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Mellow Mushroom: A Disappointing Case of Doing Everything Right (With a Tasty Ending) August 20, 2015

Oh, Mellow Mushroom.  Had I appreciated just how amazing you were and how difficult it would be to get to you afterwards, I would have eaten your pizza every day during college and not simply most days.

On a recent trip to Charlotteville, we decided to introduce the kids to the deliciousness that is Mellow Mushroom.  Although pizza is typically an easy food to negotiate with peanut, tree nut, and sesame seed allergies, we still ask our standard questions – just in case:

  • Is there any sesame seed flour in the pizza dough?
  • Is there anything unusual in the sauce (like pine nuts, etc) that we should be aware of?
  • What kind of oil do you use in the fryer to cook chicken wings?

I was impressed that our young waitress was completely focused on our questions, taking notes, and didn’t assume she had the answers.  She had clearly discussed our concerns with the cooks and managers by the time she returned to the table, ready to take our order.  Everything we mentioned had been cleared and deemed safe for my son, except they had one concern:  the marinara sauce listed “an oil blend” and they couldn’t track down which specific oils were in it.  (Good catch!) And, they were worried about serving it to my son without being one hundred percent sure.

This excellent attention to detail, while VERY MUCH APPRECIATED, derailed us totally.  Everyone in our party of nine had ordered except my son.  And, there was nothing else on the menu that constituted a meal that didn’t involve marinara sauce. He was hugely disappointed (also hungry and tired) and I was rapidly researching everything I could find to get a more definitive answer while we were still there.  I was thrilled to see that Mellow Mushroom has an online allergen menu that covered everything but the marinara sauce in question.  Fabulous! but grrrr….

In the meantime, we cobbled together a meal of yummy pizza dough pretzels, apple slices, and promised him a second dinner wherever he chose.

My son was frustrated, my husband was mad, our dinner guests were upset.  But me?  I was quite pleased with how Mellow Mushroom handled our allergy questions.  Disappointed in the answer – or lack thereof – and concerned about my son’s feelings, but pleased.  They took it seriously.  They understood the implications of a mistake or a (pardon the UVA-related pun) cavalier attitude.  Mellow Mushroom’s online menu is easy to navigate – my only wish is that it included sesame seeds as is required in Canada and the EU, thus eliminating this quandary in the first place.

That Monday morning, I called Home Grown Industries which owns Mellow Mushroom and inquired about their marinara sauce.  For the record, it does NOT contain sesame seed or any peanut/tree nut oils and would have been safe.  My kids jumped up and down upon learning that the sauce is safe AND that there are not one but TWO Mellow Mushrooms within a few miles of us at home.  We’re already planning our next meal!

Mellow Mushroom

 

Your Growing Child: How to Carry Epinephrine August 11, 2015

Filed under: Preparedness,Uncategorized — malawer @ 10:00 am
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As a parent of a food allergic child, you are the person responsible for carrying your son/daughter’s epinephrine and other rescue medication.  As your child ages, however, he will not only go on play dates or attend sports practices and games without you, but she’ll want to go the movies with her friends or walk around the school fair.

My son, who is now 10, has shown a definite preference to carry his own epinephrine in certain situations.  If he’ll be indoors (or it’s cool out), he’ll stick it in his sporty cinch backpack alongside an inhaler and whatever else he brings along that day.  If it’s hot out, we throw the meds in an insulated lunchbox alongside an ice pack or a bottle of ice water and place that inside a cinch bag.

As he grows he may wish to try a few alternatives to remain prepared.  If you’re an adult or teenager with allergies, there are a few convenient ways to wear (yes, wear) epinephrine below.  In fact, I plan to get a few for MYSELF to help him carry his rescue meds while we’re active or on-the-go.

Keeping your or your kids’ rescue meds with them should be easy – no matter which autoinjector you prefer.  Below are some pretty cool and easy ways to carry epinephrine no matter where you go or what you do.  *Just remember, epinephrine needs to be kept at room temperature or below to keep from compromising its potency – see EpiPens in Sun or Snow for further details.*

Auvi-Q Epinephrine Auto-injector Case (Red)

Auvi-Q Autoinjector Case by Rescue Shot Case

  • LegBuddy by OmaxCare

  • Gourmet Getaway Mini Snack Tote

    BuiltNY’s Gourmet Getaway Insulated Lunch Sack

AimTrend All-Purpose Pocket Cinch Drawstring Gym Bag, Lime/Smoke

AimTrend’s Cinch Backpack Gym Bag

Skecher’s Sequin Backpack

 

PhillySwirl: Dessert for Everyone! July 28, 2015

Who doesn’t like something cold and sweet on a hot summer day (or in my case, everyday)?!  But it can be hard to find desserts that are safe for those with food allergies.  Nuts, dairy and gluten trip us up not only in the bakery aisle, but can be a cross-contamination risk even for simple concoctions like popsicles.

