Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Allergy-Free Chinese Scallion Pancake Recipe November 5, 2011

Just made these Scallion Pancakes for my sons to try.  They were easy and quite a hit!

Picture of Scallion Pancakes Recipe

Chinese Scallion Pancakes (photo courtesy of

Allergy-Free Scallion Pancakes

18 oz (about 4 cups) of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups room-temperature water

Cooking spray

1 Tbsp safflower oil

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions

8 teaspoons canola oil


To prepare dough:  lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, leveling with a knife.  Place flour in a bowl and add water, stirring until soft dough forms.  Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.  Place dough in a bowl coated with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in the refrigerator and allow to rest overnight.


Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into an approximate 16 x 12 inch rectangle.  Brush with safflower oil and spread scallions over rectangle.  Roll up dough length-wise to make long log.  Divide dough (crosswise) into four sections.  Working with one portion at a time (while covering remaining portions with plastic wrap), roll dough into 12 inch log, twisting each end in opposite directions 4 or 5 times.  Wrap the log around itself to form a coil, tucking the outside end beneath the coil.  Using a rolling pin, roll the coil flat until a little less than 1/4 inch thick.  Repeat with other three sections to make 3 more pancakes and spray all 4 with cooking spray.


Heat 2 teaspoons of canola oil in a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat.  Cook one pancake at a time for 3 minutes on each side (or until golden brown) adding more canola oil as needed before each new pancake.  Remove from pan; cut each pancake into 4 wedges and serve immediately with soy sauce for dipping.


Sesame Seed-Free (and Dairy, Egg and Nut-Free!) Chinese Sauces August 2, 2012

When you have a sesame seed allergy, eating Chinese food is nearly impossible.  Even cooking Chinese can be tricky since so many prepared sauces contain sesame seeds or sesame oil or both!  But, inspired by one of our Shmallergy readers, I restarted my quest to find safe prepared sauces and alternative recipes so we can all enjoy Asian food at home!


As I was collecting ingredients to MAKE Hoisin sauce (recipe below), I stumbled upon Kikkoman’s Hoisin sauce.  And guess what?!  It’s sesame free!  That was WAY too easy.

But if you can’t find Kikkoman sauce (as I couldn’t for the last six years), here’s a Hoisin sauce recipe that’s easy to prepare.



4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons black bean paste (found in the Asian section of your local grocery store or at Whole Foods)
1 tablespoon honey or molasses or brown sugar
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 finely minced garlic clove
2 teaspoons safflower oil
20 drops chinese hot sauce, habenero or jalepeno
1/8 teaspoon black pepper



  1. Combine ingredients together in medium bowl.
  2. Whisk together until well combined.   (It may appear like it won’t mix well at first, but keep whisking longer and it will come together.)


I haven’t had as much luck finding Plum Sauce at the market.  So here’s an easy recipe to try from  I haven’t given it a shot yet, but would love to hear how it turns out if anyone gets to it before me!



  • 3/4 (16 ounce) jar plum jam
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger


  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine jam, vinegar, brown sugar, dried onion, red pepper, garlic and ginger.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring.
  3. Remove from heat.
NB:  Here were a few suggestions: Use the whole 18 oz jar of plum jam, omit the pepper, and add a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce.  It is possible to substitute minced garlic for garlic powder as in Hoisin Sauce recipe.
Warm sauce for second use; it  can congeal a bit once cool.

Parenting Positively in the Face of Food Allergies September 29, 2017




Last year, I had the pleasure of speaking with Lyndsay Edwards of Allergy Blog Awards UK.  In her podcast, she asked a lot of thought-provoking questions on the topic of parenting a child with food allergies.


Because of the challenges and risks associated with food allergic reactions, it is critical to raise food allergic children to be confident, resourceful, and self-advocating.  And all of that begins with a good attitude towards food.


Here is the transcript of Lyndsay’s well-crafted podcast [or listen here: Allergy Blog Awards UK – Allergy Shmallergy Living Positively with Food Allergies].



