Monday, March 1, 2010

The lightbulb over my head just went on

Per the advice of Dr. Natural, we removed oatmeal from Ella's diet. After about 4-5 days, we saw a drastic improvement in the rash around Ella's mouth. Then, I stupidly gave in to her request for oatios and the rash seemed to reappear right before my eyes. The rash stuck around for a few days then started to clear up then got worse again.

Saturday, we were visiting some friends and I brought some GF pasta for her and I to eat while the others were enjoying the most delicious looking baked ziti I'd seen in a very long time. As I was stirring her pasta with a wooden spoon handed to me by our hostess, it occurred to me that I had probably just introduced a nice healthy dose of cross-contamination into the pot. And sure enough, as she was scarfing down the pasta, Hubby leaned over and asked "is it just me or is her rash getting worse?" *sigh* It was.

I remembered reading an article about contamination way back in the super overwhelming first few days after diagnosis and I spent a lot of time removing allergens from our pantry but never could get myself to toss the cutting boards or pots & pans that we received for our wedding less than 3 years ago. I did my best to scrub everything down but now after making the connection between her rash and cross-contamination, I realize the importance of making and keeping our kitchen gluten free. Glutenfreegoddess has a great blog entry about how to start living gluten-free. I read it again today and promptly tossed all of our wooden spoons and banished our wooden salad bowl and cutting board to the basement, in hopes that some day we'll outgrow our allergies/sensitivities and we can use them again.

I'm trying not to beat myself up for being so layed back about the cross-contamination threat. I've been so careful about label reading and preparing meals that contain no allergens. I guess I was just hoping that that was enough. Now that I've acknowledged that cross-contamination certainly could be playing into that darn rash, I'm hoping that with some diligence, it'll clear up for good ASAP.

On a positive note, over the past 2-3 weeks, we've had contact with dogs during play dates and visiting friends with dogs and Ella's had not one.single hive!!!! We are cautiously optimistic that may be turning a corner and starting to outgrow some of her allergies. Even if it's just dogs right now, that's still a huge relief and one less thing I need to stress about! Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Vegan Gluten Free Teff Breakfast Muffins

I baked Ella some oatmeal muffins the other night & had been giving them to her for breakfast with a little wild blueberry jam spread on it. But now that she can't have oatmeal, I went on the hunt for another kind of muffin to give her. We've got activities almost every morning now and I need something that she can feed herself while I make and eat my own breakfast, pack the diaper bag, warm up the car, etc. She's apparently over pancakes and wants nothing to do with them now. She doesn't love toast...unless it has melted goat cheese on it.

I found a recipe for Gluten Free Teff Muffins on and thought it'd be perfect. We got about an inch of snow last night and it was enough to cause a 90-minute delay in our school system which cancelled our Early Learning program this morning. I thought I'd take advantage of being "snowed-in" and bake some muffins. They were very easy to make, both Ella and I can eat them, they are yummy and they're packed with lots of good for us things like fiber, protein, complex carbs and vitamins. But did I mention they taste good too?

There are lots of ways to alter this recipe to mix it up a bit. I just used grated carrot and chopped apple since I can't have raisins and Ella hasn't had tree nuts yet. The original recipe suggests that sunflower and pumpkin seeds can also replace the nuts in this recipe so maybe next time we'll try the pumpkin seeds.

2 cups teff flour
½ cup tapioca flour
2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¾ cup unsweetened apple juice
½ cup applesauce
½ cup maple syrup
⅓ cup EVOO
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
½ cup raisins (optional)
1 cup grated carrots
1 small tart apple, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 12-cup muffin pan.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the teff flour, tapioca flour, ground flax, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, sea salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk together well.

In another mixing bowl, whisk together the apple juice, applesauce, maple syrup, and oil.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk together. Then add the grated carrots and diced apples (and nuts & dried fruit, if using). Continue to mix with a large wooden spoon until all of the ingredients are combined. Be sure to not over mix the batter!

Spoon batter into oiled muffin cups and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool muffins on a wire rack

Rice is nice.

I had another follow up with Dr. Natural yesterday and I used the opportunity to ask about the rash around Ella's mouth. It's been going on since November-ish and doesn't ever go away though some days are better than others. Recently I've started slathering A&D Ointment on it at night which seems to help a lot but I hate the idea of putting petroleum on her face. We took the pacifier away in the beginning of December, hoping that would help since it was right in the pacifier region. Unfortunately, that was successful at doing nothing but pissing her off. Dr. Natural seems to think the rash is an allergic reaction from the oatmeal that I have been giving her. I know I really shouldn't because it can contain traces of wheat but I'm so desperate for things that this kid WILL eat that I was hoping that the traces would be minimal enough that it wouldn't be an issue -- especially since her wheat RAST was only 0.55. Oh well, guess I'll have to try my luck with a different hot breakfast cereal and pray that taking away the oatmeal makes a difference in her rash.

