When maternity leave ends

I’m laying here, trying to relax because I have to get up tomorrow before 5 am for my first work shift since my little girl was born.

I spent the evening panicking. The house is a disaster. I had no food in the fridge for supper let alone meals for tomorrow for me, hubby and little V, as well as grandparents who will be watching her.

I’m worried about all of her allergies, what if she has a reaction and I’m not there, what if , what if, what if. All I can do is give all the information to those watching her and pray that they will watch her like I do. I seriously don’t know how allergy mom’s cope.

I’m still a breastfeeding mom, so what will pumping look like, especially as a nurse. Will I find time to pump? Will my co-workers be ok with me leaving the floor to pump? Will V take to the bottle ok? Will I start to hate pumping and quit breastfeeding because of it?

So many thoughts and issues arise when returning to work, especially after being off for a year! I’m utterly terrified to start a new job with new co-workers especially since it has been over a year!

I don’t feel ready to return to work. Will I ever?

It’s so easy to wallow in the guilt of returning to work. Am I making the right decision? Should I just stay home forever? Will I negatively be affecting my children by working? I have absolutely loved being a stay at home mom for the past year. I feel so blessed to live in Canada where this is an option, to stay home for 12 – 18 months after having a newborn.

For moms putting their littles in daycare, I can’t even imagine. For someone you may not know well to watch your kids day in and day out, feeling like you don’t get to see all these new changes that are happening. Wow. You are so strong to do what you need for your family!

We are blessed with me being a nurse and being able to have the option of just working casually, so V going into daycare just didn’t make sense for our family. What that does mean though is worrying about who will watch V, whether grandparents can come, or if J will stay home from work that day and “work from home” (not sure how effective he will be lol).

I keep trying to remind myself that it is like any other day that her grandparents have watched her. Like any other day. Like any other day. It’s on repeat in my head but it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier.

I keep reminding myself she will be safe, she is loved, she won’t remember all these days I didn’t see her at all due to 12 hour shifts. I keep reminding myself that it’s ok to miss her little arms around me, or to look at photos during the day and want to bawl. I keep telling myself it’ll get easier as time goes on.

It is ok to work, it is ok to have a life apart from your kids. Healthy even. I have been dreading/dreaming of the day I get to return to work, and have a purpose other than keeping my child alive and loved.

Is it going to be difficult, heck yes. Is it ok to bawl and miss them, 100%. Is it ok to look forwards to leaving the house, for adult interaction, totally. Is it ok to blame yourself or doubt your love for your kids because you are a working mom, absolutely not.

Whatever you have to do for your family, whether that means working casually, part time, full time. Whether you have family watching your kids or they have a nanny or are in day care. Just know, you are doing what you need to, in the now, to raise and protect them. Just continue to show your children how much you love them, and enjoy every moment you have together as a family.

That is what I am trying to do, live in the now. Will I cry tomorrow, an absolute guarantee. Will it be hard to not see my precious daughter, totally. Does it suck being a pumping mom, totally! But we do what we gotta do.

Don’t let that mom guilt bring you down. Revel in the moment with your family ❤️ that’s what I am doing.

The terrors of being a NICU parent

Every new parent’s nightmare is that something is wrong with their child. Of course for most people this fear never comes to pass and you get to take home a health little baby.

As most of you know, our daughter V has quite a bit going on medically, mostly due to a genetic condition she was born with called Incontinentia Pigmenti.

The month of October is Incontinentia Pigmenti awareness month and I would really like to share our story, however, I have to start at the beginning, which means sharing about being NICU parents.

After 10 days of prelabour, 12 hours of active labour, issues with monitors picking up heartbeats and the use of a vacuum to assist in delivery, our beautiful baby girl was born; this was last October and everything about her was perfect. The only thing that the pediatrician was slightly concerned with was she had some blisters on her left forearm, she thought they were suckling blisters from in utero and just asked to keep an eye on them.

We waited the 48 hours for discharge as I had group B strep and they wanted to monitor her. Everything looked perfect. Blood work was normal, she was healthy, was latching and eating well, good diaper output, hearing was great, everything was fine. We were getting ready to go on the morning of day 2 after her birth when I noticed her blisters on her left forearm had spread to her left inner thigh. I mentioned this to the nurse who was prepping her first bath. The nurse didn’t seem concerned, just went to tell the doctor.

Suddenly the pediatrician is there saying she wanted to bring our daughter into the NICU for some quick checks to make sure it wasn’t serious.

I remember walking with them into the NICU thinking “this can’t be real, my baby girl is healthy, nothing is wrong.” They immediately started an IV and had her under big lights. There were monitoring cords everywhere and all I could think was “she looks so tiny, don’t let anything happen to my baby!”

