Friday, January 30, 2015


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I'm not quite sure how to feel right now.  I've just been handed the diagnosis that my eldest son Zax has asthma.

Asthma runs in the family, of course.  We already know that Kal has it (or at least has reactive airway disease, he's still too young for lung function testing.)  But I have it too, as does my dad, as did his mom.  We're going on four generations here, so I'm certain that's what Kal's tests will prove once he's old enough.  And I always knew that this was a possibility for Zax as well.

Except that Zax doesn't act like an asthmatic kid.  The world is his playground, no matter how much I tell him not to climb on the furniture (whereas Kal has occasional coughing fits and needs a rest after following his brother around.)  Zax never slows down except right after waking up in the morning, when I ask him to do chores, or when he's sick (and sometimes not even then.)  He doesn't have a chronic cough.  He doesn't cough with exercise.  And the only times I've heard him wheeze were when he aspirated a piece of carrot and when he had the flu.

That's what led us to the doctor yesterday in the first place--to follow up on his flu hospitalization.  I was supposed to have done this back in December, but with Christmas craziness and the fact that Zax seemed and acted completely better, I forgot.  So even though it was more than a month later, the doctor wanted him to do a lung function test to see how he was doing.

His numbers were below the level they wanted, 81% rather than 85-90%.  When she listened to him, she also said he sounded "decreased."  (No, not "deceased." ;)  So they gave him a neb of albuterol.  Then we waited the 15 minutes or so for it to take full effect, and he performed the test again.

Our doc told me that an increase of 12% or greater means asthma.  Zax increased by 19%.

(Asthma math is apparently different than regular math, though, because 96%-81% = 15%, not 19%.  I didn't notice that one until I got home, plus it was very late anyway and I wanted to get out and get dinner.  But I'll have to ask about this at the next visit, because all of the categories don't add up.)

Going back to the fact that Zax doesn't act asthmatic, I asked him if he felt any better--or any different--after the neb.  He said no, and was ready to be off and running to the next activity.  So it increased his lung capacity, but not noticeably so for him.

We've never done lung function on Zax before so the doc doesn't quite know when this started.  Has he been "invisibly" asthmatic for a while, or did the flu bring it on since he was genetically inclined?  He told me his throat hurt a tiny bit last night, so I found myself wishing a cold on my child, so I could blame his decreased lung function on that. :P

At any rate, if he does truly have asthma, at least he's in much better shape than his brother.  That's a good sign all around.  But I'm still not sure whether to be frustrated and disappointed by the diagnosis, doubtful of it, or relieved that if he did roll that part of my genetic dice at least he doesn't have it bad.

For now, time will march on, with another set of inhalers in the house.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Walnuts Scare Me

This is a repost from my old blog.  The blog was about my writing life and unrelated to food allergies, except that, in March of 2012, I shared my experience with giving Zax walnuts (my very worst allergen) for the first time.  It was an emotional adventure, as you'll see below.

Walnuts Scare Me
originally posted March 17, 2012 on Science Fiction Mommy

You probably don't know this about me, but I have severe food allergies.  I'm allergic to tree nuts.  I don't think I've ever mentioned this before, in large part because it doesn't take up much mental effort on my part.  I've been allergic since I was tiny, so label reading, asking questions, and avoiding certain foods/situations are all par for the course.  I've been bitten on occasion if I assume too much (after all, who puts nuts in egg rolls?), but by and large the situation is under control.

By the same token, I don't have to expend too much energy on Zaxxon's food allergies either.  The little guy unfortunately inherited my flawed genes, and is allergic to egg (confirmed) and peanut (unconfirmed.)  When we went to the allergist after his first taste of scrambled egg, my primary reaction was "Really?  He didn't get the memo that he was supposed to take after his Daddy?  *dramatic sigh*"  And then I incorporated egg and peanut into my existing food avoidance routine and moved on.  It wasn't the earth-shattering diagnosis it is for newly-initiated allergy parents (like my parents nearly 30 years ago) because I already knew how to live with it.  The allergist and pediatrician also advised that we keep tree nuts out of Zaxxon's diet until he was three or four as a precaution because of my allergies, even through skin tests were negative.  Which we've done.

