be stored in the fridge because the cream cheese substitute can become runny when not kept cold.

Linked with Share Your Stuff Tuesday

Linked with Allergy Free Wednesdays!

Linked with Linda's Lunacy

Hip Homeschool Moms

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Identifying as the Allergy Family

If you knew us in real life we would be "that family with food allergies."  Most people know *of* us before they've actually been introduced to us.  I feel like we walk around with a tattoo across our foreheads that identifies us as the food allergy family.

Why this is good
  • People never forget us
With our little entourage of 5 stair step kiddos and our larger than life food allergies, we are pretty memorable.  Thankfully this means that people immediately recognize us and our kids and connect us with food allergies.  This helps us keep our kids safe.

  • People heighten their awareness when we are around
Because we are apparently so unforgettable people are mindful of what they are eating or serving when we are around.  Most people see us and their immediate reaction is to remove food or to keep food away from us.  At least they get the message and give us a wide path.

  • People are educated about food allergies through us
We have the privilege of being the face of food allergies in our community.  When people think of food allergies, they immediately think of us.  And through the educational information that we've been able to share with others, they are more aware and understanding of others with food allergies.  They often refer newly diagnosed friends to us so we can connect with other new allergy parents.

  • People are brought into our food allergy network
Through our food allergy advocacy we often meet other families with food allergies.  It is encouraging to be able to connect with them, share our struggles, talk about our discoveries, and commiserate about our fears.  We have been able to connect with so many other wonderful people and families through our identity as an allergy family. 

Why this isn't good

  • I hate standing out
Our family stands out and not always in a good way.  People seem to panic when they see us coming and quickly hide the food.  When they talk with us the conversation often centers around the food allergies and how to keep our kids safe.  I miss being somewhat normal.  I miss just being able to have a quiet conversation and not have friends and teachers tracking me down to ask food safety questions.

  • I hate when we are treated differently
Yes, we are sometimes looked at as if we are pretty strange.  Some people refuse to accept the reality or severity of the food allergies and they think we are ridiculously over-protective parents.  Others are so worried about the food allergies and our kids that they seem to exist in a state of panic whenever they are near us.  

  • I hate when we are excluded
There have been times that we were not invited to a party or other function because the host didn't know how to accommodate us (or didn't want to make the effort).  It's hard to hear of birthday parties or get togethers that bypassed us.  Some people are honest and tell us they don't know how we could possibly come and others try to secretly overlook our lack of invite.  Either way, it does hurt that we can't participate as much as we would like.  There's no easy answer for including us, but it's heartbreaking to watch the world go by filled with cupcakes, ice cream, and pizza and miss out on the fun and togetherness.

  • I hate when it feels lonely
I've talked about it before and I'll say it again.  The food allergy life can be lonely.  Some people think I'm crazy for my vigilance.  Others don't understand our medical issues.  Still others overlook us because it can seem nearly impossible to find a way to safely spend time with us.  I feel the loneliness and also worry about our children's ability to make friends who are compassionate and understanding.

I'm still trying to make peace with the fact that we are the food allergy family and that our reputation will always precede us.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

{Allergy Free} Strawberry Streusel Muffins

Strawberry Streusel Muffins

1 3/4 cup flour blend
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup hemp milk
1/4 cup applesauce
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer whisked with 2 T rice milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups finely diced fresh strawberries

Streusel Topping
1/4 flour blend
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp xanthan
2 T Earth Balance cut into small pieces

In small bowl combine first 7 ingredients.
In large bowl whisk together hemp milk through vanilla.
Stir in dry ingredients until just moistened.
Gently fold in strawberries.
Spoon into greased muffin tins.

To make streusel:
Combine flour, sugar, and xanthan in small bowl and cut in Earth Balance until mixture forms crumbs.  Gently press topping onto each muffin before baking.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.

Cool on wire racks.

Makes 12 muffins.


