Product Review and Allergen Information: Briannas Poppy Seed and Dijon Honey Mustard Dressings

I love finding great products that I am able to find easily in most grocery stores and that I know we can trust.  With allergies to egg, dairy, peanut, tree nuts and gluten, salad dressings can be tricky.  We make a lot of our own, but sometimes you just need a great dressing you can trust and find easily.  When we travel, or visit family, or even just want a quick grab for dinner, I want to know what to get without having to gamble on something new and unfamiliar.  We have been using Briannas Salad Dressing for years.  I’m convinced that their Poppy Seed Dressing is one of the reasons my kids learned to loved eating salads and we use the Dijon Honey Mustard as a dip for chicken tenders and fish sticks, a sandwich condiment, and all kinds of other uses.  It’s delicious!

Since we use these a lot, they end up in my daily lunch posts on my Facebook page quite often.

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When I send poppy seed dressing, I know the salad container will be completely empty when they get home.

 

 

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The dijon honey mustard is perfect as a dipper for veggies and nuggets.

 

I was asked for more detail on the allergen information and emailed the company today.  I got an answer to my email within fifteen minutes of sending my questions. I asked specifically about the possibility of cross contact with egg, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, and gluten during manufacturing with the dijon honey mustard and poppy seed dressings, and I got information about all of their dressings.  SCORE!  Here is their response…

“We have an Allergen Control Plan in place to prevent cross contamination between allergen and non-allergen products, this includes a complete wash down after each flavor that is followed by pre-operational inspections and sanitation verification. Peanuts and tree nuts are not part of our ingredients and we do not process any other products that contain them.

At the end of last year we revised our labels to show the attributes of each flavor. Those that have “no gluten” are now marked as such. You should be seeing bottles with the new labels very soon. Poppy Seed and Honey Mustard are among the flavors that contain no gluten. I’ve attached an attribute chart for your information.”

This chart is an amazing reference tool. Also, did you know they’re family owned and operated? I just LOVE that there are companies and products like this available to us! Enjoy!

2015 Briannas Product Attribute Chart

*All views expressed in this blog are my own.

We Have a Plan and We’re Not Afraid to Use It…Not Anymore, Anyway.

In our 5 years of dealing with food allergies, my husband and I have trained a LOT of people on how to follow our action plan and how to give the Epipen or Auvi-Q.  We have trained friends, family, babysitters, teachers, sunday school teachers, Nursery workers, neighbors, etc.  This usually consists of talking through possible symptoms, when to give it, and a demonstration using the trainer device.  One time it also consisted of me using the real Epipen on myself, thinking it was the trainer.  It was all my husband’s fault, but you probably knew that.  Most people ask the same question.  “Have you ever had to use it?”  I hate this question, only because I hate my answer.

Our answer was that we had never used it, but we should have.  There have been a couple of incidents where we just failed to do the right thing.  In one case, we were so close to the hospital that we drove there, Epipen in hand and they gave it to her when we got there.  This horrifies me now, knowing what a huge risk we took for no reason.  Another time we drove to the ER and sat outside waiting to see if Benedryl would take care of the vomiting and hives.  Again, not the right choice.  Yes, we were very lucky and everything turned out fine, but I never want to depend on luck when my child’s life is at stake.

This past weekend, however, our answer changed forever.  After 5 years of coaching others on how to follow our action plan, we finally followed it correctly ourselves.  It took everything in me not to let the hesitation take over, but this time, everything in me was enough.

Here is our story:

Our two older girls were visiting their grandparents for the weekend.  Our oldest is allergic to eggs, dairy, peanuts, and tree nuts.  Our 18 month old son stayed with us and he is allergic to dairy only, per his allergy testing one year ago, which included the top 8 allergens and several seeds.  We struggle with how to give our children their siblings allergens safely, so he has not had much opportunity to have nuts or eggs.  I decided to take this opportunity to fix that.

After I dropped off his sisters on Thursday, I took little brother out for lunch and got him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  His FIRST peanut butter and jelly sandwich ever.  Since he had been tested for peanut allergies already, I wasn’t really worried about a reaction.  He ate about half of his sandwich and was perfectly fine, so we headed home.  Successful peanut exposure…check.

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On Saturday morning, we decided to take him out to breakfast, which is something we almost never do.  We took him to a restaurant we trust and we spoke with the manager about his dairy allergy.  We wanted him to have eggs, so the manager told us they could use a clean pan instead of the flat top and just use shell eggs, without the usual liquid egg mixture mixed in.  They would use no butter and no seasoning.  We also ordered him bacon and fruit.  the bacon was to be cooked in a dedicated section of the flat top that only cooks meat and the fruit was cut in the prep kitchen, which handles no proteins.  Yes, it’s a lot of precautions, but you’re about to find out why it matters so much.

