Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Fun for Everyone: Candy Bar Birthday Party April 12, 2017

I wish I could take credit for this adorable idea.  But I can’t.  My friend is just a genius.

 

Her own kids aren’t allergic, but my thoughtful and creative friend had kids with food allergies on her mind when she thought about what special treat her daughter could share with ALL of her party guests.  Like my friend, many parents are concerned with how to be inclusive of guests with food allergies.  Sometimes, the best answer is also the simplest.

 

After singing a rowdy chorus of “Happy Birthday” to our favorite 7 year old, the kids were each given a festive party bag that they could fill with any (or ALL) of their favorite candy.  Best of all, everything was dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free and most was also gluten-free.  There’s nothing that makes a child happier than being included in on the fun!

 

Plus, no goodie bag needed!  The kids all got to bring their loot home.  HUGE bonus in my opinion!

 

If you’re going to replicate this fantastic idea, I would recommend a few things:

  1.  Check Allergy Shmallergy’s Safe List of Nut-Free Candy page.  This is not a comprehensive list.  And, it doesn’t account for other allergies.  But you’ll find that many of the candies listed are also dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free.  Read ingredient lists carefully and if you have any doubts of an item’s safety, snap a photo and email the child’s parent to verify.
  2. Save ingredient lists and bring them to the party.  If anything needs to be double-checked, you’ll have all your information at hand.
  3. Be careful when serving similar looking items (like M&Ms and Skittles).  Not only is chance of cross-contamination a concern with unwrapped candy, but I’ve seen unsafe candy fall into safe candy bowls.  For the purposes of a party, I would stick to the idea that “everything on the table is safe for party guests” principle.

 

Look at this fun, inviting table set up!
Looking for containers and scoops like the ones above?

Set of 12 Clear Plastic Candy Scoops

Penny Candy Jars (set of 2)

Amcan Scalloped Container, Large

Vista Premium Quality Plastic 10″ Serving Bowl (set of 2)


  
Smarties.  A classic!


Caught red handed!  My son and his best friend/brother of the birthday girl.

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

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Essential Items for Families with Food Allergies – Portable Food Carriers March 28, 2017

Filed under: Parent Sanity — malawer @ 11:00 am
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Food allergy parents are accustomed to prepping safe food at home and taking it on-the-go to parties, school functions, and family gatherings.  Here are a few items that might make carrying safe food just a little easier!

 

Portable Slice of Pizza or Pie?

 

Take a gluten-free or dairy-free slice of pizza to a party?  Who knew there was a container just for that purpose?!  This Brick Oven Pizza Saver looks like it’s perfectly sized to transport both pizza and maybe even a slice of cookie cake or pie!

Brick oven slice saver

 

 

Individual Cupcake Holders:

 

Both this reusable (by Fox Run) and these disposable cupcake holders (both via Amazon) are the PERFECT container to tote a peanut-free, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free cupcake to a birthday party!

 

Fox Run Cupcake Holder

Cupcake Supply Co Indiv Cupcake holder

 

Removable Labels:

When sending your child with a safe snack or special treat – OR when labeling your own lunch at the office – the best way to ensure it doesn’t get mixed up with someone else’s is to clearly label it.  These removable labels by Avery do just the trick:

Avery Labels

 

Hot Lunch!

 

If your kids are itching for a hot lunch, but school lunches aren’t a safe option, then you absolutely need a thermos that will keep your meal warm for up to 5 hours and fit neatly into your lunchbox or work bag.

 

Thermos

 

And, while you’re packing your lunchbox, why not add Sistema’s four-piece cutlery set.  It connects handles to fork, spoon, kid friendly-knife and chopsticks – making it a synch to grab on-the-go.

Sistema Klipo

 

For Safe Restaurant Dining:

 

If you’re allergic to soy, you’ve probably already toted salad dressing to restaurants.  Allergic to gluten/wheat, I’d bet you’ve stashed tamari in your purse as you meet friends for sushi.  OXO Good Grips On-The-Go Silicone Squeeze Bottles allow you to do just that in a small, spill-free way!

