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Showing posts with label Food Allergy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food Allergy. Show all posts

Nov 18, 2016

Sweet Stir-fry Chicken + Veggies {dairy + gluten free}

Do you ever feel like you make the same three meals on repeat and need a menu revamp? I feel that way frequently and find myself trying to come up with loads of new meal ideas and then blow my budget on all of the ingredients to put just a few of them together. 

When I can sit down and make a meal plan, then make my grocery list from that, I feel like my life is so much more organized. But I have learned through the years that I really need to pick one new meal idea each week or even every other week, then stick to tried and true, easy to throw together, family favorites the rest of the time. This revelation has truly changed the way I grocery shop, and even the way I cook. I can easily swap certain ingredients for others which mixes it up just enough to feel different and not blow my budget. 

Some of our usuals that are easily interchangeable:
  • Mexican (soft or crunchy tacos; fish tacosshredded pork quesadillas, nachos or taco salads)
  • Italian (spaghetti, lasagna, goulash, chicken alfredo, pizza casserole, pizza bites)
  • Meat/Veggie/Starch (all roasted on a pan in the oven, or slow cooker meals are my fave!)
    • chicken/brussel sprouts/sweet potatoes
    • chicken/broccoli and cauliflower/rice
    • smoked sausage/peppers and onions/roasted potato wedges
    • pork loin/green beans or asparagus/mashed potatoes
  • Sandwiches (pulled pork, shredded chicken, sloppy joes, or burgers)
  • Grilled kebabs/kabobs in warmer weather (Hawaiian pork, shrimp boil, chicken fajitas, steak)
The best part about any of these meal ideas is that you can really just pick up whatever protein, vegetable, and starch or sauce you feel like having, and make any one of these meals on a whim. I like to stock up on marinara sauce, gluten free noodles, rice, tortilla chips, and any other ingredients that I use for sauces to just have on hand at any moment. Then I pick up meat when it is on sale and throw it in the freezer. Then I really just have to make sure I have fresh produce to go with everything else. 

Having this plan in place has really helped to cut back on the amount of money I spend at the grocery store, as well as the number of trips I have to make. I usually make one monthly trip to specialty stores to pick up all of our dairy free cheeses, butter, and specialty gluten free products that aren't sold at every store. I make one trip to Aldi or shop the sales at my regular store for pantry items and meat. 

Then I just have to make a run for produce and anything that I feel like grabbing on my weekly/bi-weekly shopping trip. I also build days into our menu to go out for dinner, or when we're just sticking with leftovers or doing a "fend for yourself" night to give myself an occasional break from cooking. 

One of the other easy ways to switch up flavors is to add a sweet and savory sauce to your meat and veggies. This Sweet Stir-fry Chicken and Veggies recipe has been a family favorite for many years. It's fast and delicious, and the kids just love it. Most of the ingredients are things I always have around and can just throw together quickly on a weeknight. 


Jun 27, 2016

Grilled Marinated Salmon {dairy + gluten free}

I love quick and easy grilling recipes that taste so good it's hard to believe they are healthy too. We have been super busy lately and our evenings are hectic. I've been missing sitting down to dinner together as a family and enjoying good food and each other's company. We're nearing the end of baseball season so hopefully we'll have a bit of a break in the activities for a few weeks or so.

Our boys have started to become a bit pickier lately, but thankfully they still enjoyed this salmon, as it used to be a favorite. Buying salmon, especially wild-caught instead of farmed salmon can get really costly here in the midwest so I don't tend to make this recipe too often. But every time I do, it never fails that someone in the family wishes we'd have it more often!



Nov 11, 2014

Two Year Blogiversary!

Today is a special day for many reasons. It is Veteran's Day. A day to honor and thank our current and past military members, who have put their lives on the line for our freedom. If you are one of these brave, outstanding individuals, THANK YOU for your service!

Today also marks my husband's and my 3-year anniversary. What an awesome day that was!


Last, but certainly not least, two years ago today was the day I began this little blog! (Otherwise known as "Blogiversary.") You can read more about what spurred my desire to start this blog over on the Food Allergy Jams blog where I am guest posting today, or here.

