Getting Easier to Eat at Restaurants with Food Allergies!

"We've come a long way, baby!" was my thought recently when we settled in to a lunch at a nearby Red Robin. As soon as we said "food allergy", we were given an electronic tablet with their fully customizable Allergen Menu

Awesome!

I couldn't help thinking back to another lunch with my food allergic child 12 years earlier. A lunch we walked out of before our food was served. This was after the waitress came back to our table and burst into tears, saying the kitchen staff was making fun of food allergies and hinting that they may "do something" to the meal we ordered. 

Seriously, this really happened.

Now, restaurants are on the hook for taking food allergies seriously. Legislation in several states, such
as Virginia, Rhode Island and Massachusetts require food allergy training for restaurant employees. While there is not a national mandate for restaurants, work continues on the local and state levels to make restaurants accountable when notified of food allergies. Right now, it's still often a hit-or-miss prospect when eating out.

That's why I am so happy to see that  AllergyEats, has released its 2015 list of Most Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Chains nationwide.  These chains have the highest ratings on the AllergyEats’ website and smartphone app, which is based on feedback from the food allergy community about how restaurants accommodated food-allergic diners. 

And the winners are:

Most allergy-friendly large chains (50 or more restaurants):
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill (4.41 rating)
  • P.F. Chang’s China Bistro (4.39 rating)
  • Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (4.39 rating)
  • Outback Steakhouse (4.32 rating)
  • Mellow Mushroom (4.29 rating)
 
Most allergy-friendly small chains (fewer than 50 restaurants):
  • Maggiano’s Little Italy (4.74 rating)
  • Burtons Grill (4.69 rating)
  • Legal Sea Foods (4.64 rating)
  • Joe’s American Bar & Grill (4.63 rating)
  • Not Your Average Joe’s (4.63 rating)
I'm thrilled to see some of our favorites on here. Overall, though, we've found that with proper planning- talking to manager/chef in advance, bringing a chef card to the restaurant and clearly explaining what is needed for a safe meal- many restaurants today are quite accommodating and well-educated. 

Where have you eaten recently?

For more information, or to rate or search restaurants, please visit www.AllergyEats.com. 
Please note that I am not endorsing any particular restaurant and I encourage those with food allergies to talk to their doctor about the risks of dining in restaurants.

Auvi-Q Coupon

Auvi-Q Coupon
Sanofi has announced that they are continuing their Zero dollar co-pay program for the Auvi-Q, which will benefit most insured patients. This is great news for many who need to carry this life-saving medical device. The program runs through December 31, 2015. If you're not familiar with the Auvi-Q, check out their FAQ's to learn more. 
And, if you're looking for some trendy ways to carry epinephrine, my friend Caroline at Grateful Foodie has a fantastic write-up about EpiPen, Allerject, & Auvi-Q cases and skins products from Carry-Nine. There will be no excuse for kids and teens, or anyone for that matter, to leave their life-saving epinephrine at home.

Zero Dollar Co-Pay for EpiPens!

I'm thrilled to share that Mylan has extended their $0 co-pay plan until Dec. 31, 2015. I know this makes the difference for many families between not having epinephrine easily accessible and having the life-saving medication their family needs. Thank you to Mylan for helping families! 

Go to epipen.com and activate your card now. While you're on the site, check out some of the other resources, like "Have a Plan" and personal stories to share
with others. 

And don't forget, practice with expired pens by plunging them into an orange or grapefruit (or lemon!) so that everyone sees and hears what to expect when using an Epipen. You can drop off the used pen to your allergist or other doctor for disposal.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Recipe


Leftover zucchini? No problem! At the end of the zucchini harvest, I throw all the leftovers in the food processor and shred it. I then measure out two-cup portions and put in containers to be used in my favorite chocolate cake recipe. 

Sshhh...there's no need to tell the kids about the nutritious benefits of the zucchini- let them eat cake!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

• 1/2 cup canola oil

• 1 1/2 cups white sugar

• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 cup liquid (water, rice milk, soy milk)

• 2 cups shredded zucchini



1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan (or two 9 inch pans).

