allergies

Don't Let Food Allergies Ground You - me in the Boston Globe

Thrilled to share my food allergy/travel piece in this morning's Boston Globe. This has been in the works a while and my editor did a great job preserving the heart of the piece while trimming it enough to accommodate the section's need for space.

I wanted to share some of the info omitted due to space constraints.

In addition to those Energy Bites, TSA travel-friendly foods include:

rye crackers

Ivy Manning (another IACP friend) has an excellent book on the simple joy of homemade crackers. If you are allergic and traveling crackers are another great thing to make and bring, particularly if you crave crunchy things as I do.

And don't forget apple-quinoa cake. I love Yvette Van Boven's recipe.

Foodservice East | Guest Column: Ten Points of Liability & Ten Best Practices

15 Million Americans have food allergies and we crave a great dining experience just as much as our non-allergic friends and families do. Restaurants that "get it" and offer us a relaxing and safe dining experience will be rewarded with repeat business. Restaurant staff in all positions - front of the house, back of the house, bar - each member of the staff need to know how to avoid making guests with food allergies sick, or worse. Where can allergens hide? What are the differences between intolerance and allergies? What is the difference between cross-contaminiation and cross-contact?

Foodservice East

Foodservice East, a business publication for the Northeast foodservice industry, began in 1926 as Hotel & Restaurant News in Boston. Susan Holaday the current editor and publisher invited me to write this guest column on the topic of food allergies.

Food Allergy Service Checklist

 

no room for error

I wrote this column as a risk assessment checklist. It includes ten ways to get it wrong and ten accompanying best practices. Click here to read the post: Foodservice East | News and information for the Northeast foodservice industry. Interested in a training  or consult for your restaurant? I've designed a one hour session that can be delivered in a normal staff training hour or pre-meal meeting. I also offer a menu consult, and risk assessment.

Scones Fit for a Pascha - or Holiday Guests

Delighted to share another recipe I developed for Pascha Chocolates. Find the recipe here on their site. These are free of the top 8 allergens, free of gluten, too. You could make them with regular ingredients if allergens are not part of your family, too.

SCONES_FIN 006

 

These include blueberries but you could use cherries or even dried cranberries for a holiday treat. I also cut them into smaller squares for little hands. Please enjoy!

 

Just in time for Halloween - Chocolate Sundrops

I was thrilled to add PASCHA Chocolates to my roster of clients and delighted to work with them. I learned about their fine chocolates at the Food Allergy Research and Education conference where I was a speaker last June in Chicago. I enjoyed meeting Courtenay Vuchnich and her chocolates so much, I had to tell EVERYONE to try them!

Now you can make these delicious cookies at home. Because they're free of the top 8 allergens (tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, soy, dairy, fish, shellfish, wheat) they're also safe for lunchbox or classroom treats that might get shared. Take a batch to your next Halloween party and watch them disappear. The recipe appears here on the PASCHA Chocolates website. Thanks Roz for the name!

drops_FIN 009

The Wrong Kind of Surprise - Epi-Pen? Check. Clear tote? Check? Potential Disaster? Check.

I was packing for my quick trip to Maryland, having been invited to a pre-season Redskins-Patriots game by my brother. Thanks Mike! It was great fun and my first time Tailgating.

photo 2

My first time - I wasn't enjoying it at all.

Mike knows more about the game than most people, and also about the cheerleaders. If you get an invite, go. If you're lucky, like me, your team might spend their whole first half trying to get out of their own end zone, allowing you ample time to preview the team. It was the third quarter before New England earned their second first down and I think a minute 47 left before they put points on the board. But it was a fun time anyway. #HTTR

 

It's in the Bag

Since the NFL now has strict rules about what can or cannot be carried into a stadium, I had to take a close look at what I planned to carry. A wallet, a couple personal items, and that's about all that's allowed. See the statements and exclusions here. You can also carry a one gallon zip top bag, but I found this regulation clear bag was on sale, so why not?

tote

 

The regulation clear totes are meant to streamline the access to any game, making it easy for staff to check what you're carrying.