Enter: PhillySwirl.  Almost everything in their product line is dairy and gluten-free making them a safe AND delicious choice at the supermarket.

PhillySwirl recently sent me their gluten and dairy-free products.  My kids and I had a BALL trying and evaluating all the flavors.  They thought their birthdays had come early as I told them, “Kids, we’re going to have to try every flavor of PhillySwirl Italian ices.  Sorry.”  It was no chore for me either!  Here’s what we tried and our impressions:

SwirlStix

The classic popsicle – only tastier.  Arriving in six interesting flavors, we studiously “evaluated” (read: devoured) each one – giving each other tastes only when begged.  The SwirlStix were my personal favorite.  Easy to hold, neat to eat, and delicious.  Orange Dream was a favorite of my husband and Very Berry was mine (although a close tie with the Applelicious).

Swirlstix

Swirl Popperz

My younger son and nephew loved the Swirl Popperz.  In fact, when asked for his thoughts, my son said, “These are excellente! [yes, inexplicably in Spanish] Tell PhillySwirl ‘Thank you’!”  Still dairy and gluten-free, these had a creamier texture to them which made them easy to push up.  I also liked them because the wrapper kept my preschooler from dripping popsicle around the house like Hansel and Gretel’s crumb trail.  My nephew was kind enough to let me taste his Rainbow flavored Popper which was fabulous!  I’d get these again – perfect for feeding a group of kids in the summer!

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Swirl Cups with CandySpoonz

The Swirl Cups were a hit!  And, why wouldn’t they be when they contain delicious Italian ice swirls that you eat with lollipop spoons?!  A no-brainer!  Everyone had a different favorite.  What was great is that each flavor tasted like it’s name:  Cotton Candy tasted just like….Cotton Candy!  The Sunburst was a delicious mix of cherry, orange and lemon (yum!).  And the other choices were interesting, too: Cherry Melon, Hurricane (a cherry/lemon), Bluesberry Jam and Rainbow.  My kids and my niece and nephews clamored for these.  Buy two packs if you can store them – they go fast!

**My niece cleverly pointed out that the nutrition information was printed on each cup, making it extra fantastic for food allergic parents who need to read ingredients without access to the original box. Smart move!**

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Thank you to PhillySwirl for good manufacturing practices that allow kids with food allergies (and sometimes adults without them) to enjoy such a fabulous, sweet treat!

 

Seeking All Allergy-Friendly Bakeries July 9, 2015

Baked goods that are dairy, egg, wheat or nut-free are hard to come by.  They’re even harder to come by should you want or need something custom, like a birthday cake.

That’s where our Allergy-Friendly Bakeries List comes in handy!

Do you know of a great allergy-friendly bakery?  Send us the info!

We’re compiling a list of allergy-friendly bakeries across the US, Canada, and beyond.  **Please be sure to do your own research before ordering to ensure the products are safe for you as individual’s allergies and requirements differ.**

Feel free to comment below with your information or send the details to me at erin@allergystrong.com.

Also:  Live in or near Washington?  Check out the post Allergy-Friendly Bakeries in the DC Metro Area.

 

Nut, Egg and Dairy-Free Chocolate Chip Banana Bread July 8, 2015

I wonder if every family is the same…  One week my kids can’t eat enough bananas.  The next week, they’re not at all interested.  So we cycle between having an empty fruit bowl and having overripe bananas.

This used to frustrate me.  Then I looked at the sunny side of having too many bananas: Chocolate Chip Banana Bread!  This bread is delicious.  I mean mouthwatering delicious…  I recommend heating it up in the toaster oven or microwave briefly and eating plain (with lots of napkins to let those melty chocolate chips know who’s boss) or with butter.  I might have to make some now…

I omitted the nuts often called for in banana bread recipes and adapted this particular one to be egg and dairy-free.  I already can’t wait for breakfast!

Almost Everything-Free Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup dairy-free butter or shortening

1 cup whole wheat flour + 1 cup white flour (you can use all white or all wheat as well)

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3-4 bananas)

1/2-3/4 cups dairy-free, nut-free chocolate chips

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter (or shortening) for approximately 5 minutes (note: mixture does not get smooth).  Add dry mixture little by little to creamed butter and sugar, alternating with mashed bananas and beating after each addition.  Stir in approximately safe chocolate chips with a spoon.  The batter will be fairly thick.