Nov 9, 2014

Sometimes You Even Surprise Yourself (Guest Post)


Today's post is from fellow food allergy mama, Kathy, from Food Allergy Jams. Kathy's mission is to create a CD collection of songs to teach young children about food allergies and to help kids with food allergies explain their needs to others. Her Kickstarter campaign is gaining momentum and the support of the food allergy community as backers can help boost her dream to a reality! Here is a peek inside her journey:

Feb 16, 2014

Perfect Cinnamon Rolls {top 8 + gluten free}

#glutenfree #dairyfree #cinnamonrolls

While I thought I'd found my favorite dairy-free, gluten-free cinnamon roll recipe awhile ago, I decided that anything can be improved. So I set to work trying to perfect it. It can be tricky to get gluten-free baked goods to come out perfect. They're often too dense or crumbly. It took several failed attempts and many taste-testing sessions, but it's finally just right!

Aug 3, 2013

Be the Change.

I realize I've been a little quiet this week and it's not for lack of things to say. I just don't know how to put into words all of the emotions I've gone through this week. 

If you don't already know, a little girl died last weekend from a severe allergic reaction. As the parent of a child with food allergies, the possibility of this outcome is a devastating reality. But when these situations happen to other people, a sort of panic ensues mixed with an overwhelming sadness for her family and what they are going through. 

(photo credit)

Jun 29, 2013

Freedible :: Because food is not one-size-fits-all {and a little bit of a soapbox rant}

"Because food is not one-size-fits-all."

I love this tag line. It speaks volumes.

So often in this crazy, food-driven society, it seems almost an expectation that everyone is just alike and can eat anything they want whenever they want. We are so focused on food as the center of our daily life. As if our children cannot exert any physical energy without following it up with brightly colored sweets and sugar-laden juices. As if we cannot go grocery shopping without trying a sample of this or that. 

Jun 1, 2013

Food Allergies and Camping: Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 of my Food Allergies and Camping series, I shared my concerns, my lists and food prep, as well as EpiPen storage solutions. After all that work, here is the fun part! :)

Packing the trailer...can't find the boys?





He couldn't make it all day...


It's hard to take clear pics when canoeing into a cave!

Hanging out in the tent.


Grilling kabobs... the foil wrapped one was M's.

Yummy!



Pancake Muffins!
Practicing ball for a bit. 
Catching minnows and crawdads.





Food Allergies and Camping: Part 2

In Part 1 of my Food Allergies and Camping series, I shared some of the concerns I had while being far away from just about anything while going on a camping and canoeing trip.

A large part of my planning included my lists upon lists of groceries, meals, snacks, etc. Here is one of those lists:

Breakfast:
Cereal (the boys can't seem to live without it...I buy Mom's Best brand)
Breakfast burritos
Banana Oatmeal muffins
Pancake Muffins

Lunches: (two of these needed to be packed to take on the canoe with us)
Ham & turkey sandwiches
Shredded chicken wraps
Hot dogs & brats

Dinner: (as I mentioned in Part 1, we agreed to each cook two dinners to share, so this includes the dinners my sister-in-law made also)
Turkey burgers, black bean & corn salsa, chips & fruit
Lemon Herb Grilled Chicken, grilled veggies & fruit
Grilled marinated salmon, corn, potatoes & fruit
Steak & chicken kabobs with veggies, bacon wrapped shrimp & fruit

Snacks: (I packed quite a bit more than was necessary, but planned for the 6+ hour drive both directions in addition to the 4 days we were gone)
Go-Go Squeeze applesauce
ClifKids fruit ropes
Kashi soft baked cereal bars
Oreo Handi-snacks
Larabars
Fruit & nut trail mix
S'mores trail mix

Easy snack mixes: Mom's Best Honey Squares cereal, mini marshmallows & Enjoy Life mini chips; dried bananas, cashews, honey roasted peanuts & blueberry flavored Craisins.

Drinks: 
Almond or Soy Milk singles
Gatorade G2 (with no artificial colors or flavors)
CapriSun Roarin' Waters pouches
Water


Breakfast was pretty simple. I made both muffins in advance and just packed one box of cereal for the boys to share. We did bring skim milk for the non-allergic kiddo, but kept it contained in case it spilled so we wouldn't contaminate everything else. I also brought along pre-cooked turkey sausage crumbles, a carton of eggs and a bag of shredded cheese. We cooked up quick breakfast burritos on our last morning.


For lunches, I brought along a loaf of wheat bread, gluten-free bread, wheat hot dog and hamburger buns, GF buns, and flour and GF tortillas (all of which were free of any milk products). For the chicken wraps, I bought a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken that was free of any milk products, shredded the chicken and placed it in a zipper bag. This made it easy to prep the morning of.



For the two days on the canoe, I just made the sandwiches and wraps the evening before after we finished eating dinner. This made it super simple for getting around early in the mornings. I packed each of our lunches in separate baggies and placed them inside insulated bags. We had one bag (our AllerMates lunch bag) for Mason and one for the rest of us. Then we just placed the bags at the top of the small cooler of drinks we took on the canoe. The one day we stayed at the campsite for lunch, we just grilled the hot dogs and brats there.

