Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Year's Thank You!

I hope everyone has enjoyed these last days of December and the many holiday events that fill the calendar this time of year.  I also hope that everyone has stayed safe and healthy.  Is it too much to also hope that everyone spent the holidays stress free and not in the least bit worried about the safety of their peanut allergic child?

I must admit that due to our participation in the peanut clinical trial at Duke, my worries have been a lot less than in previous years.  Knowing that Abigail is on the actual peanut protein drops and that she flew through the food challenge like a champ alleviates a great deal of the worry.  I was still diligent in checking ingredients, I still packed a few safe party food alternatives for those family gatherings, I still volunteered for her class Christmas party and even made sure I was the one signed up to bring the sugar cookies to decorate and I still had to comfort the disappointment when a few really scrumptious looking desserts had to be passed up on because of ingredients that might be subject to cross-contamination.  But, the worry of who was eating what where wasn't always in the back of my mind, and there were no hurt feelings when a hostess hadn't taken her allergy into consideration.

So, here on the last day of the year 2010, I wanted to take a minute and thank everyone at the Duke Clinical Research Unit that have made it possible for us to be on this journey.  Our family is so very grateful for this opportunity.  I also wanted to thank our family and friends that have supported us with many prayers, hours of childcare for our 3 year old and their overall interest in Abigail's progress.  Lastly, I wanted to thank you, my wonderful readers, that have been so generous in your comments, well wishes, blessings and e-mails.  I can't possibly explain how much this blog and your interest means to me.

Many Blessings for a Safe and Happy 2011,
a.k.a. Mom with a Mission

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lots of Good Food!

I don't know about you, but I use the holidays to splurge and try new recipes that I wouldn't necessarily make throughout the rest of the year.  I've spent lots of time in the kitchen these last few weeks and have a few new favorite recipes that I wanted to share.

Hands down, my favorite new recipe was the Easy Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Dip that I made on a whim for Christmas Eve afternoon.  It's a Kraft Foods recipe, but I found some great, healthy substitutes for the brands they list in the recipe.  I could not stop eating it.  I had to make my husband put it away in order to stop.  I will definitely be making this again sometime soon.

Also, for the first time, I made cinnamon buns, the kind you roll out the homemade dough, spread with butter, cinnamon and brown sugar, then roll the dough to form a tube shape and slice.  We ate those topped with a powdered sugar drizzle on Christmas morning, the morning after Christmas, and the morning after that.  I think this was Abigail's favorite of the season.

I shared a favorite at a large family Christmas gathering.  I love this recipe because I can easily get my kids to eat not only sweet potatoes but butternut squash as well.  It's also extremely easy to make.  It's a Butternut-Sweet Potato Streusel (almost anything tastes good with a Streusel topping) that requires just the dish to bake it in and a small bowl to make the topping in.  Here's an online version of the recipe.  The topping was a little too sweet for us the first time I made it so I cut it in half and it's perfect.  And, of course, I didn't add the nuts.

Also, appropriately named, White Christmas Chili (we did have a white Christmas this year...the first in many, many years) was really tasty.  I tore this recipe out of a Southern Living Magazine years ago, 2002  according to the date in the margin, but never got around to trying it until this year.  I was able to find the recipe online so you can have a copy too.  I used 1 less can of chopped green chiles than the recipe called for thinking it would be too spicy for the kids, but next time I'll definitely use the 3rd can.  It needed just a little more heat...besides, the kids didn't eat it anyway.  They opted for chicken nuggets. Go figure.

Those were my favorite of the season.  I had several opportunities to open the jalapeno pepper jelly I made last month, and wasn't disappointed in my efforts.  I served it with cream cheese and crackers.  I'm also looking forward to next weekend when I can try a Mac and Cheese with Goat Cheese and Champagne recipe that I came across.  Just got to remember to save 1/2 cup of champagne from New Year's Eve to use.  I think it's going to be fabulous.  Afterall, it's got champagne, goat cheese, parmesan cheese, gruyer cheese and heavy cream in it.

I love the food this time of year.  Hope you too have had fun cooking and trying some new dishes.  Send me a link with your favorite recipe.  Now...time to hit the gym!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Greetings

From our house to yours...

Wishing you Peace & Joy this Holiday Season and 
many Blessings in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Teenage Girl Dies of Anaphylaxis

Friday of last week a 7th grader with a peanut allergy died of anaphylaxis after eating Chinese food served at her class holiday party.  I wanted to provide the link to the article in the Chicago Tribune in case you wanted to read the full story.  It's really quite tragic, and I know the parents must be suffering.  Apparently, the restaurant had been contacted to determine if the food was safe.   Evidently, it wasn't, and if I've read the article correctly, the school was unable to inject the child with an EpiPen because there wasn't a health profile on file for her.

As usual, the Comments at the end of the article are infuriating and there appears to already be a lot of blame passing.  It's unfortunate that the food was unsafe, but downright horrible that the school could only call 911.  Parents, if you haven't taken the opportunity to go to the school and fill out all of the health forms for your food allergic child, please let this be a good reason.

I've been unsuccessful in linking the Peanut Allergy Action Plan that I give to all of Abigail's caregivers, but if you want to e-mail me at, I'll e-mail you a blank copy to complete.  Also, don't forget to arm the school with antihistamine tablets and EpiPens!

