Tuesday, May 10, 2022

It's been a minute-- but it's Food Allergy Awareness Week



 I'm listening to FARE leaders Anne Thompson and Denise Bunning talk about 25 years of their support group.  Without support-- we are nothing.  And these two women really did the work of writing Food Allergy Plans in schools, and legislation in DC, and generally generating good will and information for all with food allergy.

 We are still working --but kids who have food allergies know they have support and that they are not alone. Life with food allergy is not easy-- but it's SO doable and it's a great way to make friends who will have your back forever.

We still need to navigate food allergies-- but there are so many food options, and so many people who understand the gravity of food allergies these days.

take at look at these websites-- resources galore!



I'll be back with recipes and experiences to share-- there's so much we can share together-- and remember food allergies can be challenge OF COURSE--but it's also an opportunity to show how smart, how resourceful, how powerful we can be --together!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Holiday Thoughts for the Food Allergic Family

You’re doing the final shopping for ______________(insert a Holiday here )and your –mother—aunt—cousin-- calls and says “I’m making strudel for the holiday dessert and I know that Johnny is allergic to nuts, but it really doesn’t taste good without them, so I just wanted you to know.”
You hang up the phone –and (circle one)
A. Scream  B. Cry  C. Laugh D. Shake your head E. All of the above

All of the above is the correct answer – and then you get the baking mix from the cupboard and read about how to make a strudel.

      This is a typical holiday conversation for a food allergic family. We’ve all been there, and we all know what it feels like to NOT be able to make that special family recipe for a holiday meal. Well--as Loretta famously told Ronny in Moonstruck --“Snap out of it!”
This is our life.
      And this is especially true around holiday celebrations when ritual meals, steeped in tradition, are the standard fare. Food allergies can cut us off those traditions, memories—whatever you want to call those remembered moments from our past-- and not allow us to make those dishes.
But we can’t make them.  And neither can my mother or my Aunt Sadie. Instead, I can make a menu that does not include allergens—and no one will know the difference. I can ask Cousin Pesky to bring a green salad—since that would be ‘easier’ for her—and ditch the strudel altogether. I may feel a pinch at giving up a family tradition, but what really makes the meal a tradition is that we gather our family and close friends to share it. That part doesn’t change.
    As parents we must smooth the way for a happy holiday. People may mean well, but don’t have as much practice at keeping our children safe—or people may not want to change their habits. Whichever the case, your child will have a happy and safe holiday because you –and possibly only you—make the effort to prepare and bring a special meal or host a worry-free fete. That you must think ahead, prepare, and possibly reorganize tradition—that is a given in the food allergic household.

But, above all, we must remember that --while the menu may need to change-- the message of these holiday meals does not. 
What we are eating should not be as important as who we are eating it with— as well as the laughter and gusto we bring to the table—no matter if it’s ravioli or rice cakes and jam.
The love, the sharing, the connection are what truly matters and there is no substitute for that.

Happy Thanksgiving!image.png

Friday, October 18, 2019

NEW recipe for Revised--that is Food Allergy Friendly--Gumbo

The weather turned cooler, and all the magazines were starting with Halloween cookies and Thanksgiving sides--- too soon I thought.
So, instead I thought soup or stew --but something new.
And as I leafed through some cookbooks and took a look at what I had in my cabinet, I thought of gumbo.  This version is safe for the Big Eight, plus sesame and is pretty easy to make.