For dinner, I made the turkey burgers in advance at home, formed patties and froze them with a small piece of waxed paper between each one, stored in a gallon-size bag. I also cleaned and prepped the chicken breasts for the grilled chicken and placed them in a bag as well. For the chicken marinade, I just mixed all the ingredients in a plastic container and placed it in the cooler along with everything else. About an hour before dinner, I added the marinade to the bag of chicken while waiting for the fire to get started.

I made my black bean and corn salsa before we left since there is a little more prep work required for that. We had "safe" (milk & gluten-free) chips for everyone. For the veggies and fruits, I debated prepping those ahead of time, but was worried about how well they would keep being in a cooler of ice/water for a few days. So I put the veggies for each meal into separate bags and stored them in one cooler that we only put ice in the very bottom of so that it wouldn't freeze the fruits and veggies too much.

For the grilled veggies, I took potatoes, zucchini, red and yellow bell peppers, and purple onions. For the burgers, I brought along tomatoes, sliced onions and romaine lettuce leaves. We also had watermelon, strawberries and blueberries with our meals. All I needed was one knife and cutting board to prep all of this, along with a couple of plastic containers to put them in. Easy as pie!

When grilling, we were using a community grill and I had no idea what had been cooked there previously. For each grilled meal, we placed Mason's portion on a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the grate. This allowed his food to be cooked without touching a possible source of contamination!

Snacks were simple since everything was prepackaged and easily stored no matter the weather. 

Our kitchen looked as though a grocery store exploded for a few days beforehand...

I also knew I would have to find a way to store our EpiPens at just the right temperature. They need to be kept between 59 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be tricky when you are basically living outdoors with only coolers full of ice to keep things cold and no real way to ensure just the temperature is just right. I also wanted to take two sets with us, just in case we lost one in the river or something. Knowing how far away we would be from help during a medical emergency, it was a big deal to make sure we had constant access to this life saving medication.

I brought multiple insulated lunch bags along with us and used a combination of them to keep both sets of EpiPens just right.

This is one set of EpiPens in their case, inside a small insulated bag which I then placed inside another insulated bag.  This was stored inside my veggie cooler (with ice only at the very bottom) while we were away from the campsite in case it became very hot during mid-afternoon.
The EpiPens we kept with us were stored inside multiple insulated bags as well, and kept out of the sun. We did have a large dry bag to keep everything dry in case we flipped our canoe (which we did not!). It really helped that the water was cold, so I kept the Epi's in the dry bag and placed it all in a corner of the canoe, out of direct sunlight. They were room temperature the whole trip!

Thankfully, we did not have any allergy issues while on our trip and it was a very fun and relaxing time. Check out Part 3 for pictures from our trip! :)

Food Allergies and Camping: Part 1

Months ago my husband and I started talking about planning a summer vacation. We wanted to do something fun with the boys that wouldn't cost too much, but would still be lots of fun for them. We decided on camping and canoeing with his brother's family. They camp and canoe often (and we don't) so they were an awesome resource for knowing where to go, what to take, etc.

Once we began to plan, as the parent of a child with food allergies, the first things on my mind were:
  • How close is the nearest town/grocery store?
  • How close is the nearest hospital?
  • What would be the plan if the worst case (an allergic emergency) occurred?
When I realized the nearest town and hospital was nearly 30 miles away, I began to panic. Panic really isn't the right word, I guess. But my anxiety skyrocketed. I wanted to have a peaceful, relaxing trip without driving everyone else crazy. So, as the planner that I am, I began making lists. 

Luckily, my sister-in-law had a really great list of items to bring from their previous trips. She was also familiar with the area, and happens to be an RN, which made me feel better about being far from a hospital. And...as the wonderful person she is, she planned to bring mostly food items not containing milk to help limit the possibility for contamination. 

I knew I needed to plan and prep meals ahead of time, to be sure we had plenty of meals and snacks that all of us could eat at the camp site, but we also planned to canoe during two of the days. The canoe trips were 11 miles each and would take about 4-6 hours. Meaning we would have to pack lunches to take out with us. 

We agreed that it would be easiest for each family to make our own breakfasts and lunches, and to each make two dinners that we could share. She provided me with a list of ingredients (with pictures!) so that I could review the labels in advance. I really didn't want her to have to go out of her way to accommodate us, but she was great and made me feel SO much better about everything. 

