Sunday, April 25, 2010

Happy Birthday to The Boy!

So the boy will be one this week and this has truly been the most fantastic year of my life. I love being a mother and everything that comes with it. My husband and I are lucky to have such a wonderful boy. I have no other children of my own to compare him to, but he is what people call an easy baby. He is happy as can be and so much fun to play with and be around.

Over the course of the past year, My husband and I have changed over 2000 diapers, buckled him in and out of the car at least 1000 times, and given 365 baths, yet it feels like he was born yesterday. Everyone says that time flies and they grow up so fast, but unless you live it, you cannot quite believe it. There are times I would love to rewind to the first few days of his life to re-experience those moments, and times that I would love to fast forward to his twenties just to see what he will be like. I enjoy every second we spend together and words cannot describe how much we love him.

I am most thankful that he was born healthy, and I am grateful that no allergies have presented thus far. As I prepared for his first birthday party today, I couldn’t help but think about all the children with allergies who cannot eat cake at other people’s parties. Having been in that situation many times myself, I know that it never really bothered me too much, probably because I have never been allowed desserts unless my mother made it. I think it’s probably harder for the parent than it is for the child. Now that I am a parent, I can’t imagine being in the position of having to explain to the boy that he can’t have something everyone else is having. It would break my heart. I know there are thousands of mother’s out there who do have to go through this for so many allergies (i.e nuts, eggs, milk, gluten etc…) and I wonder how you do this. Please comment and share your experiences.

For the boy’s party today, I ordered a peanut/nut free cake from TBCY and it tasted delicious and looked adorable in the boy’s hair after he got his hands on it. As requested by my youngest niece, I had also made her favourite chocolate cake, but it didn’t make it to the party because the cake broke on it’s way out of the pan (I ran out of parchment paper!). For his actual birthday (Wednesday), I plan to make my favourite Vanilla flavoured cake, with Vanilla buttercream frosting.

So here are the 2 recipes, and of course both are completely nut free, and the Chocolate one is also dairy free. I have also included my favourite buttercream recipe which works with both cakes but is obviously not dairy free. Just remember to always read the ingredients of the products you are using. Note- Fry’s cocoa for the chocolate cake can be purchased at regular grocery stores and at Costco. The one from Costco has a may contain label and the other does not. I called the company and the one for Costco is made in a different facility which is why it has the may contain label.

Chocolaty Chocolate Cake (Peanut/Nut Free AND Dairy Free)

• 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
• 2 cups sugar
• 3/4 cup baking cocoa
• 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp salt
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 cup Vegetable oil
• 2 tsp vanilla
• 3/4 cup boiling water
• 1 c. Hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Line two 9 inch pans with parchment paper, grease and flour the pans. (For those who are new to the kitchen, cut parchment paper into circle the size of the pan and then grease the paper and the sides of the pan, this makes it MUCH easier to remove the cake from the pan and prevents the cake from breaking).

Combine the dry ingredients in large bowl, then add the remaining ingredients except for the boiling water. Beat well with an electric mixer or hand mixer for 2 minutes at medium speed. Add the boiling water. The batter will be thin, ignore this. Pour evenly into the two pans.

Bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool the cakes in the pan completely and then remove the cakes from the pan before frosting(Discard the parchment paper).

Again for those new to the kitchen (you know who you are!)- To frost- put one layer on the actual cake stand you plan to use, frost the top, then put the second layer on top and frost the top and sides using an offset spatula.

Best Ever Vanilla Birthday Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Line two 9 inch pans with parchment paper, grease and flour the pans.

• 3 ¼ cups cake flour (Make sure you use cake flour-it really makes a difference)
• 1tbs. baking powder
• ½ tsp salt
• 1 3/4 cups milk
• 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
• 4 eggs
• 1 cup unsalted butter (cut into chunks at room temperature)
• 2 cups sugar

Sift flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside in a bowl.

Mix the milk and vanilla in a glass and set aside

With an electric mixer, or a hand mixer, beat the butter for approx 2 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix for another 3-4 minutes. Then add the eggs one at a time, ensuring each one is incorporated before adding another.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/3 of the milk mixture. Add another 1/3 flour, and another 1/3 milk, do this until both are finished.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool the cakes in the pan completely and then remove the cakes from the pan before frosting. (Discard the parchment paper)

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

• ½ cup buter (1 stick) at room temperature
• 5 cups Icing Sugar
• 2 tsp Pure Vanilla extract
• 2 tbsp milk

With an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth and fluffy (approx 2 minutes). Add the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. Continue mixing for approx 1 minute on low speed. If it is not the desired consistency add more sugar (to make it thicker), or more milk (to make it thinner).

This can be made ahead and refrigerated. Take it out at least an hour before use.



Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The List

Being allergic to peanuts completely restricts the number of restaurants I can eat at. Every time I eat at a new restaurant it’s like doing a research project. I google the menu, if it appears to have nothing with peanuts, I then call and speak with the manager, explain my situation, and ask him or her to check with the chef on the type of oil and flour they use, ask whether they have any peanut butter or peanut products in their kitchen and inquire whether the bread and desserts are made on site. Even if it is a restaurant I have been to 50 times, I ask the exact same questions every time just to be sure they haven’t changed their recipes, oil, or menu items. FYI, the dessert menu is usually the deal breaker.

