Spices- What’s a Mom to do?

We do not have peanut allergies. But the whole cumin recall disaster has made me question our spices. Are the ones I’ve been using considered safe? Truly safe? I set out to find out.

We use mostly Tone’s spices and Hy-Vee brand spices. I called Hy-Vee and was told Hy-Vee spices are made by Tone’s. I was impressed that the lady on the phone from Hy-Vee was able to tell me this: “The facility has wheat, oats, rye, dairy, eggs & coconut.”

So next I called Tone’s. Tone’s confirmed the statement above, but clarified that the coconut is in the warehouse, but not packaged there. Coconut is not an issue for us, but I wanted to include that part for those of you who avoid coconut. The lady from Tones told me they have “strict clean outs” and they DO NOT label for “may contains” and there “could be shared lines” with dairy and eggs.

I jumped in on McCormick’s Facebook thread about the cumin recall and how their cumin isn’t included. That’s great news! However, I asked about dairy and egg in the facility and shared lines and this was the response.

McCormick's response to me.  I didn't get a response to my shared lines question.

McCormick’s response to me. I didn’t get a response to my shared lines question.

What’s a mom to do?!?!

Go to her trusty “Milk Allergy Mommies” and ask questions, that’s what!!!

Someone suggested Morton & Bassett spices. The mom had called and asked and was told it was a dairy and egg free facility. I called, too, to confirm. I need peace of mind.

IT’S SAFE, PEOPLE! There are no dairy or eggs in the Morton and Bassett facility, according to the woman I spoke to on the phone.

I gathered up all of my Tone’s and Hy-Vee spices and kicked them to the curb.

Isn’t that dramatic, you might think? They used those spices for years.

The thing is, sometimes after meals SG would have a mystery hive. I hate mystery hives. Maybe it was a trace amount from a spice? I really don’t know.

But now that I know, I’M NOT TAKING ANY CHANCES!

I rushed off to the store and spent a small fortune on safe Morton and Bassett spices.

My poor Huzz… I was all in a tizzy the moment he walked in from a hard days work blathering on about spices and how much these new spices cost.

So, I’ll just blather on with you about spices. That’s okay, right? The Huzz will appreciate you listening to me.

Yesterday, I found another spice brand, JR Watkins, and called them. It took at least 10 minutes of me being on hold and going back and forth with the lady (nicely, of course) and SG dancing all over the aisles while I stood there… Yeah- fun! The end result- shared facilities. Not safe for us.

I will stick with my new and safe brand- Morton and Bassett.

I have to add- this recall is very scary for food allergy moms. I cook all of our meals. I rely on spices to make our food delicious. I also rely on the companies whose products I purchase. For food allergy parents, the results of these massive recalls can be catastrophic and life ending.

Here’s what I will continue to do.  I will continue to make my small voice heard by calling companies and asking questions about allergens, shared lines and shared facilities.  It’s important to speak up and be heard.  Let us let companies know allergens are big deals and we want clearer labeling!  I’m dreaming of more legislation about clear labeling for shared lines and shared facilities.

What are your thoughts on the cumin recall?  Do you have a brand of spices you use?  Have you called them and asked about shared lines and shared facilities?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Valentine’s Day Treat Ideas: Food Allergy Friendly

Valentine’s Day will be here before we know it!

The Huzz and I have never been huge Valentine’s Day people. It’s nice- don’t get me wrong. But I’ve never been a flowers and chocolates kind of gal. Now, a professional massage… that would be wonderful… HINT, HINT, HUZZ!

Add food allergies to the mix, and we now kind of, sort of celebrate Valentine’s Day.

I want to make Valentine’s Day special for SG.

Last year I pinned lots of links to food allergy friendly Valentine ideas.  I thought I’d share what I found.

Some of these are non-food ideas. Some have safe foods and some need a little tweaking. But they are all great ideas!

1. Glow Stick Valentines

2. Applesauce Pouch Valentine’s: “Valentine, You’re my Main Squeeze”

3. A Maze Valentine

4. Starburst Candy Valentine

5. Valentine’s Basket of God’s Love: Some of these will need adapting- like using an Enjoy Life candy bar.

6. Pencil Valentines

7. Heart Clothespins & Melted Crayons: I think it’d be super cute to add a magnet to the back of the clothespins.

8. The Cheese Thief has lots of cute ideas: Cuties, Pencils, Rulers, Play Dough & Toy Animals!

9. 25 No Candy Valentine Ideas

Valentine’s Party Ideas:
If you’re having a Valentine’s Day party, click here for my favorite Wacky Cake recipe. I tell how to make it chocolate or vanilla. Add some safe red, pink, and/or white frosting, and you’ll have fun, festive and SAFE cupcakes (or make it into a cake.)  We always serve safe juice boxes at our gatherings.

