How to replace soy sauce – introducing coconut amino acids


Dairy, Soy, and Gluten Free

Some people search for a replacement for soy sauce for health reasons (such as reducing salt or going paleo) and for others it’s because of food allergies (like gluten or soy). I was really excited while researching alternatives to discover coconut amino acids.

Coconut aminos are a liquid made from the aged sap of coconut blossoms and salt. It is a low-glycemic, vegan, and gluten-free alternative to soy sauce, with 17 amino acids. Coconut aminos have about 65% less sodium than regular soy sauce but still has a rich, sweet-savory flavour. They can be picked up from health food stores, organic stores (like Huckleberry) and some supermarkets.

The brand that was recommended to me was Coco Not Soy Sauce and I used it to make a fabulous Teriyaki Sauce that Miss 2 loved.

Customised Allergy t-shirts


Custom allergy t-shirts for kids

I had the pleasure this summer of talking with Hayley, the awesome graphic designer at Little Red Inspired, who has a fantastic range of t-shirts for kids with allergies. As well as ordering from her direct they can also be purchased from Willow Boutique; personally I think the flying cow for the dairy-free t-shirt is super cute!

As well as having a range of ready made t-shirts, Hayley can also customise them for only a couple of dollars more. Once I’d settled on a general design and wording that I liked, she mocked up 3 different designs for me to choose from – what great service!

She also does stick-on washable labels for lunchboxes which is super handy!


Custom allergy t-shirt


Food allergy label for lunchbox


My first attempt at making Gluten-free bread (and how I ended up with English muffins & flatbread)


So if you read my last post about how we’re doing with the food allergies, then you’ll know that I’m trying to work out how we can go soy, dairy, gluten, and egg free (or at least reduce those last three). So today I made my first attempt at making gluten free bread. I naively didn’t research it online first and decided to gamely try my Linseed Bread recipe with the gluten free flour I’d picked up cheaply at an overflow store.

At the end of the first rise it was a completely different texture to my normal dough and really sticky (like thick icing). I realized that part of the problem was that the flour mix was intended for muffin making, not bread, and might not be strong enough. The tapioca / maize / rice flour mix had some thickeners added but I wasn’t sure if those included things like xanthan gum that might be able to hold the bubbles the yeast was trying to make. I gamely threw in some more gluten free flour and went on to the second mix & rise.

I did decide, while eyeing the mix nervously, that putting it in my bread mould might be a little hopeful. Instead I out it into a silicon muffin tray and spread the leftover mix thinly on a silicon flan dish. They did indeed rise again and I put them in the oven hoping for the best.

These cooked much more quickly than my bread does (in about 20 minutes) and came out with kind of a thin crunchy meringue type top. The flatbread was very thin and tasty with just butter (well actually rice bran spread); I think it might dry further over the next day or two and become more of a cracker. The muffins actually had a good texture inside and came out like English muffins (so bread-like rather than sweet muffins).

So not a total loss, yay!

Allergy update & how we’re coping

I’m having to put a list together of all of Miss 2’s medical appointments for the last 12 months. It’s part of a bureaucratic process and it feels kind of bleak, we’re at something like 33 now out of 52 weeks. If you factor in her being sick most of the time in between those appointments and the fact that I’m a single mother with very little support, it’s pretty fracking overwhelming. Good thing I’m sitting down with a coffee to write this while she plays gleefully in a ball pit. 

She’s doing better this week – She laughed the other day and it was such a beautiful spontaneous sound that it brought tears to my eyes because it had been so many weeks since I’d heard it.

We both had airborne allergy tests recently and in her typical atypical fashion she came up in hives in several places – except for where she’d been pricked. Later that day her breathing started to labour and an awful snotty nose started that is still with us 10 days later. It makes it hard for her to breathe at times even with her mattress on a 45′ angle and three allergy medications each day (2 oral + 1 nasal spray). 

The good thing is that I reacted typically. Dust mites, dogs, and lots of grasses/weeds. With the help of a gardening association I identified that our little lawn has very little lawn grass and lots of highly aero-allergenic grasses/weeds. I’ve got Bermuda running grass, plantain, and Bahia grass (paspallum) that has an extended pollen season of about 5 months. Oh, there’s also the clover I love but the bees have adored it also this summer and it turns out we’re both allergic to being stung ūüė¶

The grass allergy explains why I haven’t been able to breathe for months with an ongoing cough, worsening wheezing, feeling like there’s an elephant on my chest, and so many headaches / sinus pressure. It explains why walking my daughter to home care I get a headache and have trouble breathing but can easily run around an air conditioned mall. I’m on allergy medications now as well but it’s not like I can just avoid grass for the summer!

