Easy allergy-free (top 8 allergens) cupcakes

For almost two years we have discovered that our 3 year-old, DR has developed new and increasingly difficult-to-avoid food allergies.  His first was eggs, so I had to learn to bake a lot the foods that we once could purchase pre-made from the stores.  The second was peanuts, which limited us further in items we could bake with that were not processed with peanuts.  The third and most recent, milk, sent us reeling again.  It’s only been 6 days, but my research and experimentation led me to the most amazing and easy cupcake recipe that is completely free of the top 8 allergens.

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While all I wanted to do this weekend was keep DR next to me and hover over him while he ate, I knew it wasn’t possible.  As 3 year olds go, he’s very independent and active.  He hates for me to tell him what to eat, and he most definitely does not like to be confined to our house when he’s done nothing wrong.  So when it came to a family get together on Monday for his cousin’s first birthday I had to make a plan.  There were no bakeries in the area that could make dairy, egg, and peanut free cupcakes on short notice (not that I have the ability to trust anyone to do that right now).  So I half-heartedly started my research expecting to have to go out hunting for weird ingredients like xantham gum to make somewhat decent cupcakes.  However, in all of my research I found an amazingly easy combination of ingredients with the only “weird” one being vinegar.  The cupcakes turned out moist and springy like you want and the frosting was easy to make and apply.

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So here is the ahhh-mazing recipe:

Cake:

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In one bowl whisk together sugar, coconut* flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a second bowl whisk together butter, coconut* milk, vanilla, and vinegar.
  4. Pour the second bowl contents into the first bowl and mix until just combined.
  5. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners. Fill the liners two-thirds full.
  6. Bake in oven 20-25 minutes.
  7. Cool completely.
  8. Frost as desired.

Frosting:

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Using mixer, beat butter until light and airy.
  2. With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and coconut* milk and mix until smooth.
  3. Beat on high for another 2 minutes until light and fluffy.

 

*While coconut does grow on trees it is not typically listed as a tree nut.  It is considered a botanical nut and placed in a fruit category.

~Lacey

 

The 5 Stages of Food Allergy Grief

Just as with any major change or loss in life, we all go through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  The development and discovery of food allergies can be a big blow to any lifestyle and diet.  When we began our adventures with food allergy avoidance, our journey was not smooth, but learning to identify the stage we were in and overcoming the grief was as important as identifying the allergy itself.

Denial: The day we learned of DR’s egg allergy, my stomach dropped.  How could he be allergic to eggs?  I had never heard of this as an allergen.  No one else in our family had this allergy.  He had been eating egg products for months.   He loved cheesy scrambled eggs.  Besides, our pediatrician said his eczema was due to environmental factors like trees, grass, weather, etc.  They only reluctantly referred us to the allergen because they did not believe he had a food allergy.  I was so confused and just could not believe that this was happening to him, to us, to ME!  I loved eggs and could not imagine a world without them.   I was pretty much stuck in the stage for a while.  Even now I find myself sliding back into the denial mindset at times when all I want to do is order an omelet or a waffle.  I am at times tempted to just slip him some benadryl and hand him a cupcake anyway.  Once his reaction begins, though, I know without a doubt that this is real.  This is his life, our life, MY life.

Anger: Once I realize that this is our life, this anger swells up inside.  Why is this happening to my child?  Why is this happening to ME?  What did I do to deserve this?  At times I get trapped in this stage and find myself ranting.  I get angry at the world for not being more understanding, angry at family and friends for not being as angry as I am, angry at myself for not being able to end this.  The anger eats at me, tearing away any resolve I may have had in order to combat the food allergy.  Anger sometimes causes me to make mistakes.  For instance, I was so wrapped up in a comment made by a friend about how much my child inconveniences get-togethers, that I was careless in packing my son’s lunch.  Had it not been for the careful eye of his teachers my child could have eaten a food item he isn’t allowed.  That was a huge wake-up call for me.

Bargaining: As I learn to cope with DR’s food allergies, I find myself slacking at times.  During these periods of time, I am over the amount of time that goes into preparing for meals.  Typically, a grocery store trip takes me 2-3 hours due to having to read all ingredient list several times.  When I’m feeling pressed for time, I sometimes skip reading items I have seen before or getting items that say “May be processed on equipment with peanuts and eggs.”  I got lazy and stopped reading the ingredients of some of DR’s favorite Kroger brand fruit bars.  I figured this was worth the gamble.  It nearly cost us DR.  Within a month’s time the company started using eggs in their bars.  We were lucky his reaction was only hives, but I have since learned that there is no easy way out of this mess.

