Monday, December 29, 2008

Flu shots

I have to admit, I have not been as diligent as I should have in making sure my family is flu-safe this winter. My office gives out flu shots for free, but somehow I managed to miss getting one. And I was hesitant to give Ainsley or Leighton one because the vaccine is made from eggs (even the Flu Mist). Ainsley had flu shots her first two years without a problem, but after we discovered she was seriously allergic to egg two years ago, we stopped giving them to her.

After our awful hospital experience with Leighton, though, we are determined not to end up back there for the flu this season. So I made an appointment with our allergist to take both of them in next week. He will skin-test them with the flu vaccine. If they have no reaction to it on their skin, he will give them the shot. I will also get a shot there. Normally I am pretty paranoid about vaccines (with Ainsley when she was a baby, I insisted that the pediatrician's office give her a mercury-free shot, and only one instead of the recommended two), but after our recent experience, I am more paranoid about having a child in the hospital with breathing difficulties due to the flu. Last year, when we did not give Ainsley the shot, I took her to the pediatrician practically every time she coughed because I was afraid she had the flu (she has asthma that is triggered by respiratory infections, so if she got the flu, it would be very bad breathing-wise). I don't want to have to worry like that this year.

Long time no write

I am sorry I haven't posted in a while .... It was pretty overwhelming leaving the hospital and coming home just days before Christmas, and having to get all of the Christmas presents together for everyone. We are finally settling back into normality. Leighton is doing great. She's about 99% well now. She has an occasional bad coughing fit (she's still coughing that stuff out of her lungs), but hasn't run a fever in well over a week. I took her back to the pediatrician Saturday for a checkup and her chest sounded good and ears were healing well.

As for Christmas, we had a wonderful day. Ainsley got lots of things she wanted from Santa, including Tinkerbell and her fairy friend, Fawn, and a Barbie Mermaid and Puppet Playhouse. Of course, her favorite present of the day was the baby My Little Pony my mom-in-law gave her that had come from a Happy Meal!

Leighton got some fun stuff too -- cute clothes (you can never have enough baby girl clothes!) and lots of new baby toys so she won't have to keep playing with her sister's hand-me-downs.

On the food allergy front, we had another virtually allergen-free holiday meal. I made green bean casserole again, and we had turkey, ham, dressing (from the recipe I posted previously), and baked sweet potatoes. My mother-in-law also made safe sweet potato casserole using this recipe. My mom made Ainsley blueberry pie and my mom-in-law made her Jello jigglers for dessert. I am not sure what blueberry pie recipe my mom used, but this one looks really yummy (substitute soy margarine for the butter, of course).

Luckily, when it comes to pies, a lot of pie crusts are dairy- and egg-free (you can also make your own, but I really hate doing that -- for some reason I find it a real pain). I recently found a safe whole wheat pie crust at Whole Foods, and there are also some at most regular supermarkets. Just yesterday I saw a graham cracker pie crust and chocolate graham cracker crust (can't remember the manufacturer -- Keebler? Or maybe Pillsbury?) that only contained the allergens soy and wheat.

In other words, I have no excuse not to make more pies!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Finally home!

This evening, we were finally able to bring Leighton home. She is breathing better and hopefully will recover her energy soon. Thankfully, the fever she spiked last night was because of an ear infection and not something more serious. The doctor started her on antibiotics right away and the medicine already seems to be working because she acts like she feels much better.

Thank you so much for your support during this time. It means a lot to us.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Still at the Hospital

It is Thurs. night and we have had such an up-and-down day. Earlier today, we were so happy because Leighton appeared to be in better spirits than she was before and we were able to completely wean her off the supplemental oxygen. But then, tonight, we have had a setback -- she is running a fever. She has not had a fever since Sunday. It is apparently some sort of secondary infection. I am praying it is something minor like an ear infection. The nurse is alerting the doctor and I'm sure they will be running blood tests and doing exams soon to try and determine what is causing this. We are very upset, as we were hoping Leighton was almost recovered and that we could go home tomorrow or Saturday. I will update when we know more.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Random thoughts

I am taking a short break away from the hospital to clean up a bit. Dave is with Leighton now and she seems to be doing better today. We were able to cut her oxygen level down by another 1/2 this morning. The next step is to get her off of oxygen completely. We are hoping we can do this later today and be able to go home tomorrow.

Since I'm home and trying to get my mind on other things, I wanted to post on a couple of totally unrelated topics. First, have you ever heard of I hadn't until recently. It is a search engine just like Google that contributes money to charity for every search you do. I am going to start using it instead of Google. You can either pick the charity to which you want your search money to go or you can automatically allow your search money to go to the charity of the day. The other day, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network was their charity of the day. You can pick FAAN as your charity of choice whenever you do a search.

Second, and I know this is a complete nonsequitor, but I have been thinking lately about making Peppermint Bark because I have had a craving for it. The only problem is it has been nearly impossible for me to find safe white chocolate (that does not have dairy in it and that was not processed on equipment with nuts). So I found the following recipe for vegan white chocolate on this blog and I might try it once we get out of the hospital and back to normal life:

Vegan (Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free) White Chocolate
1/4 Cup (2 Ounces) Cocoa Butter
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/3 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Soymilk Powder
Pinch Salt

Place your cocoa butter in a microwave-safe bowl and nuke it for just a minute or two, so that it liquefies. Be sure to keep an eye on it at all times, as it has a much lower melting point than a bar of finished chocolate. Once completely melted, quickly stir in the remaining ingredients, being thorough so as to break up any clumps of sugar and completely dissolve everything into the molten fat. Don’t worry if it looks rather yellow at this stage, just pour everything into your molds and it will be alright. Tap the molds on the counter lightly so as to remove any air bubbles, and don’t even think about touching them again for the next few hours while they set up.

To make peppermint bark with the white chocolate, just line a baking pan with parchment, pour some safe chocolate chips (like Enjoy Life brand) in there until they cover the bottom of the pan, melt in the oven on 250 degrees (for 15 minutes or so), then cool and pour the melted white chocolate on top. Then top with crushed candy canes and let cool until hardened.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

At the Hospital

Sorry I have not posted in so long. Leighton caught RSV, a nasty respiratory bug, and had to be hospitalized on Saturday. We have been at the hospital ever since, and are not sure when we will be able to go home. Right now we are hoping it will be Thursday. She is generally improving and doing much better than when we brought her in, but she is on supplemental oxygen and needs to get off of it before they will release us. She is taking half as much as she did yesterday, which is great, but when we've tried to reduce it further, her blood oxygen level has dipped too low. Everyone keeps telling us she sounds much better than when she was admitted, but the progress has been slower than we thought it would be.

