Friday, January 22, 2010

A Toronto Treasure Turns out to be Nut-Free!

My husband and I both really love Indian food. Unfortunately, the local restos we tend to order from all use cashewpaste in their dishes, so we've stopped ordering from them. One of our long-standing favourite take-aways is Gandhi on Queen West (at Bathurst). The butter chicken rotis are the best I've ever had, with the blend of spices just right.

We like to order half and half - splitting both a butter chicken and saag paneer roti, its tender chunks of Indian cottage cheese the perfect complement to the spicy spinach. Mo

Split in half to share with the saag paneer, with its soft and delicious chunks of Indian cottage cheese. it was one of our favourite ways to spend dinner in, or lunch on the fly.

Since DJ was diagnosed it was one of the place's I've almost been afraid to check. It's not like we would feed DJ from there anyways, because we like to order it hot, but in keeping with our nut-free home policy, we simply assumed it probably wasn't safe.

What a thrill to find out it is! They use no nuts or peanuts in any of their products and the oil in the fryers is vegetable.

One word of caution. Mother India, further west on Queen, and owned by the same proprietors, is NOT SAFE. At least that's according to the people I've spoken to at Gandhi who say that their spin-off serves a couple of nut-laden desserts. Of course, I'll be sure to check for myself since Mother India means about 15 minutes less in the car for a take-out trip. I'll blog more later when I find out.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Another Nut Free Option - Swirls Cupcakes

A quick reply from Swirls Cupcakes confirmed that there products are both peanut and nut free. While I've got used to baking a little more - and have even started to enjoy it - I'll be sure to check out this place the next time I'm crunched for time and need to provide DJ with a nut-free treat to take to daycare.

Swirls Cupcakes - Peanut Free?

A colleague has told me that Swirls Cupcakes on Dundas is both peanut and nut free. There doesn't seem to be any information on the website so I've contacted the bakery directly to ask. I'll blog more when I hear back.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

High Anxiety in the Air

A last minute trip to Winnipeg over the holidays had me scrambling for information about how to manage DJ's peanut allergy. Did I need anything special to get his epi-pens through security? Would the airline make any special accommodations? How could I keep him safe on the plane, with no real access to medical attention if there was a problem? These were just a few of the questions that had me in a state of high anxiety before our trip. 

With heightened security at the Toronto airport one of my main concerns was if I could take his epi-pens on board. Without them, I simply couldn't see going. A call to Westjet put my concerns at ease. All I needed was his prescription. However, as soon as we purchased the pens, I immediately threw out the boxes that they came in, the same ones that had the prescription label affixed to them. A quick trip to the local Shoppers where I had the prescription filled fixed that. The pharmacist was able to print out a prescription for each and affix them directly the pens themselves. In addition, we provided me with another prescription, which he signed. 

I was also assured by Westjet that they would also ask passengers in the two rows in front and the two rows behind us to refrain from eating nutty snacks. Once on board, I watched this process unfold. Everyone, with the exception of one man, seemed okay with the request.  This guy, who looked to be in his late 30's to early 40s declared somewhat loudly that he would eat whatever he wanted. He did add, however, that he didn't have any nuts, so I'm not really sure what the point of his outburst was. 

In any event, the flight was incident free. DJ loved the whole experience. The ride home was the same thing. The best part: DJ waking up mid flight on the way home, and looking out the window to see a rainbow in the sky as the sun rose. "look mommy. I spy a rainbow" Super cute. 

And encouraging to know that an airplane ride could be safely accomplished. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Epi-Pen Lessons

Over the holidays, I headed out of town to a family funeral for a beloved, elderly aunt. Of course, I took DJ with me. The funeral service itself was held in the chapel attached to an seniors living facility. I haven't been to a funeral in some time, and wasn't prepared for there to be a lunch served immediately after the service. However, as soon as the service was over, tables and chairs were rearranged and food was set out. Sticky buns crusted with almonds sat on every table.

Earlier, before the service, as we headed into the chapel my sister mentioned I was free to leave my purse in a backroom, where family had left coats and bags. Indeed I felt sort of awkward with my purse when everyone else was hands free. Still, I was reluctant to be physically separated from DJ's epi-pens.

As soon as I saw the food coming out for the luncheon, I knew I had made the right decision. I checked with the women preparing the lunch to see the contents of the sandwiches. The bread, cheese and cold-cuts all seemed safe and I was assured the utensils to prepare them were clean and had not come into contact with any peanut butter or other nutty spreads. I removed the almond buns from our table, and we proceeded to eat lunch.

With family not seen in decades to visit, it was difficult for me to keep my eye on DJ after though. My young niece and nephew trailed him, making sure he didn't get his hands on any food.

