Please read, before reading

I am saddened by the comments on this blog that often take a judgmental turn. The information is intended to be just that -- information. You need to make your own decisions for your life and be accountable for your actions. I debated closing the blog, but feel there are many valuable items listed for families struggling with food allergies, especially early on.

If you need further information please contact a doctor. If you need to verify a product's ingredients, please look at current labels and contact the company yourself. Note many posts are several years old. Use your best judgment and do not make up comments to scare people.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The results are in...

Minutes after my last post about our appointment, the doctor called with the blood test results.  He gets bonus points for calling himself -- normally I get a nurse whom I never met trying to explain what she sees on the results sheet.  And unable to answer any question.

Peanuts--she is off the charts and we are advised to stay away.
Other tree nuts -- still questionable, so we are going to avoid.
Milk -- questionable, but we know from our last at-home test she's still allergic
Egg -- questionable, so we are going to do a challenge test and give her egg at the allergist

So, no new information.   But it is good to know where we are at.  I really appreciate the doctor calling and encouraging a challenge test for egg.  So far, the allergists (our daughter's seen four) just close the door and say see you next year.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Allergist appointment

Yesterday was our yearly visit to the allergist.  He was new to the clinic and new to us.  He did a pretty good job overall.  He listened and documented what we've tried.  He gave solid advice and we agreed to do just a blood test this year.  Every allergist (6 of them since I was 14) I've seen has had a different philosophy on testing.  I truly believe that blood testing is going to be more accurate than skin testing for our daughter because if she's like me (which I think she is) her skin is going to react just by being pricked alone.  And that alters the real result.  We get those blood test results in about a week.  We tested for milk, egg, peanut and some tree nuts. I asked if we should continue to avoid shellfish and he advised to go ahead and try it.  She may or may not react just like anyone else.  We have a challenge test scheduled once we get the blood test results to determine if there is a true allergy after actually consuming egg (or peanut) in a controlled environment -- the doctor's office. I'm very optimistic that egg may be safer than we realize.  Milk on the other hand, I'm sure she's still allergic to.

To be continued...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pre-packaged food = frustration -- Product Review

Recently, I was asked by CSN stores to do a review of a product of my choosing from one of their online stores.  First off, let me say that my product arrived in less than a week and it was in perfect running condition.  I selected a food dehydrator.  Our daughter loves dried fruit, but it can be pretty expensive.  We often find the cheaper version of dried apricots or raisins to have been made in a facilty that shares equipment with tree nuts or peanuts.  That's not a risk we want to gamble.

The Product

I used the Nesco American Harvest Snackmaster.  I read the reviews of different food dehydrators and this one seemed to be the best for our needs.  It has four trays and one fruit roll tray.  Many of the reviews said it was noisy, but I didn't find it any noisier than the fan over my stove.  It ran all day in my house and it wasn't much of a bother in terms of noise.  I just kept thinking I had to turn the fan over the stove off.

I also had read that the clean screens that come separately are almost a neccesity for using this food dehydrator.  I searched for them locally and couldn't find them.  I gambled without them.

The prep work (took about 30 minutes)

I decided to focus on a just a couple fruits for my first experimental dehydrating experience.

  • 2 Golden Delicious Apples:  I cored and soaked in Fruit Fresh.
  • 2 Bananas: Cut and sprinkled with Fruit Fresh
  • 1 Braburn Apple and 2 Bananas: Purred in blender, mixed in a little water and Fruit Fresh and poured in roll up tray
  • 3/4 pint Bluberries: Soaked in Fruit Fresh (later read I was supposed to blanch, oops)
  • 1 lb Green Grapes:  Soaked in Fruit Fresh (oops, didn't blanch)

I sprayed each tray of the food dehydrator with cooking spray because I didn't have the clean screens.

The results

  • Apples took about 4 hours.
  • Bananas took about 8 hours
  • Fruit Roll took aobut 8 hours
  • Blueberries took about 13 hours
  • Grapes didn't turn out (guess I should have read the directions beforehand)

What did my food allergic child think?  She loved everything she tried -- apples, bananas, fruit roll and blueberries.  Each time she tried one of them she asked for more and more.

The clean up was easy and I don't think I need to buy those screens if I use these fruits on it.  I was very impressed how little mess it made.  I was expecting a sticky, gooey mess.  Not the case.  It took just a couple minutes to wipe each tray


I was initially a little overwhelmed by the directions and the length of time it takes to dehydrate food.  But it turned out to be much simplier.  It did take a long time, but to know that it we have safe food for our daughter to eat makes it worth it.  We often have extra fruit that goes bad before we eat it.  This is a great option for that predicament.  I feel the dried fruit will be a great addition to snacks at home and for preschool.

