Dairy Free Toddler Lunch Ideas

Happy Monday!

My saint of a mother came over today so I could do my Thanksgiving grocery shopping sans kiddos. I expected crazy lines and packed aisles, but was pleasantly surprised by only slightly more people than the normal crowd on a Monday morning. Karl and I are hosting Thanksgiving this year and we decided to take on the full meal instead of doing the usual potluck style. I’m both excited and nervous! My plan of attack is to utilize the bread machine and crockpot, allowing for more space in the oven and stove top. Does anyone have any tips for maximizing kitchen space when cooking a big meal? Let’s hope the kids cooperate that day and give both Karl and I the most cooking time possible instead of having to take turns holding Raymond or appeasing Ricky’s many requests.

I have seen a lot of requests for lunch ideas lately on a few of the allergy Facebook groups I am a part of, so I figured I’d document our lunches last week. Dairy free lunches tend to be a little tricky to come up with since diary is a very common base for most kiddos! These are all free of dairy, egg, and nuts! They are by no means ground-breaking or particularly aesthetically pleasing, but they get the job done and are toddler-approved. Sometimes you just need to see someone else’s meal rotation in order to put some variety into your own!

 

Monday- Sunbutter & jelly sandwich, granny smith apple chunks
Tuesday- Silk soy yogurt, dried cherries from Gerbs, Rold Gold pretzel sticks
Wednesday- “Butter” noodles using Earth Balance and avocado chunks
Thursday- Applegate hot dog, clementine slices and an Enjoy Life cookie
Friday- Sunbutter and Ritz crackers, red pepper pieces, pretzels

Again, I know these aren’t crazy exciting, but they are solid options for quick weekday lunches!

Have a great week everyone and happy Thanksgiving!

Baked Milk Challenge: Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

Ever since we got the go-ahead from our allergist to do a dairy challenge, also known as a baked milk challenge, I’ve been seeking out recipes that fit the specifications given. It was suggested that we start with recipes using a semi-low amount of dairy (1/4-1/2 cup) that can be baked at 350 degrees for at least 30 minutes. These recipes are a lot harder to find than you’d imagine! So far the best options I have found are sweet breads. Since I’ve had such a hard time finding recipes, I figured others probably struggle as well, so here is the first of many to come. This is a delicious fall recipe altered slightly from this original, including chocolate chips to entice your little one!

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of ginger
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed of excess moisture
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 flax egg (1 Tbs ground flax, 3 Tbs water)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a bread loaf pan
  • If using, make flax egg by whisking together 1 Tbs of ground flax with 3 Tbs water)
  • In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger)
  • In a separate large bowl mix pumpkin, zucchini, honey, oil, flax egg, and vanilla until well combined. Whisk in milk.
  • Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Bake for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove and cool on wire rack (in pan) for ~10 minutes.
  • Remove bread from pan and place on wire rack to finish cooling,

We have successfully passed this challenge and will continue with this amount for several weeks. The next step is increasing the amount of dairy in the recipe. After that is accomplished, our allergist suggested trying either a lesser amount of cook time or a lower temperature. Beyond sweet breads I plan to try casseroles next!

If you have any good recipes that include dairy and are baked for at least 30 minutes at 350 degrees or higher, please share!

Raymond turned three weeks yesterday and we took our first trip out of the house with just me and the boys. It only took two hours to get out of the house, so I’m calling it a success! Raymond did great (read:slept through 90% of the trip) and Ricky was super well-behaved; he must have sensed that I was not up for any two year old sass, thank goodness! I had been waiting for my Solly Baby wrap to come in the mail before attempting any big adventures (ahem…Target) and I am so glad I waited! This wrap is awesome and I am officially a fan of baby wearing!

Solly Wrap Target trip

I love having my hands this full! My two boys snuggling on my lap ❤

Full hands, full hearts!

Caution: Contains Soy (but no dairy, egg, or nuts)

If you read last post, you know that Ricky is officially not allergic to soy! YAY! Super exciting, happy dance! Soy was by far the sneakiest of all Ricky’s food allergies- most people have no concept of just how many foods (especially processed foods) contain soy.

We made a grocery trip post-food trial/super exciting news and man, did it blow our minds. Karl and I were both shocked at how much this opened up for Ricky-safe food possibilities. These new options also tend to be far less expensive than the soy-free versions we were purchasing previously. This switch is going to drastically lower our grocery bill, wahoo! So, for those of you who can eat soy but not dairy, egg or nuts, I put together a list of some excellent food options! You’ve probably already been on to these for a while, but just in case, here goes!

