Lousy Treats

An article in today’s Chicago Sun Times reminds us of some of the hits and misses of Trick or Treating on Halloween. The food website www.seriouseats.com compiled a top ten list of the worst treats to give your little costumed visitors. Sadly, three of the “worst treats” are the only treats I give out because they are allergy friendly. I don’t know if he would ever miss getting to eat a Snickers bar (my favorite in a previous life of not living allergen free) or even a Almond Joy. But he thinks Smarties are pretty cool and never minds eating them. Here’s the list:

1. Toothbrushes: Yuck.

2. Raisins: I once tried to swap all John’s unsafe candy with raisins…bad idea.

3. Candy Corn: John’s actually lucky he is allergic to these.

4. Smarties and Necco Wafers: One of my kids’ favorite candies, Smarties made it on this list. I actually thought they were yummy! Necco’s, not so much.

5. Dum Dum lollipops: The good old standby treat at our allergist’s office, my purse, trips to Costco, the grocery store and long road trips. These suckers are what I consider to be “mommy’s little helper”.

6. Apples: I remember the razor blade stuck in apples scare from the 80’s. Never really got over that one.

7. Tootstie Rolls: Again, John isn’t missing anything.

8. Miscellaneous Hard Candies: Remember those weird orange and black wrapped candies?

9. Laffy Taffy: Do kids really eat these?

10: Anything fun sized: I agree, one bite is torture. It just makes you want to overindulge.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!!!

Favorite Five Baking Recipes

It’s nice to be back online. After some initial difficulties getting my blog setup under a new domain it looks like the technical glitches are resolved. I’m still in the process of moving over some of my widgets and blogs so that will come back in a day or so. I also would like any of you who previously bookmarked my blog to kellyrudnicki.wordpress.com to www.foodallergymama.com. My blog now has its new permanent home which will allow me to design and edit my site to include more informational material, news feeds, recipe swapping, pod casts, etc. It is still a work in progress but I am excited about the changes because it will allow me to share with you the most current and valuable information as well as some of my best baking recipes.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear the names of your Favorite Five Baking Recipes. What recipes do you turn to most often when baking for your kids? Do they overwhelmingly love chocolate chip cookies (like mine do!) or do they favor Red Velvet Cupcakes? Do you make homemade pancakes every other day (like I do because we can’t keep them stocked in the freezer!) or do you love to make healthy muffins to keep on hand for after school?

Here are my Favorite Five Baking Recipes..at least for this month!:

1. Chocolate Chip Cookies

2. Brownies

3. Pancakes

4. Sugar Cookies

5. Carrot Muffins

Sit tight…

To my fellow bloggers and visitors: my site will be going through some maintenance in the next day or so. So sit tight and I will be back probably before you even knew I was gone! Thanks so much for all your continued support and I will be back very, very soon…

Tricks and Treats for Halloween and Class Parties

Halloween is only 11 days away; are you ready for the upcoming class parties, parades and endless string of trick or treaters? I’m not either, so now is the perfect time to get the game plan in place, especially for your food allergic child, classmate or neighbor. Most of us know at least one child or adult with a food allergy. Halloween is an excellent time to raise food allergy awareness. Many elementary classes will have a treat filled¬†party and costume parade. Kids will be buzzing doorbells left and right looking for their favorite pieces of candy, maybe even eating some along the way. And even the tween and teen crowds like to get in on the fun through parties and get togethers on their own. Halloween is fun for all these kids and grownups alike, and it doesn’t have to become a nightmare as long as we all remember to keep it safe for everyone.

Over the years I have learned a few tricks on Halloween night and during class parties. Here are a few to get you started.

TOP 5 TIPS FOR TRICK OR TREATING:

1. Pass out non food items, such as stickers, small trinkets, quarters, pencils. It never ceases to amaze me how much my kids love “treasure box” type items.

2. Make even trades for all the candy your child can’t have with candy they can have. In my case, John is allergic to dairy and nuts so that pretty much leaves us with starburst (only certain varieties), dum dum lollipops, the original skittles and smarties.

3. Trade out the entire bag of candy for a Target gift card. This is by far John’s favorite item. Nothing says magic like a Target gift card.

