Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Foodie Gifts

In years past, I've relied on boxed chocolates and holiday cookie tins as gifts for certain people, like the wonderful women who runs DJ's home-based daycare. This year, even though I know that DJ won't be partaking in any of those treats, I'm simply more mindful of giving gifts laced with allergens. One alternative treat that I think they'll enjoy (in addition to gift-cards for dinners out, movies etc) are the hand-made jams and jellies available at Petite Thuet. I picked up a variety earlier today. Some of the more reasonably-priced items include Fig Jam for $8.50, and Wild-Blueberry Jam for $12. If you're feeling like a splurge, the wild-raspberry jam at $33 might be just the right treat for the favourite foodie in your life.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dessert and Passion Nut-free baked goodies

I noticed a christmas yule log by Dessert and Passions in No Frills earlier today. I wouldn't normally buy something like this but for some reason I picked it up just to see if it had nuts, almost assuming that it would.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that it carried a nut-free symbol. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any allergy info on their website.  Here's another company missing the peanut-free marketing boat. They should be all over this! I've never seen this company come up in any peanut-free searches that I've done. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Wild Baker

The Wild Baker, mentioned in my earlier post on the holy miracle of a peanut-free gingerbread house, is indeed peanut and nut free. While nobody at the company got back to me via email, I called to follow up and spoke with a representative. She confirmed there are no nuts and peanuts used in any of the products. Unfortunately the website doesn't have any allergy information available. I mentioned the company could really benefit from sharing this type of information considering the number of people looking for peanut-free products. Let's see if they really listen to their consumers and take up that suggestion!

NAFTA Nut Free Gingerbread Kits!

Thanks to Jennifer B for the tip on NAFTA Gingerbread kits; they are indeed peanut free!

Here's the response from the company that I received earlier today:

Thank you for your inquiry.

NAFTA is indeed a Nut Free facility but I would suggest the following with respect to the Kits.

We manufacture the icing and cookies in our facility but purchase the candies in bulk from outside, Nut Free vendors. However my suggestion, to be absolutely certain at all times, it to purchase candies with which you have a 100% certainty and with which you have previous experience. Use those candies along with our icing and House to do your kit.

Vice President, Sales and Marketing
NAFTA Foods and Packaging Inc.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Christmas Miracle?

Maybe! It looks like I found a nut-free gingerbread house! I found it at Sears in the kids clothing department - the absolute last place I would have ever expected to find one. And I've been looking: at nearly every store I've been to in the last month. This one is from The Wild Baker.

There are no nuts or peanut products listed on the ingredients and there is an allergy caution that reads: Contains: Wheat and Soy.

I don't know why I'm getting caught up in all of the wording. Or maybe I do. Maybe it's because I am surprised there is no peanut-free symbol. While not every product that doesn't have peanuts in it carries that symbol, it just seems like in this specific case the maker would market it with the symbol. Having it would surely help drive sales since seemingly every other similar product has the 'may contain' warning. If the rest of their products are also peanut free, this would be a great resource.

As well. I think I'm also finding it hard to believe there really is no peanut; again, since all of the other comparable products have it. This is one case where I'll be calling the manufacturer to double check.

Keep your fingers crossed. The box has been sitting out for days now, and DJ is super excited to help me build and decorate it. He would be heart-broken if it didn't happen.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Craisins - A Nut-Free Stand-in

Lots of my family's favourite holiday baking recipes call for nuts. While I'm forgoing some alltogether, other recipes look ripe for adaptation. I was happy to see that Ocean Spray Craisins are labelled as nut-free. They add a nice hint of chewy when nuts aren't an option, giving a cookie recipe some added depth and flavour. I'm going to try substituting them in this recipe for chocolate biscotti.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates

Chocolate is a mainstay in our house at Christmas. I usually keep three to four boxes on hand for last-minute entertaining and of course, for holiday snacking.

Nuts and chocolate go hand in hand; nothing adds more depth to a delicious dark chocolate than the crunch of a nut. Maybe that's why crusing the grocery store aisle has been so sobering. Nearly all boxed chocolates have at least the "may contain" warning. The only one I've found that appears safe is After Eights.

The idea of a chocolate-free Christmas isn't sitting well with me. I want DJ to experience all of the fun that comes with the season - including noshing on chocolate now and then.

It's why I got online and ordered a whack of chocolate from Vermont Nut Free Chocolates. It seems to be one of the only places that makes nut-free boxed chocolates. While the prices are a bit steep and delivery just adds to the cost, my thinking is that the extra money is worth being able to snack safely. I did feel guilty ordering nearly $80 worth of chocolate, but that included a chocolate santa for DJ's stocking, and plenty of small foiled wrapped shapes I'll use to decorate a gingerbread house, a long-standing tradition in our home.

Of course, now I've got to find a peanut-nut/nut-free gingerbread house kit. Every brand I've seen stocked in the stores so far simply isn't safe. I'll keep looking and let you know what I find.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Time for new holiday favourites

Wow, time sure does fly! I just realized weeks have passed since my last blog entry while I've been busy hustling to get ready for the holidays.

When we first learned about DJ's peanut/tree nut allergy, I never thought about how much our holiday celebrations would change, but now that I'm knee deep in preparations, I am realizing just how many adjustments will be necessary.

Like my Christmas baking for example. Nearly every treat I made last year contained nuts. The only exception was sugar cookies made from a Robin Hood pre-packaged mix.

So I guess it's out with the old nutty holiday baking traditions and in with the new nut-free ones.

I'm looking for recipes my family will enjoy that are nut free and also trying to adapt a couple traditional favourites. I'm sure there will be plenty, including this great recipe for warm white chocolate cookie bits. While the recipe calls for toasted pecans, I'm going to substitute dried cranberries or cherries. I'll be sure to blog on how they turn out.

At the same time, I'm wondering about the potential for substituting sunbutter for peanut butter in peanut butter marshmallow squares. Has anybody tried this substitution with any success? If so, I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More on Precautionary Labelling

One of the questions in the Health Canada questionnaire on labelling has really got me thinking.

It asks how you view food in the absence of one of the various precautionary warnings, like "may contain." That is, do you consider them safe?

Both my husband and I do. We read the ingredients label first, and then any additional precautionary statements before deciding if a packaged food is safe for DJ. We've always assumed that if an offending ingredient - in DJ's case, peanuts and all tree nuts - is not listed and there is no precautionary warning, that the item is okay. We've never required an item to have a peanut-free symbol on it, although it certainly makes shopping easier.