So, I know your son was diagnosed with a dairy allergy at 6 months old and other allergies by the time he was just 15 months old, can you just take us back to that time and what it was like for you getting the diagnosis?


Despite his eczema, acid reflux and asthma (conditions that I now understand to be related to food allergies), I was in denial.  Even though I followed her instructions to the letter, I scoffed at our pediatrician’s recommendation to avoid feeding my son a whole host of allergens as we introduced first foods.  “He’s probably not allergic to any of these!” I remember saying.


When she called us to discuss the results of my son’s blood test, revealing that he was allergic to eight different foods in addition to environmental allergens, I was completely overwhelmed.  I couldn’t stop wondering:


What does this mean Not only the test results, but also in a bigger sense:  what does this mean for his life?  Will he have a normal life?  And more importantly, what can I feed him for dinner tonight?!!


I found myself grieving for the hopes and dreams I had imagined for my child (like baking cookies and spontaneous trips to get ice cream), but then my husband snapped me out of it.  He reminded me that we would find work arounds.  And, if they didn’t exist, we’d create them!  Very quickly, THAT became my focus.



How do you cater for your son at home?  Do you all eat the same?


Because my son was allergic to so many foods, I had to learn how to cook (and fast!).  Unbelievably, he’s my most adventurous eater.  He loves everything seafood (no matter how crazy the dish), sushi…  and he’s consistently adding requests to his list.


These requests inspire me to learn how to cook all kinds of intimidating international cuisine.  No one who knows me would have EVER guessed that I regularly cook Chinese food or Persian or make all kinds of sushi.  In high school, I once burnt soup!  SOUP!


When he was a toddler (and an only child), I was making separate meals for my son.  But being a short order cook isn’t my strong suit and I didn’t want my son to feel like I was treating him differently because of his allergies.  In his own home, he should feel safe and included.  As I got better at reading recipes, swapping out his allergens for substitutes, I started serving only one meal (what a relief!).  I also began finding meals with optional parts (like tacos that you could stuff with cheese or not and make-your-own pizza night).  I now have quite a collection of tried and true recipes that are free of peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, dairy and in many cases egg (an allergy my son has since outgrown).



When did you start your blog and what inspired you to do so?


It was very important to us to raise a confident child who felt capable in the world.  Food allergies are very stressful.  I wanted to share simple solutions with other parents and put out useful information so that families can remain calm and make informed decisions.



One of the things that really stood out for me on your blog is how you focus on teaching your son about his food allergies in such a positive way so that he doesn’t feel left out or sad, can you just explain how you do that and what has worked for you and your son?


We have repeated the message that everybody deals with something – sometimes that “something” is invisible to the eye, like food allergies.


We try to downplay the importance and emphasis on food.  For example, we try to reward achievements with activities rather than treats.


And, we remind all of my kids that the best party of any party is always the company, hardly ever the cake.


Involve your kids in problem solving.  We can’t control the fact that my son has food allergies, but I can give some control OVER them by getting his input on overcoming obstacles.


Prepare, prepare, prepare to provide special treats in anticipation of special events.  Bring a gluten-free cupcake to the party; pack a sesame-free hamburger bun for the barbeque; carry a little dairy-free butter out to dinner.  Create positive experiences around food and demonstrate how easy it is to overcome challenges.


Let him vent!  We’ve taught my son the names for his feelings and encouraged him to talk about them.  First, children need to know the language to use to express their emotions.  Then they can engage in an open dialogue to release stress and give parents an insight into how they are experiencing the world.



Ok, before I get to my last question, can you tell everyone where they can find you on social media, your website, etc?


Yes, of course!

[You all know where Allergy Shmallergy is!]

Twitter: @shmallergy

Facebook:  Allergy Shmallergy

Instagram: shmallergy



And my final question is if you could give allergy parents one tip, what would it be and why?


Help prepare your child to negotiate the real world: practice asking questions, allow them to speak to a waiter, in short: EMPOWER them!  Give them the tools to tackle the world!


