Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

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.)

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Day of the Dead Halloween Party October 25, 2016

Disclaimer: Allergy Shmallergy received these goods in exchange for an honest review.  I only feature products that I use myself and believe would be useful to the food allergy community.

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Trick or Treat banner from Oriental Trading

 

 

Halloween is almost here!  I hope you are all busy painting and decorating your teal pumpkins.  Teal pumpkins are a great way to let food allergy families know that you support them by offering non-food treats.  And by now, you all know that Oriental Trading has an enormous selection of non-food treats to fill your Halloween buckets.  These trick-or-treat items have a huge impact on kids with food allergies who often cannot collect almost any candy.  Food allergic kids can feel very left out at Halloween which is why it’s important to find ways for everyone to have fun safely.

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My middle son sporting a pair of glow in the dark vampire fangs…

[Oriental Trading supports the Teal Pumpkin project.  Check out their Halloween selection here.]

 

And, don’t forget to check their coupon page (you never know!):  Oriental Trading Coupon & Promo Page

 

We have a tradition of hosting an annual Halloween party at our house.  I began this as a way of ensuring that my son had plenty to eat and lots to celebrate when he was a young trick-or-treater.  Initially, he was allergic to so many foods that I couldn’t find a single candy he could enjoy safely.

 

I’m happy to report that he has since outgrown a few allergies.  Most candy is still off limits to him.  But surrounded by great friends at a pre-trick-or-treat dinner and post-candy-swap, he doesn’t mind.   Every year, the party grows and grows to include more families and more fun!

 

This year, I’ve create a Day of the Dead themed Halloween table.

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The playful patterns and colorful sugar skulls dress up any table.  Check out the cups!

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I couldn’t resist these plates and napkins – so I infused a little of the traditional Halloween with the addition of these irresistible black and white plates and napkins.

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Just like an outfit, accessories can make a table.  This sugar skull bowl and small skulls were a great addition to the black and whites at play.

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Are you looking at this table runner?!  You can’t quite tell from the photos, but it has spiders at the center of the webs and glitters in the light.  And, that pumpkin?!  I’ll be using it on my table through Thanksgiving!

 

 

I also picked out this silicone mold – which can be used for ice or to dress up snacks!

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Here’s a list of the items I used to create my Day of the Dead Halloween table:

 

Day of the Dead Candy Dish

Glittered Spider Table Runner

Foam Orange Pumpkin

Skull & Crossbones Ice Cube Tray

Skulls

“Trick or Treat” Halloween Cardboard Pennant Banner

Spider Web Dinner Plates

Large Polka Dots Dessert Plates

Boo Beverage Napkins

Day of the Dead Disposable Cups

Glow-in-the-Dark Vampire Teeth

Colorful Halloween Spider Rings

Day of the Dead Skull Wall Decoration

 

 

Now that the table – and the mood – are set, stay tuned later this week to see what I’m serving!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pizza Hut – Again. February 18, 2016

 

I can’t believe I’m writing about Pizza Hut – again.  But here I am.

 

At this point in time/education, at their size, there’s no excuse for not having their act together when it comes to food allergies.  And yet…

 

My son was due to attend a birthday party that involved a trip to a nearby Pizza Hut.   Since we don’t have one very close to us AND they have a strange relationship with food allergies (see “Correction: Pizza Nut… I Mean, Pizza Hut” from 2012), I needed to do extra homework in preparation for my son to eat there.

 

I started by reviewing their allergen menu.  But since my son is allergic to food OUTSIDE the top 8 allergens, I also placed a call to double check my findings.  I don’t take unnecessary risks – especially in a birthday party-type situation.

 

It took three phone calls to get a customer service agent on the phone due to high call volume on three different days.   After waiting close to twenty minutes each time, I finally got a live voice.  I presented the facts simply, “My son is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts (so all nuts), sesame seeds and dairy (which means milk, butter and cheese).  I have read your allergen menu online but I still have a few questions.”

 

I went on to explain what my son would order (a regular, personal size pizza with only sauce) and asked my three easy questions:

  1.  Does the sauce have dairy (particularly, cheese) in it?  It’s impossible to tell from the online menu since most pizza is covered in mozzerella, but his won’t be.
  2. Is sesame used anywhere in either the crust or the sauce?  It can be ground up like flour and used as an ingredient you can’t see.
  3. Are there any cross-contamination issues I should be aware of with nuts or sesame seeds?

