Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Allergy-Friendly Hanukkah Doughnuts: Buy Them, Make Them, Eat Them! December 12, 2017

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As a food allergy consultant to schools, I get asked all kinds of questions and involved in all sorts of projects.  Recently, I received a fun assignment!  My daughter’s school asked me to find a safe doughnut to help them celebrate Hanukkah while adhering to their strict nut-free policy.

 

Hanukkah is celebrated over eight nights – recognizing the miracle of the burning oil in the ancient Temple of Jerusalem.  Recognizing that miracle, celebrants everywhere look forward to the tradition of indulging in food fried in oil each night, including doughnuts!  I mean, if we must…

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Traditionally, Jews serve sufganiyot, a jelly doughnut during Hanukkah.  The Big Bang Theorys Mayim Bialik offers this awesome vegan recipe (which means it’s dairy and egg-free!):

Mayim Bialik’s “Unbelievably Delicious” Holiday Recipe – Hanukkah Sufganiyot

 

I will acknowledge, doughnut making can be time consuming and messy!  Preparing doughnuts from scratch is also tough if you’re trying to feed a crowd.  Krispy Kreme used to be the go-to Hanukah doughnuts for my own family as well as for the classrooms I teach in.  Now that Krispy Kreme donuts are decidedly not safe, where can you buy a nut-free doughnut?

 

Enter Katz’s Gluten-Free Donuts.  Sold in boxes of 6, these doughnuts are gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and soy-free!  You can find them in the kosher frozen food section of the supermarket.  There’s no preparation necessary – just thaw.  Or, for a mouthwatering experience, heat up for a few seconds in the microwave.  (I’m drooling as I write this…)

 

 

Be sure to check out our list of Allergy-Friendly BakeriesDun Well Donuts, The Donut Pub, Brandon’s Best Allergen-Free Sweets ‘N Treats and Amazing Donuts are just a few bakeries on our list that make doughnuts reviewers rave about.  There may be a bakery near you!  (And, if your favorite allergy-friendly bakery isn’t on the list, shoot us a note!)

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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.)

 

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.

 

Focus on Fun: Thanksgiving Games November 17, 2016


Thanksgiving and other food-centric holidays are tough for families with food allergies.  Traditional foods may not be safe and allergic family members sometimes feel excluded from the celebration.

 

Time to interject fun, family traditions that won’t fill you up and are cross-contamination free-guaranteed!

 

One of my favorite ways to do this is to have the kids go on a scavenger hunt.  If you have a small group dining, the hunt could be for objects in the house or yard.  If you have a large group, the hunt could be for answers to questions from family and friends.  [See attached.]

 

Download here:

Focus on Fun – Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunts

 

Pinterest also has a ton of Thanksgiving crafts that kids can complete while watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade and waiting for the turkey.  The art work could decorate the dinner table or the dining room!  This is a great way to get food allergic kids involved with the meal without worry about allergens.

 

Perfect for indoor or out!  Download the ready-made Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt here:

Focus on Fun – Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunts

 

Holiday Houses and Candied Cheer December 16, 2015

Happy Holidays, everyone!

 

It has been a very busy holiday season so far… and we’re not done yet!  We’ve eaten an entire crop of potatoes in the form of latkes.  I’ve hosted three Chanukah parties; attended numerous holiday concerts; shopped, wrapped and cooked until I broke a sweat.  The kids decorated the house and graciously ate as many doughnuts as they could manage. Finally, we’re building.  Yes, building!

 

Holiday houses, that is.   And, as much as I’d love to create a gingerbread house from scratch, it just isn’t going to happen during such a busy month.  So, I’ve been leaving no gumdrop stone unturned in my search for allergy-friendly, off-the-shelf kits.

 

Here are a couple of fabulous allergy-free finds:

 

Manischewitz Chanukah House:

This nut-free house is easy to assemble, a cinch to decorate and delicious to eat.  It is not gingerbread, but rather vanilla cookie which my kids prefer.

Check ingredient list here: nut-free, lactose-free, contains soy and wheat.

Manischewitz Do-It-Yourself Chanukah House Vanilla Cookie Decorating Kit

Sensitive Sweets Gingerbread House:

How fantastic to find such an allergy-friendly kit!  Gluten, dairy, egg, soy, tree nut, peanut-free and vegan.  And, look how gorgeous the final product can be!  Too beautiful to eat!

Check ingredient list here: Gluten, dairy, egg, soy, tree nut, peanut-free, vegan.