They explained that they were concerned that she may have Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), and that they were going to need to do a Lumbar Puncture (LP) as well as gather skin samples to send off for testing. They politely asked us to leave while they performed the procedure. My husband and I had to walk out of the NICU utterly terrified and praying for a miracle, trusting the doctors and nurses to take care of our newborn baby.

That was likely the most scared I have been in my entire life. Pacing in our hospital room, waiting. My parents arrived, thinking they were going to help us pack up and go home and the moment I saw my mom I just started bawling. How do you explain when you don’t even know what is going on, when you don’t even know if your baby is okay?

After over an hour we finally got back into the NICU. Not only did they fail to get the LP, they tried twice and failed both times. As you can imagine it is hard to hit the right spot on such a tiny little spine. We were transferred to an isolation room as HSV is contagious and obviously don’t want any other babies catching it as it can be life-threatening in newborns as it can cause encephalitis.

That room is where we stayed for the next 8 days. It had no windows. It had a pull out couch bed thing not really fit for one person, let alone two. We were told only I could sleep there, but after the first night a nice nurse said we both could stay if we wanted (ummm, YES). There were cords all connected to our little girl monitoring her HR, oxygen saturation, respiratory rate, and blood pressure at all times. I was able to disconnect the cords to breastfeed or hold her, thank goodness, but she also had an IV running at all times. She got 4 different medications throughout the day and night through her IV: antibiotics and antiretrovirals. She got assessed every 4 hours by the nurses, which included a temperature check which she HATED. She had many blood draws done for blood tests, I honestly lost count of how many times she got poked.

It was impossible to clothe her as it pulled on her IV (which we tried to avoid as they kept pulling out). You had to bring the IV pole everywhere and man did that get irritating, which is small in the grand scheme of things, but it was so frustrating.

The worst part was that we didn’t know anything and her blisters kept getting worse. They were spreading over her entire body and the medical team didn’t have any answers. She had 3 LPs in total, 4 different IVs, dozens of blood draws. We saw 6 different pediatricians, 1 neonatologist, a dozen nurses, and 3 midwives (checking up on me).

Unfortunately James had to work because he had projects that were overdue. He stayed as much as possible and tried to be as present as possible. His co-workers were amazing and even sent him back to the hospital told him who cares about the clients. Spend time with your family.

My husband, hard at work but also present to be a support 😍

The first night that we stayed in the NICU, where we were told only 1 guest per patient, I felt so completely alone and terrified. I just kept staring at my little girl in her crib, with monitors beeping and just bawled. I just wanted to hold her and make everything better. I wanted James to be there because all I needed was a hug and to be told that everything was going to be alright.

We kept asking about timeline, when will we get answers, and at first it was soon, then in a couple days, and then we were told 2 weeks, which changed back to a couple days, and so on and so forth. We were beyond frustrated. We wanted answers. What was going on with our daughter and how could we help her?

One thing I have respect for now, as a Licensed Practical Nurse myself, is how long a day takes as a patient. When you live in a moderate size city and are conferring with specialists hours away, replies take forever and you are just sitting there waiting for answers.

Once we were thinking it may no longer be HSV due to negative tests, then it was looking at what it could be. After hearing back from Infectious Diseases they said, “Definitely HSV, follow this treatment plan.” The same day dermatology responded with, “Likely not HSV, perhaps Incontinentia Pigmenti, especially if family history indicative.”

So of course I was grilled about any maternal medical conditions: alopecia, odd shaped teeth, dark swirly skin, pale skin patches, miscarriages of primarily male children. Nothing made sense. What did this have to do with anything? No. We didn’t have any of those conditions.

The next day we hear from Infectious Diseases again, “Stop antiretroviral treatment immediately. Definitely not HSV as per dermatologist. Follow up with dermatology.” Wait, WHAT! So because of one email from dermatology you are changing your stance from 100% one thing to 100% something else. Our child’s life is in your hands! Stopping treatment early could cause irreversible/life threatening damages if wrong.

We couldn’t take that chance, that they may be wrong. So we decided to wait for the second batch of special testing to come back from the lab 4 hours away. Confirmed a second time, not HSV. So what did this mean now?

This meant a whole new bout of specialists. We got an echocardiogram done, saw a pediatric ophthalmologist and got an in depth eye examination, got referrals to see the dermatologist, geneticist and genetic counselor. Finally we were sent home to wait and hope that we would get answers soon.

Our journey in the NICU was terrifying for me as a parent. It’s the last place you ever want to be with your newborn baby. I struggled with inadequacy; did I do something wrong, why is God letting this happen to us? I couldn’t do anything for her to make her better and she just kept getting worse. We had no idea if she was in pain. We just knew we loved her and would do anything for her.

