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)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays, 2012

Have a wonderful, safe and food allergy free holiday season everyone - see you in January 2013!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

FDA, Risk Assessment for Establishing Food Allergen Thresholds; Request for Comments, 2013

From the FDA:

SUMMARY: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or we) is establishing a  docket to obtain comments relevant to conducting a risk assessment to  establish regulatory thresholds for major food allergens as defined in  the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. 

Establishment of a Docket and Request for Information

    We are establishing a docket to provide an opportunity for interested individuals to submit comments (including data) that we can use to design and carry out a quantitative risk assessment for
establishing regulatory thresholds for major food allergens. In particular, we invite comments on the following matters:

    1. How should we define ``an allergic response that poses a risk to human health?''

    2. Which major food allergens are of greatest public health concern and what is the size of the at-risk population?

    3. How should clinical dose distribution data be used when establishing regulatory thresholds for the major food allergens?

    4. What approaches exist for using biological markers or other factors related to the severity of allergic responses in a threshold risk assessment?

    5. What data and information exist on dietary exposure patterns for individuals on allergen avoidance diets?

    6. What data or other information exist on current levels of exposure associated with the consumption of undeclared major food allergens in packaged foods?

    7. What other information or data should we consider in establishing regulatory thresholds for major food allergens?

DATES: Submit either electronic or written comments by February 12,  2013. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Latkes with Applesauce & Maple Cinnamon Yogurt, Recipes

Latkes with homemade applesauce and maple/cinnamon yogurt

Even though Chanukah is over, latkes are great this time of year – who doesn’t love fried potatoes in any form? The New York Times did a nice run-down of a few different types here, more latke debate here and one more lakte thought here.

A party guest made the latkes in the above picture – everyone was raving. Here’s his recipe.

Jason’s Latkes

6 cups of peeled and shredded potatoes
6 beaten eggs
3 tablespoons grated shallot
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Fried in vegetable oil
Made about 24.

My addition was applesauce & maple cinnamon yogurt on top. I made my own applesauce with three ingredients: apples (cored, pealed and sliced), orange juice and a sprinkle of cinnamon. It’s a one pot situation. Bring all ingredients to a boil then simmer until the apples breakdown. Total deliciousness. For the “sour cream” I altered this recipe, substituted two percent Greek yogurt (so rich!) and used  Grade B maple syrup and cinnamon.

These two additions, made in no time flat the day before my last dinner party, created a luscious appetizer that was beloved!

Friday, December 21, 2012

12 Days of an Allergy Free Christmas, Kyle Dine

Colleague Kyle Dine has done it again - creating an adorable video for the food allergy community called: "12 Days of an Allergy Free Christmas"! 

From his website: "Kyle Dine - A Christmas classic with a new spin! Food allergy musician Kyle Dine goes over 12 necessities to have an allergy safe and festive holiday season. This cheeky song gets a little crazy with props flying all over the place and concludes with Kyle getting choked up over a tray of delicious gluten-free, egg-free muffins!"

And here's the video - enjoy!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cater to Guests Gluten-Free by Linda Freeman

*Update March 2103 : the article is no longer online.*

Dear friend Linda Freeman (also the founder and president of the Celiac Disease Foundation Hudson Valley N.Y. Chapter ) penned this article, "Cater to Guests Gluten-Free", recently about hosting gluten-free guests (Disclosure: I’m quoted within the article). Even though her focus is on the celiac and gluten-free community, she has some excellent and poignant advice for anyone who wants to host a loved one with a dietary restriction. My favorite quote: “Please be aware that your guests may be uncomfortable asking for special consideration and will be grateful if you broach the subject with them. Don’t assume you understand, either. At a dinner party, a host told me, “Trust me, I wouldn’t give you anything you can’t eat.” Asking your guests to trust you puts them in an uncomfortable position of having to choose between offending you and being sure they are eating safely.” Well said, Linda! Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wegmans, Allergic Girl Book

Photograph sent to me by a colleague

I’m thrilled to announce that Wegmans now carries AllergicGirl. I’ve heard about Wegmans for years, specifically as they have an excellent in-house dietary team that also covers food allergies responsibly. I’m honored to be chosen to for their shelves!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cybele Pascal, Allergy-Free And Easy Cooking, Preview

Cover photograph courtesy of Ten Speed Press

This is just a sneak preview but I’m so excited about this book I have to tell you about it before I cook a recipe from it (which is my standard blog review procedure). I sped through reading this review copy of Allergy-Free And Easy Cooking by Cybele Pascal and, wow, has Cybele done it again!

Like no other allergen-friendly cookbook author I know of, Cybele understands and answers the food allergy community's needs, fears, concerns and questions about allergen-free cooking before we even ask them. She has food allergies as well is the mother of children with food allergies. Questions about substitutions? She’s got answers that makes sense and take all options into account. Need ingredient resources – she lists them; not all books do, many in fact don’t and expect you to fend on your own for ingredients that are free-from. (Disclosure: My website is listed as a resource) Only need to eliminate wheat but not eggs or wheat and eggs but not nuts or all top eight allergens or only three of the top eight; she has a formula that makes each of these recipe adaptable to your needs. Want to get in and out of the kitchen in thirty minutes? Yup, Cybele has done that, too. 

