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)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Recipe: Burger Salad

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know my taste in food: clean, easy, delicious, using whole foods and seasonably available ingredients, few processed things and just plain yum. This is less of a recipe and more of a riff on a dish I had several years back and burger restaurant off of University Place now closed, called The Stand. They made a burger salad: three little slider burgers on top of a big bowl of salad dressed with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and parmesan. Immediately I knew this was my new jam! Food allergy free for me and so easy, why did I think of it? I created my own version and added it into my monthly meal rotation. A favorite with friends and family too, it’s ridic easy and top eight allergen free (if you don’t use the parmesan cheese)!

In the picture above, I made a turkey version, using ground turkey dark meat (way more flavor packed), got a great Maillard on it (that’s the crusty meaty part) and served with fresh bi-color corn. 


Recipe: Burger Salad for One

Romaine lettuce -  washed and chopped
1/4 pound of freshly ground meat (turkey, chicken, beef - use your fave)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice 
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Serve with fresh steamed veggies (like corn, broccoli, spinach - anything you like but definitely round out the meal with some extra beautiful veggies)

Assemble your salad first in a nice big bowl that you will also use for serving: use fresh lettuce, seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon juice and a little bit of olive oil. 

Next cook up your burger. Make sure to season your burger with salt and pepper, don’t skip this step and cook on high heat with plenty of oil. 

I use the diner-style technique for these burgers outline by the New York Times here and here.

Serve the burger over the salad while the burger is sizzling hot. I drizzle some of the cooking fat over the salad. Trust me, it’s divine. 

Serve, enjoy, repeat.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: Storylines, Guggenheim Museum

Storylines at the Guggenheim Museum

Imagine you’re strolling slowly through a field, a lawn, even Central Park. You see two butterflies, dancing with each other, swooping, playful, graceful. You watch as they flirt around a nearby tree, through some low shrubs, around some blossoms. As you slowly stroll, they discovered you and flit their way in your direction. Your strolling slows as they come closer and closer and then you’re surrounded by two dancing butterflies.

For several moments, they dance around you like you’re the flower, a welcome third in their dyad. You become part of their story and they become a part of yours. Your breath and their breath synchronize and then something even more magical happens: three become one. Just for a moment. And then just as spontaneously they move on, encircling another flower, or tree or person, dancing, flying swooping, elegant and free.

That’s the experience I had the other day at the Storylines exhibit now open at the Guggenheim Museum as two dancers, who are part of an art installation within the Storylines exhibit by Gerard & Kelly called Timelining encircled me and included me in their dance. It was thrilling. 

The two couples (one in the left of frame and one in the center of the frame) are all Gerard & Kelly dancers

Here's some basic information about the Storylines from the Guggenheim website:

Bringing together over one hundred works from the Guggenheim’s contemporary collection, Storylines examines the diverse ways in which artists today engage narrative through installation, painting, photography, sculpture, video, and performance. For these artists, storytelling does not necessarily require plots, characters, or settings. Rather, narrative potential lies in everyday objects and materials, and their embedded cultural associations. In projects created through extensive research, acts of appropriation, or performance, the artists in Storylines  uncover layers of meaning, turning to individual experience as a means of conveying shared stories, whether real or fictional.
We all have stories. Ones that we tell to ourselves, that we tell to others, ones that we tell about ourselves to others. This exhibit seeks to explore how several artists tell stories in multiple mediums. It’s a thinky museum show; not a romp through rooms upon rooms of pretty pictures from old masters. To be fair, there are pieces that can be simply looked at but mainly this is an interactive show and I’m still interacting with it, at least conceptually, ten days after seeing the press preview.

I don’t have a snappy review of it or even a critique, but I’ve definitely been moved by several of the pieces there and it’s a show whose core concepts around narrative are close to my heart as a writer, artist, improviser and psychotherapist.

Here’s the core of what the exhibit is about should you wish to see it on a visit to New York City this summer and fall. 

The ceiling of the Guggenheim, by Frank Lloyd Wright
A beautiful reading room nook off one of the exhibit floors

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Food Allergy Counseling: Your Middle School Aged Child and Worry Versus Vigilance

The fourth and final installment of my middle school aged child* and food allergies blog post series (here are parts onetwo and threeis to give this dynamic that I’ve been exploring a name. 

I think of it thusly: worry versus vigilance.

What we with food allergies need to do is separate worry about a food allergic reaction from practicing vigilance around how to manage food allergy risk whilst living a full, fun life.

This practice is a skill set I use as a food allergic adult and I teach this skill set to my food allergy counseling clients.  