Oreos!

OREOS! I could stop the list there, but I won’t.

Foods that Contain Soy, but are Dairy, Egg and Nut Free

Contains Soy (dairy free, egg free, nut free)

– Honey Maid Grahams: We love graham crackers in our house, but it was a problem when my husband would knock back half a box of Back to Nature grahams in one sitting. Those things aren’t cheap! So, I think Karl may be even more excited than Ricky about being able to have “regular” graham crackers in the house again so he can eat as many as he wants!
– Pillsbury Crescent Rolls: These are a staple at a lot of family gatherings, so being able to offer Ricky something from the table that everyone else is enjoying is a big deal!  
– Flour Tortillas: While Ricky may not start eating these right away, I think this will be extremely helpful in the future! Tacos is one of my favorite meals and it certainly will be helpful to be able to serve Ricky’s taco the same way as everyone else’s rather than deconstructed like he gets now. These will also be great for lunch meat roll-ups when he gets a little older!
– Oreos: Because this deserves two mentions. Yum.
– Soy yogurt: Duh, right? Worth a mention though because these are far more easily accessible than coconut yogurt plus have more flavor options!
– Margarine: Country Crock is my brand of choice, for no reason other than familiarity. Regular old margarine is a whole lot cheaper than Soy-Free, Dairy- Free Earth Balance Spread. I still won’t knock the Earth Balance because they are a wonderful brand, but it will be nice to switch it up for a less expensive option.
Ritz and Wheat Thin Crackers: Again, while I was very appreciative to have completely allergy-safe Back to Nature brand it will be nice to spend about 50% less on alternative crackers
Frozen french fries and tater tots: WHAT?! This is amazing. I’m sorry, but sometimes cooking a full blown, fresh from the garden meal just doesn’t happen around here. I try to make sure my family eats well, but occasionally I just want to throw some hot dogs on the grill and french fries in the oven and now that is finally a realistic option! Again, I’m not promoting eating like this all the time, but especially since a new baby is going to be joining us soon, it’ll be nice to have an easy option every once in a while.
Frozen waffles: Ricky has never had waffles. Even my vegan pancakes have been a bit of a flop (see what I did there?). Breakfast has always been one of the hardest meals of the day because of his allergies- there just aren’t a lot of good egg, dairy and soy free breakfast foods out there! I am so excited to add waffles into our regular rotation, especially since they are nice and easy.

These are just some of the options I’ve found- I’m sure there are many more out there, not to mention lots of new recipes to try. Teriyaki chicken is one of my old go-to meals that hasn’t been made since Ricky’s allergies were diagnosed, but will be coming to a blog near you very soon!

Ricky’s 2 Year Food Allergy Testing Results

We had a VERY exciting week last week. About three weeks ago we had an introduction appointment with a new allergist, who decided it made the most sense to move forward with updated blood testing immediately rather than wait another couple of months until Ricky turned two. He said a couple of months would not make a noticeable difference and if we wanted to get everything taken care of before Baby #2’s arrival, there was no reason to delay. We agreed and brought Ricky in to the lab for a blood draw the next day. Two long weeks later and we finally had the results.

Ricky’s overall IgE numbers went down for all of his food allergens (yay!) and some of his allergens went down enough to consider food trials. Karl and I were both shocked and thrilled, to say the least. We were hoping for decreased numbers, but never thought we’d be far enough along to consider testing to see if we could introduce new, previously-allergenic foods into Ricky’s diet. Especially because our previous allergist stated they would not even consider food trials of any sort until Ricky was much older and could communicate more effectively.

Peanuts and tree nuts are still severe and we won’t be able to even consider testing for another 4 years or so. Egg was right in the gray area, so we are not going to do any testing at this point because of Ricky’s age. Ricky’s dairy numbers decreased quite a bit and are now at the stage where we can attempt to introduce baked dairy (baked into something at 350 degrees for at least 30 minutes). Our allergist advised us that he has read several studies that show the regular ingestion of baked dairy can help an individual outgrow their dairy allergy at a faster rate! Now I know that most food allergy studies are not fully tested and can’t be considered 100% effective, but they are also worth a shot as long as we’re not putting our son in danger!

