Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW, Psychotherapist; Specialist in Food Allergy Management, Speaking At Mylan Specialty / EpiPen Event (© Noel Malcolm 2013)

Monday, May 23, 2016

#FoodAllergyActionMonth Giveaway from Vermont Nut Free Chocolates

Picture of the grand prize from Vermont Nut Free Chocolates

*UPDATE: CONTEST CLOSED.*

To celebrate and support Food Allergy Action Month, Vermont Nut Free Chocolates is giving away ONE [1] GRAND PRIZE of treats (everything in the above picture) to a lucky Allergic Girl reader.  See how to enter below and good luck!



TO ENTER: “Like” Allergic Girl on Twitter *or* Facebook or share this blog post. Email me that you have done so and you're entered! (NB: If you have won a contest in the last six months, please do not enter to give other others a chance.) Winners will be picked using Random.org. If we cannot reach you within 12 hours, we will go to the next entry. The contest will be open for 24 hours from the time emailed and winners are limited to residents of the continental US states. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Allergic Girl Interview: Morgan Smith, Author of Morgan's New Corner Blog

I met Morgan Smith a few years ago when we were both presenting at the then FAAN (now FARE) conference in Chicago, IL. His mom, Nicole of Allergicchild.com and I had known of one another for years through the blogosphere so it was an extra special treat to meet the child of the Allergicchild.com website. Morgan was an excellent speaker and all around cool hang.

I was thrilled to hear about his new blog, morgansnewcorner.com and e-book series and have a chance to interview him about what he’s been up to lately.

Also check out the special he's offered to Allergic Girl readers: Using the coupon code “allergicgirl” (all one word) on checkout, you can get 50% off your order of Morgan’s new e-book bundle through the rest of May, 2016. (Which means three e-books for $5!).


***
At the FARE conference in Chicago, when I was a mini (still am) and Morgan was in braces.

Allergic Girl: OMG, Morgan?! You’re 20 years old and at college now. When we met, I think you were 15 or 16. So tell me, what fun classes, clubs and/or activities are you doing this year at college?

Morgan Smith: I know it’s been a while!! Thank you for this interview! College is absolutely fantastic. I’m attending the University of Denver (DU), majoring in Public Policy and Economics, so most of the classes I’m taking has to do with those topic areas. I’m actually in this Government Simulation class where we simulate the real US House of Representatives – right up my alley! It’s great. I’m also involved in DU’s Leadership Program and Honors Program, as well as a club I founded called Roosevelt @ DU, which is a chapter of a nationally networked think tank called the Roosevelt Institute. Basically, I work with government officials and community leaders to get young people involved in the political process, from a city to an international level. I also definitely go on spontaneous trips downtown with friends most weeks – I hope that counts as an activity!

AG: Yes! Hanging with friends is one of the best activities! So, how did you imagine college would be and how is it the same or different now that you are halfway through?

MS: It’s definitely a lot more social than I expected. When you live with people that become your best friends, you just hang out with them all the time! Unlike in high school where you most likely have to drive to your friend’s house, I just have to walk two doors down and there they are. It makes for incredible bonding experiences and a lot of spontaneous adventures. DU has a two year on-campus housing requirement so I really have only had the dorm life experience so far! 

Academically, I can definitely say that it’s challenging and engaging. It’s a lot more reading and writing than I thought, but I’m majoring in the social sciences; hard sciences and math majors aren’t usually writing long papers, so it’s mainly my majors that are determining that workload. It’s an absolute blast.  

AG: Do you have any non-food allergy advice for teens heading off to college next fall?

MS: Find your favorite spot to study – that’s my main advice. For me, it changes by term so sometimes I’ll really enjoy studying in the library, other terms I’ll enjoy studying in my room. This past term I’ve actually really enjoyed studying off-campus. Simply, if you can find your favorite spot to study, you can be productive for hours on end and feel like you’ve really accomplished a lot by the end. Over time, it also reinforces the idea that when you go to that spot, you’re going to start studying and you can automatically become more productive and engaged.


Check out Morgan’s new e-book bundle which addresses growing up with food allergies, traveling and college. 


AG: That’s super smart advice about finding your spot! How will you be spending your summer?

MS: I will be living at home in Colorado Springs, but I have a part-time internship at our local City Council! I’ll also be preparing for study abroad in the fall, which will, in all honesty, take up more time than my internship. My abroad experience has three parts: traveling with friends, an independent research project in Denmark, and then my actual study abroad experience at a host university in England. Each part has its own things to plan (getting itineraries together for backpacking, registering for classes at my host university, etc.) and I definitely will be doing a lot of research about food labeling laws and best practices in each of the countries that I will be visiting. 

On top of that, I definitely hope to find myself camping with friends a couple weekends and attending a few concerts!    

AG: Fun! So, tell me about your new blog launch?

