June 29, 2011

Daily Bite: Tristan and Anaphylaxis Scare

We spent all afternoon in the ER today.  Yes, after having an Epipen for Tristan for almost six years of his life, I finally had to use one. 

About an hour after having his usual In-N-Out hamburger with ketchup instead (of sauce) and grilled onions, fries, and a lemonade, he started in on a dry cough and tell-tale tummy ache.  I rushed to get him a Benadryl and Claritin, and two puffs of his inhaler. 

Then the wheezing started, and I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.  I got the Epipen out of his backpack, pulled off the cap while he cried and squirmed on his bed, and administered it for the first time.  Very shortly after that, his breathing sounded better.  I knew I had done the right thing.

Once we were inside the ER, it was a bit of a blur, but I know sometime between saying the words "anaphylaxis" and "Epipen," Tristan was escorted directly in, and was in a hospital gown on a bed with monitors attached by the time I went back.  Much relief.  More Benadryl, steroids for the itching, swelling, and hives that had developed on the way over, and waiting.  We were in good hands (thanks to all the nurses and staff who worked Room 1 at the Pediatric ER today!).

This is Tristan with ice packs tied to his arms and legs.  The itching was unbearable. 
Red, puffy skin was replaced by his smoother, olivey skin by the time we left, and Tristan was actually getting tired of watching an entire season of Phineas and Ferb (they had a DVD player with a very impressive kids' DVD collection).  Sigh of relief...

A few lessons learned:
1. No matter how tired, stressed, or busy, take any possible allergy symptoms seriously.  I was really hoping Tristan's stomachache was nothing, but my instincts told me otherwise.
2. You know you're supposed to go to the hospital after administering the Epipen, and for a few minutes I thought, how inconvenient it would be to spend hours in the ER right now.  I'm so glad my adrenaline and sense kicked in and that we went.
3. Have a go-to place for your at-home Epipen.  If I wasn't home, I wonder if another caretaker would know to find the Epipen in Tristan's pack.  Probably not.  I'm stocking up tomorrow and hanging the pen inside the hall closet door. 
4. Even if you don't expect to be eating anything, please have your Epipen.  Tristan's symptoms didn't kick in until about an hour after he ate. 

As of now, we're still unsure about the cause of his attack.
Tonight, everyone's fine.  Tired, but good.

June 27, 2011

"Cheeses" - some milk-free options

Vegan cheese makes good pizza possible for milk-allergic families.

If you're a milk-allergic family, you know how tricky it is to make meals without cheese.  Typical kid favorites like pizza and macaroni & cheese aren't exciting options without gooey, salty melted cheese.  Lucky for us, food habits are changing and there are companies producing alternatives to traditional cheese.  But with so many food products on market shelves, it can be daunting to sift through all the choices for a safe and tasty cheese alternative.

A big problem I have is over the confusion brought on by the widely available "soy cheese".  With so many soy replacements for milk products these days (soy milk, soy yogurt, soy ice cream, soy creamer to name a few), "soy cheese" sounds like it must be made from soy and it is -- mostly.  Soy cheeses, which often advertises themselves as "lactose-free" are mainly for people with lactose intolerance, a difficulty in breaking down lactase found in milk.  Soy cheese such as Galaxy Foods' actually still contains milk products in the form of casein (whey), which is not safe for anyone with milk allergies.  The same goes for "rice cheese" -- it still contains milk products.

Unless your cheese alternative says "milk-free", "dairy-free" or "vegan" on it, it probably has some element of milk in it.  All the more reason to continue checking and rechecking those labels!

Here are a couple of vegan cheese alternatives worth your attention:

Vegan Gourmet -contains soy but free of the other top food allergens (milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish) 
Follow Your Heart vegan cheeses are sold by Vegan Gourmet, a company that also makes the egg-free mayo Vegenaise.  Flavors include the mozzarella, Monterey Jack, cheddar, and nacho cheddar.

Follow Your Heart/Vegan Gourmet vegan cheeses come in a big, soft block so you'll have to cut them into smaller pieces.  It's not too hard to do with a butter knife but it takes a little time.  And you probably won't get the lovely thin shreds you would from a bag of store-bought shredded cheese.

