Allergen-Free Chocolate Chips

Posted on December 15th, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Candy, Dairy Allergy, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy, Products, Soy Allergy | Read 2 Comments - Add Your Own »

Enjoy Life MorselsIf you are looking for an allergen-free chocolate chip, I recommend Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Morsels. Enjoy Life already has its Mini Chips and Mega Chunks, and the Morsels are a new addition.

All of these products are gluten, dairy, nut and soy-free — allergens that could be found in other chocolates. While I love the size of the Mini Chips and have been using them for years, I like the flavor of the new Morsels much better. They have a richer chocolate taste (69% cacao).

There are only two ingredients in the Morsels: Unsweetened Chocolate and Cane Sugar. The package states “Made in a dedicated nut and gluten-free facility.” It has a Gluten-Free Certification, and its allergen statement says, “The facility also processes dairy and soy; however, this products is produced on a dedicated dairy- and soy-free line. Ingredients have been additionally tested to ensure strict allergen control standards are met.”

So if you are looking for safe chocolate chips, try these! If you can’t yet find them in stores, you can buy them online at Enjoy Life Foods.


SuperSeedz Pumpkin Seeds (a Giveaway!)

Posted on July 13th, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Peanuts/Nuts Allergy, Products | Read 20 Comments - Add Your Own »

Pumpkin seeds are delicious and packed with nutrition, having one of the highest protein contents of any seed or nut. They are also a good source of minerals, fiber and healthy omega-3 oils. Though most nut-allergic individuals can tolerate seeds, the seeds are often made in a facility with nuts, presenting the risk of cross-contamination.

I like to make my own pumpkin seeds when I carve pumpkins in October, and if I’m cooking a butternut squash, I’ll toast those seeds too, but I was looking for some safe pumpkin seeds for the rest of the year for my daughter who is allergic to nuts.

In my search, I came across SuperSeedz by Kathie’s Kitchen. I love the taste of these pumpkin seeds! I am addicted to the Sea Salt ones, but all of the flavors are fun and delicious: Coco Joe, Curry, Really Naked, Super Spicy, Somewhat Spicy, Sugar & Cinnamon, Tomato Italiano. All flavors are naturally vegan, gluten free, tree nut free, peanut free, dairy free, MSG free and soy free!

I used SuperSeedz for two recipes in an article I wrote for Gluten-Free Living magazine called Aw, Nuts: Balancing a Nut-Free, Gluten-Free Diet.

So, would you like to win some seeds? Kathie has agreed to give away four 6-ounce packages of pumpkin seeds PLUS a limited edition SuperSeedz pumpkin seed shaker to one lucky winner! If you would like to enter, simply leave a comment telling me why you’d like to win! Contest ends on Thursday, July 18 at 5:00 pm PST. Good luck!


Gluten-Free Nut-Free Kettel Krakkers

Posted on March 1st, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Peanuts/Nuts Allergy, Products | ADD A COMMENT »

Kettel Krakkers gluten-free crackersI recently attended the Gluten & Allergen-Free Expo, put on by the wonderful Jen Cafferty. It was the first time it was held in San Francisco and it was great to reconnect with some of my gluten-free peeps! There were many food vendors of course, and one that was new to me was Kettel Krakkers, based in San Francisco. If you are gluten-free, you know that good gluten-free crackers aren’t plentiful. Most are very hard and crunchy, which I actually like (or I’ve gotten used to!), but I was happy to find a cracker that is softer, but still has some crunch from the seeds added in.

According to the company, the crackers are “handmade at our dedicated gluten-free facility using organic, locally-sourced ingredients of the highest quality.”

They are:

CONTINUE READING »


My daughter has a new allergy and you might be surprised at this one

Posted on May 21st, 2012 by Alison | Posted in Food Allergies, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | Read 43 Comments - Add Your Own »

Lentil Allergy Reaction

About a month ago, I gave my daughter a new soup to try: Amy’s Lentil Soup. It is delicious with quality ingredients and she ate it up one day after school, before gymnastics. I added cooked rice to it and it made a great powerhouse snack! The next week I made it for her dinner, again with rice. I think she ate two bowls, she liked it so much. Then it all went downhill…

Within a minute of finishing the soup, her voice changed and she began to have trouble breathing. She was having an asthmatic reaction. No hives, no redness, but she instantly didn’t feel well and wanted to go to bed (it was still early). I immediately gave her Benadryl and as we headed to her bedroom, she said, “Mom, bring my emergency kit.”