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Rules for Diagnosing Food Allergies

Last week, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases issued the first clinical guidelines for diagnosing and treating food allergies stating that blood or skin tests alon aren't sufficient when making a diagnosis.  The recommendation is that a combination approach should be taken including a detailed medical history review, and in some cases, an oral food challenge.

According to the WSJ articule, "the guidelines, published this week in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, are aimed at resolving wide discrepancies in diagnosing and treating food allergies among allergists, dermatologists, gastroenterologists, pulmonologists and emergency physicians, as well as pediatricians and internists. More than 30 professional organizations, federal agencies and patient groups were involved in the report, which was in the works for two years."

There has been a great deal of press lately on the topic of whether the many children diagnosed with food allergies over the last couple of years actually have a severe enough allergy to warrant completely removing all possibilities of contact.  In many cases patients or parents of patients have been told to eliminate multiple foods only to later do a food challenge and find the patient can tolerate all but one or two of those foods. These recommendations were based on the results of either or both the RAST blood test or the skin prick test.  According to experts, "having IgE antibodies to specific foods doesn't necessarily mean a person will have an allergic reaction when eating the foods. Skin-prick tests are more predictive, but they, too, measure IgE "sensitization," which may not result in an actual reaction. The report estimates that 50% to 90% of presumed allergies are not, in fact, allergies."  In fact, according to the WSJ, a study published online in the Journal of Pediatrics this fall reviewed 125 children evaluated for food allergies and eczema at National Jewish in 2007 and 2008.  They found that over 90% of the foods the children were avoiding were returned to their diets after food challenges.

Here is a great illustration of the new clinical guidelines for diagnosing food allergies as opposed to what has been happening.

Other significant guidelines from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases include:
  • Introducing solid foods to infants should not be delayed beyond 4 to 6 months old.
  • People with an egg allergy need not avoid the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine. But they should avoid vaccines for influenza, yellow fever or rabies.
  • Even those at high risk for food allergies, such as family members of those with allergies, may not need routine testing. One exception: siblings of children with severe peanut allergies. 
I'm hoping these guidelines have a very positive impact of the understanding of food allergies.  I simply couldn't imagine living the lifestyle that our family has lived now for seven years only to find out that our child didn't really have a severe enough food allergy to warrant all of the precautions that we've put into place.  What a cruel twist of fate that would be.  Also, maybe if there is less confusion within the allergy community, i.e., different recommendations from different doctors, different requirements for different allergy patients, etc.,  it will make it easier for the general population to better understand the implications of a true, life-threatening allergy, and have a better appreciation.. maybe even a little more tolerance for those with allergies.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Interview with Dr. Wesley Burks

In all of our trips to the Duke Clinical Research Unit, we've never actually met or even seen Dr. Wesley Burks (Chief of the Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC). This picture is as close as we've come. I've joked before that I feel like if we do, we should ask for his autograph given the amount of publicity he and his department get regarding their research of food allergies.  All joking aside, we are very grateful to Dr Burks and his staff at Duke for allowing Abigail the opportunity to participate in the peanut sublingual immunotherapy trial, and for giving her the chance to become peanut allergy free!

A fellow mom/blogger of food allergic children recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Burks.  She has an informative website, and a blog at  Here is the link to her interview with Dr. Burks.  It gives a great overview of the immunotherapy clinical trials, some results they've seen, next steps, etc.  There's more information on the oral immunotherapy trials (peanut flour) than the sublingual (drops that Abigail takes) because that was the original trial, and they have 5 plus years of data.  Our doctor for the sublinugal trial has submitted a paper and hopes that it will be published soon.  We're looking forward to reading about the current successes of the sublingual study.  It's neat to know that Abigail's data is a part of those results.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Not your normal birthday cake!

Today is my husband's birthday.  With it being so close to Christmas, his birthday is often spent doing holiday related activities and today was no exception.  It's a very busy weekend with both kids participating in a holiday music concert last night, our community Christmas parade today and tomorrow both kids are singing in two different church services, we have an Advent festival to attend and a Christmas tree to purchase.  Somewhere in all of that, we have to find time to have a family birthday party.

I spent this morning making a special request cake.  It wasn't your normal birthday cake.  He asked for a chocolate marble cheesecake.  I've never made a cheesecake before, but because I often feel like I short-change him on his birthday, I figured it was the least I could do.  I also don't think he realized what an undertaking it would be.  I chose a recipe (here's a link) that called for Irish Cream Liquor, a special dark chocolate wafer crust, a chocolate sauce topping...and of course, was peanut safe.  Three grocery stores later and an early morning trip to the ABC store this morning, I had all of the ingredients.  I enlisted Abigail's help to crush the cookie wafers and to do lots of stirring.  We were up against the clock because the parade started at 1:00 and the cheesecake had to bake an hour and an half.  But, we did it.

Here it is.  It's so pretty that I had to take a picture.  Frankly, I'm quite impressed with myself.  Of course I'm saying this without having tried it first.  We're going to try to work in eating a piece tomorrow between getting a Christmas tree and being at the church for an afternoon event.  We couldn't eat it tonight because it has to be refrigerated at least 6 hours after baking.  I've got candles, party plates and napkins ready though.  Can't wait to cut into it.  I just hope it tastes as good as it did in the bowl this morning.

Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband!  This cheesecake is definitely a gift from the heart!