Food prep worked seamlessly and was a breeze due in part to the enclosed trailer we had with us. We were able to pack everything in it for the trip, then once we unloaded it, we set up a table and kept the coolers inside so that all of our food was in one place and we didn't have to get everything out for each individual meal. 

We also had a water jug, hand soap and paper towels easily accessible at all times for everyone to wash up. This worked out very well with the kiddos, even though the majority of our foods were milk-free and they wouldn't really have had to wash up as diligently (even though it's a good idea for hygiene's sake!). 

I'll be sharing my meal lists and how I prepped everything in my next post, so check out Part 2

Mini Pancake Muffins {Dairy, Egg & Gluten Free}

During my week of list-making and recipe-creating for our camping excursion, Tanner mentioned that his teacher had made "pancakes in the shape of muffins, served with syrup" on one of the last days of school. What a brilliant idea! I had been trying to come up with breakfast ideas for our trip that could be made ahead and then served one morning at the campsite. These little muffins are perfect to make ahead and freeze them in a large bag. We like to take ours on camping trips. So fun and simple!

#glutenfree #dairyfree #eggfree #pancake #muffins

Mini Pancake Muffins {Dairy, Egg & Gluten Free}

Makes 24-30 mini muffins                                                 Printable Recipe
2 cups gluten free all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup almond milk (or other dairy-free milk), at room temperature
3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 Tbsp vinegar
1/4 tsp maple extract

Optional mix-ins or toppings:
Chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life chunks)
Blueberries
Pecan pieces
Bacon, cooked and crumbled
etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini muffin pan with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond milk, coconut oil, vinegar and maple extract. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. (At this point, you could fold in any additions you would like, or they can be added just to the tops after the next step.)

Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, fill each well of the muffin pan nearly to the top. (Add toppings if desired.)

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until top of muffins are set and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to cool approximately 5 minutes. Carefully remove each muffin and allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack.

Serve with maple syrup for dipping or a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

#glutenfree #dairyfree #eggfree #pancake #muffins

#glutenfree #dairyfree #eggfree #pancake #muffins

#glutenfree #dairyfree #eggfree #pancake #muffins

#glutenfree #dairyfree #eggfree #pancake #muffins

#breakfast #camping #pancake #muffins

#glutenfree #dairyfree #eggfree #pancake #muffins

#glutenfree #dairyfree #eggfree #pancake #muffins


May 25, 2013

Safe Play Dough {Dairy & Gluten Free}

A week or two ago, I stumbled across a box of food coloring at Mason's preschool and read the label out of curiosity (I do that in my free time...I know I'm obsessive) ...which (of course) said "May contain traces of milk..." 

I mentioned it to the teacher and was told they use it to color homemade play dough and for other art projects. When I suggested that another brand of food coloring that doesn't contain traces of our allergen be used, I didn't receive the response I was hoping for. Instead, it was suggested that I bring Mason his own play dough, safe for him to use, if I don't want him using the community play dough. I have found sometimes you have to pick your battles wisely, so off I went in search of homemade play dough recipes. 

I found that Heidi at OneCreativeMommy.com had already done the difficult task of testing multiple recipes and judging her favorites. The recipes she used are also gluten-free, which isn't a necessity for Mason, but I like a good challenge and figured it wouldn't hurt. 

The recipe I decided to try was the Easiest Gluten Free Playdough Recipe from Celiac Family. (<---Check out the original recipe there or see below!)

Easy Gluten Free Play Dough  

1 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup cornstarch 
1/2 cup salt
1 Tbsp cream of tartar 
1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil (I used olive oil and it worked fine) 
1 cup water (hot but not boiling)
Food coloring, as desired

Mix all dry ingredients in a medium pot. Add oil, then water and mix until thoroughly combined. 

Heat on low for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. When the dough starts to pull away from the sides, turn out onto parchment paper or a Silpat liner.

Allow to cool enough to handle. Knead the food coloring in until it reaches the desired color. 

*Note: my dough was pretty sticky once I began kneading, so I alternated adding more flour and cornstarch until it became the consistency I wanted. 

Mason chose lime green for the color of this batch. It makes enough that you could probably split it up and do multiple colors.




May 9, 2013

Hidden Allergens: reading labels on everyday products, even if they are not edible!

As parents of food allergic kiddos, we are told to read the labels of all food items before feeding them to our child. When you think of food allergies, you probably think of the "Top 8" allergens that are the most well-known as ingredients in food items. Milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish are the most common allergens (although anything could potentially be an allergen).