The kids and I like the Vegan Gourmet mozzarella.  In the past, I've had trouble with the stuff melting properly.  So this time I spent a little more time cutting the block into small strips (think shredded cheese).  The cheese melted better than I expected in a high heat oven for homemade pizza, in our case.  The taste was pretty good.  We were less thrilled by the cheddars which had an overpowering flavor.  I have to say, though, that I don't like sharp or bold cheeses so this might be the reason I wasn't a fan of Follow Your Heart's cheddar version.

I have found Vegan Gourmet vegan cheese at Raley's and Nob Hill Foods for about $5 for a 10 oz. block ($4.50 on sale!).  Not a bad price for a cheese alternative if you're willing to put in the extra time to shred them yourself.

Daiya -free of the top 8 food allergens
Daiya Vegan Shreds is the gold standard of fake cheeses among vegans.  It is free of the top 8 allergens, including milk, gluten, and soy.  Originally sold exclusively to restaurants and food service companies, Daiya has gradually made its way into the hearts, minds, and bellies of milk-allergic and vegan eaters through Whole Foods Markets and a select few natural foods store.  It looks like real shredded cheese, the taste is a pretty good imitation of real cheese, and it melts really well.
Daiya comes in convenient shredded form.

All that perfection doesn't come without a price.  Daiya is not cheap.  Whole Foods sells it for about $11/lb.  I haven't been able to find Daiya at any major supermarket chain so Whole Foods or your local natural foods stores, all pricey I'm sure, might be your only choices.

Do you have a favorite milk-free cheese?  Let us know especially if it's not one of the above. 

June 24, 2011

Book Reviews: Allie the Allergic Elephant & Cody the Allergic Cow

Cody the Allergic Cow, by Nicole Smith, illustrated by Maggie Nichols

A cow allergic to milk?  Cody is a young cow with a loving family and a passion for soccer, and he happens to have a dairy allergy.  He wears an allergy bracelet, knows to bring his own snacks to games, learns how to identify common milk-based foods, and remembers that having an allergic reaction is no fun.  His mom carries epinephrine in her bag in case of an accidental ingestion.  A simple book for young ones to enjoy and learn from. 

Allie the Allergic Elephant by Nicole Smith, illustrated by Maggie Nichols

Allie is a cute young elephant who is allergic to peanuts!  With simple and engaging language and cartoon-like drawings, little kids will love Allie and her story.  I read it to my boys, 4 and 6, and it prompted a discussion about symptoms of an allergic reaction in a very matter-of-fact way.  I appreciate how the book describes Allie as special and unique because of her allergies.

June 22, 2011

In the News: New study estimates that food allergies affect 8 percent of all children

Photo by Dan4th/Flickr

In the past, food allergies were believed to impact 1 in 25 children under 18 years of age.  A recent study has concluded that food allergies are twice as common as previously thought, affecting 8 percent, or roughly 1 in 13 kids.  These findings come after analyzing survey data of about 38,000 parents.

Of the reported food-allergic kids of the survey, 40 percent had a history of severe allergic reaction; their reactions seemed to gain in severity as the kids got older; and Asian and African American kids are more likely to have allergies than their Caucasian peers.

CNN and Huffington Post have written articles about the study and the real risks of food allergies.  Both articles are worth reading as they detail the findings and also feature how two families have been forever changed by food-related anaphylaxis.

1 in 13 kids are affected by food allergies...How many kids' in your child's classrooms have food allergies?

June 20, 2011

Mango Salsa

I remember hovering over a huge bowl of mango salsa last Christmas.  The salsa, which was made by my cousin-in-law, Candice, was addictive.  It especially hit the spot on that wintry Maryland night and the entire bowl was quickly gobbled up by aunts, uncles, and cousins as we waited for dinner.

With summer here and mangoes selling for 37 cents at our local market, I thought of that yummy salsa and decided to make it myself.  I used a highly rated recipe from AllRecipes.com with a couple of minor changes.  My husband and Ryken loved it!  Sadly, veggie-averse Callan wouldn't touch the stuff even though I doubled the mango to entice him.  I guess I'll have to set aside some plain old chopped mangoes next time.

