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{hello} is anyone out there?

April 5, 2011

Hello……hello…..

I don’t expect anyone to answer because I have seriously neglected this blog.

I have two reasons:

1) as a food allergic parent, I live the constant ups and downs and diligence everyday that I have shied away from writing the emotional charged stories that come out of the day-in and day-out. I seem to be strictly avoiding writing about the emotional toll of food allergies on our family.

2) My food club and group blog, From Scratch Club, has really taken off and that’s where I have spent 100% of my blog-writing time. I get to act as a normal home cook without sharing the painful struggles with having a kid that has a growing number of food allergies and other medical issues. All of my recipes are allergy-free but it seems to be a safer place for me to share. I feel less raw, keeping my stories a little less personal. One positive is I’ve been able to education a broader audience in food allergies. Always a good thing as we, food allergy caregivers, know knowledge of food allergies is the first step to a safe experience.
So I’m changing this blog up a bit. So much has happened since I last posted, both not-so-good (Miles developed severe allergies to sesame, peas and corn while also most-likely being diagnosed with EE, endoscopy in July) and good things (Miles disqualified for Early Intervention once off of gluten for 6 weeks. He grew in size and stature while also talking and moving up a storm- like a light switch was turned on!). The other very positive thing to happen in my life is that my fellow food-allergy mama friend, Kim (see pesto post below) and I have started a monthly support group in the Saratoga Springs area: Strict Avoidance: Caregivers of Food Allergic Kiddos. We meet on the third Monday of every month at the Saratoga Springs Public Library, Gasby Room at 7pm. We are not affiliated with any non-food allergy non-profit or local allergy medical practice as we are more about having a safe place to cry/vent/scream about the ins & outs of our daily lives with food allergies. We also share recipes and kitchen tips & tricks.

I’m going to recruit a few members to make this space a community blog where a few members will be sharing share stories, references, and kitchen tips/tricks and recipes.

Our next meeting is Monday, April 18th at 7pm! I hope to see you there!

{pesto recipe} Dedicated to My New Friend

September 19, 2010

This is dedicated to K, a new friend.

Well, the word “friend” seems too casual in this situation. Maybe soul sister. Or soul mate. Or partner in crime. You see, K’s 2 1/2 year old son, X, has multiple food allergies.  All the same foods but one; Miles has soy whereas X has eggs. What’s been extremely hard to find in the local food allergic community is emotional connection and support. In my experience “support groups” end up talking about the new epi pen carrying case or the latest allergen-free frozen chicken nugget. I got blogs and books and a subscription to FAAN for that information. I want to vent, cry, scream, laugh, and commiserate. I would also love to swap recipes, but that doesn’t happen either. Ugh, that’s another story for another time. You see, from the moment I met K I knew she was different. K is EXTREMELY honest about the loneliness and anxiety-ridden lifestyle we, as food allergic families, lead. Ahhhhhhhh relief. I could let my hair down and not pretend that I have everything under control.

I met K through another K, a member of a mom’s group Miles & I attend on Tuesdays afternoons. K thought we needed to become friends. Oh yes we did. We spoke for a few days via email and it was an instant connection. A human connection. An understanding and a willingness to be honest that I didn’t find in others. I didn’t get the “everything’s fine” standard retort. Hello kindred spirit.

We met for drinks a few nights later and we chatted through the evening. We traded “how did you find out about his food allergies” stories, local allergists, what to do on vacations, day traps and playdates, nasal and breathing symptoms, hives, various medications, weight, feeding and nutrition issues, RAST numbers, the weight on our shoulders to keep our boys safe around the clock and the “day to day” ins & outs of our lives with our kids. K’s about a year ahead of us in all things parenthood, not just food allergies, so it was also nice to chat about whats its like with a conversational child. We also daydreamed about the exciting prospect of future playdates where the boys could play together knowing that our toys were safe for one another and we might be able to relax. Letting your guard down is not an option at a playdate. ever.

I wanted to cry about 100 times that night but I was afraid I’d never stop. Like a busted faucet. Relief of finding a kindred spirit.

When I told her that I’m obsessed with all-things-food,  she asked if I have a great pesto recipe. I didn’t. Well sort of. This was our first summer dairy & nut free, so I had no clue. Well, I refined it all summer and came up with a winner. I posted it on my food club’s blog a few days ago, with a slightly different story, but now its time to dedicate this pesto recipe to K and her family.