OXO Squeeze containers

 

We want to hear from you!  What other items do you find useful for living with your food allergies? 

 

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

 

Holiday Stress? 4 Tips for Celebrating with Less Than Supportive Family December 14, 2016

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I hear from so many readers this time of year who just need to vent.   Reports of disappointment and frustration frequently get voiced over extended family that isn’t supportive – or, in extreme cases, is totally defiant of – a family’s food allergy concerns.

 

These incidents often center around the holiday table – at a time of year when parent anxiety can be heightened and when all parents put extra pressure on themselves to make the holidays magical for their children.  Family gatherings are typically filled with unspoken expectations.  Which is why it can be doubly disappointing (and sometimes volatile) when things go wrong.

 

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you relax and have fun with your extended family and friends as you celebrate this season:

 

  1.  Educate:  Many adults did not grow up knowing a single person with food allergies.  What comes off as careless to those of us who live this reality, may simply be a matter of ignorance.  A little education may go a long way.  If you want to start that process before you arrive, suggest they watch the Discovery Channel documentary, “Emerging Epidemic: Food Allergies in America.”
  2. Distract and Enjoy:  Perhaps you have a history of issues surrounding meals with your food allergies. If you know your family and your food allergies will not mix, don’t forego the time spent together.  Maybe you can host or help cook the meal.  Maybe you skip the meal and instead all go ice skating or sledding or on the hunt for the best Christmas lights in town.  New traditions will forge new memories!
  3. Be Flexible:  When it comes to the meal, we know you cannot compromise on safety.  Nor should you.  But if you can compromise on other parts of your visit, that may help reduce stress for all.  Be flexible when you can.
  4. Focus on Family:  Just remember that family relationships are important.  Not just to you but to your children.  Try to strengthen that relationship by creating positive memories throughout the year.  Having strong family bonds will defuse the anxiety and expectations of the holidays.

 

For further information about how to navigate family dynamics, please read Food Allergies and Family: Disagreements Not Break-Ups.

 

Pizza Hut – Again. February 18, 2016

 

I can’t believe I’m writing about Pizza Hut – again.  But here I am.

 

At this point in time/education, at their size, there’s no excuse for not having their act together when it comes to food allergies.  And yet…

 

My son was due to attend a birthday party that involved a trip to a nearby Pizza Hut.   Since we don’t have one very close to us AND they have a strange relationship with food allergies (see “Correction: Pizza Nut… I Mean, Pizza Hut” from 2012), I needed to do extra homework in preparation for my son to eat there.

 

I started by reviewing their allergen menu.  But since my son is allergic to food OUTSIDE the top 8 allergens, I also placed a call to double check my findings.  I don’t take unnecessary risks – especially in a birthday party-type situation.

 

It took three phone calls to get a customer service agent on the phone due to high call volume on three different days.   After waiting close to twenty minutes each time, I finally got a live voice.  I presented the facts simply, “My son is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts (so all nuts), sesame seeds and dairy (which means milk, butter and cheese).  I have read your allergen menu online but I still have a few questions.”

 

I went on to explain what my son would order (a regular, personal size pizza with only sauce) and asked my three easy questions:

  1.  Does the sauce have dairy (particularly, cheese) in it?  It’s impossible to tell from the online menu since most pizza is covered in mozzerella, but his won’t be.
  2. Is sesame used anywhere in either the crust or the sauce?  It can be ground up like flour and used as an ingredient you can’t see.
  3. Are there any cross-contamination issues I should be aware of with nuts or sesame seeds?

 

Simple, right?  Should be an easy answer there…

 

Not only could the customer service not answer the question himself, but he put me on hold while he asked a “nutritionist” somewhere in his office.  Sounded promising… until he came back to the phone and told me to go to the online allergen menu.  I reminded him that I had already reviewed it and had questions that this online menu didn’t answer.