Well, Zaxxon is now three.  He communicates fairly well.  He still doesn't have the words for a lot of things, but he can say enough to give us the idea of what's going on, especially when we ask him questions.  And even though he's never going to encounter tree nuts regularly (at least not in this household,) I'd like to know whether we have anything to fear from accidental exposures.  So I've decided it's time to introduce him to tree nuts.

Our first forays were uneventful--and inconclusive.  He said he didn't like the foods we offered him, which consisted of an Almond Joy from his Halloween candy and a piece of Pecan Tart from hubby's Christmas treats.  Nothing happened after these tastes, but I wanted to be certain "I don't like it" didn't mean "it makes my mouth feel funny."  So I enlisted my parents and in-laws to make eggless cookies and/or brownies with ground up nuts in them.  This way I could be certain he likes the delivery method enough to eat a significant amount of the nuts--thus ensuring me that nothing will happen.  My mother arrived the very next week with a bag of chocolate chip cookies.... with WALNUTS.

There's nothing like facing your fears head-on.  When it comes to other nuts, I can recognize them as food.  I'm disappointed when I learn that they're an ingredient in something that looks tasty, but they don't diminish a food's integrity.  I understand that other people like them.  Walnuts, however... well, they've got to be the scariest nuts on the face of the earth.  Even as an adult, when I learn that something has walnuts in it I wonder, "Why would anyone do something like that?  Why would you ruin a food?"

It's a reaction purely driven by instinct.  After all, walnuts are my kryptonite.  Every time I've had the misfortune to encounter them, they've knocked me flat.  (And really, who puts walnuts in egg rolls???)  So when Mom handed me that bag (carefully double-wrapped so I wouldn't touch the contamination) my blood pressure raised by a few points.

I pondered the repercussions for the rest of the day, until halfway through dinner I decided that that night would be the night.  Walnut cookies for dessert.  Then I proceeded to worry through the rest of dinner.  Zaxxon was in a funky mood already and didn't want to eat dinner very fast, which only served to extend my anxiety.  By the time he finally finished his dinner, I was wound as tight as a spring.  Then, with Epi-Pen tucked close in the pocket of my hoodie (I didn't want to hover and worry him, after all) I had hubby offer him one of the poisonous cookies.

I quite literally felt like I was holding a gun to my child's head.  I mean, these were walnuts.  Something was going to happen.  Something was supposed to happen.  That's just the way it is.  Nobody who eats cyanide thinks it tastes good.

Well, I'm happy to report that nothing happened.  Nothing except that he loved his Ama's cookies.  As the tension began to release, it was replaced by a new concern--concern for myself.  Have you ever seen a three-year-old eat a cookie?  Or any food, for that matter?  M-E-S-S-Y.  Crumbs everywhere.  Having hubby wash his face and hands afterwards wasn't going to be enough, the whole table needed a scrubbing.  With soap.  And his chair.  Plus, he made like he was going to touch every wall and surface between the table and the bathroom sink, which hubby had a job preventing.  Maybe this wasn't such a hot idea after all.

It wasn't until the fourth and final day of walnut cookies that hubby and I figured out that he ought to eat them outside.  Let the birds, bugs, and elements wash the allergens away for us.  Much easier that way.  Safer too.

I learned a lot of things during this experiment, mainly about myself, but also about how we're going to have to handle food allergies as Zaxxon (and Kal'El) get a little older.  For now, I'm happy to have the walnuts out of the house, and I'm very happy that they aren't going to kill my first baby.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Chicken Parmigiana

With the homemade seasoned breadcrumbs I posted about last week, we made Chicken Parmigiana for dinner!  It was so very yummy that I had to share!

This recipe is pretty labor-intensive.  Hubby did the bulk of the work, and was remarking that he remembers why we don't make it very often--just because it takes sooooo long.  But then while we were eating it, he said that it tastes soooooo good and that he wishes we would make it more often!  What to do?

