Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, Food Allergy Counselor (Picture © Noel Malcolm 2013)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Atlas Room, Washington DC

This email below comes from a regular Allergic Girl blog reader.  She uses all of The Steps I talk about on this blog and in my book:

Dining out with safe friends (people who understand your medical needs)
Contacting a restaurant ahead of time
Emailing a detailed request
Receiving a very positive response from the restaurant
Still proceeding with caution on site
Checking in and reiterating needs once there with staff and server
Eating well and safely
And… having what sounds like a lovely evening


***

I emailed you once before - about my friend's wedding at the Biltmore Estate. Well, I have another great place to dine as an individual with severe food allergies here in DC. Atlas Room. I had reservations there with a couple of my good friends (actually the ones who were married at the Biltmore Estate), I looked at their menu online and was quite nervous. I emailed the Atlas Room a few days before dining there b/c I wanted to know if we would have to change our dinner reservations.

By the end of the day, they had emailed me back informing me that they had spoken with the chef, and they attached a menu detailing what was completely safe, what they could modify and what I should completely avoid b/c it couldn't be modified. They promptly answered my questions of how the various dishes would be modified. When I arrived for dinner, I informed the host that I was the member of the Smith party who had emailed earlier in the week about the allergies, the host knew who I was and when we were seated the waiter knew all of my allergies and was able to promptly answer any questions I had and assured me of their best handling practices when it came to my dinner. I even had dessert, which I normally pass on due to the looming fear of the unknown. 

I know that you are always looking for places that are food-allergy friendly and Atlas Room will certainly be getting much more of my business.


***

Great job, Sarah and thank you for sharing!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Allergic Girl® Newsletter, 2012


New Year, new newsletter!

I’m excited to be back on the monthly newsletter track. They will packed with food allergy news, stories, contest giveaways and more.

The first new newsletter went out last week. Don't miss the next one.

Just sign up here or on the right side of my blog.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sharing the Wine

“What kind of wine are you drinking?”

“It’s a Petite Syrah.”

It looks good. May I have a sip? Maybe I’ll order the same thing.”

“Why don’t we get a second glass from the waitress and I’ll happily share.”

“Do you have a cold?”

“Not at all. I have food allergies. I’m severely allergic to nuts and fish. If you take a sip of my wine and say, you ate salmon today, I could be in trouble when I then take a sip after you.”

“Wow. I did have salmon for lunch and some cashews this afternoon. I’ll just order what you’re having. So, what else should I know about your food allergies?

**

Natural openings to have The Talk about your dietary needs in a clear and confident way happen all the time. Even on a date with someone new. And you can make it an easy part of the conversation.

This vignette happened just before Christmas with a new guy. He asked to take me out to dinner for our first date so I suggested a restaurant that I’d been to often. I know this resto group has a food allergen policy in place and the food is yummy. (It was 5 Napkin Burger and here’s my list of other NYC spots.) I had arrived early and ordered a glass of wine.

That glass of wine gave him an entre to share something with me – my taste in wine. Also, it’s an intimate act to share food or drink with someone so by asking to share my glass he was showing me his romantic interest as well – both clear signals.

I didn’t want to shoot down those signals but as I do need to keep myself safe, I opted for a  “Yes, let’s share” option that was still safe for me –  a second glass.

He took what could have felt like a rebuff, “I don’t want to share my glass with you”, and asked for more information: "Do you have germs? Is that why you don’t wish to share?"

This was a perfect chance to reassure him that I don’t have germs and, generally, I’m happy to share. My version of sharing included a new piece of information:  I have a serious medical need which necessitate some extra steps for my safety and I’m clear on how to execute those steps.

He received that information as it was intended and after that one sentence he now understood that drinking from my glass was out and that in order to move forward with me on an intimate level, he needed more information about my medical needs.

Such a simple seeming conversation but the transaction was deep.

Next up: he asks to cook me dinner (and I let him).

**

Have you had The Talk lately with someone new?