When I am lucky enough to find a restaurant that is 100% safe, and the food is good, it goes on my list. Before the boy was born my list was much longer than it is today.
My husband and I love good food. When we lived downtown (the good old days!), we used to go out every weekend. We had our list of safe restaurants, and enjoyed Saturday nights to their fullest. Despite my allergy, my list had some great places to eat. I am fortunate enough to live in a big city full of fantastic restaurants. Since having the boy … our lives have changed! We rarely go out anymore. Many of those restaurants on my list have not seen us in over a year now. I wonder if they remember us?

I love to cook so during the week I have always been one to make a homemade dinner daily. Now that we live in the burbs (hardly, but it’s not downtown) we stay in Saturdays instead of hitting the town, and I usually whip up a nice dinner, we uncork our favorite bottle of red wine and watch PVR’d shows from the week. We are not complete losers, we do go out, but for the times we do go out we are always looking for new ideas . So if anyone knows of any 100% peanut free restaurants, please share!



Friday, April 16, 2010

Moving Forward

About 8 years ago headlines were made when Nestle Canada announced that Kit Kat, Aero, Coffee Crisp and Smarties would all be manufactured in a peanut free facility. For several years before that, these chocolate bars all had the “may contain traces of peanuts” disclaimer. Children and adults with a peanut allergy all over Canada where thrilled that these treats would now be safe as there were really no other chocolate bars on the market without the disclaimer. It was only a few months later after they were already manufacturing in a “peanut free” facility that Nestle reneged on this decision and announced the chocolate bars would soon be manufactured back in a facility where peanuts are used and thus the products would again be unsafe for allergic people. People in the allergy world, including myself started writing emails and letters expressing their wish for them to continue using the peanut free facility. Despite the fact that I am not a huge chocolate lover, I still wrote an email on behalf of the thousands of children out there. I remember the email clearly. I highlighted the fact that many of these children may have difficulty understanding the mixed messages Nestle has given around these products, and I stressed that these children may still pick up a familiar chocolate bar months later despite the fact there is a warning because their parents have already told them it’s safe. While I am well aware that it was not just my email that got their attention, it was shortly after that there was a press release stating these products would remain in the peanut free facility. This made us allergic people very happy, but I think it made the mom’s of allergic kids happier.

I really think that Nestle paved the way for other major companies to make changes and now there are many peanut free choices out there. I don’t pack school lunches yet, but from the feedback I hear from my sister who is obviously very allergy aware, she tells me that she prefers to buy the products with the big symbol on the box indicating it’s peanut free for her kids lunch boxes so she knows it’s 100% safe and that she is following the school policy. Despite having the restrictions of only sending peanut free snacks, my nieces can go at least 2 weeks with a different snack everyday. Peanut free Granola bars, breakfast bars, rice cakes, crackers, cookies and ice cream all live in my house right now. As a mom, it’s great to know that there are so many choices available for the boy when he goes to school. It’s changes like these that make me optimistic that more companies will follow and move forward towards becomming peanut free, because us allergic people really do take a risk every time we put food into our mouth.



Monday, April 5, 2010

Introducing............ Food!

Nothing describes the excitement of feeding your baby for the first time. I will never forget the boys first spoonful of rice cereal in front of my entire family, captured on video while at the same time the flash going off in his face from the camera…. A very relaxing first meal!

I am a firm believer of following the doctor’s guidelines on when and how to introduce new food. I, along with every mother I’ve met with 1 child or 5, have their own opinion on food introduction. Some parents will go against the doctor’s recommendations and start solids at 4 months because they say their kids were “starving”. Many parents will give their kids nuts, strawberries, fish, milk and eggs all before one, and these kids will have no allergies. Other parents follow their doctor’s recommendations and the kids will still have allergies. I have found this topic to be a huge bone of contention among many mothers, especially first time parents. Mother’s are comparing notes, and it can even cause tension among some friendships when there are strong differences of opinion on how and when to introduce certain foods. In the past few months I have learned that every parent must do what works for them, and what they feel comfortable with for their little eaters.

Introducing food has been a great experience for the boy and I. He is lucky I like to cook, so everything is homemade. I try to add as much variety into his diet as possible, and I have been creative in the process. The best part of introducing food has been watching the progress he’s made from gobbling down purees to real food. I know I am lucky that he has been an easy subject in this task, as I have heard countless stories of babies who don’t like to eat. Likely because I am so fearful that the boy may develop an allergy, every time I introduce a new food I worry and watch him intently to ensure he does not show any signs of a reaction. Every scratch or red spot, my husband and I examine to ensure it’s nothing more. So far, so good. In a few weeks he will be starting cow’s milk which will certainly be nerve racking.

Obviously if he does develop an allergy to something we will deal with it, but how? Will I be better at managing it because I have an allergy and can relate, or will I cocoon him in a bubble? Knowing me, I will use the cocooning approach until he’s old enough to fend for himself! Seriously though, I hope none of you ever have to deal with an allergic child, but free to add your comments on how you would deal with it if you had to.