Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Peanut Avenger

Yes folks, you have heard it here. Just when you thought our cause was hopeless, and we would be destined to a life trying to avoid evil legumes and tree nuts out to destroy our safety and sanity, along comes a super hero unlike any other. A super hero for the tired, the weary and the peanut allergic. That's right, you heard it here first, I have discovered that such a super hero does exist.

The Peanut Avenger

I first heard of this amazing hero when he/she was outed on another blog. The Nut Free Mom first wrote about the Peanut Avenger, letting me know that such a savior could exist. In it she she talks of a super hero alter ego, with special powers whose mission it is to eradicate peanuts from the planet.

She speaks of this super hero's powers as incredible and amazing:

"For instance, my superpowers would include being able to make peanut butter sandwiches, Reese's and other forms of peanut and tree nut vaporize with my intense, anti-peanut vision."

I know she was speaking of this avenger as a hope or a dream, but I think, I know that the Peanut Avenger really must exist. Since I have way too much free time on my hands, I decided that I must go onto a quest, for all of us fighting against the evil legume Mr. Peanut to find the Peanut Avenger.
I began my search where I always do, at Wikipedia, to try and learn more about the ways of the super heros, so I could figure out where to begin.

According to Wikipedia,

"A superhero (sometimes rendered super-hero or super hero) is a fictional character "of unprecedented physical prowess dedicated to acts of derring-do in the public interest".

Despite the fact Wikipedia claims super heros are fictional characters, I know they must be real. After all, superman is real isn't he??? So, I began scouring the Internet, in the hopes of finding the true identity of this hero.

I thought I had found my answer at a website entitled The Hero Machine.

The site promises that you can create the super hero of your dreams with just a few quick clicks of your mouse. As they claim proudly on their home page:

"Spent too many sleepless nights fantasizing about your dream superhero? Well, now you can do something about it with HeroMachine. Make your character a reality with HeroMachine Classic. Rastafarian Pterodactyl Man lives!"

Despite the fact that I definitely was not looking for Rastafarian Pterodactyl Man, I believed this could be my answer. I can make my own Peanut Avenger. I logged on to the site, my heart pounding with excitement as I delved into the different super hero options that were available.
Apparently in addition to Hero Machine Classic, there is also Hero Machine 2.5, Hero Machine Real life Edition, Hero Machine Rock Star Edition, and Hero Machine Pin Up Edition.
I opened the program, excited to begin creating my very own Peanut Avenger.

I began my creation, and tried out every different possible option I could think of. There were male and female options, humanoid or animal, basketball or rock star. My super hero could wear a cape, some wings, or a really funny hat. They could even hold all sorts of items such as swords, whips, shields, or ice cream cones. But, as I searched, and I searched, I was unable to find that ever important no peanut symbol, and there was not an epi pen in sight. Although I was able to create wonder woman basketball rock star with snakes for hair, there was no Peanut Avenger to be found.
I logged off full of frustration and despair. Oh where oh where would I find my needed super hero. As I sat, my expectations smashed by the terrible hand of fate, I almost gave up my search. I was ready to quit, but the thought of my sweet little boy out there fighting the evil Mr. Peanut was too much for me to bear. Out from my bottomless pit of nothing, a light bulb went off like a bolt of lightning. I knew what I needed to do, what we all needed to do. I would take this into my own hands, I would do what was necessary to protect my child no matter what the cost. I would create my own Peanut Avenger.

And so I began. What qualities would this super hero have, and what would he/she look like?. I started with the picture that was on the blog that first started me on this quest. I figured the Peanut Avenger must have a no peanut/nut symbol on his chest, and would always carry an epi-pen. He must fight to keep the food allergic safe by removing all dangerous items from their vicinity, and carrying an epi pen (or perhaps 2) just in case he was called to the scene too late.
Perhaps the Peanut Avenger could be the Nut Avenger, and look like this.

