Sunday, September 25, 2011

Flash Freezing--- So Pleasing!!

Happy weekend, everyone, and happy fall! Here in MA we are starting to see trees changing color already as other signs of fall creep in. This time of year is great for a lot of reasons but the one I am currently enjoying most is cheap produce and the ability to flash freeze these seasonal products for tasty treats all winter long.

Today I was able to get some great blackberries, raspberries and strawberries all on sale, and with very few "duds" in each package. In response to some awesome mamas asking me recently how to flash freeze, I decided to make a little photo tutorial of my afternoon in the kitchen with B's beloved berries.

Flash Freezing:
1. Clean and inspect all of the produce you are planning on using. Cut out bad spots and remove all moldy produce.

2. Once produce has been inspected and cleaned, cut pieces as you would like to freeze them (broccoli into small florets, strawberries into fourths, etc)

3. Spread pieces onto large cutting board covered with paper towels to dry. Set aside and assemble needed equipment for freezing.

4. Assemble cookie sheets and your choice of cookie sheet liner (aluminum foil, plastic wrap, press and seal, wax paper, parchment paper, etc.); be sure that there is a clear spot in the freezer to lay your cookie trays flat. Freezer tetris time!

5. Line cookie sheets with preferred liner(s). Today, I used foil (shiny side up) on one, plastic wrap on another, and press and seal on the third (adhesive side facing down on the cookie sheet).

6. Gently pat produce dry with paper towels (or clean kitchen towels-- just remember that some produce may stain your towels!) and begin assembling produce pieces on cookie sheets.

The raspberries are on generic plastic wrap-lined cookie sheets

7. Produce pieces should not touch one another if at all possible and try your best to keep the smallest area of the produce piece on the surface as possible (in case it sticks, you have less surface area to try and detach it once frozen.)

The blackberries are on aluminum foil-lined cookie sheets

8. Once all pieces are distributed onto the cookie sheets, slide into the freezer so that they remain flat. Check on the pieces after the first hour or so, but I generally set my timer for four hours and that tends to be enough for small pieces of produce (berry size). They will feel like little rocks but not be "frostbitten," so to speak. Once frozen, you really shouldn't get much, if any, juice on your hands from briefly touching the produce.

9. Label freezer bags with the type of produce and the date you are freezing them (permanent markers are great for this!)

10. Fill appropriate bags with corresponding produce. Back to the freezer they go! Try not to eat the produce until you can no longer get it in the store (or at least until it is no longer at a decent price in the store!)

More pictures to come tonight once they are frozen and bagged up!

Of course, fruits like apples, pears or bananas may not fare as well sliced and flash frozen color-wise. You can sprinkle lemon juice on them to better maintain the fruit's color, if lemons are safe for your LO. I personally prefer to make pear sauce (since apples are not safe) and freeze it in the ice cube trays like how you would prepare homemade baby food (also see here). I do the same with beet sauce (boiled and pureed beets-- same consistency as apple sauce. B loves it!)

Enjoy the harvest time and stock up for winter! Your sanity will thank you later!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sesame and Support

Hi all! Time for another new recipe and some new information in the FPIES community (always good things right?!) First for the information, since it is short and sweet (not unlike the recipe to follow. . .)

The FPIES Foundation (of which I am proud to say that I am on its Board of Directors) has introduced a phenomenal new support forum. I really feel like it has combined the best qualities of the various FPIES forums out there and is really designed with FPIES parents in mind (i.e. you can navigate it quickly and without agonizing over where to find something, all while fielding hurtling toys from your small child who may or may not be reacting to a new food. . .). There are separate categories and delineated topics in each, you can add tags to your post for easier searching, and the relevant topics are all there. Plus, the parents are on there too-- it is definitely not a ghost town! Go ahead-- check it out! Go to The FPIES Foundation, scroll down and click on the  green words "support forum" on the lower right hand corner. I'll see you there-- and yes, I will post updates for new recipes on this forum!!

And for the recipe. . ..

We are half-heartedly trialing sesame at the time, though we took several days off last week due to some noticeable but not awful symptoms. Things have calmed down and we are ready to step up to the plate again. So for tomorrow, we have sesame milk on the roster!

NOTE: I told B that the cast of Sesame Street eats sesame and I love 80s movies. . .this is where our title comes from. ENJOY!

St. Elmo's Milk
4 cups HOT water
1 cup sesame seeds, raw or roasted
3 Tbsp honey or coconut nectar (or other sweetener of choice)
3 Tbsp vanilla extract (or other extract of choice)

In a blender, add sesame seeds, hot water, honey and vanilla. Cover with lid and mix at your blender's highest speed for about 2-4 minutes. Mixture should be foamy and frothy. Run through your favorite nut/seed milk bag or through cheesecloth to remove "pulp" if desired (if you don't strain it, the milk has the consistency of pulpy orange juice). I found this great link to nylon bags that are made with super fine hemp mesh-- called Sprout Bags. These look wonderful for this recipe! Refrigerate once strained. This should keep for about a week in the fridge.