 

I already felt that my questions (which I’d like to remind Pizza Hut concern the safety of my child) weren’t being heard and my concerns were being dismissed.

 

He put me on hold again to retrieve information from the nutritionist.  “OKAY!” he returned. “Go to the nutrition menu on our site and the calories for each meal should be listed beside it.”

 

Huh?!  It sounds like neither the representative nor the nutritionist understood what kind of information I was asking for and both were just blindly answering.

 

I repeated my questions and directed him towards an ingredient list.  “Well,” he jumped in, “concerning sesame seeds:  We DO offer a gluten-free crust.  So your son should be okay there.”  Again, WHAT?!  Back to the drawing board.  Time to education yet another person in the food industry about the difference between gluten and sesame seeds…

 

He returned to the nutritionist and came back yet again without any helpful information. But, the customer service representative took my contact info and assured me that the nutritionist would get back to me within 24 hours.

 

“Terrific,” I said – exhausted from the ineptitude. “the party is in three days, so that will be just in the nick of time.”

 

It is now eight (8!) days later and I still haven’t received a reply from Pizza Hut’s customer service OR their nutritionist.

 

Unfortunately, my son injured himself playing sports and couldn’t attend the birthday party.  But there was no way I felt comfortable with him eating at Pizza Hut if customer service AND a nutritionist couldn’t tell me if cheese or sesame seeds were in their sauce and crust.  The already hard decisions about how to accommodate my son’s food allergies so that he feels included in social situations was made that much more difficult by a lack of both understanding and a total lack of response.

 

They may no longer be referred to as “Pizza Nut” in our house (they once listed peanuts and tree nuts in nearly all of their products).  Now, we call them “Pizza Not.”

 

 

 

Three Sweet Ways to Say “I Love You” Dairy, Egg, Peanut and Tree Nut-Free February 11, 2016

Since we have the weekend to prep for Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d suggest three simple and sweet ways to brighten your Valentine’s day.  All three are easy to prepare, GREAT for classrooms and parties, and all are dairy, peanut, tree nut and egg free.  Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

 

 

Cupid’s Arrows

Grab some fruit and a cookie cutter and you have yourself one adorable (and healthy – shhhh…) fruit kabob!

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Sweetheart Sorbet Pie

Trickiest thing is remembering to prep this a few hours in advance.  And, then not eating it before presenting it to your sweetheart.

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Rice Krispie Hearts

Subbing out the dairy, makes these hearts safe and scrumptious.  If you have letter cookie cutters, you could also spell out the words, “LOVE” or “HUGS” or “XOXO”.  Infinite possibilities!

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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!

 

Sweetheart Sorbet Pie January 27, 2014

Hello, everyone!

Another candy-based holiday is around the corner.  A wonderful time, unless you have food allergies… and then creating a special treat can be quite a challenge!  And that’s where Sweetheart Sorbet Pie comes in!

 

I created this when my son announced that he didn’t really care for cake.  And that meant no more cupcakes either… (Sigh!)

 

Thinking about how much I loved ice cream cake, we invented sorbet pie!  It’s quick, easy, delicious and appropriate for all kinds of special occasions – or for no reason at all.

 

Ingredients:

 

2 pints of your favorite, safe sorbet

1 9-inch graham cracker pie crust

Berries, sprinkles, safe dairy-free chocolate chips (optional)

 

 Step 1:  Gather your ingredients and let your sorbet sit out for about 5-10 minutes.

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Step 2:  When soft, stir the sorbet either in its container or in a bowl.

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Step 3:  When slightly melted and malleable, scoop into the pie crust and spread using the back of a spoon or soft spatula.

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Step 4:  Continue to add sorbet and spread until the pie crust is filled.  Smooth out top.

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Step 5:  Should you wish, add berries, dairy-free chocolate chips, sprinkles or any other type of deliciousness you can think of… and then freeze for at least 2 hours.

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Step 6:  Let thaw for a few minutes, slice and enjoy with your big and/or little sweethearts!

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