Although I liked my first attempt at super hero creation, it just was not enough. The nut avenger did not seem to embody all of the qualities I was looking for in a super hero. Although he looked strong and virile flying through the air to protect the nut allergic, and I am sure he could vaporize any nut with his impending eyeless gaze, I realized I must keep trying to truly embody the essence of the Peanut Avenger.

I tried again...., and again.. and again.

I was finally able to create this super strong Peanut Avenger with muscles to spare and an epi pen in each hand. He emulated strength and power. He would be able to smash Mr. Peanut into peanut butter with a flick of his biceps.

But still, it just did not seem right, or true. What would the real Peanut Avenger look like. What was the Peanut Avenger really about. As I thought and I thought, I realized that this super hero was more about all the regular people who deal with difficult circumstances in their everyday life. The people who deal with the day to day frustrations of keeping their children safe, educating their community and helping others. The people who have no idea they are heros but really are, especially to the allergic children they are trying to protect.

Although these people are teachers, neighbors, care givers, parents, grandparents, and friends, they are most embodied by the mothers. These mothers are faster then a speeding bullet and have the power of flying across rooms at parties, to prevent their child from eating a dangerous food. They can see through walls to tell if peanut products may be hiding behind a closed cabinet door. They fight ignorance, and evil legumes with their bare hands. They have the power to heal through epi-pens, kind words and kisses, to help make both the physical and psychological boo boos better.

So, I finally found the Peanut Avenger.

Faster then a speeding bullet

More powerful then the evil Mr. Peanut

Able to remove all nut products in a single bound

Look up in the sky

Its a bird. Its a plane. Its.....

Yes, it's The Peanut Avenger - strange visitor from another world who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men or women. The Peanut Avenger - who can change the course of dangerous meals, use an epi-pen with her bare hands, and who, disguised as Claire Kent, mild mannered mother for a great metropolitan family, fights the never ending battle for Safety, Justice and the Food Allergy Way.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Birthday Parties at School - Don't get burned!

So, I used my wonderful coca cola cake recipe
to make cupcakes for Conor's birthday at school. His birthday is still a week and a half away, but it was his last day of school, so any excuse for a party. I show up at the requisite snack time with cupcakes in hand, all ready to pass out my safe and exciting funfetti and sprite cupcake snack.

So as I walk in, the pre-school director

(we call him Doc to protect his identity)

turns to me and says "that looks great, do you have the candles ready?" I of course thought I had planned out everything, since I know Doc can be a little, well, lets say, misguided. I had Conor's separate juice, paper plates, etc. Of course it never occur ed to me to bring candles.
Seeing I did not come bearing the requisite birthday candles, Doc said "Don't worry, I have some" He goes to the cabinet and pulls out a little glass cup with about 10 used candles inside. They all have black wicks, and are in different shapes, sizes and colors. He starts sifting through this little cup o' candles looking for 4 that are similar. I look over and try to calmly ask, "are those used candles?" My mind quickly thought of all the cakes, icing and kids mouths those candles had been stuck into over the many many years Doc had been recycling them. Doc responds, "of course they are, we try and re-use what we can here." After congratulating him on his efforts to protect the environment, I kindly pointed out that perhaps we should not put those candles in the cupcake Conor was going to eat because of CROSS CONTAMINATION!!!!.

Doc looks at me for a second, gives it a thought that perhaps those candles had just come out of a peanut butter cake or something, and says "that is a good point, I never thought of that. Just put the candles in a cupcake for him to blow out, and then I will eat it." Being the intelligent man that he thinks is, Doc continues to think about the situation, and then says, "oh wait, I should not eat the cupcake they have been in either. Those kids always lick the candles after they pull them out and I am immuno-suppressed." (Doc had a kidney transplant earlier in the year)."

So, it all turned out great in the end. Conor had a nice party at school, Doc learned another lesson about cross contamination, and I learned to always carry my own birthday cake candles.
Party on Food Allergy People!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Easy Nut Free, Egg Free Vegan Cake, and More Then You Ever Wanted to Know About Coca Cola

Conor's birthday is coming around again, so it is time to dust off my wonderful, delicious, nut free, egg free vegan cake recipe.

