Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for 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.

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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.

featured product

 

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.

 
 

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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.)

 

Holiday Talk: Hosting a Guest With Food Allergies November 17, 2014

Holidays are filled with memorable family gatherings.  And, as warmly anticipated as most of them are, if you are hosting a guest with food allergies it can bring up some anxiety.  How will you make your guest feel included while keeping them safe?  What does it mean to be a good host to someone with food allergies?  How far will you need to stray from your familiar recipes to make the meal safe for sharing?

 

Never fear!  As a parent of a food allergic child, I can tell you there are a few simple steps you can take that will alleviate your anxiety and win over your guests:

 

1.  Have a conversation with the food allergic family.

  • Find out what the allergies are so you can do your best to substitute or exclude them from recipes.
  • Ask them what their biggest challenges are when it comes to the type of meal your serving, whether that be Thanksgiving, breakfast, desserts, etc…
  • Discuss cross-contamination in relationship to cutting boards, baking dishes.  Most of the time, a simple cleaning either in the sink or dishwasher suffices, but it’s important to talk to the food allergic family as everyone’s food allergy triggers are a little different.
  • If you are hosting this family overnight, get the brand names of a couple of snack foods that are safe for the food allergic child/individuals.  It’s important to stick with these particular brand names because recipe, manufacturing equipment, and methods can make something as simple as a pretzel go from safe to unsafe very easily.
 

2.  Search Allergy Shmallergy, FARE and other blogs for allergy-free substitute recipes.  For example, Shmallergy’s You’ll Never Miss It Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes are easy to make and are a crowd favorite at every table we sit.  Keep your recipe handy for the guest family to review.  You may never understand how touching a gesture like this is to us.  Safe mashed potatoes from a host can make my son’s whole day!

 

3.  Brush up on the signs on anaphylaxis (among them: hives; itchy lips, tongue, throat; swelling of tongue, lips; wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath).  Watch this video (less than 2 minutes) to familiarize yourself with how to use an EpiPen (one common type of epinephrine autoinjector).  Your guests will appreciate you taking their allergies seriously.

 

4.  Keep ingredient lists of the food your cooking with for reference.  I can’t tell you how many times I read and reread new brand ingredients to be sure they are safe for my son.  And the peace of mind it gives me is more than appreciated.

 

The best ways to be a host to a food allergy family is to create a warm, welcoming environment – as with all guests.  The time you share together will define your memories.  And the effort you make to keep all your guests healthy will surely be one of the fondest ones of the season.

Food Allergy families:  what would you add to this list?  Please add your suggestions below!

 

Egg-Free Latke Series #3: Jalapeno-Cilantro Latkes December 8, 2012

Filed under: Holiday,Recipes & Cooking — malawer @ 10:07 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,
The folks at Cooking Light are geniuses!  This is an amazing adaptation of your run-of-the-mill latke.  It’s definitely my favorite so far in the series.  And, you can make a dairy-free dipping sauce included below which is also delicious with tortilla chips.   
 
photo courtesy of Cooking Light

 Ingredients:

Dipping sauce:

  • 6 tablespoons dairy-free sour cream (Tofutti makes one that is often sold in regular supermarkets as well as Whole Foods)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Latkes:

  • 6 cups shredded peeled baking potato (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 cup grated fresh onion
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional – I omitted since I don’t love cilantro)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper (handle carefully, jalapeno oil can burn!  I have a funny story about this – totally at my expense.  Another time….)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
 
  1. To make dip: Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
  2.  Place grated potatoes in ice water.  After 10 minutes, remove potatoes to colander and reserve water.  Let water sit for 10 more minutes while potato starch settles at bottom.
  3. Carefully pour out water, retaining potato starch.  This will help create a crispy latke when fried.
  4. Combine potato and onion in a colander. Drain 15 minutes, pressing occasionally with the back of a spoon until barely moist. Combine potato mixture, potato starch, flour, and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; toss well.
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Spoon 1/4 cup potato mixture loosely into a dry measuring cup. Pack together and pour mixture into pan; flatten slightly with back of spoon or spatula. Repeat the procedure to form remaining latkes. Sauté 3 – 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and thoroughly cooked. Remove latkes from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and potato mixture to yield 12 latkes total.
 

Serve with sour cream mixture.