In the midst of all of this, I am still trying to help with Ainsley's preschool Chanukah party, which will be Friday. As it stands now, I am in charge of bringing the chicken nuggets to the party (the same ones I made for her birthday), but if I get in a pinch because of Leighton's hospitalization (say, if she isn't released Thursday), then I will probably just buy a bunch of the Applegate Farms nuggets and serve those to the kids. We will also serve fresh fruit, potato latkes made with egg replacer (I will post a recipe for this soon), and safe cut-out cookies made by another food allergy mom in the class that the kids will decorate at the party (with safe icing and sprinkles I already purchased). Hopefully the party will go well.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas cookies

From apocalypse to Christmas cookies ... Yesterday Ainsley and I made Christmas cut-out cookies in preparation for a children's party we were going to where the kids decorate cookies. Having been to this party for the past couple of years, I knew most of the decorations (sprinkles and such) would be safe for her, but, of course, the cookies wouldn't, so we made our own. I made cut-out cookies last year using a recipe given me by one of my fellow food allergy moms. It works great and produces very yummy, cute cookies. This time, though, I tried a different recipe, found in What's to Eat? The Milk-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free Food Allergy Cookbook. I was apprehensive about trying this recipe because it used 1/4 cup of brown sugar and because it called for 1/4 cup of orange juice. I was afraid the cookies would be brown and taste like orange. Neither happened, and they turned out wonderfully! The usual problem with egg-free cut-out cookie recipes is that the dough is crumbly and requires at least an hour of refrigeration before it can be rolled out to be cut into shapes. The dough from the What's to Eat recipe was not crumbly at all, however -- it must be the orange juice! I didn't have to refrigerate it and it was very malleable. The only thing I would change is that I think it needed slightly more flour than the 2 cups called for by the recipe -- I added more flour as I made more cookies and the later cookies turned out better than the earlier ones.

Talking apocalypse and mortality with my four-year-old

Yesterday I somehow managed to stumble into a conversation with Ainsley about, as Dave put it last night, "the apocalypse and mortality." Whoops.

It started yesterday at lunch. Ainsley, who lately has been declaring her love for her sweet mommy every chance she gets, told me that she would love me "for a hundred million years." I then responded, in Guess How Much I Love You fashion, "Well, I will love you for a hundred million billion trillion years."

There was silence for a minute or so. Then it began. Clearly trying to process what life would be like in "a hundred million billion trillion years," Ainsley asked: "Mommy, will the earth ever disappear?" Upon hearing this question, my first impulse was pride -- wow, is my little four-year-old smart! My second impulse was to be lazy and punt the question to Daddy for an answer. Daddy responded, in equally lazy fashion, "No, honey, it won't ever disappear." I look at him and say, "Dave, you just lied to her!" (This coming from the woman who happy spins lies on a daily basis about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, etc.) Giving me a look of, "Okay, if you really want to go there ..." Dave then said to her, "Well, actually, yes, the earth will go away some day."

Further proving her brilliance, Ainsley responded, "What will happen to the people? Will there be a new earth?" I picked up the ball, and explained, "Yes, Ainsley, all the people will probably have found a new planet to move to by that time, so they'll go in a rocketship to that planet and live there."

Then it all went downhill. She asked, "Will we go on the rocketship?" I had to respond, "No, honey, we won't be here. That will be a long, long, long time from now, so we won't be alive anymore. Perhaps your great-great-great-great grandchildren will go on the rocketship."

This answer did not make her happy. With tears forming in her eyes, she said, "But I don't want to not be alive anymore! I don't want to not be alive! Are you just kidding?"

Only then do I realize that Dave had been right all along in trying to nip this conversation in the bud. The lies started pouring out to try and make her feel better. "Yes, honey, I was just kidding. We'll always be alive. We'll go on the rocketship to the new planet." "Will I get to take my stuffed animals?" "Of course." "What about our house?" "The rocketship will be really big so we'll be able to pick our house up and put it in the rocketship." "Will there be grass for us to put it on on the new planet?" "Definitely."

From there, I was able to distract her with a conversation about the Christmas cookies we were going to make that afternoon.

So there you go. An object lesson in how NOT to talk to your four-year-old about dying and the end of the earth.

Fun Food Allergy Holiday Find

Yesterday I was shopping at Whole Foods (by myself! Dave watched the kids so I could take a "mini-vacation" to the grocery store) when I saw a lady handing out samples of some holiday-themed soy and rice milks. I tried Rice Nog by Rice Dream and Westsoy's Chocolate Peppermint Stick soy milk. Both were delicious! Because we're choco-holics in our house, I bought two cartons of the Chocolate Peppermint. You can drink it hot or cold. Heated up, it tastes almost identical to Starbucks' peppermint hot chocolate, which was heretofore my favorite holiday beverage.

It's funny that I found the Chocolate Peppermint soymilk yesterday, because just a couple of days ago, I made peppermint hot chocolate for Ainsley for the first time using this hot chocolate recipe from Enjoy Life. I made it peppermint by adding a candy cane (by the way, did you know that Spangler's candy canes are made on dedicated lines free of tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, & dairy)? I was delighted to see that on the label.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Whew! 2 Down, 6 to Go

I'm talking about the top 8 allergens, of course. A few days ago, Leighton had her first Ritz cracker, which contains soy and wheat. She had no reaction! She has since had a lot more of the crackers, plus some Gerber puffs and apple cinnamon wagon wheels (all of which contain wheat), and has not had a problem. I am so relieved. My biggest fear was that she would be allergic to soy and wheat, because those are two foods Ainsley eats a lot (practically all of our dairy substitutes contain soy, and a lot of her snacks are wheat-based).

Because of Ainsley's allergies, I am so cautious about what I give to Leighton. I am so afraid she'll have an allergic reaction to something. Just the other day, I was eating a piece of Kraft American cheese (real cheese -- the only dairy-containing item we usually keep in the house) and was holding Leighton at the same time. She looked at it curiously, and for a moment, I thought, "Why don't I just give her a little?" But I was too scared, so I didn't. I am trying to hold off on introducing any dairy to her until she's a year old and we take her to our allergist for skin testing. Thankfully, I usually have Ainsley's Benadryl and Epi-Pen around (I carry a set in my purse), so if Leighton does accidentally ingest something and have a reaction, I can treat her.

At these times, I really envy my friends who aren't scared to feed their second, third, etc. babies new foods. I wish I could do that. But I've been burned before, so we're taking baby steps this time (pun intended!).

On a last note, Leighton is progressing at light speed ... she has been crawling for about a month, and is now pulling up a lot. The other day, she stood up at school totally on her own, not holding on to anything. The teachers think she could walk fairly soon. Ainsley did not crawl until 9 1/2 months and did not walk until 15 months, so this is a new world for us! We have already decided that we cannot have a regular Christmas tree this year; Leighton will surely try to eat all of the ornaments and pull the tree down on herself. So, we are going to buy a (real) 4-ft-tall one and put it on a table in our living room (where we traditionally put our Christmas trees).

More recipes!

Ainsley honestly hasn't had anything interesting to eat lately -- we have been living on leftovers for several days -- BUT I do have a few recipes that I have either tried or want to try ....