Then we moved onto me; Dr. Natural seems very pleased with my progress. My weight loss has leveled off, which is great. My current weight is the goal weight I had set for myself before our wedding and I am quite comfortable with this number. I expressed my frustration with the fact that this elimination diet has been very difficult to do on a budget and the prospect of keeping this up for another 4-7 months is pretty overwhelming. After talking it out, she agreed to let me start re-introducing some foods!!! She said I can start with rice and go from there, waiting a week in between new foods and only eating my triggers every four days so as not to re-sensitize myself to them. I'm beyond ecstatic and can't wait to have some brown rice with our pork chops tonight! This opens up a whole world of gluten free products that have been off-limits until now.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bursting Ella's bubble cont'd.

We started our Early Learning program on Wednesday. The day started off with a phone call from the teacher asking about Play-doh. "Was it safe for Ella?" Luckily, I'd read on someone's blog somewhere along the lines that no, play-doh is NOT safe for children with wheat allergies. Otherwise, I'm just not sure that it would have occurred to me to think about that. I mean, DUH. Play-doh is made from flour and flour = wheat. I feel like I'm still figuring out this allergy stuff and I'm learning new things every day but I'm just not sure that it would have occurred to me to think about things she's just playing with and not eating. I feel dumb typing even typing that out but I remember reading that blog post and going "oh yahhh.... huh."

Anywho. The teacher said she wouldn't put it out for the kids to play with and that we could work together to find a safe alternative for the rest of the semester. Could this teacher make my life any easier?!? I could just kiss her!

Coincidentally, a few weeks ago, my mom & I were shopping at a local natural baby boutique that was going out of business (RIP Papay Patch) and they had some Gluten Free Eco-Dough on the shelf. I thought we were getting a great deal at 30% off so my mom got it for Ella. It's made from food-grade materials & smells delicious! BUT at full price, it's $30. I know I can't ask her teacher to spend that kind of money on play-doh. So I did some googling and found Aroma-Dough. It DOES NOT contain nuts, nut oils, perfumes, soy, dairy products or wheat. And it comes in a convenient classroom size bucket for the same price that we got the Eco-Dough for. So that's what I'll recommend her teacher get and I'm looking forward to seeing the difference between the two brands.

And I need to remember to buy Mrs. K a nice big gift when the semester is over. She is truly bending over backwards for us.

Avocado "mayonnaise" and tuna salad

I've really been struggling with lunch ideas lately. I usually have leftovers from the night before but if we happened to finish everything, I'm left scrounging. And it usually winds up being something like a piece of fruit and a handful of walnuts or something unsubtantial. I started making gluten free vegan flatbread every week and I realized one day while I was making Ella some grilled goat cheese, that DUH!! I can eat that too! So then I was having grilled goat cheese on gluten free vegan flatbread everyday. While she's got no problem eating the same day after day, I start to get bored. Quickly. I couldn't think of anything else I could put on the flatbread -- deli meats are out. Even though there are several brands which are specifically gluten free and casein free, I noticed I was feeling headache-y and sluggish after eating them so there's got to be something in them I shouldn't be eating. PBJ is out for obvious reasons. (Oh how I miss thee, peanut butter!!) I found some tuna fish that didn't contain soy but realized I couldn't mix it with mayonnaise and who really wants to eat a dry tuna fish sandwich? Ugh. But then... then I found this recipe on (have I mentioned how much I love this website?!?) for "mayonnaise" made from avocado. It was simple to whip together & was soo soo yummy!

The original recipe's measurements are more broad (1-3 Tbsp, etc.) but I started with the smallest suggested amounts & it came out perfectly.

Avocado Mayonnaise

1 small avocados
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp EVOO
2 Tbsp water
sea salt, to taste

The original recipe suggests using an immersion blender but I don't have one. Yet. **Hubby, if you're reading this, Valentines Day is coming and I'd LOVE an immersion blender!! Nothing says "I love you" like a finely blended cup of avocado mayonnaise!** So place all ingredients into a bowl or large mug and blend with an immersion blender. Or if you're like me and don't have one, you can also use a blender or food processor.

Then comes the best part... making the tuna salad! The original recipe calls for salmon and I tried that first but I liked it better with tuna. It also called for celery (can't have it), capers (didn't have any on hand) and garlic (mehh just wasn't feelin' it).

canned tuna
avocado mayonnaise
grated carrot
sea salt, to taste

Throw in a bowl & mix. Slap it on the bread and VOILA... LUNCH!

