Friday, December 29, 2006

He Can’t Eat WHAT????

Boy, just when you start to feel comfortable and confident with the whole food allergy thing for your kids … you get the mystery reaction. (Frankly, I think that is a common occurrence for all parents, just insert a different issue for “food allergy” and I think most parents can relate.)

Here is what happened. We sailed through the holidays (from a food-allergy perspective, not from a “oh my God, I have a lot to do” perspective). Last night, we went over to my in-laws house for dinner and to visit with some out-of-town relatives. We were all enjoying ourselves when I look over and see Big Guy rubbing his eyes a lot while he is playing.

“Come over here, Big Guy. What’s with your eyes?” I asked. “I don’t know, but they really itch, Mommy,” he answered back. When he moved his hands away so I could see his eyes, I could see they were starting to get swollen, almost like he had hives underneath his lower lid. “What in the HELL is that????” I thought to myself. (No! I did not say that out loud to Big Guy.) We hightailed it into the kitchen to show Grandma J and she immediately grabbed the children’s benadryl from the cupboard. We talked him into talking a teaspoon and I cuddled with him in a dark bedroom. He kept saying the light hurt his eyes.

Immediately my mind is trying to figure out what in the world caused this reaction—dinner consisted of chicken, rice, and broccoli. He had a fig Newton after dinner and I let him have three teeny bites of a star sugar cookie my mother-in-law got from some other relatives. Was it the sugar cookie? When I gave it to him I knew there was a good chance there was butter in it, but he has been doing very good tolerating some dairy.

My husband came to check on us and asked what I fed him. When I told him I gave Big Guy a couple small bites of the star cookie, he pointed out that it could have had nuts in it.

Wow, that hadn’t occurred to me. TO ME! I am the ever-vigilant one with these food allergies. I am the one person in the WHOLE WORLD who tries to think of every possible “forbidden” thing that might be in a piece of food they want to eat. But, honestly, it had not entered my head that there might be nuts in these cut-out, tasted like butter/sugar cookies.

And at the same time, my mind is racing watching and listening to Big Guy to make sure his breathing has not been affected. And I am trying to remember where I left the epipen (in my purse, where it ALWAYS is) in case I need to use it. Luckily, his reaction to who-knows-what didn’t get any worse and the wonderful benadryl did the trick.

Overall, he is okay. But this kind of thing makes me crazy. I want to know what evil villain did this to my baby!!!! But, I probably won’t know for sure. That is one of the frustrating and scary things about food allergies.

So, for anyone out there is dealing with food allergies, actually for any parent: my one piece of advice, make sure you have children’s benadryl! And for those with food allergies, make sure you have the epipen. Thankfully I didn’t have to use it, but I was able to deal with the whole situation better because I knew that, if need be, I could use it and possibly save my child’s life.

Anyone else have a mystery reaction recently???

Friday, December 22, 2006

Disclaimer – Part 2

When I first started this blog, I put out a disclaimer to warn parents to use their own judgment regarding what to feed their children with food allergies and, certainly, not to take my suggestions as the final word.

As we are about to celebrate Christmas and enjoy time with family, I want to make another disclaimer. I don’t want any one who reads this blog to think that I don’t fiercely love my kids and appreciate them to pieces. I don’t want my blog posts to come across like whining and wishing my kids were different. They are who they are … food allergies and all … and I love them for it.

I do realize that I am truly blessed to have these healthy and happy kids in my life. I do know that there are millions of couples who can’t conceive or who are dealing with much, much more severe health issues than I do. In the big picture, these food allergies are just a small teeny bump in the road.

This blog is not intended to complain and say “woe is me,” rather it is meant to be a place to share experiences and products that have worked for me and my boys. I have found it really helpful to talk to other parents who have gone through similar experiences and I thought this blog might be a new place to meet other people who can share.

And so, I hope every one who does read this blog appreciates the blessings in their life this holiday season, as I do. And appreciates the spirit in which I write these posts.

… and now, back to wrapping presents for Big Guy and Little Guy!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Cookies He CAN Eat

Unfortunately, I can’t give my kids many of my favorite Christmas cookies from when I was a kid … peanut butter kisses, gingerbread cookies, fudge, or sugar cookies. Most of the cookie recipes call for an egg or two (or evaporated milk or cream cheese). I could use the Ener-G egg replacer, but for some reason I haven’t used it much.