2.  In a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, 1/2 cup cocoa, baking soda and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Add one cup of liquid. Fold in the zucchini. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

3.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until cake springs back when gently touched.



• To make frosting, melt together 6 tablespoons of cocoa and 1/4 cup margarine (Fleischmann's unsalted margarine sticks are dairy free, but contain soy at this writing); set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, blend together 2 cups confectioners' sugar, 1/4 cup liquid (water, rice milk, soy milk) and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in the cocoa mixture. Spread over cooled cake before cutting. 
*Sometimes I throw in some dairy-free chocolate chips into the batter for a Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Cake with Chocolate Frosting (I like to see how often I can use the word "chocolate" in the recipe title:)
Enjoy!



Great Product for Eczema!

I remember it well. My baby's constant scratching; the marks raked up and down the newborn skin; the blood droplets on the sheets and pillowcases in the morning. Eczema is tough to figure out and treat- especially for a baby or young child. 

I love the Flip Mitten Sleeve from Scratch-Me-Not! It so soft and, well, quite brilliant. No matter how short we cut our baby's fingernails, it wasn't short enough. By covering the fingers, with the soft mitten, there will be less damage to the skin from constant scratching and picking. The sleeve is worn across the shoulders so babies and little ones can't easily remove it. Lotions and ointments stay put when the sleeve is on. 

There is a 15% discount on their website when you subscribe to the Scratch-Me-Not newsletter, so take a look to see if their products may help may life a little less itchy.

Disclosure: I received a free sample of this product to review. I was not pressured to give a positive review, but I really think it's a great product, so I did:)

Food Allergy Recipe Books Now Electronic

I have long credited Linda Coss with teaching me how to bake great allergy friendly cookies, waffles, pancakes, desserts and more. My copies of her books, What's to Eat and What Else is to Eat are stained and dog-eared due to overuse. That's why I was so excited to hear from Linda that her books are now available as e-books at Amazon.com, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and most other major e-book retailers! It will be far easier to wipe off a batter splatter from my screen than from a paper page:) If you need to cook and bake without dairy, eggs or peanuts, these recipes are for you.

Linda has kindly allowed me to share two of my family's favorites from her books to celebrate their electronic release. Enjoy!

Wheat Germ Baking Powder Biscuits

These biscuits are a little sweeter and a little healthier than my basic Baking Powder Biscuit.


Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 12 minutes
Makes 15 (2-inch diameter) biscuits.

  • 1-2/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ (i.e. buy the variety called “toasted”)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a 1- or 2-cup measuring cup, mix the water and oil together; add to dry mixture and mix well.
 Knead dough 20 to 25 times on a floured board. Roll the dough on a floured board until it is 1⁄2-inch thick. Using a cookie cutter or an overturned glass, cut dough into 2-inch circles; place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until done. Serve hot, with honey, jam, or dairy-free margarine.
Reprinted with permission from “What’s to Eat? The Milk-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free Food Allergy Cookbook” by Linda Marienhoff Coss, www.FoodAllergyBooks.com.
 

Spaghetti and Meatball Soup

Okay, I’ll admit it – this doesn’t actually call for spaghetti, because when I tested the recipe with spaghetti noodles the pasta kept falling off the spoon. But “spiral pasta and meatball soup” just didn’t sound as good!


Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Makes 4 servings (about 1-1/3 cups each).

  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans dairy- and egg-free fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth (3-1/2 cups broth)
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 of a small brown onion
  • 3 large cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/2 pound extra lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (8 ounce) package dairy-, egg-, and nut-free spiral pasta
Place chicken broth, tomato sauce, oregano, basil, sage, thyme, and pepper in a 4-quart pot; mix well. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered.
 Peel and chop onion; you should have 1/4 cup. Peel garlic and press through garlic press. Set aside.
 Place ground meat, parsley, and seasoned salt in a medium mixing bowl; mix well. Form mixture into 1/2-inch-diameter mini meatballs. Heat olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.
 Add meatballs and cook, occasionally stirring gently, until browned on all sides, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove meatballs from skillet and add to simmering soup. Add prepared onion and garlic to skillet and sauté over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until onions are soft, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove onions and garlic from skillet and add to soup. Add pasta to soup. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes or until pasta is cooked, stirring once or twice during cooking time. Serve hot.
Reprinted with permission from “What Else is to Eat? The Dairy-, Egg- and Nut-Free Food Allergy Cookbook” by Linda Marienhoff Coss, www.FoodAllergyBooks.com.


