Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dare we Dairy?

It's been a long time coming, but it's possible we're coming close to knocking an allergen off the list.  Knock wood, pardon the pun. 

We did a new RAST test recently... the first one since the flurry of testing we did upon realizing little one was having issues.  He's just about to hit the 2 year mark, and testing is getting closer to being more valid, more accurate. 

This one came back with some interesting results that I barely dare to believe.  One in particular shocked me:  he's a scale of 1 out of 5 for dairy!  That's the same value he received for eggs... and G*d bless him, he eats eggs nearly every day with no issue. 


We are starting to give him some easy to digest dairy in the form of yogurt.  Sunday.  Just a little baby spoon each day.  Non-flavored, high fat Greek style yogurt.  And he (drum roll...)

- Has not broken out
- Has not exhibited any itching
- Has not had diarrhea or constipation
- Has no bubbles, spots, or hives on his face, backside, or elsewhere. 

... this is day 3! 

It's incredible to think that we might be able to add other dairy like milk or cheese to the mix.  I mean, I've gotten used to keeping our son in a silo of known foods, a list so clearly defined by painstaking label reading and research.  I'm almost agoraphobic about it.  Almost.  The rest of me is beside myself bated breath thrilled about this prospects.  But it is scary.  It has come to be that I sometimes measure my worth as a mother through ensuring he is well fed and free of allergens. 

If it's true, it takes one level of complexity away from our lives.  But then again, add another... We have to memorize the package contents again, but maybe a REAL grilled cheese might be worth all that.  Maybe butter in mashed potatoes.  Maybe a tall glass of chocolate milk. 

Fingers crossed.  Anyone out there have some tips?  Anyone out there transitioning to a wider diet based on RAST testing a child?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Simple as Blueberry Pie

One of the simplest pleasures in life is pie.

Not 3.14... though it's fun to imagine the connections between a pie's round shape and that famous infinite number. If we had, in fact, infinite amounts of pie, I think I'd be pretty happy. Dividing it in eighths is fun, but then again there are those people who are just tasters, who insist in "half a slice" (which creates challenges when you have a soupy fruit center), and those midnight pie eaters who attempt to evade detection with their tiny sliver slices. Oh yeah, you know who you are.  And we're watching you. 

So inevitably as the cold weather comes upon me, I want to bake.  Thanksgiving's coming, too... but I feel the need to have something bright and surprising after a lot of Halloween pumpkin related food.  I mean, we're going to have a lot of cold weather related food coming up soon, so why not have a quick taste of summer just before we go full boar into the Holidays? 

OK, that and I accidentally left out some frozen blueberries and they needed to be used asap. 

So, while I'll be making pumpkin pie later this week, I give you... Blueberry Pie!

I have a ridiculously simple "regular" gluten-filled pastry dough recipe that I've adapted for this recipe.  I literally keep it in my recipe box on a Post it.  Here it is in its original form:   

All you have to do to update this is use Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (I use Bob's Red Mill), and palm shortening (I use Spectrum Organics).  Seriously that's all there is to it ~ just put it in a plastic bag in the fridge for a few minutes, then roll it out.  This makes enough for one crust.  If you intend to put on a top crust, just double it. 

For those of you who cannot read my chicken scrawl, here you go:

Food Processor Pastry
1c. Flour
1/4 t. salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup cold water

Put flour and salt into the food processor.  Pulse 3 - 4 times.
Add shortening. Pulse 5 - 6 times.  Dough should look like coarse meal.
Then with machine running, add water 1 Tablespoon at a time until it suddenly WHOOSHes into a ball of dough.   Put in a plastic baggie (or something that will avoid its outsides from starting to dry out) in the fridge to cool for a few minutes. 

For a pre-baked crust:  Roll it out, prick sides and bottom with a fork here and there, and bake at 425 for 10 - 12 minutes.  Cool then add things like chocolate pudding etc.

For a non-pre-baked crust:  Roll it out, prick sides and bottom with a fork here and there, and then add your fruit mixture, pumpkin pie filling, etc. 


Blueberry Pie

Jessica and I made a blueberry pie last week.  She was very excited about making a pie for little one, and we had these frozen blueberries hanging around doing nothing... why not?   When I came down for lunch there was pastry rolled up into balls and waiting to be made into crusts, and a big bowl of defrosted blueberries.   How do we make that into pie?

Well, my mom always just told me to cover fruit with a few tablespoons granulated sugar, a couple tablespoons of flour, and let it sit awhile.  Vague but serviceable.  The New York Times Cookbook told us a little more.   They suggested that for 3 cups blueberries, we add 9 tsp of corn starch and 1/2 cup sugar!  Plus a little lemon juice.  Stir it up and you're all set.  More gluten free... yay.  If you have a corn allergy you can also use tapioca starch instead of corn starch.