Here’s more about the book from her website: Allergy-Free And Easy Cooking by Cybele Pascal:"A collection of 75 completely allergen-free recipes ready in 30 minutes or less, perfect for food allergic kids and busy professionals who need to get meals on the table swiftly...With her acclaimed cookbooks and loyal following, Cybele Pascal has been pioneering allergy-friendly cooking for more than a decade. As the mother of two kids with food allergies, Pascal knows the value of weeknight-friendly allergy-free recipes that can be prepped and on the table in half an hour without sacrificing flavor or texture. Through adept ingredient substitutions and easy-to-follow techniques, Pascal excels at providing enticing recipes that steer clear of the top eight allergens and appeal to home cooks who need to avoid dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and sesame. Pascal’s allergy-friendly versions of favorites like Creamy Mac ‘n’ “Cheese,” Buffalo Wings with Ranch Dressing, Chicken Mole Soft Tacos, Gnocchi, Deep Dish Pizza with Italian Sausage,  and Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry have all the appeal of the originals, and are perfect for food allergic kids and busy professionals. Allergy-Free and Easy Cooking is a delightful solution that will help you get flavorful, safe meals on the table swiftly."

Allergy-Free And Easy Cooking by Cybele Pascal will make an excellent addition to your home library, a fantastic gift for a food allergy loved one or a newly diagnosed loved one and I’ve even recommended it to my corporate clients!

Congratulations Cybele – can’t wait to dive in!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Review

I received a reviewer copy of Deb Perelman’s 
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook right after Hurricane Sandy. Needless to say, it's taken me a few weeks to get to it. First know this, Deb is not an allergen-free baker nor recipe creator. She is a fellow blogger who has been writing and cooking out of her small NYC kitchen for several years now, turning out gorgeous pictures and gorgeous food, with humor and seemingly without effort. Her new tome (The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook), has the same tone as her blog: a If I Can Do This And I’m An Un-trained Cook, So Can You. It has great pictures and step by steps, some lovely ideas, some new takes on old favorites and some naturally allergen-friendly finds. It also is a mix of a few recipes from her blog and mostly news ones created just for the book. From her website (with the recipe I’m dying to try ):

“The book has 105-plus recipes, with chapters devoted to Breakfasts, Salads, Sandwiches, Tarts and Pizzas, Meatless Main Courses, Main Courses with Meat or Fish, and oh yes, a whole lot of Sweets, from Cookies to Pies to Tarts to Cakes and Candies and Puddings…The recipes are overwhelmingly completely and totally new — I was a little obsessed with making sure this book had value to everyone, even if you’ve never missed a site update, so only about 15 favorites were plucked from this url, essentially things that no book bearing the name The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook would be complete without. There are a ton of photos (at least one for each recipe), stories, and every single recipe includes ingredients in both cups-and-spoons and metric weights. When you open the book on your kitchen counter, it should stay open (it’s called lay-flat binding, and I specifically requested, nay, begged for it). And I really hope you love it."

To give the book a test drive, I made Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats. I’m a sucker for the regular old Krispie Treats from the box recipe. Since becoming wheat intolerant seven years ago, I’ve made that classic recipe a few times with a few different safe GF brands: Enjoy Life has a cereal now discontinued, Kellogg’s came out with their GF rice krispies (which I reacted to and they discontinued) but Erewhon has an organic GF brown rice cereal that I've used consistently and with excellent results. 

Doubling and browning the butter is one new twist to this trusted classic. It deepened and darkened the overall tone said my regular-diet recipe taster. But we both felt it was the addition of salt (I used Celtic sea salt) that pushed this recipe into "Huh"-land, as in, "Huh, that’s interesting. Can I have some more?" Salt added to sweetness makes it a more tempered, slightly dressier affair; what is usually sickly sweet, in the best most delicious sense, for an adult palate, becomes richer and ready to sit at the adult table with salt

Great job, Deb! Looking forward to diving into The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook further.

Friday, December 07, 2012

King Arthur Gluten-Free Bread Mix

What a happy loaf!

I have been wheat-free, due to a food intolerance, for over seven years now. And in all that time I haven’t yet baked my own loaf of gluten-free bread. Until now. King Arthur Flour has sent me a sample of the GF bread mix some time ago. *They make their gluten-free products in a top 8 facility – yay!* The King Arthur Gluten-Free Bread Mix wasn’t past its expiration, so earlier this week I decided to try it. I did buy fresh GF yeast as yeast doesn’t last long and I was concerned that the one packed in the mix wasn’t fresh enough.

There was great pleasure in proofing the dough, watching it rise and then punching it down to proof again. Whilst baking, the happy loaf, pictured above, gave off a bread-y, home-y, yeast-y aroma – oh how I had missed that. Once out of the oven, I took out my large serrated bread knife (I had to root around for it as I haven’t used it on fresh homemade bread in so long) and sliced into the loaf.

There is a thin, beautifully brown “crust” and the inside, had clear air pockets produced by the yeast reaction. The texture was spongy, cake-like more than bread-like and to my taste buds, very clearly a tapioca-based product. It wasn’t able to hold up to very heavy toppings (on separate occasions, it buckled under both a layer or hummus and a layer of cream cheese.)  I don’t know that it would hold up to a traditional French toast creation (although I bet it would do fine if you did a baked version like Smitten Kitchen’s).

