Monday, March 9, 2009

Bring On the Chocolate Bunnies!

“Here comes Peter Cottontail, hoppin’ down the bunny trail! Hippity hoppity, Easter’s on its way…”

Lucky for you, this blog is text-only, so you don’t have to hear me sing. My son isn’t as lucky, however. Ha! I can’t wait to sing in front of his friends and embarrass him completely.

Okay, so Easter is still five weeks away. But when you have children with food allergies, now’s the time to start planning for those egg hunts and Easter Baskets – or for your Passover Seder feasts – because to find egg-free, milk-free, and nut-free chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and other goodies, you almost certainly have to order them from an online manufacturer.

So today I’ll offer some ideas and links to places to shop for Easter and Passover goodies, so you can get the jump (ha! I slay myself) on ordering. Trust me, you don’t want to wait until the last minute. Last year, some of the allergy-free chocolate makers ran out of bunnies, so if you waited too long to order them, you were out of luck. This year, many of them have notices saying “Available before March 28 or until supplies are gone.” So this year, we’re all going to be smart little bunnies and do it early, right? Right!

If your kids are only allergic to nuts, you may find Hershey’s chocolate bunnies in the grocery stores – check the label carefully, but I can usually find a nut-free Hershey’s bunny without having to order it. And this year, Hershey’s has a bag of candy-coated chocolate mini eggs that are nut-free. (I got a bag at Smith’s.)

However, if you need to avoid milk or eggs or gluten (or all three), it gets harder. Luckily, there are several really good chocolate manufacturers online who offer allergy-friendly chocolates and candies for every holiday. So check these out:

Vermont Nut Free: Their chocolates are peanut-free and nut-free, but they do have milk and egg warnings on them. But their selection of nut-free chocolates is great – chocolate pops on a stick, bunnies, truffles, gold-foil-wrapped coins, etc. Yummy!

Divvies: Nut-free, dairy-free, and egg-free chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, gummy stars, and chocolate chips! Oh my! This online grocer sells allergy-friendly foods from several vendors, but the best part is they sell Enjoy Life! Foods’ Boom Choco Boom chocolate bars in a variety pack of six bars. (Enjoy Life! Foods are free from the top 8 allergens.) They also sell some candy manufactured in Canada’s nut-free and peanut-free factories, so it’s worth checking out.

Amanda’s Own Confections: They offer a whole line of chocolate goodies for Easter and Passover, as well as jelly beans and other candies, all dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, and gluten-free!

Chocolate Emporium: Read the ingredients carefully on this website, but they do offer a lot of kosher (parve) chocolate items for Passover, all of which are dairy-free, and most of which are gluten-free. Most of the Passover chocolates do, however, contain nut contamination, and some contain egg whites. The only Passover chocolate item that didn’t contain eggs, nuts, gluten, or dairy that I could find was the chocolate-covered raisins. Their Easter chocolate list has a much larger number of items that are milk-free, nut-free, egg-free, and gluten-free, including bunnies, pops (chocolate shapes on a stick), foil-covered mini eggs, jelly beans, a bunny-shaped chocolate box filled with jelly beans, etc. Call before you order to ensure you get what you need. As an added bonus, all Easter items are kosher. Go figure.

Remember, Easter eggs and Easter baskets don’t have to be filled with candy. Oriental Trading Company offers a bazillion (I counted them) little novelty toys that fit inside Easter eggs or into Easter baskets, and you can buy them by the dozen or more. (Anyone need 144 smiley-face bunny erasers for only $4.99?) And for the ultimate in time-saving, you can even buy plastic eggs pre-filled with little toys (2 dozen for $7.99). Now THAT’s a helpful Easter Bunny.

Hoppy shopping!

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