The most exciting result from Ricky’s most recent blood draw was his soy results. Our new allergist suspected that Ricky’s original severe soy results (from his 1-year testing) were directly tied to his peanut allergy. Soy beans are a legume, just like peanuts, so according to our allergist soy numbers are often skewed higher for those who have severe peanut allergies. Ricky’s IgE numbers had dropped low enough for testing. Our allergist suggest an at-home food trial, which scared both Karl and I but we had faith and proceeded as suggested, with Epis in hand. SUCCESS! Ricky ate an entire container of soy yogurt over the course of an evening with no reactions, not even a hive or two! So, we can officially check soy off our list of allergens.

We went to the grocery store the next day and let me just tell you, soy opens up a whole new world of possibilities- we can finally shop for the little man in the center of the grocery store! Post to come on foods that contain soy but are free of dairy, egg, and all nuts. My mind was boggled at the amount of new foods the little man can eat! Just a little teaser- frozen french fries and bagels both make the “safe” list- what?!

Moral of the story- have hope. Also, don’t be afraid to switch allergists if you aren’t happy with your current doctor. We didn’t have any specific issues, but did not feel entirely comfortable with the responses we were getting from our previous allergist as well as his lack of a plan for the future. He was of the mindset that whatever the allergy test read determines exactly how you should proceed and there are no solutions for food allergies. Having read about OIT and other stories of kids growing out of allergies, I knew there had to be more and I wanted a plan for my son. I guarantee we would not have done any testing for soy for at least another two years at our previous allergist’s office. Even if Ricky had failed the food trial, at least we would be certain of the allergy and not have any questions moving forward. Yes, we are still allergic to dairy, egg, peanuts and tree nuts, but right now we are focused on the elimination of soy and all of our new and wonderful food possibilities!

Ricky’s First Ice Cream Outing

This weekend we went out for ice cream. This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal for most families, in fact it is probably a weekly occurrence. For us, though, it was the first time Ricky has ever been able to go to an eating establishment and actually get something…and it was amazing.

On a recent trip to a local ice cream shop I noticed that they had a product listed as dairy-free. Let me start by saying that this is the same ice cream place that I grew up visiting and ranks FAR above any other similar shops. If you are from the metro-Detroit area you have most likely heard of Erma’s and if you haven’t ever visited, get in your car now. They specialize in frozen custard and it is amazing. They also change their flavors every couple of week so many people have special favorites that they wait to come up on the menu. My favorite is Wild Erma and it may or may not be marked in our calendar- it is scheduled for the weeks immediately following Baby #2’s due date and I had to make sure Karl was well aware that obtaining this custard was his primary duty while I’m out of commission (ok, maybe not primary, but important nonetheless).

I digress… so, I noticed that they had a product called Erma’s Ice, which is labeled as dairy free. It is very similar to sorbet in consistency and can be swirled in a cup just like normal soft serve! I gave the Utica store a call and they were very accommodating and read me all of the ingredients- there was nothing Ricky couldn’t have! Next step was talking to our allergist and he said as long as the ingredients were safe, the main things to watch out for are:
1) Is the Erma’s Ice always in the same canister or is it alternated with custard (providing high likelihood of cross contamination)? Answer: Erma’s Ice is always made in the same canister!
2) Are there ever nut flavored ices or other products made in that canister? Answer: Nope! There have never been any nut flavored Ice products.
3) Is there an individual spout for the Erma’s Ice or does it share a dispenser with custard (again, ensuring cross contamination)? Answer: Erma’s Ice can be twisted with custard, but it also has an individual dispenser spout.

Erma’s Ice seemed to meet all possible criteria for an allergy friendly food! Karl and I packed up the little man and went to the local Erma’s right when they opened on Sunday. We wanted to avoid any crowds and that place is hopping pretty much every evening. It was a wise decision and I was able to talk directly to the same excellent employee that had talked to me on the phone previously about ingredients. She was so thoughtful and even though I didn’t ask (which I should have- dropped the ball here), she went and put on gloves to handle Ricky’s Ice. Her thoughtfulness combined with getting to experience something all parents look forward to doing with their kids brought me to tears. I was definitely looking forward to the outing, but I had no idea how emotional it would be! So, this is my long, drawn out shout of praise for Erma’s Custard and encouragement for those that have food allergies to consider this an option for a fun family outing.

photo 2 (22)photo 5 (6)photo 1 (20)  photo 3 (14)

photo 2 (21)What a happy boy! I just love bringing a smile to his face, especially when it involves a little red mustache 🙂

Family Vacation = Success!

