Interview with Circle of Moms…


Today is such an exciting day at Allergy Foodie 🙂 I got the wonderful opportunity to take part in  Circle of Moms’s (a network of 6 million mothers) online interview as a reward for coming in 2nd in their search for the ‘Top 25 Food Allergy Mom Blogs’.  ‘Circle of Moms’ also gave the blog a badge that you see in the top right hand corner of this page proclaiming Allergy Foodie as one of the ‘Top 25 Food Allergy Mom Blogs’ – the perfect Christmas gift 🙂 Thanks again to so many of you who voted over such an extended period else this blog would not have seen such a glorious day. Here is a glimpse of how the interview went…

Q. What’s one thing you’d like all moms to know about food allergies (either about your family’s specific allergies or in general)?

Answer:

The one thing that I would like all moms to know about food allergies in general is… despite the jocular twist given to it in many a sitcom – food allergies are not the result of an over protective mom’s fertile imagination or the defining trait of a nerd or a sign of weakness J A food allergy is real – it is very serious and has been increasing at an alarming rate. A person could potentially die of an anaphylactic shock within 5 minutes if they ingest/inhale/come in contact with something that they are extremely allergic to, if they do not get an epinephrine shot immediately. Anyone could be allergic to almost anything at any age – Keira Knightley (of Pirates of the Caribbean fame), Clay Aiken (one of American Idol’s most recognizable faces), Ray Romano, Drew Barrymore, Halle Berry, and even one of the most powerful sports icons Serena Williams – all have one thing in common…they all have life threatening food allergies. So, food allergies are extremely serious and there is no cure as of today but they do not come in the way of being super-successful in any field. A person just has to take care to avoid the things he/she is allergic to!

The only thing food allergy sufferers really need is a little bit of consideration. For example, the next time you have a party ask your guests if any of them has a food allergy and if there is anything you could offer them. With the growing incidence of allergies, chances are high that at least one of your guests has restrictions. The question in itself is so heart-warming that chances are many food-allergy sufferers will not ask for anything special. Just your consideration and sensitivity is enough to make them feel welcome and lay the groundwork for a more congenial and empathetic atmosphere.

Q. What’s one of your favorite recipes that’s safe for your family’s food allergies?

Answer:

Growing up, this was one of my all-time favorite breakfast or supper items. Who would have thought that years later, this naturally Allergy Friendly crepe or ‘dosa’ , as it is called, would continue to be my son’s favorite dish too?! 🙂

A ‘dosa’ is similar to a crepe and is prepared in almost every household in Southern India. A variety of dosas are made using different ingredients – red millet, rice, mung bean, black-eyed peas, chick peas to name a few. However, ‘Rice and Matpe Bean Crepes’ are the traditional, classic dosas. The best part of this dish is – the essential ingredients are just 2 and you have a gourmet, soul-satisifying, nutrien-rich and above all an AF (Allergy Friendly) dish on your plate.

If Matpe Bean is a hitherto unheard of ingredient, refer to a previous post where I have talked about ‘Matpe Bean’ amongst a plethora of other pulse and lentils, ‘Beyond Lentils: Allergy Friendly Vegetarian Proteins’.  

This dish calls for the use of parboiled rice. Parboiled rice is rice that has been partially boiled in the husk. The process of parboiling helps retain more of the nutrient content of the rice and makes it almost as healthy as brown rice. It is easily available in most South Asian stores and even in regular grocery and health food stores. You could use raw rice but the texture of the crepe will not be as good.

Ingredients:

  1. Parboiled Rice – 3 cups
  2. Hulled Matpe Bean – 1 cup
  3. Fenugreek seeds – 1/2 teaspoon (optional)

Method:

