Roll with it

This year has been a big one as my little guy started kindergarten and I went back to work outside the home.  It has been a big adjustment for us all!  We’ve had some hurdles here and there but we found our rhythm and everything has gone better than I expected.

It’s been almost a year since my last post so let’s see……

Colin update:  He has done SO well at school.  He has an amazing teacher who has helped us with the big transition to kindergarten! We still don’t have definitive answer for why Colin struggles with food and pain so much.  His ultrasound series and barium swallow came up with nothing.   Doctors keep coming back to eosinophilic esophagitis.  Although his first scope didn’t find evidence of eosinophils, two doctors have now said they think that a future scope will find it.  The other theory is that he is experiencing functional digestive pain along with whatever they’ve yet to diagnose or due to his history of having so many food issues.  We don’t have any new meds or leads for now.  We actually did some therapy to help with pain management techniques.  It does help him a lot, especially at night when his pain is the worst.  We are trying to decide if we should agree to another scope.   Part of that answer may depend on his sister….

Yes, our older one has started showing signs of swallowing issues and digestive pain.  Although its been creeping up slowly over the last few years, it’s really been rearing its head the last 6-8 months.  What we originally thought was just classic acid reflux, hasn’t responded to several different medications and so she’s headed off to her first scope soon.   I’ve had a few moments of “Oh no!  Not you too!” but for the most part we are just taking it in stride.  We’ve been down this road.  My daily prayer is that they will FIND AN ANSWER because not knowing is truly the hardest part.

So on to more fun things…. like Cooking!

We had our kitchen redone!!  This was a plan 12 years in the making and we couldn’t be happier.  No more purple countertops or broken cabinets!  I have a wonderful island that makes working in our kitchen so much easier.  During the renovation I cooked most of our meals in an electric skillet on top of our dryer in the basement.   It was hilarious, sometimes ridiculous and often not what I’d call delicious, but it was worth it!

Safe Foods Update:   Although we don’t strictly avoid soy anymore, we stay away from soy flour.  We also avoid oats, chocolate and dairy.  I’ve had a few new dairy free finds that I’ve really loved and will be sharing them with you this week.  We are on spring break so I’ve been trying out some new recipes and having adventures with my two little goofballs!

If you have any spring foods you are loving, feel free to share below!




And we’re back to dairy free

So maybe I jinxed myself by saying that my son had graduated from MSPI.  Maybe we’re just moving onto the next phase of his body saying “Food and I are not friends.”   Whatever the reason, we are back to dairy free in our house.

We had another major downturn in Colin’s ability to eat over the winter. (I actually wrote a long post when I felt really defeated but didn’t publish it.)   Whereas last year Colin had severe esophageal spasms, this time it was mostly chronic, often debilitating nausea.  Colin lost interest in food, woke up in pain every night, became more upset about leaving the house and lost weight.  It was rough.

Five months, several doctors and a variety of hospital tests later, we still don’t have a clear diagnosis.  The most popular theory is that he has Eosinophilic Esophagitis.  It is basically allergy cells in the throat that shouldn’t be there.  There is no cure but there are some medication options to help manage it.    Two doctors said they’d bet this is what Colin has, but they think it won’t be caught/diagnosed until it does more damage to Colin’s throat.   The days he is in pain I get really mad that they can’t figure this out.  Thankfully he has good days and he is one tough kid.

Taking dairy back out of his diet has been helping somewhat with his esophageal pain and his nausea.   I’m glad I have the resources and experience under my belt to get back to living dairy free.   It has been a bit harder though, since Colin’s had a taste of the good stuff and isn’t super happy about removing things like his favorite waffles.   He’s figured out that staying off dairy helps him feel better so that’s more than half the battle.

So I’ll be posting more here as I’m back to reading every label and finding new recipes.

As always, feel free to share any dairy free or MSPI friendly food finds you love and keep fighting the good fight!








The Unexpected Speedbump

In the past few months, although my presence here has been quiet on my blog, our lives have been anything but.  I realized I had over scheduled myself/ over volunteered this year and became overwhelmed.  In the midst of my craziness though, Colin had a medical development that totally caught us off guard.

