Food Allergies, Living Life, Travel

Getting Sick in India

From prevention to emergency intervention, our (un)healthy journey to India

Our family of 5 is comprised of three kids ages 9, 13 and 15, and two seasoned traveler adults. Home is in the Washington, DC area and we recently traveled to explore India, the country where my husband grew up.

Our health stats:

  • 2 weeks in India
  • 5 cities visited: Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Goa and Mumbai
  • 3 trips to a pharmacy
  • 0 cases of “Delhi Belly”
  • Dozens of mosquito bites (but no malaria!)
  • Multiple doses of albuterol (for asthma)
  • 1 EpiPen administered (for food allergy reaction)

All in all, I think we did pretty well, though looking at the stats, we definitely could have done better. 

About six weeks before the trip we visited our local Arlington Travel Clinic to consult on recommended vaccines and malaria prophylaxis. We’d been there before our trips to Nicaragua and Uganda and love that we have a travel clinic just minutes from home! We dutifully got our typhoid shots/pills. (Three of us took the shot, it lasts three years, whereas the pills only last two. But despite the OBVIOUS $$ savings, two of the kids who HATE needles opted for the pills.)

I counted EpiPens (emergency auto-injectors for epinephrine, a stimulant used to stop an allergic reaction) and packed the asthma inhaler, extra Benadryl, our malaria pills and some diarrhea meds, just in case. My every-day purse has a stash of Advil and Sudafed. We left feeling pretty well prepared for our two weeks of adventure in India.

Leaving Jaipur, visibly poor air quality.

That was, until day three when the pollution took away my voice and I couldn’t stop coughing. It was: THAT. BAD.

I talked a bit about the pharmacies in India in another post about retail in India. What I found frustrating/interesting is that I couldn’t replenish my pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) supply. India banned it a few years ago. I tried the pharmacists’ alternative and it made me feel sick. And the cough medicine I bought was HORRIBLE. I mean, they don’t use all the fake sweeteners and food dyes that we do in America. It tasted like medicine 😦 Luckily I am a big girl and could deal; but it took me a week of terrible coughing before I thought to use my son’s Albuterol inhaler, and it was magic. I am sure that if it had been one of my kids coughing like I was, I would have had them on an inhaler in no time. (Of course, part of our prep for the trip was to have my son on inhaled steroids to help protect him from the poor air quality, so he did fine!)

To summarize: pollution = bad. Albuterol = good. 

It really was my food-allergic/asthmatic son that we worried the most about while envisioning the trip to India. Our travel experience previously taught us that it was good practice to bring safe foods, understand cultural barriers regarding food and food prep, and be prepared. Thanks to his pre-trip regimen of steroids, he only needed a few puffs of Albuterol the whole trip, which was awesome.

Hilton Garden Inn, Saket – Awesome restaurant and great with food allergies.

And we did ok with food allergy prevention/mitigation too. The first week was harder than the second since we were in hotels and had to eat in restaurants for every meal. He had to eat a few packaged things here and there when we just didn’t feel comfortable with the restaurant or airline, particularly on Emirates Airlines and while dining at the Raddison Blu in Agra.

Emirates, surprisingly, told me “oh, if you have a nut allergy you need to bring your own food.” Now, had I been a good mom and called them AHEAD of time, it would have been better. I think my experienced traveler status had me super comfortable that I could figure things out on the fly. And I could – we had a backpack full of packaged junk food, like pop tarts, cookies, crackers and granola bites. So when I realized – at 40,000 feet above the Atlantic – that Emirates doesn’t provide anything more than a banana that is safe for nut allergies, my son didn’t have to go hungry. Now, this isn’t meant to malign the airline, I didn’t call ahead. But, as someone who eats gluten-free (intolerance, not a severe allergy) I was impressed that I could select a GF meal (among a LONG list of other meal preferences) but none of course were nut-free.

Roadside tourist restaurant between Agra and Jaipur. Food allergic kid ate pasta here…

In India, nuts. are. everywhere. We knew this, and it was honestly the biggest reason we hadn’t traveled to India sooner. At least by waiting until my son was 9, he had outgrown his egg and dairy allergies, which makes traveling SO MUCH EASIER. But our experience demonstrates that knowledge and preparedness is not a solution for absolute attentiveness. Unfortunately for my son, we learned the hard way that having too many people watching out for his well being actually created more confusion and less protection.