I know that we were so blessed to have a baby that was quite stable while in the NICU. I can’t imagine the terror of watching major interventions be performed on your little one.

All this to say, everyone’s experience in the NICU is so incredibly difficult and challenging. For those that have children at home, to be torn between who you stay and take care of must be extremely difficult! For those who’s significant others can’t stay with you and be your support, or those that don’t have visitors who can come and lift you up, it can be so draining and lonely!

I want to give a shout out to all the doctors who did their best for our daughter, for the nurses who went above and beyond, breaking a few rules for us to make our stay as comfortable as possible, thank you from the bottom of my heart. We were in the NICU over Halloween and we got given a little handmade Superman cape, which of course we declared was a Supergirl cape. We have 2 special homemade quilts from the NICU as well that holds a special place in our hearts.

Our little V was our Super Girl. She was so strong, definitely stronger than me. She didn’t have any issues with IVs or blood draws. She rarely cried and honestly was way too content considering we were closeted in about 100 sq feet of space for over a week. She was an absolute trooper and I feel so incredibly blessed to call her my daughter.

To all those NICU parents, I know how difficult your journey is. It is terrifying. Even now, thinking back I start to bawl and feel almost panicked. You are so incredibly strong. It is not easy, but know you are not alone. ❤️

Ginger Molasses Cookies

Has anyone else noticed that some of the trees are already starting to change colors? I love fall, but it is always sad to see summer end. Here is a little recipe to help make the transition into fall a little easier. I love the smell of ginger molasses cookies. They remind me of sitting by a fire with a warm cup of tea and reading a book under a blanket.

My husband is a cookie lover, claims he grew tall due to his diet of cookies growing up. When we first met we tried making gluten free cookies and found that they always had this strange after taste due to the premade flour mix that I was buying. After using my Gluten Free All Purpose Flour mix he became a huge fan of my cookies. Then we had to overcome the hurdle of baking without eggs as our house is egg free due to allergies. I have found that I like the Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Egg Replacer the most, but I have used flax eggs a couple times as well.

Of course, you could just make this recipe without any special ingredients for those that don’t have any restrictions. Hope you enjoy these as much as our family does.

Ginger Molasses Cookies

Delicious, soft chewy cookie that is perfect for Christmas, and any other time you are craving cookies!

1/2 C butter/vegan butter (I use miyokos)/coconut oil
1 C brown sugar, packed
1 large egg/egg replacer (1)
1/4 C fancy molasses
2 C flour (I use my Gluten Free All Purpose Flour mix)
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 C white sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
2. Cream the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl. Beat in the egg and molasses. Set aside.
3. Mix the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in a medium bowl and blend well. Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture and mix to form a smooth dough.
4. Roll the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place the white sugar in a shallow bowl and roll each ball to coat. Place two inches apart on a baking sheet. (With all the substitutions, I find I have to flatten slightly on the cookie sheet as it doesn’t spread out the same)
5. Bake in the center of the oven rack for 8 – 10 min. If you want a crisper cookie allow them to bake an additional 2 – 4 min. Let them cool for one minute to set before removing them to cool completely on a cooling rack. They should be puffy and slightly browned on the bottom when you remove them from the pan.
6. Store for one week in a sealed container in the refrigerator or four weeks in the freezer.

(1) corn allergy – I have found that many of the egg replacers out there use corn starch, so beware which one you buy. We do ok with Bob’s Red Mill, but we are corn lite in our household. Trial as needed. You could also use a flax egg as an alternative.

Gluten Free Perogies

I have a Mennonite heritage and with that comes a childhood growing up with delicious homemade food. One of those was wareneki (vah-ren-eh-chea), which is essentially homemade cottage cheese perogies. We use to request it for our birthdays and any other time my mom asked what we would like to have for supper. It was time consuming, but oh so delicious, especially with that delicious white sauce on top, which is essentially a creamy milk sauce that was to die for.

Since my house has so many allergies, I had to adapt. I started making potato filled perogies a few years ago as I don’t know a dairy alternative to cottage cheese or cottage cheese made from goat’s milk. I have made this recipe so many times and I usually make it triple the size and freeze the extras. It tastes great and is a huge staple in our house, especially with farmer sausage!