Later, my decision to keep the epi-pens on me was reinforced. DJ needed a diaper change. I went to the back room where I had left both my coat and diaper bag. It was locked and the front desk attendant was no where to be found. It took me a full ten minutes to retrieve my diaper bag. The entire time I waited for the key to be tracked down, all I could think about was what would have happened if I had left my purse, with DJ's epi-pens in it, in the room which was now locked and he had a reaction. I would have endangered his life.

For me, it was a real lesson in keeping his pens on me at all times, even if it seems inconvenient. It's something I won't forget.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Peanut Allergy Test in the Works

It looks like there's could be a new test to determine who really is at risk from anaphylaxis from peanut allergy. Here's more on that.

One common thread that I've noticed on the comment boards, is that many people believe those affected by peanut allergy aren't truly allergic, that most are misdiagnosed and that hysterical, hyper-vigilant moms create drama where there is none.

Some information in this article actually supports that, saying that in a new study, only 1 in two kids that had a positive skin of blood test had a true peanut allergy as diagnosed by an oral challenge.

I wish that were the case in our situation. How awesome would it be to find out that DJ was really only allergic to grass, or pollen? Unfortunately, that's unlikely. We found out DJ was allergic after eating peanut butter smeared on toast. A skin test further confirmed his allergy.

Still, this sounds like a test that will give a lot of people back their freedom to eat without fear.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

G&M Comment Board

As usual, it's depressing to read the comments in relation to the Air Canada nut-free announcement. Everything from how the women in question should have a peanut butter sandwich thrown at her head to comparisons to obese passengers getting a second seat for free. Makes you realize lots of people are just total self-absorbed assholes. Not much more to say.

Peanut-Free Buffer Zones on Air Canada

Some good news from the Canadian Transportation Agency for peanut-allergy sufferers looking to travel safely. It's ruled that passengers with nut allergies must be accommodated by Air Canada. It's unsure whether the ruling applies to all Canadian airlines. Here's the story in the Globe and Mail.

This is of particular interest to me since I flew WestJet with DJ last week. More on that later...

New Year's Resolutions

Like probably everybody, I make a bunch of resolutions each New Years that I never keep. When I started this blog. my intention was to highlight safe places to eat out with peanut allergy. Looking back over my blog posts though, I realize how few times we've actually eaten out with DJ since his allergy was diagnosed. As much as we were determined to not let his allergy change our lifestyle, it's had a profound impact in lots of ways. We rarely eat out anymore, and have travelled far less than we normally would. To be honest, we're both terrified of travelling with him; eating out in Toronto is challenging enough. Toss in another language, and eating out three meals a day just seems too daunting.

In some ways, eating out and travelling less has been positive. We've eaten at home more, which means, for the most part, healthier eating choices and less discretionary income spent, freeing up cash for other things.

Still, we both miss our old habits. One resolution to maintain DJ's safety is too simply get our babysitter in more often - at least once a month - so that we can enjoy a night out without worrying about food allergies. A second is to simply find more safe places to eat out.

So, with that in mind, any suggestions for safe eating would be greatly appreciated. Bring 'em on!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates Redux

In December, I ordered $80 worth of chocolates from Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates. I could barely stand the idea of a chocolate-free Christmas, and bored my husband to near-tears debating about what to order. In the end: three boxes of truffles, three bags of chocolate-covered pretzels, two bags of chocolate stars and snowmen to decorate a gingerbread house, and of course, a chocolate Santa for DJ’s stocking.

When the box arrived, my gut reaction was disappointment; it was so small! Could there really be $80 worth of chocolates in such a tiny box? While all of the ordered items were accounted for, the short answer, in my opinion, is no.

While everything was certainly delicious, and most importantly, nut-free, I think I could have spent my $80 more wisely. DJ was way more interested in plucking the Smarties off the gingerbread house than the foil-wrapped stars and snowmen. In the end, my husband and I were the ones that ended up scarfing them down in a late night binge. Same thing went for the chocolate Santa in his stocking. It is still sitting on the counter, whereas the two boxes of Smarties Santa also brought have been long gone. I could have easily replicated the chocolate-covered pretzels at home.

As for the truffles, I simply didn’t order enough to be able to offer them up to guests, which is when I would normally put out boxed chocolates. With 12 to a box and several occasions with more than 10 people in the house, they seemed like a paltry offering. Plus, my sister-in-law’s truffles were nearly as good.

I did tons of baking over the holidays to make up for what I was worried would be a lack of chocolate. In the end, really there was just too much junk in the house to eat. And eat it we did! I’ve been suffering a food hangover for at least a week.

So while Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates may be an excellent resource for some, I’m doubtful I’ll be placing another order anytime soon.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! What a great holiday season. Not only was it great to visit with friends and family, but it was also reaction-free. Even though I was concerned about how to handle DJ's peanut allergy with all of the nutty food flying around, we managed to navigate through the season safely. Of course, I've got lots to blog about, including some thoughts on Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates, airplane travel, holidays parties and more. Stay tuned.