Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW, Psychotherapist; Specialist in Food Allergy Management, Speaking At Mylan Specialty / EpiPen Event (© Noel Malcolm 2013)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Allergen-Free Marshmallows

Oh marshmallows.

I’ve previously extolled the virtues of fluff on this allergic girl blog, and vegan fluff at that.

Now we have allergen-free marshmallows from AllerEnergy and Miss Roben’s aka Allergy Grocer.

They were so good I gobbled them down before I could even take a picture of the sample! [NOTE: these goodies are NOT vegan nor processed sugar-free]

From Jay: “We have started producing these marshmallow “treets”, crème, and marshmallows in response to our customers who can’t find a suitable substitute. They are all Feingold acceptable. All are free of all top 8 allergens, gluten, corn, potato, sesame, sulfite's, GMO’s, & artificial colors or flavors.”

Can I just say "Yay!" again?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Allergic to Shampoo

As I mentioned in this Allergic Girl cosmetic allergies post, my favorite shampoo, Keraste, changed their formula. They added more fragrance (more?!) which made it unusable for this allergic girl.

Of course, I didn't know any of this when I purchased it after my last haircut. It wasn't until I was in the shower and using the product that I realized I was in shampoo-hell.

I went back to the hair salon to return it and let them know I was not happy with the change. As it’s now discontinued, they couldn’t exchange it for the old one--there were no old bottles left.

That is until the very clever woman behind the counter said, “The bottles in the back are the old formula. I could sell you that one, minus the price of the bottle you are returning.”

OK, the bottle is huge! These are the bottles the salon uses when they wash the customer's hair. But for a bit of an investment, a mega bottle of my favorite shampoo is now all mine... I have shampoo for two years!

So that problem was solved for the time being.

But the larger issue, the larger question remains: What do you do when your favorite cosmetic product runs out? The product that you've found doesn't make your scalp itch, your eyes water or your nose run? Do you stock up? Do you make do? Do you write the manufacturer begging for one last tube?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Gluten-Free Summer Camp

A friend of Dairy-Free Dessert Diva Fran Costigan sent this along. Perhaps some of you with food intolerant and food allergic girls looking for a summer camp might be interested.

From JoAnn: “A fabulous opportunity is presenting itself for the first time in the Midwest. A wonderful established residential camp is offering a special session this summer that will serve food that is gluten-free, peanut-free and dairy-free. I will be working with them to develop the menu and working to make it as whole-foods and kid-friendly as the budget will allow.

The camp, Wildwood, is located just south of Kansas City. Last year one of my children attended this camp and had a great time. We were pleased with the quality of staff and the facilities, but the food was typical camp food. This year, they are working with us to trial a session where the kitchen will be dedicated gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, egg-free. The food will be entirely plant-based and emphasizing fruits, vegetables, beans, corn, rice, and other gluten-free grains. If this session is popular, it may be expanded next year to include boys.

So pass this on to everyone you know who may be looking for a wonderful residential camp experience for their girls and would appreciate this higher quality food."

Visit the camp's website for more information or please contact the Director of the camp, Robin for further questions or concerns.
Wildwood Outdoor Education Center
7095 West 399th Street
LaCygne, KS 66040
Phone: 1-913-757-4500

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Vegan Oscar Party, Brooklyn, NYC

This comes from Alisa of Go Dairy Free for all you dairy-free and egg-free folks in the NYC area [NB: The event is NOT NUT-FREE].

"On Sunday, February 24th, Wheeler’s Black Label Ice Cream will be holding an Oscar party at the Ad Hoc Art Gallery in Brooklyn. The event hosts will be dishing up several flavors of Wheeler’s Vegan Frozen Desserts, and Hannah Kaminsky, author of My Sweet Vegan, will be serving a selection of baked goods to accompany the ice cream selection. DJ JT from Philadelphia will round out the bash, which is open to the vegan ice cream loving public. The event details are as follows...

