Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

We are having a magnificent rain, thunder and lightning display here today! And, at my house, it seems we have front row tickets. What a treat!

So, what do we do on a rainy day? We cook Chicken Noodle Soup. Here's my recipe. I keep it simple to avoid exposure to too many ingredients. The key to the delicious taste is using a quality chicken, preferably organic.

Chicken Noodle Soup

1 whole chicken
8 C water, or enough to cover the chicken
3 T salt, additional salt at the end to taste
1 onion, quartered
2 peeled cloves garlic, optional
1 bag rice noodles

  1. Wash chicken. Place the chicken in a large stock pot and cover with cool water. Add onion and garlic and cover with lid.
  2. Bring to boil and simmer slowly for 1.5 - 2 hours. The longer is simmers, the softer the chicken and the tastier the soup.
  3. Remove chicken, onion and garlic. Salt broth to taste.
  4. To make the full soup recipe to serve 10, place noodles in broth and bring to boil, cooking until done. If left in the broth, these noodles will get mushy so only cook what you will eat at this meal. If you are making a small amount of soup, transfer some broth to another pot then cook noodles in the smaller pot.
  5. Debone chicken and place in soup with noodles. Or, in our family, we like to serve the whole deboned chicken at the table for everyone to eat. Serve with salt so each person may adjust to their own taste.

Beware....some chickens use broth as fillers for their chicken. You must look carefully on the labels to find the notes about this. These broths often contain soy, corn, and other unidentified vegetables. It is worth your money and time to find a chicken brand that does NOT add any of these "natural" ingredients.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Salty or Sweet?

Do you FB? Check out our page and share your ideas for an allergy friendly salty or sweet snack. There may be a little something special for one lucky contributor! Don't forget to LIKE us so your friends can get in on the action.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Allergic to Toothpaste?

You betcha!

For a month, we analyzed everything that our little one touched and ate. But, to no avail. "Well, then, she must be getting sick," we thought. "Nope. Been too long." And out the window went the "getting sick" theory.

Then, I noticed that she seemed to cough more after brushing her teeth. "Can she be allergic to the toothpaste?" Although her allergist admitted it possible, she had never had that complaint from a parent before. So... 4 months, 3 phonecalls, 2 refunds and 1 new toothpaste later, my theory is confirmed. My little angel is allergic to a common toothpaste ingredient - SORBITOL!

According to, sorbitol is a "white, odorless, sweet-tasting powder". It is commonly derived from corn syrup and used as a sugar substitute. This was the problem with the toothpaste in question - corn syrup.

Our angel is allergic to corn and most corn by-products. This time, the reaction was difficult to identify because the allergen (sorbitol) was building up in her system over time. Consequently, it was hard to tell what was causing the coughing spells - a virus or an allergen.

Here are some recommendations for those who think you might be having a reaction to an unknown substance:
  1. Be safe and seek medical attention. Treat the symptoms if you think you are having a reaction. Seek medical advice and follow the directions that your doctors have given you to treat the symptoms you see.

  2. Follow your instincts. If you really think it is an allergy, stop using or consuming the product. We are still learning so much about food allergies and each person is so different that you must rely on your own intuition coupled with medical knowledge. You know what is happening in you or your child best.

  3. Chase the source of the allergy and research ingredients. Take your time, read labels, talk to manufacturers, use the internet, and consult your doctor. If you give up, you will not find relief nor will you eliminate other sources from your diet.

  4. Speak with manufacturers. Many manufacturers are interested in what is causing a possible reaction in their consumers. Often, they will survey your consumption, provide coupons or refunds when a consumer has reacted to their product. Also, most manufacturers are happy to research an ingredient to help you find out if something in their product might be an allergen. Manufacturers can be an allergic consumers best friend - use them!

  5. Be creative and find alternatives. There may only be one brand that doesn't use your allergen but keep looking in groceries, whole food stores, and on the internet to find what you need. Then, if you can't find it, do some research and create a substitute!

Even though we think that we have identified the cause of the toothpaste allergy, in a child with so many allergies, it is hard to really ever feel confident. Our eyes are always watching what goes into our angel and constantly reading her well-being like a barometer. For now, we have found an alternative toothpaste which we think is safe. But, we also know whether it is this hour, this day, or this week, there will be another allergen hiding and waiting to be discovered.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Snack Match: Apple Sauce

A snack match is an allergy-friendly snack that nutritionally and/or visually resembles a popular children's snack.