 

Simple, right?  Should be an easy answer there…

 

Not only could the customer service not answer the question himself, but he put me on hold while he asked a “nutritionist” somewhere in his office.  Sounded promising… until he came back to the phone and told me to go to the online allergen menu.  I reminded him that I had already reviewed it and had questions that this online menu didn’t answer.

 

I already felt that my questions (which I’d like to remind Pizza Hut concern the safety of my child) weren’t being heard and my concerns were being dismissed.

 

He put me on hold again to retrieve information from the nutritionist.  “OKAY!” he returned. “Go to the nutrition menu on our site and the calories for each meal should be listed beside it.”

 

Huh?!  It sounds like neither the representative nor the nutritionist understood what kind of information I was asking for and both were just blindly answering.

 

I repeated my questions and directed him towards an ingredient list.  “Well,” he jumped in, “concerning sesame seeds:  We DO offer a gluten-free crust.  So your son should be okay there.”  Again, WHAT?!  Back to the drawing board.  Time to education yet another person in the food industry about the difference between gluten and sesame seeds…

 

He returned to the nutritionist and came back yet again without any helpful information. But, the customer service representative took my contact info and assured me that the nutritionist would get back to me within 24 hours.

 

“Terrific,” I said – exhausted from the ineptitude. “the party is in three days, so that will be just in the nick of time.”

 

It is now eight (8!) days later and I still haven’t received a reply from Pizza Hut’s customer service OR their nutritionist.

 

Unfortunately, my son injured himself playing sports and couldn’t attend the birthday party.  But there was no way I felt comfortable with him eating at Pizza Hut if customer service AND a nutritionist couldn’t tell me if cheese or sesame seeds were in their sauce and crust.  The already hard decisions about how to accommodate my son’s food allergies so that he feels included in social situations was made that much more difficult by a lack of both understanding and a total lack of response.

 

They may no longer be referred to as “Pizza Nut” in our house (they once listed peanuts and tree nuts in nearly all of their products).  Now, we call them “Pizza Not.”

 

 

 

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!

 

Chilly Outside? Warm Up with Allergy-Free Game Day Chili January 30, 2015

Just as scrumptious as when I originally posted several years ago….

In the mood for chili, I decided to adapt my mother’s already-delicious recipe to be allergy-free and to include a few more vegetables.  The result was a fantastic dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, gluten-free meal that everyone loved.  [NB:  I cut the chili powder, and red pepper by about 1/3 (so 1 Tbsp chili powder and slightly less than 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes) to appease the taste budettes of my kids.]

 

Ingredients:

1 lb ground turkey

2 large onions, minced

2-4 garlic cloves, crushed

olive oil cooking spray

1 zucchini, shredded

28 oz can diced tomatoes

6 oz can tomato paste

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp crushed pepper

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1/4 cup fresh basil (chopped) or 1 Tbsp dried basil

16 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed

 
 

Spray large saute pan with cooking oil, saute onion and garlic for 2 minutes; then add turkey.  Cook , stirring and breaking up with a spoon, until the turkey is no longer pink (about 5 minutes).

Add chili powder, cumin, salt and red pepper flakes, stir and cook for 1 minute.  Add can of diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and zucchini and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add bay leaf, basil and beans; cover and simmer for 1 hour.

 Grated Zucchini Ready for the Pan
 

Serve with Whole Grain Tostita Chips.  Enjoy!

 

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:

 

char-broil-big-easy-fryer

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.)

 

Some Delicious Ideas for the Fourth of July! July 3, 2014

Filed under: Recipes & Cooking — malawer @ 12:30 am
Tags: , ,

If you have food allergies or are hosting someone with food allergies for the Fourth of July, you’re likely fretting about menu options.

 

Here are some quick and easy ideas for an allergy-friendly Fourth:

 

My Sweetheart Sorbet Pie idea can be made with any flavor sorbet (dairy and nut-free!) and topped with red raspberry, blueberries and banana or pineapple slices for a red, white and blue display.

Allergy Shmallergy:  Sweetheart Sorbet Pie

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Check out these adorable fruit kabobs from The Frugal Girls:

4th of July Fruit Kabobs Recipe Patriotic

 

These drinks from In Katrina’s Kitchen look as adorable as they do refreshing:

 
If the only way to celebrate being American is through Apple Pie, then try these two allergy-friendly pie crust recipes:

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    And, of course, be sure to ask and double check packaging for all hot dog and hamburger buns if you’re allergic to sesame seeds.  For some reason, those little buggers are in everything!  Here are a few brands we’ve had luck with:
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    Hope you all have a safe and fun-filled Fourth of July!