What about non-food products though? Do we ever stop to think about them? It seems strange to think you need to look at the labels of your shampoo, hand soap and toothpaste, but allergens are there...seemingly hidden within the list of nearly-impossible-to-pronounce ingredients.


I made a trip to the grocery store today just to see how common this really is. In a matter of about 15 minutes of label-reading, I found 7 products (in just one personal care aisle):

Shampoo and conditioner containing milk protein, egg (albumen) and coconut;



hand soaps containing milk protein;

and body washes containing soy, coconut, milk protein and almond. I am positive that there are many, many more of these products out there that my little experiment didn't even come close to touching on.

These days, out of curiosity, I read labels on everything because I have OCD, even if I'm not planning to buy it. Reading food labels can be difficult at first, but with some practice it becomes second nature. Now add in the difficulty of remembering to check hygiene products, art supplies, even pet foods. It can be exhausting!

Thankfully, there are helpful resources that can make it easier. Kids with Food Allergies, Inc. has a really great chart of items to think about when it comes to products used in school and child care centers. I like to print the list and give it to our providers to refer back to.

Here is a detailed list of possible food allergens in non-food products by Michele A. Fagan from an article in RDH Magazine (read that article here).

"Another point of awareness is for products that are nonfoods, but that may contain food allergens. Be sure to read labels on everyday products even if they are not edible."

• Soaps and hand sanitizers - may contain soy, milk, and nut oils
• Shampoos and other hair care products and dyes - can contain wheat, almond, and other nut oils and soy protein
• Hand and body lotions - may contain milk, soy, coconut, tree nut, or sesame and arachis (which is derived from peanut)
• Suntan lotion - can contain arachidyl glucoside and arachidyl alcohol (arachis refers to peanut)
• Makeup - also may include wheat and sesame oil
• Medications and supplements - gel cap formulations may contain soy, peanut oil, or canola oil
• Play-Doh - contains wheat
• Fruit and vegetable rinses - many contain starch, which can come from wheat, potato, corn, and rice
• Stuffed toys or chairs - some of the stuffing in bean bag chairs or stuffed animals can include the shells of ground peanuts or tree nuts
• Pet food and bird seed - can contain wheat, peanut, milk, and eggs
• Landscaping soil - may contain peanut hulls
• Rolling pins - some may have been treated with nut oil

There may also be food allergens in the dental products we use. You can always refer to websites, or call the manufacturer if you have any questions about ingredients. Here are some examples:

• Recaldent is a milk derivative (may be listed as casein) - found in GC America's MI paste, toothpastes, and some forms of Trident gum.


• Polishing paste - contains gluten (causes gastrointestinal disorder)
• Fluorides - can contain gluten or nut oils
• Topical anesthesia - contains fruit flavorings
• Propofol - general anesthesia that contains egg protein
• Cements - eugenol is derived from oil of cloves
• Nitrous oxide - does not specifically contain egg, but it has a substance that has a similar molecular structure to eggs and reactions have been reported

May 8, 2013

Different is Perfect. {A post about removing the voice of negativity.}

The past few weeks have been filled with some situations that are difficult for me to understand, and even more difficult conversations. While I won't go into great detail in this post, I want to describe a little bit of the happenings recently. Personally, I know that if we keep our troubles inside, they fester and become even bigger issues. I also know that by sharing our experiences, we share knowledge and education.

I try to be open-minded in all the facets of my life. By nature, I expect others to do the same. But that isn't always the case. If you have food allergies or are the parent of a child with food allergies, I'm sure you may have experienced some push-back from people who just don't understand your situation. Even though managing a life-threatening food allergy has been my life for almost four years, I have been blessed to encounter very open-minded, caring people. (I even wrote a post about this not long ago...)

Although I felt as though I had provided a vast array of resources and information, the past few weeks have shown me that even when we think it is "enough," it is never really enough.

One day last week, I noticed something that may have been there for months or longer. Something most people probably wouldn't think to look at. I surely didn't think about it, I just happened to stumble upon it. And when I did, I reacted. Maybe it was warranted, maybe it wasn't. I brought it to the attention of the necessary people and tried (in my own way) to explain why it wasn't okay. I tried to provide more education and resources. I tried to open the lines of communication as best I could, in spite of my state of frustration. I tried to change the way I relay information and remember that not everyone has the same level of experience with this. I can't honestly say that I didn't come across as being demanding. (I probably did, although it wasn't my intention.)

