Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter Travel Tips for Food Allergies

Have epinephrine, will travel? Before you go, be prepared.
I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday season so far! Maybe you're in the midst of traveling right now, or maybe you've got a winter getaway planned. Either way, I thought now was a good time to review some tips for safe travel with food allergies. Travel with food allergies goes much, much more smoothly if you have all your ducks in a row before you leave. Hey, you're packing for the kids anyway, so here's just a few more things to remember. If you're kids are old enough, be sure to include them in the process. It's good practice for them.

The important thing is to be prepared for anything, so with that in mind, here goes:

- Bring extra medication. Asthma meds, epinephrine auto injectors, etc. -- have extra in case one goes missing. Most airlines allow these items through security without but a doctor's note will ensure that you can bring these necessary items with you if you leave the U.S.

- Make sure you've got your doctors' phone numbers and info easily accessible. Program this info into your cell phone to make sure you've got it if there is (hopefully not!) an emergency.

- Bring your food allergy action plan. In the event anything goes wrong, having this doctor-approved plan will help you stay calm and take the right steps in the event of an emergency. FAAN has a link to this action plan that you can download for free. Make sure it's completed by your doctor. (This is a great document for any caregiver, school, etc.)

- Bring a small cooler with a couple of meals (for car travel) or at least one meal in an insulated lunch bag (if necessary) for air travel. Traveling with food allergies is like a box of chocolates--you never know what you're gonna get. Eliminate the need for possibly unsafe food by being prepared with some of your own meals -- and pack some extra items to allow for travel delays. You also won't be forced into feeding your child a restaurant meal from a place you haven't researched. If you aren't sure about the availability of certain foods once you reach your destination, you may want to ship a box of allergy-safe items in advance.

- Stock up on safe snacks. Crackers, allergy-friendly granola or trail mix (Enjoy Life Foods makes both of these free of most top food allergens), cookies from Skeeter Snacks (found at many grocery stores) would be some things to keep on hand. Fresh fruits, raisins and cut up veggies are also good, healthy choices. SunButter in small packets is great if you can have it. Whatever your kids like--if you have some nut-free options on hand it will be hugely appreciated when hunger strikes or if you face the inevitable delays that seem to happen while traveling. A few safe sweet treats on hand are helpful when kids can't have bakery items and other things that pose cross-contact risk.

- Bring a place mat. A washable place mat is a great way to cut down on cross-contact when feeding your child away from home. Or use a paper towel to protect the table.

- Make sure you've got a couple of safe restaurant options at your destination. A quick Internet search and a couple of phone calls will ensure less "dining out drama" on your trip. A great place to start your search: Allergy Eats. I recently used this online restaurant resource for food allergies and it was a huge help in pointing us in the right direction.

- The grocery store is your friend. Eating every meal at a restaurant, fast food or otherwise, isn't only costly, it adds to the food allergy risk. If your room has a refrigerator, the fixings of a sandwich, a quick breakfast or snack will take the pressure off so you can focus on enjoying your trip, not constant restaurant navigation.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nut-Free Tips for a Stress-Free Christmas with Nut Allergies

You can make these little guys. See the recipe section at the end of this post!

Holiday parties are in full swing now so I know that many of us are wondering how to cope and have fun at the same time.
My best advice: Keep things simple and stick to your food allergy rules about eating no matter what. It’s not always easy but if you are trying to avoid an allergic reaction, this is the best way to roll.

Important:  Never leave home without your epinephrine. If you have an emergency, epinephrine is a lifesaver. Keep it close by your child at all times -- know where it is. Some kids wear it but it should never be further away than arm's reach. Have two epinephrine auto-injectors with you at all times.
For those of us who are new to dealing with nut allergies at the holidays, just remember that no one is born knowing how to deal with a life-threatening food allergy. It’s a learning process, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t figure out everything perfectly right away. You will learn some things this year that will help you next year. You may even find some solutions that end up being your go-to methods. This gets easier, the more you deal with it.
Don’t worry if your approach does not sit well with others at first. You know what’s best, so be confident in your desire to avoid an allergic reaction and trip to the hospital! Be as upbeat as you can, bring foods to share and remember that food isn’t everything. Celebrating does not have to be confined to food.

Holiday Foods that are High-Risk for Peanuts/Tree Nuts 


Meat marinade
Pie and pie crust
Bread pudding
Gravy or sauces, sweet or savory
Turkey stuffing
Salads and salad dressings
Anything mixed: Casserole, stir-fry, sauté

Pannetone (Sweet Italian Chrismtas bread)
Dumplings or stuffed pasta
There are more, of course, so  it makes sense to be armed with safe food for allergic family members when you attend a holiday gathering.

Now here’s a big one, and it’s not very popular sometimes but it’s very important: Please avoid desserts that you did not make. Did you know that 43% of food allergy reactions are caused by dessert foods? No matter how good it looks, no matter how much your kids want it--if you didn't make it,or bring it, don't let them eat it. Desserts are so high-risk that it's just not worth it

It's difficult to have your child stand around and look at yummy-looking treats but a cookie or cake -- no matter how beautifully decorated -- is never worth a trip to the ER and a traumatic allergic reaction that threatens your health and life.