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When he took his first bite of egg, he spat it out and threw it across the table, then he scraped at his tongue with his hands.  This is actually not an uncommon reaction for him when trying any new food for the first time, so, though a bit embarrassed at his lack of table manners, we were not concerned.  Then he took a tiny bite of bacon.  A few seconds later he looked like he was choking, with small gags and big eyes.  I made sure his mouth was clear and he stopped, then started again.  I could hear his voice, so I knew his airway wasn’t completely blocked.  Then he vomited.  Still thinking it was a choking episode that caused him to vomit, I took him outside for some air.  As soon as I got him outside and looked at him, I knew he hadn’t been choking.  His eyes were quickly swelling and he had hives on his face.  I ran back in with him, and told my husband we had to leave now.  The server was at the table so she gave him the check and he just laid down cash and bolted.

In the parking lot, we began our usual, “should we?”, but quickly knew there were no questions to ask.  WE SHOULD!  We strapped him into the carseat to keep him still and I climbed in the backseat beside him.  My husband held his leg and I gave him the injection.  Then my husband called 911 and requested an ambulance while I got him out of his seat.  He stopped crying right away and his face returned to normal very quickly.

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This is after the Auvi-Q injection while waiting for the ambulance. Facial swelling and hives are already returning to normal. I have no before picture for comparison, but take my word for it.

By the time the ambulance arrived, he looked like himself.  In fact, he smiled and waved at the ambulance as they pulled in.  We climbed in the back and they took us to the hospital after a quick evaluation.  On the way to the hospital, he started getting panicky and scratching his arms and legs ferociously until they bled.  The paramedic gave him a shot of Benedryl, which helped give him some relief.  He got a dose of steroids at the hospital and a prescription to continue them for a few days.  After a couple of hours of observation, we went home.

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Quick power nap at the hospital after the Benedryl kicked in.

Even though this was the first time we have ever given epinephrine, it was by far the least scary experience we have had around a reaction.  As soon as we gave the injection and saw his symptoms fade, I knew we had FINALLY handled it the right way and he would be ok.  I knew that if he needed another one, I could do it.  I knew, without a doubt, that this reaction would not be taking our baby from us.

Now we have to figure out if he has developed an allergy to eggs or if his food did have some kind of contact with dairy.  Another round of allergy testing in in his near future and we will have our answer.   The only thing I know for sure is that no matter what the results are, we can handle it.  We have a plan and we’re not afraid to use it!

Coconut Crunch Granola Bars: GF, Vegan, Peanut and Tree Nut Free

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My girls have pretty active sweet tooths (sweet teeth?) just like their Mommy.  One of their favorite treats is a granola bar.  Cascadian Farms makes two granola bars we have found that are egg, dairy, peanut, tree nut free.  They are Harvest Berry and Oatmeal Raisin.  The girls love them, but they can be difficult to find.  Stores around us are inconsistent carrying these and the other Cascadian Farms flavors are not safe for us.  It can be quite frustrating to search for a product in two or three stores where you have seen them before and come up empty handed.

This seems to be happening more and more, which is driving me to find or create more recipes for the foods we love.  There is nothing more safe or guaranteed healthy than a homemade version because I can control the ingredients and the process.  I know these are made in an allergen free facility because I’m the kitchen manager.  (Self proclaimed, of course.)

I started by searching for yummy looking granola bar recipes that I could modify.  I found these on the Bless This Mess blog, which I love, and they looked so good to me… Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Granola Bars.  Of course, for us, there are at least three reds flags in the name alone (chocolate=dairy, PB=nuts, pretzel=gluten), so I knew I would be in for some big changes.

My version does have coconut, so if you can’t have that, all you have to do is replace the coconut oil with safe “butter” alternative of your choice and omit the coconut flakes.

These are going to be a new staple at our house.  The best part is, I will never have to go on a hunt for safe granola bars again.

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Coconut Crunch Granola Bars

Ingredients:

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1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup honey (substitute molasses or agave for vegan version)

1/2 cup WowButter

2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract

3 1/2 cup gluten free oats

1 cup brown rice cereal (I use Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal)

2 cups Glutino pretzels

2/3 cups Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

4 tbsp. Unsweetened shredded coconut

2 Tbsp. Chia seeds

First, the fun part.  You need to schmoosh your pretzels.  The girls helped with this task, as they are professional food schmooshers.  We do it with ziplock bags and toy hammers, but any way you want to crumble them up will be acceptable.

