December 31, 2012

A Long Night in the ER

So here's what happened.  We were at my mom's for Sunday night dinner.  The kids were starving, as dinner was somewhat delayed, and I was coming down with something so it had already been a long day for me when we sat down to eat around 6:15.

Addi had already had a few helpings of salad because that was first to come out.  Tristan sat down, famished, after being too preoccupied with video games to notice that his stomach was grumbling like a volcano about to erupt.  He reached for some salad, then eyed the appetizers that came out next.  They were polenta rounds with a savory topping, an extra tray of something my stepdad had made for a party that afternoon.  "Are they safe for Tristan?"  I asked.

"Yes," he said, nodding.

He has cooked for Tristan a million times.  For some reason, I had a bad gut feeling about it.  Over a matter of a few seconds, my instincts had told me that (1) we had never let Tristan try this particular dish before so I wasn't familiar with it, (2) I hadn't asked exactly what the ingredients were, (3) the dish wasn't meant for him, but rather, a non-allergic guest list, and (4) polenta is often paired with cheese.  But Tristan was so hungry and so willing to try something with mushrooms in it, that I let that momentum overtake my instincts. 

In less than a minute, Tristan was complaining that the dish was "spicy."  I had tried one earlier and had not noticed any spice.  This is a very common first reaction Tristan has to ingesting an allergen.  I wasn't sure, but gave him a Benadryl anyway.  I kept asking him, "How does it feel now?"

"It's spicy, really spicy all over my mouth!"

I was starting to get nervous.  Then, "My stomach hurts!"

"Does this have cheese in it?"  I quickly asked my stepdad.

"Yes," he replied.

I rushed Tristan over to the sofa with a plastic bag.  He started complaining about pain in his stomach.  "Try to throw up," I was saying, over and over again.  He wanted to, but he just couldn't.

As the complaining turned to screaming, I started getting really anxious.  "How is your throat?  Are you having trouble breathing?"

"My stomach just really hurts!" he kept saying.  In a few minutes, Tristan looked at me and said, "My throat is starting to hurt and my breathing is getting hard."  I ran to get the EpiPen and administered it, while he sobbed.

He felt almost instantly better.  We've landed ourselves in the ER after administering an EpiPen a couple of times now, and each time it had felt like a long 4 hours of waiting around and watching a few movies.  I was feeling sinus and body ache, had two other kids to get fed and to bed, and I just really didn't feel like going to the ER.  Tristan was already back to reading the book he had brought along, and I had a fleeting thought to skip the ER.  "Why do we have to go to the hospital, mom?"  Tristan asked as I was contemplating my next steps.

"Well, we go just in case your symptoms come back," I told him.

"Then I think we should go, just in case," he advised me.  My 8-year-old was right.  It was protocol and it was the right thing to do.

Once we got in the car, he asked for the bag and said he felt like throwing up.  His stomach was starting to feel nauseous again, and I knew we had made the right decision, just in time.

When we arrived at the ER, all I had to say was "anaphylaxis," and they admitted us immediately.  They hooked him up to the monitors, and started asking questions.  He was still feeling nauseous, but was well enough to ask for the DVD binder once the nurse had left the room.

The plan was to give him some Zofran for the nausea, then a steroid.  Right before the nurse came in with the meds, Tristan threw up into the plastic bag we had brought along.  The nurse gave the oral Zofran, but after 10 minutes of still experiencing nausea, they decided he wasn't well enough to take the steroid orally.

Plan B was to give the steroid through an IV.  At the next check, his throat was still bothering him and his stomach pain had not gone away, so the team made the decision to go ahead and give another Epi injection.  Then, they set him up with the IV, through which they administered several drugs over the next few hours--Prednisone (steroid), Pepsid, and Benadryl for a rash and hives that had developed and was ill-treated with ice packs. 

After about 2 hours in the ER, Tristan was feeling much better.  He was hungry.  He hadn't had a chance to eat much dinner, and whatever he had eaten that afternoon had been vomited out.  He wanted crackers and juice.  About 10 packs of crackers later, he was smiling and ready to dig into some "real food," some chicken sausages that my mom had brought in as reinforcements.

After a couple of hours in the ER after accidentally ingesting cheese, Tristan is covered in cracker crumbs and on the way to a full recovery.  Hives and rash that had developed while in the ER had disappeared thanks to the meds.

With a full belly, he started getting sleepy.  But his blood pressure had dropped, not out of range for his age, but lower than what he'd been trending so far.  So they administered liquids for hydration through his IV.

After another hour, no change in blood pressure and no other symptoms, they decided he was fit to go home.  It was possible his normal blood pressure was on the low side, and he seemed to be sleeping comfortably. 

One AM in bed never felt so good.  We are so thankful for EpiPens and for the doctors and nurses at the CPMC Pediatric ER for their wonderful treatment.  Thank you for saving my child's life.

The next day in the pediatrician's office for his follow-up--Tristan is all smiles.  The doctor recommended we ask our allergist about shots in the near future.
Upon reflection, I don't know if I should conclude that this is the life of a food allergic kid.  And that having a food allergic kid means accidents will happen.  Maybe his allergies are growing more severe,  maybe he'll grow out of them and maybe he won't...should we expect to just live each day as it comes, be prepared, and try not to let guilt pull us down?  Should there be a more invasive next step?

I do know that being alongside my son as he has been faced with a number of possibly life threatening situations allows me to each time regain clarity in life.  I've been able to reassess what is important and what isn't, to think about our core values and what I want my kids to learn from growing up as a part of our family--empathy, love, kindness, and caring for one another.

It's possible that Tristan's food allergies are part of why he has always been so exuberant about life, seizing every opportunity to try something new or different, ideas constantly swirling around in his mind.  "Oh, I know!" is a common exclamation heard around our house.  Of course, that phrase can be heard on a lazy Sunday afternoon or at the most inopportune time such as bedtime, homework time, middle of his brother's tantrum.

To see life through the vulnerability of a food allergy kid is the greatest gift he could ever give me, filling me with courage, grace, and empowerment.  

The kids have been pretty good this year, and their stockings were certainly filled to the brim with goodies; as for me, I've already gotten my gift.

December 17, 2012

Baked milk challenge - the results are (kind of) in

I posted last week about readying the kids (and myself) for a baked milk challenge.  Our hope was that passing the baked milk challenge would allow us to start gradually introduce baked milk in their diets, which research has shown, may open the door to outgrowing their milk allergy down the road.  So how did the kids do?