Once the filling is ready, pour into your pie shell , cover with a top crust if you like.  I didn't have quite enough pastry for a 2 sided crust so I rolled it out and sliced it into strips to make a lattice work.  Looks pretty and covers up a multitude of sins like... well, not having enough pastry! 

Bake at 400 degrees for around 40 minutes or until the pastry becomes golden.  And there you have yourself a pie! 

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Friday, November 11, 2011


Your challenge should you choose to accept it.

- Get more fruit into your child
- Encourage child to drink more liquids
- Make child super happy

.... and I give you: Smoothies!

Frozen fruit is so useful. If kept in its frosty home, it generally doesn't go bad any time soon. You can just take out what you need for any specific situation, say, add a few blueberries to pancakes or defrost some peaches for finger food. It's available all year, is pre-cut into generally bite sized, peaches, and if you're really stuck for a quick brunch potluck idea, just throw a few types into a bowl before you walk out the door and it's usually pretty close to defrosted by the time you reach our destination.

But for pure toddler entertainment, a smoothie can't be beat. It's better nutrition for the kid than a milkshake, but just as delicious. And it takes less than five minutes to make if you have a few basic ingredients handy.

- Allergen free milk
   (I use Vanilla Rice Milk)
- Coconut-Milk based ice cream
- Frozen fruit of your choice

For a few sippys full, I throw in about 1.5 cups of frozen fruit, 1 cup rice milk, and about 1/2 cup of coconut milk ice cream.  

Put your kid up on the counter, keep one arm around him, another on the blender, and let him push the button.  Yell and run in place (ensuring complete hysterical laughter from child) while watching how smooth it's getting.  Once the laughter has reached a fever pitch and the smoothie is smooth, make a huge deal about pressing "stop!"  Pour into glasses or sippy and enjoy.  If you need to thin it a little (it does have all that fruit pulp after all), just add a little more milk or some water.  Put the rest in the fridge for the rest of your family to discover. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Musings on a Pumpkin Bread epic fail

Things I learned this morning:

Who knew bread could fall like a souffle?
1. Even if you have an extra hour to kill, do not assume a quick bread recipe will be quick.
2. Tack on an extra half hour (at least) when baking in the presence of a toddler.
3. Never, ever, make any creative guesses about liquid qty when baking.
4. This is doubly so when gluten free baking.
5. Even if it's a glutinous mass instead of bread, anything made with pumpkin is still yummy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Potential food allergens in preschool and school activities

So we're looking into pre-schools. I can't believe this is happening already!

Our son's on the cusp between school year ages... he's a December baby, so if he goes into school next September, he'll still be a two year old, going on three. Should we wait a year? Not? Will he be the littlest one, or the older kid in class?  Considering the difference we've seen in the past year, and the fact it's accelerating, how can we estimate where he'll be in a year?  So many decisions. 

Not least of all, though, is how we will address his allergies.  One of the pre-schools we visited, while wonderful in so many ways, had a snack zone wide open for the children.  What a great thought normally... let children self-select snacks and the times when they're hungry.  But when I looked at that area, they included crackers and other foods I know to be harmful for our son.  And when I asked the director about their allergy policy, it was met with a thoughtful "well, when we've had peanut allergic children, we just make sure the kids didn't bring them to share." 

I asked whether the staff had any experience with other allergies, they admitted they didn't but were willing to work with us.  While we appreciated that, it made me worry... if they haven't addressed this issue in the past, they don't know the breadth of what they're dealing with here. 

So many nuances to consider... and would all the other children understand why they can't have cheese sticks? crackers? pretzels? tuna? chocolate chip cookies?  We can keep him healthy at home, but what will we do when kids start sharing things with him?  And what if he has free access to food that he is too young to understand he can't have?

Around the time we were having these conversations, I came across this interesting article on the Food Allergy Education Network's facebook feed.   And it became clear to me there's a lot more we have to consider beyond just food when it comes to his pre-school.  This is a list I will be sure to share with any place our son goes! 

Sigh - maybe we need an additional year's preparation just to get ready for pre-school!
But forewarned is forearmed, and I'm so glad to have this information.

Note!  This is a cut-and-paste from Kids with Food Allergies (http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/) ... a wonderful site with great information for all families, educators, or child care providers who need information about living with food allergies.  I've attributed below as their site does as well.  My hope is that others can benefit from their efforts as I have.   
Read on..... 

Potential food allergens in preschool and school activities

Unexpected sources of allergens in school
Food used in lesson plans may need to be substituted depending on student food allergies

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, "food used in lesson plans for math or science, crafts, and cooking classes may need to be substituted depending on the allergies of the students". 1

Below is a list of some unexpected places you can encounter common food allergens, along with alternatives and precautions that can be used. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list; it is a general guide only and is not inclusive of every potential food allergen. Please verify all ingredients yourself by contacting the manufacturers as ingredients may change.

