Monday, November 29, 2010

Allergy-Free Holiday Treats Online

by Kelley Lindberg

Chanukah starts this week (wow, how did that creep up on me so fast?), and Christmas is less than four weeks away, so it’s a good time to think about finding safe holiday treats for bright-eyed little tykes (and neighbors, and teachers, and co-workers, and…).

Because holidays and treats go hand-in-hand whether we want them to or not, I like to hunt through online sources to find the latest in allergy-friendly treats that can help make your food-allergic family members or friends feel a little more special and a little less excluded at this time of year.

So here is a list of ideas for this holiday season. It may be too late to order for Chanukah unless you’re willing to pay for express shipping, but there’s still time for Christmas. So check out these online grocers and manufacturers who are dedicated to making our lives a little… um… sweeter, and help them have a happier holiday, too.
  • Yummy Earth.  Yummy Earth candies (lollipops, drops and gummy bears) are corn-free, as well as being free from the big 8, and they use natural colorings and flavorings. They’re sometimes available in health food stores, Toys R Us and Babies R Us, but I don’t know if they’re here in Utah. However, you can buy them online at and on Amazon.
  • Allergies and Me:  This is a great online grocer who sells gluten-free and allergy-friendly products, including candy. My latest find there: ice cream cones that are free from the Big 8! This is also the place for gluten-free licorice twists in several flavors, lollipops, gum, etc.
  • Amanda’s Own Confections:  Looking for safe Chanukah gelt bags? Amanda’s own offers gelt bags with 10 gold and sliver foil-wrapped chocolate gelt, and they’re free from dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, and gluten, plus they’re Kosher certified! For Christmas, they have chocolate Santas, snowmen, snowflakes, and other fun shapes. Order by Dec. 16 for Christmas. (Chocolate contains soy lecithin, but they say “the soy protein has been removed.”)
  • Divvies:  Nut-free, dairy-free, and egg-free chocolate bars and jelly beans for both Christmas and Chanukah (contain soy).
  • AllerNeeds:  This online grocer sells allergy-friendly foods from several vendors, including Enjoy Life! Foods’ Boom Choco Boom chocolate bars. They also sell some familiar candy manufactured in Canada’s nut-free and peanut-free factories, so it’s worth checking out.
  • Vermont Nut Free:  Their chocolates are peanut-free and nut-free, but they do have milk and egg warnings on them. Their huge selection of nut-free chocolates for both Christmas and Chanukah (non-Kosher) includes lots of fun shapes and a nice selection of gift baskets. You’ll also find treats like chocolate-covered pretzels, peppermint crunch bark, and ornaments filled with candy-coated Skippers chocolates.
  • Chocolate Emporium:  Read the ingredients carefully on this website, but they do offer a lot of allergen-friendly goodies. Call before you order to ensure you get what you need.
  • Peanut Free Planet:  This site sells candy from lots of different manufacturers. They have an Iced Gingerbread Cookie that’s free from peanuts, tree nuts, diary, egg, and gluten! The also have Kosher, nut-free, and dairy-free chocolate gelt, and Sun Cups (like Reese’s) that are peanut-free, tree nut-free, gluten-free, and Kosher Dairy. You’ll find chocolate, jelly beans, and all sorts of allergen-friendly groceries. I found some nut-free Kit-Kats there (from Canada), so I bought some for my son’s stocking!
  • Indie Candy:  One of my blog readers introduced me to this site – and it looks like a real find, although I haven’t ordered from them yet. They have a large selection of confections and let you search by your specific allergy needs. The Gummi Christmas Trees look wonderful (and you can order them corn-free), as do the Big-8-free Christmas Lights Lollipops and the gorgeous Giant Snowflake Lollipops.
Got another source you love for holiday candy or treats? Share it with us!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Food-Allergy-Related Things I’m Thankful For

