Saturday, December 21, 2013

Forbidden Fruit: The impact on psyche

I have read several articles lately speaking to the mindset and mental health of parents who have a food allergic child.  While I am glad that research is finally being done to recognize that there is a significant impact on mental health of families living with food allergies, I think we have a long way to go in understanding the core issues and how to best support those families.

One study talked about the limited diets of toddlers and children with food allergy, focusing on the perception of the mothers.  Mothers had more anxiety about the limited diet of their food allergic child than mothers of children the same age without the restrictions.  I would like to offer my two cents.

Most toddlers and young children have limited diets.  Ever look at a children's menu at a restaurant?  If you've seen one, you've seen them all.  Mac-n-cheese, chicken nuggets, burgers, fries, grilled cheese, spaghetti, pizza.  Oh!  Don't forget the applesauce, because that makes it a healthy meal.  The reason this menu is almost universal is because those are the foods kids predictably eat.

Many mothers occasionally lament the fact that their child is a picky eater, and won't eat anything else.  The difference is that these mothers have unlimited choice available to them, even if they do not exercise that freedom.

Food allergic mothers feel more anxiety about the limited diet of their child, often because the options ARE limited.  They don't have the freedom to make random food choices, to stop at any convenient restaurant on the way home, grab just any brand of grocery off the shelf.  Every bite is carefully researched and considered to be sure it is allergen free.  Removing the freedom to interact with the world of food in a spontaneous manner has an amazing amount of impact on the mental state of mothers especially.

It is stressful to think so carefully about every bite entering your child's mouth.  Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack.  Crumbs found on the table or in the couch.  Food friends offer.  Classroom treats.  Family gatherings and holiday potlucks.  One bite at any of these functions could be the difference between an enjoyable day and a trip to the ER.

There is good news.  The safe options are rapidly expanding as food allergy knowledge and prevalence increases.  Even with multiple allergies, it is possible to have a variety of safe options for meals.  It took many years for my mindset to shift from one of feeling deprivation to realizing the abundance of choice.

I'd love to see more research on how to help moms make the mental switch with me.  I'd love to see research on the diets of our children, to see if there really is a large disparity in variety and nutrition, or if we perceive it as such due to our enforced restrictions.  I'd love to see more support for newly diagnosed families on how to adapt recipes, find replacement products, and get connected to support groups that can help with the everyday struggles. Most of all, I'd love to see more physicians recognize that there is a gap in support and strive to help patients fill it: in medical knowledge, practical application to daily living, emotional and social support.

The challenges of food allergy are much more complex than just avoiding food and remembering your epinephrine device.  Those who manage food allergy personally and those who supervise management of food allergy will enhance the mental health of our community when we work together to provide more seamless support.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

Here is the plan for the week.  Knowing that I have a crazy busy week, and foot surgery on Friday, I tried to plan a week of easy meals that came together quickly.  I will likely post next week's menu early, as I'll need to shop and be ready prior to Friday, because driving will be out for at lest a week...

Breakfast: honey corn muffins, bacon
Lunch: italian sausage
Dinner: salmon, strawberry applesauce, green beans with caramelized onion

Breakfast: sauteed veggies and toast
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: creamy turkey casserole, peas

Breakfast: turkey sausage
Lunch: turkey meatballs
Dinner: 2 bean chili, cornbread, pear slices

Breakfast: chipotle sweet potatoes with black beans
Lunch: chili
Dinner: beef stew, quinoa, mandarin oranges

Breakfast: cranberry orange muffins and green smoothie
Lunch: beef stew
Dinner: City Barbeque

Breakfast: bacon, hash browns, sauteed veggies
Lunch: brats
Dinner: costa rican tilapia

Breakfast: waffles with spiced peach syrup
Lunch: salmon patties
Dinner: turkey keilbasa, fried cabbage, mashed potatoes

Thursday, November 28, 2013

My Thanksgiving menu

I'll be honest, I have not always been an enthusiastic cook.  Complicated dishes and exotic ingredients used to scare me.  I used to think that making a chicken pot-pie from scratch meant using a refrigerated pie crust, canned broth, and leftover roasted chicken.

Managing multiple food allergies has brought me a whole new understanding of homemade.  And over time I've developed confidence tackling tricky recipes, and a daring to embrace exotic ingredients.

Something else snuck up on me in the process.  A true enjoyment of the challenge of making mainstream foods into allergy friendly delights.  It's so rewarding to craft creatively tasty treats that help my children feel 'normal', and make them smile.

So, I now volunteer to cook for my extended family on holidays.  I love it.  I know that all the foods will be safe for my munchkins, and I enjoy the process of cooking it all.  Really!  (The bonus is a freezer full of whatever leftovers there may be!)

Here's what I'm fixing this Thanksgiving day, all free of the top 8- and then some!

mashed potatoes
sweet potato casserole
roasted cauliflower
roasted brussels sprouts
cranberry sauce

apple pie with coconut whipped cream
pumpkin pie with a rustic pumpkin seed crust
pumpkin roll
sunbutter mouse with chocolate sauce drizzle

The biggest surprise for my family was our discovery that everyone LOVES the roasted vegetables.  Even the kids.  We never have leftovers.  Ever.

Here's hoping that your Thanksgiving day is full of safe, satisfying food and friendly family gatherings!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

Time to gear up for another week of eating, for tomorrow I grocery shop.  My pantry is almost bare, so this week will be a large trip, stocking up on basics that I have allowed to disappear entirely from my shelves.  I'm sure everyone there will think I am over reacting to the tiny amount of snow in our forecast this week, but that's alright.  I'm used to people looking at my shopping cart in disbelief.

Here we go.  Same rules as always: rotate the protein, fill in the veggies and fruits in a somewhat rotated fashion with whatever is on sale at the market this week.  All links are to the original recipe and may not reflect changes that I make to accommodate our dietary restrictions.

Breakfast: pork sausage, sauteed veggies, pear slices
Lunch: pork sausage
Dinner: salmon, brussels sprouts, pineapple and pomegranate arils

Breakfast: cream of buckwheat
Lunch: sunbutter and apples
Dinner: Turkey meatloaf, dairy free 'mac-n-cheeze', broccoli

Breakfast: turkey sausage, sauteed veggies
Lunch: meatloaf
Dinner: vegan split pea soup with cornbread

Breakfast: black bean and sweet potato chipotle sauté
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: slow cooker beef stew with quinoa

Breakfast: cranberry orange muffins and green smoothie
Lunch: beef stew
Dinner: keilbasa with fried cabbage and mashed potatoes

Breakfast: bacon, spiced peaches, orange smoothie
Lunch: italian sausage soup
Dinner: costa rican tilapia, honey glazed carrots

Breakfast: pancakes with blueberry reduction
Lunch: fish sticks
Dinner: herb crusted turkey breast, roasted maple acorn squash, green beans with caramelized shallots

Eat well, and enjoy your week!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Let them eat deliciously!

I was lucky enough to attend the first annual Food Allergy Bloggers Conference in Las Vegas recently, and wanted to share with you what I consider a feat worth noticing: the food.

Chef Keith Norman of the Southpoint Hotel and Casino stepped up to the plate in a big way.  I can only imagine his first reaction when learning  that the hotel had agreed to host a conference for people that specialize in (and have) multiple food restrictions.  I'm sure he wasn't exactly tingling with excitement at the thought of accommodating so many special needs eaters.

But accommodate he did.  Chef Norman showed he has mad skillz by providing not just a tasy meal, but an impressive spread of allergy friendly choices that allowed every person there to enjoy a safe meal.

The food was creative and well executed.  It made a powerful demonstration that when they so chose, a high quality chef can create fabulous food with minimal ingredients, avoiding allergens without sacrificing flavor.  I can not count the number of times my family has dined out and gotten a meal that the chef failed to attempt any type of flavor, including salt or pepper.  Plain meat: broiled, plain veggie: steamed,  fresh fruit.  I appreciate that they are taking our restrictions seriously and avoiding any cross contamination.  I appreciate that they aren't taking risks.  But, as a chef, if that is the best you can do there is room for professional growth.

I heard people all around the room remarking how wonderful it was to be able to eat the food provided without concern for it's safety.  I know I certainly didn't feel deprived, or feel that the food was bland or boring.  Bland and boring often happen at allergy conferences when so many dietary restrictions are present and the chef is trying to create a universally safe meal.

