Friday, November 16, 2012

Allergy free Menu Planning - perfect for Elimination diets

Menu planning used to be a bit of a foreign concept to me - I enjoyed going to the shops to see what was on special or what took my fancy. At home, I would spend time creating some new dish or adding all sorts of spices and sauces... well... that's how I like to remember my pre-allergy life. Perhaps I'm remembering them with rose-coloured glasses - I'll have to ask my husband. My pantry still has a full spice rack that we no longer use, jar upon jar of curry sauce that I bought on special once... note to self... must clear out pantry!

Since our second son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, my diet is so restricted that nearly all joy from cooking has disappeared. The restrictions on our food list are beyond ridiculous, and now just ensuring all bellies are full is an achievement in itself (especially my belly since I'm breasfeeding a ravenous monster of a 5 month old).

I realised not long ago, that actually the stress of cooking dinner each week has been reduced by having a few easy meals that can be rotated or by having a mix and match system. I'm not sure if you remember, but there used to be children's picture books where you could pick a head, flip through another set of pages for the body, then flip through for the legs of your choice. Our dinners follow this simple idea, and makes each dinner plate unique.

The meals aren't necessarily fancy, but they are nutritious and yummy. And with kids, an empty plate is a good plate. I don't plan each meal exactly, but provided my pantry and fridge are well stocked, I can choose my options based on how I feel that day, or how much time I have to prepare dinner. Typically I spend about 30 mins actually cooking dinner each day - doesn't sound much, but by keeping meals simple, I get to keep my sanity :-)

These meals are easily adaptable to be free from milk, egg, soy, all nuts, wheat, oats, seafood and sesame. If you're not sure how to substitute, or you haven't had success at substitutions, just let me know.

Meat options
Pan fried beef steak - served with a side of mustard for my husband.
Pan fried lamb chops - marinated with maple syrup, salt and oil.
Sausages - we use a gluten free range from our local supermarket.
Pan fried salmon steaks
Beef rissoles/meatballs
Sliced meat covered in crushed Red Rock Deli chips. You can also cover a whole roast chicken with the crushed chips and it keeps the chicken very moist and tasty.

Carbohydrate options
Penne pasta (wheat, corn or rice pasta) -  10 mins boiling time
Rice - 30 mins cooking time
Spaghetti (rice/corn varieties) - 10 mins boiling time
Bread rolls warmed in the oven- this one takes 5 mins from freezer, to oven, to plate.
Mashed potato - if my hubbie is home, he can mash it for me.
Udon noodles or other asian style noodle - 3 mins in the fry pan to heat through.
Frozen chips or hash browns - takes 30 mins in the oven, so needs more planning.

Vegetable options
Frozen/fresh peas or corn
Carrot - our son just has raw carrot sticks, while I microwave the adult portions
Aspsaragus/beans/snow peas/spinach/asian leafy vegetable - any vegetable that can be tossed into the fry pan and cooked in the meat juices to add flavour.
Grated raw carrot and grated raw apple - a yuumy combination actually!
Salad - our son loves raw tomatoe, so a few of those on his plate and he's super happy.

Complete meals
Lamb Roast with roasted potato, pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot.
Oven roasted chicken wings and vegetables, served with rice.
Spaghetti Bolognese.
Slow cooked chicken with apple cider.
Slow cooker - Lamb shanks/lamb chops/osso bucco, carrots, onion, potatoes etc with a tomatoe base. If you can't use tomatoes, a large tin of cherries and cherry juice works a treat!
Chicken one pot soup - chicken pieces, vegetables... and boil! Add rice noodles or pasta at the end.

For added flavour
Never underestimate the impact of a sprinkling of salt!
Tamari/Soy sauce - if you can use soy.
We can't use store bought stock, so we either make our own, or you can add grapes/plums/cherries to add some depth to the dish. These can be added to the fry pan, or to the slow cooker/pot. Think of it as a substitute for wine.

What are your family favourites? Click here to find some of the detailed recipes. If you would like more specific recipes, please do let me know. I am always happy to help :-)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Allergy free Family meal #1 - Oven baked chicken

After a week of coming to grips with my new restricted diet, this was our first family meal - one that I am quite proud of. Nothing too fancy, but given all the limitations, this is still quite tasty!

Milk free
Egg free
Wheat free
Soy free
Peanut free
Tree Nut free
Seafood free
Sesame free
Tomato, mushroom, onion, citrus and coconut free too.

That's right, and it's even free from traces of any of these nasties! We actually eat this once a week at the moment, and there is always extra for a few hot lunches.

Oven baked chicken

Marinate chicken pieces (I use 2kg of chicken wings) in 1/4 Cup Maple Syrup (for gluten free, choose the pure Maple Syrup).
Add 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder and a sprinkle of salt to suit your tastes.
For an added twist, add 1/2 Cup of pureed apple sauce (I bought mine in a jar).
Place in an glass/ceramic oven dish and allow it to marinate for a couple of hours if possible (or just 15 mins if you're in a rush like me).

Place the chicken in the oven for about 20minutes, at 200 degrees Celsius.

Add some vegetables (I used zuchinni pieces as well as sugar snap peas) and toss with the chicken pieces in the tray. Try and get some of the juice in and around the veggies to make them deliciously sweet.

Cook for a further 20 minutes in the oven, and serve with rice. Yum!

If you want to use carrots sticks, add them with the chicken right at the start since they take longer to cook up.
If you are using chicken legs, it will probably take a bit longer to cook - maybe need to add another 20 minutes to the cooking time.

Do you have a child with multiple food allergies?

YES! I would like to find out more ways to educate them about their allergies.

No, but I'm interested in more recipes.

Monday, October 15, 2012

3 month old allergy result

Well, it's been 4 weeks since we saw our allergy specialist with our 3 month old baby boy. The good news was that he didn't react to any of the skin prick tests. However, the bad news is that apparently babies who don't react at 3 months can still show very serious results later on. So a retest is recommended at 6 months. So far so good... afterall, our first son was only tested at 9 months.

Then... Yes, our son does have allergies based on the rashes all over his body. Steroid creams perscribed.
Then... Mum, you need to eliminate milk, egg, wheat, soy, oats, seafood, peanuts and all tree nuts. Also, no more tomatoes, mushrooms, onions or citrus. What the?!?!?!

