Dairy Allergy

Allergy Update

Allergies became part of the focus of this site because my son, now eight, turned out to have multiple allergies. Even before we knew that, he had sensitivity to salicylates, which he outgrew. Until he did outgrow them, it border on being “allergic to food.” Not good. He still tends to prefer the things he could always eat, like potato, beans, corn and peas. Worse, he was also sensitive to azo dyes, the degree varying depending on the color. Since he could not drink fruit juice, and could not drink things like Kool-Aid that were colored, we relied heavily on clear Kool-Aid, the watermelon kiwi flavor.

Ultimately he tested allergic to tree nuts, peanuts, bananas, egg (whits and yolks), and dairy. Peanut was the only one for which we never saw evidence outside of testing. Bananas were particularly bad, but as much in a digestive way as anything.

He ultimately outgrew everything but the tree nuts, which are just as clear cut as ever…

In June this year, last day of school, we had to use an epi-pen for the first time in all these years. On the way to school, the crossing guard was giving out Munchkins, and he ate a chocolate one. I am not sure of the veracity of this, but he says his mouth itched during school. After coming home, he had mint chocolate chip ice cream. That;s his favorite, which he has had many times. Later still, he had a fudgesicle from a local supermarket chain, store brand. Following that, he got red faced, hives, had trouble swallowing, and may have had a little trouble breathing. It took two of us to overcome his objection to being injected. Then we had an ambulance ride, somewhat greater treatment than normal, and a rapid recovery and return home. I hadn’t known before then that ranitidine is an antihistimine and is used for allergy treatment. He hated it. Also had trouble with the nebulizer.

Anyway, that was kind of weird, since it appeared he’d reacted to the fudgesicles, which were a new thing, but which weren’t even co-processed in a facility where they could have been exposed to allergens. That was a Friday.

The next Monday, he had more mint chocolate chip ice cream and got covered in hives, but nothing some Benadryl couldn’t handle. Still, that was one of the same foods, all three of which had contained chocolate. Smaller amount of chocoalte… smaller reaction?

We took him for allergy testing for chocolate. In practice this included the entire standard panel of sixty tests, so there were some he’d never been tested for before.

He remained allergic to tree nuts, reacting to three of those, rather than merely two as happened the previous three tests. He was back to reacting to peanut and banana. We’d avoided both of those, just because (actually, he refused to try them, but not a bad idea). He did not react to chocolate/cocoa, but he did test positive for peas and soy. That’s funny, as he eats peas regularly and loves them, and he still uses soy milk, soy butter, and soy margarine. The only time he has ever reacted to soy, long past, was from consuming spoiled soy milk. Fascinating, given the test result, but these are two positives we can ignore.

Since he didn’t test positive to chocolate but we wanted to be sure, he then got the blood test. That was fun. His veins are even harder to find than mine, and he screamed a lot. It took three trips to try getting blood drawn before it actually happened.

Chocolate was negative. Yay! This left a mystery, though. The most logical thing, given the clues and that the prime, overwhelming allergy that remains unambiguously is to tree nuts, is that the mint chocolate chip was contaminated. Perhaps it was worse the first day because so was the Munchkin. Or perhaps because the contamination was fresh. In retrospect, I can picture ice cream with nuts getting scooped, then the same scoop getting reused in the other flavor without being fully cleaned. Kitchen things are the gift of choice for Dad, so for my birthday the kids got me the superlative ice cream scoop of their dreams. One, which takes it rapidly out of service. However, it can be rinsed and used in a second container right afterward. And that’s what must have happened.

There have been no further scares. We’re being more careful about cross-contamination. It’s never been that much of a problem before.

Henry’s Dairy Allergy Was Partially Eczema

I found this milk elimination to fight eczema to be interesting after our experience with Henry, and how we figured out what his glaringly obvious allergic reactions were from. He reacts to dairy on contact with his skin, and he can get both hives and simply a red, eczema-like reaction from ingesting it.

I can’t speak for eggs, since we’ve been more careful about those. The worst reaction to bananas was digestive though he did get red from them too. That was a good one, when bananas were first or near the first food he ever had and I was immediately suspicious, yet who ever heard of a baby not being able to eat bananas? Then again, Henry was very nearly allergic to food that wasn’t breat milk, until he grew out of sensitivity to azo dyes and salicylates. But that’s another post that needs to be written sometime.