As for soaking the seeds prior to making milk, I will be trying that tomorrow and comparing the two. I will post the results!

If you are using this recipe for making sorbet/ice cream or for baking with the sesame milk, it probably won't be worth your time to strain. But if you are making it for drinking, straining might be helpful, depending on your small one's palate.

Keep posted for more sesame recipes, including one for chocolate chewy sesame granola bars (made them last week! B loved them!) And see you on the forum!!!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Breaking Bread (without it falling apart!)

Happy Friday, everyone! I am very happy to announce that today, B had a SANDWICH, and yes, of course I took pictures! Not only was this a huge milestone for B, but also a happy day for me on the blog. I am so happy to be able to share a recipe for a bread that is yeast free, egg free, free of commercial egg substitutes-- something so sought after by many of us. I will be working on more versions of this recipe so more people can share it, but I invite you mamas to experiment yourself-- try out different flours, different combos of ingredients. I already have made notes on how I will make the next version of this recipe. . .

B's Big Girl Sandwich Bread
1c. Sorghum flour
1c. Quinoa flakes
1/4 c. Millet flour
3 Tbsp. Arrowroot starch (or other safe starch)
1 Tbsp Baking powder (use Hain brand for corn free or a homemade version)
1 tsp Baking soda

1/4 c. Canola oil
1/4 c. Honey (or coconut nectar)
1 Tbsp. Vinegar (I used coconut, but there are other vinegars out there!)
1 c. milk (I used coconut but any milk would work here)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F; grease and lightly flour a medium size loaf pan. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients together well with pastry blender. Add in vinegar and allow to rest for 1-2 minutes; blend well with pastry blender. Add in oil and honey-- blend well with pastry blender (I really love my pastry blender!). Once all ingredients are well blended, add in the cup of milk and mix in just completely-- batter may be lumpy and that is OK!!! Pour mixture into prepared pan, cover with a linen towel, and allow to rest on the warm stove top (or another warm surface) for 20-30 minutes. 

After resting period, remove linen towel and bake in preheated over for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and lightly brush the crust with milk (I used coconut). return the pan to the oven and continue to bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until crust is firm and nicely browned. Remove pan from oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. After cooling, turn out the loaf onto a cutting board and allow to completely cool. DO NOT slice bread until completely cool--- bread does not slice as well when warm. I refrigerated ours for an hour or so and then sliced it and it turned out nicely. Store in a covered dish or ziploc bag in the refrigerator.

NOTE: this makes a small loaf height-wise, so for an "adult size" loaf, double everything.

For B's sandwich, I let her chose her "filling"--- strawberry jam from For the Love of June (This jam is great because it is only strawberries and sugar and their cross contamination practices are very strict.), coconut manna from Nutiva, sunflower seed butter from Once Again, and honey. She ended up choosing strawberry jam with a layer of coconut manna and a dash of honey. She ate every last gooey bite. She was so proud to have a sandwich, "just like daddy!"

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Memory Lane-- Has it been 2years Already?!

I was talking with my husband the other night and realized that this week will be the second anniversary of B's first FPIES reaction to solid food-- rice cereal. In some ways, it is so daunting to look back and think that yes, it has been two years, and yes, it has been two years and we are still stuck in THIS?! But then looking at it from a different perspective, we are in so much of a better place now than we were then, in that we understand more of this beast everyday. We are still nowhere close to the zone where she stops reacting to new things but I am hoping that we reach that point in another year or so. I mean, we will eventually run out of foods to trail right? Haha!

One thing that some of you may not know about me is that I have a heart condition that is, currently, very well under control. When I was pregnant with B, they discovered the condition after several ER visits because I couldn't stop my tachycardia (before I was preggers, I knew different interventions that would stop it but nothing worked when I was pregnant). Once the docs recorded my heart rate during these episodes and recorded how long the episodes went on (I had some very attractive heart monitors to wear, one around my neck-- being extremely pregnant at the time, I looked like Flava Flav if he had swallowed a basketball), they called me when I was 39 weeks and told me that I couldn't deliver B at the base hospital because they were afraid that due to our lack of specialists, they would lose me, B, or both of us.

When I went into labor, my water leaked for days before they actually did an ultrasound and believed me that I was losing amniotic fluid. The ride to the hospital was ridiculous-- it was an hour away and there were so many medical people in that ambulance that N was not allowed to ride with me. He drove behind the ambulance in the car and I remember just watching him from behind the oxygen mask. The doctors had both of us terrified-- we didn't understand why they had disregarded this throughout most of my pregnancy and now they were petrified of me and my girl not making it. The bad news is my over 24 hrs of labor still led to a c-section (I was SO bummed!) but the good news is, my heart was fine and so was B. Apparently, when your heart reaches a certain speed and remains there or goes higher when you are pregnant, the risk is high (according to those docs) for your body to cut off blood flow to the placenta and the baby, hence their concern for B. After she was born, the pressure was on for me to be sent back to the states for surgery, but as with all things in that particular bureaucracy (hehe), it took months for the surgery to be scheduled, as it had to be done stateside.