This week's snack is: Apple Sauce

Snack Match substitute: Pear Sauce

Pear Sauce
4 pears, any variety you choose
Juice of half a lemon

Peel, core and cut the pears in half. Place pears in steamer basket and put a few inches of water int he steamer. Steam until softened.

Place cooked pears in blender. Add lemon juice. Blend until smooth. Refrigerate and enjoy!

NOTE: I find that mixing 2 varieties of pears makes for a better texture and taste. Play with this and have fun.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Date Night, now what?

We are going out! So what do I do now? To be honest, my husband and I don't get out together very much. I'm not sure if I am using my little angel as an excuse or if it really is too difficult to leave her with someone else. Either way, the fact still remains - we don't go out.

I am sure that many of you are thinking, "Date night? No big deal." But, leaving a severely allergic child with a babysitter is a big deal. It takes preparation and planning. Although it takes a little work to leave our angels with another person, it is good for them and us. Our children learn to express their needs to other adults and to manage those needs while still in a safe environment. And, mom and dad get a deserved break from their often restrictive routines.

So, as we prepare to go out for the evening, here are some tips that I hope will help you the next time you leave the kids behind.

The Babysitter: More and more people are living farther from their close relatives. If you are like us, you can't just send your angels to Grandma's house for the evening and finding that perfect sitter is not easy. I am blessed with friends who have watched my daughter during emergencies and the very occasional Date Night. Swapping with an informed friend is a great way to save money and keep the time safe. Whoever you choose, be sure that this person is prepared to give medicines, administer an Epi-pen, and call 911 if necessary.

Angel's Handbook: I put together a handbook which I keep in a number of locations at my angel's school as well as in a designated place at my home. The book has a clear cover so that emergency numbers are easy to read on that first page. It also has a list of:

  • do's and don'ts of caring for my allergic child

  • potential reactions and how they should be treated

  • language my child or I might use when talking about allergies or a reaction

  • food and environmental allergens

  • asthma triggers (if applicable)

  • allergies to medicines

  • instructions that paramedics may need in an emergency
Food: Be sure to leave plenty of food for your children and the sitter. In my case, I ask that they all eat "safe" foods. This lessens the likelihood that my angel will come in contact with something "dangerous".

Activities: Be sure to let the sitter know what activities your child is allowed to do while you are not at home. For example, if your child is allergic to wheat, play dough may not be a safe activity while you are not home.

Prepare your angels: Have a talk with your child well before the sitter arrives and things get hectic for the evening. Go over the do's and don'ts. Remind them what language to use if they are not feeling well. Tell them what food you have left for them and show them where you are keeping their emergency medicines.

Make it special: I hope that, if you are reading this, you are planning for a fun night out. That being said, why not make the time special for your angels too. Set a nice table, cook a special meal, leave a new game....whatever it is, this time can be as special an evening for them as it is for you!

By preparing for our time away from home, we can all relax and have a great time!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Allergy-free Chuseok

It is the first day of fall and time for us to celebrate. Today is Chuseok! For the Koreans, Chuseok is the equivalent of an American Thanksgiving. It is the day that families gather to eat, talk and just be together. But, for a food allergic person, this day can be a challenge.
By nature, Korean food is spicy and rich in the flavors of soy and sesame. Foods such as these can be life-threatening to my little angel. So, what does a good mom to do? We work with what we've got!

Here are some authentic Korean recipes that might be fun for you to try! Serve them with rice and you will have a complete meal!

Caramelized Pumpkin
1 medium winter squash, cleaned and sliced or cubed
1 T salt
1 onion, julienne
2/3 C maple syrup, to taste
3 T brown sugar
water, to cover bottom of pan

Place prepared pumpkin in a skillet with a lid. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with salt. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until beginning to soften or water starts to boil away.

Add onion, maple syrup, and brown sugar. Leave uncovered and cook until sugar melts into water. Turn heat to medium-high and cook until pumpkin is soft and sugars caramelize slightly. Remove from heat and serve hot or cold.

