I love summer. Living in Chicago, I've learned to savor the heat and humidity. Those January winds make a lasting impression so no complaints here as the temperature rises!
Summer also means having to adjust how we cope with nut allergies and all food allergies. For the non-temperate parts of the country, food is being prepared in different ways and in different venues than winter.
Many of us will be heading out to Memorial Day Weekend festivities, so now's the time to get ready to handle summer's new food allergy challenges.
Here are a few things to look out for:
Grills. While grilled foods are some of the safest options for all food-allergic people because of their simplicity and lack of sauces, outdoor grills present a HUGE cross-contact risk. Marinades may contain many types of allergens including nuts and the shared grill presents many risks for reaction. Thorough cleaning of a grill is required before use.
If you love grilled foods and want your allergic family members to enjoy them at a party, consider bringing your own portable grill (but be sure to keep it only for your family's use.) A Smokey Joe grill is easy to transport to any location. Memorial Day sales are an ideal time to pick up one of these. You can find them at most stores that sell grills and barbecue equipment.
Barbecue sauce. I love, love, love barbecue sauce but it can present a high risk for nut allergies and some other food allergies as well (wheat and soy come to mind.) Check the labels--some are OK for nut allergies but always read the label carefully. (Just so you know, "natural flavoring" must list nut allergens if they are present due to current FDA laws.)
The following is my recipe for nut-free barbecue sauce. Homemade BBQ sauce tastes great and is surprisingly easy to make. I use Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce in my recipe--be aware that Worcestershire may contain anchovies. If you deal with allergies to these ingredients, substitute some extra salt and a shot of lemon juice.
Nut-Free BBQ SauceThis sauce must be heated for a short while to mellow the onion and garlic--it keeps up to a week when refrigerated. Brush it onto meat or chicken at the last minute or it may scorch.
2 cups ketchup (I always use Heinz)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (I use Lea and Perrins) or soy sauce (I use Kikoman)
1 tbsp chili powder or to taste
1/2 cup dry red wine or water
1/4 cup vinegar, either wine vinegar or rice vinegar
1/2 cup minced fresh onion
1 tsp minced garlic
Salt and black pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. When not in use, keep covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Dips and dressings. Chip dip and salad dressing may contain nut oils or ingredients. Always read labels if they are store-bought before serving to an allergic person. If homemade, avoid them unless you were involved in the preparation. You have no real way of knowing if cross-contact occured or what's really in it. When in doubt, do without.
Desserts and ice cream treats. Unless you made these yourself, steer clear of these at a party because desserts (from a bakery or homemade) are some of the most high risk foods for many allergies including nut allergies. Ice cream is also high risk for nut allergies because commercial brands are generally made on shared equipment--a fact not usually reflected on the label. It's better to bake your own desserts and bring them to a party. If you bring a great dessert, you'll be a hero, so try it! If you're not a baker, fresh fruit salad or other summer fruits like watermelon make a welcome treat.