by Kelley Lindberg

As Thanksgiving approaches, it seemed like a good time to recall all the things I’m especially grateful for. And while having food allergies may make a traditional Thanksgiving feast a little problematic, it shouldn’t keep us from remembering that in many ways, we still have so much to be thankful for. Here’s my Top Ten List for this year.
  1. Rice milk and egg replacers.
  2. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), which became effective January 1, 2006, and required manufacturers in the United States to label all foods containing the top 8 food allergens, and to declare the allergen in plain language. This single act has made living with food allergies so much easier.
  3. The Utah Food Allergy Network (UFAN), the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), Kids with Food Allergies, the Food Allergy Initiative, and other organizations that provide the information, resources, recipes, and support that make our lives a little bit easier.
  4. Manufacturers who are beginning to recognize that food-allergic customers are a sizeable force and are making an effort to produce allergy-friendly products.
  5. My son’s best friends, who have stuck by him all these years and make sure he always has someone safe to sit by at lunch.
  6. Restaurants and wait staff who actually care and make an effort to keep unsafe allergens out of our food.
  7. Teachers who are willing to modify their curricula to eliminate food projects or replace them with safe substitutions, who call me when they need food items for classroom projects, and who welcome me on field trips and at parties to “keep an eye on things.”
  8., who makes those great translation cards for food allergens, which make it possible for me to travel with my son more confidently.
  9. That we live now, when awareness is blossoming and making it more manageable to live with food allergies than it was even a decade ago.
  10. Good friends who go out of their way to make their homes and parties safe, who have helped me develop recipes over the years, who keep their eyes open for new allergy-friendly products, and who offer a shoulder to lean on whenever I need it.
And a bonus thank you to all of you who read my blog each week, share your experiences, and reach out to make this a better world for people with food allergies everywhere. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Allergy-Free Cupcakes, Cupcakes, Cupcakes!

by Kelley Lindberg

My son, the human whirlwind, just celebrated his birthday again. How he keeps getting so big while I stay so young is beyond me (although watching 17 kids race around Classic Fun Center skating, going wild on the bouncies, and shooting each other with laser tag aged me a few decades, I think). Anyway, he had a blast with all his best buddies.

Because my son and his best friend have food allergies, we’ve always had to make their birthday cakes and cupcakes. No adorable store-bought cakes for us, unfortunately. So over the years, some other moms and I have found some safe cake recipes, and I’ve often used Cherrybrook Kitchen’s yummy safe cake mixes. So out of necessity, I’ve learned how to make birthday cakes shaped like a skateboard, a jet plane, a space shuttle, a swimming pool, Pikachu, a Power Ranger, and Lego bricks. (Thank goodness for the internet and creative people – I can usually find simple instructions for making fun cakes online!) This year, he wanted cupcakes decorated to look like Pokéballs. (For those of you without pre-teen boys, those are balls that contain Pokémon critters when they aren’t battling each other or having adventures.)

A couple of months ago, a friend discovered that Duncan Hines now makes a few cake mixes without milk or eggs in them – just wheat. So I decided to give them a try. My son wanted the lemon cake and the red velvet cake flavors, so that’s what we bought.

Each mix calls for 3 eggs, so instead of the eggs, I substituted Ener-G egg replacer, and I had to add 1/4 cup flour to each because of the high altitude here, but they turned out great! The red velvet cake was a bit crumbly, but both cakes mixes turned out well, and I was able to frost them with Pillsbury Creamy Supreme frosting (contains soy) without any trouble. I used colored sprinkles for the colored half of the Pokéballs, Wilton’s Black Decorator Icing for the black lines (contains soy and wheat), and Smarties for the buttons. Voila! Mucho “cool mom” points.

So if you’re looking for an easy way to make your next birthday cake or cupcake, you might give those Duncan Hines cake mixes a try. These are the Duncan Hines cake flavors {} that their web site says contain only wheat (but check labels carefully – ingredients can change at any time):
  • Butter Recipe Golden Cake Mix
  • Classic Yellow Cake Mix
  • Spice Premium Cake Mix
  • Butter Recipe Fudge Cake Mix
  • Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
  • Devil’s Food Cake Mix
  • German Chocolate Cake Mix
  • Red Velvet Cake Mix
  • Swiss Chocolate Cake Mix
  • Lemon Supreme Cake Mix
  • Pineapple Supreme Cake Mix (contains soy and wheat)
Happy baking!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Time to Change Your Dishwasher Soap?

by Kelley Lindberg

Today’s blog column isn’t just for food allergy folks – it’s for anyone who uses a dishwasher!