That's right folks, not even soy sauce is allowed since the manufacturing process somehow intensifies the soy content that is passed through breast milk. At first I had a brainstorming session with a friend on facebook, trying to figure out what takeaway foods I could still eat... we came up with a few, albeit bland... but then, as we've progressed in this crazy elimiation diet, and I have indulged in the occasional chicken and chips, or store-bought sushi... I've realised that actually, I can no longer eat out, except for eating plain rice and MacDonald's fries. That's right folks... no more KFC, no more icecream, no more chocolate, no more easy takeaway dinners... ever!

Ignorant bliss - that was certainly the world I was living in but a month ago. So what do I eat?? Well, for the first 2 weeks, I was basically hungry. Our son is exclusively breastfed, weighs nearly 8kg (he is a whopper) and so drinks over 1 litre of milk a day. Anything I ate didn't seem enough, and my day time naps were gone, since I wouldn't be able to sleep because of the hunger. At night, I was waking not just to feed bubs, but waking at other times due to hunger. Soooooo frustrating, I cannot begin to tell you!

The purpose of this diet is to identify exactly what causes the allergic reaction in our son. Once his skin is completely clear, I can try adding one serve of a new food a day, for 3 days in a row, and watch for a reaction. If there is a reaction, then I have to go off that food again. So far, we know soy products cause a rash. I'm currently testing dairy, but expecting a bad result. The main reason I even bother to test it is so that we can legitimately get a perscription for hypoallergenic formula. Along the way, I accidentally ate cous cous (wheat) and that caused a reaction. While trying to find alternative foods to eat, I've also tried lentils and mung bean noodles - both of which I think have caused reactions.

At the moment, so many of the things we've tried have led to a bad reaction. One positive is that Roast Lamb with Roast Veg is still on the weekly menu. I've eaten so many tins of tinned corn, chickpeas and butter beans, I think I should buy shares in the company. On one day, I can open 4 tins! Oh, for flavour, I open another tin of corned beef... (looks more and more like cat food the more I look at it).

The upside??

Well, our son does have gloriously beautiful skin actually - once all the rashes went away. He gives the most gorgeous of smiles and laughs - this is the only thing that keeps me going on this wretched diet. So many times I think about stopping breastfeeding and giving up. But then I also know that testing foods through breastmilk is probably the safest way of testing. He's unlikely to die... that's got to be a good thing! As we approach the age of eating solids, it is a comfort to me that he probably won't react to rice cereal, given how much rice I have in my diet. I'm pretty confident about potato, pumpkin, carrot and sweet potato when the time comes, so that is already a good start.

We have another appointment with our allergy specialist in two weeks as a follow up. I have no idea what to expect from this next appointment... surely it can't be worse than this.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Decadent Egg Free, Milk Free, Nut Free Chocolate Cake

Here is a link to the most amazing allergy-free chocolate cake I've ever had. Normally I avoid recipes that say Vegan since it often means they use nuts. But this recipe is amazing... oh wait, I already said that... yes, amazing! Don't be tempted to bake only the base - the topping is what makes the cake.

This is one for the adults as well as kids. Enjoy!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Dairy free sliced deli meat

Wow, I am impressed by our supermarket. For all the negative press there is in Australia about our big supermarkets dominating the market, I am grateful for the large systems they seem to have in place.

Our son is anaphylactic to milk, egg, peanuts and tree nuts. That means that although he can eat beef, lamb and chicken, it always has to be cooked by us. I am terribly thankful that he can eat wheat, so we can have sliced bread (although I am very particular about exactly which brand we get in order to avoid cross contamination). So far, our son can have Nuttelex (a dairy-free margarine), some jams and also vegemite on his sandwiches. But I am always a bit sad that he can't have a ham sandwich like the other kids... or more sad, that I can't just get some deli meat from the shops to save cooking.
I bought some prepackaged Coles Sliced Roast Beef (2x50g) the other day for my husband and noticed with surprise that the allergen list did not include milk, eggs or nuts. Normally pre-sliced meat from the deli is always at risk of being contaminated by cheese especially since they use the same machines to slice the meat. However, because this product is pre-sliced and pre-packaged, en mass, at some other location, there was a chance it could be safe for our son to eat. There are labels and then there are labels. This product is made in Australia, so that does give me some assurance. However, there's nothing like contacting the company directly to find out. Any company that does not get back to me is off my list. If they can't take the effort to answer my question about allergens, then it's likely they can't take the effort to do a lot of other things too, like making sure there is no cross contamination.

I sent an email off, and got a message on my phone a few days later stating that the sliced meat was most likely contaminated with dairy products. This was what I would have expected, so I sent off another email suggesting they fix the labeling of their packaging to reflect this. A few days later, I get another phone message stating that they were unsure of the accuracy of their previous comments and would launch an investigation to address my question. (You'll notice that there's a lot of phone messages... that's my fault since I can never put baby down in time to actually answer the phone). Anyway, two weeks later, the phone rings again and this time I answer it. The lady confirms that after a full investigation, there should be no risk of milk, egg or nut contamination, and in fact their initial customer information was incorrect. Wow, that's customer service. All that effort for one customer (although probably also to ensure there's no risk of litigation). Still, I'm impressed, and I'll be even more impressed if my son actually decides he likes it :-)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Allergy free alternatives

This is a special post for a mum who's daughter has had a recent diagnosis of allergies and interolerances to multiple foods.

When our eldest son was first diagnosed with anaphylaxis to milk, egg, peanuts, all nuts, oats, shellfish, wheat and sesame, at the age of 9 months, we had to dramatically change his diet to exclude traces of all these ingredients. I also had to dramatically change my diet so that I could continue breastfeeding but I was able to have small amounts of most foods. This is a list of ideas for others who have to make such a switch. It's not all bad but does take some getting used to. Hopefully, by providing a list of alternatives, you don't have to reinvent the wheel with your cooking, but just use alternatives.

Milk - we use So Good Regular Soy since it has the highest nutritional content of all the soy milks available in Australia. It is also fortified with calcium, so provides minerals in that sense. Rice milk is another alternative, but apparently the calcium in that milk is not absorbed very well by the body. Using Rice milk is fine if you just want to have cereal, as long as you can obtain your calcium from other sources. We also use Nuttelex, a sunflower oil spread instead of margarine or butter.

