Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Grandma's Guide to Holiday Hosting with Food Allergies

It's Thanksgiving! This is the time of year when we count our blessings. Thankfully, I can count my parents as one of those blessings for many reasons. They offer support and understanding in every part of our lives. This support and understanding includes Little Guy's food allergies. They have always done their best to keep him safe and create an amazing, fun, and food allergy friendly holiday for us at their house. 

My Mom wrote this guest post all on her own - with no prompting from me. As an experienced host of someone with food allergies, she feels passionate about sharing her guide to holiday hosting with food allergies. 

I wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving and I hope you enjoy this helpful post!

Holiday Hosting with Food Allergies from

By Karen Dalfonso

This will be my fourth year hosting winter family gatherings that include my Grandson (now 5 years old) with multiple food allergies to dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, sesame and fin fish.  

I love planning special dinners, and having overnight guests is always a treat. Grilling burgers, corn on the cob, fresh fruit, summer safe-snacks are summer staples. Somehow, my kitchen is adequate for that menu, but the holidays pose special challenges not present during the summer outdoor months. 

Due to the multi-tasking during holidays, it is so easy for mishaps to occur in a kitchen which does not ordinarily follow allergy-friendly guidelines. Converting a kitchen into an allergy-friendly kitchen takes some effort. 

So, I would like to share a few short-cuts and safeguards which I have adopted during the last 4 years since we found out my Grandson has food allergies.  I hope to provide a little confidence for someone who is new at this, especially during the busy family gathering-times of the year.  

Spending time planning a menu, getting recipes together and stocking up ahead of time on staples is a rule-of thumb for everyone. It's particularly important for an allergy-safe menu, as there is less room for flexibility.   

In our house, SunButter, soy and coconut milk for baking, Enjoy Life cookies, safe chocolate chips and Wheat Thins are some items I can buy ahead of time.  Freezer items may include some of my Grandson's veggies, sausage, chicken, waffles, coconut non-dairy “ice cream”, etc.   

If I am baking, I try to buy duplicate products which will be set aside and separated from my other kitchen products, to ensure cross-contact with allergens do not accidentally occur. That way, when I begin baking my special allergy friendly-recipe, I have new products. I don’t need to worry about accidental cross-contact with eggs or other allergens.  These items can be stocked on a separate shelf, or in my case, a covered bin.  During the busy times, this planning save so much time and extra trips to the grocery store.  

I find storage in a covered bin is great for me.  This way the items, which are not used everyday, stay clean and ready for me to use. In my bin this year, I’ve added measuring cups, measuring spoons, a colander, and brand new containers which have been washed and are in a plastic bags. 

These storage containers can be quickly used to store any item safely and are already washed. I can be sure it has not previously been contaminated with an allergen.  After a year, I absorb the container into my kitchen and buy new products for my “bin”, wash the product, then place in plastic bags.  I also try to use Pyrex or glass when making a bean salad, fruit salad or other item, as I can be sure the bowl is “clean”and does not have traces of an allergen.    

In my bin, I try to also keep cute children’s placemats, drinking cups and plates, although disposable utensils can also be used.  I like to buy disposable silverware in small containers of 24, as I always worry well-meaning guests could place used silverware back in those large packages which seem to last for  “years”.  I feel these little steps are worthwhile in order to be reassured  that the eating surface is safe.

As the holiday approaches, a special shelf in the refrigerator helps to separate allergy-friendly items from other items.  I find it helpful to use a container to hold small items such as coconut yogurt, juice boxes, non-dairy butter, etc., which can get “lost” in a holiday refrigerator.  A special shelf or storage area in the kitchen or another room for crackers, cereal, or other items is also helpful.  This helps to avoid “errors” made in a rush. It is also helpful to have snack-size bags made with pretzels, popcorn, or other items that can be quickly grabbed.  Remember, taking snacks from the large “family”  bag always runs the risk of allergens in the product.

During any mealtime gathering, be sure to make the allergy-friendly plate first.  If you think there will be “seconds” later,  placed food in storage containers before the rest of the guests take their dinner. I always try to use a placemat on the table, with either disposable silverware or a different pattern of silverware.  That way I can  make sure the item has been properly washed. We tend to shift seats, plates, glasses often during a large gathering so this is a helpful safeguard for me.  Paper products are great to insure everything is clean. For emergency cutting of vegetables, etc., just cut the item inside a ziplock bag if unsure of clean surfaces in the kitchen.  I always use foil or parchment paper for baking or grilling to insure the food is on a safe surface away from any allergens.  

Enjoying family time:
So, next comes the fun part!  The laughter, the memories and the great holiday traditions. One of the best is a cookie plate.  Our cookie plate may look a little different from those in other families, but our cookie plate is packed with love and great times.  If you have time to make one cut-out cookie recipe, one gingerbread recipe, or one favorite sugar cookies, that is really enough!  Pretzels can be dipped in safe-chocolate, dairy-free Rice Krispie treats are always nice, chocolate peppermint candy bark, and Enjoy Life cookies come in lots of flavors. Sharing that special dessert is part of our holiday tradition.  We remember to be thankful for each other and don’t want to miss that special part of sharing!