A couple of ideas: if kids are young, plan to entertain the little ones with a craft or game so that the focal point of the evening doesn't become a dessert table. Older kids can help you bake something and take pride in what they've created.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is to bring a dessert. If you go this route, keep it away from any allergenic foods and keep it well-covered until serving time. Serve your allergic family members first to avoid cross-contact.
If you are not a dessert person, bring some Oreos or some other safe store-bought treat for your child. You can always offer a special treat later at home. That was my method when my daughter was younger and it worked. Let them know there is a pot of gold for them at the end of the rainbow later on and bring something extra to tide them over during the party—you won’t regret it! Here’s a link to some supermarket treats safe for nut allergies.

Parties and dinners

Communicate and evaluate. When the party is given by your or your family, you will likely be more assertive about how to collaborate on an allergy-friendly celebration. If you get an invite from someone who is an acquaintance or casual friend, you can’t expect that they will alter the menus. In this case, you might accept but tell your hosts (in a very nice way) that you will bring food for your child and offer to bring something to share with the group. Plus, don't feel pressured to attend every event. Finding a sitter or even skipping a party with too many food pitfalls might be a lot less stressful in the long run.

Offer to provide safe alternatives to holiday favorites. Does someone always want to make pecan pie or peanut butter blossom cookies, or Chex Mix snack with peanuts? See if you can make or bring an alternative. Leave the nuts out of the recipe or use a replacement. You might just introduce a new recipe that will become a new family favorite.

Be careful at the buffet table. Buffets are generally not a good idea for those with severe food allergies. They may involve “pot luck” items brought by several guests (no way to know about the safety of those dishes) and they present a cross-contact risk. Bring your child some safe foods and serve them a plate in the kitchen if you know your family or friends are hosting a buffet.

Bring a backup meal or snacks for your child. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may not feel that a meal or snacks at a party will be safe enough for your child to eat. In fact, this is usually the case for most foods served at any party, simply because we can’t always be sure about the origins of a food.  To save stress and minimize any risk or reaction, bring something safe (and tasty) for your child and serve it to them without a lot of fanfare. If anyone asks, use the situation to increase awareness: "Due to Henry’s severe nut allergy, we have to be very careful with his diet, so we brought some of his favorite foods.”

Peanut-free, Tree Nut-Free Christmas recipes:

From Skeeter Snacks, fun ways to make their cookies look festive for the holidays:

From Food Allergy Mama: Egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free (and can be GF) holiday spice cookies:
From Sugarcrafter: Pecan pie--without the pecans. So popular with NFM readers!
From Just a Taste: Christmas tree cupcakes using ice cream cones for the tree:
From SunButter: Peanut-free blossom cookies:
From The Nut-Free Mom: A roundup of my favorite Christmas treat recipes, including the snowman cupcakes pictured above!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Food Allergy News: Nut-Free Christmas Treats at the Supermarket

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, so I wanted to re-post an article I wrote last year about supermarket-available Christmas candies that are free of peanuts and tree nuts. This is for those of you who haven't seen it already as well as those of you who could use a refresher.

Of course, always do your own checking on any foods you will serve to your child with food allergies. But this post should at least get you pointed in the right direction.

Here's the link:
To this list I would add Andes brand candies (made by Tootsie Corporation--their candy facilities are peanut and tree nut-free, egg-free and gluten-free).
Though not a candy, I would also add Skeeter Snacks and Dr. Lucy's Cookies, two peanut and tree nut-free packaged cookie options with fabulous flavors. You can find Skeeter Snacks in many supermarkets; same goes for Dr. Lucy's Cookies.

Although I am listing supermarket finds for the sake of convenience,  I can't say enough good things about my site sponsors that have online ordering for all of your nut-free treats needs. Check the right sidebar for some terrific companies devoted to bringing you nut-free, food allergy-friendly treats all year long.

What are your nut-free candy supermarket finds?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Food Allergy News: FARE Day Fundraiser, December 14th, on Peanut Free Planet!!!

Just in time for your nut-free holiday treats, it's FARE Day on Peanut Free Planet.

Today you can support the leading food allergy advocacy group, FARE, (the new organization formed by the merger of FAAN (The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) and FAI (Food Allergy Initiative),  by participating in Peanut Free Planet's FARE fundraising day.

Click this link for more details:

Today, December 14th, 5% of the proceeds from your purchase will support FARE. Plus, everyone who orders today will receive a goody bag with a selection of delicious allergy-friendly items from some of the event's sponsors. Participating companies below!

Peanut Free Planet is a wonderful source of one-stop shopping for nut-free foods. Many of my favorites like Surf Sweets and Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates are found there, too! Check out PFP today and you'll be amazed at what you can find!
Here's how to participate: Simply visit Peanut Free Planet today and order! 5% of your order will be automatically donated to FARE and you'll get your goody bag. So you'll be doing good simply by ordering great nut-free food. 'Tis the season, so head over there now!
Thanks to Peanut Free Planet for hosting this event today and FARE for their continued commitment to food allergy education, advocacy and research! I'm proud to be a media sponsor of FARE Day, along with the following media sources:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Food Allergy Live Chat on The -- Here's a Recap!