I'm linking up with Allergy Free Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why You Need a Spacer for Your Inhaler

When we were first prescribed rescue inhalers to keep in case of emergency I was not very familiar with them.  My husband has asthma but he rarely uses an inhaler so I was hesitant and overwhelmed.  I thought that you simply grabbed the inhaler, took a quick puff, held your breath, and then were fine.  I've learned a few things since then.  After visiting with the respiratory therapist at our hospital I was introduced to the spacer.

What is a spacer?

Spacers are devices that fit with an inhaler and help ensure that the medicine is properly administered.

There are two more common types of spacers:

One has a round opening that is placed in the mouth.  The inhaler is attached to the other end and medicine is sprayed into the chamber of the spacer.  Through taking normal breaths, the medicine is administered to the lungs.

The other type has a face mask that is placed over the nose and mouth.  The medicine is sprayed into the chamber of the spacer.  The medicine is administered to the lungs through the nose and mouth.

Which spacer do we have?

We actually have both.  However, we have found that Bee is most comfortable with using the spacer with the small mask.  I carefully fit the mask around her nose and mouth and administer her medicine.  She takes 5-8 normal breaths and then all the medicine has left the chamber and entered her lungs.  She is not as comfortable with placing the other spacer in her mouth.  Spacers with the mask are better for younger children.

Why do we use a spacer?

Without a spacer, much of the medicine from the inhaler sprays into the mouth and coats the teeth, tongue, and throat without reaching the lungs.  Less medicine actually reaches the lungs.  Also, much of the medicine can be swallowed and will end up in the stomach without reaching the lungs.

With a spacer, a child can breathe normally while the medicine is administered.  Because the medicine is sprayed into the chamber and not the mouth, most of the medicine is breathed directly into the lungs.  Therefore, a spacer ensures that the maximum amount of medicine enters the lungs.

So, in our little Epi Pen bags we have an inhaler and a spacer for when we need to use that inhaler.  Now I don't have to worry about whether Bee is getting the proper amount of medicine. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

{Allergy Free} Chocolate Dipped Donuts

Chocolate Dipped Donuts

1 1/2 cups flour blend
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 dash of nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer whisked with 2 T rice milk
3 T Earth Balance melted
1/4 cup rice milk
1 container Greek coconut yogurt, plain flavor
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Dip Topping
1 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup vanilla hemp milk
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
extra hemp milk

Whisk together dry ingredients (flour blend through nutmeg).
In separate bowl combine all wet ingredients.
Gently stir in the dry ingredients until just blended.
Scoop batter into large Ziploc and snip off part of one corner.
Pipe donut batter into greased donut pans.
Bake at 350 for 9 minutes.
Cool on wire racks.

To make chocolate dip topping:
Heat the milk for 90 seconds.
Stir in chocolate chips and vanilla.
When chocolate chips are melted, quickly stir in powdered sugar.
Add extra hemp milk only if the dip is too thick.  You want to be able to dip the donuts in the topping and pull them out easily.  Whisk in the milk until the topping is a creamy spread.
Add sprinkles and leave donuts on wire racks to let the chocolate dip harden.

Makes 12 donuts.

Linked with Allergy Free Wednesdays!
Hip Homeschool Moms

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Does the Type of Inhaler Matter?

My doctor has prescribed Xopenex inhaler's for Bee.  These are the blue inhalers for those of you who identify inhalers by color.  The medicine in the inhaler is levalbuterol which is a little bit different from the albuterol in a regular inhaler.  For some, the levalbuterol has fewer side effects - less jitters and shakiness.  We have used this inhaler in the past without any problems.

When I went to get a refill after the inhaler from our doctor was running low, I learned that our insurance refuses to pay for this inhaler.  Why?  Well, they wouldn't tell me, but after I did a comparison between Xopenex and the regular albuterol inhalers on the market I realized that it had everything to do with the price.  The Xopenex inhalers are extremely expensive and there is no generic version available.