I'm wondering how other parents of PA kids, or PA sufferers themselves, handle the lack of a precautionary warning. Do you consider that item safe, or not?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Precautionary Labelling and Health Canada

Health Canada is working to improve the current approach to precautionary labelling of priority allergens in prepackaged foods sold in Canada. Those looking to add their two cents can take advantage of two different options: a web-based consultation that includes a discussion document and a brief survey, or participation in regional workshops.

It's great that Health Canada is taking the initiative to improve precautionary labelling. For me, though, I'm not sure I understand how certain proposed changes would help, simply because 'may contain' still means there is a risk associated with the product and has therefore, become strictly off-limits for consumption in our household. I guess it might reduce the number of precautionary labels that are included on packaging where no real risk exists. Eliminating those would be definitely increase food choices in our house.

Here's the official blurb from the website with the links included. There's also more info there on the regional workshops.

We invite you or another member of your organization to participate in the web-based consultation by reading the discussion document, Precautionary Labelling of Priority Allergens in Prepackaged Foods http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/consultation/_allergen2009/index-eng.php available on Health Canadas Food Allergen Labelling Webpage http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/label-etiquet/allergen/index-eng.php and answering the accompanying questions.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Allergic Living Responds to Chatelaine's article

Gwen Smith, editor of Allergic Living wrote an article in response to Chatelaine's now much-discussed article "It's just Nuts."

The article is well informed; of course, it should be since it's written by someone with an in-depth knowledge of the subject matter, unlike Patricia Pearson's.

What really blows me away though, are the comments to the articles. I'm saddened by how uncaring and self-centred some people seem to be.

Really, I get that not being able to send your kid to lunch with a peanut butter sandwich may be a pain in the ass.

I'm well aware the over-riding majority of the responsibility to keep him safe falls squarely on myself and my husband and of course, DJ himself. Based on this belief, we do everything we can to educate our boy about his allergy in the hopes that the lessons will stick: that he won't ever share food with friends, take food from others that hasn't been approved by mom and dad, eat something without reading a label, by-pass food without labels altogether...you get the idea. Education about his condition is what is going to save him - not a peanut ban at school.

Still, wouldn't a little compassion from other parents be nice? The comments on the board are so derisive and extreme, from suggestions to segregate kids with PA to different schools to comments about natural selection and how these kids wouldn't have survived in a different era.

WTF? Yes, WTF? WTF is wrong with people that they believe a peanut butter sandwich is more important than my child's life. Because that's what they're essentially saying. And, while I'm not sure I even believe a peanut ban will guarantee my own son's safety once he is old enough to go to school, that some people consider peanut bans such an assault and affront to their personal freedom at the sake of my son's safety galls me.

Again, I get it. Some kids are picky eaters and they miss their PBJ at lunchtime. That's unfortunate. Too bad some parents don't use it to instill a little compassion in their kids and teach them what some would consider a valuable life lesson; you can't always get what you want. Especially if it means potentially endangering someone elses life. '

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween - Not So Scary After All!

Halloween was one of those holidays that I was worried about, concerned that it would be potential dangerous for DJ, and that he wouldn’t be able to participate as fully as other kids. I’m happy to report that I couldn’t have been more wrong. After debating different strategies, my husband and I decided that we would let DJ Trick-or-Treat and would simply go through his candy stash and eliminate any potentially dangerous treats. Since he’s not quite old enough to understand why some of his candy would be taken away, we would do it while keeping him distracted. Sounds simple enough since that’s something we would be doing even if he didn’t have PA. Still, we were both a bit leery. Of course, we carried both his epi-pens and didn’t let him eat candy until we got home.

We’ve been in our neighborhood for about ten years now, and are well acquainted with our neighbors. We’ve been diligent about telling them about DJ’s allergy, asking them to never offer him food without our consent so we could clear it for safety. I couldn’t have been more grateful that more than 95% of those that knew about his allergy made a specific point of purchasing peanut free candy so that he could safely partake; nearly everyone showed me what went into his bag before dropping it in, and told me about its contents. One neighbor was even kind enough to buy him a Halloween book in the event we were too nervous to let him have any candy at all. Of course, we thoroughly checked everything out at home.

Out of 60 pieces collected, 47 were safe. Of the 13 remaining pieces, five were no-brand name sugary candies with no labels, and three were chocolate bars with the ‘may contain’ warning. Only three contained actual nuts. The other five were brand-name candies with no ingredients label. And for that I say shame on you Skittles and Starburst; if you’re selling candies in Halloween size format get on board with your peers and start labeling your candy properly!

Anyways, it was really a relief to see that DJ’s Halloween fun was not hampered in any way and neither was his safety. While he may resent having to hand over 20% of his candy when the night becomes more about a candy grab, we’ll develop some sort of trade-off strategy to deal with that when the time comes.

In the meantime, a shout out to our neighbors who helped make the evening a great one by keeping his allergy in mind when buying their candy.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tips for Anaphylaxis Canada for a Safe Halloween

Here are some tips from Anaphylaxis Canada for a safe and fun Halloween, pasted straight from the source:

Halloween is fast approaching. As the kids get ready to have some fun, remember some key rules to keep them allergy-safe while trick-or-treating.
For parents of children at-risk:
Be organized
- Have children accompanied by an adult when out
- Ensure that children carry an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen or Twinject) and wear MedicAlert identification
Be proactive
- Serve a hearty dinner before venturing out so children will be less tempted to snack enroute
- Emphasize the no eating rule when they are out
Check all treats
- Ask the children to wash their hands as soon as they return home
- Have the children sort through the candy with an adult at the end of the evening
- Read the label carefully on each treat - no label, no candy
- Consider donating the extra treats to your local food bank
For the community:
- Don't be shy - ask when kids come to the door: Does anyone have a food allergy?
- Be prepared - have food packages and their labels nearby, so you can check ingredients if asked
- Think outside the candy box - if in doubt, have non-candy treats, such as stickers or trading cards available
We wish you all a happy and safe Halloween!
Anaphylaxis Canada

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pin Code for Nestle's Crayola Contest

To all of those who have been searching for the Nestle's pin code to enter the Crayola contest, I have to admit I'm a bit stumped. I couldn't find the pin code either. I actually thought that maybe it came loose in the box and that I had thrown it out. I have yet to pick up more boxes (I don't want to end up eating them before the big day; my willpower is for shit.) Has anyone managed to find it?