We came.  We scratched.  We reacted.  We didn't eat.  :(

Yup.  The kids did not even pass the initial skin test in which they get a tiny prick and the baked milk item is applied directly onto their open skin.  The kids had to pass the skin test  before it was deemed safe to proceed with the riskier eating of a known allergen.  So the kids didn't really get to take the "food" challenge. 

The outcome of the baked milk challenge was disappointing but informative nonetheless.  The kids' allergist had had the forethought to order skin testing for peanut and tree nut allergies since the kids were already going to be getting pricks for the baked milk.  So we did learn more about the kids' allergies from the visit. The results of Ryken's tree nut allergy tests were consistent with the history of his blood tests:  significant allergic reaction to walnuts and pecans.  He did not react to any other tree nut on the panel.  (Ryken did not undergo a scratch test for peanuts.  Our allergist explained that results of the IgE blood allergy test for peanuts are very predictive of whether someone is allergic to peanuts.  He registers as severely allergic to peanuts so there is no need to put him through an extra, risky test.)

Ryken: 5 and 6 are pecans and walnuts. Far right is the baked milk.

Callan's results were the most eye-opening to me.  According to our allergist, a wheal size between 0 and 2 is considered a negative reaction to the skin test.  While Callan did measure 1s and 2s for almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, and peanuts, none were considered reactions.  He tested negative to peanuts and all tree nuts!  The numbers of Callan's previous blood IgE allergy tests had indicated mild allergies to most of these nuts.  Also significant to me was seeing that Callan developed a larger wheal in response to the baked milk than Ryken.  This info followed by a rash on his face from being touched on the face by a child eating a buttery cookie confirmed to my husband and me that Callan's milk allergy is growing more severe.

Callan: the upper left is the control histamine.  Far right is the
baked milk. All clear for the peanuts and 7 tree nuts tested!

The world of allergy testing is still a confusing one for me with different kinds of tests.  Our allergist thinks that we can look upon the skin and blood testing as complimentary but she does believe that the skin test is a better predictor on whether someone does indeed have a food allergy.  She was quick to point out that the skin test is still not 100 percent accurate and told about a patient who had a very strong skin reaction but ended up passing the food challenge without any incident.  Food allergies are such a complicated problem.

In light of Callan's results, we have scheduled a peanut food challenge for him for next month.  It certainly will be a challenge as Callan was very resistant of going through with the allergy appointment this time.  I hope he passes -- not that we would bring peanuts into his diet or into the house with Ryken's strong peanut allergy.  But it would give us some peace of mind if we knew he wasn't at a heightened risk for an allergic reaction when he starts grade school next year. 

My kids have both been consuming almond milk and store-bought almonds without problem.  I plan to continue this.  However I don't foresee introducing any other tree nuts into the kids' diets.  I feel better about not increasing the risk of eating something that may have had cross contact with nuts unsafe to Ryken.  Yeah, I know, I am taking a bit of a risk with almonds but I am hoping to keep this one source of nut protein available to us.  We definitely have our EpiPen Jr. sets with us at all times. 

December 13, 2012

Baked milk challenge - Here we go....

Today is a big day for us.  The kids will take a baked milk challenge under the care of our allergist. 

Yesterday I set out to bake muffins in preparation for today's challenge.  It was my first time buying cow's milk for our family in several years.  As my youngest sat in the cart with the groceries, he looked at the jug of milk with curiosity -- a forbidden fruit for so long -- and instinctively reached out to touch the cold plastic encasement.  I firmly explained to him that he still needs to be careful because (1) he has a contact allergy to milk and (2) he hasn't even taken the baked milk challenge yet so nothing has been proven safe yet.

After school I really dragged my feet with making the muffins.  Usually I love baking -- you can hardly keep me out of the oven for three days straight without me emerging with some piping hot, sweet goodie.  But yesterday I just wasn't feeling it.  Was it anxiety?  Was it the possibility of our regular avoidance routine being turned on its head, even though it would be for the good?  I wasn't sure.  But when I finally got cracking with the muffin task, I felt totally out of my element.  I realized I was missing a key ingredient (applesauce), ran dangerously low on another (flour), and I couldn't find any muffin liners.  I did remember that I had Halloween muffin liners in our holiday decorations box -- liners adorned with skulls.  SKULLS. Great.  Just perfect for holding a potentially dangerous muffin.

I kid you not about the skulls.

I should backtrack a bit.  

Earlier this year the kids' pediatrician recommended I see another allergist, Dr. Y, within our medical group to get a second opinion on the kids' allergies.  I was all for it.  After all, in the seven years since we first discovered Ryken's milk allergy, the recommendations on how to address and possibly head off full-blown food allergies have changed.  Seven years ago, strict avoidance was the rule and kids susceptible to food allergies were recommended to wait until the age of 3 to try certain foods such as nuts.  In talking with friends and families who are expecting or have food allergies, it sounds like many doctors are advocating the introduction of some common food allergens early on.  A cousin whose her eczemish son tested positive for a peanut allergy at 6 months was advised to expose him to small amounts of peanut butter.  Another doctor whose eldest had a dairy allergy introduced baked milk products to her youngest at an early age.  (Both kids are doing fine under these doctor-recommended courses of action.)  Make no mistake, there definitely isn't agreement on treatment.  There is no cure but much more promising studies that need more time, and research that suggests that for some people, gradual exposure to allergens in certain forms may help them overcome those food allergies down the road.

We went to see Dr. Y for the first time.  Dr. Y explained to us that individuals allergic to milk may often be able to tolerate milk when it is baked as the heating process as the extensive heat changes the shape of the milk protein and the body may no longer recognize the protein as a foreign substance to attack.  After discussing food allergies and a harrowing blood draw experience for both boys, we found the results of my oldest Ryken's IgE blood test for milk allergy at the lowest it's ever been, dropping below a 25.  At Ryken's and Callan's current IgE levels, they have around a 70 percent chance of passing a baked milk challenge.

I jumped at the chance of having the kids undertake the baked milk challenge.  I have had roughly 10 weeks between our last allergy appointment and today's food challenge to warm up the kids to the idea of taking it.  (Last appointment's traumas:  Ryken hid behind the examining table for 10 minutes to avoid a blood draw.  Brave Callan finally broke down in wails after being needled in both arms when the phlebotomist couldn't find a vein in the first.)  The kids are finally ready.  I am a firm believer in telling it like it us and not tricking my kids into thinking something is fun or painless.  So the kids are fully aware that there will be skin prick tests and, hopefully, the eating of something they have not eaten before.  They know we will be at the doctor's office in the care of many trained professionals that will do everything they can to monitor and minimize risk.  They also know there will be DVDs, books, drawing time, and a No School Day at the doctor's office.

