Challenges

It was the day before Penny’s 1st Dairy Challenge. A dairy challenge, in Penny’s case, meant that I would bring a homemade baked good that contained dairy to the Dr.’s office and she would eat this baked good under proper medical supervision- this to ensure that if a severe reaction occurred, the medical staff will have control of the situation. Also, per the allergist’s instruction, Penny had to stop any antihistamines and/or asthma medication 5 days prior to the test.

I got ready: went to the supermarket, got some gluten-free flour, enjoy life chocolate chips, eggs, coconut oil, and the most important ingredients for the challenge: cow’s milk. After everyone went to bed, I stayed up looking for dairy-full cupcake recipes and baked. I’m not going to lie-I was nervous, but positive.

We had decided that the four of us were going to be at the Dr.’s office on this BIG day. Not only to celebrate if Penny passed the challenge but also to give each other support. After all, isn’t that what family is all about?

On the day of the challenge we were there at 7:45 am. Penny was called in at 8:00 am. After having been examined for her asthma and everything else (height, weight, changes in health, etc), the Dr. ordered her to start eating the cupcake. First, they gave Penny ¼  of a teaspoon of the cupcake, slowly increasing the quantity every 15-20 minutes until she had eaten about ¼ of that cupcake. There was a high level of supervision throughout the whole challenge. The nurse would come in the room every 3-5 minutes to check on her, and to ensure that everything was alright. This gave me a sense of security- that if anything happened she was going to be ok. An hour and a half later the challenge was completed, and Penelope had successfully passed. In the weeks to follow, I had to slowly increase the portions (of a cupcake) that Penny ate by ½ every week until she tolerated 1 whole cupcake. This was a breeze; she loved the taste of the cupcake and never had a reaction. I came to understand, at this point, that the treatment that the allergist chose for Penny is called Oral Immunotherapy (OIT). Oral immunotherapy is a treatment that induces the immune system to tolerate a food that a person is currently reacting to. It involves introducing the food that causes the reaction to the person’s system in gradually increasing amounts, with the goal of allowing the person to eventually consume the food without experiencing a reaction.

From now on, Penny had to eat a dairy-full baked good daily. I got creative and baked bread, cakes, brownies, cookies, etc. Eating these baked goods for a month and a half was preparing Penny for the next step: a Yogurt Challenge. Seeing Penny eat things with dairy made me so happy. For 3 years her diet had been restricted, and thinking that she was going to be able to add more things to her diet and potentially eat anything with dairy altogether is pretty exciting.

Her yogurt challenge was scheduled two days after Christmas. A few days before, Penny, Paulo & I went to the grocery store in search of a good vanilla yogurt. Fast-forward 2 days and it was Challenge Day.

Just like the 1st time, we were there early in the morning. This time, I brought her breakfast to eat after the challenge was over. Around 8:30 am, the yogurt challenge began. She had ½ a teaspoon of yogurt. No reactions. Then, about 10-15 minutes later, she had 1 teaspoon of yogurt. Still, no reactions; however, Penny started complaining saying that her stomach hurt because she was hungry. Twenty minutes later, she had a tablespoon of yogurt. This time, a few hives appeared on her face, but after washing her hands and face, the hives went away. Again, according to Penny, the only thing bothering her was that she was hungry. The allergist walked in about 20 minutes after she had the tablespoon of yogurt and since she was cruising through the whole thing, he said that Penny could eat as much as she wanted. She was so happy and she kept saying: “Mommy, this yogurt is so YUMMY!”

Another 20 minutes had gone by. The allergist came back into the office, checked on her and was ready to discharge her with a successful challenge. Then all of a sudden, Penelope developed a cough. The allergist and I kept talking about the next steps to take, and I told him that she wasn’t coughing before, so he said that he was going to keep her in the office for 10 more minutes to see what was going on. I was fine with it: “better safe than sorry”. He also said that Penny could have the breakfast I had brought since she kept complaining about being hungry. She had one bite of her pancake, and then said she didn’t want any more. This was strange. As time passed by, her cough was more frequent, and her energy levels were dropping. She started telling me that she wanted to go home and that she wanted daddy. My husband and son wanted to be there for the challenge, but were both sick with a cold, and decided to wait for us outside.