For several weeks, my husband had been tearing our dishwasher apart numerous times because suddenly our dishes (especially plastics) were coming out covered in a white, filmy, chalky sort of residue. Naturally, we assumed our dishwasher was to blame.

But after replacing a few parts (he found a broken impeller) and thoroughly cleaning out the nasty stuff blocking its filters and that sort of thing, we stumbled upon the real culprit. It turns out that the dishwasher soap we’ve been using (Cascade) is probably causing the white chalky residue we’ve been fighting.

As of July 1 of this year, dishwashing soap can no longer contain phosphates, which are responsible for significant damage to sealife – phosphates in water set up a vicious cycle that makes huge algae blooms that eventually deplete the water of oxygen, killing off the fish we need for the survival of the ecosystem.

So eliminating phosphates is a good thing. But it turns out that some detergent manufacturers made better choices than others when it came to reformulating their dishwasher soaps. And because there wasn’t a lot of public hoopla about the change, thousands of people have been calling repairmen or replacing their dishwashers, thinking (like I did) that there was something wrong with their machine. It never occurred to me that the soap I’d been using for years would suddenly change with no notice on the packaging.

So, if you’re struggling with your dishes coming out of your dishwasher with a white chalky residue on them, try changing your soap before you spring for a new machine.

First, you can go to Utah TV station KSL’s website to read about the change in soaps in their article “Dishes Not Getting Clean?

Consumer Reports magazine’s website has an article, “Low-Phosphate Dishwasher Detergents That Work,” about the new soaps and which ones they recommend. I’ve switched to Finish Powerball Tabs, and my dishes have been coming out much cleaner for the last month or so. It’s made a huge difference.

One more tip: if your dishes are covered in the chalky white substance right now, try soaking them in white vinegar for a while before you wash them. The vinegar takes the substance off nicely.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Aluminum Is in Baking Powder?

by Kelley Lindberg

Just when I think I’ve got a handle on things… life pops up a little “gotcha” sign, just to remind me not to get complacent.

I’ve been allergic to aluminum and possibly a few other metals for about eight years now. I can’t wear antiperspirant because the element that makes antiperspirants work is an aluminum salt, and it started making me break out in an uncomfortable, itchy rash. I can’t wear a watch that has metal buckles or straps – same itchy rash. I also have to be really careful about the makeup I wear (mascara, eye shadow, eye liner, nail polish, etc.), since most brands use aluminum to add color, shine, and sparkle. In my case, aluminum-laden nail polish eats away my nails, and aluminum-tainted mascara makes my eyes burn and turn red. Not usually the look I’m going for.

I’ve eliminated aluminum in my food preparation, too. I avoid aluminum foil, I threw out all my aluminum pans years ago, and I read medicines to make sure they don’t contain aluminum.

So when my friend brought over some flour tortillas this week, she stumped me by saying, “I got this brand for you because it contains aluminum-free baking powder.”

“Aluminum-free what?” I asked. The look on my face must have been interesting. “There’s aluminum in baking powder? Why on earth would they put aluminum in baking powder?”

So I opened up my cabinet, took out my can of Clabber Girl Baking Powder, and sure enough, there it was: sodium aluminum sulfate.

It just goes to show… Sometimes you’re in such a habit of buying a particular brand, you never think to check the label. And here I thought I was on top of the whole label-reading thing. Humbling, isn’t it?

I probably bake something using baking powder about once a month – more so around the holidays. I don’t know if it’s been affecting me, but I do have my share of health issues, so it’s possible. But between my allergy and the studies that show a link between Alzheimer’s patients and increased levels of aluminum in their brains, I don’t want to ingest any more of that metal than absolutely necessary.

So I went to the grocery store yesterday and found Rumford brand aluminum-free baking powder – interestingly, it’s also made by Clabber Girl. And as a bonus, Clabber Girl uses a peanut-free facility to manufacture all of their baking powders, and they’re all kosher, too. You can read Clabber Girl’s peanut-free policy on their website (

My old can of baking powder is in the trash now, and my new can of Rumford aluminum-free baking powder is sitting on my shelf.

Whew. Just in time for those Thanksgiving pies…