October 28, 2013

The Day Tristan's Food Allergies Went From Serious to Life Threatening

There's a reason I went pre-med at university but never went to med school.  During my first anatomy lab with the cadaver and the overpowering scent of formaldehyde, I knew I wasn't doctor material.  Or maybe it was making the first incision on the rat that was still warm in Bio 1A. Either way, the mere fact that I'm squeamish at the sight of blood should've tipped me off.  But obviously, I'm glutton for punishment.

The first time Tristan needed a shot of Epinephrine for an allergic reaction that I deemed "severe" enough to warrant an injection was also a huge turning point for me and for him.  Before that, I had been his biggest advocate, educating teachers, parents, family, and friends about his food allergies.  But I could always end our conversation in the statement: "He has an Epipen, but luckily, we've never had to use it."  I couldn't say this any more.

Now I end the conversation with, "He has Epinephrine, it's with him at all times, and whenever in doubt, give it to him.  Here's how..."

I've now lost count of the number of times I've injected him.  The first few times were adrenaline-filled, characterized by shaky hands and tears on both sides.  But after seeing the instant relief it has given him, I wonder why I ever hesitated.  Yes, it's hard to prick your child with a needle. Yes, it's inconvenient to go to the ER--nobody wants to spend an evening there when you were just a few hours away from tucking your little ones into bed.  Yes, it can save your child's life.

It's not as dramatic as the scene in Pulp Fiction; I'm definitely not in the habit of stabbing anyone in the heart with a needle.  That scene has likely scarred many of us for life.  Luckily for us, you just put the end of auto-injector on the outer thigh and push.  No one even ever has to see a needle.

It's not as bad as forcing your child to vomit because he's swallowed poison, or setting a bone back into place.  Think of it as throwing a drowning child a lifesaver.  You wouldn't stand on the pier, pondering whether your child is actually drowning, or if after a few more strokes he'll get the hang of it.  Even if you didn't know how to swim, you'd likely jump right in and do what you could.

So I know the majority of you are still in the "...but we've never had to use it" category.  And I hope with every ounce of my being that it stays that way.  But if you ever find your child in the need of Epinephrine, please please please don't hesitate to throw her a lifesaver.  Follow your doctor's advice about when to give it. I don't know how many times I've heard moms tell a story about treating their child's allergic reaction and ending with, "I didn't give the Epinephrine, but I probably should have."

In the wake of Natalie Giorgi and Giovanni Cipriano's deaths, and all those awesome food allergy resources out there about when to give Epinephrine, we need to rethink our action plans and make sure our caregivers are trained.

As an added bonus, Tristan has been injected with the new auto-injector the Auvi-Q, and swears that it doesn't hurt.  After one administration of the medicine, he asked, "Did the needle go in?"  I responded, "Do you feel better?"  He answered, "Yes!"  Well, there you go.  It's worth checking out, especially with the coupons out there.

I frequently think about how raising kids with food allergy is a process, and has a huge learning curve.  I don't know why it takes us so long to change our habits, take less risks, or be more vocal advocates.  What I do know is that I didn't sign up for this; otherwise, I'd have gone off to med school with likely a very different life.  Who knew a huge part of my life would be devoted to managing my child's life threatening medical condition?

Your courage rubs off on your kids.  So give the Epinephrine, and teach our kids what they need to know to grow up food allergic.

October 21, 2013

Nosh Homemade Bagels--free of dairy, egg, nuts, & cross contamination!

As many of you know, one of Tristan's favorite foods is bagels.  We kept our local Noah's Bagels in business until recently, when Tristan seemed to have generally more allergic reactions from packaged foods presumably due to cross contamination.  The reactions happened to coincide with the introduction of the drippy, gooey, peanut butter and jelly bagel at Noah's, and that was my last straw.

To say something for Noah's, we've eaten literally hundreds of bagels over the last 9 years of his life, and had never had an allergy issue.  But I didn't want to hang around and find out when our luck would run out.  So just recently, we stopped buying Noah's Bagels.

Well, we were passing by our local Noah's the other day and Tristan broke into tears, saying how sad he felt that he couldn't have bagels anymore.  They were one of the last food items I regularly bought him on the go--and they were gone.  The little things in the life of a food allergic child break my heart every day.

Fortunately, this turn of events also coincided with the arrival of our bread machine.  And our world, which felt closed and desolate to my three little carbivores (term coined by our friend Bella), suddenly opened up.  All sorts of bread, fresh pitas for sandwiches and hummus dipping, and now, bagels.  Who would've thought?

I found a recipe that looked tried and true for Bread Machine Bagels, and wanted to try them out right away--the ingredients were so simple and not unlike most of my bread machine recipes so far.  Bread flour and yeast are ingredients you will likely have to get to a store to purchase.  I found King's Bread Flour from my local Safeway.

Unfortunately, I put the ingredients in the machine, set to make the dough, did 17 other things, and forgot to put it in the fridge so I could make it the next day.  When I opened up the machine in the morning, the dough smelled sour.  Fermentation had definitely taken place.  Don't do this--major Pinterest fail.

The over-fermented bagels were inedible but it gave me some bagel rolling practice.  Watch a few seconds of this YouTube video of a Davidovich Bakery baker rolling bagels for some inspiration, then onto this Cooking Dish video for three methods to rolling a bagel.  It's essentially a twist and pinch method.  Alternatively, you could flatten a ball of dough and poke a hole in the middle.  I found the twist and pinch method easy enough.

The next day, I tried again, and this morning--fresh bagels!  Not so shabby.  If you're used to the size of Noah's bagels, you'll probably make about 4 bagels with this recipe instead of the batch of 9 specified on the original recipe. Instead of the egg wash, I used soy milk to glaze the tops, and increased the water a bit after others commented about this.  I'm excited to experiment with different fillers, but for now, here's the recipe for plain bagels:

Plain Bread Machine Bagels (NO dairy, egg, tree nuts, or peanuts)


1 1/8 cups warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
3 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 quarts boiling water
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons of soy milk (or other safe milk)


1.  Pour water, salt, sugar, bread flour, and yeast into a bread machine according to manufacturer's instructions.  Start on dough setting.

2.  When the dough is done, boil the 3 quarts of water in a large pot with 3 tablespoons of sugar. Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Roll the dough into 4 to 9 bagels, depending on how big you want them.  Then set them to rest for 10 minutes while the water boils.

3.  Boil the bagels for 1 minute, then turn them over and boil for another minute.  Put them on a towel to dry.

4.  Transfer the bagels to a cookie pan lined with parchment, and brush the tops with the soy milk.

5.  Bake for 20 - 28 minutes until the tops are lightly browned.