The muffins are ready.  The kids are ready.  Am I ready?  I think so.  Avoiding milk has been such a big part of our lives that I'm not sure how I will react if the kids get to take that first bite.  Horror?  Excitement?  Tears of joy?  Whatever the emotions may be, I will embrace them in this bumpy journey living with food allergies.

December 10, 2012

Chocolate Coconut Brownies - rich with flavor but not with the top allergens

These brownies taste even fudgier after refrigerating them overnight,
if you can stand to wait that long!

The other day I was browsing (because who has the luxury to read?) through a magazine.  I came upon a restaurant review and a dessert photo, a brownie dolled up with all the trimmings.

Brownies.  Classic.  Decadent. 

I love brownies but I also fear them.  Fear because if I'm making them myself --which I usually do because, dang it, I'm too cheap to shell out $3 for a tiny square of a piece -- I worry that my batch won't live up to my expectations.  And it's hard to tell from a recipe what type of brownie you're going to end up with.

You see, there are two distinct sides in the spectrum of brownie types: the dense, fudgy kind and the more conservative cake-like brownies.  I myself am a fudge-leaning type.  I don't like a greasy brick of heavy fudge but I definitely prefer a very moist, slightly chewy brownies to something that is light and fluffy.  I never like brownies that are covered with frosting or icing, ways that artificially moisten the eating experience in my opinion.  I prefer a naked brownie that can stand on its own chocolaty merits and that can definitely not be mistaken for its cousin, chocolate cake.

One impact on a brownie recipe's texture is in the presence of a leavening agent.  Brownie recipes with more baking powder or baking soda will bring more rise and more of the airiness that cakes exhibit.  The dense, fudge-like brownies and many chewy brownies (I consider the chewies a little left of center) tend to do away with any leavening agents.  Bake time will also affect the texture -- more time in the oven can lead to cake-like treats.

In my life before kids with food allergies and plant-based eating, my go-to chocolate brownie recipe was on the back of the Tollhouse Cocoa container.  Oh my, I LIVED for those brownies!  I tried to find a worthy alternative that was free of milk, eggs, or processed margarine (even if it's vegan) but the texture was always a bit too dry like cake or the flavor just wasn't quite right.

I finally found love in a new recipe that incorporates shredded coconut and coconut oil.  I was hesitant at first because I enjoy my brownies straight-forward, no fuss or fancy ingredients, and including coconut stuff seemed a little faddish.  But I had the ingredients on hand so I gave it a try.  These brownies were not the same as the Tollhouse brownies but they still were terrific!  You can make them with strong coffee to intensify the chocolate flavor or substitute the coffee for additional safe milk.  I have tried it both ways.  While the coffee version definitely does add more punch to the chocolate, I prefer to add less punch (and caffeine) to my kids' bodies!  Just after one piece, they were bouncing off the walls and I was wracked with mommy guilt for exposing them to a heightened amount of caffeine.

Two coffee-infused batches: one using white whole wheat flour
and the other using a wheat-free/gluten-free flour blend.  I forgot
which was which, even when I was eating them!

Chocolate Coconut Brownies (can be made free of milk, egg, soy, wheat, gluten, peanuts, tree nuts)
Adapted from DomesticFits' recipe for Chocolate Coconut Brownies

1/3 cup coconut oil, softened (melted is okay, too)
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup safe milk substitute (I have used flax milk, soy milk, or almond milk with good results)
1/3 cup strong coffee or additional safe milk substitute
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup dark cocoa powder
3/4 cup flour of your choice - I have successfully used white whole wheat flour and, on another occasion, a GF flour blend with a scant 1/2 tsp xanthan gum added.
1/4 tsp baking powder, optional
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup shredded coconut (I use Let's Do Organic shredded coconut, which is dry and finely shredded)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease or line an 8"x8" square pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine softened coconut oil, maple syrup, milks/coffee, and vanilla extract.  Do your best to break down any chunks of coconut oil.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and salt.  Again, break down any clumps of cocoa for more even mixing.
  4. Add shredded coconut to flour mixture.
  5. Combine wet mixture with flour mixture.  Carefully scrape, spread, and stir the batter just enough so that no lumps or streaks of cocoa/flour are visible.  The batter will not be completely smooth and that's okay.  You don't want to overmix your brownies or it may yield a tough texture. 
  6. Pour batter into the square pan.  Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 18-23 minutes or until the texture of the outer edges of the brownies are looking cake-like.  I have baked them for about 20 minutes when about a 1-inch-wide border of brownies looks done (crackly) and springs back from my touch.  The center of the pan should be dry to the touch though it should not be springy or have the cracks that a baked cake would have.
  7. Cool brownies completely before cutting.  The brownies taste even richer if you have time to refrigerate them before serving.  For fudgiest results, store in the refrigerator.

I took the brownies above out of the oven at about 22 minutes.  Two inches of the outer edges are cracked and more cake-like.  The depressed square in the middle was nice and fudgy.  Next time I'll take them out at 20 to yield more fudgy brownies.

December 3, 2012

Pumpkin Refried Beans

Canned pumpkin.  I am obsessed with you.
Tostada with pumpkin "refried beans", corn, sliced avocado, and chopped
kale and tomatoes.  Don't forget the cilantro and lime juice for garnish.

And how can I not be?  It's full of vitamin A and fiber and Trader Joe's sells an organic variety in BPA-free cans. As soon as Trader Joe's stocked its shelves with the stuff at the start of the season, I stocked my own pantry with several cans.  I've been doing pumpkin bread, pumpkin cupcakes, and pumpkin soup.

One day I was preparing to make some vegan Mexican food, a usual suspect in our weekly meal rotation.  I scoured the pantry for cans of refried beans and discovered that I had none.  And we were already settled into our afterschool down-time routine, too late to make a quick shopping trip with the kids without incurring major protests and drama.  This was a time when I would just have to "make it work" with whatever we had.

We didn't have the beans but we did have that canned pumpkin.  And the consistency of the pureed, packed pumpkin wasn't too far off the beans.  Could I interchange the two?  I decided to find out.  I added some spices that you would typically find in a taco seasoning packet to give the pumpkin some Mexican flare.  In many recipes the recommendation was to add two parts chili powder to one part cumin.  My younger son, Callan, refuses to eat anything with a hint of spiciness so I ease up on the chili and put only half the amount in.