  1. Soak the rice and beans seperately for atleast 6 hours.
  2. Grind the soaked rice with a little water until the batter is smooth. Rice flour will feel slightly gravely to touch even when ground completely but take care not to let it be too gravely. Pour it into a large container.
  3. Now grind the soaked matpe beans to a smooth batter. This batter will feel silky smooth to touch.
  4. Mix it with the ground rice batter thoroughly with the desired amount of salt. The batter should be slightly thicker than pancake batter.
  5. Ensure that there is atleast 2 inches space in the vessel where the batter has been poured to allow space for the batter to rise during the fermentation process.
  6. Cover and keep it in a warm, dry place  overnight. It can be kept it in a wooden cabinet or in an unheated oven.
  7. Depending on how cold the weather is, the batter will ferment in about 8-12 hours. It will take less time if the weather is very warm. When the batter ferments, it will rise and become fluffly and airy.
  8. With a large ladle mix the batter thoroughly. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 10 days or upto a month in the freezer section.
  9. Place a large non-stick or cast iron griddle on medium heat. To test if pan is ready: place your hand about 6 inches above the pan and if you can feel the heat of the pan or if you sprinkle 1/2 a teaspoon of water in the center of the pan, it sizzles and evaporates almost instantly – the pan is ready 🙂
  10. The first crepe should be a test one so use just a tablespoon of batter. For subsequent crepes use 1/3 cup of batter. Pour the batter in the center of the pan. Immediately with the back of the ladle, gently press the batter down and spread it out in a circular (clockwise or anticlockwise) fashion till the crepe is of desired thickness. As you spread it out the crepe will start cooking and drying out – so you wont be able to spread it any further.
  11. Dot the edges of the crepe with any Allergy Friendly (AF) oil. Let it cook so that the top of the crepe is almost try.
  12. With a flat spoon, gently pry the edges of the crepe free of the griddle and flip it over gently like you would a pancake or crepe.
  13. Cook on the other side for about a minute approximately. Basically both sides should be cooked and you can cook it to the desired brown color and crispness.
  14. If the small crepe comes out properly  without getting stuck to the pan- the pan is at the right temperature and you can make the next normal sized crepe with 1/3 cup of batter. Use about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of oil when making a crepe this size. 

This batter is extremely versatile and the variety is just limited by our imagination…

  • Mini Pancakes: If you own a mini pancake maker, use it to make mini, fluffy pancakes. Add grated vegetables like carrots, cabbage, green pepper and onions to rev up the nutrition quotient 🙂
  • Rice and Bean Cakes: Pour the batter in small greased stainless steel containers. The size of the container should be no bigger than a 1 cup measure. Leave space above the batter for it to rise as it cooks. Place the cups in a steamer and steam for 12 – 15 minutes. Let it cool down before releasing it from the container.
  • Stuffed Crepes: Similar to savory crepes, place 2 – 3 tablespoons of a stuffing of your choice – Daiya AF Cheese, chicken, ham, mushrooms, mashed potatoes (traditional stuffing), asparagus, turkey, spinach, bacon, sausage. Mix and match stuffings depending on the family favorite – like my little one love asparagus and chicken stuffed dosas 😀

Q. What advice would you give to a mom who just found out her child has a food allergy?

Answer:

Here are my ‘golden dozen’ tips for any mom who has just found out her child has a food allergy

1) Give yourself time to get used to the idea: The feeling that the world is coming crashing down, the intense fear and the hopelessness that gripped me when the allergist called to say that my little one was allergic to all the top 8 food allergens plus peas, corn, sesame, chick peas and more – gosh, I never want to relive that moment. It is natural to feel overwhelmed when our most loved ones are suffering and we can do very little to help. Also, dealing with food allergies requires a lifestyle change which makes the hurdle feel insurmountable at first take. So, be kind to yourself and give yourself the time to absorb the diagnosis and heal. 

2) Consciously pull away from thinking too much into the future: When I first heard about my son’s multiple food allergies, my mind immediately raced to a future time when my 4 month old would be in college, be on the verge of his first kiss and more – wondering how he will keep himself safe. But, it does not serve any real purpose other than paralyzing us mentally and rendering us incapable of functioning sensibly. So, just learn to pull yourself out of the loop which has no exit. 

3) Look for a good allergist who will fit ‘your child’s’ needs: Any top allergist may not necessarily be the best one for you. Go with someone who has knowledge of your food preferences and with whom your child has a comfortable connect. The relationship with the allergist could potentially be life-long – so it should be someone you can easily discuss your issues without hesitation. My son loves visiting his allergist and so do I because he never makes me feel rushed despite my umpteen questions. 

4) Communicating with the allergist:

  • Write down all your queries before visiting the allergist
  • Do not expect that the doctor will remember to tell you everything even though that is what he makes the big bucks for.
  • Irrespective of how scary a situation may be, never be too scared to do your own research when dealing with medical situations. The discussion with the allergist will be that much more fruitful if you are informed.
  • Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion.

 5) Read the ingredient listing of every product you use: Each time, every time and even if it is a product you have used a million times before. Apart from food be alert with all other things too – vaccines and shots (For example, the flu shot is developed from an egg-based culture so those allergic to egg are often advised not to get this shot), bath care products (soaps, shampoos, creams etc.), house-cleaning products (detergents, dishwashing liquids etc.), toys, paints and more. 

