Saturday, January 29, 2011

Creamy Basil Pesto Sauce

I love fresh basil. I love dried basil. I just love basil in any form really. Yesterday I was craving a light pasta dish with a basil pesto sauce, something that is light and fresh and makes you think of summer. In the middle of winter with no beach or sunshine in sight, sometimes you need to try little tricks to give yourself a mental burst of sunshine and fresh air. This was just that. Light, fresh, raw... all things summer.
My husband describes the flavor as 'earthy', which is quite accurate really. I wanted light, but because winter is so cold I crave comfort foods that are warm, rich and creamy. My thought was to make a creamy sauce that has more staying power without adding complication, kitchen time, or allergens. My solution? Toss in an avocado. It adds some healthy fat to give this dish staying power while adding a touch of creamy comfort to my nod at summer ease and lightness. Compromise.

Creamy Basil Pesto Sauce

1 small container fresh basil (3/4 ounce)
equal amount fresh baby spinach (to pump up nutrition, or use more basil)
1 clove garlic
squeeze fresh lemon juice (about 1 tsp, to preserve the pretty green color)
drizzle of olive oil (about 1 Tbsp)
1 avocado
sea salt and pepper to taste

Add basil, spinach, and garlic to food processor. Squeeze lemon over the top, and drizzle with olive oil. Pulse to combine until finely chopped. Add avocado and process until smooth. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Use as a pasta sauce, or as a dip for veggies and chips.

This recipe is free of the top 8. Gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, egg free, nut free, soy free, hassle free, vegan, and raw. Let me know how you use it.

Allergy to go bag

When you have a child with food allergies you need to be a little more prepared than the average mom. Your diaper bag tends to weigh a bit more. And we're not talking extra diapers.

The good news: your bag eventually gets lighter, because you get rid of those diapers. The bad news: that's about all you get rid of.

So, what's a mom to pack to get her allergic kiddo out the door and safely around town? Here's a quick peek at what I carry (aside from the obvious baby accessories like diapers!)

  • Baby wipes- I still carry them, and my allergic baby is now 8. They come in handy for wiping off restaurant tables, picnic areas, random kids at storytime sporting pb&j fingers and faces, and of course wiping off those annoying mystery rashes caused by unknown contact with allergens.
  • A safe snack- because stopping for a snack while out is often not an option. When you have multiple allergies, making a quick stop for food at the corner store or local burger joint is just not a reality. Prevent meltdowns by being prepared. Yes, I have a box of safe crackers and a box of safe fruit snacks in my trunk, just in case.
  • Inhaler. With spacer. Asthma and allergies often go hand in hand. (Although, in a pinch, the epi will stop an asthma attack as well.)
  • Epi-Pen. Remember to ALWAYS take a two pack. I have one in my purse even though my daughter now wears one, just in case. Because an allergy mom is a lot like a girl scout: always prepared.
  • Benadryl. For those random reactions that aren't quite serious enough to warrant the epi, but a bit to serious to ignore.
  • A change of clothes. Yep, even now I have one in the trunk for all of my kids. First because they are kids, and you never know when gravity will overcome their ability to remain upright near a mud puddle. Secondly because allergies sometimes require a change of wardrobe. Maybe because someone decided that going down the slide with their milk chug was almost as funny as the part where it spilled all over the milk allergic kid standing at the bottom. Maybe because the last allergic reaction caused vomiting and diarrhea. You just never know.
  • Band-aids. For the cracked open and oozing skin that comes from eczema, also a lovely companion of allergies.
There you have a run-down of my bare minimum. Granted, since my baby is 8 the snacks and the change of clothes can stay in the car now. What do you carry? What did I forget? I'd love to hear about it!

Epi-Pen Primer

I remember when my daughter was first diagnosed with allergies. I remember how overwhelming it was to think about the ways this would effect what we eat at our house. And I remember how very little help or guidance was offered by the allergist, and how few questions I had, largely because I did not know enough to understand how little I really knew.

I had a new set of restrictions around what we would eat, and an epi pen. I knew that the epi pen could save her life if she ate something she shouldn't.

I did not know that anaphylaxis does not need to be the dramatic gasping for breath as your airways close that I envisioned. In fact, it was much later when my allergist was listening to me describe a very scary reaction to accidental ingestion that I found out anaphylaxis can take many forms. He looked at me at said so matter of factly, "You should have used your epi-pen." What?! Really?! Crap. I didn't know. Her airways did not appear to be effected. Crap crap crap.

If you have recently been gifted with a life saving epi-pen, talk to your allergist about when to use it. Be specific. Make sure you feel comfortable with the answer you get. Understand what anaphylaxis can look like. For my daughter it was blistering lips, 'burning' tongue, vomiting, diarrhea, and extreme fatigue that my allergist thinks was most likely a blood pressure drop. I knew it was a horribly bad reaction. I was terrified watching her. I did not know that the epi was the thing to do. Now I understand so much more. Talk to your doctor, google it, and know what to watch for and how to treat it.

Next, make sure you get a two pack. Do NOT split them up. Those pens are clipped together for a reason! You need to carry two epi-pens at all times for several reasons.
  1. In case of a misfire. You don't want to have a faulty pen with no back-up.
  2. In case of a bi-phasic reaction. This is when the initial shot works to calm the reaction, but the reaction starts again without warning. This can happen up to 8 hours later.
  3. In case one shot is not enough medicine to stop the reaction. You can give the second shot if the reaction has not stopped progressing within 5 minutes. This is especially important if you have an epi jr and a child who is approaching the upper limit of the weight boundary.
Determine who needs to carry the epi-pens, and how many sets you need. When my daughter was little I carried a set in the diaper bag, because it went with her everywhere, and had an extra set at home. Now that she is older I have a set at home, a set in my purse, a set in the nurse's office at school, and she wears a set. I know that no matter where she is she will be covered, even if she forgets to wear her epi. You may need one at the sitter, one with carpool, one with Grandma, whatever. You determine where they need to be to keep yourself, or your little one, covered.

