Monday, October 28, 2013

Nut-Free, Homemade Halloween Treats, Plus Last-Minute Ideas on Pinterest

These shortbread cookies can even be made dairy-free. Delicious!
Halloween is just a few days away so I want to post some links to two reader-favorite Halloween recipes that I created for my family:

Frankenstein Monster Toe Cookies

Candy Corn Cookies

These two recipes are pretty easy and definitely festive. I hope you enjoy them!

I hope you'll also check out my Pinterest boards -- I have nut-free Halloween recipes and fun Halloween ideas from a variety of sources.

Halloween Candy Exchange

What to do with all the Halloween candy you can't have? If you live near Chicago-area bakery, Nutphree's, bring your unusable Halloween candy to their bakery and they'll give you a free cupcake. They will send any unusable candy overseas to the military, so it's a win-win situation for everyone.

What do you do with the Halloween candy you can't use? Any candy exchanges like this in your area? Please share them! We'd love to hear your ideas.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Halloween with Food Allergies -- Thoughts from a Mom Who's Been There

It's that time of year again! You know--when you start seeing articles talking about how "scary" Halloween is for kids with food allergies (I've said it on this blog!). All clich├ęs aside, I've always believed that if kids with food allergies really want to participate in Halloween trick or treating, there are ways to do this. It doesn't have to be scary and intimidating. With a little common sense and a lot of flexibility, it can be fun and even educational about what foods are safe and what foods are best to avoid.

I have several posts about how we've handled Halloween over the years and now that my oldest (with allergies) no longer goes trick-or-treating, I am here to tell you that for us, at least, Halloween can be a lot of fun whether you decide to trick or treat or not. If your child doesn't want to trick or treat, don't force them. As parents, sometimes the prospect that our kids are limited from certain things because of allergies is more painful for us than it is for them. They often don't know any other way of life so it's less of a big deal for them. I'd rather be positive about the things they can do. Below are two of my most popular Halloween posts:


If you have a very young child who is not going to understand or appreciate that mom and/or dad have to take away a lot of their candy "score," you might want to limit the trick or treating and try some other fun stuff instead. Maybe they can just trick or treat at grandma's house or the homes of a few friends who are in the food allergy loop and will have some "safe" treats to offer. Again, my posts above have some ideas.

Some kids don't particularly enjoy Halloween--food allergies or not. So if they would rather hang out at home and pass out candy, don't assume it's all about the allergy. For example, my non-allergic child hated getting into a costume until she was past age 5. She did not enjoy Halloween until kindergarten, much to our general amusement. Once I realized this, I let it go. The important thing is that the child feels good about what they're doing. This goes double for kids with allergies -- if they're forced to go out and then have to give up all the candy--that's no fun for anyone!

One important note regarding food allergies and school: Speak to your child's teacher now.  Ideally you have a written plan in place for dealing with food allergies in the classroom, but it never hurts to touch base and reiterate how your child should not be given unauthorized food.

Halloween is a great time to work with your child on saying "no" to foods that are not given the OK by you. The trade off is that your child will get some "safe" treats -- edible or non-edible, your choice, of course -- when they do have to say no. Over the years, I've found that helps ease the "pain" of refusing the mountains of unsafe candy kids may encounter at Halloween. Again, my blog posts above have some suggestions for alternative activities/treats at Halloween.

If you're in the market for some delicious and nut-free Halloween candy or treats, please take a look at several of my blog sponsors (to the right of this page, just click the image to go to the company web site)-many good nut-free choices there! Peanut Free Planet is another excellent source --this site is a treasure trove of not only nut-free but other "free from" candies and treats.

My daughter is  headed for high school next year and she is a well-adjusted, confident young woman. I can guarantee that even if she felt badly at times that she had to turn in most of a candy bag, this has not been an experience that has had any lasting negative effects that I can see. It's hard to deny candy to a little kid who is asking for it. But attitude is everything. Be upbeat and find alternative activities, alternative treats -- there are many more of them out there right now -- and it does help.

For all of you just beginning the journey that is holidays with food allergies, hang in there. Follow your gut instincts, focus on having fun with your kids, keep your safety measures in place and the rest will fall into place.

Don't forget to enjoy your kids. Now that my kids are older, I already miss the days when my oldest wanted to dress up and trick or treat, hand out candy, watch Halloween Town on TV or whatever. Parents, I know it can be stressful but enjoy these enthusiastic little faces while you can. They'll be grown up before you know it.

However you decide to handle it, have a fun, happy and safe Halloween! For more general advice on living with nut allergies in general, check out my e-book.Thanks to all of you who have made it a bestseller on Amazon!

Yes, that is a Nancy Drew pumpkin on the left, for the Nancy Drew nerds out there.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Nut-Free Halloween "Haunted House" Mini Cakes, Plus Halloween Candy Ideas

Hi everyone -- it's been a busy couple of weeks, with my daughter's first overnight field trip to the state capitol and her lead role in her jr. high musical, my younger daughter's numerous after-school activities and of course, all the usual back to school stuff. I'm sure you all can relate--hey, it's October already!

Since Halloween is coming up quickly, I wanted to share a post from the archives about a reader-favorite edible nut-free Halloween haunted house project. Click this link to learn how you can create a mini "haunted house" out of a delicious pumpkin cake  -- nut free, of course.

Nut-free candy corn is always a big request this time of year and I've got a post devoted to that, (click here), but I wanted to share a new find at the supermarket. Starburst brand makes fruit-flavored candy corn. I've dealt with them in the past and it seems they will label for "may contains" but of course, if you have questions, call them.

I always like to share new finds, so here's what the bag looks like:

I found these candies at SuperTarget in the Halloween section and also at my local supermarket.
Another great source of peanut-free, tree nut-free, gluten-free candy is Tootsie Roll. Here's a post I wrote about them last year. They make many candies that have the "nut-free" symbol on them.
If you are looking for a candy that is not only free of allergens but also artificial flavors and colors, please check out Surf Sweets organic gummies. They're a longtime site sponsor and they make amazing candy. Check out "Spooky Spiders" (pictured to the right of this blog) and they make other seasonal candies, too. Available at Whole Foods and natural foods stores as well as other stores where they sell organic goodies.
Of course, you should always check any food to make sure it is right for your exact situation.
That brings up another good point. This blog is more than 5 years old and so, if you see a food from a post that is several years old, please always re-check it. Unfortunately, things can change; I make a good effort to stay on top of changes, but something can slip past me. Also, if I'm talking about a specific food, I try to give info that is very specific to that food and where/how it's manufactured. The larger food companies may have dozens of manufacturing facilities that affect the allergenic qualities of a food. One type of food from a company or brand may be made in a nut-free facility, while other foods from that company may not be. Confusing, I know, so it pays to check labels and call companies or e-mail them if you need more answers.
Has anyone found any new nut-allergy "safe" candies on the shelves this Halloween season? Let us know.
Also, be sure to check my Pinterest boards for nut-free Halloween treats and ideas. A direct link to my Pinterest boards is available just by clicking the "P" button to the right of this post. I'm adding to those boards regularly and it's a nice convenient place to find good stuff. Hope to see the Pinners there!