Safe Trick-or-Treating Strategies

For weeks now my husband and I have been debating strategies around safe trick-or-treating. Do we let DJ collect everything and anything and switch it later for a bag full of safe treats provided by us? Or we do go through his booty at the end of the night while he watches? There seem to be pros and cons for each. I'm unsure he's really old enough to understand why we're likely to take a large portion of his candy away. At the same time, he has to learn sometime. But is two too young? I don't know.

I've also heard about the concept of pre-stocking the houses you know you will visit with safe treats. I'm not too keen on that idea; it seems pushy and intrusive to me. Besides, most of our neighbors know about DJ's peanut allergy so hopefully they will have stock up on peanut-free safe treats for him.

No matter what we decide on, DJ's safety will remain our top priority. I'm sure he'll have a great Halloween either way.

Any other strategies would be greatly welcome!

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Lame-Ass Article in Chatelaine

Check out his completely misguided article on peanut allergies in this months’ Chatelaine.

While ill-informed author Patricia Pearson states “in search of a little clarity, (she) dove into the science,” I’m skeptical. I’m no expert on peanut allergy myself, and am not going to rebut her article point by point. That’s better left to the real professionals; Anaphylaxis Canada has prepared an excellent response.

What I do know is that articles like this one – that suggest the threat of peanut allergies are overblown and that parents are overzealous in protecting their children - can be extremely dangerous; it undermines the education process that is so vital in keeping kids safe. My son’s peanut allergy is a real and ever present danger in his life.

The real thing that pisses me off about this article is that the author seems to think her son’s ability to take a peanut butter sandwich to school trumps another kid’s safety. Peanut allergy isn’t like other food allergies. A child with severe peanut allergy can have an anaphylactic reaction to a trace amount, making a sticky substance like peanut butter that’s hard to get rid of extremely dangerous in a school setting.

I know that one day DJ will have to manage his food allergy on his own. Already, my husband and I are doing everything we can to teach him to stay safe. Surely, by the time he goes to school the lessons will be well-ingrained. Still, some community support – in the form of peanut-free schools – is needed when kids are too young to really understand the deadly implications.

Funny…The impetus behind the article seems to be the pickiness of the author’s son, whose diet is limited to one kind of pasta and peanut butter. The irony that she caters to his obvious food neuroses while damning the restrictive peanut policies in schools seems completely lost on her.

Of course, the author seems completely stuck in her own bubble. How else could she think that the only benefit of the Mars bar peanut-free marketing campaign is to the maker of Mars itself; what about the benefit to PA sufferers who can rely on Mars for a peanut-free snack?

I’ve read a couple of dubiously researched and one-sided articles in Chatelaine, but this one really takes the cake. Unless the magazine prints the rebuttal from Anaphylaxis Canada to balance out this garbage I won't be picking this magazine up again.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Halloween Coping Strategies

I'm both excited and worried about Halloween. It will be the frist since DJ's diagnosis and both my husband and I have had several talks about how to handle the situation. While we've both agreed in the past we don't like the idea of ever singling DJ out by making him wear any sort of allergy clothing, Idid end up ordering him a No Peanut pin from CafePress.com to pin on his chicken costume. Most of our neighbors know DJ has PA, and of course, we'll both be walking with him door-to-door and inspecting his candy before he's allowed to even touch it. Hopefully, though, the pin will act as a reminder to our neighbors to keep the peanut butter cups and other unsafe treats for other kids and enable DJ to keep more of his booty.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nestle's Crayola Contest

While Halloween is still two weeks away, I haven't been able to resist dipping into our stash of peanut free candy. Last night, I noticed Nestle is running a contest for those that have picked up the 'Favourites' boxes that contain Kit Kat, Coffee Crisp, Smarties and Aero and have the peanut free logo on them, with $100 Crayola Creativity Packs being given away every hour. A purchase is necessary; you do need to buy the box first to get the pin code to enter.

At the rate we're snacking, I'm sure we'll be picking up a couple more of these!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dr. Generosity

Goofy name - but great food at this local resto in Bloor West Village. I'd heard about Dr. Generosity before from a friend with peanut allergy; he's always felt comfortable eating there so we thought we would give it a try for brunch last weekend. About a month ago, I emailed the owner, asking about their allergy awareness. I got a thoughtful response; there were few nuts on the menu, and staff would do everything possible to accommodate us. At the same time, the restaurant could offer no guarantees. I'm know that no one can offer guarantees in this type of situation and that there is always a risk involved in eating out. That the owners daughter also has PA offered additional comfort; clearly they understand the severity of the situation.

We decided on an early meeting time to avoid the Sunday morning rush. I let the waitress know our son had PA as soon as we were seated. She told me she would inform the kitchen and told us about any of the menu items that included nuts to ensure we avoided them. Minutes later, the owner approached our table and told us she was aware of our allergy. She pointed out that there were nuts on one of the specials and that peanut butter packets were on every table, saying she wanted to make sure we were fully informed. Already, we had moved the packets to the opposite side of the table, out of reach of grabbing hands.

I ordered french toast for DJ and I to share. As our food arrived, I asked the waitress again about the nuts and she assured me the kitchen had made every effort to avoid cross-contamination. While DJ enjoyed my side of bacon, he wasn't keen on the french toast, and spent the next half hour sipping creamers straight from the mini containers.

By the time we left the restaurant at 11:15, the line up was out the door and onto the sidewalk. Clearly, coming early had been the right choice as the kitchen was less hurried when we ordered, with more time to devote to ensure our meal was safe.

We'll definitely be going back to Dr. Generosity. Next time, we'll try it for an early dinner out.

