Wheat free play dough

Fortunately for our family,  JT outgrew his wheat allergy when he was two. But I still remember the days of worrying about wheat. Wheat was a very difficult allergen to avoid not only in food but in craft projects as well. Play dough and macaroni necklaces were out of the question. JT has always loved sensory play so I remember how thrilled I was when I found this recipe for wheat free play dough. Because it is made with rice flour it does tend to be a little grittier feeling than regular play dough, but that was no big deal for us, especially since JT had nothing to compare it to.

Here is the recipe :

1 1/4 C rice flour

1/2 C salt

2 tsp cream of tartar (despite the word “cream” this is dairy free)

1 C water (you would add a few drops of food coloring to the water if you want colorful dough)

1 Tbsp oil

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large pot. Mix in water and oil. Stir constantly over medium heat until the dough starts to form a ball, this should take about 5 minutes. Let cool and then knead the dough.  If you find that it is too sticky you can knead in a little more rice flour until you get a good consistency. Store in an airtight container.

If cooking up your own play dough is not your style Colorations makes a wheat and gluten-free play dough.

Carrot or zucchini bread or muffins (allergen free)

Lots of options with this one. You can either make carrot, zucchini or combo muffins . They are moist and delicious!!

muffin pan
preheat oven to 350 and grease pan

1.5 C flour (could substitute for a gluten free option, I’ve never tried it though)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon

3/4 C sugar
1 large jar baby food bananas (almost all of a stage 3 jar will do)
1/2 C veg oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 C grated raw carrot (if using zucchini use 2 C and squeeze out excess moisture)

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. In separate bowl mix together sugar, bananas, oil, vanilla and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet with a few strokes.  Pour batter into pan and bake about 45 min. You can frost or eat as is….delicous!!

Have allergies, will travel!

We have a family getaway coming up and we are so excited! I am so looking forward to spending some quality time relaxing with the family. I’m especially looking forward to making the last week of summer extra special for JT since Kindergarten is right around the corner. JT’s food allergies have made traveling more difficult, but not impossible. We always travel to places where we have access to a full kitchen. This is necessary because we make all of JT’s meals for him, even if we are going to a restaurant. I’m not sure how we would handle staying at a hotel or going on a cruise with JT in tow, but we do hope to go on a tropical family vacation once the kids are old enough to appreciate it. I’m sure when the time comes I will be looking for lots of advice!

We will do our grocery shopping once we arrive at our destination but because I’m not familiar with the grocery store I have to pick up a few essentials before we go to be safe. I will be sure we have Freihofer’s whole grain bread, Bob’s red mill pancake mix, Enjoy Life breakfast bars and ginger cookies and  Mama Mary’s pizza crusts. Generally the other staples we need for the week we will be able to find at any grocery store.  In addition to food allergies JT also has many environmental allergies and asthma.  Going somewhere new for any extended time is always a little scary because we never know if we will run into one of his environmental allergens. These include cats, dogs, dust mites, certain trees, grasses and weeds, mice droppings (yup…mice poop) and possibly cattle dander. Lots of times these allergies will cause his asthma to act up. JT takes zyrtec every day, year round and that helps a lot. He also takes flovent to help control his asthma. When we travel we are sure to bring special covers that completely encase JT’s mattress and pillow to help prevent a reaction to dust mites (we use these at home as well) and we provide linens for him that have been washed in hot water.  We can never be too cautious and a little extra work is totally worth it for a HEALTHY and happy vacation with the family!

Avoiding eggs

JT’s egg allergy is his most severe. His allergist was baffled when he first tested JT because he had never seen an egg allergy so severe. The allergist refers to this allergy as JT’s “life or death” allergy.  We take it VERY seriously. When hearing about a severe allergy most people will assume that the allergy is to peanuts. JT’s classroom at school will be peanut free and he will sit at a peanut free lunch table. And while he is allergic to peanuts and should certainly avoid them they aren’t the allergen that we are most concerned with. There will be no egg free classroom or egg free lunch table so we have to rely on the tactics we’ve relied on his whole life. Being vigilant about what we are feeding him and teaching him to never eat foods that he is unsure of (in this case anything I didn’t pack for lunch).

