Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Food Allergy Education: Allergy and Asthma Today Spring 2016 March 8, 2016

 

As you all know, I strongly support the need for food allergy education in school.  The non-profit Allergy and Asthma Network (AANMA) recently picked up one of my articles on the subject for their publication, “Asthma and Allergy Today.”

asthma allergy today spring 2016

Here’s a link to my article in their Spring 2016 issue:  Thank You For Being a Friend.

 

Or, read it below. And in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you!  Comment below, on our Facebook page, or email me: erin@allergystrong.com:

  • I’d love to hear your thoughts on:
  • What your school is doing right;
  • Any issues you or your child has faced as a result of insufficient food allergy information/education;
  • Suggestions you have for schools/teachers to create a safer, more inclusive school environment;
  • General comments.

Thank you as always for your support!

 

Thank You For Being a Friend
published in Allergy & Asthma Today – Spring 2016
By Erin Malawer

 

Walking through the halls of an elementary school, you might see inspirational bulletin boards, posters promoting “School Spirit Week,” perhaps a donation box for clothes or backpacks.

 

You would not expect to see a whole walnut rolling around on the floor. That’s what some students at my son’s elementary school found recently. At first they didn’t even know what it was.

 

One of the students bent down to inspect it. “Hey,” he yelled to my 10-year- old son, who is allergic to tree nuts. “Come over here. Is this a walnut?”

Feeling a little nervous, my son backed away, explaining that he, of all people, is not qualified to be a nut inspector. A classmate, a girl also diagnosed with food allergies, stepped in to remind everyone about my son’s allergies. Soon after, the kids began to file into their classroom. Somehow the nut followed them.

 

My son’s deskmate grabbed the walnut and teased him with it, waving the walnut close to his face saying, “Oooooh … A walnut.”

 

My son began to speak up – we had practiced for these types of situations at home. The same girl quickly interjected, “Are you crazy? He’s ALLERGIC to nuts! He could go to the hospital!”

 

My son wasn’t harmed. But he WAS upset when I picked him up from the bus.

 

“Mom,” he said, “I know I seem really tough – like my feelings are as thick as a wall. But inside, they can be as thin as paper.”

 

We discussed what he was feeling, things he would have liked to have said, how thankful he was to have a friend like the girl who stood up for him. He felt sure his classmates acted out of misunderstanding or lack of education, rather than malice.

 

This incident was innocent enough. The first boy was curious; the second boy truly didn’t understand the potential consequences of his actions. He thought my son would join in on the joke because they are friends.

 

I asked the school if I could come into the classroom to teach the kids about food allergies – and they agreed. The students were attentive and engaged, and had intelligent questions. They were very sympathetic to how difficult it is to manage food allergies.

 

Both boys apologized to my son, explaining they had no idea about the severity of allergic reactions.

 

In the end, the incident brought my son and his classmates closer together. Looking back, it’s very easy to imagine a different outcome. But as my husband rightly points out, “Kids WANT to do the right thing and be supportive. Sometimes they don’t have enough facts to know how.”

 

Statistically, there are two students in every classroom with food allergies.  But that number is growing.  We need to teach our kids the facts about this condition, so they can act appropriately. And we need to teach them to be supportive of each other.  A lesson in food allergies is a lesson in empathy – and it just might save a life.

 

If your school doesn’t include food allergy education in their health curriculum, I encourage you to volunteer your time to do it yourself.

 

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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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Easy No-Bake Valentine’s Day Treat: Sweet Strawberry Hearts February 7, 2015

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It’s almost Valentine’s Day!  Making the cards is so much fun and I LOVE seeing the messages the kids write each other.  And, I particularly love those silly Valentine’s Day puns. I mean, “Olive You,” “You’re the Juan”… classic!

When it comes to class parties, I try to volunteer to bring the hardest thing to make Food Allergy Friendly.  Especially for candy/treat centric holidays like Halloween and Valentine’s Day.  Last year I made Cupid’s Arrow Fruit Kabobs which the kids gobbled up faster than I could serve it.  This year, I decided to try something different. But with a toddler running around the house (more aptly put, running the house), it needed to be easy to put together and able to serve in bulk.

Enter the allergy-friendly (dairy, egg, peanut, and tree nut-free), no bake, Sweet Strawberry Hearts.

Ingredients:

1 package of Nilla Wafers

1 container of Pillsbury Pink Frosting (dairy-free!)