For a craft table:  Crayons, markers, themed stickers, construction paper, white paper, pipe cleaners and some red, white & pink beads.  If you’re really brave- kid scissors & glue.  🙂  Let the kids make what they make.  🙂  Or have them work on a Valentine’s Day idea listed above.

A few years ago, we had a Valentine’s Day party.  At the dollar store, I bought a pack of heart paper doilies and taped them close together on a wall.  This was our photo wall.  We took photos of our guests there.  It cost a $1!!

I’m more of a simple party person, ya know?  Less is more.

I hope these ideas help!

A Glimpse into Living with Food Allergies

Faith, Family & Food Allergies

I talk a lot about food allergies.

Food allergies have determined certain paths we take.

Nothing is simple.

Want to take a bible study class with childcare? Just sign up and show up.

Not me.

There are emails and phone calls involved. There are questions about snacks. There are questions about having other kids hands cleaned in the room. There are quick EpiPen training sessions for her teachers. There are procedures figured out for me to be contacted immediately in case of an allergic reaction.

The same thing with any recreational event.

SG wants to take a dance class. She is currently crazy for Barbie in the Pink Shoes and wants to learn ballet.

Just sign up for dance class and show up, right?

Not us.

I emailed one place where I had previously spoken to the manager. To my face, she was agreeable and accommodating. I emailed her with the specifics needed to keep SG safe (either wipe hands or wash and no food in the room) and CRICKETS. No reply.

I crossed that place off of the list.

I emailed another place. The owner said she would have her own child wash her hands but it was up to ME to ASK the other parents to wash their kids hands. Ummm…no. What if they say no? I know most wouldn’t, but I have had issues with this in the past.

Thankfully I found a dance studio that is willing to wipe all the girls hands before they walk in the studio. (Thanks Jill for the help!) I’m overjoyed and can’t wait for my little ballerina to take real dance classes!!!

Let’s move onto grocery shopping. Put your kiddo in the cart (or buggie as we say in the south), fill your cart with any food you want, put your groceries on the belt, pay and go.

Not me.

First, I wipe the entire cart with wipes. Okay, not the wheels. But I SCRUB the part where SG might sit. I’m teaching her to walk beside me, but sometimes I have to put her in the seat part. The part where I’ve watched countless other kids eat the free, deadly dairy and egg filled cookies from the deli. And goldfish. That seat. And then I wipe down the rest of the cart- including the inside of the cart.

Then I find my ridiculously expensive groceries, reading EVERY LABEL, EVERY TIME. Because ingredients change without warning. I have to be sure that what I buy is safe for SG. I also have to keep SG right beside me while reading labels, repeating my mantra to SG “Don’t touch anything!” or “Please keep your hands to yourself!” or “Don’t touch your face!”

When my shopping is finally done it’s time to check out and pay. I try to find our favorite cashiers who know us by name. They know to spray and wipe the belt down for us. I have seen spilled milk on the belts. And there is always some random stickiness. Who knows what that is? With a contact dairy allergy and egg allergy, I take no chances. If I can’t find any familiar faces, I go to a new cashier. I explain quietly that we have food allergies and say “Can you please wipe the belt to keep us safe?” Only one time has a cashier refused to do it. And then I lost my cool. And then she wiped the belt. Anyway, all that to get and buy groceries. And I try to ignore the stares I sometimes get as people behind me look at me like I’m a little crazy for not putting my groceries on the dirty belt.  Sometimes I feel my cheeks turn red.  Sigh.  Not that I really care what other people think. Keeping SG safe is my job as her mother. And I take it very seriously.

Let’s talk about haircuts. I love Great Clips for SG. Mostly for one reason… there is a giant bowl of Dum Dum suckers for kids to have after their hair cut. Doesn’t that sound like a silly reason to choose a place for a kid’s hair to be cut? When we are there, SG gets to have the same treat any other kid gets. It almost makes me cry. Seriously, that doesn’t happen much. We usually have to say, “No thank you. We have food allergies.” At our Great Clips, the stylists wash their hands before cutting SG’s hair and she gets a sucker afterwards.

Thank you, Great Clips. You’re awesome!

Let’s talk about eating out. Well, there’s not much to say, really. We only go out to eat on our date nights.

This whole post is not supposed to be a bummer. It’s a little glimpse into our complicated little world.

Still, I am so very blessed to be SG’s mommy. It’s something I dreamed about, prayed about and cried about for 6 years.