After twelve days in India, he ate a small bite of chicken that had (we later learned) been marinated in a yogurt and cashew mixture. Cue allergic reaction and his request for an EpiPen.

[Pause, because writing this still gives me chills.]

We were literally next door to the local hospital in Mumbai, and sitting with a cousin who is an M.D., so we were covered in case he had a rebound reaction. Luckily he recovered quickly and was able to enjoy the rest of his day. This was his third serious allergic reaction in his life, and the first where he seemed in control and calm. Afterwards, he was almost amazed that he ate something that he was allergic to and was calm with getting the EpiPen. I am still queasy just thinking about it – his having an allergic reaction while traveling abroad has always been our nightmare and was a significant reason why we didn’t do more traveling while he was younger. And here we were, living our nightmare. We are quite aware that the situation could have been far more serious, and know we got very lucky that he was fine.

Living with food allergies is tough; traveling while managing significant food allergies is even tougher. But despite the challenges, and frankly the risk, our family will continue to prioritize travel and exploration, and will apply the lessons learned in India to make future travel even safer. If I have any concluding advice for other families considering international travel with their food-allergic children, it is: trust yourself, travel heavy with food from home, and do enough research so that you have an action plan if your nightmare happens.

Food Allergies, Living Life

Out of ‘milk’ in an allergy house

I needed to pick up a few things from Whole Foods this week – and couldn’t quite remember if we needed milk. It probably isn’t hard for most people, but one look inside my refrigerator and you see why it’s complicated in my house.

milksThis is the typical selection of ‘milk’ beverages:

  • Soy milk (original)
  • Soy milk (vanilla)
  • Whole milk (cow, lactose free)*
  • Whole milk (cow)
  • Almond milk (unsweetened)

If I’m doing a lot of cooking or having guests over, then I would likely also have on hand:

  • Half & Half (cow)
  • Soy milk (unsweetened)

No wonder I run out of room in my refrigerator so often! And no wonder its not as easy as having a quick peek inside to determine if I need more ‘milk.’

While we always hoped/assumed that my milk-allergic child would one day outgrow his allergy, and we could return to a cow-focused milk family, other family members have developed a preference for soy milk such that even if his food challenge this summer is successful (fingers crossed!) the plight of the quick grocery trip won’t end anytime soon.

*A note of caution: Before all of our kids could read, we would use black marker to put a big ‘X’ on the sides of milk cartons that were not safe for our son. And even though we are so used to having multiple milks in the house, we always double check what we are pouring!

Birthdays, Food Allergies

Olaf Cake and Cupcakes

IMG_4012The cake!  I mean, I can’t stop eating the cake.  I needed a simple (time constraints up the wazoo) yellow or white cake recipe to adapt for my son’s 6th birthday party. Adapt, well of course, to be allergy-friendly.  And to adapt into an Olaf — that cute-as-a-button snowman from the Disney movie Frozen.

I found the Cake Boss recipe on the Rachel Ray Show website, and made a couple of key ingredient swaps that has me stealing tiny slivers of the leftover cake throughout the day.

First off, I tripled the recipe, as I needed to get an Olaf plus 3+ dozen cupcakes for our large party.  Tripling worked great, though I just filled the bowl of my huge stand mixer and needed to be very careful about not sloshing batter all over my kitchen.

Though we typically bake following real food principles, given the volume of cake I needed, and the short time frame I had to make it, I cheated and used some processed ingredients.  I used about 2/3 of the oil with canola (but that was it, I’m not buying it anymore, this recipe took all I had left!) and the remaining I used the cold pressed coconut oil.  I just LOVE the subtle flavor that it lends the cake.

I also used regular fine sugar, and all purpose flour.

For the milk I used vanilla soy milk.

This recipe is so delicious, and so easy!  I would not hesitate to make it again 🙂

I was able to make two very full round cakes plus 3 1/2 dozen cupcakes.  The cake is super moist, not too sweet (though it does have a TON of sugar in it) and delicious.