Gluten Free Perogies

  • Servings: 18 perogies
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For the dough:
1/2 C sour cream or yogurt (I use coconut yogurt)
1 1/2 C Gluten Free flour (I use my Gluten Free Pastry Flour mix)
1/2 tsp salt

For the filling:
2 large potatoes
1/2 of an onion, diced
1 garlic clove
1 Tbsp butter/coconut oil
1/4 C milk/milk alternative
1 C shredded cheese/dairy free cheese alternative (I have been omitting this and it still tastes great) (optional)
Bacon bits (as desired, optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. In a large bowl combine sour cream/yogurt, flour and salt until a smooth dough forms. If needed add 1 Tbsp sour cream/yogurt or flour to make it the right consistency.
2. Cover the dough and place in the fridge for 30 min.
3. Peel, cut and boil the potatoes. Strain, mash and add milk and butter.
4. Fry onion and garlic and add onions, cheese and bacon bits to the potatoes. Stir well, add salt & pepper to taste.
5. Roll out 1/2 of the dough at a time on a floured surface. Using a round cookie cutter cut out circles. This dough is malleable enough to press back together with your fingers if cracks develop.
6. Place 1 tsp of the potato mixture onto each of the dough circles (change this amount depending on size of your pieces of dough). Fold the circle in half and press the edges closed, ensuring the sides are sealed. You can also use a pierogi press.
7. Place the perogies onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and place in the fridge for 30 min.
8. Place a few perogies one at a time in a pot half full with boiling water. Cook until they start to float off the bottom, around 5 min. Sometimes I find they need to cook a few minutes after they are floating.
9. If desired, place in a frying pan and fry in butter or oil until browned.

NOTE: These can be made ahead of time and frozen, just lay them flat and uncooked on a cookie sheet with parchment paper before freezing. Once frozen, transfer to a Ziploc bag or container. Drop into boiling water just as with fresh perogies when you want to eat them.

Allergies and Mental Health

Did you know that people can get PTSD due to allergic reactions?

Did you know that young kids with allergies often REFUSE to eat new foods for fear of an allergic reaction causing the to become picky eaters and at a risk for malnutrition?

So this post is for all those that have stood in the grocery store and sobbed because you can’t find anything for your family to eat that is safe.

For those that are stressed about money because your grocery bill skyrocketed since allergies were diagnosed.

For those that feel like you never leave the kitchen because you have to make everything from scratch to ensure it is safe for your family.

For those that stay at home instead of going out for dinner at a restaurant, because the thought of eating there or having your kid eat there and react makes you have a panic attack.

For those that stress every time their kid is playing anywhere that isn’t at home, wondering if someone ate something recently that your kid is allergic to…what did they touch? Will you be judged for wiping down everything in the area? What is too much? And then wondering if it might better to just stay home.

For those who decline invites to friends houses because you don’t know how well they clean and you don’t want to offend them by requesting they clean everything first.

For those who want to get frustrated with toddlers who aren’t eating in a high chair and are running/crawling around with their food; everything they are touching is now contaminated and a risk for your child or you. (Trust me I’ve been guilty of this too).

For those who try to act all cool in public but inside you are panicking about everything.

For those that carry an epi pen at all times because you never know when you might need it and the thought of being without causes you to break out in sweats.

For those who panic about trying new foods or starting new trials for ingredients, unsure what the reaction will be.

For those who constantly run through what to do for an anaphylactic response because you are worried you will miss something important.

For those that hear an ambulance and cringe inside, having flashbacks and reliving of previous reactions and the terror it causes.

For those that second guess everything, wondering if something could be related to an allergic reaction or if it’s in your head. Is that a rash, hives, a bug bite or a scrape?

For those that can’t go out in public without wearing an N99 mask because you are airborne reactive to many foods.

For those that are harassed at work or disrespected due to allergies meaning you no longer have a safe work environment.

For those who have to pay an arm and a leg to get medications compounded specially so that they are safe for you to take.

For those that are told that your baby can’t react to food through your breastmilk, to just eat whatever you want but your baby is in pain and screaming, so what else could it be.

To those who religiously check ingredients and stress about what’s in their food.

To those who have misread, or don’t reread a label and have such guilt for feeding their child something that could have killed them.

For those who have nightmares of accidentally killing their child by improperly checking ingredients.

For those that have family that doesn’t respect your boundaries you have put up to protect you or your family and put you at risk, causing you to feel unheard, alone and always in fear.

For those that don’t have a supportive spouse or significant other, to not have someone else looking out for you.

What many may not know or understand is how much allergies can affect ones mental health. I sure didn’t. I thought I understood as I discovered my allergies to gluten and dairy while in highschool and I thought it was the worst imaginable diagnosis.

I didn’t truly understand until my daughter was diagnosed at 3 months of age. I spent so many nights holding a screaming baby and bawling. I would go to the grocery store and sob over my empty shopping cart because my normal staples we couldn’t eat anymore and I had to start from scratch.

Allergies are debilitating. They can cause stress, anxiety, can break relationships, cause self doubt or fear, financial difficulty and everything that goes along with it.

For those on this journey, I am here, we all are. We understand. Find a support group of others with a similar allergy. Share your fears, share your tips or foods that you have discovered. Get medical help if you feel you have anxiety, depression, PTSD or any other mental health issues that are damaging to you, your family or is putting your health at risk. The treatment may look like medication, or it may not, but don’t be scared to get help.