Ready2Go With Food Allergies


Have you heard about the new campaign? Pro-football player Adrian Peterson has teamed up with Mylan to talk about his food allergies and his anaphylaxis action plan in a new campaign, Ready2Go. Check out his video for inspiration and then let you kids upload their own 30 second video to share with Adrian. Three winners will be chosen and those kids will get to make an educational film with Adrian. 
This is such a cool way to show kids that adults and famous people have to deal with avoiding certain foods due to allergies and also need to carry life-saving medications. Hurry! The draft closes on July 15, 2014.
Adrian Peterson of Minnesota Vikings


It's Easter Time!



The commercialized aspect of Easter revolves around chocolate and bunnies (made of chocolate) and eggs (hard-boiled or made of chocolate and filled with peanut butter) and marshmallow chicks (that now carry an allergen label warning of possible contact with dairy). This time of year can be a minefield of mishaps and misunderstandings when food allergies are involved- especially for young children. 

Here are a few of my favorites ways to celebrate the treat part of this holiday:


Happy Easter!


Six Food Allergy Happenings You May Have Missed Over the Holidays



New Year's Eve
So, the decorating and present buying and singing of Auld Lang Syne is done. While you've been enjoying the holiday season with family and friends, here are a few items related to food allergies that you may have missed:
Epi Injectors
  • The date has been set for the 2nd Annual 2014 Food Allergy Bloggers Conference. Start saving your frequent flier miles for a trip to Las Vegas Sept. 26-28.
  • Mylan is extending their $0 copay for EpiPens through 2014. Go to Epipen.com for details.
  • Sanofi is also extending their $0 copay program for Auvi-Q  through 2014. Go to their website for details.
  • The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Team has formed to educate, advocate, and raise awareness for all individuals and families affected by food allergies and life-threatening anaphylaxis. 
  • KFA is offering a free webinar on 504 Plans and Individualized Halthcare plans. Sign up for the January 14 event and learn how laws protect food allergic students.
  • FARE has partnered with Research Match to help connect patients with food allergy studies.
 Did I miss anything? My mind may still be a bit fuzzy after too
Chocolate Chip Cookies
much "sparkling cider" and too many holiday cookies....


Debunking Food Allergy Myths

There has been some great information coming out of last week's Conference of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). One of the speakers, Dr.  David Stukus, presented on the outdated information related to allergies that still circulates. Among the myths:
  • "I can't get the flu shot because I'm allergic to eggs."
  • "I'm allergic to food dyes."
  • "I can take an at-home blood test to find out which foods I'm allergic to."
  • Avoid giving highly allergenic foods to babies for their first 12 months of life.
It is difficult to stay on top of the latest research, but it is important for families to be aware of the changing conversations about food allergies. Reach out to your allergist if you have any questions about how to manage food allergy. You can read the complete news release of Dr. Stukus's presentation here.

Dairy Free Dark Chocolate

ShareI do enjoy dark chocolate. I like that slight bitter to the sweet and there are so many health benefits (doesn't it help you lose weight, sleep better, give you more energy and make you resistant to all illness and disease?:)

I was thrilled when Enjoy Life recently asked if I wanted to try their new dairy-free dark chocolate chips. I thought dark chocolate would need to stay out of my family dairy-free recipes, but those days are now over. These dark chocolate chips are dairy-free and delicious...especially in my dark chocolate chip cookies. I love a product with two ingredients- in this case unsweetened chocolate and cane sugar. That's it! So simple. There's a coupon on the Enjoy Life homepage for their products. Print it before heading to the grocery store.