{the magic is in the nutritional yeast/sesame seed/chunky sea salt mix}

Pesto is tricky due to Miles’ anaphylaxis to dairy and nuts. I’ve been mixing and matching ingredients all summer to make the perfect balance of basil flavor, meaty-nuttiness of pine nuts and umami of parmesan cheese. The answer: a blend of nutritional yeast, sea salt and toasted sesame seeds to substitute the cheese and sunflower seeds for the pine nuts. I should also say up front that I am not a fan of a strong garlic flavor in a pesto. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE me some garlic but in my pesto I want a clean herby, nutty flavor without the bolt of garlic. I should also note that I freeze all of my pesto in ice cube trays. When I’m ready to use, I just throw a cube or two in about 5 minutes from serving. If I’m making pizza, gluten-free of course, I just throw the cubes in a microwave for 30 seconds to achieve a spreadable consistency.

BASIL PESTO FOR K
based on every pesto recipe I’ve ever tried
2 heaping cups of basil
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 T nutritional yeast, flakes
2 t toasted sesame seeds
1 t sea salt
1/2 olive oil
pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, optional

Equipment needed: food processor and ice cube trays

Add basil and sunflower seeds in your food processor and loosely chop. Add nutritional yeast flakes, sea salt and sesame seeds and a few grinds of black pepper; process until everything is incorporated. While the processor is on, stream in the olive oil. Blend just until oil is incorporated, do not over blend. Taste, add salt and pepper if needed. Spoon pesto into ice cube trays and place in freezer on a flat surface so you don’t end up with oil in your freezer drawer. Once frozen, put cubes in freezer bag and date the bag. I also put the name on the bag because I have various flavors in the freezer, like ramp and spinach-mint pesto.

There is a First Time for Everything

September 1, 2010

{NOTE: I wrote this post hours after arriving to our vacation location. I had internet connection issues and decided to take the entire 7 days off and then some.}

It is. In a way. Our first time.

We are traveling on vacation for the first time since Miles’ multiple diagnosis in January 2010. A few hours ago we arrived in Brooklyn, NY, home away from home. I lived here for close to eight years back in the 1990′s and early 2000′, so I have a fair amount of friends here. Dear friends in fact. Friends that I will have for the rest of my life. I miss them and sometimes, especially on hard days when Miles has mystery hives or has shut down because he doesn’t feel well, I dream about moving our family to Brooklyn. Why? Because I have always felt at home in Brooklyn, oh and, its easy and comforting to romanticized about the idea. “Its better on the other side” kind of thinking. I have always seen Brooklyn like a small town of sorts, with its small artisan shops and flea markets, playgrounds, public pools and beautiful tree-lined residential streets. Plus, community is strongly shaped when you have to walk everywhere and not live in your car.

How did we score a vacation in one of the most expensive cities in the country? Well, we were lucky when one of my closest friends, and I mean close, we speak on the phone every two weeks without fail even through sleepless nights and long days at work, offered her apartment while she visits family on the west coast. Really? I asked. What a dream come true. A lovely brownstone apartment in a beautiful part of the city with a kitchen, a kid’s bedroom and toys toys toys!!!! I scooped up the offer before she could finish her sentence.

Honestly, just going to a playdate can cause 30 minutes of planning, so I’d been very weary of even attempting traveling with Miles until he’s just a little older, like next summer. Traveling is stressful for all families, with lots of planning and packing and packing and packing, but for us, its on a whole new level of strategic planning. To travel safety I need a kitchen, as from past posts you know I need to make all his food, for now. Its chop chop chop saute saute saute cook cook cook scrub scrub scrub and repeat, everyday. In addition, I have to make sure I leave the house with more than my usual two Epi Pens Jrs., for backups of the backups, and all his asthma gear which in itself could be an entire carry-on on a flight. Plus we need special body soap and lotion and laundry detergent for his very sensitive eczema-prone skin. Oh, and we need to bring all his own crib sheets and towels due to the same skin issue. Oh and I better not forget the regular stuff; night diapers, the wipes, daytime diapers, the stroller…….