The nurse came in and stayed with us, checking on Penelope constantly. I asked her to, please, check her lungs for wheezing. She said Penny wasn’t wheezing. At this point, Penny was curled up in a little ball in my lap. Then, as the nurse was going to step out of the room for a second, Penny coughed, but this time at the end of her cough, you could hear the wheezing. The nurse looked at me and asked me if I heard a wheeze. I certainly did. From that moment on, everything felt like it was going downhill: she was in anaphylactic shock. Her wheezing was very loud, and she was struggling to breathe. The nurse called other nurses for help and got the allergist to walk into the office. Penelope was connected to a blood oxygen saturation monitor. My head felt like it was spinning; I kept looking at the monitor: her heart rate kept going up and her oxygen levels kept dropping. I was desperate and felt helpless at the same time.

The allergist looked at Penny and ordered epinephrine be given to her. One of the nurses raced off to another room and came back with a syringe containing the epinephrine. Even though it had only been minutes since she started having the reaction, it felt like hours. Not even a minute after the epinephrine was given to Penny, everything started to change. Her breathing slowly normalized, wheezing subsided and Penny started looking better. Once she started feeling better, she also started having nausea, and eventually threw up the yogurt. At least she didn’t have what was making her sick in her stomach anymore. To be exact, 6 minutes after epinephrine was given her oxygen levels were back to 100%. The doctor ordered the nurse to give her oral steroids to avoid a biphasic reaction. A biphasic reaction occurs anytime from 1 hour to 72 hours after the initial reaction and can happen without any allergen exposure. He also ordered antihistamines because her throat was itching.

By the time my husband was able to make it to the room where we were, Penelope was stable. Everything happened so fast. We left the allergist’s office 4 hours after with instructions to keep giving Penny dairy in baked goods. I’m not going to lie, I was afraid that she was going to have a reaction to baked goods after the severe reaction, but she was fine.  The next step: a Cheese Challenge next month. How do I feel? Scared, but this is the only way we are going to know if her dairy allergy will ever be cured.

This has been one of the most difficult experiences I have ever lived. It left me heartbroken, and it has been difficult even to talk about. I know Penny’s all right and that everything is O.K., but I am still healing. I am grateful to know that epinephrine can save her life if used as the first line of treatment for anaphylaxis, and most importantly, I am hopeful that Penny will be able to surpass this.

 

 

Baby Steps…

If you are part of a F.A. family, you know how hard it is Eating out with Food Allergies. By default, the first thing I do is to make a call directly to the Restaurant. So, when last Thursday I was craving pizza I made a few calls to different pizzerias. As most of you know, we avoid peanuts, tree nuts, dairy & gluten. As luck would have it, there was a pizzeria that had a dairy-free, gluten-free pizza and when I called they assured me that they could make it without cross-contamination. They explained that they used Daiya Cheese & their Gluten Free crust was also dairy-free.

I am not going to lie, even when the restaurant assured me that they can work around my children’s allergies, I still feel doubt and anxiety. It’s so easy to have cross-contamination, and talking by experience, not everybody knows how to handle food allergies.

Anyway, I braved up and off we went. Once we arrived, we wiped down the table and seats to make sure there wasn’t any allergen residue that could’ve started a reaction. Then, I talked to our waitress and explained the severity of Penny’s allergies. She said that she would make sure that the cooks would clean the area and change gloves before preparing my kiddos meal, avoiding cross-contamination.


The pizza was delicious & my kids were able to enjoy pizza in a different environment, reaction free.What a fantastic experience! No doubt we will be returning soon to Farelli’s Wood Fire Pizza.

Vanilla Glazed Baked Doughnuts

Doughnuts

Ingredients:

Doughnuts:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup & ½ tbsp. non-dairy milk. I used soy milk
  • 2 tbsp. Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Stick (8oz), melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Glaze:

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. non-dairy milk. I used soy milk

 

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 °F.
  • Grease the doughnut pan.
  • In a bowl, mix together egg, non-dairy milk, butter, and vanilla extract.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until the mixture is well blended.
  • Spoon the mixture into the doughnut pan.
  • Place the pan in the oven and bake for 10 mins.
  • Remove from oven and allow the doughnuts to cool. 

To make the glaze:

  • In a bowl, mix together the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and salt.
  • Add 1 tbsp. of non-dairy milk to the mixture.
  • When the doughnuts are completely cool, dip them into the vanilla glaze.