Always do your own research before eating out with a severely allergic child. Call ahead and speak with the restaurant owner or chef, remind the staff once you arrive. Ask once again before you order and when the food arrives. Always carry an epi-pen, medical information and a cell phone. Understand there is always a risk.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chudleighs Redux

Saturday we headed out to Milton on to hit Chudleighs, with the idea we would pick some apples, and visit the entertainment area for kids. With no allergy information available on the website, and no one answering the phone, we headed out with our own snacks packed in case we weren't able to purchase safe food there. The $7 entrance fee was well worth it with wagon rides, a petting zoo, slides and antique tractors for climbing. After two hours, we were all ready for a snack. With all of the baked goods carrying a 'may contain' warning, we weren't comfortable ordering food from the main concession where the infamous apple blossoms were also being served. We headed out to the BBQ area instead, were sausages and fresh corn on the cob were being served. While the teenage worker had no idea about the allergy content of the buns, a quick look at the bag confirmed they were safe. While there was no information on the sausages, we both felt confident there would be no problem. I have yet to see any sort of standard meat product that contains nuts or any sort of warning. Same thing with the corn. The worker assured me the corn went straight on the BBQ with only butter brushed on. DJ loves corn on the cob, so we ordered some up, brushed on extra butter and enjoyed our snack in the warm fall sun.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Chudleighs Apple Farm

With Halloween nearly here, we're heading out to Chudleigh's Apple Farm in Milton to hit the pumpkin patch. We've had Chudleigh;s apple blossoms before, and I'd like to pick some up today but can't find any allergy information on their website. Considering the number of kids they cater to, and the growing number of allergy-affected kids you would think they would make the information available. Will blog more later.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kleenex Alert

I'm diligent about reading labels on food, but I've never thought about reading a tissue box! Last week, I was alerted to the fact that "Puffs with Lotion" could be potentially harmful for a nut allergy sufferer. Apparently the lotion in the tissue contains shea butter, which is derived from shea nuts. With cold and flu season now here in full force (my household has already been laid low once already!) it's good to know, especially becuase I'm not sure I would immediately recognize a reaction, considering its an unlikely source.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Finding New Holiday Favourites

While we're definitely getting used to living in the shadow of the peanut, there are certain times when we're reminded just how much things have changed since DJ's peanut allergy. The holidays is one of them. With Thanksgiving coming up, I need to prepare a dish to take to my in-laws for a potluck celebration. Even though I haven't used nuts in any dish for at least the last six months, all I can seem to think about are nutty dishes; green beans with toasted almonds, roasted sweet potato casserole with walnuts, pecan pie...you get the idea.

Since this is the first real holiday since DJ's diagnosis, it looks like I'm going to have my work cut out for me finding some new nut-free favourites; the old ones, fading into distant (and tasty) memory, of a time when cooking and eating didn't seem quite so dangerous.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Great Wolf Lodge

My sister in law and her family recently visited Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls. While neither of her two kids have peanut allergy, she is always on the lookout for allergy information on our behalf.

After checking out the website, which states Great Wolf Lodge is not peanut free, she did find some information on their willingness to accommodate certain food allergies. When she typed in "Nut Free" in the Ask a Mom section, here's what turned up:

Question: My son has several food allergies including wheat, egg and peanut/tree nut. How would we handle his food requirements during our stay? Is there a kitchenette option where I can cook his meal ie special pasta/gluten free grilled cheese etc?

Answer: Hello! The are refrigerators and microwaves in the rooms, but no ovens. You can also call ahead and speak with the chef or hotel management about your son's special dietary needs. The Lodge is more than willing to accommodate and create special meals for your son, if needed."

Question: What if my kid has food allergies?

Answer: Great question! There are several different dining options available at the Lodge. There is a Pizza Hut, a buffet, a restaurant, and several snack shops. You can also call ahead and speak with management or the chef on duty to tell you what options are available. The chefs are more than willing to accommodate your special dietary needs, you just have to ask. You can also bring your own food since every room is equipped with a microwave and refrigerator.

Great information, sil, so thanks!

Still, I keep wondering why facilities that cater to kids can't make more of an effort to make their food more friendly for allergy sufferers. While I realize this would be a huge undertaking, it could start with something as simple as partnering with outlets that are peanut free to start. In this case, for example, why not partner with a pizza place that is peanut free, like Pizza Nova, instead of Pizza Hut whose products simply aren't safe for PA kids.

Friday, October 2, 2009

No Nuts Shout Out!

For a while now, I've been coaching DJ on his peanut and tree nut allergy. While he's still too young to understand the true meaning of our little talks, he's definitely getting the gist.

Yesterday, we hit the grocery store. I love having him with me for this weekly chore; he seems to love holding onto my list and saying random food items he knows like he's actually reading it!

Each time I pick up a package I make a show of reading the label to him and saying stuff like "have to check for nuts" and "let's make sure there's no nuts."

My strategy is paying off. In line, grabby hands pulled a box of stuffing off the conveyer belt. DJ looked at the box the same way he's seen me do dozens of times now, and declared to the cashier in a very loud voice "No nuts!" and tossed it back on the pile. Next, beaming he added "I'm helpful"

Too freaking cute!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Birthday Cake

Here's a pic of DJ's birthday cake! We demolished IT in about a day. Peanut free goodness!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Peanut Buttter Blunder

One thing both my husband and I have agreed upon from the start is that we would maintain a peanut and nut free household, meaning that everything in the house would be safe for DJ to eat. That meant no peanut butter hidden in out-of-reach cupboards, or other potential hazards for out tot to accidentally stumble upon. While DJ will definitely have to learn he can't eat everything that every one else can, we want our own home to be a safe zone, where we can all feel confident and not worry about allergic reactions.

So, needless to say, I was troubled to find out a mutual friend brought, and consumed peanut butter at our lake property last week. Even though DJ wasn't there, our friend used our cutlery and plates; while he washed them thoroughly afterwards I can't help but feel uncomfortable. What if a minuscule amount of peanut butter remains? Washing dishes out of a pasta pot without running water may get plates clean in the normal sense, but I'm not sure it's enough in this case.

While spending time at the lake with DJ is immense fun, it's also a lot of work. And now, there's even more, since the next time we arrive, I'll be washing clean dishes before we get them dirty again, to ensure all traces of peanut butter have been removed.

Maybe I'm being paranoid, but with a 30 minute drive to the nearest hospital, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

Next time, our friend is going to have to find a new bread spread.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pizza Pizza

I'm starting to find the contradictory information offered up by certain companies more than a little frustrating.

Take Pizza Pizza for example. To start, the allergen information was not easily accessible. After digging around on the website for nearly ten minutes with no luck, I emailed the company. A rep responded that I should check the website. Like I would have never thought of that...

I did end up finding it, and in my opinion, its information like this that is virtually useless for someone with allergies.

The product list states that there are no peanuts or tree nuts in any products. However, this is the statement found lower down the page:

"If you have a food allergy, please be aware that Pizza Pizza products may have come into contact with nuts, peanuts and other possible allergens such as shellfish. Pizza Pizza is a restaurant environment, serving foods that are not in sealed packages. Therefore, we unfortunately cannot guarantee a 100% allergy-free environment."

So does the pizza at pizza pizza contain peanuts and tree nuts or not? I can't tell from this statement. Looks like the company wants to avoid any liability.

Since their pizza sucks, I'd be unlikely to eat there anyways. But I am increasingly irritated with companies with wishy-washy statements like that.