The recipe below made probably 3 or 4 cups of salsa.  (Seriously, it was big.)  The amount of each ingredient is somewhat flexible so feel free to add a little more here and there to get the flavor to your liking.  Eat the salsa with tortilla chips and you'll have the perfect contrasts of salty, sweet, & sour and creamy & crunchy.

Mango Salsa
Adapted from FHIVESHOT's Avocado, Tomato, and Mango Salsa on AllRecipes.com

2 ripe mangoes, diced
1 avocado, diced
2 to 4 medium tomatoes, diced (I like less tomatoes in my salsa)
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp olive oil
Juice of one lime
3 cloves garlic, minced or 1 tsp bottled minced garlic
1 tsp salt
  1. Gently combine all ingredients.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (overnight is fine) to allow flavors to mix together.
  2. Serve with tortilla chips or on the side of your favorite Mexican dish.


June 17, 2011

Tiramisu -Dairy-free, Egg-free, Nut-free


Made with sponge-like ladyfinger cookies, mascarpone cheese, chocolate and sometimes the almond liqueur Amaretto, this dessert ranks right up there with Zachary's Pizza as foods I miss most.  My passion for tiramisu was rekindled while staying with family for Christmas and I have been searching and testing for the perfect "safe" recipe since then.

After five months of making different recipes and plenty of eating and tweaking and trying to work off the weight gain, below is what I came up with.  This is at best an 8-hour recipe: the cream needs time to set before layering and the assembled dessert tastes infinitely better when the ladyfingers fully absorb the liquid and cream.  You might have to do on-the-spot adjustments (adding more corn starch) to get the texture of the mock cream filling to your liking.  But having said all that, the taste was delicious and definitely worth making for an insatiable craving or that extra special occasion.  Are the fathers in your life worth the effort?  YES...especially if you get to share the spoils!

Just want to note that, while the recipe I used is dairy-free and egg-free, it is not completely "vegan" as it claims.  Refined sugar, which is in the Tofutti products, is often processed with bone char so these ingredients might not be "animal-free". 

Tiramisu - dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free recipe adapted from Veggywood's vegan tiramisu recipe

Part I: Ladyfinger cookies:

2 cups flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cornstarch
1/3 cup canola oil
1¼ cup water
2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease or line a 9" square pan with aluminum foil.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.  
  3. Making a well in the dry ingredients and add remaining ingredients (oil, water, and vanilla).  Mix everything well until there are few lumps in the batter.
  4. Pour batter into square pan.  Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  5. After the pan has cooled, cut halfway down the pan.  Then, perpendicular from the first cut, cut ladyfingers into approximately 3/4-inch thick strips. I'm usually able to get about 14 cookie strips out of this.
  6. Put strips on baking sheet, cut-side down, and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let cool.

Part II: Mock Mascarpone Filling:

1¼ cup soy creamer or soy milk (The original recipe called for Mimic Creme heavy soy cream.  I've used soy creamer and Soy Dream Original soy milk with success but have needed to up the thickening agent.)
1-2 Tbsp corn starch (you can use agar agar powder, too).  Have extra handy in case you want additional thickening power.
2 tsp vanilla extract
1½ cup (one and a half of the 8 oz. containers) Tofutti cream cheese
1½ cup (one full 12 oz. container) Tofutti sour cream
Between 2/3 cup and 1 1/2 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
  1. Combine soy creamer/milk and corn starch until corn starch is dissolved.  Cook over low-medium heat, stirring constantly to avoid clumps.  The liquid should gradually thicken.  Add more corn starch if necessary. (I always use more than 1 Tbsp but haven't taken an exact measure since I'm always quickly drizzling more in and stirring furiously to avoid clumping.)  I like the texture when it is somewhere between pudding and a thick alfredo sauce.  
  2. Remove mixture from heat and pour into a mixing bowl.  Let cool.
  3. Add vanilla, Tofutti cream cheese, and Tofutti sour cream to soy-cornstarch product.  Blend together using a hand mixer until smooth.
  4. Blend in 2/3 cup powdered sugar.  Taste the cream for sweetness.  Blend in a couple more tablespoons at a time until you get the sweetness you want.  (I end up using between 3/4 and 1 cup.)
  5. Cover and refrigerate cream filling for at least a couple of hours to set.

