Tag Archive | children with food allergy

Christmas Cookies–without Eggs and Nuts

By Jen Ashenfelter

It is “that” time of the holiday season. Do or die.  Make or break. Crunch time. Not exactly D Day, but B Day. Yes, I’m talking about Baking Day and filling the cookie jars. If you haven’t spent a few hours baking Christmas cookies yet, you definitely need to make the time, now!  And I have to confess, I just found time this week.  Whew.  Good thing–I needed a cookie fix!

My last post was about having a child with food allergies. Depending on what food the child is allergic or sensitive to, this can present challenges during special holidays. A peanut or tree nut allergy is always a concern but it can be a bit more tricky at Halloween and Easter. Try taking half of a 5 year old’s candy away from him after an hour of trick-or-treating. And then there are the trays of beautiful Christmas cookies–next to a pillowcase full of candy, what child can resist? Nearly every cookie recipe calls for an egg and most are chocked full of nuts. So what does a mother do? She sets out on a quest to find sweet treats and holiday traditions that will leave no family member feeling left out of the eating frenzy.

Luckily, there are two cookie recipes from my childhood that keep the baked Christmas tradition alive: Spiced Shortbreads and Little Raisin Logs. Neither use eggs or nuts and both are delicious. If your child has a dairy allergy, then you might try making them with alternatives to butter and milk chocolate.

Spiced Shortbreadchristmas-cookies-1
Preheat oven to 300.

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 tbsp brown sugar (For regular shortbread, use regular sugar and omit the spices.)

1/2 cup butter

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground cloves

* In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar and spices. Using a pastry cutter (or a food processor), cut in butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling. Form the mixture into a ball and knead until smooth.

* To make shortbread rounds, on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to 1/2″ thick. Use a cookie cutter (or the top of a small glass) to cut rounds. Place them 1″ apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Knead the remaining dough and repeat until there’s not enough dough left. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with colored sugar immediately after removing from the oven.

If you’ve never made shortbread cookies or, like me, you’re the farthest thing from a Martha Stewart baking champ,  consider yourself warned…a lot more work goes into them compared to making chocolate chip cookies. But to me, it’s worth the effort to make my little guy happy with a special Christmastime treat.

Little Raisin Logs

Preheat oven to 325.

1 cup raisinsraisin log cookies

(1 cup pecans – obviously I omit these but if you don’t have a nut allergy, then you may want to add these in.)

1 cup butter or soft margarine

1/3 cup sugar

2 tsp brandy

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 pkg (6oz) semi-sweet chocolate pieces

3 tbsp shortening

* Finely chop raisins (and pecans). In a large bowl, thoroughly blend butter and sugar. Beat in brandy, vanilla and salt. Stir in raisins, nuts and flour.

* On a lightly floured board, take a small spoonful of dough and roll into a log shape about 1/2″ in diameter and 2 1/2″ long. Bake on an ungreased pan/sheet for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool.

* Meanwhile, melt chocolate and shortening in a bowl over boiling water. (I set one of my metal mixing bowls over a medium saucepan.) Blend thoroughly. When the cookies have cooled, dip one end into the melted chocolate. Place on a wire rack to set. Depending on the size of the logs, makes 4 or 5 dozen.

I also have a few recipes for layered magic bars that don’t use eggs or nuts either. I’m happy to share those recipes too–leave a note asking for the recipe and I’ll gladly post or send you an email. If you decide to try these recipes, I’d love to hear your feedback. And if you have a favorite Christmas cookie recipe that doesn’t use eggs or nuts, please share! Enjoy…

Having a Child with Food Allergies

My youngest has food allergies but that doesn’t stop us from eating well.