Shit, or get off the pot.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Health Canada Update

Health Canada is strengthening labelling regulations. This time, the proposal is to expand the current requirements to include all of the components, or raw materials, of listed ingredients. Under the current rules, those don't have to be included. The list of priority allergens could also be expanded to include ingredients like mustard.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Frozen Treats A Bummer

With the warm weather holding out, it was the perfect weekend for another trip to the Toronto Zoo. DJ was wired with excitement - refusing to slow to a walk at any point - even running on the spot when we were "stopped" to check out the various animals.

It was the first time I've had to deny him a treat that he really wanted because of his peanut allergy. Even though we've got into a good groove over the last couple of months, it reminded me that there are going to be lots of tough times ahead; times when DJ may feel left out or deprived because he can't eat certain things.

This time it was ice cream. Every time DJ saw a kid with a cone or any kind of frozen treat, he asked for one.

While I already assumed all ice cream was out, it was disappointing to see items like Rockets and Lifesaver pops also crossed off our safe list thanks to the 'may contain' warning. Given that Nestle already has some certified peanut free chocolate products it would be nice to see them step up to the plate with some peanut-free frozen treat offerings.

In the end, after looking at the label of nearly every frozen treat available in the bin, I pried a crying DJ away and headed into the gift shop, were he got to pick out a new stuffed toy (A fish we've named Nemo) as consolation.

While I know I won't be able to buy him out of every situation where his peanut allergy puts a damper on his fun, while he's too young to really understand the 'why's' behind the 'no's' it's a strategy I may find myself using again - to the detriment of my wallet.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Whittamore's Farm Redux

Last week I contacted Whittamore's Farm in Markham for allergy information about their food offerings.

While I never heard back from my email request, we decided to give the farm a go for DJ's birthday anyways, with the idea that we would just enjoy the activities and bring our own snacks in case we couldn't get anything safe there.

With an antique tractor to climb on, a sand lot full of play tractors and a dirt track with ride-on pedal tractors it's a great place for transportation loving tots like DJ. A barn bouncer, goats to pet and a wagon ride through the farm's pick your own fields helped round out the day.

After all that playing, we were all looking forward to a snack. With a teen aged boy running the concession stand, I was hesitant to even ask about the allergy content of their offerings, thinking I just didn't feel like getting into it with someone who wouldn't understand.

Happily, I was wrong. My question was quickly countered with a sheet detailing all of the ingredients in all of the menu items. None contained any nuts. While we were assured that only canola oil was used in the deep fryer we were also cautioned that they couldn't guarantee the items hasn't been in contact with nuts at the manufacturers. However, given the stringent labelling requirements, to me it seems like any cross contamination concerns would have been evident since the ingredients were lifted directly from the packaging.

We ordered fries and DJ ate them without incident; that's if you don't count the ketchup in his hair.

Without ingredient labels and lots of nutty items available, all of the baked items in the store were clearly off limits. Still, there was a great selection of fresh fruits and vegetables to pick from (and you can pick your own if you've got the energy - we didn't) so it's not like you have to leave the store empty-handed without a treat if that's what you're after.

While we'll definitely head to Whittamore's again, a little more responsiveness from the company - like an answer to my original email - would be nice, especially considering the facility is geared towards kids.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Feelers Update - Galaxy Desserts

I heard back from Galaxy Desserts regarding their flash frozen croissants - only available through Williams-Sonoma mail order. Sadly, they are not nut-free.

Here is the company's response:

It is a really good question, and you were right to ask such information. Our croissants are NOT considered "nut free". We do offer croissants that do not contain any nuts however our products are manufactured in a facility that also processes tree nuts.

Too bad! But thanks to Galaxy for at least getting back to me with the information.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Birthday Cupcakes!

Sweet treats to share with DJ's daycare friends!

Doesn't It Just Frost You?

Doesn't it just frost you? Apparently, a saying that would elicit both a giggle and eye-roll from my husband when his mom's friend would use it to express irritation years ago.

Well...Duncan Hines...you frost me. After going to pick up both a cake mix and frosting, I was surprised to see that all of their frostings and nearly half of their cake mixes all carry the warning that they were manufactured on equipment that also processes tree nuts.

I get that not every food maker can manufacture their products in a peanut or nut free facility, but considering that at least half of Duncan Hines' items don't carry that warning, and frosting and cake go hand in hand, it seems like they could make their frostings on a safe line.

All of the brownies are off-limits too.

Betty Crocker, on the other hand, offers lots of nut free frostings and brownies. Nearly all of their cake mixes seem to be nut free too - strangely enough - even the Butter Pecan. I'd be skeptical about serving that one up!

A Lazy Baker Needs to Get Busy

I’m an admittedly lazy baker. While I love to cook, the precision required by baking often eludes me. With DJ’s second birthday coming up, I’ve been busy preparing for the festivities. This of course, will have to include some baking.

While I’m prepared to spend hours frosting an elaborate fire truck cake, what I’m not looking forward to is baking cupcakes to send with him to daycare.

If DJ wasn’t allergic to peanuts and tree nuts this wouldn’t really be an issue; I would pick up a half dozen cupcakes from a local bakery. He would get a special treat to share with his tot friends, and I would get to spend less time in the kitchen. But he is.

Of course, the other option would be to not send anything. But what kid wouldn’t love cupcakes on their birthday?

One thing I want to make sure of is that DJ never feels like he missed out on anything because of his allergy – and that includes taking cupcakes to daycare. So it looks like I know what I’m doing tonight.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Couple of Feelers Out There...

I sent emails today to both Whittamore's Berry Farm and Galaxy Desserts to check on their peanut/tree nut allergy info.

Whittamore's is a pick-your-own fun farm in Markham with fun-for-kids features like the Sand Toy lot and a 1950's tractor they can climb on.

Galaxy Desserts Jean-Yves Charon's flash frozen, ready-to-bake croissants were highlighted as one of Oprah's favourite things in both 2002 and 2005. They're only available through Williams-Sonoma mail order.

Let's see if either establishment gets back to me. So far, I'm batting about 50% in terms of getting a response. Those that I don't hear back from I consider not interested in my business.

Is that too harsh? I'm not sure. I just don't have the time to ask twice sometimes.

Our New Product Policy for Road Trips

With another trip to the lake planned for this weekend, I've been busy getting our food supplies ready. The whole process underscores how critical it is to be careful about reading labels and feeling comfortable with any food-related decisions, both at home and when travelling.