Activity/Materials Allergen(s) Potentially Safe Alternatives and

Appropriate Precautions
Play-Doh® (commercial or wheat-based homemade)Wheat Crayola® Model Magic®

Modeling clay (NOT modeling dough)

Moon Sand

Wheat-free, gluten-free dough from http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/

Homemade rice- or buckwheat-based play dough

Other sensory materials such as goop, slime, and ooblick

Use a safe homemade playdough or ooblick:

- Rice playdough (free recipe)

- Cornstarch playdough (requires membership)

- Edible playdough (requires membership)

- Ooblick recipe: 1 1/2 cups corn starch, 1 cup water, food color (optional). Mix the ingredients together; as children play with the mixture it will be solid when they squeeze it and liquid when they release it.
Macaroni art (wheat) Wheat, egg Rice macaroni

Quinoa macaroni
Counting/sorting beans, grains, pasta, M&Ms® or other small foods Potentially all Counting/sorting foam, wood or plastic beads, or other small non-food items. Read ingredient labels to choose food items with safe ingredients.
Sensory tables that use grains, pasta, candies or other small foods Potentially all Use non-food items or read ingredients to choose food items with safe ingredients
Tempera paint (homemade and some very high-end commercial) Egg Commercial finger paint Crayola® Kids Paint

Most commercial paints suitable for children
Finger paint Pudding finger paint may contain milk. Laundry soap or laundry starch mixed in with finger paints to make them thicker. Laundry starch may contain corn, laundry soap may contain allergens. Read ingredients to find milk-free finger paints. Laundry starch or soap can be omitted if avoiding corn. Read ingredients to find a safe laundry soap.
Crayons May contain soy Read ingredients to find soy-free crayons
Crayola® Wonder Soy Use a non-soy based ink
Craft paste May contain wheat starch Elmer's® Glue sticks

Read labels to determine if wheat starch is present.
Shaving cream May contain milk Read ingredients to find a milk free shaving cream
Ooblick, oobleck, goop, slime May contain corn Create mixture using tapioca starch instead of corn starch, or read ingredients to find a safe version
Bird feeders Peanut butter

Wheat in birdseed mix

Nut oils in seed mix
Consider making a hummingbird or butterfly feeder instead, using sugar, water and food coloring.

Use soy nut butter or sunflower butter

Regular Crisco ® (contains soy oil) or other safe hard shortening


Seeds or seed mix without wheat seeds or nut oils
Planting seeds Legume seeds (such as beans, peas or peanut)

Corn kernels

Egg shells or egg containers that are sometimes used as "pots" to germinate seeds
Any other seeds

Use other safe pots to grow seeds
Baking projects Potentially all You can share lots of safe recipes and request to participate in any baking activities.
Paper mache (Papier-mâché) Wheat Elmer's ® glue solution

Buckwheat flour solution
Birthday and holiday celebrations Potentially all Non-food celebration (songs, goodie bags, stickers)

You can provide safe cake or cupcakes for the class.
Making butter Dairy None
Making maracas or shakers Some legumes Fill maracas or shakers with rice, popcorn, or sand.
Projects using empty egg cartons, milk cartons, yogurt containers, etc. Egg

You can provide safe empty containers for the class.

One place to purchase new egg cartons is http://www.eggcartons.com/
Hand-washing (teachers and children) Soaps, liquid soaps, hand wipes, diaper wipes and hand lotion may contain many allergens including wheat, dairy, soy and/or nut extracts including shea nut.

Cloth towels may contain food residue.
Read soap, liquid soap, wipe and lotion labels to determine if allergens are present and choose a safe brand.

Use paper towels to dry hands.

Use safe wipes to clean hands.
Musical instruments Allergens will be present on mouth-blown musical instruments. Remove mouth-blown musical instruments from classroom.

Provide a designated set of mouth-blown instruments for your child's use only.
Play kitchen Empty "real" egg cartons, cereal boxes, etc. will contain allergens. If used, you can provide safe "real" containers to replace allergenic ones.


1. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (1998). Anaphylaxis in schools and other child-care settings . Accessed August 2007, http://www.aaaai.org/media/resources/academy_statements/position_statements/ps34.asp

Download a copy of this article here:
Potential food allergens in preschool and school activities

Thanks to KFA member Lara A. for providing her assistance in developing this document.

Originally published August 2007. Updated August 2008.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cheese, glorious (rice) cheese!

You might say... "Seriously, just plain old grilled cheese?"

And I would say... "is there such a thing?"

Because grilled cheese is one of those things that makes childhood complete. Like splashing in puddles, or throwing balls in the house, or learning to ride a tricycle. It's just plain, well, grilled cheese!