But I am happy to say that I do have some yummy recipes to share with you. Big Guy, Little Guy and I made both of these cookies this weekend. (Thanks to my sister-in-law for the butterscotch shortbread recipe! We’ve been enjoying it for 2 years now.)

Butterscotch Shortbread

½ cup margarine, softened
½ cup shortening
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Beat butter, shortening and sugars in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in flour and salt. (Dough will be dry and crumbly; use hands to mix completely.)

Roll dough into rectangle, 15 X 7 inches, on lightly floured surface. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares, or use cookie cutters to make shapes. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake about 25 minutes or until set. (These cookies brown very little, and the shape does not change.) Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Note: I don't have the patience to frost and decorate these after dealing with all the work of cut-outs, so I sprinkle green and red sprinkles on them before they go in the oven.

The next recipe, Holiday Oatmeal Cookie Brittle, was new to me. I found it on the Quaker Oats Web site when I was looking for info for my last blog entry, Ghiradelli Chocolate Chips (which happen to be dairy-free). I did use white chocolate chips for the marble effect, even though they contain some milk. I know Big Guy can tolerate that little bit of milk and I decided to give it a try for Little Guy. There are so few white chocolate chips in it and I don’t expect Little Guy to be eating large amounts of these treats.

(That is the strange thing about food allergies. Every person is so unique. It’s not always black and white … although for some people, it is black and white—any bit of the allergen can have severe effects.)

Another idea to make these cookies look fancy/Christmasy if you want or need to skip the white chocolate chips is to use other decorations, such as red and green sprinkles. The chocolate chips are really the main source of sweetness.

Holiday Oatmeal Cookie Brittle

2 cups Quaker oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into small pieces (I used Miracle Margarine)
1 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups (12 oz.) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup white chocolate pieces

Edible gold dust (optional) (No, I did not use this stuff.)

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line two large cookie sheets with aluminum foil.
2. In large bowl, combine oats, flour and baking powder. Add butter. Beat on low to medium speed of electric mixer until crumbly. Add powdered sugar, brown sugar, water and vanilla. Beat on low speed until dough forms.
3. Divide dough in half. Place one-half on one cookie sheet; flatten with lightly floured hands into 13 x 9-inch rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Repeat using remaining dough and second cookie sheet. (The Boys LOVED this part!!)
4. Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until golden brown, rotating cookie sheets after 12 minutes. Remove cookie sheets to wire racks.
5. Sprinkle 1 cup dark chocolate pieces evenly over each large, warm cookie. Let stand 2 to 3 minutes. With spatula or knife, spread softened chocolate evenly over cookies. Sprinkle white chocolate pieces evenly over smooth chocolate on both cookies; let stand 2 to 3 minutes. With the tip of a knife, run through the white chocolate pieces, dragging them into the dark chocolate, making marble-like streaks. Sprinkle with gold dust, if desired. Cool completely. (Refrigerate 15 minutes to set chocolate, if necessary.)
6. Remove large cookies from cookie sheet and peel off foil. Break each into 24 pieces. Store tightly covered in a cool place.
I will stay on the look-out for Christmas cookie recipes that are okay for people who allergic to dairy, egg, peanut and tree nuts, but I’d also love to know if any of you have any recipes to share!!!

Monday, December 11, 2006


In my last post, Brunch Issues, I lamented about the challenges of going out for breakfast food with the boys. But, I neglected to sing the praises for oatmeal—or eatmeal, as Little Guy calls it—a great breakfast option for kids with dairy, egg, nut and wheat allergies.

We eat Quaker Instant Oatmeal at home … usually Maple & Brown Sugar or Apple Cinnamon. It’s filling, low fat and contains protein. Quaker also says it helps remove cholesterol. I don't know if a four year old and two year old have many cholesterol issues, but hey, can't hurt. And the kids eat it up! But a word of caution regarding the various kinds of Quaker oatmeal … check the ingredient label. Some of them do contain dairy, so look carefully.

When you are out at a restaurant, you can usually get it plain with just a side of brown sugar or raisins. Be sure to ask for it plain or they might bring it out with milk and butter on it.
Hope you, too, can enjoy a nice bowl of warm “eatmeal” on a cold wintry day!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Brunch Issues

This past weekend we went to my niece's baptism. (I am the godmother ... my first time!) The baptism was really nice and Baby Z behaved like an angel—I really think that baptismal water is extra special!