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Combine your pretzel pieces, oats, rice cereal, coconut flakes, and chia seeds in a large bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil, brown sugar, honey, Wowbutter, and vanilla over med heat, stirring constantly.  It will bubble slightly as you stir.  Keep stirring until it looks smooth and the sugar looks dissolved, then remove from heat and pour immediately over the oat mixture.  Stir together until well combined.

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Press the mixture into two square 8×8 pans or one 9×13 rectangular pan, which has been lined with parchment paper.  If you have two helpers, like I did, I recommend using two pans.  Then sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and press them into the bars.  They will begin melting, so be quick or your hands will be covered in melted chocolate.  Resist the urge to cut them right away.  I tried and they fell apart.  Place them in the fridge until they are cool and solid (about 15-20 minutes should do it).

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Then lift them out of the pans, paper and all, cut them into your desired shape and enjoy!

A good sharp knife works best.  I thought a pizza cutter would be clever, but it didn’t work too well.  A good sharp knife.

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Spinach and Pear Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

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Spinach and Pear Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

10oz of baby spinach

1 ripe bartlett pear, cored and thinly sliced

1 small red onion, thinly sliced (mine was too big, so I only used 1/2)

4 slices of bacon or turkey bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled (omit for vegetarian version)

¼ cup dried cranberries

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette (recipe below)

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I tried the pomegranate flavored cranberries in this batch. They were decent, but I think the original is the way to go. The pomegranate flavored berries were a little too sweet.

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Use recipe below to make your Maple Dijon Vinaigrette.

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I used regular bacon this time, but often use turkey. Turkey bacon is my preference, but you have to be sure to get it crisp. My husband, on the other hand, prefers regular bacon no matter how it’s cooked.

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

⅓ cup cider vinegar

2 tbsp pure maple syrup

1 tbsp dijon mustard

⅔ cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste (I use about ¼ tsp of each)

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Whisk together first 5 ingredients.  Gradually whisk in oil until completely blended.

Drizzle dressing over top of salad, toss, and serve.  Extra dressing can be kept covered in the refrigerator and used within a few days.

This makes a great side dish and uses some of my favorite fall flavors.  It’s a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving and will be on our holiday table for sure.

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Baba Gha-Hummus: A Recipe and So Much More

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No matter how many times I was told that it’s easy to make my own hummus, I never really wanted to do it.  As soon as they said “food processor”, I was out.  I used to use a big food processor that was loud and had enough parts to almost fill the top rack of my dishwasher every time I used it.  It was a pain to get in and out of the cabinet with all of it’s parts, so it just stayed put.  It seems way easier to just buy our hummus than to take it out and wash it.

That all changed with one bite of this delicious hummus.  I will warn you.  It ruined me on store-bought forever.  Even if I wanted to purchase a quick fix, I just couldn’t enjoy it after tasting the real deal.  Conveniently, I had my Mom’s Magic Bullet at my house for making baby food, so I was able to try the recipe out in it.  Why was I using my Mom’s Magic Bullet to make baby food when I own a food processor?  I wasn’t exaggerating.  I REALLY hate taking it out.

I mentioned a bite changed me.  I tasted this hummus at a party, and I couldn’t walk away from the bowl.  I will admit, I felt a little bit possessive of it, even though I hadn’t brought it.  That’s why they call it “crazy” good.  The Zimmermans, who brought the hummus, were kind enough to share the recipe with me and everyone else who tasted it because none of us were willing to let this recipe go un-had.

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The Zimmerman Family, looking all good.

Let me tell you a little bit about the Zimmerman family.  The only way I can really explain it is, they do it right.  By “it”, I mean life.  Homemade hummus is not even the tip of the iceberg.  I can’t do it justice, but check out the article, Family Lives the Self Sufficient Lifestyle, to have your mind blown.  What I CAN say is that every time I am around them, I leave feeling inspired to do a better job feeding my family.  This isn’t because they tell me I need to do better.  They never do that.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I have even seen one or both of them pretend to really enjoy my “something wrapped in canned dough” finger food offering at the very party where I laid claim to their hummus platter.  I want to do better because their passion and knowledge are inspirational.  They make the impossible seem pretty darn doable.  Not to mention, they do it all while raising two of the most well-rounded tween boys you will ever meet who are just plain fun to be around.

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They’re the kind of people who leave organic sweet potatoes on their neighbor’s porch as a random surprise. WIN!!!