Huge accolades to Chef Norman, who has set the bar high for other allergy friendly events.  Equal appreciation goes to Sanofi, who sponsored meals, because they know they way to a food bloggers heart is to feed them well!  The generous spread at each meal shows that the sponsor and the organizers all recognize that creativity must have proper fuel, and the learning and inspiration happening at this conference would create bodies that need recharged with high quality fuel.

The organizers, Jenny Sprague and Homa Woodrum should be quite proud of the way their hard work came together with the fabulous support of Sanofi and the superb execution of Chef Norman.

Thank you to everyone involved in creating such wonderful and safe food!

Friday, November 8, 2013

FAB Bloggers Convention

I had the enormous pleasure of being able to attend the first annual Food Allergy Bloggers Conference in Las Vegas earlier this week.

It was invigorating, inspiring, and exhausting all at the same time!  Being surrounded by the positive energy of a community that understands the challenges of living with dietary restrictions and is driven to support anyone who is also facing that challenge is uplifting.  The conference was full of people that had to develop a new way of thinking about food because of the way their body reacts to it, and took that challenge into the world with a determination to make sure the road is easier for others to navigate.
I can't describe how inspiring it is to be able to call them my community, this room full of people that are striving to make the world a better and safer place for everyone to live and eat.

The exhausting part? A twofold challenge of trying to push my body to adapt to the time zone difference (Three hours later, THEN toss in daylight savings time for fun. Bedtime is when?!) and trying to push past my normal tendency toward being a shy introvert and remain engaged in and open to the interactions around me.

I love that the community I am part of is so welcoming.  There were no assumptions made about the validity of the dietary restrictions each person had, just a desire to help boost fellow advocates to success.  A desire to help leverage the strengths in the room  to advance awareness and acceptance for anyone who needs to eat in a way outside the socially accepted norms.

Sanofi came through in a big way, sponsoring Chef Keith Norman's culinary ability to deliver allergy friendly fare that was by far the tastiest I have ever had an an allergy function.  Southpoint Hotel is lucky to have someone who recognizes that it is possible to cook safe food that is still flavorful!  So many safe choices at each meal, but not one bland dish in sight!  Many thanks to Sanofi for sponsoring meals, and thanks to Chef Norman for delivering such high quality.

The swag bags (yes- that was plural!) were ridiculously generous.  I think I need another post to talk about the full size samples and products contained within.  I am elated to have increased the allergy friendly library of books and products that I can show to my coaching clients before they decide to buy!  Nothing beats a hands on review to determine if a product suits your needs.

The material covered within the sessions ranged from basic to high level advanced knowledge, all of it flowing to include every level of learner.  Speakers shared facts, ideas, and inspiration to fuel our desire to engage the world around us and pull them along on our allergy aware journey.

I would love to share with you the highlights of the conference information, but there is not a better way to capture it than to search #FABlogcon on twitter, where many of us were live tweeting the information as it came out.  Good stuff.

Here's a glimpse at information covered in just the sessions that I attended:

  • How to build the brand that is YOU.
  • The way your child's age impacts the challenges of managing dietary restrictions.
  • How to create your OWN recipe, free from foods that you can not eat.
  • The fine art of taking pictures that showcase the foods you create.
  • Deciding if self publishing or traditional publishing is right for the book living inside of you.
  • How to craft a professional and attractive blog that lets readers focus on the message rather than the look.
  • Tips for pushing through adversity with your sanity and your smile intact.
  • Mind blowing coverage of research advances with the potential to change the way we handle allergies.
  • How to advocate effectively at any level: personally, locally, or larger.

For detailed breakdown of lessons learned, search the #FABlogcon tag on twitter.  Lots of information nuggets there from those of us live tweeting as we learned.  If you don't do twitter, there's a compilation of blog summaries you can cruise through to learn about the conference from other attendees as well.

I look forward to sharing more with you in the near future!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

Sorry for leaving you hanging the last two weeks, life here has been hectic, so I've used recycled menu plans.  Here I am, back at it though.  I know you need to cook too!

Breakfast: bean and veggie saute
Lunch: sunbutter and apples
Dinner: lentil dahl over pasta, peas

Breakfast: pancakes with blueberry reduction
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: turkey meatballs, mashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts

Breakfast: turkey sausage and veggie saute
Lunch: meatballs
Dinner: beef stew over quinoa

Breakfast: cinnamon raisin bread
Lunch: beef sloppy joe
Dinner: cider pulled pork roast, sweet potatoes, southern fried cabbage

Breakfast: bacon cheddar muffins
Lunch: leftover pork
Dinner: tuna noodle casserole, broccoli

Breakfast: black bean sweet potato bowl
Lunch: fish sticks
Dinner: Farmhouse vegetable soup, dinner rolls

Breakfast: cream of buckwheat
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: white bean turkey chili, honey corn muffins, salad

Enjoy your week!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

An epi for every school

Today Ohio can celebrate the introduction of House Bill 296, which would permit a school or district to stock epinephrine auto-injectors that are not designated for a specific student.  Properly trained staff members, in addition to school nurses, could administer epinephrine to any student, staffer, or visitor that displays symptoms of an anaphylactic allergic reaction.

The bill outlines the training to be provided, the persons who can administer, as well as liability protection of the trained persons who administer the medicine.

This is a huge step in the right direction for Ohio- one step closer to having greater protection in place for allergic reactions in the school setting.

This is particularly important because up to 20% of first time allergic reactions take place at school.  That's a significant number!  Many states have introduced, or passed, similar laws.  Currently Chicago is the only one keeping recorded statistics (that I am aware of), and they report using 25 stock epinephrine auto injectors during the last school year!

Currently, epinephrine auto-injectors are only available for children who have known allergies, provide the proper paperwork from their physician authorizing it's use and detailing the correct usage for the auto injector, and who supply their own device from home.  Children who have not yet been identified as having allergies are not covered, and using another child's epinephrine to treat their reaction is a punishable offense.

I will certainly be supporting this legislation, and hope to see it pass quickly into law for Ohio!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Orange Smoothie, very UN-green.

My kiddos are tired of green smoothies.  Not that they don't like them, they're just ready for variety.  Yes even kids, who might eat chicken nuggets every day until they're 27, occasionally like to change things up.

So I made the smoothie orange instead of green.  Go me!  And they slurped it down.  That's a win!

Here's what I did:

Orange Smoothie

1 orange, peeled and seeds removed
2 carrots, or the equivalent in baby carrots, roughly chopped
1 fresh mango, seeded and peeled
1/2 c frozen peach slices
1/4 c pumpkin puree
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled
1 cup coconut milk, or non-dairy milk of choice

Add all to blender and process on high until smooth.  Add more milk if needed to reach desired consistency.

All smoothies are best enjoyed cold!  If you lack any of the above ingredients, feel free to sub in whatever orange or yellow produce you have on hand.  Sweet potatoes, squash, corn, be adventurous!

This recipe is nut free, egg free, dairy free, soy free, and delicious.

Inspired by:

Monday, September 30, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

It's been a rough day, and the last thing I wanted to do was meal plan.  I know though, that putting my head down and plowing through it will make grocery shopping tomorrow more effective, and make the rest of my week easier.  So.  Here it is, simple but complete.

Breakfast: pork sausage and veggie saute
Lunch: sunbutter and apples
Dinner: italian sausage with peppers and onions, broccoli, berries

Breakfast: bacon, veggie saute
Lunch: brats
Dinner: lentil dahl, quinoa pasta, peas

Breakfast: pineapple muffins and green smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly sandwiches
Dinner: turkey sloppy joe, green beans, fries, pear slices

Breakfast: turkey sausage, veggie saute
Lunch: sloppy joe
Dinner: chipotle shepherd's pie

Breakfast: raspberry muffins, orange smoothie
Lunch: beef dogs OR leftover shepherd's pie
Dinner: costa rican tilapia, honey glazed carrots, melon

Breakfast: pancakes
Lunch: fish sticks
Dinner: City Barbecue

Breakfast: bacon cheddar muffins
Lunch: ham roll ups
Dinner: individual veggie pot pies

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Vegan Two Bean Chili

Cool weather seems to beg for a hearty warming soup, stew or chili.  When my daughter developed a tomato allergy I was uncertain how to adapt a chili recipe to accommodate this new unforseen challenge.  But adapt I did.

I'm happy to share our go-to chili recipe.  Feel free to add the meat of your choice to make it heartier, or keep it vegan for meatless Monday!