After the baptism, we all went to a restaurant for brunch. Hmmm, brunch for Big Guy and Little Guy .... okay. You see, breakfast can be a tough meal when you have kids with dairy and egg allergies (and don’t even get me started on how much harder it was when Little Guy had the wheat allergy). It's manageable at home, but harder at a restaurant where you can't ensure they use Miracle Margarine on the toast. (Or for that matter, you can’t ensure the bread doesn’t have milk in it.)

Please note: my sister-in-law was great and warned me that there might not be much the boys could eat there. Giving me the heads up helps tremendously. Like the boy scouts say “be prepared!”

I’m not here to whine about what the kids can’t eat, but I do want to address the breakfast issue because I’ve had friends with kids with egg allergies ask for ideas on what to feed them.

So, let’s look at the popular kid foods at a breakfast place and whether my boys can enjoy them:

  • Pancakes – nope
  • Scrambled eggs—no
  • Waffles – nuh-uh
  • French toast-- not going to happen (unless I want to use the epipen)

What can they eat??? Granted, not a whole lot at a breakfast place, but there are some options. Breakfast meats are a wonderful option. We ordered a side of bacon and a side of sausage. The boys ate it UP! Bring it.

Before the pork extravaganza was set down in front of them, they polished off the fruit plate. Cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries (for Big Guy, not Little Guy), blueberries, mango, and even pomegranate seeds! (They didn’t have bagels at this restaurant, but a plain bagel is almost always okay for egg and dairy allergies—not wheat allergies.)

So, they did fine at the baptism brunch. Plus, Little Guy hasn’t grown out of his “not very interested in eating anything” phase, so the fact that most of the menu was off limits to him wasn’t much of an issue.

Would I make going out to breakfast a regular tradition for my boys? Ummm, no. There are just too many things on the menu they can’t eat. But, it was definitely do-able for a special occasion, like this one.

I’ll save my suggestions for breakfast foods at home for another day. Anyone have any ideas for what else to order at the breakfast joint?

Friday, December 01, 2006

I’m FAMOUS – at least in the blog-o-sphere

This Mama Cooks! Food Blog of the Week

Today, my blog was featured as the cooking blog of the week on Ann-Marie’s blog, This Mama Cooks! Anne-Marie writes several blogs, so I am thrilled that she thought enough of mine to feature it on her blog.

I first found one of Anne-Marie’s other blogs, A Readable Feast, when I was searching for an egg-less meatloaf recipe.

I am learning that writing a blog takes a lot of patience – which if you ask my friends, I don’t have a lot of. I tell people: I had no patience before I had my kids and now all my patience goes to them. But it takes time for people to discover your blog. And so I am so grateful that Anne-Marie chose to highlight my blog. I really think it will help get the word out to other moms who are dealing with food allergies (or anyone else, for that matter).

Since it is after 4 p.m. here I better start thinking about what to make for dinner … not my favorite subject. Maybe I can go to This Mama Cooks! for some inspiration!!

Chocolate Overload

Yesterday, I read a fun blog post from Susan at Friday Playdate about her family's snow day. In it she talked about the baking she did (amongst other things) while she and her boys were holed up in the house. Her post inspired me to bake today after we got 8-12 inches of snow.

Of course, she was very healthy and made muffins, while I made chocolate chip cookies. And not just one kind ... we made one batch of Cherrybrook Kitchen's Chocolate Chip Cookies which are egg, dairy and peanut-free and then of course (since I already had the cookie pans out and the oven on) we made my hubby's favorite: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. I am eating one right now and they are delish!

I discovered the Cherrybrook Kitchen line about a year and a half ago. They also make mixes for chocolate cake, yellow cake and brownies. I haven't tried the brownies yet. The cake mix has been used several times and for both boys' birthday cakes.

And being the chocoholic that I am (and instilling into my boys), we also made hot chocolate. It's a must-have after they came in half-frozen from playing in the snow.

For a long time, I assumed hot chocolate would be off limits for them, but my friend, Amy, found a non-dairy hot cocoa mix -- Ghirardelli's Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa. I just add a couple tablespoons into a cup of soy milk and throw it in the microwave for 1 minute. This makes it luke warm which is perfect for a 2-year old and a 4-year old.

So, I think we now have enough treats in the house for the whole family. Hope you and your family enjoy your snow day ... whenever it happens!