Friday, October 30, 2009

A little *ME* time

Ella & I met some friends at the mall yesterday for lunch and a little shopping. I was beyond frustrated with the fact that NONE of my pants fit me anymore and was completely out of most of my makeup. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to treat myself to a little mini-makeover.

I went into the Gap and not having any idea what size I should be wearing, I grabbed several styles of jeans in the next size down. They were all still too big. So I tried the next size down. O.M.G. I'm a size 4?!? How the heck did that happen? I've been between an 8 and a 10 since HIGHSCHOOL. I'm convinced this has everything to do with vanity sizing. While I know I've lost weight, I can't possibly be that small! Especially since the 4's are loose and I probably could have gotten away with a 2. No effing way am I a 2.

To maintain the glow of my newly found self-confidence, I made my way to Bare Escentuals. I'd been doing some research on line to find makeup that's gluten free and doesn't contain cornstarch or soy or anything else on my forbiddens list and Bare Minerals seemed to fit the bill. I know several people who swear by the stuff and I was ready to give it a try. A super sweet sales girl helped me pick colors that worked on me and gave me a makeover, while Ella munched on her oatios and played peek-a-boo with one of the other sales girls. It was so nice to take a little time for myself and be pampered a bit. And it's safe to say, I'm a convert. I LOVE Bare Minerals!! The swirl-tap-buff routine is going to take a little getting used to and I'm hoping that as I get the hang of it, I'll get a little faster.

Yesterday was exactly what I needed. Despite the fact that Ella skipped both of her naps and was a cranky disaster by the end of the day, I felt like a new woman. Of course, I felt a little guilty for screwing with her schedule but it meant she went to bed early and there was even more *ME* time. After the stress of the past few weeks, it was exactly what I needed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dr. Natural Update

I had an appointment with Dr. Natural today. She seemed pleased with the fact that I've lost 16 lbs and agreed with my thoughts that my face is still breaking out because the products I'm using contain sunflower & coconut (both of which I am sensitive to). She prescribed a few different supplements to help support digestive functions and liver detox, a calcium supplement and a new skin care regimine of straight glycerin soap, witch hazel astringent and olive oil for a moisurizer. Yes, OLIVE OIL. She also suggested steaming my face 1-2 x/week with rosemary. Sounds like the ultimate in multi-tasking -- I'll just cook dinner AND give myself a facial at the same time!

And the news I'd been waiting to hear... we can give Ella goat's milk!! At one year, most pediatrician's recommend either cow's milk or soy but since Ella's allergic to both I'd been a little confused on where to go from here. Rice, oat & hemp milk just don't have the fats and proteins that she needs. Mentally, I'm ready to have my body back but I know breastfeeding her for as long as I can will only benefit her in the long run. Now that I know I have something else to give her which will give the nutrients she needs, I'm ready to start backing off the nursing a bit. It's too bad goat's milk is so damn expensive though! It's $3.79 for a quart! Oy.

Oh and Dr. Natural also suggested giving Ella a teaspoon of elderberry syrup every day to boost her immune system and hopefully ward off the dreaded H1N1. *fingers crossed*

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My new favorite website & last night's dinner

I found this website a few night's ago and it has been the answer to my prayers! After you register (for FREE), you check off your sensitivities/allergies on a lengthy list of common allergens and from that point on, the site will point out possible hidden allergens and will highlight which recipes are completely safe for you. It is so easy to navigate and there are literally hundreds of recipes to choose from. It is safe to say that Cooking Allergy Free is my new obsession.

Last night's dinner was inspired by my new favorite website. We had gluten & egg free crispy tilapia, quinoa pilaf and wilted spinach with a little garlic, salt & EVOO. This marked my first ever attempt at cooking fish at home. See? This new way of eating has been good for me! I've moved out of my chicken 4-5 nights/week comfort zone and have fully embraced this new adventure in the kitchen.

The recipe calls for 1/2 buckwheat flour, 1/2 quinoa flour but our local health food store did not carry the buckwheat flour so I just used all quinoa flour and it still came out very yummy. Technically, you could probably use any type of flours but the only ones I had on hand were tapioca, quinoa and arrowroot so I just stuck to the quinoa. The store manager is ordering some buckwheat flour for me so next time I'll try the mixture of the two.