So, maybe my big beautiful garden only exists on my Pinterest board and my “composting” takes place in our garbage bin, but we now eat homemade hummus.  Baby steps, right?  Without further ado…

Baba Gha-Hummus

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant

1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

3 tbsp. tahini (or sesame seeds and a little extra EVOO)

1 ½ tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

¾ tsp. salt

⅛ tsp. ground red pepper (or less)

2 garlic cloves (Sometimes I just throw in garlic powder; sometimes I roast the garlic for some extra yum!)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 or 2 squirts of lemon juice (optional)

Penny’s directions:

Preheat oven to 375. Pierce eggplant with a fork. Place eggplant on a jelly roll and bake at 375 for 30 min or until tender. Cool eggplant completely; peel. (Although I don’t peel mine.) Cut eggplant into wedges. Combine eggplant, tahini, and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.

Yields 2 cups.

This recipe is very forgiving and also able to easily adapt. I often add a little lemon juice to bring out the flavors or have to add a little more olive oil if it seems dry. Also, don’t be afraid to play around with the amounts of the spices, just know that the flavors develop the longer it sits. Enjoy!

There you have it.  Below are some photos of what it looks like when I make this hummus.  I have had the recipe for a little over a month and I think I have made it at least 6 times.  I made a couple of batches by roasting red peppers when I was out of eggplant and it was great that way too.  I’m pretty sure you have to change the name if you swap out the eggplant, though.

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These are the ingredients. I use sesame seeds instead of tahini because I can’t find a tahini that isn’t processed in a facility with our allergens. Also, the ground red pepper is missing because I forgot to get it out for the picture. Oops!

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There’s the whole eggplant just roasting away. It doesn’t get any easier than putting it in the oven with no prep at all.

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I grind the sesame seeds to a powder first.

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With the magic bullet, I have to do a few small batches. I try to divide all of the ingredients into semi-equal parts. Here is everything in the first batch of this round.

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The Magic Bullet gets the job done, but it’s not without a good bit of effort.  I divide the ingredients into smaller batches, then I have to shake the blender considerably while it’s working through it to get all of the chunks down to the blade.  I end up adding a bit more oil and lemon juice as I go to thin it enough for the magic bullet to cut it.  This feels like a good time to mention that I’m campaigning hard for a Vitamix from my husband for Christmas.  Oh what I could do with one of those!!!  If you have any compelling arguments, go ahead and email him directly 🙂

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Did I mention this deliciousness is top 8 allergen free, gluten free, and vegan?  BOO-YA!!!!!

Recipe: E&B’s No Nutz Buttercups (Egg, Dairy, Peanut, Tree Nut, Gluten Free and Vegan)

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I feel like I have struck gold with this one.  It’s hard to admit this, as an allergy mom, but my all time favorite holiday candy has always been the peanut butter cup.  I used to get so excited when the special edition holiday shapes came out because those were always the freshest and yummiest versions of all.  I don’t actually remember the last time I had one, but I would guess it has been a couple of years.  Then I stumbled upon this recipe for homemade chocolate peanut butter cups.  These looked so easy, delicious, and best of all, perfect for our usual substitutions.  This recipe is definitely a game changer.

How easy are these to make?  All you need is a microwave and a freezer.  In fact, you could probably do it without either.  That’s right, I’m pretty sure that if you were stranded on a desert island with nothing but these ingredients and some cupcake liners, you could still make these.  Although, good luck getting an internet connection to view the recipe.

I used a mini muffin pan and mini cupcake liners.  You could make these full sized, but they are very rich, so the minis are definitely the way to go.  Also, there is no serving size.  Eat as many as you want.  I know I do.

Ingredients:

1 10 oz. bag Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup Wowbutter (or your favorite safe peanut butter alternative)

1/4 cup powdered sugar (watch for hidden wheat in the ingredients)

2 tbsp. Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread, softened

Directions:

Line muffin pan with mini cupcake liners.  If you don’t have a mini muffin pan, you can just put the liners on a cookie sheet.  Melt Enjoy Life chocolate chips.  I microwaved them for 1 minute, stir, 45 seconds, stir, then 30 second increments until smooth.  Spoon just enough melted chocolate into the bottom of each liner to cover the bottom.  Be careful not to use too much or you won’t have enough to cover them.  Place the pan in the freezer while you make the filling.

For the filling, mix Wowbutter, powdered sugar, and EarthBalance.  Taste the filling and you can add a little more powdered sugar if it needs it.  I added about a teaspoon more, then it was perfect.  After these ingredients are combined, check the cups in the freezer to see if the bottom layer is firm.  When firm, remove from the freezer.  Spoon about 1/2 tsp. of filling into each cup and press it down to fit the space.  After you have filling in each cup, spoon enough melted chocolate on top to cover the filling.  The thinner the chocolate is, the easier it is to get the amount right, so warm it for a few more seconds if it has begun to thicken.  Then pop them back into the freezer and wait about 10 minutes, if you can.