I am blessed to have become pregnant after battling infertility for 6 years.

I’m blessed to be a mother.

I’m blessed to be a stay at home mom.

I’m blessed to be a wife.

I’m blessed my Huzz provides abundantly for our family.

I’m blessed to have regular date nights with the love of my life.

I’m blessed to not have to worry about weight. (Eating dairy, egg and beef free and not eating out much has kept us trim!)

I’m blessed that we followed Dave Ramsey’s plan early in our marriage.

I’m blessed with friends and family who want to keep SG safe.

I’m blessed by a church that goes to great lengths to keep SG safe.

I’m blessed with a Savior who loves me and died for my sins.

I could go on and on. Sometimes I need to sit down and remind myself of my blessings.

Because sometimes, this food allergy life can weigh me down.

Today, I choose to lay it all down at Jesus’ feet and know that no matter what, He’s got this.

I might have to take extra steps and precautions, but it’s all for a very good reason. There’s nothing I won’t do for my SG.

20 Days of Dairy & Egg Free Dinners

Menu Plan

It was so relaxing for me to sit down and plan out this menu plan. A few years ago, I never would have made that statement!!!

After our stressful vacation, it feels good to sit down and get back into our safe and comfy routine.

By the way, isn’t this graphic amazing?  My brother is a very talented graphic design artist and is responsible for graphic designs on my blog.  Thanks brother!  I will use this menu plan graphic in all of my upcoming menus.  I’m so excited!!!

Here’s our menu plan for the last few days of December and the first half of January.  I’m always adding new recipes (thanks Pinterest!) and mixing in our old favorites.

Speaking of favorites, I’m currently obsessed with pineapple fried rice. You’ll see that twice on this menu served three times. I could eat it for dinner everyday! And it’s meatless to boot. At least my version is.

I digress.

This menu has a mix of chicken, pork, turkey and meatless meals (beans and veggies as the main protein source).

I hope this helps. Maybe one day I’ll have enough energy to even make a coordinating grocery list. But not anytime soon.  🙂

I share these menus to help other families like ours out there. Meal planning can be a challenge with a special diet.

Just for fun, here’s a pic of my set up for menu planning and getting this post typed up. I love Coke with my homemade Dragon’s Breath Popcorn. It’s the perfect snack for this menu planning blogger mommy!

How I menu plan

How I menu plan

1. BBQ Chicken Sandwiches (Make these awesome homemade dinner rolls, using vegan butter and non-dairy milk. Use dough setting on bread machine.  Follow directions for baking.  Once baked, cut rolls in half, add cooked chicken, top with safe bbq sauce) & Oven Roasted Carrots

2. Taco Pizza Rolls (use homemade pizza crust, use homemade taco seasoning from 100 Days of Real Food, ground turkey breast, & Daiya cheese)

3. Pineapple Fried Rice (omit ham, use only 1/2 cup pineapple & liquid aminos for soy sauce)

4. Lemony Chicken Stir Fry with Asparagus

5. Black Bean Chili & Cornbread

6. Crockpot Rotisserie Chicken, Baked Sweet Potatoes & Steam in a bag Broccoli

7. BBQ Chicken Pizza

8. Flex Meal

9. Vegan Crispy Cajun Chickpea Cakes, Homemade Dinner Rolls (See link from day one & make double batch for use in Day 10) & Sautéed Zucchini

10. Ranch Turkey Burgers made small enough to fit the Homemade Dinner Rolls from Day 9 (use 2 Tbs homemade ranch mix for ranch packet sub), French Fries & Fruit Salad

11. Tangy Slow Cooker Pork Roast, Roasted Carrots & Baked Potatoes (Bake enough potatoes for day 12, too)

12. Garlic Chicken, Baked Potatoes from Day 11 & Grilled Asparagus

13. Chicken Nachos (use leftover chicken from day 12 & Daiya cheese)

14. Pineapple Fried Rice (see day 3 for link)

15. Leftover Pineapple Fried Rice

16. Veggie Spaghetti

17. Ranch Pork Chops (make safe ranch dressing using link on day 10, dip chops on both sides in ranch, coat with panko bread crumbs & bake), Earth Balance Vegan “Cheddar” Flavor Mac and Cheese, & Steamed Spinach

18. Easy Chicken Tacos (use homemade taco seasoning using link from day 2)

19. Picadillo Tater Tot Casserole

20. Vegetable Soup & Bread & Vegan Butter

Here are a few photos of the foods in my menu plan.  Enjoy!

Homemade Dinner Rolls

Homemade Dinner Rolls

Ranch Turkey Burger

Ranch Turkey Burger

Sautee chopped carrots & zucchini in olive oil until tender.  Add spaghetti sauce & serve over noodles.