Depression:  This is probably the most difficult stage for me.  I have tangled with this stage many times.  I catch myself thinking that this may very well be how our lives are forever:  constantly worrying that something will happen, that someone will be careless.  In these moments, I want to hug my son closer, never let him go, and stay locked up at home away from everyone.   This is craziness, I know, but the dangers lurking around every corner are enough to drive anyone to tears.

Acceptance:  This stage has been more difficult for me to grasp. As you will probably learn from other blog posts, I am a fighter and a pusher.  I believe in advocating for anyone who cannot do it for himself.  I work to protect my son by calling ahead to any restaurant, event, or party we may go to in order to see what options are available.  I learned to cook (somewhat) and bake in order to know what he is eating.  I prepare all friends, family, teachers, and sitters for what he needs and what responsibilities they have.  However, the other stages can bog me down, and I forget everything I’ve already learned.  What I have found is that taking care of myself and finding practical strategies to cope will not only help me, but my son as well in the long run.  I recently came across an amazing blog post detailing the Top 4 Tips* for coping with food allergy stress.  These are simple strategies and take very little time or effort.

As with anything else, life with food allergies is fluid and always changing.  Remembering to take care of yourself is important and be the factor you need to turn everything around.

~Lacey

*Permission granted by Emma W. to link to “Feeling Stressed?  Top 4 Tips :)”

 

 

 

Allergy Friendly Homemade Cheezits

image.jpegThese are buttery, soft and chewy with crispy edges. They are zesty cheesy and my five young kiddos absolutely adored them. They are egg free and nut free and can be made gluten free with just a few substitutions. As an allergy mom myself I know we are the QUEENS of substituting and swapping out ingredients! These take 30 minutes total time from start to finish and they will be gone by the end of the day! 😉

So, without anything further, I give you the recipe for:

Allergy Friendly Homemade Cheezits!

2 cups cheddar cheese ( I used mild but sharp or white would also be yummy! )

1 cup of all purpose flour

5 Tbs softened salted butter

1/2 tsp salt ( I use pink Himalayan salt )

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp onion powder ( optional )

1/2 tsp paprika ( optional )

2 Tbs milk

1/4 tsp of salt to dust the tops before putting into oven

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. I used a large cookie sheet plus a small round pan lined with aluminum foil. Use whatever you have. If you use aluminum foil, spray with non-stick spray.

image.jpegNow to start your dough: Add cheese, flour, butter and spices to a food processor and pulse until well blended. Add milk and pulse until a ball of dough forms. Like this:

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Then turn out dough onto a well floured surface and roll out with your rolling pin until 1/8 inch thick. Cut edges with a pizza cutter to form a large rectangle. Put all edges into a pile to the side. Cut large rectangle into 1 inch squares. Mine were more rectangular but I wasn’t striving for perfection 😉 I’m a mom of five…I was striving for get-it-done-super-fast. Now, gently transfer each square onto your lined cookie sheet. Use a thin spatula if needed. After you have all of the squares on your sheet, re-flour your surface and roll out the dough you sat aside. Repeat the process above until all of those squares are also on your baking sheet. Take the dull end of a skewer and poke a hole in the middle of each square. This keeps them from becoming too puffed up. Take a couple pinches of salt and add a very light dusting to the top of the crackers before putting into the pre-heated oven. Bake for about 15 minutes or until edges start becoming brown. Take them out, let them cool and enjoy!!

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I call them rustic 😉 Either way, they taste AMAZING.

~Hope

It’s not always a death sentence

Much of the time I feel like food allergies is such a negative part of our lives.  I spend the majority of my time checking food items, planning meals, and worrying about situations beyond my control.  However, food allergies don’t always have to be a death sentence.

My son JN just turned one in May.  For months I dreaded it, after witnessing other children who react after their first bites of birthday cake, not with joy and excitement, but with itching, hives, and the inability to breathe.  Since his older brother DR is already diagnosed with both an egg and peanut allergy we knew that we could not go the traditional birthday route with cake and candies, but we still wanted to make it fun.