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I had more filling than I needed, so I wrapped it in plastic wrap and popped it in the fridge to make more the next day.  You can also freeze it and thaw for a quick treat another time.

If you do happen to exercise some self restraint and have a few of these left over, you have some options for storage.  You can keep them in the refrigerator, but it’s not necessary.  In fact, I tried both ways and we liked room temperature storage the best.  The chocolate doesn’t melt, but it stays a bit softer, which I prefer.

Why are they  called E&B’s No Nutz Buttercups?  My daughter, Elena, and her friend, Blake, share a very special bond.  They both have the same food allergy profile (allergic to egg, dairy, peanuts, and tree nuts).  I just love the fact that every time I modify or create a recipe for Elena, I already know of another child who will benefit.  I know they will both enjoy their very own allergen free butter cups!

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*A special thanks to Eric Reavis for coming up with the name.

NO this, NO that…What CAN you send to school for lunch?

I know that many parents struggle to find school lunch ideas, even without restrictions.  For some, finding themselves in a nut-free school or allergen free classroom is a huge inconvenience.  Although my daughter’s school is not nut or allergen free, I know that many of the other parents make an effort to send in lunches that are safe for her so she can sit with friends without worrying about their food or hands touching her.  For the record, I am not suggesting that everyone should pack allergy free lunches.  I just like to share some of the things we pack in hopes that others might see something they like and can use.  I have been asked many times what I send for lunch and I feel like the options are extensive, despite being dairy, egg, peanut, and tree nut free.  Below is my post from last year with all of the lunchtime details.  I promised to add more to it, so here they are.  I have photographed lunches these first two weeks of preschool so you can see what I send.  Notice that there are two in several of the pictures.  My non-allergic daughter goes to school a few days each week and she eats the same lunch as my allergic daughter.  It’s not “special” food.  It’s just FOOD.

School Lunch:  Keeping it Simple (The original lunch post)

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Turkey rolls, tomatoes, steamed green beans, berries, and popcorn.

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Quinoa salad, turkey rolls, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, strawberries, fruit smashie pouch, and juice.

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Turkey rolls, steamed green beans, carrots, tomatoes, mixed berries, hummus, crackers, fruit smashie pouch, and juice.

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Nectarine, raisins, and hummus with veggie dippers: green peppers, carrots, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, tomatoes.

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Rice cake, turkey rolls, tomatoes, green peppers, and apple slices.

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Turkey rolls, green beans, tomatoes, apples, crackers, and hummus.

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Apples, green beans, red grapes, green olives, somersaults sunflower seed snacks, tomatoes, and turkey.

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Tomatoes, red grapes, frozen peas*, frosted mini wheats, raspberries, sweet potato sticks, Triscuits, and hummus.

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Hummus, crackers, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, kalamata olives, cucumbers, blueberries, and carrots.

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Fruit smashie pouch, honeydew, strawberries, mini banana muffins*, kidney beans, carrots, green beans.

A few notes:

*1) I pack the frozen peas straight from the freezer.  I don’t thaw at all.  If I pack the night before, they thaw by lunch time.  If I pack the morning of, my girls eat them frozen.  They actually love them frozen as much as thawed, if not more.

*2) I made a double batch of mini vegan banana muffins before school started and popped them in the freezer (wrapped in sets of 4).  I take out a pack of 4 the night before I want to pack them and put them in the fridge.  They are thawed by morning.

3)  You will notice I pack a lot of hummus.  I have learned to include a spoon because no matter how many dippers I give, the fingers will end up in the hummus by the end if there is no spoon.

If your kids really love their nut butter sandwiches, fear not.  There is an option even if your school is nut free.  We are big fans of WOW Butter.  It is school safe and has the texture of real peanut butter.  The flavor is great too.  There are a lot of alternatives on the market, but after trying many of them, this is our favorite.

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If you peel back the label, there are even little sticker labels to put on the sandwich wrapper so you can be sure it won’t be mistaken for peanut butter.

*All views expressed in this blog are my own…until I change my mind, at least 😉

Empty Tear Ducts, Full Promises

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Today is Elena’s last first day of preschool and Olivia’s first first day of preschool.  It’s a big day.  This is different from the past two years when Elena went off to school for a few reasons.

This is the first time I have sent a non-allergic child to preschool.  It’s incredibly different.  When she got out of the car, I didn’t feel panic that it might be the last time I see her.  I didn’t worry about what the other children in her class might bring in or might have eaten for breakfast.  I know that, even if things don’t go perfectly for her today, Olivia will be safe.  That’s not to say it’s easy to let her go or that I don’t have any concerns for her.  I really hope she has fun, and makes friends, and makes it to the potty every single time.  If not, though, I know she will have another chance.