Monday, January 23, 2012

Katz Gluten Free, Powdered Doughtnuts

Courtesy of Katz Gluten Free

Katz Gluten Free is now making doughnuts, powdered ones. They started the roll out during Chanukah as fried foods are traditional to celebrate the miracle of lights and sufganiyot in particular. (Here is a GF sufganiyot recipe from Gluten-Free by The Bay from 2006.)
 
Post-holiday season, Katz Gluten Free is rolling out these beauties as a permanent fixture on their GF canon of goodies. They sent me a sample pack.  I had a sliver just to test, which turned into a Cookie Monster moment. Cake-y, not fried tasting and light (as light as a cake-y based doughnut will be which is not much), it was a delight. Here are the ingredients of the powdered doughnuts from the website: "gluten free flour (white rice, corn starch, tapioca),  water, sugar, eggs, canola oil,  baking powder, xanthan gum,  salt,  confection sugar."

*Nota Bene: Katz Gluten Free also sent me their two other doughnut offerings, custard filled and jelly filled to try. These products didn't have a complete ingredient label on the package nor a complete listing on the website: "custard filling" and "jelly filling" is not enough information. So, I did not test nor can I review those products yet. As per my sampling policy (listed here), I did mention my label concerns to Katz Gluten Free as a problem both for me, individually, and as a blogger, and for the food allergic, food intolerant communities; we cannot eat anything without proper and clear labels. Katz Gluten Free assured me that said they were working to correct the oversight. When that happens, I will happily review.*

All Katz Gluten Free  products are gluten-free, nut free, dairy-free and made in afacility that is free of those items (NOT egg free though). They keep turning out treats that are Kosher and too good! I’d ask the to stop for my waistline’s sake but no, Katz Gluten Free keeps going.  

Thank you, Katz Gluten Free!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dating, Food Allergies, Living Without Magazine




If you're dating with a severe dietary restriction like food allergies or celiac disease, Living Without magazine has a nice dating piece with some quotes by this Allergic Girl in their latest issue (Feb/Mar 2012). You can pick up a copy here.

If you need more dating advice, my book Allergic Girl has a whole chapter on dating with dietary restrictions.

I help clients all the time tackle this issue in one-on-one coaching sessions. Contact me for more information about starting a Dating Boot Camp program today.

And stay tuned to this space for more dating stories from this single Allergic Girl who never lets food allergies stop her from having fun, safely!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

King Arthur, Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix



I’m a big fan of the gluten-free and top eight allergen-free line from King Arthur Flour; however, I haven't tried everything. So, last week, when I threw a special dinner party, I knew I wanted to make chocolate cupcakes with white icing. Having never used the King Arthur Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix, I bought a box and thought I’d give it a test run. 
The result, I’m pleased to report was a chocolate cupcake with fine, soft crumb. The cake is moist with a deep cocoa flavor that is not overly sweet and has no aftertaste, as some GF products and mixes do. Two testers said: “If you didn’t tell me this was gluten-free, I would have never known”. They are that good. So good in fact, I totally forgot to take a beauty shot! I topped them with Brooklyn Allergy Mom’s “buttercream frosting” also out of this world good.
Here's more info about this mix from the King Arthur Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix site:
  • Certified Gluten-Free™ by the non-profit Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), a program of the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG®).
  • Beat in 4 eggs, vegetable oil, water, and gluten-free vanilla extract. Spoon into 2 round layer pans, bake, and enjoy. Add your own frosting, if desired.
  • Another benefit: we’ve worked hard to ensure that cake made from our mix will stay fresher longer than cake made from other mixes.
  • Wheat-free, soy-free, nut-free mix is packed in a dedicated gluten-free facility.
  • No additives, preservatives, or artificial flavors.
  • Kosher.
  • 22-ounce mix makes two 8” or 9” round layers.
  • Note: You must use an electric hand mixer or electric stand mixer to make this mix.
And here is a PDF of the ingredients online - great transparency King Arthur Flour - thank you.


Nota Bene: For many of the King Arthur Flour gluten-free mixes, you do need to add allergens back in like dairy and eggs. Here’s the King Arthur Flour community discussion board about their GF line and even a question about making this mix egg-free.