I am thrilled to report that family vacation was a success! Never underestimate what some good planning combined with amazing family member support can accomplish.

Last Thursday, the day we were set to leave, started a little rough. I woke up to no power. Power outages are never fun, but they are even less fun when you have several loads of laundry to do and a whole lot of packing before your hubby gets home from work. Not to mention a trip to the grocery store for Ricky’s vacation food that was not happening due to my car being trapped in the garage (this 35 week pregnant lady was not about to manually lift the garage door). Now add the fact that I was panicking over the potential thawing of my fresh stash of freezer meals. No good, no good at all. Come 5 pm there was still no power, but we were bound and determined to get on the road that night!

Karl got home and drove our chest freezer over to my sisters and we loaded it up with everything we needed/wanted to save. I packed as much as I could and included the necessary unwashed items to wash when we arrived- thank goodness the place we were staying had a washing machine! We stopped at the grocery store on our way and ended up only being around an hour behind schedule! Gotta love some efficient team work.

After a few trips with Ricky I have determined that weather and the amount that the little man sleeps can really make or break a vacation. The weather was perfect and Ricky went down without a fight for every nap and bedtime. Did I mention that this trip was a success? Since the weather was so nice we were able to stay outside at the beach with him almost the entire time, which made avoiding food contact a lot easier. During meal times we simply sat at the edge of the group and used our own booster seat, which we returned to our room after every meal. Our immediate family was so helpful- sometimes I don’t give them as much credit as they deserve. My in-laws took turns with Karl and I feeding Ricky and playing with him outside during meal times so that Karl and I were able to socialize and enjoy our meals as well. We truly are lucky to have such supportive and caring family! We have traveled with Ricky in the past, but this time he was older and therefore far more active! Here are a few things I learned about vacations with a food allergic toddler.

Tips for vacationing with a food allergic child:

1. Rent a cabin or condo type space rather than stay in a hotel room. This gives you the option to pack and prepare all of your own food if necessary. If you do bring your own food- be sure to label it clearly if you’re sharing a kitchen with others! We kept ours in large ziploc bags labeled “Ricky’s Food” and as separate in the fridge as possible (we commandeered a drawer at the bottom of the fridge).
2. Don’t try new foods, but do try new things! One of the things I was most excited to do with Ricky was roast marshmallows. Marshmallows are one of his favorite treats, so I couldn’t wait to share this traditional summer activity with him. I purchased a roasting stick ahead of time that only he used (to avoid cross contamination from others making smores). Of course he didn’t actually like the roasted marshmallow (silly kid, he’ll learn…), but he did like sitting by the fire, watching the kids and eating a plain marshmallow.
DSC_1152

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Only un-roasted marshmallows for me please!

3. Make sure everyone you are travelling with is aware of your child’s food allergies. We vacationed with family- immediate as well as extended family members. Because they all know Ricky well, most of them know to either abide by our food rules (which mainly means washing up extensively after eating/before playing with Ricky) or keep their distance. Since the group did include some that aren’t around Ricky a ton though, I had to be sure to remind people rather than expect that everyone remember 100% of the time- I know how tough that is! Reminding people can make you feel like a nag, but as long as it is done gently I like to believe that people, especially family, understand that it is necessary to keep our tot safe.
4. Sometimes a little isolation is necessary. Isolation from others is never fun, but sometimes it is better than the alternative. Since we were staying in a retreat center, everyone shared one eating and cooking area. There were a lot of kids on this vacation and unfortunately, that means peanut butter. Because this was not a situation where we could require or really even request that peanuts/treenuts not be present, that meant we had to be extra cognisant of what/who Ricky came in contact with. We spent a lot of our time out on the beach, sometimes playing with others and sometimes just by ourselves. Karl and I made the most of Ricky’s nap times to hang out with family, but while he was awake our main priority was keeping him safe, and sometimes that meant isolated.
5. Don’t limit yourself more than necessary. Karl and I were VERY hesitant to go on vacation because we were so afraid of possible allergic reactions. We could have taken the easier route and stayed home, but I am so glad that we decided to calm our nerves and go! Traveling or being away from home in general is tough with food allergic kids, but it is also important that they lead full lives and get to experience as much normalcy as possible. For us, normal means being around lots of family, so we are bound and determined to figure out the best solutions to make family gatherings enjoyable experiences!

A few of my favorite photos from the trip:

Playing with papa and dad

Walking on the beach

First boat ride with Grandma

35 weeks pregnant

35 weeks!