Rare Allergies: ‘Mustard’…yes, really!


On occasion, I have been accused of ‘helicopter parenting’ and even ‘apache’ helicopter parenting by my husband 🙂 However, I met my match a few years back in a Gymboree class where doting moms across the United States try to lay the foundation for ‘awesome’ adults in clueless toddlers! She had a little one who was allergic to peanuts – the lengths she would go to, to ensure that a food item was safe was scary for someone like me who had a child with far more food allergies. Yes – it did make me wonder if I was being a tad careless. However, the difference was probably – she let her anxiety show! That in my book, as a mom to a child with food allergies is a definite no-no. We have to be careful at all times, but cannot let that paralyze our lives by living in constant fear! But, I digress…one day, she told us that her child was severely allergic to ‘mustard’ – yes that very same condiment that is used across the world in various forms – in sandwiches, curries, soups and so much more. It is a hidden element in many dishes and may not even be listed on the ingredient chart because it is one of the many spices and condiments used in minute quantities in dishes. Initially, even someone as aware as me did not believe her and put it down to her being over-cautious. Then, when she told me that her son broke into hives within seconds of a small splatter on his arm – I knew it was very serious and she was fully justified in her caution. Years later I came across Kytriya through my blog who talked about the very same allergy.

Continue reading “Rare Allergies: ‘Mustard’…yes, really!”

Gluten-Free ‘Play Dough’ – yeah!


Aaah – the joy of getting tiny fists into a mass of play dough and punching it into any shape their young hearts desire – priceless! Alas – a forbidden pleasure for children severely allergic to wheat/gluten. When my little one reached the age that he could enjoy play dough, it would break my heart to see him look longingly at other kids in Gymboree play with ‘Play Doh’ in Art class. Equally important was the fine motor skill development that play doh helps with. That’s when I started researching alternative ways of making play dough and one of the recipes that worked was this one…

Gluten-Free Wonder Playdough recipe:

1/2 cup rice flour

1/2 cup corn starch

1/2 cup salt

2 tsp. cream of tartar

1 cup hot water

1 tsp. cooking oil

food coloring

1) Mix all ingredients together in saucepan, cook on low heat, stirring occassionally for at least 5 minutes or until it forms a ball.

2) Remove from heat, let cool for 10 minutes. Scoop into a large bowl, add at least 1/2 cup more rice flour, and 1/2 cup more corn starch, knead until well mixed and no longer sticky. Store in airtight container.

3) If it gets to dry, add a few drops of water, If it’s too sticky add more rice flour and corn starch in equal amounts.

If making gluten-free play dough is not your cup of tea, try ‘Coloration Wheat & Gluten-Free Dough’

Gluten-Free Play Dough (picture taken from http://www.discountschoolsupply.com)

Enjoy seeing your little ones discover the joys of pliant dough 🙂

Birthday Cakes – a pictoblog :-)


Arjun’s birthday celebrations have transformed my kitchen into a fun cake bake lab – more power to all us moms who have taken on food allergies as a way to explore alterntives! As his 6th birthday draws close, I reflected on the many hits and misses with his birthday cakes through the years…from rock solid, hard to eat cakes to pretty darn amazing 🙂
 
1 Month old: Wonder why exhausted, severely sleep-deprived first time moms find intense pleasure in celebrating  the birth of their angel every month?! That I dint know the first thing about bakinig and even less about cake decorating did not deter me – go figure! A pretty decent regular yellow cake resulted the first month of which a month old Arjun could obviously not take a bite. My monthly celebrations soon came to a grinding halt because Arjun was diagnosed with multiple food allergies and I was yet to figure out alternatives.
 
 
 
1st Month Birthday – a regular yellow cake!
 
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1st Birthday: A cake that he could not eat but surrounded by the love of his grandparents and cousins in India. Lucky for me – he still thought his fingers tasted infinitely better 😛
 
 
Regular White Cake with vanilla frosting and Winnie the Pooh 🙂
 
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2nd Birthday: Now my little one was old enough to want a bite of his own birthday cake 🙂 An “Allergy friendly Chocolate cake with strawberry filling and vanilla frosting” resulted.  It was CherryBrook Kitchen  that came to the rescue with their range of dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, gluten-free cake mixes! 2 layers of gluten free chocolate cake with a layer of strawberry jam in the center. Talk about taking the easy route but hey – it works! Now for the icing on the cake – frost it with store bought vanilla frosting like Duncan Hines vanilla frosting or Cherrybrook Kitchen vanilla frosting or an allergy-friendly home-grown recipe! For the extra touch to personalize the cake with your little one’s favorite theme – balls, cars, trains…fondant is the way to go! Fondant is essentially sugar and coloring hence, allergy friendly with a professional touch. I used readymade fondant made by Kitchen Krafts.
Remember: Even if you bake the cake a day earlier, do not refrigerate else the cake made from this mix becomes scarily hard and crumbly – eww!  Something that our guests and I discovered as we tried hard to cut through the cake 😉
 
 
 
 Beautiful looking chocolate cake but tad too hard to slice through 🙂
 
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3rd Birthday:  “Allergy friendly Chocolate Brownie Train cake decorated with gummy bears and rolled fondant”. Thanks to The Cravings Place  Ooey Gooey Chocolatey Chewy Brownie Mix. Yummilcious and yes…dairy, egg, nut, soy and gluten-free 🙂 Make it your own and very fancy by using an appropriate cake pan that your child loves – at 3, Arjun was all about freight trains. His birthday cake was complete with gummy bear freight and fondant tracks 😀 Allergies does not mean that food should look unappetizing!
 