Gluten Free & Egg Free Crispy Tilapia

4 tilapia fillets
salt, pepper, paprika (you may season with any other spice as well)
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
3 Tbsp luke warm water
1/2 cup buckwheat flour (I didn't use)
1/2 cup quinoa flour (I used a whole cup but totally didn't need that much & wound up throwing a lot of it away)
3 Tbsp EVOO

1. Thoroughly mix water and ground flaxseed and set aside to thicken for a few minutes. (This is your egg substitute.)
2. Combine the flours on a large flat dish.
3. Rinse fish and towel dry.
4. In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat.
5. Baste both sides of the fillets in the flaxseed mixture. Don't worry if it doesn't spread well, just get the fillets slimy. Then generously cover both sides of the fillets in the flour mixture.
6. Season the fillets with salt, pepper, paprika and whatever other spices you want to throw on.
7. Place the fillets in heated pan and cook on both sides 3-5 minutes. Be cautious when flipping over as the fillets are very tender and may break. (Times will vary depending on the thickness of the fillets.)

I would post the recipe for the quinoa pilaf, but I didn't love it and Hubby announced that he was "not a fan of whatever that was" so I obviously need to play around with that one a bit. For him, I think it was more of a texture issue over flavor. He's a pretty picky eater so I was expecting some hesitation on his part. I know we're all still adjusting to the changes and I'm confident that one day soon, he'll eat quinoa (knowingly) with a smile on his face. Even if he has to fake it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What's on our menu this week?

I'm trying very hard to get more organized. If I plan out our weekly menu ahead of time, I find that my week goes much more smoothly and I am more productive. There's nothing worse than standing in front of the freezer at 5:30pm, trying to pull together a meal that we can all eat while Ella's hanging off my leg, pointing frantically to her mouth (her baby sign for "hungry"). So here's what I came up with for this week:

gluten-free crispy tilapia
quinoa pilaf
wilted spinach with garlic & EVOO

hamburger & veggie crockpot meal
garden salad

eggless, gluten-free salmon burgers (no bun for me)
sweet potato fries
steamed broccoli

gluten free meatloaf
rosemary roasted potatoes
steamed carrots

shrimp sauteed with potatoes
garden salad

Saturday (Halloween!)
grilled pork chops
barley something... TBD
roasted asparagus

Some of these are new recipes that I've come across and/or modified so if all goes well, I'll post them as the week goes on.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup

I love soup. Year round. I love soup. But this time of year, there's just something in the air that makes an ordinary soup that much yummier.

After I was diagnosed with all my food sensitivities, I was pretty depressed about the fact that there was so much that I could not eat and I was beginning to starve. My dear friend and neighbor, did the most amazing thing ever. She dug through her cookbooks and recipes that she's collected and she sat down with my long list of my can-not-eats and put together a binder of things that I can eat, complete with substitution suggestions penciled into the margins. This is one of my favorites from that binder. This weekend, I made some for my vegetarian sister-in-law who was recently in an accident and suffered a broken jaw (and ribs and collar bone). I hope she likes it as much as I do!

Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/4 pounds)
nonstick vegetable oil spray (I just use water)
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger (nutmeg is nice too, if you don't have ginger on hand)
3 Tbsp unsalted butter (I use dairy free, soy free margarine)
3 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth works well too, but I'm sensitive to celery & tomatoes so I stick with the chicken broth)
1-2 cups water, as needed (I've made this several times & have yet to actually need additional water)
Salt & pepper to taste
Sour cream to garnish (obviously, I leave this off)

Cut squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Arrange the halves cut side down in roasting pan with a little bit of water (or spray it with nonstick vegetable oil spray.) Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until very tender (I cheat & stick it in the microwave for 15ish minutes --keep checking, it may need longer). Set aside to cool. When the squash is completely cool, scoop the flesh from the skin. (You can do it while it's still hot too, but you will burn yourself.) While the squash is baking, cook the onion and the ginger in the butter in a saucepan, over moderately low heat, for 5 minutes or until the onion is softened. Add the broth and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes, covered. Add the squash pulp to the saucepan. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor, in batches, and puree until smooth. Add enough water to achieve the desired consistency, and salt and pepper to taste. Return the soup to the sauce pan and cook over moderate heat until it is hot. Garnish with low-fat sour cream (if you can do dairy, of course).

