Allergy Shmallergy

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Mom to a 7 yr old with multiple food allergies. Personal philosophy: parents who handle food allergies in a healthy way, raise confident kids. In short, "allergy, shmallergy", food allergies don't need to get in your way! Recipes, food finds, tips...

What's your best advice for a mom struggling with cooking for children with food allergies?

Hang in there and keep at it!

There are tons of resources for families managing with food allergies now. When I started cooking for my son there were very few... and I was a very bad chef (I once burnt soup!). But with his many food allergies, I had no choice but to learn. You'd be surprised how many recipes are naturally nut, dairy, and egg-free, for example. And, once you get the hang of how to substitute for your children's allergens (like using dairy-free margarine for butter, or safflower oil for sesame seed oil), playing with recipes becomes much easier!

I would also recommend finding parts of a meal that are pre-made (even frozen grilled chicken or a safe rice mix) to make meal preparation easier. Having to concentrate on cooking only one new piece of a meal is much easier than trying to properly cook and time two or three!

I frequently thank my son - without him I would still be hopeless in the kitchen and my family wouldn't be eating nearly as healthy.

What's your favorite allergy friendly product?

Since my son has multiple food allergies, we have many favorite products! For a dairy substitute, I love dairy-free butter and margarine - both Earth's Balance and Smart Balance make an excellent replacement for butter in nearly all recipes and, of course, on toast!

For a peanut butter taste-alike, Sunbutter is closest in taste and texture. While my son doesn't yet eat Sunbutter, it totally satisfies my own peanut butter cravings on celery without jeopardizing skin exposure for my son.

The best substitute for eggs in baking is definitely Ener-G Egg Replacer. But apple sauce is fairly reliable as well!

What's the biggest challenge raising a child with food allergies?

By far, the biggest challenge raising a child with food allergies is remaining mindful of the emotional impact of their allergies. Parents of children with food allergies spend an extraordinary amount of time checking ingredients, preparation methods, and investigating cross-contamination. We spend even MORE time worrying about whether our child feels excluded during school parties, whether their friends understand that their allergy sometimes precludes them from participating in activities, whether they feel worries about the effects of their food allergy.... We try, indefatigably, to educate our peers and to DE-emphasize food in our kids' lives.

Because the emotional impact of food allergies is felt beyond the child, it is therefore critical that parents find support from their family, friends and the food allergy community.

What is an easy vegetable recipe that your kids love?

Allergy Shmallergy

My kids are adventurous eaters, but sometimes it takes a little extra coaxing to get them to eat their veggies. One of my children has multiple food allergies, so we get creative at mealtime. They love edamame (popping the beans out of the pods is super fun!) and pretending that they are dinosaurs and their steamed broccoli are trees to be eaten is highly popular. We also love to throw veggies into dishes like zucchini and tomatoes into chili. Mmmmm...
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Can you suggest a fun birthday party game or creative activity for 6-8 year-olds?

Allergy Shmallergy

We hosted a Star Wars themed party for my 6 yr old son complete with foam light sabers, Vader chips (blue corn chips), and everything! The kids had a GREAT time. Check out our cakes (that's right, cakeS.... That's another story!): http://shmallergy.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/our-giant-saga-with-giants-bakery/
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What is your favorite quick breakfast recipe?

Allergy Shmallergy

My family loves the Wildberry Buckwheat Waffles by Nature's Path. We discovered them when, in addition to being allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame seeds, my older son was also allergic to wheat. They are so good that even though most of our family isn't on a restricted diet and my older son can now eat wheat, we STILL prefer them over regular waffles. Best part, you pop them in the toaster and their done in about a minute. Yum! http://shmallergy.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/wheat-and-gluten-free-breakfast-option/
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What's a great treat for spring or Easter? (Please include a link!)

Allergy Shmallergy

Since we avoid many of the top allergens and I spend a lot of time recreating all those yummy treats in allergy-free form, I always appreciate anything my son can eat off-the-shelf. And in the spring, this includes PEEPS! Peeps are amazingly free of the top 10 allergens including soy and gluten. Great for an allergic kid or a party. Trust me: your food allergic friends will appreciate it!
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What are the best ways to keep kids entertained & well-behaved at a formal event or luncheon such as wedding?

Allergy Shmallergy

Some of the best ways we've kept our kids behaving appropriately at formal events was to engage them and arrive prepared. At my brother's wedding (where all four of us where participants), we explained the different parts of the ceremony to my 4 yr old which made him interested in it. And afterwards, we encouraged him to dance, to play with relatives and friends, and to run (outside, when appropriate) so that he wasn't too antsy once we were seated. My younger son was not even 2 at that same wedding. Once he walked down the aisle, we knew he wasn't going to be able to sit for the long ceremony or during the reception. So we hired a babysitter, spoke to my brother about adjacent rooms, and set him up there with plenty of coloring books, games, balls, and movies to keep him content throughout the day. And, of course, he spent a great deal of time entertaining US during the cocktail hour and reception!
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What's your favorite easy recipe for an Easter or Passover meal?

Allergy Shmallergy

A staple on the seder plate, the apple mixture called Charoset is one of our family favorites. Unfortunately, traditional charoset contains nuts. So, we use this delicious nut and wine-free recipe that everyone scarfs down before I can even finish serving it! 6 cups peeled, cored, and grated Granny Smith apples 1 lemon, juiced 1 cup golden raisins 1/2 cup honey 3/4 tsp cinnamon 3/4 tsp brown sugar In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and serve. Serves at least 8.
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Please share a link to a photo of a great birthday cake you made or bought.

Allergy Shmallergy

For my son's 6th birthday, he wanted to have a Star Wars themed party. We obliged by planning a super-fun Jedi Training Camp full of activities and replete with foam lightsabers for all the attendees. I had a million ideas for the cake, but the one he wanted was from our local grocery store. Only trick, my son has food allergies! After the grocery store cake failed (see post), I baked him an allergy-free R2-D2 cake to be proud of. Not only was it a hit (thank god, I'm not a very skilled decorator), but it tasted great. Phew! Link to photo: http://shmallergy.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/r2d2-cake.jpg Link to post: http://shmallergy.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/our-giant-saga-with-giants-bakery/
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What's one of your favorite one-pot recipes? (Soup, casseroles, etc.)

Allergy Shmallergy

My mom's chili is DE-licious! And what's more: I've adapted her recipe to also make it allergy-free without losing an ounce of flavor! Mmm.... Link: http://shmallergy.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/game-day-turkey-vegetable-chili/
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What's your go-to family meal made entirely with pantry staples? Please share a link to the recipe and photo if you have one.

Allergy Shmallergy

With just chicken breast and a few other ingredients that I usually have on hand, I whip up Allergy-Free Kung Pao Chicken. Sounds fancy, but it couldn't be easier - or more delicious!
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