You'll Never Believe What Happened Next

Don't you hate those teaser headlines? Me too, but it's important info I'm conveying here, so I need to make sure you're paying attention.

Anyone who carries an Epi-Pen knows it's a pain in the butt. It cannot get too hot or it will lose effectiveness - so do NOT store it in your glove compartment. Not even for a short while. Don't think a gel ice pack is the answer, either. It cannot be too cool. So what does one do if one is tailgating and heading to a game in the heat of August? My plan was to bring my gel ice eye mask and place that next to the ice in the cooler, then wrap that loosely around the Epi-pen and bring that in the clear tote into Fedex Field.

I'm grateful to have an Epi-Pen and hope never to have to use it to save my life. Having been through this before, I can tell you, there's nothing in that experience that tempts me to repeat it. And I'm lucky to have lived to tell the story.

epipen

 

See that little window? Where it says "REPLACE if solution is discolored" -? Well I found my back up pen when packing and thought, "Hm, when was the last time I checked the one in my purse?" I couldn't recall. So I checked.

CLOUDY.

I tossed it and placed the newer (clear window) pen in my bag.

Imagine if I'd accidently ingested something that caused anaphylaxis and then took out my expired pen to save my life? Gives me the shivers just to think of it.

  • PLEASE check your pen NOW. Place a note on your calendar to check at some regular intervals - maybe the first of the month is an easy way to remember? It takes only a second to be sure you're safe. In the event of anaphylaxis you do not want to find out - as you're gasping for air - that your pen has lost effectiveness.
  • Please share this post with your friends and family and followers.

 

Skins

As you can see, we had a fun, safe evening at Fedex Field. My brother was sure to place food items for me in separate bags, cooked with separate tongs, and covered my side of the grill with foil. Bonus: it made cleanup easier. We shared food, but not allergens, safely. I picked up hotdogs and buns that were allergen free and my pen survived, too.

The Pats lost but it could have been so much worse. Get your game on and check those pens!

 

Food Allergy Awareness Week: Dining Out - Advice for Restaurants, Tips for Diners

15 million Americans have food allergies, and these numbers continue to rise. Restaurants ignore this issue at their own peril and that of their customers. In my experience, the vast majority of people in the hospitality industry do care about helping their guests have an enjoyable experience. Landing a guest in the hospital is not their goal. But without a specific protocols and training to handle food-allergic diners, restaurants run the risk of doing just that. Front of the house, kitchen staff, servers, food runners, bar staff -- all must understand the nature of food allergies and intolerances, where hidden dangers lie, and how to avoid sickening a guest or worse. I advise restaurants on avoidance of these risks, share resources and offer techniques specifically to prevent sickening a guest or sending them into anaphylactic shock.

  • Did you know: there's now a Yelp like site specificially for Food Allergies? Allergy Eats will catalog diners' experience eating out. 

A Recent Example

Just this past weekend, I dined out at a prominent Boston restaurant. After informing the server of my food allergies, I enlisted her help in choosing from among three dishes that I thought could most easily accommodate my allergies. We selected the tuna salad Niçoise. As she indicated the deviled egg contained dairy, I asked if a simple boiled egg could be substituted. "No problem."

When the dish was delivered to the table, it was by a food runner, not the server. The food runner had no idea of my allergy. When I asked that he take it back and tried to explain that the dish must be replaced, not simply remove the egg due to cross contact on the plate, he was confused.

She came over and said "I put it on the ticket." So possibly she forgot. Possibly no one noticed. Obviously, no one was tracking that order was free of noted allergens. This leads me to believe any number of cross-contact issues are probably occuring and no one has trained the staff in protocol to safely serve FA (food allergic) diners.

