The size of the hive…

Yesterday I took my son John to Children’s Memorial Hospital for his food allergy testing. I’ve written about this clinical study in past posts. Every year our family of six participates in this groundbreaking study about food allergies and its connections among family members. It is a wonderful feeling to know that one day a year we are making a true difference as a family in furthering the education and awareness about food allergies. When I discussed with John as we were in the waiting room he had a huge smile. The thought of maybe someday finding a cure for this life threatening disease is something worth smiling about.

During the course of the testing all my kids went through the routine skin and blood testing. However, when John had his skin test, the peanut and milk “hives” on his skin were off the charts. Those two red hives were so big and so itchy that the nurse had to cleanse the area several times and apply ice packs. Just that one little prick of allergy onto John’s skin made his skin react severely. I couldn’t help but wonder…what if that amount was mulitplied and ingested? As a mother my heart sank, my stomach dropped and my hope that maybe his food allergies were decreasing were crushed.

The size of that hive was a painful reminder that until we find a cure John’s life is always at risk. One slip up, one time there is a cross contamination issue or one time I forget to bring his medicine kit with us could cost him his life. It is a sobering thought. And it is something that keeps me up at night.

Emerald Isle Coffee Cake

My mother, Jenness, loved her her sweets. She especially loved cinnamon. Coffee cakes, cinnamon rolls, cinnamon toast, cinnamon jumbles and cinnamon donuts were all treats she loved to bake. As many of you already know I love cinnamon just as much. Since my mom passed away nearly 12 years ago I find much joy in baking some of her favorite recipes. I had completely forgotten about her Emerald Isle coffee cake until I realized that the Starbucks Reduced Fat Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake I have been ordering every other day with green tea was a similar version to hers.

A piece of paper with the recipe typed on it literally fell out of an old cookbook of hers. As soon as I saw it memories came flooding back of my mom’s love of coffee cakes. I had to make it right away. But of course, hers wasn’t allergen free so a little work had to be done to the original version.

After numerous tests and substitutions I had perfected the new and updated Emerald Isle Coffee Cake, now made without dairy, eggs or nuts. My whole family devours this coffee cake now, especially John. It is perfect for a weekend brunch or as a weekday after school snack. Enjoy!


½ c. dairy free margarine

1 c. granulated sugar

2 T. water

2 c. unbleached all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 c. dairy free sour cream

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Cinnamon filling (below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a Bundt pan with dairy free baking spray.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Add water, dairy free sour cream and vanilla. Beat well.

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Add to margarine mixture and beat well. Pour half of batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with half of cinnamon filling. Add remaining batter and top with the rest of the cinnamon filling. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely, turn onto a serving plate and dust with confectioner’s sugar.


Combine 1/3 c. brown sugar, ÂĽ c. granulated sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Mix well.

Yield: 1 cake

Edward R. Murrow would be rolling over in his grave…

After reading today’s entry from one of my favorite food allergy bloggers, the Nut-Free Mom (, I was yet again reminded that not every journalist is made equal. Some are fantastic, some are medicore and some are downright awful. The Nut Free Mom writes about Dr. Hugh Sampson’s objection to a journalist in Harpers Magazine stating that all food allergies are pyschosomatic and that kids don’t really die from food allergic reactions. Kudos to Dr. Sampson for setting the record straight.

Another “journalist” professed his own theory in last week’s LA Times OP ED piece. Joel Stein’s “Yuppie Invention” talks about how food allergies aren’t all that big of a deal. Here are his written low lights:

“It is strange how peanut allergies are only an issue in rich, lefty communities”

“Genes certainly don’t cause 25 % (hey Joel, you should have checked your AP stylebook; percent is written out. Remember?) of parents to behave that their kids have food allergies, when 4 % do. Yuppiedom does. 

“Your kid doesn’t have an allergy to nuts. Your kid has a parent who needs to feel special. Your kid also spends recess running and screaming “No! Stop! Don’t rub my head with peanut butter!”

Mr. Stein closes his article with the very scientific observation that he once downed a lot of peanuts at a bar, and his throat became tingly. He chased down some beer and forgot all about it. Brilliant writing.

When I was in journalism school I lived and breathed all things Edward R. Murrow. In case some of you don’t know who Murrow was, he was the pioneer in broadcast journalism who set the highest standard for other journalists. Two of my favorite Murrow quotes came to mind when reading Mr. Stein’s piece:

“Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices – just recognize them.”

“To be persuasive we must be believable, to be believable we must be credible, to be credible we must be truthful”.

Truthful Mr. Stein was not. Instead, he was outrageous, uneducated and quite frankly an embarrassment to the code of ethics set forth by journalists. Check your facts, be truthful, put your own agenda aside and respect the power that has been granted to you. The freedom of the press is so important we protect it in the contstitution, but when wannabe journalists like Mr. Stein abuse their platforms to write stupid articles it is an abuse to all journalists. Viewers and readers across the country are losing their trust in the media. We expect more. And as Newton Minnow once predicted that TV would become “a vast wasteland”, the print media is just as guilty.

In the meantime, I thought I’d pass on Mr. Stein’s email address. Let’s try to educate him as well as hold him accountable for his careless writing.