I called my doctor to ask to have Bee's prescription changed to an albuterol inhaler.  I asked for the ProAir HFA inhaler because that is one my husband uses.  I knew that this inhaler would fit into Bee's spacer and that it had a dosage counter.  Both of these features are extremely important to me.  Bee can get the maximum amount of medicine through using her spacer.  Also, I don't have to keep track of each time with use the inhaler or worry about running low on medicine and being left with an empty inhaler.  So, I specifically requested that little red and white inhaler.

When I went to the pharmacy to pick up our prescription the pharmacy had filled the Proventil (yellow) inhaler instead.  They assured me that it was the exact same medicine.  I then asked if the inhaler had a dosage counter and was promised that indeed it did.  I came home with my inhaler and opened it to put it into our Epi pen bag.  I noticed that there was NOT a dosage counter.  Then I looked at the shape of this inhaler - it was round and did not have the squared-off shape of our other inhalers.  This means that it will not fit snugly into Bee's spacer.

I had just paid $60 for an inhaler that was not what I requested and did not meet the specifications that I had asked of the pharmacy.  Yes, I admit.  I was furious.  I called the pharmacy and after much haggling, was told I could bring back the inhaler and trade it for the ProAir.

I asked if my doctor had prescribed the Proventil inhaler and was told that the doctor simply prescribed an albuterol inhaler and that the pharmacy had filled it with the Proventil inhaler.  They did not consult with me or give me an option.

When I picked up my new inhaler I had a $15 refund on a card.  Yes, the ProAir inhaler happens to be cheaper than the Proventil inhaler.  I was about to ask the pharmacy why I wasn't given an option and why the Proventil was chosen for me without my consent.  Well, my answer is price.  The pharmacy preferred to make as much as possible off of our prescription so they filled my order with the most expensive inhaler option that they had.

So, what lessons did I learn?

  • Always talk with your doctor about the options available.  If you request a specific brand of inhaler make sure that the doctor writes that on the slip so that the pharmacy cannot change your prescription.

  • Always check the shape of your inhalers against the shape of your spacer.  I had no idea inhalers came in different shapes.  They sure do though!  Make sure the ones you have fit comfortably in your spacers.

  • Always check the price break down with the pharmacy before you fill your prescription.  They will happily try to upcharge you or give you a more expensive medicine when a cheaper alternative exists.  Feel free to nag them until you are sure you have the best option in medication.

  • Always do research before taking a medicine home.  If I had looked up the Proventil online before I picked it up I would have learned that it was the wrong shape, wrong price, and wrong specification (no dosage counter).  I could have refused to pick up the prescription and worked with my doctor to get the ProAir instead.

While we've been managing food allergies for a while I'm still new to the asthma world.  There are so many options and medicines that it is totally overwhelming.  I'm still learning!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

{Allergy Free} Peach Crisp

Peach Crisp

1 cup flour blend
1/2 cup rolled oats (Gluten Free)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup Earth Balance
1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1 1/2 tsp egg replacer whisked with 2 T rice milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 T flour blend
1/8 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp salt
2 large peaches (or 3 medium peaches) peeled and chopped

1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp rice milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Line 8x8 baking pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
Mix the ingredients for the crust together and cut in the Earth Balance until mixture is crumbly.
Reserve 3/4 cup of mixture.
Press remaining mixture on bottom of pan evenly.

For filling:
Whisk together all ingrediets except peaches.
Gently fold in peaches.
Pour on top of crust.
Top with left over crust mixture.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Cool completely before adding glaze.

For glaze:
Whisk together all ingredients and pour over dessert when cool.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

When Your Doctor is Condescending

We had a recent ER visit with Punkin for an allergic reaction.  I wasn't sure what caused the reaction but I did have a suspicion.  I believed she had an allergic reaction to a fire ant bite.  But since Punkin has no diagnosed allergies, it was just a guess (although a somewhat educated guess).

