Monday, March 25, 2013


Wow, I have been away for a while. Three kids and going back to work full-time took my focus away. But, of course, not a day has gone by that I haven't thought of food allergies. My oldest is now 8 and still has the same allergies. We have a great routine going at home and at school, so I can't complain. She is very responsible in terms of her allergies and doesn't eat anything unless I have approved of it. Her teachers are great about emailing or texting me ingredient labels so I can tell them if something's safe, and of course we have a supply of frozen treats at school in case someone is having a birthday.  But I still hate food allergies.  I guess this feel won't go away until (please God) her allergies go away. 

I have been feeling more and more impatient lately.  But that post is for another day...

Right now, in the few minutes I have, I want to focus on what one of the toughest aspects of having a food-allergic kid is, from a practical standpoint: Giving them a yummy treat when you have almost no time. I have encountered this situation a few times recently and have a few ideas. Let's say you just found out about a class party the next day, but are dog-tired and don't feel like baking a dozen cupcakes (or two or three). What to do? Here are 5 quick ideas:

1. Icing-dipped cookies. Buy safe cookies from the store - like Enjoy Life crunchy or soft cookies, Oreos, or animal crackers (Barnum's) and dip 1/2 of the cookie in safe store-bought icing (I have used Pillsbury icing or Betty Crocker cookie icing) and then in a bowl or plate of safe sprinkles. Put the cookies on foil or wax paper to set. I did this for my daughter's Valentine's party this year and the cookies looked so cute! 

2. Chocolate-dipped cookies.  Melt some safe chocolate chips in the microwave and dip 1/2 of each cookie into the chocolate and then into the sprinkles. To melt chocolate chips, put about a cup of chocolate chips in a bowl (preferably paper so you can throw it away afterwards).  Heat on high for 1 minute, stir with fork, then heat on high for 30-second increments until chips are melted. You can  cut the chocolate with a little bit of vegetable oil to make it a tad smoother (add oil before or after melting chips).  Then dip the cookies.  Who doesn't love chocolate-dipped cookies? 

3. Icing- or chocolate-dipped pretzels. Buy safe pretzel rods, open a can of safe icing (e.g., Pillsbury), dip 1/2 of the rod into the icing, roll the icing-dipped pretzel on a plate of safe sprinkles, then put on foil to dry.  I sent these to school for Ainsley's birthday and they got rave reviews.  Alternatively, dip 1/2 of a pretzel (the bow-tie kind) in icing or melted chocolate and then dip in sprinkles.

4. Homemade chocolates. Melt chocolate chips in a bowl (see how in #2), spoon chocolate into candy molds, put in refrigerator until chocolate is set. You can buy candy molds at Michaels, Joanne's, most party stores, or on the internet. They are very cheap.

5. Chocolate-dipped strawberries. Wash strawberries. Make sure they are very dry! Melt chocolate chips (see how in #2). Dip strawberries in the chocolate and set on foil or wax paper to set. Add sprinkles if desired.

Right now, I am all about easy solutions. I hope these help you too.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Took a long maternity leave from the blog, but I'm back!

So this is what has been occupying my time the past few months ...
He was born in April and his name is Thomas Patrick, Tom for short. He is four and a half months old now and the light of our family. We adore him and, best of all, the girls think he is the best - they play with him constantly and he thinks they are quite entertaining.

I had a lazy summer, taking care of Tom and playing/swimming/reading/lounging with the girls. Now I'm back to reality - back at work and the older two back in school - and my mind inevitably shifted back to food-allergy issues because Ainsley has a new teacher, new classmates, etc. So this is what I've been doing in the food-allergy realm as of late that I've really enjoyed:
-went to two events sponsored by the new Food Allergy Center at Children's Medical Center, including a panel on food allergies and schools and a food-allergy cooking demonstration at a local Whole Foods.
-organized an informal dinner with other food-allergy moms, some of whom I knew and some of whom I didn't. Seven moms showed up! It was a wonderful time of sharing, commiserating, and bonding, and was so easy to plan.
-met with Ainsley's new teachers (her school combines grades 1 & 2 so she has two teachers) about her allergies, and am about to meet with the principal, counselor, nurse, and teachers at an official 504 meeting.

Ainsley is one week into school and so far everything is going well. The only changes from last year are (1) unlike kindergarten, first and second grade doesn't have snack time (HOORAY!!!), and (2) she is now carrying an epipen and Benadryl in a small shoulder bag/purse instead of the teacher carrying it (we also have epipens and Benadryl in the nurse's office). With each year, she has gotten so much more mature when it comes to taking responsibility for her own safety. So far she's been great about keeping up with the purse and she is very careful about what she eats and understands not to eat anything I don't okay. It is such a difference from the preschool years (especially 3 and under).

I hope to begin posting more often now that I'm back on a normal schedule. I missed this blog and connecting with other food-allergy parents.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Letting go a little

Today is a momentous occasion for Ainsley - the first time I've allowed her to buy a food item from the school cafeteria.  I never thought this would happen, but thanks to the encouragement of her teacher, whom I trust very much, we are giving it a go. 

