Thursday, July 3, 2008

Food Allergy Cookbooks - My Review

Ok, I am back, and this should be pretty short and sweet because I only own one cookbook out of my entire long and (might I say) impressive list of cook books. I do however like to hear myself type, so you never know how long I am able to talk about this one single food allergy cookbook that sits on a shelf surrounded by cookbooks unlimited in their ingredient lists.

First off let me preface this by saying I didn't cook unless you count heating things up in a microwave cooking. Of course all that changed when our friend Mr. Food Allergy entered the picture.

Mr. Food Allergy

He was an unpleasant sort of guy who kind of snuck up on us, behind our backs when we were least expecting it. He is quite the bully and has no regard for the terms share and take turns. The type of guy you never want to meet in a dark alley, or in that dark area under the slide at the playground. He can be mean and nasty, and downright dangerous. But he had a message for me, a message I had been trying to avoid for all of my 30 plus must now learn to cook, or at least bake - for the sake of your child.

So off I went, in search of some guidance on how to do this. Not only do I not bake or cook, I must now do it without one of the main ingredients required in most baked goods!!!! Eggs!!!! Which came first the baking or the eggs???? The baking!!!! So the panic began. My child needs a safe cake or cupcake! What am I to do, and there are 5 birthday parties coming up in the next week!!! Help!!!!

I never really got a cookbook when I thought we were only allergic to peanuts. It is pretty easy to cook without peanuts, just don't use them. Eggs however were quite a different story. In a panic I disregarded my need for instant gratification and ordered the book Bakin' Without Eggs by Rosemarie Emro. I am so happy I did.

Rosemarie Emro is the mother of a child allergic to eggs and peanuts. I felt an instant camaraderie with her, since her child has exactly the same food allergies as mine. So, I opened the book and scanned the recipes. I am not good with recipes that go on for longer then a page, and have more then 15 or so ingredients. I tend to get confused easily, and add the wrong amount of some sort of ingredients. I once tried to make a cake for a friends wedding from a long and wieldy recipe (before I had this book of course), and kept putting in 3 tablespoons of baking soda instead of teaspoons. Yuck!! Not tasty. Three cakes and lots of crying, screaming, and a tantrum on the floor later, I finally realized my mistake. (The 4th cake came out great though :) )

Anyways, most of the recipes in this book are direct and to the point. The ingredients lists are not too long and unwieldy, and the instructions are easy to follow. I have made many of the recipes in the book, and only had two real disasters which for me is a major accomplishment.(And let me say, they were not pretty - can you say brick???) The recipe for chocolate chip cookies is absolutely wonderful, and I think even tastes better then other homemade chocolate chip cookies with eggs. I have baked many of the cakes, and they too are great. There are also wonderful recipes for scones, pancakes and brownies that have been a great hit at many a party where people did not even suspect they had no egg in them. I was even able to make the brownies in a Christmas tree mold over the holidays, and ta da! unique , fun desert.

So anyways, what I am trying to say in this long (but witty) review, is that this is a great book, and a useful tool for anyone trying not to crack while avoiding eggs.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Food Allergy/Anaphalyxis Action Plans

One of the most important things I have learned in my fun and exciting journey as the parent of a child with severe food allergies, is to have an emergency action plan. I have one in the house in one of those cheap plastic frames with an epipen and benedryl attached to it. I have one at Conor's school also with his epi-pen and benedryl. It is great for caregivers, and grandparents, but even good for me. During our recent unfortunate discovery of severe cat allergies (yes, I am still trying to process that), it was very helpful for me to look at the sheet and make sure I was doing the right thing. (thankfully no epi was needed). For some reason if it is written down in cool colors with pictures and arrows, it seems more stable then what I already know so well in my panicked little brain.

When I was initially trying to figure out what to do when we were first diagnosed, I realize we needed some sort of plan. No, my doctors at the time were ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY NO HELP AT ALL!!!!! (long story for another time - yes, I am still bitter). So, as I normally do when trying to feel like I have some sort of control over an uncontrollable situation, I began searching the Internet for Emergency Action Plans. Below is what I found on my travels over the Internet super highway. I hope they can be helpful, and anyone knows of any other ones, or has made ones themselves that they would be willing to share that would be great. I know there are different situations such as a combined one for asthma and allergies, and many other situations.
This is a very good action plan for Anaphalyxis from the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, and the one I happen to use myself. It makes great use of the contrasting colors, and has a really neat eye catching design. I really like the cool colors, and the very straightforward way it takes you from different types of symptoms, and what should be done in each case. At the bottom it has a nice little cartoon with pictures showing how to administer an epi-pen. There is also space on the side to put a photo of your little sweetheart, and areas for all relevant phone numbers. There is even a space for additional comments, and all of this is amazingly organized on a single page. I think I really like this one because it seems to be the simplest and easiest one to follow. Not that I think people are slow, or uncaring, or easily confused, or uninformed, or careless, or just plain ignorant, or have really short attention spans (sorry, mini vent there), but the less reading, the more colors, arrows, pictures and large print the better in my opinion.

More great options for action plans from those great Australians. Similiar to the above, but some just general, some for insect stings, etc.

This is the old trustworthy plan put out by FAAN. It is two pages long, and has no cool colors, but does have the cute epi-pen use cartoons.
Anaphalyxis action plan put out by the Government of the District of Columbia
Anaphyalyxis action plan from the American academy of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology. Makes great use of the color yellow.
Anaphyalxis Action Plan from the Twinject Auto-Injector site.