Because I grew up with asthma, I recognized the asthmatic breathing she was experiencing, and got an inhaler that we had been prescribed by our pediatrician but had never used. I thought to myself, “If this doesn’t work, I’ll use the Epi.” And I was racking my brain as to why she was having this reaction, though my instinct told me it was lentils since everything else in the meal was foods she had had many times before. I also knew that lentils are a legume and since she is allergic to peanuts which are also legumes, I thought there could be a connection.

After a few puffs on the inhaler, her breathing began to normalize, but slowly. Eventually her breathing was clear as she fell to sleep, exhausted by what her body had just been through. Now I know that many doctors and knowledgeable food allergy people would have advised using the Epi Pen right away, but there’s still part of me that is scared to use it, and I felt that I should try the other medications first. Luckily they worked.

Once she was asleep, I headed to the computer for answers. Sure enough I found myself in peanut allergy forums where moms were discussing the other legumes that their children were allergic to. It seemed that lentils and chickpeas were the most common legumes that peanut-allergic kids reacted to. Several of the forum members quoted the statistic of 20% of peanut allergic children being allergic to lentils or other legumes (but my allergist thinks this statistic is too high). I had never considered that lentils could be a problem, but here I was now realizing that she was probably allergic to them. I lost it. I mean I really lost it. I cried — hard. My husband was out of town and I felt alone with this knowledge and I couldn’t get a handle on my emotions. Luckily I was able to call another mom with allergic kids who could understand what I was feeling. She talked me down, but mostly just listened and was there for me on the other end of the line.

The next day I made an appointment with the allergist to test for the lentil allergy. We couldn’t get in until weeks later and I was told to avoid lentils until we could do the testing. Last Friday was the day. That morning, I called Amy’s Kitchen. I figured I should know every ingredient in that soup before we went in, and “spices” was listed as the last ingredient. Here is where I give a big plug for Amy’s: I have always loved this company and now I like it even more. The customer service person (key word here: person) understood my needs and immediately escalated my call. Though companies don’t always like to share their ingredients, because it’s like giving away their recipe, she did tell me what the “spices” in the soup were so that I could have that information to best take care of my child.

That afternoon I took my daughter to the allergist. I brought the lentil soup in one container and straight lentils that I had cooked in another container. They literally put the suspected allergens into the skin on the back to see if there is a reaction. The doctor used a commercial lentil solution for testing also. We tested a few other things while we were there too.

The results: she reacted strongly to both the lentil soup and the straight lentils. Those are the two top left wheals on her back in the picture. She did not react to the commercial lentil extract, leading both the allergist and me to believe that fresh lentils are certainly more potent and allergenic than their extract. The third wheal you see in the picture is the positive control — they purposely give histamine to make sure the person will react to something if allergic (if someone has taken antihistamines, it can affect the test). The other pricks were to rule out other ingredients in the soup (celery, for example) and retesting some other allergens.

My daughter was a trooper through the whole thing, but in the car on the way home it hit her that there is yet another food she is not allowed to have and that she has to watch out for. It breaks my heart. I hope they find a cure for food allergies in her lifetime!


If you carry EpiPens, please read this

Posted on February 27th, 2012 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Food Allergies, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | Read 9 Comments - Add Your Own »

A friend of mine, who is also a mom of a child with food allergies, talked to me recently about how  she has not been diligent about taking the EpiPen with them wherever they go, and about how her husband hasn’t taken responsibility for bringing the emergency medication when he takes the child somewhere. They know they should, but they forget, or they haven’t totally accepted the fact that the EpiPen might be the thing that saves their child’s life someday. I get it — I was in the same boat a while ago.

We had EpiPens, we had Benadryl, but it was hanging around our house in different places. Sometimes it would go in my purse, or be stashed in a compartment in my car, or thrown into whatever bag we were carrying that day. My husband didn’t know where it was, and how scary to think what would have happened if I wasn’t around in an emergency to find it.

After a few close calls of our own, and a few heart-wrenching news stories of kids who died because the medicine was not accessible, I realized that I may not be able to control everything she eats (though I try!), but I can make sure that treatment is available should an accident happen.

