Saturday, June 29, 2013

Product Review: Barney Butter

Peanut butter is one of my most favorite foods.  I could live on PB&J!  But when we learned of Bubs' and GirlyGirl's peanut allergy, peanut butter quickly went by the wayside. 

I went out looking for peanut butter alternatives.  There are plenty of them out there.  Some are made with soy and others with sunflower seeds (all the almond butters I looked at were processed with peanuts).  We used some of these for a while.....until we learned about Bubs' whole slew of food sensitivities (which include soy).  All of the alternative peanut butter options we were using either contained soy or were processed with soy.  So I resumed my search for a safe peanut butter alternative.

I was looking in the peanut butter section of our natural grocery store, and I came across Barney Butter.  I quickly noticed the statement on the front that states this almond butter is made in a dedicated peanut-free facility (and it's gluten-free!).  Woo Hoo!  This is the first time I have seen a dedicated peanut-free almond butter.  While Bubs and GirlyGirl are not allergic to almonds, we avoid tree nuts due to the possibility of cross contamination.  Unless, that is, they are made in a dedicated facility. 

This opened the doors to the "peanut butter" world once again.  There is so much more than just PB&J that I was missing.  Lots of yummy recipes call for peanut butter, (like cookies, puppy chow, etc,), and we were back in the game.  A healthy treat my kids love is Chocolate Brownie Cookies, and Barney Butter tastes great in them. 

Making Chocolate Brownie Cookies

I also use Barney Butter served with apples, spread on a tortilla with a banana and some honey rolled and sliced, spread on celery and topped with raisins for "Ants on a Log," and so much more.  Bubs' favorite lunch is almond butter and jelly.  He likes the crunchy kind for sandwiches, and I like the smooth kind for baking.  We always keep both on hand.

A lunchtime staple

Barney Butter is available in smooth and crunchy as well as in squeeze packs for on-the-go snacking.  They also offer almond flour and bulk almonds, both of which are manufactured in an almond only facility (also hard to find).

It is so nice to have a safe alternative to peanut butter.  We use it as if it were peanut butter.  Anything you can make with peanut butter, you can make with Barney Butter

Surviving a Broken Refrigerator with Food Allergies

Bubs is on a pretty strict elimination/rotation diet (you can read more about it here and here), and we don't stray away from this much.  So when our fridge/freezer died last week, I was in a bit of a pickle!

About 2 weeks ago we noticed our freezer wasn't keeping things as cold.  The items were still frozen, just not rock solid.  We kept an eye on it over the next few days and decided to move all of our freezer items to our basement freezer until we could fix the problem.  But the refrigerator seemed to be still working.  So the hubby fiddled with the freezer a bit, trying to find the problem.  However, nothing he did seemed to work.  Around this time I noticed the fridge items were also not as cold as they should be.  It seemed to be cold enough, just not what I was accustomed to.  After a few more days, there was a noticeable change in fridge temperature, and I hauled what I thought to be still salvageable over to my in-laws' spare mini-fridge.  So we didn't lose many food items, but how would I prep food for my kids' meals?

Bubs has a (gluten- and nitrate-free) deli meat sandwich three out of the four days on his rotation (ham, roast beef, and turkey), and his gluten-free bread needs to be refrigerated as well.  He also occasionally likes vegan mayo or milk-free cheese on  his sandwich.  Fruits and veggies weren't a problem, since they don't really need to be refrigerated. 

We have plenty of rice milk singles on hand, so offering milk wasn't a problem (to drink, for cereal, etc).  And really dinner prep wasn't much of a problem either since we usually cook grains or pasta and meat that has been frozen along with a fruit and vegetable.  So lunch was my biggest dilemma.  I like to make the kids' lunches the night before and stick them in the fridge to reduce morning chaos.  But this was now out of the question.  So my solution:  Simple, really!  The hubby bought a loaf of bread and each kind of lunch meat and kept it in his refrigerator at work!  He goes to work before I leave to drop off kids each day, so we just swung by his office to pick up Bubs' sandwich on our way to summer camp. 

As soon as we knew our refrigerator was beyond repair, we ran to the store to buy a new one.  However, a large appliance is not something you can just walk out of the store with.  So we had to wait several days for it to be delivered (and they hauled off the old one which was nice).  But our system, though inconvenient, worked well for us.  The kids kept asking of for our usual refrigerated items, but with a little reminder (every time), they didn't complain once! 