When your cream filling is set and your ladyfingers are cooled, prepare 2 cups of strong coffee mixed with 2 Tbsp sugar.  For coffee-free, kid-friendly tiramisu, prepare 2 cups hot cocoa. (Try this basic recipe with a splash of vanilla extract instead of salt.)   Pour into a bowl that is big enough for the ladyfingers to lie in.

Cream is set?  Ladyfingers and coffee/cocoa cooled off?  Let's assemble your tiramisu!

You will need:

Mock mascarpone filling
Cooled-off coffee or hot cocoa for soaking (if you are dairy-free or nut-free, double check if using artificially flavored varieties)
Cocoa powder
Semisweet chocolate bar shavings (optional)
  1. Dip ladyfingers in coffee.  I let them sit for a couple seconds on each side until they are heavy with liquid all the way through.  Place a layer of soaked ladyfingers at the bottom of your serving dish.  (I use Corningware square baking dishes which are about 6½ inches across.)
  2. Completely cover ladyfinger layer with cream filling.
  3. Drizzle cocoa powder on top of cream filling.
  4. Repeat steps 1, 2, and 3.  Using a grater or peeler, make semisweet chocolate bar shavings and top the final layer with this if you so desire.
I'm usually able to make a two-layered tiramisu for my husband and me and a one-layered coffee-free tiramisu for the kids using our 6½-inch square Corningware dishes.  Yes, I make more for the grown-ups.  No, I have absolutely no guilt in doing so.  

Another variation:  try a homemade berry sauce instead of coffee or hot cocoa.  I used frozen berries so my results weren't quite so pretty but it was definitely delicious!  With summer fruits ripe for the picking, I might try blueberries with a homemade cherry or strawberry sauce next time.

Happy Father's Day! 

June 15, 2011

Camp Allergy Education 101

You've searched all over the place to find the right camp for your child.  Some seem more allergy-prepared than others, which is to be expected.  Most of us aren't school teachers, allergy education trainers, or allergy mom bloggers desperately trying to get the word out (I said most of us); so, here are some resources for you to gracefully and with every good intention offer the camp you're interested in.  Go ahead and send them a link to this post!

Start here.
Irene wrote a wonderful post a few months back with links to some fantastic resources, including the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (my personal favorite).  Under 'education', they've got comprehensive resources for camps and schools, including a 'Back to School Toolkit' with links to printable posters, brochures, and checklists perfect for staff training, phrases to describe How a Child Might Describe a Reaction (Tristan and Logan often say something feels spicy, or that their tongues or lips tingle or hurt), and their five steps to Being a PAL, which can easily be incorporated into camp rules and procedures:
1. Don't make jokes about food allergies.
2. Don't share food with someone who has food allergies (or just not at all)
3. Wash your hands after eating.
4. Ask what your friends are allergic to, and help them avoid it.
5. If a food allergic friend becomes ill, get help immediately!

The You Tube Generation
Many of your child's camp counselors will probably be in their teens, with active Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube accounts (as I'm writing this, they're off to something new!).  For high impact for the tech savvy generation, email the camp a link to a 6 minute youtube video called Kids Living With Food Allergies produced by the Food Allergy Initiative, featuring some very articulate allergy kids speaking candidly about their food allergies (it's hard not to love this video and learn so much from these super cute allergy kids!).

If they'll be serving your child snack or other foods, provide them with cheat sheets for the common allergens.  Finding out if something contains dairy, for example, doesn't always mean searching for the ingredient "milk."  Buttermilk, whey, and casein (and many more) are all other forms of dairy.  As allergy moms, we know that hidden allergens are everywhere; but for others, this is new (and important) information.  If anything, it'll make them think twice about serving up your child snacks without discretion. 

Don't forget to give them some safe snack suggestions for your child, being as specific as possible; or, just send along a stash of snacks for your child labeled with her name).

Wear Your Allergens
If you haven't already, research and find an allergy necklace or bracelet that your child will wear--easier said than done.  Tristan has a dog tag listing all his allergies and meds.  I finally convinced him to wear it to school, but found that the chain actually irritates his skin after a long day of school or play, so he doesn't usually wear it anymore.  Check out STATkids or Allerbling (great for multiple allergies) for some fun allergy bracelets your child is sure to want to wear!  And Jeeto's patches for lunch bags and backpacks are WAY cool.