When a seven-year old with food allergies died, it hit me hard, and I had a heart-to-heart with my seven-year old daughter, sharing the little girl’s tragic story with her, and talking to her about taking responsibility for her own safety. I told her how sad I would be to lose her and that she needed to keep herself safe by 1) not eating anything that could possibly be unsafe and 2) carrying her medication with her at all times. Since then, she has been much more careful with food and diligent about making sure her emergency kit is with her at all times.

And that brings me to the point of this article. You can’t expect the child (or other family members) to be responsible about the emergency medication without providing some organization first. You need to have consistency.

First, get a carrier of some kind. When I set out to write this article, I meant to highlight the carriers I use but it turns out that they are no longer available. The ones I use were made by AllergyKids. They are flourescent green with a big AllergyKids logo on it, they zip and they are roomy enough for a couple of epi-pens and other medication like Benadryl. I like that they are brightly colored so anyone who knows us knows that the bright green bag has the emergency medication in it. I also wrote my daughter’s name is black Sharpie pen in large letters on the bag. There is no mistaking this bag for anything else. You can spot it from far away and find it easily within my daughter’s backpack or anywhere else we might put it. If you can’t find a brightly colored bag like I did, at least buy a few bags with the same pattern so that everyone knows which bags are the Epi bags.

Then, make sure you have a consistent place to keep it in your house, ideally near the front door so that it is easy to remember and easy to grab. We keep one of the bags in my daughter’s backpack and we have another one in the house in my daughter’s “inbox.” We know to look there for the pack when we are going somewhere. She knows to look there also, and even her little sister is always on the lookout for the emergency pack.

You need to find a system that works for you, but have a system!

I found many companies that sell Epi-Pen bags of all styles and colors. Here are some of them:

Allergy Apparel

OneSpot Allergy

BlueBear Aware

Moxie Pouches

Etsy

Let me know if you have a system that works for your allergic child!


Finding or making your favorite holiday foods – gluten-free, allergen-free

Posted on December 13th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Dairy Allergy, Egg Allergy, Holidays/Special Events, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy, Recipes & Cooking Tips | Read 4 Comments - Add Your Own »

For people who are gluten-free or have food allergies, the holidays can be a reminder of what we can’t eat. Gluten and other allergens are everywhere, and because we are more social at this time of year, this fact becomes more obvious as we attend holiday parties, share meals with family and friends, and are tempted by sweet treats all around.

But you don’t have to go without your favorite foods! You may not be able to indulge in everything, but think about what food would make you feel the most emotionally satisfied — is it pie, is it stuffing? Is it a box of chocolates, matzoh ball soup? Which one holiday food would give you the greatest pleasure? Then, make it happen! If you can buy it, treat yourself! If you have to make it yourself, do it. If someone else wants to make it for you, great! If you don’t have to stop at one food, by all means, don’t! If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the things you can’t eat, let’s simplify it.

I hope this short list of suggestions can help, and if there’s something else you’re longing for, let me know, and I will use my resources to try to find you the enjoyment you deserve!

GLUTEN-FREE / ALLERGEN-FREE GINGERBREAD MEN OR HOUSE

Buy it: Oops, we’re past the deadline already for ordering an allergen-free gingerbread house kit from A&J Bakery, but now you know for next year. Sensitive Sweets in southern California is also making an allergen-free gingerbread kit for purchase.

Make it: You can make this. Seriously, you can. Read my post “I made an allergen-free gingerbread house!

ROLL OUT SUGAR COOKIES

Buy it: I haven’t found any gluten-free shaped sugar cookies you can buy in stores that are gluten-free, and many of the sugar cookie mixes don’t make cookies that hold their shape.

Make it: I am very excited this year that I found a GREAT recipe for roll-out sugar cookies that are free of gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts! The recipe is from Heidi at Adventures of a GF Mom. (The recipe calls for almond extract which I replace with vanilla.) Cybel Pascal has a recipe for sugar cookies that is also free of the top allergens.

PIE OR PIE CRUST

Buy it: Whole Foods’ Gluten-Free Bakehouse brand has a pie crust, and you can find finished pies or tarts from Katz Gluten Free, Crave Bakery, and Christine’s Upper Crust Pies.

Make it: There are actually tons of gluten-free pie and pie crust recipes out there if you want to make it from scratch. Some of the sites that have recipes are Whole Foods, Simply Gluten-Free, Living Without Magazine, Elana’s Pantry, and Gluten-Free Girl. You can also use commercially available flour blends to make a crust, which saves you some steps. King Arthur shows you how, and if you want a really easy with video instruction, Pamela of Pamela’s Products shows you how to make a gluten-free pie using her mix (is also egg-free and can be dairy-free). Jules of Jules Gluten Free also shows you how to make pie using her flour blend.

