How to Fly Safely

How to Fly Safely

Going on a plane ride when you have a food allergy is quite daunting.  As the plane starts to lift off the ground, all those “What if…?!” questions start to circle your head.  What if I have a reaction thousands of feet above the ground (or rather, the nearest hospital)?  So here are a few tips to keep you a little safer when you fly.

plane

1) Tell an attendant associated with your flight about your allergy.  Ask them if they would be willing to make an announcement on the plane before takeoff and ask people to refrain from eating your allergen.

2) Ask if you can board the plane early and if someone could wipe down your seat in case the person sitting there before you ate your allergen.  I recommend supervising this to make sure they are thorough.

3) Ask the flight attendants if they could avoid serving your allergen on the plane.  (I usually request that they do not serve those packaged peanuts, but I don’t worry so much about the products that may contain nuts.)

4) Pack your own food.  If your flight is short, bring a snack food that you eat often.  If your flight is longer, get takeout from a restaurant at which you eat often.  Chipotle is my go-to restaurant for traveling because none of their food contains my allergens.

This chart is featured on Chipotle's special diet information page.
This chart is featured on Chipotle’s special diet information page.

Have a nice flight and safe travels!

Video

It’s NOT Funny

Food allergy bullying is common among food allergy kids.  In fact, more than a third of children and teens have been bullied about their allergies.  Many of these cases of bullying involved threats with the food.  (For example, trying to make the person touch or eat their allergen.)  Over half of the kids who were bullied never told their parents, making it much more difficult to put an end to the bullying.

Luckily, I never had many issues with bullying.  In elementary school, there were some kids who thought it was funny to dangle their PBJs near me, or offer to share their peanut candy with me.  I would calmly and politely ask them to not do such things.  These were wonderful opportunities to remind them that “yes, I am allergic to nuts”, “no, I cannot touch peanut butter”, and “yes, I can actually die from this”.  That last one usually worked- none of my classmates wanted me to die, or even go to hospital from a reaction.  Not all allergy kids are as lucky as I was.  Food allergy bullying is NOT a joke.  Please watch and share the below video!

Food Allergy Bullying: It’s Not a Joke PSA (Full Version)

Video from FARE

Happy Mardi Gras!!

Happy Mardi Gras!!

Yesterday was Epiphany, meaning it is now the season for King Cakes.  Mardi Gras this year is on February 17, so you’ve got a little more than a month to celebrate.  Can’t go to New Orleans? Fear not.  Try this recipe for King Cake, which was adapted from Bunkycooks.

Celebrate Mardi Gras with this delicious (and nut free) king cake!
Celebrate Mardi Gras with this delicious (and nut free) king cake!

“Mardi Gras King Cake” makes two cakes

Of the top eight food allergens, this recipe is free of peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish.

Pastry

1 cup milk

1/4 cup butter

2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast

2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/ 45 degrees C)

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling

1 cup packaged brown sugar

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup melted butter

1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Frosting

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla

*** The tradition with King Cakes is to hide a plastic baby in the cake.  Whoever gets the baby is in charge of making the cake for the next year.  (Oh, and be careful when you eat the cake so as not to break a tooth…)

Hide a baby in your Mardi Gras King Cake, and whoever gets the baby has the honor (or chore) of making the cake next year.  Chew carefully when you eat the cake though...
Hide a baby in your Mardi Gras King Cake, and whoever gets the baby has the honor (or chore) of making the cake next year. Chew carefully when you eat the cake though…

For pastry: Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter.  Allow mixture to cool to room temperature.  In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tbsp of the white sugar.  Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.  When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture.  Whisk in the eggs.  Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt, and nutmeg.  Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time  When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

For filling:  Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.

To assemble:  Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10×16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.  Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Push the baby into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the confectioners’ sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water and tsp vanilla.  You may want to make the icing separately for each cake, as the icing hardens quickly.  You may also cover the icing with purple, yellow, and green sprinkles in the spirit of Mardi Gras.

Enjoy, and happy Mardi Gras!!

The Peanut Free Table

The Peanut Free Table

Kids with peanut allergies always talk about the peanut free table (or lack thereof).  Here is my experience with it.

My school (which I have been attending since kindergarten) had a peanut free table when I was in elementary school.  It was a lonely place far from where my friends sat.  I chose to sit with my friends, all of whom were aware and conscientious about my allergies, and who did not eat nuts in front of me.  This continued in middle school.  The peanut free table was not such a lonely place anymore, however.  One of the after school care kids had an allergy, and each day a few of his classmates were assigned to sit with him.  (“Assigned”… is that not an awkward situation?)  Then high school came, and my friends stopped eating in the cafeteria.  We eat in a classroom together now, and they still refrain from eating nuts next to me.