Chicken & Dumplings -- Version 1

My mom made this for us a while back. I have 2 alternate versions of the recipe:

1/2 C celery, chopped (optional)
1 med. onion, chopped
1 lb. chicken pieces, cut up (my mom used chicken tenders)
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 C flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbl. nondairy margarine
salt & pepper to taste

Boil celery and onion in enough water to cover them, until tender. Add (raw) chicken. Boil until cooked. Add chicken bouillion cubes, continue to boil until melted. Set aside to cool.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in margarine. Add 1/2 C of the broth from the above chicken/bouillion mixture. Knead dough on a floured board. Roll very thin (1/4 inch) and cut into 2-inch strips. Sprinkle dumplings lightly on the top with flour and let sit at least 2 hours.

Bring chicken and broth back to a boil. Add dumplings (important -- do not add dumplings until water is boiling).

After all the dumplings are in, cover, turn off, and let sit at least 15 minutes before serving. Add black pepper just before serving. Don't stir -- just lift dumplings out of pot and put in bowl.

Version 2

As an alternative to the above chicken recipe, you can do this:

1 lb. chicken pieces, cut up
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 med. onion, chopped
1/2 C chopped celery
1 clove garlic, minced

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown in oil. Add bell pepper, onion, celery, and garlic, and cook until wilted. Cover with water and simmer until tender. Then proceed with making the dumplings from Version #1.

Caramel Corn

I want to try this recipe soon, because Ainsley loves popcorn and she can't have Cracker Jacks, etc., because of the nuts.

1 C margarine
2 C firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 C corn syrup
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
6 quarts popped corn

Melt margarine, stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Boil w/o stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in soda and vanilla. Pour over corn, mixing well. Turn into 2 shallow baking pans. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Break apart and store in air-tight container.

Heavenly Apple Salad

Another recipe I'm going to try soon!

2 packages lemon Jell-O
2 C mini-marshmallows (I use Kraft Jet-Puffed)
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple
2 C apples, peeled and diced

Dissolve Jell-O in 2 C of boiling water. Add marshmallows. Stir until melted. Add 1 C cold water. Chill until thickened. Add remaining ingredients. Chill until firm.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Food Allergy Thanksgiving

Some people wonder how we are able to pull off a holiday like Thanksgiving -- the centerpiece of which is food -- while living with so many allergies. The truth is, it really isn't that hard. I have either found, or been able to fashion, dairy-free, egg-free, peanut/nut-free versions of almost every dish my family traditionally eats (except pecan pie!!). Here's what's on our menu for today:

--Turkey -- the problem here is that most turkeys are basted in dairy; this year my mom was able to find a frozen, precooked turkey at Sam's that did not have any dairy.
--Stuffing -- I have found several dairy-free, egg-free stuffing recipes. What's to Eat has a great recipe. Below I will add another recipe by a fellow food-allergy mom.
--Green Bean Casserole -- yes, I have found a way to make a dairy-free version of this! Instead of using Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, I use a recipe for dairy-free cream of mushroom soup in Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Kid-Pleasing Recipes. Then I basically follow the recipe on the Campbell's website to make the casserole (substituting 12 ounces of my dairy-free soup for the 1 can of Campbell's soup and the 1/2 C milk called for in the recipe).
--Corn Casserole -- below I give you my corn casserole recipe, which I have adapted from my mother-in-law's recipe.
--Sweet Potatoes -- Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Kid-Pleasing Recipes has a sweet potato casserole recipe that looks really yummy. We prefer simplicity here, though -- we just bake up a few and load them up with dairy-free margarine and brown sugar.
--Rolls -- We use crescent rolls, of course!
--Desserts -- My mom and mother-in-law are making the desserts this year. Mom is making an apple pie and a blueberry crisp (see recipe in prior post) that are Ainsley-safe. My mother-in-law is making Jell-O Jigglers for her too. Both of the cookbooks I mentioned above have a ton of safe dessert recipes. Last year I made some yummy pumpkin pie bars from the Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Kid-Pleasing cookbook.


Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Corn Casserole

2 cans (16 oz.) creamed corn
1 package (6 oz.) Jiffy corn muffin mix
Ener-G egg replacer + water mixture – enough for 2 eggs
1/2 cup dairy-free margarine (melted)

Mix all ingredients and pour into a greased, medium-sized casserole dish. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Stuffing

1 ½ boxes Jiffy cornbread
(use 1 ½ t egg replacer plus 2T water, and 1/3 cup soy milk per box)
2 slices stale milk-free bread
10 saltine crackers
1 t salt
¼ t pepper
1 ½ C milk-free chicken broth
2 ½ t sage
½ stick milk-free margarine
¾ C onion, chopped
¾ C celery, chopped
2 C rice milk or milk-free chicken broth (approximately)

Prepare cornbread per package directions. Saute onions and celery in margarine. Crumble together cornbread, bread and saltines. Add salt, pepper, sage, egg replacer mixture and chicken broth. Mix in onions and celery. Pour into a 9” x 13” Pyrex dish. Add chicken broth or rice milk until soupy. Bake 1 hour at 350.

I hope everyone has a wonderful, food-safe Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Food Desensitization Program -- FINAL UPDATE

We finally had a chance to talk to our allergist about the program (he is not doing it; it is another allergist's office in town). He talked to the two doctors who are leading the research on this treatment option in the United States, and both of them said it is too early for allergists to start doing this as a treatment option -- not enough is known about the treatment right now, including the long-term effects. So our allergist strongly advised against doing it at this time. He said he would probably start doing it in 3 to 5 years, when the protocol and safety of it are more firmly established and when the researchers think it's ready for clinical use.

We trust our allergist a lot and are going to abide by his recommendation. While we are sad that Ainsley is likely going to have to continue living with her allergies for the next few years (unless she outgrows one or more in the meantime), we do not feel comfortable doing the program at this time. As I said before, we have a good thing going right now in terms of dealing with her allergies, so we are ready to keep on chuggin' on. As I told my husband, the real deadline, in my mind, for curing Ainsley of most of her allergies is around 12 -- I am afraid that, when she becomes a teenager, it will be much harder to control what she eats and she might become careless with it. Since that's about 8 years away, though, it's definitely not something to worry about now!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ainsley's 4th Birthday Party!

So Saturday we celebrated Ainsley's birthday at Slappy's Puppet Playhouse. It was a blast. We watched a marionette performance of Jack and the Beanstalk and then went to one of the party rooms for chicken nuggets, fruit salad, soy ice cream, and cake. I made the chicken nuggets that morning using the recipe from Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Kid-Pleasing Recipes (except that recipe calls for a coating of Ritz crackers and I used Keebler Club Cracker Puffs). The cake started out rather badly but ended well. I attempted to do a Tinkerbell doll cake like this one; I even spent $20 on a special doll skirt baking pan. I tried two different cake mixes -- the first was a Duncan Hines yellow cake mix (using Ener-G egg replacer instead of the 3 eggs required for the mix); the second was a from-scratch mix using the recipe from Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Kid-Pleasing Recipes. The first mix fell apart after I baked it and removed it from the pan. The second mix burned on the outside and was still liquidy on the inside.