Upshot: it is definitely not what I remember bread like but warm out the oven with butter and sea salt it was pretty darn good.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Recipe: Nut-Free, Gluten-Free Graham Pie Crust

Pumpkin pie with GF crust - oh yes!

Isn’t that just gorj? And it was delish. The crust was wonderful but next time I don’t think I will blind bake it before pouring in the filling. But having said that, pretty darn fab overall.

I created the pumpkin filling from a can of Libby’s packed pumpkin puree using their recipe which is nut-free and fish-free i.e. my food allergy needs. The crust I adapted using dear friend, fellow allergic girl, colleague and author of the new-soon-to-be-classic allergen-free cookbook out this week (Allergy-Free and Easy Cooking: 30-Minute Meals without Gluten, Wheat, Dairy, Eggs, Soy, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish, and Sesame), Cybele Pascal.

Here is her crust recipe as part of "Allergy Free Sweet Potato Pie".  And here is my adaptation. Further adapted in November 2013.


Nut-Free, Gluten-Free “Graham” Crust
Adapted from
Cybele Pascal 

I package of Kinnikinnick S’moreables Graham Style Crackers crushed
4 Tablespoons melted organic butter (or Spectrum Organic Vegetable Shortening or any safe for you shortening).

Preheat oven to 350°F.

By hand or in a blender, create “crumbs” of the cookies. Add melted fat. In the pie plate, press buttered Graham style crumbs into bottom of pan, using palm of hand to press down. Use fingers to coax up sides of pan about 1/2 inch. Patch as necessary, being sure there are no holes or cracks. Let chill in fridge 1 hour (or 10 minutes if you're impatient like me. Still works just fine.) Bake crust 10-15 minutes until fragrant and golden. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Once cooled, pour in your pumpkin pie filling (or any filling) and bake according to pie recipe.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Sweet Noodle Kugel

Kugel fresh from the oven, cooling on my window sill

For Thanksgiving, this year I had two guests who I know die for my sweet noodle kugel. They wait all year for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year to have it. In a stroke of brilliance, while creating my Thanksgiving day menu, I thought, wait I can serve this at Thanksgiving, too!

The recipe is nut-free and fish-free my two main allergy concerns and so easy it’s ridic. I use organic where I can, mainly with the eggs, butter and diary. I also make a lightly lighter version by using yogurt instead of sour cream and 2% milk instead of whole milk.

NB: I have tried a gluten-free, lower lactose version and it was okay, not fab so I need to keep playing with the recipe. You can find my attempts here. So basically, I can't eat this version as I'm wheat and dairy intolerant but for my guests I was happy to prepare this!

Sweet Noodle Kugel
adapted from Bon Appétit and further adapted by me

8 ounces Manichewitz wide egg noodles 
Generous handful dark raisins
5 large organic eggs
1 cup Greek 0% fat yogurt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted organic butter, melted, cooled
1/3 cup sugar in the raw
4 cups 2% milk

3 cups cornflakes, coarsely crushed
 plus 1/4 cup 
sugar in the raw

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread uncooked noodles over bottom of prepared dish and sprinkle with raisins. Whisk eggs, yogurt, butter and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Whisk in milk and pour mixture over noodles. Leave room for the cornflakes! Let kugel stand 5 minutes.

Mix cornflakes and

Mix cornflakes and
sugar in the raw

 in bowl and crunch up flakes by hand. Sprinkle evenly over kugel.

Bake kugel until set in center, about 1 hour. Cut kugel into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature. I cut into 16 squares so serves about 8 to 10.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Recipe: Sweet Potatoes & Marshmallows, Nut-Free, Gluten-Free

Sweet Potatoes & Marshmallows, circa 2011
**UPDATED November 2015 **

As a child, sweet potatoes with marshmallows were what I looked forward to every year. And with my burly boy cousins, it seems there was never enough marshmallow to go around (or they simply got to it first.) The joy of being an adult is that I can create a sweet potatoes with marshmallows dish that has enough of the best parts to go around.

I discovered this recipe on Epicurious and have made it two years running. Such a keeper! I get massive compliments on it and it’s quickly become a stable. Brown sugar and spice-braised sweet potatoes are one aspect; gone are the overly-sweet (yet still delicious) canned pineapple version. But my true trick is to turn this recipe once cooked into two 9 inch round pans and to create a 1 or 1 ½ inch layer of potato mash. I top each pan with large fluffy marshmallows which creates the perfect ratio of marshmallow to sweet potato. Every spoonful (and you only need about two) is the perfect bite. Above is the shot of last year’s dish. We gobbled it up so quickly this year I didn’t get a chance to shoot it.


Sweet Potatoes & Marshmallows, Nut-Free, Gluten-Free
Recipe adapted from Epicurious via Bon Appetite 1994

•    4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
•    2/3 cup packed sugar in the raw
•    5 tablespoons butter
•    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•    1/2 teaspoon salt
•    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
•    Pinch of ground ginger
•    2 cups marshmallows

Preheat oven to 375°F. Arrange potatoes in baking dish in one layer so they cook evenly. Combine sugar, butter, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and ginger in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour over potatoes; toss to coat. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake potatoes 50 minutes. Uncover; bake until potatoes are tender and syrup thickens slightly, basting occasionally, about 20 minutes. Then I mashed the potatoes with a fork and I transfer to two smaller pans. At this point you can place in fridge until you are ready to hear and top with marshmallows.

