Allergy Foodie wishes you a ‘Safe Eats’ 2014!


Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy 2014! I rang in the New Year quietly – watching the ball drop over Times Square from the warm comfort of home with my little boy cuddled up next to me and a glass of Conundrum red wine.

It’s at in that mellow moment that some random allergy friendly tips popped into my head which I feel compelled to share with all Food Allergy sufferers and caretakers…I will add more as we cruise through the year!

  1. French Macaron: Did you know that this fancy, brightly colored French confection that has suddenly become omnipresent in the US is not a humdrum flour based cookie with a jelly filling? They are made with Almond flour. I almost gave it to my son since he is no longer allergic to wheat and can even have dairy and eggs in baked items. Of all his allergies – my son is most severely allergic to almonds so you can imagine what an accidental bite might have done to him.
  2. Thai food: The crunchy vegetables and healthy meats seem the right choice but wait…very often this cuisine uses fish or shrimp paste in many of its dishes. Thai cooking also uses Soy, Sesame, Peanuts and Tree Nuts extensively. So, unless you understand the nitty-gritty of Thai food – this is best avoided.
  3. Chinese cuisine: I love Chinese fare but then I don’t have any food allergies. Peanuts, Soy, Sesame and Tree Nuts are an integral part of this cuisine hence better avoided completely even though it is the most easily available food when traveling apart from the quintessential pizza slice!
  4. Indian cuisine: Now this is one cuisine I understand well and that is exactly why it freaks me out. Tree nuts and Peanuts are used in gravies, chutneys in such sneaky ways that it isn’t funny. On top of that dairy, mustard seeds and poppy seeds are used across the board – stay away from Indian or any South Asian dishes unless it is homemade or you understand the prep process completely.
  5. Some other cuisines to watch out for: Definitely Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese – all of them use Soy and Fish extensively
  6. Hidden sources of food allergens: As I have learnt from my readers who have contributed to spreading awareness about flax seed allergy through Allergy Foodie – a food allergen may creep into our lives in insidious ways. An allergen may be present in cosmetics, toiletry, pillows/ cushions, jackets and more. In other words – always be conscious of what you come in contact with.

Safe eats!

Love,                                                                                                                                                      Anu

Walk with ‘FARE’ to eradicate Food Allergies!


Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) works on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies. Food allergies affect 1 in 13 children in the United States. FARE works to support research and educate the community to create a safe environment for all food allergy sufferers. FARE also works with organizations worldwide to battle this growing epidemic.

FARE Walk for Food Allergy for 2013 is well under way but there are still many coming up across the country and you can do your bit to help FARE say ‘FARE well to Food Allergies’. I plan to take part in 2 walk this year – yes! One in my home state of NJ and other Las Vegas.

Why should you do it?

Well as the FARE website puts it…

‘40% of children with food allergies have already experienced a severe or life-threatening reaction, such as anaphylaxis.’

Walk for them…

‘Scientists estimate that as many 15 million Americans are living with food allergies, including about 5.9 million children.’

Walk for them…

And, the returns you get is a healthier you. Not a bad bargain at all 🙂

Some walks are right around the corner so put on your walking shoes and head out for a fun and meaningful summer outing…

To register for a walk near you go to FARE Walk for Food Allergy.

Happy Walking to bid FAREwell to Food Allergies!

8 years of Allergy Friendly Living…


I truly believe that a memorable birthday is one of the best memories you can gift your child. I still remember every birthday party my parents threw  me despite their extremely modest means from the special birthday frock to the cake.  My baby – all of 8 years old and maybe, just maybe even I have to admit that he is a baby no more!

This year he wanted a pirate themed birthday party…

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The birthday cake was Homemade Martha Stewart’s Red velvet cupcakes (to ensure zero cross-contamination with nuts) featuring his favorite sport – baseball!

But, for me the best part about his birthday party was when one of his dearest friends who has a severe dairy and egg allergy felt so special because I had made allergy friendly Cherrybrook Farm chocolate cupcakes  and pizza with Daiya mozzarella cheese for her. The child was ecstatic to have her first slice of pizza albeit allergy friendly in her 8 year old life and cupcakes that other kids wanted too!

It has become a tradition for my boy to start off his birthday with a very special breakfast. This year he wanted black beans and cheese grilled sandwich. Yes, now he can eat small quantities of processed dairy products…

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And a ‘Dari-free’ banana berry shake…

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Steps to an awesome Dari-free Berry Shake:

Ingredient:

  1. Dari-free: 2 heaping tsps.
  2. Water: 3/4 cup
  3. Banana: 1/2
  4. Berry Mix: 1/2 cup

Method:

  1. Prepare Dari-free milk according to directions with the water and dari-free powder. You can use  Oat milk, Rice Milk, Coconut Milk or Hemp milk instead.
  2. Mix the fruits, Dari-free milk and ice in the blender and there you have it…

Of course, his lunch box had to have a special note from mommy…

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And, he has to pick out an outfit from his favorite store, Naartjie! Yes – he is quite the metrosexual little boy who swears by this South African designer because of her attention to detail 😉

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And, then dinner was his first time trying what he had been begging for ages – a steak dinner with steamed broccoli at Uno’s Chicago Grill. Now why does mommy like Uno’s?! Quite simple – they were among the first restaurants in my knowledge which have a detailed ingredient listing and waiters that are aware of the precautions to be taken when ‘food allergy’ is mentioned!

