Monday, February 28, 2011

Ham and Bean Soup (free of all top 8 allergens!)

This is such an easy recipes and it tastes really good too!

Throw the following ingredients into the crock pot:

2 cans Northern Beans

Ham- I like to use the cottage butt (this piece was 1.7 lbs) but you can even use leftover ham)

Two cans of water

One chopped onion

1 tsp garlic powder

I put everything into the crock pot yesterday at 10:30 on low and then switched it to high at 3:30 and let it cook until 5:00 (so it is was in the crock pot 6.5 hours). If you use a large piece of ham don't forget to take all the meat apart once it is tender.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

March Sensory Box

Today I put away the February sensory box and set-up it up for our March theme: Spring! I know it really looks like an Easter box, but I really wanted to do a spring theme and for April I decided to do the garden since I am hoping it will be warm by then and I can get the kids outside and into the real garden.

This is the picture looking down into the box.

This is everything that I have included in the box.

I did not have to buy anything for this box most of it came from Easter decorations or toys the kids had in their Easter baskets.

Here is the list of everything I included:

Easter grass

Plastic Easter eggs

Two tin Easter buckets

Fabric chick Easter basket

Various plastic/ fabric toys

I am currently searching for items to include in the April sensory box. I found a couple great items this weekend at Target's Dollar Spot. Other great stores to find supplies for sensory boxes are: The Dollar Store, The Party Store, Michaels dollar section, Hobby Lobby, Wal-Mart (check the party section and the seasonal section- they usually carry inexpensive party favors).

Friday, February 25, 2011

Organic Coupon Site

I do not normally post coupon sites or store deals, but I wanted to let you know about an organic coupon trading site. Organic Grocery Deals features an organic coupon database and coupon forums that include information on stores specializing in organic foods and coupon trading. I will admit that I have not used the site for coupon trading, but I do like their coupon database. I know it is hard to find coupons for allergy-friendly foods, so hopefully this site will help!

Curly Girly Bow-tique Hairbow Giveaway ends 2/28

Don't forget to enter my giveway. Please go here to enter. Giveaway ends 2/28!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What is a Food Allergy?

Before J was diagnosed at 13 months I new very little about food allergies. I new that people had peanut allergies and they could be life threatening, but as far as other food allergies go I pretty much assumed that they were more like intolerances, that you could eat the food but may get a stomach ache. Once J was diagnosed I learned that was so far from what a food allergy is.

A food allergy is basically your body fighting the protein in the food. When the immune system fights the food it releases histamine and other chemicals. This is what causes respiratory reactions, skin reactions or other allergic reactions. The United States recognizes the following foods as the most common allergens: milk, eggs, peanuts, treenuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. It is believed that these foods make up 90 percent of food allergy reactions.

The most common question I am asked is how did you know that J had food allergies? When J was four months old he developed awful weepy eczema. They suggested that he may be sensitive to certain foods since allergies, eczema and asthmas are related, but they would not test him until he was about a year. Then when he was 9 months old we gave him a milk based formula to supplement him since he would not eat baby or table food. Once he injested the formula he broke out in hives and projectile vomited. We then had him allergy tested and he tested positive for milk, eggs, peanuts and treenuts. My daughter was tested at 10 months and my 12 month old was tested at 4 months.

There is no cure or medicine for food allergies. Most children allergic to fish, shelfish, peanuts and treenuts do not outgrow their allergies. Milk and eggs are more likely to be outgrown, however studies, including one at John Hopkins have shown that they are harder to outgrow than they were 20 years ago.