Oh and since we’ll be on a vacation, I too wanted a little bit of a break from the routine so I started cooking and baking for this trip earlier in the week. Monday afternoon to be exact. Allergy & Gluten-free waffles, “Sunbutter” nutty bars, granola, risotto, quinoa & local lamb loaf, red sauce, yellow cake cupcakes and chocolate frosting for my mom’s birthday, and flax raisin carrot muffins. Oh yeah, you read that right, the list contained a birthday desert. My parents are taking a mini-vacation to Brooklyn for three days to be with us, really to hang with Miles, and one of those days will be my mom’s birthday. So we are going to dinner at a very allergy-friendly restaurant for the occasion, Blue Ribbon Brooklyn, recommended by Brooklyn Allergy Mom. To hammer the point home, this will be our first dinner in a restaurant as a family ever.

I know this part will make people chuckle, especially the veteran food allergy parents, but I did a ton of grocery shopping too. Rice pastas, hemp milk, rice cakes, Enjoy Life snack bars, cereals, pancake mix, grits, sandwich bread…oh the list goes on. Our Mazda 5 had more food in it than anything else. Its the story of our life, food rules our lives everyday.

This trip will have its challenges but I don’t want to list them. I don’t even want to think about them until the moment arrises when I have to think a few hours ahead and pack and plan accordingly. If I dwell on “what ifs” too far in advance I might just pack the car, get Miles outta of the pack-n-play and drive home. Back to our safety cocoon. And that’s not good for anyone. Especially me. I need this week for me, to rekindle and reenergize. Go us.

{break from reality} the story of a foodie date

August 17, 2010

{Shake Burger & Cheese Fries August 7, 2010)

Living in Food Allergy Land 24/7 can be tough on normal food cravings and on a relationship.

Charles & I are on the bumpy path to becoming accustom to all the foods that we no longer eat either in our house or out in the world while around Miles. We have adapted our recipes, our refrigerator, our pantry, our way of life. But what is still very hard for us is the lack of eating out. I’m not going to lie, oh how we miss thee Hatties, Ravenous, Grey Gelding, Cupcake Lab, any and all ice cream shops. In addition, we can never rely on take-out for those really hectic days, mostly Wednesdays, the one day a week I work outside the home. Sometimes you just want someone else to do the cooking and to bring it home all hot and steamy…Ohhhh some Thai or pizza or Mexican.

I know what you’re wondering. Why can’t Miles eat something else while you enjoy some take-out?

See, we’re in a catch-22 situation. We are trying to raise Miles to eat whatever we are eating as I personally don’t believe in “kid specific food” AND because he has so many limitations we can’t breed a picky eater. We are attempting to foster a broad palette, with Miles exploring complex flavor profiles, just like we do. Thai night, Korean night, Mexican night…see a theme here?  He eats what we eat 24/7. He might have the ingredients in a different format- such as burritos for us, spicy pile of mush for Miles. Since we have fostered this environment, Miles won’t stand for different food from us at mealtimes. Oops! So my approach has created a catch-22. My son is not a picky eater, yet, AND is very aware of everyone’s plate. Add in Miles severe contact sensitivity and we have a no-go on restaurants and take out. The national chain, Chipotle, and the most fabulous local joint 50 South (thank you Kim!) are the exceptions- both of which are extremely food allergy and Celiac’s Disease friendly. Much more on in a future post….I digress.


When my parents offered to babysit Miles for our 2nd wedding anniversary (we’re a 080808 couple, married for $25 at NYC City Hall) Charles & I jumped at the chance to go on an unhealthy foodie date! I knew exactly where I wanted to go; Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack & Blue Smoke, at the Saratoga Race Course. When news broke that these two NYC foodie institutions were planting themselves at the Track for the season, I jumped for joy! I had dreamed about eating at these establishments in Manhattan, but we can’t. In addition, Charles had never been to the track, and I haven’t been since I was about ten, so it was a bonus to see what all the hubbub is about.

{The Post. #8 was everywhere}

Depending on how you look at it, we live a couple miles away from a tourist town six weeks a year Saratoga Springs, NY. The food, the shopping, the Adirondacks, Lake George, the Track are all very popular places to be seen by the droves of people who continually visit year after year during the month of August.

A day before our 2nd wedding anniversary Charles & I ventured to the Track with excitement that I can only describe as child-like. The moment we got there we asked a woman at the “May I Help You” stand to tell us the quickest way to our Oz. After giving us a map we were off for a greasy, cheesy, meaty bonanza that was perfect in every way. The restaurants are located at The Post, where the trainers, owners and jockeys meet before their race. There is also a large bar under a striped circus-like tent – a very adult section and we were thrilled- we could eat, drink, be merry and watch the pre-race excitement. Since we were not interested in the races themselves, the location was ideal.