6) Be wary when eating out: If possible avoid eating out until you have a reasonable grip of the situation. However – there are unavoidable circumstances and at such times:

  • Do your homework: When possible, check out ingredient listings, menus and potential choices beforehand. Call the restaurant or the parent company if ingredient listing is not available. You will be surprised what things can go into the simplest of dishes! Even a techno-phobe like me switched to a blackberry so that I have instant access to online menus, nutritional information and ingredient listings.
  • Stick to known and simple dishes: As a lifelong vegetarian, I had no clue that chicken could be marinated in yogurt.  Therein I made the mistake of giving baked chicken marinated in yogurt to my son who is allergic to dairy. So, when in doubt stick to the relatively simple and the known!
  • Remind the server: Do not expect the server to remember that you have allergies when ordering dessert just because you had mentioned it an hour back when ordering entrees and appetizers.
  • Be wary of every dish: Something as innocuous as a fries may have been deep-fried in peanut oil or a loaf of bread could have milk in it! Why have we stopped making simple dishes?!? 😀 

7) Always keep medicines handy (Epinephrine shot and Antihistamine dose): One cannot repeat this often enough – we just cannot afford to forget the epinephrine auto injector (EpiPen being the most recognizable brand) for a serious allergic reaction and Antihistamine (Benadryl is the commonly used brand) for mild allergic reactions even once. Ensure that the medicines have not expired and they have been kept under temperature conditions specified on the packaging. Be armed with meds even if you are not planning to eat anything outside or are stepping out only for a short while. Also, keep medicines wherever it might potentially be required home, school, your pocket book, day care etc. 

8) Even safe is unsafe: Eating something that you have not been allergic to in the past does not mean that you will not have a reaction today. 

9)     Beware of generic terms in ingredient listings: An ingredient like ‘spices’ may include allergenic items like sesame, mustard, sunflower seeds etc. The term ‘dry fruits’ could include one of the most dangerous food allergens – nuts…scary!!! 

10) Get into the research mode – for two reasons:

  • There are a zillion alternative ingredients in the world that are Allergy Friendly. Just learning about them gives us hope that our children will be able to eat many things even if they can never eat a few. 7 years back I had no idea that nutritious and tasty alternatives like Lucuma, Camu Camu, Yacon, Maca, Buckwheat, Red Millet, Amaranth, Quinoa, Linseed, Millet, Sorghum and more existed. I know that my son’s life is that much more empowered and enriched because I know of so many alternatives. In fact, I would go a step further and say – my kid has healthier eating habits and is more will willing to try new foods because of his food allergies. So, in a way – it has become a blessing in disguise.
  • Find out about every ingredient listed any label – guar gum, lecithin, colors, flavors, dyes, spices etc. One can never be too careful when dealing with food allergies. 

11)  Network: With other parents and caregivers – online and offline. Some parents shy away from telling others because they feel they don’t want others to know about their child’s weakness. However, the more you share – the more you can will learn and be able to keep your child safe. 

12) Mentally alert: Despite all these measures accidents may happen any time and that’s why it is good to be mentally prepared for the worst. I remember seeing on a TV show about self-defense that under moments of extreme stress people react at the lowest level of their training. So the more prepared we are, the more likely that we are to take quick and correct action.

 Wishing everyone happy and healthy Holidays and safe eating…

Q. What are your three favorite blog posts?

7 thoughts on “Interview with Circle of Moms…

  1. wow Anu!!! fanatstic interview!! great going once again!!! congratulations and keep em coming!! we need more like you!

  2. Congrats Anu ! very informative interview ! Cannot but help but be in awe of your knowledge of Allegry and the remedy for it!!

    1. Thanks Vivek – guess life had a plan for me when I did an undergrad in Food n Nutrition all those years back 🙂

  3. Congradulations on your nomination! Great interview…words of wisdom! Living with life threatening food allergies can be overwhelming, stressful and challenging…on the flip side there is a silver lining…it can teach our children compassion, encourage us to widen our perspective to live outside our boxes and promote a healthier lifestyle. I am constantly learning and am thankful for blogs like yourself! Susan H. @ The Food Allergy Chronicles

    1. I so agree Susan. I sincerely feel that my little one has very healthy eating habits and is always ready to try new foods (after I approve it) because of his food allergies and not despite it. As for ’empathy’ – I have even written a post on how that word became a part of active dictonary only after I was faced with huge challenges :-))

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