MS: My new blog – Morgan’s New Corner – is a new space for me to share my experiences about living with food allergies. It’s modeled after a column I wrote for 8 years in AllergicChild.com’s monthly newsletter (which is run by my mom) where I talked about everything: bullying, allergic reactions, growing up, making friends, transitioning to middle and high school, going to tournaments, dating, traveling to conferences, advocating for myself, preparing for college and so on. My new blog is going to cover all of that and more – college life, traveling internationally, and the list goes on!

I want to share all of these experiences with both parents and teens with food allergies so that they can see that anything is really possible even with food allergies. A lot of times, I hear parents (and even teens) worried that food allergies will prohibit activities like traveling across the country or even hanging out with friends on a normal basis. I’m working to show that it is possible and my blog is my space to share that.

AG: So, how is your blog different from other food allergy blogs written by teens?

MS: I think that every teen has a perspective to provide. I always focus on self-advocacy: empowering teens with food allergies to advocate for themselves. My experience reflects a lot of that, especially in my transition to college: I was the one scheduling meetings with the dining hall and Disability Services to make sure that my college experience was safe and possible. Of course, that’s not to say other teens don’t write about self-advocacy! Simply, I’m here as a pretty average college student who has been sharing his life since the age of 9 and what it’s like to grow up with and live with food allergies.  

AG: You write on your blog website: I believe that every child with food allergies can have a normal life. Briefly, how do you engage the world so you can achieve that normal life”?

MS: I advocate for myself! I never settle for an unsafe situation or one in which I’m uncomfortable with. If someone is sitting next to me messily eating almonds, I’m going to explain to them that I’m allergic to tree nuts and that I’d deeply appreciate it if they stopped eating them for a little while, or at least perhaps in a cleaner manner. This goes for friends and strangers in all situations. There are also times in which it’s a lot easier to move away (like in an auditorium) than to raise a fuss, and I definitely opt for that too sometimes. 

Also, I prepare a lot. I talk about this in some of my writing and e-books that the best way to have a fantastic experience while traveling or at college is to put in the work up front to prepare for everything instead of jumping in blindly. That way, you know you have safe meals or restaurants to eat at, a safe hotel to stay in, etc..



AG: Haha! I always say that: “I can totally be spontaneous, with a lot of planning!” Morgan, you're also an Eagle Scout. What lessons have you learned from Scouts that apply to your life in general? And those that apply to life with food allergies?

MS: An excellent question! I think Scouting was a foundation to a lot of my leadership and self-advocacy skills. The Scout Law (“A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent”) serves as a great guide for interactions with other people, especially with food allergies. Not everyone is going to understand the severity of food allergies or the consequences of cross contact immediately; being friendly and patient with them as they learn is important!

I also think my Eagle Project was a pinnacle of my development. To attain the rank of Eagle Scout, I had to organize and execute a community service project. Never one to settle for the easy route, I decided I wanted to rebuild a local footbridge in my community. I had to raise $5,000, organize 50+ volunteers, get materials, etc.. It was an incredible experience and I think that has shaped a lot of my passion surrounding community change in the political realm: when communities get together to work on issues that directly affect them, a lot of great stuff can happen. This applies to the food allergy community as well.  

AG: Such a cool Eagle project on so many levels. What are your top three tips for teens who want to learn how to advocate for their needs?

MS: One: Tell other people about your food allergies. This is the most important step! Having a safe environment relies on other people being aware that you have food allergies. I know it can seem inconvenient or even unnecessary to share about your food allergies with your friends, but you should tell them and train them on how to use your epinephrine auto-injector. Plus, your friends can be your support structure and always be there to help you. 

Two: Talk with your parents about letting you take control. This is a gradual process and your parents are always going to want to protect you, meaning they will take charge in a situation. If you want to advocate for your needs at your school, with your friends, and with other adults, you should talk with your parents about how they can help you better advocate for yourself. That shifts more responsibility to you, but it also empowers you.

Three: Always carry your epinephrine auto-injector. I know it can be a pain or it doesn’t “look cool,” but you must have the right medication on you at all times to assure that, if something does go wrong, you can take care of yourself.  

***

Morgan, great tips all and so cool to hear about how you are enjoying college and getting so much out of your experience!  You can find more about Morgan here at Morgan’s New Corner (morgansnewcorner.com) or feel free to e-mail him at morgan@allergicchild.com




And remember, the special he's offered to Allergic Girl readers: 


Using the coupon code “allergicgirl” (all one word) on checkout, you can get 50% off your order of Morgan’s new e-book bundle through the rest of May, 2016. Which means three e-books for $5!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Recipe: Gluten-free, Nut-Free, Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

How have I not posted about this before? I’m correcting that right now. A few years back, I made some raw cookie dough from the King Arthur Gluten-Free mix and loved it (you can also see the gorgeous Mega Chunks from Enjoy Life Foods). I made the mix into cookies and then chipwiches

One night, I thought what if I baked this entire bowl of raw cookie dough in a pie or cake pan, what would happen? Why a delicious blondie, cookie pie concoction that is way easier than scooping out individual cookies, that’s what would happen!