IMG_4009For the icing on the cake, I adapted a standard butter cream recipe — subbing coconut oil for the butter, and soymilk for the milk.  Delicious!  For the cupcakes, I cut jumbo marshmallows in half, and put them on top for the last three minutes of baking.  The effect is great (was going for a snowman) and my son happens to love marshmallow topped cupcakes.

A few more fake food decorations (colored twizzlers on the cake, and orange licorice drops + Wilton candy eyes on the cupcakes helped me create my very own Olaf.  Pinterest worthy?  Who cares, my son was thrilled!



Food Allergies, Parenting, Travel

Traveling in Nicaragua with Food Allergies

Quite simply put: when food can kill you, travel can be terrifying.

Thanks to my friend, Linda, a fellow food allergy mom (whose daughter was desensitized to milk through treatment at John’s Hopkins!  Yay!) for succinctly articulating this thought.  Linda has also traveled extensively with her daughter, and was a good resource for me before we left, and in the decompressing that needed to happen once we were home.

The short story:  8 nights in Nicaragua, brought our own food, had one troubling incident, made it home in one piece with no more than a couple of doses of Benadryl. Glad we went.  Slight modifications if I were to do it again.

The long story: [deep breath] I knew that trying to navigate food in a country where I don’t speak the language, or know the cultural issues around food allergies would be difficult. So we planned and planned and planned some more.  Here is what we planned:

1. We packed a suitcase full of packaged food to keep my son full for the week.  Shelf stable soy milk, dry cereal, crackers, cookies, Daiya “cheese” spread, bagels, margarine, dry pasta and so on….  It helped that we froze much of what we took, and then defrosted things as needed, so that kept the bagels going all week (though by the end, I didn’t think my son would eat another bagel for a year.)

2. We rented places that had full kitchens, so we could prepare hot meals for our son and feel safe.  It also meant we could refreeze our ice packs and store our cold items for the week.  This worked great, and allowed us  to make him his favorite “mac n cheese” (dairy free of course!), baked chicken and warmed bagels.

3. We brought along a lot of emergency medication.  Like 8 epi pens, tons of Benadryl and even filled a script of liquid prednisone (the steroid) after I had read that not all counties readily treat with that.

4. We had all of his allergy information, and key phrases like “he’s having a serious life threatening reaction to milk” translated into Spanish.  If something happened, we needed to be able to communicate it!

5. We bought emergency travel insurance.  I wanted the peace of mind that if we needed to get out fast for a medical issue, we’d have help.  The travel clinic where we got our typhoid shots before the trip told me that the travel insurance carriers were great resources for local medical help, too.  So we didn’t just buy the insurance, we printed out all the contact information and coverage instructions so we could be prepared.

6. We brought tons of antibacterial hand wipes, to clean hands plus surfaces on the airplane or in restaurants.  (Remember, antibacterial gel doesn’t remove food allergens!)

7. Most importantly, we were really careful.  We planned to be really careful.  At home, we eat out and we let our son eat restaurant food, once we’ve done the song and dance about cross contamination and all that.  But we decided that we would take no chances while we were traveling, and unless we cooked it, he wasn’t eating it.  This really bummed him out, but we stuck to our plan — except for the fruit smoothie we got him at the American-owned hotel Mango Rosa, where we were able to have the food allergy song and dance conversation with the American owner, and we went for it.  But then we felt stupid and remembered our plan and didn’t deviate again.

But like many well planned events, we failed to foresee every possible issue, and found ourselves in a bit of a pickle (I mean panic) while on an aging ferry on Lake Nicaragua on our way to the most remote place on our trip.

IMG_3752No sooner than we lifted anchor and found ourselves leaving land did my son start to show signs of an allergic reaction.  We were seated in the passenger area of the cramped ferry — broken seats everywhere, lots of holiday tourists on board, and vendors had been on board selling sunglasses and roasted nuts.  Yes, roasted nuts.  We hadn’t let my son sit down, for fear of the seats being contaminated, but he got hives on his face and neck and started to complain of an itchy throat.  He was scared.  We were terrified.  This all happened within minutes of leaving the port.  I had him outside in fresh air immediately, washing him down with those handy wipes, dosing him with benadryl and counting epis in my head while I imagined having to ask them to turn the ferry around.