Egg - The Allergy Menu website has a Sweet Treats recipe book you can download for free. Page 45 has a great list of alternatives you can use when replacing eggs in recipes. You can't really replace fried eggs I'm afraid, but you can use alternatives for cakes, pancakes, cookies etc.

Peanut - well just avoid that one!

Other nuts - depending on the allergies, sometimes, you can use soy nuts, sunflower seeds or other seeds... but try this carefully since other allergies might exist that hasn't been tested for.

Wheat - I'm afraid I never really found a good alternative bread. If you know one, please do let me know. Corn products are great - corn flakes, corn chips for nachos, corn crackers and rice and corn pasta. Rice products are great - natural rice of course, fried rice, rice crackers, rice noodles. Potatoe products are great - chips, gnocchi, mashed potatoe, roast potatoe etc.

So there you have it - a super quick list of alternatives to use in your cooking - if you have more specific questions or ideas, please let me know. I love hearing from everyone out there who is reading this blog.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ignorant bliss

Two weeks to go until our newest addition to our family goes and has his skin prick tests. He'll be just over 3 months old - poor little thing. I was filling out some childcare enrolment forms to make sure he has a spot for next year and it was quite different to tick the NO box for allergies or medication. Of course the real answer is that we don't know yet... things may change in a couple of weeks.

There's hope - our second boy is chunky as chunky comes and a much darker complexion, not like our first born. So maybe this boy is completely different in physique? But we've also noticed with trepidation the increase in small rash areas across his body. Is this hormonal? Is this normal? Is this signs of an allergy???

For me, this next two weeks is my chance to eat in ignorance before knowledge possibly brings restrictions on my diet. How funny, it sounds like the Garden of Eden from the Bible! Before there was knowledge of good and evil, man was free to roam and free to enjoy everything there was to be enjoyed - innocence. But the desire to know more, the desire to be in charge meant that man's decisions brought knowledge and understanding of all that was wrong as well as all that was right. Innocence was gone and new restrictions, new consequences came into play.

Well, perhaps that's where the similarities end. The reality for us is that whatever allergies that may be present are already there. There's no going back to the innocent beauty of the Garden of Eden. Knowledge could well bring new restrictions and a greater understanding of the consequences should we move beyond what we know to be safe, but it will also provide us with a roadmap towards a healthy, happy little boy.

Hmm, in the Christian faith, Jesus, many years later, provides the way back to God, back to the way things should be. I wonder whether years from now, there will also be a way to restore our children's bodies back to the way they should be - free from the suffering of allergies.

Wouldn't that be heaven??

 Click here for more allergy related cartoons from Tiffany.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Questions from an allergy child

I was so pleased the other day when an overseas friend visited our house. We were all seated around the dining table with a large platter of cheese, crackers and fruit in the centre. Our son had a serve of fruit for himself, as he often does. I told him not to touch the plate since it had cow's milk cheese as well as nuts on it. He proceeded to tell our guest that he was allergic to cow's milk, and nuts, and also eggs. He explained that he can't touch those things because it will make him sick. He also told her not to touch him if her hands are dirty because that will make him sick too.

I am so proud of our little guy and the way he understands and communicates to others about his allergies. I believe informing him about his allergies in an age-appropriate way has meant that he can understand the effects, and also why he isn't allowed to have many things. Thankfully this has meant we hardly have any tantrums when it comes to food restrictions. Of course, I always have a stash of alternative treats so that he's not totally left out, especially at parties. Tantrums when it comes to TV or tidying up, well that's another story altogether!

Here is a list so far of the questions our amazing 3 year old son has asked us about his allergies... along with some answers, just in case you encounter the same questions along the way. Some of these questions seem very basic, but I think it is important to address each one truthfully and frame it in a way small children will understand so that they can learn how to manage their food allergies.

Q: "Why do you and me have allergies?"
A: "I don't know. Everyone is a little bit different - it's called being UNIQUE"

Q: "Who else has allergies?"
A: "Mum is allergic to wine and beer. Grandma is allergic to flowers (hayfever). Grandpa is allergic to the sun (some lack of melatonin pigmentation). Did you know Vampires are allergic to the sun too?"

Q: "When I grow big, as big as the sky, I'll be able to eat cow's milk and eggs."
A: "When you were just a baby, you couldn't even drink Soy milk, but now you drink heaps... so maybe! We just have to wait to ask the doctor first, to make sure you don't get sick."

Q: "Is my baby brother allergic to cow's milk?"
A: "Your baby brother is too small to drink cow's milk, he can only have mummy's special milk, otherwise he will get sick." Our son's reply, "That means he is allergic, because he will get sick!" Since then, our son has gone on to tell his baby brother (2 months old), that he can't eat a whole range of things because he's allergic.

Q: "I can't eat Yoghurt can I?"
A: "If it's cow's milk yoghurt you can't, since it will make you sick. But if it's Soy yoghurt you can!"

If you've been tossed a curve ball question, please let me know and even better, let me know your answer so I can have it on hand when it's our turn!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Annoying products 2

We've been dealing with life-threatening food allergies for nearly 3 years now and every now and then I am tempted to relax a little bit. Afterall, all the other kids around us and all the other parents around us seem to be able to relax more... or so it seems right?!

Well, whenever I am struck with these thoughts, something comes along to jolt me back into vigilance... I was going to type vigilante mode since that's what it FEELS like at times! But no, vigilance is what is needed, not some battle-seeking vigilante mode.

We were at a medical facility - the one place where you would think should be reasonably safe for a child... but then I noticed a bottle of bacteria killing lotion on the bench for everyone to use. These days all the hospitals seem to have them, and actively encourage you to use it to prevent the spreading of bacteria. We had just been in one of the offices where I had used some to clean my hands after an urgent nappy change of our new little bub. That office was dark and I was in a rush so I hadn't read any labels. But in the reception area, I realised with horror that this container had MACADAMIA OIL added! How absolutely ridiculous! Can nothing be made without the presence of nuts?!?! Can you imagine if this was used in hospitals?? Every nurse and doctor would be putting it on their hands, then touching every handrail, every door handle, every piece of equipement... Aaargh!

