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Taking Food Allergies to School April 13, 2015

Filed under: School — malawer @ 8:05 am
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Pop over to Content Checked’s Food Allergy blog today to read our personal narrative about the first day of school with food allergies.

Content Checked Food Allergy Blog

Starting school can be a stressful time even under the best of circumstances.  Starting school with a food allergy can put parents and students alike over the edge.  This post outlines how doing your homework by completing a few small steps can set you all up for a whole year of wonderful school experiences.

I’m about to talk about this very topic with a school locally.  What kinds of questions do you have about starting in a new school with food allergies?  Happy to answer!

 

Sweet Surprise Cake Cookie Sandwiches (Nut-Free) April 10, 2015

You guys already know this:  Desserts are tough to rely on for people with food allergies.  The typical bakery will almost never guarantee that your dessert doesn’t contain or hasn’t been cross contaminated with nuts and most are made with dairy, eggs, wheat, and even corn and soy.

So, every couple of weeks, I would spend an afternoon baking and frosting cupcakes for my son to bring with him to birthday parties, class celebrations, and dinners out.  Sometimes, he’d have the occasion to gobble up a whole batch (minus a few for Dad) before I could even freeze a few!  But I began noticing he wasn’t really eating the cake part.  Which started making my labor of love a lot less lovely.

“Yeah, Mom….” he began one day, “I don’t really like the cake part.”  I thought I would die.  Do you know how much time I had been spending baking cupcakes?!

Turns out he was just using the cupcakes for the frosting.  So, I had to find a new vehicle to get frosting into that kid’s mouth (but ONLY for special occasions, much to his dismay!).  Thus the Cookie Sandwich was born!  At first I used store bought cookies (influenced by my son’s inexplicable objection to my baking).  As they are, they are a humungous hit when I send them into school for both my boys’ birthdays.  And, it’s embarrassing when moms ask for the recipe because it’s so insanely simple.  But this week, the Cookie Sandwich has been upgraded.

Meet the soft, perfectly proportioned, Sweet Surprise Cake Cookie Sandwich:

 

And, may I point out that it’s frosting to cake ratio is ideal!  It’s just simple math.  These are perfect for taking with you to birthday parties, serving as class treats, and offering to guests.  I made them for my husband’s birthday this week and plan on making more for a May Day celebration.

Here’s how to begin (based on a suggestions from the Betty Crocker site):

1 box cake mix (I used Betty Crocker’s Rainbow Chip Super Moist Mix)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 Tbsp milk

1 egg

1 can frosting

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients together until soft batter forms.  Scoop onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.

[Tip:  You want to remove the cookies from the oven before they begin to turn golden.  I took mine out at 8 minutes sharp.]

Cool completely.  Frost generously on the bottom of one cookie and top with the bottom of another.  Serves 12.

Notes:  I use Pillsbury frosting because it is dairy-free (a holdover from when my son was very allergic to dairy).  Although this recipe isn’t dairy free, I’m certain it would be delicious using dairy-free butter and very vanilla soy milk in lieu of regular.  As is, it’s good for kids who are approved to incorporate baked milk products into their diet.

Optional:  I liked mine with the sprinkles IN the cookie, but you would use another cake mix and roll the frosted cookies in sprinkles, chocolate chips or nonpareils to mix things up!

Quick someone get me a napkin, I’m salivating from TYPING about them!

 

Autism Awareness Month – Help Support a Good Cause April 2, 2015

Filed under: Technology — malawer @ 2:38 pm
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Autism Speaks logo

As you may already know, food allergies are prevalent in the autistic community.  In addition to the food allergy responses we are most familiar with, certain foods have been reported to provoke a behavioral reaction.  As Kelly Barnhill, Director of Clinical Care at the Johnson Center for Child Health & Development, in Austin, Texas (speaking on the Autism Speaks website) points out, “Clearly such symptoms [such as hives, GI responses, anaphylaxis] can cause a bad day for anyone. This can be particularly true of a child or adult living with autism – who may not be able to communicate or fully understand or explain his or her discomfort.”

Today is International Autism Awareness Day and the entire month of April is Autism awareness month.  So, you may see people going blue today in support of Autism research and hear of autism awareness walks.  And you can lend a hand, too!  Download ContentChecked’s app today.  ContentChecked helps those with food allergies find grocery products that are safe for their specific allergies.  For each download (free or paid) during the month of April, ContentChecked with donate $1 to Autism Speaks, the world’s leading organization dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism.