So, what does JT need to avoid for his egg free diet? Well, eggs of course, we don’t even have them in our house and we don’t take him to restaurants that are serving breakfast. They are probably the thing my husband and I miss the most and any time we leave the kids over night the first thing we do in the morning is head out to breakfast. We also avoid baked goods that aren’t baked by me (or by JT’s Nana or Grammy), many breads, ice creams and puddings, meatloaf, casseroles, mayonnaise, some crackers and pretzels, egg noodles, canned soups with noodles, french toast, most battered or breaded foods, meatballs, fudge, some marshmallows, fluffernutter, some salad dressings, tartar sauce, and anything else that could have egg as a binder or an egg white wash on it…which reminds me, sometimes jelly beans are glazed with egg white.

Learning to read nutrition labels takes a while. As a general rule, if I come across a word I don’t recognize I google it to find out what it is before deciding if it’s something JT can eat. Over time, you will become more familiar with labels and it gets easier.  Here is a list of other words that appear in ingredients that should be avoided with an egg allergy. I don’t come across  these very often, but am always on the look out just in case.

albumin, globulin, livetin, lysozyme, meringue, ovalbumin, ovomucin, ovomucoid, ovovitellin, Simplesse

If you are avoiding eggs be sure to read this tip about baking without eggs!

Why I love the ice cream truck

“Do you hear it?” JT asks. I listen for a minute but I don’t hear anything. “What do you hear?” I ask.  Now both he and Molly are jumping up and down in the living room like crazy people. “It’s coming!!!” they yell. Finally, I hear it…the ice cream truck.  “Is today a special day?” JT asks. I use the “special day” thing so that they don’t expect a treat every time the ice cream truck comes down the street (which is almost every day).  Technically it’s not a special day but the sun is shining and my children are amazing and for $5.50 I can make them feel like the luckiest kids in the world. So we hurriedly throw on shoes, grab some cash and run outside and…wait…becuase my children have super sonic hearing and the ice cream truck is still 4 streets away.

I never thought JT would be able to get anything from the ice cream truck. But last year when we moved to this neighborhood I decided to check it out since it comes down our street so often.  I was pleasantly surprised, there were a few different options that were safe for JT, but we usually stick with Richie’s lemon italian ice (Although Molly prefers her Dora popsicle which is also JT safe!) Everything on our ice cream truck is individually packaged and has the ingredients listed. If you’ve ever questioned whether you or your child would be  able  to find something allergen free take a few minutes and check out your options. It’s not very often that kids with allergies get to have an impromptu treat like this. Just look at these smiles!!!!

Happy Kids!

Meatloaf substitutions

Woke up to a really gray and rainy morning. On days like this I always crave comfort food. It’s still hot and muggy though, so I turn to my slow cooker  instead of my oven so that I don’t heat up the whole house. I love using my slow cooker all year round. Being able to get dinner started early in the day when I still have energy is a huge plus. Any busy parent knows how crazy that hour before dinner can get and using my crock pot usually makes that time of day much more enjoyable.

I make meatloaf all the time when I’m craving comfort food. I don’t really have a hard and fast meatloaf recipe so I’m not going to share a recipe today. Rather, I’m going to share my substitutions and how I adapt my meatloaf. I like to change my meatloaf up a lot. Sometimes I put bacon and BBQ sauce in it, sometimes peppers, onions and tomato sauce, sometimes I make a quick glaze with ketchup and brown sugar. Regardless of how I make it, I have to avoid a lot of common things that go into a meatloaf. For example, beef, eggs, milk, soy or Worcestershire sauce, and some bread crumbs.

Here is how I substitute for those missing ingredients:

Beef – I use ground turkey

Eggs – I increase the amount of sauce I put in (whether it is BBQ, ketchup or tomato) this helps bind it all together.

Milk – I usually just remove this all together, but you could use rice or soy milk to substitute. Adding chopped veggies will also help keep your meatloaf moist.

Soy or Worcestershire – The increased amount of the sauces above usually does the trick here, but I also came across this recipe for a soy substitute. We have not tried it because of JT’s beef allergy but give it a shot!

Bread crumbs – Some flavored breadcrumbs have other ingredients in them so always read your labels. We have used Ian’s plain panko or crushed Ritz crackers. If you have a wheat or gluten allergy think about crushing up cereals that work for you. For example, Gluten free Rice Chex or Rice Krispies

The most important thing is to use the slow cooker (just make a mound at the bottom of the slow cooker and cook on low for about 8 hours or high for about 4). I’ve been making JT meatloaf for years and before the slow cooker it was always a little bit crumbly. Putting it in the slow cooker helps the consistency of the meatloaf so much. It always comes out fantastic!