The other source of food contaminant was in a loaf of bread... I know - so simple. Our son does eat white bread since he's outgrown his wheat allergy. We tend to buy just one brand of bread, made in a large facility, to minimise contamination. Afterall, we're still not sure about his sensitivity to sesame, we know linseed gives diarreah, and all other nuts are on the anaphylactic list. I've stayed away from wholegrain breads since the possibility of an allergic reaction increases with the number of ingredients. Seems neurotic, I know, but then I get given a loaf of bread... looks white... looks fine, until you read the fine print: oat fibre. Yup, in an attempt to increase the fibre content I guess, the producer has added finely ground oats - so the kids can't see it I suppose. Our son is still allergic to oats! So stay strong I tell myself... stay neurotic! I need to!

So that's our latest list of annoying products - the lesson for us? Stay on alert at all times, never stop reading product labels each and every time you buy something, and never let your guard down. Sound tiring? Yes, a little but it's worth it.

Thanks Tiffany for the cartoon, and bringing a lighter side to living with food anaphylaxis.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Welcome Baby Cameron!

Welcome to our family little baby Cameron!
Our not so little cherub is 6 weeks old now and very much a part of our family! We waited and waited for him to come by himself, but after 39 weeks, it was time to come out. I'd been experiencing so many Braxton Hicks leading up to his birth, I was convinced he would come early. But as it turned out, once I adhered to doctor's orders of strict bed rest after my pre-eclampsia diagnosis, those contractions decreased a lot. He was born by cesarean section, and weighed in at a hefty 3.8kg! That was more than 0.5kg heavier than our first born.

And so it begins, the endless comparisons between first and second child... get used to it buddy!

Actually, even at the age of 3, our first born hardly has hints of chinese heritage, but this little guy could maybe be chinese! How surprising, that the same parents produce such different little kiddies.

Then of course there is the question of allergies - well we just don't know do we??!?

As a precaution this time around, we were adamant that Cameron would not be given any dairy formula as a top up in hospital. We tried to convince the attending Paediatrician to write us a script for Elecare, a hydrolysed formula for babies with severe allergies to dairy and soy, but were unsuccessful. In Australia, it appears that a formal diagnosis is needed before we can get government subsidies for this type of formula. Unfortunately the Elecare we had for our first son had all expired and had to be thrown in the bin... what a waste :-( Wow, my sympathy goes out to parents in the US where I believe you have to pay privately for this formula. When we bought a tin of it privately, it cost us 6 times the price it would have been under the government subsidy... Believe me my North American readers, our Australian Medicare system where everybody pays a little bit extra in tax to pay for our health system is well worth the money!

My main focus while at hospital was to get that milk in! Never before has breastfeeding been more important to us - There was a lot of bed rest, a lot of eating, and a little bit of expressing when I could be bothered. Fortunately, everything worked out well, and my milk came in a day earlier than before and there was no need to specially treat our son's jaundice. It was interesting to see the nurse's reactions whenever they read our details with strict instructions of "NO FORMULA" written across all the paperwork.

Now that we're home, baby Cameron is growing well - we're always on the look out for tell tale signs of an allergy and have been extra vigilant with washing hands etc. I really don't know what lies ahead for him in the years to come, but there is a rather long list of doctor's appointments to be made. I am certain though that there will be a lot of love, laughter and excitement in the years to come.

Welcome home...

(Ps. please forgive my rather disjointed thought sequences for the next few months... sleep deprivation is taking its toll!)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In control of what??

Things don't often go to plan do they?

My husband and I turned up to my 36 week obstetrician appointment with a short list of things on our mind.

1. Could we do an extra ultrasound to confirm the sex? We had a medical scan at 20 weeks that told us to expect a boy. But my mother had suggested according to chinese tradition, the shape of my belly actually suggested a girl. Then, our three year old was pretending to be pregnant, as he often does, but this time, it was a baby girl, not a boy! So there you have it, enough reason to put doubt in our minds... how hilarious! So anyway, did another scan, and yes, it's a boy..., fancy that, modern medicine being more accurate than old wives' tales and pretend play of a toddler.

2. We were (I was) leaning towards a selective c-section in the hope of having a better recovery than my last emergency c-section. However, after talking to our allergy specialist, there was a suggestion that trying for a natural birth might improve our chances of not having a highly allergic child. It was probably worth a try.

Well, this is where things unraveled. Baby is head down? Check. Blood pressure? Uh oh... We were informed it was time to check into the hospital for monitoring of mother and child. There went my plans for shopping with a friend... hubby would take the rest of the day off from work, but fortunately our son was already in childcare for the day. It wasn't an emergency, and the doctor did tell us it was mainly precautionary. So we went home, packed some things then had a lovely couple's lunch before checking in.

Three night's later and we finally get all the lab results back - pre-eclampsia! Bugger! Bugger! Bugger!

In my last post, it was all about regaining control... (mainly of my own thoughts and fears). Well, control is a facade - certainly, we can be organised, and I think our planning helped us with that, but control? Well, all the planning and organisation in the world can control squat! In the end, what will happen will happen - who can control pre-eclampsia?? Checking through all the risk factors... nope, not one of those, so who knows why I got it.

Being organised helped a little, although my dear husband simply taking time off to look after our son was the simplest and best solution we came up with. We got some wonderful assistance from church with quite a few meals ready cooked (although my husband still cooked special food for our son). Supportive friends, ongoing prayer... all of it helped. Acceptance... probably the best thing that you can do in the end... believing that somehow, somewhere, this was all going to make sense...

This was my first overnight separation from our son - I knew that if I followed doctor's orders, I would probably be OK, especially being monitored in a hospital regularly. But, what of my dear husband and son?? Could they survive without wife and mother?? Well, in the end, they coped wonderfully well (that's a humbling fact isn't it?!) It was a longer than expected trial for them - it has been tiring on my husband, trying to juggle the home responsibilities with work, but the outcome has been positive. The only thing of concern perhaps is that my son really wanted Megatron to go and destroy the hospital so mum would come home (he is fairly obsessed with Transformers at the moment, so it all makes sense in his world).