For all the adrenaline and fear I experienced, the whole thing resolved itself almost as fast as it came on.  But from that moment on, I was berating myself for putting us in this position.  I mean, what was I thinking taking my FAMILY to this remote place?  How could I bring my allergic son to someplace SO FAR AWAY?  And even though we had identified before our trip that there was a hospital on Ometepe Island, I was sick about the might-ofs that were running through my head.

My darling husband was calm once we were off the ferry (under an hour on the ferry) but I wasn’t calm until we had finished our three night stay on the island and were safely back in the more developed, modern city of Granada.  On the return ferry, we never took our son inside, and found a quiet spot on the deck to ride out the trip back to the mainland, and it was a blissfully uneventful trip.

IMG_3795The only other point of nervousness for his safety came, ironically, when we visited the active volcano outside of Granada.  Now, we weren’t nervous about the VOLCANO erupting (though in hindsight, I seriously brought my family to an active volcano!?!?) But, the air is thin and the sulfur from the volcano can make it hard to breathe.  I had trouble as we ascended the volcano (by car), and only then, in that moment, did I realize that I had failed to pack my own inhaler AND MY SON’S inhaler!  Oops.  Asthma is not a chronic problem for him (it is more an issue for me) but I really had thought that it was in our bag, but it wasn’t.  Luckily, there was a great breeze at the top and we all had good clean air to breathe.  Problem averted.  But next time I would definitely pack the inhalers!

Next time?  Well, we’ve been home a few weeks, and I’ve had time to reflect on our trip, and have asked myself many times, “would I go again?”

Yes.  I am glad we went. I would go to Nicaragua again with my food allergic son.  I would still do all the planning we did, but I would not go on the ferry.  It was too remote.  It was too “developing” and I was so unprepared for airborne tree nut particles causing a reaction!  I know that the unexpected can happen anywhere, but if it is to happen, I don’t want to be on a remote ferry in the middle of Lake Nicaragua!

Ask my son, and he’ll say he loved Nicaragua, but he has asked “next time can we please go to an English speaking country so I can eat in a restaurant?”  And that just breaks my heart.  Should we have brought food for all 6 of us? Should we have totally avoided eating out (where we’d bring his food that we’d prepared?)  It just isn’t practical, especially when part of our purpose of travel was to expose our kids to the food of Nicaragua.  But I do wish that he could have been more free to get more smoothies, or to get allergy safe pancakes or other special “restaurant food” that the other boys got.  We made sure he got plenty of treats, but they grew less and less special as the trip wore on, and he was sad that he couldn’t eat like everyone else.

What my darling son doesn’t know is that even if we went to an English speaking country, it doesn’t mean we’d be any less vigilant; and it doesn’t mean we’d even let him eat in a restaurant (unless we could understand the cultural issues around food allergies.)  We are seriously talking about traveling to India next time (English speaking yes, but I would not be comfortable with food prep/handling/cross contamination in the kitchens there.)

I would love to hear from other food allergy parents about their experiences traveling abroad!  Happy travels.

Food Allergies, Living Life, Parenting, Travel

“Where’s the Paper?” Nicaragua Part 2: Ometepe Island

Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

IMG_3694Remote. Rural. Lush. Ometepe Island, formed from two volcanoes, sits in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, one of the world’s largest natural lakes.  We debated all week what claim this lake should make, so I had to look it up.  According to Wikipedia, its the 19th largest freshwater lake in the world (and the largest in the Americas.)  Ometepe was our 2nd stop in Nicaragua.  The first was  San Juan del Sur;  read about that adventure in Part 1 of the “Where’s the Paper” series.

From the small port town of San Jorge, we boarded a ferry for Ometepe. You can also take a boat, but we were told, in broken English and emphatic mime that the boats were tiny and rocked a lot on what can be windy/rough waters.  So we took the ferry, along with dozens of other tourists (international and Nicaraguan.)