Did I have confidence that the egg was not simply switched out? Not really. At least three things could have been done to ensure this did not end badly. This restaurant is clearly in need of FA training. Had this been a more hidden error, say an ingredient in a dressing, we could have had a serious crisis on hand.

In other restaurants, I've also had:

  • "dairy-free" tacos come out drizzled with sour cream;
  • a "dairy-free" dessert that contained dairy  (even after much discussion, prior notice and last minute confirmation by the chef, AT THE TABLE)-- the chef saying "oh you might want to avoid that, it has a little dairy".
  • I've been told fries are okay, until I ask if anything that's buttermilk battered gets fried in the same oil;
  • I've had a server clarify with the chef that the rolls contain no dairy then add "the chef says just go easy on the butter."  etc., etc.

Advice for Restaurants

Lose one guest, lose a group of sales. Get it right and reap the benefits of customer loyalty and increased sales. Conversely, consider the cost of killing a guest.

In one study:

  • 25% of restaurant staff polled said that food allergic diners could safely eat a small amount of the trigger food.
  • 33% thought frying would destroy the allergens.

These are potentially lethal mistakes.

Is your restaurant prepared?

I offer a one hour training designed to fit into a normal pre-meal staff meeting.

In it we cover:

  • hidden allergens,
  • allergies versus intolerance,
  • myths about food allergies,
  • basics of cross-contact,
  • best practices.

Learn how to:

  • minimize risks in serving an increasingly allergic dining public,
  • get a valuable resource guide, and
  • discover simple steps you can take to address this growing issue.

As a food writer, consultant and trainer who developed food allergies late in life, I’m dedicated to educating restaurant staff on the basics of food allergies and how to avoid serious and potentially lethal mistakes.

  • Contact Me today to receive your Risk Assessment Checklist and to talk about scheduling a training for your staff.

Tips for FA Diners

To learn more about dining out with food allergies including tips for diners, and to read a list of hidden allergens, see my Washington Post article: Food Allergy Sufferers Negotiate Minefields.

  • When possible, phone ahead to alert the restaurant.
  • Go off hours.
  • Check the menu online first to familiarize yourself with ingredients.

Here are more tips for diners.

~ ~ ~

This is Food Allergy Awareness Week - drop a comment to share your experiences dining out with food allergies, or write to me if you'd like help training your staff.

 

Food Allergy Awareness Week: Summer Camps & Safety

  Did you know this week is Food Allergy Awareness Week? With up to 15 million people in the United States affected by food allergies, it's time to learn a little more about this potentially deadly medical condition, and how to live with them if you or someone you love is diagnosed.

Infographic_FARE

 

In honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week, I'll be posting some quick links and real-life examples to help shed light on this emerging field. If you're on Twitter follow the hashtag #TealTakeover this week to see what everyone's posting. Teal is the official color for Food Allergy Awareness. While we'd all like simple answers and quick fixes this is not the realm of food allergies. Resist the urge to adopt or to spread popular myths about causation. The more we all take responsibility to share science-based facts, the greater and more accurate awareness we can spread.

Happy Campers

Right now many families will be packing kids off to summer camp. The Food Allergy Research and Education site has great tips for parents and kids planning a camping outing.

  • Wrist bands, wallet cards and more new tools are becoming available to help your kids stay safe at camp.

Allergists talk about "filling the bucket" when dealing with multiple allergies. As you are exposed to multiple triggers your bucket becomes more full and you're increasingly likely to suffer a severe allergic reaction when exposed to a trigger.

Dust mite allergy - Allergic reactions can be triggered by a single molecule of the offending protein or by a cumulative effect of several milder allergic reactions. It's good practice to eliminate contact with anything that causes allergic reactions. For example, while dust mite allergy is not a food allergy, it can be helpful to cover your pillow and bedding in special slipcovers that prevent the exposure which causes a reaction in those with dust mite allergy.

  • Tip: when traveling bring your own dustmite slipcovers for pillows and bedding.

Ticks - Campers beware, ticks are tiny, easy to overlook and potentially very dangerous.