Let me just preface this by saying this is not the cake for the purist the baker or the gourmet. It is not the cake for someone who treasures using fresh natural ingredients and making everything from scratch. This is certainly not the cake for Allergy Mom from the Allergic Kid Blog who can make a complex Danish Braid pastry from scratch without nuts, eggs or dairy, with one hand tied behind her back.

No, this is the cake for the cooking impaired chefs like me, who burn pasta (yes, I really did burn pasta the other day while boiling it in water on the stove.) This is the cake for the stressed out mothers of three who discover they need a cake for a birthday party tomorrow at school that no one told them about until 5 minutes ago. This is the cake for people who have three screaming fighting kids running around and who can't keep track of how much of what ingredients go where and when. Yes, this is the cake for me. The Coca Cola Cake.


(no, not that type of coke cake!)

1 box cake mix - any flavor

1 can soda - any flavor

(If you want the diet version, use diet soda)

Variations I've seen:

chocolate cake w/ coke

yellow cake w/ lemon-lime
My personal favorite (funfetti white cake with sprite) use your imagination for the combinations! Oh the possibilities!

Mix the dry cake mix with 10-12 oz of diet soda.

(Do not use the egg or oil listed on the box). especially if you have an egg allergy!

Spray a 9 x 12 cake pan (or cupcake tin) with non-stick spray and bake according to package instructions.

Some have said an entire can of soda makes the cake TOO moist ... 10 oz. seems to be the least I've seen suggested. Experiment yourself to find the best amount for your taste.--

Tip: Make sure to let the cake cook completely before you try to cut it. Because you aren't adding eggs, the cake will be tender and can tear if you cut it while it's warm.

I have made this cake in all sorts of shapes sizes and decorations, and it has always worked great. It has been Superman, a July 4th doll, a Power Ranger, Hello Kitty, Bob the Builder, a car, and a pumpkin.

A not so good picture of my beautiful July 4th Doll cake

One thing that is really fun is to take this cake to a party (especially the coke and chocolate version) and ask people if they can guess what the secret ingredient is. he he he

Now that you have seen the wonders of cooking with Coke, here are some more fascinating recipes you can make with coke.
This is the official Coca Cola site with hundreds of recipes made with Coke. Some of my favorite are the Cherry Coke Lentils, Japanese Pickled Cauliflower, and the Hungarian Goulash. Just goes to show you, never assume you know what ingredients are in your food.

Now, just in case you were thinking, wow, this is fascinating, what else can I do with Coca Cola??? Let me tell you......

Other Uses for Coca-Cola

And you thought it was only for drinking! Would you have ever guessed that you would be using Coke to clean your bathroom and wash your clothes? If not, check out these other handy uses for Coca-Cola.

Clean a Toilet Bowl
Pour a can of Coca-Cola into the toilet bowl. Let the real thing sit for one hour, then brush and flush clean. The citric acid in Coke removes stains from vitreous china

Remove Grease from Clothes
Empty a can of Coke into a load of greasy work clothes, add detergent, and run through a regular wash cycle. The Coca-Cola will help loosen grease stains

Remove Rust Spots from Chrome Car Bumpers
Rubbing the bumper with a crumpled-up piece of Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil dipped in Coca-Cola will help remove rust spots

Loosen a Rusted Bolt
Applying a cloth soaked in a carbonated soda to the rusted bolt for several minutes.

Clean Corrosion from Car Battery Terminals
Pour a can of carbonated Coca-Cola over the terminals to bubble away the corrosion

Bake a Moist Ham
Empty a can of Coca-Cola into the baking pan, wrap the ham in aluminum foil, and bake. Thirty minutes before the ham is finished, remove the foil, allowing the drippings to mix with the Coke for a sumptuous brown gravy.For more Coca-Cola recipes, click here!

Relieve Jelly Fish Stings
Coke can also be used to relieve the sting from Jelly Fish. All you have to do is pour the Coke over the sting.

Clean Tile Grout
Pour a can of Coca Cola on the tile. When wiped it up, the grout will be as white as can be!