Our new fridge is now installed and cold!  I've never been so happy to have this modern convenience.  It's one of those things we take for granted.  Most people in this situation would probably just eat out or have at peanut butter and jelly for most meals.  But since we don't have this luxury, this is how we got by!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Meeting With Local Boys and Girls Club Directors

Today I had the opportunity to sit down with the Executive Director and the Director of Operations of our local Boys and Girls Club to discuss EpiPen administration.  My big kids (the ones with food allergies) are attending summer camp at BGC this year. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, BGC is not allow to administer medication.  I emailed the Program Manager from my site asking for more details about this since it had me worried.  What if one of my kids had a reaction and no one was allow to intervene?   I was initially told that their licensure wouldn't allow them to administer meds, but it turns out this is not the case.  It is not cost-effective for the program to take on the financial responsibility and liability of administering meds.  This actually makes a lot of sense to me.  This program is not designed to be a daycare or school.  It is a day drop-in program that is run differently than a daycare. 

My local Program Manager gave me the email address of the Director of Operations.  We connected, and she offered to meet with me to discuss my concerns.  When I arrived today, I was kindly greeted, and the Executive Director joined our meeting.  They listened attentively to my concerns, and we are looking into various solutions. 

It is just not feasible for BGC to become a program that administers meds.  But it was suggested that administering life-saving medication, such as epinephrine, may be considered first aid rather than administering medication.  A fine line, so it is being looked into further by their staff. 

They are also on board with more education for staff  about food allergies, recognizing signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction, and administration of epinephrine.  I told them about the wonderful online course I took for First Aid for Anaphylaxis that would be a fabulous education tool for their staff.  (Read my review about this course here, and find out how to receive a discount on the course fee too.)

Currently, three staff members at each site are certified in first aid and CPR.  I brought up the fact that the kids take regular field trips, and this is a high risk time for a reaction.  The chances of one of those three staff members being on each field trip is slim.  They are considering having more staff members being certified at each location to increase safety in many areas.

Of course, education and prevention are key!  I am, of course, more than happy to share my knowledge of food allergies with their staff.  

I want to thank the staff at our BGC for all their hard work and dedication with all the kids.  The staff has an obvious love for youth, and they go above and beyond for each child.  I know they will do what they can to keep my child safe at all times.  I just want to make sure they are prepared to act if necessary in a bad situation. 

I'll keep you posted with updates.  I am eager to see where all this goes!

Addendum:  The director e-mailed me following this meeting stating that administering life-saving medication such as epinepherine and insulin would be considered First Aid rather than medication administration.  Yay!  Victory!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chocolate Brownie Cookies (Free of Gluten, Milk, Egg, Peanuts, Soy)

Finding a good, soft cookie that is safe for my monkeys has not been easy.  Making it Milk-Free posted a recipe for a delicious looking Chocolate Brownie Cookie that sounded delicious.  So with a few slight modifications, I whipped up a batch.

Black beans, drained and rinsed well
2 Tbsp rice milk
1 1/2 Tbsp peanut-free almond butter (I used Barney Butter)
2 Tbsp canola oil
3 Tbsp gluten-free flour (I used King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multi-purpose Flour)
1/4 c cocoa
1/2 c honey
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of salt
1/3 c allergen-free chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life)

To view the full recipe with instructions, click here

The first time I made these, I used my manual food processor.  It took a long time to puree the black beans, and my hand got tired.  This time I blended them in my Magic Bullet, and the cookies turned out with a much smoother texture (and it was easier on me). 

Almond Crusted Chicken (Free of Gluten, Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Soy)

I was inspired by Making it Milk-Free's recipe for Almond Crusted Chicken, but I had to modify the recipe to meet our needs. 

Thawed chicken breasts
Onion Powder
Oil spray (I used canola oil in my kitchen spritzer)
(You can really add any seasonings you want.  These just meet our needs)

I ground up some almonds in my food processor to make a powder.  I mixed in some basil, oregano, and onion powder.  I'm not sure about measurements.  I just sprinkled some in. If I had to guess, I probably say I had about 1 cup of almonds and 1-2 tsp of each seasoning.  Just season to your liking.  It was enough to coat 5 chicken breasts.  The almonds I had were salted, and I thought it would make the chicken really salty, but there wasn't a salty taste once it was cooked. 

Dip each chicken breast in water, then coat with the almond mixture.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and spray lightly with oil.  Bake at 350º for 20-25 minutes.

We served it on quinoa and with sides of fruit and veggies.  This is a protein-packed meal!  Chicken, quinoa, and almonds are all high-protein foods alone.  Add them together and you have a super-meal!

Healthy Eating

Since we began Bubs' elimination diet a year and a half ago, I have taken more interest in what is actually in our food. 

One of the first blogs I started following (actually, I follow them on Facebook) is 100 Days of Real Food.  I read post after post about the chemicals and toxins in processed food.  One of the first posts I read from them was about how much junk food is served to kids at school.  You can read about it here.  They have a great list of alternative rewards that teachers can offer.  They also make a compelling argument against artificial food dyes.  You can read about it here.  Can you believe that big food companies offer other countries the exact same products they do here only sans the artificial colors?  And in other countries they are required to put a warning label on all food packages that contain artificial colors!

