Monday, April 30, 2012

Allergy-Safe Frozen Treat Outings

by Kelley Lindberg

(Updated 5/14/12 to add another location) One of the great things about belonging to the Utah Food Allergy Network’s email forum (which is free, by the way, so join by going to the UFAN website) is the recommendations that our members share with each other.

Over the last couple of weeks, the hot topic (now that the days are getting warmer!) is where to go to find allergy-safe frozen treats like sorbet or smoothies. I grew up spending Saturday nights with my family at the local ice-cream shop, and I’ve missed doing that with my son. But now there are starting to be several places where we can enjoy that family tradition once again.

Here are some of the places UFAN members recommended, where they serve at least one type of dairy-free frozen treat and will accommodate allergy needs by using clean utensils, etc. (but ALWAYS remind them to use new utensils and get toppings from uncontaminated containers – cross-contamination can still occur, so stay vigilant!). If you have a favorite place for safe frozen treats that isn’t on this list, please share it with us!
  • Maggie Moo’s (Sugar House and Cedar City) has sorbet and mix-ins. (Thanks, Michelle & Esther)
  • Cakewalk Baking Co. (Salt Lake City) may have soy soft-serve (Thanks, Lynn)
  • City Cakes & Cafe (Salt Lake City) has soy soft serve in dedicated machine, and dairy-free fruit smoothies. (Thanks, Lynn)
  • Sub Zero Ice Cream (Ogden, Layton, West Jordan, Centerville, Salt Lake City, Murray, Sandy, Pleasant Grove, Provo, Spanish Fork) can use rice or soy milk as a base to freeze your ice cream on the spot, and they will even let you bring in your own toppings and mix-in items. (Thanks, Janel and Michelle)
  • Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt (Layton, Salt Lake City, South Jordan, Orem, St. George) has a couple of flavors of diary-free sorbet and they will work with you to find safe toppings.
  • Thanksgiving Point serves Blue Bunny Lemon Sorbet that has no dairy, eggs, nuts, soy, corn, rice, oats, wheat. (But they say they can’t guarantee that a scoop hasn’t been used in another flavor). (Thanks, Marie)
  • Jamba Juice (lots of locations in Utah) says any of their smoothies can be made dairy free. All of their fresh juices, shots, and All Fruit smoothies are non-dairy. (Thanks, Lynn)
  • Snow cone stands – one of the first signs of summer is snow-cone stands popping up in parking lots everywhere you look. Ask for ingredients and you may find some stands that don’t use ingredients you’re allergic to. Michelle says she’s found some that don’t use corn syrup, so if you’re allergic to corn, snow cone stands might be an option, but be sure to ask first!
  • Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt (Bountiful, Farmington, Highland) contains milk, but most of their products are free from the other Top 8 allergens. Says Lynn: "We avoid the toppings bar (bring our own in a baggie), and they do have a peanut butter yogurt, but they keep it in the same machine and we avoid the other flavor in the same machine." (Thanks, Lynn)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Junior High Ice Cream (-Free) Social

by Kelley Lindberg

Junior high has brought a whole new level of social events into my son’s school experience. There have been dances, after school events, soccer games, and the all-important “just hanging out.”

Last week, there was an ice cream social after school for the junior high students.

Ice cream. Oh joy.

There was a day when my son and his dairy-allergic friend would have been just fine skipping an ice cream social and going someplace else to play together. But those days are gone. Now the social aspect of events like this trump any food concerns (for the boys, not necessarily for their moms!). For previous after-school events this year, like dances, the other boy’s mom (Kim) and I have been able to suggest safe treats to serve, and the planning committee has been great at accommodating their allergic classmates and serving only safe treats for the entire event. But this time, we knew that to change ice cream to a safe alternative for 300 kids would be challenging and very expensive. So we got permission to bring a safe alternative just for our boys, and we chose to trust our boys to stay safe around all that dairy.

For the safe alternative, we ran to Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt. There, I talked to the woman running the store, and not only did she assure me that the dairy-free sorbet was always served from a dedicated dairy-free machine, but she told me she’s allergic to nuts herself, so she knows why I needed to be so careful. While I filled 2 cups with Orange Burst Sorbet (which had the texture and appearance of soft-serve ice cream – yum!), she got some toppings out of a new container, put them in a clean bowl, and handed me a clean spoon to dish them out. Perfect! I drove to the school, handed the treat to the boys, and heard lots of “Wow, Menchie’s! You’re so lucky!” from the other kids as I left.

I guess being allergic doesn’t have to be a drag all the time.

To be honest, our boys are old enough that they wouldn’t have minded skipping the “ice cream” completely, just as long as they could stay and socialize. I think it was more Kim’s and my worry that we wanted them to be able to participate fully in the event, and to us, that meant finding a safe substitute for the ice cream. One of these days we’ll probably be able to let go a little more, and realize that we don’t have to try quite so hard to make sure they “fit in” – they are fitting in just fine on their own, with or without snacks.

When did they get to be so grown up? Sigh. But for now, they still know their moms love them. I guess that’s good enough for me and Kim.

