Double Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting

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Ingredients:

Cake

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk. I used soy milk.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Chips

Frosting

 

Directions:

Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Grease one 9X5 pan. I like to use Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks to grease the pan.
  • In a bowl, mix together the oil, vanilla extract, vinegar and soy milk. Add the sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder and flour to the liquid mix. Mix until well blended.
  • Finally add the mini chocolate chips and mix well.
  • Pour the cake batter in the 9X5 pan.
  • Place a baking pan filled with water on the bottom rack of the oven. This will keep the cake moist after baking.
  • Place the pan that has the cake batter right on top of the pan that has water.
  • Bake for 43 mins.
  • Let it cool for about an hour.

Frosting:

  • In a bowl, mix buttery spread*, cream cheese and vanilla extract. Add the cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar. Mix on a high speed for about 8-10 mins.
  • Cover and put it in the refrigerator for about an hour.
  • Frost the cake.
  • Keep refrigerated until served.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Eating Out With Food Allergies

For some reason that I still don’t understand, most outings or social activities revolve around food. At least, this used to be our case. If there was a birthday, we had to go eat-out. If family members came to visit, we would go to a restaurant. I mean, pretty much anything involved food. I was O.K. with this until my youngest child was diagnosed with Food Allergies; this made things different for us. Now, if we go out of the house, we bring allergy-friendly food with us everywhere. It’s fun, like having a picnic every time. We rarely eat at restaurants, and when we do, the whole experience is accompanied by a safety “ritual”. So, what do we do?

  • We look for an allergy friendly restaurant. Allergy Eats has become our best friend when it comes to finding restaurants that accommodate my kids food allergies.
  • If I’m not sure that the restaurant is accommodating, I just call them. It is surprising how many restaurants are happy to accommodate food allergies.
  • Before leaving the house, I make sure that we have 2 EpiPens and a bottle of Benadryl in our bag. I NEVER leave the house without our epinephrine auto-injectors.
  • Once I arrive at the restaurant, I let the host/hostess know about the food allergies.
  • Once we know in which table we’re sitting, I wipe down the table and seats to make sure there is no allergen residue that can potentially start a reaction.
  • When we are seated, the first thing I do is make sure that the server knows about the food allergies and understands the severity of it. We have a child with life-threatening allergies.
  • If it’s possible, I try talking to the chef/cook. This way I make sure that he/she knows about the food allergies and how important it is for us that there is no cross-contact.
  • We try to order allergy-friendly meals for everybody.
  • When the food arrives, I try to make sure that there is no obvious allergen at sight.
  • I try to remind others and myself to not use their/my utensils on someone else’s food.
  • If everything goes well, which has been our experience, we thank the server and the chef/cook for the meal and for making sure that our children didn’t have an allergic reaction. A nice tip always helps and it shows the staff that we appreciate the extra effort they put in keeping the experience allergy friendly.
  • If the restaurant hasn’t been rated in Allergy Eats, it’s a good idea to rate it. This way, you help other families that are looking for a safe, allergy friendly place to eat.

 

Now, if we are invited to eat at a friend/family member’s house, things go in a similar way. Here’s what I do:

  • I remind my friend/family member about the allergies.
  • Ask what is going to be served and recommend some allergy friendly substitutes to cook with.
  • Ask to help with the cooking. Or, ask if I can bring some of the food. This way I know what is being cooked and make sure that the ingredients are allergy friendly.
  • If your friend or family member doesn’t want you involved with the cooking, but you still doubt that the food will be allergy friendly, bring the food for the allergic person. Always trust your instincts, I know I do and they’re usually right.
  • I also, wipe down the eating area before seating. I don’t want to risk it. You never know when someone else has eaten an allergen in that area.

 

There are also other things that I’ve learned from our experiences and that might be helpful in avoiding allergic reactions:

  • Make sure to ALWAYS remind the restaurant staff (host, server, chef) about the food allergies, even if they know you. You never know when they are too busy and/or might forget about the allergy.
  • If someone on the table orders something that’s not allergy friendly, try to have that person seat as far away as possible from the person that has food allergies. Be mindful of avoiding cross-contamination of utensil if sharing food. After that person (with the food that has allergens) is done eating ask him/her, politely, to wash their hands.

Enjoy your meal. Food Allergies don’t need to be an obstacle with the right precautions.

Stay Safe!

 

Another Food Allergy Diagnosis

When Winter Break was over, we all went back to our routines. Juan got back to work, Paulo to school, Penny & I to our everyday activities. As I’ve said before, we avoid having allergens in our house, which means no dairy and no nuts. So, school was the only place that Paulo was able to have his cup of milk without me worrying about cross-contact and consequently an allergic reaction. However, when Paulo tried having his usual cup of milk at school, he threw up. That day he said he was too full from the lunch he ate and maybe that was why he threw up. Next day, same thing happened. This time, I was sure that it had nothing to do with being too full because it was accompanied by a week of stomach pain, bloating, gas, etc. Maybe it was a virus or maybe he was starting to develop either an allergy to milk or lactose intolerance.

We decided he was going to avoid milk until we could find out what was going on. He was tolerating cheese, and then one day, after having pizza for lunch, same thing happened. This was the day when he ended up admitted to the hospital (see Hospital Stay). Doctors discharged him with a gastroenteritis diagnosis. I knew something was not right, I felt that it was not gastroenteritis. So, I scheduled a follow up with his pediatrician. After a few visits to different doctors and some tests, it turns out that Paulo has a food allergy: he is allergic to cow’s milk.