Day to day with Colin had been fine for so long that we took it for granted.  We’ve been eating/cooking/Living with MSPI for so long that we don’t notice it that much.  It is just another part of our lives we roll with.   And as we became comfortable with all of his sensitivities and found a diet that worked, we assumed that the toughest days were behind us and Colin would probably grow out of this. Or if not, we were ok with it since he and the rest of our family knows to plan and accommodate for what he needs.

At the end of this winter however, food again became the focus of every day. We had noticed Colin had some troubles with food, specifically chewing and swallowing.   Eating had never been easy due to his open bite so we didn’t think too much about it.  He seemed to be spitting out more food though over the last 6 months to the point where I wondered if it was time to get an outside opinion.  We talked with our pediatrician and then we made an appointment with an occupational therapist in our school district for 2 months out. While waiting for this appointment to come, one weekend suddenly Colin stopped swallowing any food. He would move food to the back of his mouth like initiating a swallow, but it would go no further.  Water, smoothies and oatmeal thinned to a liquid would go down but that was it.  I figured it was a sore throat or a tonsil issue, but he wasn’t sick and the pediatrician was very concerned.  The pediatrician couldn’t see any physical problems and got Colin to see a GI two days later.

In the meantime I was buying baby food, pureeing food and making smoothies for every meal, wondering if we were headed back to our Neocate days.   I was really wishing I hadn’t given away my baby food mill.   Colin was so desperate for food that wasn’t a smoothie that he suggested I put his sandwich through the potato ricer. So I did. Cue lots of laughing, mess and the conclusion that turkey sandwiches aren’t meant to go in a potato ricer. (He and I still giggle about this cooking experiment.) We got into a great GI who heard his history and said it was either Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EOE) or reflux (GERd) and that we should start Prevacid.  So we gave him prevacid capsules (opened and mixed into yogurt) but there was very little improvement over the next 5 weeks.   Colin could eat some very soft solids like cream of wheat but he would constantly clear his throat and then sometimes he would start to panic when his throat felt clogged.   He would cry and beg to go to the hospital. He was moving air and not choking, but these were scary moments for all of us while we waited for the painful feeling to pass.

During meal times I stayed with him while he ate to make sure he was okay. Meals took 45 minutes or more and he would eat tiny tiny pieces, spit out half of it but still have problems. Sometimes liquids would come back out. I thought that it was like having a baby again. My days were making soft food, feeding time, clean up a huge mess (from all the pieces and things spit out) and then repeat.   Since Prevacid didn’t help Colin, the GI requested an endoscopy with biopsies to check his throat, stomach and the beginning of his small intestines.  The doctor expected to find EOE cells based on Colin’s food history.

The scope went way easier than I expected. I had made a book of his sister’s trip to the hospital from a year before and we read it to Colin several times so that the places and procedures at the hospital were familiar to him when we were there. It also helped that Colin actually wanted to go because he was distressed about his food situation. Lastly, the hospital was awesome.  It had a children’s wing so everything is kid friendly. The nurse gave him Versed before the IV and anesthesia, so he was feeling relaxed and sleepy before it began.  He doesn’t remember much of it. After the procedure he had no pain or issues other than working the Versed out of his system.  He was like a drunk kid, wanting to run around and race cars but if I let go of him, he’d run into a wall.  I couldn’t leave him alone for a second and I hadn’t anticipated this part. It was kind of funny but I was glad my husband was home since I couldn’t even leave Colin for a second to use the bathroom myself. The immediate results of the endoscopy was everything looked ok but there were white plaques at the top of the esophagus. The doctor said it looked like EOE but usually you see them at the bottom of the esophagus as well. So we had to wait for the biopsy results for a conclusive diagnosis.

Ten days later the biopsy came back negative for EOE cells. A huge part of me was relieved, since EOE is not a diagnosis that has easy answers. But we were disappointed in that we were nowhere closer to figuring out what was wrong with Colin. By this time he was looking so skinny from his limited diet.