If you missed our live chat yesterday on The, you can still benefit from the discussion. Soon, a transcript will be available on The Motherhood site for you to use as a reference, but in the meantime, I encourage you to click the link and read the chat as it happened in real time.

Here's the link you need:[*]t-Understand

We had some great tips, questions and "been there" advice from our panel of hosts and co-hosts, including the always wonderful Lori Sandler of Divvies and Emily McKhann from The Joining us were Kelly Rudnicki of Food Allergy Mama, Kim Lutz of Welcoming Kitchen and Elizabeth Goldenberg of Onespot Allergy. ... blockbuster parenting web site!
Learn "The" philosphy here:

We also had some wonderful questions and suggestions from active participants on the chat and we had many more who were participating as viewers. We hope that this chat provided some help and encouragement for you, especially during the holiday season where food is ever-present and family dynamics are an issue.

If you're looking for some food allergy-friendly gifts, I hope you'll click the links for each person above and visit their web sites and blogs as many of them have written cookbooks or offer great products for those with food allergies.

One of the things we spoke about during our chat yesterday was the need to bring our own food and be willing to host others. If you're looking for prepared foods to serve at your party or event, I hope you will take a look at the right sidebar of this site.

I am so happy to have several site supporters who offer fabulous nut-free (and other "free from") foods and sweet treats to make our lives easier and more tasty: Nutphree's Cupcakes, Skeeter Snacks, Vermont Nut Free Chocolates, Dean's Sweets, Cakes for Occasions, Surf Sweets, Sweet Alexis. Plus, if you're looking for medical ID jewelry that is both safety-conscious and stylish for all ages, Hope Paige Medical IDs is a great site to visit. To visit the web sites of each of these companies, please click their respective images to the right of this post. Scroll  down and explore them all! Each of these companies supports people with nut allergies, so I encourage us all to support them.

My e-book is a user-friendly guide to educating others about nut allergies and right now, it's at a reduced holiday price. This concise guide can help see you through the "nutty" holiday season--I've had readers tell me that they are also using it to help friends and relatives understand life with nut allergies. Check  it out today by clicking here.

Thanks once again to everyone who made yesterday's chat happen! We will have more live chats like this in coming months, so please check back to this site often for updates.

This Friday on The Nut-Free Mom blog: A sweet deal from Peanut Free Planet!

Don't miss this Friday's post, where you will learn about a special offer from Peanut Free Planet...just in time for the holidays! See you then.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Food Allergy and Family: Join Us on "The Motherhood" for a Live Chat!

I am thrilled to announce a new "Navigating Food Allergies Chat" on The Motherhood! What is The Motherhood? It's a blockbuster parenting web site that offers community, interactive opportunity, live chats and up-to-date information from parenting experts on a variety of subjects.

Many of you have attended these chats in the past, hosted by the wonderful Lori Sandler of Divvies, along with a stellar array of hosts and co-hosts.

This series has covered some great food allergy topics and I'm very happy to be part of this latest chat, as it is just in time for the holidays: Navigating Food Allergies: When Family Members Don't Understand

You've asked about navigating family and food allergies and we've listened. This is a big topic that affects anyone dealing with a  life-threatening food allergy. Now is your chance to talk about how to manage family relationships while keeping your kids safe and happy. We'll talk about how we've coped over the years, the difficulties we've encountered and the strategies that have worked for us. And we'll probably share some laughs along the way!

Here is the description of the chat from The Motherhood web site. And a huge "thank you" to The Motherhood for allowing us to explore this very important topic!

Sometimes even the most well-meaning family members don't understand food allergies as well as we would like. When that happens, feelings and actions can truly run the gamut - from patience and humor to hurt and anger. Join hosts Lori Sandler, founder of Divvies, and Jenny Kales, founder of Nut-Free Mom, and their super panel of co-hosts, for a dynamic live discussion about handling situations when family members "simply don't understand."
Date: Tuesday, December 11th
Time: 1 pm EST
Click the link to register today[*]t-Understand

You can even submit a question in advance! If you can't attend, submit your question and then you can read a transcript of the talk at a later date. Links will be provided.

Our panel of co-hosts includes a trio of well-known food allergy advocates and experts. We are so honored that they can join us. Each is the parent of a child with severe food allergies/intolerance:

Elizabeth Goldenberg, Allergy Safety Expert, and founder of Onespot Allergy, an allergy-friendly company

Kim Lutz, Cookbook author and creator of The Welcoming Kitchen web site

Kelly Rudnicki, Cookbook author and founder of the popular blog "Food Allergy Mama"

Please register today! I hope you can join us and I look forward to your questions and comments!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Our Nut-Free Cupcake Winner from Nutphree's in Chicago, Plus a Nut-Free Holiday Cookie Recipe!

We've got a winner!!! Read on....
We've got a winner in the Nut-Free Mom and Nutphree's Cupcakes giveaway! Our winner is Michelle B. from Park Ridge, IL!!!