Holiday Hosting with Food Allergies -
Grandma making cookies with Little Guy.
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Monday, October 26, 2015

The Teal Pumpkin Project and an Allergy-Friendly Halloween

Have you painted your teal pumpkin yet?  

If you have a child with food allergies, I'm sure you've heard of the Teal Pumpkin Project by now. I'm amazed how far and fast the Teal Pumpkin Project is spreading.

Although we participated in the teal pumpkin fun last year, this is the first year I've seen other teal pumpkins around my neighborhood. Also, an older neighbor asked me to paint a teal pumpkin to put in front of her house. How nice! I assumed she wouldn't have even cared about the Teal Pumpkin Project.

I guess I was wrong!

I'm a little behind in my Halloween prep this year, but I'm considering what I want to do with all the candy the kids will receive. Maybe The Switch Witch or The Sugar Goblin? Or the "candy trade" program at a local hospital (where they offer the kids toys in exchange for all their candy!).

If you're like me and still getting ready for Halloween, I thought you might be interested in a few of our past allergy-friendly ideas...including a teal pumpkin of course!

Allergy Friendly Halloween Ideas and the Teal Pumpkin Project

SunButter Chocolate Cups Recipe: Tastes just like Reese's (but make sure your child knows to ask before eating anything, especially "look-alike" candy like this!)

How are you creating a safe and healthy Halloween for your kiddos? Are you doing The Switch Witch, The Sugar Goblin,or a candy "buy back" program? Are you doing anything creative with your teal pumpkins?


This post includes affiliate links.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

6 Allergy-Friendly School Lunch Ideas and Giveaway

As a mama of a child with multiple food allergies, I find school lunches to be stressful. Little Guy can't buy lunch at school since he has allergies to dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts and sesame. So, we pack lunch 5 days a week, every week.

This year, I knew kindergarten would be a whole new "ball game". I was stressed that I had to pack allergy-friendly school lunches that no one would reheat for him. It's doubly difficult since Little Guy has become somewhat PICKY.

I know, I know, he used to be my Brussels sprouts eating toddler. But things have changed. I can't really blame him. He hasn't had the chance to explore as many new foods as other kids. But I'm determined to get creative and keep trying new ideas. 

So far, I've found a bit of lunch success in:
  1. Buying lunch supplies to help me get creative with allergy-friendly lunches. Things like these EasyLunchboxes (part of a fun GIVEAWAY you can enter below!), colorful silicone cupcake holders and character thermos have helped me brainstorm new lunch ideas.
  2. Realizing he'll eat (and likes!) cold food. For example, he'll eat pizza cold!
  3. Getting somewhat cute with his lunches. I know a few awesome mamas who make their child's lunch SO cute every day. I'm always amazed at their talent! However, I know with a full time job and 2 kiddos, I'm not going to make lunches as art projects every day. BUT I can make them just a little cute in a short amount of time. Cookie cutters and fun tools like Pick-Ease have helped me do this easily! (also part of this fun GIVEAWAY!)
In case you need a little lunch inspiration (I know I still like new ideas!) I thought I'd share 6 of our favorite allergy-friendly school lunches.

1. Nitrate free turkey, spinach and Earth Balance mayo sandwich (Don't judge me on the white bread, Little Guy is slowly accepting wheat bread more and more. If you ever told me I'd have a kid who eats white bread I'd call you crazy ;). Carrots, honeydew, pretzels and SunButter dip too!

2. Chicken salad sandwich made with Earth Balance mayo (we also love mayo-free avocado chicken salad), apple slices to dip in the Don't Go Nuts single dips. SkinnyPop popcorn mixed with SuperSeedz cinnamon pumpkin seeds. The awesome SoDelicious dairy free chocolate coconut milk on the side!

3. Nitrate free bacon (yes, Little Guy likes it cold!), vegan banana muffin, cantaloupe and half a banana (kept it in it's peel to stay fresh).

4. Nitrate free turkey rolled up on the Pick-Ease picks, cantaloupe, SoDelicious coconut yogurt, Ozery Bakery cinnamon raisin bread and juice box (although juice is high in sugar, we do 100% juice boxes occasionally!).

5. Dairy-free pizza (made with Daiya cheese), cantaloupe, peppers, carrots, homemade nut free granola bar (recipe here), and SoDelicious Chocolate Coconut Milk.

6. Spaghetti and egg-free Italian meatballs (made with hidden broccoli!) (recipe here), frozen peas and corn (he likes them cold!), applesauce and apple chips.

Here are some of the fun lunchbox supplies I'm currently using to make school lunches easy and fun!



Okay, ready to win your own fun lunchbox supplies? One winner will receive:
  • One Pick-Ease Play Pack (for either a boy or girl, your choice!)
  • One EasyLunchbox container set
  • One Easy Lunchbox lunch bag (winner can choose color)
This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Enter the giveaway now!

I received the awesome Pick-Ease Play Pack and EasyLunchboxes cooler bag and small containers to review for this post. Thank you to Pick-Ease and Easy Lunchboxes! All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
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