To others, advocate for change, support your loved ones, try to learn about others allergies, what you can do to make it easier for them. Make a change in your office if a coworker is feeling unsafe due to their food allergies. Don’t wear strong perfumes or scents as it is disrespectful to others around you. Put out a teal pumpkin and have non food treats during Halloween. Don’t be offended if someone asks you to not eat something near them or to wash your hands after you eat, and if you do wash your hands, please wash them properly, not just tinkle them under some water.

All this to say that allergies are so incredibly complex and difficult. Let’s build each other up and create supportive environments for everyone.

If I missed anything or have a story to share, please comment. I would love to hear from you.

Italian Pasta Sauce

Ok, I know how incredibly simple it is to buy pasta sauce from the grocery store, but how easy is it to make it yourself? Depends on how much time you want to put in. I use all three of these recipes, all work really well. I prefer the 2 hr cooking one or the canning recipe, however the 10 minute one is great if I am in a jam.

I recommend you check it out and try out at least one of these. I even use this for my pizza sauce, it is seriously so delicious.

10 Minute Pasta Sauce

  • Servings: 4 cups
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

2 Med onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C olive oil
2 28 oz cans of tomatoes (I use my 750ml home canned tomatoes)
1 6oz can of tomato paste
1/2 tsp oregano
1 Tbsp basil (or 1/4 C fresh)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp thyme (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in medium size pot on medium heat. Add onions and saute until soft, about 5 min.
2. Add garlic, saute 1 min.
3. Add tomatoes, paste & remaining ingredients, bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Serve
4. If desired, blend to make smooth with food processor or immersion blender (I like to do this as I use my sauce for pizza sauce on my pizza)

Homemade Pasta Sauce

  • Servings: 4 cups
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

5 lbs fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded (see notes 1)
3 medium onions, diced
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, divided
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 sprig fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh parsley or 1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp honey (optional)

1. Peel & seed tomatoes, dice and allow to drain over colander for 10 min.
2. Chop the onion, mince the garlic and grate half of the carrot
3. Pour the olive oil into a large stockpot over medium heat. When hot add the diced onions and saute for 5 min.
4. Add the garlic and grated carrot and saute for 2-3 min longer or until onions are translucent and tender.
5. Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, parsley and sea salt. Simmer on low heat for 2-3 hours or until cooked down and starting to darken.
6. Add carrot piece for the last 30 min to absorb acidity.
7. Remove sprigs of herbs, bay leaves and piece of carrot.
8. Optional: use an immersion blender or food processor to puree sauce until smooth.
9. Use fresh or store in the refrigerator up to 1 week. I usually place in jars and freeze it until needed.

(1) To peel fresh tomatoes place in boiling water for 10-30 seconds, then drop in an ice bath. The skin will peel off. Scoop out the seeds and dice as desired.

Italian Pasta Sauce

  • Servings: 3 pint jars/1500 Liters
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

5 lbs fresh tomatoes (8 C puree)
2/3 C finely chopped onion
2/3 C finely chopped celery
1/2 C finely chopped carrot
1 green pepper, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 T lemon juice
4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp oregano
2 Tbsp basil
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 – 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 C fresh chopped parsley (preferable Italian parsley) (optional)

1. Peel, core, seed and chop tomatoes. Drain well in colander. Puree pulp in food processor, measure. (1)
2. Finely chop onions, celery, carrots, peppers and garlic.
3. Place in large pot, add tomatoes & bring to a boil. Boil covered for 5 minutes. until vegetables are tender.
4. Stir in lemon juice, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper & herbs. Boil hard, stirring, until desired consistency. (I then puree as I like my pasta sauce smooth rather than chunky)
5. Place Snap Lids in boiling water, boil 5 min to soften sealing compound.
6. Ladle into sterile jars (2) with 1/2″ head space. Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Center Snap Lid on jar, apply screw band until finger tight.
7. Process in boiling water bath for 35 minutes for pints, 45 minutes for 1L.
8. Remove jars, cool 24 hours, check jar seals (sealed lids curve downwards). Remove screw bands, store separately. Wipe & label jars and store in cool, dark place.

IMPORTANT: do not alter ingredients or quantities as it is important to maintain the same acidity per jar for safe canning.
(1) To peel fresh tomatoes place in boiling water for 10-30 seconds, then drop in an ice bath. The skin will peel off. Scoop out the seeds and dice as desired.
(2) I put clean jars on a cookie sheet in oven at 175 degrees for 20 min to sterilize. I usually leave jars in until ready to fill, ensuring I do not touch the inside of jar when removing from oven.

