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.)

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What is Lupin Allergy and Why You Should Care June 26, 2017

Lupin allergy is on the rise.  But most people haven’t even heard of lupin in the first place.    Travelers to Europe, Australia, Canada, the Mediterranean and even the U.S. should become familiar with it.  So should those who are gluten-free as well as those who have a peanut or soy allergy.

 

Read the article I recently wrote for the Allergy & Asthma Network, entitled “Why Is Lupin Allergy Becoming More Common?” to find out what lupin is, where it is found and who is most at risk for a reaction.

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Why Is Lupin Allergy Becoming More Common?
from the Allergy & Asthma Network dated June 14, 2017

 

Have you heard of lupin? Don’t feel bad; most Americans haven’t heard of it either. But that’s likely to change.

 

What is lupin?

Lupin (or lupine) beans are legumes – putting them in the same plant family as the peanut. Lupin beans are high in antioxidants, dietary fiber and protein and low in starch. And like all legumes, they are gluten-free.

Lupin beans are commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine. Sometimes ground into flour and blended into regular wheat flour, lupin is also widely used in Europe and Australia. There, lupin is frequently found in baked goods and pastas as well as breads, sauces, beverages (such as beer) and meat-based products like sausage and hamburgers.

Lupin is showing up in the United States as well. It appears most often as a substitute for gluten or soy in free-from products as well as replacement for genetically modified ingredients and animal proteins (primarily dairy and egg).

 

Can you be allergic to lupin?

Although not one of the “Top 8” allergens, lupin is beginning to make headlines in the food allergy world. For many, eating products containing lupin is completely safe. However, for a few, lupin can trigger an allergic reaction. The odds of having a reaction are higher if you already have a peanut allergy. This is called cross-sensitivity.

There is no evidence that lupin allergy is more severe than other allergens. Like all allergic reactions, symptoms vary. Those who are allergic to lupin have reported reactions ranging from hives, swelling of the lips and face, to gastrointestinal and respiratory distress, and cardiovascular issues.

 

Do manufacturers label for lupin?

Due to the frequent use of lupin in European and Australian packaged goods, coupled with reports of allergic reaction, manufacturers in the European Union are required to label for lupin. But this requirement is voluntary in places like the United States, Canada, Australia and other parts of the world where you may find lupin listed among other ingredients without special emphasis. U.S. laws and regulations only require labeling to highlight the Top 8 allergens.

Those allergic to lupin or unsure should be careful of unlabeled, over-the-counter baked goods like pastries sold at a bakery, bread rolls served at a restaurant or beer at a local pub.

 

Other names for lupin are:

  • Lupin Bean/Flour
  • Lupine Bean/Flour
  • Lupin Seed
  • Lupini
  • Termes
  • Altramuz
  • Tarwi
  • Termos

While lupin is currently popular in Europe, its presence is increasing in the United States and elsewhere. As the demand for gluten-free and other free-from goods grows, so may the use of lupin.

If you are concerned you may be allergic to lupin, speak to your board-certified allergist to discuss level of risk, testing and prevention strategies. Avoiding the allergen is the only way to prevent an allergic reaction.

 

 

 

 

Enjoy School with Enjoy Life September 11, 2015

This is a sponsored post.

 

It’s as if Enjoy Life read my mind.   I was just toying with trying a gluten-free diet (again) for health reasons – grappling with how to begin – when Enjoy Life contacted me to try out their new product line:  Pancake Mix, Pizza Dough, Muffin Mix, Brownie Mix and All-Purpose Flour Mix.  What better way to start a health kick than with easy to prepare mixes!  My son is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and sesame seeds and now must avoid dairy for EoE.   Enjoy Life’s new product line makes baking for our two different diets a breeze as all the mixes are not only gluten free, but dairy, nut and soy free as well.

These mixes will also make getting ready for school so much easier in my house.  Brownies can be sent in alongside a sandwich for a school lunch.  Pancakes can be made in one batch and frozen.  Pop them in the oven or microwave in the morning for a quick breakfast before your kids hit the bus.  Ditto for muffins!  Roll out some pizza dough, let your kids help you “decorate” the pizza and you have a safe and healthy weeknight dinner in under 20 minutes.

By chance, my kids and their cousins wanted to host a bake sale during their vacation together this summer.  The little entrepreneurs that they are, agreed on a high traffic time and convinced me to use our new mixes.  We made the Enjoy Life Brownies as well as two batches of Enjoy Life muffins: one with chocolate chips and one with blueberries and strawberries.  The bake sale turned out to be a fabulous idea in several ways!  Not only did we try samples, but so did half the island.  And, we got a chance to connect with families who otherwise can’t spontaneously partake in the fun of a bake sale (or a bakery for that matter).  In face, we learned that four of our neighbors are gluten free!  Plus, the kids decided to donate all their earnings to charity – which made for a very proud mama!

The results were unanimous!  Praises all around.  No one could believe the brownies were GF!  They didn’t taste dry or crumbly the way other GF mixes have tasted.  They were moist and filled with dairy free chocolate chips.  Next time I make them, I’m going to frost the top with dairy free frosting or drizzling it with dairy free caramel (yes, it’s a thing and I’ll blog about that later!).  Mmmm….