Chicken Parmigiana
(modified from McCall's Cooking School)


  • 2-3 lbs chicken breasts or thighs (or your choice, remove bones and skin if not already done)
  • 1/2 cup fine seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Milk or flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp water, allow to sit until sticky) to affix breading to chicken
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 jar (16oz) spaghetti sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 8oz mozzarella cheese (brick, not shredded)
  • cooked pasta
Combine bread crumbs and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese in a shallow bowl.  Place milk or flax egg in another shallow bowl.

We decided to try this with both milk and flax egg, in order to compare which one stuck the breading on better.  We found no discernible difference, in this recipe, at least.

Dip a chicken piece into the milk or flax egg, letting excess drip off, then dip chicken into bread crumb mixture, turning to coat thoroughly.  Shake chicken to remove excess crumbs.  Repeat until all chicken pieces are coated.

In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot.  Add half of the chicken pieces; saute 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown.  Remove to plate.  Repeat with remaining chicken, adding oil to skillet as necessary.

In a small bowl, combine spaghetti sauce, garlic, and oregano; mix thoroughly.  Pour into a 9"x13" baking dish.  Arrange chicken pieces over sauce mixture.  Cover loosely with foil.  Bake for 40 minutes.

Remove foil from baking dish.  Top each piece of chicken with slices of mozzarella cheese.

Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Return dish to oven and bake 10 minutes longer or until mozzarella is lightly browned and sauce is bubbly.

Serve with your choice of pasta.


What are you making for dinner this week?

Linking up at Allergy Free Wednesdays

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Potential Egg Allergy Study - and how I feel

Last week, I heard of a nearby clinical study for egg allergies.  It will be comparing regular OIT therapy with a different, potentially more "user friendly" version of OIT.  I requested more information, and connected with them just a few short days later.

In the time between hearing of the study and talking to someone involved in it, I found myself experiencing an unexpected range of emotions.  There was hope, of course.  Hope that perhaps this egg allergy might be put behind us.  Egg certainly is the hardest of our allergens to avoid.  It doesn't seem to be as deadly as peanut and tree nut, but it's everywhere.  Bringing a cupcake to all birthday parties is par for the course right now, and we can never go out to eat for breakfast.  All breads and pastas are suspect until proven otherwise.  And I've been teaching him the unfortunate truth that all baked goods, unless they came from my kitchen (or an Enjoy Life box), must be assumed unsafe.

Zax takes it all in stride.  It's the only life he's ever known, and is within the larger picture of the only life I've ever known.  I have yet to see him be particularly bummed or depressed by his allergy.  This is who we are, and he's owned that quite admirably.

Which leads to the next emotion I felt.  It's hard to put a definite label on this one, but it falls somewhere in the realm of bittersweet.

It seems so strange that I would be feeling anything other than unvarnished enthusiasm for the chance to put an allergen behind us.  But then I reminded myself of how long I've been doing this.  While I've only been dealing with egg for the last 5+ years, I can't remember a time when food allergies weren't on my radar.  They've faded into a constant piece of my background, requiring frequent attention but not much conscious thought.  Dealing with them is largely a reflex, unless something different happens.  I realized that removing food allergies from the picture would be equivalent to removing part of my identity.

I know this must sound overly dramatic, and is also premature.  Removing egg would be only part of the picture, and wouldn't even get me back to pre-kid conditions.  But recognizing this fact made me understand the not-quite-regretful sense of nostalgia I was feeling.

As it turns out, the whole range of emotions may have been premature, and my loss of identity was nothing compared to the disappointment when I realized that Zax probably isn't going to be eligible for the study.  We'll be discussing it with his allergist soon, and I'm leaning toward getting the initial evaluation anyway, because we've got nothing tangible to lose--but a lot of factors will have to come together in order for him to be able to participate.

We're keeping our fingers crossed nonetheless.  I'll gladly give up my title of Egg Allergy Mom in order to open up Zax's life.

Maybe someday he'll be eating un-modified versions of these!  You know what though?  We'll still bake a lot of things without egg.  Nothing beats guilt-free cookie batter eating!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Homemade Seasoned Breadcrumbs


I have had a very hard time finding breadcrumbs that I can buy.  Not very many varieties of bread (especially sandwich bread) have egg in them, but for some reason, most breadcrumbs do contain egg.  This is a conundrum to me.  But as a result, we seldom make recipes that require breadcrumbs, because of how difficult it is to find them.