1 package of fresh strawberries

First, wash the strawberries and cut off the green.2015/02/img_7691.jpg

Next, slice each trimmed strawberry in half vertically. Some of the thicker strawberries can be sliced into three pieces. 2015/02/img_7694.jpg

Shape each strawberry half into hearts by slicing a small “V” into the top.2015/02/img_7695.jpg

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Next, frost each Nilla wafer with a small dollop of frosting. They already look prettier, don’t they?!

2015/02/img_7702.jpgFinally, top each cookie with a strawberry heart.

Et, voila!

Each kid will likely eat three.

They’re delicious…and, I like to think, healthy….ish.  Have a safe and happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Food Allergy-Friendly Ideas for Your Class Halloween Party October 24, 2013

Looking for a fun, allergy-friendly way to spook up your class Halloween party?

 

Here are some fantastic suggestions.  I wish I could claim credit for all of them, but instead I stand in awe of people’s creativity just like you.  I’ve tried to link them to their original posts where I could for recipes and instructions.  Check these out!

 
 

My boys will LOVE these from The Outlaw Mom:

Fun & Easy Halloween Food
 
 
And, I’m 100% doing this for our pre-Trick-or-Treating appetizer from My Journey To Health.  Maybe hummus instead of the dairy-based dip?  *Just remember to use tahini-free hummus if you have a sesame seed allergy!*
 
 
This would be so simple – and healthy – for a class party via Decorating By Day:
  
  

Who doesn’t love pigs in a blanket?!  I mean…Hot Dog Mummies.  Great idea via Seakettle:

Mummy dogs!
 
 
 

Everyone loves breadsticks!  To make them allergy-friendly, skip the cheese and use dairy-free butter and you’re good to go!

Breadstick Bones and Marinara

 
 

Are you serious?!  Peeps makes Halloween ghosts!

Creepy Halloween Food & Spooky Halloween Food | Best #Halloween Costumes & Decor
 
 

I’m so inspired by these creations, I’m now planning a Halloween party just for our family!

 

React? Act! April 25, 2012

Like a lot of people these days, my kids are sneezing up a storm from spring airborne allergies.  And, for my older son:  this often means an increase in his asthma.  As if the sniffling wasn’t bad enough!

 

After his first spring asthmatic reaction in school (a doozy – the kind that he hasn’t had in a long time!), we had a chat.  Knowing my son and his proclivity for following classroom rules,  I assumed correctly that my son was trying to wait until his lesson was over to let his teacher know he was wheezing.  That won’t do!  Not only is wheezing the first symptom of asthma, but can also be a symptom for a food allergy reaction.  We had to re-emphasize the importance of reporting to adults even if it means interrupting them or demanding their attention.

 

My husband and I told him that one of the FEW exceptions to following the school and classroom rules is when you don’t feel well. “If you are wheezing, you need to tell the teacher right away – even if she’s talking or teaching the class.  If you are at recess, find an adult in charge and tell THEM right away.”  We very calmly expanded the lesson to include food allergy symptoms, “If your belly feels sick, if you have hives or an itchy throat, you must also tell an adult right away.  Even if those feelings aren’t really bothering you yet. It’s important to let the nurse see what’s going on so you can get back to playing!”

 

Thankfully, my son digested this lesson very well.  Since this chat, he’s been speaking up and heading to the nurse to get a puff of his inhaler as needed.  Not only does it empower him, but it helps keep his wheezing from escalating to a full-blown asthma attack.

 

Our hope is that calmly and gently teaching kids to recognize signs of asthma and allergic reactions will make them feel in control and ultimately help protect them.

 

Allergy-Friendly Purim Hamantaschen Cookies March 6, 2012

Even if you don’t celebrate Purim, this time of year is just a fabulous excuse to make these delicious fillable treats.  I mean, any holiday whose representative food is a huge cookie is going to be a good one!

 

Turns out that hamantaschen is really easy to make dairy, egg, peanut and tree nut-free!  Hamantaschen literally meaning “Haman’s Hat”, so called for the shape of the hat worn by the ultimately defeated villian of the Purim story.  They are triangular-shaped cookies, filled with anything from chocolate to jam and anything else you can think of.

 

I’m excited to share this recipe and can’t wait to hear how you fill and adapt these delicious cookies!