Thankfully, I also baked a very large round cake that I had intended to be the base for the doll skirt. Instead, it turned out to be the entire birthday cake. I frosted it with Pillsbury cream cheese frosting, which, as I have noted, is actually dairy-free, and decorated it with Pillsbury strawberry frosting and pink glitter sprinkles. I did the icing decorations (including the shell piping on the sides) using a really cheap icing decorating set I bought for almost nothing at the store. Then I stuck a Tinkerbell candle and some little Tinkerbell flower decorations (purchased at SuperTarget a long time ago) on it.

I am very happy with the way the cake turned out. I got a ton of compliments on it at the party. People seemed shocked that I had decorated it myself.

I am especially proud of how well the lettering turned out. In a previous post, I described the "pin-prick" method. I tried it and it failed miserably. When I put the wax paper on the cake to imprint the letters on the icing, the wax paper stuck to the icing, and pulled most of the icing up when I took the wax paper off. After I smoothed the icing back down (and stopped cursing), I did the letters freehand, and they actually turned out rather well.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oral Food Desensitization Program UPDATE

So I took Ainsley to the office of the allergists who are conducting the desensitization today. I hate going to a new allergist, because it means engaging in a half-hour review of Ainsley's food allergy history (along with her asthma and eczema history). Anyway, after we got done with that, I talked with the doctor a lot about the desensitization. She said she highly recommended it -- since Ainsley was allergic to so many foods, it would be good to at least knock out one from the list -- and that she thought Ainsley was mature enough to start the desensitization right away. She will talk with her partners/medical staff just to confirm that we can start now, but she thinks it will be fine.

I have talked a lot with Ainsley about the treatment (I have not told her she would be exposed to her allergen, but rather that "the doctor would be giving her medicine for several days to try and get rid of her milk allergy") and she is all for it. She says she would really like to not have all of her food allergies "because the food I can't have looks so good." Her answer almost broke my heart, just as my heart breaks every time we're at a birthday party and she looks longingly at the birthday cake and then eats the "special cupcake" I've brought for her instead.

So I'm happy with how the appointment went, but still torn. Is this really something we want to do? For some reason it feels irresponsible to sign onto a program that involves exposing Ainsley to one of her allergens every day. But the doctor was very reassuring, reminding me that dose increases would occur only in their office and that "allergic reactions don't scare them," i.e., if Ainsley had a reaction to one of the dose increases, they can handle it, no problem. I know it must seem obvious to all of you that this is the right thing to do for her, but I will have to think about it and talk about it a lot more with Dave before I become totally comfortable with it.

We have a follow-up visit scheduled in two weeks with the allergist if we want to proceed with the desensitization. She agreed that, if we choose to do it, we should probably do the milk first. The idea that, in six months, Ainsley could be eating mac & cheese, milk chocolate, ice cream, grilled cheese sandwiches, whipped cream, etc., just blows my mind.

More menus

On Tuesday, Ainsley had Ian's allergen-free fish sticks and fruit for lunch. Ian's is one of my fun food allergy discoveries; my Whole Foods carries a lot of Ian's allergen-free kid foods, including french bread sticks, fish sticks, chicken nuggets, turkey corn dog bites, and ABC-shaped vegetable or potato fries. For a more complete listing, see here. Note that Ian's also makes food that contains allergens, so be sure that the Ian's product you buy has the "No Wheat! No Gluten! No Casein! No Milk! No Eggs! No Nuts! No Soy!" label on it.

Tuesday night, I made scalloped potatoes with ham chunks, from the Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Kid-Pleasing Recipes cookbook. That dish is amazing because you cannot tell it doesn't have dairy in it!

Wednesday, Ainsley had the Applegate Farms chicken nuggets and fruit for lunch. She had a turkey roll (a slice of turkey wrapped in a crescent roll) and Sunmaid dried apples for dinner.

Thursday, Ainsley had some ham slices, strawberries, Ritz crackers, and 3-ingredient pumpkin bread for lunch.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Enjoy Life Foods Survey

This company is dedicated to making allergen-free foods. We buy a ton of their stuff. They are currently conducting a survey to help determine what new products they should put on the market. You can take it here: . Some lucky people will win a giant gift basket of Enjoy Life foods!


You may have noticed that I never put what Ainsley eats for breakfast. That's because she eats pretty much the same thing every day:

(1) cereal -- her favorites are Smart Start Strong Heart maple brown sugar flavor, Honeycombs, and Fruit Loops (I try to buy the reduced sugar kind when I can);

(2) toast w/ dairy- free margarine and sometimes also cinnamon sugar on it (for bread, we usually buy Sara Lee Thick & Hearty Multigrain -- a lot of the Sara Lee kinds are milk- & egg-free); and

(3) a protein of some sort -- usually bacon. She doesn't seem to like breakfast sausage a lot, but I have noticed that a lot of breakfast sausages out there appear safe.

Sometimes we mix things up by giving her Sunbutter or Tofutti imitation cream cheese on a bagel (Sara Lee or Thomas's). She usually drinks vanilla or chocolate soy milk. Rarely, we can convince her to put rice milk in her cereal (I prefer rice milk to soy milk for putting on cereal); most days she eats it without anything on it.

On my really energetic mornings (NOT most mornings), I make pancakes using a recipe in The Vegan Lunchbox ("Eat-Your-Oatmeal Pancakes" made with oat flour) or a recipe in Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Kid-Pleasing Recipes. Occasionally, she will eat waffles instead (there are several varieties of safe waffles on the market; we have Earth's Best organic homestyle -- note: I think they're made in the same facility as milk & eggs, but Ainsley can eat them w/o a problem).

I also like to make "Brinner" (i.e., "breakfast for dinner") every once-in-a while -- usually pancakes, bacon, and something like sweet potato fries with brown sugar on top or hash browns.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Crazy Weekend

This weekend was stressful because Dave had to work the entire time so I pretty much had the girls to myself. Still, we managed to eat pretty well, thanks mostly to the grandparents.

Friday night Dave took a short break and we went to an Italian restaurant. We took Hilshire Farms Beef "Lit'l Smokies" and blueberries for Ainsley.

Saturday, she had some of the 3-ingredient pumpkin bread (see recipe in my post from a couple of days ago) and Kroger Naturally Preferred nitrate-free bacon for a brunch-type snack, and then ate some Arby's roast beef (i.e., the kid's roast beef w/o the bun) and applesauce after I made a lunchtime run to Arby's.

Saturday night, Ainsley stayed with my mom and had smoked turkey from Dickey's (who knows what else she had -- my mom spoils her terribly by letting her eat candy pretty much the whole time they're together. Once I went over to retrieve Ainsley and found her eating sugar cubes straight from the box!).

Sunday for lunch, we ate at my mom's and had meatballs (recipe below), peas, creamed corn (nondairy), and Rice-a-Roni. My mom made a wonderful and awesomely easy Blueberry Crisp for dessert (recipe below).