We have eliminated artificial food colors from Bubs' diet, but it is harder to completely eliminate them from the girls' diet.  I don't provide all of their food like I do Bubs', so I have less control over what they are served.  GirlyGirl just finished kindergarten, and while I really liked her teacher, GirlyGirl received a Starburst (or two) almost every day for a job well done.  Same goes for after school care.  She was allowed to pick out a piece of candy for behaving well.  First of all, they don't need edible rewards for this type of thing (kids love erasers, stickers, a stamp on their hand, etc).  In fact, the only thing I think an edible reward is appropriate for is potty training!  And that reward can be eliminated after 1/2 a day of training if done properly.  Not to mention that if they are getting candy every day at school, it tends to decrease the emphasis of candy being a treat.  We allow our kids to have treats when appropriate, but it is not every day, or multiple times a day.  I read a great article about this, and I wish I could find the link to share.  It talks about how people say that just one piece won't hurt, but there are tons of "just one pieces" offered throughout the day.  It adds up and makes treats the norm, not something special.

Now when I read food labels, I'm not just looking for allergens.  I'm also reading the rest of the label to see what's actually in my food.  More often than not, anything prepackaged is loaded with more chemicals than actual food.  Switching to a "real food" diet really isn't all that difficult once you know what you are doing.  100 Days of Real Food offers some great tips on how to get started.

Not A Defining Characteristic

We work so hard on raising awareness and keeping our children safe that I sometimes worry that all people will see when they think of my kids is food allergies.  We have to constantly talk about it with others, always keep an EpiPen on hand, slap warning stickers on their belongings, wear alert bracelets, and carry cute lunch totes with a blaring "I Have Food Allergies" label.  All this and more in hopes that no one will feed my monkeys something that is unsafe for them.  All this may be actually life-saving for my them.  But, I don't want this to be the defining characteristic of my children.

There's a fine line between awareness/advocacy and food allergies being all you see and know of my kids.  I don't want people to look at them and think, "There's that kid who can't eat anything!"  Parents are scared when I show them how to use an EpiPen when I drop off for a playdate.  (I hope that doesn't make people shy away from inviting them over.)  I most definitely want people to be aware of their food allergies for their safety, and I want to be a strong advocate for them so they will learn to advocate for themselves.  But there is so much more to these very special, little people of mine.  I want you to see a bright, athletic, wonderful boy, a sweet, beautiful girl with a heart as big as the sky, and two loving sisters who very much adore their older siblings. 

Food is very much ingrained into our culture. So many activities revolve around food that we are constantly explaining their situation, and it becomes a big topic of conversation. This is wonderful for keeping them safe and raising awareness.  I also absolutely love having warning labels I can put on water bottles, backpacks, lunch boxes, etc, and the lunch boxes from AllerMates with "I Have Food Allergies"  labeled on the front are so practical for summer camp and other outings when I can't be there.  The alert bracelets can be labeled with specific allergens and even "I carry Epi" so a Good Samaritan will know how to help.  These items speak for themselves so my kids don't feel like they are always having to explain why they are eating something different from everyone else.  One glance and people will know. 

But, again, I want my kids to enjoy being kids.  We look for ways to have fun that don't involve food so no modifications need to be made.  We can all just do the same thing.  That's easy for us to do as a family, but harder to do when we are around other people.  Like I said, so much involves food.  Lots of good people go out of their way to make accommodations, and it is greatly appreciated.  And accommodations will need to be made when food is involved.  I am grateful for those who take the time to understand what my kids' needs are and don't define them as a person by what they eat.
My monkeys: Bubs, GirlyGirl, Cutie, and Curls

Cinnamon Rolls (Top 8 Free)

Finding a good cinnamon roll that Bubs can have has been quite difficult.  On Christmas and Easter morning when the rest of us are having cinnamon swirl bread or monkey bread, Bubs has just gotten toast with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top.  It has been good enough for him, but of course I want more!  I came across this recipe on Making it Milk-Free's blog and thought it was worth a try.  I have to be honest...the pumpkin made me shy away from this recipe at first, but in reality you can't even taste it.  I made mine slightly different than she did here.  Here's my ingredient list:

1/3 c warmed rice milk
2 packets active dry yeast (I used the Rapid Rise kind....I'm impatient!)
3/4 c sugar
3 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 c canned pumpkin

2 c gluten-free flour (I used King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multi-Purpose Flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp xanthan gum or guar gum (I omitted this, but I wish I hadn't)
1/2 tsp salt

5 Tbsp milk-free butter (I used Earth Balance Soy Free)
1/4 c brown sugar
4 tsp cinnamon

Click here to get the full instructions on how to create these yummy, gooey, cinnamon rolls.  Of course, they were a hit with our kiddos and grownups alike!