IMG_3752The Ferry itself is unimpressive.  Worn looking.  Old.  I did see life vests but didn’t bother assessing how many there were.  The timing of our trip was days after the horrific ferry boat sinking in South Korea.  For better or worse, we had been cut off from all news and didn’t learn of that tragedy until we returned home.  I never felt unsafe on our ferry — except for the allergic reaction that our food allergic son had shortly after we departed.  Luckily, the ride was just over an hour and provided stunning views of the volcanoes on Ometepe!

Most ferries to Ometepe arrive in Moyogalpa — the largest town on the island.  Getting transportation in Moyogalpa is easy when you arrive by ferry — taxis areIMG_3680 lined up and eager for business.  We had to wait for the truckload of bananas to move onto the ferry before we could leave, ironically, the only glimpse of that fruit we would have for the 3 1/2 days on the island!  Our rental property was an easy 10 minute drive away, and our driver luckily knew how to find it!

Nestled in a quiet town called Los Angeles, our farm is called Finca Macedonia.  A beautifully lush farm, filled with mango trees, lime trees, avocado trees and more.  A flock of roosters wandered around, beautiful birds abound and a few horses rounded out the wildlife we experienced.  I found the rental on VRBO, and it was amply large and modern, especially compared to other available lodging.  On Ometepe, you can stay in an upscale eco-lodge, or in a hostel.  There tourist infrastructure is very limited on the island, and this was the ONLY house we could find to rent.  It was important to us to have access to a kitchen to be able to manage our son’s food allergies, and so we were very pleased to find the farm house!

IMG_3684The farm keeper and his family live on the property, and saw to our needs during the stay.  My boys loved playing with his girls, and while Emerson’s English was limited, it far surpassed our Spanish, and he made sure that we found the path to the lake, and he arranged for fresh fish for us, which his wife prepared in a traditional grill with rice and beans and plantains!  We picked many mangoes and limes, and Emerson gave us each a large avocado, which unfortunately didn’t ripen before our trip concluded and we had to forfeit our fruit.

In general, our time on Ometepe was sleepy and hot.   Our fans in each bedroom did the trick, but as in San Juan del Sur, nights were loud with cicadas, birds, roosters and dogs.

The day after we arrived, we ventured onto a local bus, and ended up sitting next to a couple from New Zealand, an American and a Croatian.  All of them young, and adventurous — not knowing where they were staying the night, and taking each day as it came.  They reminded us of our younger selves, and also made it clear how different travel is when you have three children and an older parent with you!  These travelers helped us navigate to our destination, and we exited the bus to find the Charco Verde Eco Reserve.

IMG_1118We had a slick brochure from the tourist office that made the Eco Reserve a top destination on Ometepe Island.  But we were a tad disappointed.  The nature walk was nice — we saw monkeys and some beautiful plants and birds.  But we didn’t see anything inside the reserve that we hadn’t seen on our farm or in San Juan del Sur.  It being located adjacent to an upscale hotel and restaurant was a fortuitous coincidence for us, as we enjoyed delicious Nica snacks, drinks and their beach.  The boys rented a paddle boat, and enjoyed cooling off in the lake.  We were so wiped out by the heat and all the walking that we had the hotel call us a private car to go back to the farm.  Private transportation in Nicaragua is expensive, but we were too tired to walk the 1/2 mile back to the main road and wait for the bus.

Our sense of remote isolation was amplified on Sunday, as we understood that public buses are not running.  So we made the day a lazy one and enjoyed the farm and a nice hike/swim with Emerson and his daughter. We made our 3rd trip to the local store — literally inside someone’s home — to replenish our soda supply (which, ah hem, we needed to polish off the rum that was purchased on day 1.)  It turns out that the town only gets fresh veggies/fruit delivered on Monday or Tuesday — and we left on Monday morning.  We ate simply those few days, chicken, canned veggies, rice and beans…  cooking in the house was our plan, and proved harder than we would have expected.  It was HOT on Ometepe, and our home had no air conditioning, so cooking made us feel like we were in an oven.  Luckily, we had ample space outside to sit and try and catch a breeze.