4. Don’t throw out all that candy! Many schools already have programs in place to collect extra candy to donate to nursing homes, women’s shelters, etc. It is a wonderful way to teach your children to give back to others.

5. My favorite trick for Halloween night? FAAN’s Trick or Treat Box. Click on their website in my useful links. Register online and they will send you a free box to collect money for FAAN’s food allergy education and research programs. Last year the trick or treat box program raised more than $25,000. It’s a wonderful way to give back to an organization that has given so much to all of us.

TOP 5 TREATS FOR YOUR HALLOWEEN CLASS PARTIES:

1. Fruit Kabobs: Kids of all ages love food on a stick. Fruit Kabobs are a healthy alternative to other sweets. Alternate pieces of fresh pineapple, strawberry, melon and apple. Or better yet, make it as part of your child’s class activity.

2. Scary Veggie Platter: I¬†will admit, my kids are scared of veggies. But they will dig into veggies that are cut into whimicial shapes and sizes. Get your smallest Halloween cookie cutters, and cut¬† flat sliced pieces of red and yellow pepper, cucumber slices or allergen free bread. Bundle up and tie¬†matchstick sized carrots and celery with a string of chives. The more interesting concoction, the more likely they’ll try it.

3. Root Vegetable Chips: Who doesn’t love¬†chips at a party? A colorful array of beet, parsnip, carrots and sweet potato chips will intrigue your little one. It’s easy: slice them thinly by hand or in your food processor and. Heat vegetable oil to 375 degrees and fry¬†in small¬†batches until crisp,¬†just a few minutes. Drain in paper towels, season to taste.

4. Popcorn Balls: Maybe it is just me, but for some reason I always think of making yummy popcorn balls on Halloween. I remember loving them as a kid, and they are easily portable for parties. Kids love them too, because they are fun to eat! Pop 3 quarts popcorn (I always make my own as the store bought versions often have butter in them) and keep warm in a 200 degree oven; oil a large fork and spoon on hand. Combine 2 c. light corn syrup, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1 T. Cider Vinegar in a medium pot. Heat over medium high until the syrup reaches a hard ball consistency. Remove and add 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Pour over the popcorn carefully and stir with the oiled fork and spoon. Once combinedand cooled shape into 2 inch balls and cool on waxed paper. Wrap in festive tissue, saran wrap with a bow, or set out in a fun holiday bowl.

1. My favorite tip for a class party is NO FOOD! Trust me, they will get more than their fair share during trick or treat time. Make the class party about projects, games, and handing out little gift baggies of trinkets, stickers, spider rings, skull bones, etc.

I’d love to hear if you have any other fun ideas.¬†Enjoy!

My All Time Favorite Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Pumpkin Bread

Tomorrow my daughter’s class is having a Fall Gathering at¬†a local park. We’re serving hot apple cider, coffee, various cookies, caramel apples and my favorite pumpkin recipe; Pumpkin Bread. I am still on the hunt for a delicious milk free caramel apple, and I haven’t¬†perfected the recipe yet. Dairy Free Caramel Apples have to be made at home if you or your child has a milk allergy, as all the store brands I have seen contain milk (and several also contain nuts) If any of you have any ideas to share about how to get the consistency of caramel apples¬†just right, I’d love hear them!

In the meantime, here is the pumpkin bread I am serving tomorrow. It is truly decadent and super easy to make. The recipe makes two loaves; serve one loaf now and freeze the other. It is also a perfect bread to give away to friends, neighbors or teachers.

DAIRY, EGG AND NUT FREE PUMPKIN BREAD

2/3 c. dairy free shortening

2 1/2 c. sugar

4 T. Water

1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1/4 c. orange juice

3 c. all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease two 8 inch loaf pans with dairy free cooking spray.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachement, cream the shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add 4 T. Water and mix until combined. Add pumpkin puree and orange juice and mix well.

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg using a wire whisk. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and mix on low until combined, scraping down sides as needed. Pour into prepared loaf pans and bake one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool thoroughly on a wire rack.