Another interesting note, was that my neighbour at home turned out to be my neighbour at the hospital too! You can't really arrange that sort of thing... I'm not sure what the point of that was, but, perhaps in the future, time will tell the significance of both of us being hospitalised together. I can't believe that was coincidence.

So although control would be nice, I don't think we can ever achieve it - if we try really hard to, we'll probably just wear ourselves out! Organised - yes, it has helped so far. Acceptance - the main factor in finding peace. Well, I suppose perhaps it depends on what you're accepting... for me, it was accepting that I am not in control, but that the God who first started all this, will be faithful to complete it.

Amazingly, after four nights, they sent me home for further bed rest. My husband and friends have all been wonderfully supportive while I have been told to rest and do nothing. The pre-eclampsia seems to be stable and not worsening, so two weeks on, we are still here, waiting for the time when bubs will finally appear.

In the end, natural birth vs c-section vs allergies vs whatever else - who cares?! It all amounts to not much at all, except for maybe more stress. I've accepted my life is in good hands and am finally in a spot where just seeing our second little baby boy will bring more joy to my life than all the control in the world. I've seen too much good come from our first little boy's life already to think anything else.

... we're all waiting for you my darling!

To read more about the arrival of our second boy, click here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Meat Pie

This recipe was inspired by the previous Jam Tart recipe, but instigated by my husband who wanted our son to enjoy good 'ol Aussie Meat Pies. I used muffin trays to bake the individual pies.

Canola Puff Pastry (dairy free, from Coles, if you live in Australia) - cut one sheet into four square quarters. Each square can be placed into a muffin mold. Place the cooled meat mixture into the center of the pastry and fold the corners into the center, to cover the meat. Place a cut-out shape on top of everything to seal off the pie. The pastry doesn't need to be completely sealed or perfectly shaped - I personally like the dribbled effect. If you want it to be more browned on top, you could brush some soy milk over the top, but I don't think it's necessary. Bake at 220deg C, for 20 - 25 mins or till nicely browned. Serve with chips, mash or other vegetables.

Meat filling recipe
Our son is still on a very restricted diet so the ingredients we use are very limited compared to most recipes. If you are able to use more spices and herbs, then I'm sure it will taste even better, but in the meantime, this recipe uses very basic ingredients to make something still quite tasty. For example, we still haven't found a stock cube we can safely use, nor is there any chilli, mustard, or fancy sauces in it. If you miss these flavours, then perhaps topping the pies with a bit of spice will make up for it.

1 onion, chopped finely
500g beef mince
1T tomato paste
1C red grapes, chopped in half or perhaps 1 plum, chopped into pieces (this is what I use instead of stock cubes believe it or not!)
1C chopped veggies like peas, corn or carrot
salt to taste

Gently fry the onion in some sunflower or other acceptable oil. Add mince and brown it fully. Add the remaining ingredients and enough water to simmer for about 20 mins. Add salt to taste, then cool before placing into the pastry.

Hope you enjoy these little treasures too!

From PANIC to Peace with our pregnancy planning

What a difference a couple of weeks makes. After my middle-of-the-night panic attack, thinking about what to do with our severely allergic toddler I've just come back from my baby-shower with such a peace in my heart - who can believe it?!

Let me guide you through the steps - just in case you need to do this one day...
Step 1: I put together a folder with all our son's allergic information. This includes his Anaphylaxis plan, a list of approved foods, a rough schedule for eating and sleeping, some recipes printed from this blog, and a list of other medications and instructions for cases of rash/asthma/fever and also medical details like doctor's details, insurance and medicare details in case a trip to the hospital is required.

Step 2: I've packed a cooler bag with all sorts of food including snacks, tinned food, pasta etc. I've also packed a bag with sauces to be used - this includes honey, jam, soy sauce, oil

Step 3: I've made a list of last minute things to add to the bags - this includes things from the fridge like Nuttelex, frozen bread, frozen bolognese sauce.

Step 4: I've made another list of other things to bring, like clothes, medication, toiletries, spare pan and chopping board.

This is all the stuff we need to bring with us to drop our son off at a friend's house when the time for labour comes and we need to head to the hospital. Our hope is that our son can be cared for by our friends during labour, so that my husband can be there for the birth of our second child. We have also agreed that if worse comes to worse, our husband may miss the birth, but that it will most certainly not be the end of the world.

Step 5: I decided to use the baby shower as a chance to go through all of our son's information with our close friends in one go. Before I left home, I was wondering whether they would still be my friends after this information download. Would they ever see me the same? Would they think I am totally neurotic? Would they withdraw their offer of emergency care once they realised how complicated it can be?

Well, what a blessing it is to have such wonderful friends. They listened carefully, asked very good questions, and also made some really good suggestions, like including a spare house key should they need to grab something from the house. Overwhelmingly they agreed that coming over to our house was the safest option if it was practical to leave their kids at home. This was something my husband and I had also thought, but I was too afraid to ask. Afterall, all these ladies have kids of their own, households to run, as well as jobs to go to.

So there you have it, in a few simple steps - a total transformation from total panic in the middle of the night, to complete peace about who would look after our most gorgeous but highly allergic son. After that, the ladies sat back, relaxed, ate some most delicious afternoon tea and just shared the joys of motherhood together.

Ok, bring on labour... (I hear you laugh?)

For the next step in our journey, where things get out of control... click here

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pregnancy, planning, PANIC!

It's 5am in the morning and I wake up thinking what a good sleep I've had considering that I'm heavily pregnant. A quick toilet break and I can still catch another couple of hours sleep.

But, when I hop back into bed, my mind starts to wander... We've been told lately by a health professional that I trust (not just some random know-it-all), that a natural birth could greatly reduce the chance of our next child having allergies. I had been leaning towards an elective c-section since our first boy had to have an emergency c-section. However, if there is a chance we could somehow assist our next child not to have allergies, then surely it's worth a try??

I know, these are not the thoughts you should entertain in the middle of the night... big big mistake!

We don't have family living anywhere nearby, so we've had some lovely friends offer to help us look after our 3 year old when labour comes. I've already prepared a large bag of foods that our son can eat so that we can grab it and go when the time goes. Although a few of my friends are familiar with the epipen, I start to remember that actually, there are a lot of steps before an epipen is required, or rather there are a lot of steps to avoid having to use an epipen. Actually, I need to schedule an hour of adult only time when I can explain all the complexities: cross-contamination (since all our friends have other kids); maybe I should include a frypan and cooking utensils in another bag; when to give the antihistimine medication; the dosage and usage of the asthma medication; another bag for his bedding and sleeping things...