Pickled Beets

1/2 C cooked beets, slice (cut in half if they are large)
1/4 C red onion, julienne
3 T rice vinegar
1 - 2 T sugar, to taste
2 T water

Place all ingredients in a bowl and marinate for approximately 30 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Snack Match: Apple Tart

A snack match is an allergy-friendly snack that nutritionally and/or visually resembles a popular children's snack.

This week's snack is: Apple Tart

Snack Match substitute: Crust-less Pear Tart

Apple Tarts contain, at the very minimum, eggs and wheat as potential allergens. Throw in an apple filling and you get corn, possibly soy, and cinnamon. Then, to top that off, my little one is allergic to apples!

Here is a crust-less tart made from pears:

Crust-less Pear Tart

4 safe muffin tins or silicone muffin liners
1 can Dole diced pears containing only pears, sugar and ascorbic acid
1/8 C brown sugar
4 pinches salt
1 C Rice Chex cereal
Small plastic bag

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place muffin tin or silicone liners on a cookie sheet to catch any spills during cooking.

Drain canned pears. Fill four muffin liners with diced pears to about 2/3 full. Sprinkle pears with brown sugar and a pinch of salt. In a small plastic bag, crush cereal. Sprinkle each tart with crushed cereal then drizzle with honey.

Bake in oven until bubbly brown. It only takes a few minutes. This recipe works well in a toaster oven or under a broiler.

Make it extra-special:

Since I have to send this activity to school for my daughter to make while the other children are making their Apple Tarts, I decided to pre-package and clearly number each step. By doing this, the teacher knows exactly how to make the recipe plus my daughter can practice her numbers by following each step.

Supplies: box for recipe ingredients, small cards and labels, small zip bags, silicone muffin liners, 1 individual container Dole diced pears, 2 tsp brwon sugar, 4 tsp salt, 1 tsp measure, 1 C Rice Chex, honey

Write the following italicized instructions on a sticker or card and attach to each item associated with that step. The packaging and ingredients are noted by parenthesis.

Pear Tart - Follow the directions. Step 1: Open the box. (Attach "Step 1" label to a box which will hold all ingredients and supplies.)

Step 2: Place liners on a cookie sheet. (Place liners in small zip bag and attach "Step 2" label.)

Step 3: Drain and put in each liner. (Stickers work well here. Attach "Step 3" label to a container diced pears.)

Step 4: Sprinkle 1 tsp on each tart. (Place brown sugar and salt in a small zip bag then mix. Place tsp measure in bag and seal. Label "Step 4" by tying a card to the bag or placing a sticker on the bag.)

Step 5: Crush and sprinkle on top of tarts. (Place Rice Chex in a plastic bag and lable the bag "Step 5".)

Step 6: Drizzle with honey. (Put some honey in a small container with a spoon. Label "Step 6".)

Step 7: Bake at ~350 degrees until bubbly.

Step 8: Enjoy! (Write "Step 7" and "Step 8" instructions on a card together or on the card with "Step 6".)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Apricot Dipping Sauce

Let's face it, there is nothing better than dipping! We dip chips, fries, chicken, and even our own fingers if something is really tasty! But, if you have allergies, dipping becomes a real challenge. Dips have dairy, sauces have soy, and ketchup...well, everything from tomatoes to corn!

This dipping sauce is simple but one that people repeatedly ask me for. Each time I make it, my proportions change and the taste varies so don't be afraid to adapt this to your own tastes.

1 jar apricot jelly/jam
1/4 C boiling water (add more to make thinner sauce)
2 cloves garlic, minced (add more if you are a garlic lover)
1/4 C red onion, minced (optional)
1 tsp salt

Pour jelly into bowl then add boiling water and stir until jelly begins to melt into a sauce. Add garlic, onion and salt then stir again. Chill until ready to serve so that flavors can blend.

Tastes great with chicken or as a salad dressing!

NOTE: Please be sure to read the lables of the jelly/jam jars. Even though they may say 100% juice, this does not specify which juice and it can be very misleading. There are some nice jellies that contain just fruit, sugar, and pectin. Be wise!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Snack Match: Cereal with Milk

A snack match is an allergy-friendly snack that nutritionally and/or visually resembles a popular children's snack.