Hopefully the grass allergy also explains why Miss 2 has been deteriorating so rapidly since the start of the year. It would fit in timing wise and an aero-allergen would help to explain the summer colds, swollen terminates, swollen tonsils, and bruised swelling under her eyes.

There’s still the possibility of another food allergy or intolerance as well so I’m keeping a daily food diary for both of us (down to each ingredient). There are also several foods (like dairy, soy, gluten, eggs) that can cause excess mucous production even if you’re not allergic. There’s a wider range of allergenic-friendly foods available these days that may still appeal to a toddler but price-wise they’re not too friendly. I’d already reduced the amount of gluten and eggs in our diet; the aim will be to reduce them further (and dairy) to see if it helps and potentially work towards eliminating them all together.

More medical appointments next month with at least three different hospital departments. She may need to go back on her reflux medication as well since that has improved but not gone away and could be another factor in her misery this summer.

On the bright side, she is loved and knows that she is loved. She loves books, her vocab continues to increase (with hilarious and/or imperious sentences being uttered), she is kind, and she is growing.

Happy Valentines Day

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Hope all the parents out there had a wonderful Valentines Day! I felt blessed to be part of the team putting together an amazing experience for the first session back of our big music and dance playgroup for under 5’s. Such an awesome hardworking team and special treats for parents and kids alike.

Valentine’s Day can be one of those funny celebration days as a solo parent. ¬†It bothered me the first two times that I was alone with my daughter but this time it didn’t bother me. I made it special for us¬†with Valentine’s Day toast (home made bread with a chocolate-hazelnut spread I found that we can eat) and I was so incredibly grateful to the lovely Ronda at Walter & Rose (who made these beautiful cookies!!) who went the extra effort to message me back from her home with ingredient lists rather than waiting till she was back at work. It was a huge thing for my daughter that she was able to eat the heart shaped cookies with the other kids (and that I knew she couldn’t eat the teddy bear cookies as there was soy in the heart fondant).

Yes You Can! Easy allergy friendly Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pao de Queijo)

Easy Brazilian Cheese Bread

I’ve been working my way through the Yes You Can range of allergy friendly baking mixes. So far we’ve tried Cinnamon Apple muffins and Chocolate Orange Zest cake, their Buckwheat Pancakes, and now their¬†Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pao de Queijo) –¬†¬†marketed as a Savoury Snack Mix.

Easy Brazilian Cheese Bread

It’s gluten, soy, and nut free. It has some cheese powder in it and you’re encouraged to add grated cheese (or diced olives or sundried tomatoes).

They recommend a food processor

Ready to go in the oven

All done

I added grated cheese and some parmesan powder. Fresh out of the oven they have a gorgeous cheese fondue kind of thing going on inside and a crisp outer shell.

They deflate a bit as they cool but stay cheesy. I really liked them. Miss 2 isn’t so keen, too chewy for her.

Can soybean oil and soy lecithin trigger an allergic reaction?


I’m drafting this post late¬†one night in the hot muggy dark when I should be sleeping, would rather be sleeping, because I’ve spent the past hour awake and unable to successfully switch off. I think it’s because my brain is still percolating on today’s research and trying to fit it in with all of the other health-related research of the last few months; it’s rather like trying to put together one of those large jigsaw puzzles where you only have a vague idea of the expected outcome because you’ve lost the lid to the box which has the finished picture.

If you, or a family member or loved one, has been diagnosed with a soy allergy then you’re probably familiar with the phrasing that “the vast majority” (emphasis on the air quotes) of sufferers will not experience an allergenic reaction to soybean oil or soy lecithin. This does then rather prompt the question of, ‘Why not?’

What is Soybean Oil?

This oil is incredibly widely used worldwide. In the USA particularly it is apparently the most widely used edible oil taking up 55% of the market share in 2014. It’s cheap to obtain (because it’s grown year round in many countries as livestock feed), doesn’t have a lot of inherent flavour, and is proven to be highly adaptable and stable for uses within the food industry.