One thing both my husband and I agree on is that we won't feed DJ any new packaged products that he hasn't already tried before when we're at the lake since it's at least a thirty minute drive to the nearest hospital.

With the weather turning more chilly, I've packed individual brown sugar and oatmeal packs for breakfasts. While there's no peanuts or nuts indicated on the packaging, in keeping with our previous decision, I tested it out on DJ this morning. I served it up topped with sliced bananas, and a little dollop of whipped cream. No problems! Except that my picky little eater only ate three spoonfuls before he declared "all done" and flung his bowl on the floor. Thankfully, our dog is not as picky, and did the bulk of the clean-up.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Silverstein's Bakery

Buying fresh buns and bakery items is always challenging when considering a peanut/nut allergy. I particularly miss buying open bin buns from our local bakery.

While hosting a barbecue for some friends last weekend, I discovered Silverstein's Bakery on McCaul. While they don't produce any cookies or sweets, I was able to pick up slider buns with just a days notice. There are no nuts on the premise, so there are no worries too!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dinner on the Fly - Part II

Yesterday, I blogged about meeting up with friends from out of town, with the idea that we may go for dinner after swimming with the kids in the hotel pool. With another couple, and their two teenage sons thrown into the mix, we ended up opting out. The over-riding vote was for Chinese on Spadina...something my husband and I used to enjoy frequently. Rol San was our favourite. (I miss you General Tao!)

While we had spare food packed for DJ, taking him to a Chinese restaurant isn't something I think I will ever be comfortable with again. Both my husband and I agree that eating food DJ can't share isn't something we're going to do. It's exclusionary and potentialy dangerous too; little hands can grab fast. We really didn't want to waylay our friends plans and headed home.

With DJ tucked safely in bed, we ordered from our favourite sushi delivery, Sushi2Go. Incidentally, the women there thought I was crazy when I asked if there were any nuts in any of the products.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dinner On The Fly

With friends in from out of town, we're set to hit downtown for dinner tonight. Peanut allergy really takes the spontaneity out of eating out, and even though I know our friends will be sympathetic to the situation, it's times like these that I dread. People that don't deal with this allergy on a daily basis don't always appreciate how dangerous it is and how difficult it can be to find somewhere safe to eat. With four adults and three kids in tow, dictating where we eat based on DJ's peanut allergy isn't something I'm comfortable with. And without input on preferences ahead of time, it's hard to research a safe spot that we're all happy with.

While we'll be bringing food from home for DJ to nosh on just in case. Still, I hope we can find a happy medium that satisfies every ones cravings and is safe for our tot.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


When DJ was diagnosed with PA, one of the first things I worried about was whether or not he would be able to enjoy the same activities as other kids.

Yeah...I know. Obviously, concerns about his health were, and remain, paramount. My husband and I do everything we can to keep our kid safe. It's our top priority at all times; we never forget about the stupid f-ing peanut.

Still, I worry about whether he will feel left out at birthday parties if he can't eat the cake, or will be scared to collect candy at Halloween. Will he be safe at school? We he feel singled out there, or get teased because of it? He's not in school yet; he's not even out of diapers, so these are questions I can't answer yet.

What I do know is that keeping him home from school to miss out on something that every other kid gets to do has never even crossed my mind. To do so would be to give into something I don't want for him; to miss out on anything he wants to experience in life because of his life-threatening allergy.

It's people like the ones featured in this article that, in my opinion, make living with peanut allergy worse than it really is, singling their own kids out before they even get the chance to be normal. I know everyone has their own risk tolerance, but kids with PA shouldn't be kept in a bubble. They're just normal kids who can't eat peanuts.

Our allergist has cautioned us more than once not to let this allergy rule our existence. We've got to learn to live with it, and so does DJ. Staying home from school when the time comes won't be an option.

New Possibilities!

A trip to DJ's allergist last week confirmed he's not allergic to pine nuts. Both my husband and myself were thrilled. Not only does this mean there's one less potentially deadly allergen out there for him, it could also open up a lot of dining possibilities.

While we would never actually allow him to eat pine nuts because of cross contamination concerns, we're both comfortable with the idea of letting him eat at an establishment where it's the only nut on site...as long as the regular precautions are taken to avoid it. The idea is that a trace of a nut on a trace of a nut is unlikely to contaminate his food. Our allergist confirms this is a prudent strategy that carries extremely minimal risk. While she maintains there is always some risk involved in eating out, she also encourages us to do so in instances like this to maintain a sense of normalcy in our lives, without letting DJ's peanut allergy take over.

We're both excited to start eating at Vesuvio's again. This pizza and spaghetti house in the Junction was one of our favourite dining destinations before DJ's allergy was diagnosed. Since then, we haven't been there, but a phone call confirms the only nut on site is the pine nut in the pesto. The manager assures me there is little chance of contamination with the pizza crusts, which are pre-made and line the pans waiting for their toppings.

With DJ's growing love for pizza (especially his Dad's homemade ones, where he gets to help spread the cheese) we'll be sure to hit up Vesuvio's next time we're looking for a casual - and safe- night out. Yum!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Another Allergy Alert from CFIA

Both the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Choices Markets are warning people with allergies to walnut not to eat the Choices Markets brand Cranberry Lemon Splash Muffins. The muffins are sold at Choice Markets in B.C. Here's the link to the CFIA's site with more details.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Peanut Free at KFC

While neither my husband or myself are the biggest fans of fast food its definitely nice to be able to roll into a different town and know that there are at least a couple of safe options. This latest road trip to the lake found us in Pembroke once again, this time, at KFC. Too whipped and anxious to eat out at one of the local family restos, we opted for the chain simply because their allergen info, available online, made it easy to ensure a reaction and hassle-free meal.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Taking a Pass on Poutine

After a few hard days spent working clearing and burning what seemed like an entire forest at our lake-front property in Quebec, both my husband and I were in need of a treat. We headed into Fort Colounge, the nearest town, hoping to try out the local poutine. With only one chip truck in this small, picturesque town (it's got the longest covered bridge in the province!) we found ourselves out of luck. While the women working the stand assured us there were no peanuts or nuts in any of the actual menu items, she was unsure of what type of oil was in the deep fryer. While both of us were tempted to indulge, and just feed DJ something from his snack bag in the trunk, we declined. Eating something off limits in front of him seems exclusionary, something we both worry about. I hate the idea of DJ ever feeling left out because of his peanut allergy, and I would never want to have to deny him a bite of whatever I'm having because of it.