It's easy, it's comfort food, and it's a celebration of warmth and happiness ~ all in one simple bite.

Looking for ways to include classic kids' edibles that are normally verboten due to food allergies is a hobby for me. If I'm able to find a soy and nut free peanut butter alternative (I'm thinking sunflower seed butter is a likely option), I will be making SB&J soon. In the meantime, I'm making grilled cheese sandwiches in all their glory.

Since I've found rice based cheese shreds (from Daiya dairy free), Q has been on a mommy-enabled cheese binge. Omlettes. Nachos. Now sandwiches.

The rice cheeses are OK uncooked, but a little salty and chalky, so I wouldn't use them in salads of anything. But when melted, they're fantastic! I've used their mozzarella style and cheddar style cheeses, but they also carry a pepper jack variety which looks promising for tacos. (aha! my next project has been decided...)

So, does one really need a recipe for grilled cheese?  Oil the pan (olive oil here), lay down the allergen-free bread (Udi's white sandwich here), put the cheese on, close the sandwich, and press down with a spatula to ensure the cheese melts into the bread. Get it nice and grill-y brown, and ensure there's melty-ness going on in there.  Serve by slicing it in half. (your choice as to straight or diagonal... I don't want to affect your camp on this, you hear me?)

Additions are all upside:  I like to add a slice of deli turkey to this, but you could add any veggies you'd like to hide inside: thin-sliced tomato (potential allergen there of course), avocado, and pickles are all delicious!

And best of all, stuff for dipping:  ketchup (if you have a corn allergy to work with, I hear Hunt's does not use HFCS), even allergen-free mayonnaise (most commercial mayo is soybean oil based, so I stock up during Passover for canola-oil based varieties or buy Spectrum Organics canola-based mayo)

Oh, the possibilities! 
Grilled cheese is kind of like the game of Othello: a moment to learn, a lifetime to master. 

It's the simple pleasures. Really.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fall to Winter...

In honor of the big Connecticut Snowstorm, I've updated my background from a Fall to a Winter theme. 

If we get Fall back, I'll go back!

Luckily we never lost power as a lot of our friends and neighbors did. 

Let's leave the light on for them...

Halloween, Scary.

It finally happened.  I knew this day would come, and I've been worrying about it. 

Now that he's a toddler, and is more than a couple feet tall, and can reach onto tables, and see all the other kids grabbing cookies, it happened.  He grabbed a big ol' chocolate chip cookie and took a bite. 

It was at a Halloween party, he was dressed up in his fireman's outfit, and just like all the other children he was having a great time.  Mingling parents above, playing kids below, and lots of fun.   Of course he's going to grab a cookie!

Luckily, my husband saw him take the bite and was able to get it from him, deftly swapping it for one of the allergen-free ones we'd brought.  But the deed was done. 

Thank goodness, his food allergies have not (to date) been anaphalaxis-inducing.  That reaction, apparently, is reserved for dog saliva.   But when he has been exposed to food allergens in the past, we see eczema, rash, and spots on his face in around an hour or less, plus lots and lots of scratching.  Later we'll see spots on his lower back and legs, depending on the allergen.  We started to see several of these by the time we got home. 

Unfortunately, this appeared to be a store-bought cookie ~ which means it's likely to have included most of his list:  wheat flour, butter, milk, soybean oil, shortening, and soy lecithin.  Probably not nuts.  It would have been a great test case if it had only been a single known allergen... but, nope.  It was a list. 

On the flip side, it was only one bite.  And his reaction, while clear to me, wasn't horrific.  He didn't seem itchy later, just a few little spots on his face and lower back.  Quite a relief to a mom who was having a quiet meltdown!  In fact, the mild reaction gave me hope ~ is it possible he's outgrowing some of his allergies? 

We just had some bloodwork done that was by its very nature vague.  Yet it did come back absolutely clear on dogs and cats:  allergic in a big way.  Not that this surprised me, as the one ER visit we've made was after a cute puppy licked his face while we were out on a hike.  (booooo!... no kitten or puppy some day?  That stinks!)  But under 2 years old, there is very little clarity in any blood test result ~ and skin testing is just not effective at this age either. 

So we wait.  Yes, crisis averted ~ but it made me really pause.  I can control every aspect of what happens ~ at home.  We can make food that's yummy, tastes and looks like the "real thing", is healthy and nutritious and allergen free.  Again, at home.  We can send snacks with him.  We can bring our own contributions to potlucks.  But, there's a whole wide world out there. 

How are we going to stop a rambunctious, fun loving two-year old from grabbing a cookie without squelching the joy out of every event by keeping him away from any dangers?   And when he gets to pre-school and later kindergarden, how will we be able to trust others to ensure he's being protected? 

Please, if anyone's out there who has faced this, can you give me some good ideas?