The School Bus

JT starts Kindergarten this fall (in 3 weeks….eeek!) and I’m a nervous wreck. I think I’ve got all of the concerns that any parent would have plus the concerns of a parent whose child has life threatening allergies.  I’m really comfortable with the school nurse and his classroom teacher. The discussions we have had have comforted me some, nonetheless, I  worry. I’m worried about him making friends, being safe, being a good student and of course I worry about his allergies and asthma.  What kinds of lunches will the other children at his lunch table have? Will there be other children at his lunch table or will he feel left out? What if there is a substitute teacher that doesn’t know JT? What if there is a substitute nurse?  I could go on and on!

Mostly these have been MY concerns. I worry enough for both my husband, Chris, and I combined (don’t think he doesn’t worry, just not as much as I do).  And JT doesn’t really know to be concerned about any of this stuff. Of course, he is fully aware of his allergies and his medications. He knows to never trade or share food and never eat anything without asking first. He knows that food can make him very, very sick. But, he’s never really known that it could affect him socially or that it would mean he would have to miss out. Anything in our power that we can do to help him to not have to miss out on an experience, we do. Anything we can’t control, we don’t really tell him about. No need for him to be disappointed by something he never could have done in the first place. But now, i feel like he’s going to see that he’s different.

And so, for the second time ever he cried because he is missing out on something specifically due to his allergies (he once cried at a birthday party when he couldn’t have the cake, he was only 3). The school bus. Every kindergartener gets to ride the school bus right? Not so. In our town epi-pens and inhalers are not allowed on the school bus and in JT’s life, he’s not allowed to be without his epi-pen. Ever. Period. I was hoping the town would work with us on figuring out another option but it doesn’t seem at this point that it’s going to happen. I’ve spoken to whom I believe to be the appropriate people and I’ve been told that he either has to be be driven or we have to “hope for the best on the bus”…without his medications. JT’s health is not something that I take chances with, crossing our fingers and hoping is not going to happen. But, we don’t really have an easy and clear plan for how he will get to school. And when i told him that he couldn’t ride the school bus he cried :(, and then I cried, which I don’t do very often. It seems to me that he has a special health concern and should be allowed the same opportunities as all the other children. I asked if the school has ever seen another situation where a child was bused and had medication for something life-threatening and the answer was “no”. Is JT really the first kid who wants to ride the big yellow bus and also needs to have medication with him at all times? I kind of doubt it.

I’ve done a little research and there are parents in other areas where the policies are similar to our town’s who are fighting for change. You can read about some of them here,  here and here. There are also towns around who allow epipens on buses. I’ve been told by friends and former coworkers to fight for a 504 plan or an IEP. I’ve read that I should keep going up the chain all the way to the superintendent. I know the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I just don’t know that I have enough information to arm myself against a school system. And if we figure out how he’s going to get to school and that something works, I probably won’t send him on the bus anyway. But still, he should have the opportunity to ride the bus just like everyone else and that is my biggest issue. Anyone else ever deal with this before?

Pancakes

I love making breakfast with the kids on weekend mornings. Our breakfasts unfortunately don’t include egg (oh how I miss eggs). So usually it’s pancakes, bacon and fruit. I’ve mentioned previously how much I love Bob’s Red Mill pancake mix but sometimes I like to make our pancakes from scratch and they tend to be a little fluffier than the mixed variety. This recipe can be made as is or you could substitute cows milk back in for the rice milk or eggs back in for the banana. You could also try it with a wheat free flour blend for a wheat allergy but since I’ve never tried that I can’t speak to how fluffy they will be.

Pancakes

1 Cup flour

1 Tablespoon white sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 Cup rice milk

1 jar baby food bananas (stage 2) OR 1 mashed up banana

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (use whatever oil works best for you)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine dry ingredients and mix. In separate bowl, whisk wet ingredients together. Add wet mixture into dry and mix just until smooth. Heat an oiled frying pan over medium heat, pour about 1/4 C for each pancake onto pan. Once you see bubbles and the edges start to brown flip and cook other side.

Enjoy!

