Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

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

חנוכה - Hanukkah (5235439434)

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.)

 

Food Allergies: Overcoming Disagreements November 27, 2017

thanksgiving-table-satya-murthy

The holidays are a magical time – filled with hope and kindness.  But when you have food allergies, holiday gatherings are sometimes filled with the possibility of being excluded, disappointed, or the fear of having a food allergic reaction.

As parents and patients, we feel like we are constantly educating others about food allergies.  Our extended families and friends surely should know by now how real and severe a food allergy can be – shouldn’t they?!  Unfortunately, many times our family and friends don’t understand.  They underestimate the severity of a reaction and the amount of time and energy we put in to preparing for a regular day – never mind a holiday!  We often feel let down and angry when others don’t take food allergies into consideration or are set on upholding their traditions at the expense of someone else’s health and safety.

These disagreements around the holidays can set off a chain of unhealthy interactions that could cause relationships to strain.  Don’t end your relationship with family or friends.  Try the techniques outlined in the article below first and see if you can teach them about what your life with food allergies is really like.

Please read this article I wrote, published in the magazine Allergy & Asthma Today by the Allergy & Asthma Network, for more information.

http://bit.ly/2ncAJHY

Screenshot 2017-11-27 11.34.17

 

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.)

 

Managing Food Allergies In the Snow November 30, 2016

winter sledding in the snow, winter break

photo taken by Kevin Jarrett

Winter is an important time to get outside. It leaves you feeling refreshed and invigorated. Winter weather invites us to engage in all kinds of fun and unique activities. Ice skating and hot chocolate go hand in hand. Snow days beg for sledding down sleek hills. Cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, and even hiking are fabulous ways to appreciate the quiet beauty of the season.

 

And, of course, there’s my personal passion: skiing.

 

No matter what your winter passion is, please read Let It Snow! (below) for some important tips on how to carry your epinephrine auto-injector and how to manage your food allergies in the cold and on the slopes!

 

See our story and read how to enjoy – not endure – the season in the Winter 2016 edition of Allergy & Asthma Today:

 

Allergy & Asthma Today – Winter 2016

Or read it here:

Let It Snow!  Managing Food Allergies In the Snow

Our family loves wintertime and winter sports – skiing, sledding, ice skating, you name it. My son has multiple food allergies, so we always carry epinephrine auto-injectors with us, even in the cold, and we make sure they are safe and secure.

 

Epinephrine must be kept at room temperature in order for the medication to remain effective. When you plan to go outside in the cold, carry your auto-injectors in the inside pocket of your winter coat.

 

If you have no interior pockets, or they’re not big enough, get creative. We made a holder for our epinephrine auto-injectors using a pencil case and a lanyard – anything to keep the epinephrine close by and at the correct temperature.

 

Gone Skiing

 

When my son was old enough, my husband – an avid skier – was excited to get him on the slopes. But the idea of trying to manage his food allergies on a ski vacation seemed challenging.

 

Who could I track down to get ingredient information for food in the ski lodge cafeteria? How was I going to store and easily access snacks and lunches that were safe for my son? Could I rely on the ski school to look out for him and his food allergies?

 

During recent ski trips, we found food service employees were knowledgeable about food allergies. Several of my son’s ski instructors needed no introduction to epinephrine auto-injectors – some had food allergies themselves, which made them even cooler in my son’s eyes.

 

The staff walked him through cafeteria lines, read ingredient lists, and helped him find safe alternatives for group snacks – all at 10,000 feet.

 

If you’re planning a trip to a ski resort, here are some food allergy tips:

 

  1. Call ahead. Ski lodge operations may seem relaxed, but they do take food allergies seriously. We spoke with a food services manager at one ski lodge who outlined their offerings, looked up food suppliers and tracked down ingredients for us – all before we stepped foot in the snow. Ask about the lunch routine during ski school and what kinds of food students receive. Are they given snacks? Do they have free choice in the cafeteria?

 

  1. Show up for ski school classes early with your epinephrine auto-injectors. Talk with your child’s ski instructors and if necessary, teach them how to use an epinephrine auto-injector – and when to use it. Remind them they will need to store it in an inside pocket of their ski jacket to keep it close to room temperature.

 

  1. Consider meeting up with your child’s ski school class for lunch to help your child navigate the cafeteria line. But don’t expect to eat with them! Skiing creates fast friendships and your child will have more fun hanging out with their ski buddies.

 

  1. Pack some safe snacks and store them someplace readily accessible. Kids are often hungry when they get off the slopes and ski lodge cafeterias typically close right when the lifts do.

 

Now … Bring on the snow!

 

 

Breathing Easy On the Slopes

 

Many people with food allergies also have asthma. When outside in wintertime, cold, dry air can be an asthma trigger. Wrapping a scarf around your nose and mouth warms the air you breathe and helps keep the rest of you warm as well. Tuck a quick-relief bronchodilator inhaler into an inside pocket of your jacket just in case you start to cough or wheeze.

Food Allergies

Enjoying a fantastic winter vacation. Skiing in Park City, Utah.

 

A Review of Milk Substitutes December 29, 2011

If you missed the October 2011 Cooking Light issue, you may have missed some important information.  They ran an article breaking down a variety of milk substitutes and how they faired as substitutes in baking recipes.  The folks at the magazine tested each substitute by inserting them into chocolate pudding and blueberry quick bread recipes  — I’m guessing at a 1 for 1 ratio — and evaluating the results.

 

In short, it looks like the testers at Cooking Light felt that soy milk was their best substitute for baking. (Thank goodness — something readily available!)

 

Read the full run-down at Meet the Milk Substitutes, Cooking Light, October 2011.

 

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But if it’s nutritional content you’re interested in, you’ll want to read Self Magazine’s article, Almond, Soy, Rice and Other Milks: The Nutrition Comparison, to see how your favorite milk substitute stacks up.  Once again, soy milk most closely matches cow’s milk in protein and potassium.  Whatever you’re favorite “milk”, be sure to buy an enriched variety to get extra nutrients such as vitamin D and calcium.

 

What is your favorite milk substitute and what’s your favorite way to use it?

 

Mine is dunking chocolate chip cookies in coconut milk. Mmmm….  My son loves cereal and vanilla soy milk.

 

Free From Magazines March 23, 2011

My sweet and thoughtful friend bought me a copy of Living Without magazine the other day while out at Whole Foods.   Living Without is a magazine for people with restricted diets (focused mainly on gluten- and dairy-free nutrition).  Showcasing allergy-free recipes, the magazine also offers information regarding food allergies and sensitivities, celiac disease, allergy-free products and related health and lifestyle issues.

 

I find it informative and pick up a copy from time to time.  Living Without currently publishes another magazine, Gluten Free & More!  So before you check out from Whole Foods, check out these informative magazines or subscribe today on Amazon!

 

(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.)