I highly recommend buying a food dehydrator if you child has food allergies.  You can check out CSN stores for a good selection.  Or you can go over to my other blog and enter to win a $50 gift card with CSN stores to help with the cost!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Food Allergies and Doctors

If you've been reading for a while, I've been sharing my journey with my food allergies.  To recap, I have oral allergy syndrome, which means I'm allergic to fruits and vegetables.  I just recently found out I am allergic to coconut, peanuts and some tree nuts.  I am slowly trying to figure out what else.  The allergist I saw gave me such poor advice, I don't plan on seeing him again.  He told me that if I could eat peanut butter and test positive for a peanut allergy that I'm one of the lucky few.  Well, after eliminating peanuts and reintroducing I found out that I do have a reaction to peanuts.  Lucky in what way -- I have allergic reactions.  I'm very allergic to many things, so I really don't know what causes reactions.  Is it the grass, the weeds, perfume, an apple etc?  What I do know is that I sneeze and have a running nose every day.

I was hopeful that a nutritionist would give me some strategies to get more nutrients that I may be lacking from the fresh fruit and vegetables that I can't eat.   I told her my story.  She listened.  She looked at my food diary, which listed only two days of meals.  She then lectured me on not eating "enough" fruits, vegetables, and milk.  She lectured how much I "need" to eat a day.  I argued that I do eat vegetables, but it's not represented very clearly in food diary (she didn't ask what was in a meal loaded with veggies).  I do drink a little milk, and I get calcium and Vitamin D elsewhere.  Anyone else wonder why the big push for Vitamin D all of a sudden?  (I smell a conspiracy).  The only advice she gave me was to take a vitamin with minerals, eat canned fruit and cooked vegetables.  Duh.  Not much help for me.  Eating canned fruit kinda makes me feel sick.  I don't mind it a little.  And it's hard to find fruit without sugar added.   I was hoping for a weekly menu of recipes and food suggestions to get the best nutrition into my body that is limited by eating some of the best food for you.  She told me to keep a food diary to monitor what I eat to see if I am eating "enough" milk and vegetables.  There was no mention of a follow-up.  That's okay.  I wasn't impressed.

You may notice that I put quotes around "need" and "enough."  Well, here's where she contradicted herself.  I know I need to somehow get a little better balance in my diet.  I'm trying.  I think that speaks volumes.    I asked how many calories I am supposed to eat.  She said it should be 2000 calories.  I told her I know I don't eat that much.  She said that's okay because everyone has different metabolism and that number is just a guideline.  Well, then I just wonder if the 1 1/2 cups of veggies a day might not just be enough for me instead of stuffing myself with another 1/2 cup.

My conclusion.  I was a waste of her time.  I'm not overweight -- I've lost 15 pounds recently.  I'm not diabetic, so she couldn't pull out her diabetic curriculum.  I don't have bad habits, such as smoking, drinking, and caffeine.  I really think she just didn't want to help me.  In a way I feel overeducated.  I know too much.  Guess I take that over-education and educate myself.

On a side note.  I saw a doctor yesterday for a terrible sore throat I had.  So bad that I couldn't eat or swallow. I told her I have oral allergy syndrome and had eaten guacamole on Friday. I said that seemed to trigger it, but it had been five days.  I said I'm trying to work with someone with my allergies to figure things out.  She didn't reply.  A couple minutes later, I elaborated and said I just seem to be having reactions with all types of food lately.  She ignored it.  Well, gee thanks for reaching out.  I didn't have strep.  So I have no idea what I had.  I had no other symptoms but a sore throat.

I remain optimistic as our daughter has her annual appointment next week with an allergist.  He's new.  Hope he's ready for us.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dum Dum Lollipop -- Allergy Free!

I took our daughter to get her hair cut last week.  The stylist asked if she could have a Dum Dum sucker (lollipop) before we left.  I reluctantly said "yes."  I don't want to sound like that mom who doesn't let our child have things.  I told our daughter as we left we would have to check and see if it had food allergies.  She's starting to really understand that (I had another treat at home in mind to replace if need be).

Turns out that Dum Dum Lollipops are made made WITHOUT peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, soy or gluten.  It was a relief.  I loved those as a kid and you wouldn't believe the happy sounds our daughter made licking her "goodie" (as she called it).  Guess we know what we are handing out for Halloween this year!

Here's that Allergen Statement straight from the Spangler Candy website.

