Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

ICFBD… Read On, And Your Plan for Feb. 5th Will Surely Change January 29, 2011

I hope you’re sitting down, because I just heard of a holiday that I want to scream about!  International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.  Yup, you read that right.

As the story goes, the parents of Joe and Ruth invented ICFBD to beat the winter doldrums in Upstate New York.  The rules of the holiday are simple and easy to follow:  eat ice cream…at breakfast…on the first Saturday in February. (

As simple as that tradition is, this could pose a tricky problem for those of us who are avoiding dairy.  I plan on celebrating this February 5th with sorbet.   Unlike sherbet and ice cream, sorbet does not contain dairy.  It’s not hard to find in a grocery store, but sorbet can be tough to find if you’re out on the town.  Here are a few national and local tips for where to celebrate ICFBD in dairy-free style!


photo taken by TheCulinaryGeek via flickr

Baskin Robbins:

Although they carry 31 flavors, it’s worth calling ahead to your local Baskin Robbins to see if one of those flavors is their sorbet.  It comes in Pink Grapefruit Sorbet and Daiquiri Ice.   Additionally, and I’m not sure if this is sacreligious to ICFBD, but there are a few other dairy-free concoctions that Baskin Robbins serves:  Strawberry Citrus, Peach Passion and Wild Mango Fruit Blasts which are free of all allergens (milk, egg, soy, peanut, tree nut, and wheat) according to their nutrition panel.

Ben & Jerry’s:

I can always count on Ben & Jerry to come through for me in a pinch.  And, they do in four different flavors:  Berry, Mango, Lemonade and Pomegranate.  Again, call ahead to make sure it’s on your local franchise’s menu.

Be aware that although Haagen Dazs and Cold Stone Creamery make sorbet, neither can guarantee they don’t contain trace amounts of dairy (and/or other allergens in Cold Stone’s case).  Bummer!

Locally in and around D.C., Pulcinella’s (McLean, VA) serves orange and lemon sorbet in their shells.  Be aware if you also have a nut allergy: last I had checked these were manufactured in a factory that also handles nut products.  Down the street, Sweet Leaf (also McLean) serves delicious strawberry and mango sorbets.

In Falls Church, both Clare and Don’s Beach Shack and Lazy Sundae serve delicious homemade sorbets in a variety of flavors.  Lazy Sundae regularly carries pear and pineapple sorbet, but I’m not certain sorbet is always available on the dessert menu at Clare and Don’s; so again call ahead if you’re going specifically for that.

If you know of any other local or national places that serve sorbet or dairy-free ice cream, help us celebrate International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day by posting a comment below.  Happy ICFBD!


Helpful Smartphone Apps I Hope You Never Have to Use January 27, 2011

I just read about a few new smartphone apps that are worth it for every parent to download.  Those of us with food allergic children simply have an extra reason.

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The first is iTriage.  Performing on the Android and iPhone platforms, iTriage houses a comprehensive list of emergency rooms, hospitals and urgent care facilities – listing their distance from your current location, their address, phone numbers, directions, ratings and wait times.  Because it pulls them up based on your location – wherever that may be, this app is essential when you travel.  iTriage also helps users make informed health decisions offering information about symptoms, medical procedures, and even helps you locate a doctor.  This app is user-friendly and has a voice-input option to get you the information quickly.

iTriage Home Menu


Operating for iPhone only is the findER app.  Like iTriage, findER uses the phone’s GPS to search for and list the nearest emergency rooms and/or emergency departments (displayed either in map or list format).  With one-click, a user can obtain directions and with another click will be directed to the web to obtain more information about the medical facility.

findER Home Menu

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I hope no one ever has to use these apps.  But if you do, you’ll be glad you had them handy!

Pass it on!


Lebanese Taverna January 24, 2011

I just want to lead off by thanking the folks at the Lebanese Taverna in Tysons Corner who once again demonstrated how helpful and accommodating they can be to a parent of a child with food allergies.

The other night I was craving chicken shawarma. Craaaavvvvvving it!  I looked up several recipes online, but each one contained tahini.  For those of you that are not familiar, tahini is sesame paste – something to which my son is very allergic.  This seemed strange to me.  We’ve eaten at Lebanese Taverna in the DC-area many times and their chicken shawarma was always safe for my son.   I kept checking different sites for an alternative, but continued to run into tahini to complete the task.

“Just call the restaurant!”  my mother urged.  She was being relentless with this advice.  What restaurant would willingly give away their “secret sauce” – especially over the phone?!  It seemed crazy!  Despite my better instincts and, in part to appease my mother who would undoubtedly call back in 10 minutes, I called Lebanese Taverna.   I explained that my son was severely allergic to sesame seeds, could safely eat their chicken shawarma and asked if they would be willing to tell me what ingredients to look for in a compatible recipe online.

After a few minutes on hold, the manager came on the phone – I assumed to tell me that it would be impossible to share their recipe.  Instead, he warmly greeted me and reiterated my son’s allergy, confirming that he understood the problem.   The manager then asked me to grab a pen and began walking me through the exact way they prepare this delicious dish, step-by-step.

I have always had a great experience navigating my son’s allergies at Lebanese Taverna.  The managers are available, careful and knowledgeable about their dishes as are the waitstaff.   They are very willing to customize their menu to suit my son’s diet and are friendly and helpful while doing so.