IMG_1120As we packed up to leave Ometepe on Monday morning, the grown ups were more cheerful about leaving the island — for various reasons.  We wanted fresh fruit and veggies, I wanted to be closer to transportation and feel like we could access modern medicine should there be an issue, and we craved air conditioning.  I realized how soft I had become in how much the heat bothered me.  The kids never complained.  Even my mom was more comfortable on the farm than my husband and I (she had grown up spending summers on her grandfather’s farm in Canada.)

Our ferry ride back to San Jorge was quick and uncrowded.  The Easter crowds had dispersed, and things felt less hectic on the return.  Our prearranged transportation was waiting for us as we walked off the ferry!  I loved how easy it was to arrange transportation with Iskra Travel!  We lucked out and Mike, our first driver from the night we arrived, picked us up and took us on the 1 1/2 drive to Granada.

The Bottom Line

My husband and I are city people.  There, I said it.

Ometepe Island is great for hikers or adventurous travelers who need little modern comfort.  In hindsight, I don’t think we prepared enough for our visit, or knew what to expect.  If I were to go again, especially with kids in tow, I would either arrange to have a private car/driver meet us daily or else rent a car.  The island is large, and we would have had a better experience had we seen more, but once we were at the farm, the “schlep” to make transportation work was greater than our desire.  As a mom of three kids (11, 9 and 5) and one of them having serious food allergies, I was nervous about being so remote “just in case” something were to happen.  There are medical facilities in Moyogolpa, the main town where the ferry comes into, but I would have been at a total loss as to how to get there if we had needed it!

Where’s the Paper?”

That’s what I heard when the first rooster loudly cried out — I must admit that not everyone in our group heard that, but once I heard it, I couldn’t not hear it.  I will probably forever more hear “where’s the paper?” when others hear “cock-a-doodle-doo.”

Food Allergies, Living Life

Dairy Free Chocolate Lava Cake (To Die For!)

chocolatemoltencake214 1/2 years ago my darling husband proposed to me over a decadent chocolate soufflé at a local French restaurant.  For our annivesary yesterday I intended to try my hand at the classic dessert for the first time!  However, as I researched recipes and considered my options, I worried that converting a classic souffle to dairy free would leave me wanting.  We aren’t always dairy free, but for special desserts, we don’t want to leave out our youngest son, who has multiple food allergies.

So, I found this mouth watering recipe from Paula Deen, and converted it a bit.  Even though I’m no professional chef, I would venture to say that my recipe was amazing. My kids loved, I loved it, and my husband loved it.  Each individual serving is rich, smooth and satisfying.  Though we about polished off our own servings, we could have easily shared one!

Now, I know this isn’t 100% in-line with our new real food way of eating — I didn’t quite have the nerve to substitute honey for the powdered sugar, but otherwise the recipe is real! I have substituted honey in other sweet desserts with no difference, and as soon as we use up what little powdered sugar we have left in the house, I will only use honey.  I would guess that this would have been just as delicious, so now that I think about it, I’m not sure why I didn’t try!

My modified recipe, with my changes highlighted in red. 

4 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
4 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
10 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup  whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat)
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 large eggs
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.Grease 6 small ramekins with olive oil spray and dust with cocoa.  Melt the chocolates and butter in the microwave. Add the flour and sugar to chocolate mixture. Stir in the eggs and yolks until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and orange extract. Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins. Place on a cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 14 minutes. The edges should be firm but the center will be runny. Run a knife around the edges to loosen and invert onto dessert plates. Dust with powdered sugar.
Food Allergies, Healthy Food

Homemade Granola

My Homemade GranolaI did it!  I made homemade granola on request from my 5 year old.  He’s my cereal addict, and can burn through a box of Cascadian Farm Oats & Honey Granola in a few days.  At nearly $5 per box, it adds up.  But more troubling to me, in our new Real Food way of eating, are the added sugars and maltodextrin (seriously, tell me you cook with maltodextrin?!)

Despite being certified organic, this cereal is neither real, nor all that healthy (so much sugar!)