Pumpkin Refried Beans
Spice mix adapted from Bill Echols' taco seasoning recipe on

14-oz can of pumpkin (not pie-spiced)
2 Tbsp chopped onions
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp to 1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp salt
up to 1/4 cup water
  1. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine all ingredients except for the water.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of water.  Add a little more water at a time until you get the thin/think bean-like consistency that you desire. 
  2. Microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes or until the pumpkin mixture is very hot and just begins to bubble.  Stir and microwave for an additional 1 to 2 minutes to further cook the onions.
  3. Use as a layer on tostadas or as filling in tacos or burritos just as you would refried beans.

After eating half of a tostada, my oldest son Ryken asked, "Mom, what did you use to make this?"  I casually answered, "Canned pumpkin. We didn't have any refried beans."  "Oh," was all he answered.  He could tell there was something different but apparently he didn't mind one bit.  Phew!

As for my Callan, well, he wasn't a fan.  But Mexican food is not on his list of favorite foods to begin with.  He is just starting to like bean burritos but only if enough Daiya Vegan Shreds are involved.  As with many things related to kids, you win some battles and you lose some.

Do you have some leftover cans of pumpkin in your cupboard?  Give this a try and let me know how you like it.

November 25, 2012

After Thanksgiving Soup

It's Sunday after Thanksgiving, the perfect lazy day to reflect on a weekend spent with family and friends, and ending with an easy, hearty meal to fill our stomachs for back-to-school.

By 1 pm Thanksgiving day, I'd handed the kids off to my brother for some incredible summer weather playground time, picked up the toys off the floor, and even set up the tables and chairs for a party of 16 with a 4 o'clock reservation to feast.

With a mix of relief and dread, I sat down to several huge mounds of clean laundry covering two-thirds of my living room rug, and started folding, sorting, and putting away baskets of clothes that had forced me to send the kids to school in mismatched and ill-fitting outfits for the past week.  I pulled my Honey Baked Ham out of the oven by two, and with an hour to spare, I prepped my quick and easy allergy-friendly desserts--Semi-Homemade Vegan Chocolate Pumpkin Bread Pudding and Apple Cranberry Crisp.  Soon after, the guests started arriving and pouring wine--the party had begun!

Regardless of how much help and support I have before and during these parties, it's hard to ever completely put my guard down and relax.  This year, most of the food was allergy-friendly and safe for my kids to eat, but you are never 100 percent sure, especially when you're hosting a potluck.  One unsafe ingredient in one dish is enough to send a food allergic person to the ER, which is definitely the last place anyone wants to be on Thanksgiving night.

But I managed to sit back with a glass of wine and take a bit of time to enjoy a few small moments and conversations from the evening.  And thankfully, tummies were full and satisfied without incident.  There may even have a been a dance performance and a bit of karaoke thrown in for some good old family fun.

It would've been nice to sleep in the next day, as there were still a couple of dishes in the sink and some crumbs to wipe up, but we had other plans.  We were off for an overnight in old Sacramento--via Amtrak--destination...the Polar Express!  All of the pre-made pasta, leftovers, cold cuts, bread, fruit, and snacks, and an in-room fridge and microwave allowed me to create a safe menu of foods for Tristan during our trip.  Perfectly sunny weather, hanging out with friends, and trains everywhere contributed to a memorable weekend.  Such fun!

Whew!  Finally today, a day of rest.  We are cleaning house and I have our after Thanksgiving Soup on the stove, with a ham hock base, Honey Baked Ham The Soup Solution Green Garden Soup Mix, potatoes, carrots, celery, fennel, and yellow onions.  Containing no dairy, egg, or nuts (note: does contain wheat and soy),* Honey Baked Ham not only allowed me to contribute a hands-off crowd pleasing Thanksgiving day main dish, it is giving me a--quite possibly even better--hearty and delicious soup for our Sunday night dinner.  Paired with a few other leftovers, including our desserts, we will feast again tonight with very little effort.  What fun things do you do with your Thanksgiving day leftovers?

The soup hit the spot--so delicious, I want to eat it for days.  Thank you Honey Baked Ham!

We hope all of our GAW families had a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving, and a little break from the norm.

*Honey Baked Ham's ingredient and allergen information is not published on their website.  Please contact them at 866-492-HAMS for specific questions and up-to-date ingredient information.

November 19, 2012

Cran Mushroom Garbanzo Dressing

Thanksgiving has got to be my favorite "eating holiday".  Lots of hearty root vegetables, the variety of herbs, gravy, and fruity desserts.  There are so many different tastes going on...and I love them all!
Dressing Mix #2 in its pre-baked state.  Looks like it could benefit from
a bit of "flax egg" as a binder.

One of my favorite Turkey Day treats is stuffing, or "dressing" as our family calls it since we never once put it in the bird.  My mom used to make dressing every holiday until it fell off the menu.  I suspect it's because my Chinese mom never developed a taste for it.  Nevertheless when we were young, there would be boxes of dried breadcrumbs, stalks of celery, onion, and apples ready to be transformed.  She would make a huge batch and so we would always have a whole pan left over to my sheer delight.

For the past couple of years I have taken up the mantle of dressing maker.  For this Thanksgiving I wanted to see if it was possible to make a tasty grain-free alternative to traditional dressing.  How can dressing be made without breadcrumbs?  The answer may very well be beans.  Garbanzo beans, to be exact, which have a pretty mild flavor, so mild that I love using this kind of bean to make flourless blondie bars.

I had a newly discovered garbanzo (chickpea) stuffing recipe as a guide.  At the same time I referred to my standby bread-reliant recipe to get the right balance in flavors and texture.  My first batch came out a bit too mushy for my husband's taste and I was really turned off by the rosemary, which made the taste too bitter.  For my second go-around I used the full length of a 13"x9" rectangular pan, reduced the amount of broth from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup ,and used 4 ounces of mushrooms instead of 8 to further reduce the liquid.  I stirred the dressing twice during the cooking process and ended up cooking the pan for 45 minutes, totally uncovered.  The resulting dressing was pretty tasty but now it was a bit too crumbly and dry!

My first attempt at dressing was a bit too moist.  Reducing broth and mushroom juice should help.

I wasn't able to give this a third try before posting (Thanksgiving in three days -- yikes!).  To try to achieve the perfect moist but top-crunchy texture, I recommend not stirring during the baking process and (as I added in the recipe directions below) tossing the dressing with 1 egg or "flax egg" that will help bind all the ingredients. 