Allergen Statement:  This product does not contain peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, or gluten.  It has been manufactured on dedicated equipment.  There is a trace amount of soy oil in the lubricant that we use in our cooking kettles.  This soy oil has been refined, bleached, and deodorized and all of the proteins have been removed.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dairy-Free Frosting (for cake decorating) **UPDATED**

**I have updated this post a little with a photo and link to the cake recipe I used that is dairy-free, egg-free and peanut-free.  I noticed this post got a lot of hits, so I wanted to make it more resourceful.  Recipe is the same.**

Okay, so I found the frosting.  I've made two batches since finding it. It's very easy to make and tastes good -- even to us egg/dairy eaters.  This is a awesome frosting recipe!

Dairy-Free Frosting (from The Food Allergy Mama's Baking Book)
1 cup dairy-free margarine (I used Earth's Best at room temp.)
2 Tbsp soy milk ( I used Silk Vanilla Soy Milk)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups confectioners' sugar

1. In a stand mixer or hand held mixer cream margarine, soy milk, vanilla, and salt until really mixed well. 
2. Slowly add confectioners' sugar and mix for 1 minute on low.
3. Mix on medium speed for 4 to 6 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
4. Chill for 30 minutes before using.

**Note:  When I frosted the cake I had to work quickly because the margarine softened.  I just frosted some and then froze it for a little while.  Then I worked on it some more. **

Check out the dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free cake recipe here!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Product Review--Cherrybrook Cake Mix and Frosting

It's that time of year again when I search high and low for cake and frosting.  Our daughter turns 3 next month.  Yes, I know I've had all year to figure this out (2 years actually), but for some reason I just haven't found a cake we like that is dairy-free.  I recently tried a chocolate Cherrybrook Kitchen cake mix and vanilla frosting.  My hope was to have a back-up cake mix and frosting in the pantry that was allergy-free for those just in case we need them.  And maybe I can use it for a birthday cake.

Cherrybrook Kitchen Chocolate Cake Review

First the good stuff.  This cake was very easy to make.  Just add water and oil to the mix.  Stir and pour in cake pan or muffin cups.  I made cupcakes and they rose beautifully.  I was impressed with the texture of the cupcakes and how well they baked.  I also appreciate their dedication to make in allergy-free facility. It is free of peanuts, tree nuts, dairy and eggs.  However it does contain soy and wheat.  Cherrybrook Kitchen also has a gluten-free cake mix.

Now, the not-so-good stuff:  The taste was medicore.  It was bland and the chocolate chips didn't taste like chocolate.  It was a little dry and I didn't get that can't wait to eat another bite feeling.  Our daughter didn't seem to mind them, but for serving at a birthday party it won't cut it.  Also, I paid more than $5 for the box and could only find it at one store in my area (I live near a big city, too).

While this cake mix would be good in a pinch, the taste and cost will probably limit me from buying it any time soon.

My Ratings (out of 5 stars)
Allergy Free - 5 stars
Ease of making - 5 stars
Quality of cupcake - 4 stars
Taste - 2 1/2 stars
Cost- 2 stars

Cherrybrook Kitchen Vanilla Frosting (in a jar)

This was the most disturbing allergy-free product I've ever bought.  I was so excited to find a dairy-free frosting.  But when I opened this product, it had a hard coating on the top of the frosting.  The directions said to stir (a common direction for allergy-free products).  Optimistically I stirred and all the hard coating clumped up in the frosting that now resembled a thick clumpy icing rather than a spreadable frosting.  I tasted it and it was okay for flavor, but I don't even know how I could spread this on a cupcake or cake.  It was a disappointment to say the least.  I spent more than $3 for this item and will never use it.

Overall, I give this 1 star only because of the attempt to make it allergy-free.

 (I did however find a homemade frosting that I will share with you in the next week that is fabulous.  And I have two cake recipes to try that I've found on blogs.  I'm not giving up hope yet!)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dairy-Free Cas Mac

When my husband and I were first married, one of our favorite meals was Cas Mac (re-named by my husband).  We ate it often and got a little tired of it.  But it is my go-to meal when I can't think of anything to make.  Our daughter and I were talking the other day about lunches, and it dawned on me that I could easily make a dairy-free version of Cas Mac for her.

Dairy-Free Cas Mac
(This is one of those recipes that I will take some of the ingredients from the main dish that I making and make a single serving for her.  Note: This make enough for about 4 servings).