Sunday night, we ate Nana's Special Chili (recipe below) and cornbread (Jiffy Corn Muffin mix with egg-replacer and soymilk used in place of the eggs and milk).

For dessert that night, I made red velvet cupcakes using a Duncan Hines box mix. I used Ener-G egg replacer in place of the eggs. I have also made red velvet cupcakes before from scratch using this recipe, but I have to say, I liked the box mix better in terms of taste and ease. I frosted the cupcakes with Pillsbury Cream Cheese frosting, which, surprisingly enough, has no milk in it!

Here are recipes to the meatballs and Blueberry Crisp my mom prepared and the chili my mother-in-law made:

Family Tradition Meatballs (recipe created by my grandmother -- my dad's mom)

1 lb ground beef or turkey
2 slices safe bread, pulled apart into small pieces
~1/2 C chopped green bell pepper
~1/2 C chopped onion
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl with your hands. Shape into meatballs & brown them in a skillet with olive oil. You could eat them as is, or with ketchup on the side (like meatloaf), or in spaghetti. Baked sweet potatoes go especially nicely as a side.

My variation --

1. When I make the meatballs, I add to the above ingredients 1 small can tomato paste. Sometimes I also add 1/2 to 1 cup of matchstick carrots (i.e., carrots you can buy that are already grated) and/or 1/2 zucchini (diced) for an added nutritional boost. If pressed for time, I omit all veggies except the tomato paste and matchstick carrots.

2. You can make an awesome pizza with the above ingredients, minus the bread crumbs:
brown the ground beef/turkey in a skillet, add the green pepper, onion, salt, pepper, tomato paste, and 1 can of pizza sauce (we like Muir Glen), and simmer 5-10 minutes. While the mixture is simmering, open a can of Pillsbury pizza crust and spread onto a greased cookie sheet. Then spread mixture onto the pizza crust and bake according to the directions on the pizza crust can. Yummy!

Blueberry Crisp

2 C coarse (dairy-free) graham cracker crumbs (Keebler & Honey Maid are some brands we've used in the past) (make crumbs by putting the crackers in the food processor or by putting them in a ziploc bag and crushing them with a rolling pin)
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C melted dairy-free margarine
1 pint fresh blueberries or the equivalent amount of frozen blueberries

Mix crumbs, sugar, & margarine. Sprinkle 1/2 of the mixture in a greased 8 x 8 square baking pan. Cover with 1/2 of the blueberries. Top with 1/2 of the remaining crumbs. Then add the rest of the blueberries and, on top of that, the rest of the crumbs. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes more. Makes ~8 servings.

Nana's Special Chili

1 lb ground beef
1 packet French's Chili-O seasoning mix
1 can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 large can Bush's brown sugar baked beans
1 can black beans (do not drain)
1/2 C light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon (adjust to your taste)

Brown ground beef in skillet and drain off fat. Mix ground beef and remaining ingredients in crock pot and cook for 1 hr on high and then 2-3 hours on low. Serve over rice, macaroni, or corn chips/fritos.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fun Food Allergy Find: Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Peanut/Tree Nut-Free Gingerbread House Kit

I just saw a posting on another food allergy blog about a bakery in RI that makes lots of allergy-free stuff, including, for the holidays, an egg-free, dairy-free, peanut/tree nut free gingerbread house kit (they also make one that is just peanut/tree nut-free if your child isn't allergic to dairy and eggs). Here is more info on it.

**The kit does contain soy & wheat, so it is not suitable for people with those allergies.**

The bakery's # is 1-866-426-9075. I just called and ordered one and the man could not have been nicer. He said his phone has been ringing off the hook since he first started selling the gingerbread house kit. I'm not sure exactly how much the total cost will be with shipping, but it looks like it will be around $31. I will let you know once I get confirmation (he will be emailing me a receipt and tracking number).

School Stress

For those of you who don't know, Ainsley goes to a terrific preschool that is very allergy-conscious. They do not allow peanuts or tree nuts, or anything made in the same facility with those allergens, to be brought into the school. There are "nut-free zone" signs everywhere, and parents are constantly reminded about the requirements. They train all their teachers on the signs of an allergic reaction and how to use epipens. It is really heaven for a food-allergic family.

Still, wherever there is food, there are stresses for a food-allergic parent. My main source of stress is keeping up with when there will be party food or food for classroom projects, and making sure it's safe (since Ainsley is also allergic to milk & eggs). I have been dealing with this lately because the school Thanksgiving party is coming up soon (all five classes of the 3-year-olds at the school are eating together), and her class has been assigned to make pumpkin bread. I gave the teachers the recipe for 3-ingredient pumpkin bread (see below), so they will use that to make the bread. I or the other food-allergy mom in the room will be buying most of the ingredients to make sure they are safe. But then we also have to show up for the actual party and bring our own food for Ainsley to the party because we can't ensure that what the other classes are making is safe.

Thankfully, as I mentioned above, there is another food-allergic child (allergic to eggs) in the same classroom as Ainsley and I can split some of these tasks with his mom. It is so wonderful that the school put the two of them together in the same class. Having a partner in this makes coordinating these activities a lot easier.

More on the Oral Food Desensitization Program

Yesterday I talked with one of the nurses at the office of the allergist who just began conducting the program. She said they have had four kids complete the program and they have another handful in process right now and they've "really had no problems at all" with it and all of the kids are able to tolerate significant amounts of their allergen. I told her Ainsley was just turning 4, and she said that ordinarily they like to take older kids (5+), but that we could bring her in and they could evaluate her maturity level to determine whether she would be willing to follow the program (basically, they just want to make sure the child won't fight taking the solution three times a day). Ainsley is very mature for her age, so I am optimistic that she would qualify.

I told the nurse that we were interested in both the egg and the milk program because Ainsley is allergic to both. She said that we could probably do both, one at a time. She also said that they are expecting to implement the same type of program for peanuts next summer. In other words, the potential exists that Ainsley could receive the treatment for milk, eggs, and peanuts, and could conceivably develop tolerances to all three of the foods in the next couple of years. I honestly can't imagine what that would be like! Then we would only have to worry about her tree nut allergies.

After speaking with the nurse, I called our allergist's office to get his opinion on this. I had to leave a message with his nurse. I tried to explain the program as best I could on the message. She called me back and said she had talked with the doctor and that what I had described sounded like an oral food challenge and that Ainsley's numbers are way too high for an oral challenge. I responded that I wasn't talking about an oral food challenge, but instead a treatment program that involves administering a minute amount of the allergen to build up a tolerance over the course of time. Unfortunately, she didn't seem to understand what I was talking about, and said, "Well, the doctor wouldn't recommend it."

After talking with Dave, we decided to write a letter to our allergist and attach the materials we received from the other allergist's office explaining the program. We asked in the letter that our allergist contact one of us to talk about it. Hopefully he will get back to us in the next week or two.

