Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

A Review of Milk Substitutes December 29, 2011

If you missed the October 2011 Cooking Light issue, you may have missed some important information.  They ran an article breaking down a variety of milk substitutes and how they faired in baking recipes.  The folks at the magazine tested each substitute by inserting them into chocolate pudding and blueberry quick bread recipes  — I’m guessing at a 1 for 1 ratio — and evaluating the results.

 

In short, it looks like the testers at Cooking Light felt that soy milk was their best substitute for baking. (Thank goodness — something readily available!)

 

Read the full run-down at Meet the Milk Substitutes, Cooking Light, October 2011.

 

Milk Subsitute Varieties


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The Flagler Steakhouse December 21, 2011

We just finished one of the best lunches I’ve had in quite a while at The Flagler Steakhouse, located on the grounds of the Breakers golf course.   Sitting outside, overlooking the egrets wading in the reeds of the pond was relaxing enough.  But it was even more relaxing discovering we were in such capable food allergy hands with the chefs and waitstaff there.

 
  • The staff was incredibly friendly and accommodating.  Willing to think with me to work around any potential allergens.
 
  • As usual, I checked on their fry oil (canola).  But when they returned with my son’s meals, there were no fries.  That’s because they were double checking its safety and a manager had felt they might not be allergen-free.  The server and manager both checked with the chef who assured them the fries would be safe and were thus being prepared a few minutes behind schedule.  This whole debate was unbeknownst to me – and, I’m always thankful for people who are looking out for my kids.
 
  • The kids’ meals come with this fantastic M&M sundae.  But since we don’t eat dairy, they were happy to substitute it for an enormous amount of fresh sorbet with berries (sans candy).  My son was thrilled.
 

Everyone’s meals were nothing short of fabulous (I should know, I tried almost all of them!).  And I was so appreciative of the well-informed staff as they handled our allergy situation that I plan on going back before we leave Palm Beach!

 

Sprinkles Palm Beach – Voted Best Ice Cream, But Serving Sorbet! December 20, 2011

 

Voted best ice cream in the U.S. by People Magazine, I never leave Palm Beach without eating at Sprinkles.  But the last time I was here was before my son was old enough to even eat ice cream.

 

After our delicious meal at Toojays across the street, we meandered to Sprinkles with the hope that they would have something my dairy allergic son could have.  Indeed they had a very few flavors of sorbet – but one that my son really liked.   And, the scooper was more than happy to fully clean the ice cream scoop before dishing some sorbet out for us.

 

Mmm… thankfully, I have a few more days to enjoy this find!

 

 

TooJay’s Gourmet Deli…Mmm….

Searching for comfort food, we found ourselves at Toojays in Palm Beach last night.  And, when you’re in the mood for corned beef, there’s really no better place to go.

 

But again, food allergy-friendly?  Here’s what we learned:

 
  • Toojays keeps a list of vegetarian, nut-free and gluten-free foods.  While not overly helpful for our particular set allergies (since we also deal with sesame seeds, dairy and eggs), this could prove very handy to anyone solely allergic to pork, beef, peanuts, tree nuts and/or wheat.
 
  • When I asked whether the challah bread contained sesame seeds, the waitress immediately checked with the manager.  The answer: no (phew! My son was so looking forward to challah).  But the manager asked whether rye or wheat bread would be safe for my son to eat.  Perplexed, I answered that as long as it didn’t contain his allergens, we’d be fine.  The reason:  they slice the challah on the same slicer as the other two breads and he wanted to ensure there’d be no issue with cross-contamination.  I love people who think a few steps ahead!
 
  • Next, my son wanted meatloaf.  As you already know, finding breadcrumbs without sesame seeds is particularly difficult and I have a hard time trusting commercial brands for that reason.  But the waitress was more than happy to call the manager again to find out whether that might be safe.  Seemed like it might –but “might” doesn’t work for us – so we ordered a super-delicious hot dog.
 
  • The waitress was very flexible with the kids.  Hamburger and hot dog buns can be a tricky issue with my son’s allergens as well, so she was quick to offer to serve the hot dog on much beloved challah bread.
 
  • And, the waitress was nice enough to recommend side dishes that were likely to be safe for my son (like carrots, applesauce, and mandarin oranges).
 

Although I think we gave the server a run for her money- as she admitted she hadn’t had to answer these kinds of questions in ages- she was really wonderful.  And, I was in heaven sitting in a NY-style deli, listening to Motown, while eating such delicious food with my family.

 

Gordon Biersch December 19, 2011

We’re finally en route to our warm weather winter vacation.  Although, let’s face it, with all this mild weather, what are we really escaping?!  Either way, we all need the break and are so excited!

 

As always, eating proves most challenging when the options are limited.  And the airport is like the epitome of limited options.  I’ve brought snacks, but we need dinner.