As a parent, it is our job, our calling, to advocate for our children. Whether they have specific challenges in their lives (physical, mental, emotional) or not, or even just food allergies. You see, I believe with every fiber of my being that my son is EXACTLY the person God intended. He is my miracle. My reason for living. He is what my heart beats for every day. And his allergy is a part of him.

When I tell people he has a food allergy, they ask all kinds of questions, from "Will he outgrow it?" to "What does he even eat?" Then there are the comments, "Wow, you should just put him in a bubble!" Or this week's favorite, "You could just home school him."  I understand... I really do. If you don't live with it, day in and day out, I can't and don't expect you to know all the ins and outs.

But do you know how hard it is to not take offense to those questions and comments at times? It is HARD. Not everyone will read into this comment the same connotations I did. Not everyone will take offense to it, or even understand why I did.

I responded by stating (as calmly as I could), "He deserves the same level of education as each and every other child, regardless of what he is allergic to. It would be absolutely no different than if he were in a wheelchair, or had a learning disability. "

His allergy, while it is a hidden disability, is manageable. Our situation could be much more challenging than it is. Thankfully, there are laws in place to protect people from the discrimination that would otherwise run rampant.

I've spent hours upon hours this week contemplating whether my reaction to this comment was justified or not. I've spent countless minutes standing in the doorway of my son's bedroom, watching him sleep, just wondering....

During one of those moments, I finally had a moment of clarity. I will not give the negativity the voice it wants. I will not dwell on the frustration. I will move on and focus on the positive.

First, this post is my apology... to anyone in my life whom I have ever offended with my comments, my lack of understanding, my lack of sincerity. Sometimes we don't realize how much we hurt other people with our words, our looks and our judgments...even when it may be completely unintentional. Until someone hurts us. I am truly sorry.

Second, this is a suggestion... if you know someone who may be struggling with an issue, someone who may be managing a disability, advocating for their family, or just trying to make it through this whirlwind we call life, THINK. Think about what you say and how they may perceive it. Be supportive, be helpful, be thoughtful. Maybe they are just a second away from bursting into tears from the pressure of it all. As a mom, what I want most is support.

I don't know if my son will outgrow his allergies or not. Frankly, it doesn't really matter. It's an intangible thing that I won't know how to handle unless/until it happens. His diet is diverse and healthy and great. More so than it would be otherwise. I would love to see a day when no one has to "manage" food allergies. But until then, this is our life. This is my son. Allergies and all. He is absolutely perfect, just the way he is. 

For now, I will advocate for my son as if his life depends on it. Because it does. I will teach him to advocate for himself. I will do everything in my power to teach him to be strong, supportive, kind, helpful, understanding, open-minded, and careful with his words.

When he is old enough to understand that he is "different" than other kids, I will teach him that EVERYONE is different and it is normal. When he feels singled out or excluded, I will teach him to stand proud of who he is and use this platform for good. To share his thoughts and feelings and his life with others, so that they may also learn that it is okay to be different. And different is perfect.


Apr 28, 2013

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls {Gluten Free & Vegan}

#glutenfree #vegan #cinnamonrolls

I have tried so many times to come up with the perfect cinnamon roll recipe without gluten, dairy or eggs. It's been a struggle at times, but I finally discovered it last spring. That recipe called for ripe bananas as an egg replacer. However, during the fall, I like to use pumpkin puree instead. These rolls don't really have a pumpkin flavor to them, but the flavor they do have is perfect combined with my Maple Icing.

Apr 21, 2013

Peanut Butter/Chocolate/Banana Smoothie {Dairy & Gluten Free}

Although I'm not a big fan of chocolate, I do get the occasional craving for something sweet. This satisfied that craving perfectly! And I made up a goofy name for it, making it that much more fun. :)

Peanut Butter Choconana Smoothie {Dairy & Gluten Free}

1/2 ripe banana
1 Tbsp peanut butter (or almond butter)
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp honey or agave nectar
1 cup almond/coconut milk blend

Mix all ingredients in a blender (or food processor if you broke your blender and haven't replaced it yet...)

You could add some ice to make this a frozen smoothie; or add a scoop of protein powder, ground flax, or chia seeds to make it a perfect post-workout recovery drink.

Try not to go into a chocolate coma while enjoying this delicious treat!




Feb 7, 2013

Food Allergies, Bullying and a Ray of Hope

I am saddened by the number of stories I have read lately about children with food allergies who have been bullied by a peer due to their allergy. The statistics are staggering and speak for themselves:

According to the Kids with Food Allergy Foundation, "A recent survey conducted by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), showed that 79% of food-allergic children and teens reported bullying, teasing, or harassment related to their food allergies. Of those bullied, 57% described events in which someone touched them with their allergen, waved it in front of them, or threw it at them."