Potatoes Sauteed With Shrimp

Last night I made potatoes sauteed with shrimp from Recipezaar. It was super easy and very tasty! Even though Ella tested negative for shrimp allergy, I just wasn't convinced her 5 tiny teeth could handle it (not to mention her tiny tastebuds being overpowered by garlic & red pepper) so I gave her some potatoes w/out the seasoning & some steamed veggies leftover from the night before. Mike & I thoroughly enjoyed this meal & will be putting it into the menu planning rotation for sure & maybe next time I'll pull out a shrimp for Ella to try!

8 small red potatoes, large dice (I used russet potatoes 'cuz that's all we had on hand)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 lb small shrimp, deveined & peeled
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used 1/4 tsp because we're not big spicy people. It added just the right amount of flavor without being overwhelming.)

Fry potatoes in 3 T olive oil until browned and tender. Remove and keep warm.
Add remaining oil to skillet, add shrimp.
Cook for 2 minutes; add remaining ingredients and saute for 3 minutes.
Return potatoes and mix well.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Gluten free, egg free, milk free, rice free pancakes = FAIL

While Ella seems to really love the Cherrybrook Kitchens Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Nut Free pancakes, it contains rice and is therefore, off limits to me. Today's a rainy, cold Saturday and our plan to go on a hayride and pumpkin picking with a family from our birthing class was rained out :-( Hubby was playing with Ella and putting her down for her nap so I figured what the heck! I'll try my hand at pancakes for ME! I took out the Joy of Cooking cookbook and tried to adapt the recipe to suit my dietary restrictions.

Two failed batches later, I'm sipping orange juice and trying to figure out what I want for lunch now. I'm not sure what I did wrong. They looked great from the outside but were all gooey and undercooked on the inside.

So disappointing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rice, rice and more rice

After music class this morning, Ella and I stopped at Whole Foods. Thanks to her pacifier and a snack cup of oatios, she was relatively well behaved, despite the fact that I was messing with her nap time. She's not a big fan of sitting in the shopping cart, in general. She tries to lean waaaay out of the cart and try to grab things off the shelf or turn around and grab things out of the cart and stick them in her mouth.

It's not easy to go grocery shopping when I have her with me because I really need to concentrate, read every label a couple times, compare ingredients, compare nutritional information, etc. I used to compare prices but that doesn't even come into play 9 times out of 10. At this point, I'm just trying to find things that meet all our dietary restrictions. I've had a lot more luck finding food that Ella can eat than finding food that I can eat. Just about everything that's gluten, dairy, nut, soy and egg free has rice in it and I am sensitive to rice. Ugh.

Anyways, that brings me to my super exciting find of the day: Bahama Rice Burgers... veggie burgers that are free of the top 8 allergens which are soy, wheat, egg, milk, fish, shell fish, tree nuts and peanuts!!! I've been looking everywhere for just such a thing. It seems that every veggie burger on the planet is made with soy! Naturally, it's made with rice so it's off limits to me but I am thrilled to have another protein source for Ella! And because I am just that excited about this, I have to post a picture.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Now that I've gotten all the backstory out of the way

It's been about 9 weeks since I started my elimination diet. My acne has cleared up dramatically and I've lost 15 lbs. For the three months before our wedding, I was in the gym six days a week working out with a trainer, taking spinning classes, running on the treadmill, doing body pump classes AND I was on the South Beach diet. I only lost 3 lbs. Oh boy do I wish I'd known then what I know now! My belly bloat is completely gone and the weight is just melting off of me.

The first couple weeks were rediculously hard and I did a lot of crying. I was so hungry and felt like I couldn't eat anything we had in our cupboards. Instead of focusing on what I COULD eat, I was more fixated on what I could NOT eat.