Icing is made with powdered sugar, vanilla, and rice milk.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Product Review: Namaste

While I like to bake things from scratch, it is so much more convenient to use a boxed mix.  But, finding a boxed mix has been rather challenging for me.  I came across Namaste mixes, and they have been wonderful!  They are Top 8 free, and easy to use! 

Pancakes is our favorite "breakfast for dinner" food.  Once we reduced Bubs diet, we went a while without pancakes since I didn't have a good recipe to meet his needs.  I found this Waffle & Pancake Mix at the store and tried it out.  They are a big hit! 

Breakfast for Dinner: Blueberry pancakes with hash browns and bacon

He always eats the pancakes first
Since Bubs and GirlyGirl can't eat the cake at birthday parties, weddings, etc, I try to keep some on hand in the freezer.  Again, I had trouble finding a homemade recipe that met our needs.  This Vanilla Cake Mix works quite well, and the kids really like it!  You can top your cupcakes with fresh fruit, sprinkle with powdered sugar, or top with buttercream frosting.
Bubs loves to help me bake

Scooping the perfect amount into each cup

The kids devoured their cupcakes!
Both these mixes call for the addition of eggs, oil, and water.  We used Ener-G Egg Replacer, canola oil, and water, and they turned out nicely. 
The cupcakes turned out a little more spongy that a traditional white cake, but the kids didn't seem to mind.  They were just happy to have a treat!
You can add whatever mix-in you'd like to your pancakes.  Blueberries are the favorite around here.  We have also made pancakes with bananas, apples, or cinnamon.  Good stuff!  We top with a dab of milk-free, soy-free butter and drizzle with pure maple syrup!  Delish! 
I freeze the extra pancakes with waxed paper between each one in a freezer plastic bag so I can quickly pull out a few for a last minute brunch or "Breakfast with Santa." 
Namaste offers a variety of products that I am eager to try, including brownies, bread, biscuits, muffins, cookies, chocolate cake, and more.  Their website offers lots of good information, including plenty of tasty recipes.  Be sure to check it out!
Namaste has been kind enough to offer a free Namaste tote bag filled with a Pasta Meal, a Baking Mix, and a Coating Mix to one of my readers. 
To be eligible* to win, simply email me ( or comment below with your name and email address.  Be sure to like my Facebook page to see updates! Giveaway is open until 10:00 pm (CST) on  Saturday, June 29, 2013. One randomly selected winner will be announced thereafter and notified by email.  Winner has 3 days to respond or a new winner will be selected.
*You may enter once per person.  You must be at least 18 and have a US mailing address to enter.
Good luck!

Perfect "Buttercream" Frosting (Top 8 Free)

I found some soy-free shortening, and the first thing I thought of was buttercream icing.  I had tried to make some cupcakes with buttercream frosting for Bubs' birthday last month, but I was not too excited about how the cupcakes or frosting turned out. 

I will continue to try various "from scratch" cupcakes, but today I used a mix from Namaste that is free of Bubs' allergens/sensitivities that turned out great!  Click here for my review of Namaste products. 

I am much happier  with the way my buttercream frosting turned out today compared to a month ago.  It tastes just like real buttercream!  Here's the recipe.  It's not that much different that the previous version I posted, but the shortening makes a big difference.
1/2 c milk-free butter (I used Earth Balance Soy-Free)
1/2 c soy-free shortening (I used Spectrum)
1/2 c rice milk (or other milk-free milk)
1 tsp clear vanilla
A dash of salt
2 lbs powdered sugar
Beat butter and shortening in mixer. Add milk, vanilla, and salt. Continue to mix while slowly adding powdered sugar. Whip on high for about 5-7 minutes. Pipe onto cupcakes with desired decorating tip. 


Friday, June 21, 2013

Princess Dance Camp

My Princess GirlyGirl at Princess Dance Camp

I had the opportunity to send GirlyGirl to a local three day princess dance camp. It was only two hours each morning, but just like anything, they served snacks. I had informed them ahead of time of GirlyGirl's peanut allergy, and at check-in they mentioned that there are a handful of girls who have wheat, milk, and peanut allergies. The staff was very helpful in working with me and showing me food labels of the foods they intended to serve.

Day one was apples and cheese (fine for mine, but not for the princess with a milk allergy).

Day two was gluten-free cookies. They were, unfortunately processed with a whole slew of Top 8 allergens. So I provided a box of cookies that are Top 8 free. I offered to share them with the other girls with allergies so they wouldn't have to worry about it.

Day three was a Grand Ball with a an entire smorgasbord of food. We arrived about 15 minutes early, and I'm glad I did. The staff took me to the ballroom to show me what types of food they had. She kept all the boxes and bags so I could see all the labels. They had gone out and bought the same brand of Top 8 free cookies that I had provided the day before (since now they knew it would be safe for all the princesses). They had arranged for the end table to be just for the allergy girls.  All the food at that table would be safe and kept away from the other "unsafe" food.