It's funny, now that I know this treatment option is available and pretty much ours for the taking, I am filled with so much doubt and anxiety about it. I have prayed for this type of thing, and now I am hesitant. My biggest worry, of course, is that Ainsley would have a reaction to the allergen doses. Another worry is that this treatment could somehow prolong her allergy -- in other words, what if she would naturally grow out of one of her allergies in the next few years, but by giving her some of the allergen, it will cause her allergy to hang on longer, even though she would be able to tolerate the food? There is nothing so far to support any possibility like that, but I would still like to talk with the doctor more about it before agreeing to the treatment.

The chief difficulty with this treatment, as I see it, is that, after the child develops a tolerance, the doctors recommend you keep feeding the child the food on a regular (daily) basis so that the child will keep up the tolerance. So you would really never know if your child actually outgrew the allergy on his or her own without stopping the food for a while and then introducing it to his or her diet again.

Thurs. & Fri. -- Crescent Roll Creations!

For lunch on Thurs., Ainsley had a turkey roll and some baked Lay's (plain flavor). Do you know how great Pillsbury crescent roll dough is for kids allergic to the things Ainsley is? You can do so much with them!

Turkey/Ham rolls: I buy the reduced fat crescent rolls and roll up turkey or ham in them, bake them for ~10 minutes (following package directions), and freeze them so I can pull one out at a moment's notice for lunch or dinner (reheat for 30 seconds in the microwave and it's ready). Sometimes I include vegan cheese in the roll too.

Cinnamon rolls: My mom makes cinnamon rolls with them by sprinkling cinnamon sugar on them and then rolling them up and baking them.

Pigs in blankets: For this recipe the crescent rounds (like crescent rolls, but shaped differently) work best. My mother-in-law showed me how I can wrap a Hillshire Farms "lil smokie" (small sausage) up in some of the crescent round dough (unravel a 2-3 inch strip of dough from one of the rounds and wrap it around the middle of the sausage) and bake up a huge batch for freezing. Those are delicious!

If anyone has any other crescent roll dough recipes, please let me know!

Thurs. night, Ainsley had some lunchmeat, vegan cheese, and strawberries. That did not quite fill her up, though, so she requested that Daddy pick her up another Wendy's crispy chicken sandwich on the way home.

For lunch today, Ainsley wanted the same thing as on Wed. -- chicken nuggets, fruit, and snapea crisps.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Recipes -- Banana bread/muffins, Pumpkin bread/muffins

Okay, here are a couple of recipes. I have used the Banana Bread recipe a ton, and it is delicious and freezes well. The Pumpkin Bread recipe is new to me, but is so easy -- I am going to try it this weekend.

Egg-Free, Milk-Free, Nut-Free Banana Bread/Muffins

1/2 C nondairy margarine (e.g., Fleischmann's unsalted margarine; Earth Balance)
1 1/4 C sugar
6 tbl applesauce (replaces 2 eggs)
1 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbl soy milk (vanilla or plain)
3-4 very ripe bananas

Beat together sugar and margarine. Add other ingredients. Bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Makes 2 loaf pans or about 18 muffins (use cupcake liners if making muffins).

-You can reduce the margarine by using only 1/4 C of margarine and increasing the applesauce from 6 tbl to 3/4 C.
-I often use 1/2 white, 1/2 whole wheat flour instead of all white flour.
-I often add 1/4 C ground flaxseed to the recipe for an added nutritional boost.
-If out of applesauce, I substitute Ener-G egg replacer. I would think the oil + baking powder + water method of egg substitution would also work (mix 1 1/2 tbl vegetable/canola oil, 1 1/2 tbl water, and 1 tsp baking powder together for EACH egg needed in the recipe; then add mixture to the other recipe ingredients).

Recipe courtesy of Ann Pask, a fellow food allergy mom and wonderful cook!

Egg-Free, Milk-Free, Nut-Free Pumpkin Bread/Muffins

Duncan Hines Spice Cake mix
1 can pumpkin ( about 15 oz.)
1/2 cup water

Optional mix-in: Chocolate chips
Optional topping: Sprinkle top with a mixture of cinnamon sugar

Beat two minutes. Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees about 45 minutes. You can tell when the cake is firm.

Note: Do NOT follow cake box directions. Simply dump the mix, pumpkin, and water in a bowl and blend. This bread freezes well.

Recipe courtesy of a mom in my food allergy support group

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Birthday cakes

As we food allergy moms know, baking is one of the first skills we acquire once we learn about our child's allergies. Ainsley's birthday party is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I have no idea what kind of cake to make. Last year I did a simple round cake (2-layer) with lots of sprinkles and little plastic Care Bears on it (she was in her Care-Bear phase). It turned out really cute. This year, I am considering being a little more adventurous. So far, I am considering doing a ballerina cake like this one or a Barbie-doll-type cake like this one or this one. Or, I might chicken out and just make another plain, round cake and put a lot of sprinkles and Peter Pan figurines on it (she's currently in her Peter Pan phase). I am an artistic person, but cake decorating is really not my thing. I'm okay at it, but it never seems to go quite right for me. I am already stressing about writing "Happy Birthday Ainsley" on the cake because I'm terrible at writing with icing.

Any opinions/suggestions?

Okay, update -- I just looked at how to do nice lettering on cakes, and found the following instructions for the "pin prick" method, which I might try:

1. Ice the cake smooth and let it crust while you make the template on a computer.

2. Print the text in the size you want it. (Try printing several sizes, different fonts, etc. and hold them up to the cake to select the one you want to use.)

3. Place a folded towel on the counter. (This provides a little cushion.)

4. Place a piece of waxed paper on the towel.

5. Place the text or picture on the waxed paper.

6. Push a pin through the paper, waxed paper, and into the towel, following the text or outline of the image. How far apart to space the pricks is a matter of experience and the size of your image. Experiment.

7. Carefully place the waxed paper on the cake, right where you want the text or image.

8. With the side of your hand, gently rub over the waxed paper so that the little numbs made by the pin press into the crusted frosting. This produces a light outline you can pipe over with a suitable tip.

Food Desensitization Program

Yesterday I was going through a big bag of stuff we got from the food allergy walk. One item caught my attention -- a two-page handout from a local, very respected allergist who has started conducting a food desensatization program similar to those described here. It is for kids allergic to milk and/or eggs. Basically, it involves administering (under the office's supervision) a very tiny amount of the food (in a solution) to the child and, if the child tolerates it w/o a reaction, gradually increasing the dose over time until the child can tolerate a normal serving of the food.

Before reading this, I had no idea such a program was going on in our area. I called the doctor's office about the possibility of enrolling Ainsley and left a message. She might be too young -- the materials indicated they are looking for school-age children -- but she is so close (4 yrs old) that I thought it was worth a shot.

Chinese and chicken -- Tues. & Wed. menus

Yesterday we were in a hurry for lunch, so we stopped at Wendy's and Ainsley had the kid's crispy chicken sandwich (plain -- just the meat and the bun), mandarin oranges, and water. This was the first time she had the chicken sandwich, because previous to my recent check of the Wendy's ingredient list, I had not realized it was safe for her. It was a total hit -- she ate almost all of it (a big deal for my kiddo, who eats like a bird).