 

We sat down at a Gordon Biersch restaurant-ette where they offer a small selection from their regular menu.  Thankfully, one of those options was a burger (safe without the cheese and bun), so I knew we had a back-up if all else failed.  It figured that my son wanted grilled turkey.  So, we ordered the Turkey Sandwich, hold the sandwich.

 

Our experience was surprisingly good here.  Here’s what you need to know:

  • The waitress looked at me cross-eyed when I ordered the sandwichless sandwich, but understood as soon as I explained we had multiple food allergy issues to deal with.  She made note of them all before we continued.
  • I asked about what kind of fry oil they used, since French fries were offered as a side to the non-sandwich we ordered.  Without prompting, she said that my son could not have the French fries.  Turns out they’re soaked in milk (much like McDonald’s fries are).  I was impressed with both her knowledge and confident decision to keep him from eating something potentially unsafe.
  • She returned to let us know our food would take an extra few minutes, as the chef was thoroughly cleaning the grill to prepare my son’s turkey.  [They usually use a little butter on the grill and didn’t want to contaminate the food inadvertently.]
 

My son, almost 7, was a little disappointed that his little brother could eat fries and he couldn’t.  So, with a quick check on the smartphone, we learned that Ranch 1 Grilled Chicken’s French fries are safe (per their online allergen info) and ran across the terminal aisle to grab him some.

 

I was impressed with Gordon Biersch and most specifically our waitress.  And, this served as a great reminder that sometimes the restaurant has good procedures to handle food allergies and sometimes you strike gold with an allergy-aware server.  And, as in the case with this Gordon Biersch outpost, we got lucky and had both!

 

Visiting With Food Allergies December 14, 2011

Many people, us included, are hitting the road during this holiday season to visit with family and friends.  We’re headed north to stay at my parents’ house.  Being a guest can be is fun for kids.  But, being a food allergic guest can be complicated.  Typically, guests are uncomfortable making too many demands on the host family.  However, without a lot of specific information, the hosts cannot look out for a food allergic guest’s well-being.

 

It’s important to remember a few things:

1.  Arm your guests with enough information to keep you or your food allergic child safe.  If you can’t eat wheat, for example, let them know something easy you eat for breakfast.  Remind them that leaving out bowls of nuts won’t be safe for a tree nut-allergic child.

 

2.  Offer to go grocery shopping.  For starters, it’s an appreciated gesture.  But, it also gives you an opportunity to buy a few things that ensures you eat safely at mealtimes (like dairy-free margarine and nut-free cookies).

 

3.  Be sure to bring your emergency medications.  As if you leave home without that anyway!  In addition to our On-the-Go Emergency Kit, I also bring my son’s nebulizer and accompanying medications (in case he has an asthmatic reaction), a bottle of Benadryl, and hydrocortisone cream.

 

4.  Teach your hosts how to use an EpiPen using the EpiPen trainer (see Familiarize or Refamiliarize Yourself With How To Use An EpiPen) and let them know where you keep it.  Remind your hosts not to feed your food allergic child without checking the food’s safety with you first.

 

Finally, if it makes sense, refer your hosts to the Grandparents’ Guide Parts I, II and III which gives hosts some helpful hints on how to safely host a food allergic child.  It’s not just for grandparents!

 

Happy travels!

 

Egg-Free Latke Series #3: Cilantro-Jalapeno Latkes December 12, 2011

The folks at Cooking Light are geniuses!  This is an amazing adaptation of your run-of-the-mill latke.  It’s definitely my favorite so far in the series.  And, you can make a dairy-free dipping sauce included below which is also delicious with tortilla chips.   
 

photo courtesy of Cooking Light

 Ingredients:

Dipping sauce:

  • 6 tablespoons dairy-free sour cream (Tofutti makes one that is often sold in regular supermarkets as well as Whole Foods)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Latkes:

  • 6 cups shredded peeled baking potato (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 cup grated fresh onion
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional – I omitted since I don’t love cilantro)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper (handle carefully, jalapeno oil can burn!  I have a funny story about this – totally at my expense.  Another time….)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
 
  1. To make dip: Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
  2.  Place grated potatoes in ice water.  After 10 minutes, remove potatoes to colander and reserve water.  Let water sit for 10 more minutes while potato starch settles at bottom.
  3. Carefully pour out water, retaining potato starch.  This will help create a crispy latke when fried.
  4. Combine potato and onion in a colander. Drain 15 minutes, pressing occasionally with the back of a spoon until barely moist. Combine potato mixture, potato starch, flour, and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; toss well.
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Spoon 1/4 cup potato mixture loosely into a dry measuring cup. Pack together and pour mixture into pan; flatten slightly with back of spoon or spatula. Repeat the procedure to form remaining latkes. Sauté 3 – 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and thoroughly cooked. Remove latkes from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and potato mixture to yield 12 latkes total.
 

Serve with sour cream mixture.