King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour, thank you for another winner product that makes allergen-friendly desserts and entertaining that much easier.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Short ribs and Gratitude


 
Brown the meat in batches



A cliff of short rib before being served
  

I'm starting this New Year with some new powerful goals: one of which is to get even more adventure from my life with food allergies. To that end, I created a food allergy-free dinner party to seal in those new goals. Braised short ribs and chocolate cupcakes anyone? This was my first short rib creation ever. Since de-vegetarian-ing myself over five years ago, I've re-discovered my lurve for all meats, especially braisedones.  So at this dinner party, chez me, all the food was Allergic Girl friendly with some alterations for my guests as well: one only eats Kosher meat, another is gluten-sensitive, another eats no processed sugar in any form, another is an omnivore for whom a “free from” dish would equal “probably doesn’t taste good”. All were meat eaters (although I would have happily made a vegan dish if needed) so I created this menu starting with what I'd like most and going from there. For the braised short ribs,  I combined several recipes to create my version. Here were my base recipes: from Simply Recipes, FoodNetwork, BonAppetit and TastyKitchen. They all had a few things in common, so I took those common elements et voila. Please note this recipe needs an overnight step and it is totally worth it.

***
Short ribs a la Allergic Girl

Ingredients
10 - 12 beef short ribs, bone-in (I used Kosher)
Kosher salt
1-2 T olive oil
1 yellow medium-sized onion, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
½ bottle 750-ml bottle good dry red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon mainly because that’s what I had handy)
1 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes
48 ounces of liquid, like water or stock or a mixture (I used Swanson’s 33% less sodium chicken broth that’s GF)


Method
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Season the ribs with salt. Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed ovenproof pan over high heat. Add ribs and brown them on all sides. Turn the heat down to medium to sear the meat and brown but not burn it. Work in batches if you need to so that the ribs aren't over-crowded.

2. Transfer the ribs to a plate. Use the fat that came off the ribs combined with the oil to sauté the celery, carrots and onion, stirring often, until softened, about 5 - 7 minutes. Then add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes or until cooked through. Add the wine, deglazing the pan, scraping off any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil the wine / veggie mixture for 10-15 minutes until slightly reduced and fragrant.

3. Return the ribs to the pan; add the stock and the can of tomatoes, making sure the liquid covers the ribs. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat; cover with foil and place in the oven. Braise the meat, cooking in the oven, until the meat is fork-tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. (I cooked mine for 2 hours.) Allow the ribs to cool in the liquid, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

4. The next day about one hour before you are ready to serve, remove the excess fat that has solidified at the top from the overnight chilling. Remove the ribs; boil the liquid until it has reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Taste for seasonings - should be salty enough from the chicken broth but if you used water, adjust. Place ribs back into the pan with cooking liquid and cook over medium heat, uncovered until bones of the ribs have detached about another 20 minutes.  Serve over rice or gluten-free noodles. 


Finished dish with steamed rice and broccoli

Monday, January 16, 2012

School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act


In December 2010, The National Institute of Health’sNational Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases released their guidelines on food allergies for both the allergist and patient communities. Within is stated that:  “First-line...treatment forfood-induced anaphylaxis…is Epinephrine.”

FAAN is actively working to get un-designated or stock epinephrine auto-injectors into schools. And they need our help. From a FAAN press release:

The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN™) is working on federal legislation that would encourage states to adopt laws requiring schools to have on hand “stock” epinephrine auto-injectors – meaning epinephrine that is not prescribed specifically to a single student but can be used for any student and staff member in an anaphylactic emergency. In 2011, Nov. 17 this bill (S. 1884), the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL). On Dec. 8, the bill (HR. 3627) was introduced in the House by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN).

What can you do? Send a letter, email or Tweet to your State Senator or Representative asking them to support bill S. 1884, the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and bill HR. 3627 introduced in the House by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN).

FAAN has more information on how to contact your local representative about these two bills that could save a child's life. Act now.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Baking Class, Brooklyn


Do you want to learn how to cook allergen-free chocolate chip cookies & allergen-free red velvet cake with "buttercream" frosting like the ones in the picture below?

Are you in the New York City area?