Congratulations, Michelle! You've got one dozen nut-free cupcakes coming your way with free delivery, courtesy of Nutphree's. This is a $45 value. Woohoo! Michelle B., please send an e-mail to me at with your full name, address and phone number and I'll forward your info to the nice people at Nutphree's Cupcakes.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this giveaway. If you live in the area and didn't win, do yourself a favor and go to Nutphree's storefront bakery in Mount Prospect, IL, to give you and your family the total bakery experience. Many of us have never been able to bring our kids to a bakery. As parents of a child with severe nut allergies, Nutphree's understands and they've got you covered. If you stop by, tell Nutphree's that I said hi!

For those of you who were not eligible for the giveaway, don't worry, we'll have more contests open to all readers very soon.

A BIG "thank you" goes to Nutphree's Cupcakes for sponsoring this giveaway and for being such a great friend of The Nut-Free Mom blog and readers. You guys are the best!!

Nut-Free Holiday Cookie Recipe

It's the holiday season, so it's definitely time to talk about cookies. I've had many recipe requests, so have I got a great recipe for you. Remember those Andes Peppermint Crunch Bits I talked about on Facebook? Recently, I added them to one of my favorite holiday cookie recipes and they were a hit!

Here's what the bag looks like. I found them at my local supermarket in a holiday baking display. Ask your store if you can't find them.

Andes brand baking chips are made by Tootsie Roll corporation so they are egg-free, peanut-free, tree nut-free and gluten-free. Please check the bag for more allergen info.

The following recipe contains egg and butter; if you want a dairy-free, egg-free shortbread recipe that is similar, then click this link for my candy corn shortbread. Instead of adding food coloring and shaping into a candy corn shape, keep the dough plain, roll into a log and press these baking chips into the top of each cookie before baking. Yum. For those of you who can bake with eggs and dairy, read on.

Nut-Free Peppermint Crunch Shortbread Cookies


  • 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup sugar, scant
  • Yolk of one egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (McCormick or Nielsen-Massey brand)
  • White granulated sugar (for topping)
  • Andes brand Peppermint Crunch baking chips (to taste)

1.        Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and beat until combined. Mix salt with flour and add gradually to butter mixture. Add vanilla. Dough will be stiff.
2.     Roll into small balls, about one teaspoon and place on non-stick cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass, then press in several Andes brand Peppermint Crunch baking chips in a decorative pattern. Sprinkle with white granulated sugar or decorator's sugar, if you like.
3. `Bake 7-9 minutes or until bottoms are very lightly brown. Let cool on cookie sheet and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Nut-Free Mom's Peppermint Crunch Shortbread Cookies.

These would be great to bring to a party, or just to tuck into a lunchbox as a special treat. I hope you enjoy them! What's your favorite thing to bake at the holidays?

*Giveaway winner chosen using

Monday, December 3, 2012

Nut Allergy News: Nutphree's Cupcakes Sponsoring Chicago-Area Cupcake Giveaway!

Chicago readers: You could win a dozen of these delish cupcakes from Nutphree's Bakery.
Chicago-area readers: this one's for you. I have a special giveaway this week, provided by the one and only Nutphree's Cupcakes in Mount Prospect, IL.

This is a wonderful family-owned and operated bakery featuring peanut-free and tree nut-free cupcakes that are beautiful and delicious. Nutphree's Cupcakes storefront recently opened to much excitement in Chicago as they are the only nut-free cupcake bakery in the area that is a dedicated nut-free facility.

To show their appreciation to  Chicago-area Nut-Free Mom readers and to their loyal customers, Nutphree's is offering one dozen cupcakes plus delivery  to one lucky winner. This is a $45 value!!!!The only thing: you've got to live within an approximately 20-25 mile radius of their Mount Prospect bakery in order to be eligible to win.

While my giveaways are normally tailored to all readers, this one is very special because as the only nut-free cupcake bakery in Chicago with a dedicated nut-free facility, Nutphree's really stands out in my city. Don't worry if you aren't eligible for this giveaway--I'll  have more giveaways in the future!

Please note: these cupcakes are nut-free (peanut and tree nut) only.

To enter the random drawing for the Nut-Free Mom and Nutphree's cupcake giveaway, please go to Nutphree's Facebook and Twitter pages and follow and/or "like" them. Then, post a comment on this blog post giving your first name and initial, as well as your location. For example, Kerri P., Park Ridge, IL

What a great way to ring in the holidays--nut-free cupcakes. FREE nut-free cupcakes.

However, if you don't win and you live in the area, be sure to check them out either online or at their storefront.

The winner will be announced this Wednesday right here on the blog! So check back then and see if you've got a dozen cupcakes coming your way.

I will also post the name of the winner on Facebook and Twitter. If the winner does not respond in 48 hours, the prize will go to another random winner. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding!

Nutphree's Mount Prospect storefront. Have you been there?

Good luck to you all and thanks again to Nutphree's and the Walker family for your generosity!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Food Allergy Post-Thanksgiving Wrap Up: Coping with Family and Food Allergies

With Thanksgiving behind us, now is a good time to review how things went so that we can anticipate the winter holidays and how to safely participate in family events. Family gatherings can be stressful for those with food allergies as well as for those hosting our families.

