Monday, April 30, 2007

Food Allergy Parade

Parade magazine ran an article on food allergies this weekend. There wasn't much new information, but I did think it was well-written and informative for those who may not know much about food allergies, especially food allergies and children. What did you think about it?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Splendid, Indeed

Last night, Miss Katherine and I had a "just us" date. Eli got to be spoiled by Gramma and Grandad all evening, and Scott... Scott was at work helping freshmen register for their sophomore fall semester. So, almost everyone had a good time.

K. and I went to our community library to see author and illustrator Suzanne Bloom. Her book, A Splendid Friend, Indeed, is this year's Pennsylvania One Book Every Child selection. And she was here! In our little library! She read A Splendid Friend, Indeed, along with her book The Bus For Us. She drew a picture of a dragon and then gave it to the library, and she showed some of her current artwork, as well as drawings she made as a child. ("Because her mother saved her drawings!" my mom commented later. Nothing like reinforcing my family's pack-rat tendencies.)

She was so engaging and such a wonderful speaker, the kids felt comfortable at once and eagerly participated. But I think their parents were even more excited. After her talk was over, we purchased copies of A Splendid Friend, Indeed for Katherine, Eli, and our neighbor-friends who weren't able to come. Ms. Bloom asked Katherine to spell her name, which she did, and then she spelled Eli's as well. ("Why does my name have nine letters and Eli's only has three?")

So now we have another autographed book to add to our small collection (see below), to read and remember the night we met the lovely woman who made this story.

P.S. I would also recommend last year's One Book Every Child selection, Inside Mouse, Outside Mouse, and not just because Katherine's Grandad read it to her storytime group.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


As Katherine, Eli, and I sat on an old mattress in the basement last night, watching tornado warnings on TV and calling Scott to make sure he was safe at work, I was thinking: "This is a pain. I hope we all stay safe. When will Scott be home? How am I going to get them back to sleep? Please keep us safe."

Safe. We all want to keep our children safe. Sadly, we cannot. There are things we can't control. So we pray. We kiss our kids at night. We do what we can.

Katherine's kindergarten registration packet arrived at our house a few weeks ago, bringing with it all my worries and fears about her safety in public school. She wants to go, we want her to go, but the bottom line is that I won't send her if a few things don't change.

What things? I'm so glad I imagined you asked!

According to the superintendent's administrative assistant, our school district has no formal policies regarding food allergic children. I found this out when I called the superintendent's office and asked. As far as I can tell, this means that every family of an allergic child gets to start from square one with the administration. Since there are no policies specific to allergic children, I have had to brush up on Section 504 of federal law and Chapter 15 of Pennsylvania law. (Thanks to my friend Andrea, who has a son with Asperger's syndrome and who knows a lot about this) To paraphrase, poorly, Katherine's allergy is considered a disability. If her doctor writes a letter or prescription stating her medical needs, by law the school district needs to find a way to accommodate that. I did not want to walk in the door of the kindergarten building with my legal guns blazing, but I did want to know what I was talking about.

The superintendent had the elementary school principal call me back. Our conversation centered on snacks, and she told me this: "Kindergartners arrive at school with snacks sent by their parents, but if the teacher deems the snack 'unhealthy,' the teacher may replace it with a 'healthy' food item of her choice. You know, like if a kid brings in junk food, the teacher will give her peanut butter and cheese crackers instead."

............I'm sorry, did you just say peanut butter (which is another issue) and cheese crackers?!?!?!? After I just spent 10 minutes explaining that my daughter can't be near dairy?

Please bear in mind that I will continue to do what I always do, namely provide Katherine's teacher with a stash of graham crackers, fruit snacks, etc. I'm not asking anyone else to do so, I just want to guarantee that those are the foods she will be given should I ever send an "unhealthy" snack.

Speaking of snacks I provide, I'm prepared to go zero tolerance on birthday parties and give Katherine's teacher a stash of dairy-free cupcakes and other treats to use in those situations. Just please tell me that those are what will be used.

I am also concerned about crafts and projects. Counting M&Ms during math time and using Goldfish crackers to make a picture of the ocean are not viable activities for my daughter. So let's agree that her teacher will let me know about these projects so I can provide an alternative.

