Superbowl Parties and Food Allergies

Whether you're hosting or attending a Superbowl party, if food allergies or intolerances are part of your crew, here are some tips to keep everyone safe and happy. (Everyone except Patriots fans, that is....grumble, grumble.)

Current estimates are that 15 million Americans have food allergies.

While the "why" of it is still debated and being explored, there's wide agreement that the incidence of food allergies is on the rise. There is no cure, no pill. The only safe course is strict avoidance.

  • Did you know flour particles can remain airborne for 24 hours? All utensils, sponges, aprons, measuring spoons must be clean (full 20 seconds hot soapy water) to ensure no cross contact.

Since acquiring my own allergies, I've learned a lot, and try to share what I've learned as often as possible. I've written for The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and trained restaurants and private cooking clients on how to handle food allergies and intolerances.

How to HOST a food-allergic guest

  1. Understand what you're dealing with - have a direct conversation with your guest to get clear. Ask what your guest can and cannot eat. Guessing is dangerous.
  2. Does your guest wish to bring a dish or help out? Maybe cooking together would be fun and enlightening.
  3. Perhaps you can share recipes so your guest can check for problematic ingredients?
  4. Don't announce to the party that someone's allergic, unless they themselves have asked you to share that info.
  5. Don't make substitutions without checking in with your allergic guest. Or at least, alerting them to it.
  6. Understand cross-contact. A large ice bin or buffet style service are opportunities for cross-contact.

How to be a good GUEST, even with allergies

I'm so grateful when someone is willing to go the extra mile (or seven) to accommodate my food allergies. Often, I will suggest I could just come for drinks or I will bring something delicious to share.

  1. Offer to go over recipes, ingredients. You may wish to bring something that is a good substitute, but which may be unfamiliar to your guests.
  2. Offer to bring something to share that everyone can safely enjoy. Ask if there are any other intolerances or allergies you need to be aware of.
  3. Bring something extra for the host to show your appreciation. They have brought you into their home, and probably worried and fussed a little extra about serving you.
  4. Don't play games. If you just don't like something, don't lie and say you're allergic. This serves no one well.

Be aware of the cross-contact opportunities

Cross-contact is a little different from cross-contamination. Cooking does not "kill" or eliminate most instances of cross-contact. 

Buffets - a serving spoon goes from one dish to the next or a drip from one dish falls into another. Tip: Place the allergen-free foods behind the other dishes to minimize drips. Remember only a molecule is needed to trigger a reaction.

Tip: offer to plate or grill the food for your allergic guest first.

Dips - we all know double dipping is gross, but it can quickly move from gross to life-threatening if anaphylaxis is in the house. Tip: Place a safe dip on a separate table and let the allergic guest know which is safe. Place a bowl of safe chips near that dip. 

High Fives - and smooches - both opportunities for cross-contact!

Get the Scoop - an open ice bin is a high risk zone. Someone scoops ice with a hand instead of a clean cup or scoop, and that hand just grabbed a cube of cheese, the ice has been contaminated. 

To learn more about training for your restaurant, or cooking for your family. 

Read more about dining out with food allergies.

Terrific cookies anyone can enjoy:

Fruity Chocolate Energy Bites

These are very customizable. I created this to meet the needs of FA travelers, starting with taste, eliminating the top 8 allergens and making them gluten-free as well. These store at room temp and travel well. You can substitute regular oats, flour, cereal if gluten is not your issue. Peanut butter can stand in for SunButter if you don't have a peanut allergy.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 C sunflower seeds or pepitas, or combo
  • 1 TBSP ground golden flax
  • 1 1/2 C GF Flour
  • 1 C GF oats old fashioned rolled
  • 1/4 C cereal (Erewon quinoa/chia flakes) or brown rice crisps GF
  • 1/3 C shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 C dried fruit (choose cherries, apricots, prunes, dates or combo ) (I like dates & apricots)
  • 1/2 C hot water to soak fruit (minus 2 TBSP), reserve
  • 1/3 C GF veg shortening, combined with sun butter
  • 1/2 C Lyle’s Golden Syrup
  • 1/2 C Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 tsp imitation almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp orange blossom water, optional*
  • 1/4 cinnamon
  • pinch cardamom, optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Combine seeds, toast about 8 mins., remove, cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, salt, spices, cereal, coconut.
  3. In a 1/3 measuring cup combine shortening and sun butter, melt on low setting in microwave, cool shortening.
  4. Soak fruit in very hot water, after 15 mins, strain fruit, reserving all but 2 TBSP of soaking liquid.
  5. Add chocolate chips, fruit, and cooled seeds to flour mix.
  6. Add syrup, mix lightly, then add just as much soaking liquid from the fruit as you need to moisten the dough.
  7. Use small scoop to place on parchment lined cookie sheet.
  8. Bake 7 minutes, turn and rotate pans, bake another 7 minutes, do not over bake.

