Monday, May 2, 2011

Happy (and Allergy-Safe) Cinco de Mayo!

by Kelley Lindberg


Everyone’s favorite pseudo-holiday, Cinco de Mayo, is this Thursday! Because we Americans love any excuse to celebrate, we’ve co-opted yet another minor holiday and turned it into a giant beer- and food-filled fiesta! (Think St. Patrick’s day, but with spicier fare.)

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I love Mexican food! (And the margaritas are nice, too.)

But while you’re celebrating, keep in mind that Mexican restaurants are one of the most likely places for a nut-allergic person to have a food allergy reaction.

Nuts, you ask? At a Mexican restaurant? Dairy, sure. Seafood, okay. But nuts?

Yep, nuts.

Mole (pronounced "mole-ay") sauces, a mainstay of many upscale Mexican restaurants, are wonderful, flavorful sauces for enchiladas. However, almost all mole sauces are made from ground-up nuts – almonds and peanuts being two of the most common, but not the only ones.

But moles aren’t the only culprits. Plain ol’ enchilada sauce – that ubiquitous red sauce that smothers enchiladas, burritos, heuvos rancheros, and just about anything else that comes on a plate, can often have a nut warning on the label.

So before you move your fiesta to a restaurant, call ahead or check their website to see if there are safe menu items for your nut-allergic family member or friend. My son knows to stick with a plain cheese quesadilla whenever we go to our favorite Mexican establishments, but that would never work for someone allergic to milk, of course.

Mexican food is delicious and often fairly easy to make at home, where you have complete control over the ingredients. So this year, consider turning Cinco de Mayo into a fun-filled family fiesta, with everyone joining in the cooking activities!

Tacos are super-easy (even for little ones to help with), and they can be made with any protein source you’re not allergic to (shredded pork, ground beef, chicken, fish, shrimp, black beans, pinto beans, etc.) a few safe spices, diced onions, tomatoes, black olives, lettuce or spinach, salsa, etc. If you’re allergic to milk, try Tofutti’s soy sour cream and Daiya’s shredded vegan cheddar cheese (also soy-free) for toppings (both found at Whole Foods and some health-food markets).

Add some safe corn or flour tortillas, or some home-made cornbread (use rice milk and your favorite egg substitute in the recipe – bakes up great!), and some fresh fruit, and you’ve got yourself a simple school-night dinner that’s muy bueno! And for an extra treat for the kids (and for the adults who aren’t interested in beer or margaritas), check the Mexican food aisle at your grocery store for some authentic Mexican sodas, in flavors like pineapple and mango. It’s a super-simple addition that can make an ordinary meal into something a little more especial!


Infant Bibliophile said...

I decided to host a cinco de mayo playgroup party because I can work so easily around my son's allergies. fyi, daiya isn't soy based - it's soy free. ( we love it too!

Kelley J. P. Lindberg said...

What a great idea -- a playgroup party! Hope you have fun! And you're absolutely right -- Daiya is soy-free as well as milk-free. Sometimes my fingers type faster than my brain works. Thanks for catching that!