Sautee chopped carrots & zucchini in olive oil until tender. Add spaghetti sauce & serve over noodles.

Pineapple Fried Rice with Ham.  I now omit the ham and it tastes just as good!

Pineapple Fried Rice with Ham. I now omit the ham and it tastes just as good!

Vacationing with Food Allergies: Disney World

Disney Receipt

This post has been brewing for over a year. I wanted to write about our first trip with SG to Disney World last year.

We were so excited. We heard great things about Disney and food allergies. We stayed at Port Orleans resort with Disney in December 2013 and bought their meal plan- the one with one quick service meal and one sit down meal a day. We made our meal reservations with our special dietary requests and were thrilled to safely eat out.  We spoke to the chefs every single time.

But still… SG broke out in hives. Every. Single. Meal. It was horrible! The worst was when she had a hamburger. At that time, we didn’t know about her beef allergy, so we know that was most likely the reason behind her allergic reaction. At the other non-beef meals, she broke out in 3 to 5 hives. It wasn’t a major reaction, but a reaction never the less. And any hives on her stress me out and put me on edge= Not relaxing. Not magical.

I even cried talking to the chef at our resort’s restaurant. I cried because I was stressed out and just wanted something SAFE for my child to eat.

Disney tried, but failed us.

The rides, however, were magical! We quickly developed a system to keep SG safe. I went first with a baby wipe in my hand. I wiped down the lap bars and seats as I got on the ride. Then the Huzz and SG joined me. The second we were off the ride, we’d all wipe our hands with baby wipes. SG did great at the theme parks. No hives from rides!!!

Fast forward to October of 2014. We decided the problem last year was the food at Disney. We decided to try Disney again in December 2014.  To be safe, we decided to get a room with a full kitchen so I could cook all of our dinners. We would bring a safe lunch and safe snacks for SG in the parks. We would eat lunch at the park, but all grown ups would need to eat dairy and egg free to keep SG safe. She ate her safe packed lunch and a special dessert snack (Skittles one day and a Cocoa Loco bar the next.) We snacked on safe snacks I brought and ate dinner in our villa. That part was great.

Here’s where the HUGE problem was. We checked into our “deep cleaned” room at Old Key West Resort and immediately started wiping down every surface. Even though we had requested a deep clean and had supposedly received it, our room just wasn’t up to par. There was some red sauce splattered on several white wood surfaces on the kitchen chairs. There were more red splashes on the side of the fridge. There were white droplets of some food (milk? ice cream?) on the side of the kitchen island. Clearly, we needed to clean it all again.

I told SG (she’s 4) to not touch anything while we wiped everything down. She started touching surfaces as any excited 4 year old would do at a Disney resort. And within 30 minutes, had hives on her face and eyes and a bright red neck. I was terrified and thought this was “the time I was gonna have to Epi her.” She didn’t ingest any dairy, though, so we gave her Benadryl, gave her a quick shower, and then the hives started calming down. All of this within about an hour of checking in to our “relaxing and magical vacation.”

SIGH.

I broke down and cried, y’all. I was so upset. I emailed our travel agent, who was equally appalled at the lack of deep cleaning and she was upset SG had an allergic reaction. She notified the resort. The managers came to our room. We talked and I cried again as I explained to them what happened and tried to stress that even though they claimed our room was deep cleaned, I saw plenty of food “leftovers” in the room.

The manager offered to have the upholstery steam cleaned the next day while we were at Hollywood Studios. That night, we had all of the furniture covered in clean white sheets and towels.

The next day, we came back to freshly steam cleaned sofas, chairs and kitchen chairs. I appreciate that. Really, I do. We still covered it all in new sheets, though, just to be safe.

The managers even had this set up for SG when we returned from Hollywood Studios. SG loved her gifts!

The managers had this as a surprise for SG after she broke out in hives from the room.  She loved these gifts!

SG’s surprise from the managers after she broke out in hives from the room. She loved these gifts!

After the first night, SG didn’t have any more reactions.

I can’t tell you how stressful it was to start off vacation with our daughter having hives and almost taking a trip to the emergency room.

I know tons of food allergy families safely dine at Disney World and have had great experiences. We are two for two at not being completely safe at Disney. Our time in the theme parks and meeting princesses has been the highlight of our visits. The first year the food was the problem. The second year the room was the problem. Yikes.

My princess meeting Merida.  One of her favorite moments from our trip.

My princess meeting Merida. One of her favorite moments from our trip.

Anyway, I wanted to share how our trips to Disney panned out.

