Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Deck the Halls: Allergy-Friendly Gingerbread House Round-Up December 4, 2017

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No one should miss out on holiday traditions.  But families with food allergies are hesitant to participate in activities that revolve around food, particularly baked goods.  Baked goods are often cross-contaminated with nuts and typically contain dairy and eggs – three of the top eight allergens responsible for 90% of allergic reactions.

 

Now with the options below, there’s no reason to sit out the holidays!  Check out these allergy-friendly gingerbread house ideas.  Everyone can gather together and decorate a gingerbread dream home safely!

 

BUY IT:

A&J Bakery’s Allergen Friendly Gingerbread House

If you’re lucky enough to live in Rhode Island, you might want to pop into A&J Bakery to grab their Allergen Friendly Gingerbread House Kit.  Otherwise, you’ll want to place an order now!  In addition to being vegan, these gingerbread houses are free from peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, gluten, wheat, soy and dairy.  The kit comes with the house (assembly required), five different types of allergen-friendly candy to decorate it with as well as some non-edible decorations.

 

Manischewitz Chanukah House

Finally, a Chanukah-themed house!  Manischewitz’s Chanukah House is made with vanilla cookie (a preferred flavor in my house).  Plus, it is nut-free, dairy-free and egg-free!  We have used this kit and it couldn’t be easier to put together and the walls are very sturdy – it surely could survive a candy hurricane (or a not-so-gentle little sister)!

 

MAKE IT!

Did you know that LEGO has a Gingerbread House!  It’s made of Legos, so it’s guaranteed to be allergen-free!

 

Melissa and Doug Mess-Free Glitter Christmas Tree and Gingerbread House

Baby, it’s cold outside!  Make today a craft day indoors with this foam decorating kit.  Kids can decorate it anyway they like without allergens OR mess!  A win-win for parents and kids alike!

 

If you’re determined to make the edible kind, you can use these easy-to-work-with Silicone Molds to create consistent and detailed gingerbread house parts.  [See below for gluten-free recipe!]

 

Sweet Ali’s Gluten-Free Bakery in Illinois has a great recipe posted along with How-To instructions for assembling a gluten-free gingerbread house.  Check it out!

 

DON’T FORGET!

 

There are all kinds of ways to make gingerbread houses using milk cartons, like we did in elementary school.  You can use icing to stick safe graham crackers to the sides of a small size carton of milk (8 or 16 oz size).  (Remember to wash the carton thoroughly before using if you are allergic to dairy.)  You could line the carton with candy canes or pretzel rods to make a delicious log cabin.  OR, you can line the carton in craft paper and decorate it with stickers, buttons, pipe cleaners, etc using glue!

A NOTE ABOUT ROYAL ICING and RECIPE:

 

Royal Icing (the kind used to stick candy to gingerbread houses) often contains egg.  But making royal icing is fairly easy and fun to do with kids.  Try this recipe:

2 cup *sifted* powdered sugar

4-5 tablespoons water

Combine sugar and 4 tbsp of water until smooth.  Continue adding small amounts of water until glossy and thick.

As I understand it, powdered sugar and water icings don’t do well in pastry bags (for piping).  We usually use a knife to carefully line the edges of the house parts and paint them directly on to the candy before sticking them on to our houses.

 

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

 

PhillySwirl: Dessert for Everyone! July 28, 2015

This is a sponsored post.

Who doesn’t like something cold and sweet on a hot summer day (or in my case, everyday)?!  But it can be hard to find desserts that are safe for those with food allergies.  Nuts, dairy and gluten trip us up not only in the bakery aisle, but can be a cross-contamination risk even for simple concoctions like popsicles.

Enter: PhillySwirl.  Almost everything in their product line is dairy and gluten-free making them a safe AND delicious choice at the supermarket.

PhillySwirl recently sent me their gluten and dairy-free products.  My kids and I had a BALL trying and evaluating all the flavors.  They thought their birthdays had come early as I told them, “Kids, we’re going to have to try every flavor of PhillySwirl Italian ices.  Sorry.”  It was no chore for me either!  Here’s what we tried and our impressions:

SwirlStix

The classic popsicle – only tastier.  Arriving in six interesting flavors, we studiously “evaluated” (read: devoured) each one – giving each other tastes only when begged.  The SwirlStix were my personal favorite.  Easy to hold, neat to eat, and delicious.  Orange Dream was a favorite of my husband and Very Berry was mine (although a close tie with the Applelicious).