When ready to serve, increase oven temperature to 500°F. Top potatoes with marshmallows  Return to oven; bake until marshmallows begin to melt about 3 minutes.

Be warned these sweet potatoes with marshmallows will quickly become a family favorite!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

American Girl, Food Allergy Doll

 From Huffington Post Parents blog:

American Girl Dolls To Get Allergy-Free Lunches, Hearing Aids
“…and, for those dolls with food-sensitivities, an American Girl Allergy-Free Lunch. The lunch comes complete with a medical bracelet and a fake allergy shot, ‘just in case.’”

There are so many possible positive applications for this kind of doll. A doll with food allergies, anaphylaxis and an auto-injector of epinephrine can be a teaching tool for young children about disease management. As children learn best through play, this doll can help parents to identify any feelings (anxious of otherwise) about food allergies and food allergic reactions as their children play.
What do you all think about: American Girl Dolls To Get Allergy-Free Lunches, Hearing Aids?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cooked Cranberry Orange Relish

That beautiful bowl filled with red goodness in the foreground is the best cranberry sauce

I make Cooked Cranberry Orange Relish every year for Thanksgiving but it’s so easy and good, I’ll make a batch when I have a spare seven minutes (uh yeah, seven minutes) and use it for baked apples, swirled into plain yogurt or on a turkey sandwich. The possibilities are endless. I think the original recipe used to be listed on the cranberry bag itself but as it isn’t anymore. So here is a version from Recipeland that works just fine. Below is the recipe with my modifications.

Cooked Cranberry Orange Relish
Adapted from Recipeland

1 bag of whole fresh cranberries
1 orange (I use a navel, save yourself de-pitting)
½ cup water
½ cup sugar (I use organic brown)

Pick over the cranberries and discard any soft or broken ones. Wash the orange.
Place the cranberries into a small saucepan. Zest the entire orange, making certain to avoid the pith into the cranberries. Add the juice of the orange into the pan. Add the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Turn down to low heat and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the skins of the berries begin to pop. Remove from heat, transfer to a serving bowl and let cool. Enjoy!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Turkey, Stew Leonard’s

Resting Stew Leonard's turkey

That gorgeous and tasty Thanksgiving bird pictured above is not the result the hours of my labor but of a simple phone call to Stew Leonard's in Yonkers, NY.


Me to Stew Leonard's Chef: Hi. I have severe food allergies to tree nuts and fish and I’m calling about your cooked turkeys. Can you tell me what’s in the marinade?

Stew Leonard's Chef: Of course! (He lists ingredients of marinade, all safe for me.)

Me: Where you make the turkeys...are there any tree nuts in the area? Will this bird come into contact with tree nuts?

Chef: Nope, just turkeys. They don’t come into contact with any tree nuts.

Me: And in the marinade? Are there any hidden fishy ingredients, like Worcestershire sauce? I know you already listed all the ingredients, but I need to double check.

Chef: (Laughs) Yes, we stuff the turkey with fish! No seriously, only the marinade ingredients that I told you. Worcestershire has anchovy, we’d never use that.

Me: (Laughs) Yes, not everyone knows that.

Chef: I’m Culinary Institute of America trained. I know all about allergens, there are no tree nuts or fish in our turkeys.

Me: Thank you!

Chef: Of course, any more questions, I’m here (and he gives me his name).


Here’s a picture of their Turkey making production line at Stew Leonard’s from their Facebook page:

Courtesy of Stew Leonard's


Some background: for the last few years I’ve spent thanksgiving with my cousins in Connecticut and they’ve been buying and serving the Stew Leonard's turkey. I’ve enjoyed it for years without issue. As ingredients and formulations change, I call every year to have the same conversation with the Chef at Stew Leonard's. And every year, I’ve been fine.

*But please note: This is not a risk free turkey. It is made outside of my home by hands other than mine. I’m not suggesting this for you or your family buy Stew Leonard's turkeys but letting you know that I took that leap of faith and it was delicious. And of course, I always have my emergency plan and medications on me, even at my mother’s house, a totally safe place. *

Monday, November 19, 2012

Insalata Cuoco, Recipe

Socca with Insalata Cuoco
*UPDATE: As of January 2013, Chef Mike is no longer at Nizza.*

See that gorgeous salad in that picture above? And in the YouTube video here and below?

Want to know how to make it? Here is the recipe direct from Chef Mike. Thanks again Nizza!

Insalata Cuoco by Michael Schimelpfenig, Chef de Cuisine, Nizza NYC

For the salad:
1 clamshell mixed greens (mesclun mix)
2 bulbs fennel, shaved
2 bartlett pears, batons
.5 lb goat cheese, crumbled
For the dressing:
.5 lb bacon strip
1 shallot, minced
.5 bunch parsley, fine chop
.5 cup sherry vinegar
1.75 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt, to taste


The salad:
Begin this salad—as with any salad—by washing the mixed greens (even when the package says “ready to eat”), the pears, and the fennel.  Remove any green stalk from the top of the fennel bulb, and shave as thin as possible across the top.  This is best done on a Japanese mandolin (Benriner is the brand I use).  In the absence of a mandolin this can be done with a sharp knife.  Save prepping the pears until near ready to serve the salad, as they will oxidize and turn brown if sliced too early.  Prepare the pears by quartering it around the core.  Place each quarter flat side down and cut each into thin slices, then cut the thin slices into batons.   
The dressing:
Cook the bacon in a hot sauté pan until crisp.  Remove from pan, and allow it to cool before chopping.  Once cool, coarsely chop the bacon into small bits.  Blend the bacon, shallot, parsley, and sherry vinegar in a small mixing bowl.  Whisk vigorously while slowly adding the olive oil until all the oil is incorporated.  It is important to add the oil as slow as possible in order to assure that it will blend in with the rest of the ingredients, and not separate within the mixture.  Add salt to taste after the vinaigrette is blended. 