The doctor started Colin on Levsin (hyoscyamine sulfate tablets) to calm his throat at mealtimes. Her theory was that it was an esophageal spasm.   So we gave the tablets a try. They were tasteless and dissolved easily and quickly under his tongue.   Within a week we saw major improvement. He could eat a larger variety of textures and we had no more clogged throat-panic episodes.

So here we are today, about 3 months from when this started (It feels so much longer).   Colin is still eating a limited diet of soft foods. He loves hardboiled egg whites, raisin toast with lots of his butter so it is soft, bananas, a few types of cereal and some crackers. He can eat a jelly sandwich now but his favorite food, peanut butter, is too hard to swallow. He has been eating often and has put weight back on.

The GI said 50% of the time these spasms are caused by a virus that irritates the nerve endings in the throat. The Levsin helps calm it and eating is the way to retrain the throat to handle food. So we’ve got to keep eating and trying new textures. (Easier said than done with a stubborn and 4 year old.)   Over the next 2 months we are supposed to taper down the doses of Levsin and hopefully it will be something he just takes as needed in the future.

Thankfully making Colin his own meals and packing food for him when we leave the house is not new to me but it makes my heart heavy that he has more food challenges.   Hopefully this one will be a speedbump, not a mountain, and resolve itself soon.

Finger Foods and Eggs

In my last post about our foods, we were trialing banana.   Colin likes banana and they don’t seem to cause any sleep or GI issues but he gets red spots on his face when he eats them.  We’ve decided to call them a pass but in limited quantities just to keep the eczema at bay.   That brings our safe list to Rice, Wheat, Corn, Chicken, and Carrots and some Banana.

About a month or so ago Colin really started making progress on the whole texture/gagging issue so I decided to start trying finger food with him.  It was definitely about time and my little guy needed to get some fine motor practice going.  So I dived in by giving him Kix and Puffed Wheat cereals.  To my surprise he did wonderful and LOVES them.  He is not too excited about purees anymore and wants to feed himself.  I’m really happy we didn’t need feeding therapy but now I’m challenged to find ways to present his safe foods to him in finger food form.   I feel like a chef on Food Network, given a basket of foods and told to make something out of them.  I’m definitely thinking outside the box for his meals these days.

We decide to trial eggs since it would open up a lot of other foods I could make for him and I also wanted to make him a first birthday cake of some kind.  The egg trial does not seem to be going well, Colin is up several times an hour and crying, but we aren’t giving up yet.   Looking into a backup plan I’ve found a cake mix that is egg, soy, peanut, dairy free and just real ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, vanilla, nothing weird.  I’m going to do a test run and I’ll  let you know the results of that one soon.

Yes my little man is about to be a 1 year old!  I just can’t believe how fast time flies with the second child.  Colin is busy busy, walking all over the house and chasing the cat.  Right now he loves lights and points them out to us all day long.  He also reminds me of Helen Keller right now, wanting to know the words for everything.   I’m sure his receptive vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds.  His expressive vocabulary list is pretty short.  In addition to pointing and sometimes signing “drink” or “all done,”  he says “Dada” and “Ba Ba” for bye-bye.   We have an early childhood teacher who meets with us every month, a free service from our school district, and she says Colin looks great developmentally.   Colin’s weight is good too.  Still nursing every two hours day and night, my little monkey is putting on some weight and chub rolls on his legs.  I’m sure he’ll be fine at our checkup next month.


Walking his own little path

Colin is 9 months old! I can’t believe how fast time has gone!  Colin celebrated by getting his first tooth.  We’ve seen signs it was coming for a while but it finally poked through.  I was really sure when I nursed him.  The pediatrician and dentist both told us “Oh, it will be a bottom tooth first. ”  Something like 95% of kids get their bottom teeth first.  Well Colin, as original as ever, got his top right tooth.  My little nut, always doing things his own way.

Despite the usual teething discomfort,  he has been a happy talkative guy.  He’s busy exploring, pulling up, and standing while holding onto things with one hand.  I just marvel at how fast he is developing.  He crawled backwards for about a month and then in a span of two weeks figured out how to crawl forward, pull up and take little steps to cruise down the furniture a ways.  He’s very confident, letting go with one hand and looking at us like, “Yeah, I’m going to just go for a walk now.”  I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he is like his sister and walks at 10 months.