For dinner, I made Sweet & Sour Chicken with some leftover chicken tenders from Sunday's dinner. I sauteed some diced onions, green bell peppers, pineapple chunks, and the cut-up chicken, and then served it over brown rice with the sweet & sour sauce (made from scratch using the recipe in the Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Kid-Pleasing Cookbook) drizzled on top. You could also use safe bottled sweet & sour sauce or orange sauce (I've found both at the grocery store).

In Ainsley's lunchbox today:

-Applegate Farms chicken nuggets (I find these in the natural foods freezer section of my Kroger & at Whole Foods; we also like Nature's Rancher chicken nuggets, which are at Whole Foods),
-snapea crisps (plain flavor), and
-blueberry soy yogurt (Whole Soy & Co. -- we also like Silk).

Tonight, I think I will ask the Mr. to take me out for dinner. He has been working around the clock lately, which means he and I are both tired (him from his office work, me for taking care of everything else while he's working). When we go to "normal" restaurants, we always bring Ainsley's food. I suspect a Sunbutter & jelly sandwich will be on the menu for her tonight.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Safe Fast Food

Every once in a while, I look at the ingredient/allergen menus for fast-food chains and try to determine what would be safe for Ainsley. My most recent review turned up these foods that it appears Ainsley can eat:

McDonald's: happy meal with hamburger (she only likes ketchup & pickles, so that's what we get on it), apple dippers (without the caramel sauce), and apple juice. Stunningly, the website indicates that McDonald's fries have milk in them, so we have never let her eat those. She can also have the Chicken Selects, but not the chicken nuggets.

Wendy's: kid's meal with hamburger (again, just ketchup & pickles) and the mandarin oranges or the fries (thankfully, these do not have milk in them!). Unfortunately, Wendy's does not have a kid's drink choice that she can have (it does not offer juice -- only milk or soda), so we must order water for her ... not that we have anything against water! We love water in our house! She can also have the kid's crispy chicken sandwich (without mayo, of course).

Burger King: kid's meal with the "chicken fries" (I haven't been to BK in ages so I have no idea what these are ... they sound a little strange) and the potato fries.

Arby's: kid's meal with the roast beef sandwich (without the bun) and curly fries.

KFC: pieces of extra crispy chicken, dipping wings (w/o sauce), green beans, &/or potato wedges.

Sonic: This is so weird ... I thought I had checked their ingredient list/menu a while back and found the hamburger and fries/tator tots to be safe. However, when I just tried to recheck it, the site had no ingredient information. Instead, it had a warning that basically advises people with food allergies not to eat anything there. For a long time, I've been feeding Ainsley the hamburger & fries/tator tots without a problem, but I'm inclined to stop because we can't guarantee that those things will be safe for her in the future.

Britney Spears's son has food allergy reaction

I thought this was interesting -- I wonder what caused the reaction.

Busy Weekend & Monday

Saturday morning, we attended the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) Walk to Cure Food Allergies. We had a great time and, best of all, we got a ton of free samples and coupons! The Enjoy Life people recognized us from last year, and looked the other way while I pillaged their table :).

For lunch that day, I made Ainsley a Sunbutter & jelly sandwich on multigrain bread (Sara Lee Thick & Hearty). That night, she ate leftover chicken pot pie. For lunch on Sunday, my mom made us chicken tortilla soup (recipe forthcoming), to which we added crushed tortilla chips. Ainsley had her dessert before lunch (bad granny, spoiling Ainsley like that!) -- cotton candy (we buy the prepackaged kind from Kroger).

Dinner was at my in-laws' -- they prepared chicken tenders coated in crushed Fiber One cereal (crush the Fiber One in a bag with a rolling pin; dip tenders in soy milk and coat with cereal & salt & pepper, then bake or pan fry -- note that corn flakes work just as well for this). For sides, we had Pillsbury bread sticks (a lot of Pillsbury breads are safe, including crescent rolls), green beans, lima beans, and Near East brand chicken couscous. For dessert, Ainsley had a Keebler sugar cone (she just wanted the cone, apparently, not any soy ice cream to go in it).

For lunch on Monday, Ainsley had leftovers (chicken tenders, lima beans, & a bread stick) and blueberries. For dinner, we're having leftover tortilla soup.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Busy Wed. & Thurs.

Well, my dad had been in the hospital for gallbladder issues (finally culminating in removal of his gallbladder on Monday), so I have not had a lot of time to think about meal planning. So, on Wed. night, we just had leftovers from Tuesday. Yesterday for lunch, we got McDonald's (Ainsley can have a Happy Meal with a hamburger & apple dippers -- no caramel sauce -- and apple juice). Last night I actually cooked again -- Chicken Pot Pie (from the Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Kid-Pleasing Cookbook). Basically, it's like regular Chicken Pot Pie, but with soy milk and dairy-free margarine substituted for the dairy ingredients.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Tuesday

Yesterday Ainsley and I were going to a playdate at a friend's house, so we decided to make Banana Muffins (using the recipe given to me by a fellow food-allergy mom -- I will reprint it here if I get permission) to take with us (some of our friends get stumped at what to feed Ainsley when she comes over to play, so I usually bring something of my own to feed her). Ainsley ate so many of them that they became her lunch as well as her snack (along with some apple slices). I ate a good bit of them too!

For dinner, I made "Slow-Cooker Beef Goulash" (basically a mix of ground beef, macaroni noodles, tomato sauce, and a couple of vegetables) out of the "Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Kid-Pleasing Recipes" cookbook. I highly recommend this cookbook to anyone with allergies like ours -- I have tried about 1/2 of the recipes in it, and they are all delicious (I will not be reprinting the recipes from the cookbook here because of copyright and related reasons).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Peanut Butter Substitutes

Aside from the milk issue, friends also ask how we cope with not being able to eat peanut butter or any tree nut butters. It's really not that hard -- Ainsley is not allergic to soy or sunflower seeds, and there are excellent substitutes made out of both.

-I.M. Healthy makes several varieties of soy nut butter (smooth, crunchy, honey, chocolate, etc.)

-SunGold Foods makes Sunbutter, which is made of ground sunflower seeds.

Both soy nut butter and sunbutter look almost identical to peanut butter. In my opinion, soy nut butter does not taste quite as good as peanut butter if eaten by itself, but tastes very similar in a jelly sandwich. To me, Sunbutter tastes at least as good as peanut butter -- it is quite yummy. Ainsley likes both. Unfortunately, I discovered that I have a slight allergy to Sunbutter (it makes my mouth itch), so I don't eat it anymore :(.

The only problem with either substitute is the cost -- both typically run more expensive than peanut butter. Recently, I was delighted to learn that my SuperTarget carries Sunbutter for $2.99 a jar, which is by far the best price I've found for it.