Cascadian Farm Oats & Honey Granola

As we use up our processed/packaged foods, I’m having to make things from scratch.  I used this recipe for my granola, but ended up modifying it a bit since my son is allergic to nuts and seeds.  I added an extra half a cup of oats, and omitted the nuts/seeds.  I also used coconut oil in place of the butter, since my son is also allergic to milk.  (I plan to make another batch loaded with those goodies, for me to eat!)

Want the truth?  It is good!  It isn’t as sweet as the boxed granola, but both of my cereal eating kids like it.  You can taste the subtle coconut oil flavor, but it isn’t overwhelming.  The cinnamon is the strongest flavor.  Also, this took minutes to prepare (but stays in the oven a long time.)  The only negative was heating up my kitchen on a hot day.

Making the granola felt like going up the next step on our real food journey.  I’m already wondering what next store bought staple will be replaced.  I’m also stuck on what to do about our store bought “O’s” cereal.  I’m buying the Whole Foods 365 brand — its organic, and pretty clean but does have added sugar. I suspect I will phase it out soon.

Please share your favorite granola recipes.  I am excited to try new versions!

Food Allergies, Living Life

Baked Egg Challenge Success

Relief and joy, that is what I feel, the morning after my son passed an in-office food challenge.  Over the course of 90 minutes, my son ate increasing amounts of cupcake made with REAL EGGS.  Not only loving the homemade chocolate cupcakes, my son ate them without any reactions!  He was happy, but didn’t seem to fully understand the significance of the event.  At not quite four years old, that isn’t shocking.  But he did register MY excitement, and had fun telling his brothers and dad and teachers and friends the news “I am not allergic to baked eggs anymore!”

Sent home from John’s Hopkins with instructions to feed him baked egg products no less than four times a week, I am now facing the need to bake and bake and bake.  Good thing I love to bake 🙂  I also need to find recipes that call for more than 2 eggs, unless I want my son to be eating 4 cupcakes at a clip, we need to pack more egg into our baked goods.

If all goes well, after 2 or 3 months, we’ll progress to cooked egg – like pancakes or french toast or battered chicken.  Then, maybe 9-12 months from now, we can introduce direct egg.

The other amazing news from our appointment yesterday, Dr. Wood said that he will “certainly outgrow his milk allergy.”  That is HUGE.  More HUGE than eggs to me, since milk has been the source of his worst reactions!  In fact, his IGE levels came down on almost every food that he is allergic to.  Unlike last year’s pronouncement that his nut and peanut allergies were certain to be lifelong, Dr. Wood reversed that yesterday saying that although the odds are not in our favor, he won’t rule out the possibility of growing out of those allergies as well.

It is difficult to express the kind of relief that this news brings.  We have been in full swing allergy management mode for 3 years.  Not a meal goes by that prevention isn’t at the forefront of our thoughts and actions.  Though we have hit a stride with managing allergies, there are times when the worry is overwhelming.  Food allergies are limiting, and dealing with them is all consuming, so the thought of moving past them is amazing.

Even moving past ONE allergy is amazing.  One less thing to read for on labels, one less item to overwhelm caregivers, and one less food that limits his being able to eat what others are eating.

Baking with eggs is going to take some getting used to, having only been vegan baking (and loving what I made!)  Now I sign off to begin researching egg heavy recipes, and to get baking.

Food Allergies

Dreaming of Baked Goods Made With Real Eggs!

I can bake delicious cakes, muffins and breakfast treats that are vegan.  Not because we live a vegan lifestyle, we are happy carnivores, but because our youngest son has food allergies to egg and milk (among many other.)  For three years I have been making everything baked from scratch, and have learned some tricks for creating delicious replacements for all our favorites.  And even though I’ve become skilled in the art and science of vegan baking, I haven’t grown used to the absence of eggs in our recipes.  While everything tastes great, eggs provide a fluffy quality to baked goods that is hard to replace.  I have learned that using my stand mixer at a very high speed introduces enough air into the batter to help cakes rise a little bit.  But even then, the baked goods are very dense.