Here’s the raw cookie dough.
Raw cookie dough
Here’s the dough spread out in a pan.

Cookie dough spread out in a pan to make a "pie"

Here the cookie pie in a 9 inch square cake pan all cooked.

Cooked and cooling cookie "pie"

My recipe: line a pan with parchment paper or butter, make the dough according to the directions on box (or from your fave cookie recipe), bake at preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until fragrant and brown at edges. Cool on a rack. Slice and share!

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About King Arthur Gluten-Free mixes from a representative:

King Arthur Flour’s certified gluten-free blends and mixes do not have any of the U.S. top 8 allergens added to them as ingredients, and are produced in a facility which has a robust allergen control program in place. King Arthur Flour only tests for the presence of wheat in these products, and can’t guarantee they never come in contact with allergens, for instance, during shipping or storage.  When applicable, a validation procedure is followed to check against contact of the U.S. top 8 allergens with environmental surfaces used in the production of our gluten-free blends and mixes. This process includes cleanout and testing of those surfaces, but not allergen testing of the products themselves.





Monday, May 02, 2016

Review: Pure Room, New Brunswick, NJ

Two weekends ago, I made a trip down to New Jersey and found a conveniently located Pure Room at the Hyatt, New Brunswick. I haven’t traveled in an age and with allergies and asthma, hotel rooms can easily be another source of stress, and allergic, asthmatic reactions, when traveling. So, I was super excited to find a Pure Room so near where I needed to be.

I have been following Pure Room's progression since they opened shop in the United States back in 2008. Here’s what I wrote about in my previous stays in Pure Rooms on this blog.
What makes Pure Room special is their seven step process to rid a hotel room of excess allergens and irritants. Learn about it here.

Now, know this: it’s not always been a perfectly executed system and several times when I stayed in rooms in the early days, there were compliance issues between the Pure Room's program and how the third party hotel was implementing or maintaining standards. Still. As someone who has traveled lots and gotten allergic and asthmatics to most rooms when traveling, every little bit helps and knowing I was headed into a Pure Room made me much more confident about my stay.

And indeed, this time at the Hyatt, New Brunswick, I arrived to a feather-free, scent-free room, with a clean refrigerator and an air purifier all set up and ready to go. Heavenly for any Allergic Girl. I slept well, didn’t wake up with allergic or asthmatic issues and generally was very pleased with the entire experience. For an extra $20 added to my room cost, it was worth every dime.


Can’t wait to travel more using Pure Room!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Recipes: Passover Menu, 2016

Over the past few years I’ve decided to make the family meal more one hundred percent Allergic Girl friendly versus serving my allergens and having a “mixed” table. So this year, no gefilte fish, there’s never been any nutty haroseth and definitely no outside food; the only thing not made in-house will be the chopped liver (and I'm not eating that).

Here's what we served with some pictures below when I could grab them.  Everything was so delicious and beloved!

Starters:
Chopped liver

Salad of arugula and oranges - I used this recipe from The Kitchn as a base but didn't do a vinaigrette, just salt, pepper and Lucini olive oil.

Entrees:
Moroccan chicken with olives and preserved lemons


Sides:
Roasted carrots

Roasted asparagus

Steamed brown rice

Desserts by Sloane (all nut-free, fish-free gluten-free):

Chocolate chip cookie pie





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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Review: #PsychoBarn, #MetRoof

Today, April 19, 2016, is the opening day for a beloved event here in New York City: the unveiling of the art exhibition on the Metropolitan Museum roof. For the past 19 years, the Met has placed installations on its roof, where you can interact with large scale works of art, whilst having a bevvy and taking in the incredible view. If you are planning a trip to New York City between April and October, put the #MetRoof on your list of must sees.

This year, the exhibit is a house: Cornelia Parker’s “TransitionalObject (PsychoBarn)”.  It is re-envisioning of Edward Hopper’s paintings of local barns, which inspired the house in Hitchcock’s classic thriller, "Psycho". It’s called transitional object because, as the artist said in her talk at the press preview, she liked the idea of a transitional object in the psychotherapeutic sense: an object that helps you to wean from your mother.  (Or not as anyone who watched Psycho can attest.)

Here’s the New York Times art review but really, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.