In a funny coincidence, the UFAN email forum is currently lighting up with suggestions for safe places to get frozen treats, now that it looks like summer really is on its way. So next week I will collect all the recommendations and post them here so they will all be in one place and easy to find and research. If you have your own recommendations you'd like for me to include, post a comment to let me know. See you next week!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Food Allergies? There’s an App for That!

by Kelley Lindberg

Got a smart phone or iPad? Then you probably have a screen full of favorite apps. They make our lives a little easier, our errands a little faster, and our time-wasters a little more fun. They can also make living with food allergies a little more manageable.

Here are a few food-allergy-related apps I’ve found that seem to be helpful. I haven’t tried them all yet, but I’m working my way through them. There are plenty more food allergy apps where these came from, so go to your favorite app store and search for whatever you need – from cooking, to shopping, to eating out, to traveling, there’s an app for that! And if you have a favorite food allergy app that I haven’t listed, let us know about it by posting a Comment.
  • Myfoodfacts (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, $1.99) – With this shopping tool, you personalize your food allergen alerts, then use your iPhone camera to scan product label barcodes to search ingredients for your allergens. If a food allergen is found, the app alerts you. It covers food products in the U.S. now, but future releases will include Canada, Europe and other countries, as well as other smartphones.
  • Restaurant Nutrition (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Free, but a paid version has more features)  – This app provides nutritional info for food at chain restaurants. It notes if the restaurants provide allergy info. You can customize the allergy info so that foods that contain any or all of the Top 8 allergens won’t be displayed for that restaurant, so you can see if there is anything you can eat at that restaurant.
  • AllergyEatsMobile (Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Free) – This is the app version of the website, where users write reviews of restaurants and their food-allergy friendliness. You can click a “Find Restaurants Near Me” button, or type in a location to find restaurants elsewhere. Because their information is created by users, some cities in the U.S. have more reviews than others. You can also log in and rate restaurants yourself.
  • Cook It Allergy Free (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, $4.99) – Includes lots of recipes that you can customize to avoid your allergens, and it even suggests safe substitutions for recipe ingredients. You can add your own notes to the recipes, save your customized recipes, and create a grocery list of ingredients for a recipe.
  • Allergy Translator (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, $1.99) – Translates your food allergies and requirements into other languages, so you can show the translated screen to your restaurant server when traveling in other countries. Lets you choose from 45 allergens and 33 languages.
  • SelectWisely Allergy Cards (iPhone and iPod Touch) – I’ve used Select Wisely translation cards for years – they are wallet-sized cards that list your allergies and a warning message in the language you choose. Now you can order the same card and have it on your iPhone. Contact Select Wisely directly for cost and more information.
  • EMNet findER (Android, Blackberry, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Free) – Finds the nearest emergency room with one click, and lets you display directions.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Egg-Free Easter Egg Decorating Ideas

by Kelley Lindberg

Dyeing Easter eggs is a tradition, of course, but when you have a child with an egg allergy, it’s no longer a welcome tradition! But don’t worry… there are plenty of ways to decorate "egg-less eggs" and create a new Easter craft tradition for your family. Here are just a few ideas to get you ready for the Easter Bunny this year, from the super-simple to the more complex.
  • Decorate wooden, ceramic, or plastic eggs. Craft stores carry eggs in all sorts of materials. Depending on the age of your kids, you can do something as simple as putting stickers on plastic eggs, or you can get more creative with markers, paints, glue, glitter, ribbon, or wire. Here is a website with instructions for painting wooden eggs.
  • Bake your Easter eggs. Use your favorite safe cookie recipe and some Easter-themed cookie cutters to bake cookies, then decorate them. Think about it – wouldn’t you rather eat a cookie than a hard-boiled egg anyway?
  • Make Jell-O Jiggler eggs. If you have Easter-shaped molds, you can make Jigglers in fun Easter shapes. But even if you don’t have any Jell-O molds, you can use the recipe on the Jell-O box to make a pan of Jigglers, then use Easter cookie cutters to cut out shapes.
  • Make safe chocolate shapes. Melt safe chocolate chips, and pour the melted chocolate into Easter-shaped plastic molds (available at craft stores) to make your own safe chocolate. Here is a website with some instructions for making your own chocolate lollipops. They use non-safe chocolate wafers, but you should be able to substitute something like Enjoy Life Foods’ chocolate chips instead with similar results.
  • Make hard-candy stained-glass Easter eggs. With some metal cookie cutters in Easter egg shapes and a bag of safe hard candy, you can make stained-glass candy eggs. Here is a website with instructions for making hard-candy stained-glass ornaments.
  • Try making Easter window clings. This website shows how to make window clings – just draw your own Easter egg design instead of the rainbow, and you can display a fun Easter egg in your window.
  • Print Easter coloring pages. Low on time, energy, and creativity? No problem. Print some Easter Egg coloring pages from the internet, and let your kids color them while you tackle Easter dinner. Just search for Easter Egg Coloring Pages, and you’ll find more than enough to keep any kid busy for a while.
Those are just a few ideas. I'm sure you'll have many more, so please share them with us!