My daughter loved her Disney visit. No matter the obstacles, I’m grateful we were able to give her that gift two years in a row.

But for now, I think I am done with vacations. They really stress me out.

Note:  Lots of food allergy families have had great success dining at Disney restaurants.  I applaud Disney for being so food allergy aware.

Our daughter is obviously contact reactive, with RAST numbers off the chart.  Still, we try to provide her with every opportunity to have a “normal” childhood.  Having fun at Disney has been checked off of our list.

Beef Allergy?

Beef by J.R.

I have to share something.

SG has always eaten beef safely. Mostly cooked ground beef in stuff like spaghetti and meatloaf, but also steak.

This summer, we let her eat her steak cooked medium, the same way we eat it. Normally, we cooked her steak well done. We prepared and grilled it at home. Several times this summer she had 2-3 hives around her mouth, which quickly went away.

After she had steak the last time and broke out in a few hives, the light bulb went off in my head. I sat and thought about it and finally pinpointed it to beef- or rather steak. I thought it was because we tried a new brand of steak and maybe there were cross contamination issues.

The last night she had steak and we realized it must be the beef, I kept SG up late, letting her watch movies and holding her by my side. I was armed and ready with her EpiPen and Benadryl, which thankfully, she didn’t need. She didn’t have a reaction further than the first 2-3 hives, but as a food allergy mom, I know reactions can be delayed.  And can get worse.

Knowing that, I slept fitfully.  I checked on her several times through the night, listening to her steady breathing.  The Huzz held me in his arms and told me it was gonna be alright.  “Beef isn’t that good for you, anyway,” he said.  But as he held me close, a few tears slipped from my eyes.  “Here we go again with food allergies,” I thought.

After the Huzz drifted to sleep, I laid in bed, took deep breaths, and prayed. I prayed for answers, for safety for SG, for wisdom in learning to live with yet another food allergy, if that is the diagnosis. And I didn’t know this exact verse, but I knew most of this verse. I prayed this several times. I looked it up the next morning. Matthew 11:28.

Matthew 11:28

SG tested negative to fish and shellfish in the past but I’ve yet to give her any. When they tested her last week for beef, she was retested for several fish and shellfish. All of the tests were negative. So that’s positive! I will learn to like and cook fish and shellfish. We’ve decided to slowly introduce these foods into SG’s diet.

But back to the beef…

After a week with three different tests, the results are in- kind of. According to the RAST test and the skin test using the beef serum from the allergist, SG is allergic to beef. However, she has been eating well cooked beef since she was small. We skin tested her again with a raw and cooked piece of beef. She had no skin reaction to either!

We have two other blood test results that aren’t in yet. One is checking for the tick thing (I’m not getting into that explanation. Just writing this all out is enough for today.) The other test is to see if she is a high histamine releasing person. There are medical names for these but I just can’t remember them.

Anyway, the allergist recommended we continue to feed her well cooked ground beef, as she is TOLERATING it. That’s the important word.

It’s scary to knowingly feed your child a food you know she is allergic to. But I’ve unknowingly fed it to her for several years. And the downside to complete elimination is she MIGHT possibly lose her tolerance.

The Huzz and I had a convo about giving her a small amount of ground beef with hashbrowns on Saturday mornings. That way she has it first thing in the morning and we are both with her all day.

Let me just tell y’all something. Today, I felt peace that surpasses all understanding. I was prayed up. I prayed no matter what we learned today, I would joyfully say, “Lord, Your will and Your way.”

When SG had her RAST test for beef, we decided to go ahead and check her milk and egg levels.

I prayed her milk level would have gone down, or at least stayed the same. Instead, it rocketed off of the charts. And her egg whites went WAY up. Egg yolk went up, too, but was the least dramatic.

The last time I received her RAST numbers, I BURST into tears. I felt as if my world had come crashing down, for the second time. The initial diagnosis was a HARD day. Reading the hard facts about her RAST test a few weeks later devastated me yet again.

But not this time. I am disappointed. I would be lying if I said it’s all hunky dory. It’s not. But I serve a God who is bigger than food allergies. A friend reminded me that this is a “momentary affliction” in light of eternity. Those words played in my head driving home from the test.

God filled me with His grace and I was able to stand up straight and talk about what needed to be done and get through the appointment without falling apart.

And ya know what? As I’m typing this, a little tear is in my eye. I don’t know if it’s because I’m retelling this beef story, if it’s because I’m overwhelmed by God’s grace or both.

Probably both.

I’m a little 5’1 ball of emotion today.