Have Greener Grass
Spray Coca-Cola on your grass once a month for super green grass which remains greener than other lawns throughout the fall and winter months. Also, for green grass and no bugs, combine: 1 can of coke, 1 cup of ammonia and 1/4 cup of dish soap. Spray on grass once a month.

Common Cold Remedy
Take some fresh ginger and put it in a pot with a can of Coca Cola. Let it come to a boil and then cook on a low heat for a few minutes. Drink while warm. It will ease your cold symptoms!

Make a Tender Pot Roast
When preparing a pot roast, use Coke instead of water. It tenderizes and imparts a unique flavor.

Get Rid of Bug and Road Film
Got bug guts and road haze on you car windshield? Take a can of warm Coca Cola, shake and spray onto the windshield. Wipe it off and rinse and waa-laa, clean as could be!

If you want to see more bizarre and sometimes disturbing uses for Coca Cola, check out this site. Look only at your own risk.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Child Care and Food Allergies

Unfortunatly for us, our present Au Pair Jan's year is comming to an end, and we are starting our search for another one. We love Jan, and wish she would stay longer, but her grandmother is sick back in Thailand, and she wants to head home.

For those of you who do not know, an au pair is part of a cultural exchange program set up with the U.S. government. Refering to my favorite source wikipedia,:

"An au pair (plural: au pairs) is a foreign-national domestic assistant working for, and living as part of, a host family. Typically, au pairs are girls or young women and take on a share of the family's responsibility for child care as well as some housework, and receive a small monetary allowance for personal use.
The title comes from the French term au pair, meaning "on a par" or "equal to", indicating that the relationship is intended to be one of equals: the au pair is intended to become a member of the family, albeit a temporary one, rather than a domestic servant. In the best circumstances, both parties benefit from learning about the other's culture."

So far we have had two au pairs we have absolutely loved, and we will definitly always consider them to be members of our family. Our first au pair was from Poland, and she stayed with us for 2 years before getting married and moving down the road from our own home. We still talk with her and visit her regularly, and she is now expecting her own little bundle of joy. Jan is from Thailand, and she has been absolutely great also. She makes the best nut free, egg free Thai food ever!!! Everyone loves her and we are hoping she comes back to the area for school in the near future.

The reason this is all so scarey, is despite these two absolutely wonderful experiences we did have one terrible, horribe nightmare in between them.

(we call this one Vicky from the Fairly Odd Parents to protect her identity)

Vicky lasted for 4 days, and that was generous. The final straw for me was when we decided to head to a local swimming pool one afternoon. At that time I had two 4 year olds, and an almost 3 year old, none of who could swim very well. When we got to the pool she looked at it in horror and said "there is chlorine in the pool......I refuse to get into a pool with chlorine" My response was "excuse me...I thought I just heard you say you refuse to get into a pool with chlorine in it. I am sure I must be mistaken" Vicky put her nose in the air like I was asking her to jump into a vat of boiling water while I tried to figure out why it was a bad thing to put chlorine in a pool, and what other options there were to keep a pool clean. Vicky also called all of our food dog food, and once ran off crying because we have crackers here that come in the shape of goldfish. She could not understand whether they were a toy or a food or both. Even after we decided she was just not the right match for us we had to keep her in our home for two weeks, freeze our long distance so she could not make thousands of dollars of calls and lock up our valuables.

Finding an au pair is stressful enough without adding on the issues of life threatening food allergies and asthma. I always worry I am going to find someone out back tied up to the play set while my three little angles dance around her. Then on top of that you have to try and explain the situation to someone whose english may be a bit questionable, and there you have it


I had one person once think I was joking when I said we don't keep eggs in the house. The nuts she could understand, but not eggs!! How could anyone possibly survive without eggs??? (obviously she has not tried Veganaise) The horror!! Then you need to explain the epi pen, emergency protocol and everything else, and hope they get it. And they have to be responsible enough to handle an emergency. Yikes!!

And so my search begins. Wish me luck. I will keep you updated.........