In food we are still having success with carrots.  We trialed avocado and although it seemed like it might be a pass, he had a building reaction.   He fussed more and more over the week and was doing an odd breathing/whimpering.  He started screaming more and more at night.  We thought it could be teething but the baby motrin usually knocks out the teething pain pretty well.   Colin was screaming despite any pain meds.  We decided to stop avocado and see if it got better and over two nights the screaming stopped.  He is still definitely teething but is sleeping so much better and happier in the day.  Soo…no more avocado for a while.

We decided to retry squash.  Looking back through our notes Colin had been sick right around the two times we tried it before.  We hadn’t given it an extended trial so we are giving squash another chance.  We are a few days in and things seem ok.  We will give it a full 7 days to make sure we don’t have another building reaction like avocado.

Realizing that Colin was approaching 9 months and had 1 safe food, we felt it was really time to move on getting some professional help.  I’m really at a loss of what foods to try and worried about his growth from here out since he seems so hungry lately.  He’s moving all day long and some days I think he needs more calories.  So early this week we met with our pediatrician.  He said Colin looks good, is gaining weight pretty well but agreed we should look for some answers and maybe some outside help like a food allergist or a pediatric GI.  He wanted to start with some blood work to rule out celiac disease and a I think he did a basic food allergy panel.  We don’t have the results yet but I feel some reassurance that he is on our team, ready to look for some answers.  I’m not sure what he will find and where it will lead us, but it has started the ball rolling to figure out all of these food issues.

Coconut Vanilla Ice Cream

Continuing with my coconut milk successes, I decided to try my hand again at making a dairy free ice cream.  It has been a while since I had a milk substitute I could use, so I was really excited to get back into the ice cream making.  I found a recipe at Whole Foods for coconut ice cream and decided to give it a go.

This recipe uses eggs and for a custard-like ice cream, I thought it was very simple to make.  The eggs and sugar get whipped by hand, the coconut milk gets poured in, all of that gets heated and vanilla goes in.  Not too tricky.  I had vanilla beans on hand so I decided to add some vanilla bean to the recipe for both the flavor and the little vanilla bean specks.  You could definitely just use real vanilla extract if you don’t have access to vanilla beans.  I also used a bit more sugar than the original recipe.  I tasted the original ice cream batter and decided I wanted something a little sweeter.

The ice cream that resulted was just as good as the coconut ice creams from the store.  Really I thought it was even better since the eggs make for a smooth ice cream and no weird textures.  The vanilla extract and bean create great flavor so you don’t taste just coconut.  That was important to me since I get tired of plain old coconut flavor in everything.   I actually put this ice cream out at a party I had, warning everyone that it was my dairy free ice cream, and I got really positive reviews.  Several people asked for seconds!

I can’t wait to make it again and to try adding fruit to create new flavors.

Coconut Vanilla Ice Cream


4 egg yolks

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1  (13.5 oz) can regular coconut milk

1 (13.5 oz) can light coconut milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 2 teaspoons if omitting the vanilla bean)

1 vanilla bean


In a large mixing bowl, use a whisk to whip the egg yolks and sugar quickly  for 2 minutes.  The yolks should turn a pale yellow color. Pour in both the regular and light coconut milks.  Whisk again to combine thoroughly.   Pour the mixture into a medium pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the thickened mixture coats the back of a spoon or the temperature reaches 160 degrees F.  Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract.  Slit the vanilla bean down the middle with a sharp knife.  Scrape out all the vanilla seeds from both sides of the bean and add them to the ice cream mix.  Whisk lightly to break up any vanilla seed clumps.   Let the ice cream mix cool slightly and then chill thoroughly in the refrigerator before processing in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.  (Mine takes about 25 minutes in our Cuisinart ice cream maker.)

Squash Fail but Busy Moving

Looks like we are still looking for a safe food for Colin.  We gave bananas another go and they definitely caused eczema.  We keep trying oatmeal, varying the consistency, trying with my milk or water and mixing it with other foods, but Colin is just not a fan.  We decided to move on to squash but didn’t have great luck there either.