Chocolate Brownie Train cake… 
 
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 4th Birthday:  Vanilla and Chocolate Brownie sandwich cake with fresh strawberries and vanilla frosting – ‘Cars’. Yet again The Cravings Place create-your-own cake mix and Cherry Brook Kitchen gluten-free chocolate cake mix came to the rescue. Sprinkles and my little’s one’s favorite ‘Cars’ movie characters, McQueen and Sheriff completed the effect 🙂

Vanilla and Chcolate sandwich cake with fresh strawberries in the center!

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5th Birthday: This year wheat was included in his diet so he got to have a customized dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soy-free but made from regular wheat flour! Was he excited to have his very first store made birthday cake  just like other kids or what?! So much for homemade!!! All kids want is what other kids seem to be getting and not something unique 😀 So, it was a vanilla sponge cake with Spongebob plonked right in the center for good effect…



eggless, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free sponge cake

With his 6th birthday right around the corner wonder what surprises this year will bring…but, we are sure of one thing – it will be tasty, fun and exciting!

Allergic Girl – A review


One of my favorite food allergy blogs has got to be Allergic Girl . Sloane Miller offers useful, practical and fun ways of leading a full life with food allergies. Her book  ‘Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies ‘ is just what the allergist ordered 😉 The book trailer is a must watch, fun preview…

Her blog is a gold mine of informations but one article taught me a life lesson. When dealing with food allergies, doctors, nurses and parents are always talking about anaphylactic shock, epipen, benadryl et al but I have never heard anyone heard anyone talk about PTSD associated with anaphylactic shock. I am one parent who is guilty of it too – how can such a traumatic event as being 5 minutes away from death not result in PTSD?!? Allergic Girl was the first website I found that talked about this – PTSD . Thank you Ms. Sloan Miller for making me that much more of an informed parent.

News from the ‘food allergy’ world…


Dr. Sanjay Gupta is one of my CNN heroes as he and his team bring a variety of medical news to the common man through the blog ‘pagingdrgupta’ making information more easily available. Here are a couple of links relevant to allergy sufferers:

The latest document released by AAAI (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology) contain the guidelines for the best practices for management of a disease where there is no current treatment – the first ever of its kind.

http://pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com/2010/12/06/docs-get-guide-for-iding-food-allergies/?hpt=T2

The second link addresses the dangerous prevalence of bullying food allergy sufferers . Hard to imagine that young children can find food allergies funny and a sign of weakness leading them to bully kids suffering from severe food allergies. However, I have come across moms who are doctors expressing annoyance with the schools their kids go to for not allowing them to send an easy peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If doctor moms don’t get it – how do we expect a middle-schooler to get it?!? Maybe the idea that its not their problem and the allergy sufferer should look out for themselves is being perpetrated through unconscious social cues.  The media definitely plays an active role in furthering this …almost every other sitcom has one laughable character with food allergies – Dr. Niles Crane from the otherwise brilliantly made ‘Frasier’, Howard from ‘Big Bang Theory’. In an era when McDonald’s can be sued for fattening people and Dunkin Donuts for scalding hot coffee – food allergies, in my opinion, is a far more serious issue!  CNN got an overwhelming response to their article “Food allergies make kids a target of bullies” http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/09/28/food.allergy.bullying/index.html

As a food allergy sufferer or their caretaker, the link to the following blogpost is an eyeopener to what is out there:

http://pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com/2010/09/29/allergy-bullies-in-school-your-thoughts/?iref=obinsite

Is “Fountain of Vitality” history?


A tough and stagnant economy has yet another victim…my son’s favorite brand of allergy friendly cheese is Vegan Rella and ‘Fountain of Vitality was the only store that carried it near where I live. Apart from Vegan Rella, this small chain of health food stores carried a very diverse, hard-to-find allergy-friendly foods. It was also one of the few chains which boasted excellent customer service – they were knowledgeable about the products, were prompt about calling me for back-ordered items and took suggestions seriously.  Compared to giants like Whole Foods, they still held their own.

Imagine the utter dismay of a mom of a multiple food allergy child when I found this notice on their door today,

“After 35 years in business we are sorry to say that Fresh and Wholesome Foods and Fountain of Vitality are closed. Thank you for your support through all these years. We have enjoyed serving you and will miss you.”

In many of my previous blog posts, I have listed this chain as a great place to buy the reviewed product. Unfortunately, that information is not current anymore.

Here are a couple of links that offer some more information to readers about the future of this great chain of wholesome, allergy-friendly stores:

http://www.nj.com/independentpress/index.ssf/2010/10/                  tough_economic_times_forces_fr.html (copy and paste the whole link)

http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=122700044455129&id=178294730441#!/pages/Berkeley-Heights-NJ/Fresh-Wholesome-Market/178294730441

Hope this chain gets a buyer who can keep up the tradition of tough-to-find allergy friendly foods backed with customer service which exceeds expectations.