Peanut free tables are a great idea meant to keep kids safe.  Practically, they are fabulous.  You don’t have to worry about what the kid before you ate, or how well the tables were cleaned.  Emotionally, however, I disagree with the premise of the table.  You become an outcast.  The teacher may assign a few kids to bring safe food and sit with you, but that is awkward.  I would rather sit with friends who are careful with what they eat, and clean the area where I plan to sit first.

What’s In My Bag… Allergy Kid Edition

What’s In My Bag… Allergy Kid Edition

I started carrying a purse when I was younger than my friends.  My eight year old friends asked me what on earth I filled it with.  As a response, I pulled out my giant EpiPens and explained that as an allergy kid, I always have to have emergency epinephrine in case I have a reaction.  When I was a kid, the nice and compact Auvi-Qs had not been invented.  Instead, I had these giant needles stored in my bag that baffled all of my friends.  Then wristlets became popular.   But no, I could only ever wear bulky purses.  Then Auvi-Qs were released.  I was so excited because now, at last, I can carry around the cute wristlets (well, the slightly larger ones, at least).

This wristlet from Urban Outfitters fits my Auvi Qs perfectly!
This wristlet from Urban Outfitters fits my Auvi-Qs perfectly!

Over the years, I have found some wonderful EpiPen and Auvi-Q holders.  It is recommended that people carry two injectors at once, so holders make this much more convenient, especially for boys.  Click here for some great Auvi-Q holders, and click here for some great EpiPen holders.

Now I have a combination of EpiPens and Auvi Qs.  I keep some in my backpack, some in my choir bag, some at home, some in my purse, etc.  I always try to have backup epinephrine!  I have learned to not be embarrassed when someone asks about epinephrine injections.  It becomes a wonderful teachable moment, and I can spread the word about food allergies.

A Monday Morning Recipe

A Monday Morning Recipe

Monday mornings are no fun, but these muffins always make a nice breakfast!

banana date muffin

“Too Good To Be True Banana Muffins”  Makes 12 muffins

Of the top eight food allergens, this recipe is free of: peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy  (make sure to check the allergy warnings on the store bought ingredients that you use)

2 Bananas

2 cups white wholewheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

4 oz fage greek yogurt 0%

1/2 cup skim milk

8 fresh dates with stones in center removed

2 eggs

1 stick unsalted butter softened

1 cup dark chocolate chips

Place eggs, butter, yogurt, milk, bananas, and dates in the blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into a bowl with the flour and powder and mix just until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Grease a muffin tray and divide mixture into 12 muffin holders and bake at 340 degrees for 12-15 minutes just until lightly browned and knife comes out clean.

I like to make this recipe over the weekend and keep the muffins refrigerated, then microwave them for breakfast or for an afternoon snack.

**I got this recipe from chef Jill Dahan.

My Diagnosis Story

My Diagnosis Story

It took about five years to figure out that I was allergic to peanuts.  I had several reactions before my parents took me to an allergist (although none of them landed me in the emergency room).  The first was when I was a baby.  My family had gone to a restaurant that served peanuts to every table.  Peanut shells littered the floor.  Before long, I got sick.  My parents (understandably) assumed that I just had a stomach bug.  As a toddler, I refused to eat peanut butter.  I always pushed away peanut butter crackers and if ice cream had peanut butter on it, I would keep my mouth sealed shut.  I did not, however avoid chocolate covered almonds.  I ate them all the time (and now I know why they always gave me stomach aches).  I was roughly four when my parents took me to see the Nutcracker.  During intermission, I bought a candy that I thought was filled with chocolate.  The moment I bit into it, I realized that it was in fact filled with peanut butter.  I spit it out immediately, and did not swallow any of it, but it did not take long for me to feel extremely ill.  I was about the same age when I bought a bag of M&M’s from a girl on my street.  The first candy I pulled out of the bag was yellow.  As soon as I put it in my mouth, I realized it was a peanut M&M and spit it out.  Nevertheless, I was soon extremely lightheaded nauseous.

My parents became suspicious of these events.  They took me to an allergist when I was five.  They did a test that involved a huge tray of needles being scraped on my back and that traumatized me quite a bit (I was five and had a fear of needles).  Each needle had a sample of a common allergen.  The spot that corresponded to peanuts swelled, and I was sent to get a blood test.  The results came back that I was deathly allergic to peanuts.  I was also allergic to tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc.).

Ever since, I have avoided all nuts like the plague.  My peanut allergy is worse than my tree nut allergies, but I do not eat any nuts in order to avoid cross contact.  I also do not eat food cooked in peanut oil.  My epinephrine is always with me.  I have also gotten involved with FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education).