By Jen Ashenfelter

Having a child with food allergies can be overwhelming at first, but there are resources and support organizations available to make life easier. My youngest son Christopher, who just turned 11, has food allergies to peanuts, tree nuts and eggs which were diagnosed after he turned one year old. Let me begin by saying, fortunately, he has never experienced a severe reaction that required emergency medical attention. He developed slight wheezing and a bright red bottom covered with hives after eating a piece of bread with a thin spread of peanut butter. And so our adventure with specialists, allergy testing and strict food avoidance began.

A look at some food allergy facts and figures, and symptoms

According to information posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, a food allergy is an abnormal reaction by the immune system to a food protein which results in an immediate release of chemicals such as histamine. Mild to severe symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Hives, rash or eczema
  • Itching, tingling in the mouth
  • Swelling, including the tongue and throat
  • Abdominal cramps, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Coughing, wheezing and/or difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness or loss of consciousness
  • Anaphylaxis – a severe allergic reaction that can cause multiple, simultaneous symptoms including swelling of the tongue and throat, and difficulty breathing. This reaction can result in death.

Always seek immediate medical attention if you believe your child is experiencing an adverse reaction to a food, and consult with your pediatrician about finding a specialist to handle further testing for food allergies.

It is estimated that at least 15 million people in the United States have food allergies. About 4–6% of children under 18 have food allergies, with more boys than girls developing them. And these numbers seem to be rising each year. 90% of all reactions are caused by just eight different foods. The top food allergens include:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts including walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts and macadamia
  • Fish
  • Shellfish including shrimp, crab and lobster
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Soybeans
  • Wheat

Eggless pancakes taste just as good as those made with eggs.

The glass is ½ full

Everyone’s experience with food allergies is going to be very different depending on which foods have to be eliminated from the diet and the level of sensitivity. Some children can experience a severe reaction to peanut dust in the air and others may only experience a reaction when the food is ingested. Honestly, it was very scary and frustrating for me as a mother at first. But that was 10 years ago. Ok, it will never “be easy” for a mother dealing with a new allergy, yet I think the resources and support have improved over the years. It helps to remain positive, proactive and open to working with people who are not familiar with food allergies.

For us, Christopher’s food allergies are manageable. Baking a birthday cake, holiday cookies and other special treats can be challenging, but I’ve found recipes that don’t include egg and nuts. (I’ll share a few of these recipes with my next post.) Halloween and Easter were tricky at first, but we’ve learned how to handle it positively. Luckily he’s grown up with these food allergies, so he’s used to the dietary restrictions and the taste of alternative recipes. He doesn’t know any differently, and the rest of the family made the transition without too much pain. We have an Epi-Pen on hand in case of an anaphylactic reaction, and his elementary school has procedures in place to handle students with food allergies including a peanut-free table in the cafeteria.

A little education goes a long way in creating a positive experience

I think the bigger challenge is educating Christopher and those around us about his food allergies, as well as making others feel comfortable about it. You cannot expect that everyone will automatically understand or cater to the child’s specific needs. In my opinion, handling the situation requires a delicate balance. Above all, you have to make sure your child is safe. Next, being prepared is important—a little homework goes a long way in creating a positive experience for everyone.  And always, in age appropriate stages, teach your child about their food allergy and how to protect himself.

A food allergy can be a life-threatening situation so it’s important for family and friends to understand the situation before you arrive. It’s best to ask questions and discuss food choices before arriving at someone’s home. I’ve always found it helpful to either bring safe foods for Christopher to eat so our hosts would not have to worry or to politely suggest foods and products to serve or avoid. I also suggest calling a restaurant you plan on attending to discuss how the foods your child may choose are prepared or to preview a list of ingredients. I can honestly say that we’ve never had a bad experience where someone was unreceptive to my questions or requests…and when in doubt, always err on the side of caution.

The following are some helpful links that provide more information about food allergies:

The latest food allergy facts and statistics:

http://www.foodallergy.org/page/facts-and-stats

Vital information about food allergies in school settings:

http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/foodallergies/index.htm

Information from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology:

http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/food-allergies.aspx

Tips from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: 

http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/food-allergy.aspx