This week's snack is: Cereal with Milk

Snack Match substitute: Rice chex and rice puffs with dried fruit and Juice

With all of the new allergy awareness, many allergic children are able to find safe cereal or milk substitutes. However, that is not always possible for children who have multiple food allergies. For example, if you are allergic to dairy, nuts and soy, then you can not use traditional milks nor nut or soy "milks". There are rice milks available which are a good solution for many who can tolerate rice but in our case, my angel is also allergic to canola oil and so that removes this option as well. (Canola oil is added to rice milk for texture.) So, you can see the struggle with a simple snack like cereal with milk.

As for the cereals, this is actually easier since there are a few rice only options for those who can not tolerate any grains except rice. Rice is generally perceived as a good alternative for those who need gluten-free grains or with grain allergies. In the western parts of the world, rice allergies are generally uncommon. However, this being said, it is important for everyone to remember that in allergic children, anything can be or become an allergy, especially with increased exposure. Also, while white rice might be safe, brown rice may not. So, be aware!

Rice Chex and rice puffs with Dried Fruit and Juice

Mix Rice Chex and rice puffs with a safe dried fruit. Mixing these gives a little added variety and nutrition to the snack. Pour your favorite "safe" juice over the mixture and enjoy.

Our favorite mix is a little dried cranberries with 100% pear juice. It takes a little while to get over the idea that this is not milk on your cereal but that being said, the result tastes good and the nutritional value is high!

NOTE:Be sure to read the juice bottle/box label to ensure that there is ONLY juice and that the juicing is not done on shared equipment. Many juice companies add dairy based additives to increase nutrition or oils to change texture. Read your labels and if you don't know what an ingredient is or what food it is derived from then you should eat it until you do!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hold the Mayo, Please

It is sometimes difficult to make a good sandwich for a person with severe multiple food allergies. While most people focus on the bread, or lack thereof, that is not what I find the most difficult. For me, it is the condiments. A sandwich without a condiment just isn't much of a sandwich at all! In fact, it is just a dry pile of ingredients with nothing to bring it together.

Recently, my husband blessed me with a cooking class at one of my favorite restaurants, Solare. While Italian food isn't typically one of my favorites, the food at this restaurant makes my taste buds dance and beg for more.

In our class, Stefano (the owner and chef) taught us how to make a number of marinades and sauces. While he mainly focused on how to use them for grilling, he also suggested that they make a nice sandwich spread. So, I gave it a try! My little one thought that this was almost as good as her dad's "special" pancakes! I put warm ham slices, lettuce, a bowl of sauce and a basting brush on the table with our safe "bread" then let everyone make their own. This was a first for our family and what fun! With a side of soup, it was the perfect treat.

Here is my allergy-friendly version of a great spread recipe. Feel free to experiment with different herbs and oils that are safe for your family to create a sauce that is all your own.

Parsley-Basil Pesto Sauce
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch basil
2 clove garlic
2T water
1/4 C California rice oil (add more when blending, to taste)
2 T lemon juice
1/2 T salt, adjust to taste

Combine ingredients in your Magic Bullet, blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Taste then adjust salt, oil and other flavors. Spread on your favorite bread substitute and enjoy.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bucket List

It's preschool time! Our little angel is taking her first big steps into the world without mommy and daddy. She has met the teachers and the director. We have delivered our medical box, disaster pack and "safe" snacks. Now, it is time to pack our bucket!

Many preschools do not allow children to bring backpacks to school and our preschool embraces the same policy. Backpacks are just too hard for little ones to dig through. So, our little one and all her classmates will be bringing buckets to school. What a wonderful solution! All those little fingers can quickly find exactly what they are looking for and the teachers can easily drop in those notes for mommy at the end of the day. Then, it is just a grab and go at the end of the day. Everyone can easily glance to see that the important things are there without any fuss.

Although, preparing your bucket for the school year may take a little more creativity than a backpack, we had a great time getting ours ready. We used a marker to write our angels name on the bucket then let her stick her favorite stickers anywhere her heart desired. We gave her some "gems" with the sticky backs for bling and, "Voile!" a beautiful bucket! We probably had more fun preparing this bucket for school than we would have had packing a backpack!

Here is our bucket list in case you would like to try this for your little angel.

Bucket List:

8-14 quart bucket: Our school recommends a bucket that the kids can carry themselves. Although carrying your own bucket is a small task, it helps to encourage the "I can do it" attitude and fosters an amount of self confidence.