I know that bullying is a big, controversial topic in our world. None of it - absolutely none - is right or okay. I am sure I will never understand why people feel the need to treat others in a negative way. I am extremely a little biased and have a greater understanding of food allergy than I do of other situations that could entice one child to bully another, so this hits close to home. But seriously, throwing a food item at a child whom you know is allergic to it?!? I imagine these children don't truly understand the repercussions of their actions and the severity of food allergy and anaphylactic reactions.

Anaphylaxis
Definition: A rapidly progressing, life-threatening allergic reaction.  
Description: Anaphylaxis is a type of allergic reaction, in which the immune system responds to otherwise harmless substances from the environment.  Unlike other reactions, however, anaphylaxis can kill.  Reaction may begin within minutes or even seconds of exposure, and rapidly progress to cause airway constriction, skin and intestinal irritation, and altered heart rhythms.  In severe cases, it can result in complete airway obstruction, shock, and death.

I don't mean to be a Debbie-downer, and my true intentions for this post are as follows: For every child who is cruel to others and is a bully, there is another who is thoughtful, selfless, and considerate of their peers. The example I'm going to use makes my heart swell with pride and love.

Mason has an older sister named Ciara. She is a beautiful, funny, loving 12-year old. Just the other day, her mother told me a story about Ciara. One of her classmates is a boy with a peanut allergy. When Ciara brings food to school for their class, she brings the box in order for the boy to read the labels himself. If she knows he can't eat that item, she will pick up something that is safe for him so that he will be included. None of her other classmates do this for him. Her reason behind doing this: Mason. She knows how important avoiding allergens is because of her little brother.

Hearing this story brought me to tears. Not only because I understand what a big deal it is, but because I am incredibly happy to hear a positive story about a child doing something out of the kindness of her heart. Because she is including him when no one else does. Because she thinks of someone and puts their needs first. Because she thinks of her little brother and has learned something from him. The list of reasons why I am SO proud of her goes on and on.

I get discouraged at times, thinking of all of the preparation we, as parents of food-allergic kiddos, go through to protect our children, teach them and others to be cognizant of their needs, hope and pray that every day has a safe outcome.... only to know that we can never be fully prepared for that possible reaction. Bullying scares me. I don't ever want my child, or any other, to be bullied for any reason, especially not something so completely out of their control. I cringe to think that we as parents wouldn't teach our children the difference between right and wrong, and teach them how to treat others.

But I am encouraged by stories like Ciara's. She gives me a ray of hope in an otherwise dim and twisted world.

To learn more about food allergy awareness and education in a format your children will understand, click here.

Jan 20, 2013

Food Allergies - A Constant Learning Opportunity

The subject of food allergies is a HUGE part of our life (obviously...). I could easily dedicate several posts to this topic alone (and I'm sure I will do just that). Thank you for sharing this journey with us!

If you know us or have read my previous posts, you know that my son has a severe, life-threatening milk allergy. He was officially diagnosed at 6 months old, although I was sure of it only a few weeks after he was born. He had a few instances as an infant of blood in his stools and colic that, in hindsight, were a sensitivity to foods in my diet while I was nursing.

Changing my diet helped, but at 6 months old we started supplementing formula and the problems worsened. It took a little while to convince our pediatrician it was an allergy but after a severe bout of hives when eating cereal puffs containing a milk ingredient, we were finally referred to an allergy/asthma specialist for a formal diagnosis.

Three and a half years later, avoiding milk and anything with milk or its derivatives as an ingredient, reading every label, being extremely diligent about cross-contamination, and packing food for any meals away from home are now a normal part of our lives. (He was also allergic to eggs, but has since grown out of it and does just fine with them-Praise the Lord!)

Although we have had struggles here and there, my little man is very well adjusted to his allergy and really understands a lot about it at such a young age. He has had a few reactions and remembers them well enough to know he doesn't want to feel that way again. He is SO smart and cognizant of his allergy. He knows to ask if something is "safe" for him before accepting it, and does so regularly.

I will never forget Halloween night when he was not quite two years old. We had been practicing how to knock, say "trick-or-treat," hold out his bag, say "thank you," and not to touch anything inside until Mommy had checked it to be sure it was safe. At one of the first houses I finally decided to stand back and let him do his thing. He did everything just as we had practiced. The neighbor held out a bowl and I watched him stare intently into the bowl, (my anxiety going 100 miles per hour) when he turned and yelled, "Mommy, these aren't safe for me!"