It all started a few weeks ago when Ainsley won a "good spirit" award for her class.  As a reward, she (like every other kid who wins it) got a token for a free ice cream at lunchtime (every Friday the cafeteria serves ice cream).  Her teacher called me that morning and asked if it would be okay if Ainsley cashed in her token for a popsicle, because the cafeteria had one kind of popsicle that had no milk or other allergens in it, and another child at the school who was also milk-allergic had previously had one with no problem.  I took a deep breath and said "Yes," both nervous about what could happen and excited that Ainsley would get to try something new. 

Thankfully, she had no reaction to the popsicle, and loved being able to eat it while her friends ate ice cream.  So the teacher suggested that I allow her to buy one every Friday (have I mentioned yet how much I love her teacher?  She truly cares about Ainsley).  Today is the first day we've done it.  I sent a dollar in her lunch bag and emailed the teacher to ask her to make sure Ainsley got the right popsicle and knew how to pay for it.   Lunchtime is almost over now, and I've gotten no phone calls, so I am assuming everything went fine.  I am so happy she's able to participate in the normal lunchtime routine in this small way.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Interesting reports from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology annual conference

Every year I am excited to see what research news the AAAAI conference has for those of us dealing with food allergies.  I follow the reports posted on MedPageToday.  The conference showcased several interesting studies, including:
My two favorites are the one on oldest siblings (it says oldest kids have the highest risk of food allergies, followed by the second kid, then the third kid - so my soon-to-be baby has the least risk of my three children of having food allergies) and the one on cookies/other baked goods helping kids overcome their milk allergy.

Regarding the last study, last summer our allergist instructed me to start adding very small amounts of milk and egg to baked goods and giving them to Ainsley on a regular basis because he said the research was showing this was a safe way to induce tolerance to these allergens (safe because she was able to tolerate some baked egg/milk when she was very young so we know she's not allergic to baked milk/egg in small concentrations).  Still, I hesitated to do this because it feels weird to introduce these allergens to her diet - and because logistically it's harder to bake this way because I can't allow her to help me mix up the batter (because she would come into contact with the unbaked forms of these allergens) and would have to keep separate mixing bowls/utensils for this type of thing.  But this study has convinced me that I have to start doing it ... sometime after the new baby arrives and I have some energy again.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Don't forget the easy stuff

Two or three weeks to go now before baby #3 arrives, so predictably I've been lazy with posting in the last couple of months.  I have been lazy with a lot of things.  Or maybe just busy and tired.  In any case, I hope to get back to posting more regularly after the first few months of new-baby haze have worn off.

In the meantime, I wanted to tell you something simple that I frequently have to remind myself - not all things related to preparing food-allergy friendly desserts need to involve ovens, from-scratch mixes, or hours in the kitchen.  Just this week Ainsley proclaimed a new favorite dessert, one that takes approximately 30 seconds to make - the Root Beer Float.  It started when we were on a short Spring Break vacation this weekend and stopped at a snow cone stand.  This is another easy, no-bake dessert my kids love - snow cones.  I have a little shaved ice machine at home (bought for about $25 at Target) so I have frequently made snow cones for them at home, but there is, of course, nothing quite like walking up to a little shack and ordering one.  I have also found snow cones to be one of the few things that are almost always Ainsley-friendly, as long as she stays away from the flavors that have added cream. 

So anyway, at this snow cone stand, Ainsley ordered an orange, Leighton asked for strawberry, and I got my favorite, cherry.  My husband, however, is not a fan of snow cones, so he opted instead for a root beer float (the stand also sold ice cream).  Ainsley was intrigued - she had never heard of this concoction before.  She watched closely as Dave poured the root beer over the ice cream and went about consuming the treat, and wasted no time in asking if I could make her one sometime. 

So the next day we went to a grocery store that sold coconut-milk ice cream (soy or any other kind of nondairy ice cream would have worked fine too, of course) and I bought a pint of vanilla plus a 2-liter of A&W.  A minute after getting back to our hotel room, I prepared two floats for my two little dolls and watched as they gulped them down eagerly.  Ainsley had one more after that, and then another for dessert that night.  I thought she might not like the taste of root beer - boy, was I wrong.   

So with summer approaching, you might just want to pull this one out of your bag of tricks to the amazement and delight of your kids.  And don't forget the snow cones either.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A&J Bakery Valentine's Treats

In case any of you don't know, A&J Bakery in Rhode Island makes all kinds of fun holiday treats for kids with pretty much any allergy and ships the treats nationally and internationally.  For two years now, I've ordered their gingerbread house kit for Christmas.  For Valentine's Day, I just ordered a package of six lollipop cookies and two heart-shaped brownies (The Love Bunch Two) that is free of egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and gluten (the cookies are free of soy too).

Here is the page on A&J's Valentine specials in case you are interested.  Please support this food-allergy friendly bakery!

Monday, December 27, 2010

My favorite Christmas present this year

The Divvies Bakery Cookbook! You would think that with all of these allergy-friendly baking books I have, I wouldn't need another one. Yet the Divvies one has several recipes that I don't already have. One thing I love about the book is that it includes some simple snack and drink ideas, and also fun party activities that involve food (like make-your-own sundaes using lots of safe mix-ins). I cannot wait to make the chocolate marshmallow treats, which involve melting chocolate chips, mixing mini-mashmallows in, and then putting spoonfuls in paper baking (cupcake) liners to set - how easy is that!