Did you know:

  • Emerging studies suggest there may be cross-reactivity with house dust mite allergies and shellfish allergy. 

About me:

After developing food allergies as an adult, I turned my lawyer’s research and analysis skills toward understanding this complex topic. I now speak, write and train restaurants on serving food-allergic diners. You can see me speak at the first annual Food Allergy Research and Education organization conference in Chicago this June. If you're in the area, stop by and say hello!

I started Kitchen Confidence, a private culinary coaching service, to teach people to cook food they love in the comfort of their own kitchens. Learning techniques like poaching chicken or pleating dumplings enables clients to enjoy cooking more, to cook more efficiently, and to achieve better health. Most importantly, I make cooking fun and easy. I'm building a repertoirs of dairy-free, nut-free recipes, too.

As the founder of The Oyster Century Club, I teach classes on oysters, lead guided tastings and shucking demos and host popular tweet ups at local oyster bars. Modeled on the wine century club concept, we’re tasting our way through 100 varieties of oysters.

I’m also a food writer who’s been published on line and in print and have been recognized by a James Beard award winning editor, as well as gourmet food and drinks lovers around the world. My work has been syndicated by the Chicago Sun-Times, Reuters and Austin Statesman among others. I often write about sustainable food issues.

You may find clips of my work here: JacquelineChurch.Pressfolios.com

 

 

 

What to pack, how to prep when you're a food-allergic traveler

The thrill of travel is my siren song. I used to dream of filling a passport before it expired. Never happened, but I did manage to get to many great places. Machu Picchu, Xi'an, Tulum. Life can throw you one curveball after another, some good, some not so good. Layoffs, pink slips, food allergies. My high-flying life came to a decidedly more earthbound home. For several years I had time to travel but not the money.

The bitter and the sweet

As we get older, we begin to appreciate that one is enhanced by the other. Fast-forward several years and I am slowly building an entrepreneur's life. This means we swing from one trapeze landing to another, sometimes the grip is so tenuous, the next check so long in coming. But we learn to live with the anxiety that would have done us in before and push on, move forward. Grab and let go. Let go, grab.

This week I'm preparing for my first trip to Europe since my flight through de Gaulle to go to Mali but the last visit when I stayed and explored was a media trip to Valencia, Spain. That was wonderful, too. Both trips like evanescent dreams. Wonderful memories.

New opportunities, new challenges

I'm getting on a plane again 48 hours from this moment. I'm off to Brussels to work with the fabulous Nathan Fong on behalf of sustainable, delicious British Columbia seafood. After our success at  Seafood Expo North America (#sena2014) - stir-frying with the Trade Minister! We're bringing the dynamic duo to the largest seafood expo in the world, Brussels! Now I'm dealing with multiple food allergies. Looking at the food there, dairy is definitely going to be a problem. I won't have time to shop all over and my Flemish is pretty weak. I think I've got this one down though: "Aangenamen Kennismaking" (Nice to meet you) it's just plain fun to say, isn't it?

It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't have food allergies. But imagine you're somewhere unfamiliar, and you literally cannot risk eating food because you may end up in anaphylactic shock. And traveling in a professional capacity, you don't want to make every group meal a tiresome litany of your issue and allergies. "Who knows Flemish for 'allergy'?"

Moules Frites? Waffles? (butter, dairy) Carbonnade? Waterzooi? (butter, cream) Food, glorious food. It's what I live for, what I organize my life around, what I share with friends, family and clients. But the prospect of being unable to find anything to eat made me realize I now have an extra list of travel prep tasks: researching, prepping, baking, planning. Even the flight to Belgium is a problem. Special diet meals include vegetarian (with cheese, nuts) Asian Vegetarian (may include dairy); Vegetarian (dairy). So what can I eat during the flight? Grab and go in the airport? Can you trust the labels on pre-packed foods? The fast food training? Erm, no. Basically, there was not one option that I could choose that was both free of dairy and free of tree nuts. Swiss International Airlines announced an "allergy friendly" service but to me it sounds like only a baby step further than what other airlines do.