The final product:
Toss the greens, fennel, and pears with the bacon vinaigrette in a medium mixing bowl.  Taste, and adjust seasoning as desired with salt.  Keep the goat cheese refrigerated until ready to serve this salad.  Cold goat cheese crumbles with more ease and is less messy to deal with than warm goat cheese.  Crumble the goat cheese over the top of the salad and serve.
*This recipe will yield three portions.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Food Allergy Research, CDMRP, 2012

This is the third year that Congress has set aside funds for food allergy research.

In 2010, I was proud to be a consumer reviewer on a peer review panel in Washington DC which helped to decided where these Congressional funds should be directed.

In 2011, I was featured by the CDMRP website.

In 2012, I was honored again to be chosen to represent all of you as the consumer reviewer of current research proposals competing for congressional funds in a program called FY12 Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP). As a consumer reviewer, my mission was to evaluate the potential impact of each research proposal upon the food allergic community.  It was fascinating to read about all the different ways medical researchers are approaching the question of food allergy’s cause, prevention and potential treatment.

Thank you again CDMRP for allowing consumers directly impacted to be part of this important process!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

FAAN Teen Summit, 2012

This was my first year talking at FAAN’s Teen Summit and what fun it was. I spoke with over 120 parents and then with the break out kids' groups – 50 plus middle schoolers and 50 plus high schoolers. All different groups, all with different needs and foci. And with all groups, instead of doing a power point presentation or lecture/demonstration, I decided to take a leap and do some improv comedy-based group exercises. Everyone took the leap with me. As a presenter, it was incredible to hear all three rooms, and all three groups, buzzing with laughter and feel the connections everyone was making with each other. Such an honor to be a part of that.

A FAAN conference is one of the rare opportunities for parents and children alike to be with other people that truly get it. For parents, I thought: "There is no better time to practice having difficult conversations about food allergies then when we are all together." So, that’s exactly what we did.

I put the parents in unfamiliar pairs, and then asked them to role-play about what a food allergy emergency means to their child. Even before we started the exercise, from the dais, I could see parent pairs connecting immediately.  I saw a lot of agreement and head nods and heard outbreaks of laughter – always the best signs that connections are happening. The comments after we completed the exercise were insightful and helpful to the whole group. One food allergy mother recognized that even in this practice session she felt stressed about talking about food allergy emergencies. This stress in a low stress moment highlighted how much she felt she needed to practice emergency situations before they happen. Great! Another parent shared how her practice partner models certain situations, like dining out at a restaurant for her child, letting her 13 year old listen in on a phone call to that restaurant. This gives him a chance to hear how she does it before he will start doing the call himself. Yes! Another parent pair discussed how her child doesn’t yet understand that label reading means not just one time but every time because labels change and foods are recalled. Nods all around.

With the two kids' sessions (middle school and high school/college), they came up with one-two minute skits related to what they learned or felt during the conference thus far. Some of the concepts they created and enacted were a game show, a talk show, a narrated true story that was mimed, a song, a commercial and a cautionary tale. I was deeply impressed by their creativity, cooperation and engagement in the process. And they all wanted to perform their creations for the group so much so that we ran out of time! They made each other laugh, bonded and most importantly, played.

Play is how children learn. Play can be how adults learn, too, which is why I brought these improvisational exercises to the FAAN’s Teen Summit this year: to learn, to connect and be healed together.

I was honored to be a part of the FAAN’s Teen Summit 2012 speaker line-up. Thank you FAAN’s Teen Summit and thank you FAAN’s Teen Summit conferencees for taking a leap with me – we all reaped the rich rewards!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Nizza, Food Allergy Aware, Video

Fungi Socca
*UPDATE January 2013: Chef Mike is no longer at Nizza.*

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know Nizza has been my food BFF for some time now. I had my birthday there a few years back and we shot some of this Cooking Channel segment there two years ago. Recently, they brought on a new Chef de Cuisine, Michael Schimelpfenig or Chef Mike. It seemed like a perfect time to revisit Nizza and their allergen awareness policies and just general niceness, really. They kindly invited us to come in and make their home, ours for a few hours and film it on video.

Numodo shot and produced this fourth video in the Dining OutWith Food Allergies series at Nizza. You can watch it via a link here or embedded below:

Scrumptious, right?

Here’s a behind the scenes tidbit. Initially, that gorgeous fungi socca with truffle oil worried me. Chef Mike went over every ingredient and all was safe, I love mushrooms, but the truffle oil...who made it and was it possible tree nut contaminated? Very often truffle oil is made in France by companies that produce walnut oil, a French cuisine staple. Or like this oil made in California with a French process and partnership. If you have a look at La Tourangelle's nut oil lists, and you are a nut-allergic girl like me, you will see why when Chef Mike said fungi socca with truffle oil, I paused.  

