With that exciting music of the ice cream truck comes the yearly dilemma for those of us who have food-allergic kids.
I know that some of us avoid commercial ice cream/frozen treats altogether, but for those of us who don't (yet!) you know how tough it is to find a safe treat. Whether your kids are nut-free or dairy-free, I've found most popsicle products to be safe. However, with the new labeling requirements, I'm concerned that's going to change soon.
Just last weekend, my daughter tried to purchase a "Lemon Chill" (basically nut-free, dairy-free Italian Ice" from the ice cream truck that slowly rolls down my block a couple of times a day (it seems!). She ended up with "Lemon Blast"-- basically the same product, but with a warning saying that the product was made in a facility that processed nuts.
Well, that pretty much goes for all ice cream/frozen products if you do some digging. My daughter didn't want to eat it after viewing the label and I compensated her with the allowance she'd used to buy the treat. Lesson learned--check the labels even if you think you've eaten it before and are in the throes of ice cream truck bliss (especially then).
I consulted the excellent book "Food Allergies for Dummies" and here's what Dr. Robert Wood had to say about ice cream and peanut allergies: "Although ice cream produced in North America is rarely manufactured on dedicated peanut-free lines, I believe that ice cream from major manufacturers is generally safe. However, be careful of the small manufacturers - one study a few years ago of small ice cream manufacturers found that peanut contamination was quite common. Allergic reactions to peanut are rarely traced back to cross-contaminated ice cream from major companies." Hmm, interesting. I've often wondered about Snicker's ice cream and vanilla cross-contaminating. He then suggests you call the company. Of course, I've done this but I'll do it again. They may have changed their tune and/or policies.
Frozen "Slurpies" from 7-11 have become another issue in our home. 7-11 is walkable from our house and so all the neighborhood kids clamor to get a Slurpie on a hot day.
We were OK with those--until the day we saw a frozen hazelnut Slurpie-type drink right next to the cherry and orange. (I know--what the heck is with that? Guess they're competing with Starbucks.)
My daughter was pretty bummed and who could blame her? We try to stay upbeat about this stuff but this time my husband and I looked at each other and said in unison "That stinks."
But as she always does, my daughter rallied and invented her own Slurpie recipe. Basically, a handful of frozen strawberries, some ice cubes and sugar to taste all thrown in a blender and blended on high. It tasted very good--and let's face it, it was better for her!
Try it. And also, here's a safe "lemon chill" Italian ice recipe I found in one of those encyclopedia cookbooks--I think Good Housekeeping. It's really easy and does not require an ice cream machine. Your kids can make it with you.
Dairy-Free, Nut-Free Lemon Italian Ice (Granita)
1 cup sugar (use superfine if possible)
2 cups water
4 large lemons
1. In 2-quart saucepan combine sugar and water; heat to boiling over high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to medium and cook 5 minutes. Set saucepan in bowl of ice water to cool.
2. Meanwhile, from lemons grate 2 teaspoons peel and squeeze 3/4 cup juice.
2. Stir lemon peel and juice into sugar syrup; pour into 9-inch square metal baking pan. Cover, freeze for 2 hours and then scrape to break up the ice crystals. Freeze again at least 3 hours or overnight. To serve, let soften slightly and use a metal spoon to scoop up the ice shards. Transfer scoops of "ice" to dessert dishes and enjoy!