Food Allergies and Store Bought Products

website brownies

“It’s not fair.”

My son is at that age – you know the one – where everything is “unfair”.  If he doesn’t get what he wants, “It’s unfair.”  If things don’t go as planned, “It’s unfair.” If his older sisters get to do something he’s too young to do, “It’s unfair.”  If people around him have something he doesn’t, “It’s unfair.”

And unfortunately for him, “it’s unfair” that he doesn’t have very sympathetic parents or older sisters.

“Sorry, life’s not always fair, kiddo,” is what he gets from his father.

“Life’s not fair; get used to it,” is what his oldest sister says.

“I learned life isn’t fair; you need to learn it, too,” is what his other sister tells him.

And from his mother, the poor child gets, “Where in the world did you ever get the notion that life is supposed to be fair?  No matter what they tell you in school, life is not about fairness.  It’d be nice if it was, but it’s not.  So, get over it.”

Ideally, we’d live in a world that is “fair”, meaning that all the rules would be consistent without any universal partialities and obstacles to life.  It’s not the case, however, and quite frankly, I think “it’s unfair” that there are people like myself who are allergic to so many foods that it prevents us from being able to enjoy eating whatever we want when we want.

Just because it is unfair, though, doesn’t mean we have no options.  The question I get most frequently from folks is “What is out there for me to eat in terms of store bought items?”And the answer is “plenty”.

Just to name a few:

1.  Gluten Free Breads:  Udi’s, Kinnikinnick, Whole Foods, Rudi’s, Food for Life, EnerG, and Glutino all make breads which are you can choose from.  Try different brands.  Try different varieties of bread from the same company.  You may find that you like a variety of the brands.  You may find you only like one type of bread from one company.  You will, however, find something that you do like.  I can tell you that if you’re looking for a bread that tastes like a “regular” bread, that Rudi’s multigrain bread is one that even my children will eat.

2.  Dairy Free Yogurts:  Trader Joe’s, Silk, and So Delicious are actual dairy free yogurts that I’ve tried.  You have to be careful, because even yogurts that are “soy” still might have dairy in them, so for example, O’Soy yogurts are not dairy free, though they are “mostly” free of dairy.  But there are others besides the three above like Whole Soy and Co, Wildwood, Ricera, and Amande.  If you used to be a “regular” yogurt eater, you may have to try a bunch to find one that has the consistency and taste you like.  I prefer the So Delicious brands myself.

3.  Almost everything free Chocolate:  Enjoy Life, Chocolate Gelt, Premium Chocolatiers, Amanda’s Own Confections, Divvies, and Sweet Williams are just a few companies that make chocolates which are dairy free, nut free, egg free, soy free, gluten free, and peanut free for those of us who have too many allergies to count.  I’m eternally grateful to all these companies!  I do tend to buy the Enjoy Life products, though, because their products are readily available in most grocery stores these days for reasonable prices (as compared to other brands like them, not as compared to “regular” chocolate).

4.  Store bought Cookies:  Lucy’s, Pamela’s, Kinnikinnick, Enjoy Life, Schars, Barbara’s, and Home Free are some companies that make “everything free” cookies.  I really like the Home Free double chocolate cookies and Pamela’s ginger cookies.  I tend to prefer a crisper cookie, though.  If you prefer a soft cookie, Enjoy Life makes those, but I personally find them rather pasty.  Mi-Del, Glutino, and Tate’s makes gluten free cookies which aren’t necessarily dairy, egg, or nut free.

5.  Dairy Free Gluten Free Pizza:  Amy’s Kitchen and Bold Organics makes dairy free and gluten free pizzas.  Tofutti’s makes a vegan pizza.  My favorite is Amy’s Kitchen rice crust dairy free pizza.  It tastes almost like “real” frozen pizza.

6.  Dairy Free “Milk” Products:  Earth Balance, Shedd’s, Olivio, Nutive, and Silk all make dairy free “butters”, “milks” and creamers whether it’s using soybeans, almonds, coconut, rice or other ingredients.  Daiya, Go Veggie, Toffuti, and Follow Your Heart make cheese which is actually dairy free.  You have to be careful, because as with the yogurts, a lot of the “shreds” do have casein in them even though they may not have “milk” in them.  So be sure to read labels if you find a brand that’s not one of the above.

7.  Non-dairy frozen desserts:  Rice Dreams, Luna and Larry’s, So Delicious, Tofutti, Double Rainbow, Almond Dream, and Purely Decadent all make “ice creams” which are dairy and/or gluten free and/or soy free.  Tofutti also makes “ice cream” sandwiches and other novelty desserts.  What’s great these days is that I can find most of these brands at grocery stores in our area!     

8.  Store bought canned/processed foods:  If you have food allergies, you’re a label reader. You have to be because your life is at stake.  If you go to http://www.eatallergyfree.com/index.html?c=Main.GetPreparedFoods though you can find a list of soups, snacks, crackers, cookies, etc… with specific notes about certain “regular” store bought foods which tend to be gluten, dairy, nut, egg, shellfish, etc… free.  While you don’t want to give up reading labels for yourself, it’s helpful to know where you can begin your search, though, for foods you can most likely eat from the store.

9. Cereals:  If you like a nice bowl of cereal in the morning that’s a brand you know, General Mills makes a gluten free Chex, Kellogg’s makes Rice Crispies, and Post makes Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles.  If you don’t mind trying other brands, Enjoy Life, Nature’s Path, Arrowhead Mills, Kashi, and Glutino all have some gluten free cereals.

Dairy Free Gluten Free Soy Free Brownies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Gluten Free flour mix

1/3 cup Hershey’s special dark unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 tsp gluten free baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup Enjoy Life allergen free mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup Earth Balance Soy Free “butter” or coconut oil, melted and cooled

1/2 cup Agave or 1 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp gluten free vanilla

2 eggs or 2 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 6 tbsp water

Baking Instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 7 x 11 pan with If You Care parchment paper.  (You can use an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9, too.  Just remember that it will affect the thickness and therefore, maybe your baking time.)

2.  Mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt well with a whisk until there are no clumps of the gluten free flour.

3.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Set aside.

4.  Mix the butter or coconut oil, agave or coconut sugar, vanilla, and eggs or flaxseed mixture. until well blended.

5.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet and combine until they are well mixed.

6.  Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.  The brownies will be pulling away from the sides and mostly firm to the touch.

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.