With my husband gone out to sea for most of B's infancy, with us living overseas apart from any family, with the docs telling me that my heart could essentially "crap out" on me at any moment, and with her screaming, lack of sleep and tons of unexplained symptoms, I still stayed sane, but I was scared. And as it became more and more evident that there was a problem brewing with B's system, I became more scared--- how could this baby make it without me? I was her lifeline and following her severe FPIES reactions with solid foods (4x before diagnosis) and minor reactions to so many other foods, that fact was even more apparent. At 8 months, we pulled all foods, not knowing what to do to make food safe for her.

From that first reaction until after my surgery, I pumped diligently each night after her bedtime nursing. I wanted to have a stash for her, just in case I couldn't be there. Something to get her through the first days and nights until N would have been able to convince the docs that we had to order special formula from the states. I wrote letters to her and N and hid them around the house, and I pushed myself to finish her baptism gown before the surgery. I remember fighting with the medical staff who initially refused to let B travel with me for my surgery (I had to go to CA) and finally had the ombudsman contact someone very high up in the command  who permitted her to fly with me. I remember fighting tears on the phone, telling them that they didn't understand, she had NO FOOD, I was her FOOD. . . and no one believed me. Finally, they released N from the ship (they were off floating around somewhere by the end of September that year) to come home and travel with us.

My surgery was supposed to be the day after arriving in the states, so we traveled with a ton of frozen breastmilk (it was fun going through security and customs! haha) all of which I ended up losing because the flight attendants wouldn't allow us to store it in their fridge (even though it was all sealed up in its own little container) and we had to rely on bags of ice for over 24 hours of traveling. When we got there, the surgery date was rescheduled for two weeks later. I pumped like a fiend as much as I could while in Cali, but I never got much from pumping and since B nursed at least 12 times or more a day at that point, well, there wasn't much time to pump! But we also started our Kix trial well we were there, again, out of need, out of necessity. And we played around with cooking bananas, which seemed to help her improve her tolerance of them. Once the surgery date came, I was ready but again, still so scared. They all had me believing that I would never see B or N again and I was just so scared for what might happen with her. .

Happily (As I am sure you have figured out by now, since I am not writing this from the afterlife), the surgery was successful and it only took a few months afterwards for the episodes to die down (something about the procedure creating a hole that needed time to heal). I have been told the abnormality can grown back, but haven't had anymore severe symptoms as I did when I was pregnant with B. I am so thankful for everyday I have with my B and with N.

So my long winded story has a point-- fear. We are subjected to it on many levels and often from many sources. Much of the FPIES beast can cause a great amount of fear, fear for the unknown, fear for how our child could be cared for if something were to happen to one of us as the primary caregivers. I think the greatest thing we can do for ourselves as parents in this FPIES community and for our children, is to not contribute to the fear. There is enough of FPIES that we cannot control-- we can control our attitudes, we can control our approach to others in our community, and we can control our ability and willingness to reach out. Without reaching out to others and establishing connections, without refusing to engage in drama that this fear can create, we cannot support our community to the best of our abilities and we cannot garner the support we need from the global community to help our children as well.

Because of these experiences that I describe above and others that have truly defined my life, I have always been driven to reach out in my professional and personal life, to support those who aren't being adequately supported, to find those that others have overlooked and forgotten. And in our FPIES community, the same standards apply--- it is my belief that we need to all strive to leave NO ONE behind. So I ask of everyone out there, remember another family today, or another mama that might be struggling, or another child that is stuck in a hospital admission. Remember those who might be swept under the rug or forgotten by someone else. Let's eradicate all of the fear that we are able and let's create some connections. Just as we are all lifelines for our children, let us all be lifelines for one another.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Everyone Needs a Toolbox!

Watching B "fix" the TV today with her toy screwdriver (we couldn't find the remote and my small determined person was sure she could make it work!!!), reminded me to tell all of you to visit The FPIES Foundation and its amazing Toolbox. There, you will find some tools to get you started on food journaling, drafting an emergency plan (never fun, but certainly necessary), talking with your child's doctor about FPIES, and more!

Be sure to check out the other resources that the FPIES Foundation site has to offer, such as the support forum (link on the main page) and the list of medical journal articles about FPIES.

We all know, as parents of kiddos with food allergies, that being prepared is really the best way to navigate this often unpredictable "beast," as it were. So gather up some tools, perfect the old ones, or email The FPIES Foundation with suggestions for more tools to add to the toolbox!