Now that I'm a few weeks in, I've really turned my attitude around. Instead of wallowing in my misery, I've decided to look at this as a challenge and have set out to learn to cook with new ingredients. I've discovered the versatility of quinoa, the fact that goat cheese is actually pretty tasty and have learned many different substitutes for eggs. I've expanded my food horizons and have even gotten my super picky hubby to eat lentils!

Feeding Ella seems to be pretty easy in comparison to feeding myself. Most gluten free (wheat free) foods are made with rice. Or oat. Neither of which I can have. Luckily, she's pretty easy going and loves fruits and vegetables so we stick to those, for the most part. Cheerios have been replaced by Oatios and I scour food labels to make sure her juice doesn't have corn syrup, etc. It is difficult and grocery shopping takes twice as long now that I have to read and re-read every package but I feel better knowing that what I'm giving her is safe.

I keep reminding myself that all things considered, we're pretty lucky. We've caught these allergies early on and can learn to live with them. She will never know what she's missing out on because she's never had peanutbutter cups or icecream and hopefully, she'll outgrow some of the allergies and be able to live a "normal" life.

The results are in!

On September 11th, we returned to Dr. Natural's office, anxious to learn the fate of my diet. I'd lost 4 lbs in the last three weeks and the redness around my nose appeared to be fading.

First, she revealed Ella's IgE test results (<0.35>Cockroach: 0.50

  • Dog Dander: 1.36
  • Egg White: 17.30
  • Milk: 0.76
  • Peanut: 36.10
  • Soybean: 7.30
  • Wheat: 0.66
    • And my IgG test results:

      • Almond (+1)
      • Celery (+1)
      • Cherry (+1)
      • Coco-Chocolate (+1)
      • Coconut (+1)
      • Corn (+1)
      • Eggplant (+1)
      • Grape (+1)
      • Milk, Cow's (+1)
      • Mushroom (+1)
      • Oat (+1)
      • Peanut (+4)
      • Pineapple (+1)
      • Radish (+1)
      • Rice (+1)
      • Rye (+1)
      • Sesame (+1)
      • Soybean (+1)
      • Sunflower (+2)
      • Tomato (+1)
      • Wheat (+1)
      • Yeast, Baker's (+2)
      • Yeast, Brewer's (+3)

      It looked like I was going to have to get used to being hungry. It was also a relief to know that Ella was allergic to dogs because it certainly explained why she would randomly break out in hives at the homes of friends & family who had pets!


      To the Naturopath we go

      On August 21st, we had our appointment with the Naturopath. After my awful experience with Dr. Itsallyourfault, hubby agreed to come to this appointment with Ella and me. Dr. Natural did a full exam, checking her fingernails and her tongue, looking in her ears, listening to her gut... such a difference from the allergist who didn't even acknowledge that she was in the room!

      We did a lot of talking, discussed both her diet and mine (since I'm still breastfeeding) and then Dr. Natural started asking questions about my health. She pointed out some redness around my nose and the skin blemishes on my chin and asked if I was aware that I had food sensitivities. Ummm... say what? I thought I just had crappy skin. Yes, I'm nearly 30 and my skin still acts like I'm 15 but it's because of what I'm eating?!? Seriously?!? Turns out that my food sensitivities could have been inherited by Ella and/or aggravated by the fact that I'm breastfeeding and not avoiding the foods I didn't know I was sensitive to. Dr. Natural asks me to have an IgG Standard Food Family Sensitivity Assay and suggests that Ella have an IgE test done. Finally, we're getting somewhere!

      Before we left, Dr. Natural put me on a pretty strict elimination diet in which I was to avoid all "mucus causing" foods. This included wheat, dairy, oranges, potatoes, corn, grapes, bananas, soy, peanuts, shellfish and chocolate. In addition, I was also supposed to avoid eggs since Ella's skin test showed she was reactive. I was hungry already.