I know that through it all, God is good. And as much as food allergies STINK and have changed our lives, it’s a part of us. We will continue to be vigilant parents and provide her with a normal childhood.

The Lord has gone before us and is the Alpha and Omega and that comforts me greatly.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7   (NIV)

(Emphasis added by me.)

Food Challenge Update

The Egg designed by my very talented graphic designer- my brother!

The Egg designed by my very talented graphic designer- my brother!

****This was what I wrote back in February but never published. Since writing this, we had to stop the 1/2 cupcake every day. SG starting breaking out in rashes on her body when eating the cupcake. The allergist and I decided to stop the baked in egg cupcakes. We will retest her next year and see if her skin tests and blood tests show an improvement. This is a very delayed update. Thanks to those of you who prayed for us!****

From February 2014:

I was a mess Wednesday night cooking with raw eggs. I was paranoid about cross contamination. I was fighting worry with prayer. Lots of prayer. I had nightmares Wednesday night.

Then the moment came Thursday morning when I watched my miracle child eat a cupcake I had baked that contained a food she is allergic to… That was very hard for me. SG, on the other hand, had no idea what was happening. She is just three and the allergist and I decided we were not going to tell her she was eating baked in egg in her cupcake. We told her we were going to have a little cupcake party at the doctor’s office.

I packed a Tinker Bell paper plate and Tinker Bell napkin. I packed a juice box and bottled water for her. I put it all in our little picnic cooler.

The cupcakes were in a Ziploc bag and then in a Target bag.  There's the Tinker Bell plate & napkin!

The cupcakes were in a Ziploc bag and then in a Target bag. There’s the Tinker Bell plate & napkin!

Then she gobbled up the 1/4 of the chocolate cupcake. And we all waited and stared at her. She was completely fine. She had one light red blotch (not a hive) and that went away in a few minutes. Other than that little incident, she did great. She ate the entire cupcake over about an hour and a half.

We left with instructions to give her one cupcake or muffin daily.

This morning, I gave her an entire chocolate cupcake for breakfast. Right after eating the entire cupcake, she had a little hive on the corner of her mouth. I called the allergist.

After talking to the allergist, SG is not to have an entire cupcake every day. She is to have 1/2 of a cupcake given to her in small portions, every other day. Hopefully, she will tolerate this lower dose better than she did today. I’m glad the Huzz will be with me Sunday as SG eats 1/2 of a cupcake.

Right now I’m feeling the weight of all this. It’s a lot for these little thin shoulders to carry. The Huzz is super supportive but I’m SG’s caregiver. When he’s at work, I have to decide on my own what to do. I’m the stay at home mom. I’m the one with her all day every day calling the shots. I pray when I’m alone with SG I always make the right decisions regarding her food allergies.

So there you have it. The food challenge at the allergist’s office surrounded by the doctor, nurses, The Huzz and me, went amazingly smooth. When I was all by myself with my child, then the hives appeared. Sigh.

Please keep praying for my child. I keep reminding myself,

“God is bigger than food allergies. He is bigger than eggs and dairy. Have faith.”

And here’s the verse I’m praying for SG,

“With God, all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NIV)

Because that verse is true my friend. And I’m clinging to it, with all of my heart.

P.S. These past two days have drained me. After writing this I felt very emotional. Wouldn’t you know it, one of our pastors read my prayer request about the food challenge and called shortly after I wrote this and was feeling low. He called to say the pastors have been praying and wanted to check on SG. Coincidence? No. It was just what I needed when I needed it. Thanks, Pastor Kip for praying for us and praying with me on the phone!

Homemade Mojo Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients for homemade Mojo

Ingredients for homemade Mojo

My mommy (yes, I still call her mommy and I’m 35 years old!) makes the best pernil in the world! Pernil is a pork shoulder picnic roast that is marinaded in mojo (say mo-ho with a spanish accent) and cooked at a low temperature in the oven for several hours. The meat is scrumptious and just falls apart!

I have not personally mastered the art of making pernil. I haven’t even tried. I do have a growing stash of pork tenderloins that I’ve scored great deals on and they are taking up space in my little freezer. It’s not quite the same as a giant roast, but nevertheless, my mommy suggested I marinate a pork tenderloin with mojo and throw it in the slow cooker.

So I did.

Only I didn’t use the bottled mojo like my mom does.

I’m the crazy homemade lady so I decided to make my own. It was time consuming but worth it.