And, Mom,  thanks for the great suggestion!  You were right – as usual!


Play Date, Anyone? Friendship with Food Allergies January 19, 2011


photo taken by kaboompics via pixabay

I’ll admit it:  when my son was first invited to go on play dates without me, I was nervous.  Okay, I was panicked.   It would be one of the first times my son was being fed outside of my supervision or in the nut-free safety of his preschool.  Our first drop-off play date was at the house of a family with whom we had spent a lot of time.  This was as much to comfort me as it was for my son.  Before dropping him off, I called the mother and discussed my child’s food allergies and was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to set up a carefree play date.

It’s wonderful watching your child grow and develop friendships.  Play dates are an integral part of that experience.  To have a successful play date away from home, I would suggest considering the following:

  • Talk about food choices that you know are safe – and BE BRAND SPECIFIC.  The hostess of our playdate had planned to feed the kids lunch and we discussed a variety of safe meal options. Once decided (we chose chicken nuggets and noodles), I asked if she minded if I emailed her the brand names of the pasta and nuggets that were safe for my son, since some others contained unsafe ingredients.
  • Bring safe snacks for the kids to share.  Consider it a hostess gift!  We brought two of my son’s favorite snacks which were voraciously devoured.  To this day (3 years later) these items are always on-hand at her house for my child or others with similar allergies.
  • Discuss commonly encountered scenarios with the other parent and how to handle them.  You know your child and can predict if he/she will, for example, eat strange objects off the floor, grab food without asking, or throw a fit if certain safe foods aren’t available.   Give them words to handle these encounters.  “I know you can have some kinds of cookies, Billy.  But since I’m not sure these are safe, let’s wait until your mommy comes before I give one to you.”
  • This is a good time to discuss good playdate behavior with your child, especially how THEY should handle food issues.  This includes rules about eating only off your own plate, asking if foods are safe, speaking to the host parent if something doesn’t feel right and general expectations of safe food availability.   “Joey’s house doesn’t have soy milk, so why don’t you drink water while you’re there today and we’ll get a yummy glass of milk when I pick you up.”

My son had a fantastic time on his first play date – and on many more since!  Turns out, most other parents are more tuned in than you think.  I should have been more nervous about my son wetting his pants (which he did! Oops!) than having an allergic reaction.  It’s comforting to know that other parents are just as concerned about your child’s safety as you are.  Keeping your son or daughter safe while independent from you is not only practical, but should be the goal for every parent of a food-allergic child.


Familiarize or Refamiliarize Yourself With How to Use an EpiPen January 18, 2011

Those of us who have a child at risk – or are ourselves at risk – of anaphylaxis because of an allergy are already familiar with EpiPens.  Most of us were prescribed the EpiPens and given a cursory tutorial on how to use them in a doctor’s office and left to hope we remember it all if the worst should occur.


Now’s a great time to reacquaint yourself with how to correctly use an EpiPen.   It’s also a great time to forward this link to family and other caretakers who may not have such allergies, so they can be prepared in case of an accident.



I hope you never have to use an EpiPen.   But now you’re sure to employ it properly if you do.


Allergy-Free Persian Chicken (Jojeh) Kabobs January 17, 2011

I love eating Middle Eastern food.  Having lived in the Gulf, I developed a particular weakness for Persian food.  Its tastes and aromas are homey and exotic all at once.  My son was just an infant when we moved back to the States, so I now turn to our local kabob place to satisfy my cravings.  While their food is so tasty,  their staff is hard to understand when I’ve asked them allergy-specific questions leaving me a bit leery about heading there with my son.  Rather than deprive us all of its deliciousness, I started making some Persian dishes at home.  Here’s one of my favorites and a good alternative to nuggets and hot dogs.





1 1/2 lbs chicken breast – cut into 1″ cubes for kabobs



1 1/2 medium onion

juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper to taste


Basting Sauce:

1/2 tsp ground saffron plus 3 Tbsp hot water

pinch of lime juice

Tbsp dairy-free melted butter or margarine



Grate onion over the chicken pieces.  Add lemon, salt and pepper.  Mix well until chicken pieces are all coated.  Leave to marinate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.

Mix together saffron, water, lime juice and butter.

Thread chicken onto a fine skewer.  Grill gently, basting frequently with marinade juices mixed with liquid saffron mix.  **Alternatively, you can broil chicken.  Arrange on broil pan and place in oven 4-6″ from heat.  Baste frequently until done.**


Serve immediately with basmati or warm pita.  Serves 4.


Grocery Update and General Reminders January 14, 2011

I’ve just been alerted that Silk Soy Milk has begun adding a disclaimer noting that their milk “May contain Almond and Coconut.”   Well, isn’t that special.


Don’t freak out!  If you’ve given your child Silk and he/she hasn’t reacted, everything is still okay.


Moving forward, there’s no need to despair either!  There are many brands which are widely available that don’t contain tree nuts.  Store bought brands are usually a safe bet.  And my allergist’s nurse recommended Costco’s brand Kirkland, noting that it’s delicious and creamy like regular milk (apparently, Silk has a kind of gritty texture to it).  Kirkland comes in Vanilla flavor for those who prefer it.


***This serves as a great reminder that we should regularly review the ingredient list of even our go-to safe foods BEFORE we put it in our carts.  Also, remember to register with FAAN to get allergy recall updates via email.***