      Wednesday, October 21, 2009

      Be still my beating heart

      After our horrid experience with Dr. Itsallyourfault, I was desperate to speak with a medical professional who could look me in the eyes and talk to me about my daughter's allergies with compassion. I found a Naturopath who specializes in women and children and called for an appointment.

      In the meantime, Ella and I went to a picnic at my bff's while Hubby was away for the weekend. I cut up some strawberries for the salad that I brought, quickly rinsed off the knife and set to work cutting up some green beans and a veggie burger for Ella. I set her up in her travel high chair, made sure bff was keeping an eye on her and went to fill up a plate for myself. Two minutes later I hear my bff yelling for me, "Becky! Becky! Her face is all red!" I drop my plate and run over, thinking she's choking and prepared to do the heimlich on her. When I get to her side, my little angel baby looks up at me. Only she doesn't look anything like my angel baby. Her cheeks, her eyes, her nose, her lips... everything is swelling up! Luckily, when I packed the diaper bag that morning, I had packed the EpiPen and a couple Benadryl pre-filled single use spoons. My hands were shaking so badly, I couldn't rip the damn thing open! Note to self: wright a letter to the company asking them to make these easier to open. Luckily, bff saved the day and ripped the package open, twisted off the top and squeezed 1/2 the dose into Ella's mouth. Within seconds, we see the swelling go down and redness fade. Holy hell my heart can't take much more of this!

      Later that week, I went for a walk with a friend, her two boys and their sweet doe-eyed black lab. Before we left the driveway, the dog gave Ella a nice ol' kiss on the cheek which left her squealing and shrieking in excitement. I've never seen a baby love dogs as much as this one does! Half way through our walk, I notice a rash on Ella's cheek. I chalked it up to the sunscreen mixed with the intense amount of drool pouring from her mouth. When we got back to her house, we went inside where Ella proceeded to shove every toy within reach into her mouth. As I tried to play interference and bat the toys out of her mouth, she started chomping on the edge of the leather couch. Oy vey, child! Oy vey! When I noticed that the rash had spread to both cheeks and all around her mouth, I decided it was time to go. A phone call with my friend later revealed that her boys had eaten eggs for breakfast and the dog had licked their plates clean. Gahhh!

      I can't have cheese or peanutbutter anymore?!?

      On August 11th, after a lengthy conversation with the nurse at our pediatrician's office and several conversations and e-mails with my La Leche League leader, I decided to cut dairy and peanuts out of my diet. The peanut thing was a no-brainer really after I saw the size of the welt that peanut protein left on Ella's arm during the skin test. It seemed serious. And scary. Although it was a no-brainer, it still left me a little depressed -- no more peanutbutter cups (MY FAVORITE), no more PB&J (always good for a quick lunch on-the-go), no more peanut butter and crackers (a favorite late night snack), no more peanut butter and chocolate smoothies at the mall (OK, so my thunder thighs really don't NEED these).

      Dairy took a little more convincing. Ella had never had a reaction to by breastmilk despite the fact that I'm a real milk and cheese all over everything kinda girl. I ate dairy like it was my job. My LLL leader finally pointed out that if I removed the milk proteins from her diet completely, the chances of her eventually outgrowing this would be much greater. And who knows, maybe I'd notice a change in her behavior that I never realized was an allergic reaction.


      Let the elimination diet begin.

      The Allergist aka "Dr. Itsallyourfault"

      On August 4th, Ella had her appointment with an allergist. I'm all for a doctor exhibiting extreme professionalism and if that means no warm-fuzzies then so be it. However, when said doctor does not even look me in the eyes or acknowledge that my child (aka his PATIENT) is even in the room, I don't exactly feel that I should take his "professional" opinion very seriously.

      Reasons why this allergist sucked:

      a) He rolled his eyes when he asked what kind of formula she was on and I replied "None. We're breastfeeding."

      b) When he came in to give me the results from her skin test, Ella had FOUR welts on her arm but he only said she was allergic to milk, eggs and peanuts... yes, that's only THREE.