In any event, I’m not surprised, though I am surprised that we don’t see more of this, or have more doctors savvy or imaginitive enough to help with it.

Coconut Milk

With Henry’s allergies to dairy and all nuts, he has to use soy milk. It’s a good thing he likes all things soy! To him, soy butter is as yummy and natural as peanut butter is to most of us. And he hates sunflower butter, which is vastly better. We tried rice milk along the way, but that seems to be little more than water.

Yesterday I noticed for the first time coconut milk in Walmart, in the same case with soy, nut, rice and organic milks. It was a buck more (speaking of which, at the rate milk has gone up, the differential with soy seems less onerous), but I decided it might be worth a try, and could picture it being better in something like cake. When I make a cake free of eggs and dairy, instead of all water, I generally use half soy milk and half water. Not that it matters, since he has developed tolerance enough to eat cake with eggs and/or milk baked into it, just as the allergist suggested. Yet we’ve come to like the special recipe cake better. Though ironically I cannot make it taste good in chocolate, despite chocolate being the original recipe I adapted. But I digress.

I bought one, and this morning it was time to open a fresh milk, as his old soy milk is expired. Presumably, since it’s hard to tell, besides just throwing it away after the recommended 7-10 days. The only way I seem to be able to tell, since it doesn’t develop an odor, is to taste it. If I feel like retching within the next moment or so, it’s definitely bad. My body knows what my nose and taste buds can’t discern.

I offered Henry the choice of coconut milk or soy on his cereal. He picked coconut and there was much excitement. Then as soon as I’d opened it, he said no, he didn’t want it, didn’t like it. He refused to taste it to be sure. If I’d never told him and just opened it, he’d have had no clue it was different, and might have loved it. Duh! I thought he’d be happy to try it, but he’s busily being 3, and some. Most stubborn person I know, too.

I poured a small glass so I could taste it. Man, what an improvement over soy milk! You can taste the coconut flavor, in fact it tastes much like the liquid from the hollow of a coconut, which when I was a kid we got all excited to have, despite it not, in reality, being that good. We called it “coconut milk,” but apparently that’s not the correct term.

Sadie wouldn’t taste it, after championing the new milk to Henry. Maybe that would have helped. He refused, simply declaring he didn’t like it. Valerie drank the whole thing and declared it awesome. When offered more, she opted to try it as chocolate milk. I flavored it heavily, since the coconut flavor came through. She hated it as chocolate milk. I drank it. It was good, but different. Might be better as strawberry. No word on how it would be with lime.

So… I guess I’ll be baking! Or doing something with it, even if I’m the only one who eats it. And I probably won’t buy it again, or if I do, won’t tell Henry what it is before serving it. Why fight to serve him something that costs more?

Good Allergy News?

Last week we went to my grandmother’s house on her 94th birthday. Usually if there’s going to be cake, I make an eggless, dairyless version so Henry can have some and not feel left out. I didn’t, and my mother’s plan turned out to be to give him frosting on crackers.

Ultimately he helped himself to a not insignificant serving of cake. I let it pass, because there’s Benadryl and because of what the allergy doctor said when he was retested this year.

The doctor suggested that he might be fine eating things in which egg or dairy had been sufficiently well cooked to have altered the proteins. I’d had that in mind ever since, but not tried it.

He didn’t react at all to the cake. Nothing. Not that I could tell.

So whether this is progress toward growing out of the allergies he is most likely to outgrow, or evidence that the doctor was correct, it’s a Good Thing.

Accidental Chinese-Style Chicken Fingers

Last night I had some newly bought boneless chicken breasts from a $1.99/lb sale at Hannaford, wanted to use them, make it fast, be different and please the kids, and wanted to stretch them as far as possible. I sometimes make fried chicken with a dry coating based on flour and/or oatmeal, but for some reason – perhaps recent talk of making allergy-free pancakes sometime (after I get syrup for them) – I thought of making fried chicken strips in a batter coating. Hadn’t done that before.

I searched and found this recipe for eggless Chinese shrimp batter, which seemed like just the thing to adapt for chicken.

