SuperSeedz Pumpkin Seeds (a Giveaway!)

Posted on July 13th, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Peanuts/Nuts Allergy, Products | Read 20 Comments - Add Your Own »

Pumpkin seeds are delicious and packed with nutrition, having one of the highest protein contents of any seed or nut. They are also a good source of minerals, fiber and healthy omega-3 oils. Though most nut-allergic individuals can tolerate seeds, the seeds are often made in a facility with nuts, presenting the risk of cross-contamination.

I like to make my own pumpkin seeds when I carve pumpkins in October, and if I’m cooking a butternut squash, I’ll toast those seeds too, but I was looking for some safe pumpkin seeds for the rest of the year for my daughter who is allergic to nuts.

In my search, I came across SuperSeedz by Kathie’s Kitchen. I love the taste of these pumpkin seeds! I am addicted to the Sea Salt ones, but all of the flavors are fun and delicious: Coco Joe, Curry, Really Naked, Super Spicy, Somewhat Spicy, Sugar & Cinnamon, Tomato Italiano. All flavors are naturally vegan, gluten free, tree nut free, peanut free, dairy free, MSG free and soy free!

I used SuperSeedz for two recipes in an article I wrote for Gluten-Free Living magazine called Aw, Nuts: Balancing a Nut-Free, Gluten-Free Diet.

So, would you like to win some seeds? Kathie has agreed to give away four 6-ounce packages of pumpkin seeds PLUS a limited edition SuperSeedz pumpkin seed shaker to one lucky winner! If you would like to enter, simply leave a comment telling me why you’d like to win! Contest ends on Thursday, July 18 at 5:00 pm PST. Good luck!


Gluten-Free Nut-Free Kettel Krakkers

Posted on March 1st, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Peanuts/Nuts Allergy, Products | Comments Off on Gluten-Free Nut-Free Kettel Krakkers

Kettel Krakkers gluten-free crackersI recently attended the Gluten & Allergen-Free Expo, put on by the wonderful Jen Cafferty. It was the first time it was held in San Francisco and it was great to reconnect with some of my gluten-free peeps! There were many food vendors of course, and one that was new to me was Kettel Krakkers, based in San Francisco. If you are gluten-free, you know that good gluten-free crackers aren’t plentiful. Most are very hard and crunchy, which I actually like (or I’ve gotten used to!), but I was happy to find a cracker that is softer, but still has some crunch from the seeds added in.

According to the company, the crackers are “handmade at our dedicated gluten-free facility using organic, locally-sourced ingredients of the highest quality.”

They are:

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My daughter has a new allergy and you might be surprised at this one

Posted on May 21st, 2012 by Alison | Posted in Food Allergies, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | Read 60 Comments - Add Your Own »

Lentil Allergy Reaction

About a month ago, I gave my daughter a new soup to try: Amy’s Lentil Soup. It is delicious with quality ingredients and she ate it up one day after school, before gymnastics. I added cooked rice to it and it made a great powerhouse snack! The next week I made it for her dinner, again with rice. I think she ate two bowls, she liked it so much. Then it all went downhill…

Within a minute of finishing the soup, her voice changed and she began to have trouble breathing. She was having an asthmatic reaction. No hives, no redness, but she instantly didn’t feel well and wanted to go to bed (it was still early). I immediately gave her Benadryl and as we headed to her bedroom, she said, “Mom, bring my emergency kit.”

Because I grew up with asthma, I recognized the asthmatic breathing she was experiencing, and got an inhaler that we had been prescribed by our pediatrician but had never used. I thought to myself, “If this doesn’t work, I’ll use the Epi.” And I was racking my brain as to why she was having this reaction, though my instinct told me it was lentils since everything else in the meal was foods she had had many times before. I also knew that lentils are a legume and since she is allergic to peanuts which are also legumes, I thought there could be a connection.

After a few puffs on the inhaler, her breathing began to normalize, but slowly. Eventually her breathing was clear as she fell to sleep, exhausted by what her body had just been through. Now I know that many doctors and knowledgeable food allergy people would have advised using the Epi Pen right away, but there’s still part of me that is scared to use it, and I felt that I should try the other medications first. Luckily they worked.

Once she was asleep, I headed to the computer for answers. Sure enough I found myself in peanut allergy forums where moms were discussing the other legumes that their children were allergic to. It seemed that lentils and chickpeas were the most common legumes that peanut-allergic kids reacted to. Several of the forum members quoted the statistic of 20% of peanut allergic children being allergic to lentils or other legumes (but my allergist thinks this statistic is too high). I had never considered that lentils could be a problem, but here I was now realizing that she was probably allergic to them. I lost it. I mean I really lost it. I cried — hard. My husband was out of town and I felt alone with this knowledge and I couldn’t get a handle on my emotions. Luckily I was able to call another mom with allergic kids who could understand what I was feeling. She talked me down, but mostly just listened and was there for me on the other end of the line.