New York Oscar Party

* Where: The Ad Hoc Art Gallery, 49 Bogart St, Unit 1G, Buzzer #22, Brooklyn, NY

* When: Sunday, February 24th, at 1:30pm

* Directions:We are located at 49 Bogart Street, next to The Archive coffee shop and Brooklyn's Natural grocery. We are one short block from the Bogart St. exit of the Morgan Ave. stop on the "L" train. Our front is painted red, you can't miss it

If you get lost, you can get in touch by calling Wheeler’s, at 617-216-9087, or the folks at Ad Hoc at 718-366-2466."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Veggie Chili

A few weeks back, I met Bret Thorn, Nation’s Restaurant News blogger, food reviewer for The Sun, and all around fun guy at the Padre Figlio soft opening. He mentioned on his blog that I looked “healthier” than he thought I would. Reminded me of the days when I’d tell people I was a vegetarian and they’d look me up and down, unabashedly, and declare, “You look too healthy to be a vegetarian!”

I suppose the idea of any kind of restricted diet equals unhealthy person.

Well, not this Allergic Girl. Healthy is my middle name. To create the best balance possible for my hectic lifestyle, I eat meat out and vegetarian/vegan at home. As I’m not home most nights, I make sure my larder is fully stocked with dry and shelf-stable goods that cook up quickly and easily.

One of my go-to recipes is veggie chili. Made with organic beans from Goya, diced canned tomatoes, chopped onions and garlic (local from the green market), and some spices, in less than 20 minutes from walking into my apt, I can sit down to a great and easy meal that is protein packed and vegetarian!

I like my chili a little spicy with some heat on the back of the tongue from hot pepper flakes and a dash of curry. I also like it a bit sweet which comes from a dollop of honey. Use these spices to your taste, play with what you like. I generally have the chili over organic basmati rice but any brown rice or whole grain like quinoa will be yummy. This recipe makes enough for one person for a few lunches. Or two people for dinner.

2-3 T olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
chili powder
curry powder
hot pepper flakes
cracked black pepper
kosher salt
1 T raw honey- to taste
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 15 ounce can beans [red kidney bean or black beans but any beans will do] drained and rinsed.

Over low heat warm olive oil. Add onion and sweat until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add chopped garlic and sauté until fragrant. Then add spices: chili powder and cumin should be the largest spice component. Then add dashes of cinnamon, curry, and hot pepper flakes. Stir to toast spices. Add tomatoes, raw honey, salt and pepper. Cook tomatoes down until the flavors start to intensify. Then add drained and rinsed beans [which are already cooked and only need warming through]. Once the beans are added, heat until flavors have blended. Adjust spices as necessary. Serve over piping hot buttered rice. [Use margarine or olive oil coated rice if you want it vegan].

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Town Restaurant, NYC

Another reader wrote in to tell me about Town Restaurant here in New York City. I’ve been to Country by the same chef, Executive Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, at the newly refurbed Carlton Hotel next to my old job. (Town/Country? Get It?) I ate, what else, but a burger which was fine but I didn’t dine there. So I was very excited to hear such praise about Town Restaurant.

I’m wondering if any of you have been and had a similar experience there?

Hey a.g.,

Hope your new year is going well. I wanted to tell you about an amazing dinner spot.

I have a new restaurant to recommend. Town restaurant in the Chambers Hotel (15 W56th St). Very pricey, very beautiful and VERY accommodating to the allergy challenged. It’s definitely a great place for a special occasion or special date. The food is beautiful and the wait staff was almost overly attentive.

My daughter who is allergic to seafood and nuts had a beautiful endive salad and pasta with feta, I had a delicious risotto but the best was at the end when we asked for desserts w/out nuts and they presented us with several fantastic choices. The dishes just kept coming out.... if she wanted something that had nuts, they made her a version of it w/out nuts (if it was possible).