Here’s the link to the mojo recipe I used.

http://www.food.com/recipe/traditional-cuban-recipe-cuban-mojo-cuban-marinade-148976

Here are the changes I made:
I didn’t use peppercorns. The bottle at the store was almost $4 and quite honestly, I never use peppercorns. Shhh… I don’t like the grind your own pepper thingamajiggies. I know, I know… I said above I’m crazy. 🙂 But in a good way. Anyway, I subbed ground black pepper for the peppercorns. And I did make the soured orange juice with the addition of two freshly squeezed lemons.

The mojo recipe yielded three cups of mojo. I did not need that much. I used one cup and froze the other two cups.

Here’s how I made our Mojo Pork Tenderloin:

Ingredients:
1 cup of homemade Mojo (see above link)
1 Pork Tenderloin
Salt
Pepper
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder

Directions:
1. Put the tenderloin in the crockpot. My tenderloin was mostly defrosted but not completely. Sprinkle the top of the tenderloin with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Pour 1/2 cup of the mojo on the tenderloin.
2. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4-6 hours. My crockpot has pre-determined times as my only options so I cooked it for 6 hours on high. If you have the time, low is better. Halfway through the cooking time, turn the tenderloin over and pour another 1/2 cup of the mojo on the pork.
3. When the tenderloin is ready, shred the pork in a bowl with two forks.
4. Either mix the shredded pork back into the crockpot with the drippings and cooked marinade or make a gravy with the drippings from the crockpot.
5. To make gravy: Scoop out the drippings from the crockpot and put in a medium sized pan. In another bowl, add 1 heaping tablespoon of cornstarch with 4 tablespoons of cold water. Mix well. Add the cornstarch water to the drippings. Heat on medium low and mix well until the mixture resembles gravy. You may have to add water to thin out the gravy. Add salt and pepper to taste. If desired, serve the gravy over the pork.

There you have it… my not quite pernil but a little taste of home mojo pork tenderloin.

***Updated Notes***
Since originally posting this recipe, I have made a few changes. I added one cube of my homemade sofrito. (Click here for the recipe.) I also turned the pork tenderloin several times throughout the day and basted it with the liquids with each turn. I then shredded the tenderloin in the slow cooker and let the pork soak up all of the juices and flavor. Oh my! It was even better this way!!!

Yes, the recipe uses 3 HEADS of garlic!!

Yes, the recipe uses 3 HEADS of garlic!!

 

Making Mojo

Making Mojo

 

Pork Tenderloin in the Crockpot

Pork Tenderloin in the Crockpot

This marinade would be equally delicious with pork chops. Marinate and then grill…Mmmmm… I must make that next!

Happy Mojo-ing!!! 🙂

Grab ‘n Go Snacks (Dairy and Egg Free!)

“Everyone bring a snack!”

“Let’s have a bring your own lunch picnic!”

“Our classes have snack time.”

My view of food has completely changed since finding out SG is allergic to dairy and eggs. When I hear those phrases above, I know I have to speak up and ask if I can bring snacks for everyone. And for my friends not to bring anything. It is so worth it to have SG included AND safe. And it’s totally awesome when friends volunteer to bring safe snacks to share! My friends ROCK!!!

Here’s a list of safe snacks I’ve compiled. Please share this post and save it for later. You never know when you might make friends like us and need this list. 🙂

If you’re new to food allergies and aren’t quite sure what store bought snacks are dairy and egg free, this is the list for you.

As always, please read every label, every time.  Companies can and do change recipes and ingredients.

This is our “grab and go” safe snack list. It is BRAND SPECIFIC. If you buy the generic Oreos, they may contain milk (I’ve read that some generic Oreos do have milk!)

Enjoy!

Oreos- Regular chocolate and double stuffed chocolate, Golden Oreos (regular and double stuffed)

Kraft and HyVee brand marshmallows

Rold Gold pretzel sticks and twists

Dole Raisins (These are super plump and amazing!)

Florida’s Natural Organic Fruit Snacks, “Fruit Grove Nuggets” and “Berrilicious Nuggets”

GoGo squeeZ Applesauce Pouches

Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars “Oats ‘n Honey”

Simply Balanced Strawberry Fruit Strips

Plain Cheerios

All Enjoy Life products (They are free of the top 8 allergens.)

Original Ritz Crackers

Mott’s Natural Applesauce

Honey Maid Graham Crackers: Chocolate and Honey

Honey Maid Teddy Grahams: Honey, Chocolate, and Chocolate Chip

Pop Tarts: Frosted and Unfrosted Strawberry and Blueberry

Dole Fruits in Plastic Cups: Peaches, Apples, Pears, Mandarin Oranges & Pineapple

Fresh Fruit & Veggies
(Please note: It’s best if a fruit isn’t cut at someone’s house other than the food allergy parent. Cross contamination can occur and make the fruit unsafe. CC can come from a cutting board, knife, colander, the parent touching an allergen then cutting fruit, etc. It’s best to bring a “pre-packaged” fruit or veggie like cuties, bananas, baby carrots in the unopened bag, etc.)