I am planning on doing more reviews on allergy friendly products in the next month and giveaways so keep visiting my blog. If you have any questions about food allergies, please ask- no question is stupid I am more than happy to answer them or direct you to someone that may be able to answer it. Here are some great sites if you would like to learn more:

Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN)

Kids with Food Allergies

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Easy Chicken Soup for a Chilly Day

This morning my son J asked me if he could have chicken soup for dinner. Two weeks ago I made chicken soup for dinner. J would not try the soup for dinner (which is not unusual for him, he is always hesitant to try anything, which we think stems from his food allergies). The next day for lunch he saw me eating a bowl and asked if he could try it. He tried it and loved it so much he had two bowls. He continued to eat the soup the next few days until it was all gone. Here is the the easy recipe that I use:

Cook about a pound of chicken (I actually used 1.8 lbs of chicken breast today because J loves the chicken and the more good non-processed food I can get in the better!). You can also use leftover chicken, I have done this after roasting a chicken and having leftovers.

Add the chicken and broth to the crockpot. I like Aldi's Fit and Active because it does not have MSG in it or milk, eggs, nuts or soy.

Cut up three stalk of celery, a medium onion and three large carrots, throw them into the crockpot. I also added about 1 cup water because there was not enough liquid.

Start the soup in the morning and cook on low in the crock pot all day. By dinner you will have a great pot of healthy, allergen friendly soup!

I'm the Featured blog on Tuesday Blog Trail!

I am so excited that I am the featured blog on Six in the Nest's Tuesday Blog Trail!

Join in the hop here!

If you found me on the hop I would love it if you left me a comment!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Our Trip to the Allergist

This morning I took my 12 month old Mr. T to the allergist. Our family has been through three allergists (the first one I did not care for, the second was part of Children's and they charge a facilities fee in addition to the co-pay- which meant we were paying almost an additional $500 a year to go to Children's, and the third allergist was totally arrogant and did not care for children, but that is another story). Last summer T tested positive to milk, eggs, peanuts and soy, so in order to continue to nurse him (and keep him off of the hypo-allergenic formula) I went on an elimination diet and took those foods and treenuts out of my diet. It has been a challenging eight months! The soy allergy is a much harder allergy to deal with than milk, eggs and nuts since soy is in a lot of food you would never think about.

Well I went into the appointment thinking that he was still going to be allergic to all the foods he tested positive to last summer. They performed the skin test on T and right away the places they were testing for eggs were huge and then milk followed and it was huge. I kept looking at the soy and I think that it was the smallest of everything they were testing for. T has terrible eczema and so the doctor decided to test him for several fruits, oats, corn, wheat, dust mites, beef, chicken, turkey and pork. After about 20 minutes the doctor returned and confirmed that he was still allergic to milk, eggs and peanuts, but was not allergic to soy (yea!!!). However, that is where the good news stopped. She said that his wheat was questionable as well as beef. So in a couple of weeks I am going to take my little guy off of wheat (gasp!), beef, chicken, turkey and pork (thank goodness he can now have soy). Then I will reintroduce them one at a time and see if taking them out of his diet helps his eczema.

The good news for T was not the only good news we recieved at our appointment. We used to see this doctor with the other children until the hospital started charging us a facilities fee and then we went to doctor #3. Well the first time J went to the allergist he was blood tested and his milk was at a 15 (which is really really high). A year ago he tested at a 4.5 (low) and the doctor today told me it may be a false positive and he may not be allergic to milk at all. So we are switching J back to doctor #2, because she wants to try to introduce milk into his diet (he has not had anything with milk in it for four years since he was nine months old) because he may either be able to tolerate it or may not be allergic to it at all!

Friday, February 18, 2011

My Garden

This year will be my fifth year of having a vegetable/fruit garden. You would think that after five years I would have an abundance of knowledge of gardening and have no problems growing plants that produce fruit- well you would be wrong! Every year my garden is a source of great frustration and a money pit!

Year One- The first year I had a new baby and did not think I had enough time for a garden so I bought two raspberry plants. Within a few days my plants were attacked by Japanese bettles, so I covered them up with fabric tulle and used some sort of powder to get rid of them. They were attacked so viciously I thought they would not make it through the year- however those plants were sturdy and have come back every year since and I think that it even produced about a dozen red raspberries over five years.