Swirl Popperz

My younger son and nephew loved the Swirl Popperz.  In fact, when asked for his thoughts, my son said, “These are excellente! [yes, inexplicably in Spanish] Tell PhillySwirl ‘Thank you’!”  Still dairy and gluten-free, these had a creamier texture to them which made them easy to push up.  I also liked them because the wrapper kept my preschooler from dripping popsicle around the house like Hansel and Gretel’s crumb trail.  My nephew was kind enough to let me taste his Rainbow flavored Popper which was fabulous!  I’d get these again – perfect for feeding a group of kids in the summer!

Swirl Cups with CandySpoonz

The Swirl Cups were a hit!  And, why wouldn’t they be when they contain delicious Italian ice swirls that you eat with lollipop spoons?!  A no-brainer!  Everyone had a different favorite.  What was great is that each flavor tasted like it’s name:  Cotton Candy tasted just like….Cotton Candy!  The Sunburst was a delicious mix of cherry, orange and lemon (yum!).  And the other choices were interesting, too: Cherry Melon, Hurricane (a cherry/lemon), Bluesberry Jam and Rainbow.  My kids and my niece and nephews clamored for these.  Buy two packs if you can store them – they go fast!

**My niece cleverly pointed out that the nutrition information was printed on each cup, making it extra fantastic for food allergic parents who need to read ingredients without access to the original box. Smart move!**

Thank you to PhillySwirl for good manufacturing practices that allow kids with food allergies (and sometimes adults without them) to enjoy such a fabulous, sweet treat!

 

Nut, Egg and Dairy-Free Chocolate Chip Banana Bread July 8, 2015

I wonder if every family is the same…  One week my kids can’t eat enough bananas.  The next week, they’re not at all interested.  So we cycle between having an empty fruit bowl and having overripe bananas.

This used to frustrate me.  Then I looked at the sunny side of having too many bananas: Chocolate Chip Banana Bread!  This bread is delicious.  I mean mouthwatering delicious…  I recommend heating it up in the toaster oven or microwave briefly and eating plain (with lots of napkins to let those melty chocolate chips know who’s boss) or with butter.  I might have to make some now…

I omitted the nuts often called for in banana bread recipes and adapted this particular one to be egg and dairy-free.  I already can’t wait for breakfast!

Almost Everything-Free Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup dairy-free butter or shortening

1 cup whole wheat flour + 1 cup white flour (you can use all white or all wheat as well)

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3-4 bananas)

1/2-3/4 cups dairy-free, nut-free chocolate chips

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter (or shortening) for approximately 5 minutes (note: mixture does not get smooth).  Add dry mixture little by little to creamed butter and sugar, alternating with mashed bananas and beating after each addition.  Stir in approximately safe chocolate chips with a spoon.  The batter will be fairly thick.

Grease 9″ x 5″ x 3″ loaf pan.  Spoon batter into pan and bake at 350F for approximately 40 minutes or until toothpick can be inserted/removed cleanly from thickest point in bread.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to wire rack.

Mashed bananas (does anyone else hear The Wiggles song when you read that?!). Looks gooey now, but this is flavor gold!

The dry ingredients.

Can you smell it? To ensure you have a moist – but not undercooked – bread, check it with a toothpick. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before moving to wire rack.

When’s breakfast? Maybe we serve this for dinner…

I had to snap this quickly. That butter was melting fast against the warm chocolate chip bread. And, the sweet banana smell was intoxicating!

 

Leprechauns Rejoice! Stories, Game & Easy *No Bake* Snack for St. Patrick’s Day in the Classroom March 16, 2015

I can hear those bagpipes already!  I think most people agree that St. Patrick’s Day is one of the most happy holidays out there.  You don’t need to have roots in the Emerald Isle to enjoy it either; afterall, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!  And, now everyone can enjoy an allergy-free celebration with veggie clovers and sesame seed-free hummus dip.

So, if you’re having a classroom celebration as we did a few years ago, may I suggest these few tips that worked fantastically for our elementary school aged kids:

1.  Download some Irish tunes (you’ll be clapping and toe tapping in the car en route!).  Start with “The Unicorn” by the Irish Rovers (fun fact: this song was written by Shel Silverstein!).

2.  Find a good children’s story.  I last read one from our school’s library (out of print now) about siblings who tried to catch a leprechaun in the hope of gaining some wishes.  It entranced the kids so much that my son came home and built about 5 leprechaun traps in our yard (lots of bugs, no leprechauns caught).  You can check out Amazon’s best sellers for St. Patrick’s Day here to find one that fits your audience.