I served it for dinner one night last week too and Hubby was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. I could see the hesitation on his face as he sat down at the table. He paced around the kitchen for a few minutes first, probably psyching himself up and simultaneously trying to decide if he could grab the fruity pebbles and pour himself a bowl without me noticing. But once he finally bit into it, he ate the whole thing and said "Mmmm" (which I took to mean "WOW! This is the best tuna sandwich I've ever had!!") **Thank you, Hubby, for being so brave**

Monday, January 25, 2010

Steak and Goat Cheese Salad

When I did my menu planning for the week, I did not account for the fact that we'd have torrential downpours and gail force winds all day & I would really really really want comfort food. Ah well. I've already loaded all the other meats for the rest of the week into the freezer. Looks like a nice healthy salad it is. This one came from the Whole Foods app on my iPhone so I can't link it.

The hardest part of this recipe was finding a balsamic vinaigrette that did not contain soy or red wine (grapes). The closest I was able to come was Walden Farms' Sugar Free, Fat Free, Gluten Free, Calorie Free Balsamic Vinaigrette. It wasn't until I got home that I looked it up and discovered that balsamic vinegar is made from grapes and white vinegar (also on the list of ingredients) is made from corn... DOH! While I could very easily forego the salad dressing (blah!) or get creative and make my own, I'm feeling lazy and will justify this by the fact that I've been on this elimination diet for over five months and have cheated exactly once. The small amounts of grape & corn that are in the salad dressing won't kill me and I'll go light on the dressing on my portion. So there.

Obviously, the recipe is for one person so double, etc. for multiple servings.

Steak and Goat Cheese Salad

1 3-oz piece beef sirloin flap steak
2 ½ Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
3 cups roughly chopped romain lettuce
1 carrot, shaved with a vegetable peeler into thin strips
1 oz crumbled goat cheese

Heat a grill pan or large skillet over medium heat. Brush steak all over with ½ Tbsp vinaigrette. Cook steak, flipping once, to desired doneness, about 4 to 5 minutes total. Remove to cutting board to rest 5 minutes. Toss together lettuce, carrots and remaining dressing in a large bowl then transfer to a dinner plate. Thinly slice steak against the grain and arrange on top of lettuce. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Getting Ella out of her bubble

Last winter, when Ella was an infant, I had a pretty rough time. I can admit that now, but at the time I think I was trying very hard to convince myself that I wasn't depressed and everything was a-ok. But when you have a newborn during cold & flu season and the weather is crappy, it's very easy to stay home all day, every day. I'm ashamed to admit this but I know there are moms out there who have been there -- I would go days without showering & changing out of my pajamas. My shirts all reaked of sour breastmilk & I had spit up in my hair. I was lonely and sad a lot.

This winter, now that she's more mobile and has lots of energy to burn, I am determined to get out more, both for my own sanity as well as for developmental, educational & social stimulation for our daughter. I've got her signed up for a tumbling class, story time at the library, a music class and an Early Learning program through our local elementary school.

One of the things I bring up whenever I sign up for anything is what their policy is regarding snacks. Every one of our current activities has a strict no peanuts rule -- which is such a relief and since most of the classes are short so there's no opportunity to eat anyways. Last week, when I was enrolling in the Early Learning program, the teacher let me know that there would be a snack time so I should bring something for Ella to eat. *Cue the heart palpitations* I immediately asked how they handle the toddlers eating. Do they eat while they're playing with the toys? Do they have an opportunity to possibly share their food? She had already told me they don't allow peanuts and reassured me that the toys are put away prior to food being taken out & that there was no sharing of food allowed. I felt a little better but still went home feeling a little uneasy. Hubby told me that I was overreacting but I didn't think I was... This being our first child & not having any experience in this kind of a setting, I just don't know what to expect. As her parents, it's our job to keep her safe and make sure that we make the proper people aware of her allergies so that they can help us keep her safe. I don't think that having an open discussion about it with her teacher is overreacting. If I had decided to not enroll her in the program because there would be possible allergens in the room, THAT would be overreacting.

Last night, the teacher called me to ask for more information on her allergies and asked if I would be OK with her e-mailing the currently enrolled parents to let them know that there would be a child with some food allergies coming to class and to re-iterate the no-peanut policy. She went on to say that she was going to start asking parents to use hand wipes on their little ones before class starts and then after they've eaten, before the toys come back out. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and thanked her profusely. I'm still not comfortable approaching parents on my own to ask them to do things like that but if the program director will do it for me?! I am all for it! It's nice to know that I can relax a little and let her just be a curious toddler without constantly hovering to make sure there's no forbidden foods passing through her little lips.