Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Allergy-Friendly Thanksgiving Recipes November 20, 2017

It’s actually fairly easy to create a Thanksgiving dinner that everyone can enjoy easily.  With just a couple of ingredient swaps, there’s almost no part of this inclusive meal that you’ll need to omit!  Try some of the below, post a photo and let me know how it all turns out!



You’ll Never Miss It Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes (via Allergy Shmallergy)

By using broth and dairy-free butter instead of buttermilk, these mashed potatoes turn out savory and delicious – right down to the last lick on your fork.  My guests have always loved this recipe!

mashed-potatoes-439976_1920 (1)



Pacific Foods Organic Vegan Mushroom Gravy

Available at local supermarkets, this gravy is both dairy and egg-free.  Another thing it has going for it?  You don’t need to prepare it!  **This gravy DOES contain almonds (almond butter) – please avoid if you are allergic to tree nuts!**

Pacific Foods Organic Vegan Gravy



Did you know you can make your own dairy-free (and gluten-free) cream of mushroom soup?  Why is this important?  Because cream of mushroom soup is the base for delicious green bean casserole!


The Kitchen Girl blog posted an easy recipe for Can’t Believe It’s Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup.  Her recipe uses unsweetened almond milk; but if you’re allergic to tree nuts (as we are) you could substitute that for unsweetened soy milk or rice milk.  And, as a bonus, her soup is also gluten-free.  Looks DELICIOUS!


The magazine Gluten-Free & More posted a recipe for Dairy-free, Gluten-free Green Bean Casserole.  It involves creating your own gluten-free breaded onions to top the dish – just like the original recipe.  Those onions are my favorite part – I’d double this part of the recipe for my table!



The big obstacle for allergy-friendly stuffing?  Gluten!  Those pesky bread cubes make it a tough sell for those with a wheat allergy or celiac disease.  Enter Williams-Sonoma: they carry Mariposa Baking Co. Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing.  This rosemary and sage version contains egg and soy (and is manufactured in shared equipment with milk), but is gluten-free and pre-packaged.  One less thing to stress about!


If you can’t make it to the market, you can also order Three Bakers Herb Gluten-Free Seasoned Whole Grain Cubed Stuffing (contains egg) from Amazon Prime!



Dessert is always tricky for those with food allergies.  Holiday desserts are typically filled with butter, egg, gluten and nuts.


But these Allergy-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies have (almost) none of those things!  They are easy to make, can feed a crowd, and offer an alternative to make them gluten-free.  They combine the delicious, comfort of a regular chocolate chip cookies with the flavor-du-jour pumpkin spice!


Another favorite holiday dessert in our house is Sorbet Pie.  It’s light and refreshing (something much needed after a big, savory dinner) and it’s dairy-free, egg-free, peanut and tree nut-free.  Be sure to give the pie times to refreeze before serving!



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


Parenting Positively in the Face of Food Allergies September 29, 2017




Last year, I had the pleasure of speaking with Lyndsay Edwards of Allergy Blog Awards UK.  In her podcast, she asked a lot of thought-provoking questions on the topic of parenting a child with food allergies.


Because of the challenges and risks associated with food allergic reactions, it is critical to raise food allergic children to be confident, resourceful, and self-advocating.  And all of that begins with a good attitude towards food.


Here is the transcript of Lyndsay’s well-crafted podcast [or listen here: Allergy Blog Awards UK – Allergy Shmallergy Living Positively with Food Allergies].



So, I know your son was diagnosed with a dairy allergy at 6 months old and other allergies by the time he was just 15 months old, can you just take us back to that time and what it was like for you getting the diagnosis?


Despite his eczema, acid reflux and asthma (conditions that I now understand to be related to food allergies), I was in denial.  Even though I followed her instructions to the letter, I scoffed at our pediatrician’s recommendation to avoid feeding my son a whole host of allergens as we introduced first foods.  “He’s probably not allergic to any of these!” I remember saying.


When she called us to discuss the results of my son’s blood test, revealing that he was allergic to eight different foods in addition to environmental allergens, I was completely overwhelmed.  I couldn’t stop wondering:


What does this mean Not only the test results, but also in a bigger sense:  what does this mean for his life?  Will he have a normal life?  And more importantly, what can I feed him for dinner tonight?!!


I found myself grieving for the hopes and dreams I had imagined for my child (like baking cookies and spontaneous trips to get ice cream), but then my husband snapped me out of it.  He reminded me that we would find work arounds.  And, if they didn’t exist, we’d create them!  Very quickly, THAT became my focus.