GRAVY

Buy it: You can purchase gluten-free gravy mixes. Here is a list of search results for gluten-free gravy on Amazon. Mayacamas is another company that makes gluten-free gravy mixes.

Make it: Instead of flour, use a gluten-free starch. Here’s a little primer on wheat-free thickeners from FitSugar. Ali at Nourishing Meals explains how to make gluten-free gravy. A chef from Whole Foods shows in a video two ways to make gravy, and The Family Chef shares her easy steps.

STUFFING

Buy it: Look around — gluten-free bread  crumbs or croutons are available, but if you can’t find them, you can buy gluten-free bread like Udi’s or Rudi’s to use in any traditional stuffing recipe.

Make it: You can make a loaf of gluten-free bread to use in stuffing recipes. That’s what I do because I can make the bread dairy and egg-free also for people with multiple food allergies in my family. This recipe for Harvest Stuffing always turns out. If you don’t want to use bread, opt for a rice dressing, which will be naturally gluten-free. Make sure any broth you are using is gluten-free. If you have nut allergies, watch out — many stuffing recipes call for nuts.

MATZOH BALL SOUP

Buy it/Make it: You buy the mix to make your own matzoh balls. They are really good and I love the name: Mock-Zah Ball Mix.

POTATO LATKES

Buy it: Hmmm… nope, you’re going to have to make these.

Make it: Easy to make gluten-free, just substitute an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend for the flour called for in traditional recipes. Need to be egg-free too? Don’t worry, I figured this one out for you: Gluten-Free Egg-Free Latke Recipe

CHOCOLATES

Buy it: See’s Candies is still my favorite boxed-chocolates. They have an allergen list, so depending on your allergy, you might be able to find something you can have!

Make it: You can easily make chocolate lollies and shapes by following these steps:

  1. Buy candy molds in holiday shapes, like snowflakes or snowmen or Christmas shapes or Santas.
  2. Buy Enjoy Life Foods Chocolate Chips or Mega Chunks – they are free of the top 8 allergens.
  3. Temper the chocolate in the microwave by heating the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave, at power level 5 or 50% for 30 seconds. Using a rubber spatula in a gentle sweeping motion,  stir the chocolate, even if none of it has become liquid yet and return the bowl to the microwave oven for another 30 seconds. Remove, stir, and repeat until about two-thirds of the chunks become liquid and about one-third are in soft lumps. Continually stir to cool the chocolate until the soft lumps disappear and the chocolate has cooled a little.
  4. Pour the chocolate into the molds, or use a spoon or spatula to put it in, and let it set in the refrigerator.
  5. When chilled completely, wrap the chocolates with colored foil or clear wrap.

What else is tugging at your tummy this holiday season?


Turning off food allergies – have researchers found a way?

Posted on November 7th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Food Allergies, News & Research, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | ADD A COMMENT »

Can peanut allergies be turned off?Researchers were able to turn off peanut allergy in mice by tricking their immune systems into thinking the nut proteins were not a threat to the body. The researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine attached peanut proteins onto white blood cells and then put them back into the mice. These mice, who were supposed to have an anaphylactic response if they ate peanut, did not have a life-threatening allergic reaction to peanut extract. Essentially, the researchers created tolerance to peanut in the mice. The immune system, which previously treated the peanut protein as a threat, now didn’t. The researchers were able to achieve the same tolerance in other mice using egg protein.

This is exciting new research targeting food allergies specifically and the hope is that these methods could someday be applied to humans. If we could train the immune system not to overreact to food substances, wouldn’t that be wonderful??

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Food Allergy Initiative.

Read full article: Peanut Allergy May Be Turned Off By Tricking Immune System


SunButter Balls Recipe – A healthy and allergen-free snack

Posted on October 20th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Food Ideas, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy, Recipes & Cooking Tips | Read 4 Comments - Add Your Own »

These SunButter Balls are much better than Schweddy Balls ;) and they are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut and peanut-free, and soy-free! The credit for this recipe goes to my sister, Leslie, who lovingly adapted it so that my daughter could eat it too. She also used healthy ingredients to give these little snacks a nutritional punch!