With all of the recent news of children losing their lives to food allergies lately, this year was the toughest for me.  Last night I was restless.  I have always promised Elena I would keep her safe, but this year that’s not enough.  I have a few more promises I need to make.  Elena, I promise not to let you see my fear as I drive you to school this morning.  I promise to get all of my tears out when you’re not around, so you don’t have to wonder what might be causing them.  I promise I will be strong and brave and I will not let my fears prevent you from living.

When every bite of food your child takes could take her life, it is terrifying to know she will be eating when you’re not around.  Even though I have checked and packaged all of her food myself, I won’t be able to breathe easy until I see her face at pick up.  I will smile and try not to hug her too tightly.  I will act like it was a normal day.  I will pretend like I enjoyed my break while the girls were at school.  Mostly, I will say a prayer of thanks that she is back under my watch.

I have many prayers of thanks for this day.  I thank God that Elena doesn’t seem crippled with the fears that are eating me alive.  I thank God for the brave parents,  like Natalie Giorgi’s mom and dad, who use their own loss to bring light to the subject and make all of our children safer.  I thank God for the wonderful and loving teachers and director at Elena’s school who “get it”.  I thank God that He gave me such a wonderful partner to navigate these challenges with.  My husband is strong when I’m weak and he is able to help me avoid making emotional decisions against my better judgement.  Finally, I thank God for the strength to let her go and live that life He gave her.

Since I was up all night getting my tears and fears out anyway, I put together this video.  Get a tissue.  You have been warned…

Here are a few helpful resources if you’re sending your child to school this year with Anaphylactic Food Allergies…

Get Schooled In Anaphylaxis

FARE Food Allergy Action Plan

Top 8 Food Allergies (and how to eat around them)

Lunch Ideas (egg, dairy, peanut, tree nut free)

We rocked out the night before school started to Kyle Dine‘s CD’s.  They’re really fantastic for getting the kids thinking and asking questions.  I also like sharing these songs with our non-allergic friends.

Please post in the comments if you have resources that helped you with the task of sending your allergic children off to school.  Most of the best resources I have found in this journey have come from other mothers.

How to Crush a Food Allergy Mom: A Tutorial

This is an easy to follow tutorial for how to crush a food allergy mom.  I’m offering the top 5 most crushing blows I have heard from other parents regarding my food allergic daughter or as commentaries on food allergies, knowing I have a food allergic daughter.  I know these work because I myself have been crushed by them.  Truthfully, you don’t need to follow each step.  Just pick your favorite and it will probably get the job done.  Of course, the more you use, the deeper the crushing.  Some of these have been said directly to me or in front of me.  Others were passed along second hand.  Either method seems effective.  Let’s get started.

Top 5 phrases for crushing a food allergy mom:

5)  “My child’s food preferences are as important as your child’s.”

Why it works:  This not only shows that you consider avoiding allergens to be a choice rather than a necessity, it also shows that overprotective food allergy mom that the effects of eating something other than cheese or peanut butter for a snack or meal are every bit as damaging as the effects of exposing her child to potentially “life threatening” allergens.  Just because the snack could kill her child, doesn’t mean yours shouldn’t eat it.  It’s not like kids ever transfer food particles around the classroom or playground.  If your kid NEEDS these snacks, other kids just need to deal with it.  Its not YOUR responsibility to keep her child safe at school.  She just wants everyone else to do her job for her.  (Last line was borrowed from a particularly fed up mother who was tired of the food allergy moms relying on others.)

4)  “If it’s that severe, you should just homeschool.”

Why it works:  This is the best way to show that food allergy mom that her child has no right to public education if they can’t tolerate being around your child’s favorite foods.  Why should THAT child even be here if everyone else has to change the way they pack lunches?  If his food allergy is that severe, he should just dig a hole and never climb out of it.  That will keep him safe for sure and nobody else will have to worry about it.  You know that if it were your child, you would just abandon all hopes and dreams for their future and change the plan.  After all, it’s not like they will EVER be able to function normally anyway, so why even bother trying to exercise options that should be reserved for “normal” parents?

3)  “Food allergies are not real.  They are made up by attention seeking parents.”

Why it works:  This works for two reasons.  It shows that the parent is to blame for the condition, while also pointing out the inauthenticity of food allergies.  You need to show these mothers that they can’t pull the wool over your eyes.  As if contact with a smear of ranch dressing could really KILL a child with an egg allergy.  What kind of a dimwit does she take you for?  Certainly it would just be a mild rash or a tummy ache.  Those who DO suffer breathing difficulties, anaphylaxis, and even heart attacks following ingestion probably only do so because their parents have caused such anxiety about everything the child eats.  Those parents should be ashamed of themselves.  After all, if you don’t fully understand a disease, it probably doesn’t exist.