Vegan Two Bean Chili

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c onion, chopped
1/2 c green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
10 baby bella mushrooms, chopped
1 c frozen corn kernels
1 16 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 16 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
vegetable broth to cover
1 jar stage 2 babyfood carrots
1/4 c pumpkin puree (or another jar of carrots)
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried basil, crushed
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 c baby spinach, sliced or torn

Heat olive oil in 5 qt soup pan.  Add onion and garlic and saute 3 minutes.  Add green pepper, red pepper, and mushrooms and saute 5-7 minutes.  Add frozen corn and heat through.  Add remaining ingredients, except spinach, and simmer 30-45 minutes uncovered or until desired thickness.  (Alternately, you can take out 1/2-1 cup of chili and puree in blender then add back in to thicken.)  Remove from heat and add torn spinach and stir in to wilt.  Serve.

This is a mild but flavorful chili that my children enjoy.  Feel free to spice it up to suit the tastes at your house!

This recipe is tomato free, vegan, dairy free, egg free, gluten free, nut free, and delicious.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuna Noodle Casserole, Sorta

I posted a link to tuna casserole on my menu plan this week, as I planned on making it.  As is typical for me, I alter many recipes to the point of barely recognizable.  Seldom do I share the voodoo that I do to make these recipes fit the dietary restrictions of my household.  (And I do occasionally modify to fit the demanding taste buds that my children bring to the table.)  This particular recipe is full of dairy, egg, and gluten- which are all off limits here.  I got the inspiration to replace the cheese with my favorite un-cheese sauce recipe...and dinner was born.

After dinner was well received I thought I should write down my modifications so that I can make it *just that way* again.  And then I realized I should share with you as well...

Almost Tuna Noodle Casserole

1/3 c Earth Balance Soy Free Margarine
1 8oz box Ancient Harvest Quinoa rotelle
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
8 crimini mushrooms, stems removed, diced (you can use more if YOUR kids don't hate mushrooms)
1/4 c sprouted millet flour
1 c vegetable broth
1 c sunflower milk, or non-dairy milk of choice
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp Herbamare or sea salt
1/2 tsp dijon or spicy brown mustard (just a little squirt)
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp paprika
pepper to taste
8 ounces uncooked flounder fillets, diced (or fish of your  choice)
1 c frozen peas or mixed vegetables

Preheat oven to 375.

Start the pasta.  You know how to do that part.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt margarine.  Add onion, celery and garlic and cook about 5 minutes, until tender.  Add mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes.  (If pan becomes dry, add more margarine.  I added an extra 2 Tbsp at this point, you want it to be juicy in there!)

Sprinkle millet flour over the mixture and stir in.  Cook 30 seconds to a minute to cook the raw flour taste out of it.  The mixture will become thick and paste-like.  Slowly stir in the vegetable broth, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any stuck bits.  Add the non-dairy milk and stir to incorporate.  Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to low.  It will thicken as it cooks.  Stir in the nutritional yeast, Herbamare, mustard, vinegar, paprika and pepper.  Continue to stir and simmer about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Taste test and adjust seasonings now.

Stir in frozen peas and turn off heat.  Stir in the diced flounder.  Add cooked and drained pasta and stir to combine.

Transfer mixture to an 8x8 baking pan, and bake 25-30 minutes, until top is slightly browned.

Carefully prepared this dish is soy free, dairy free, peanut free, tree nut free, gluten free, egg free, and delicious.

And if your family can have it- let me now how it tastes with tuna!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

It's Monday again.  It's amazing how much more quickly they fly at me once school starts!  And how much more important it is to be organized and have a plan.  I dread last minute trips to the market after school, when the kids are in tow and everyone else has stopped in on the way home... it just makes the evening feel more chaotic than it needs to be.

So.  Here's my plan for the week, so that shopping tomorrow can be productive and one off trips can be reduced.

Breakfast: bean and veggie saute
Lunch: turkey burgers
Dinner: slow cooker taco soup with corn chips, salad, diced mango

Breakfast: sauteed veggies and diced steak
Lunch: taco soup OR beef dogs
Dinner: tuna noodle casserole, mandarin oranges

Breakfast: sunbutter coffee cake and green smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: pork basil sliders on mini buns, roasted brussels sprouts, spiced peaches

Breakfast: pork sausage and sauteed veggies
Lunch: pork basil sliders
Dinner: 2 bean chili, cornbread stix, mixed berries

Breakfast: gf waffles with berry reduction
Lunch: chili, grilled cheese
Dinner: roasted turkey breast, roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli

Breakfast: apple quinoa crisp
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: pepper steak over baked potatoes, peas, applesauce

Breakfast: GF poptarts
Lunch: hamburgers
Dinner: fish tacos, coleslaw

Please remember that I link to the original recipe whenever possible, but I do modify almost all of them to meet the dietary restrictions of my family.  Feel free to modify along with me!

Enjoy your week!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Gluten Free Vegan Blueberry Muffins

I know that blueberries aren't in season.  I'm pushing hard to cook more in season, with fresh local and organic ingredients when possible. But I'm not perfect yet.

These blueberry muffins rely on frozen blueberries, because winter is long in Ohio, with not much variety on the fruit front.  With the arrival of fall, which I adore, I am painfully aware that winter will be creeping in soon.  So pulling out some frozen organic blueberries can help us say goodbye to the bounty of summer, or add some sanity to a cold winter morning with a reminder of warm days to come.

Blueberry Muffins

1/4 c Earth Balance soy free margarine or Spectrum shortening.
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce (an individual cup of applesauce is perfect for this!)
1/2 c turbinado sugar or sucanat
1/2 c unsweetened hemp milk, or non-dairy milk of choice
1 tsp bourbon vanilla
1 c gluten free all-purpose flour
1/2 c sprouted millet or sprouted buckwheat flour (milder in flavor than regular buckwheat flour)
1/4 c superfine sorghum flour
1/4 c quinoa flakes
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum or guar gum
2 c fresh or frozen blueberries (give or take)

Cream margarine and applesauce in a large bowl.  Add sugar and mix well.  Add milk and vanilla and mix.  In small bowl whisk together dry ingredients.  Add to wet ingredients and stir until combined.  Fold in blueberries (Yes!  Still frozen.)  Spoon into lined or greased muffin tins and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

Carefully prepared this recipe is gluten free, soy free, dairy free, egg free, vegan, nut free, rice free, and delicious.

(This recipe is adapted from one I wrote down many years ago without citing the source, so I apologize to whomever inspired me and did not get proper credit for it!)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

This week, due to equal parts schedule craziness and poor advance planning on my part, I won't have time to grocery shop until the week is almost over!  So this week's menu relies on pantry staples and things that I have stockpiled in the freezer. (Remember that all links are to the original recipe, I make changes to each to suit the dietary restrictions in our home.)

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball, having a well stocked pantry and freezer helps out a lot!

Breakfast: bean and veggie saute
Lunch: apples and sunbutter
Dinner: turkey sloppy joe, french fries, corn on the cob

Breakfast: blueberry muffins, green smoothie
Lunch: turkey sloppy joe
Dinner: beef stew, quinoa pasta, peas

Breakfast: veggie bites, orange smoothie
Lunch: beef dogs
Dinner: crispy baked lemon cod, raspberry applesauce, roasted cauliflower

Breakfast: pumpkin donuts, green smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: pumpkin faux parma rosa with crumbled Italian sausage over spaghetti squash

Breakfast: pork sausage and hash brown waffles
Lunch: pepperoni and cheese cracker lunchables
Dinner: potato leek soup, cornbread

Breakfast: cranberry orange muffins, vanilla steamers
Lunch: sniffle lentil soup
Dinner: turkey meatballs with quinoa pasta and marinara sauce

Breakfast: turkey apple sausage, veggie saute
Lunch: meatballs
Dinner: steak, roasted veggies, spiced peaches OR Red Robin

Enjoy your week!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Adult in Training: Why Allergic Kids Need You

I recently had a review meeting for my daughter's 504 plan.  It was just an informal review with her team of fifth grade teachers to make sure we are all starting the year on the same page, and that no updates need to be made at this time.  I love that the principal of her building suggested it!  (My preference is always to meet with teachers before the year starts to review this, but that was not in the cards this year, for many reasons.)

It was, quite truthfully, a great meeting.  The team of teachers we have this year is receptive and open to communicating with me.  Most everyone had a friendly and positive attitude.

The exception was the school nurse.  I'm sure that she is a lovely lady, but she carries an air of hostility with her into these meetings.  I can't tell if she is feeling defensive or is she is combative for an unknown reason, but her attitude is not one of receptiveness.  Maybe my manner of advocacy makes her feel as if her authority or wisdom are under question.  (They are not.)