I left messages for the school nurse and for the school nutritionist. The school nutritionist was very nice and very helpful, however, her work concerns the cafeterias, not the classrooms, and Katherine will not be in a cafeteria until next year. At that time, the nutritionist said she would be happy to make a cafeteria safety plan with us, she said that I am welcome to the nutritional information in her office at any time, and she even volunteered to sit in on this year's meeting to make sure we're all on the same page. I wanted to hug her.

Next came the school nurse. My number one concern is that they do not want to keep Katherine's medications in her classroom. We are talking about a lifesaving first aid device to be used in a medical emergency. I am not asking that her teacher dispense her daily dose of vitamins. (Although, while we're at it, the teachers can't give out band-aids, but they can dispense fluoride to students?) The point I have made to everyone who will listen is that we want her to experience public school, but it is not worth her life. There is one (1) school nurse for the entire school district. A district that contains five (5) separate school buildings. ALL MEDICATIONS are kept in the nurse's locked office. Nurse, to me: "I can be at the kindergarten building in five (5) minutes. Unless there's a train." (Train tracks run through our town.) Me, to Nurse: "She could be dead by then." The nurse told me about the Chapter 15 agreement, too, and told me that Katherine's doctor needed to be specific about the amount of time between a contact with an allergen and the need for medicine.

Katherine has an amazing understanding of her allergy. She is very, very careful. But mistakes happen. It is hard for a five-year-old to understand that some pretzels are safe and some are not, some crackers are safe and some are not. It is even harder for her fellow students to understand. Medication needs to be available in the classroom in case of an accident.

I have given the doctor's written directions ("Significant milk allergy. Patient needs immediate proximity of Benadryl/Epi-Pen because of anaphylaxis.") to the school nurse, and she and the principal are going to meet with me and with Katherine's teacher in August to compose the Chapter 15 Agreement. (We won't know who her teacher is until then.) I hope it goes well, otherwise I'll be spending August learning about homeschooling.

Also, several state senators and representatives are trying to pass laws enabling students to self-carry medication. I hope these laws are enacted soon.

Friday, April 20, 2007


In between madly cleaning for my in-laws' visit this weekend, I spent yesterday trying to compose a thoughtful post on senseless violence, kissing your kids goodnight, kindergarten registration with an allergic child, and how very hard I try to keep my children safe.

Then Katherine cut her foot on a nail in our living room and we spent the evening in the emergency room. Seriously. Please send my Mother of the Year Award to Sarah at
(Katherine is totally fine and doesn't want to talk about it or tell anyone about it, so don't tell her I told you, Ok?)

Clearly we need some chocolate.

Monkey Cookies

3/4 cups shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup mashed banana
1 3/4 cups quick oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cups chocolate chips
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream shortening and sugar together. Mix in the egg and mashed bananas. In a separate bowl, mix together the oats, flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon with a whisk. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and blend. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Drop by the teaspoonful onto a greased baking sheet and bake for eight to ten minutes.

P.S. The cooking show I taped is on the air as we speak. It plays, like, three times a day. Why did I agree to wear the white chef's coat? Also, the sound is messed up, which gives people the chance to sit around thinking, "Wonder why I can't hear anything? Man, that chick looks like a blonde Ina Garten, doesn't she?"

Monday, April 16, 2007

Beer Bread

Yeah, so didn't I mention beer bread? Remember how this recipe was like an urban legend a few years ago? "All you need is flour and beer, man..."

Beer Bread
3 cups self-rising flour
3 tablespoons sugar
12 ounces of beer

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. Mix all the ingredients together. Pour into the loaf pan and bake for an hour.

You can also mix in herbs or sesame seeds or whatever you want.

It looks as if the make-your-own self-rising flour measurements are 1 cup flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt = 1 cup self-rising flour. I'm going to try to make my own self-rising whole wheat flour and see how it turns out.

Since the Rolling Rock buyout, I've changed my Pennsylvania beer allegiance to Yuengling. When I made the bread this weekend, I used Yuengling Black & Tan, which gave it an enjoyably bitter beer flavor.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hummus and Cable Access


Came slipping between

The two tall trees at the end of the green.

We all ran up to her. 'Emmeline!

Where have you been?

Where have you been?'"

--"Before Tea," A. A. Milne

Hey, everyone. What's been going on? I've missed you all while I've been busy elsewhere.