 Chicken Gumbo: Food Allergy Works-style

4-5 chicken thighs with bone and skin
4-5 drumsticks with bone and skin

1 large onion, chopped
5 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1inch rounds

1 28oz  can of diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cans (15 oz cans) kidney beans
1/ 16 oz bag of fraozen diced chopped okra

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
teaspoon File powder(optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions in olive oil in a medium hot pot-- large enough to hold all ingredients
As onions become see-through, add in the chicken and turn up heat to medium high/high
--be careful of flying spatters as the chicken skin will pop.
Brown the chicken on all sides-- about 15 minutes total

Add in the diced tomatoes with a slotted spoon--reserve the juice
Turn heat to medium high 
Add in carrots
Add in file powder, salt and pepper -- I'm generous on the pepper

Let this simmer together for 10-15 minutes, adding in the tomato reserve liquid at intervals

Add in the okra and bay leaves and simmer for another 10 minutes

Chicken should be getting very soft--
Stir a number of times and keep simmering another 10 minutes or until chicken is nearly falling off bone

Add in kidney beans and stir
Simmer for another 10 minutes and then turn off heat

Keep on stove, with pot cover tilted to let heat escape

Stir occasionally to mix it all up

Serve with rice or safe bread for your family 

This meal keeps in the refrigerator --and deepens in flavor-- for a couple of days.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Email your Food Allergy Frustrations!

So, last month, I finally got fed up-- pun intended!-- with the NYTimes Food section which never acknowledges food allergies, much less publishes anything about them.
  Actually, that's not true-- last year there was an excellent article on food labels and how crazy-making they are, with "may contain"and "processed not he same line as" and "made in the same facility as"-- you know what I'm talking about.

 THAT article was really good, but in general no mention is made of allergens or reactions or substitutions for even common ingredients like nuts of dairy.

So, I sat down and composed an email to the writer Melissa Clark--whose recipes I always like. But, more importantly, I have always liked the upbeat "voice" in her writing and the acceptance of real world constraints, like time, affordability, accessibility of items as well as how difficult the dish is to make.  In general, I always like Melissa Clark's columns.
  So I wrote to her, noting that I was not a nutcase--but acknowledging that nutcases often say they are not crazy.  And, I laid out my beef [yes, pun intended]: Why didn't the NYTimes ever acknowledge food allergies or food allergic people when 15 million of the eating public deals with food allergies every day.

I wrote one morning, never expecting an answer-- but I got one a day later-- and, her response was lovely. She noted that food allergies must be hard to live with, understood my frustrations, and vowed to tell her editor that food allergies matter.

Of course, over the next couple of weeks Clark published [unintentionally of course] two recipes that were safe for my family to eat! I immediately wrote to tell her; and again received a lovely email back, hoping we would enjoy the meals she had published the recipes for. 
[We did.] --and a note here: my family is dealing with the Big 8 plus sesame--so the recipe jungle is a little more complicated to navigate than if we had only a couple to cook around.  [Not that even a couple is easy--especially when milk, wheat and nuts seem to be the extra added deliciousness in every dish conceived!]

So, while there have been no more allergen-acknowledged recipes, I do feel that people listen, people are concerned and can be educated--if we persist and push the conversation forward--always with a smile.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Sample Food Allergy Letter to School Nurse -

 Sample Food Allergy Letter to School Nurse-- Preliminary to Meeting

Dear Ms. Y:

I wanted to touch base with you as these health forms are returned since CXX, my son, has severe, but controlled food allergies. I hope that what I've sent along doesn't feel like overkill-- I felt that you should have a variety of ways to put the information in your files.

I would like to come in and talk to you about CXX's allergies and hand over medications--whatever date is convenient for your schedule.  Our pediatrician, MXX, is available for further information if necessary and has told me that CXX will be in very capable hands at Independent School.

Thank you for your time and please feel free to call me at 877-4724.


Jody Falco
(re: CXX, Kindergarten 98-99)


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Split Pea soup-- Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving here and gone-- we had a blast with family, friends, and the occasional near-disaster--like my setting a pie on fire in the broiler-- but at least it was hot! Or the fact that my oven konked out: BUT the turkey and ham were cooked.
 And, speaking of ham....
Yesterday I got a bag of split peas-- I use GOYA brand. 
I chopped up a small onion, three small carrots and threw these into a 6-8 oz pot with the ham bone. 
I let this sizzle on high heat for about 10-15 minutes, turning it a lot,  so nothing burned.  The fat from the ham will help the vegetables soften.
  Then when the smell is very delicious and the ham looks browned-- pour in 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. 
Add an entire 16 oz bag of split peas, bring to boil again, then turn down to a simmer.
Let simmer for  30 minutes, then pepper to taste, and add a bay leaf should you wish; sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.
 Stir frequently, and cook for another  30 minutes -- or until the peas are soft and soup starts to become thick.
  Ham --whatever little was left on the shank--should be falling off bone.
Again, add pepper to taste.