Something the nurse said at the end of the meeting really struck a chord in me.  I think it resonates so profoundly because we allergy mamas hear a similar message all the time from combative non-allergy parents that are reluctant to accommodate our children.  I can't capture it verbatim, but the gist was:

"I think that everyone here needs to understand that she (my daughter) has this.  You told me last year that we need to listen to her, and she really does know what she needs."

The implication for me was that we should all calm down and be less, less worried, and not so overprotective.  Why?  Because my fifth grader is capable of managing this allergy on her own.

That may not be the way it was intended, but that is what I heard.  Likely because of the number of times I've heard grumbles from other moms.  The ones that say "Doesn't she know not to eat those things?"  "Why do we have to give up our treats because of one child, she can just avoid it, right?"

What I want to tell the world is: Yes. My 10 year old does have a remarkable grasp on what she can and can not eat.  Her incredible grasp on this is what allows me to leave her in a hostile environment so often.  It allows me to drop her off for extracurricular activities with minimally trained staff.  It allows her to play at a friend's house.  I am actively helping her learn how to be aware, and how to advocate for herself.  I know she has wisdom beyond her years, and responsibility beyond measure.  It happens when you need to be constantly vigilant about your surroundings in order to stay safe, and alive.  If your child had to constantly scan his/her environment for threats the same maturity would develop.

The reason I need the adults in the room to be on the same page is this: she is an adult in training.  She is not an adult.  As a child, she is prone to lapses in judgement, doubts, and questions.  (Heavens!  As an adult I *still* have lapses in judgement.)  Her judgement is still being honed, it is imperfect and based on her child's perspective.

Because of this I need to know that the adults surrounding her have her back in case she does suffer from a moment of poor decision making, or makes an under-informed decision.  I need to know they can guide her when she has questions and uncertainties.  Most of all, I need to know that her safety net is in place and they can take the appropriate (educated) actions.

So, yes. I know that my child has this.  The same way you know that your child has a handle on her own life challenges, like crossing the street, not falling off the jungle gym, and doing her homework on time.  I still take care to make sure her environment is filled with safe adults, the same way you do.

When you send your child out into the world, you have brief moments of stress about whether they will got lost on their way to the bathroom on the first day of school, if they will have friends to play with at recess, or to sit with at lunch, if they will cross the street carefully on the way home.  What they would do if a stranger approached them.

I worry about my child eating something she thinks is safe, or touching residue of unsafe food on the table and reacting because her eczema is open... everywhere.  I worry about my child's life.  The same way you do.  But my fear involves food, present everyday in many ways.  She can't avoid it.  She is careful.

Just like crossing the street, she knows how to manage this.  But if it were that easy we would never see a news story about a child getting hit by a car, or any person for that matter.  Lapses in judgement happen, both on her end on the end of the adults in charge.  The more people that know how to provide for her safety the higher her chances of staying safe.

I know she has this.  As the adults in the room I have to know you have her back.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Orange Ginger Green Smoothie

I admit, while I know what constitutes a healthy and balanced meal, I don't always take the time to execute on that.  Enter the green smoothie.  It's my way of throwing a little extra nutrition into a meal, trying to add a little healthy balance.

Typically our green smoothies are random, based on what is in the fridge.  The kids refer to them as 'kitchen sink smoothies', meaning Mom will put in anything except the kitchen sink!

Today was particularly yummy, so I thought I would share.  To give you inspiration to create your own.

Orange Ginger Green Smoothie

1-2 c Deep Green Power Blend (baby kale, chard, and spinach)
1 c Good Karma vanilla flax milk+protein (or non-dairy milk of choice)
2 small oranges, peeled and seeds removed
1/2 c frozen pineapple
4 frozen peach slices
1/2 inch peeled ginger

Place oranges in blender.  Top with greens, frozen fruit, ginger, and milk.  Blend on high until desired consistency is reached.  Enjoy while still cold for best flavor and texture.

(All amounts are estimates of what I actually used, feel free to alter these to suit your tastes.)

Carefully made this recipe is nut-free, dairy free, soy free, gluten free, sugar free, and delicious.

What are your favorite ways to round out the nutrition in fast meals?  What is your favorite smoothie combination?  Let me know!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A 504 Speedbump

The first day of school started with a small- but incredibly aggravating- bump for me.  My kiddo was pretty well unaware of it, which I like.  Less stress for her.

I discovered on the first day, upon dropping my kiddo off, that her teachers had not yet been epi-pen trained.  As it is spelled out in her 504 that each of her teachers needs to be epi trained, I was more than a little aggravated.  A 504 violation on the first day of school does not make a mama feel warm and fuzzy.

My first step was to pull her homeroom teacher into the hallway and give a down and dirty 45 second training on how and when to use the epi-pen.  The second step was to high-tail it to the principal's office and share my concern.

I adore that the principal in her building made time to listen to me on the first day of school.  I was a teacher.  I understand how chaotic and bumpy the first day can be.  (I did make it a point to make sure I took less than 3 minutes, AND to let her know I appreciate her making time for me.)  She not only listened, she heard me!  She apologized for the situation and advised she would solve the problem.

I sent a follow up email recapping the situation and again thanking her for taking the time to listen.  By the end of the day I received a response that contained her assurance that the situation had been resolved.  She also encouraged a review of our 504 to be sure that we were all on the same page with the new teaching team, and that no updates needed to be made.  I love it.

Any story with a happy ending is a good one in my book.  I love that my daughter didn't have to know that her teachers were not trained, so her stress level on the first day was not impacted.  (Who needs extra stress on the first day of school?!)  If my daughter had been younger and less able to advocate for herself, or more prone to risk taking behaviors or frequent reactions, I would not have left her there without training EACH of her teachers.  But my kiddo is a big girl now, and has a great track record for making mature decisions.  So. It allowed for a happy ending.

I'm also pretty proud of myself.  I hate confrontation, of any sort.  I hate to make waves.  Being an allergy mama has taken me out of my comfort zone many times, requiring me to confront unsafe situations and make small waves when needed.  I was polite, but firm.  I am getting better about speaking up promptly and with directness.  It is still not comfortable, but I'm getting better at it.

Allergy parents: how did your first week of school go?  Any shining moments to share?  Any speed bumps?  Let me know!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

Time to sit down and rough out the plan for this week!  I know it makes grocery shopping so much easier and more efficient when I have a plan to shop from, and it makes cooking all week much less stressful when I don't have to come up with a meal while I'm hungry.  Or stressed.  Or in a hurry.

As always, we rotate proteins on a four day rotation to avoid my oldest developing further meat allergies.  I do my best to rotate veggies and fruits too, but I don't get as stressed about those.  Any gaps in the meal plan will be filled in with whatever is on special at the market, or leftovers.

Lunches are always listed as protein only, and the children get to chose a fruit and a vegetable to complete the meal.  That way they have control over what they eat, and they are more likely to eat it!

Here we go:

Breakfast: steak and veggie saute
Lunch: beef dogs
Dinner: cider pulled pork roast, fried cabbage, honey glazed carrots

Breakfast: bacon, honey corn muffins
Lunch: pulled pork OR brats
Dinner: dal palak, quinoa pasta, peas

Breakfast: pumpkin muffins, green smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: turkey meatballs, green beans, sweet potato skillet

Breakfast: turkey sausage and biscuit breakfast sandwiches, green smoothies, bananas
Lunch: meatballs
Dinner: salmon, roasted brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes

Breakfast: sweet potato saute OR gf bagels and green smoothie
Lunch: salmon salad
Dinner: chili casserole, broccoli

Breakfast: waffles with spiced peach syrup
Lunch: beef burgers
Dinner: grilled pork chops, roasted veggies, grilled pineapple

Breakfast: bacon cheddar muffins
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: Z Pizza

Enjoy your week!  Eat well.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Weaning a dairy allergic infant: How to pick a non-dairy milk

One of the things I hear many allergy parents struggle with is how to wean their dairy allergic infant to a non-dairy milk.  Weaning is a large undertaking for any mom, but it becomes more complicated when the traditional dairy milk is not an option.

Will my child like non-dairy milk?  Is the nutrition the same?  Are there any long term health implications for not getting dairy milk?  Are there any long term health implications from using one of the replacements?  How do I decide which milk to give my infant?  How do I serve it?  Why isn't this in the owner's manual? And exactly where is that owner's manual anyway?!?

Relax mama.  You can do this.  First, talk to your allergist and find out if there are any non-dairy milks you should avoid.  It is likely they will advise you to avoid nut milks for now, but make sure to have this conversation.  Don't assume.