 Then I start to think how ridiculous and unfair it is that I have to plan all this stuff just to try and reduce the likelihood of having a child with severe food allergies. Plus, the only reason I have to prepare all this stuff is because our first born has so many darned food allergies! Actually, I just hate food allergies all round! Yup, I hate hate hate them. Is there any good that comes from it???!

Hmmm, I've tried to convince myself that having food anaphylaxis in our family has helped us to be more understanding to others and perhaps provide assistance to others who have to go through the same thing. Sometimes this works... other times... not so much. So maybe having to do all this planning is a good chance for us to share with others around the complexities of living with multiple food anaphylaxis. Perhaps it's a good chance to truly educate others in our community? Or perhaps it's just a FRICKIN' BIG PAIN IN THE BUTT!!!!!

So two hours later, I give up trying to sleep. The rare occasion that our son decides to sleep properly till 7am, and I've worked myself into a frenzy of crazy thoughts, a heart rate of about 120 while lying down and shortness of breath. Nice work! Grrrrr!

It's not until I get out of bed and am in the kitchen on my own that I can finally let the tension out and the tears finally come. Ah, you have to love pregnancy hormones.

And so begins another day... with just a few more things on my To-Do list. At least once my husband and son wake up I can get some lovely cuddles and remember why it is we do these things, and that in the end, it is worth it.

For the next step in our journey, Panic to peace with our pregnancy, click here

Friday, April 27, 2012

Easy Peasy Jam Tarts

This has got to be about the easiest egg free, milk free, nut free snack you could make with a toddler. Our son was watching an episode of Fireman Sam when he saw the characters enjoying Jam Tarts. Imagine how excited he was when I said, "yes, we can make them right now!"

We used Coles Canola Puff Pastry (dairy free, but contains gluten) which is pre-rolled and kept in the freezer. You could make any shapes you like, but we used a circle shape for the base, topped it with some fruit jam and a star shape on top. Bake according to the pastry instructions - about 15 mins at 220deg C. I also made some with a square of Sweet William Dairy free chocolate placed underneath the star, but I think the jam ones were better.

These were fun and easy to make and also look and taste great! I hope you enjoy them.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Hazards

Words cannot describe how immensely proud I am of our son at the moment. No, we still have not mastered the art of consistent toilet training, but for the mum of a 3 year old child with multiple life threatening food allergies, the ability of our son to recognise the dangers of Easter chocolates has filled me with such pride!

We were walking through the local supermarket when our son suddenly got so excited at the sight of so many shiny little gold bunnies! Of course they were shelves fully stocked with Lindt Milk Chocolate bunnies - designed to look gorgeous and attract the attention and desire of all shoppers in the lead up to Easter. In the past, our son has been drawn to many chocolates wrapped in colourful foil wrapping - only to be whipped away quickly by his parents. We all know how fragile that wretched foil is, and one touch of the chocolate inside could prove deadly for our son. I would even venture to say that touching the outside of the foil would probably cause a reaction since it's bound to be contaminated with dairy chocolate. I was immediately relieved that he was safely secured in the shopping trolley and I calmly explained that they had cow's milk chocolate inside them and that if he touched it, it would make him sick. I continued to move quickly along to the next aisle, hoping to create a distraction, but sure enough, at the end of every aisle were more and more chocolates. I resorted to saying that any thing covered in the colourful shiny stuff actually had cow's milk in it.

Next stop was Target, but sure enough, there were more aisles of chocolates - this time they were packaged with wonderful wonderful toys of all description. Again, I had to pull our son away, explaining that they all had cow's milk in it and would make him sick. All he wanted to do was walk along the aisle and look at how many different types there were but this was certainly not an activity I was going to indulge.

So now that you are feeling quite sorry for our boy, and perhaps not dreaming quite so much about Easter chocolates, let me tell you about the moment of true understanding. At home, he has seen advertising catalogs with Easter chocolates - and this has proved to be a much safer way of educating our son about dairy chocolate. "Cow's milk! Cow's milk!" he exclaims, as he looks at each picture. But when we went into a cafe to say hi to an old friend, our son got excited again, pointed to a gigantic Easter Bunny made out of dairy chocolate of course, but one that wasn't wrapped up, and exclaimed, "Cow's milk! Cow's milk!" Wow, our beloved son has integrated his learning about foil-covered Easter chocolates and realised that the chocolate rabbit fell into the same category for him. Wow! If you're in the education field, I'm sure you would be impressed by this boy. If you're an allergy mum, you would be amazed! I'm in both... so WOW!

What does this mean?? Well, it means that our son is probably less likely to reach for these chocolates the next time we are in the shop. He's less likely to reach for it if he see another child or pretty much every child around him hooking into the stuff. It means that when there is an Easter Egg hunt at Childcare, for which I've supplied special plastic eggs with special toys and treats inside, that he is less likely to pick up a life-threatening chocolate egg placed for someone else to find. So I am excited, but please realise, that this is a 3 year old boy we are talking about, and restraint and understanding will only go so far. So for this Easter, deligence is still required on the part of all his carers, but I really am proud of how much he is learning every day.

Now to only be able to teach him about the true meaning of Easter and get some real integration of learning and understanding on that one! For your information, so far he knows that the "mean guys killed Jesus and God brought him back to life again." Interestingly, he doesn't think this is so unusual since so many of the fairy tales have people who die and come back! Anyway, I'll save that discussion for another post.

So to you readers out there, may you have a blessed Easter - a time of remembrance of all Jesus Christ has done for us yesterday, today and tomorrow, and less a time for eating or sharing dairy chocolate!
 (Creative genius from Auntie Joy)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Disappointment and discouragement

Oh dear, that's not a very inspiring title for a post...

I'm afraid despite a positive attitude, we've had quite a few set backs of late in our food trials and I'm feeling somewhat disillusioned. I'm counting four setbacks so far, with our last success seemingly very long ago.

