Going “Nutty”: Nut and Peanut Allergies

website nuts

Are we going to have to cancel our trip?

My husband and I didn’t get to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary because I was in labor with my third child, so a few years later, we decided we deserved a weekend away just by ourselves.

Unfortunately as our weekend approached, one night after a gathering with some friends, I was violently ill with GI symptoms.  We figured I must have caught a stomach bug and prayed it was simply a 24 hour sickness.  I did recover, and we were able to leave for our trip.

While away, though, one evening after going out to eat, I began to feel decidedly unwell again and once again had some not so fun symptoms.  We chalked it up, though, to me not waiting long enough after the stomach flu before resuming heavier foods.

After we returned, however, I once again had the same symptoms, only they were even worse this time.  So, being someone who’s had allergies her entire life, I decided to jot down all the foods I had eaten before I was ill, and I discovered that on all three occasions I had eaten something with dairy and almonds.

I made an appointment with my pulmonologist, and lo and behold, I had developed an allergy to both casein and almonds, as well as hazelnuts.  Since I already cooked, baked and ate around an egg allergy and a wheat and sugar sensitivity, I figured it wouldn’t be too much of an issue to add dairy and nuts  to the list of foods to avoid.

The Issues with Having a Nut Allergy

I hadn’t counted on the fact that so many foods I would eat — gluten free breads, soy milks, coconut yogurts, etc… –would be processed on machines that have been contaminated with tree nuts.  Suddenly my eating “world” seemed to shrink and much more of my precious time was being “eaten” up by the constant reading of labels.

The good news for you, if you are only allergic to peanuts or nuts, is that the world acknowledges peanut and nut allergy these days.  Most labels visibly have “may contain traces of peanuts or nuts” or “processed on machines using peanuts or tree nuts” written on the product.

The not so good news is that you really do have to become a label reader, because peanuts and tree nuts find their way into foods you wouldn’t even think of checking.  While it makes sense that items with nuts are to be avoided, you might not think to check your salad dressing, that enchilada sauce you like, the cereal you’ve always eaten, or your favorite pudding, but all of those and more might have peanuts or tree nuts contaminating them.

Some sample phrases that might show up on a label which you wouldn’t know to be a peanut or nut are arachidic acid, hydrolyzed plant protein, mandelonas, marzipan and nougat.  You can find complete lists by googling, and it would be best if you were at least familiar with what’s on those lists and used them to check the labels of anything you’re uncertain about eating.

Peanut Concerns

For folks allergic to peanuts, you should remember that peanuts are legumes, and sometimes people who are allergic to peanuts have problems with other legumes like peas, lentils, beans, soybeans, and etc… or develop an allergy to those items later.  So always be sure to be careful as you eat those foods.

Nut Concerns:

For folks allergic to one type of tree nut, you need to know that almost all nuts processed these days are contaminated by other tree nuts.  So even if you’re just allergic to almonds, the chance of the Brazil nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamias, pistachios, pecans, or cashews you want to eat being contaminated by almonds is quite high.

Peanut Oil

For all folks with either a nut or peanut allergy, if you’re going out to eat, make sure to ask your waiter about sauces and oils used, because peanut oil is a very commonly used restaurant oil.

Mexican Casserole

My middle daughter made this recipe tonight for dinner for the family with store bought peanut/nut free ingredients. 

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon safflower oil

1/2 cup frozen chopped onions

2 zucchini, chopped into 1/2 inch squares

2 carrots, finely chopped

16 ounces 93% lean ground turkey

one 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

1/2 of a 15.5 ounce jar of salsa

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons minced cilantro

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

multi-grain tortilla chips (my daughter used 3/4 of a 9 oz bag)

1/2 cup Tofutti sour cream

10 oz thawed frozen green chopped peppers

second 1/2 of the 15.5 ounce jar of salsa

Cooking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Pour the oil into a large skillet and turn the heat to medium.

3.  Saute the onions, zucchini, and carrots until soft, about five minutes.

4.  Add the ground turkey and saute until browned.  Drain the fat and put into a large bowl.

5.  Add the diced tomatoes, 1/2 of the jar of salsa, oregano, salt, cumin, black pepper, and cilantro.  Mix well.

6.  Mix the green peppers with the sour cream.

7.  Layer a third of the meat mixture in a 9 x 13 pan.

8.  Drop a third of the sour cream/pepper mixture by spoonfuls in rows on top of the meat.

9.  Cover the meat and sour cream with a single layer of tortilla chips.

10.  Repeat the layer of meat, sour cream and tortilla chips two more times.

11.  Drop the remaining 1/2 of the salsa by spoonfuls in rows on top of the last layer of chips .

12.  Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes until the casserole is warm.

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