For DR’s first birthday we did the traditional smash cake photos and did not want JN to be left out.  So our alternative to the traditional cake smash was a  watermelon smash which gave birth to JN’s “One-in-a-Melon” themed birthday.   Click the link to view the photo gallery by the amazing Ashley Brown of E&J photography: One in a Melon. We had so much fun planning and implementing this party and photo shoot.  All of it was allergy-free.

We did end up making cupcakes, but they were of course allergy-free (except for wheat, which could easily be done).

cupcakes

~Lacey

 

“D”

imageAfter Z grew out of his milk protein allergy and his allergy induced asthma we put him on lactose free milk to keep his digestion running smooth. We thought that things were FINALLY normal for us!!! After four years of craziness our lives calmed down for the most part. We still have to keep him away from horses and cats but he’s totally normal now.
During this calm normal food period my kids enjoyed peanut butter and jelly for lunch often without a single thought. We enjoyed eggs for breakfast and sometimes for a quick dinner when my husband was working. I baked with eggs every single day. I have always loved to bake. I still love it!
I never had to put any thought into what I was feeding them other than making sure they had proper nutrition. I’m a meal planner, it saves my family a lot of money and aside from making the menu itself and cooking the food that was all that I had to do. Yes, it was a pretty big job for me as a ( then ) mom of three but it was enjoyable. Then I had “D” right before MB turned 2. His birth was scary. He had distress towards the end and the doctors thought he had swallowed some meconium. We had to wait on a team of specialists only to have them walk out the door as soon as they heard the very loud cry he was belting out of his perfectly clear lungs. Up to that point all of my labors and deliveries were very nice experiences with only one small cord issue during Z’s delivery. After he came his life was simple and sweet. We enjoyed having our wild and stubborn little man! I waited until after he was one to feed him any nut or egg products and after he had them he was fine. No issues! Then one day when he was about 15 months old during a snacky lunch when we had veggies, nuts and popcorn, D started breaking out in hives. At this point aside from my own grape allergy as a kid I had never dealt with a food causing this type of reaction. I did know what it was right away because of Z’s animal allergies though, so we gave him Benadryl and he was fine. Cashews were the culprit. A few months later pecans caused another reaction. Peanuts never bothered him. So we still had peanut products in the house. His allergy to tree nuts is a hives only reaction at this point but we always stay away from them to be safe. When D was 8 months old we found out we were expecting baby number 5!!! She was born when D was 17months old. She is our whirlwind baby. With her, things have always been crazy, scary and fast. Her story will take more than one post. MH turned 2 on the 22nd of May. Her short two years have been more eventful than most people ten times her age. She is my fighter.

~Hope

Before and After

Food allergies are life altering.  I should know as I developed an allergy to tree nuts as a teenager.  I have had many types of reactions from rashes/hives, upset stomach, swollen body parts, and the dreaded anaphylaxis requiring epi-pen injection, an ambulance ride, and a visit to the ER.  This post isn’t about my allergies, though.  It is about my son’s.

I only mention my own brief history to point out that this wasn’t always the norm.  Just like with my son DR, we had a period where food allergies did not affect us, were non-existent.

I hated to cook, and my husband, Justin, worked long sporadic hours, so it was easy to just order out:  our options only limited by who was open or willing to deliver.  I complained when we couldn’t agree on food or when an item I wanted was out.

Our diets were that of the typical American.  I never looked at fat, triglyceride, sugar, or caloric values.  Ingredients (other than my tree-nut avoidance) didn’t matter as long as we enjoyed the flavor.  We did try to adhere to a healthy diet for DR, attempting to avoid sugary foods and things that could rot his teeth or lead to obesity.  Grandparents would call us uptight for limiting him to only three cookies or bags of gummies.

Holidays and family get-togethers were plagued with vast amounts of foods. Christmas was my favorite time of year.   From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, we ate until we were sick.  My grandmother’s holiday baking was beyond compare.  Homemade cheesecakes, reese cups, cookies, brownies, fudge, and puff balls (different types of snack mixes dipped in melted chocolate, caramel, and peanut butter.  She would call me weeks in advance to ask what my heart desired and would spend hours baking.

I look back on all of this now with mixed emotions: sadness, frustration, acceptance, relief…the list goes on.  Our life is completely different, our food choices carefully examined and deliberated.  We eat out very little and cook much more.  Processed foods are a thing of the past, and fresh ingredients line our cabinets and refrigerator.  Holidays are a nightmare, and I am now a baker.

~ Lacey