Next, talk to your pediatrician.  Ask what they know about the nutrition of non-dairy milks on the market.  It is likely that their knowledge is not adequate to provide solid guidance.  They may refer you to a dietician for further discussion.  BEFORE you meet with ANY dietician, please call ahead and find out if they have experience dealing with food allergies.  I have met many dieticians who are woefully uneducated about food allergies, and the advice they gave was outdated and could even have been detrimental to my allergic kiddo.  (Not that I have a personal bias. Nope. Not me.)

Now that I've got the standard ask a real doctor talk out of the way I can share my own insight.  Granted, it is my opinion, based on knowledge I've gathered over the years and experience with food allergic kids.  My nutrition knowledge is vast, but my paperwork to back that up is limited. ;)

First: pretend you are weaning to dairy milk.  Think about what milk you would wean to and why.  Most moms wean to whole milk because developing brains and bodies need a bit more fat than other milks can offer.  When looking at replacements, chose one that has some naturally occurring fats.

I don't know a single mom that has weaned her child from breast milk to chocolate milk.  Not. One.  Whole milk is free of added sugar.  When looking at a replacement, please do not assume that your child will not like the flavor of non-dairy milk.  Babies have nothing to compare this new food to, so they will be more accepting of whatever you pick.  Look for a replacement that is free of added sweetener.  This can be in the form of cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, or any other sweetener.  If it has added sugar, put it back on the shelf!

Lastly, think about the nutrition inherently present in each choice.  Cow milk is not standardly enriched with a lot of extra vitamins, it has nutritional value built into it.  Don't chose a milk that is low in nutritional content naturally.  Keeping that in mind, some enhancement will be there.  Look for a milk that does have calcium, a bit of fat, and an bit of protein.  Not a ton, milk is not loaded with protein despite our current thoughts about it.  Just a bit.

Now you have the tools to make your own decision about what milk to chose.

My first preference is unsweetened coconut milk.  SoDelicious makes a fabulous one in the dairy case.  It is organic, which I love, and I trust their production practices to provide coconut milk free of cross contamination.  I do not have the same confidence in some of the other products on the market.  In addition, coconut milk is higher in healthy fats than many non-dairy milks, which is god for developing brains.  There is also some research that suggests that coconut milk may provide additional immune support, which is always a bonus!

Hemp milk would be the runner up.  It has a stronger flavor than coconut milk, but has a lot of inherent nutritional quality.  High in healthy omegas that are good for developing brains, trace amounts of protein and fat round out this choice.  Hemp is also a food with very low incidence of allergy, making it ideal for those with multiple allergies.

The only milk that I do not advocate for is rice milk.  Rice milk has a very mild flavor that many people adapt easily to, but it is low in nutrition in its natural state.  This means all the oomph in rice milk is from enhancement, and you can give your kiddo vitamins on your own!  In addition, rice is naturally high in arsenic, which our bodies can not process, meaning it builds up over time.  High amounts are bad, so I prefer not to start building the arsenic supply in infancy.

Some tips to encourage your kiddo to drink up:
- Serve any milk warm.  Breast milk is not chilled, so infants often adapt to warm milks more easily.
- If you must try a flavor, try unsweetened vanilla first to avoid added sugar
- You can use different milks to drink and to cook with, to alter the nutritional diversity in the diet
- Always cook with an unsweetened milk to avoid giving an off flavor to savory dishes

For a bit more insight on non-dairy milks and their nutrition, see here.  (Flax milk and sunflower milk are not included in this review, nor is cashew milk.)

Still struggling?  Have helpful advice or tips to share?  Let me know below!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Gluten free biscuits, FINALLY

I love biscuits. Tender, flaky, warm from the oven goodness.  Or I did. Before going gluten free.  Now the biscuits I make are typically dry and sandy.  The texture is, frankly, terrible.  I've read the tips, I've tried a multitude of flour combinations, of fat combinations, of prayers and voodoo effigies.  They just are. not. good.

Until now.  One evening my knowledge and my instincts came together in a beautiful display of camaraderie to allow me a blinding flash of inspiration.  And my first worthwhile gluten free biscuit was formed.

I'm not claiming the same flaky delicate perfection that my gluten filled days held.  This is not that.  But this is a glorious step in the right direction, with results that produce a biscuit that doesn't need butter. It is delicate and tender, with a crumb that is moist but still true to it's biscuit identity.

Try it out.  Let me know how you would improve it!

Gluten Free Biscuits

1 1/2 c Bob's Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (It is rice free, Authentic Foods also has a rice free one.)
1/2 c potato starch
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp Ener-G egg replacer
1/2 c Spectrum palm shortening (not butter flavored!)
3/4 c non-dairy milk of choice
1 tsp vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)

Preheat oven to 450.  Combine milk and vinegar in a small bowl or cup and set aside.  Whisk together dry ingredients.  Cut in shortening with wire whisk.  Add milk mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.  Mixture will be wet, like a drop biscuit.  (If it is not, add a teaspoon of milk at a time until it is! This is important.)  Drop onto parchment lined baking sheet.  Using wet fingers, gently smooth or shape biscuit into the shape/size you prefer.  Bake 10-12 minutes.

Enjoy.  Butter optional.

Carefully prepared, this recipe is gluten free, nut free, rice free, soy free, dairy free, and egg free.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

It's here again. Already.  And so here is the menu plan for the week.  Please remember that the proteins are rotated, and the fruits and veggies are served at every meal, but not always listed as I fill in the holes with whatever is available at the market when I shop on Tuesday.

Have a great week!

Breakfast: zucchini muffins, turkey sausage, grapes
Lunch: turkey dogs, baked beans, blueberry applesauce, mixed veg
Dinner: grilled salmon, roasted cauliflower, mixed berries

Breakfast: pumpkin muffins, green smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly sandwich
Dinner: spaghetti with meat sauce (beef), green beans

Breakfast: cream of buckwheat
Lunch: beef dogs
Dinner: grilled pork chops, spiced peaches, broccoli

Breakfast: pork sausage, Harvest Saute (Alexia)
Lunch: ham roll ups
Dinner: 2 bean chili, corn muffins

Breakfast: apple pie quinoa casserole
Lunch: veggies and hummus, black bean and corn salad
Dinner: Turkey keilbasa OR turkey burgers, mashed potatoes, fried cabbage

Breakfast: turkey sausage, baked sweet potatoes
Lunch: grilled turkey
Dinner: fish tacos

Breakfast: sauted veggies with beans
Lunch: taco pasta salad
Dinner: chipolte shepherd's pie (beef)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bacon Onion Cheddar Muffins

I had the opportunity to travel for a few days over the summer sans children.  That's right.  The glorious freedom to wake up in the morning, look scornfully at the hotel coffeepot and say "Sorry perky. Not settling for your mediocre offerings. Not this time."

Enjoy a luxurious shower where no one knocks urgently on the door to ask questions of burning importance- like how many leaves a shamrock has, or where Barbie went to school.

Pack up a good read and head off to find breakfast, with the largest consideration being whether to eat inside or outside.

I am a huge fan of supporting local whenever possible.  This trip was no different.  Strolling into a local coffee shop to start the day, I noticed a rather tasty looking morsel in the display case.  An interesting hybridization that was not quite a biscuit, not quite a muffin, and loaded with specks of cheese.  Hmmm. My barista informed me that it was a bacon cheddar muffin.

My mouth informed me that it was going to need to be a dietary staple.  Soon.  With a shape that says muffin, and a texture that says biscuit, shreds of cheddar and bacon in every blissful bite... yum.

Upon returning home, I decided to share this experience with my kiddos.  Re-create that lovely breakfast treat.  A quick internet search and I found the recipe that I began with over at The Pioneer Woman.  I should've know she would be familiar with such wonderful goodness.  She does a fantastic job of describing how heavenly they are, and gives a drool producing picture tutorial if you'd like.

Here is my adaptation, with very few changes.  Feel free to give it a whirl.

Bacon Onion Cheddar Muffins

2 c gluten free all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 c Spectrum shortening
10 Tbsp non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened hemp milk)
4 Tbsp safflower oil
1 Ener-G egg
10 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
1/2 c finely diced onion
1 c Daiya cheddar cheese shreds

Fry bacon and set on paper towel to drain.  Drain all but two teaspoons bacon drippings from pan, using that little bit to saute the onion (in the same pan) until soft and golden.

Sift together flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt in a large bowl.  Using a pastry cutter or wire whisk cut in shortening until mixture has a sandy texture.