It's a rare food allergy family that faces smooth sailing with regard to holiday gatherings involving food, at least at first. Most of us have run into difficulties at one time or another. Common scenarios include: being "uninvited" from a family dinner due to food allergies, lack of understanding from family members about hosting people with severe food allergies (they feel like a kid with food allergies is too fragile to be around) and isolation due to family members not understanding the real dangers that food allergies present, forcing us to stay away from the gathering.

Even though I will always try to find a positive solution that involves inclusion with family, I know  this approach doesn't always work. Not everyone is going to be willing or able to cope with our kids who have food allergies. If that happens, we do the best we can, either by hosting meals ourselves or by opting out of certain food-focused events and finding other ways to connect with family.

However, I feel like some of the problems we encounter can be either minimized or avoided with some open discussion. What is at the heart of someone telling you not to come to their house for a holiday meal, because it's "not safe?" Ask yourself: are you giving a message that the responsibility for the safety of your child is not your responsibility? Or are other people simply interpreting it that way? Take a look at what you're saying to each other and how you're saying it.

Sometimes people hear one thing when we say another. I'm no relationship expert, but when it comes to food allergies and family relationships, many times there is something going on between the lines that has nothing to do with what is being discussed.

Fear is a factor. While we want compassion for our situation at the holidays, we need to feel equal compassion for those who don't live with food allergies each day. It's a long process of education, so if you feel like you haven't been treated very well this year, give it time. Have a talk with your family members who handle the food. What can you do to help?

For example, even though I've dealt with food allergies for years, if you told me to host a dairy-free Thanksgiving, I'd be fearful of cross-contamination and ingredients because I don't shop, cook or deal with dairy allergies each day.

Looking at this way, I  can see how others might be afraid and have a lot of  questions. If family  are open to talking about it, try to have a calm discussion about what the problem is with making the holiday allergy-friendly.

Here are some things you might want to discuss:

What do you think it means when we ask you if the meal can be allergy-friendly? Do you interpret that as the entire meal is available to the allergic diner, or just part of it? Can we work out a compromise that will be OK with both of us?
This isn't about treading on tradition, it's about wanting to participate in a family event. Take the other person's suggestions and feelings into account regarding food. They might not understand that you view food differently than they do. For those with food allergies, food isn't a fun, happy tradition if it contains an allergen. It's a threat to health and well-being. It has nothing to do with them, personally. Many people don't understand this and feel like you're "ruining" their meal if you request, say, no Chex mix with peanuts on the table.

How can I help with this meal? Would you feel better if I brought my own food? Would you be offended? Why? Be sure to explain that you love this person and their cooking, but that food allergies are a medical condition and not a food preference, so they require appropriate caution. Just like diabetics, those with food allergies have certain foods they must avoid or they will face a medical emergency.

What can we, the family dealing with food allergies, do to make this easier? Do you want us to host an event over the holidays? If others host, can we collaborate on the menu? If not, why not? One of the most difficult things to get across is that you don't want to be in control of the food just for the sake of being in control. You might have to repeat this point, often. This is NOT about control. It's about health and safety. You aren't asking for things just to be difficult, you're asking because you have to ask.

Ask your family member (s): Do you think a child with severe food allergies is too fragile to even enter your home because your kids eat peanut butter or tree nut products like granola bars? What can we do to make this work? Can I help wipe down the toys? Right before we come over, can your kids wash their hands? Just having this discussion is a huge help because some people are so freaked out at the thought of a child having a reaction in their home, that they don't even want them in the house. If this attitude persists, so be it, but at least talk about how to minimize exposure or reactions.

And remember, you can always host people if they just don't feel comfortable. Never try to force or "guilt" someone into an invite. A food allergy education can help, but if someone is saying "no"even after they have the facts and you feel like they understand the issues, then you have to go with that. It's about health and safety.

None of these issues are easy, but talk to your family. Don't sit in isolation and wish things were better if you think there is any chance that others will work with you to find safe solutions. Bring your own food if that's the safest option or host parties on your own. It all comes down to your individual situation, but at least be open to a discussion and ask others to be open. If you don't try, you won't know.

In the coming weeks, I will be co-hosting a live chat on this topic. More details on that in future posts and on FB and Twitter, so stay tuned!

What about you? Have you had these discussions? How did it go? Have you made headway or are you at a stalemate?

My e-book talks about educating others, finding safe foods, keeping your cool and living a happy life with severe allergies. It's on sale for the holidays and many readers have told me they've shared it with grandparents and other family members. Click the link to find out how to get it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Food Allergy News: Cyber Monday Savings from Allergy-Friendly Retailers!

Save big on allergy-friendly foods, medical ID jewelry and more.

In case you hadn't heard (wink, wink) it's CYBER MONDAY!!! To help us all with our holiday shopping, I want to share a roundup of some allergy-friendly retailers having Cyber Monday sales.

There are many more sales going on today than those listed here, but this should get you started. If you know of any good deals not listed here, please feel free to give them a shout out in the comments section below! For more information on any of the retailers mentioned in this post, please contact them directly with questions. Thanks and happy shopping!