      From the top (L to R):

      Natural Milk, Commercial Milk

      Natural Egg, Commercial Egg

      Peanut, Corn

      Histamine, Saline

      c) When I questioned how she could be allergic to all of those things when I eat all of them & she's never had a reaction to my breastmilk, his reply was "Well, if you'd cut all of those things out of your diet we wouldn't be having this conversation right now." Thanks, dude. You're so very helpful and I appreciate you making me feel like the absolute WORST mother on the planet right now.

      d) After delivering the news that my 10 month old is allergic to milk, eggs and peanuts, he gives me a prescription for an EpiPen, says "don't feed her any of those things" and "come back in a year." WTF?! That's it??

      I cried the whole way home and on and off for the next four hours.

      Save the drama for yo mamma

      When Ella was about 8 months old, I decided to try giving her a little yogurt. I was getting bored of the same ol' fruit & veggie purees and wanted to try something new. During my next trip to the grocery store, I bought a giant container of Stonyfield Farms Organic Whole Milk Plain yogurt, waited 'till the weekend when I knew hubby would be home and counted down the minutes 'till lunchtime.

      I put a teaspoon of the yogurt into a little dish, mixed in a big glop of homemade pureed pears and excitedly spooned a tiny bit into her mouth. She made a face as if to say "what the heck are you feeding me NOW?!" and opened her mouth for another bite. No sooner had I put the spoon in her mouth than she immediately started to cry. In general, our kid's not a crier; if she's crying, there's a damn good reason. I put the spoon down and started to pick her up. She was in a full on scream by this point.

      As I sat down with her on my lap, she started coughing and gagging. I was trying my best to soothe her while my heart pounded. I had no idea what to do. Hubby was outside mowing the lawn and I knew he'd never hear me if I called for him. As I stood up to run outside with her, she coughed once more and threw up. Her cries were instantly less intense and she'd stopped gagging. I carried her to the sink to strip off her clothes and wipe her off and with another minute of cuddling and soothing words, a sip of water and a kiss, she was fine. The yogurt incident was over as fast as it had started.

      A month later, I thought I might try giving her some cottage cheese. She was working very hard on her palmer & pincer grasps and I had read somewhere that cottage cheese was a good finger food. I put a teaspoon of the white stuff on her tray and sat down to watch. She enthusiastically dove in with both hands, shoveling it into her mouth. After a couple minutes, I noticed her face was getting a little red and blotchy. She started to fuss and scratch and pull on her ear, wipe her hands through her hair and rub her eyes. I grabbed a washcloth and as I started to clean her off, I noticed tiny red bumps behind her ears, down her neck, all over her arms and around her mouth. I wanted to cry. I was home alone.

      I grabbed my cell phone and dialed the pediatrician's phone number. Of course they were on lunch break! I'm sure the answering service operator could sense the panic in my voice as she told me she'd have someone call me right back. Was it my imagination or were her lips starting to swell? Oh sweet Jesus. Why isn't the doctor calling me back?! After what seemed like an eternity but was probably, in reality, only a matter of minutes, the nurse finally called me back, asked a ton of questions and said to give her 1/2 a tsp. of Children's Benadryl. Of course I didn't have any in the house! Why would I? It says right on the box "Not for children under age 2." She was 9 months old!

      I grabbed my wallet & car keys, loaded Ella into her carseat, jumped in the car and called my neighbor who (thankfully) works from home. My neighbor sat in the backseat, assuring me the whole twelve minute drive to CVS that Ella was, in fact, still breathing and no, the hives did not seem to be getting worse. When we got to the pharmacy, I ran to the Benadryl and ripped open the box. Gaahh!! It comes with a cup?! How was I going to get my 9 month old to drink from a cup? The kind pharmacist offered me a syringe and I quickly gave Ella a dose of the bubble gum flavored antihistamine. (If I wasn't completely panicked, I might have hesitated over giving my infant something that tasted like bubble gum but ya gotta do whatcha gotta do.) Almost immediately, her lips seemed less puffy. On our way home, my neighbor reassured me that she was looking better already. By the time we arrived back at our house, the hives were almost completely gone and I had a voicemail from the pediatrician asking me to set up an appointment with an allergist.

      Le sigh.