This diagnosis taught me that there are different types of food allergies. There are the IgE-Mediated Food-Related Disorders and the Non-IgE-Mediated Food Allergic Disorders. The initial blood test done measured the presence of IgE antibodies to a specific foods. However, Paulo has one of the Non-IgE-Mediated Food Allergic Disorders, reason why that first test came back negative. If you want to find more about Non-IgE-Mediated Food Allergic Disorders, click here… I guess we do learn something new every day.

Like I’ve said before, even though Food Allergies are, most of the time, overwhelming, in my case it has had its share of positive outcomes.  At this point, we are aware of what we eat, we eat a healthier diet, we grow our own organic vegetables and fruits and we know how to avoid diary. Also, Paulo’s reactions are not life threatening. Yes, it is an inconvenience if cross-contact occurs and yes, he gets sick, but his life is not at risk when a reaction occurs. Nevertheless, it is still serious.

We started Food Allergy Awareness Week with another Food Allergy diagnosis in our house. Now I have more than one reason to advocate and raise awareness about food allergies. This week I wear teal for both my kids.

Small Victories

You might remember a post I published a couple of months ago called “Walk a Mile in my Shoes”. In it I explained what I go through with Penny (and her food allergies!) when I drop Paulo off at his ballet class. After that “incident” I knew that something had to be done.  That day, I felt allergens were something unavoidable, they were pretty much everywhere. So, next time I went to drop Paulo off at ballet class, I asked to talk to the program manager. She explained that we were in a peanut-free facility and it has a designated eating area. However, I told her that there were no signs anywhere explaining that, so there was no way people knew about it. I told her how I have walked in some days finding myself seating next to someone eating a bag of peanuts and consequently panicking at the thought of Penny experiencing an anaphylactic shock. She completely understood since she also has food allergies. After a long talk, she agreed to put up signs on the walls that specify that people are not allowed to bring peanut/tree nut products in the building.

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A week after the signs were up on the walls someone took them down… It is still hard for me to understand how refraining from eating peanuts in a limited interval of time can be something so inconvenient. I can’t understand how people believe that they have the right to eat peanuts. Eating peanuts is a choice. My daughter’s allergies aren’t a choice. She can’t decide if she will have an allergic reaction. It just happens… Anyway, I went back to the administration office. Again, the signs were put up on the walls. Up to this day, they’re still there. People don’t always follow the rule of eating in the designated area, but, guess what? I can always remind them. Small victories like this one will help us create awareness.

I am going to continue advocating for my child’s food allergies, after all, I am protecting her life. If we let others know what we go through, we can, maybe, cultivate some empathy and awareness, one person at a time.

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Ingredients:

 

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
  • Grease baking pan.
  • Mix the melted butter and the sugar, until well blended.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  • Stir in the vanilla extract.
  • In a small cup, dissolve the baking powder in warm water, then add to the batter.
  • Add salt.
  • Stir in flour and chocolate chips.
  • Scoop out the dough into cookies.
  • Bake for 15 mins.

Enjoy!

 

Everything Will be Fine

For the past few weeks I’ve been “disconnected” from the blog for two reason: 1) my husband’s grandmother came to town to visit and I wanted to spend quality time with the family (no interruptions!), and 2) I had one wisdom tooth extracted and recovery took my energy way. But now I’m back- fully recovered and back to our routine.

Like I’ve stated before, we avoid having Penny’s allergens at home, but two weeks ago I bought cow’s milk for my hubby’s grandmother (Mamá Maggie, as my kids lovingly call her). Her house is not allergy-friendly, and why should it be? We don’t visit because she lives cross-country and neither she nor anyone around her has food allergies. And even though she is very understanding and careful about Penny’s allergy, I wanted to have something in the house for her morning coffee…Penny will be going to preschool pretty soon and I need to accept the fact that she is not living in an allergy-friendly world. Sure, I make “our world” allergy-friendly and easier, but that’s not the reality once we go out of the house. We did manage to avoid peanuts and tree nuts, and because we were very careful, reactions were avoided as well. Also, Penny understood that she couldn’t touch the cow’s milk and wouldn’t even go near it. This gives me a lot of confidence, for now I know that she is learning what she can and cannot eat.

Mamá Maggie enjoyed our allergy-friendly homemade baked goods, and she even dared to try Sunbutter and Soy Nut butter. She told me that she enjoyed so much some of our allergy-friendly products, that she will be buying them for herself. Also, she altered some recipes while she was here so they were allergy-friendly and we could all eat the same thing.

I am eternally grateful for Mamá Maggie’s thoughtfulness about Food Allergies- she even thought about them when we were looking for restaurants. I understand that this is something that might not be easy for someone that hasn’t experienced food allergies closely and that is used to not avoiding any allergens… Again, THANK YOU! Things simple as these make me a happier person.

I recently read an article in the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT) webpage about the “Psychological Impact for Families Living with Food Allergy” and it stated that, “Children with more than two food allergies and their parents report poor quality of life”. This is our case; Penny is allergic to dairy, peanuts and needs to avoid most tree nuts. Honestly, I can say that Food Allergies are overall overwhelming, and create a great deal of anxiety for me. I decided to stay home instead of working because of Food Allergies, and it is almost impossible for me to trust anyone to take care of my “food allergic” daughter. I even get anxious leaving her with her dad (I know!). After two years, I can say that I am slowly learning to take deep breaths and “let go”. So, two weeks ago, when I had a wisdom tooth extraction and had to rest a lot for 2-3 days, I was “forced” to let others watch Penny. In this case, Mamá Maggie and my husband took care of her. Guess what? Penny didn’t have a single reaction and the world didn’t come to an end. I am grateful for this experience, now I know that everything will be fine. For now, baby steps until I get there!

I still have a lot to learn in this journey, but with understanding, awareness, education and most importantly SUPPORT, we will be fine.