Smashing Pumpkins

No, I’m not talking about the coolest band to ever come out of Chicago. I’m talking about the yummy smashed pumpkin puree that comes in a can. I’ve been opening can after can all week, making whatever pumpkin desserts, breads and muffins I can. Nothing is more comforting to me than the smell of a pumpkin treat baking in the oven.

Pumpkins are the epitome of fall. Yes, they are the token decoration for Halloween, but they also take on many life forms in the kitchen. Its sweet yet mellow flavor is perfect as a filling for ravioli with nothing more than a dairy free butter sage sauce. It can be roasted to heighten its intensity and pureed into a smooth and satisfying soup. But my favorite pumpkin concoctions are cookies, muffins and breads.

It’s¬†cold, wet and dreary here in Chicago this week. I need an extra dose of pumpkin¬†to soothe my soul. So I’ve declared this week as Smashing Pumpkins Week, for the sole purpose of posting a few simple yet delicious pumpkin recipes. They’re also perfect for all the upcoming Halloween celebrations. I’d love to hear how they worked out for you.

DAIRY, EGG AND NUT FREE PUMPKIN COOKIES

1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar

1/2 c. shortening

1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce

1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)

3 c. all purpose flour

1 T. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix sugar, shortening, applesauce and pumpkin thoroughly. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and ginger and stir with a wire whisk.  Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix on low until combined, scraping down sides as needed.

Using a cookie scooper, drop mounds of dough onto baking sheet. Bake 13-15 minutes or until it is just started to brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Frost with Icing (recipe below).

CLASSIC ICING

2 c. confectioners sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. good quality vanilla extract

3-4 T. Soy or Rice Milk (as needed for a thin icing)

Blend all the ingredients together in a medium bowl with a small wire whisk or spoon. Drizzle the pumpkin cookies with the icing or dip each cookie into bowl of icing.

Sabrina’s Law

This is a very difficult post for me to write, because every time I read or hear Sabrina Shannon’s story, it literally stops me in my tracks and I sob, uncontrollably. It is the story of a beautiful and energetic 13 year old girl who suffered a fatal¬†allergic reaction to food eaten in her school cafeteria. Her life may have ended September 20, 2003 but her story goes on here. I am posting a link to an audio¬†documentary that Sabrina made in her bedroom, talking about what it’s like to live with food allergies as a kid. She was funny and articulate, but most of all she made a difference in her school by talking openly about her food allergies.

Parents and loved ones of children who suffer from severe food allergies live in daily fear that what happened to Sabrina may one day take their own child away from them as well. The diagnosis of food allergies is not a choice, but a true medical disability and one that should be taken very seriously by schools. Sabrina’s Law does just that by requiring schools to develop and enforce anaphylaxis¬†management plans for food allergic children.¬† The law was passed in Ontario, Canada, on May 16, 2006, but there are still many states in the U.S. that have yet to pass this important law. ¬†Sabrina’s mom Sara promised her dying daughter that night in September that she would do whatever she could do to prevent this from happening to another food allergic family again. Let’s continue to help Sara keep her daughter’s memory alive by forwarding this link to everyone you know, and to contact your local congressmen and women to pass Sabrina’s Law in your state. Send the link to your school superintendent, school nurses, cafeteria workers and even parents so that more people understand that food allergies is a life or death situation, not just an illness. Schools shouldn’t want this liability and they should want to protect our children.

I have thought of Sabrina nearly every day since I first read her story two years ago. My son, John, is a true gift to me and I would never recover if he died from an¬†allergic¬†reaction.¬†¬†Thanks so much for your support and now follow this link to hear Sabrina’s Story:

http://www.cbc.ca/outfront/webfeatures/sabrina/sab_shell.html

The Best Allergy Friendly Apple Crisp Ever

Anyone who knows me knows two important details; I am ADDICTED to great desserts, and apple crisp is one of my all time favorite recipes. Period. Whether I am in a four star restaurant (OK, more like three star because¬†the cost of a $15/hour babysitter, valet and the meal adds up quickly!)¬†or in a diner (that’s more norm than not) I order one dessert over all others. The apple crisp. In all its quirky variations and presentations it lends itself to be the most perfect dessert creation. Perfectly seasoned tart and crisp apples, dressed ever so slightly with fresh lemon juice, put into a homey casserole dish and blanketed with a¬†crunchy sweet oatmeal topping. Upon exiting the oven, the apples and its natural juices are boiling over onto its protective sheet pan. Like a good roasted turkey or casserole, it needs to sit and rest a while before getting scooped out by a massive spoon. The only way to properly eat an apple crisp, is with Soy Vanilla Ice Cream on the side, of course.