This is problematic if you’re allergic to it because it can appear in anything from dried fruit (like sultanas), to peanut butter, to cookies, to non-dairy coffee creamers. Anything that contains undeclared “vegetable oils” becomes suspect because there is a high likelihood that part (or all) of that is soybean oil.

The soybeans are cracked, heated, rolled, solvent-extracted with hexanes, refined, and then may be further blended and/or hydrogenated (partially or fully). Some sites discuss health concerns about soybean oil purely to do with potential adverse health concerns relating to hexanes, hydrogenation, or trans-fats. I haven’t researched those sufficiently to have formed an opinion so I’ll leave that to readers to follow up on should they wish.

What is soy lecithin?

To make soy lecithin, soybean oil is extracted from the raw soybeans using a chemical solvent (usually hexane). Then, the crude soy oil goes through a ‚Äėdegumming‚Äô process, wherein water is mixed thoroughly with the soy oil until the lecithin becomes hydrated and separates from the oil. Then, the lecithin is dried and occasionally bleached using hydrogen peroxide.¬†(1) (2).

Soy lecithin is used as an emulsifier to help stabilize food products and prevent them from separating out into their component forms (like in chocolate or margarine). Sometimes it will be declared on food packaging in full (i.e. soy lecithin), other times there is simply an additive number; 322 is almost always soy, 471 often so.

Can soybean oil or soy lecithin trigger an allergic reaction?

That’s really the crux of the matter if you (or loved one) has been diagnosed as allergic to soy. I’ve seen the full gamut of opinion online and in published books.

Some sources will argue that the high heats used to produce soybean oil and soy lecithin denature the allergenic proteins; others argue that there are no soy proteins in these products (or so few that they can’t cause a reaction). Admittedly, some of these articles I suspect of having a commercial bias.

Some take the middle ground and say that “the vast majority” of people sensitive to soy will not have an allergic reaction and to discuss it with your medical specialist (which you should do).

Some argue that it is difficult to accurately test concentration levels of soybean protein in these products and that often there is no legal requirement to do so (or insufficient oversight for sufficient regulatory surety). For instance, one study in 2001 found that the level of proteins found in six lecithin samples ranged from 100 to 1,400 ppm (parts per million); that’s a big range even in such a small sample size. By comparison, the 2013 ruling by the FDA required that gluten-free foods contain less than 20 ppm (3).

There don’t seem to be large-scale studies into using these products to trigger IgE antibodies.¬†Small studies publishing in 1998 seem to suggest that these can cause an allergic reaction but only in some people that are allergic to soy (4, 5). One (non-medical) article suggested that sensitivity to soy lecithin may be linked to gut permeability (i.e. the more damaged and inflamed the gut has become, the more susceptible one becomes to even the tiniest trace of soy protein).


Yes, it is possible to have an allergic response to soybean oil and/or soy lecithin. Miss 2 appears to be allergic to soybean oil and I have reason to suspect that soy lecithin may also be a problem. Anecdotally, I’ve read blogs by people that react to these and corresponded with others that have.¬†Working out if you’re allergic to soybean oil and/or lecithin can be a lengthy and frustrating process that often comes back to food diaries, trial and error, and consulting with a medical specialist.

Part of the problem with these two products is the possible variations; one day a food product might contain sufficient ppm of soy protein to trigger a reaction and another time it might not. For instance, leaving aside questions of general health, take the following example:

One Friday night you go to the supermarket and purchase (A) ice cream and (B) ice cream cones; both of these products contain soy lecithin as emulsifiers.

  • How much soy protein is in the separate batches of lecithin in products (A) and (B)? What if one has 18 ppm and the other has 1650 ppm?
  • What percentage of each product is made up of soy lecithin? What if one product is 5% and one product is 0.5%?
  • How much of each product are you consuming? What if your ratio of ice-cream to cone is 4:1 ?
  • What if the only reason you have a reaction is because of allergenic loading; i.e. you’re not actually reacting to (A) or (B) but rather to the combined exposure as a result of (A) + (B)?

Maybe you react and maybe you don’t. Maybe you buy exactly those same products (from exactly those same manufacturers) a month later and you do react because one or more of those questions above has a different answer.

Final conclusion: Food allergies suck.