It looked like too little, so I doubled it. I also used soy milk instead of water, initially, then mainly water to thin it. It was way too thick. We’re talking a lot of extra liquid, perhaps almost a cup on a recipe that when doubled called for half a cup. I cut up two boneless breasts into thin strips, picturing relatively short chicken fingers. Dipped them in the batter and fried them in oil deep enough to cook one side, flip them and the other side. Deep fryer would presumably be better.

They came out nearly perfect, except I seasoned the batter and it came out a bit odd. To me. The kids loved them. It may have come out odd because I grabbed the poultry seasoning and poured some in, then found the poultry seasoning toward the back of the cabinet and realized I’d used the nearly identical container of ginger. At that point I’d have been better off leaving it the ginger, salt, pepper, garlic powder and pinch of red pepper, not adding poutry seasoning and rosemary. Oh well.

The other problem? No dipping sauce! I love dipping my Chinese chicken fingers, which they looked identical to, in duck/plum sauce. Kids didn’t care, but I decided to try whipping up something fast. Used a little red plum jam, less grape (would have used more plum and no grape but that is a closeout item and a favorite of the kids we may not find again any time soon), some water, lemon juice, soy sauce, brown sugar and ginger, heated briefly in the microwave and stirred into a thinner liquid than I might have preferred. It worked, except for being too strong on the grape flavor. If I plan these ahead sometime, I’ll make or buy something better.

The batter made me think I could do something similar to make fritters. I could also see adding oatmeal for a crunchy fried chicken batter, taking it away from the Chinese style.

Stay tuned for further experiments, and perhaps pictures, which are still on the camera.

Allergy-Free/Vegan Cake

I need to do a comprehensive post or series of posts about my cake experiments. I have one recipe that works for cake that is eggless and free of dairy. The trick to finding that kind of recipe easily, if you have that pair of allergies, is to search for vegan and whatever type of recipe. Discovered that when I was doing clunky searches for no egg and dairy free or whatever. No need to be a vegan yourself, and you can ignore some of the finer points like making sure every ingredient complies strictly, but that community has done a ton of crossover work applicable to egg and milk allergies.

I’m reminded of this because today I experimented with making orange flavored cake, and recently perfected a yellow/vanilla cake variant of what started out as a chocolate cake recipe. I have the hardest time getting the chocolate version to come out great, but my son loves that flavor and can’t eat most chocolate. You know… milk chocolate.

I have also made versions with mango-peach applesauce and dried apricots, pumpkin (much better than my efforts to get a no-egg pumpkin bread to work without being too moist), mocha (in theory), and, very successfully, strawberry for my daughter’s fourth birthday. Sometimes I haven’t exactly measured the changes I’ve made, but it’s easy to take the concepts and extrapolate.

I know, I’m being a tease, but I’d also like to collect up the relevant pictures before I post it for real. Stay tuned Real Soon Now…

Burritos

[Edited]

One thing we eat all the time is burritos and related items. They’re easy, flexible and tasty.

The ingredients start with flour tortillas. These can be from the store, or they can be homemade. For the former, we prefer Manny’s brand Market Basket’s store brand. Usually it’s the burrito size, but the smaller ones work fine too. For the latter, we naturally like Mama Jedi’s Flour Tortillas. These are much tastier than store bought, if a lot less uniform.

That is perhaps all that is consistent about the ingredients here, though cheese is also customary. I could imagine leaving it out if there were no cheese or you were not a cheese eater (the youngest is not a cheese eater in some contexts, despite outgrowing the dairy allergy, and this is one of them). Thus the list of ingredients is mix ‘n’ match, with some combos more likely than others. Possible ingredients are:

Meat – Chicken, Steak, or Hamburger. Presumably pork, venison, etc. could work too.
Cheese – Usually shredded with a grater, normally some combination of cheddar and/or jack.
Refried beans, usually canned but can be homemade easily and cheaply.
Shredded lettuce
Chopped tomato
Corn
Rice
Sour Cream

I’ve also tried adding salsa, and if you were fanatical about onions or such those could work.

Corn or rice are potential sides, as well as potential ingredients [in practice those have become primary, due to preference of the kids, and we have abandoned lettuce and tomato for the most part]. We are more likely to use them if we don’t have beans, lettuce or tomato, or have eaten too many beans too recently.