After trying to adjust my way of thinking to being more adventurous, I realise that our son is anaphylactic to 4 of the 9 common food allergies... not 3 as I said in a recent post. So that's milk, egg, peanuts and tree nuts. The latter two are different categories. Even as I type this I'm realising that I'm hitting the keyboard with unnecessary force... I think there is a bit of anger and resentment hidden in these last set backs. I have to acknowledge that our last setbacks haven't been that serious - no epipens required, no trips to the hospital, not even a dose of antihisitimine. We have had to use some of our steroid creams, but mainly it's been a case of lots and lots of laundry due to diaorreah. It doesn't help that our son is in a single sized bunk bed that seems a lot more tricky to make and unmake compared to a toddler bed, especially when sporting an ever growing belly. But alas, he does love his new bed, so I can't begrudge that too much. Instead, these dramas really stem from his blasted allergies!!!

We've tried blackberries (got up to about 4 whole ones) as well as barramundi (ate up to half a palm sized piece). Because I was too adventurous, I actually don't know which one caused his problems, so for now, both are off limits. I should have spent a whole week on the blackberries, but I was impatient and let the food tests cross over. Then we tried a rice porridge which according to the ingredients doesn't contain anything new, but never the less resulted in a rash on his face within a few hours. This rice porridge was specifically labelled as allergy free, but my only conclusion is that perhaps some of the ingredients used actually contained traces of nuts or something similar. It did contain coconut, dried peaches and other stone fruit, so I'm guessing that the sourcing or control of all the ingredients isn't what it should be. Then, we tried a meusli bar of sorts, made by a special allergy-free company we use, and that resulted in terrible diaorreah on day 2 of our tests. The only new ingredient was linseed - which I did have reservations about, given it could be similar to a nut.

So there you have it, in the last month, we've had a lot of set backs, and it's basically sapped me of any desire to try other new things.Of course I can't actually keep this attitude, so I'll just indulge myself for a week or so of nothing new.

What this has motivated me to do is make another appointment with our allergy dietician - maybe she can give me a bit more direction as to which foods to try next. So don't give up reading the blog, there is hope somewhere out there... just have to keep looking, and keep reading!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Turning 3, free of eggs, milk, peanuts and treenuts

Happy Birthday my not so little man! For some reason, this age seems to be more significant as I see our son go from nappies to undies, and watch him really play with other children in such a way that shows he really is not a baby anymore.

This year we decided to split his birthday celebration into two separate parties to ease the pressure and allow us to enjoy more time actually chatting to people. I'm not convinced that the first aim was achieved, but at least we did get to enjoy talking to friends more when the party size was halved. Having the first party at a friend's place was by far the best part though! Thanks Mei and Vince!!!!

As I compare the party last year to this year - there are so many differences! Food wise, we had so much more variety this time around and we didn't have to cook nearly as much special food for the kids. For those of you who also have allergic kids, we had Parkers Pretzels (mainly wheat), Red Rock Deli Potato Crisps (mainly potato and salt), Coles Spring rolls (cabbage and other vegies) and plain corn chips (mainly corn) freely available on the table... there was no cheese or cheese dip in sight, no nuts obviously and not even crackers with dairy or egg traces. It is quite a relief and surprisingly relaxing when you supply all the nibblies on the table, and for at least the first part of the party, you can let your highly allergic child run free - he was even allowed to help himself to the shared nibblies since I knew they had not been contaminated. Admittedly he ate way too many potato crisps, but I'm not complaining.

The main food event was of course the cake. A Wiggles cake for Party #1. I used the basic egg free, milk free, nut free recipe for one layer, and a new chocolate recipe for the second layer. We've managed to find a milk free and nut free cocoa powder (Planet Organic Cocoa) - which isn't as easy as you would think to find. The icing was simply icing sugar, water and food colouring. The greatest tip I have for cake decoration is simply to buy a toy to put on top! Forget trying to carve something out of cake... this is so much easier plus your child gets a toy at the end :-) We used Sweet William soy choc chips as well as SF Health Foods Premium milk free marshmallows for the added decorations, and to hide any imperfections in icing technique.

And for Party #2 the theme was Cars... I actually bought a Lighting McQueen toy to place on the race track, but our son found the toy the day before, and do you think I could find it on the day I needed it?! Oh well, I ended up washing some of his other cars and placed them on top instead... he was till happy with that... of course! I'm pretty sure us mums create some of our own headaches. The green grass was made using dessicated coconut mixed with green food colouring. Soy choc chips made the race track while the magnificent finish line was made by printing the chequered pattern onto an overhead transparency, secured with toothpicks. In the end I think I was more happy with the Wiggles cake - I think the simpler it is, probably the more glamourous it actually looks.
For lunch, we served small dinner buns (allergen free) and sausages for the kids. For adults we simply ordered BBQ chicken and I did buy some pre-made salads (which did contain dairy). But with the number of allergens significantly reduced by providing all the food, actually a lot of stress was removed and we really did enjoy having friends and their kids over. To be honest, most of the stress came from having to assemble a bunk bed and a trampoline, ready for the main event (while we were also suffering from a household bout of gastro... but that's another story all together).

And when you see something like this, with no rash at the end of the day...

... success!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hooray for being average!

We're celebrating at the moment - just did a measure and weigh and our son is officially in the 40th percentile for height and also in the 40th percentile in weight... that means he's totally average in build! Hip Hip Hooray!

Before we knew about our son's multiple food allergies, we already had to go for monthly weigh-ins with the nurse because our little tacker just wasn't putting on weight. Once we found out about his anaphylaxis, our whole approach changed, but he was already in the 3rd percentile for weight, while being 40th percentile in height. That meant he was super super skinny. Everything thing our son ate was carefully considered - not just from an allergy sense, but based on calories, digestability, fibre, glucose/fructose levels... ugh... I still think about that stuff, but there's now a lot more freedom and a lot less pressure. If you're interested in how we managed to finally stack on the weight, check out Weight Gain 2010.