When we entered the ER I showed the nurse Punkin's foot which was very swollen and red.  It looked like it had multiple bites on it.  The nurse agreed that it looked like she had bitten.  We both thought fire ants were a likely possibility.

After getting Punkin all settled and checking her vitals, I waited for the doctor.  I hoped it would be the same doctor we had seen before in this particular ER.  Unfortunately, it wasn't.  A lady breezed into the room and started tossing questions my way.  Then she dismissively waved in Punkin's direction and said that they would be sending us home soon with some Benadryl.

I was beginning to feel frustrated.  She had not even touched Punkin or even come close to her, much less examined her.  She offered not encouragement, no diagnosis, no advice.  So, I thought it was time for me to get in my questions.  After all, I was paying a high premium for her time and she needed to give it to me so I could do what was best for Punkin.

I asked her what had caused this reaction - if it was likely that Punkin had some underlying allergies that were not diagnosed.  I mentioned that we had a family history of extreme allergies but that Punkin had previously tested negative even though I knew that not all tests were accurate.

She then launched into a tirade against allergy testing and how controversial it was.  That was my answer to that.

Then I asked her if she thought I should worry about a secondary reaction or a rebound reaction and also what I should do in the future.

Her answer was that I needed to give her Benadryl.  Then she went on to explain all the symptoms of anaplylaxis in "doctor speak," using terms such as "stridor and urticaria" without bothering to explain any of them.  What she didn't know was that I knew what these terms meant - if only a minimal understanding - because I'm an allergic mom.

My last question was the cause of the allergy.

She extolled the virtues of keeping an extensive food diary of everything that Punkin ate to help us find patterns that might point to an allergy.

I then explained that it had been several hours since Punkin had eaten anything but had been at the pool.  I asked her if she thought it could be fire ants and if the bites on her foot looked like fire ants.

She turned up her nose and scoffingly remarked that I would need a time machine to determine that.

She said she was going to go write us a prescription for Benadryl (hello, I don't need a prescription for that!) and then she was gone.

Now, I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt that she was a brilliant doctor and just couldn't relate well to patients.  Then I said I didn't care.  I don't think she deserves the benefit of the doubt.  Harsh, I know.  She went into her chosen field to help others, heal others, educate others, and provide care.  She did none of those things that day.  Rather, she harmed someone by further destroying my faith in doctors and discouraging me greatly.

There was no reason to be condescending to me, throwing technical terms in my face and refusing to answer my questions.  Her education does not make her somehow better than those she treats.  She should demonstrate caring and take the time to answer my questions honestly, even if the answer is, "I don't know."  Telling me that I need a time machine is sarcastic, hurtful, and dismissive.  Refusing to actually examine my daughter while ignoring my questions is truly arrogant.  Doctors should never forget that they are treating people and not just problems.  They need to make time to heal the worry, doubts, and fears and not just see people as a medical diagnosis that needs treatment.

Sadly, it's not the first encounter I've had with a condescending doctor. 

So what do you do when faced with a condescending doctor?

  • Pick a different one - If you can change doctors or take your business and your health elsewhere, then do.  I have left practices because I refused to have a doctor talk to me like less than a human.  It's ok to "fire" your doctor.  There are plenty out there who would be glad for your business and happy to help you.  Find the doctor that you feel cares about your or your child's best interests. 

  • Ask questions - If a doctor will only talk in "doctor speak" rather than plain language, don't be afraid to question and question and question.  Keep asking those questions until you get an answer that you can understand.  And question every person that you encounter from each doctor, nurse, or assistant.  Ask questions until you feel that they have been answered.  You don't need to apologize for wanting to understand your or your child's medical problems as completely as you can.

  • Speak up - There have been times when I disagreed with a doctor or didn't want a particular nurse coming into our room again for one reason or another.  I voiced my concerns calmly and politely.  I have refused certain testing in favor of taking a different route and I have forbidden nurses from entering our room again.  It's ok to disagree and it's more than ok to tell them that you do. 

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