In the end, we split a coke and a bag of cheetos (I know...terrible eating habits) and headed back to cook up a more healthful meal of salmon skewers on the bbq. Better for us all anyways!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Quesada - Peanut Free Burritos!

Mexican food seems like one of the forbidden cuisines when it comes to peanut and tree nut allergy. Even though nuts aren't readily apparent in most of the dishes, they can be hidden in sauces, like my favourite, mole. Quesada whips up tasty fresh burritos made to order, and according to staff at the King Street location, there are no peanuts or nuts used in any of the offerings. With three locations around downtown Toronto, it's a great option for allergy sufferers with a hankering for Mexican.

Always do your own research and ask your own questions before ordering food.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Safe Road Tripping

Back from another road trip to the lake, with lots to blog about, from poutine trucks to McDonald's to allergy appointment updates. More to come. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Taste of the Danforth

Taste of the Danforth is on this weekend. A friend with peanut allergy recently mentioned to me that he finds Greek food is usually a safe bet for him. While some of the desserts pack nuts, there are not very many main dishes that contain them, so avoiding them is fairly easy. Of course, that doesn't alleviate the need to still be super careful, and ask all of the regular questions.

Always do your own research.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thanks Loblaw!

Loblaw is introducing some new and traditional peanut-free favourites under the President's Choice and no name brands just in time for the start of the new school year! To make sure the products are easy to identify, packages will be marked with prominent logos and stores from coast to coast will have incorporated displays. There will even be some fresh-baked products available, a real rarity for those seeking peanut-free snacks, including muffins, soft-baked cookies and squares.

I've always loved shopping at Loblaw, and this show of corporate social responsbility will further solidify my consumer loyalty. Kudos to Loblaw!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hero Certified Burgers

Craving a peanut-free burger experience without going the mega-chain route? You might want to check out Hero Certified Burgers. It's an upscale burger joint with 17 locations in the Toronto area. Burgers are 100% Canadian, range-fed, hormone and antibiotic free Angus beef; there's also vegetarian, chicken and salmon burgers available. While it looks like several of the sauces are manufactured on lines that also manufacture peanut and nut products, and should therefore be completely avoided, there are lots of other fresh toppings to pick from, including a great selection of cheeses.

According to the manager on duty at the King and Yonge location, grape seed oil is used for the deep fryer.

I'm going to email the company to see if there's any chance they can start offering some completely peanut-free sauces. Stay tuned.

Always do your own research.

Food Allergy Buzz Review

Check out this review of Peanut Patrol on Food Allergy Buzz! It's one of the food allergy blogs I follow; it's got some good tips on how to enjoy life allergen free and is great resource for allergy information.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ice-Cream Trucks

I've asked a few owners of ice-cream trucks roving the downtown core if the soft serve ice-cream available is safe for peanut allergy sufferers and I've got the same answer several times. And that is that yes, it's safe, as long as no toppings like the chocolate dip, are consumed. Still, while at a local park I'm unconvinced since this particular vendor doesn't speak English and can't answer my questions. Instead, we choose a cherry slushy. Even though we can't inquire about its safety, it seems obvious to us; it's ice and syrup. We share one amongst the three of us, and DJ slurps it back, smacking his lips and declaring it "COLD! COLD! COLD!" The entire experience reminds us that living safely with a peanut allergy while still enjoying life is about being happy for what you can have and not focusing on what you can't.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cobourg Beach - and Hong Kong Gardens

A trip to the beach this weekend - the first really nice hot one this summer - had me looking for safe restaurants to eat at in Cobourg. Not a lot was to be found online. We packed a picnic lunch and decided ahead of time to come home for dinner and order pizza from Pizza Nova. We've ordered there before and feel it meets our safety standards for restaurant food. At the beach though, our friends suggest eating out after long day in the sun. We're tempted, but really, I feel daunted by the idea of driving around Cobourg trying to find somewhere safe to eat. After not being able to find something on-line, I feel skeptical I'll be able to find something on foot. Plus, I dread feeling responsible for deciding about where we can and can't eat as a group, but the reality is that since we didn't bring dinner for DJ with us, I would feel reluctant eating anywhere I wasn't 100% certain was safe. Our friends aren't fussed either way, so we decided to just go our separate ways and head home. We ended up ordering Chinese food after DJ went to bed, which we both felt was slightly risky and something we had agreed not to do before - order in foods where there is high risk of cross-contamination. But realistically, what is the risk in this situation? DJ was already in bed, and would not be eating the food. I still mentioned the peanut allergy to Hong Kong Gardens, our absolute favourite chinese take-out in Toronto. They assured me they cook with vegetable oil and that there were no nuts in any of the dishes we were ordering and said they would ensure no other nuts got into our food.

We feel like we took every precautions to not let peanuts or nuts enter our house, but still enjoy what we like, without any increased risk to DJ. I don't know where that falls on the continuum of how people with PA kids eat in their own homes. Is that too risky, or too anal? What do you think?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Subbing for Peanut Butter

I miss peanut butter. So does my husband. While I know some people with PA kids manage to keep it safely in their homes, hidden away and brought out only for the occasional careful indulgence, I tossed the lethal (yet tasty) spread out; neither of us have eaten it since DJ's diagnosis. Last week, I picked up a jar of SunButter, sunflower seed spread that is completely peanut and nut free at Whole Foods. While it's runnier than peanut butter, it's a tasty alternative and better than dry toast!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Kingsway Fish and Chips

A call to Kingsway Fish and Chips on Bloor West reassures me that there are no peanuts or nut products used in any of the menu items. Still, I ask again when we arrive. While the vibe may leave a bit to be desired (it's a decidedly older crowd when we arrive at 6:00) our fish arrives hot and fresh, and the fries are crispy and there are no problems with DJ's peanut allergy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Whole Foods Yorkville Redux

A trip to Whole Foods Yorkville location has me impressed with their fresh bakery nut-free product offerings. Even though there is no information available on the website, there are several options to choose from in-store. Tickle Your Tummy, based in Toronto, offers delectable looking cupcakes, cookies and cakes. Main Street Organics Bakery also offers a sweet selection of cookies. At $9 a container, I'm too frugal to indulge, but they certainly look yummy. If the Whole Foods is too far too travel, both bakeries sell their wares at several locations around the GTA, including most Longo's and Pusateri locations.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Research Offers Hope for a Peanut Allergy Treatment

Researchers at the University of Glasgow have found a link between the interleukin-33 molecule and anaphylaxis. According to their findings published in the Proceedings of the National Association of Sciences, the molecule's presence increases inflammation and results in a more severe allergic reaction. Using a mouse model, researchers showed that blocking the molecule could reduce the severity of an attack; it couldn't however, stop the allergic reaction itself. Further studies on food, venom and drug-related anaphylaxis are planned.