Join us in an interactive baking setting as we bake allergen-free with Heidi Bayer, aka Brooklyn Allergy Mom  and talk about lifestyle strategies with Sloane Miller, aka Allergic Girl. Learn how to bake chocolate chip cookies and red velvet cupcakes, and leave with the recipes as well as complimentary gluten-free all purpose flour provided by King Arthur Flour.

When: Saturday February 4th
Time: 2:00 - 5:00pm

Where: Brooklyn, NY


Click here for more information and to buy tickets.


NB: This NOT an exclusive allergen-free facility. Heidi and I will explore issues of cross- contamination and how to manage risk anywhere. For questions about your food allergies and your possible risk, talk to your board certified allergist.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Guittard Chocolate, Allergen-Friendly




       
I met the Guittard company in 2010, at the Natural products Expo East. In business since the 1850s, Guittard creates chocolate confections for retail consumers and commercial food manufacturers as well as chefs. Their chocolate comes in blocks, bars, chips, powders and discs for easy melting. It is also country specific, cocoa content specific and made by hand. All which means that Guittard is serious about chocolate. 

And all that seriousness usually that means nuts for many candy, confection and chocolate manufacturers. At the very least, it doesn’t not mean nuts. Many chocolate companies of this caliber don’t or can’t guarantee that they don’t have nuts in the facility everywhere. Or they don’t have a clear policy in place. Or they may have a policy but they may not communicate that policy or stance on their company website.



Not so with Guittard. At the 2010 Natural Products Expo East, I talked with a regional sales representative who said: “We are gluten-free and peanut-free and I will have to check about tree-nuts.” (Their packaging now has “produced in a peanut-free and gluten-free facility” right on the package, see above.) The sales rep followed up a few weeks later, sending me samples to try and a document with the full food allergen scoop. Here is Guittard's allergen statement (PDF) and here is  their allergen information on their website’s FAQ.


From the Guittard website:

Q: Are your chocolate products gluten-free?
A: Our products and our processing are gluten free.






Q: Do your chocolate products contain nuts?
A: While our facility is peanut-free, almonds are used in some chocolate products made at GuittardClick here to view our comprehensive statement about the use of almonds at Guittard.



They are not dairy free or soy free.

 

The presence of almonds in their facility did not deter me from trying with a safe friend with meds at the ready. I had no reactions and have now tried several of their products since without issue. Including the chickpea chocolate cluster recipe by Chic Naturals that I reviewed so glowingly recently.

*"May contain" labeling is a very individual decision and one you should discuss with your allergist for the best plan for you.*

The Guittard chocolate is delish, they have a full range of options and they are in Whole Foods  as well as other retails outlets and are available on Amazon.com as well.

 

Thank you  Guittard for making a delicious line of chocolate confections.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Junior Mints













I had heard that Tootsie rolls, and their other candies and facility, were nut-free but didn’t think too much about it. I'm not a huge candy eater. But darn it, if Bed, Bath & Beyond’s sales trick didn’t get me. I was making a return a few weeks ago and Peppermint Junior Mints were at hand level at the counter, I picked them up and read their ingredients and allergen statements. Nut-free and gluten-free?

When I got home the website confirmed it.

All Tootsie products are:
    •    Gluten-Free (All Tootsie products are gluten free except Andes cookies.)
    •    Peanut-Free
    •    Nut Product-Free
Tootsie does not use wheat, barley, rye, oats, triticale, spelt, or any of their components, either as ingredients or as part of the manufacturing process. Corn and soy products are used during the manufacturing process.

Thank you Tootsie company for your ongoing commitment to doing what you do best - without nuts!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Christmas Dinner, Allergen-Free


This time of year is always quiet for me. The city empties out, people hunker down or leave town and Jewish people, well, we kind of do our own thing i.e. go to Florida, work, volunteer, hang out or a whole lot of not much. Ever hear the cliché of movies and Chinese food on Christmas for Jewish people? It has a basis in truth. When I was a child in New York City those two things were the only thing open on Christmas Day – that’s changed as lots more stays open later or opens earlier. But because this isn’t my holiday, typically I don’t do much. Until this year, when I decided to co-host a December 25 dinner; like Thanksgiving all over again. The guests were a mix of relatives and friends; Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Christian. And the dinner was all yummy and allergen-free for this allergic girl: no nuts, no fish, no wheat. (It was also low-fat, low salt, part vegan and all super easy).