On a slightly different topic, Kal recently decided that he no longer wanted crusts on his bread.  I tried very hard not to accommodate this request, hoping the pickiness would go away.  He would take a few bites at home, but he eats lunch at preschool three days each week. I finally caved on the crust front when Kal's crusts would return home from preschool with at least 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of sandwich still attached.  At least when I cut off the crust, I can cut off only the crust.

These seemingly-unrelated elements of our lives continued for some time, until I was browsing school lunch ideas online last fall.  Someone shared a picture of a sandwich cut into a fun shape, and they mentioned that they save the bread scraps to make breadcrumbs.
Aha!  I could save Kal's crusts (instead of eating them myself) and make egg-free breadcrumbs out of our egg-free bread!  Why didn't I ever think of that before?

We started saving Kal's crusts in the freezer, and this past week I decided it was getting full and we needed to make some breadcrumbs out of them.  So I did!

Homemade Seasoned Breadcrumbs
As with most homemade foods, this is cheaper than the store-bought variety (not to mention having a smaller ingredient list), but is also more time-intensive.  It was pretty easy to do, though.

Place allergy-friendly bread (slices or, in our case, crusts) on a cookie sheet, spread out in one layer. (If using frozen bread/crusts, allow to thaw first so you won't have freezer moisture messing up your bread.)

Place in a 300 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until crisp, flipping over at the halfway point.  (I checked mine every 5 minutes, thinking it might take less time since it was only thin strips, but I still dried it out for about 12 1/2 minutes.  In fact, I had several pieces that just smushed, so I probably needed to let mine cook a little longer.)

Allow to cool.  This does not take long.

Break the bread into coarse or fine crumbs, depending on your recipe and preference.  You can use a food processor, although I opted for a ziplock bag and a rolling pin, because I didn't want to clean the food processor.

My big tray of bread crusts turned into about 1 2/3 cup of breadcrumbs.

You can be finished at this point, if you want plain breadcrumbs.  Use them right away, or make sure they're completely cool and dry before storing in an airtight container.

However, if you want your breadcrumbs to be seasoned, try the following:

1 tsp salt
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp basil
3/4 tsp garlic powder

Add to breadcrumbs and mix together.

I was very happy with this result.  It was quite tasty, and we even added a little to our salads as a garnish for extra flavor.

If you're wondering what dish we used these on, hubby made Chicken Parmesan!

What's your favorite recipe that involves breadcrumbs?

Linking up at Allergy Free Wednesdays

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pink Hummus - Top 8 Free!!

I found this recipe a few years ago, and have since turned into a hummus junkie!  It tastes soooo good when you make it yourself!  Hummus is a great source of protein and healthy fats.  Adding beets into it adds a lot of vitamins, not to mention a bright color that makes it appealing.

Pink Hummus

  • 1 beet
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 can (15oz) garbanzo beans, rinsed (I like to use no-salt-added)
  • The juice of 1 small lemon (~4 Tbsp, if you aren't inclined to juice one yourself--it's better fresh though)
  • 2 Tbsp Tahini
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt

Scrub the beet to remove dirt and chop off the ends.  Cut beet into quarters.

Wrap the beet and unpeeled garlic cloves in loosely in foil.

You may notice an absence of tahini.  Sadly, I was out.  But I
will be pureeing some in with a few spoonfuls of the hummus
after my next grocery trip, and  then adding it back in!
Roast at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until beet is fork-tender.  (If your beet requires more time, I recommend removing the garlic at the hour mark.)  Peel the beet and garlic.

In a food processor or blender, puree the beets and garlic with the remaining ingredients.  I usually do two half batches to save my poor, small Magic Bullet.


I wish I had found this recipe sooner, it would have made an awesome baby food!

If you don't roast the garlic, the hummus will have quite a bit more kick/bite.  I always roast it, because I prefer the flavor of roasted garlic.

I've used other vegetables on occasion, to make other colors.  Carrots make a good orange.  Spinach can make a green, but it's more of a speckled green than a consistent color.  Some day, I intend to complete the rainbow!