Allergy-friendly Cyber Monday Deals:

Food: Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates
(Peanut-free and tree nut-free treats, plus baking chocolate)
Cyber week-end sale continues through Monday November 26. 10% off everything by using the code CYBER in the key code box while shopping at

Premium Chocolatiers (nut-free, egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free chocolates for all occasions) Cyber Monday: 20% across the board and free shipping over $100. Let us know if you like this or what we can do better to serve you this season! Coupon code: Cybermonday International shipping to over 20 countries!
SunCups (Chocolate candy with SunButter sunflower seed butter filling. Like a Reese's only safe for nut allergies--and tastier!)Cyber Monday: WEBSITE SALE of 35% Discount on all 2 Cup flavors. Through Monday, use coupon code CYBERSALE.

Indie Candy (allergy-friendly online candy retailer, free from many top food allergens) It's time for our biggest coupon of the year! Cyber Monday - 20% off your entire order!
Coupon code is "NOV26" and it is good through the end of Cyber Monday.

Sweet Alexis Bakery (Nut-free, egg-free, dairy-free) CYBER MONDAY! 25% off Today only!!!! Promo code: sweetcyber

Parenting e-book for nut allergies:

The New Nut-Free Mom: A Crash Course in Caring for Your Nut-Allergic Child
by Jenny Kales, creator of The Nut-Free Mom Blog (that's me)
Now at a reduced price for the holidays! No coupon required. Click link to find out how to buy. 

Allergy Apparel, Awareness Products and Gear:

Peanut Free Zone (allergy awareness products)
Cyber Monday Sale is starting today and running until 11:59 pm (est) on Monday. BOGO tattoos (50 tattoos for ONLY $8)
BOGO chef cards (50 chef cards for ONLY $5)
BOGO signs (8 signs for ONLY $12)

Must use the link above for the savings

Hope Paige Medical ID Jewelry (personalized bracelets, dog tags and more)
20% off all merchandise! Coupon Code: Cybermonday Sale runs until Tuesday, 9 am EST. Plus, design your own bracelet is now here! for more details.

Onespot Allergy: (Convenient, wearable belts for allergy meds, plus other allergy gear)
Cyber Monday Sale today only! All Onespot Allergy products are 15% off. It's a great time to try our Best EpiPen Belt or EpiPen Carrying Case, try out a different color for a change, or buy some to give as Christmas or Chanukkah gifts.

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Our Holiday Savings have begun! Save $20. on your new essentials. Choose the versatile "Grab & Go" Handbag or Accessory Case. Safe, simple, stylish and available in 4 luscious colors. 2 organized compartments keep epinephrine auto-injectors & allergy essentials next to your daily basics. Gift wrap for the holidays (it's super-cute and always free) + Priority ship anywhere in the U.S. for $6. International flat-fee shipping also available. (Check website for details.)

Blue Bear Aware (allergy apparel and much more) Cyber Monday Nov 26, receive 40% off selected allergy gear. Use the code blackfri in the coupon box at the check-out and save.**
includes all regular priced short sleeve and long sleeve t-shirts, accessories, badges & labels and wristbands.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

First Thanksgiving with Food Allergies? Check Out These Tips

You can learn to manage food allergies at Thanksgiving...
and you can eventually even have fun. No, really.
Dealing with food allergies at Thanksgiving for the first time this year? This can be a tricky business, but take heart: you can manage it and you are definitely not alone. As you sit down with the family this year, just keep in mind that millions of other parents are in the same situation.
Any holiday with a food allergy is difficult, but since Thanksgiving is focused almost entirely on the food served, this one is particularly challenging for families facing a new food allergy diagnosis. Any type of food allergy is cause for concern at Thanksgiving, but peanut and tree nut allergies can give you some heartburn as these foods show up with more frequency and as part of "secret ingredients" in recipes at this time of year. Autumn, especially, equals "tree nuts" so be careful!
Once you've been through a couple of holiday meals with the family, you will be better able to anticipate some of the pitfalls. However, if you are just starting out, both you and your family are still learning what it means to create a food allergy-friendly meal. The best policy is caution. Don't feel pressured to serve your child anything you can't verify is safe for them. A food is never worth risking your child's health for, so don't feel compelled to feed your child anything you have doubts about. This is a good policy to maintain at all times, and especially at the holidays where such a huge variety of different foods may be on offer.
While you are getting used to food allergies and family meals, it is always a good idea to bring a separate meal or at least some food items that you know are OK for your child to eat. This is much easier than trying to determine if every food you didn't make or bring is safe. The fact is, many times you have no way of determining that. Not having nuts as an ingredient is only one piece of the puzzle. A recipe may have no actual peanuts or tree nuts, but it may have had cross contact with these allergens during the preparation process. Sometimes even the cook is unaware that there may have been cross contact, or what that means, especially if they are unused to dealing with severe food allergies.
Unless a food has a label or you made or brought the food yourself, there is a risk factor there. Avoid the ER and avoid these unknown foods.
What else to watch out for while navigating Thanksgiving with nut allergies?
Turkey stuffing. Turkey stuffing often contains tree nuts such as walnuts or pecans. If a turkey has a nutty stuffing, this renders the entire turkey unsafe to eat because the stuffing can permeate the meat. Some breads are unsafe for those with nut allergies, too. If you are not hosting, you will want to be careful of stuffing.
Sauces and gravies. These often contain hidden ingredients, so be careful!
Buffet-style meals. A family favorite, but if utensils are used for more than one dish and anything contains nuts or other allergens, the other foods can be cross contaminated.
Desserts. Desserts are high-risk for nut allergens and other food allergens. Bakery desserts may be cross contaminated due to the environment in which they are made; the same goes for homemade desserts. Bring a dessert for your child to make sure they can have a "safe" sweet treat with the other kids; even better if you bring enough to share.
Any food with unknown origins, or catered foods. If you don't know what's in something or how it was prepared, don't serve it to your child.