Gluten Free Pizza Crust

A staple in our house is pizza. I LOVE IT, and it used to be such a simple meal, pick up the phone and order it from Panago. We still ordered from them when I just had a gluten and dairy allergy, however, since V’s allergies, we have switched to making it at home. We have Thursday night pizza night every week, and although it is a bunch of work upfront, it isn’t too bad as I make the crust every other week, freezing the extra crusts for the next night!

I hope you enjoy this pizza crust as we have hosted many people who are pleasantly surprised at this gluten free thin crust pizza.

Gluten Free Pizza Crust

  • Servings: 12
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2 Tbsp active dry yeast (1)
1 1/3 C warm water (110º -115º)
1 C tapioca flour
2 to 2 2/3 C brown rice flour, separated
4 Tbsp nonfat dry milk powder (I use coconut milk powder or goat milk powder)
4 tsp xanthan gum / 5 tsp psyllium husk fibre (2)
2 tsp unflavoured gelatin (3)
2 tsp italian seasoning
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Pizza toppings of your choice (pizza sauce, meat, cheese, veggies etc.)

1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the tapioca flour, 1 1/3 C brown rice flour, xanthan gum, gelatin, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and sugar. Beat until smooth (I use the spiral dough hook on my kitchen aid). Stir in enough remaining brown rice flour to form a soft dough (dough will still be sticky).
2. Separate dough into 2 balls. On a floured surface, roll each dough ball into 13″ circles. Transfer to a 12″ prepared pizza pan, build up edges slightly. Cover and let rest for 10 min. (I always forget to do this part and it still turns out great).
3. Bake at 425º for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Add the toppings of your choice. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and toppings are lightly browned and heated through.
4. If you want to freeze your crust, I completely prep my pizza with toppings, wrap in saran and freeze as is in the freezer. I wouldn’t leave it more than a couple weeks to prevent freezer burn. I normally make 4 crusts and freeze 2.

(1) Corn allergy – avoid all yeast that contains any additives, most contain ascorbic acid, which is derived from corn. Red Star Active Dry Yeast is the only one I believe that is free of any additives, it has to be the individual single dose packages.
(2) Corn allergy – xanthan gum is iffy with corn allergies due to how they make it. We are making the switch to psyllium husk fibres, I’ll let you know how it goes
(3) Corn allergy – gelatin needs to be unflavoured and not made from vegetables to truly be corn free. I use a beef gelatin.

You may be wondering what I use as my standard toppings. I will break it down for you:

For those with dairy issues, I use Black Sheep Vegan Cheese which is a local product to the Okanagan, British Columbia, where we live. There are a few products out there but for those with corn allergies it isn’t easy finding safe cheese. This one has worked for us so far and tastes delicious.

For the sauce I use my Italian pasta sauce. It is delicious and super easy to make. I will post about it soon. I use as our pizza sauce as normal pasta sauce uses citric acid when canning it. I have three options to make it, the 10 minute method, the 2 hr method and the canning method, all relatively easy.

For meat I use either shredded, grass fed free range chicken or chicken deli meat from Sterling Springs Chickens, a local farmer.

For vegetable toppings I usually use chopped peppers, onion, minced garlic, shredded spinach etc. all sourced from our local farmers market.

Let me know if you made this crust and what you think! I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does.

Coconut Fruit Ice Cream

There is one thing I miss more than anything some days is a blizzard from DQ. Since V got her corn allergy we haven’t been able to even eat any store bought dairy free ice creams as they all have “gum” ingredients of some sort, all are usually derived from corn.

I bought an ice cream maker with the bowl that goes in the freezer, definitely a must for making your own ice cream. We use the Kitchenaid mixer attachment style but really, any will work.

Hope you enjoy! I have been enjoying my fresh fruit ice creams and sorbets this summer that’s for sure!

Coconut Fruit Ice Cream

  • Servings: 4 Cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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4 Ingredient Coconut Fruit Ice Cream that is paleo, dairy free, vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free, corn free

3 cups fresh or frozen fruit (strawberries, mangoes, peaches etc.)
1 can Full Fat Coconut Milk, room temperature (I use Natural Value Coconut Milk) (1)
1 – 3 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional) (2)

1. Add fruit to a blender or a food processor. Blend smooth.
2. Add coconut milk and remaining ingredients (if using), blend until smooth.
3. Transfer mixture to ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directions for your machine.
4. Place in freezer-friendly, airtight container. This will freeze very firm, so allow to thaw for 20-60 min before scooping. If in microwave-safe container you can microwave in 15 second increments until slightly soft and scoop-able.

(1) Corn allergy – ensure coconut milk is gum free
(2) Corn allergy – Vanilla is made with alcohol, often corn, if necessary, you may need to make your own

Our Breastfeeding Journey… with Allergies

It is the end of breastfeeding week and I really wanted to share our story on breastfeeding as it may not be one that many of you have heard or know about. Some talk about breastfeeding like it was so simple and easy. Others talk about their struggles with it; poor latch, tongue or lip ties, mastitis, bleeding, poor supply, pain etc. I knew all of this going in.

