Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Uncle Julio’s Restaurant – No Mas! March 25, 2011

When my girlfriends and I scheduled dinner during my gluten-free week, I thought it was perfect that we chose to go to Rio Grande in Arlington (now Uncle Julio’s).  How easy would it be to avoid the flour tortillas and order something delicious off their extensive menu?!  I was hungry already.


Hours before going, I called to verify that their addictive tortilla chips did not contain wheat flour (they don’t).  But in doing so, I learned there was VERY little I could order on their menu.  Turns out, my choices were:  salad with no dressing and few toppings, fajitas with no marinade or sides, cheese enchilada with cheese sauce (that’s right:  cheese on cheese) and a grilled vegetable platter (again with no sides).


I ordered the grilled vegetable platter at the urging of our waiter who clearly felt bad for me.  I wouldn’t recommend it.  The vegetables were overly spiced and just not that great.  Thank GOD for those tortilla chips and salsa!


In short, if you’re eating wheat and gluten-free, you might do better somewhere else.




Free From Magazines March 23, 2011

My sweet and thoughtful friend bought me a copy of Living Without magazine the other day while out at Whole Foods.   Living Without is a magazine for people with restricted diets (focused mainly on gluten- and dairy-free nutrition).  Showcasing allergy-free recipes, the magazine also offers information regarding food allergies and sensitivities, celiac disease, allergy-free products and related health and lifestyle issues.


I find it informative and pick up a copy from time to time.  Living Without currently publishes another magazine, Gluten Free & More!  So before you check out from Whole Foods, check out these informative magazines or subscribe today on Amazon!


(Thank you in advance! A portion of the proceeds of the affiliate links go toward – an organization aimed at helping at risk families with food allergies.)


PF Chang’s Gluten Free Menu March 21, 2011

This post is about PF Chang’s restaurant and the way they handled our gluten-free requests.  As a bit of background,  I’m going gluten-free this week at the suggestion of a few doctors to determine if a gluten intolerance is a trigger for my incessant migraines.  Coping with this change has been interesting and challenging (and it’s only Day 2!).


I was relieved to learn that PF Chang’s has a gluten-free menu that could satisfy my week-long hankering for Chinese food.


Here’s the skinny:

  • The Gluten-Free Menu offers several dishes from each part of the menu – including dessert – making it easy to find something I liked.


  • We ordered our meal take-out.  Speaking to the waiter, I was pleasantly surprised with how attentive they were to my perceived allergy/intolerance.  I began by ordering some gluten-free dishes for myself and continued on to order regular meals and appetizers for my other four dining guests.  He was quick to point out that their meals were NOT gluten-free and asked if I still wanted them or wanted to switch them with gluten-free alternatives.


  • Our regular-menu Mu Shu Pork showed up without plum sauce or pancakes (a simple mistake?  Or, did they make it gluten-free without asking?).  Either way, it looked funny and didn’t taste right.


  • The gluten-free dishes were so-so.  The Gluten-Free Lettuce Wraps lacked some flavor.  The Gluten-Free Chang’s Spicy Chicken didn’t resemble General Tso’s chicken as described.  And, the sauce from the Gluten-Free Monogolian Beef was less viscous than its regular counterpart.


In summary, while the taste left a little to be desired, PF Chang’s handled our requests VERY well.  And, all in all, it satisfied my craving sufficiently.


PF Chang’s Menu (check out their Gluten-Free selection)


St. Patrick’s Day: Allergy-Free Irish Soda Bread March 17, 2011

Erin Go Bragh!


Soda Bread is a staple of Irish cuisine and comes in innumerable variations.  Traditionally made with caraway seeds and raisins, it is as delicious at breakfast as it is at dinner. Typically, Irish Soda Bread contains both eggs, butter and buttermilk.   I’ve adapted the following recipe from Epicurious.  This one omits the caraway seeds and includes chocolate chips – making it a good after dinner on the 17th and at breakfast on the 18th.


**Note:  Irish Soda Bread is meant to be prepared with a minimum of handling and kneading.  Handle the dough gently.  The more you manipulate the dough, the tougher it will become.