3.  Crafts or games are always a good idea.  Get those kids moving!  If you have the flexibility, take the gang outside to build leprechaun traps out of sticks and bark.  Indoors, you could decorate boxes (rainbows encouraged!) or use legos to make in the “traditional” leprechaun box trap.  I understand leprechauns are lured by the promise of gold…

4.  Finally, give them food!  Here’s my easy, no bake, idea for serving the kids something healthy…

St. Patrick’s Day Veggie Clovers

mini cucumbers (also sold as persian cucumbers)

green bell peppers (you may wish to choose ones that have fewer side slits)

optional: red or yellow bell peppers or slivers of carrots

For the sesame seed-free hummus:

1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained but reserving liquid

2 cloves garlic

olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cumin

optional:  3 slivers of roasted red pepper

Thinly slice cucumber into disks and overlap to arrange into three and four-leaf clovers.  Hollow out peppers and carefully slice horizontally.  If using carrots, slice into thin disks and arrange as clovers or slice into sticks and place in ramekin for easy snacking.

For the dip:  Add garbanzo beans, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt and cumin into a blender or food processor.  Pulse until well-blended.  Add reserved liquid to desired consistency.  Optionally, add roasted red peppers to make a red pepper hummus dip.

Erin Go Bragh!  And Enjoy!

 

While I’ve Been Away… September 18, 2014

Filed under: Recipes & Cooking,Uncategorized — malawer @ 6:17 pm
Tags: , , ,

September is always a crazy time.  Each year, I go through summer denial for the first two weeks before succumbing to autumn and finally getting our schedules together.

This year, however, I was baking allergy-free Christmas cookies.  No, I’m not that organized. And don’t worry:  I promise I’m not taking a cue from our local department stores either.   I was asked to contribute an article to AANMA’s publication, Allergy and Asthma Today.

Do you know about AANMA?  Allergy & Asthma Network Mother’s Association (AANMA) has been around for nearly 30 years, advocating, educating and reaching out to local communities about asthma and allergies of all kinds.  I was impressed with their efforts at AANMA’s annual Asthma Awareness Day on Capitol Hill this past spring.  It was evident they were committed to keeping lawmakers attention on these important healthcare issues. AANMA is a rich resource for allergy and asthma information and activity.

Check them out at aanma.org.  And, stay tuned for AANMA’s winter publication to check out my delicious recipes!

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Memorial Day Meaty Veggie Burgers – Shhhhh! Don’t Tell the Kids! May 25, 2012

Give these a try for your Memorial Day BBQ:

My kids can be finicky when it comes to eating vegetables.  So when they were toddlers, I concocted a sneaky way – and what turned out to be a delicious way! – to deliver some vegetables in ever-lovable burger form.

 

This recipe is easy, because it doesn’t need to be exact, you can use fresh as well as frozen vegetables, and play around with its ingredients to your taste.

 

Ingredients:

1 lb ground meat

1/2 onion

1 carrot, cut into inch-long pieces

1 1/2 cups broccoli florets

Salt or seasoned salt

 

In a saucepot, boil water.  Add carrot into pot and let boil for 5 – 10 minutes.  Add broccoli florets to the pot and boil another 5-6 minutes.  Once carrots are soft, drain pot.  Place carrots, broccoli and onion in a food processor and puree until a tiny-bit chunkier than applesauce.  Drain excess liquid in sink.

 

Combine puree with ground meat and add 1/2 tsp salt or seasoned salt (I like Jane’s Crazy Mixed Up Salt).  Form into patties.

 

Grill, broil or saute as you would a regular burger until preferred degree of doneness.

 

Amazingly, not only do my KIDS love these, but so does my vegetable-averse husband!

 

Hit the Road With a Fast Food Travel Packet May 21, 2012

Ahhhh… with great weather upon us, it’s time to hit the road!   ‘Tis the season for road trips and long weekends away.  And, being on the road is no place to be unprepared for dealing with meals if you have a food allergic passenger.

 

Aside from packing loads of safe snacks to tide the kids over and my son’s medicine, we never leave home without our Travel Packet.  A little general research in advance has gone a long way for us.  Not just of our destination – to help us pick a safe place to eat when we get to town (wherever that may be) –  but research to help us on the road as well.

 

Over time, I’ve kept a folder of allergen and ingredients lists for fast food chains in our car.  It has been immeasurably helpful when the kids are begging for a break somewhere in between destinations.  And, it’s easy to start the process online.  As you continue to travel, take note of the chains (and local stops) on your route.  Once you find new ingredients lists, continue to keep them in your travel folder.

 

Here are a few links to get you going (feel free to share more with others in the comments section below):

 

By sharing tips and links, your Travel Packet will be fuller than your gas tank and will make your vacation just a little more peaceful!  Happy trails!

 

**NB:  A big thank you to Jennifer for kindly reminding us to please be sure to look for updates to your packet before setting out on each new adventure as restaurants occasionally change their recipes.**