When our daughter was born in October everything was going perfectly. She latched well, she had no problems breastfeeding, I loved every second of it. Everyone talks about that feeling, of just absolute love, knowing your body is making everything necessary for you child. It’s incredible.

All that changed when V was 3 months old. She had started having blood in her stool. Now what does that have to do with breastfeeding many may ask? Absolutely everything. I started to get concerned, as any parent would be.

We went to the family doctor and she sent in a referral to see a pediatrician. Funny thing about pediatricians, they are considered specialists, so even though we had one for a different reason for V, we were required to get another referral to have our daughter seen for this new reason, which is absolutely ridiculous and a waste of time, especially since it is impossible to get in on short notice (less than at least a week). Anywho, family doctor raised some concerns that it might be serious and if she starts to have excruciating pain we should go to emergency.

Later that day I started thinking back more on the last few weeks and realized that our happy, nothing bothers her, really never cries baby, had started waking up screaming and pulling up her legs for some reason after naps and several times throughout the day. I had just thought it was a faze, that she would grow out of it, but the doctor had me concerned, so I decided it was better to be safe.

An emergency visit later, where the doctor there was not breastfeeding knowledgeable at all, told me my child was completely fine and she seemed happy so what was the issue. Of course he didn’t seem to understand that something was wrong, my child wasn’t acting like herself. She was having bouts of pain 6+ times a day where she was screaming, inconsolable. He just told me babies do that. She seems happy. Go home.

I was not happy with that and demanded to see a pediatrician ASAP. Thank goodness he listened to that and we got to go in to see this new pediatrician in the morning.

V had always been a spitty baby, always puking her food up (I changed her 5+ times a day…), always having 7+ burps a feed. She went from sleeping through the night to waking up every couple hours screaming in pain. She would wake up from naps screaming, she would scream randomly throughout the day. For anyone that knew her, this wasn’t normal. She never cried normally. She had mucousy, green looking stool with black specks or bright red blood in it, and it smelled off. Sorry, but it’s true. I just didn’t realize that all of this was linked.

We found out I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t imagining things. Our daughter has what is called CMPA (Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy) as well as a soy allergy. It is an infant allergy that babies usually outgrow of by age of three.

I was a little confused though. I am already allergic to dairy. So one, babies can have issues with breastmilk? And two, how is she reacting to something that I don’t even eat, or at the most maybe have something that says “may contain milk”.

Apparently it is entirely possible. Any allergen can pass through breastmilk into baby. We got this huge list of ingredients to look out for and I purged our kitchen. I gave so much food away to family and friends, I honestly had no idea I had so much that contained soy ingredients! I felt discouraged, but we were figuring it out.

Those first couple weeks were so hard. I continued breastfeeding knowing that it takes a while for the allergens to leave my milk, knowing I was causing my daughter pain. She would just scream and pull away and was completely inconsolable. All I could do was rock her and repeatedly say “I’m so sorry baby girl, Momma’s trying to help. I’m so sorry.” I bawled. A lot.

I had so much guilt. So much anguish. I wondered if I should give up breastfeeding. if I should switch to formula. But I knew there was no guarantee that the formula wouldn’t bother her either.

I think one of the hardest parts was that it takes so long for the allergens to leave your body. When you first eliminate something, say dairy, it can take 2 to 3 weeks for it to be out of your body completely. So when you are breast feeding, you also have to add in that time to baby. 4 to 6 weeks to know if your diet is working, to know if you are making a difference or continuing to harm your child.

Suffice to say, I spent weeks bawling, hoping I was doing enough, kicking myself if I made a mistake. When it is just your allergies, who cares if you have a reaction when you knowingly put yourself at risk. That is your choice. My daughter didn’t chose to react. She didn’t chose to eat something just because she really wanted it, knowing she would have a reaction. I was making that choice for her. And because of this, I knew I had to make better decisions. I couldn’t knowingly hurt her.

After a while we also figured out she was allergic to corn and egg too. I had thought the soy allergy was difficult. I was wrong. Corn is in everything and part of everything.

Now, this is not everyone’s breastfeeding journey. I had it so easy at the beginning, I had an oversupply, a baby that nursed every 4 hours from the time she was born, sleeping through night from 1 month on, a dream baby. And then that changed. She started recognizing that she hurt after eating, so for several weeks she started refusing to nurse, screaming at me, crying, There were tears everywhere. I seriously questioned if I was a good mom. I must have been a monster, I was hurting my child, forcing her to nurse, making her hurt. It was pure torture.