Prepare Ener-G egg in a medium bowl, whisking until very thick.  Whisk  in milk and oil.  Combine flour mixture, milk mixture, bacon, onions, and Daiya in a large bowl.  Stir gently until all combined.

Spoon batter into greased or lined muffin tins.  Bake for 20-22 minutes at 375 until golden.  Remove from pan and serve warm.

Repeat as needed.

With care, these muffins are nut free, egg free, dairy free, gluten free, rice free, soy free, and loaded with flavor.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

It's Monday. We have to eat. Without further ado, the plan to make it happen:

Breakfast: pork sausage and sauteed veggies
Lunch: pepperoni
Dinner: lentil dahl, quinoa pasta, peas, veggie bites (new find here- YUM.)

Breakfast: teff muffins and green smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: salmon, green beans, mixed berries

Breakfast: saute sweets and green smoothie
Lunch: salmon salad
Dinner: turkey pot pie

Breakfast: turkey sausage, biscuits, fruit smoothie
Lunch: turkey dogs
Dinner: beef stew, cornbread

Breakfast: pumpkin muffins, yogurt
Lunch: beef dogs
Dinner: pork basil burgers, roasted veggies, raspberry applesauce

Breakfast: bacon cheddar muffins
Lunch: ham roll ups
Dinner: pizza night!

Breakfast: zucchini pancakes
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: sloppy joe, corn chips, melon, broccoli

Have a great week!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Allergy Education and Understanding

I am an allergy mom (a term I am sure will soon rival that of soccer mom).  I was an early adopter, one of the moms who opted in early, before it was trendy.

Allergies really are increasing, and especially so among children, so we allergy moms are multiplying. Faster than rabbits.  And I've found that allergy moms nowadays are generally more informed than the average patient.  We make it our business to keep up with current research, new products, companies that are known for cross contamination, and generally any other tidbit of allergy wisdom we can find.  Because the more we know the safer our little people are.

As an allergy parent, we are also often cast into the role of educator.  We constantly help the people surrounding our children learn more about how to avoid allergic reactions, how to recognize them, and how to treat them.  And just like any other teacher the willingness of our students is varied.

The hardest part of educating people about food allergies is determining their current knowledge level.  Many people think they understand much more than they actually know, and assume that their knowledge is adequate.  They are reluctant to add new knowledge to their current library for fear they will have to purge excess wisdom from their limited hard drive space.

As such, I've devised a reference to be used for rating the allergy savvy of persons with whom you encounter in your child's life:

1) Food allergies? What are those?
2) I read an article about them once.  It would be absolutely horrible to never have another Reece Cup!
3) I have a friend/relative who has allergies. She's always watching what she eats.
4) I took a training class about allergies.
5) I'm an allergist.
6) My child has a food allergy.

This is the knowledge hierarchy.  More or less.  Unless you live with it, in your face, everyday, it's hard to fully comprehend the impact this has on every facet of the family's life. Yes. It impacts the entire family.

Remain open to education.  We allergy moms, we are always scouring our world for greater allergy knowledge.  We know more about allergies than most, but we're still trying to learn.  And we are happily willing to help educate anyone who wants to know more.  The more people who understand, the safer the world is for children with food allergies.

Everyone wants their child to be safe.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

School is starting, so it is time for more lunchbox friendly menu plans to start showing up.  Right, dinners that can have leftovers taken to school the next day!  Perfect.

I have coasted through the summer on minimal effort at meal times, and the end result is that I am beyond tired of all of my tried and true recipes.  I have done them to death.  Hopefully I will be adding a bit more variety to the plan over the next few weeks, but if you have a favorite recipe or meal please share it in the comments below!

Breakfast: banana muffins and green smoothie
Lunch: fish tacos
Dinner: chipotle shepherd's pie with sweet potato crust, blueberries

Breakfast: peach ginger cream of buckwheat
Lunch: beef burgers OR leftovers, cantaloupe
Dinner: turkey sloppy joe, fries, peas

Breakfast: turkey sausage and biscuit sandwiches, green smoothie
Lunch: turkey dogs OR leftover sloppy joe
Dinner: 2 bean chili, honey corn muffins

Breakfast: pumpkin muffins, green smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly sandwiches
Dinner: City Barbecue

Breakfast: pork sausage, Alexia harvest saute
Lunch: pork brats
Dinner: Costa Rican Tilapia, salad, strawberries

Breakfast: teff muffins, fresh oj
Lunch: fish sticks
Dinner: grilled steak, grilled veggies, and grilled pineapple (sense a theme?)

Breakfast: steak and veggie saute
Lunch: beef dogs
Dinner: turkey meatballs, pasta with marinara sauce, green beans

As a reminder: All links are to the original recipe, I modify those to meet the dietary restrictions of our house.  Proteins are rotated, and will be published in the menu plan.  Side dishes will be listed in some cases, but often I will add whatever was available at the market that week, so they may not always be listed.  (I still serve them!  Even though I don't map them out!)

Have a great week!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

An unrecognized necessity: Allergy Support Systems

Ten years ago my daughter was diagnosed with food allergies.  She is the first (and currently the only) person in my family or my husband's to have food allergies.  I had no experience or knowledge to draw from as I learned how to manage this new way of thinking about and preparing food.

At the time I was still nursing.  Yes, my daughter was reacting to the foods I ate and then passed to her through my milk.  That meant I had to eat only foods that were safe for her.  I dropped 30 pounds like a hot rock.  My friends all commented on how great I looked! My response? "Thanks! I quit eating."
It wasn't far from true.  I removed dairy, eggs, and nuts from my diet in one fell swoop.  If I were not nursing I think I would have added liberal amounts of alcohol to compensate.

Know how we giggle at our parents when they tell us how they used to walk to school, in the snow, three miles, uphill both ways?  The story for allergy moms is that I used to read labels, top to bottom, with no allergen labeling laws, and allergens written in code.  I did!  Grocery shopping took hours for those first few months while I learned how to be a label detective. On. Every. Single. Food.  Frozen chicken breast.  Just plain frozen chicken breast. Had added dairy.  I kid you not.  I may have expressed my opinion of adding dairy to a darn chicken breast just to freeze it in vocabulary that was, um, creative.

I am thankful today for the labeling laws that make it easier to figure out what is in the food we eat. I am beyond grateful that the internet now has exactly 8,793 other food allergy moms that are blogging about their experiences raising and feeding allergic kids.  Bless them for sharing their recipes, their tips, their feelings, and their own colorful euphemisms.  Technology also brought us Twitter, a support network full of #foodallergymoms that you can run to and vent 24/7, and someone will hear you.  And often someone will share a solution.

Today I wish every physician who diagnosed food allergy also knew how dramatically the diagnosis would impact every member of the family.  How terrifying, dividing, and isolating the diagnosis can become.

I wish that each newly diagnosed patient were connected with a resource network that included knowledgeable allergic peers, fact driven forums, a local coach to walk them through the changes that come with transitioning to an allergy free lifestyle, and a mental health professional that understands the true impact this disease has on families.

Because right now, even with all the advances in allergy knowledge and support available, patients get an epi-pen and a pat on the back.

We should be able to do more.  Ease the transition.  Support the mental health.  We've come a long way, but there is still progress to be made.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back to School with Allergies

For us the start of the new school year is just two short weeks away.  The summer passed in it's usual lazy blur, with the time continuum only summers have.  Long days full of sunshine and unscheduled relaxation and silly fun.  Days packed from dawn until dusk with a flurry of fantastic summer activities.  And the ability to control (mostly) how those days are interspersed, so that no one is ever too tired of one or the other.

School however, means return to routine.  Standard bedtime, standard wake time, standard school day.
Packing lunches.  Training the new new teacher to see the subtle signs that you pick up on so easily.