They explained every dish and made it a point to let us know which dishes were safe for her. It was the most pleasant dining experience that we had ever had in any restaurant and we are not novices....

I can't praise it enough.



Saturday, February 16, 2008

Worry-Free Dinners™ in NYC

Remember when I asked if anyone would like to join me for a worry-free dinner here in NYC? After ALOT of behind the scenes work it has finally all come together!

The Worry-Free Dinner site is up, the place is picked and the date is set.

Please check out our new Worry-Free Dinner site for more information, sign up, and come join us for a worry free dinner!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Nut-Free Menu, Blue Smoke, NYC

This is from a reader who tried out Blue Smoke’s nut-free menu. I wrote about Blue Smoke's Gluten-free menu a while back but still haven't tried it out. The reader's report, reprinted with her permission, highlights some important issue to keep in mind when dining out even at a restaurant that is allergy-aware.

Dear Allergic Girl,

I had promised to write to you about an experience with Blue Smoke restaurant and their nut-free menu. My daughter is allergic to nuts in the extreme and finding restaurants where we can eat comfortably is a big deal for us. That said, we have had good luck in some places.

So, we had dinner at Blue Smoke right before Christmas. It was a good food experience but with some major caveats regarding handling nut allergies.

Blue Smoke has two menus, one complete and one nut-free. When I called ahead to ask if ordering from the nut-free menu meant no nuts at all, no traces etc., I was told that, “Yes, they are set up to accommodate extreme nut allergies. They prepare food from the nut-free menu separately and so forth”.

We then had the same conversation with our server when we arrived and he reiterated their commitment to handling food allergies. “No nuts, no traces, no problem”. We also got to the restaurant really early so that we had the staff's full attention.

The nut-free menu is extensive and full of good organic food. A lot of meat but also salads and veggie sides etc. There is also a large list of nut-free deserts, which is usually the hardest part. We ordered delicious, well-cooked food. My daughter and I split a huge portion of organic roasted chicken with green beans and potatoes. Superb and big enough for us to split AND take home left-overs (and we eat a lot). For desert, we had a pear crisp with homemade ginger ice cream that was similarly delicious and nut-free. The service was quick, really warm, responsive and available. I also had a great Prosecco with dinner. My beau had a great burger and ale with a brownie and ice cream for desert. Yum.

So, here is the major caveat: They use a multi-waiter system, so the person from whom you order dinner may not be the same one who brings it or asks if everything is OK or takes your desert order. And that is a little odd when dealing with a nut allergy. For example, we told our server about my daughter's allergy and he was totally great about it, very reassuring. Then, as we were waiting for dinner, another guy brought my daughter a raw gingerbread man to decorate (something they do for kiddies before X-Mas, very fun) and I said, "This is nut free, right?" and he didn't know. He asked the chef and it was and all was well, but obviously that was a lapse.

And THEN: we ordered desert from the nut-free menu from an entirely new waiter. We ordered pear crisp and I said "No nuts or nut traces, right?" and the server said "No, nothing." Then we ordered the brownie with ice cream, also from the nut-free menu (the brownie is available on the nut-free menu and on the regular menu with walnuts). When the deserts came, the crisp was fine but the brownie had nuts that were not visible until you dug in. Now, in our case, this was not a problem as A. the dish was for my beau who is not allergic to nuts and B. my daughter is actually not allergic to walnuts per se (though she doesn't eat them because of the extremity of her other tree nut allergies). But, my god, what a mistake. If she had taken a bite and that had been a pistachio rather than a walnut...well, you know the deal. To me it undermined the entire experience.

We told the waiter and he said that he thought we wanted a regular brownie. This may have been partly my fault to not have reiterated the whole story to the new waiter, but I assumed they were in communication over such major issues and I asked about the crisp and we ordered from the nut-free menu. I thought it was all obvious but I was, obviously, wrong.