Trip to the Allergist

JT had a follow up with his allergist today. There wasn’t any blood or skin testing (which of course thrilled JT), we just chatted about the upcoming school year and any concerns we have. His allergist is based out of Lahey clinic in Burlington and he is AMAZING! He always seems a little stand off-ish at first, but eventually JT gets him laughing and joking. And to be honest, I’m not concerned about his allergist having the best bedside manner, I want an allergist who knows what he’s talking about. And this guy does. If anyone is looking for a great allergist in the area let me know and I’ll get you his info.

I told him about JT’s run in with the cows (read about it here) and he said its certainly possible that JT has a cattle dander allergy. He added that it’s very rare but JT is a pretty rare case.  It’s not something we care to test for, we will just avoid dairy farms to the best of our ability!

The Dr. did share his concerns about JT outgrowing his milk and egg allergies. Most kids outgrow their allergies between the ages of 3 and 5. Peanuts can be a bit of an exception as it is a harder allergy to shake. JT is 5 and as of November his egg allergy had gotten only slightly better and the milk allergy had gotten worse. The severity of these 2 specific allergies is pretty rare. So given this information he explained that JT is in a small subset of kids who either don’t outgrow their allergies until they are between 10-15 or don’t outgrow them at all. While this is discouraging, it’s not surprising. We’ve known from the very beginning that his allergies were rare in severity and he has outgrown so few of them in his 5 years. My main concern is him outgrowing them before they really affect him in social situations. I want him to be able to go on a date and order a meal straight off the menu, I want him to be able to order a pizza when he’s pulling an all-nighter studying for finals, I want him to outgrow them before I have to pass the torch and have him take sole responsability for what he eats. Hopefully if he doesn’t outgrow the allergies on his own there will be a medical breakthrough that will help him and people like him.

Brands I lOVE!

As a busy Mom it’s really important for me to have some go-to, pre-packaged items for snacks and lunches for my kids. For Molly that is easy but for JT it can sometimes be difficult. I need to be sure that any snacks we buy are safe for all of his allergies.  In a perfect world I would make all of my kids meals and snacks from scratch….and JT wouldn’t have any allergies and Molly wouldn’t throw all her vegetables on the floor! Luckily, some companies are now making allergen free foods, and some are even made in dedicated allergen free bakeries. Learning about these brands helped so much in the beginning when I didn’t quite have a handle on all of JT’s allergies. Knowing a quick, easy and safe snack was available was such a relief!

Divvies – If you haven’t tried Divvies cookies you have NO idea what you are missing! They are delicious, even for the rest of us. They also have chocolate, candies, cupcakes and frosting . These cookies are the allergen free dessert that is served at Disney World and I’ve also seen them in airports. They are a little more expensive but totally worth it for a special treat!

http://www.divvies.com/

Enjoy Life – Enjoy Life cookies and bars are a staple in our house. JT really likes them and they are easy to find. They also make “chocolate” chips for baking!

http://www.enjoylifefoods.com/index.php#page=page-1

Nana’s cookie company – These cookies are yummy and I love that they are individually wrapped. They are easy to just grab and go and they stay nice and fresh. JT’s favorite are the Nana Banana cookie bars.

http://www.nanascookiecompany.com/index.html

Ians natural foods – Before JT had outgrown his wheat allergy we used Ian’s chicken nuggets and corn dog bites all the time. Now that he can have wheat we have found other alternatives, but for about a year these were always in our freezer for quick lunches.

http://www.iansnaturalfoods.com/our-food/category/allergy_friendly

Cherrybrook Kitchen – I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m a horrible baker. Boxed mixes I can handle a little better than from scratch so I was excited to learn about cherrybrook kitchens mixes. They carry cake, cookie, frosting and pancakes mixes.

http://www.cherrybrookkitchen.com/aboutus/index.php

Bob’s Red Mill – Bob’s carries all sorts of different flours, oats, seeds and grains. But what I love best is their pancake mix, I just replace the milk with rice milk and the egg with banana. It makes really tasty pancakes!

http://www.bobsredmill.com/

Where to buy? I have found these products in all sorts of grocery stores. Whole foods would be your best bet if you wanted to find them all in one place. But I have found some of these products at Market Basket, Shaws and Hannafords. You can also order some of them online, just watch out for shipping charges, sometimes they cost more than the food you are ordering!

Just a reminder…Always check your ingredients. ALWAYS! I can only speak about what works well for JT. Also, ingredients can change any time, always keep an eye on them!

I will do another post later  this week about regular foods that you can find at any grocery store that I trust for JT. I hope this list helps you to find something new to try! What allergen free brands do you love?