 

Enjoy! 🙂

Chocolate Mini-Cupcakes


                    Makes 48 Mini-Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Grease mini-cupcake pan.
  • In a bowl, mix together the oil, vanilla extract, vinegar and coconut milk. Add the sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder and flour to the liquid mix. Mix until well blended.
  • Pour the cupcake mix in the pan and place the pan on the oven.
  • Bake for 6 mins.
  • Let it cool for about an hour.
  • Enjoy! 

If you want to make Chocolate Frosting, follow the directions on this recipe.

    Double Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting

    IMG_0627

    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!

     

     

    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.

    Chocolate Chip Cookies

    IMG_0509-3

    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!

     

    “Budín”/ Puertorrican-Style Bread Pudding

    IMG_0325

    Ingredients:

    • 1 lb. allergy-friendly old bread (See Amish White Bread Recipe)
    • 2 cups non-dairy milk (I use soy milk)
    • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
    • 5 eggs
    • ½ cup sugar +1 cup for caramel
    • ½ cup of water
    • Raisins

     

    Directions:

    • Preheat the oven to 350°
    • Cut the bread into small pieces.
    • In a bowl, pour the milk and soak the bread in the milk for 15-20 mins.
    • Add the eggs, vanilla and sugar and mix until all is well blended.
    • In a small pan, mix the water and sugar and set in the stove on medium-high to make the caramel. Stir until the mixture has a golden color.
    • In a baking pan [size 8X6X2], pour the caramel, covering the bottom.
    • Add the bread mixture.
    • Finally, add raisins [the quantity you prefer].
    • Set baking pan in a roasting pan. Add water to the roasting pan until it rises halfway up the sides of the baking pan to create a water bath (bain-marie).
    • Bake for 50 mins.
    • Set aside to cool for at least an hour.
    • Run a knife along the edges to loosen. Cover with a platter and quickly, but carefully invert.
    • Cut and serve.

    EnjoyIMG_0326

     

     

    *If you want the bread pudding to be creamier, you can add ½ cup of non-dairy butter to the mixture. *

    Pastelón de Amarillos (Puertorrican Style Ripe Plantain Casserole)

    Makes 1 Ripe Plantain Casserole [size 8x6x2]

     IMG_0228

    Ingredients:

    • 1 lb. ground Beef
    • “sofrito”
    • adobo- I use Goya
    • sazón / seasoning- I use Sazón Goya
    • olive oil
    • 4 oz. tomato sauce
    • 4 ripe plantains
    • 4 eggs

     

    Directions:

    •  In a pan, sauté about 1oz. of olive oil, sofrito, sazón and tomato sauce. In a bowl, season the ground beef with adobo. Add the ground beef to the pan and cook until beef is brown.
    • Peel, cut and fry the ripe plantains until golden. I like to use olive oil to fry.
    • Generously grease the baking dish.
    • Beat 2 eggs and spread on the baking dish.
    • Cover the bottom of the baking dish with a layer of plantains.
    • Add the ground beef and spread evenly.
    • Cover the ground beef with another layer of plantains.
    • Beat 2 eggs and cover the last layer of plantains with it.
    • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    • Cover the pastelón with aluminum foil and put in the oven for 20mins.

                                          IMG_0226-1  IMG_0227-1

    Enjoy!!!

     

    * You can add vegetables to the beef [such as green olives and green beans]. Also, if you don’t have a dairy allergy, you can top with cheese or substitute with a dairy-free alternative, such as Daiya Cheese.*

    Amish White Bread

    Not too long ago, I decided that I was going to make from scratch most of what we eat. I started buying cookbooks and searching online for allergy-friendly recipes. I stumbled upon a recipe for bread that seemed easy, delicious and allergy-friendly. The result was delectable. So, for those of you in need of a recipe for bread that is dairy, peanut, tree nut and soy free, here’s a good option.

     IMG_0170

    Ingredients:

    • 2 cups of warm water (110°F)
    • 2/3 cups sugar [I use brown sugar]
    • 1 ½ tbsp. active dry yeast
    • 1 ½ tsp. salt
    • ¼ cup vegetable oil [I use Extra Virgin Olive Oil]
    • 6 cups of bread flour [I use All-Purpose flour]

     

    For the direction visit: allrecipes.com

     

    I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.

    Stay Safe!