Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Peanut Free

So far 2013 has been busy, but treating us well. The Monkey Boys are back in school full swing and thriving. We are working on a total overhaul of the office/schoolroom/workout room (yes, it serves all 3 of those purposes - it's a decent sized room) including new furniture. Of course, new furniture means organizing. The room needed it as our previous desk didn't have any drawers (what was I thinking?)!

The second thing taking up the first three weeks of our new year (has it really only been 3 weeks?) has been allergy testing. Baby Monkey and I started out our processes just a few days after the new year. I was given the clear that I do not have an anaphylactic allergy to any of the foods I initially thought I was allergic too (I have never been tested before). Instead, I have a contact allergy to latex (the same type of reaction one might have to poison oak/ivy) and Food Induced-Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES) to shellfish. Basically, this is a localized immune reaction to shellfish in my gut. It leads to some pretty uncomfortable symptoms that can lead to shock. I don't have to worry about small quantities (cross contamination) at least. I'll take it.

Baby Monkey came out with the mostly all clear in the food realm. He tested positive for watermelon, but nothing else. He still needs to undergo a food challenge for peanuts and cashews to confirm those two are truly negative. Yay!

Then we moved on to Big Monkey the next week. Logically I knew that there was very little chance that they would tell me he had outgrown his peanut allergy. Emotionally, there was a small glimmer of hope. While Baby Monkey and I had skin tests done, Big Monkey's history of swelling upon exposure meant skin tests were a no no. So they preformed a RAST blood test. This test measures the amount of IgE antibody that is specific to an allergen, peanuts in our case. Two years ago Big Monkeys RAST test value was 14.7, which is considered a rating of III. This year his level is >100 or a rating of 6. This is the highest rating for the test. I do not have an idea how high over 100 he is, but the major heartbreaker is the amount he has increased over the last two years.

Here is the catch with this test. It does not tell you the severity of the reaction that one would have if exposed to the allergen. Instead, it tells you how likely you are to react if exposed. So in Big Monkey's case, he's pretty much guaranteed to have a reaction of some sort upon exposure to peanuts. It could be something as simple as hives and a little swelling or as severe as life threatening anaphylaxis. I really do not care to find out which (at least not the hard way), so we will continue to follow our strict avoidance of peanut products. This now includes products that say "may contain peanuts" or are "processed on shared equipment with peanuts." In fact, if I can I will even try to avoid products that are produced in the same facility. This makes grocery shopping very exhausting, but luckily, once I find a brand we like, it gets a little easier. Homemade items are now becoming more common in our house and premade/prepackaged foods are pretty much out with a few exceptions. Sometimes it's just easier, and much cheaper, to make it myself.

To add injury to insult, we have discovered that Big Monkey has cold induced hives as well. Overall, this condition is not likely to cause him any harm (just discomfort), but it really complicates matters with the food allergy. When we're out and he breaks out in hives sometimes I can't tell if it's because he's come in contact with something or if it's because his skin got too cold. I am also prepared with benadryl and at least two epi-pens. So I try not to worry, but it's stressful just the same. 

Next up on our allergy to do list - find out which of the peanut proteins Big Monkey is allergic to. This will hopefully help us figure out what type of reaction we'd be facing if he were to ever actually consume any peanut protein. More on how that is done once we have results!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Amazing Beer Crust Pizza

We are officially back from the holidays! Well, actually we've been back for over a week, but we've been busy resettling in after being away for almost 2 weeks. It's good to be home!

Today I've decided to post a recipe. I was asked on Facebook about it, but I decided to make a blog post to make sure there is something interesting here to keep readership up. Nothing like some good "food porn" to do that, right?

I tend to not buy pizza out. I am not fond of delivery pizza (although Papa John's pizza isn't so bad) and I for the most part avoid frozen pizza like the plague. Mostly because ingredients are questionable and the nutritional value of any of these pizzas is terrible. However, I used to rarely make pizza because I didn't have a good crust recipe. The recipe I had tasted fine, but it took forever to make and wait to rise. The non-rising recipes I tired were terrible, until I stumbled upon this one on pinterest. I found this on the Plain Chicken blog to give credit where credit is due, although her version is made with white flour (I've made it with white flour, but try to avoid that ingredient as well). This has become a dinner we (and by we I mean the monkey boys and I) make probably about once a month.

Amazing Beer Crust Pizza - Pesto, cauliflower, and turkey pepperoni (today's topping selection)

- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 Tsp sea salt
- 2 TBS cold butter 
- 1 cup of beer (my personal favorite for this dough is Red Stripe Jamaican Lager, but use whatever you love or have on hand)

If you have a cast iron pizza stone, use it (it does make a difference!). Place the pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 475 F (strangely, I do not know where to find the degree symbol on my computer!).

Get out your trusty food processor with a metal blade. Add the flour and salt. Pulse until mixed.

Add in the cold butter and pulse until combined.

Add the beer and pulse. I found with the whole wheat flour I had to add a smidge (probably not more than an additional splash) of beer, but do this after the beer and flour are mixed and you can see if it is wet or dry. The dough will appear slightly wet and a tad sticky.

Remove from food processor and place on parchment paper cut to the approximate size of your pizza stone (as you can see in my photo, my paper is bigger than my stone). Roll the dough out to the size of your pizza stone with a rolling pin (it really is easier than using your hands, trust me). My pizza never comes out round. My stone is 15" across and rolling the dough out to be this big makes the perfect thinness for baking.

Poke holes in the dough with a fork (don't forget to do this as it also makes a huge difference!). If you do forget, you can poke holes after you add the toppings.

Top with whatever you like! We have done everything from hawiian pizza (canadian bacon, pineapple), BBQ chicken (BBQ sauce, chicken, red onions, and mushrooms), veggie/pepperoni (turkey pepperoni, mixed frozen california veggies, mushrooms and red sauce), and pesto cauliflower (pesto sauce, fresh cauliflower, and turkey pepperoni). Really any topping would be amazing on this pizza!

Slide onto your pizza stone in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. The recipe says 12-15 minutes, but I've found that if I leave it in for less than 15 minutes the dough is not as crisp and is not done in the middle. So sometimes my toppings come out with a little char on the top, but are never burnt. I wouldn't go over the 15 minutes though!