Cran Mushroom Garbanzo Dressing
Adapted from J McDonald's Chickpea Stuffing recipe that appeared on AllRecipes Asia and from Stacy Polcyn's Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing

1 Tbsp cooking oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth
Two 15-oz cans of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 
1 1/4 cup peeled apple chunks (I used 1 large Fuji apple)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp salt
Ground pepper to taste
1 "flax egg": 1 Tbsp ground flaxmeal mixed with 3 Tbsp warm water
  1. Heat cooking oil in a medium pan.  Cook garlic, onions, and celery over medium heat for about 4 minutes.  
  2. Add sliced mushrooms, sage, and thyme to the pan.  Cook an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Add in broth and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Then turn off heat.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. In a separate bowl or deep dish, coarsely mash garbanzo beans.  In other words, don't worry about getting the beans completely mashed and smooth.  
  6. Drain and reserve some of the liquid from the vegetable mixture.  Combine mashed garbanzo beans with cooked vegetables/herbs.  Then stir in parsley, apple chunks, cranberries, and salt.
  7. Add flax/water mixture and stir until moistened.  Add ground pepper to taste.  Add some of the brothy/mushroomy liquid if the dressing is not holding together. 
  8. Spoon stuffing in a 13"x9" baking pan.  If it seems a little thin or loose, gently pack the dressing close together -- you may end up only using a 12"x8" space, for instance.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes or until stuffing begins to turn golden brown on the top.
As I mentioned, I have not tried to add the flaxmeal/water step at the time of publishing this post.  It's a bit of a leap of faith but I think it will work.  Please let me know how yours turned out!

November 12, 2012

Basil Pepita Pesto

My kids are a bit of an anomaly.  They aren't big fans of spaghetti and tomato sauce -- at least done my way -- so that takes away a really easy dinner option for us.  And since we already need to avoid all dairy products and nuts, you know that there are plenty of other quick and easy meals that are already banned from our menu!  In truth they don't mind pasta so much but they are not huge fans of marinara.  And the sauteed vegetables that I sneak into generic spaghetti sauce aren't winning any points with the kids either.

So I've been looking for ways to make a healthier, tastier pasta dish.  I decided to think outside of the tomato box and have been checking out pesto recipes.  Pesto is usually made with some sort of nut (usually pine nuts) and cheese such as parmesan.  Any given restaurant pesto sauce would be a no-go for my milk-allergic, nut-allergic boys.  Thanks to the internet, all sorts of variations can be found!  It just becomes a matter of choosing which recipes suit your tastes and food allergies.

I was drawn to a raw recipe from the blog kale and kass (with a side of sass) because it uses seeds and vitamin B12-fortified nutritional yeast flakes.  My family follows a mostly plant-based diet so a sauce that is rich in protein, iron, and B12 -- stuff that is a little harder to come by when you take meat out of your diet -- is music to my ears!  Instead of kale, I substituted fresh basil for the kale because, in my mind, pesto just isn't pesto without a fragrant herb in its midst. While the flavor ended up being pretty good, the texture that my weak food processor could produce was unacceptable.  It was impossible for my food processor to get a smooth consistency out of whole seeds.  The end result was really coarse and I kept getting seed stuck in my teeth.  Ouch.

Because I liked the flavor so much, I tried the recipe again but changed out raw pumpkin seeds and, instead, opted for roasted pepitas, the inner, edible parts of pumpkin seeds.  Much better texture and the taste was great! 

Basil Pepita Pesto
Adapted from kale and kass' Kale and Pumpkin Seed Pesto

2 cups pepitas, roasted
2 packed cup of basil leaves
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
2 Tbsp chopped fresh garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
  1. Put all ingredients except for the sale in a food processor.  Process until pepitas are smooth, pausing occasionally to stir and scrape down the sides.  Add more water if necessary.  
  2. When you have achieved the consistency you like, taste to see if you want to add salt.  I used roasted, salted pepitas so I did not add any extra salt.  Add, taste to see if you want to add more basil, nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor, lemon juice, or garlic.  When in doubt, add more garlic...
  3. The pesto will be very thick.  Spread it on toast or spoon into baked potatoes.  When using pesto with pasta, reserve some hot water from just-boiled pasta to toss with the pesto and noodles.
How did my kids like the pesto?  Eh.  They enjoyed the novelty of the taste for one meal.  After that, they weren't interested in it.  Bummer.  The search for a kid-winner pasta sauce continues for me...but at least you and your kids some safe and easy pesto yourselves!

November 5, 2012

Semi-Homemade Vegan Chocolate Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Phew!  We got through Halloween unscathed and happy!  Not only does Halloween represent all things fall, it marks the start of a busy holiday season.  Once Halloween rolls around, it's nonstop action through New Year's, full of holiday parties, gatherings, and school celebrations.

Honoring family traditions is a big part of the holiday season for me, and since I am now raising food allergic children, new family recipes must be created and will be hopefully handed down.  As a child, my favorite Thanksgiving dishes included my mom's ambrosia and yams with toasted marshmallows, both of which I've been able to modify as part of a selection of allergy-safe sides for Thanksgiving.

Over the years, I've come to understand the importance of making most or all of our Thanksgiving feast safe to eat for all the kids, instead of just one or two dishes. They are amazed at such a vast offering of foods, and we can really share in a wonderful common experience--trying new foods, and enjoying one other's company.

This year, I was inspired by a Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding recipe out of Food Magazine's October 2012 issue, which was recreated in Jun Belen's blog, and posted on my friend Sabrina's Facebook page (there's something to be said for spending time on Facebook).  I had some bananas ripening and had never made bread pudding before, so I thought it might be a good recipe to experiment with.

But then I had an even more brillant revelation on the heels of my Pumpkin Spice Latte officially being added to Starbuck's fall beverage menu--Chocolate Pumpkin Bread Pudding.  A bit fancier version of the Pumpkin Muffins with Chocolate Chips I usually make the kids around this time of year, but uses the same Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix.  Perfect with soy or other safe vanilla ice cream.

If you need to go gluten-free, try out The Family Chef Amy Fothergill's Gluten-free Vegan Pumpkin Muffin recipe, where she uses her tried and true Gluten-free Flour Blend.  Otherwise, you can use the Trader Joe's box mix.

I ended up halving the original bread pudding recipe, which was perfect because it's a really rich dessert.  Half uses one bread recipe, whereas the whole would require a double bread recipe.  And because of how sweet and deliciously rich it was on its own, I omitted the powdered sugar for dusting.