It will be refined over time by the person with food allergies as circumstances and life stages change. For now, I will break it down into its most basic definitions for parents of children with food allergies.**

The feeling of worry is based on the “What ifs” scenarios that runs through our minds (“our” refers to the person with food allergy at any age): what if I ate my allergen by mistake, what if that restaurant cook didn’t wash their hands of my allergen before creating my food, what if I didn’t read that label closely and my allergen is hidden in that snack, what if this doorknob has my allergen smeared on it, what if I want to kiss my date and they ate my allergen? 

What if scenarios involve an endless series of questions without an action to get those questions answered adequately. These scenarios may or may not be rational thoughts/concerns but the feeling of anxiety, worry, panic that can set in when the implied question of food allergy risk isn’t answered begins to grow at an alarming rate, resulting in feelings of anxiety that can easily lead to panic. And classic panic attacks can feel very close to anaphylactic reaction. 

The practice of vigilance is one of remaining watchful and alert and calmly thinking through a food allergy scenario. I call it “If this, then that”: if I don’t feel safe at this restaurant after communicating my needs clearly, then I won’t eat, if I don’t understand all the ingredients on this label, then I won’t eat it until I can get more information, if I don’t have my emergency medication on my person, then I won’t eat, if I accidentally ingested my allergen, then I will enact my anaphylaxis protocol, if I don’t fully understand my food allergy diagnosis, then I will explore options with my board certified medical health practitioner.

Vigilance is defined as the action or state of keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties and taking the necessary action. Remaining vigilant doesn’t mean you aren’t worried or anxious but it does mean that in addition to those feelings you take an active role in calming yourself and taking appropriate steps to stay safe. 

See the difference? Radical, right?

Vigilance gives us agency over our lives with food allergy and risk; constant worry invokes feelings of helplessness and paralysis, with little to no action over our lives with food allergy and risk.

Ask yourself: What is your normal state of being around food allergy risk? Are you constantly worried? Do you feel helpless or out of control? Do you feel prepared? 

Using my previous posts (onetwo and three), explore your child’s fears while giving them hard facts about disease management. Have deeper questions? Ask your board certified pediatrician and/or allergist. Feel overwhelmed and need more support? Consider consulting with a child psychologist, a licensed social worker (like me) or a psychiatrist.

Remember above all, separating worry and vigilance is a process and a practice. There is no perfect. There are good days, better days and days of pure food allergy crapola. That’s okay. Keep going.


*I'm using Middle School aged children to represent the middle school years 8-12.

** Please note: these posts are also for any tween, teen and/or adult with severe life threatening food allergies and anaphylaxis.

NB: When fears are not managed, children can suffer or withdraw. If you witness troubling behaviors in your child, please have them evaluated by a local child psychologist, social worker or psychiatrist as well as your allergist and your pediatrician.


Here are parts one, two and three of this blog series on middle school aged children and anxiety around food allergies.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Recipe: Chickpea and Pasta Salad Salad

When the weather heats up here in New York City, and these tar covered streets hold in the heat and distribute it directly to your body when you walk, major ugh,  I like to cool down with more cool salads and more water-based fruits and veg.

Last night though it was beautifully unseasonably cool for June 1. So, I wanted something warm but not hot, salad-y yet with some heft. And I invented this recipe. I'm calling it: Chickpea and Pasta Salad Salad. You could have the pasta salad solo; or the salad solo. But why not mix them all up, have a super healthy dish that is a whole bunch of BIG salad!

It’s free from the top eight allergens, easy, delicious and light, perfect for the summer months or an unseasonably cool night.

It’s also can be made in scores of variations. Use your favorite salad base. Use your favorite bean. Use your favorite citrus-based salad dressing. And use your safe-for-your pasta. Below is my version because it’s what I had on hand but I’m certain I’ll be playing with variations all summer long.


Chickpea and Pasta Salad Salad
(I didn't measure. Just use the serving size that you like for you!)

Romaine lettuce  washed and chopped
Bell peppers – washed, deveined and chopped
Canned chickpeas – drained and rinsed
Tinkyada Gluten-Free organic rice pasta - cooked until al dente and drained 
Freshly squeezed lemon juice 
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Red pepper flakes (optional)

While the pasta is cooking, assemble your lettuce and peppers in a big bowl. Generously season the undressed salad. In a small bowl (better yet, a tupperware to store the extra), toss the chickpeas with a splash of olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper (and red pepper flakes, if you’re using them). Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Once pasta is cooked and drained, add to the seasoned chickpeas and mix together. Add more olive oil and lemon, salt and pepper and taste again. Now add the pasta/chickpea mixture to your seasoned salad base. Take a bite. Is there flavor? Does it need more lemon? More salt? Some fresh herbs? Keep adjusting until it’s just right for you. Serve warmish and enjoy!