For the first time in years, now I am dreaming of baked goods made with real eggs!  That is because my son has been cleared for a food challenge using baked eggs!  It is Thursday, and I am both thrilled and nervous.  My son is almost 4, and should he tolerate the baked eggs at the food challenge, his birthday cake will be fluffy in June!  I’m trying not to get too excited about the implications, it is very possible that he won’t tolerate the egg and we will have to continue to avoid them.  My real goal is that he comes out of the food challenge with a good attitude, either way, and isn’t discouraged about his allergies any more than he already is.

My son has requested cupcakes for the food challenge, and the allergist suggested bringing in icing and decorations to help pass the time while there.  I’m torn about making the flavor he loves most, in case the challenge isn’t successful, I don’t want a negative association with chocolate cupcakes, or to have leftovers around that he would long to eat but couldn’t.

While I am worried about the emotional impact of the food challenge, I am not concerned about his safety.  Our allergist at John’s Hopkins University is a leading researcher on food allergies, and even oversees treatment studies to desensitize kids with severe food allergies.  Two of our nephews are also patients there, and one has completed the milk treatment study and is now enjoying all things milky, especially I am told, the Dorrito Tacos at Taco Bell!  The other nephew is in the egg treatment study.  And another friend of the family has a daughter who was anaphylactic to milk and is now cleared to eat anything with milk that she wants.  This research is what makes Hopkins so attractive to me.  I have said from diagnosis that if our son doesn’t outgrow these allergies on his own, we’ll try to get him accepted into the treatment studies.

In preparation for the food challenge, we have stopped his daily allergy medication that he uses to keep seasonal allergies at bay.  The timing is unfortunate as pollen counts are very high all week, but this is necessary for the food challenge, so any reactions to the food won’t be masked by the antihistamines.  And we are planning for many hours of boredom, in the hopes that the food challenge goes well and we will have to occupy ourselves with books and games and activities.

Please think good thoughts on Thursday, and know that I will certainly post the outcome as soon as I can.  And if all goes well, I think we’ll have a celebration next weekend, and everyone is invited for cake, made with real eggs!

Food Allergies

Peanut explosion disrupts reaction-free week on vacation

As we prepped for our spring break trip, my husband said “let’s do this right and make sure he doesn’t have a single reaction.”  This relates to our string of experiences eating out over the past many months, as I discussed in my post on fear of restaurants.  Determined to avoid any displeasure, we planned and packed a significant amount of safe food and treats for the long drive to FL and back.  Very quickly into our trip, we realized that we could all enjoy our meals out so much more knowing he was eating what we packed.

So all was well and good.  Even our day trip to Legoland went well, again we packed his meals and he and we were happy.

But then there was the peanut explosion.

Back at my mom’s house, with my son’s siblings and 7 cousins, things were hectic.  So hectic in fact, that no adult took notice of two of the kids opening and eating a bag of peanuts on the porch and in one of the bedrooms.  There were peanuts everywhere, I mean everywhere.  Peanut shells, peanut dust, uneaten peanuts, in the crevices of the patio door, in the carpet, on a chair, on my son’s bed!

Did I freak out?  Almost.  I felt panic setting in, but I kept my cool and decided that I had to focus on clean up first.  My 7 year old who was part of the peanut eating frenzy was heart stricken when he realized the potential implications.  I think he was so thrilled to be somewhere that had peanuts!  In all fairness, and in full disclosure, I had seen the bag of peanuts on my mom’s porch the first day, and the adults all discussed that it would be best if we didn’t open them during our visit.  I obviously should have had those put away.  I’ve added it to my growing ‘live and learn’ list.

After an hour of cleaning up, including vacuuming, sanitizing, and changing the bedding, I was done, and pissed off — at myself and the kids.  I mean, couldn’t they have eaten them sitting in one place?  But also grateful.  Us adults kept saying we really got lucky.  With peanuts everywhere, who knew what could have happened!

My son did have a contact reaction from the peanuts; a swollen eye and hives, but luckily that is all it was. We failed at our goal of no food allergy reactions.  And yet I felt so very successful that in all the meals out he was safe, content and we were more relaxed than we have ever been eating out.

I’ll spend more time reflecting on what did go wrong, and surely put more effort to allergy-proofing our environment in the future.  And I’ll look for other people’s live and learn lists, so hopefully we can avoid other disaster prone situations in the future.