2)  “Ick.  I don’t know how you can eat that stuff.”

Why it works:  This is a great one.  You don’t have to actually express disbelief in the food allergy to get this jab in.  After working for her child’s entire life to find/create safe alternatives to the foods your kids enjoy without a second thought, you can use the food allergy mom’s own efforts to crush both her and the child.  Chances are, she has convinced her child that their alternative is every bit as tasty as what your kids are eating.  She might even believe it’s true.  Pffffffffft.  Can you imagine?  Be sure you say it in front of the child, so the mother HAS to address it with them and to be sure they won’t feel so satisfied with their alternative in the future.  Maybe if we take away the acceptance of alternatives, she’ll drop the ridiculous charade.

1)  “Maybe it’s just nature’s way of weeding out the weak.”

Why it works:  This one hits hard in a totally different way.  With this one, you can admit that perhaps exposure to the allergen would actually kill her child.  The fact is, who cares?  Is she is so full of herself that she thinks the loss of such a small percentage of the population would impact us?  These children are obviously defective anyway.  Maybe if her child dies from an exposure to their allergen it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.  I heard it put best, “maybe if we just all turn our heads for about 5 years, the whole food allergy problem will just fix itself.”

There you have it.  Just put on your pleasant parent face and deliver any or all of these lines in a sweet voice.  Chances are, nobody will stand up for her, and you will have successfully crushed a food allergy mom.  Honestly, there will be nothing she can say or do, so you needn’t worry about it coming back to you.  She’s going to have to maintain her focus on food and she really can’t afford to make any enemies.  She really can’t even react because she’s not going to want to bring any more attention to it in front of her child, who is already likely teetering on the edge of being a social outcast.  After all, food is central to all social events.  The most she can do is go home a cry about it after the kids are in bed.  Pathetic!

If you’re not interested in actually crushing her, but just want a few little digs to let her know you truly don’t understand or agree with her ways.  These are good to keep in your back pocket and slip into conversations with food allergy mom as needed…

-That’s a little over the top. (to be used for any precaution she takes)

-It’s too dangerous for the non-allergic children to have an Epipen in the classroom.

-I feel so sorry for your other kids because they have to live with this.

-Since there is likely a genetic component, I guess it was a tough decision to have more kids.

Happy Crushing!

Just remember this.  If you ever change your mind and heart, there are ways to help rebuild some of the rubble others have left behind.  Here are a few things people have said to me that make my heart feel fuller just thinking about them.

5)  “I would be doing the same thing if it were my child.”

4)  “These precautions are really not hard.  Anyway, it’s worth it to keep every child safe and included.”

3)  “I would like to pack a completely safe lunch/snack so our kids can play together without you having to worry.  What are some good food ideas?”

2)  “I just wanted to give you plenty of notice that I plan to bring in a treat for my child’s birthday.”  (followed by details of what they will be bringing so I can provide a comparable safe treat.)

and the biggest, best, most delightful way to build up ANY parent…

1)  “I LOVE your child.”  (End it right there.  This should not be followed by “but…”)

We’re Up To Something: The Unveiling!!!

Noshedit-Logo

People often ask what we are up to these days or what exactly we’re doing with ourselves.  Justin and I are collaborating our efforts for the first time in an attempt to create something together.  Actually, we have three kids, so maybe not for the first time.  Nonetheless, here is the backstory…  [hazey fade in to three years ago]

In the spring of 2011, we went on a nice family vacation to Key West, just the three of us.  I was pregnant with our second daughter.  We had already been through our big dining out scare and had learned a lot about how to find safe meals in restaurants.  We knew all about asking for allergen menus and talking to managers.  We also knew that chain restaurants were more likely to have specific allergen information available.  We got a room with a kitchenette so we could put together safe breakfasts and snacks, but we didn’t worry too much about finding safe meals.

Elena had just turned 2 years old.  On our first night at our destination, we decided to go out for dinner.  We hadn’t had a lot of time for call aheads, so we decided to go to a chain restaurant with an allergen menu.  We looked up the menu online before we left the room, picked out a few options, then headed to the restaurant.  We spoke with a manager and they brought us the print out of the allergen menu.  Immediately we realized the info was different from what we had seen online.  Uh oh.  It appeared that the things we had chosen were either not on this menu at all, or were listed as unsafe for Elena’s allergens.  After reviewing the menu with the manager, we determined she could safely have steamed broccoli and italian dressing.  That was all.  Obviously, we had to leave.  She was melting down and we drove around looking for another option.  We were all pretty hungry by this point.  We eventually found a grocery store and just went in to get something we could eat while having hunger induced meltdowns and tantrums in the aisles.  After all, I was pregnant.  We left with a few odds and ends and went back to the room to put together a terribly disappointing dinner.  There had to be a better way.