This is a great recipe to make with kids. They love to make the balls and roll them in the cereal! Once coated, keep them (the balls, not the kids) in the refrigerator to have as a healthy snack, to pack in lunches, or for protein on the go. The cereal on the outside, in addition to providing a little crunch, prevents them from being sticky.

sunbutter-balls-2

To read the recipe for Sunbutter Balls, click over to my post on the Attune Foods blog!


Tragic deaths remind us to take food allergies seriously

Posted on August 29th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Emotions, Food Allergies, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | Read 2 Comments - Add Your Own »

jharelldillardI’m in tears as I watch an interview with the amazingly composed father of Jharell Dillard, a teenage boy who died last week from anaphylactic shock after eating a chocolate chip cookie that he didn’t know contained nuts. The cookie was given to him by his aunt by mistake. I feel such pain for this family and fear of losing my own daughter like this. It can happen so fast, and so easily, which is why it is so important to always – always – carry an Epi-Pen. Unfortunately, this boy didn’t have one with him because he was always so careful. As careful as one is, accidents can happen.

As if one death isn’t enough of a reminder, there are two more in recent news.

A 20 year old college student, also in Georgia, died after eating at the dining hall. The full story is here.

A young Bay Area man died just last month after eating a salad that contained nuts. He made the news because he was a key witness in a crime, but hopefully his legacy will be to raise money for food allergy awareness and research, as his friends and family are walking in his honor at the 2011 Food Allergy Walk in San Jose, CA.

I don’t mean to be morbid, but I am still haunted by the horrible story of a 7th grader who died at school in Chicago last December, and the tragedy of BJ Hom, an 18 year old who lost his life while vacationing with his family in Mexico. There is a memorial fundraising run in his honor.

These are reminders to be vigilant about food and to carry medicine at all times, no matter how mild past reactions have been.

Here are some important facts most people probably don’t know about food allergies, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN):

  • The severity of a person’s allergic reactions to food cannot be predicted from previous reactions. Someone whose reactions have been mild in the past might react more severely during a next episode. A FAAN review of food allergy fatalities found that most of the people had never had a severe allergic reaction until the one that caused their death. Thus, all food allergies must be taken seriously.
  • The incidence of peanut and tree nut allergy among children appears to have tripled between 1997 and 2008.
  • Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction.
  • Most people who’ve had an allergic reaction to something they ate thought that it was safe.
  • Early administration of epinephrine (adrenaline) is crucial to successfully treating anaphylactic reactions. Epinephrine is available by prescription in a self-injectable device (EpiPen® or Twinject®).
  • A study of fatal reactions in children and adolescents found that most occurred at school, and were associated with significant delays in treating with epinephrine.
  • There are no significant risks to giving epinephrine even if someone isn’t having an allergic reaction, unless one has a serious heart condition.

Awareness and education of those around us is the key to keeping our children safe!


Sensitive Sweets Bakery caters to food allergies

Posted on July 26th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Bakeries, Food Allergies, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | Read 2 Comments - Add Your Own »

Walking into a bakery and choosing anything from the case is no big deal for most people, but for the first time ever in my soon-to-be 7 year old daughter’s life, she was able to do just that last Saturday. Sensitive Sweets, located in Orange County, California, is a dedicated gluten-free and nut-free bakery that specializes in baked goods and custom cakes for people with food sensitivities or dietary restrictions.

Sensitive SweetsWhile there are gluten-free bakeries popping up here and there, most gluten-free baked goods contain dairy, nuts, eggs, soy or any combination of these most common allergens. Sensitive Sweets, which had its grand opening July 13, offers cookies, muffins, cupcakes, breads and cakes that are free of gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, and nuts.

You should see the cakes! Because we were there on a Saturday, we got to see a few of them being picked up. Those lucky kids! To get a fancy, bakery-made allergen-free cake is really a treat for kids that have never had one!

We treated ourselves to sugar cookies (my daughter’s favorite), chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, cinnamon bread (great, soft texture), and a lemon Sensitive and happy!blackberry cupcake (my favorite). I asked my daughter what she liked about the bakery, and she said, “that it was gluten-free, and e-free and n-free and d-free.”

I would like to thank Melanie, the owner and head baker, who started the bakery because of her own experience with her two sons. The bakery is located in Fountain Valley, which is nowhere near where I live, but luckily close to relatives who we visit!

For more information about Sensitive Sweets, go their website or Facebook page.