  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted vegan or dairy-free butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 6 ounces nut-free semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 ounces candied orange peel, diced (optional)
  • 1 1/4 cups dairy-free buttermilk (2 Tbsp. white vinegar combined with 2 cups soy milk; let sit 5-10 minutes before use)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed well with 2 Tbsp. water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and grease parchment with cooking spray or dairy-free butter.  Place first 5 ingredients in large bowl and whisk to blend.  Add dairy-free butter to bowl, using fingertips to rub in until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Stir in chocolate and orange peel.  Whisk dairy-free buttermilk and Ener-G Egg Replacer mixture to blend in small bowl;  add to dry ingredients.  Stir until just blended.
Flour work surface.  Turn dough onto surface and knead gently just until dough comes together (about 5 turns).  Form dough into flattened ball about 2 to 2 1/2 inches high.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Using knife, cut 1 inch deep, 3 inch long slits on top of bread to form sunburst pattern.  [This is not decorative:  the sunburst allows the heat to penetrate into the thickest part of the bread.]
Bake bread for 1 hour and 10 minutes, turning baking sheet halfway through baking.  Bake until browned and firm when pressed; inserting tester into center of bread until it comes out clean. Transfer bread to cooling rack.  Cool completely (suggested cooling time is 3 hours, but I can never wait that long – can be made 1 day ahead.)  Wrap in foil and store at room temperature.


St. Patricks Day: Go Buy Your Corned Beef! March 15, 2011

St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner.  And, if you’re like me, you might see it as another GREAT excuse to make Corned Beef.  Mmmmmmm…..


But, before you go:  you should know that sometimes corned beef is made with beer.  And, beer often contains wheat/gluten.  So, if you’re making it from scratch be sure to use a gluten-free beer in your recipe.


If you’re buying prepared corned beef, you should know:

  • Read the ingredient list.  Even though it appears to simply be marinated beef, it may contain one or more of your allergens.
  • Whole Foods, Safeway, and other chain supermarkets carry an additive, MSG, nitrate-free variety.
  • Gluten-free, MSG-free varieties also exist – often found in local supermarkets, as was the case in our local Safeway.


And, while you’re at it, you might want to stock up on some rye bread (or make some Gluten-free “Ryeless” Bread) to enjoy the leftovers over the weekend!

5583874430_116b6dc0c6_b Flicker Larry Hoffman

photo credit: Larry Hoffman via Flickr (Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0))





Jason’s Deli – A Healthy Habit I Could Get Into! March 14, 2011

Jason’s Deli, located locally in Tyson’s Corner, Fairfax and ALL over the country, has a simple philosophy.  Keep it healthy and delicious.  We ate lunch at Jason’s for the first time this weekend.  I had heard rave reviews and even so it exceeded my expectations.  And, while the philosophy may be simple their menu is extensive!  Jason’s Deli serves soups, salads and sandwiches, as well as baked potatoes with every kind of topping imaginable, po’boys, and desserts.  Plus there’s FREE ice cream.  That’s right: free.


Many of their ingredients are organic and all are nitrite-, artificial color- and dye-free.  Jason’s Deli long ago eliminated high fructose corn syrup as well as trans-fat from their food — and you’ll never miss it!


The menu appears to be highly customizable – which is how we ordered for my food allergic older son and my picky eater younger one.  And, they offer a gluten-free menu for those avoiding wheat and gluten products.  Jason’s Deli handled our allergy requests with ease and took our concerns seriously from the register to the table service.


NB: their organic lollipops, located at the registers, are dairy, egg, soy, tree nut and peanut-free (  It seems like just a small thing — unless you’re on line with a 3 year old!

Jason’s Deli Menu

Jason’s Deli Gluten-Free Menu

Jason’s Deli Allergen Info


Spring Break Bound! Hotels Accomodating Food Allergies March 11, 2011

As we (thankfully) approach Spring Break, I’ve read a lot about hotels that are tuning in to guests with food and airborne allergies.


Last year, the Marriott resort we stayed at in the Caribbean sold soy milk in a market in their lobby.  And, the concierge knew exactly were to find it elsewhere on the tiny island.


The Hilton at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida has added 52 PURE guests rooms.  These rooms are equipped with a state-of-the-art air purification system and are treated to remove allergens and irritants from all surfaces and fabrics (think hypoallergenic pillowcases, mattress covers, and microfiber sheets). And the Hilton isn’t the only hotel providing this service (see Allergy Friendly Hotels, below).


The Fairmont Hotel Group recently began offering a dedicated menu for guests and diners with dietary restrictions.  Their Lifestyle Cuisine Plus concept lists gluten-free, raw, peanut-free, and macrobiotic food options.


At Miraval Resort near Tuscon, Arizona, guests are asked about their food allergies and dietary requirements upon booking.  That information is relayed to the resort’s executive chef and Miraval employs a nutritional director.   They would like their guests not only accommodated, but happy.


The chefs at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong partnered with British designer and lifelong vegetarian Stella McCartney, to offer an organic and vegetarian afternoon tea throughout the month of March.


In addition to the above hotels featured, you can investigate allergy-friendly hotels as well as bed and breakfasts through Allergy Friendly Hotels website.  This site has listings in the U.S. and U.K., Ireland, Germany, Spain and Canada.


With so many excellent, allergy-sensitive places to stay this spring break, the only question I have is:  when are we going?!