Joel Stein:

Children’s Memorial Hospital Food Allergy Study

Prior to 2005 food allergies were just a blip on researchers’ radar screens. Whether it was a lack of funding or minimal interest there wasn’t a comprehensive study being conducted. However that all changed when Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago launched one of the largest and far reaching food allergy studies to date. The Food Allergy Study was a grassroots operation nearly four years ago, but has propelled itself into a successful and large scale study that has already accomplished so much in a very little amount of time.

Some of the highlights are the creation of a large study database filled with important statistical information that will help us understand more about food allergies in children, identify the genetic and environmental roles, understand why the numbers of food allergies in children are increasing and provide information to the medical and patient community. These are all very important developments as the scientific community moves closer to understanding the core of why food allergies occur, and maybe someday….find a cure.

Until that day comes please do all you can to support this study. If you live in the Chicago area you can enroll in the study either as a family with food allergies, or as a non allergic control family. So far over 700 families have enrolled; nearly 600 case families with food allergies, and over 100 control families without. These numbers are strong but the CMH Food Allergy Study could use more help. Enlist your friends or relatives to donate their time to this cause. They can call Deanna Caruso, Project Coordinator at 312-573-7755 or email at .

If you would like to offer your philanthropic support to Children’s Memorial Hospital contact the Children’s Memorial Foundation at 773-880-4237 or email Any donation, big or small helps fund these very important programs that could ultimately change the lives of our children forever.

As a side note, my family of six has participated in this study for the past three years and I am always impressed at how fast and efficient the visits are. Bringing in all my children for testing seems like a big deal but really it is a piece of cake. The visits always go fast and the nurses and research associates are very professional and skilled at making the evaluations fun for the kids. Thanks so much for all your help in making this study a huge success.

Will they ever truly get it?

A week or so ago I had lunch with a few of my girlfriends, talking about this and that. Then the topic came up about my blog and food allergies. None of my friends have children with food allergies but they have probably learned enough about it from me and my trials and tribulations. One of my girlfriends sent the link to my blog to her colleagues because she thought it might be valuable to share relevant information about food allergies, especially since she works in a school district. What came next never ceases to shock me, but it sure hurts.

Apparently a few of her colleagues responded in hateful tones about the seriousness of food allergies. I’m paraphrasing here, but it went something like “Sure, I’ll give up sending cupcakes to school with my kids. Then let’s ban peanuts, and milk from lunchrooms, etc”. These comments were allegedly made with a sarcastic tone, though I wasn’t there to personally hear them. But I don’t dispute it because over the years I have heard my own snickers and comments from less than understanding parents who are so fortunate to not have to live with the liability of a food allergy.

Which brings me to another point about recent comments in the media downplaying the seriousness of food allergies and the resulting deaths. FAAN even went so far as to make a statement on their website about this, commenting that the numbers are real, and that even one death is too many. And they pose the bigger, more important question: Why are people dying from food allergic reactions? What are we doing to prevent them? My question is why haven’t we found a cure yet? We understand the science behind what occurs during an allergic reaction so why can’t we figure out how to prevent them?

Parents with food allergic children have two very important jobs: a. educate others about the real danger of food allergies, and b. keeping our children safe and alive. There is no room for sarcasm and uneducated comments. I assure you that if even one of those parents received a diagnosis of a life threatening food allergy from a physician their quick witted comments would halt.

What bothered me most about my friends’ colleagues is that these are seemingly educated school professionals. Why aren’t they trained to know the difference between an allergy and an intolerance? Why are they joking about our children’s safety and well being? Furthermore, why are these people working in a school district when they apparently have no regard for 504 Plans and disabilities?

This is exactly why my new years resolution is to do everything I can to raise awareness and educate others about food allergies and its dangers. I know we all have done so much to bring attention to this in our schools, playgroups, camps, sports teams, restaurants, airlines, in laws, the list could go on. But clearly it isn’t enough. It won’t be enough until more federal funding is awarded to the research and education of food allergies.

In the meantime, I am so thankful to have you, my readers and fellow blogging friends who truly understand and live this reality every day. Your support, comments and helpful advice mean so much. Thanks to you all and happy new year!

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Zucchini Bread

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe the holidays are over but I have to admit I am happy about it. It has been a whirlwind two weeks. I overindulged like everyone else and am ready to start eating healthy again. So in honor of my newfound healthy eating I decided to make zucchini bread.

My zucchini bread recipe isn’t your average heavy, oily, sugary and too sweet type. It is a toned down version that lets the zucchini be the star of the show. One of the best parts of this bread is its sweet crisp top. Make extra loaves to freeze and have it later in the week for after school snacks. Enjoy and have a great week!



3 T. Water

1/2 c. vegetable oil

½ c. unsweetened applesauce

2 c. granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. finely chopped and unpeeled zucchini

3 c. unbleached all purpose flour

3 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. baking soda

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray two 8 inch loaf pans with dairy free baking spray. 


In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the water, vegetable oil, sugar and vanilla. Stir in the zucchini and mix well.


In a medium bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and baking powder with a wire whisk. Stir the dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture until just combined. Pour into prepared pans and bake 50-60 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.


Cool completely before slicing.