For more information about ContentChecked, check them out online or read my post, “Look Who’s Blogging at ContentChecked…”

 

Egg Allergies at Easter – A Round-Up of Egg Free Easter Fun March 27, 2015

Allergic to eggs at Easter… It only SOUNDS like a conflict of interests.

Never fear! There’s no reason you need to forgo the annual tradition of dyeing eggs.  And, you might just pick up a new family favorite while you’re at it!

First of all, after checking with my allergist, egg shells were deemed safe for my son to handle (NOT EAT) while he had an active egg allergy.  The yolk and white of the eggs contain the protein that have the potential to cause an allergic reaction.  Egg shells are almost entirely made up of calcium carbonate, with none of the allergy-inducing protein.

  • Double check with YOUR allergist.
  • Don’t forget to read the ingredients on Easter egg dye kits.
  • And, get coloring!

If you just can’t stomach real eggs regardless of whether their shells are safe, here’s a round up of some other egg-cellent ideas (I’m sorry, there HAD to be one egg-adjective!) to help you celebrate:

How great and festive is this idea from SheKnows?!  Grab bracelet length glow sticks and pop them into plastic eggs for a night time or foul weather egg hunt.  Best part: plastic eggs don’t cause hives!

7. Glowing Easter Eggs

Love to try a Creme Egg but without the allergens?  Cadbury’s version contains dairy, soy and eggs.  Instead, try making them via this recipe from Not Without Salt via Food 52.  FYI, Lyle’s Golden Syrup is cane sugar syrup.

eggs123

Although it’s too late to enter the Washington Post’s annual contest, why not create a Peeps diorama?!  Peeps are very allergy friendly and a lot of fun to work with.  Check out their past submissions to inspire you… Peep Anything?!  I’m dying…

I’m hoping the Easter Bunny drops off a few of these at our house this year.  How cute and easy are these crafts!  Thank you for the great idea, Shaken Together!

There’s a variety of jello Easter eggs out there in the universe, but Kraft seems to make the process the simplest using their Jell-O Jigglers Mold.  Check out some of the rainbow hued ones a variety of bloggers have posted.  They’d be a spectacular end to an Easter dinner.

JELL-O EGG JIGGLERS recipe

I couldn’t risk you not seeing these!  Here they are from Thrive. :

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Happy Eggless Easter, everyone!

 

Leprechauns Rejoice! Stories, Game & Easy *No Bake* Snack for St. Patrick’s Day in the Classroom March 16, 2015

I can hear those bagpipes already!  I think most people agree that St. Patrick’s Day is one of the most happy holidays out there.  You don’t need to have roots in the Emerald Isle to enjoy it either; afterall, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!  And, now everyone can enjoy an allergy-free celebration with veggie clovers and sesame seed-free hummus dip.

So, if you’re having a classroom celebration as we did a few years ago, may I suggest these few tips that worked fantastically for our elementary school aged kids:

1.  Download some Irish tunes (you’ll be clapping and toe tapping in the car en route!).  Start with “The Unicorn” by the Irish Rovers (fun fact: this song was written by Shel Silverstein!).

2.  Find a good children’s story.  I last read one from our school’s library (out of print now) about siblings who tried to catch a leprechaun in the hope of gaining some wishes.  It entranced the kids so much that my son came home and built about 5 leprechaun traps in our yard (lots of bugs, no leprechauns caught).  You can check out Amazon’s best sellers for St. Patrick’s Day here to find one that fits your audience.

3.  Crafts or games are always a good idea.  Get those kids moving!  If you have the flexibility, take the gang outside to build leprechaun traps out of sticks and bark.  Indoors, you could decorate boxes (rainbows encouraged!) or use legos to make in the “traditional” leprechaun box trap.  I understand leprechauns are lured by the promise of gold…

4.  Finally, give them food!  Here’s my easy, no bake, idea for serving the kids something healthy…

St. Patrick’s Day Veggie Clovers

mini cucumbers (also sold as persian cucumbers)

green bell peppers (you may wish to choose ones that have fewer side slits)

optional: red or yellow bell peppers or slivers of carrots

For the sesame seed-free hummus:

1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained but reserving liquid

2 cloves garlic

olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cumin

optional:  3 slivers of roasted red pepper

Thinly slice cucumber into disks and overlap to arrange into three and four-leaf clovers.  Hollow out peppers and carefully slice horizontally.  If using carrots, slice into thin disks and arrange as clovers or slice into sticks and place in ramekin for easy snacking.