After we got a new normal, knew what we could eat in the house, what was safe, what wasn’t, then shopping became one of my dreaded tasks. I used to love grocery shopping, what changed? I would read everything I put into the shopping cart, or really, read everything and then put it back on the shelf. There was so little I could eat. I felt like I was eating the same things, couldn’t eat out, I seriously for a time hated food. Then we got a handle on that and now I just deal with the cravings. Cravings for things I can’t eat. Popcorn, icing, the ease of ordering take out.

So, would I do it all over again? One thousand times yes. We are at 9 months going strong and I don’t know when we will stop. I love breastfeeding again. I love knowing that everything I am putting into my body is for my daughter, to keep her safe and healthy. I cherish our times together and dread being finished. Do I look forwards to the day I can have popcorn again, YES! But I can live without it, and if any of our future kids have similar problems I will go through it again, gladly, for them.

Breastfeeding isn’t easy, it isn’t simple, there is so much involved, so much commitment. But it is one of the most rewarding things that you can do.

For those that can’t breastfeed and wished they could, I completely understand. I grieved when I thought I might have to give it up. It is so important to do what is necessary for your child. For us, there wasn’t a formula that would have even worked for V, so I am happy that I was able to make the changes necessary to keep her safe and fed and healthy.

I hope that I have perhaps educated you a little, helped some moms not feel alone in such a difficult trying journey. This isn’t a breastfeeding topic that is commonly shared or known about, but it is becoming more a more prevalent. Let’s talk about our journeys. Let’s share about our parenting struggles. No judgement, no condemnation or accusations. Let’s just support each other, knowing we are all doing our best for our children.

Anyone else had a similar journey? Please share, I’d love to hear from you.

Gluten Free Flour

For anyone that has been in my kitchen, you will know that I have more dry goods than most. This is because I need so many different flours to make any baked goods.

I actually used to use more of a variety and try out different types of gluten free flour like quinoa, sorghum, millet, teff, almond, coconut flours etc. I have pretty much completely switched to two flour mixes that work so well many don’t usually realize what I have made is gluten free.

I found these on a blog called glutenfreeonashoestring. The author has several flour mixes, but I have found that I mainly prefer 2 of them. Mock Better Batter and Mock Cup4Cup.

I have of course remained these to “Gluten Free All Purpose Flour” and “Gluten Free Pastry Flour”

Several notes about these mixes. They are measured by weight. The recipe makes 10 cups of flour. You can use these as a 1:1 substitute in regular recipes.

Gluten Free All Purpose Flour

  • Servings: 10 Cups
  • Print

Great all purpose flour mix. Use with cookies, cupcakes, muffins, cakes, chocolate chip cookies etc. Substitute 1:1 in any recipe.

420 grams White Rice Flour
420 grams Brown Rice Flour
210 grams Tapioca Starch
210 grams Potato Starch
42 grams Xanthan Gum* or 40 grams Psyllium Husk Fibre
70 grams Potato Flour
28 grams Pectin**

Use a scale and whisk well together. Store in sealed container

* Xanthan gum is often not tolerated by those with Corn Allergies. This is something that you will have to play by ear. Another option is psyllium husk fibre, which is what we use.
** Pectin should be safe for those that are Corn lite

Gluten Free Pastry Flour

  • Servings: 10 Cups
  • Print

Light & airy. Great for biscuits, scones, pie crusts, pierogies etc. Substitute 1:1 in any recipe.

434 grams White Rice Flour
350 grams Arrowroot Powder***
196 grams Brown Rice Flour
210 grams Tapioca Starch
140 grams Coconut Milk Powder****
42 grams Potato Starch
28 grams Xanthan gum* / or 20 grams Psyllium Husk Fibre

Use a scale and whisk well together. Store in sealed container.

* Xanthan gum is often not tolerated by those with Corn Allergies. This is something that you will have to play by ear. Another option is psyllium husk fibre which is what we use.
*** Original recipe calls for Cornstarch. You can use this if you desire.
**** We use Native Forest Coconut Milk Powder. Beware of corn maltodextrin added. If you aren’t dairy free, you can just use dry milk powder or goat milk powder, which is what we previously used.

Use a scale and whisk well together. Store in sealed container.

** Pectin should be safe for those that are Corn Lite (refer to THIS site if you are unsure), however, I am also looking for a safer pectin as we aren’t sure if this is the case for V.
**** We use Native Forest Coconut Milk Powder. You have to be careful as many coconut milk powders have corn maltodextrin in it. The one we buy has gum acacia which some with corn allergies are sensitive to. Do what works best for you. If you aren’t dairy free, you can just use dry milk powder or goat milk powder, which is what we previously used.

Let me know if you have any new suggestions or if you have tried it in a recipe!