These energy bites are not overly sweet, but the Golden Syrup and dates add just enough sweetness without being cloying. Mini chocolate chips are the perfect size for these bite-sized snacks. Good as afternoon snack or as part of breakfast.

*Orange blossom water can be found in Middle Eastern or Halal Markets, fantastic ingredient for granola, cookies, cakes. Because it is not packaged in the US it does not include FALCPA info or manufacturing info, if in doubt, leave it out. I have not had problems with it.

Fruity Chocolate Energy Bites

Fruity Chocolate Energy Bites

Other ideas:

  • Vietnamese summer rolls 
  • Tortilla Española

The Beauty of a Good Rolling Pin

 

I love my new mini pie pans and my rolling pin. The pin is made by a wonderful woodworker D. Edwards Smith in Vermont. I met him at the crafts fair last fall, there's something magical about holding that pin. I can't wait to get my hands on more of his work. It brings such joy to the kitchen. We were visiting for our anniversary and caught the crafts fair. Full of great stuff, but I was immediately drawn to Mr. Smith's booth. Wood has a way of doing that. It's as if the spirit of the tree is still there, humming away quietly, waiting for you to notice. It's funny, an old friend of mine stopped by after our trip and sat in my kitchen. Immediately, her eyes went wide and she saw the rolling pin. "Can I hold it?" I smiled. She was feeling that same pull I'd felt.

I have such a nice memory of meeting and talking to Mr. Smith when I hold that pin. It just feels like it was made for my hands. We talked about the book he was reading. He told me the story about the tree my pin came from. Reading his site you can sense his personality as I glimpsed for a moment at that Crafts/Foliage Fair. I want a few pieces I currently have made over by him. I want to hear the stories. Maybe we'll have to take another drive up north. He sent me an email after I inquired about some pieces. I could "find his old farm house with a red barn in back and there's a sign that says Transcendental Meditation just behind our mailbox."

He offers "to have things out" when I visit, gives me directions and hours of availability when he's not teaching TM classes. Maybe  I should go do both. 

For now, I've got my second, smaller pin (for dumplings!) and I'm so happy. Simple, beautiful, useful things that bring you joy. Always a worthwhile investment. 

 
 

My Eye on the Sparrow

I'm not a religious person but that old song about 'his eye on the sparrow' came to me watching these delightful birds this morning. In the original (and the Barretta theme song version) I think the tune is meant to encourage us to leave our cares behind because Jesus is watching over us, keeping his eye on us (the sparrow). I prefer to think of each of us as each others' keepers. Watching out for our loved ones, for those in need, and even for the animals that pass through our lives.

I found some hominy in the pantry that had gone stale due to a hole in the bag (no critters in there, just a crack in the old cellophane wrapper, which I dismissed and threw into a mason jar.) Rather than waste it, I ground it in the spice grinder and added a little millet or amaranth, today I added sesame seeds.

 
 

Sparrows

To my delight, these little guys are loving it. I got to see a mother feeding a hungry baby several times. A gift! I hid behind a bookcase and those peaches ripening nicely, and was still. For a moment, I could forget about the cancelled client, the need of an intern, the age of the cat, whether the knees and rain would let me run today... I just watched, and loved it. (Forgive the windows, these are old old old and unable to be cleaned in between the panes.)

Please do note the marigolds. Fried and dried out on the Lowe's $1 rack. They've blossomed and are doing quite nicely, thank you. Those prayer flags got re-strung, pressed, re-hung.. Hopefully those wind-horses will continue to carry my wishes for fortune out into the universe.

And now, for that run.