Hope for peanut allergy sufferers?


I draw a lot of strength from articles which remind me that allergists and researchers around the world are trying their best to find a cure for food allergy sufferers especially peanut which, can trigger anaphylaxis. As Dr. Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn, associate professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai said, “This is very exciting, clearly, because here we have somebody who can have anaphylaxis and deadly reaction from trace amounts, and you’re converting this person into somebody who can tolerate a significant amount of the food.” Whether it is immunotherapy or Chinese herbal medicine which has the potential to help people like my son, the ‘Hope’ makes me feel that ‘Dreams can come true!’ Extremely encouraging article…

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/02/19/aaas.food.allergies/index.html

Uncommon allergies – Flax seed!


Allergy Foodie is so excited to have its first reader contribution – thank you Ali! I wrote an article about flax seed allergy a few months back and since then Ali has helped me answer the many questions other readers have had about this uncommon allergy. But for her I would have never known that microwaveable neck /back/foot wraps may contain flax seeds and cause a reaction in those people who are severely allergic to flax seed. Her input has been so invaluable that I requested her to write a guest post about flax seed allergy. What follows is her personal journey – the symptoms, the many missteps towards isolating the food that caused her allergic reaction, online resources and much more.

April of 2004 was my first encounter with (what would take nearly a year to discover) a severe food allergy. Back then, I actually thought that it was food poisoning and didn’t give it much credence.

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Peanut in Orange Juice – what next?!?


Most of us are sure that we are going to be served what we order for in a restaurant or a food can will contain what the ingredient listing claims. However, we live in a world of cross-contamination, mechanical glitches and human errors! So, food allergy sufferers should always be wary of anything that they have not prepared themselves from scratch…
Yesterday I ran into a friend whose 4 year old son has severe peanut, dairy and egg allergies and had this scary incident to relate.  The family had gone out for dinner to Cheesecake Factory. My friend had ensured that her little boy had already been fed dinner to avoid the risk of giving him something that he might be allergic to at the restaurant. Just so he did not feel completely left out, they ordered an orange juice for him.  What harm could good old OJ do apart from injecting an extra dose of immunity boosting Vitamin C into the tiny sweetheart?!?  Not so…the little one wanting to be extra affectionate to mom insisted that she take a sip of  his orange juice. Not wanting to create a scene in the restaurant, she took a small sip and suddenly felt a big solid particle in her mouth.  Imagine her horror when she spit it out on to a napkin…the particle was a big chunk of peanut!!!  That chunk would have sent her son into anaphylactic shock in seconds had he ingested it. Recovering from her shock, she asked for the waiter. The waiter was apologetic and the only way he felt he make up for it was by offering a free meal. It reminded me of an episode from ‘King of Queens’ where Doug and Carrie are offered a free week at a hotel when their house gets infested with bed bugs after a stay at that same hotel 😀
A similar incident happened to me on 3 separate occasions at Taco Bell. One would wonder why I went to the place 3 times but Taco Bell is one place which offers a huge number of choices for my son and it is one the few places he loves eating at. The particular franchise (located at  (225-227 US Highway 22, NJ 08812) that I visit has extremely poor service. Despite repeating many times what I don’t want in the taco, they have served it up with allergens and their attitude to the mistake has been, ‘what do you want me to do?’ I sent a mail to the parent company and within a couple of days got a call from the manager of the local Taco Bell. He apologized profusely and begged us to visit him again for a meal on the house. So, we decided to give them another chance but managed to get there only a fortnight later.  Here the joke was on us…the manager had got transferred and they were not able to honor their commitment 🙂
One is not sure if in Cheesecake factory the peanut was in the can it was packaged in or got cross contaminated when it was being served up. At Taco Bell, it was obviously a case of human error because the order was taken correctly but fulfilled with mistakes. Whatever the case maybe, a few valuable lessons reinforced…
1)  When ordering in a restaurant, first order clearly for the person with food allergies. Once the waiter has completed that order, the others should place their meal request.  I had noticed that the Taco Bell made mistakes whenever I ordered other things apart from what the allergy friendly meal I was ordering for my son at the same time.
2) A food allergy sufferer should always have epipen handy.
3) Always check the food before ingesting it. The more layered the food is, the more thorough the examination should be – an orange juice versus a chicken taco!
4) Food companies and restaurants should have social responsibility. I wish Taco Bell would have taken a more socially conscious approach when dealing with my complaint. The bitter truth is we cannot rely on that. A particular franchise of even the best chain of restaurants may have a few careless employees so, we have to be careful always.
Safe eating out!

How & Where to a ‘cool’ allergy-friendly meal!


Recently a reader asked me for some resources to make quick, nutritious but ‘cool’ meals for her son who has multiple food allergies. Making interesting dishes for my son has been my objective from the day he was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. Quite a few sources have helped me in this ‘cool’ quest:

Continue reading “How & Where to a ‘cool’ allergy-friendly meal!”