And there you go--
It's free of all major allergens-- but I know some folks can't eat legumes.
And, we sometimes have it with cornbread [made without milk or eggs]--but then, it's not wheat free.

However-- this soup is hearty, great for cold weather and delicious all on its own.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

FARE TEEN SUMMIT and FARECon coming up!

As always, I am looking forward to seeing my 'people" at the Teen Summit! I hear it's 500 strong for the kids this year-- which is tenfold from when it started over 10 years ago! which is great!
There's so many great symposia from:
Innovation Tank-- where teens share their very creative ideas for products to help themselves and others in this food allergy world-- to industry experts trying to answer our questions about cross contamination on food lines and why ingredients change year to year.

But, as always, the greatest part is the community.  The give and take and TALK among the parents about how DO you send food to Camp.  Or make a gluten free eggless birthday cake that travels well. or how to ask relatives to NOT make anything unsafe-- or simply laughing at your worst flops-- like that cake I made that literally was liquid inside... ewww.

 And the sounds of happy kids finding friends for the weekend or BFFs who share not only food allergies-- but interests in music and clothes and dating and video games and sports and rebellion and school and reading and --well, you get the point! Food Allergies are there-- but they ain't the only thing in the room!
We always say:
We're All In This TOGETHER!
Hope to see you in DC!

And--Happy Halloween-- stockpile those Smarties and Twizzler packets and lots of stickers to hand out! Or get ready with change to "ransom" your kid's milk, nut and other unsafe booty! Have a safe and fun time--

More for Thanksgiving and a FARECon sum-up, next time!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Sporting Events--REDUX!

I misspoke.
When I was noting that there was only one option at the USOpen Tennis in New York, I had not researched fully.
Actually-- At this year's USOpen there are two fabulous salads from ANGRY TACO [ no clue about that name] which were delicious, fresh and loaded with interesting vegetables. 
Crunchy asparagus tips, wax beans, green beans, toasted pumpkin seeds, baby spinach, radishes and either chicken strips with a light chipolte rub or beef strips with lots of salt. 
These were available at all locations-- and were made carefully with no cross-contamination!
  So, actually there was selection --and wonderful, if hot, tennis to watch.

I'm looking for the correct Open food service team/ department to contact to offer my appreciation and comments.
Glad I could update. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Sporting Events-- again!

US OPEN Tennis

This event-- which I love-- comes to my town and takes over--it seems every third person is carrying a racket and wearing tennis whites.  My son and I love to go and wander all the courts for these sweltering last days of August into early September.  Such amazing athletes to watch and such a lovely atmosphere to enjoy... but really really hard to find some safe options to eat!

Yesterday, there was exactly one option-- a lovely salad with veggies and grilled chicken [Farm to Fork].  But one item, from a regular menu, that was safe. 
AND-- let me say that I am GRATEFUL for that one safe option! ***
Sigh... at least there are always safe fries!

I just want to get it out there that sporting events can be tough. Again, it takes planning, and supervision, and that willingness to ask, observe, and WAIT. 

That's how it often goes-- at the burger concession, you can ask that they give you the burger only--no bread, no condiments, and you can wait for that-- but I mean WAIT. It's just that anything different for a food court operation is difficult and needs to be addressed individually-- and there are  literally hundreds of people waiting.
  Of course, in past, I have waited for that burger, and I am grateful for that one option, for that server who takes the time to give me a plain burger.

 But of course, I'm human, and after 25 years, I want my kid to have options, to have a selection, to be able to feel safe easily, without picking through the salad to make sure there's no cheese.