The recipes were:
 -Brown sugar glazed sweet potatoes by Epicurious ( I omitted the almonds).
 -Beet greens by Food52 (I didn’t make these but it’s a great idea for beet tops).
-Roasted beets (I added orange zest just before serving) – I don’t follow a recipe but here’s a decent one from about.com.
 -Roasted Brussel sprouts (I added lemon zest and juice just before serving) - I don’t follow a recipe but here’s a decent one from about.com.
 -Short ribs – we used this a base recipe then made a few alterations, like less wine.
 -Lemon garlic chicken - no recipe but there are tons on the internet.
 -White rice (pre-made from a local Chinese restaurant, so fluffy!) mixed with butter and parsley.

What was your holiday like? Did you travel? Volunteer? Make or attend a family dinner?

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Chic Naturals

(These are all five flavors, set out for me and my non-allergic co-tester of Chic Naturals roasted chickpeas.)

Chic Naturals found me on Twitter and when I had a zoom around their website, I asked to get some samples and I’m so glad I did. I’m a chickpea fan, baked, fried, stewed; I eat them with pasta and I love to snack on them. So these snacks are really right up my alley.

Chic Naturals says they are “Made in our own dedicated Gluten Free, Nut Free facility.” Further exploring on their site produced their “About Us” link. What interested me most were their statements about being a dedicated facility and which chocolate they use. I emailed asking for some further information. Here is the reply I received, reprinted with permission:

"We have our own dedicated kitchen on Maui. We do not use a co-packer and never will because we are committed to manufacturing an allergen free product and we can only guarantee that if we manufacture that product ourselves. The only products we process in our kitchen are chickpeas and chickpea products. The only products that are put in our ovens are chickpeas. We are totally gluten free and nut free, as well as free of many other allergens including corn and yeast. 

We have absolutely no nuts of any kind in or near our kitchen and that includes every kind of tree nuts, as well as coconuts. 

We support American farmers and use only American grown chickpeas; therefore we know where our chickpeas are coming from and what growing process they go through.



The chocolate we use is Guittard's and we only use their real chocolate. The dark chocolate they produce is also dairy free, which is great for people with allergies to dairy/casein. Regarding your question about it being free of tree nuts, I can tell you that they are definitely peanut free and they have a disclosure that although their chocolate is made in a facility that also handles tree nuts, the chocolate is made in a nut free environment. They have a FAQ section on their website at: http://www.guittard.com/faq.asp if you would like to read their disclosures and answers to customers questions. In our opinion they produce a great product. When we are working with the chocolate we have a separate room for that in order to guarantee that our products are soy free and dairy free with the exception of the chocolate products.



We started this business because we have family members who various issues with food, which include allergies and digestion problems, as well as celiacs & MS. 

We are totally committed to making a very healthy product that consists of only "real food" and nothing else."

(For more about Guittard and tree nuts here is their allergen statement from 2006. I have tried Guittard before without issue and will be reviewing them soon.)
 
With those reassurances I happily tucked in and tried all five flavors. And I loved them all.

Hawaiian Sea Salt & Herbs is salty and herby, great to put out as a safe snack during cocktail hour.

Spicy BBQ is full of smokey paprika – addictive.

Sweet Citrus – both sweet and savory all at once. I finished that bag first.

Maui Mocha - has a deep coffee smell and flavor – the chickpea virtually disappears.

Chocolate Crunch – these clusters are made with dark chocolate. Not overly sweet, they have that fruit-like flavor of high quality chocolate combined with a savory note of a roasted legume (think peanuts but not peanuts). These chocolates are definitely way too easy to pop!

Thank you Chic Naturals for producing such a yummy snack and especially for your transparency about your allergen polices and procedures and your availability for questions – we love that!   

Have more questions? Please contact them for more information.