I'm so glad the staff went out of their way to make this a safe and comfortable experience for my daughter. More often than not, she doesn't get to feel "normal."  She is always bringing her own treats (which she is used to, and it doesn't seem to bother her), and this was a nice change of pace. She could sit at her table and help herself to whatever she wanted. What a delight!

Princess Belle is helping GirlyGirl to her seat at the Allergy Table

GirlyGirl at a table where she can feel free to take whatever she wants!  Including lots of cookies!

The Allergy Girls dig in!

Each small princess gets to dance with the big princesses!  It's as good as Disney World!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Product Review: Lundberg

Trying to find gluten-free products is not all that difficult, unless you have other restrictions (like milk, soy, etc).  Then it becomes much more difficult as you read label after label searching for a product that does not have the dreaded "May Contain" statement (or "Processed in a Facility With," blah blah blah).  I came across Lundberg products during one of these searches and did a little dance in the grocery aisle!  They have such an array of products that are perfect for us!  They are rice-based and gluten-free! 

Three of our go-to pantry items are Lundberg brand

My kids eat three meals and an afternoon snack each day.  We are not big snackers other than that (at least the kids aren't).  But it is nice to have chips available for the times when we have burgers for dinner or at family get-togethers when everyone else is eating chips.  We keep a package of these Rice Chips in our pantry at all times.  They taste delicious!  Bubs has eaten them plain, with milk-free cheese melted on top, with guacamole, and more.  They also come in a variety of tempting flavors.
Lundberg Rice Chips with homemade guacamole

Another great find is the Rice Cakes.  They make for a healthy, tasty afternoon snack.  They are easy to pack to send to school, and they never come back home uneaten.  They come in a variety of flavors, 18 to be exact!  Surely there is a  flavor that is right for you! 

One of our household staples is noodles.  I am Italian, after all, and we are a spaghetti family!  When we first had to reduce Bubs' diet and eliminate (gluten) pasta and tomatoes (and garlic), I was really bummed!  That one probably hit me the hardest.  So I went on a search for some gluten-free noodles.  And Lundberg is what I found.  Their Rice Pasta tastes fabulous!  And the texture is ideal.  I canhardly teel the difference from wheat pasta!  So we modified the traditional version of spaghetti and made our own....turkey and noodles.  We typically begin with either rotini or penne pasta (it is also offered in elbow and spaghetti), use ground turkey, add some Italian seasoning, and serve with a side of fruit and veggies.  The kids eat it up every time!  (Mac & Cheese is a big hit too!)

Turkey and noodles with fruit and veggie - a staple meal at our house

I am so happy to have found Lundberg products.  Their company is family owned and operated since 1937.  They specialize in organic, gluten-free rice products without all the filler (or contamination).  This is a product I can find in my regular grocery store in the healthy foods section.  That's another bonus!  I don't have to run to the specialty stores to find these items!  Convenient, good, healthy food.  That's I'm looking for and what I'm all about! 

Bill Self Basketball Camp

In my house we are huge KU basketball fans, so when we had the opportunity to send Bubs to the Bill Self Basketball Camp, we jumped on it.  I'm not sure who was more excited, him or me!

Bubs with the Phog Allen statue in front of Allen Field House
A true KU fan
As I drive away after dropping off Bubs on the first day, I am extremely nervous. I repeatedly told him how important it is to keep his backpack with him at all times.  I tell him that he is responsible for his meds, something he has never had to do before.  I pray that he stays safe and be responsible. Each day his backpack will contain his lunch, supper, and snacks, as well as his EpiPen, Benadryl, and inhaler. The medical form I filled out for the camp has all the necessary information, and I notified the medical team about his allergies and asthma upon check-in. But it doesn't seem as if there is any one person in charge that I can inform. It makes me really nervous that if something happens, no one will know what to do. There is a lot of downtime during the day for the boys to rest and hangout, and I don't think there's much supervision during that time. Bubs knows not to take food from anyone, but that doesn't guarantee his safety. I'm a nervous wreck. I've talked to him about keeping his backpack with him at all times and to keep it out of direct sunlight since his meds are in there. I hope he doesn't get so distracted by the excitement of the camp that he leaves it behind.
I pick him up the first night and ask how things went, including supper.  He says he felt left out. Oh no!  I ask if it was because of his food, and he says no.  He just didn't know anybody since it was so early in the camp.  Whew!  I never want him to feel left out because he is eating something different. So far so good on that front.  I tell him he will make friends as the camp goes on.