I'm in prepare mode now.  I thought I'd share my checklist with you:

  • Gather medication authorization forms.  We have one for the epinephrine auto injector, one for the inhaler, one for the topical steroid, and one for the benadryl fast melts.  We also have an allergy action plan that stays with her medications.  (Print out several on florescent paper.) This time of year is crazy busy for allergists doing last minute forms, so if you haven't turned them in yet hustle over and drop them off soon!  Most allergists now charge a small fee for this service.  (If I were filling out a few hundred forms I would want to be compensated for my time too!  Be kind, the fee is well deserved. Yes, even if the nurse did do many of the forms.  She needs paid too.)
  • Create a medicine kit.  I've seen too many nurses stations overloaded with zip-lock bags of medicines they must dig through to find the appropriate child's stash.  I prefer to put my kiddo's medicines into a container that is instantly recognizable. (I like this one.)
  • Make a folder of teacher handouts.  Yes.  I do this.  I put together some basic allergy information that I feel is essential for the teacher to understand, and I deliver it to them the week before school starts.  We have a short meeting and I hand it off, so that the information can be fresh in her mind at the start of the year.  Nothing lengthy, a few short bits that convey a lot of meaning for us. Teachers have enough to do the week before school, they are not going to read any novels on allergy care!
  • Review your 504.  Make sure it is current, and does not need updates or additional accommodations based on the new grade, or health changes over the summer.
  • Make sure your child's self carry epi-case is up to another year of service.  Order a new one now if needed. (There's a great list of places to buy here.)
Keep in mind, this is a BACK to school list.  Not a first time at school list, which is very different.  My little one is going into 5th grade (How did that happen?!?) and this has become a less intense preparation mode.  

I hope that back to school goes well for all of you!  New teachers can make for a nervous first week, especially for us allergy mamas.  Have faith that teachers chose their job because they love kids, and they want to keep yours safe.  Just a bit of extra education and kindness from you and it'll be a great team.  But that's another post!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Monday Menu Plan

The focus this week is on simple meals that come together quickly.  Summer here is about seizing the moment, not sticking to a tight schedule.  That means meals need to be familiar and fast for days when we are really off schedule.  Nothing new on the menu this week, just familiar favorites that I know will keep hungry tummies fueled up.

Breakfast: cereal with non-dairy milk
Lunch:  leftover pulled pork
Dinner: chili mac (bison), carrots, raspberries

Breakfast: Cinnamon bread with sunbutter and green smoothie
Lunch: leftover chili mac
Dinner: turkey meatballs, coleslaw, cantaloupe

Breakfast: turkey sausage and Alexia Harvest Sature
Lunch: meatballs
Dinner: lentil dahl over quinoa pasta, peas

Breakfast: cream of buckwheat made with sunflower milk
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: bourbon salmon, green beans, pineapple

Breakfast: Alexia saute sweets, green smoothie
Lunch: salmon
Dinner: cajun beans and quinoa with andouille sausage, broccoli

Breakfast: bacon and waffles with berry reduction
Lunch: ham roll ups
Dinner: beef burgers, carrot salad

Breakfast: blueberry muffins
Lunch: burgers
Dinner: creamy turkey casserole, mixed veggies

I'll fill in the holes with leftovers and specials from the market after shopping on Tuesday.  Have a great week everyone!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Menu Plan

I'll be honest.  I have not been menu planning.  At all.  I have even been avoiding grocery shopping.  At this point I have sufficiently depleted my stock of ready made meals in the freezer, and avoided taking the kids to the grocery store longer than is really advisable. We've had some reeeeaaallly creative meals the last few days.

Time for this mama to admit that summer is here to stay, and that means the kids need to come with me to the store.  Not that I mind so much, they're generally well behaved.  Alas, I have a child that hates to shop, and the act of getting her into the car to go to the store does not brighten anyone's day. *sigh*

Here's the plan for the week.  Super simple, as is getting to be the norm around here.

Breakfast: cream of buckwheat cereal made with sunflower milk
Lunch: leftover spaghetti with meat sauce (bison), mixed veg, plums
Dinner: Salmon, broccoli, cantaloupe

Breakfast: zucchini muffins, green smoothie
Lunch: salmon salad
Dinner: Cajun red beans and quinoa with andouille sausage, peas, raspberries and blueberries

Breakfast: bacon and pancakes
Lunch: ham wraps
Dinner: grilled steak, sweet potato skillet, green beans

Breakfast: Alexia saute sweets, green smoothie
Lunch: beef dogs
Dinner: turkey pot pie

Breakfast: Baked apples with quinoa granola topping (think apple crisp!)
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: pasta with squash sauce, peas, strawberries

Breakfast: sauteed veggies, green protein smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: crispy baked lemon cod, coleslaw, grapes

Breakfast: pumpkin date donuts
Lunch: fish sticks
Dinner: crock pot pulled pork, maple glazed carrots, salad, watermelon

Enjoy your week!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Monday Menu Plan

Let's take on the week with a menu plan.  Because, as always, when my meals are planned out in advance my stress level goes down.  It takes away the daily stress of thinking about what to make and the day can flow more easily when my mind is not stuck on what to eat next.

As always, the sides may change based on what's available when I go to the grocery, and any links provided are to the original recipe and may not reflect adaptations I make to suit our family's dietary restrictions.

Breakfast: pork sausage and sauteed green beans, carrots, onions, and potatoes
Lunch: pork bratwurst
Dinner: white bean quinoa burgers on buns, roasted asparagus, spiced peaches

Breakfast: baked apples topped with quinoa granola, green smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: grilled steak, carrot salad, blueberries, salad

Breakfast: diced steak and sauteed peppers, onions, and zucchini
Lunch: beef hot dogs
Dinner: turkey meatballs, sweet potato saute, green beans

Breakfast: turkey sausage and biscuit sandwiches, smoothie
Lunch: meatballs
Dinner: salmon patties, roasted veg, raspberry applesauce

Breakfast: Alexia saute sweets, green smoothie
Lunch: salmon patties
Dinner: cajun red beans and quinoa with andouille, corn, broccoli

Breakfast: bacon, hash browns, sauteed veggies
Lunch: pork basil burgers
Dinner: dal palak, quinoa pasta, peas, sliced pears

Breakfast: chia pudding
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: irish cottage pie, sliced melon

Friday, May 10, 2013

8 weeks of Snacks

I know that my family has a unique relationship with food and I accept that.  Having three children with food restrictions means being aware of every bite that goes into our mouths, in regard to both ingredients and nutrition.

This year I have been frustrated with the number of snacks being served at school, and kept trying to tell myself I was overreacting.  It seemed like the kids were being fed ALL THE TIME.  Most of the snacks were surprise snacks that were not safe for my kids.  That means lots of snacks from their safe stash at school.  I talked to myself many days, repeating that because I am more aware of food I was overly sensitive to the snacks being served.  I tried to talk myself into believing that my perception was off, that snacks were not as frequent as they seemed.

Finally, I decided to start tracking snacks on my calendar to be able to show myself that my perception is skewed on how often my kids are fed.  I really thought that once I put them all on the calendar I would be able to see in black and white that the snack situation was not as out of control as it often felt.

After 56 days of tracking, I found that I am not crazy, the school does feeed my kids all the time.  I gave them the stats, and I'm sharing them with you now.  Take a look, then consider tracking the food being given to your kids.  (I just tracked school.  Feel free to track extracurricular snacks as well if you really want your mind blown.)

The set above is pretty straightforward.  How many days snack was served during my tracking period, how many of the served snacks could be considered healthy food.  (I did mark pizza as healthy, though I know it is open for debate.) And the red one shows the number of times I was notified in advance of a snack being served.

These are a bit more involved.  I tracked specifically the reason each snack was given, then categorized them.  My daughter asked "Shouldn't random and other be combined?" Nope.  'Random' is the category that shows snacks that had absolutely no reason, like the day the teacher passed out Girl Scout cookies and told my daughter "I didn't know I was going to pass out cookies this morning.  I just decided."  No reason. 'Other' is my category where there was valid logic in providing a snack, but it didn't fall neatly into another category.

The red one shows the number of times the snack served was safe for my daughters to eat versus the snacks that were not safe.  As you can see, I have re-stocked their safe stash many times. 

Ponder the data.  Share your experience on the number of times someone tries to feed your kids. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Monday Menu Plan

This week's meal plan has Mama out of town for three days, so meals are being kept super simple to allow Daddy time to work rather than cook all day.  I am going to wait to see what is at the market before I fill in my fruit choices... hopefully they will have something other than organic apples and pears!  I'm salivating at the thought of the summer fruits that are just around the corner.  I adore the variety of fresh organic produce available in the summer.