The next day I made an appointment with the allergist to test for the lentil allergy. We couldn’t get in until weeks later and I was told to avoid lentils until we could do the testing. Last Friday was the day. That morning, I called Amy’s Kitchen. I figured I should know every ingredient in that soup before we went in, and “spices” was listed as the last ingredient. Here is where I give a big plug for Amy’s: I have always loved this company and now I like it even more. The customer service person (key word here: person) understood my needs and immediately escalated my call. Though companies don’t always like to share their ingredients, because it’s like giving away their recipe, she did tell me what the “spices” in the soup were so that I could have that information to best take care of my child.

That afternoon I took my daughter to the allergist. I brought the lentil soup in one container and straight lentils that I had cooked in another container. They literally put the suspected allergens into the skin on the back to see if there is a reaction. The doctor used a commercial lentil solution for testing also. We tested a few other things while we were there too.

The results: she reacted strongly to both the lentil soup and the straight lentils. Those are the two top left wheals on her back in the picture. She did not react to the commercial lentil extract, leading both the allergist and me to believe that fresh lentils are certainly more potent and allergenic than their extract. The third wheal you see in the picture is the positive control — they purposely give histamine to make sure the person will react to something if allergic (if someone has taken antihistamines, it can affect the test). The other pricks were to rule out other ingredients in the soup (celery, for example) and retesting some other allergens.

My daughter was a trooper through the whole thing, but in the car on the way home it hit her that there is yet another food she is not allowed to have and that she has to watch out for. It breaks my heart. I hope they find a cure for food allergies in her lifetime!


If you carry EpiPens, please read this

Posted on February 27th, 2012 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Food Allergies, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | Read 10 Comments - Add Your Own »

A friend of mine, who is also a mom of a child with food allergies, talked to me recently about how  she has not been diligent about taking the EpiPen with them wherever they go, and about how her husband hasn’t taken responsibility for bringing the emergency medication when he takes the child somewhere. They know they should, but they forget, or they haven’t totally accepted the fact that the EpiPen might be the thing that saves their child’s life someday. I get it — I was in the same boat a while ago.

We had EpiPens, we had Benadryl, but it was hanging around our house in different places. Sometimes it would go in my purse, or be stashed in a compartment in my car, or thrown into whatever bag we were carrying that day. My husband didn’t know where it was, and how scary to think what would have happened if I wasn’t around in an emergency to find it.

After a few close calls of our own, and a few heart-wrenching news stories of kids who died because the medicine was not accessible, I realized that I may not be able to control everything she eats (though I try!), but I can make sure that treatment is available should an accident happen.

When a seven-year old with food allergies died, it hit me hard, and I had a heart-to-heart with my seven-year old daughter, sharing the little girl’s tragic story with her, and talking to her about taking responsibility for her own safety. I told her how sad I would be to lose her and that she needed to keep herself safe by 1) not eating anything that could possibly be unsafe and 2) carrying her medication with her at all times. Since then, she has been much more careful with food and diligent about making sure her emergency kit is with her at all times.

And that brings me to the point of this article. You can’t expect the child (or other family members) to be responsible about the emergency medication without providing some organization first. You need to have consistency.

First, get a carrier of some kind. When I set out to write this article, I meant to highlight the carriers I use but it turns out that they are no longer available. The ones I use were made by AllergyKids. They are flourescent green with a big AllergyKids logo on it, they zip and they are roomy enough for a couple of epi-pens and other medication like Benadryl. I like that they are brightly colored so anyone who knows us knows that the bright green bag has the emergency medication in it. I also wrote my daughter’s name is black Sharpie pen in large letters on the bag. There is no mistaking this bag for anything else. You can spot it from far away and find it easily within my daughter’s backpack or anywhere else we might put it. If you can’t find a brightly colored bag like I did, at least buy a few bags with the same pattern so that everyone knows which bags are the Epi bags.

Then, make sure you have a consistent place to keep it in your house, ideally near the front door so that it is easy to remember and easy to grab. We keep one of the bags in my daughter’s backpack and we have another one in the house in my daughter’s “inbox.” We know to look there for the pack when we are going somewhere. She knows to look there also, and even her little sister is always on the lookout for the emergency pack.

You need to find a system that works for you, but have a system!

I found many companies that sell Epi-Pen bags of all styles and colors. Here are some of them:

Allergy Apparel

OneSpot Allergy

BlueBear Aware

Moxie Pouches

Etsy

Let me know if you have a system that works for your allergic child!