For chicken, I thaw if needed, cut into small pieces or strips, and cook them in butter or oil I’ve heated with spices. Cook until somewhere between done enough to eat and crisped fairly well. Spices vary to taste. More can be added later in the frying. Typically I use black pepper, red pepper, garlic powder, cumin, cilantro, and a touch of powdered ginger. [I don’t remember ever using ginger! I do use Turkish oregano, which I prefer to Mexican oregano despite the context. Sometimes also paprika or chili powder in modest amounts. Amounts vary depending which meat. I sometimes add a tiny bit of powdered cloves to burger, but would never add that to chicken. Also, I left out salt.] Only the first two are what I would consider absolutes. You can also use chili powder instead or in addition. that is essentially a mix of red pepper, cumin and garlic, though somehow with a distinctive flavor I don’t seem to get from combining the individual items. You can also use some oregano, some celery flakes [I don’t remember ever doing this, though with chicken it could work] or salt, or a touch of allspice [applies more to beef, just as with cloves]. That’s just what I have tried or what comes readily to mind; the sky is the limit. You could make a more traditional poultry spiced chicken to serve in wraps with other ingredients; use the tortilla as a delivery system without pretending to be Mexican about the flavor.

For steak, I thaw if needed and then fry it whole. I either spice the butter or apply a dry rub. The dry rub came out so amazing when I tried it recently that it is likely to become my method of choice. The spices are similar to what I’d use for chicken, but stronger to be able to penetrate. You could use a grill if you have one, make a marinade, pretty much do whatever you want. Cook to your preference. I like steak well done [I’ve become less vehement but still prefer it not too rare], but it’s better if you get it off the heat still slightly pink, or at least not too overcooked. I slice it into thin/small pieces and try to ditch any fat or gristle you’d not want to run into while chewing.

For hamburger, I spice the butter [actually, I don’t normally use any butter, especially for fatty burger, and I just spice the meat], crumble in the burger and cook it up as if I were going to make scrambled hamburger, or were doing the initial prep for a store bought taco making kit. Speaking of which, taco seasoning from one of those would also work [turned out the kids hated commercial taco mix compared to my own], with or without other spices, especially in the hamburger variant. Hamburger can be stirred into the beans if you’re using them, or used as a separate ingredient. You may want to add a dribble of water to the beans to thin them and let the meat mix better. The result can also be served with tortilla chips, rather than as a burrito filling.

Chop, grate, and heat as appropriate for the other ingredients of your choice. A can of refried beans – we have a mild preference for Old El Paso, with Taco Bell probably second, but none we’ve tried are actually bad, and we prefer traditional, but low fat/no fat/vegetarian labeled ones can be okay – heats up quick in a saucepan. [We’ve come to prefer Ortega, which conveniently cost the least, at least at Market Basket.]

You’ll want a big flat frying pan. We have a round one, flat like a griddle, the kind of thing good for pancakes, which is perfect. Use that to heat your tortillas one at a time. Call it medium heat. Lay it down, give it a moment, flip it over, give it another moment. If it starts to have pockets inflate with hot air, it’s probably ready to flip or remove. The goal is to warm and soften, unless you like them crisped a bit. You can use the microwave, but they aren’t as good that way.

With the ingredients and tortillas at the ready, everyone can start piling on whatever they like. If it’s with beans, I usually put beans, meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato if available, and sour cream. Speaking of which, we’ve found sour cream is best served with a small plastic “baby” spoon, to get dabs the right size. If there’s no beans, usually I’d smear on sour cream, add meat, rice and/or corn, and cheese.

Fold up the tortilla around the fillings, burrito style, or fold it like a taco if you like. Leftover meat, beans or cheese can be used to make quesadillas the next day.

The beauty of all this is it needn’t be spicy. When I make it, it’s usually less spicy than it probably sounds. Or you can make it more spicy. You can make them more or less meaty. You can make them vegetarian-ish, using just beans plus other ingredients. In fact, bean burritos are quite good, and can be faster to prepare.

Do you make anything similar to these? Any ingredients I’ve overlooked or ideas I’ve not tried?