Normally I would make my own baby food,  but I didn’t want to make a whole batch of something that Colin could end up being allergic to.  I purchased the Sprout Organics squash since it was just squash, absolutely no additives. Straight out of the pouch it was definitely too thick for my little guy so I thinned it out with some of my milk.  Colin ate it with gusto!  He even leaned into the spoon and opened his mouth for more. Yay!  I’m glad to see he can eat off a spoon and swallow food without gagging.  Unfortunately he had diarrhea several times after eating so no more squash.

Recently I came across this link which is a guide for starting solids with a baby who is Milk Soy Protein Intolerant (MSPI).  This is the first guide of this type that I’ve seen.  It recommends starting with certain vegetables, meats and fruits last.  So I’ll give this guide a go and maybe try carrot, potato or broccoli next.

In non-food news Colin is happily motoring around.  He can turn all around, flip over and back and get himself from his tummy to sitting.  He has only figured out how to crawl backwards which often leads to him ending up in funny places.  He backs himself into corners and a few times has almost crawled under a bed.  What a nut.  He definitely keeps us entertained.

Oatmeal and Bananas

Giving Colin his first solid foods was an emotional day for sure.   Days leading up to this had been filled with planning, worry, excitement and then when the time came, a bit of something else.  Something maybe bittersweet, maybe also relief?  It was a really big moment watching my little guy take his first steps into the unknown world of solid foods, starting his nutritional independence.  The focus on food in our house is intense.  Everything that is brought in, everything I eat is scrutinized, journaled and monitored for its reactions.  Shifting this focus, bringing Colin directly into the process was a strange feeling. I felt happy, sad, excited and a bit of worry all over again.

On a Saturday morning we let our daughter Hannah give Colin his first spoonful of oatmeal cereal.   That in itself was a wonderful moment, watching a very excited big sister get to do the honors.  Not a whole lot stayed in Colin’s mouth but he seemed to like the experience and was all smiles.  We didn’t feed him too much, giving him just a few tastes really to experience a new texture and also to be cautious in case of a reaction.  Colin seemed fine for the most part.  He did have a big spitup that day which is unusual for him and he was kind of rashy but we weren’t sure if these were coincidences due to other variables that day.

The next two times we tried oatmeal over the next three days were a different story.  Colin starting crying immediately and gagging on the food. It was very thin but all of it came back out and he would turn his head and cry.  We stopped immediately both times, fearing we would create negative feeding associations.  All along I had been so worried about WHAT Colin would eat I never even thought he might not WANT to eat.   I happened to talk with a liaison from the early childhood center in our school district, the day after our second failure, and she wondered if he had an overactive gag reflex.  She recommended trying a different food and possibly meeting with an occupational therapist if the gagging persisted.  I read some things that said it is possible for babies to naturally avoid foods that might make them sick and some babies with reflux can associate food with pain.  Could any of these be the case?   I started to think starting solids was going to be an even bigger challenge than I had anticipated.

We decided to stop oatmeal and try bananas since they are another low allergy risk, have much more taste and maybe an easier texture to handle.  I chose to skip the spoon and try a mesh feeding bag, letting Colin just teethe on the bananas to get a little taste and texture in his mouth. To our delight it was a huge hit.  Colin went nutso over the bananas.  The next day when I brought the little mesh teether over he reached for it and opened his mouth.  He had half the thing shoved in his mouth trying to eat more.  And boy did he sleep well that night.  Coincidence? Maybe, but I wasn’t complaining.  After the second day of bananas I noticed Colin was getting eczema on his face and belly again.  I waited another day or two before giving him some more.  More eczema.  According to my baby books, I should probably stop bananas and try them again later.  It is hard since they were such a success but we will put bananas on the back burner for now and try something else in a few days.

Soy/Dairy Free Frosting

If you’ve been thinking about one of the cake recipes I wrote about last week but wondered what to do for frosting- have no fear!  As long as you can get a butter replacer like Earth’s Balance Soy/Dairy Free spread, Earth’s Balance Organic Coconut Spread, or Spectrum Organic Shortening, you can make frosting.  If you can’t get your hands on exactly what I use in my recipe below, try making it out of one of the other products.  The end texture and taste will vary depending on what you use but you will still get a fair substitute for real frosting.

