Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

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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New Years Resolution? Learn to Cook and Avoid Food Preparation Problems! January 13, 2014

Eight years ago, when my son was first diagnosed with food allergies, I was a terrible cook.  Truly terrible.  If you saw the Discovery Channel documentary, you may have noticed the burnt spoon that had caught fire when I “blackened” chicken noodle soup.  That’s right:  I burnt soup.  Take a moment:  I know you’re all very impressed.

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As soon as the doctor listed my son’s food allergies (at that time: peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, dairy, eggs, soy, wheat and corn), I was thrust into a whole new world.  One in which I would have to cook.  And, the result would need to be edible. (Gasp!)

 

Now, many years later, I actually enjoy cooking.  I can’t have enough cookbooks and I love the challenge of turning something that isn’t initially allergy-friendly into something safe and delicious.

 

But the biggest bonus must be the understanding and innate sense of what goes into a dish.  It has helped me innumerable times to determine what is safe for my son while we’re out enjoying the world!

 

It’s important to have a sense not only of ingredients, but also of the process in the kitchen.  A sampling of questions, I’ve needed to ask are:

  • Can you check the breading on fish?  Or, the breadcrumbs in the meatballs?  Breadcrumbs very often contain sesame seeds.
  • Are the chicken nuggets/calamari/fried zucchini coated with egg?
  • Is there egg in the salad dressing?  Some contain either eggs or mayonnaise.
  • Does that sauce contain flour?  Many are thickened with gluten flour.
  • Is there parmesan cheese in the marinara?
  • Do you add milk to your scrambled eggs/omelet/pancakes?

The more hands-on experience you have in the kitchen, the more you’ll understand what kinds of things you may need to look out for in others’ kitchens.  You’ll be surprised at how often you save yourself from a potential reaction.  So, cook and speak up!

 

Here are a few tips for starting out:

  • If you’re brand new in the kitchen, don’t feel overwhelmed by trying to make a main dish and sides.  It’s okay to try ONE new recipe and buy preprepared sides or make a new side dish and buy roasted chicken.
  • While looking at recipes, don’t be put off if they include your allergen.  Simply do a little research to see if there’s a safe alternative and/or omission.  We just omit peanuts from our Kung Pao Chicken dish.  And, we sub-in soy milk for regular in pancakes.
  • In choosing a recipe:  read the recipe in full once before you even go shopping.  It may call for “1 garlic clove, minced” which you could mince yourself or buy pre-prepared.
  • And, while reading the recipe, take note of prep time as well as cooking time.  Ingredient lists often list ingredients that have been pre-prepared like garlic noted above, a pie-crust pre-baked, or “3 cups spinach, sauteed”.   This translates to time, so simply be aware and plan accordingly.  This was tricky for me for a while.  I can’t tell you how many times I served a meal a whole HOUR after I thought it would be ready.
 

Good luck, watch your soup, and send me picts (and samples – mmmm!) of your best recipes!

photo: countryliving.com
 

Baking Substitutions from the Pros April 21, 2013

I don’t know what it is, but boy do I feel like baking these days!  I can’t get chocolate chip cookies and strawberry shortcake off my mind.  And you know, I never let a regular recipe stop me from serving treats to my son.  I just work with what I know to make it allergy-free!

 

If you’re in a baking way as well, enjoy these allergy-free substitutions from the pros:

  • Substitute peanut butter or almond butter with Sunbutter which is made from sunflower seeds.
  • Substitute sesame seed oil with Safflower Oil.  You’ll never notice the swap.
  • Cow’s milk can be substituted part-for-part by rice milk, hemp milk or soy milk.
  • Instead of eggs, you can use 3 tablespoons of applesauce for each egg in baked goods.
  • One egg can also be substituted with 1 tsp baking soda added to dry ingredients while 1tsp of apple cider vinegar is added to wet ingredients.  This creates a chemical reaction which causes dough and the like to rise.
  • 1 tbsp flax seed meal combined with 3 tbsp of hot water  can also replace an egg.  And, as a bonus, flax seed is super-healthy for you.
 
Cybele Pascal, the author of two excellent allergy-free cookbooks based on the whole foods approach to eating, recommends various substitution for flour:
 
Gluten-Free Flour Mix:
 
4 cups fine brown rice flour
2/3 cup tapioca starch or flour
1 1/3 cups potato starch
 
Combine all ingredients in a ziplock bag and shake.  Refrigerate until ready for use (lasts approximately 6 months). Mimics all-purpose flour in recipes.
 
And, don’t forget about all those great dairy-free products, like: dairy-free cream cheese, yogurt and sour cream.
 
Happy Baking!  (PS:  Send me samples!)
 

Sesame Seed-Free (and Dairy, Egg and Nut-Free!) Chinese Sauces August 2, 2012

When you have a sesame seed allergy, eating Chinese food is nearly impossible.  Even cooking Chinese can be tricky since so many prepared sauces contain sesame seeds or sesame oil or both!  But, inspired by one of our Shmallergy readers, I restarted my quest to find safe prepared sauces and alternative recipes so we can all enjoy Asian food at home!

 

As I was collecting ingredients to MAKE Hoisin sauce (recipe below), I stumbled upon Kikkoman’s Hoisin sauce.  And guess what?!  It’s sesame free!  That was WAY too easy.

But if you can’t find Kikkoman sauce (as I couldn’t for the last six years), here’s a Hoisin sauce recipe that’s easy to prepare.