Everyone Loves a Good Book
Provide the camp with (or refer them to) a allergy-themed picture book that can be read to the children at the camp to open up a discussion about allergies, if possible.  Depending on age, there are lots of good ones to choose from.

With open communication, education, and information, it is possible for your child to thrive at camp this summer.  Get more info about keeping your allergy kids safe at camp, send them off with some peace of mind, and enjoy a little me time!

INGREDIENT CHANGE! Rainbo White Bread and Buns now have DAIRY

Why do they do that? 

At the market the other day, my husband (yes, being the good allergy wise dad he sometimes is) realized that our tried and true Rainbo white bread now contains dairy.  And so do the hamburger and hotdog buns.  So we're back to Milton's Healthy White, which has a different texture (not so Wonderbread-esque), but it works (or maybe it's just finally time to wean them off white bread!).  You can find several of Milton's varieties, including delicious dairy-free hotdog and hamburger buns at your local Trader Joes.

June 13, 2011

Time Stands Still with Silhouettes for Father's Day

Fantastic June day in San Francisco.  Fantastic--meaning while everyone else's summer has seemed to arrive early, the clouds above our city still think it's February.

The plan was to get the kids much needed haircuts.  Drizzle, then rain fell.  Rain!  I felt like curling up in a blanket and staying in all day.  What better time to start brainstorming ideas for Father's Day. 

This idea actually came to me as an end-of-the-year project with Tristan's first grade class.  We used the silhouettes for two projects: take-home plaques and bookplates for new books for the teacher's classroom collection.  (As a teacher, there was nothing like adding brand new books to my library!)

The project is fairly easy but has a few steps involving technology.  Don't worry, I figured it out, so you definitely can.  In fact, when I first came up with this project, I thought about my very own childhood and how we created our silhouettes in school with the overhead projector.  Thank goodness I bounced my idea off of my friend (and knitting extraordinaire) Christie who let me in on the updated way of doing it.  Thanks Christie--I had no idea where I was going to find an overhead projector!


(Not pictured: spray paint)
4 x 6" unfinished wooden plaque (found these at Michael's for $1.29)
white spray paint or paint
black construction paper
Mod Podge (I used glossy but I think I'd like the look of matte instead--the yellow label)
glue or paint brush
digital camera and printer
ribbon or twine for hanging


1. Spray paint or paint the plaque and set aside to dry.  I used white because I like the black/white contrast.  But I'd love to see other color combos!

2. Wrangle up your squirmy kids and get them to stand profile for you in front of a window or plain background (it may take a few tries).  A few hints: For girls, if they'll let you get pigtails or braids in their hair, it gives a really cute result--but that just may be too much to ask.  Try to have them in simple clothes without too much bulk around the neck.  Try to get them to relax, and try a few variations, like mouth closed and open, smiling and not, etc. so you have a few to choose from.

3. Print out the best one (I know, they're all so cute!), resizing so it's a good size for the plaque (I resized to 30% of original picture for a 4x6 plaque).

4. If you want to get an idea of how it'll turn out as a silhouette, you can play with it on Photoshop or a similar program by adjusting contrast and brightness.  Let me assure you, though, your child will look ever so precious!

This is how the picture looked after I fiddled around with the contrast and brightness in Photoshop.

5. Place the printout over a piece of black construction paper and cut carefully around the profile.  (If you want two silhouettes, fold the construction paper in half before cutting.  This may not work so well with thicker paper).

6. Once the plaque is dry, have your child write his name on the back with a Sharpie, or a message to dad if age-appropriate.  Logan wrote, "Dear Daddy--Logan," with an abstract drawing.

7. Brush some Mod Podge onto the surface, and center the silhouette.  Brush a thin layer of Mod Podge on top of the paper.  Let dry and you're done!

You can use a staple gun (oh, I wish I had one!) or nail (or a bunch of strong tape) to attach a ribbon or twine for hanging.  There are so many variations to this craft but I chose to keep it simple (think: embellishments, scrapbooking paper, glitter, little bow for the hair, etc.).