But push through we must, and try to prioritize the good things, the happiness at being together at a great arena or event.  Knowing that  your kid's "I got this" attitude is going to buoy them for their whole lives, not just through food allergies at the US Open.

 ***And, possibly a brisket sandwich, from Hill Country BBQ.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Food Allergy Conference and Teen Summit


let's remember the Teen Summit-- which has community plus lots of good stuff to learn and share.

see you there!


Thursday, June 21, 2018

it has been a while...

It has been a while; I've been distracted, though not with food allergies issues which can arise all the time!
Big news for our "mothership" organization is the new CEO Lisa Gable.  Can't wait to meet her at the Teen Summit which is incorporated into FARECon
 I'll be there!

Summertime is finally here and I've been experimenting in the kitchen with some easy ways to make summery foods like pasta salads and the like.
 For my last pasta salad-- I use Luigi Vitelli farfalle-- I roasted thinly sliced red and yellow peppers, zucchini [green and yellow] and onions, and halved cherry tomatoes,  on a cookie sheet with olive oil and salt and pepper.  High heat-- about 450-- for approximately 30 minutes.

Boil the pasta-- I like it a little "al dente" which is not crunchy but not mushy, and mince some garlic and toss it into the bowl when the pasta is done.

Add in the veggies and toss gently-- season with some fresh basil if you'd like or nothing at all-- viola!
  This dish is delicious warm or at room temperature-- so a good picnic or outdoor meal food.

More to come, as my coast finally acts like it's summer [today is the first day of that season].

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

New Recipe: Lamb Meatballs, Spicy and Allergy-Free

HI folks--
Just a recipe this time--one I adapted from the New York Times at that. My family enjoyed these as a Sunday afternoon snack-- without a cooling cucumber salad (recipe below)which might be good if these are served for lunch or dinner. The browning process helps keep the meatball from becoming too greasy when they've cooled down.  So, snacking or putting out for a picnic is possible.

1 pound ground lamb
1/3 cup Gluten Free breadcrumbs-- or PANKO if gluten is allowed
1-2 Tbsp of olive oil
3 garlic cloves chopped
1 tsp kosher salt, to taste
4 Tbsp golden raisens

1 tsp cumin seeds-- grind if you'd like-- I don't
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup[ chopped parsely
1/2 cup chopped mint leaves

Put all in mixing bowl and mix by hand
Form small -- little smaller than a ping pong ball-- meatballs

Brown well-- giving room around them-- in a frying pan on medium high
Turn so all sides get browned.
When browned on all sides, turn heat to medium, and put a cover on the pan-- but TILTED-- not fit on tightly, so that steam escapes.

Cook for about 6-8 minutes.

Cucumber Salad-- a refreshing side for these meatballs

2 European cucumber washed and sliced thinly
If using regular cucumbers, use 3, and peel skin in stripes for color, 
Slice thinly.

Dress these cucumbers with:
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
Blend together, until sugar and salt melted,
pour over cucumbers and let it steep for an hour or so-- stirring gently a few times.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Homemade EASY candy

I have found a way to cheat on making homemade candy for my food allergic folks.
It's easy -=- but it helps to have the right "equipment"-- which in this case is:

  •  WILTON's ceramic candy melting cups-- available at Michael's crafts stores/ Joann's for under $12.00.  
  • Vermont Nut Free semisweet chocolate chips [in baking products section]
  • Vermont Nut Free dark chocolate candies [coins are what I use]
  • mini cupcake liner cups -- I like the foil ones
  • mini cupcake baking pan-- OPTIONAL 

So, I set up the little gold foil cup liners in my mini-cupcake pan. Then I melted the two kinds of chocolate together, exactly as the directions on the Melting Cups said.
While the chocolates were melting, I put a mini marshmallow or two in each foil cup-- it actually cuts the sweetness.  When the chocolate was pourable, I poured enough to half-way full for each foil cup-- and put it all in the fridge.
About an hour later... handmade, homemade candy-- which everyone loved.  and the gold foil cupcake holders (minis) made the treat a little more fun.