The next three days he is at camp all day (over 12 hours!)  There is a lot of downtime midday for lunch and rest. When I pick him up the second evening he says he felt left out during the downtime due to the other kids buying and eating candy (of course with chocolate, peanut butter, etc.)   He just doesn't want to hang out them because they are messy and he doesn't want it to get on him by accident.  He says there are M&M's, chips, and smears of chocolate around the boys, so he wanders around looking for something else to do. He says he doesn't want to go back the next day because he was lonely during this particular part of the day, even though he loves the basketball part of it. He also says he didn't eat all of his meal because the other kids are eating ice cream at his table and it melts and makes a mess.  So he just gets up and leaves without finishing his food.

This poor kid is so careful and paranoid (rightfully so) about being around his allergens.  But it causes him feelings of isolation from the other boys and loneliness.  I want him to be aware of his surroundings and his safety, but I also don't want him to be isolated or feel like he needs to leave social situations.  I'm not sure what the answer is to remedy this situation, so I just talk with him about ways to hang out with the other boys safely.  I tell him that he can still hang out with the kids who are eating candy (since I sent snacks for him as well--so he wouldn't feel left out when the others were snacking), he just can't eat it himself.  But he is worried about contact, and he does have contact reactions with his allergens. 

Luckily, he loves the camp enough that he decides he wants to go back each day, even though he has to deal with the down time.  I send books and a deck of cards for him to entertain himself, but I think he found a friend who wasn't snacking on candy to hang out with.

All in all, it was a good experience, for both of us.  This is the first time I have sent him out of our little bubble of daycare and school.  And guess what....he survived without a single reaction!  I'd call it a success on the food front, but we have some work to do on the social front. 

How do you handle social situations where others are eating (and leaving a trail) of your child's allergen when you are not there to monitor?  This is the first of many situations we will learn from.

Bubs has a new appreciation for KU basketball.  He is now a die-hard fan.  He got autographs of this year's team as well as some alumni and Coach Self.  We are both eager for the season to start this fall.

Bubs (in the highlighter green shirt) getting pointers from KU alumni basketball players Tyrel Reed and Cole Aldrich

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Product Review: Daiya Chesse

I am from Wisconsin.  I like cheese.  Well, that's an understatement.  I LOVE cheese!  A lot of foods that I like to make contain cheese.  This was a bit of a challenge when we first learned about Bubs food allergies (milk, egg, and peanuts).  But there are plenty of milk-free cheeses out there.  We found a brand of milk-free cheese (tofu based) that we bought in slice form (I would tear it into small pieces if I wanted shredded cheese).  But when we discovered his sensitivity to soy, we said goodbye to cheese.
That is, until we found Daiya (pronounced Day-ah).  It is free of milk, soy, and gluten (completely vegan, actually).  Initially we didn't use it because it contains pea protein, and that was one of Bubs' sensitivities.  But pea is a food that we successfully added back into his diet (one of the first ones I wanted to reintroduce because of this cheese!), so now he can have Daiya cheese! 

Daiya makes a whole line of cheeses that are vegan and free of soy and gluten.  They make slices (cheddar, swiss, and provolone), shreds (cheddar, mozzarella, and pepperjack),  wedges (cheddar, jack, and jalapeño garlic Havarti), and cream cheese styled spreads (plain, chive and onion, and strawberry).  They also have a line of gluten-free pizza that is free of milk and soy (cheese lover's, margherita, fire roasted vegetable, and mushroom and roasted garlic).

The shreds are specifically designed for melting.  We use the cheddar for things like mac & cheese, grilled cheese, cheeseburgers, and quesadillas.  And we like the mozzarella for things like pizza (and pizza puffs) and fettuccine alfredo.  Sometimes I use cheddar and mozzarella together to add a nice flavor.

Mac & Cheese before baking
Mac & Cheese dinner

Quesadilla made with GF tortilla and cheddar and mozzarella Daiya shreds 

I also use the shreds in recipes that don't require melting.  Since this particular type of cheese is designed for melty goodness, it has a different texture than real shredded cheese when eaten right from the package.  But I haven't heard any complaints!  Bubs loves his pasta salad with the shreds.     

This pasta salad was made for my nephew who is allergic to milk.  The noodles are not GF, but the cheese is milk-free Daiya cheddar shreds.

I use the slices in sandwiches and for snacks like cheese and crackers.  The wedge is also nice for snacks and small chunks or cubes of cheese. 

I am eager to try the Daiya cream cheese style spread.  There is a recipe for cheesecake on their website that looks absolutely amazing!  I haven't seen any of this cream cheese in my local stores yet, as it is a new product just hitting the shelves.  And since I live smack dab in the middle of the country, we tend to get things last. :)  But I will continue to look for it whenever I pass by the refrigerated section of our health market, and I'll snatch a tub or two when I can.

I would also love to try their line of pizza, but unfortunately Bubs is still off tomatoes and garlic (both of which are ingredients in their pizza).  Once these foods are successfully added back into his diet, we will be sure to give them a try.  It is difficult to find pizza that is free of milk, egg, and gluten.  Here's your answer!