And, provide a safe place for them to come home to. A safe home environment (free of allergens) as well as a safe space psychologically where they can relay their triumphs and articulate their frustrations without judgment or anxiety and find support.


That’s two tips (sorry!), but I hope they’re both helpful!


Peanuts and Tree Nuts 101 – Required Course! May 29, 2012

Recent studies, one in particular from Ohio State, show that about half of people with nut allergies cannot identify the nuts that they are allergic to when shown a variety of samples.  Just under 2% of those surveyed could identify all 19 samples. Oh boy!


I’ve always pointed out what peanuts look like to my food allergic son, so that he could become familiar enough to avoid them.  But I hadn’t considered showing him what they look like chopped up in a cookie, for example.  And, I only just started teaching him about all the other tree nuts.  Now, I’ve begun teaching BOTH my sons about all the nuts my older one is allergic to so that they can be on the look out.  It’s already paid dividends as my older son found a chopped peanut in his sorbet (likely from the toppings bar… grrrrr!) and my younger one found a shelled peanut in our yard (probably from a neighbor’s squirrel feeder).


Here’s a few photos to print out and get you started:




Photo by Aney via WikiMedia







almonds-1740176_1920 pixabaymacaroons-2178371_1920 pixabay














Macadamia Nuts


Brazil Nuts


Managing Food Allergies: Learn to Cook! February 9, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 9:13 pm

So following last week’s post Food Allergies and Food Labels: What You Need to Know, I thought we should discuss next steps to more easily managing your or your child’s food allergy.


My advice is simple: in short,  get cooking!


When my son was diagnosed with food allergies, I was not a great cook.  Ok, I was not even a good cook.  I was a hit or mostly-miss cook.  He was originally diagnosed with so many food allergies, it was nearly impossible to go out to eat, so it was really baptism by fire.


I quickly found out that learning to cook taught me how to eat out more easily and eat in more comfortably.  Having tried my hand at every interesting recipe I’ve come across has not only helped me get familiar with what ingredients are typically in meals, but also with the process of cooking itself.


This helps in several ways:

  • Now, I can ask more educated questions to determine whether or not a dish might contain my son’s many allergies.  In fact, it was sometimes my amateur knowledge of cooking that helped avoid allergen-mishaps at restaurants – like, when I insisted that the waiter recheck his sure-footed answer that the lebanese sausage we were about to order did NOT contain pine nuts (it did!).   Or when, having cooked a similar meal myself the week before, I asked that the server to double-check his claim that their breaded chicken didn’t have egg.
  • It also helped me determine if an off-the-shelf product at the supermarket would be safe for my son.  He can now eat baked milk and eggs – a very exciting adjustment to his routine.  But it makes you wonder things like, could he eat cheese-flavored chips?  (Probably not, since the powdered cheese would be added after baking.) Or, was the chocolate covered cookie a safe dessert? (Probably not, because the cookie was likely dipped in chocolate after it was baked.)
  • Cooking also gave me the experience to realize that certain cuisines were virtually free of my son’s allergens (like Greek, for example).

Learning to cook has also allowed our family to try foods we would ordinarily avoid because of my son’s allergies.  Like Chinese food (click here to see some of our family’s favorite dishes), Korean or Middle Eastern dishes.  When my son is interested in trying a new cuisine, I now feel a little more equipped to give each new request a try.  Not only can I guarantee some of the trickier dishes are allergy-free, but they’re probably a lot healthier too – which is one of its own rewards.


The best reward, however, is a new dish or a new cuisine that wows my family’s tastebuds and expands my kids’ repetoires!


Allergy-Free Kung Pao Chicken February 4, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year!

In honor of the new year, I thought I’d post one of my favorite recipes.  It’s allergy-free, easy (and quick) to prepare and absolutely delicious!