Happy Easter!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Birthday party experiments

So-- my young man is about to turn 25 and we are hosting a party for him,
Obviously, he is old enough now-- unlike in grade school-- to have a say in every part of the planning. [Except the secret silly things I am doing, like making buttons with his picture on them!]

So, we have discussed that many of the party platters are not for him--pates  Cheeses. However, I did make special beef tenderloin skewers with garlic and mustard and chicken skewers in lemon and capers. Those too will be surprise, I hope.

But he knows there will be Italian prosciuttos and cotto ham, sopressata and salame that he can have as well as lots of crudite-- for which I plan a special black bean and salsa dip, instead of ranch or sour cream and dill.  He wanted 'elegant' appetizers and not chips et al  that usually accompany the words 'Millennial' and "party."

So-- the birthday cake-- should there be a cake for an open house type party? Hmmm-- his cakes have always been delicious but definitely homemade looking.  Not only am I a pretty useless baker, but there can be no dairy, no eggs, no wheat, no nuts --which comes together into a charming but very low cake.  I won't say flat... but low. 
  So, I've been experimenting. 
    First, mini-cupcakes: well the lemon ones came out OK.. but not great, At least they rose over the top of the paper holders.  Unlike the chocolate ones which basically refused to rise, then sunk into themselves as they cooled.
Stuck all of that  in the freezer for a rainy day snack.
  Then I had the brilliant idea of brownie bites!  So I made the delicious Glutino double fudge brownie mix, gently spooned it into mini-cupcake pans and baked....
Wellllll, not exactly a slam dunk. 
  The brownies looked good-- just like little bites of chocolately goodness.  Brownies don't have to rise and have a little peak that you can frost at the top-- so that was great.  But-- and this is a big 'but'-- these brownies wouldn't pop out of the paper cupcake cups.  They just stuck in there. I froze them, hoping it would help... it didn't. In fact, made it worse-- couldn't even dig it out with a spoon.
Those went into the garbage-- after I struggled and  consoled myself with a few.
    Third, I tried chocolate chip cookie mix.  I use, and always have, CherryBrook Farms Gluten Free mix.  It's easy and delicious and requires only vanilla and margarine and some water.  So totally safe,
This time: A winner!  The batter rose over the mini cups and held their shape after they cooled. They looked adorable-- and tasted delicious.  Yay; They froze well [don't want to be cooking
day of the party] and came out of the paper wrappers with ease! Double Yay!

So,along with the Italian antipasto, and the Prosecco and Champagne, there will be chocolate chip minis to enjoy-- And lots of friends to raise a glass and celebrate!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Holidays and Leftovers

Holidays are in full swing. Lots of homemade treats our kids can't eat, and lots of cooking on our parts so they can have something delicious.
Here's a new recipe --born out of leftovers from a party we had.
The spinach --tons of it-- was the "nest" for a lovely crudite presentation (in a crate, very nice). As I was dismantling after the guests had left, I noticed, as I put all the peppers aside to make stir fry, I noticed that the "nest" was all baby spinach. Two huge bags full--
I rinsed it all and set it aside to dry.

Then I sauteed garlic in some olive oil, with a few diced tomatoes --I used canned-- and let it cook for about 10 minutes.  Then I added stock [ShopRite boxed stock, without wheat or whey or any allergens at all and made in a safe facility] and let it simmer for about 10 more minutes.
Then I added pepper-- lots of shakes-- and a 15 oz can of chick peas [ cannellini beans will do nicely as well].  In about 5 minutes I stirred in handful after handful of that baby spinach.  I let it wilt in the broth, seasoned for taste. and Viola--dinner.

And we where live it's been about 15 degrees-- so a warm easy soup -- I had some safe Italian bread I had made-- makes a wonderful welcoming meal. And not wasting the spinach made me feel good, and so easy.
 Enjoy-- and a happy safe new year to all.