Stickers, bows, flowers, paint, markers: This is your little ones bucket. Provide whatever your little ones want and need to make this bucket "their own". If the children see the bucket as their own, they are also more likely to carry it!

Water bottle: Most allergic kids should be cautious about drinking from water fountains, cups others have touched, or pitchers from unknown sources. I recommend that children with allergies bring their own water bottle. Be sure to put your child's name on the bottle and don't be afraid to let them decorate this either!

A container for their daily snack from home: Regardless of the allergy, the safest way to feed your child is with a snack from home. Throughout the month, I will be posting a "Snack Match" blog that will highlight an allergy-free alternative to resemble a common children's snack. Again, be sure to label this container with your child's name and, if appropriate, let your angel decorate it.

Utensil/napkin roll: This is to be included on an as needed basis. You can just roll up a plastic spoon in a napkin and secure it with a ribbon. Or, for those who like craft projects, you may sew a utensil/napkin roll (more on this in later blogs).

Wipes: If they are not provided at your school, these are an essential. Sometimes it is difficult for teachers to wash children's hands as much as a child with multiple allergies might need. By keeping wipes in your child's bucket, you can teach them to wipe after play or before eating "all by themselves." This way, the child can learn this important skill and remember to ask a teacher to help with this task. Don't forget to label these so that they return to the bucket if they are ever removed.

Change of clothes: Keep a clean set of clothes in a gallon-size zipper plastic bag. Label the bag and you might consider labeling the clothes. Many sewing machines come with this capability nowadays. If your child accidentally gets a dangerous food on their clothes, the teacher can change their clothes before a real emergency occurs.

Safe sunscreen: We are all aware now of the dangers the sun can bring. Because of this, many preschools are willing to put sunscreen on your child. By providing sunscreen, you are encouraging this good habit and removing another worry about allergens your child might encounter. Be sure to label the sunscreen and fill out any necessary permission slips before leaving it at school.

Hat: If you haven't already taught your child to wear a hat in the sun, this is a good time to develop that habit. While some preschools won't apply sunscreen, most will allow your child to get a hat from their bucket to wear outside. Be sure to label your child's hat in case it is forgotten somewhere.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

School Days,School Days...

Each year, on the first day of school, my father would parade through the house singing that old song, "School Days". You know the one:

School days, school days
Dear and golden rule days
Reading and writing and arithmetic
I'm not sure what words actually come next because, by this point in the song, my brother and I were buried under our covers and screaming, "Da-ad! Sto-o-p!" Looking back, I think that my father took great pride in singing this and making us squirm just a little!
This morning is our angels first day of school and time for us to begin what will soon become our family's first day traditions. So, before we grab the school bucket or eat dad's celebration pancakes (more on these in upcoming blogs), I, too, will wake up our sleeping angel by singing that same tired old song, "School days, school days....". Then, maybe, as I wait for the grumpy screams from under the covers, I will crack a little smile!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

She Gets Itchy

"When I eat wheat, she gets itchy."

As the words rolled off my tongue, I knew it sounded crazy. But, two new grandmothers and my new "mommy instincts" all told me that something wasn't right.

My daughter was only two months old and nursing well when I realized that she has allergies. She was itching because of something that I was eating. A new mom and not knowing any mothers of allergic kids, I wasn't sure what to do. At the two month check-up when the nurse practitioner asked, "How is it going?" I blurted out, "When I eat wheat, she gets itchy." There, I said it. Was I crazy? Was she just rubbing her eyes when she was sleepy? "No. Trust your instincts," I told myself as I waited through the long silence and blank stare. Then, this nurse, a mother of four, spoke her golden words of wisdom,

"If it makes her itchy, DON'T EAT IT!"

So simple. So profound. So.........

The words sunk in. No more wheat. Wheat is everywhere. I am a foodie, living in Chicago. I am a GRIT (Girl Raised in the South)! I need my wheat! My pizza, my donuts, my gumbo, my......BISCUITS! I couldn't do it. What would I eat? How would I feed my baby? Most importantly, what would I do now?

And then, as tears fell.....motherhood began.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Under Construction

This blog is still under construction.  I hope that you will come back and follow along as we grow.