I gently explained that very often truffle oil is made by a nut oil producer. He immediately went and retrieved the oil bottle to show me the label. It's from a company called Sogno Toscano. The label didn’t mention that it contained tree nuts or was made in a facility with tree nuts nor did the website that I checked from my smart phone say anything about tree nuts. But it was imported from Italy, so I was unsure if they were, or were mandated to be, FALCPA compliant.

Chef Mike said, “I can call the distributor right now, they can call the company directly and we can find out the answer.” See why we love him! His cell phone was at the ready and in less than two minutes, we had the answer. Sogno Toscano does not make nor process any nut oils in their facility. I able to tuck in with confidence and boy, was it yummy.

Does this mean that Nizza is 100% safe for everyone, all of the time, about every allergen? No, that’s not possible. But with communication about your needs and concerns with regards to your allergen(s), the staff at Nizza will do what they can to allay those concerns and make you a dish that is safe for you.

Thank you again Nizza, can’t wait to see you again soon!

(212) 956-1800
630 9TH AVE

Monday, November 05, 2012

Food Allergy, Food, Sandy

Central Park, NYC, November 4, 2012
*UPDATED: As of 12:30 Nov 6, 2012*

One of the big questions on my mind after Hurricane Sandy has been about those of us who need may specialty foods/medications (like anyone with food allergies, Celiac Disease FPIES, EoE, diabetes): how and where can they get it after such a major storm? After days and days without power (some may not have power until the second week of November) even the most prepared of us will be running out of supplies.

Behind the scenes here at Allergic Girl, there has been a flurry of emails and calls with food allergy, Celiac disease advocates, community leaders, medical professionals and food manufacturers. There is a massive desire to help but there is no coordinated way, yet, to do it. So here is the information I have read about or collected so far and the list is growing.  

*Please note: These are not endorsements. Follow up directly with these links and companies and ask them if they can accept specialty foods.*


I spoke with Leigh Lagrosa of the Food Bank of NYC and they are accepting shelf-stable, allergy-friendly goods from food manufacturers only. They serve all five boroughs of NYC.  Erin Smith of Gluten-Free Fun posted that conversation (Thank you, Erin!)  If you are a food manufacturer, here’s where you can send goods and donations to the Food Bank of NYC:

Leigh Lagrosa
Food Sourcing Liaison
Food Bank of NYC
355 Food Center Drive
Bronx, NY 10474
t: 718.991.4300, ext. 3335
c: 646.265.5099


I’ve read on Captain Jack's Peanut-Free Pirates Facebook page that these two hard-hit townships food banks were accepting donations from individuals.

I called The Community Food Bank of NJ as did FAAN and Theresa Forsman, Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations of The Community Food Bank of NJ said they absolutely will accept shelf-stable, allergy-friendly goods and donations and you can send them to:

The Community Food Bank of NJ
31 Evans Terminal,
Hillside, NJ 07205
Tel: (609) 383-8843

The Food Allergy & Asthma Support Group of North New Jersey's Group Leader Lisa Giuriceo spoke with these two food banks who said they can also accept shelf-stable, allergy-friendly goods and donations:

The Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Inc.
3300 Route 66
Neptune, NJ 07753
Tel: 732.918.2600

Long Island Cares Inc.
10 Davids Drive (Harry Chapin Way)
Hauppauge, NY 11788-2039
Tel: 631l582l.FOOD

* When sending donations please mark "Hurricane Sandy/Food Allergies"*


Heidi Bayer of Brooklyn Allergy Mom wrote this post - thank you Heidi!

Erin Smith at Gluten-Free Fun put together a very comprehensive post on how to help - thanks Erin!

Kelly Courson at Celiac Chicks also wrote a very helpful disaster preparedness post - thanks Kel!

Captain Jack’s Peanut-Free Pirates on Facebook posted about this neat idea from Good And Messy about creating labels for your donation so the recipients know it is special food!


If you have more places to send food, are coordinating something near you or want to help, post a comment or post a comment on my Facebook page at Allergic Girl.



One other thought: have an allergist that you love? Tell them about these resources for their patients that might need assistance.

We are in this together.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy, New York City, Oct 2012

The view north from 33rd street, taken at 7:52pm on Monday October 29, 2012

I'm fine. Everyone I know is safe and sound. Some have power, some are without but all are safe.

And, I’m upset. We all are. It’s been a sad, devastating few days. When things like this happen, you enter another world. And it’s taxing, emotionally, to travel between the two.

I live in midtown Manhattan and I’m from midtown Manhattan. When the storm was brewing, my mom asked me to come stay with her in the apartment where I grew up. She's in Zone C of the flood zone. Where I currently live, about a half a mile north from her, we’re not in any flood zone. Zone C was not being evacuated and Mayor Mike said Zone B’ers need not worry nor leave. 