I’ve come up with a pretty good replacement for buttercream-like frosting using some Earth Balance Soy/Dairy Free Spread and some Spectrum Shortening. Using all Earth’s Balance spread was a bit salty for my taste and it wasn’t very pretty.  Using all Spectrum shortening worked, but the flavor was much improved when I added in some Earth’s Balance spread.  Using both I created a frosting with a texture similar to buttercream and really not unlike many shortening based frostings I’ve tasted on grocery store cakes.  I’ve put this on just about everything that could use frosting: chiffon cupcakes, Back to Nature Vanilla Wafers, a spoon. 🙂

*Also see my post about using 100% cane sugar powdered sugar.

Dairy-Soy Free Frosting


2 tablespoons Earth’s Balance Dairy & Soy Free Spread

6 tablespoons Spectrum Organic Shortening

1 1/4 teaspoon real vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups powdered sugar  (use brands with 100% cane sugar for best results)

about 2 tablespoons water


In a half cup measuring cup place 2 tablespoons of Earth’s Balance Dairy & Soy Free Spread.  Fill the rest of the measuring cup up with Spectrum Organic Shortening (6 tablespoons).  Place the spread and shortening in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the vanilla and almond extracts.  Mix using a medium speed until combined.  Add in 1 cup of powdered sugar and mix on medium high for 1 minute.  Add in 1 tablespoon of water.  Mix again for 1 minute.  Add the second cup of powdered sugar and mix for 4 minutes on medium high.   At the end of 4 minutes check the consistency.  if you want it thinner add a little water and mix again for a minute.  Makes about 1 cup.

Brussel Sprouts

Two weeks ago as Colin started to bounce back from his vaccines, I planned Brussel sprouts as part of our weekly menu.  I’m pretty sure I haven’t eaten them since Colin was born.  I tend to forget about them since they weren’t something I ate very often growing up. I think Brussel sprouts have been made to be a vegetable villain but when cooked correctly, they can actually be delicious.  I made a simple side dish of sautéed Brussel sprouts with bacon.  Our family enjoyed them for dinner but as time went on we discovered Colin was not a fan of Brussel sprouts.  The next night Colin had the worst tummy troubles since his colic days.  Terrible gas, crying, completely uncomfortable.  It was a long three days after that.  I’d eaten some for lunch the day before he started getting fussy so it took even longer for it all to clear his system. (We are still exclusively breastfeeding).  His GI upset pushed trying solids off another few days and then we were leaving for a trip to see my sisters out of town.  We were going to start Saturday when I got back but Colin now has a cold that is really messing with his system so solids are pushed off again.   He turned seven months old this last weekend. Goodness!  Where is the time going? His baby days are going too fast!

In better news we have been trying to add chicken back into our menu.  Although I don’t think I could eat chicken several days in a row, I think a chicken meal here and there seems to be okay for him.  It is really nice to have another protein option and to be able to use chicken stock here and there.

Hopefully you can enjoy this Brussel sprout recipe.  As soon as Colin is done nursing it will be back in our rotation for sure.

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon


1 lb Brussel sprouts, washed and loose/damaged leaves removed.

4 slices bacon

Salt and Pepper


In a large skillet, saute bacon over medium heat until crisp. While the bacon is cooking, chop each Brussel sprout into four pieces.  I stand them up on the stem end and cut them down the center from top to bottom and then in half again.  Once the bacon is crisp, transfer the bacon slices to a plate with several paper towels on it (to soak up any extra grease).  Let bacon cool.  Drain off all but two tablespoons of bacon grease from the pan.  (You really can eyeball this.)  Return the pan to the stove and add the chopped Brussel sprouts. Cook the Brussel sprouts over medium heat for 15-20 minutes until soft.  Season the sprouts with salt and pepper.  Crumble the cooled bacon and sprinkle it over the Brussel sprouts.  Serve immediately.   Makes about 3 servings.