 

INGREDIENTS:

4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons black bean paste (found in the Asian section of your local grocery store or at Whole Foods)
1 tablespoon honey or molasses or brown sugar
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 finely minced garlic clove
2 teaspoons safflower oil
20 drops chinese hot sauce, habenero or jalepeno
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine ingredients together in medium bowl.
  2. Whisk together until well combined.   (It may appear like it won’t mix well at first, but keep whisking longer and it will come together.)

 

I haven’t had as much luck finding Plum Sauce at the market.  So here’s an easy recipe to try from allrecipes.com.  I haven’t given it a shot yet, but would love to hear how it turns out if anyone gets to it before me!

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 (16 ounce) jar plum jam
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine jam, vinegar, brown sugar, dried onion, red pepper, garlic and ginger.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring.
  3. Remove from heat.
 
NB:  Here were a few suggestions: Use the whole 18 oz jar of plum jam, omit the pepper, and add a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce.  It is possible to substitute minced garlic for garlic powder as in Hoisin Sauce recipe.
Warm sauce for second use; it  can congeal a bit once cool.
 

Summer Resolution: Train the Sous-Chefs June 19, 2012

Ok, I realize that summer resolutions may not be as traditional as those made at New Year’s.  However, the end of the school year feels like just the right time to begin my new undertaking.

 

My resolution for the summer is to get the kids more involved in cooking with me.  I’ve given up trying to convince the boys that the healthy meal I’ve made for them is also delicious.  If they have a hand in making the meal, perhaps they’ll be more interested in gulping it down at dinnertime.  And, for my food allergic son, this will be a great way to get him thinking about what goes into different kinds of dishes so he can help protect himself when we’re not together.

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To take a tip from the First Lady, I’ve allowed my son’s to each pick a vegetable plant to tend to throughout the summer.  My younger son chose a pepper plant; the older one, a tomato plant.  Plus, we have pumpkin vines growing in the yard where our old jack-o-lanterns were ransacked by squirrels a few years ago, as well as mint and basil that keeps sprouting up whether or not I plant it.  It’s not a produce section, but it’s a start.

 

My husband and I also had a heart-to-heart with the boys one night after everyone was either very difficult about or refused altogether to try a very family-friendly dinner I had prepared.  We’re putting the kids’ suggestion for trying new dishes into practice: each week, the kids will pick a recipe of their choice for the family to taste at dinner.

 

Finally, the boys are getting in on the preparation.  They are old enough to help with the meals.  Not only does this give them an appreciation for making the meals AND give them an incentive to eat their creations, but it also teaches them how to cook.  I only learned when my oldest son was diagnosed with food allergies and commercially prepared dishes just weren’t an option.  I want our kids to see cooking as a family affair. To enjoy the process of learning a new dish.  To appreciate the culture from which it comes.  And, most of all, to feel confident in a kitchen and appreciate healthy, well-prepared food.

 

This is especially important for my oldest son, who may not outgrow many of his food allergies.  I want him to feel confident about food, not nervous around it.  I want him to eventually possess the skills he needs to prepare nearly any dish he cares to try.  And, as stated above, I’d like him to be familiar with the kinds of ingredients that are common to various dishes so that he can ask the appropriate questions and protect himself from reaction when I’m not around to do it for him.

 

I’m excited to begin next week.  And, who knows what we’ll be having.  I have some kid-friendly cookbooks handy and can’t wait to taste those peppers and tomatoes when they ripen.  Wish me luck!  I may need it….

 

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Dairy-Free Substitutes April 30, 2012

A few friends of mine recently found out they were lactose intolerant and others have discovered their children are allergic to dairy.  In response, I sent them my dairy-free cheat sheet so they could eat without problems.

 

If you find yourself in the same position or know someone who is, here’s a list of some dairy-free substitutes to help you out:

 

Margarine (also use for baking, etc):  

Earth’s Balance Buttery Spread (or Sticks) or

Smart Balance Organic (the vegan kind seen here:  

Both taste exactly the same as margarine and work well in baked goods.

 

Ice Cream:

We sub sorbet for ice cream as it is nearly always milk-free.  We buy either Haagen Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s variety, although there are probably others that work.  There are also many places to find sorbet (restaurants, ice cream shops, etc) in our area and elsewhere (see  https://shmallergy.wordpress.com/tag/sorbet/).

 

Cream Cheese:  

Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese (tastes almost exactly like regular cream cheese).  Tofutti also makes dairy-free sour cream which mimics regular sour cream and dairy-free cheese pizza (found in the frozen food section).

 
 

Chocolate Chips:  

A great way to satisfy that chocolate craving is with Chocolate Dream chocolate chips which are dairy-free.  So are Guittard Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips.

 

Frosting:

Pillsbury’s Cream Supreme frosting is amazingly dairy-free.  So, if you’re not interested in making it from scratch, here’s a great off-the-shelf option.

 

There are a few things that are surprisingly dairy-free “naturally” (using that VERY loosely), like Oreos (all sugar! no milk!) and Nabisco Sugar Wafers.  You may be surprised at what contains and doesn’t contain milk, so I would start reading the backs of everything without assumptions!

 

Best of all, I have found all of the above products in our local Safeway, Giant and Whole Foods!  Convenient and dairy-free!

 

Now here’s where you help me:  We’ve tried tons of soy yogurts but still haven’t found one that tastes similar to its dairy counterpart.  Let me know if you all come across one!  Also, looking for a decent tasting dairy-free cheese.  Would love to hear if anyone has had any luck with that?

 
 
 
 
 
 

New Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Chocolate Chips in Safeway October 19, 2011

Check out the GF, DF Chocolate Chips I stumbled across in Safeway today!    I was so excited to be able to easily purchase something like this that I bought a package despite the fact my son doesn’t really like chocolate…