Welcome sign to press preview
Artist sitting on her porch
Behind the house 
The human scale of the house

Closeup of behind the house

Artist talking with the house in reflection
   

Press clustered around the house 

Press and curators looking at house

The view south from the roof of a picture perfect day




Go! Have an allergen-free beverage on the #MetRoof and take in the beauty of the entire Metropolitan Museum.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Recipe: Brown Butter Salted Rice Krispie Treats, Nut-Free, Gluten-Free




Recipe Brown Butter Salted Rice Krispie Treats, Nut-Free, Gluten-Free
Adapted from smitten kitchen

4 Tablespoon unsalted organic butter, plus extra for the pan
1 10-ounce bag marshmallows
1/4 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
5 ounces rice krispies cereal about half a 10-ounce box (I use Erewhon)
Chocolate for drizzling (I use Enjoy Life Mega Chunks)

Butter a 8" pie pan (any handy cake or pie pan will do). In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt butter over medium-low heat until brown and nutty. Please, don’t take your eyes off the pot as the time between when the butter begins to brown and the point where it burns is wildly fast.

As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off and stir in the marshmallows. The residual heat from the melted butter will be enough to melt them. Stir until the marshmallows are they are mostly smooth; I like leaving some lumps of marshmallows for a little surprise.

Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together. Quickly spread into prepared pan. I use buttered hands to press treats into pan, works like a dream.

*Extra credit: melt a few ounces of chocolate and then drizzle over treats and let cool. Try not to eat entire pan, definitely share some.*


Monday, March 28, 2016

Allergic Girl Recipe: "Kalesadilla" with Black Beans, Nut-Free, Gluten-free

 "Kalesadilla" with Black Beans, Nut-Free, Gluten-free

My new date wanted to cook for me. Lovely! He has no restrictions, and rarely had read labels before meeting me. We had a series of clear and direct conversations about my allergens and needs, how to read labels, cross contact in the kitchen and what I like to eat. He's taken to the challenge of cooking for a date with food allergies and food intolerances like duck to water. (It greatly helps that he loves to cook and had worked in restaurants during college; he also knows his way around a kitchen.) 

I had seen Simply Recipes dish that Elise called “Kalesadilla”. It looked yum, easy to make tiny modifications for my needs and I had all of the ingredients in my larder and fridge. I mentioned the concept to my date and he started cooking, no recipe and not having seen what Elise on Simply Recipes created but instead, making some super, duper Allergic Girl friendly (and probably you, too) delish dish.

He made a bean-free version first, including all the below steps minus beans.

Original version.

Which we both loved but agreed that it needed a protein. So, then he created the version from above with recipe below.

Speaking of, there’s no formal recipe, but it’s a matter of putting these things together in a way that you need. Can't do cheese, sub a dairy-free option. Can't do beans, sub a safe protein for you, chicken, steak or soy. Don't have kale but only spinach or broccoli? Those'll work just fine here.

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"Kalesadilla" with Black Beans, Nut-Free, Gluten-free
(Adapted from Simply Recipes) 

Corn tortillas – warmed through in a pan with EVOO
Chopped red onion – sautéed with EVOO, salt, pepper and dried oregano
Baby kale chopped – added to the onions, sweated
Black beans – one can drained and rinse, added to onion kale mixture
Cheese – chopped and melted onto warmed tortillas

Put it all together. Add a lovely salad and voila, lunch!




Thursday, March 24, 2016

Review: #EdgarDegas: A Strange New Beauty, MOMA


UPDATE: New York Times review: The Modern Degas You Haven’t Seen 
UPDATE: WNYC review: Review: Edgar Degas’s Fingerpaintings 


You look at it. Turn it over. You look again. Turn it the other way. Look again, what’s different, what’s new. Regard every angle. Trace it. Retrace it. Scrap it. Start over.  Be inspired. Be defeated. Be inspired anew. Take a break. Come back and start over. Continue. This is process. It belongs to all of us as workers, students, teachers, friends, lovers, partners. And artists.

Today, I was reminded anew that to be an artist is to be an insistent searcher. For truth, for beauty. For answers. For more questions. The outcome is often secondary to the process of seeking and searching.

The Museum of Modern Art’s new exhibit opening March 26,2016 is called Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty. It’s about Degas’ relationship with the monotype process: “…drawing in ink on a metal plate that was then run through a press, typically resulting in a single print.” 

Upon closer inspection, what is on display is Degas relentless pursuit of seeing.

Take this singer, singing.



Ach, I can't even with the subtle shift of perspective, the looking at many angles to find the way in.

This curator’s blurb says it best:



This MOMA show is a gem. I can’t wait to go back with my family and experience it again.

From the MOMA website: "The exhibition includes approximately 120 rarely seen monotypes—along with some 50 related paintings, drawings, pastels, sketchbooks, and prints—that show Degas at his most modern, capturing the spirit of urban life; depicting the body in new and daring ways; liberating mark-making from tradition; and boldly engaging the possibilities of abstraction."

Visitor information is online at MOMAhttp://www.moma.org/ and you can go for free on Fridays nights from 4pm-8pm.

Don't miss this sure-to-be-blockbuster of a show!