Prep time:  15 minutes

Marinate: 15 minutes

Cook:  6 minutes

Yield:  6 servings


1 lb chicken breast
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp dry sherry
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp safflower oil
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
1 cup vertically sliced onion
1 tsp minced peeled fresh ginger

(Note:  if you like it a little spicy, you can add 8 dried while hot red chilis by sauteing them in 1 tsp vegetable oil over high heat for 1 minute before adding chicken to the saute pan.)


1.  Cut chicken into 1 inch pieces.  Combine 1 Tbsp of cornstarch and 1 Tbsp of soy sauce in a large zip-top plastic bag (or tupperware container- go green!); add chicken, and seal bag.  Toss to coat; marinate in refrigerator 15 minutes.


2.  Combine sugar and next 7 ingredients (through safflower oil) in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until well-blended.


3.  Heat 2 tsp vegetable oil in large non-stick skillet or wok over high heat.  Add chicken mixture and stir-fry 2 mins.  Add peppers, onion and ginger; stir-fry 3 mins or until vegetables are crisp-tender.  Add sherry mixture; stir-fry 1 minute or until thick and bubbly.  Remove from heat and serve with white rice.


Dim Sum – Yum! (Allergies: Sesame, Peanut, Tree Nut) December 18, 2010

Filed under: Recipes & Cooking — malawer @ 8:51 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

photo taken by dslrninja via flickr


I LOVE Chinese food!  I really, really love it.  But, ever since my son was diagnosed with sesame, nut and peanut allergies, we have avoided it like the plague.  Truth be told, our son stood a better chance against the plague.

They say that time heals all wounds.  Something that time doesn’t heal?  A craving for chicken in brown sauce with a side of lo mein.   Commercially available meals were out.  There was just no way to guarantee it was safe with all that sesame oil.   And, cooking it at home?!  Well, let’s just say I’ve burnt soup before.  Yes, soup!

Chinese food always seemed mysterious and complicated to me.  Any dish necessitating a wok just felt scary.   I have no clue what to do with bamboo steamers.   And don’t get me started on the ingredients!  All those unusual ingredients felt so intimidating – especially when trying to decipher, for example, whether a water chestnut is, in fact, a nut or where to buy ward long beans (nevermind what they look or taste like!).

After ignoring my body’s clear “need” for soy sauce and fortune cookies for far too long, I finally decided to try and tackle the insurmountable and try a few recipes.  With only my regular kitchen supplies and a few extra ingredients, I began.  And, you know what?!   I’m not saying I’m ready to conquer a wok, but Chinese cuisine isn’t as tough to whip up as I had thought!  Plus, even with a bunch of ingredient substitutions, the meal was not only edible (miracle) but DELICIOUS!  If I do say so myself…

So, if your family is like ours and needs to avoid commercially produced Asian food, there are a few cooking substitutions you can make to keep food allergic family members safe.

1.  Water Chestnuts are not nuts!  They are marsh inhabiting vegetables and  do not need to be avoided by tree nut allergic individuals.

2.  To maintain the right flavor, I substituted safflower oil for sesame oil.  A little trick I learned from watching the chefs at Japanese steak houses  (Thank you, Benihana!)

3.  Sometimes there’s no substitution when it comes to nuts and peanuts.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try the recipe!  One of my most requested meals is Kung Pao Pork, whose key ingredient is peanut (gasp!).  Even without them, the dish is so flavorful you’d never miss peanuts.

4.  Use what you have in the fridge.  Play around with meats.  My Kung Pao Pork is stellar as Kung Pao Chicken.  Sub in (or out) tofu, as you like.  Chinese sauces make their dishes fairly flexible.

5.  Once and a while I cut a few corners with frozen food.  Trader Joe’s make yummy dumplings (Trader Joes Pork Gyoza Potstickers), for example.

The best part of cooking Chinese food at home is that it’s generally healthier than if taken out.  (Bonus for your hard work!)  For us, it exposed my picky, allergic eater to a new world of flavor that he loves!

Try Cooking Light’s Asian recipes as a starting point.  Bon appetit!  Or as they’d say in China:  sihk faahn!