Monday night, we had power; we were hunky dory. Then, I noticed two buildings on First Avenue near the FDR drive were blacked out. I took a picture (see above) with my Asus Tablet and tweeted it to Con Edison (our electricity provider). They were quick to tweet back asking for specifics and details. (You can follow my Twitter feed here). I couldn't reach them via phone or the web and then suddenly, our lights went out. The whole area. The Met Life (Pan Am building to you native New Yorkers) and the Chrysler were still lit but we were plunged into darkness. And then I saw why: on the end of our street on First Avenue there were white caps of waves. Waves. Here's a shot from The Atlantic of the end of my street Monday night before the power was turned off and the surge was at his highest during high tide

photo credit: Michael Heiman/Getty Images
We lost power at approximately 8:30pm. It was probably preemptive, Con Edison had called earlier to tell us it might happen. And then it did. So we turned on our flashlights and a battery operated radio and we heard that NYU emergency room was closed. Soon after, we went to sleep. We were awakened by sounds of ambulances and emergency vehicles and the rest of the night listened to the long evacuation (thankfully!) of patients from NYU hospital across the street. You can read some of those stories on the New Yorker , New York Times, WNBC.

Tuesday morning the sun came out, the storm had passed and people were walking their dogs in the street, carefully avoiding downed trees on 33rd street. A neighbor posted on my personal Facebook page that my building had power. Mom and I walked down darkened stairs in her blacked out building. We drove the half mile north, carefully, as power was out and street lights downs or off. We were met by transit police guiding traffic and then by 40th streets the streetlights were back on, stores were open and people seemed like they were out walking on a nice Sunday afternoon. We landed at my apartment building and it was if the storm barely happened. (The city is divided, here’s a take by the New York Times article. Note: 39th street is the cut-off, not 25th street)

My apartment has power, cable, wifi, food and elevator service. And a mom who is still unsettled and wants to be back in her own apartment. I understand, I couldn’t get back to my apartment fast enough. 

I’ve opened my doors to friends and family to come by for a power fix or a cookie. And today I woke up and attended to some work tasks (article writing, speech creating and this blog post), but really my heart’s not in it. Not yet. I want my city whole again.

*NOVEMBER 2, 2012 UPDATE: A wonderful post about how to help from friend and colleague Erin Smith of Gluten-Free Fun.*


Monday, October 29, 2012

Angie's Popcorn

New brand name. New website.  New flavors. New packaging. New allergen policy.

Lots of “new” and news over at formerly Angie’s Kettle Corn now Angie’s.

I saw Angie’s at Natural Products Expo East where there were unveiling all the goodies. Here’s me and Angie in a sweet and salty hug!

I’ve now had a chance to try the Sweet and Spicy which, OMG, I LOVE. And today I tried their low calorie line: BoomChickAPop flavors of plain and lightly kettled (that’s my word for it). The plain was delish and the lightly kettled, well, I like a full on sweet and salty but if you are watching calories this will give you a hint of sweet and some fiber and whole grain. A decent option for sure.

The main question and concern here is the food allergen statement. Back when I first met Angie’s and worked with them to clarify their allergen messaging they were top eight free.

That has now changed as they make products in three different facilities; they used to just make popcorn in one place and they have added products with dairy and chocolate.

*From Angie’s about their chocolate drizzled products (which I haven’t yet tried): “Our chocolate coating has milk and soy in it. All though there are no nuts in the chocolate coating, it is not certified nut free.”*

I’m excited about Angie’s expansion. As I know Angie (she was a psychiatric nurse), I know she really understands the importance of clear food allergy messaging as well as a clean facility.

But please, don’t take my word for it. I know you have questions about the change-over and the new products. They welcome your questions and comments. Contact them anytime to talk about your needs.

Congratulations Angie’s on all of these wonderful and delicious expansions!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Allergyeats, Conference for Restaurateurs

The AllergyEats table.
The line-up of speakers and the day's panel discussions.

The question asked over and over by savvy businesspeople is: “What is the ROI?” (return on investment) on any given new program or idea. For many restaurants unaccustomed to serving guests with severe, possibly life threatening food allergies they ask themselves that question about us.

At The Inaugural Food Allergy Conference for Restaurateurs: What Every Restaurant Should Know About Food Allergies To Ensure Safety & Maximize Customer Engagement, Loyalty, and Revenue presented by Paul Antico of AllergyEats*, he laid out very clearly what the ROI is and this was one of the most compelling pieces of information during the half day long conference.

In short, for a little as a $1000 initial investment (for items like colored plates, separate sauté pans and cutting boards, knifes labeled for specific meals only and an allergy friendly kit like the kind San Jamar makes), a restaurant could se a 10-15% increase in revenue annually (and that number is a low estimate). For restaurants that means thousands of dollars in profit.

Via email, Paul Antico of AllergyEats clarified it thusly:

“…the investment is closer to $1000, once training for the whole staff is added in.  Then, within a few years, giving time for word to get out and customer loyalty to develop, yes I think the empirical and anecdotal data suggests a restaurant’s sales could go up by 10+%...that number would mean not thousands of dollars in profit, but tens of thousands of dollars in annual profit! The beauty of this whole argument is that if I am wrong by a factor of five and sales only go up 2%, that’s still a 5% increase in profits, which is still (in an average sized restaurant  equal to a $15,000 increase in profits, or a  ROI of 1500%.  Even if the restaurant spends that $1000 each year over three years and only gets the 2% increase, that’s again still a 500% ROI.”

A very enticing ROI. And a great ending argument to a much-needed conference additional to food allergy awareness.

Looking forward to next year AllergyEats!