How do you cater for your son at home?  Do you all eat the same?


Because my son was allergic to so many foods, I had to learn how to cook (and fast!).  Unbelievably, he’s my most adventurous eater.  He loves everything seafood (no matter how crazy the dish), sushi…  and he’s consistently adding requests to his list.


These requests inspire me to learn how to cook all kinds of intimidating international cuisine.  No one who knows me would have EVER guessed that I regularly cook Chinese food or Persian or make all kinds of sushi.  In high school, I once burnt soup!  SOUP!


When he was a toddler (and an only child), I was making separate meals for my son.  But being a short order cook isn’t my strong suit and I didn’t want my son to feel like I was treating him differently because of his allergies.  In his own home, he should feel safe and included.  As I got better at reading recipes, swapping out his allergens for substitutes, I started serving only one meal (what a relief!).  I also began finding meals with optional parts (like tacos that you could stuff with cheese or not and make-your-own pizza night).  I now have quite a collection of tried and true recipes that are free of peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, dairy and in many cases egg (an allergy my son has since outgrown).



When did you start your blog and what inspired you to do so?


It was very important to us to raise a confident child who felt capable in the world.  Food allergies are very stressful.  I wanted to share simple solutions with other parents and put out useful information so that families can remain calm and make informed decisions.



One of the things that really stood out for me on your blog is how you focus on teaching your son about his food allergies in such a positive way so that he doesn’t feel left out or sad, can you just explain how you do that and what has worked for you and your son?


We have repeated the message that everybody deals with something – sometimes that “something” is invisible to the eye, like food allergies.


We try to downplay the importance and emphasis on food.  For example, we try to reward achievements with activities rather than treats.


And, we remind all of my kids that the best party of any party is always the company, hardly ever the cake.


Involve your kids in problem solving.  We can’t control the fact that my son has food allergies, but I can give some control OVER them by getting his input on overcoming obstacles.


Prepare, prepare, prepare to provide special treats in anticipation of special events.  Bring a gluten-free cupcake to the party; pack a sesame-free hamburger bun for the barbeque; carry a little dairy-free butter out to dinner.  Create positive experiences around food and demonstrate how easy it is to overcome challenges.


Let him vent!  We’ve taught my son the names for his feelings and encouraged him to talk about them.  First, children need to know the language to use to express their emotions.  Then they can engage in an open dialogue to release stress and give parents an insight into how they are experiencing the world.



Ok, before I get to my last question, can you tell everyone where they can find you on social media, your website, etc?


Yes, of course!

[You all know where Allergy Shmallergy is!]

Twitter: @shmallergy

Facebook:  Allergy Shmallergy

Instagram: shmallergy



And my final question is if you could give allergy parents one tip, what would it be and why?


Help prepare your child to negotiate the real world: practice asking questions, allow them to speak to a waiter, in short: EMPOWER them!  Give them the tools to tackle the world!


And, provide a safe place for them to come home to. A safe home environment (free of allergens) as well as a safe space psychologically where they can relay their triumphs and articulate their frustrations without judgment or anxiety and find support.


That’s two tips (sorry!), but I hope they’re both helpful!


Connect: We’re All Just a Phone Call Away January 16, 2015

Filed under: Parent Sanity — malawer @ 11:30 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Although a growing issue, food allergies have a way of making people feel alone, isolated and different.  My son often feels like the only kid who can’t eat the bread or dessert out at meals.  He’s the one worrying about whether the birthday treat will be safe for him and quietly left feeling excluded from the fun.  But I also feel alone sometimes:  I’m the person silently, but constantly, weighing the risks of every move we make throughout every day of the year; thinking five steps ahead to protect my child’s health.

Let’s face it, having a food allergy isn’t easy.  And, parenting a child with food allergies is stressful.  Sometimes you just need to talk to someone who inherently understands your life.

I was reminded of that recently, when I consulted with someone whose son is about to start kindergarten.  I remember the considerations we had to take into account at that time and the stress it stirred going from a nut-free school to one that is sensitive to nuts, but does not ban them.  I was more than happy to help out in any way I could.  I was glad to let her vent her frustrations, address her concerns and pass along some of our hard-earned lessons.  It feels good to pay it forward as I, too, call upon other moms and doctors for advice and reality checks.