So I ended up feeling pretty tepid in terms of trust at Blue Smoke. They sell themselves as being super-responsive to nut allergies but they have lots of nuts on their regular menu (boiled peanuts is an appetizer, for example) and the set-up with the waiters is just not appropriate for a diner with a severe allergy. Aside from anything else, if the guy bringing you your food has just downed a handful of nuts, you're in trouble. So you really need your waiter throughout to understand the situation. Also, as I said, we got there really early (were seated with menus before 5:00 PM) but when we left at 7, the place was mobbed. I can't imagine what would happen when you have seven waiters running around sharing tables and not letting each other know about allergic diners.

I would probably try it again but I would call first and ask whether we could, assuming we arrive really early, have one waiter the entire time. If they could not accommodate that, I wouldn't go back with my daughter.

So dumb to take the time to make things work for nut allergies and then miss that one, crucial, step...

All best, Caroline

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Martha Stewart and New Food Allergies Magazine

See what happens when you DON'T watch TV? You miss the big reveal. According to Martha Stewart's blog, 625,114 of us voted for her "big idea" and it's split: Martha will possibly have a new magazine about food allergies AND pets [does anyone else see the irony: allergies and pets?].

I'm both excited and a bit confused about how this project is going to move forward. I'm sure in the new few weeks we will hear more about MSLO's plans.

Second Avenue Deli in the New York Times

One star is kind.

The New York Times review of
the Second Avenue Deli
focuses more on other joints, better sandwiches and the latkes of yesteryear rather than on the disappointments of now.

Hizzoner Ed Koch comes off sounding like a glutton, the man will eat anything Jewish; Nora Ephron is an ad for Barney Greengrass in her neighborhood, and Laura Shapiro (the Julia Child biographer, whom I encountered at the Miami Book International) gets the shaft, we don’t know what she thinks.

Frank Bruni: “And I realized that we weren’t so much eating in a specific restaurant as passing through a communal storehouse of memories, on a bridge of babkas from the past to the future.” i.e the food isn’t great but we had a nice time talking about how great it wasn’t.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Georgetown No Longer Serves Pesto

This story may not seem like a big deal to you but I say “Hurrah!”

Waaaaay back when I was in college, in the 90s, food allergies and dining services were two worlds that never met. I’m glad to see that change is coming!

Citing Allergies, Pasta Station No Longer Serves Pesto

The upper level of O’Donovan Hall is officially a nut-free zone.

In an effort to ensure the safety of students with nut allergies, foods such as pecan pie and peanut butter will be served only on the lower level. In addition, the pasta station has stopped serving pesto sauce, as it contains pine nuts.

“The elimination of nuts on the upper level was created to avoid cross-contamination when students dish additional food items onto their plate,” said Kristen Hamilton, registered dietitian at O’Donovan Hall.

“This compromise, however unpopular with some students, is the safest solution to ensure all students can enjoy their dining experience,” she said.

In response, Katie Cronen (COL ’11) created a Facebook group called “Bring Pesto Back to Leo’s!” which had attracted 93 members as of last night.

“I was kind of upset it was gone because it was so popular,” Cronen said. “I wanted to do something a little bit more proactive than sitting around and complaining. I found an online comment card through the Leo’s Web site and told all my friends to write a comment.”

Cronen suggested cooking pasta with pesto sauce in separate pans in order to protect students with allergies while continuing to offer the sauce.

In response to the comments of Cronen and others, Margie Bryant, associate vice president of auxiliary services, said in an e-mail to Cronen that she would be in contact with the Dining Services management team to review the removal of the pesto sauce.

“Peanut allergies are common food allergies and are definitely prevalent among the student body so it feels good to know that at least upstairs is peanut-free,” Elizabeth Ockerman (COL ’11), who is allergic to peanuts, said.

For those with sensitive allergies, minimal exposure to nuts can cause anaphylactic shock, in which the victim has difficulty breathing and could die in a few minutes if left untreated.
— Julia Cai

Food Liberation and Gluten-Free Bread

Catherine of Gluten-Free Guide forwarded me the Everybody Eats email saying they now had goodies available at Food Liberation on Lexington, between 89th and 90th streets. Yay!