Semi-Homemade Vegan Chocolate Pumpkin Bread Pudding (NO Dairy, Egg, or Nuts), based on Food Magazine's Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding

For the Pumpkin Bread
Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix
2 egg equivalents of Ener-G Egg Replacer (1 T. Ener-G + 4 T. warm water)
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup Water

For the Chocolate
1 cup safe milk (dairy-free milks include soy, flax, almond, or rice)
1-1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate (try Trader Joe's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips for a dairy-free option, or Baker's Chocolate for a soy and dairy-free option)
1/2 tablespoon instant coffee powder (I had Starbucks VIA in my cabinet)
1/2 tablespoon butter or margarine (Earth Balance or soy-free Earth Balance are dairy-free)
1-1/2 servings Ener-G Egg Replacer (that's 3/4 Tablespoon Ener-G and 3 Tablespoons warm water, whisked)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Bake pumpkin bread according to box instructions (or make Amy's GF vegan version)

2. Grease an 8 inch square baking pan with Earth Balance.

3. Cut pumpkin bread into slices, then cubes, and place evenly in one layer in the baking pan.  Place in 350 degree oven for 5 minutes to lightly toast.

4.  Stir milk, chocolate, coffee, and butter or margarine in a double broiler.  If you don't have a double broiler, you can use a metal bowl or small pot in a big pan or pot with simmering water.  Stir constantly until chocolate melts and ingredients are combined, a few minutes.

5. Whisk Ener-G, sugar, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.  Add warm chocolate mixture.  Press the bread down to absorb the chocolate.

6.  Bake about 25-30 minutes, until pudding puffs and is firm.

Here is my pot in a pot method of melting chocolate!

Halving the original banana bread pudding recipe was more than enough!

Ala mode was my favorite way of eating this dessert!

Inspired?  Check out our other pumpkin recipes, like Curried Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Pie, and Pumpkin Ice Cream!

October 29, 2012

Close calls and lessons learned

So grateful to see my boys happy and full of life!

"I don't have 'an impending sense of doom'..."

The sentiment of these words are supposed to relieve but I can assure you, this was not a statement I ever wanted to hear from my 7-year-old.

On Friday afternoon I packed the kids, our costumes, and some safe treats and began our long drive to my husband's workplace which was hosting a family-friendly Halloween party.  About ten minutes into our 50-minute commute, I realized that I had forgotten my sons' two EpiPen Jr. Auto-injectors at home.  This created an annoying but necessary 20-minute detour back home.  EpiPens -- absolutely can't leave home without them especially if the destination includes the possibility of eating anything.

Prior to the party I had exchanged email with my husband's office manager who organizes all the parties.  K is aware of my kids' milk and nut allergies as she suffers from celiac disease and an allergy to soy, so at company parties, there is always a safe dessert for my kids.  I always double check anyway especially since peanuts and tree nuts are allergens not shared by K and my kids.  K confirmed that there would be whoopie pies that would be dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free except for coconut.  Awesome.

When we arrived at the party, food was still being set up by the company's caterers.  K, always the hostess with the mostess and so protective of our kids, showed me the allergy-friendly buffet section.  The area had been designated although there weren't any signs to give guests a heads up.  There were trays of designated safe desserts that my kids immediately helped themselves to.  And K showed us boxed meals of spaghetti and meatballs that were supposedly made with Daiya Vegan Shreds.  K looked over the boxed lunches and realized that some had regular sugar cookies in them -- she quickly let me know that the cookies might not be safe so avoid those.

My husband picked up a couple of boxed lunches (all of the other party food had dairy except for the guacamole and chips) and headed back to his office with the kids so that they could eat there.  As I was scoping out the rest of the buffet offerings, the catering manager came out to check on the set-up.  He paused at the allergy-friendly table and said to no one in particular, "The staff shouldn't have put these boxes here.  This pasta has gluten."  I froze up.  Then asked, "I was told these boxes are all dairy-free.  Is that right?"  "No, no.  The pasta is dairy-free but these meatballs have cheese on top. See?"

I flew out of the room, literally yelling out for my husband, "JARVIS!  JARVIS!  THE FOOD HAS DAIRY!  DON'T FEED THE KIDS!  THE FOOD HAS DAIRY!"  Looking back at it now, I can laugh at my dramatic Star Wars-like proclamation but at that moment it was serious, heart-pounding panic.  I was glad to have our homemade safe foods although the kids were so enamored with the sweets and cool cherry fizzy water and captivated by music, costumes, and festivities that they didn't really want to sit in a private office and eat dinner.  Fair enough.

An hour into the party after munching on a whole lot of guacamole and chips I finally had a chance to let my guard down.  We took a break from the heart-thumping music and foosball and retreated back into my husband's office.  I popped in one of the bite-sized allergy-friendly cupcakes we had picked up.  Yum!  Then I bit into a whoopie pie.  I could definitely taste the coconut but then a familiar texture and taste made me slow down my chewing.  Then I completely stopped in disbelief.


At that moment, I went into adrenalin-pumping, disaster-ready mode.  "THERE ARE WALNUTS IN HERE.  DID YOU GUYS EAT THIS?!?" I blurted out.  Ryken looked horrified - probably mirroring my own expression - and cried, "Mommy, I ate one!!"  Ryken and Callan had both eaten the whoopie pies -- Ryken may have eaten two.

I quickly got the EpiPen Jr. packs ready, a move that immediately brought on cries of protest and flinching from Ryken.  We quickly assessed when it was that Ryken and Callan ate them (one hour before and, for Ryken, just minutes before) and whether they felt funny.  Callan did not feel anything.  However, Ryken admitted, "My tongue felt itchy.  I told Daddy that my tongue felt itchy."  "Does your mouth or throat feel itchy, funny, or thick?  How's your stomach feeling?"  Apparently this particular reaction never advanced past his tongue and lasted for a little while after consumption.

As time passed and there were no new symptoms, I calmed down a little.  I asked Ryken, "Did you think that the itchy tongue might be an allergic reaction?"  He admitted to us, "It felt like that time when my mouth was itchy after Trader Joe's."  That had been his first and only experience with walnuts, when he had eaten a small sample containing walnuts.

My immediate questions:
(to Ryken)  Why didn't you tell Daddy it felt like when you had eaten walnuts before??
(to my husband)  Why didn't you stop what you were doing and make sure everything was okay??
(to myself)  Should I have talked directly with the catering manager??  Should I have completely avoided the food altogether??

As we waited longer and the kids seemed to be out of danger, we talked as a family about how lucky we were to have avoided anaphylaxis.  And then we talked about what we could all do better next time.  We reviewed the common symptoms of reaction and came up with important steps in the future:

For my kids:  Speak up immediately, loudly, if they feel something is not right.  Be very detailed about how they are feeling.  If you feel the way you have felt during another reaction or if you are feeling something in your throat, mouth, or stomach, this can be a serious allergic reaction.  Getting a shot can be scary but never let that stop you from telling a grown-up right away.  The EpiPen may seem scary but it will save lives -- but only if it is administered in time.