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  But that village doesn’t just support the child, it strengthens the parents.  The village’s collective education, creativity and spirit ensure you don’t have to go it alone.  When you’re feeling turned around or exasperated, the village is there with a cup of coffee (or, in my case, a bowl of ice cream), some calming words and a hug.

I encourage you all to reach out to other food allergic parents and pose questions, offer advice, voice your aggravations, exchange recipes, share ideas, and just generally encourage one another.  And, if you don’t know another food allergy parent, feel free to contact me.  Please visit Allergy Shmallergy’s facebook page where you are welcome to post questions to me and one another, arrange meet up groups, swap great ideas and generally just connect with and support one another.

Thank you for being part of my village.





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 of 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!


Visiting With Food Allergies December 14, 2011

Many people, us included, are hitting the road during this holiday season to visit with family and friends.  We’re headed north to stay at my parents’ house.  Being a guest can be is fun for kids.  But, being a food allergic guest can be complicated.  Typically, guests are uncomfortable making too many demands on the host family.  However, without a lot of specific information, the hosts cannot look out for a food allergic guest’s well-being.


It’s important to remember a few things:

1.  Arm your guests with enough information to keep you or your food allergic child safe.  If you can’t eat wheat, for example, let them know something easy you eat for breakfast.  Remind them that leaving out bowls of nuts won’t be safe for a tree nut-allergic child.


2.  Offer to go grocery shopping.  For starters, it’s an appreciated gesture.  But, it also gives you an opportunity to buy a few things that ensures you eat safely at mealtimes (like dairy-free margarine and nut-free cookies).


3.  Be sure to bring your emergency medications.  As if you leave home without that anyway!  In addition to our On-the-Go Emergency Kit, I also bring my son’s nebulizer and accompanying medications (in case he has an asthmatic reaction), a bottle of Benadryl, and hydrocortisone cream.


4.  Teach your hosts how to use an EpiPen using the EpiPen trainer (see Familiarize or Refamiliarize Yourself With How To Use An EpiPen) and let them know where you keep it.  Remind your hosts not to feed your food allergic child without checking the food’s safety with you first.


Finally, if it makes sense, refer your hosts to the Grandparents’ Guide Parts I, II and III which gives hosts some helpful hints on how to safely host a food allergic child.  It’s not just for grandparents!


Happy travels!


The Host’s Guide: Part III June 15, 2011

An important step in hosting someone with a food allergy is preparing the kitchen.  This task initially seems daunting.  But I promise with a few simple steps, your kitchen can be food allergy friendlier in no time.


Step 1:  Put Away Food Allergens, If Possible

Something I have to commend both my parents and in-laws on was their thoughtfulness when it came to my son’s food allergies.  Both sets of grandparents, instinctively placed all peanuts, tree nut and sesame seed products out of reach from my then toddler.  This didn’t mean that we didn’t keep a close eye on him in the kitchen, of course.  But it did give us all some peace of mind knowing that he couldn’t reach these items on the top shelf of the pantry.


Step 2:  Create a Safe Snack Drawer

Again, I relay this wonderful idea from my parents and in-laws who cleared out a drawer in their kitchens and filled it with safe snacks for my son.  Now in elementary school, he knows that if he’s hungry he can safely choose anything from that drawer.  Should you lack space in your kitchen: don’t despair!   You can create a safe basket or storage bin instead.  When educating the food allergic child, be sure to make this safe space a big deal.  A special snack drawer will help everyone in the house learn which snacks are safe and deter the child from roaming uninvited amongst potentially unsafe food.


Bag of groceries
Step 3:  Plan Your Meals and Okay Them Before Shopping

If your visit includes meals at home (including breakfast!), it might be a good idea to talk to the child’s parents about this before grocery shopping.  There may be some hidden ingredient problems that parents who are well-versed in managing food allergies can warn you about as well as some simple substitutions to keep the meal on track.  For example, a sesame seed-allergic child cannot typically eat regular breadcrumbs.  A dairy-allergic individual cannot eat anything made with butter.  But both have simple substitutions found at local supermarkets.

Innova Classicor Wrought-Iron Oval Pot Rack

Step 4:  Pots and Pans; Cutting Boards and Counters

If you regularly cook with the child’s food allergens and plan to use your cooking tools to prepare a meal, you’ll need to wash them.  I encountered this problem right away upon discovering my son’s food allergies.  He was just diagnosed as severely allergic to peanuts right after I had made delicious peanut butter dessert bars.  Agh!  I called my allergist for some guidance on what to do.  He suggested we rinse off any peanut debris and stick the whole baking pan in the dishwasher.  That’s it!