1/2 pound Ground Beef, browned and drained
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup dairy-free cheese sauce, based on preference (this freezes well and can be pulled out for this meal to make it easier)
1 cup macaroni noodles (or any pasta you like)
1/2 can tomato soup (save the rest for a meal later in the week)
1/4 to 1/2 cup Frozen vegetable, (we like corn)

1. Brown beef.  Drain. Set aside.
2. Boil noodles for 8 minutes.  Drain. Set aside.
3. Make cheese sauce. Mix with noodles.
4. In casserole dish mix meat, cheesey noodles, tomato soup and vegetables together.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until baked through.

Pampers coupon Giveaway

I'm giving away some high value coupons on my other blog.  Check it out!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

CSN Stores and Upcoming Review

Does your home need a little redecorating or new LED Lighting?  Maybe you feel the need to treat yourself to some new kitchen tools.  Or you are looking for that unique gift for the someone who has everything.   You won't be disappointed when you shop at CSN stores with more than 200 online stores to meet all your home and lifestyle needs.  You will find something for everybody from contemporary furniture, kitchen appliances, LED Lighting, cookware, shoes, bags, toys, and even pet accessories.  Be sure to explore the Ultimate Gift Finder to find that perfect gift.

Stay tuned for my review of a kitchen appliance that I hope will make a difference in making allergy-safe snacks at minimal cost for our daughter with multiple food allergies.  In the meantime, happy shopping at the CSN stores.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Calling all Moms with School-Age Children with Food Allergies

I have decided that it is time for me to go back to work.  I'm so excited.  I accepted a position at an Early Head Start center (read more here).  But this means our daughter is going to have expand from our "food" safe bubble. She's going to be going to a preschool daily.  I'm not so worried about her having a reaction or the teachers not knowing how to handle a reaction.  I think just the overall idea that I have to trust someone else to keep her safe is the challenge.

I think we are going to bring lunches and snacks from home in the beginning until I can go through and read labels.  Any suggestions or links would be really helpful. So far I have a pretty good list of foods and snacks, but am open to more ideas.  Also, any tips or resources to give to the staff that you have found useful would be appreciated.  Thank you in advance!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Anyone have experience with this website

My husband found this website that carries nut-free chocolate made by Nestle in Canada.  There are Kit-Kats, Smarties (which are like M&Ms) and Mars Bars (which are like Milky Ways).  While it doesn't appear to be dairy-free, it still might be a good option for those of us with nut allergies.  I'm still hopeful our daughter will outgrow the dairy allergy, but the peanut one is much less likely.  It's a Canada company and I'm not sure if it ships to the US.  Anyone have any experience with this or anything like this?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fourth of July Marshmallows

I adapted this idea from here.  I'm not nearly that patient talented to make those amazing treats.  But we were able to make the marshmallow part.  Note our daughter did this one by herself!!  I think my toddler is turning into a preschooler!

Fourth of July Marshmallows

Large Marshmallows
Red sugar sprinkles
Blue sugar sprinkles
3 small containers

1. Fill each container.  One with the red sprinkles, one with blue sprinkles and one with about 1/2 of water.
2. Put toothpick on top of marshmallow. This is what you will hold onto to dip your marshmallow so you don't get too sticky.
3. Dip marshmallow in water.

4. Dip in blue sprinkles.
5. Use the same toothpick and put it through the top of the blue sprinkles.

6. Dip unsprinkled side in water and then red sprinkles.

**We made this for afternoon snack and our daughter ate it faster than you can imagine.  I guess you can't get better than sugar and marshmallows (except if only chocolate was involved, hmm there's an idea in waiting)**

For more recipes (not neccesarily dairy-free) go the Grocery Cart Challenge and Life as Mom!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wacky Mac

I often get questions about what pasta we use that is egg-free.  Yesterday, we stumbled across a sale ($1) for Wacky Mac and thought we would give it a try.  The only allergen listed is "Wheat."  This pasta is high in fiber and protein.

When I told our daughter that she was going to have Wacky Mac for lunch, she told me "no."  I said "We will just try it."  She sat in her chair and looked at the Wacky Mac coated with tomato sauce and said "I love pasta."   Next thing I hear her say is "This is my favorite... More Wacky Mac please."  She absolutely loved it.  She liked the green shapes the best.  Case in point -- you just never know what children will eat.

 It was nice to pick up some "healthy" pasta for only $1 versus $4 or more. I know I've seen coupons for Wacky Mac online, too  I found it a chain grocery store in town -- not one of my normal stores I shop at to get allergy-free items.  This store does have organic and allergy-free food, but normally the cost is about 20 percent higher.  This was a good find.  So, check out your store and see if you can find.  I can only hope for you that it works well with your little one!
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