I had a chance to stop by this week and stock up on GF dinner rolls and their GF baguettes. The manager/owner of Food Liberation was quite accommodating, he said he’d be happy to carry more of their line he just needs to know what we all want! So if you go in make sure to tell him which of your favorite EE items you’d like to see there.

I was very happy with the GF bread I picked up. As of yesterday, they had one loaf of challah, one loaf banana bread, and a pack chocolate chip cookie mix that he said was indistinguishable from the “real” thing.

Go, go, go!

Food Liberation Inc.
1349 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10128
(212) 348-2286

Vegan Valentine’s Day With Fran Costigan

Check out Fran Costigan, Dairy-Free Dessert Diva and this Allergic Girl chatting it up about pastry techniques, veganism, fair trade chocolate and more. Yes, chocolate, like the one from Green and Black CAN be fair trade and vegan.

Three luscious vegan chocolate recipes are included. Perfect for your vegan sweetie or anyone with a specialized diet--dairy-free, wheat-free, processed sugar free and/or nut-free.

Please check it out at and enjoy!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Westminster Dog Show

The doggies are back, the doggies are back!

Although this Allergic Girl is highly allergic (and no, there aren’t any “hypoallergenic” breeds that I can tolerate; as long as a dog has skin and saliva, I’m allergic) I love watching the Westminster Dog Show on TV. Safe and from a distance.

It’s on for two nights: Monday, Feb 11th and Tuesday, Feb 12th.

I'll have to DVR it so don't tell me who's won-Enjoy!

Oranges from Florida

Last month I received a gift of oranges and grapefruit from family living in Florida for the season. What a treat! Perfectly ripe, not local I know, but so much better than the citrus we've been getting up here from California and elsewhere that I happily gobbled them up, gave some away to friends and shared with my citrus-lacking doormen.

When that treat ran out I bought another ten pound pack for myself. Unfortunately over half of the box was dried out and inedible. Woolbright Framers Market makes a point of letting you now that they "guarantee the quality of our fruit 100%." So I sent an email, letting them know the issue and they replied immediately.

"We are sending out a replacement to arrive next week.

Sorry for the trouble.

Woolbright Farmers Market"

Gotta love a company that not only stands behind their product, especially a completely natural and unpredicable one as oranges but replies quickly to a complaint. They replaced the entire order with a box of Honeybells.

Delicious! Thank you Woolbright Farmers Markert!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Allergic Girl and Achoo!

Achoo! Allergy & Air Products interviewed this Allergic Girl for their February newsletter! They carry alot of my favorite allergen-free things like Primaloft bedding and warm air humidifiers. You can find the Achoo! interview here.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Nut Free Bakeries in NYC

I get this question a lot: “Do you know of a nut-free bakery in NYC?

The short answer is: No, not one that I trust.

I’ve had mixed experiences with Babycakes. Even if I hadn’t had those experiences, they now have a very clear disclaimer on their site that states that the wholesalers of their flours processes nuts in that facility. So if you are very sensitive they cannot guarantee that they are creating a nut-free product.

I would say that you would find that in any bakery in any town really, unless they are milling their own flours and who’s doing that except commercial bakers. Which is why what I trust are mixes that come from dedicated facilities, with nutrition information as well as full disclaimers about their products.

So when I receive emails about where to get a nut-free cake I say bake one at home yourself. It’s very easy to do and you can use one of the reputable mixes like:

Cherrybrook Kitchen


Gluten-free Pantry

Since I know you’re going to ask, I don’t use Bob’s Red Mill flours because his facility isn’t nut-free: they process both hazelnut and almond flours. Proceed at your own risk there.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Padre Figlio, NYC

Last night some food industry folks and this Allergic Girl attended an opening-do at Padre Figlio.