*About from their press release: AllergyEats, a free website and smartphone app, provides valuable, peer-based ratings and feedback about how well (or poorly) restaurants have accommodated food-allergic customers, allowing the food allergy community to make more informed decisions about where to dine.  AllergyEats lists well over 575,000 restaurants nationwide, which food-allergic diners can rate.  The site also offers information on restaurants’ menus (including gluten-free menus), allergen lists, nutrition information, certifications, web links, directions and more.

*Nice article from a foodservice magazine, Nation's Restaurant News.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Angie’s Sweet and Spicy

Angie’s has done it again, created a new flavor that is so good, I'm at a loss for descriptive terms, other than "yum!" What did Angie’s make? Sweet and Spicy: a kettle corn base (i.e. sweet and salty) with some light spicing (paprika, cumin and cayenne) that’s reminiscent of my memories of junk food, that’s not junky! And not that overly spicy. It’s the perfect totally addictive snack food. Oh Angie, so yum!

As for allergens, here is their policy. Specifically, when it comes to nuts, here's the word directly from Angie’s: “Every effort is made to ensure products & facilities are peanut and tree nut-free. We are not certified nut-free.”

More questions? Call them directly at (507) 387-3886) or email them directly, they’d love to hear from you.

Meanwhile, you can find Sweet and Spicy at select Whole Foods stores, Target and SuperTarget stores.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mo Rocca, My Grandmother’s Ravioli

One of my findest memories about my mother’s mother, Betty, is how she would make me pancakes. She would pour them into the pan in the shapes of animals, like bunnies and even Mickey Mouse – truly magical. Was it some special recipe? Yes, it was the recipe of food made with grandparent love.

Mo Rocca knows about the specialness of grandparents and he has created a new 13-episode show called My Grandmother’s Ravioli which captures that special grandparent recipe goodness. It starts tomorrow night, Wednesday October 24, 2012 at 8:30pm ET on the Cooking Channel. I had a chance to see an early preview of this new show as well as attend the launch party. (One of the Food Network execs and I got to talking and wouldn’t you know, he’s allergic to peanuts!) Here are some pictures of the party:

Mo talking about his new show
Mo and some of the grandmothers - you can see their audition tapes here
The set list of passed hors d'oeuvres
Food prep in the open Food Network kitchen
Chefs prepping food in the open Food Network kitchen

Many of you I know will be thinking "...but my child with food allergies can’t have the recipes that I grew up with!" That’s okay, they will have new ones that your parents will create for them with your help. And they will be every bit as special because there is nothing like grandparents love. Tune in and watch this sweet show and go get cooking with those grandparents!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis, Mall Tour, 2012

Mylan Specialty L.P., maker of Epi-Pen, is working hard to get the word out about anaphylaxis, especially in schools. (More about food allergy and anaphylaxis from the NIH can be found here in their patient guidelines.) Given that school is so often where children experience their first food allergic reaction, the message and these resources couldn't be more timely. I especially like the idea of a mall tour. The below is from a press release [Disclosure: I have a relationship with Mylan Specialty L.P.]:

Mylan Specialty L.P. today announced the launch of a comprehensive, community-inspired resource for families, school staff and students designed to raise awareness of and preparedness for life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) in the school setting:  The enhanced website, which is part of the Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis™initiative, now includes a personalized, virtual tour to access resources provided by leading patient, professional and advocacy groups.  This fall, the educational tools will be brought directly into communities via an augmented reality exhibit that will travel the country to drive home the importance of raising awareness about anaphylaxis and being prepared when anaphylaxis occurs.

About Get Schooled In Anaphylaxis: An Interactive Experience. At the Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis: The Interactive Experience exhibit, visitors will activate videos on an interactive mural through use of smartphones or tablets after downloading the free Anaphylaxis101 mobile app. They will also receive educational materials and giveaways, with a special offer for the first 100 people who visit the exhibit on each stop of the 10-city tour.

The coast-to-coast tour will hit key cities across the nation including:

·         Los Angeles, Calif. – Del Amo Fashion Center – Oct. 19-20
·         Denver, Colo. – Park Meadows Mall – Oct. 22
·         Baltimore, Md. – Arundel Mills Mall – Oct. 25
·         Chicago, Ill. – Orland Square Mall – Oct. 27-28
·         Dallas, Texas – Grapevine Mills Mall – Oct. 31
·         Houston, Texas – The Houston Galleria – Nov. 2-3
·         Orlando, Fla. – The Florida Mall – Nov. 8
·         Atlanta, Ga. – Lenox Square Mall – Nov. 10
·         Charlotte, N.C. – Concord Mills – Nov. 13
·         Philadelphia, Pa. – King of Prussia Mall – Nov. 16-17

For more information on the tour schedule visit

About Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis™
The Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis™ initiative offers practical information to educate the school community to help those at risk for life-threatening allergic reactions avoid their triggers, recognize anaphylaxis signs and symptoms and understand how to quickly get appropriate treatment and immediate medical care when anaphylaxis occurs.  Visit to explore how anaphylaxis can affect the entire school community and learn more about life-threatening allergic reactions.  You can also download practical tools, learn more about Julie Bowen’s family story and watch a public service announcement (PSA) featuring the actress and sign up to receive news about activities and events.  Follow the Twitter handle @Anaphylaxis101 to get the latest news about the initiative.  Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis brings together information from leading patient, professional and advocacy organizations, each with the common goal of improving anaphylaxis education, and makes them accessible through