Chips? (made in a facility that also processes nuts) etc. It's impossible!

Luckily, I'm a good cook. And I have good friends. And a very caring husband. He has turned into the best food sleuth!

My goal was to find things easy to pack and dense with protein to keep me going in the worst case scenario.

Tips:

1. Research, research, research. What are the typical foods in your destination? What capacity does your hotel have to accommodate your allergies? (Or even, to speak English?) Check with TSA and your airlines.

2. Pack pouches. Really good tuna, quinoa cereal, and terrific peanut butter all come in these easy-to-pack pouches. Thanks Doc!

pouches

3. Bake ahead. Energy Bites; Crackers, Apple-Quinoa Cake.

choco chunks, fruit

rye crackers

travel snack

4. Try to order Allergy warning cards in the destination language. I ordered cards from Allergic Traveler - hope they'll arrive in time!

 

Recipes:

The energy bites are great pre/post workout snacks. I love that they're not overly sweet and they're super easy to customize. This is based on Kim O'Donnel's original recipe from her Washington Post days. Her Lulu's Cookies became my Choco-fruit Energy Bites.

Choco-fruit Energy Bites

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 C of a combo of: sunflower seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and sesame seeds (I omitted sesame and used a combo of peanuts, bran, amaranth for the third 1/2 C.)
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds.
  • 3 C flour [I used 1 C Irish Wholemeal flour +1 C White Whole Wheat + 1 C AP flour]
  • 2 cups rolled oats [I used rolled instant] + 1/3 C brown rice crispies + 1/4 flaked coconut
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dried fruit - cherries, prunes, apricots
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 3/4 C coconut + canola oil
  • 3/4 C honey + golden syrup
  • 1/2 - 3/4 C cup Enjoy Life chocolate chunks (free of 8 major allergens and made in an allergen free facility)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast seeds on a baking sheet about 8 minutes, or until the seeds turn a golden color. Be careful not to burn seeds.
  2.  Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly.
  3.  In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder and salt.
  4.  Soak dried fruit in hot water for about 15 minutes. Drain, but reserve soaking water.
  5.  Add dried fruit soaking water to dry mixture, plus oil and honey. With a rubber spatula, stir until combined. Add cooled seeds and stir to combine, then add fruit and chocolate chips. Don't over-mix.
  6.  Form teaspoon-sized patties onto a cookie sheet, preferably lined with parchment paper.
  7.  Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Don't over-bake; the cookies will turn into rocks.

Makes about 50 cookies.

I love that these are like two bite energy bars without all the overly sweet, highly processed ingredients. These are like bites of shortbread chunks of sweet dried fruits and chocolate.

 

What are your tips for traveling with food allergies or intolerances?

Next up, the apple quinoa cake!

Fifteen Million Reasons - - Why I'm Speaking at the 1st Annual Food Allergy Conference

Doing my part - in June - speaking at the first annual Food Allergy Research & Education conference in Chicago. FARE_logo

 

Here's the conference schedule and my speaker page.

 

 

image

 

That's right, 15 million Americans are living with food allergies. That's 15 million reasons to get educated about keeping people with food allergies safe and included.

I'm looking forward to meeting some of the experts whose research I've been following since my diagnosis, hearing what's new and learning from others how my training, consulting and writing can help. With allergies on the rise, more of us are touched in one way or another:

  • grappling with our own food allergies,
  • learning to cook for family members with allergies or
  • understanding how to safely serve customers with food allergies.

 

Read my article in the Washington Post to learn what it's like to negotiate minefields when dining out -- imagine if one careless gesture by server or chef can result in illness or death for you or your loved one.

If you're a chef or restaurant owner or manager and want to learn how I can help you train staff --Email Me.