If you use your epi go directly to the ER. You want to be in a place with the resources to treat a bi-phasic reaction. They can also treat the many complications that can arise from a severe allergic reaction and administer additional medicine as needed to help control the many systems that can be involved in a reaction. Expect to stay a minimum of 6 hours, often 8-10. Do not let the ER staff send you home after an hour. You are the expert, you live with and deal with allergies everyday, and you know that a longer period of observation is needed. Insist. And make sure to leave with a script for a refill.

When in doubt, get the epi out. Really. The epinephrine in a single shot will not hurt your child. It will make them jittery for 15-20 minutes if it was not needed. It wears off quickly and there are NO contraindications for giving it. Relief starts immediately when the epi is given. If you wait, the allergic reaction can sometimes be managed without the epi, but the reaction will drag on for much longer than it would if the epi had been utilized.

Hopefully you have lots of unused expired epi-pens. What to do with them? My favorite solution is to use them for training anyone and everyone who might have a reason to use it. Buy a bag of oranges and let the teachers, the in-laws, the best friends, and the neighbors all practice using a real epi-pen with an orange. For those of you who have used a live epi you know it feels different from the trainer. It sounds different. An orange makes a great simulator for practice so no one will be surprised by the difference if they need to use the real thing.

This should cover the basics. You now have rudimentary epi-pen know how. Let me know what questions you have, I'll try to answer. Let me know what details I forgot to mention. Mostly make sure you feel comfortable with that pen, it is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Empower your School Age Kiddo

For many families it is time to seriously begin preparation for their allergic kiddo to enter school for the first time. There are so many things to think about for any child entering school, but the list gets even longer for parents that must also consider how food allergies will effect their child's classroom experience.
I am not going to launch into a long list of ways to prepare today. Today just one idea: teach your child that it is perfectly acceptable to tell ANY adult in the building no. And to stand their ground. Let me explain.
I remember getting my daughter off of the bus one afternoon, shortly after she started kindergarten. She had her mouth slightly open, and her lips looked vaguely like she had spent the day in the Sahara. I thought it was just the beginning of cold weather chapping. No.
My daughter looked at me and said, through immobile lips, "Mommy, do you know why I'm not moving my mouth? Because I had to touch cheese today and I'm afraid that if it got on my hands and I touched my mouth, it could get in my mouth." My daughter had spent the afternoon in terror that she might have an allergic reaction.
I took her home, washed her hands and mouth, and listened to the whole story. Apparently there was a substitute teacher in class that day, and the lesson plan left for math class involved using goldfish crackers as a manipulative. When she told the teacher that she was allergic to the goldfish and should not have them, he told her she must participate. My daughter is very respectful and somewhat timid, so she did as she was instructed, even though it terrified her.
My first call was to the principal to let her know what had happened. The matter was, thankfully, addressed promptly and with the seriousness that it deserved.
My second course of action was to help my daughter understand that SHE IS ALLOWED TO SAY NO to any adult, anywhere, if it is to keep herself safe. As long as she does it politely. Further, I let her know it is fine to ask to speak to another adult about the situation. She can request to talk to the nurse or the principal, and she is allowed to leave the room and go do so without permission, provided she thinks it is to keep herself safe and she has politely advised the teacher of her intention.
Please make sure that your children know they are allowed to disagree with authority figures at school, and it is always ok to keep themselves safe. It is a valuable lesson that I overlooked initially. My daughter is now comfortable with this concept, and I know she will act appropriately.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tomato Free Sloppy Joe

As the mother to a very allergic kiddo, I do a lot of cooking. A lot. I have notebooks full of recipes that I have created, copied, and modified laying around the house. The computer holds a zillion and three bookmarks for recipes that I have used or want to use. And my head holds the all important card catalog of where to look for the recipe I want to use, and the modifications that will need to be made to make it safe for our family.
I know that in the past I have written about how important it is to train someone to safely prepare meals for your family in your unexpected absence. And I have been slowly working toward that, but not with any degree of respectable efficiency. Until recently.
Several things happened in my life all at once that made me realize that I can not continue to be the sole source of information control on all things food in my home. If I am going to be a truly successful mama, I need to make sure that no matter what, my allergic kiddo can eat safely and thrive even if I am not there.
I apologize for my lack of blogging lately, I have been focused on updating my files, creating an up-to-date cookbook and menu plans that anyone could step in and utilize in my absence.
This little non-recipe is one that I have been making a lot lately, because it is so quick and easy, and the kids love it. I was surprised when my husband decided to make dinner one night and asked me where to find the recipe. So. Here is my little non recipe, just so you can try it too.

Tomato Free Sloppy Joe

1 lb ground turkey
1 small zucchini or yellow squash, chpd fine (I use a grater.)
1/3 small onion, chpd fine
1/2 red bell pepper, chpd fine
1/3 green bell pepper, chpd fine
1/2 envelope Simply Organic Sloppy Joe Seasoning
1 jar stage 2 Carrot baby food

Brown turkey, onion and zucchini in large skillet. (I often shred additional veggies and throw them in too!) While that is browning, add half the envelope of seasoning mix, the jar of baby food and 1/3 cup of water to a small bowl and stir until dissolved. When ground turkey is cooked through, add seasoning and simmer to desired thickness. Serve over tater tots, french fries, pasta, or buns of choice.

*edited 9-17-13 to add:
I have long since quit using the Simply Organic seasoning this recipe called for, due to the formulation being changed to include soy.  I now use a variation of the recipe here.