For the dip:  Add garbanzo beans, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt and cumin into a blender or food processor.  Pulse until well-blended.  Add reserved liquid to desired consistency.  Optionally, add roasted red peppers to make a red pepper hummus dip.

Erin Go Bragh!  And Enjoy!

 

Get Ready, Fellow Mathletes: Pi Day is Extra Special This Saturday March 12, 2015

Pi = 3.14159265359…

This Saturday is March 14, 2015… or 3.14.15!  And, on that magical day at 9:26 and 53 seconds (3.14.15 9:26:53), I suspect a lot of math fans like me will be eating pie to celebrate its magical homonym Pi.  Mmmm….

Pie can be tricky for people with food allergies for so many reasons.  They typically contain dairy, sometimes contain eggs, often are topped with nuts.   And, of course, that gluten-filled crust.

If you’re planning to celebrate Pi Day, here are a couple recipes to help you and your little calculators eating safely:

Sweetheart Sorbet Pie:

This cold, delicious, fruity pie is a synch to assemble and a joy to devour.

Egg-free, Dairy-free, Nut-free

Moo-Less Chocolate Pie:

If you’re a chocaholic like my younger son, this recipe is for you.  Alton Brown’s recipe uses silken tofu to achieve its creamy, fudgey consistency.  Be sure to use dairy-free margarine/butter in lieu of the milk-based variety.  Read the reviews to determine if you want to include any of the readers suggestions (like adding cinnamon or using a graham cracker crust).

Dairy-free, Nut-free, Egg-free

Crazy for Crust’s Perfect Graham Cracker Crust:

This blogger really knows her crust as evidenced in the narrative leading up to the recipe.  Again, be sure to substitute dairy-free margarine/butter for the real deal in her recipe.

Egg-Free, Nut-Free, Milk-Free ***but also read ingredient list of graham crackers/crumbs you choose to use***

Gluten-Free Pie Crust:

This ready made dough from Pillsbury can be used in both pies and pastries.

Gluten-free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free

Here are some Pi facts to discuss over pie:

  • Pi is the ratio between the circumference (the distance around its edge) of a circle and its diameter (the distance across the center).
  • Pi is an irrational number. Not only can’t you reason with it, but you can’t write it as a fraction either.
  • Pi’s decimals go on forever without any repetition or pattern.
  • BUT! 314159, the first six digits of Pi, appear in order at least six times among the first ten million decimals of Pi.
  • Albert Einstein was born on Pi Day!
  • Pi has been studied by the human race for almost 4,000 years. The Babylonians established the constant circle ratio as 3-1/8 or 3.125.  One of the earliest known records of pi was written by an Egyptian scribe named Ahmes (c. 1650 B.C.) who was only off by less than 1% of the modern approximation of pi (3.141592).
  • In one Star Trek episode, Spock foils an evil computer by challenging it to “compute to last digit the value of pi.”
  • Comedian John Evans once quipped: “What do you get if you divide the circumference of a jack-o’-lantern by its diameter? Pumpkin π.
 

Look Who’s Blogging at ContentChecked… March 9, 2015

Follow the link for the answer….  ContentChecked Blog: “Stunned to Silence”.

ContentChecked in an innovative app for people living with food allergies.  And, as you can see, they also have a blog filled with interesting information.  I’m thrilled to be partnering with them as they grow and help simplify life for people not just with food allergies, but for those (like me) living with migraines as well.

Writing about my first emotions following my son’s food allergy diagnosis brought me right back to those early days that were filled with questions and uncertainly.  I’m sure many of you felt similar senses of worry, inexperience, anxiety…  Look how far we’ve come, baby!

Take a moment today to appreciate how well you’re handling your family food allergy situation.  And if you know someone who has just received a food allergy diagnosis, send them here and to ContentChecked (“Steps to Success”) to get them started on a good path towards managing food allergies.

 

 
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