Notice the Daiya shreds in his pasta salad and on his burger?  Hard to see, but they are there!

So, needless to say, we love Daiya cheese!  We always have a drawer full of the shreds in our fridge, and we keep slices on hand as well.  What a great alternative to cheese for those with special food needs.  I am so happy this product is available so Bubs can enjoy cheese again (he loves it just as much as I do)!

Mac & Cheese (Top 8 Free)

We love homemade mac and cheese in this house, and it is simple enough to modify for Bubs.  I make a dish for us and a dish for him (he usually eats more than all of us combined). 

1 box gluten-free noodles, cooked and drained
1 package Daiya cheddar shreds
green onions, cut
milk-free butter (I use Earth Balance Soy Free)
1/2 c rice milk (or other milk-free milk)
broccoli, steamed

Preheat oven to 350º.  Spread half the noodles in a 9x13 dish.  Drop a few small dabs of butter near each corner and in the center of the noodles.  Sprinkle some green onions over noodles (to your liking).  Evenly spread half the cheese.  Top with remainder of noodles.  Repeat layers of butter, green onions, and cheese.  Pour milk over entire casserole.  Add broccoli on top of casserole and cover with foil.  Bake for about 45 minutes.  Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes. 

You could easily add some meat if desired.  I also like to add corn flakes to my allergy-filled version.  It wouldn't be difficult to find some crackers or allergy-friendly cereal to top this with to add some crunch.
Before baking
Delicious dinner

Rice Krispie Treats (Top 8 Free)

Rice Krispie Treats are such an easy go-to treat for kids.  They are simple to make and easy to take on-the-go.  These are so easy to modify from the original recipe to meet food allergy needs!

1 bag mini marshmallows
3 Tbsp milk-free butter (I used Earth Balance Soy Free)
6 cups Gluten-Free Rice Krispies

If desired, chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life)

In a large pan, melt butter and marshmallows over low heat until melted.  Remove from heat and mix in Rice Krispies until completely coated.  Press into 9x13 dish with a piece of wax paper that has a small amount of butter on it (so it doesn't stick).  Sprinkle with chocolate chips (or sprinkles, colored sugar, or any other topping you desire) and press into treats.  Allow to cool.  Voila! 

I like to add some extra marshmallows when I add the Rice Krispies for a little something extra. 

Peach Cobbler (Free of Milk, Eggs, and Gluten)

I want to start off by saying that I am trying really hard to give appropriate credit for recipes I post here.  I copied this recipe a while back, and I can't seem to find the original source (after tons of searching).  So, if I stole your recipe (sorry), please message me and let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.

On a whim, I decided to try this peach cobbler tonight.  I mentioned in one of my posts recently that we rarely have dessert, but now that I am blogging, my kids seem to reap the benefits!  GirlyGirl said, "Mommy, why are we having so many desserts now?  I know....because you are AWESOME!"  I'll take that.  :) 

1 box dry yellow cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Gluten-Free)(It is processed with soy, so I cheated a tiny bit)
1/2 c milk-free butter, melted (I used Earth Balance Soy Free)
2 cans of peaches in light syrup
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350º.  Grease the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish (I skipped this step and it turned out fine).  I actually used a pie dish because my 8x8's were taken with other goodies.  Pour in the peaches, including the juice.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  Add cake mix so it is evenly spread over the peaches.  Pour melted butter over the cake mix trying to completely cover the dry mix.  Bake 30-40 minutes.  Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

This can also be made with other types of fruit.  Think blueberry, cherry, mixed berries, etc.  It all sounds so delicious!


Strawberry Smoothie (Top 8 Free)

The kids loved the chocolate smoothie so much yesterday, they wanted another one today.  But I thought we'd try a fruity version instead.

The hubby (and I occasionally) drink strawberry smoothies for a little evening treat, and I knew I could easily modify our recipe to meet our kids' food needs. 

I use a Magic Bullet cup and fill it with frozen strawberries.  Then I add a heaping tablespoon full of coconut yogurt (I used vanilla flavor since that's what I had on hand) and fill with lemon-flavored water.  You could use lemonade, OJ, or whatever type of juice you want.  You can also add other frozen fruits, like pineapple, berries, oranges, etc.  You can also add a few leaves of spinach or kale for added nutrition.  Twist the Magic Bullet cap on and blend!  Delicious!

The kids loved this fruity smoothie just as much or more than the chocolate one.  Again, they asked for seconds (in all fairness, they ask for seconds of just about everything).  It's a keeper for summer refreshment!

Product Review: Allerbling

I have had my eye on these Allerbling bracelets for a while now.  I love that I can customize a bracelet to meet my child's food allergy needs.  It is so important that others know about your child's food allergy so they don't try to feed your monkey, and this bright orange wristband is just the way to go.

