"They said, 'He's not eating well,' but I thought, 'This is my child who eats raw broccoli.'"
Evan even had a colonoscopy as a way to determine if he had an allergy to wheat gluten or diverticulitis. The procedure did reveal that he had allergies.
The discovery of allergies as the culprit has Valery McMann trying lots of new recipes in the kitchen. With chicken out of the picture, they are trying more fish dishes. One of the favorites is salmon with a brown sugar glaze. The sweet coating makes the difference, she says.
"That's the key with the kids. I think anything with brown sugar (they will eat)."
They also cook tilapia, which Valery has found to be an inexpensive seafood.
"I think I can get four fillets for $4."
She has used it instead of other types of fish listed in recipes.
"You don't get many recipes that call for tilapia but if they call for cod, I just replace it."
The salmon recipe was discovered in a Weight Watcher cookbook that came to their house by mistake as part of a book club order.
"It showed up about the same time as Evan's allergies and it has a lot of fast recipes," says Valery, who works as a financial planner with her father at Messer and Associates.
Evan also likes a recipe for beef stew that came from his grandmother, but Valery says a drawback is that it takes a couple of hours to make.
"Evan loves it. Alex will take a 'Hello, how-are-you bite.'"
Evan may outgrow some of his allergies
The McManns expect that Evan will outgrow the allergy to corn and chicken, but they don't expect any changes with the dairy products. To combat the problem, he takes Lactaid Ultra in a pill form before each course that would have lactose.
"The pills give your body what it needs to break it down," Valery McMann says, noting that her son is not fond of taking the pills.
"They don't taste bad. Just the idea of taking them doesn't thrill him."
She buys Lactaid for him to drink instead of milk.
"I tried soy milk and he didn't like that."
As she continues to search for recipes, Valery says she would like to find more suitable vegetarian ones.
"I used to try to do a couple of meals a week without meat, but almost all vegetarian meals have cheese in them."
Desserts also present a problem because most contain milk.
She finds some suitable products at Wild Oats.
"They have a lot of dairy-free items," she says. "He can have a chocolate chip cookie there."
The family does have to be careful when it comes to snacks or eating lunch away from home.
"School is the hardest thing. We pack his lunch, but people give him things," she says. "They'll say, 'Do you want a Twinkie?' and he'll say, 'Sure.'"
For snacks, popcorn is a no-no because of the corn allergy. He mostly relies on pretzels and she found a granola bar that does not contain milk. One of their favorite mixes is peanuts, raisins and dark chocolate chips because they don't have milk.
Maybe when Evan grows up and becomes a scientist, he'll research food allergies.
Salmon with Brown Sugar Glaze
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skinned
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1. Spray rack of a broiler with nonstick spray; preheat the broiler.
2. Whisk together the brown sugar, mustard and dill in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the salmon with salt and pepper. Place the salmon in the broiler rack and spoon the brown sugar glaze on top.
3. Position 7 inches from the heat and broil until lightly browned and just opaque in the center, about 6 minutes.
Note: Steamed broccoli and rice go well with this dish.
Beef Stew with Potatoes
1 pound stewing beef cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, sliced
2 tablespoons butter or drippings
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, crushed
Dash of paprika
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 quarts hot beef broth
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
Saute beef and onion in butter or drippings until well browned. Add salt, bay leaf, garlic and paprika. Sprinkle with flour. Stir and cook over low heat until flour is absorbed and browned. Sprinkle with vinegar and stir thoroughly over low heat. Add hot broth and simmer 45 minutes. Add potatoes and cook slowly for an hour. Sprinkle with cheese.