Friday, August 28, 2009

Dinner on the Fly - Part II

Yesterday, I blogged about meeting up with friends from out of town, with the idea that we may go for dinner after swimming with the kids in the hotel pool. With another couple, and their two teenage sons thrown into the mix, we ended up opting out. The over-riding vote was for Chinese on Spadina...something my husband and I used to enjoy frequently. Rol San was our favourite. (I miss you General Tao!)

While we had spare food packed for DJ, taking him to a Chinese restaurant isn't something I think I will ever be comfortable with again. Both my husband and I agree that eating food DJ can't share isn't something we're going to do. It's exclusionary and potentialy dangerous too; little hands can grab fast. We really didn't want to waylay our friends plans and headed home.

With DJ tucked safely in bed, we ordered from our favourite sushi delivery, Sushi2Go. Incidentally, the women there thought I was crazy when I asked if there were any nuts in any of the products.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dinner On The Fly

With friends in from out of town, we're set to hit downtown for dinner tonight. Peanut allergy really takes the spontaneity out of eating out, and even though I know our friends will be sympathetic to the situation, it's times like these that I dread. People that don't deal with this allergy on a daily basis don't always appreciate how dangerous it is and how difficult it can be to find somewhere safe to eat. With four adults and three kids in tow, dictating where we eat based on DJ's peanut allergy isn't something I'm comfortable with. And without input on preferences ahead of time, it's hard to research a safe spot that we're all happy with.

While we'll be bringing food from home for DJ to nosh on just in case. Still, I hope we can find a happy medium that satisfies every ones cravings and is safe for our tot.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


When DJ was diagnosed with PA, one of the first things I worried about was whether or not he would be able to enjoy the same activities as other kids.

Yeah...I know. Obviously, concerns about his health were, and remain, paramount. My husband and I do everything we can to keep our kid safe. It's our top priority at all times; we never forget about the stupid f-ing peanut.

Still, I worry about whether he will feel left out at birthday parties if he can't eat the cake, or will be scared to collect candy at Halloween. Will he be safe at school? We he feel singled out there, or get teased because of it? He's not in school yet; he's not even out of diapers, so these are questions I can't answer yet.

What I do know is that keeping him home from school to miss out on something that every other kid gets to do has never even crossed my mind. To do so would be to give into something I don't want for him; to miss out on anything he wants to experience in life because of his life-threatening allergy.

It's people like the ones featured in this article that, in my opinion, make living with peanut allergy worse than it really is, singling their own kids out before they even get the chance to be normal. I know everyone has their own risk tolerance, but kids with PA shouldn't be kept in a bubble. They're just normal kids who can't eat peanuts.

Our allergist has cautioned us more than once not to let this allergy rule our existence. We've got to learn to live with it, and so does DJ. Staying home from school when the time comes won't be an option.

New Possibilities!

A trip to DJ's allergist last week confirmed he's not allergic to pine nuts. Both my husband and myself were thrilled. Not only does this mean there's one less potentially deadly allergen out there for him, it could also open up a lot of dining possibilities.

While we would never actually allow him to eat pine nuts because of cross contamination concerns, we're both comfortable with the idea of letting him eat at an establishment where it's the only nut on long as the regular precautions are taken to avoid it. The idea is that a trace of a nut on a trace of a nut is unlikely to contaminate his food. Our allergist confirms this is a prudent strategy that carries extremely minimal risk. While she maintains there is always some risk involved in eating out, she also encourages us to do so in instances like this to maintain a sense of normalcy in our lives, without letting DJ's peanut allergy take over.

We're both excited to start eating at Vesuvio's again. This pizza and spaghetti house in the Junction was one of our favourite dining destinations before DJ's allergy was diagnosed. Since then, we haven't been there, but a phone call confirms the only nut on site is the pine nut in the pesto. The manager assures me there is little chance of contamination with the pizza crusts, which are pre-made and line the pans waiting for their toppings.

With DJ's growing love for pizza (especially his Dad's homemade ones, where he gets to help spread the cheese) we'll be sure to hit up Vesuvio's next time we're looking for a casual - and safe- night out. Yum!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Another Allergy Alert from CFIA

Both the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Choices Markets are warning people with allergies to walnut not to eat the Choices Markets brand Cranberry Lemon Splash Muffins. The muffins are sold at Choice Markets in B.C. Here's the link to the CFIA's site with more details.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Peanut Free at KFC

While neither my husband or myself are the biggest fans of fast food its definitely nice to be able to roll into a different town and know that there are at least a couple of safe options. This latest road trip to the lake found us in Pembroke once again, this time, at KFC. Too whipped and anxious to eat out at one of the local family restos, we opted for the chain simply because their allergen info, available online, made it easy to ensure a reaction and hassle-free meal.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Taking a Pass on Poutine

After a few hard days spent working clearing and burning what seemed like an entire forest at our lake-front property in Quebec, both my husband and I were in need of a treat. We headed into Fort Colounge, the nearest town, hoping to try out the local poutine. With only one chip truck in this small, picturesque town (it's got the longest covered bridge in the province!) we found ourselves out of luck. While the women working the stand assured us there were no peanuts or nuts in any of the actual menu items, she was unsure of what type of oil was in the deep fryer. While both of us were tempted to indulge, and just feed DJ something from his snack bag in the trunk, we declined. Eating something off limits in front of him seems exclusionary, something we both worry about. I hate the idea of DJ ever feeling left out because of his peanut allergy, and I would never want to have to deny him a bite of whatever I'm having because of it.