Last week we visited an apple farm in Wisconsin to pick the best, most wonderful apples and better than any you’d find in a supermarket. The very task of teaching your children to properly pick an apple from a tree (by gently twisting the stem, never forcing it) and watching them bite into its natural goodness is something I truly enjoy watching. Though we¬†overstayed our welcome by 30 minutes because we were determining what to do about lunch, the afternoon was nearly perfect. Or as perfect as one can be with an 8, 6, 3 and 2 year old.

Driving home I thought about how best to use these perfect pieces of fruit. And the first thing I made that afternoon was my all time favorite dessert; The Best Allergy Friendly Apple Crisp Ever. Try it out and enjoy. Let me know how it works for you!

THE BEST ALLERGY FRIENDLY APPLE CRISP EVER

6-7 large apples, peeled and cut into 6 wedges (I use a variety of whatever looks best)

1 lemon, rind grated and freshly squeezed

1/2 c. granulated sugar

2 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

TOPPING

1 c. all purpose flour

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1 stick dairy free margarine, chilled and cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 14 oval or 11 x 13 square baking dish with dairy free nonstick cooking spray.

Combine apples with zest, juice sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Pour into prepared dish.

In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients for the topping, flour through margarine using a pastry blender or your fingers. Mixture should resemble the size of peas. Scatter all over the prepared apples.

Put the crisp on a baking sheet and bake for one hour until topping is browned and the apples are bubbling.

Serve warm with your favorite soy ice cream.

Birthday Treats in the Classroom

The thought of birthday treats and unsafe snacks in my son’s classroom gives me a case of the hives. Ok, not literally but I do worry about the chance of something inadvertently getting onto his skin or in his mouth that would trigger a life threatening reaction. Thankfully, most of John’s teachers have been more than accomadating to his needs by enforcing a “peanut free room” policy, and providing parents a list of approved snacks in the classroom. John is in first grade now and we’ve had no issues to date. I credit his teachers enormously for this by taking John’s food allergies seriously and following a treat free policy. However, not everyone believes in this policy and some parents and administrators have gone through great pains to make sure our classes have the freedom of choice in terms of whether or not to allow birthday treats.

The notion of allowing birthday treats in the classroom is outdated and it opens the door of liability for the school. Most importantly, it puts our food allergic children at greater risk of a reaction unneccessarily. It also reinforces the idea that a food allergic child is and should be excluded from traditional birthday or holiday celebrations. At my children’s school I am asked to sign a document that addresses the policies and procedures, and the policies specifically say “no child shall be excluded…”. Um, guess they weren’t thinking about excluding food allergic children from sharing cupcakes, cakes, brownies, candies, etc. during birthday or Halloween celebrations.

Let me be clear, I am not asking for a food ban here. We live in a world that John and many of his food allergic friends have to adapt to and live freely in. I would never ask for a food ban as that is unreasonable; you can’t shield your children forever (although it would be kind of nice). I would prefer that my school adopt a policy that allows birthdays to be celebrated with non food items such as pencils, stickers, or even a book. Aren’t those healthier choices anyway? I have informally surveyed many moms around the school if they would be opposed to a non food policy to be enforced (not just “suggested” as it is at John’s school). Overwhelmingly they all said they would actually prefer a non food celebration at the school. Our kids are more than taken care of at home during their own family and friend parties. Who needs the extra sugar at 2 pm anyway?

I told our superintendent the other day that what I am asking for is a school wide policy that sets the boundaries so there are no gray areas of interpretation. Kids, you can celebrate your birthday at school. Mom and Dad can come in to read a book and pass out fun trinkets if desired. But keep your cupcakes at home to celebrate with your family and friends during your birthday party. Is this unreasonable? I don’t think so. Let me know what you think.