My young man has had such an eventful year where he has thrived despite his multiple food allergies. He has learnt that one does not run away from the ball in soccer as his team went on to win the championship…

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He has learnt to be a graceful loser as his coach pitch team had an undefeated season but went on to lose the championship. Yes – he and his best pal ran off for an ice cream the moment the last game ended 😉 Arjun’s fav allergy-friendly ice cream is the Spongebob Popsicle though he does hate their awful gum ball eyes!

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Yes, he found his love in playing drums – thanks to the awesome atmosphere in School Of Rock

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He also has grown to love skateboarding, snowboarding, golfing, basketball, swimming and chess! He is yet to excel at anything but I am convinced he is on the right path because he has found a joy in learning and is passionate about the journey.

Above all he is a goofy child…

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Whose mommy loves him to death and wants to make the world a safer place for all food allergy sufferers…

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Yes, my son is small compared to his peers in large part because of his food allergies. Numerous studies have shown that children with multiple food allergies tend to be much smaller but thanks to his personal challenges he is blossoming into an aware, thinking and curious child!

Ending this post with his favorite lullaby…’Into my arms, oh Lord‘! Yes – he listens to it three times every night before he falls asleep 🙂 And, with good wishes to everyone out there!

Cheers!

‘It takes a village to raise a child’


As my little one’s 8th birthday draws near – the many, many people who have helped me keep him safe come to mind. Earlier this week, by mistake I packed pasta that could potentially have been highly allergenic for my son’s lunch. Just one of those mornings when things were rushed and I had woken up in a foul mood. It was mid-morning by the time I realized that I had made a terrible mistake. Fortunately for me – my cousin Shobha lives and works in the same town as we live in and she is one person who has always had my back when it comes to Arjun’s care so little surprise that I called her up in utter panic! Smart sister that she is – she first calmed me down and asked me to inform the school immediately.  Then she dropped everything at work and rushed to his school just so she could drop off an Allergy Friendly lunch for my little boy! So – he was not only safe; he also did not have to go hungry because of a stupid mistake made by his mom. 

In the few moments that followed, the must-do measures to ensure an Allergy Friendly lunch box popped in to my head which I must share with all caretakers:

  1. Prep ahead: Leave the kitchen clean and do some of the lunch prep the night before like packing the dry snacks. A dirty kitchen is bound to delay things and push you over the edge on a busy morning.
  2. Be extra vigilant when doing routine/ repetitive tasks: those are the moments when our guard slips and we inadvertently make mistakes.
  3. Call the school the moment you realize that you have made a mistake. School authorities are very aware and will take action promptly
  4. And, finally if possible be fortunate to have a family member or friend who loves your child and will drop everything and rush to the child’s aid if you are unable to do it. For Arjun – one such person is his dear aunt Shobha! 

Shobha and I – we grew up together and being close in age have bickered and competed all through just like any 2 sisters would. Our own siblings have always lived far away from us but the two of us have inexplicably always been thrown in the same town.  So, through happy and tough times – we have stuck it out together. This has forged a life-long bond of trust and love between us and often in times of crisis no words are needed to communicate. A couple of years back I was at the cross-roads of life and even people whom I had tried to explain did not understand! But, Shobha needed no explanation – she was there for me and understood my predicament like she had lived the crisis herself – go figure!

Birthdays seem incomplete if she is not with me to celebrate it…

So, this post goes out to my beautiful sister Shobha who not only helps me to keep my boy safe but in her own special way makes sure her little sis is safe and happy too! I am often so wrapped up in Arjun’s weaknesses that she is the one who reminds me how he is as lively, intelligent and happy despite his allergies.

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On his first trip to New York City with his aunt!

When I think of preparing a special dish for Shobha – I always think ‘vegetables’ and lots of them! So, I chose this Allergy Friendly recipe which is bursting with colorful vegetables. I am sure it will score a home run with the ultimate health food foodie who loves my Allergy-Friendly spin on dishes. Presenting Allergy Friendly ‘Blanquette de légumes’  aka Vegetable Stew  🙂 Technically, ‘Blanquette’ refers to white sauce but we get a similar creamy albeit AF version -thanks to Coconut Milk!

Ingredients:

  1. Cauliflower: 1/3 – 1/2 of medium cauliflower
  2. Carrots: 1 medium
  3. Peas: 1/2 cup
  4. Beans: 1 cup diced
  5. Potato: 1 medium
  6. Tomatoes: 2
  7. Coconut Milk: 1 can
  8. Oil: 1/2 tbsp.
  9. Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp. (optional)
  10. Serrano chilies: 2 sliced (optional)
  11. Salt to taste

Apart from tomatoes – in all  use approximately 6 cups of vegetables diced small.