[Not so hazey jump back to today] My special effects are pretty low tech.

One problem is that it takes a lot of time to read allergen menus when you have more than one allergen to consider.  We are usually handed four separate menus, one for each allergen, and we have to cross reference to find something that is labeled safe on all four.  Sometimes we sit and read for quite a while before we complete the puzzle, just to find that nothing is safe for her.  We had to figure out something better.

Initially our only goal was to solve the problem of puzzling through the menus to find a safe dish.  Our solution was allergenmenu.  We created a tool that would do the work for you.  The idea is that you input your profile, based on your allergens, and it sorts through the menus for you and tells you which dishes fit your restrictions at restaurants near you.  It returns actual menu items, based on the information provided by the restaurants, so you know what your options are before you step in the door.

Then we realized we needed more information.  We wanted specifics.  We didn’t just want to know what the corporation says they can make without these ingredients.  We want to know if the servers and managers demonstrate competence with food allergies.  We want to know how willing they are to take extreme precaution.  We want to know what modifications can be made to dishes to make them safe.  Most importantly, we want to know if the food is good.  Every time we actually visit a restaurant, we leave with more information than we could ever gain through researching online.  We want that level of information without having to visit to get it.  We need a tool where everyone can review and rate what they are eating in restaurants.  I only want to see the dishes that are safe for us and I want to know details about the location I’m considering visiting.  This is the beginning of Noshed It.

Noshed It is a free iPhone app that addresses these more detailed needs.  Rather than compiling information provided by the corporations alone, it compiles reviews from actual diners from specific visits.  I review what we eat and if a dish I reviewed fits the restrictions you indicated in your profile, you will see what I had to say about the food, the service, and exactly how I ordered.  This is not only for those with food allergies.  It’s also for vegetarians, vegans, and gluten free dietary restrictions.

We have been using the app for several months now and love that all of our experiences are documented to look back on.  We know exactly how we modified our dishes to make them safe and whether or not the food was good.  We still use all of the same precautions as always, such as speaking with a manager, checking ingredients, and asking for clean careful preparation, but now we have a huge advantage when we’re eating out.  Based on the reviews other people have submitted, we have found several safe meals for Elena in our own home town that we did not know about and might never have found.

To review a meal, you just snap a photo with your phone, then review right away or save it for later.  It’s very simple.  Sometimes we start chowing down before we take a photo.  No problem.  Reviews can be written without a photo as well.  We have even been known to use a photo of a half eaten dish.  Anything goes.   Follow these links to see some actual reviews on Noshed It.

Kyle Dine’s Chipotle Review

Emily’s Salsarita’s Review

We have noticed a trend among people living with food allergies.  There is a question that pops up on message boards, facebook pages, group sites, and all over search engines.  We constantly see people asking and answering the same question over and over.  “What/where do you eat in X city with an X allergy?”  Everypone is seeking the same kind of answers we were seeking.  They don’t just want to know what the allergen information on the website indicates.  They want to know where other people with similar restrictions have eaten successfully.  They want to know what they ate and how the management handled allergies.  They want to know exactly how others are ordering.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all of those answers were compiled in one place with all of the details and ratings?  It might have saved us an ER visit when we were first learning to navigate food allergies.

So this is what we’re doing now.  After much soul searching, Justin left his corporate job of 9 years, which he loved, and we are focused on creating tools that will lessen the burden of living with dietary restrictions.  Hopefully Elena will never have to go through the challenges we have faced in finding meals for her when she’s out navigating the world on her own with food allergies as an adult….or even scarier, a teenager (gulp).  She will have these tools to help make it easier to be safe and to live a normal life.

But that was all too simple.  For a few reasons, which I won’t go into, we have decided to change the name of Noshed It.  By the end of the month, Noshed it will become….drum roll……………………..wait for it……………………….. YoDish!!!

(Download the app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod.  Did I mention, it’s FREE?)

Yodish-Logo-01.png

We are so excited to continue rating our meals and to see what others add to YoDish.  Go ahead and start dishing your favorites.  Actually, dish the meals you have hated as well.  Knowing what to avoid is every bit as important as knowing what to nosh.  (See what I did there?)  Let us know what you think and how we can make it better.  Your feedback will help us build a tool that will change dining out with food restrictions.  Our hope is that the next generation of food allergic individuals will have it easy.  Come on!  What are you waiting for?  YoDish!