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.)

 

Halloween Snacks: Safe and Perfect for the Classroom or Party October 27, 2016

full-table-halloween

I had so much fun prepping for our Day of the Dead themed Halloween party!  Not only was it fun to lay out the decorations and style the table, but I loved coming up with fun and festive food to serve.

 

I planned carefully to create snacks that reflect the season and are fun – food that fits right in the spirit of Halloween!  The Halloween table – like all dining tables – is meant for everyone to be included – for me, fun, festive and inclusive food is especially important because my oldest son’s food allergies sometimes leave him without a candy option as he trick-or-treats.  As such, I needed to serve things that are food allergy-friendly.  And themed, safe food can be hard to come by.

 

First, I put our pumpkin innards (“pumpkin guts”) to good use.  We scooped and separated out the seeds. In a bowl filled with water, we strained out the rest of the pumpkin core and dried the seeds in a kitchen towel.

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Above, you’ll see two versions of pumpkin seeds – both are nearly everything-free.

 

 

The Classic:img_5770

Pumpkin seeds (approximately 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
2 Tablespoons dairy-free butter, melted
pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 300 F degrees.

 

With your pumpkin seeds already in a bowl, pour the melted butter substitute over the seeds and stir to combine.

Arrange the seed mixture on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast the seeds slowly, stirring occasionally.  At 25 minutes, add salt.  Roast for another 15-20 minutes, bringing the total roasting time to approximately 40-45 minutes.

 

 

Salty Sweet Pumpkin Seeds:img_5775

 

1 1/2 – 2 cups pumpkin seeds
2 Tablespoons dairy-free butter
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

 

Combine sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

With your pumpkin seeds already in a bowl, pour the melted butter substitute over the seeds and stir to combine.

Arrange the seed mixture on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast the seeds slowly, stirring occasionally.  At 15 minutes, add sugar mixture and stir.  Roast for another 20-30 minutes, bringing the total roasting time to approximately 40-45 minutes.

 

 

Next, I threw together some easy, no-brainer jello.  Good ol’ fashioned jello.  But check these out…

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…using the Skull and Crossbones mold, I made fun shapes that my kids gobbled down.  Tip:  spray the inside of the mold with cooking spray before pouring in the jello.  Use a little less liquid than recommended to keep the jello firm.  My larger sized box called for 2 cups of water – I used 1 1/2 cups instead.

 

And, finally, my favorite snack of all….  Stay tuned!  It’s worth the wait!

 

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.”

 

 

 

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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Skiing Mount Snow: A Food Allergy Review February 8, 2016

(Please read: Lift Lines and EpiPens: Skiing with Food Allergies)

 

 

Last March, we took a ski vacation up to Mount Snow in Vermont.  The folks at the mountain were extremely helpful when it came to food allergy issues, including handing over ingredient lists for us to review.  And, as it turns out, my son’s ski instructor was well-versed in carrying epinephrine as his younger brother had food allergies.  We had SUCH a great experience there, I wanted to pass along a few *specific* points of information for those of you thinking about going.

We were happy to learn that the hamburger buns at all lodges were sesame seed-free and SAFE for my son!  An unusual find!

Not a great photo from my frozen hands, but the chicken nuggets were made by Tyson, a brand we deem safe at home.  Dairy, egg, sesame seed, peanut and tree nut-free.

For those of you on a gluten-free diet, you’ll be excited to hear that they not only offered gluten-free bread at the main lodge, but they sold Liz Lovely gluten-free cookies as well as Monkey Chew nut-free, gluten-free granola bars.  Woohoo!

For dinner, we found this great restaurant, Last Chair.  The food was excellent, the manager and waitresses knowledgeable about food allergies PLUS they have an arcade to entertain the kiddos while you wait for a table.  A win all around!

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Clearly NOT dairy-free, but check out that plate of nachos.  That’s a PIZZA TRAY underneath.  The Last Chair is not skimping on portions!

 

The Beauty of Hampton Creek Mayo (and Bang Bang Chicken) January 18, 2016

Before I dole out this delicious allergy-friendly recipe for Bang Bang Chicken (dairy, egg, nut and sesame-free), I need to gush a little about Hampton Creek.

 

If you don’t know of this company, check them out.  They are revolutionizing the ingredients we use in some of our much beloved foods.  Hampton Creek aims to recreate foods (such as mayonnaise and cookies) with affordable, healthier, and more sustainable versions that are just as delicious!  They make dairy, egg and nut-free cookie dough that you can eat from the container carefree!  Need I say more?!  Okay, one more thing – their allergen menu identifies foods beyond the standard eight and they are very forthcoming about their equipment and facilities.

Hampton Creek allergen screenshot

 

I’ve had my eye on this company for a long time.  So needless to say, I was thrilled when they sent me a mayo sampler.  Check it out:  who knew there were so many different flavors of mayonnaise?!  I was instantly hungry for a sandwich.  And, if you’re wondering (and I know I would be): yes, the mayo tastes the same even without the egg!

Just Mayo Sriracha caught my eye.  So I decided to create a recipe as an excuse to use it.  Thus, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Sesame-Free, Nut-Free Bang Bang Chicken was born!

 

Allergy Friendly Bang Bang Chicken with Hampton Creek Sriracha Dipping Sauce

 

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 chunks

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup olive oil, preferably infused with minced garlic over low heat

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp garlic powder

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

 

For the sauce:

Hampton Creek Just Mayo Sriracha

 

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.  Combine panko breadcrumbs, paprika and garlic powder on plate or in shallow bowl.

3.  Dip chicken chunks into infused olive oil, then coat with panko breadcrumbs.

4.  Place wire cooling rack on baking sheet and coat with cooking spray.

5.  Place coated chicken on wire rack.

6.  Bake for about 25 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink and any juice run clear.

7.  Place chicken on serving plate and either drizzle with Hampton Creek’s Sriracha mayo or serve sriracha mayonnaise as dipping sauce on the side.

 

Step 3: After dipping in garlic infused olive oil, coat chicken in panko breadcrumbs.


Step 5: Oven ready!  Place coated chicken on wire rack.

  

Baking at 375 degrees F.  Don’t they look good already?!

GET IN MY MOUTH!  These were crispy where they should be, juicy and with the right amount of tang and kick in the sauce.  Addition of green onions, optional.  Maybe next time – I couldn’t wait to eat them.


Mmmmm……

 

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!