I would also recommend you run all cutting boards in the dishwasher, if possible (or otherwise thoroughly clean) and wipe down all counters to avoid any cross-contamination issues.



Hope this guide has been helpful so far!


The Host’s Guide: Part II May 25, 2011

Now that you understand your visitor’s food allergy, here are a couple quick things you can do to ensure any mishaps are handled with ease.

  • If you don’t already have one on hand, now is a good time to ask a friend or neighbor for the name and number of a trusted pediatrician.  Accidents happen (and not always having to do with food allergies).  I cannot tell you the number of times we have seen our surrogate pediatricians in New York and New Jersey while visiting and vacationing.
  • It can’t hurt to keep Children’s Benadryl on-hand.  It’s one of the things I never travel without.  But just in case, I also store one at my parents’ house and in-laws’ beach house for when we visit.  And, yes, we’ve used them.

Most of the time, you won’t need to even think about employing the above.  But you’ll be glad you were ready if you do.



Next post, we’ll discuss how to prepare your kitchen to make it food allergy friendlier in a snap!


The Host’s Guide to Allergies May 23, 2011

I’ve been reflecting recently about some of the excellent ideas and small mishaps by my extended family as they, too, learn to deal with my son’s multiple food allergies.  We see everyone with regularity and I’ve been impressed with how conscientious our family became once they fully understood our situation and how they could help.  Plus, they even gave me ideas for how to handle it.  So, I plan to share some of our suggestions in a short series of posts.


Whether you visit weekly or yearly, understanding your grandchild, niece, nephew, cousin, best friend’s food allergy will help put everyone at ease!  And, by considering some of our tried and true strategies, it should make your summer visit to grandma’s house all the more enjoyable!


Understand the Allergy (or Allergies)

Get an Allergy List Going and Post It

As the parent of a food allergic child, some intricacies of their allergy or allergies become second nature as you monitor food allergies on a daily basis.  To catch family members up on your routine, it may be helpful to type up a list outlining your child’s restrictions and some of the unusual places these allergens can be found.   I update my list after each visit to our allergist (when the list has the most potential to change) and email it around to my parents and in-laws.  We all print out our copies and post them on the fridge so that everyone has something to reference.

My list looks something like this:


Food Allergy Restrictions
May 2011
My child CANNOT eat:
Tree Nuts
Sesame Seeds
Look out for:
Asian Foods (typically contain nuts, sesame seeds, and nut/sesame oils)
Bread Crumbs (most have sesame seeds)
Meatballs and Meatloaf (which are typically binded with egg)
Tahini and hummus (sesame seeds)
He CAN have:
Coconut and coconut oil
Safflower and Sunflower seed oils
All fruits, vegetables, and juices made without exposure to the above allergens



Educate the Household:

Make sure each member of the household knows that a food allergic visitor is coming and can help keep him/her safe by keeping them away from allergens and steering them towards safe, healthy options.  Now is a good time to remind each member of the host’s household that they should ask the child’s parents before giving him/her any food or drinks.


Take Note:

You should note several things that families with a food allergic member do on a daily basis:


1.  If you have just eaten an allergen, you cannot kiss the food allergic child for a while.  Discuss this with the parents, but we have certainly noticed times where an allergen has caused hives from touch even without an allergic child ingesting anything.   As excited as you are to see the kids, please consider this carefully before laying on the smooches!


2.  If you have handled or prepared food with the child’s allergen, you’ll need to wash your hands before touching him/her.  Again, exposure can lead to hives which are uncomfortable at the least.


3.  If you are dealing with a nut allergy, you may wish to ensure that your hand soaps, body soaps, and/or lotions are not made with almond or other nut products.  If they are, now’s a good time to shelve them for the remainder of the stay.


4.  If you don’t know, just ask the parent.  It’s not worth taking chances with food allergies.  Reactions can be quite severe.  Most parents would prefer to be asked whether something is safe in advance than worry about potential consequences.  Ask a hundred and one questions.  We really don’t mind!


5.  Try to be relaxed about it.  Although food allergies requires vigilance, it’s important to be flexible.  Kids feed off adult energy.  The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed they’ll be – and the more fun will be had by all!



Next post, we’ll discuss a few quick but helpful preparations for a food allergic visitor you’ll be glad you did.


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