 

A&J Bakery:

A&J Bakery not only manufactures gingerbread houses, but they make Gingerbread Men in their nut and gluten-free facility.  These Gingerbread Men would make a great kids’ activity for a holiday party.  They’re individualized and ready to eat in minutes!

Check ingredient list here: free of top 8 allergens.

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Sweet Nature Candy Canes:

These candy canes are made in a gluten, dairy, tree nut, peanut, egg, fish and shellfish-free facility.  Their allergen information page is impressive and their candy canes minty and fresh!  Spangler, the parent company also makes our favorite, safe lollipops, DumDums!

 

Check ingredient list here: free from wheat, gluten, dairy, tree nut, peanuts, egg, fish, and shellfish.

Eleni’s New York:

Among the insanely adorable cookies and treats that Eleni’s offers for nearly EVERY occasion are these fantastic and creative Color Me! holiday cookie sets.  The Hanukkah one below is sold out, but you’re in luck – there are still Christmas sets available!

Color Me! Hanukkah Gift Set

Check out ingredient lists here: everything is nut-free (and Kosher). Woohoo!

 

Living with food allergies can be crazy.  Especially during the holidays.  These gingerbread, Chanukah houses and other treats are such an easy way for my kids to feel included in the fun.  They all love to work together to create the perfect house, covered in as much frosting and candy as they can manage.  They’ve been excited to participate in the fun of decorating and devouring gingerbread cookies at a party.  And, we ALL love setting out a treat like nut-free candy canes knowing that anyone that walks through our door can enjoy them – safely and with confidence!

 

 

 

AANMA’s “All In Good Eats” Article: Allergy-Free Holiday Recipes December 4, 2014

Remember this picture?!  In September, I told you I was up to something and I meant it!

 

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Allergy Shmallergy was featured in Asthma and Allergy Network’s (aanma.org) publication Allergy & Asthma Today.  I wrote the All in Good Eats article this quarter and included some of my favorite allergy-free holiday treats.  You don’t need to celebrate Chanukah to try my mouth watering recipe for Sweet Potato Chanukah Latkes.  And, I also included a *NEW* recipe for Double Chocolate Peppermint Holiday cookies.  Anytime candy canes and TWICE the regular amount of chocolate are included in your ingredient list, you know you’ll have a party favorite.

 
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The Asthma and Allergy Network works to educate and advocate for families living with allergies and asthma.  Check out their site and peruse the wide variety of resources they have available.  Pick up a copy of Allergy & Asthma Today in your doctor’s office, online, or join AANMA to stay up-to-date on their publications, reference materials, and other related resources.

Allergy & Asthma Today, Winter 2014 Edition:  All In Good Eats, Festive Bites

 

 

 

Allergy-Friendly, Actually Helpful Holiday Dinner Gadgets November 23, 2014

The holidays are here!   If you’re still struggling with how to make your holiday meal safe for all of your guests, check out these helpful tools and tips:

 
 

Char-Broil Big Easy – $146.96

If you like the idea of deep-frying a turkey but don’t want to mess with Peanut oil, this oil-less, propane Turkey fryer might be worth a try:

 

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Char-Broil Big Easy Fryer

Buy Char-Broil Big Easy Fryer at Amazon

 

Fry turkeys the safe and healthy way with the Char-Broil The Big Easy Propane Oil-Less Fryer. Since this fryer uses a 16,000 BTU burner, there is no oil to buy, pre-heat or dispose of, making your cooking preparation effortless. Cool-touch handles help protect your hands during operation, and a pull-out grease tray makes cleanup a snap. Cooks up to 16 lb. of turkey, 8 lb. roast, ribs and more.

The Vegetti – $20.55

Buy the Vegetti Pro at Amazon

Have a vegan coming to dinner?  Someone going gluten-free?  The Vegetti takes ordinary vegetables and turns them into good-for-you spiral spaghetti.

 

 

 
 

Buy Mini Chalkboards at Amazon

These would be a perfect way to alert guests of appetizers and dishes that are gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, etc.

 
 
Brown Kraft Paper – $10.97

Kraft paper is so great – there are so many clever uses! My favorite – no surprise – is to use the paper as a runner or tablecloth and label all the dishes right on the paper tablecloth!  I also love the idea of displaying the menu/main recipes as decoration (and, for those with food allergies, important information).  And, of course, the most fun way to use kraft paper?  Place crayons in small tin buckets and let the guests doodle away!

 

Kraft Paper - brown roll tablecloth

Buy Kraft Paper Rolls at Amazon – these are heavy, definitely have it delivered!

 

 
 

There’s still time to grab one or all of these items! You and your guests will use them again and again!

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