Difficult situations.

Occasionally, you may have to do some fancy footwork to deflect a difficult situation while celebrating the Turkey Day feast. Here are a few common scenarios and how to handle them:
Friends or family who baked something "nut-free" especially for your child.  Awkward! Unless you have personally schooled this person in detail on allergy-free baking and they have a kitchen that never sees peanuts or tree nuts cross the threshold (hardly anyone, in other words) anything home baked by others is at risk for cross contact. And keep in mind that many people believe that "nut allergies" mean peanut allergies, only! If you must avoid tree nuts as well, you run twice the risk of cross contact from a home baked item.
What to do if offered a treat "that doesn't have nuts in it"? Not everyone is as invested in your child as say, grandparents are, so if this is a relative or friend you don't see often, you can just sidestep the baked treats.  Say something like, "Thank you so much. That was so sweet and thoughtful. I'd love to try one of your cookies." Then don't give any to your allergic child, whatever you do!
What if this is a close friend or family member? You can be a little more detailed, especially if this is someone you see often. Explain that because of cross contact risk, you are under doctor's orders to avoid any homemade treats but that you love the thought and you appreciate the effort. Offer to have them over to bake a treat with you and your child if this is an activity they would enjoy.
Questions about "why so many kids these days have allergies?" or "what will happen if little Susie eats peanuts?"
Let's face it: discussing life-threatening food allergies doesn't exactly make for appetizing table talk. If people are truly interested and are sincere in wanting to help you, offer to discuss your family's personal situation at a later time. You can always tell others that no one knows why there are so many allergies these days, but in the meantime you are following your doctor's advice on keeping your child safe. Then change the topic to a light hearted subject--or switch the discussion to politics or religion. Whatever it takes! (Just kidding, don't do that). A simple answer and subject change usually do the trick.
Resentment from others about a food item banned from the meal. This is a tough one, because many people don't understand that the mere presence of certain foods might pose a risk. Thank your family and friends for avoiding anything on your child's behalf and offer to work together in the future so that everyone can be happy with the meal while also keeping it allergy-friendly.
If this type of thing is a big problem for those in your circle, you can always host the meal yourself and make it clear that it is "free from" whatever you need to avoid. Then anyone who attends has fair warning and can make other plans if they would like. After dinner or the day after Thanksgiving might be a better time to gather if prohibited foods become a big issue for family members. Thanksgiving is about tradition, so many people have strong ties to foods. If everyone communicates and realizes there are no "perfect" solutions, you can usually work out some sort of compromise.
For more information on educating others about allergies and navigating life in general with nut allergies, check out my e-book The New Nut-Free Mom: A Crash Course in Caring for Your Nut-Allergic Child." 

Happy Thanksgiving!!!! 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Two Nut-Free Thanksgiving Recipes!

Recently, I featured a Thanksgiving turkey-shaped pan that I use for cornbread on my Facebook page and the response from readers was "give me a cornbread recipe!" So I'm sharing one that I love--the cornbread turns out divine. You can serve it as-is or use it to make cornbread stuffing.

You don't need a turkey mold to make this recipe, but it will fit exactly in the Nordic Ware mold I used for the cornbread pictured above. or sells this mold. Psst...Amazon is quite a bit cheaper!  However, the recipe will also work in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan or even two 8-inch baking pans. Or bake a lot of corn muffins--you can probably get 24 out of this recipe.

This recipe is nut-free only, as that is my area of expertise. Dairy-free and egg-free bakers will probably have some ideas on replacements for the ingredients used in this recipe. Plus, anyone looking for nut-free, egg-free and dairy-free baking should check out The Food Allergy Mama. Her baking book is wonderful! Check out Divvies for a wonderful egg-free, nut-free, dairy-free baking book, too. Another terrific resource.

OK, here is a cornbread recipe I have altered from a combination of recipes I've used over the years. This one is a family favorite. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Cornbread


Baking spray with flour--I use Pam
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal -- I use Quaker brand or Aunt Jemima yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder--I use Clabber Girl
3/4 teaspoons baking soda-- I use Arm and Hammer
3 large eggs
2 1/4 cup buttermilk, (shake it up good before adding to batter)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray turkey pans or other pans suggested above with baking spray.