Even if you don't think you'll get to this craft anytime soon, take the profile pics of your kids when you get the opportunity.  Their hairstyles, expressions, and postures will change over time, and you may never get a chance to capture them in this way again!  Make personalized bookplates for her favorite books or in birthday books, a doorknob hanging, or just mount on cardstock and frame. 

*A few notes about Mod Podge: lots of online sources have noted that Mod Podge is indeed gluten-free.  You can also make your own by adding 3:1 allergy-safe glue and water.  If you just need a bit for a small project like this one, pour some glue in a paper cup and add water little by little until you have a spreadable consistency.

June 10, 2011

Roasted brussel sprouts

Many parents struggle to get their kids to eat vegetables.  I am one of them.

In recent years my eldest, Ryken, has gotten a little more adventurous and mature about trying more vegetables for the sake of good health.  My youngest, Callan, is a tougher kid to convince.  If you had asked me six months ago what vegetables Callan eats (besides the ones I finely chop and hide in dumplings, noodle dishes, and soups), I could count them on one hand: potatoes, yams, and corn.

So you can imagine how excited I am to tell you that Callan has added two vegetables to his repertoire!  One is broccoli, which seemed inevitable since we eat a lot of it in this house.  The other is brussel sprouts.  Yes, you read right.  Brussel sprouts.

I myself didn't grow up eating brussel sprouts but I often heard how horrible they were from fictional books and TV shows.  The unflattering depictions did not inspire me to run out to the store and try them, that's for sure.  Then last winter I tried them for the first time when my visiting mother-in-law made them.  Whoa.  It was then I understood the smell and bitterness that people complained about.

Flash forward a couple months later.  I had made some roasted vegetables for my brother-in-law and he asked if I had ever tried roasting brussel sprouts.  He had become a big fan of them recently and made them often.   I hadn't ever tried but figured if my brother-in-law raved about them, it was worth a try.

My brother-in-law makes them with some balsamic vinegar.  I tried that a couple times but after the lukewarm response from my kids, I decided to go without.  Not only did I like the brussel sprouts but Ryken and Callan liked them, too.  They liked them so much they were fighting over the leftovers the next day.  At breakfast.

I used JAGATAC's recipe found on AllRecipes.com.  While I haven't changed the ingredients, I do prep the sprouts a little differently and my cooking time is shorter.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Adapted from JAGATAC's submission of Roasted Brussel Sprouts on AllRecipes.com

1 1/2 pounds brussel sprouts, cut in half
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper (optional)
  1. Preheat oven at 400 degrees.  Grease 13"x9" or larger shallow pan or line with aluminum foil.
  2. Cut brussel sprouts in half lengthwise.
  3. Toss sprouts with oil.  
  4. Sprinkle salt and optional pepper over sprouts and retoss to distribute throughout the sprouts.
  5. Position sprouts flat side down on pan.  Bake for 13-15 minutes until tops just start to brown.
  6. Remove pan from oven and turn over sprouts flat side up.  (The flat sides should have started to brown, too.)  Bake for an additional 5 minutes or so.  Be careful not to burn them!
  7. Remove from oven and transfer to serving dish.  Enjoy them warm.

Restaurant review: Miglet's Cupcake Shop

Located in Danville, Miglet's Cupcake Shop is a bakery in which all products are completely gluten-free. In addition to their array of gluten-free pastries and savories, Miglet's has widened their menu to offer safe options for people living with other food allergies, too. Some of their special offerings include vegan chocolate and vanilla cupcakes which are gluten-, dairy, soy-, and egg-free.

For the benefit of local GetAllergyWise readers, I decided to visit the shop with Ryken to sample some of their vegan cupcakes. (Yes, I took one for the GAW team.)

Ryken could hardly contain his excitement over being in a bakery where he could actually eat! He wanted to try everything. I narrowed our tasting to four of the six vegan flavors available that day: lemon blueberry, red velvet, vegan chocolate, and vegan coconut. The cupcakes were average to smallish (nowhere near the size of the monstrous Sprinkles vegan cupcakes we've tried). And how did they taste: pretty good! I especially liked the frosting on the vegan chocolate -- not too cloyingly sweet. My husband was a fan of the rich coconut.  Ryken liked the tangy lemon blueberry best. We didn't bother asking Callan because he was busy licking up every last crumb off the liners. :) 

At $3.00-$3.50 per cupcake, Miglet's offerings are not cheap. When you have special dietary concerns, though, the peace of mind in knowing that your gluten-allergic child can enjoy a treat worry-free may be worth it. For me they are a great option for special occasions.