For my husband or any other caregiver:  If someone complains of feeling funny especially in their throat, mouth, or stomach, stop what you are doing.  Make sure you have the EpiPen ready.  Reactions can progress swiftly and they will not be the same every time.  Remember: side effects from an unnecessary epinephrine injector are minimal (increasing heart rate followed by extreme tiredness).  Potentially saving your loved one's life is priceless.

For me:  It is a huge risk to feed my kids' party food even when I have tried to track down all information on ingredients and their safety from potential allergens.  If I haven't been able to communicate directly with the chef, how can I trust the food?  Catered situations run an even bigger chance of cross contamination from the same hands handling multiple buffet items, mix-ups in the placement of allergy-friendly foods (like the gluten-full, cheesy spaghetti and meatballs lunches in the GFCF table), and lack of communication between party guests and head chef who may not be there at the event.

As the walnut exposure drama unfolded, I couldn't help but think of Brian Hom, who lost his 18year-old son BJ in an allergy-related tragedy.  Meeting Brian Hom and hearing him retelling his final minutes with his son, BJ, are forever stuck in my mind.  Ten minutes transpired between the moment that BJ complained that his throat was hurting and when he passed away from anaphylaxis to trace amounts of peanuts in a buffet dessert.  Ten minutes.

I am really grateful that we avoided disaster.  Aside from sharing my close call with others, all I can do is critique our actions and better prepare ourselves for the next allergic reaction.  This is a good reminder for all of us to stay vigilant and keep reviewing prevention and symptoms of reaction with your family, especially in this high season of food-centered holidays.  And always carry your EpiPens.


October 22, 2012

Halloween for a Food Allergic Family

At our house, you know Halloween is approaching because I have furry fabric dust bunnies in every corner of the house, scraps of fabric where there used to be a chair for sitting, and the sewing machine quickly becoming a permanent fixture on the dining table.  Logan, with his obsession at counting down the days to things, reminds me daily that Halloween is right around the corner (a mere 9 days away!).

Not only does Halloween mean costumes, but Halloween parties at school, and trick-or-treating with actual candy and very few actual ingredient labels.  Although it's still one of my most beloved holidays, Halloween remains a huge source of worry and stress.

I am determined this year to not only have a safe Halloween, but a fun one.  As in, I am not going to overextend myself and do so much that I can't stop and enjoy the holiday.  No.  This year, I am keeping it simple.  Hey, that doesn't mean it can't still be special.

A few tips on how to keep it simple this Halloween:

1.  With the kids' food allergies, I just won't take the risk of letting them eat any of the candy they collect.  They've never had it, so they won't ask for it.  OK, they might ask for it; but in the end, they know it might not be safe and definitely not worth a stomachache or a visit to the ER.  Even worse, even if your child has had a particular candy, the treat-sized versions may have a different ingredient list or may be made in a different facility than their full-sized counterparts.  And of course, the ingredient list is left on the plastic bag and not on the individual wrapper.  So knowing what's safe and what's not on Halloween night becomes a risky business.

Instead, let the kids trade in their booty for another favorite treat or known safe candy, buy the candy from them (I think we used to get paid a penny or nickel per piece), or offer up a small toy or book--a small price to pay to keep safe!

2.  If you're staying at home to treat the trick-or-treaters, your lovely and helpful children are inevitably getting their hands into your basket of goodies.  Being the allergy-conscious people you are, you will probably be giving out a non-edible treat, like the old school spider rings or glow sticks, spooky stickers, tattoos, or a plethora of other stuff offered in bulk in almost every variety store from now until the 31st.  Alternatively, you could elect to distribute something from BAAAB's Top Ten Best Halloween Candy List, all free of the top 8 allergens.

3.  As much as I love doing what Martha does on Halloween, splitting myself amongst all the parties and overseeing trick-or-treating this year is enough.  I probably don't need to be creating papier mache pumpkins, hanging snake vellum lanterns, or working on some other intricate and time-consuming piece of homemade decor that I coveted so much in my pre-kids era.

So I let the kids go crazy on crayons, scissors, glue, and construction paper, and they came up with some really creative stuff (to stick all over our front windows).  To get a bit more fancy, try taking the lead on Deep Space Sparkle's Starlight Pumpkin Art Lesson, requiring oil pastels, tempura paints,  chalks (I got away with using white oil pastels instead of the chalks), and black construction paper.  Last year, we got creative with felt and other things we had around the house to spice up our home for Halloween.

This project was perfect for my 5-year-old!

Here is my 3-year-old's interpretation of spooky grass!

4.  Halloween fun doesn't always have to mean having sweets.  You can incorporate spooky goodness into healthful Halloween snacks and meals too, like the Creepy Crawly Spider Burgers we tried out last year.

5.  For past years' parties, I've made egg, dairy, and nut-free chocolate chip pumpkin muffins, courtesy of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix, Ener-G Egg Replacer, and Trader Joe's semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Even the biggest pumpkin skeptics adore these muffins!

For your kids' Halloween parties, consider bringing JELL-O this year.  I purchased these Halloween molds and JELL-O kits for just $4 at Walgreens, and they just took a few minutes to prepare, and a couple hours in the fridge.  Or, create your own orange and purple layered jello, following this basic procedure I used for our red, white, and blue striped JELL-O Squares.  You can use your own molds or cookie cutters, or just make a tray of good old orange or purple JELL-O.

Just add 1-1/4 boiling water to one 6 oz. package of  JELL-O Gelatin

Spray molds with cooking spray or grease lightly with oil,  chill in the fridge for a couple hours, and remove with a little help of your knife.


Or use the same recipe and pour layers into small cups, one by one as they chill.

Make sure you take lots of pictures, more than you or they ever wanted to take. The costumed pictures are among my favorite and most cherished of the year. They won't fit nor will they likely be interested in wearing this year's costumes again.  And as much as I hate to admit it, the magic of Halloween will someday wear off.  One day, my eldest will announce that he will not be wearing a costume and that trick-or-treating is a thing of the past.  So for the present, relax, enjoy, and snap away!