The muffins went so quickly, I didn’t even have time to taste the chocolate chip one.  But my neighbor did.  And, she sought me out later on the beach to rave about it!  She said she was craving more and asked if I could pass her the recipe.  Boy, was I pleased to simply pass along Enjoy Life’s name!  I DID manage to snag a slightly mangled berry muffin which was, again, moist and flavorful.

All the adults involved loved that these mixes are dairy free, soy free, nut free and gluten free – making them safe for nearly everyone.  Thank you to Enjoy Life for supplying us with these inclusive and delicious mixes.  My husband and I noticed how proud my son was to offer food that was safe for him to others.  And, even more proud when his customers beamed over how much they liked his products.

All in all, the kids donated over $100 to Alex’s Lemonade Stand.  My boys are already planning their bake sale offerings for next summer – which includes both the brownies and muffins.  And, we’re excited to continue experimenting with Enjoy Life’s mixes throughout the fall.
  
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Sweet Surprise Cake Cookie Sandwiches (Nut-Free) April 10, 2015

You guys already know this:  Desserts are tough to rely on for people with food allergies.  The typical bakery will almost never guarantee that your dessert doesn’t contain or hasn’t been cross contaminated with nuts and most are made with dairy, eggs, wheat, and even corn and soy.

So, every couple of weeks, I would spend an afternoon baking and frosting cupcakes for my son to bring with him to birthday parties, class celebrations, and dinners out.  Sometimes, he’d have the occasion to gobble up a whole batch (minus a few for Dad) before I could even freeze a few!  But I began noticing he wasn’t really eating the cake part.  Which started making my labor of love a lot less lovely.

“Yeah, Mom….” he began one day, “I don’t really like the cake part.”  I thought I would die.  Do you know how much time I had been spending baking cupcakes?!

Turns out he was just using the cupcakes for the frosting.  So, I had to find a new vehicle to get frosting into that kid’s mouth (but ONLY for special occasions, much to his dismay!).  Thus the Cookie Sandwich was born!  At first I used store bought cookies (influenced by my son’s inexplicable objection to my baking).  As they are, they are a humungous hit when I send them into school for both my boys’ birthdays.  And, it’s embarrassing when moms ask for the recipe because it’s so insanely simple.  But this week, the Cookie Sandwich has been upgraded.

Meet the soft, perfectly proportioned, Sweet Surprise Cake Cookie Sandwich:

 

And, may I point out that it’s frosting to cake ratio is ideal!  It’s just simple math.  These are perfect for taking with you to birthday parties, serving as class treats, and offering to guests.  I made them for my husband’s birthday this week and plan on making more for a May Day celebration.

Here’s how to begin (based on a suggestions from the Betty Crocker site):

1 box cake mix (I used Betty Crocker’s Rainbow Chip Super Moist Mix)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 Tbsp milk

1 egg

1 can frosting

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients together until soft batter forms.  Scoop onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.

[Tip:  You want to remove the cookies from the oven before they begin to turn golden.  I took mine out at 8 minutes sharp.]

Cool completely.  Frost generously on the bottom of one cookie and top with the bottom of another.  Serves 12.

Notes:  I use Pillsbury frosting because it is dairy-free (a holdover from when my son was very allergic to dairy).  Although this recipe isn’t dairy free, I’m certain it would be delicious using dairy-free butter and very vanilla soy milk in lieu of regular.  As is, it’s good for kids who are approved to incorporate baked milk products into their diet.

Optional:  I liked mine with the sprinkles IN the cookie, but you would use another cake mix and roll the frosted cookies in sprinkles, chocolate chips or nonpareils to mix things up!

Quick someone get me a napkin, I’m salivating from TYPING about them!

 

While I’ve Been Away… September 18, 2014

Filed under: Recipes & Cooking,Uncategorized — malawer @ 6:17 pm
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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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O’My Goodness! Peanut-free and Tree Nut-free Chanukah Cookies December 9, 2012

We can almost NEVER buy baked goods off-the-shelf.  They always seem to conflict with my son’s food allergies and, thus, he’s relegated enjoying the creations that result from my sometimes limited baking and decorating skills.

 

However, while grabbing some items at our local Balducci’s, we read through the ingredients label of fabulously decorated dreidel, star and present butter cookies.  Amazingly, they are produced in a peanut and tree nut-free facility!  And, if you have a dairy allergy but can eat baked dairy (as our allergist advised we could), the frosting did not contain dairy (the cookie, however, did).

Here’s a link to their Chanukah cookies which you can order online.  But they also sell cookies for other occasions.  *One warning*, their cookies are likely for special occasions only (baby arrival, holidays, etc) as they are not priced to buy in bulk.  But, it was a special treat for us to even find one like it that my son could eat – and he loved every bite!

 

Costco’s Getting More Allergy-Friendly September 25, 2012

Need a safe snack to send to school?  Have a class party, soccer team to feed, play group snack to contribute to?  Check out what I found during one recent trip to our local Costco!    Has anyone tried these products?    I can only vouch for the School Safe Banana Chocolate Chip bread snacks which are delicious and perfect for school lunches/snacks.  They are nut-free and freezable (bonus for shelf life!).  My son loved the bread, so naturally I’m curious how the other snacks taste.

 

Note:  The popcorn was gluten-free but made in a facility with nuts.