A whole kit can be ordered which incudes two bracelets (one large and one small), eight charms (one for each of the Top 8 allergens) and a medical cross charm. 

There are also other charms available for less common food allergies as well as a bee sting allergy and a gluten-free charm.  If you don't need many charms, you can simply order a bracelet and choose which charm(s) you'd like.  Each bracelet holds up to five charms.  They are cute and kid friendly, so your child will adore wearing and showing off his or her bracelet.  What a great conversation starter when other kids or adults notice it (let's raise awareness)!
It is easy for some people to forget that a child has a food allergy, and this fun bracelet is a good reminder at a glance.  It also can make others aware of what is needed in an emergency.  Just imagine that your food allergic child is unable to tell someone they are having an anaphylactic reaction due to a food allergy.  With this bracelet on, all it takes is one quick look to know what could be wrong. 
All you food allergy moms out there know how important it is to raise awareness of your child's food allergies.  Allerbling has come up with a kid friendly tool to help educate those around you to help keep your child safe. 
This comfortable, trendy bracelet is easy to put on and take off.  Even a child as young as 3 years old will enjoy this bracelet.  The colors are gender neutral, so either a boy or girl can appreciate it.  The charms are somewhat difficult to attach, but they stay firmly in place.  All bracelets are made with child safe materials and are free of lead, latex, and other harmful substances.

It's hard to see the charms in this pic, but GirlyGirl has the medical cross and peanut allergy charms, and Bubs has the medical cross, peanut allergy, dairy allergy, and egg allergy charms.  They both love their new bracelet!


Friday, June 14, 2013

Chocolate "Skinny Shake"

I saw this recipe called Skinny Shake on Facebook, and it looked like something my kids would love.  The post said it tastes like a Wendy's Frosty.  Bubs will never have the chance to actually eat a Wendy's Frosty, so I thought we'd give this a try.  We rarely eat dessert, so it was extra special to have an after-dinner treat!

The recipe calls for banana, almond milk, vanilla, cocoa powder, and ice.  Click here to get the full recipe

Bubs enjoys helping in the kitchen when he can

I made a triple batch since I was going to give some to each kiddo, but it was way too much.  Next time a single batch will be plenty for just a little treat. 

He thinks it's pretty good!
It didn't turn out much like a Wendy's Frosty in my opinion, but yummy nonetheless.  I could hardly taste the banana (which I personally don't like), and it tasted mighty chocolaty.  It was hit in this house!
All four monkeys liked it and want it again

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Product Review: Earth Balance

With all of the food restrictions we follow for Bubs, finding a butter substitute has been a challenge.  There are plenty out there that are milk-free, but that isn't enough here.  And I had completely written off mayo!  Every mayo label I looked at said eggs!  But one of my wandering grocery shopping escapades led me to find a milk-free butter that is also soy-free!  What a find!  Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread Soy-Free is perfect!
I have been able to use this "butter" as an absolute substitute for real butter or margarine.  I use it on
toast, for grilled cheese, and baking, just to name a few.  It melts just as wonderfully as real butter, and it spreads just as easily too.  

Making grilled ham and cheese (gluten, milk, and soy free, of course!)

The finished product.  He was asking for more!
As you can tell, the container in the picture above is almost empty.  This stuff is great!  I have made Rice Krispie treats, cinnamon rolls, buttercream frosting, topped pancakes, and more.  Earth Balance does offer vegan buttery baking sticks which are ideal for baking (which I do a lot of), but those contain soy.  I would like to see the baking sticks made in the soy-free version as well.  Ditto for the shortening sticks.
Another great find has been this vegan, soy-free mayo.  All these years we have had plain tuna, plain shredded chicken, and plain sandwiches.  This dressing and sandwich spread is another absolute substitution.  I can use it as I would regular mayo, spreading it on bread for sandwiches (gluten-free bread tends to be a bit dry, so this really helps with texture and flavor), mixing it with tuna or chicken to make a delicious salad or sandwich, and using it in any recipe that calls for mayo (I have seen a few recently but ignored them because I had written off mayo).

Roast beef sandwich with mayo spread for Bubs' summer camp lunch
Earth Balance offers a great line of vegan products that include five types of buttery spreads, five flavors of soy milk, three types of mayo, buttery baking sticks, shortening sticks, four types of peanut butter, three types of culinary spreads, and four types of popcorn snacks.  What a great variety!  This is a go-to brand for all of you who need milk, egg, and gluten free foods. 
Unfortunately I haven't seen any of the popcorn snacks in my local stores.  I am eager to try them, as I am always looking for new, healthy snack ideas for Bubs (and the other kiddos too).  Of course we can't do peanut butter here, but Earth Balance would be my top choice of peanut butter if we could.  It is my only choice for butter and mayo, and I am so grateful I have this option for my son.