Year Two- I planted lettuce (the fancy kind) directly into the ground, tomatoes, and peppers. The lettuce was great- I had a ton, however my husband decided he did not like that type of lettuce so even though I had a ton, a lot was wasted because I could not eat that much lettuce. We also had a drought that summer so even though my tomatoes and peppers were watered almost every day we still had problems and had only a few tomatoes (I think that I planted 8 plants) and the garden did not produce any peppers.

Year Three- I planted tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers. My tomato plants were doing great and I had some huge tomatoes which were a few days from being fully ripe and a coyote attacked my garden and knocked down the fencing destroying my tomato plants and removing the tomatoes from the plants and then deciding he did not like green tomatoes and spit them all over the ground. My zucchini plant looked to be doing great then it was attacked by a bug that killed it. The cucumbers were the only vegetable that we were able to eat that year. I think we had three huge cucmbers then the plant was attacked by a bug and died!

Year Four- Last year I decided to go crazy and plant a bunch of things because surely something may work! I started early and planted several different plants in containers and started them inside. I planted sunflowers, turnips, carrots, peas, watermelon, tomatoes, basil, peppers, lettuce, green onions and artichokes. I was so excited because I had six sunflowers and they were a couple feet tall. The flowers on the plants were beautiful, until the deer came by and ate all the tops of the flowers off leaving the rest of the plant to die. The turnips did not grow big enough to eat, the green onions just kind of died, the lettuce did not make it and the artichokes are a two year plant so hopefully this year they will do well. We had several little tomatoes, about 6-8 green peppers, two dinners worth of carrots, one serving of peas, two tiny watermelon and a bunch of basil. At the end of the year I also planted a grape vine and strawberries, which will hopefully come back up this year.

I am hoping that my garden does well this year. I am planning on starting seeds again this year. Today I went to Lowes and bought yellow squash, brussels sprouts and tomatillos. But we shall see!!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Allergy-friendly Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

This recipe is an allergy friendly version of my husband's favorite cookies.

1/2 cup margarine (I use Earth's Balance soy free)
1/2 cup rice or coconut milk
1/3 cup cocoa
2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Sunflower butter (may have traces of soy)
3 cups of oatmeal (I like to use quick oats)

Mix butter, milk, cocoa and sugar in a pot on the stove on medium heat until it has been boiling for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and add sunflower butter and oats. Mix until completely combined. Drop by the spoonful on waxed paper. Let cool before eating.

Blog Hopping!

Welcome new friends from the blog hop. I am participating in the following blog hops today:

Blog Hop Thursday

It's Almost Friday Blog Hop

If you found me on one of these hops please leave me a comment!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Homemade Valentines Day

This Valentine's Day I decided that I wanted all the gifts that I gave to be homemade. I have honestly never given my children Valentine' Days presents, but this year I decided I was going to make gifts to practice my sewing (this is the second time I am attempting to learn to sew! plus my hubby gave me an awesome sewing machine for valentines day).

This is what I made:

Handmade felt tools for Mr. T:

Baby doll sling for Princess R:

Car rug made of fleece for J:

Don't think my husband was left-out. I made him his favorite chocolate peanut butter cookies.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My First Giveway

I am so excited to offer my first giveaway. This giveaway is for the winners choice of two hair accessories from my etsy store Curly Girly Bow-tique. Curly Girly Bow-tique offers affordable handmade hair bows for babies and girls. Here are a coupple examples of what I offer in my store:

Cupcake Snap Clip set

White and Hot Pink with Dots Double Bow

Tinkerbell Clippie

Buy it!
To buy any of my handmade hair accessories please visit my store here.

Win it!
One winner will recieve their choice of two hair accessories from my store. Giveaway starts Monday, February 14, 2011 and ends Monday, February 28, 2011 at 11:59 pm est. This giveaway is only open to followers in the U.S.