Helpful hint: If you are local, "like" Miglet's Facebook page and will you receive updates on their daily offerings and special Buy One, Get One Free deals.

Happy Anniversary Miglet's!  Stop by for their anniversary celebration, this Saturday, June 11, 2011 from noon to 6 pm.  

** Updated August 30, 2011**
We had Miglet's cupcakes again today and they did not disappoint.  I also indulged in a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free chocolate crinkle cookie and a GFDFEF chocolate chip cookie.  Divine!

I've always baked my own cupcakes.  So after finally spending a few months checking out other cupcake shops, I've realized that Miglet's cupcakes are comparable in cost to other gluten-free cupcakes.  Also, they are sized the same as any ordinary cupcakes.  One cupcake was just right for each of my kids and I was pleased that they enjoyed frosting and cake!  My kids are notorious for only eating the frosting.

Sprinkles vegan cupcakes were my entry point into bakeshop cupcakes and now I realize those are abnormally huge.  (No wonder I gain a pound for each of their cupcakes...)

June 8, 2011

Party time! What I am packing?

It seems like the moment the chilliest days are gone, our family hops on the kiddie birthday party circuit.  In the last five weeks alone, the kids have been to six parties.  It's been a lot of fun but my kids' food allergies (milk, peanuts, tree nuts) definitely require a bit more behind-the-scenes preparations.

Here are things I like to take to every party:
  1. Homemade safe cupcakes -  In addition to being free of my kids' allergens, I like to make these egg-free.  I often bring extras to parties in case there are other party guests who are vegan or egg-allergic.  For school parties, I pack one cupcake in a holder like this.
  2. Safe party foods - If I know in advance what's being served (like pizza, pasta, or chicken nuggets) I try making a close but safe alternative if I have the time.  (Yes, I did boldface the "if".)  I also pack fresh fruit and some crackers in case snacks accompany a main meal.
  3. Allergy medications - Our allergy med pack (with antihistamine and Epi-Pen. Jr.) comes with us everywhere even if I don't plan for my kids to eat any party food.  Always be prepared even in familiar situations because cross contamination and accidental ingestion can occur anywhere.
  4. Personalized cups - After two experiences in which other guests drank from Ryken's cup or juice box by mistake (and nearly having a panic attack each time), I began bringing our own cups to parties.  I use Take 'n' Toss cups and write my kids' names on them with a permanent marker.  Their cups stand out in the sea of juice boxes and paper cups.  Chances are high that no other kids will have the identical cups especially with names like theirs. 
  5. Sharpie permanent marker - I'd rather have my guys drink from their Take 'n' Toss cups but sometimes the juice is better left in a box.  Having a permanent marker is great for labeling juice boxes.  I also use it to write the kids' names on the edge of their plates. 
  6. Allergy IDs - We use STATkids wristbands.  They have a white-on-red contrast that makes them stand out.  I do have to make sure to adjust the bands so that they aren't covered up by long sleeves.  And with the popularity of silly bands and silicone wristbands, adults might not pay as much attention to them, bright colors or not.  The wristbands are good to use as an alert but please don't rely solely on these to keep your kids safe among others.
  7. Wet wipes - Ideally we wash our hands with soap and water before eating...but that's not always possible.  :)  
  8. Me - Well, me or my husband.  My kids are only 5 and 3 so it's not unusual that we parents would stay for a kid's party.  But as the kids get older, I'd still like to stay for the duration of the party.  My thought would be to contact the host's parents in advance of the party to introduce myself, explain my kid's allergies, and ask if it would be okay for me to be present to check labels and keep an eye on Ryken/Callan.  I always offer to make allergy-friendly birthday treats such as wacky cupcakes or chocolates if there are food-allergic guests besides my kids.

What are some of your must-brings for parties?

June 6, 2011

The Ice Cream Social: A Fundraiser for Yummy Stuff & FAAN

Just the other day, I took Logan and a friend to Toy Boat on Clement St. for an ice cream play date (I'll pat myself on the back for that one).  The shop has toys on shelves all the way up to the ceilings, several window seats for people watching on Clement Street, and Butterscotch, their resident horse still only fifty cents a ride--steal! 