To receive your free Ten Points of Liability Checklist, complete this form.  [contact-form][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='I%26#039;m a:' type='select' required='1' options='Chef,Restaurant Staff,Restaurant Owner/Manager'/][contact-field label='I%26#039;m interested in:' type='select' required='1' options='Food Service Risk Assessment,Menu Review,Staff Training'/][contact-field label='Website' type='url'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form]

Salty Snacks, my Downfall. Until Now. Hello DIY Cheezits Recipe.

I could walk right past buckets of candies and sweets if there were the teensiest pile of potato chips at the end of the line. Yessiree, the salty crunchy thing is what gets me. Between my dairy allergy and having been forced by a cracked tooth to swear off my beloved popcorn, I was adrift. And I was drifting in the wrong direction. If you make it right and don't eat it by the boatload, or covered in butter, popcorn actually qualifies as a whole grain. I'd call it a healthy snack.

But you know, once you see the cost of a cracked tooth, "cheating" on your dentist and ignoring her advice loses a lot of its appeal. So I started on potato chips. Saturated fat and salt and oh, so, delicious. Hep me jeezus, it was a slippery slope. I had to do an intervention when an ENTIRE bag of (not single serve) of Chili-flavored Kettle chips evaporated in my hands.

I have seen the devil and he looks like a never-ending bag of chips.

Back from the Precipice

So it is with much fanfare that I bring you my new favorite snack discovery. [cue heralds and horns, waving of banners, and such] Salvation looks like a crappy processed snack food, but it's not!

Nacho Daddy's Cheezits

Dairy-free Cheez-its

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What's a good snack without a pun? A lost opportunity, I say.

So I named these guys the punny name to indicate their dairy-free status. Get it? "Nacho" Not Yo"....okay. Now that I've gotten that out of my system...here's the ÜBER-simple, fast and delicious snack. But first, let's review these additional benefits:

  1. they're salty
  2. they're crunchy
  3. they're spicy (or you can make them not so)
  4. they're dairy-free (you could probably use cheddar if you're not true vegan or allergic)
  5. they're cheesy
  6. I've included whole grains (grainiacs rejoice!)
  7. and they're easy-peasy to make at home

You know you want some, come on.

Nacho Daddy's Cheez-its, Dairy-free

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nacho Daddy's Cheezits

Modified from a couple vegan blogs, but don't let that dissuade you.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 C Earth Balance butter (cold)
  • 3/4 C Daiya cheddar shreds
  • 1/4 C organic spelt flour
  • 1/2 C organic whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp paprika or pimenton
  • +1 TBSP cold water
  • Maldon sea salt flakes for topping, or good sea salt

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients but water in food processor; pulse, until you get large crumbles.
  2. Add water by teaspoon till dough comes together in a ball, usually you'll use about 1 TBSP. Depends on moisture in the air and your flour.
  3. Knead for a few minutes, let rest half an hour in fridge. (I have also skipped the rest, with little noticeable result. The dough comes together so quickly, I don't think there's a lot of gluten developed.
  4. Preheat 350 degrees.
  5. Roll out half of dough between waxed paper or on silpat silicone sheet. Leave other half in fridge to stay cool.
  6. Dust with flour to prevent sticking - see tea ball trick.
  7. Roll to 1/8" thick cut with fun smallish cutter (I have a little star cutter that was part of a set.) Or, use pizza cutter to make into squares or diamonds.
  8. Bake 10-15 mins checking often -- remove at the perfect crisp but not burnt stage.

 

teaball trick

Remember the teaball trick, works for flour and for confectioner's sugar.

Offset spatula may be helpful to transfer to cookie sheets but it's not necessary.

These are so good to nibble and munch. I think they'd be terrific floating on a mug of hot tomato soup. Mixed into my Remixed Chex Mix they could take the place of the Goldfish crackers. Great with a cocktail.

Next batch, I'm going try flax or my pimped up flaxy gomashio. Stay tuned salty-crunchy fanatics!