Follow my blog on Google Friend Connect (right side of the page) and write a comment that you follow my blog and please leave your email address (one entry)

Additional Entries (mandatory entry must be completed first before additional entries are counted)
Favorite my etsy store and leave a comment (one entry)
Leave a comment on which item in my store is your favorite (one entry)
Leave another comment on another posting on my site and then come back here and leave a comment on this post (one entry)

Good Luck!

Fun Valentines Day Activities

I love to do holiday themed activities with my kids. It always breaks up the monotony and they always seem to enjoy it. Here are some of the Valentines Day activities I have been doing with them.

*Make your own Valentines Day Playdough- this has provided hours of fun. My kids will sit with playdough and play until I make them put it away. We use heart shapped cookie cutters for our Valentine's Day theme and the playdough is light pink and scented with Pink Lemondae Kool-Aid. Here is the recipe I used for our homemade playdough:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup salt
2 pkg unsweetened Kool-Aid
1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

Mix flour, salt and Kool-Aid. Stir in water and oil. Knead with hands about 5 minutes. Store in a Ziploc bag.

*Valentines Day Sensory Box

*Conversation Heart Counting Manipulatives- we have been using the valentines conversation hearts to count out the number we roll on the dice and then they count out the number using the heart candies.

*Valentines Day Cards- we of course will be making Valentines Day cards for daddy. I will be letting them use whatever craft supplies they can glue on their cards

Saturday Birthday Party

We hosted our one year olds first birthday party yesterday. All the food was allergy friendly and free of milk, eggs, peanuts, treenuts and soy (with the exception of one cookie, which contained soy). Here is our menu:

Cake (I used Duncan Hines yellow cake mix and used Ener-G egg replacer, the frosting was homemade here is the link to the recipe:
Tortilla chips and salsa from Aldi and Tribe GarlicHummus
Blackberry muffins (Food Allergy Mama's Baking Book)
Cinnamon bread (Food Allergy Mama's Baking Book)
Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Soda, water and lemonade

The party was very inexpensive to host (I think I spent less than $30 for an allergy friendly party, including food, invitations, paper products and favors for the kids)

For favors I wanted to do something consumable and I did not want candy. So I decided to do washcloths and soap. I purchased hanmade soaps from Brown Bag Bath Bars on etsy. She made me robot soaps for the boys and castle soaps for the girls. For the washcloths I purchased princess castle washcloths from KBExquisites on etsy. My mom made robot washcloths for the boys.

Overall the food went over great- especially with the kids who loved the cookies (and J who decided that after the party he would eat the icing off the leftover cake.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Throwing an Allergy-Friendly Birthday Party

I have been throwing allergy-friendly birthday parties for a few years now, and since I cook allergy-friendly every day planning for me is now not such a big deal, but the first allergy-friendly party I threw really stressed me out and took a lot of planning. Here are some tips to throwing an allergy friendly party without all the stress:

* Plan ahead- allergy-friendly parties are much harder to throw without some planning ahead since you can't just pick-up and serve just anything. Obviously with food allergies most bakeries are a big no-no, but there are plenty of cake mixes out there that you can use that cater to food allergies. Betty Crocker now makes a gluten free cake mix and Duncan Hines make some varieties that are milk/egg/peanut/treenut/soy free. Check your labels you may be very plesantly suprised! I also make my cake a few days ahead (unfrosted) and freeze it. I do this for two reasons, first it is easier to frost when frozen and second is is one less thing for me to do the night before the party.

*Make it easy on yourself- I have done parties with big menus and I just end-up stressing out and having tons of leftovers. Pre-prepared foods are great, Whole Foods has a vegan section of prepared foods. You can also find lots of chips (and sometimes pretzels) that are allergy-friendly. We love to serve tortilla chips with salsa.

*Don't forget about fruits and veggies- you can always serve a fruit and veggie tray, which is very allergy friendly and healthy! If you cannot have the dips that are usually served an alternative for veggie dipping is hummus (unless you are allergic to sesame).

My Mr. T will be turning one on Thursday and we will be throwing him an allergy-friendly party on Saturday. I will be posting about the party menu later on.