October 15, 2012

Sweet Potato Kale Pizza

There are so many things about parenthood that I never really "got" until I become a mom.  The sleep deprivation, the endless loads of laundry, how the care of a small baby can truly fill up a parent's whole day, the continuous cycle of cooking, eating, and cleaning.  As my kids get older, some of the daily responsibilities have been replaced: the kids need some supervision but not constant one-on-one attention, caring for the kids includes taking them to school, sports, library, and other extracurricular activities; there aren't the nighttime wakings but the days are sure busy enough to still leave me worn down and cranky by dinner time.  And speaking of dinner time, that's certainly one event that remains on the daily schedule!

I get into a rut with cooking from time to time so I'm always looking for something new and healthy but easy.  As I was strolling through Trader Joe's I picked up a couple of favorites I hadn't bought in a while -- organic sweet potatoes and pizza dough.  Could I make something with those ingredients?

A minute or so on my smartphone and I pulled up a recipe that fit the bill from the blog Two Peas and Their Pod.  Short list of ingredients including nutritional powerhouse kale.  Easy preparation.  Minimal cooking time.  This fit the bill!

My kids enjoyed the sweetness of the sweet potatoes.  I liked that the vinegar brought a bit of tanginess to the pizza and that the kale didn't have a pronounce flavor or texture that would earn them protests from the kids.  The pizza is not only tasty but the sweet potatoes are chalk-full of fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

The recipe can easily be adapted to eliminate common food allergens.  My family is fine with wheat so we used whole-wheat Trader Joe's pizza dough.  If you are managing a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance, check out Udi's ready-to-use pizza crust (they do contain eggs), Schar pizza crusts (they contain milk), or Ener-G's pizza shells (free of wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, and nuts).  If you are local to the Bay Area, Mariposa Bakery makes a delicious gluten-free, vegan, nut-free crust that I have written about here.

Sweet Potato Kale Pizza
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod's recipe

1 favorite pizza dough or crust
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch or 1/4-inch thick slices
1/2 cup of red onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 to 1 packed cup of kale, stems removed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 to 2 cups of safe mozzarella-style cheese (we use Daiya Vegan Shreds, which are free of the top 8 allergens.  LOVE this!)
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss together sweet potato slices, red onions, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper if you so desire.
  3. Spread out sweet potatoes and onions in a single layer on a baking pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove pan from the oven and flip over the sweet potatoes.  Bake an additional 10 minutes or until sweet potatoes just begin to brown or crisp around the edges.
  4. While sweet potatoes are baking, roll out or hand-stretch the pizza dough.  Place on a pizza stone or pan with cornmeal to prevent dough from sticking to the cooking surface.  Brush dough/crust with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Top with mozzarella or cheese alternative.  
  5. In a separate bowl, toss kale leaves with apple cider vinegar. 
  6. When sweet potatoes and onions are done cooking, remove from baking pan and add on to the pizza.  Sprinkle kale on top.  Add fresh ground pepper to taste.
  7. Follow the directions for temperature and time for cooking your chosen pizza crust.  (I cooked my pizza with Trader Joe's pizza dough crust at 450 degrees, for 12 minutes.)  Cool for 5 minutes before slicing.  Serve immediately.

If you have time for homemade pizza crust and are fine with wheat, try this recipe:

White Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Makes two thin 17"x11" crusts
Adapted from's Amazing Whole Wheat Crust Recipe

1 1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1 tsp agave nectar (if not agave, honey or sugar would be fine)
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
Additional spices such as oregano and basil
3 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp olive oil plus more for greasing bowls
  1. In a bowl or cup, combine warm water and agave/sweetener of choice.  
  2. Sprinkle dry yeast over water and stir to dissolve.  Set bowl aside for 10 minutes to allow yeast to activate.  (I usually put the bowl in a warm environment like the microwave to help the yeast dissolve.)
  3. In a separate large bowl, mix together salt, garlic powder, and flour.
  4. When yeast has completely dissolved, there will be a thick layer of foam over the mixture.  Pour water mixture into the flour mixture.  Add the 1 tablespoon of oil.  Knead the dough for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth.  
  5. Set aside to rise in a large oiled bowl, covering loosely with a towel.  Let it rise (and double in size) for 1 hour.
  6. After 1 hour, divide the dough into 2 balls for 2 thin pizza crusts.  Let them rise in separate bowls for another hour.
  7. To make crusts, roll out or hand-stretch the dough to fit large cookie sheet pans.

Enjoy warm homemade pizza and the sweet taste of root vegetables as we head into fall!

October 8, 2012

Top Ten Reasons to Walk for Food Allergies: October 13

We are gearing up and getting excited about our walk on Saturday: we're lining up our tennis shoes, breaking out the sunscreen, and filling those water bottles!  I know some of you have been on the fence about joining team Get Allergy Wise on walk day, so I thought I'd give you a bit of inspiration.

Here we go, the top ten reasons to join us and walk for food allergies!

1. Registering is easy and free!  Just go to the San Jose FAAN Walk for Food Allergy homepage,
click "sign up,"
click "join a team,"
enter team name "Get Allergy Wise,"
click "search for a team,"
click on "Get Allergy Wise,"
click "Join Team," and start your online registration.

Still not sure?  Just show up at 9 am on Saturday, October 13 at Lake Cunningham Park in San Jose, 2305 S. White Road.  Register on event day by filling out just one form per family.  So simple.

2. FREE Parking.  San Jose has waived the usual $6 parking fee for FAAN walk participants!  So go ahead and park for free, and better yet, donate that $6 back to FAAN!

3. Munch on FREE samples from walk sponsors like Sunbutter, So Delicious, and Enjoy Life!  Try their newest products and add a few more allergy-safe snacks to your weekly shopping list.

4. Get a bit of exercise with the whole family!  We can get those feel-good endorphins going and burn a few calories while we're at it.  A great way to kick off the weekend!

5. Come hang out with Get Allergy Wise family!  Irene and I and our collective 5 kids are looking forward to meeting and chatting with all of you!

6. Kids will enjoy the FREE activities, like the bouncy house, Games2U Video Van, rock climbing wall, face painting, and more!

7. San Jose weather in October promises a perfectly partly cloudy day with a high of 71.  Get out of the city fog and into some warmer weather!

8. Kids get FREE t-shirts, just for walking!  All adults who raise over $100 will also get t-shirts, so get out there and start collecting donations!

9. Raise money for a cause near and dear to our hearts.  Support food allergy awareness, education, and search for a cure.

10. Come to celebrate the life of BJ Hom, who teaches us how important it is to spread the word about food allergies and to always be prepared.

A few last words from 8-year-old "Tristan, A Boy With Food Allergies" (my first attempt at an iMovie...don't be too hard on me!).