I actually took some pictures, shocking I know. But...I didn’t actually eat. I know, I know that is my mission: eating allergen-friendly for the greater good. But last night, I felt like just being one of the gang, one of the crowd; I didn’t feel like talking to the owners or the mangers or the cooks about making me something separate or special or completely off the menu.

I just didn’t feel like being bothered.

Even this Allergic Girl can punk out on the whole process and discussion sometimes. I had eaten some safe Lilli and Loo veggie fried rice leftovers pre-party and I had some wine and three hours of chat and it was a super night.

But I didn’t actually eat anything.

Enjoy the pictures.


Killer, to me anyway, salmon:

Plates of antipasti:

Penne a la vodka:




Padre Figlio
310 E 44th St, New York 10017
Btwn 1st & 2nd Ave
Phone: 212-286-4310

Monday, February 04, 2008

"The Sharper the Knife, The Less You Cry" by Kathleen Flinn

I attended another Beard on Books reading at the Beard House (remember Herve This?). This time we heard Kathleen Flinn talk about her book The Sharper The Knife The Less You Cry (which is an onion cutting reference).

There something genteel about sitting in a drawing room, that's three double French doors wide, in a Greenwich Village townhouse, during a renowned chef-catered appetizer-laced book reading. (The apps, that I didn’t eat, mais oui cher amis, were prepared by Chef Adam Siegel, of Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro in Milwaukee. Truffle was the theme, could it get more decadent?) The audience, small in number, mainly food or publishing related, occupied the rarefied space where it’s completely normal to have a chef come and discuss what he prepared for your amuse bouche and then hear a culinary luminary who’s written a book about some aspect of the food world talk about their experiences, share their knowledge, wisdom, humor about their piece of the world.

It was a lovely lunch hour activity, almost meditative in the green room with a huge portrait of Beard looking down at you. OK, that part’s a little unsettling but the rest was lovely. Super, n'est-ce pas?

In her own words, Ms. Flinn’s book is the story of a “flawed” woman going through a “flawed” institution: The Cordon Bleu in Paris. A journalist working in London, she was made redundant--the English term for being kicked out on your ass--and had to figure out her next step. She decided to pursue a life-long, seemingly unreachable dream, of attending the Cordon Bleu school in Paris, not speaking fluent French nor being able to cook. This book details how Flinn went from dreamer to doer: her battles with the Grey Chef (her school nemesis), the French language, the ingredients and techniques of culinary school.

You can listen to her talk here at NPR and you can read an excerpt here.

However, a word about the live reading at the Beard House. If perchance Ms. Flinn’s editor at Viking Press reads this or her agent or even the publicity assistant, please let Ms. Flinn know that 20 minutes of “Thank You’s” as if this were her personal Oscars show is not only not necessary, nor appropriate but is boring and told us nothing about the book i.e. the product the author is there to sell. A reading is nothing more than a sales pitch, a teaser, a taste of the product, which hopefully you like enough to buy. Ms. Flinn’s litany included thanking her husband for marrying her and whom she pointed out in the audience after telling us that her mother told her at 36 she had no hope of getting married. She then became verklempt: teared up. This was too confessional at a reading about this journalist’s time in Le Cordon Bleu. Don’t get me wrong, I love confessional poetry, Sharon Olds, a goddess, seriously. But this outpouring felt disingenuous, it did not win us, her audience, over. In fact it had the opposite effect: I sympathized with her agent, who, upon reading Flinn's first proposal draft said, “Your main character is unlikable.”

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Martha Stewart Contest for Food Allergy Magazine

Gina of Allergy Moms alerted me this contest going on now over at Martha Stewart Omnimedia. They are looking for their next big idea and are considering a magazine for people like us with food allergies and food intolerances. And they are asking for votes. Yesterday when I checked out the site, the allergy mag had a slight edge of 33 percent. That has jumped to 54 percent as of this morning.

Go vote now!