I feel like I should make some off-the-cuff remark like “Food allergies suck (but not as much as vampires)” just to lighten the mood but the reality is that they do. Kia kaha, stay strong.

How a slice of bread gave my daughter an allergy attack

Different circumstances this time to the peanut butter. A few weeks ago I tried the rounds of asking bakeries near our GP’s office on the off-chance that any of them made bread on-site that was soy free. To my delight, there was an artisan bakehouse, specialising in bread, that assured me (after checking) that they had a white Farmhouse Loaf that was absolutely definitely soy free.

It sounds really simple but Miss 2 and I were so overjoyed to be able to eat soft fluffy white bread. It’s a long drive from home so I sliced it up, we ate beautiful bread for a couple of days, and I froze the rest for emergencies while I kept practising making bread myself.

That simple pleasure was enough to earn a calendar entry and feature into menu planning for this week since we had another appointment with the GP. When we ran out of bread two days ago, instead of making bread, I decided to pull the emergency bread out of the freezer as a treat since we’d be able to replace it.

Why was this a problem? Because when I went to the same bakery today and asked the same questions (always, always double check just in case a recipe has changed or a product supplier)… this time I was told that it does contain soy protein and that I must have been informed incorrectly last time.



In a painful twist of irony, we’d sat eating that same damn bread (from the freezer) at the playground before going to the doctor’s appointment. I had a sinking feeling when I realized that I couldn’t remember if there were 4 slices or 6 slices in the bag I took out of the freezer. Did we eat it yesterday? I honestly don’t recall because it wasn’t on my threat radar and my focus was entirely on the hospital appointment. It does explain an earlier allergy attack recorded in my daily notes that I thought couldn’t be from soy because we’d absolutely definitely had no exposure that week (turns out that was wrong…).

It was hard not to be angry and frustrated when I’d been really specific with my questioning and explaining that it was a food allergy. I’m angry that staff got ingredients wrong when it’s being made on site. I’m angry that the store has made my daughter suffer, not once but twice. Her allergy rash started to present before we even got home and was worse by bed time; her eczema had also started to throw up red warning flags. She was too unsettled to go down for her day nap. The afternoon and evening required topical treatment cream, intensive moisturising cream, and oral medication. It’s not enough to prevent the attack but hopefully it helps take the edge off a little.

In reality, there’s always too much to do as a solo parent to spend more than a few minutes dwelling on the unfairness of another approaching storm. I’m grateful that I was cautious and asked again (so we didn’t end up with a second loaf). I’m grateful that food allergies and eczema aren’t contagious (unlike the 14 days of viral diarrhoea that she was too immuno-compromised to fight off and that had us completely quarantined from close contact leading up to Christmas). I’m grateful that we were able to have a friend over to play this afternoon bringing smiles to her face. I’m grateful that she fell asleep in my arms tonight feeling safe and loved and comforted.

Now on Pinterest!

Yay, FlyingSolo is now on Pinterest and lovingly curated to make things easy to find. Posts¬†have been saved across multiple boards so that it’s easy to find things to do on rainy days, or things to cook for dinner, or baking, or gluten free recipes, or dairy free recipes etc.

Have fun and please remember to share ūüôā

Adventures in Bread Making

Needing to go soy free has meant venturing into bread making (or restricting ourselves to one or two commercial loaves that won’t make her sick; unfortunately these are quite dense and Miss Toddler does not like them).

I made bread by hand years ago but it seemed like a lot of effort and didn’t rise nearly as much as store bough varieties. I borrowed a bread maker last year and tried a couple of times but none of them worked (probably for a variety of reasons).

Now I’m determined to make it work and have had more luck after working out:

  • Bread needs high grade or strong flour. Plain/standard flour does not work nearly as well.
  • It helps to keep a close eye on the expiry date of the yeast.
  • The order in which ingredients get added is different in a breadmaker than making it from scratch.
  • Doing two dough cycle knock-down/risings in the breadmaking helps (if making from hand dough might be rising 3-4 hours overall compared to 1.5 hours in a breadmaker).
  • It cooks and rises better in the oven than the breadmaker (this also means that you don’t have the little metal mixer annoyingly baked into the bread).

So far I’ve made Milk Bread, Linseed Bread, and Toddler Friendly Multi-Grain Bread.