Candy: Smarties, Starburst, Skittles, Dum-Dums, and Starburst Jelly Beans.

We are always looking for more safe snacks.

Please comment below with any other dairy and egg free snacks that you have discovered. Thanks so much!

Our Safe Snack Box

Our Safe Snack Box

 

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Food Allergy Awareness Week: My Mommy Confessions

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It’s Food Allergy Awareness Week. Maybe you already know that food allergies affect 1 in every 13 children under the age of 18 years old in the United States. I’m not going to wow you with a bunch of facts. I’m going to let you know more about us. And how food allergies affect our lives.

So here are my ramblings and confessions about our life and food allergies:

1. We don’t want to be different. Oh, we don’t want to. But we are. We didn’t ask for this lifestyle. We only do what we have to do to keep our child safe.

2. We are not crazy. Yes, sometimes I feel crazy. Or “cray cray”, as SG has come to say.

3. We are not out to ruin anyone’s traditional treats and foods. Birthday cupcakes at school or traditional holiday foods can be DEADLY to children with food allergies. There are plenty of fun, new and safe ways to celebrate birthdays and holidays. You may have to forego a store bought cupcake or that famous mac and cheese or pecan pie, but really, isn’t it worth it to have a loved one with you? We only want to be included in a way that’s safe.

4. That last sentence bears repeating. We want to be included. Food allergies don’t have to define our lives. We live with food allergies. It’s a part of us. But it doesn’t have to define us or isolate us. But sadly, sometimes it does.

5. Our church- a biblical church based on Jesus Christ as Savior- has been amazing! SG is well cared for. Her class all has safe snacks and all kids get wiped with baby wipes. The church has been so wonderful in accommodating our special needs. And the people… the people… they have stood in the gap for us. They have sat with me when I cried and poured out my heart about some difficulties and struggles due to life with food allergies. And then they have touched my heart so deeply and invited us into their homes. Y’all, you just don’t know how much these sweet Christ loving people have touched our hearts. They have shown me the love of Christ in real and tangible ways. You know who you are. And thank you. You are loved.

6. We don’t go out to eat as a family. I have learned to bake and cook. When we first got married, I received an apron that said “Domestically Challenged” and I’m proud to say that is no longer true. While I’m not a chef, I’ve learned I can throw down some good homemade food!

7. I love Vegans. We, however, are not Vegan. But I’ve learned to search “Vegan” whatever and tons of safe and yummy recipes pop up. They have already substituted in baking for me. And we love Vegan products! Hello Daiya cheese & Earth Balance products! SG would never be able to enjoy “cheese” like goodness if it weren’t for all the yummy Vegan products out there. Thanks y’all!!!

8. Worrying is not a good thing and a sin. Yup. I struggle with worry. I’ve found some verses about worry that I’ve highlighted in my Bible.


“But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands…”
Psalm 31:14-15 (NIV)

“…and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”
Acts 17:26b (NIV)

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
Matthew 6:27 (NIV)

Food allergies have exposed this sin of worrying and is a reminder daily to trust The Lord with this very precious gift of a child He has given me to raise up. I sometimes struggle balancing doing my part in keeping SG safe and just plain ole worrying.

But then I remind myself,

“God has my times in His hands. He has SG’s times in His hands. I have to be responsible for certain things like her diet and right now her environment, but The Lord has our times in His hands. Worrying will not change that. Trust The Lord. Trust The Lord!!”

9. Food allergies can wear on marriages. Mine has remained strong- and actually, been strengthened by our standing side by side together. We are in this together. I’m thankful for a man who has agreed to keep our house free of dairy and eggs to keep our daughter safe. I know that isn’t always the case and I’m so blessed that we are united in our decisions.

10. Sometimes I get jealous when I see a family eating ice cream. I feel cheated somehow. The moment is fleeting. I’m glad for that. I don’t want to give in to jealousy. I know that’s a sin. Sometimes I get tired of cooking all the time and wish we could go out to eat as a family without worry or stress. Then I snap to my senses and look at the beautiful little reason I’ve given all that up. For six long years we tried and failed to have a baby… until on our very last try we conceived our precious child. Who happens to have food allergies. She is worth it. Who cares, really, about ice cream from an ice cream shop? I have a precious child who is worth every single sacrifice I make.

We are just normal people trying to lead a safe and normal life.

So there you have it- my random thoughts and confessions for Food Allergy Awareness Week.