2. Melt butter and let it cool slightly.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients. Set aside.

4. In another large bowl or extra large Pyrex measuring cup, whisk buttermilk, eggs and cooled, melted butter.

5. Slowly stir buttermilk, egg and butter mixture into dry ingredients until well combined.  Do not over mix.

6. Pour batter evenly into turkey molds if using, or into other prepared pans. Fill about 2/3 full for any pan you use, including muffin pans. Don't overfill or you will have a big mess in the oven. (If you have extra batter, you can always pour it into additional muffin pans. A few extra corn muffins--nice!)

7. Transfer to oven and bake until a tester comes out clean. Estimated times depending on pan: Turkey pan, 30 - 35 minutes. 9 x 13 pan, 30 minutes. 8 inch pans, 18 - 20 minutes. Muffin pans, 16-18 minutes. Of course, it's always better to under bake and correct it than to over bake. Check cornbread frequently near the end of baking time.

8. Let cool slightly in pan if using turkey mold, then remove from mold and set on wire rack to cool completely. Once completely cool, you can stand up each turkey pan half to create a "whole bird" (pictured above). For other pans except muffin tins, let cool on wire rack until ready to serve. For muffins, let cool five minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. (All but the turkey-shaped cornbread can be served warm, too. My favorite way to serve cornbread.)

One more recipe!

Since many of us need to prepare separate foods for our allergic kids, I've found that the following recipe really comes in handy. No, it doesn't have marshmallows, but it does have brown sugar (or maple syrup, or in our house, both!). It's yummy and fast, plus you won't be fighting over the oven space.

Speedy, Nut-Free Sweet Potatoes

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons canola oil or butter (you can also use dairy-free margarine)
2 tablespoons maple syrup or brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice, or a few tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and 2 tablespoons of water in a microwave-safe bowl; cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, shake the container and continue to microwave at 2-minute intervals until the sweet potatoes are very tender. Serve hot.

Congratulations once again to all of our giveaway winners and thanks especially to Hope Paige!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Food Allergies and Thanksgiving: Libby's ® Brand Pumpkin and Nestle® Carnation Brand Evaporated Milk

I love to bake my holiday pies with Libby's® brand pumpkin puree.
Read on for the company's nut allergen statement.
Holiday bakers, start your engines! It's pumpkin pie season!  Who's with me? Thanksgiving comes early this year, so I've been gathering seasonal baking ingredients for the annual Turkey Day indulgence.

But wait--what about ingredients? Everyone's favorite pumpkin pie recipe is on the back of the Libby's®  brand pureed pumpkin and it always includes Nestle®  Carnation Evaporated Milk. Since so many of us end up baking our own pumpkin pies for the holidays (including me), it was time for my annual ingredients check-in for these products.

I wanted to share my findings with all of you so we can get on to the fun part: baking pies. Both of these popular seasonal products are made by Nestle; I e-mailed the company last week and got a detailed e-mail response. Here's what Nestle had to say about Libby's Pumpkin and Carnation Evaporated Milk with regard to tree nuts and peanuts (and general food allergen labeling):

Dear Ms. Kales,
Thank you for contacting Libby's® Pumpkin.

Our NestlĂ©® Carnation Evaporated Milk and Libby's® Pumpkin products do not contain peanuts or tree nuts nor are they at potential for cross contact.

Labeling regulations require that if any of the eight recognized known allergens, such as peanuts and tree nuts, are in the product, they must be listed in the ingredient statement. We always list the allergen by the common name.

Additionally, our factories, that use any of the recognized allergens as an ingredient, take all precautions to avoid cross contact of products that do not contain them. We always add a cautionary statement at the end of our packaging ingredient listing if a product is made on the same line or factory of those products containing a recognized allergen. It is recommended that you always check the label before purchasing a product.

Holiday bakers: Please make a note of the last line of the e-mail above because it is an important one: always check the label before purchasing a product.

For example, while the canned items I contacted Nestle about do not contain nut allergens (see full statement from the company, above), Libby's and Nestle's baking kits that include the pumpkin puree and canned milk, respectively, have nut allergen and other food allergen warnings on the label.

While the canned items are safe and we can use them to make a pie or cake from scratch, it looks like the culprits in these baking kits are the pumpkin bread mix and the pie crust mix, respectively. Avoid the baking kits when baking for people with nut allergies. Note: these kits are extremely well marked for allergens. If you read the label, you'll see the warnings underneath the ingredients list.

This is what the Libby's® Pumpkin Bread Kit looks like. The label on this kit has warnings for nut and other food allergens:

Check each label--even if certain ingredients in a baking kit
might be OK, other components might carry nut allergy warnings.

Click the link for a nut-free pumpkin bread recipe from my blog that uses Libby's brand pumpkin--almost as easy as a kit, and best of all -- no nut allergens to worry about!

The prevalence of allergy warnings on prepared baking kits only reinforces that holiday baking needs to be carefully monitored for anyone with a severe allergy. That's why I volunteer to do so much baking--I know what's in my kitchen and what goes into our food, so we can enjoy our desserts without any concern for cross-contact or allergenic hidden ingredients.

Note: the allergen information given in this post is for these specific brands, only, and refers to peanut and tree nut allergies.  If you have questions about Libby's, Carnation or any other store brands, with regard to their practices or for other allergens, please contact companies directly. It is always up to the consumer to decide if a specific product fits your allergy needs. Thank you!