Breakfast: Alexia saute sweets and protein smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly sandwich
Dinner: Chili bake casserole, green beans

Breakfast: pumpkin muffins and green smoothie
Lunch: beef hot dogs
Dinner: Creamy turkey and mushroom casserole, peas

Breakfast: Turkey sausage, sauteed veggies
Lunch: turkey mushroom casserole
Dinner: salmon and scallops, crock pot beets, sliced pears

Breakfast: sunbutter coffee cake
Lunch: salmon salad
Dinner: grilled italian sausage with onions and peppers, honey glazed carrots

Breakfast: sausage and sauteed veggies
Lunch: ham roll ups OR brats
Dinner: 2 bean chili, salad

Breakfast: on your own
Lunch: Cincinnati style chili spaghetti
Dinner: Hamburgers, fries, broccoli

Breakfast: waffles with lemon curd and fresh berries
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: sloppy joe, roasted cauliflower

Friday, April 26, 2013

No Drama Mama

Dear Parents,
The fourth grade is having a pizza party to celebrate the completion of the OAA testing.  Please bring in a snack to share with the class for our party.  Remember, due to allergies we can not have any nut containing snacks.  Please consult for ideas of safe snacks you can send.
                                                                                 Thank you, Fourth Grade Teachers

That was the gist of the note sent home to every fourth grade student.  *Sigh*  I do detest food parties, but I accept that they are part of our culture and I try not to get too grumpy about them.  In the last school the room moms always sent a specific list of snacks to bring.  (ie: We need a volunteer to bring 100% juice Juice boxes, grapes, plain potato chips, plates and napkins)  It's also helpful for a food allergy mama to know ahead of time what will be served!  And?  Usually the snacks were safe.

With a general call to bring snacks, I have to stop in and check ingredients before the party (which I do anyway).  But, they were given a list of safe(er) options.  You see, with my daughter's many allergies, I don't ask that the children avoid all of her allergens, just the one that is most likely to kill her.  My only requirement is that there are no nuts in the classroom.  Ever.

Imagine my surprise to find this: two tables full of baked goods.  I separated them into two groups, nut free and contaminated.  One full table marked with 'may contain' warnings.  Yep.  When the teacher came out into the hallway to ask how everything looked, I was honest.
The table on the left contains treats with a 'may contain' warning.

I clearly stated that the may contain products were not safe for classroom consumption because studies show that the majority of products with a may contain warning do actually contain traces of nuts.  I was quickly driven to the edge of insanity by the teacher asking ME to decide if they should be served. Um.

Her suggestion: How about if the students in her classroom chose from the safe table, and the other classes can chose whatever they would like and eat in their respective classrooms, then clean well at the end of the day?

Except that her 504 clearly says no nuts in any of her classrooms, so the other children can't have it there either.

If the warning said: "May contain traces of anthrax." Would it even be a debate?

But it said no such thing, so it was a debate.  Should I allow these treats to be served?  They were only 'may contain', not actually products with nut ingredients. My choice: Ask the school to step up and follow the policy we put in place with my daughter's 504, keeping her learning environment safe but causing her to be singled out as the reason that the many treats brought in would not be eaten (and the kids walked by them all, so they knew what was there.) or allow the treats to be eaten so that there would be no hard feelings from other parents and students, and no embarrassment for my daughter.

And?  I'm the heavy.  Either way someone is upset.

This is the reason the 504 was drawn up in advance, the reason that a plan was devised and a note sent home to the parents to explain.  So there would be no game time decisions.  I finally asked the school to step and not serve the items in question.  I was ready to be the heavy, and I was incredibly angry about being put in the position that it was my job to do it.  I was ready to have moms angry that their treat was not served, and children mad at my daughter because they didn't get to eat the treat they brought.  Why? Because anger fades.  Dead doesn't.

It's hard to believe that I had so much angst about whether to allow children to indulge in sugar so my daughter would not be singled out.  Anyone with a child that is approaching teen years knows that fitting it is becoming a much more important part of their life, and decisions they make are designed to help them fit in.  This is why anaphylaxis risk peaks in teen years.

I pride myself in being the low maintenance allergy mama.  I do.  I roll with a lot, and I try to teach my daughter to roll with a lot too.  Life is always going to be full of food, we need to learn to handle it with grace.  Today?  I felt like a drama mama.  I was upfront with the teacher about how conflicted I felt, and how upset it made me.  I marched myself into the principal's office with the same concerns, again being honest at all levels.  (Including apologizing for being emotional.)

In the end?  The drama was solved by taking it outside as a picnic.  Thank heavens for lovely weather, as I'm not sure we would have had such a peaceable ending if there had been rain.  This mama was ready to stand firm and confiscate the contraband myself if need be.  I'm still angry it was even a source of debate.  The other parents clearly were not in line with the instructions sent home, and the snacks should not be served because they are a safety hazard.

Because dead can't change it's mind, be embarrassed, admit it made a mistake, or hold a grudge.  I don't negotiate with terrorists, and dead?  Nothing has more terror than that.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Chicago GF Expo 2013

I went to my first GF Expo in Dallas in 2011, and loved it.  It was much like Christmas, discovering an entire convention center full of gluten free products that were also allergy friendly to varying degrees.  I had the opportunity to speak with many of the vendors and assess their ability to handle food allergy concerns, and I got to sample every single one of those amazing new products.  I loved every magical minute. (Insert mental picture of me twirling in the midst of a large crowded convention center, outstretched arms holding safe cookies and cupcakes while angels sing.)

In 2012 I stayed a bit closer to home and experienced the Chicago GF expo.  Again, an enormous room of allergy friendly products!  I had heard of many of them, but there were still so many new products for me to be excited about.  And? A plethora of gluten free classes to take during the day, helping guide attendees on subjects related to  gluten free baking.  The positive vibe was palpable and energizing.  I enjoyed being in an environment so saturated with people who get it, and who want to support each other in their quest toward a better life.  Support for eating well, for growing a blog or a business, for anything that your dreams were holding.  I left feeling uplifted.

I was lucky enough to attend the 2013 GF expo in Chicago.  I admit, I came with pretty high expectations.  It’s easy to see how I could be disappointed in my findings.  The vendor fair was packed with people offering products and samples of friendly foods, but I knew almost all of them from years past.  It was a bit disappointing that there were not as many new companies and products to excite me.  The class offerings this year seemed more commercial and lackluster than in years past.  Nothing spoke to me as a must see.  I began to think that maybe the expense this year was not justified.

Then the evening came about.  I had the privilege of dining with Colette Martin, author of Learning to Bake Allergen-Free, and a friend whom I only get to see at such conferences.  I so enjoyed catching up and visiting, sharing perspectives and ideas.  What a wonderful dinner!  We then moved on to join a group of incredible ladies that are active in the blogosphere, sharing their wisdom on how to live with special diets.  THIS is the energy I came for, the support, understanding, and unity of purpose that I was looking to experience! Drinks and fabulous conversation with Lauren, Claudine, Kelly, Pam, Colette, Cindy, and Keeley left me feeling like this was, indeed, an event worth the time and expense of coming to Chicago.

It also served to further fuel the fire of excitement about the Food Allergy Blogger convention coming in November.  I can not adequately describe the feeling of being surrounded by bloggers that are on the same mission as you, who want to create a web of support to catch people they have never met and buoy them through the tough days of living with dietary restrictions in this food centric culture we live in. They get it.  They understand the challenges of everyday living.  They know why you are driven to share your life on a blog.  The camaraderie was the energizing boost this weary mama needed.  And a shimmering strand of the web tying us all together in this quest to help ease the challenges of living with dietary restrictions.  I can not wait to be engulfed in this sea of positive energy and understanding again in November.

Join us.

*Now, my goal is nurture those new relationships, shimmering like shooting stars through my weekend.  I am terrible at keeping in touch, with creating a bond that extends through time and space to stay strongly real rather than allowing such glimmering moments to create acquaintances that I treasure but lack the depth that true friendship brings.

(Please stay tuned for a few product reviews from the expo.  I'll share what my impressions were, good bad and otherwise.)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday Meal Plan

Here we are at Monday again.  My how the weeks just fly by!

My weekend was spent at the GF Expo while my husband was on daddy duty with the kiddos, one of them recovering from a tonsilectomy.  So today was cuddling the sick one, cleaning the kitchen, and planning for the upcoming week.  I know, you can barely control your envy.

Breakfast: pumpkin muffins
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: City Barbeque

Breakfast: pork sausage, sauteed veggies
Lunch: pepperoni sticks OR brats
Dinner: potato leek soup, dinner rolls, salad, strawberries

Breakfast: Alexia Saute Sweets, green smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly sandwiches
Dinner: beef stew, quinoa, peas

Breakfast: zucchini muffins, protein smoothie
Lunch: beef stew
Dinner: meatballs, roasted potatoes, broccoli

Breakfast: turkey sausage, sauteed veggies
Lunch: meatballs
Dinner: fish tacos, corn cake, blueberries

Breakfast: waffles with fruit
Lunch: fish sticks
Dinner: Italian sausage soup

Breakfast: bacon, hash browns, sauteed veggies
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: Z Pizza