Our multiple course meal included Blue Smoke’s Ribs and their chocolate jalapeno and salty peanut chocolate bar and Shake Shack’s Shack Burger, Cheese Fries, Black & White Shake and their Shack-cago hot dog. Please note: We split everything 50/50 and yes that still is A LOT of calories/fat so we parked really far away to walk it off- ha ha ha.

We found out some interesting information about Shake Shack. They carefully source all their ingredients from a specific vendor; so their tomatoes comes from one farm, ect. In addition, they have a gluten-free menu and Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg produces a special beer just for the chain.

Once finished we walked around to see our other favorite food joints. Local favorite Hattie’s restaurant and “Restaurant Row” which featured local establishments Cantina, Grey Gelding and Putnam Market. Lastly, we blindly bet 8 dollars on the 8th horse, in the 8th race to place. (horse came in 4th!!!)

{If you look closely you will see a jockey post-race heading to the Jockey Room}

After the track we finished our day with a late afternoon large coffee, a quick nap and a scrub-down of our hands and face (to prevent contact reaction) at a downtown cafe before returning home to Miles. Ahhhhhhh…now back to reality.

all scream for ice cream

July 14, 2010

I have to make almost everything* from scratch. I love ice cream. Well, I love good sorbet, gelato, sherbet, ice cream and your run-of-the-mill soft serve. I have lots of memories, both during childhood and adulthood, visiting local shops for icy treats.

Miles’ dairy & nut allergies prohibit us from enjoying this summertime ritual, for now. There is a good chance he will grow out of at least his dairy & soy allergies by 6 or 7 years old, but I’m not holding my breath. At an ice cream store, even if its vegan or water-based Italian ice, with no dairy or nut ingredients, there is still a chance of cross-contamination, either from the machinery it was processed in or in the shop itself and on the workers hands and scoops with all the “nuts toppings” roaming about. This particular no-go bothers me, to tears. I want so badly for Miles to enjoy this right-of-passage right now. He’s only 17 months so I don’t know why it bothers me so much, he doesn’t know what “going for ice cream” means. My tears are for the 2 or 3 year old Miles. Also in full disclosure, it also hurts because I want to visit a shop like, The Ice Cream Man. Go there now if you haven’t, delish.

I thought there might be hope. There’s a new ice cream/Italian ice shop on Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs, Johnny’s Gourmet Italian Ice (Facebook page but no website as far as I can find). I heard Johnny was serving all sorts of non-dairy, vegan deliciousness. Many friends have been raving about the product, the awesome service and the unique flavors. I was cautiously excited. I went with Miles to just do a “visit” where I would ask a bunch of questions. I met Johnny, he was friendly, warm and honest. The store was clean and fun, like an old school ice cream shop. He makes everything in shop except for the Italian ice. I explained our situation and he simply stated that he wouldn’t feel comfortable serving us for numerous cross-contamination reasons. I thanked him for his honesty and told him I would force all my non-allergic friends and family to support his store (the flavors and vegan options are AWESOME!) It was a very positive 5 minutes but I still left the store and started balling my eyes out.

So my love of everything icy and sugary needed to unite with my ‘from scratch’ philosophy to make this summertime treat possible for our family. I use a Cuisinart 1 1/2 quart basic ice cream maker, and I’m totally happy with it. My friend, A, found one in the clearance section of our local Bed, Bath & Beyond- SCORE! Here’s my recipe for Pineapple Mint Sorbet. I will share my basic vanilla & chocolate bases in a future post.

Pineapple Mint Sorbet
measurements are for my 1.5 quart ice cream maker, change according to your equipment.

3 cups chilled mint tea (mine steeped from a bouquet of  3 types of fresh mint- Wing Road Farm‘s special blend)
1 Pineapple (the more ripe the better so that you don’t have to use much if any sugar)
1/4 cup sugar (or less)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients in the blender, make sure to blend long enough that the sugar has integrated.

To make a granita, just pour ingredients into a freezer friendly container. Every couple of hours, take a fork and scrap it. Repeat two or three times.

To make sorbet, add ingredients to ice cream maker. Stop machine when it gets to your desired consistency. Store in freezer friendly container.

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