Method:

  1. In a heavy bottomed pan heat the oil. Add cumin seeds and wait for it to start changing color. If using chilies, add the sliced chilies at this point and stir. Add a couple of extra chilies if you want to kick up the heat quotient a couple of notches. You can omit the chilies altogether or de-seed them before adding it to the oil if you want to avoid the ‘heat’.
  2. Add the vegetables and approximately 2/3 of the can of coconut milk to the heated oil. Mix it well – it may seem like there is an overdose of vegetables but it will reduce in volume as it cooks.
  3. Cook it covered on low to medium-low flame for about 10 minutes. Stir it a couple of times along the way and reduce the flame if the coconut milk starts boiling.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and desired amount of salt and stir well.
  5. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked to desired level stirring occasionally. I like them cooked but firm.
  6. Now add the remaining coconut milk and cook for 3-4 minutes more. Now the dish is ready to be gobbled up 🙂
  7. I love it as-is – a warm bowl of stew or with an allergy-friendly tortilla or alongside a small bowl of rice (brown or white)
'Blanquette de légumes' - aka Vegetable Stew!
‘Blanquette de légumes’ – aka Vegetable Stew!

It is no surprise that seeing Shobha’s unadulterated love for my boy, her entire family dotes on him. Her two adorable daughters, Shruti and Soumya have helped raise money for food allergy research, participated in erstwhile FAAN (now FARE) annual walks, prepared allergy friendly meals for him and above all loved him like he was their little brother. And, in her husband Sudhakar, my soon to be 8 year old has found an uncle who pampers him like a little prince – massaging his legs, listening to his long-winded stories and just making him feel smart and very, very special!

To a cousin whom I love for her unparalleled zest for life, innate curiosity, hard-working and straight-forward approach, true appreciation for all that life has given her and above all for her ability to laugh like a child even when the chips are down – thank you! Wishing you the best now and always…

When I was younger, mom would say that people hesitate to help me because I would pretend to be a little too independent.  We are social beings and need each other – I learnt that important lesson only after Arjun was born. It is often said that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ – clichéd but oh so true! And, if you have extended family in that village – you can be sure that your child will be one coddled happy camper 🙂 Reminds me of the beautiful song by the same name sung by Grammy nominee whose life has been dedicated to raising ‘social consciousness through music commentary’ and goes out to Arjun’s beloved aunt…

It takes a village to raise a child – Mickey Carroll

So, remember – a parent is not the only one who can keep a child with food allergies safe because we can’t do it all…

Times of change, challenge and triumph…


The past couple of years have been about constantly reminding myself to keep walking though personal conflicts and challenges have constantly threatened to derail me. A landmark Birthday came and went but my spirit could not rejoice and I packed on a whopping 15 pounds. Now, when I look back – I feel humbled and thankful for how far I have come even though its still a long road ahead.  To celebrate, recently I threw myself a much delayed birthday party recently with a few of my dear friends in one of my favorite cities in the world…New York City 🙂

Snowflakes, joy and friends!
Snowflakes, joy and friends!

I also have gone back to my older self of working out and eating right with an occasional drink 😉 That tub of ice cream neither makes you feel better nor does it make you look better the next day!

Continue reading “Times of change, challenge and triumph…”

Sometimes mommy ‘DOES NOT’ know best…


‘Mommy – aren’t you glad that I saved myself from dying today?!’ – these words will echo in my ears for a long time to come. Ironic that I should file this post under ‘Parents’ nuggets of wisdom’ 😉

Much as I would like to think that I am an awesome mom who has always ensured that her boy is safe – I have made many, many mistakes. This post needed to be written to demonstrate how carelessness, overconfidence and sheer ignorance can cost a food allergic child his life! As my son, Arjun is growing up and we are getting comfortable managing allergies – we are slowly slipping into a comfort zone and that’s the moment to watch out for…

Continue reading “Sometimes mommy ‘DOES NOT’ know best…”

Allergy Foodie’s 100th Post – Celebrations!!


Pheww – I have been exercising my grey cells overtime the past few weeks to come up with a momentous 100th post for Allergy Foodie! My mind raced over the past few years since Arjun was born and I was unceremoniously thrown into the world of multiple food allergies – it is a kaleidoscope of people who have helped make this journey a joyous one despite the travails.

That’s when it suddenly dawned on me…a parent/caretaker alone cannot keep a child safe! A lot of people contribute through big and small actions to make the life of a food allergic child joyous – family, friends, teachers and more. In fact, I would go a step further and say that it is impossible to raise a healthy and confident food allergic child without society’s help.

In my mind, the one person who stands ‘tall’ amidst them is my niece who was but a child herself when Arjun was born.  The 9 year old would get up at 6 am despite her summer vacations just to see a 4 month old Arjun cackling with laughter. Since then a life-long bond of love, laughter, empathy and friendship was forged between these two cousins. So, this special post is dedicated to Soumya on her 16th birthday.

When they first met...

Continue reading “Allergy Foodie’s 100th Post – Celebrations!!”