It seems a little silly to say, but that is one of my absolute proudest mom moments right there! It's a toss up between that day and seeing him run across the soccer field with a bag of fruit snacks in hand, yelling, "Mommy, can I have this?!" The looks I get from people who just don't understand are sometimes humorous, but honestly, I LOVE using those moments to educate others about food allergies.

I am incredibly thankful that our families are experienced and knowledgeable when it comes to allergies. Food allergies seem to have run rampant between my son and my nephew and nieces. (I think we could all pretty well be considered experts on the topic by now!) I am also blessed with wonderful in-laws who have learned about allergies and do so much to include the little guy when we get together. I love them all so much!

As for daycare, we have had our share of learning (and teaching) opportunities. At 18 months old, I decided to send my *baby* to a church preschool. It was nerve-wracking for this mommy and took some time for us all to adjust. But over time, the daycare director and teachers were absolutely wonderful and learned SO much about his allergy. They began to provide nearly all of his food for breakfast, lunch and snack. They were all such a blessing to us and made it just that much easier for me to worry (a little) less.

When my hubby and I got married, little man and I moved to a small town about 30 minutes away from the daycare. For nearly a year, I couldn't bring myself to switch daycares, even though it would've been great to not have to drive an hour+ each day. I knew eventually I would be having to educate a new teacher each year once he starts school and figured it was as good a time as any to take the plunge.

So, about five months ago he began attending a preschool only a few miles from our home. After the first few meetings, the director and I decided it best if I brought his meals and snacks each day. We have breakfast at home, I provide almond milk for the week along with his entrees (they do provide fruit and veggies daily) and snacks. Five weekly rotating menus make it easy to keep track of, and I do my best to make him something very similar to what the other kids are eating for each meal.

In my quest to feed my family healthier meals, this is definitely a blessing. I know exactly what goes into his meals, which is a plus from both the allergy and nutrition perspectives. I've tried to educate everyone at the new preschool about his allergies, but I have to admit it is kind of nice to just be able to say, "don't feed him anything that I didn't bring and/or approve of in advance."

There is MUCH more to food allergy education however, such as:
the necessity of handwashing by all kids and teachers before and after meals;
having an EpiPen accessible at all times;
recognizing symptoms of a reaction;
and knowing that accidental exposure could result in any form of reaction from hives to anaphylaxis, requiring hospitalization-or worse. We deal with asthma as well, which studies have shown can result in more severe allergic reactions.

One of the most important rules when it comes to food allergies is there can be absolutely NO guessing. If it doesn't have a label, or you just don't know, the answer is no. Even at such a young age, Mason understands this. He doesn't feel like he's being excluded when he doesn't get to have something that his friends have (although I do usually have a healthy and safe alternative on hand for him).

Just the other day, we were driving through town and I heard him exclaim in his happy little boy voice, "Hey look, there's McDonald's! I can't eat there!"

It just makes my heart swell! :)


Nov 11, 2012

Taking the first step...

For months now I've thought about writing a blog. Why haven't I done it until now? I'm not exactly sure. Honestly, in the spirit of transparency, I think the biggest reason is the thought of being judged by others. I'm a strong, independent person. I'm a professional, I'm educated, I make decisions all day long and have logical reasons to back up those decisions. I like to tell myself that I don't really care what other people think of me. But when you lay it all out for everyone to see....it's nerve-wracking!

I follow several blogs that have been incredible resources. They've been helpful in more ways than I can explain. I don't have this jaded belief that I know all there is to know about parenting, food allergies, or anything else for that matter. I'm not perfect. I make mistakes and I strive to learn from them. The blogs that I've read have been a form of real-life education that I don't think I could find anywhere else. Reading the innermost thoughts and feelings of other parents, mothers, food allergy advocates, has been a great learning experience for me. I only hope that by using this blog as an outlet, I may be able to be a resource to others and add some valuable life experiences for them.


Shortly after my son, Mason, turned six months old, he was diagnosed with severe allergies to dairy and eggs. This didn't come as much of a surprise because my then four-year old nephew had been diagnosed with allergies to dairy, eggs and peanuts shortly after his first birthday and I knew the symptoms. Managing food allergies was a normal part of life for us. Thankfully, Mason grew out of his egg allergy around 20 months and enjoys eggs with no issues! We are however, still handling his life-threatening milk allergy.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find healthy, milk-free foods. I have been researching and learning new ways to convert our favorite "old" recipes into much healthier meals that the whole family can enjoy! I can only hope that by sharing some of my own tried and true recipes, I can help make the life of others managing allergies just a little easier!
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