Grease 9″ x 5″ x 3″ loaf pan.  Spoon batter into pan and bake at 350F for approximately 40 minutes or until toothpick can be inserted/removed cleanly from thickest point in bread.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to wire rack.

Mashed bananas (does anyone else hear The Wiggles song when you read that?!). Looks gooey now, but this is flavor gold!

The dry ingredients.

Can you smell it? To ensure you have a moist – but not undercooked – bread, check it with a toothpick. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before moving to wire rack.

When’s breakfast? Maybe we serve this for dinner…

I had to snap this quickly. That butter was melting fast against the warm chocolate chip bread. And, the sweet banana smell was intoxicating!

 

Play Ball! How to Root for Your Home Team With a Peanut Allergy June 12, 2015

baseball-glove.jpg

Click on over to Content Checked to see my latest article about attending baseball games with food allergies.  There, I address the fears and realities of ballparks and peanut allergies specifically.
When my son was younger, we were shocked at how few options there were at stadium concession stands and how little people there knew about what they were serving.  When asked a question, they didn’t even know how to GET more information.  On more than one occasion, a leftover box of raisins bought us a little more time before mealtime meltdowns would begin.

But these days, stadiums are doing a lot better on behalf of their food allergic and celiac customers.  At our beloved Washington Nationals’ stadium (Go Nats!), there’s a whole concession stand dedicated to gluten-free eating (section 114 and it includes beer!).  Furthermore, stadiums are playing host to well-known restaurants and chains – making it much easier to ask questions or do a little research ahead of time.  The Nats have a Shake Shack, a chain whose allergen menu not only labels for the most common food allergens, but sesame seeds, sulfites and cross-contaminated products as well (see Shake Shack’s menu).  This makes it so much easier to eat safely and confidently at the ballpark.  What a difference from a few years ago!

If you are allergic to peanuts, take the precautions mentioned in my ContentChecked post to guarantee a home run experience.  If you have other food allergies, a little research before you get to the ballpark can go a LONG way in enjoying the big game.  But in either event, get out and root, root, root for the home team!

 

EoE – A Learning Process May 26, 2015

Filed under: Health — malawer @ 10:30 am
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My husband, my father-in-law (a doctor) and I have been trying to manage next steps in what appears to a forthcoming EoE diagnosis.  Ironic, considering last week was EoE Awareness Week, eh?!

So, what is EoE?

According to GIKids.org, Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE) is an inflammation of the esophagus.  The wall of the esophagus becomes swollen with white blood cells called eosinophils.  A person with EoE might experience trouble swallowing, pain, heartburn, nausea, regurgitation or vomiting, It’s a relatively new diagnosis that doctors are still struggling to learn more about.

This emerging health issue for my food allergic son has been brewing for at least the past year, growing steadily worse and more frequent each month.  Originally appearing to be a classic case of acid reflux, my husband and I tried everything suggested to reduce his discomfort.  We raised his head at night, tried to feed him earlier in the evening so that he had time to digest, stayed away from acidic foods as much as possible, and gave him acid reducing medication as directed by his pediatrician.  However, his symptoms seemed resistant to medicine and relatively unphased by our other efforts.  And, other symptoms were muddied with his food allergies and asthma.  My son would complain of burning in the lower part of his throat.  He began wheezing within only a few minutes of laying down at night.  He began complaining of pain (actual pain) in his stomach.  His throat felt “weird” after having dairy (to which he’s no longer allergic, but that symptom is always scary to food allergy parents!).  And, started articulating a sensation that finally rang my alarm bells on EoE:  he felt like he had something stuck in his throat.

We immediately went back to the pediatrician who ruled out a number of conditions like celiac disease and quickly thereafter booked an appointment with a pediatric gastroenterologist.  One Upper GI (where they watch barium travel down your esophagus and into the stomach via x-ray) and one Upper Endoscopy later and we’re only a *little* closer to figuring this thing out.  EoE is more common in patients with food allergies and other allergic diseases (like asthma) and far more common in males than females – although the connections aren’t clear.

While his doctors rule out causes, his symptoms persist and we have more endoscopies, food challenges and allergy tests (I almost can’t believe it) on the horizon.  I’m certain many of you have already gone through this cycle of testing and I would love to hear your experiences and any advice you have to offer.

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