Our son has just turned 3, and after being anaphylactic to eight of the nine most common food allergies, he is now only anaphylactic to three. In real terms, that meant that he was actually allergic to all sorts of foods like tomatoes, peas, onions, oranges, stone fruit, just to name a few. And that didn't even include all the basics of egg, milk, wheat, oat, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame. But I'm now trying to readjust my way of thinking based on his anaphylaxis to just three of those foods. I've realised that I probably don't need to worry so much if he touches a shell at the beach now, and he can probably finally dip his hands into those touch and feel ponds at aquariums that can have prawns swimming in there. All these little things that others would take for granted have been up till now a cause of panic and prohibition. Now, I'd probably be very watchful, make sure I have my antihistimine medication ready and just clean his hands soon after. Haha, for non-allergy mums, you probably think I'm still being neurotic, but such is the life of an allergy mum.

I have gained confidence though - our son can now officially and safely eat fresh peaches, nectarines, plums, and even lychees after our food trials in the first couple of months of 2012. That is quite an accomplishment, not to mention the excitement for our not so little guy. But, as with all things, we have also recently had a setback. A couple of days of barramundi (a white flesh fish) have apparently led to about a week of very messy, very smelly, digestive problems. ie. diarrhea. Yuck! I'm just glad he's still in a toddler bed so that the sheets are smaller to wash.

Oh dear, that's not a very nice note to end on... My next post will be all about birthday parties and the like, and there's a lot of good progress on that front too! So, if your child has life-threatening food allergies, take heart, things change over time, and if not, then we change - hopefully for the better, for the stronger, and for the bigger where our children are concerned :-)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chicken,Tomato and Pasta soup

This recipe was born out of a near empty fridge and pantry, but don't all great inventions come from bare necessity? Well, perhaps that is too great a comparison... this dish isn't really that great an invention, but it is a hearty meal, made from ingredients dug out of a pantry. My secret ingredient was actually a small tin of baked beans! Our son can't have bought chicken stock cubes since he's allergic to some of the ingredients they use. I had run out of tinned tomatoes, and I was wanting to somehow add a bit more nutrition and vegetable content to the soup... and there it was, a tin of baked beans! My husband actually really liked this dish, so it got ticks of approval from old and young.

Chicken, Tomato and Pasta soup
500g chicken fillet - cut into bite sized cubes. If you have chicken pieces then you can use that instead of course, but the fillet is the quickest option and easiest to find in my freezer.
1 onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced roughly
220g can SPC Baked Beans in tomato sauce (dairy free, egg free, nut free)
300g San Remo soup pasta, or any other pasta of your choice

Boil about 3L of water, add the chicken pieces first. Once they have been cooked on the outside, simply add all the other ingredients, except for pasta. Simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Add the pasta to cook about 10 minutes before you are ready to serve. Depending on what pasta you choose, you may need to add more water to ensure the pasta doesn't stick together. This is a great simple, hearty meal for those days on the run. Garnish with some parsley just to add a bit of colour.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Allergy free Spring rolls - savoury and sweet


Hooray, our son can eat cabbage! I can just imagine the surprise as you read that. For our son, every new food is a cause for celebration - I have to admit that on this one, I didn't follow the strict rules of half a teaspoon one day, one teaspoon the next etc. I don't think that test would have been very successful because who wants to eat spoonfuls of cabbage?!

So, my test method was actually using Coles Cocktail Spring Rolls with Vegetable filling. Two spring rolls on the first day, doubling that portion over the next few days until my son could eat no more! This is where other allergy mums will understand what my cheering was really about. The picture that I've put up is of my home-made spring rolls, but my celebration over cabbage is because it now allows us to buy pre-made spring rolls! Just in time for birthday party number 3! This means that there is one less thing I have to make from scratch and one easy option when we want to bring a plate of something to share to other parties. The reason I chose this brand is because it has the least ingredients in it, thus making it more likely that our son can actually eat it: egg free, milk free and nut free still of course, but be sure to check the packaging every time you buy it.

Up till now, I have experimented with home made spring rolls like the picture above. I used Filo Pastry which is basically just wheat and oil. I wrapped shredded chicken with thinly sliced vegetables, or else slices of apple in the pastry and shallow fried it. Apple was our son's favourite naturally. For adults, I served it with a fresh garden salad, drizzled with sweet chilli sauce and mayonnaise. If you're adventurous, you could wrap them in triangle shapes instead to make samosas.

Home-made was probably more delicious, but shop bought gets my thumbs up for easier living.

Calling other allergy mums out there... do you know of a soy mayonnaise that doesn't contain egg?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy New Year everyone!

It's a little late... perhaps Happy Chinese New Year is more appropriate now?

We have been on holidays, but I have also been taking a lot more rests during our toddler's nap time, which hasn't left much time to sit on a computer. What's with all the resting? Well, our little family will be getting bigger by one when June comes around. We are all excited and I'm not completely sure how we're going to do it all... I'm sure every mother has these thoughts every time, and yet we still have more!

The question of allergies comes up often - we've been told there is a 1 in 3 or 4 chances that our next child will have allergies of some sort. Whether it is to food, pollens or animals is unknown. So am I doing anything different? Not too much... oh except for running around after a super energetic toddler! The interesting thing is that our obstetrician, who looks after the pregnancy has nothing to do with our allergy specialist, so neither can really comment can they?

Anyway, with a new year comes new ideas and new year's resolutions. My husband's new idea is that our son should eat at the dinner table with us at meal times, rather than being turned around to the TV. Ugh... that was my basic reaction. As I've put in another post, there are very good reasons for having him watch TV... But, of course, my dear husband is right, there are more good reasons for him to join us at the dinner table, especially now he is turning 3.

So, on return from holidays, we begin our new standard of dining. Initially, I told my husband that we can eat together on weekends when I can plan a dinner that we all share. Afterall, it's unfair to make our toddler watch us always eat food he can't eat. Well, we're nearing the end of January, and surprisingly, everything is progressing smoothly! We actually eat breakfast and dinner together nearly every day. Plus, it's made me put more effort into trying to come up with meals suitable for the whole family. This has led to less cooking and less washing up... who knew?!? Oh, and of course less TV time which is always a good thing :-)

I'll have to put together some more recipes, but so far we've had Roast Chicken and Roast Veg, Chicken soup and pasta, Beef Stir fries, Marinated Lamb cutlets, Sushi ... just to name a few.

So 2012 has gone off to a good start, and there is so much more to come... May your year be filled with love, laughter and adventure.

What are your New Year's Resolutions??