So, halfway through the ice cream, Logan started complaining that his tongue felt weird--his telltale sign of an allergic reaction.  I made him stop eating his ice cream and toss the rest.  I'm thinking nut cross-contamination, but really, have no idea what happened.  (We're going to get Logan allergy tested this summer to get to the bottom of the nut mystery).

Oh, how I wish there was a safe place for all of my children to sit down and have a scoop of ice cream in our neighborhood.  Wouldn't that just be the greatest (second only to the myriad of flavors I promised myself we would make this summer with our new ice cream maker!)?

A mutual friend of mine, Lisa, thought the same thing.  And then discovered it's darn expensive to start up an ice cream and dessert shop in the city.  FAAN is teaming up with her yet unopened shop, Yummy Stuff, to help her raise money to open up her doors in the Richmond District.  Made-to-order ice cream and a completely peanut-free shop.  Yay! 

I'm so excited to be sipping wine and enjoying allergy-friendly desserts with her, and hope you'll join.  Call your babysitter and come hang out with us--we'd love to meet you!  Let me know if you end up going, and I'll keep an eye out for you!

Here is the invite...see you there!

June 3, 2011

In the news: Simple party planning tips for food-allergic guests

CNN recently wrote a piece about allergy-friendly party planning.  It offers suggestions on how non-allergic families can create safer, more inclusive parties.  Steps such as asking guests to list dietary restrictions in their replies, including a couple of allergy-free dishes, and filling pinatas and goodie bags with non-food items can go a long way in making food-allergic guests feel just like every other guest.

As a mom of kids with multiple food allergies I am used to the drill of packing safe party food and dessert whenever we go out.  I appreciate it when parents offer to provide a separate safe treat for my kids.  But to be honest, I often decline because I worry about cross contamination and dangerous gaps in knowledge about their specific food allergies.  If an allergic reaction occurred, I would feel awful for my kids but also for the person who was just trying to be accommodating.  Another thing is I hate to inconvenience hosts -- I've thrown enough parties to know it's a lot of work!  But when hosts insist on making safe cupcakes for the whole party and serving fresh fruit and homemade dishes that have been vetted by me, I am grateful.  That's when I feel safest for my kids to partake.
While others had pizza, Ryken ate salmon pasta made especially for him.

Despite my own worries, the party tips mentioned in the article are great.  And the fact that this article was written and posted on CNN is even more great.  I cheer every time food allergies makes the news because this means awareness is growing.  And with more awareness, there is more hope for understanding and accommodation.

CNN got some of its party-planning tips from Sandra Beasley, a poet-writer who has managed severe and numerous lifelong food allergies.  Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales From an Allergic Life is Beasley's humorous reflection on growing up with food allergies.  Early reviews have described Beasley's memoir as an insightful, witty must-read for food-allergic families.  I for one am looking forward to reading this!  The book will hit the shelves this July. 

June 1, 2011

Gluten-Free Play Dough

My kids love play dough.  I can't say that I'm much of a fan.  I usually find traces of the stuff around the house days later.  I have found that using a cookie tray or jelly roll pan keeps the mess off the floors.  Or I just have them do it outside.  Here's an easy recipe for gluten-free play dough.  It's simple to make and not stinky or expensive like the brand name stuff.

You'll need:
1/2 C rice flour
1/2 C cornstarch
1/2 C salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 C water
1 tsp oil
Food coloring (I used gel food coloring)

Mix the ingredients together.  Cook and stir on low heat for about 3 minutes or until it starts to come together in a ball.  Once it starts to firm up, the process is super quick, so be ready.

Let cool slightly before mixing in dough.  I split this dough into 4 equal parts, and then mixed in four colors.  Lay some plastic wrap on our counter.  This will keep the food coloring from staining your counter and makes cleanup a breeze.  I also wore disposable gloves to keep my hands clean.  Apply a few drops of food coloring to the dough and carefully knead.  If you need more color, add a few more drops and continue until you've got the desired color.  Repeat for the other 3 pcs with different colors.

Notice the cookie sheet?

B making "pizza"