 
Adapted from the fabulous blog, A Shiska in the Kitchen
 
  • Substitute for 2 eggs:  1/4 cup applesauce and 1 1/2 tsp Ener-G egg replacer combined with 2 Tablespoons water or soy milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 to 5 tsp water (if needed)
  • Nonstick cooking oil spray
 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
  2. Before you begin making the hamantaschen dough, choose and make your filling (see below) and have it on hand to work with. Hamantaschen dough dries out quickly if left to rest too long, so it’s best to have everything ready to assemble when you start.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, canola oil, orange zest and vanilla.
  4. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet, using a large wooden spoon until a crumbly dough begins to form.
  6. Knead until smooth and slightly tacky to the touch. Try not to overwork the dough, only knead till the dough is the right consistency. If the crumbles are too dry to form a smooth dough, add water slowly, 1 teaspoon at a time, using your hands to knead the liquid into the dough. Continue kneading and adding liquid until dough is smooth and slightly tacky to the touch (not sticky), with a consistency that is right for rolling out. It can easily go from the right consistency to too wet/sticky, so add water very slowly. If the dough seems too wet, knead in a little flour till it reaches the right texture.
  7. Lightly flour a smooth, clean surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick. Scrape the dough up with a pastry scraper, lightly reflour the surface, and flip the dough over.   If you prefer a crisper, more delicate cookie:  Continue rolling the dough out very thin (less than 1/8 of an inch thick) – just make sure that the dough is still thick enough to hold the filling and its shape! Lightly flour the rolling pin occasionally to prevent sticking, as needed.
  8. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter (not smaller) or the 3-inch rim of a glass to cut circles out of the dough, cutting as many as you can from the dough
  9. Gather the scraps and roll them out again. Cut circles. Repeat process again if needed until you’ve cut as many circles as you can from the dough. You should end up with around 35 circles.
  10. Place a teaspoon of filling (whichever filling you choose) into the center of each circle. Do not use more than a teaspoon of filling, or you run the risk of your hamantaschen opening and filling spilling out during baking. Cover unused circles with a lightly damp towel to prevent them from drying out while you are filling.
  11. Assemble the hamantaschen in three steps. First, grasp the left side of the circle and fold it towards the center to make a flap that covers the left third of the circle.
  12. Grasp the right side of the circle and fold it towards the center, overlapping the upper part of the left side flap to create a triangular tip at the top of the circle. A small triangle of filling should still be visible in the center.
  13. Grasp the bottom part of the circle and fold it upward to create a third flap and complete the triangle. When you fold this flap up, be sure to tuck the left side of this new flap underneath the left side of the triangle, while letting the right side of this new flap overlap the right side of the triangle. This way, each side of your triangle has a corner that folds over and a corner that folds under– it creates a “pinwheel” effect. This method if folding is not only pretty– it will help to keep the cookies from opening while they bake.
  14. Pinch each corner of the triangle gently but firmly to secure the shape.
  15. Repeat this process for the remaining circles.
  16. When all of your hamantaschen have been filled, place them on a lightly greased baking sheet, evenly spaced. You can fit about 20 on one sheet… they don’t need to be very spaced out because they shouldn’t expand much during baking.
  17. Place them in the oven and let them bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, till the cookies are cooked through and lightly golden.
  18. Cool the cookies on a wire rack. Store them in a tightly sealed plastic bag or Tupperware.
  19. Eat and enjoy!
 
For the Prune Filling:
  • 1 cup pitted prunes
  • ½ cup plum jam
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
  • ¼ teaspoon orange extract or 1 teaspoon orange zest
For the Poppy Seed Filling:
  • ¾ cup poppy seeds
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup dark raisins, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
For the Apricot Filling:
  • ¾ cup dried apricots
  • ½ cup mixed dried fruit (apples and pears, not prunes)
  • ½ cup apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
For the Apple Filling:
  • 2/3 cup peeled and cored McIntosh apples, diced into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1/8 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup finely chopped raisins
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

To Make the Prune Filling or Apricot Filling:

1. Purée all ingredients in a blender or food processor.

To Make the Poppy Seed Filling:

1. Pour boiling water over the poppy seeds and set aside for 15 minutes. Drain and grind (or put them in your food processor with the honey, brown sugar, raisins, and lemon rind).

To Make the Apple Filling:

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Put in a blender or food processor and pulse for a few seconds to make mixture a little moister and easier to use.

NOTES

If your dried fruits (prunes, apricots, raisins) have become hard, soak them in warm water until soft but firm.