In the end, we split a coke and a bag of cheetos (I know...terrible eating habits) and headed back to cook up a more healthful meal of salmon skewers on the bbq. Better for us all anyways!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Quesada - Peanut Free Burritos!

Mexican food seems like one of the forbidden cuisines when it comes to peanut and tree nut allergy. Even though nuts aren't readily apparent in most of the dishes, they can be hidden in sauces, like my favourite, mole. Quesada whips up tasty fresh burritos made to order, and according to staff at the King Street location, there are no peanuts or nuts used in any of the offerings. With three locations around downtown Toronto, it's a great option for allergy sufferers with a hankering for Mexican.

Always do your own research and ask your own questions before ordering food.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Safe Road Tripping

Back from another road trip to the lake, with lots to blog about, from poutine trucks to McDonald's to allergy appointment updates. More to come. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Taste of the Danforth

Taste of the Danforth is on this weekend. A friend with peanut allergy recently mentioned to me that he finds Greek food is usually a safe bet for him. While some of the desserts pack nuts, there are not very many main dishes that contain them, so avoiding them is fairly easy. Of course, that doesn't alleviate the need to still be super careful, and ask all of the regular questions.

Always do your own research.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thanks Loblaw!

Loblaw is introducing some new and traditional peanut-free favourites under the President's Choice and no name brands just in time for the start of the new school year! To make sure the products are easy to identify, packages will be marked with prominent logos and stores from coast to coast will have incorporated displays. There will even be some fresh-baked products available, a real rarity for those seeking peanut-free snacks, including muffins, soft-baked cookies and squares.

I've always loved shopping at Loblaw, and this show of corporate social responsbility will further solidify my consumer loyalty. Kudos to Loblaw!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hero Certified Burgers

Craving a peanut-free burger experience without going the mega-chain route? You might want to check out Hero Certified Burgers. It's an upscale burger joint with 17 locations in the Toronto area. Burgers are 100% Canadian, range-fed, hormone and antibiotic free Angus beef; there's also vegetarian, chicken and salmon burgers available. While it looks like several of the sauces are manufactured on lines that also manufacture peanut and nut products, and should therefore be completely avoided, there are lots of other fresh toppings to pick from, including a great selection of cheeses.

According to the manager on duty at the King and Yonge location, grape seed oil is used for the deep fryer.

I'm going to email the company to see if there's any chance they can start offering some completely peanut-free sauces. Stay tuned.

Always do your own research.

Food Allergy Buzz Review

Check out this review of Peanut Patrol on Food Allergy Buzz! It's one of the food allergy blogs I follow; it's got some good tips on how to enjoy life allergen free and is great resource for allergy information.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ice-Cream Trucks

I've asked a few owners of ice-cream trucks roving the downtown core if the soft serve ice-cream available is safe for peanut allergy sufferers and I've got the same answer several times. And that is that yes, it's safe, as long as no toppings like the chocolate dip, are consumed. Still, while at a local park I'm unconvinced since this particular vendor doesn't speak English and can't answer my questions. Instead, we choose a cherry slushy. Even though we can't inquire about its safety, it seems obvious to us; it's ice and syrup. We share one amongst the three of us, and DJ slurps it back, smacking his lips and declaring it "COLD! COLD! COLD!" The entire experience reminds us that living safely with a peanut allergy while still enjoying life is about being happy for what you can have and not focusing on what you can't.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cobourg Beach - and Hong Kong Gardens

A trip to the beach this weekend - the first really nice hot one this summer - had me looking for safe restaurants to eat at in Cobourg. Not a lot was to be found online. We packed a picnic lunch and decided ahead of time to come home for dinner and order pizza from Pizza Nova. We've ordered there before and feel it meets our safety standards for restaurant food. At the beach though, our friends suggest eating out after long day in the sun. We're tempted, but really, I feel daunted by the idea of driving around Cobourg trying to find somewhere safe to eat. After not being able to find something on-line, I feel skeptical I'll be able to find something on foot. Plus, I dread feeling responsible for deciding about where we can and can't eat as a group, but the reality is that since we didn't bring dinner for DJ with us, I would feel reluctant eating anywhere I wasn't 100% certain was safe. Our friends aren't fussed either way, so we decided to just go our separate ways and head home. We ended up ordering Chinese food after DJ went to bed, which we both felt was slightly risky and something we had agreed not to do before - order in foods where there is high risk of cross-contamination. But realistically, what is the risk in this situation? DJ was already in bed, and would not be eating the food. I still mentioned the peanut allergy to Hong Kong Gardens, our absolute favourite chinese take-out in Toronto. They assured me they cook with vegetable oil and that there were no nuts in any of the dishes we were ordering and said they would ensure no other nuts got into our food.

We feel like we took every precautions to not let peanuts or nuts enter our house, but still enjoy what we like, without any increased risk to DJ. I don't know where that falls on the continuum of how people with PA kids eat in their own homes. Is that too risky, or too anal? What do you think?