I've become completely obsessed with hummus.  Do you like hummus?

Peanut Allergy Slap Bracelets are still available!
Linking up at Allergy Free Wednesdays and Gluten Free Fridays

Also shared at Corn-Free Everyday Link Party (and thanks for the invite!)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


I recently came across this great program!

Logo used with permission

Here's how it works:
The program offers four FREE EpiPen® or EpiPen Jr® Auto-Injectors to qualifying public and private kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools in the U.S. Requirements to qualify for this offer include having a valid prescription. The products are available in the form of two EpiPen 2-Pak® cartons, two EpiPen Jr 2-Pak® cartons or one 2-Pak of each kind. Each EpiPen 2-Pak® contains two single auto-injectors, instructions for use and a EpiPen® Trainer, with no drug product or needle, to help patients become familiar with the administration technique.
I just had to read that twice.  FREE EpiPens for schools to keep on hand for anyone who needs one?  How awesome is that??!!  And it gets better:
In the event that the free supply is used to respond to an allergic emergency (anaphylactic event), qualifying schools are eligible to receive a replenishment order of EpiPen® or EpiPen Jr® Auto-Injectors prior to their annual eligibility date at no additional cost.
I shared this with Zax's school nurse right after I found out about it.  She sounded wary when I asked whether the school already had stock epinephrine, but got really excited when I told her about the program.  She told me that we have a few students who have been diagnosed with food allergies, but whose parents are unable to afford to keep epinephrine at school, so stock EpiPens would be a terrific way to keep them safe until paramedics can reach the school.

I also know that we have one student who has an allergic parent and he's never eaten his parent's allergen--but he's convinced he's allergic, too.  I can only imagine that he has no EpiPen since he's undiagnosed, so stock epinephrine would be a good safety net in case his suspicion is correct and he's accidentally exposed at school.  Other kids can have their first exposure to an allergen at school too, so there are plenty of reasons why having stock epinephrine on hand is safer and helpful!

The last I heard, our school nurse had passed this on to the district nurse, and they're in the process of qualifying.

I also shared this with Kal's preschool. I don't know whether a private preschool would be eligible (it doesn't mention preschools on the website) but I figured it was worth a shot. The Admin informed me they'd been considering stock epinephrine anyway!

Mylan is also extending their $0 copay program for EpiPens into 2015, so check that out if your copay is more than a few bucks!

And don't forget to check out our Peanut Allergy Slap Bracelets! We expect to have a few more allergens available in a few weeks!

I think it's great that Mylan Specialty wants to give back!  Be sure to share this with your child's school and with your social networks--undoubtedly you know more people touched by food allergies than you think, and they could all benefit from this!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Pumpkin Soup with Chili Cran-Apple Relish

Unlike other pumpkin soups, this one is not sweet.  In fact, it can be spicy!  Adjust the amount of hot sauce and chili powder depending on how hot you like it.

This recipe contains milk.

Pumpkin Soup with Chili Cran-Apple Relish

Soup Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp poultry seasoning (or 2 tsp ground thyme)
  • 1-2 Tbsp allergy-friendly hot sauce
  • 6 cups allergy-friendly chicken broth
  • 4 cups pumpkin puree (or 29oz can)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Relish Ingredients:
  • 1 green apple, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add oil, butter, bay leaf, celery, onion, salt, and pepper.

Cook 6-7 minutes, until tender.

Add cornstarch and poultry seasoning; cook for one minute.  Mix together a little chicken broth and hot sauce, and whisk into pot.  Add remaining chicken broth; bring liquid to a bubble.  Whisk in pumpkin in large spoonfuls, incorporating it into the broth.  Simmer 10 minutes to thicken a bit.  Add cream and nutmeg.

Lower heat; keep warm until ready to serve.

While soup simmers, combine all relish ingredients.  Serve in bowls with a few spoonfuls of relish on top.

This is very scrumptious and really hits the spot on a cold day!  And I love that it only contains one of the big 8 allergens!

And speaking of allergens, don't forget that our Peanut Allergy Slap Bracelets are available now!
Linking up at Allergy Free Wednesdays