Dairy Substitutes

Of all of our allergies, the dairy allergy is the hardest to get around. Milk is in everything, especially kid food. We have, however, managed to find some excellent dairy substitutes for almost everything out there. I get almost all of these at our Whole Foods. Here is a list of substitutes that we use most often:

-Soy Dream or Silk soy milk
-Rice Dream rice milk (we especially like this in our cereal, but it is also great to make hot cocoa with -- just heat in the microwave and add some unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey's or Nestle brand) and sugar; you can also melt some safe chocolate chips in it, such as Enjoy Life chocolate chips).
-Oat Dream oat milk

-Smart Balance LIGHT (NOT the regular Smart Balance -- it has dairy)
-Fleishmann's unsalted margarine
-Earth Balance nondairy margarine (this is our favorite)

-Silk or Whole Soy & Co.

Ice Cream:
-So Delicious soy ice cream (peanut-free/nut-free flavors)
-So Delicious fudge pops
-Purely Decadent soy ice cream (peanut-free/nut-free flavors)
-Tofutti ice cream sandwiches
-You can make your own ice cream! "Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Kid-Pleasing Recipes" has a soy ice cream recipe. I also have several nondairy sorbet recipes.

Cream Cheese/Sour Cream:
-Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese/Better Than Sour Cream

Sliced Cheese:
-Vegan cheese (several brands available, including "Vegan" brand and "Vegan Gourmet" brand)
-Tofutti cheese (Tofutti tastes better, in my opinion).

-Soy Zen makes vanilla, chocolate, chocolate/vanilla swirl, and banana flavors. (I also recently made my own chocolate pudding using a recipe from "Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Kid-Pleasing Recipes" that was yummy.)

Whipped Cream:
-Soyatoo Whipped Cream (I found this at our Whole Foods). ***Warning -- this says it may contain traces of dairy or nuts. Normally, I would not buy something that had this warning on it, but I decided to take a chance this time simply because it's the only whipped cream substitute available. So I bought some and rubbed a little on Ainsley's skin (my home allergy testing method). She did not break out into hives in that area, so I gave her a little to taste. No reaction. She's eaten a ton of it so far and we've not had any problems. But try at your own risk, please.***

Chocolate Bars/Chips:
-Enjoy Life chocolate chips
-Enjoy Life bars (plain, dark chocolate, or with rice crispies)
-Amanda's Own chocolates (

Mac & Cheese:
-Road's End Organics Mac & Chreese

Here is a website that gives a more comprehensive list of dairy substitutes available.

Pop Pop's Birthday Celebration/Restaurant Food/Marshmallows

Last night Dave's family met at Spaghetti Warehouse for his Dad's birthday. For Ainsley, we brought:

-Whole wheat angel-hair pasta (Kroger brand),
-tomato sauce (from a can -- Newman's Own Marinara Sauce is safe),
-lima beans,
-a plain mini-bagel (Thomas's brand), and
-cupcakes for everyone (baked by yours truly and decorated by me and Ainsley).

We stopped feeding Ainsley restaurant food a long time ago. Her scariest allergic reactions happened at restaurants, and we didn't want to take any more chances. Thus, instead of ordering food for her at a restaurant, we bring her food from home, and try to match it to whatever we'll be eating at the restaurant (e.g., if we are going to a Mexican restaurant, we bring a quesadilla, an empanada, or taquito; if we're going Italian, we bring spaghetti). She doesn't seem to mind not eating the restaurant food. The only thing she complains about is (a) if we eat a dessert at the restaurant and we haven't brought a comparable one for her, or (b) if there is bread at the restaurant (she LOVES bread). Because I knew Spaghetti Warehouse serves bread, I brought a bagel (Sara Lee or Thomas's are usually safe) for her last night.

As for the dessert, we decided to bring cupcakes from home so we could all eat the same dessert as Ainsley. I made them using the white cake recipe out of "Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Kid-Pleasing Recipes," which turned out quite wonderfully.

We iced them using Pillsbury's special orange Halloween icing, and used sprinkles that were included with the icing along with some additional chocolate sprinkles from Kroger (the only allergen in the icing and the sprinkles is soy, and thankfully Ainsley isn't allergic to that).

We topped the cupcakes with special-edition ghost marshmallows made by Kraft (Jet-Puffed Marshmallows). There are so many varieties of Jet-Puffed Marshmallows these days, and it has been so great for us. Ainsley loves marshmallows and isn't allergic to any of the Jet-Puffed ones except the toasted coconut ones. Some of the varieties we've sampled include Jet-Puffed "Fun Mallows" (multi-colored mini-marshmallows) and "Strawberry Mallows" (large pink ones). One thing I love to do with them is make smores. I use Keebler Graham Crackers and either Enjoy Life chocolate chips or part of an Enjoy Life chocolate bar, pop them in the microwave or toaster oven, and voila -- instant happiness.

I also want to try my hand at making my own marshmallows sometime soon, and will let you know how those turn out!

Lazy Monday

In today's Ainsley lunchbox:

-Leftover smoked turkey from Dickey's,
-leftover kernel corn (from a can),
-leftover french fries (oven-baked, from Cascadian Farms),
-sliced strawberries.

Tonight's menu (more of the same, because it's a workday for me and I don't usually have a lot of time to prepare dinner when I get home):

-Leftover barbequed beef from Dickey's,
-leftover fries,
-leftover baked beans (from a can -- Bush's homestyle),
-leftover corn.

I will also be browning some ground beef for use in a couple of dinners I'm planning for later this week.

Today, 2 other things of significance occurred. First, Ainsley said the funniest thing while we were driving home from preschool: "Mommy, I like Leighton when she doesn't need a diaper change. But when she has a poopy diaper, it smells TERRIBLE."

Second, Leighton crawled for the first time today! She has been rocking back and forth on her hands and knees for a while now, but today she finally propelled herself forward. She is 7 1/2 months old -- this is a full two months before Ainsley started crawling. Look out!

Why I created this blog

I got the idea from a friend's blog that lists the healthy meals she and her kids eat every day. I thought, "Man, I would like to see a blog where someone who lives with the food allergies we do describes what their meals are like." Well, taking to heart Gandhi's famous phrase, "You must be the change you want to see in the world," I decided to start such a blog and hope that others do the same. I get so many food-preparation ideas from other food-allergy moms, and hope that I can help in the same way by describing what we (and especially what my food-allergic daughter Ains) eat each day. Perhaps it will even inspire a few non-food-allergic people out there to open up their food horizons.

So about this blog: My older daughter, Ainsley, suffers from life-threatening allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts, and most tree nuts, and less severe allergies to sesame and coconut. When I tell people about Ainsley's allergies, the most common question I get is, "What do you feed her?" The purpose of the blog is to tell everyone exactly that. It's going to start by simply describing what we eat each day. Unless otherwise noted, everything I list is safe for Ainsley. Hopefully I'll also have time to add other fun things, like Ainsley's (and soon Leighton's) memorable phrases, recent family outings, etc. I have done a terrible job of scrapbooking my kids' early months/years, so I'm hoping I can do so a little bit through this blog. My overall goal is to show other families with food allergies that you can still have a fun, fulfilling family life despite having to operate under certain food limitations.