So today I appeared on a cooking show. And by "cooking show" I mean a half-hour program sponsored by a local grocery store that's shown on cable access three days a week for a month. Rachael Ray, eat your heart out.

Seriously, it's a fun show, and today's theme was--wait for it--food allergies! (An idea I shamelessly proposed to my friend Dave who stars in the show and who has recently been diagnosed with food allergies himself.) Dave and Chef Mark prepared three recipes on the show, two of which were ones I gave them: Nut Butter Cookies and Overnight Oatmeal Cookies. Mark also made a vegetarian pasta dish with brown rice pasta. And I ended up being onscreen the entire time and preparing my Easy Hummus recipe. (Ok, Dave ran the food processor because I couldn't get the lid off. Smooth. Food Network, are you watching?)

Of course the store does this to promote what it sells, but since I want them to keep carrying dairy-free foods so I don't have to drive all the way to Pittsburgh to get them, I was happy to be a support. And several people who watched the taping said that they learned a lot and/or knew someone with an allergy or intolerance who would like the recipes. That was really nice to hear.

Because I was nervous about all of this yesterday, I decided to distract myself by cutting Eli's hair for the first time. We now have an appointment with a barber at 3 pm today to fix his hair. My mom looked at him and said, "I have one thing to say: 'Semper Fi!'" Thanks for being a sacrificial lamb, E.

Easy Hummus

1 can chickpeas, rinsed
3 T water
3 T lemon juice
1 T sesame oil
1 t. chopped garlic
¾ t. cumin
¾ t. salt
Process the chickpeas and all other ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Keeps refrigerated up to a week. Serve with vegetables, tortilla chips, pita chips, etc.

Notes: You could also use tahini in this recipe instead of sesame oil, but sesame oil is cheaper and easier to find.
I often leave the garlic out or use garlic powder instead since Katherine doesn't like garlic.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Baked Oatmeal

Here's a great holiday breakfast. It serves a lot of people and can be prepared the night before and reheated in the morning. The original recipe came from a Harrisburg, PA bakery that is now out of business.

Baked Oatmeal

2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 scant cup sugar
3 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vanilla soy milk
1 can peaches, drained*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the eggs, oil, and sugar. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the peaches, and mix. Pour into a 9x9 or 8x11 inch baking pan. Top with peach slices, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for thirty minutes.

The oatmeal can be served warm or at room temperature. Extra soy milk can be served on the side.

* You can replace some of the soy milk with the reserved peach juice, if desired.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

My Apologies

I'm going to be messing around with the site and previous posts over the next few days, so I'm sorry in advance if it looks like there are new posts and, uh, there aren't.

Hey, look! A bunny!

What Do April Snowstorms Bring?

"'Snow in April is abominable," said Anne. 'Like a slap in the face when you expected a kiss.'"
--Anne of Ingleside, L.M. Montgomery

I made mashed turnips last night, using a recipe from The Little House Cookbook. I oversold it, as parents are wont to do with a new vegetable. "Look! It's just like what Laura and Almanzo ate when they were little!"

After twelve rounds of "But what does it taaaaste like?", K. tried a bite, all the while making a noise like a cat coughing up a hairball. She swallowed the turnip molecules with a gallon of water, smiled weakly, and said, "It tastes sweet."

Hope you enjoy it just as much, if not more.

Mashed Turnips, adapted from The Little House Cookbook

1 1/2 lbs. turnips
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons soy margarine
salt and pepper

Wash and peel the turnips. Cut them in half lengthwise and then crosswise into thin slices, cutting across the grain. Simmer the slices and the water in a covered saucepan for thirty minutes. Uncover and let the remaining water cook off for a few minutes. Add the margarine, salt, and pepper, and mash with a potato masher.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Easy Rolls

Quick Rolls
(adapted from a Gooseberry Patch recipe)

2 cups self-rising flour
4 tablespoons regular mayonnaise
1 cup plain soy milk
1 teaspoon sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with spray oil. Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Spoon the batter into the greased muffin cups. Bake for 16-18 minutes.

Notes: I haven't tried this recipe with lower-fat mayo or with vegenaise. I would be interested to hear how/if the rolls turn out with either of those substituted for the regular mayonnaise.

Someone recently asked me if there was such a thing as whole wheat self-rising flour. Does anyone know? I guess you could make your own, but it would be neat if it came pre-packaged.