Read the whole article here. And keep up your hope for a cure.

Whole Foods Yorkville

Every couple of months, I like to treat myself to a shopping spree at the Whole Foods in Hazelton Lanes in tony Yorkville. I usually like to hit up the bakery and the prepared food sections for take-away treats to be consumed later at home. A look at their website's special diets section reveals several allergen-free product categories (like dairy free for example) but nothing for peanuts or nuts. Since Whole Foods often stock products from local producers and artisans, I'm hoping there will be some designated nut-free products available. I'll check into it further when I'm there and blog more later.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fresh Wood Grill

The Fresh Wood Grill in Long Branch is the newest location in this small local chain. While we've eaten at the Roncesvalles location before, it was before DJ's peanut allergy was diagnosed. The menu looks peanut and nut free and a conversation with the chef confirms that they can accommodate our allergy concerns. While there are nuts available on some of the desserts in a glass-fronted cabinet, the chef assures me that he will take every precaution to ensure no cross contamination, including using clean pans and utensils and thoroughly wiping down the counter and washing his hands before any food is handled. With a selection of fresh local produce and organic meats turned into tasty treats like The Cuban, a slow-roasted pork sandwich with chipotle mayo, this is one place we'll be sure to try next time we brave lunch out.

Always do your own research.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Dempster's Frozen Garlic Bread

I really miss making my own garlic bread with a fresh baguette from our local bakery, but with those now off limits thanks to cross-contamination concerns, I've been searching for a nut-free alternative. While none of the frozen garlic breads I've looked at before contain actual nuts as an ingredient, most still carry the 'may contain' warning. Dempster's however, does not. Still, for some reason I'm not convinced. While their website does not contain any allergy information, a call to the parent company, Canada Bread, clears it up. There are no nuts, or traces of nuts in the garlic bread.

Always do your own research.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cottage Anxiety

An invite to a friend's cottage has sparked some anxiety over how to handle DJ's peanut allergy safely. It's a cottage we've been to many times; our friends, from out of country, come back yearly and make the trek north to their beloved family compound. While I'm sure they'll understand our situation and take the necessary precautions around ingredients and food handling, I'm still nervous. In previous years, there have snacks galore heaped on a buffet table in the main room and its always brimming with nutty treats. As well, with young kids of their own, I'm sure peanut butter will be on the menu. Can I really ask them to put these types of items away while visiting their own home? For my own son's safety, I'm going to have to, but I'm sure I'll feel awkward about it.

Any insights into how to approach these types of issues would be greatly appreciated! Feel free to comment.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

St. Urbain Bagel

Bagels from St. Urbain Bagel at St. Lawrence market are peanut and nut free according to a worker behind the counter. While it does seem like lots of packaged bagels are also nut free, it's nice to have a such a tasty and fresh option, warm from the oven, especially when so many other bakery options are off-limits.

Always do you own research.

Mildred's Temple Kitchen Redux

While it was refreshing to get out sans tot, dining on the summerliscious menu at Mildred's Temple Kitchen is lack-lustre, to say the least. I'm disappointed in the mains offered by the reincarnation of Mildred Pierce, a local restaurant that had been a go-to for special occasions for several years for my husband and myself.

Still, I'm more interested in whether the Liberty Village resto can accommodate those affected by peanut/tree nut allergies for brunch, a time we're much more likely to eat out with our (only slightly) rambunctious toddler.

Their brunch menu appears to be free of any nutty allergens, and the waitress assures me, after checking with the kitchen, that we could indeed order the blueberry buttermilk pancakes for our highly allergic child without incidence. We may give it a go.

Always do your own research.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mildred's Temple Kitchen

Am off to Mildred's Temple Kitchen for dinner. It's Summerlicious and I've been itching to try out the reincarnation of Mildred Pierce for months. I may ask about their allergy policy; I may not. Really, I'm feeling very discouraged by the number of places unwilling to accomodate those afflicted by serious food allergies. And tonight, on the loose with a friend with DJ safely at home with his doting dad, I may put aside my concerns about peanut allergy and just enjoy myself.

Maybe someone else out there has a positive experience dining here with an allergy. I'd love to hear from you.

Petite Thuet

After stepping into the small bakery/cafe at the corner of Yonge and King I don't why I even bother asking about the safety of the foods available; obviously they're not. There are nuts crusted on many of the delectable looking pastries and listed as ingredients in several of the take-away salads. Still, I go through my spiel. Kindly, the man behind the counter explains the open-kitchen concept and why that makes even dishes without nuts as an ingredient unsuitable for any nut allergy sufferer.

I still decide to treat myself to one of the take-away sandwiches, and in short order am downing a soft, fresh roll packed with succulent chunks of lobster. Yum.

Ace Bakery

I love Ace Bakery breads, especially the olive oil and sea salt crisps. Sadly, a look at the allergy information on their website reveals that cross-contamination with peanuts and nuts is a possibility with all of their products.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Island Foods info request

I love the boneless chicken roti from Island Foods on King Street West. I've been craving one for a few weeks now. But is it still safe take-out, given DJ's peanut/tree nut allergy? I've emailed the company to ask for details. Will blog more later if and when I get a response.


According to the allergy information on the Harveys.ca website, it looks like their offerings are safe for peanut/tree nut allergy sufferers, although a blurb at the bottom on the page does warn about the risks of cross-contamination. I'll keep this is mind next time we're at the Toronto Zoo.

Check it out for youself if you're planning to eat there and remember to always do your own research.

Toronto Zoo

A trip to the the Toronto Zoo yesterday left us stumped for food options after I forget our picnic lunch, packed carefully earlier that morning, in our fridge at home. After being unable to find any allergy information on the food services available there, I determined taking our own food would be the safest, least stressful option. Once there, I realized my mistake, but with the long lines snaking outside both the Peacock cafe and Harveys, we decided to forgo eating at all. I didn't want to ask about potential peanuts or nuts and make a snap decision while the counter workers were so busy and eager to move customers through the lines.

I'll check the Harveys site later, and Beavertails too, two chain options available at the Zoo and blog more later.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Allergy Alert

Some snack foods imported from Korea have been flagged by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for undeclared allergens. Check out the full warning.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mike's Fish Market

Mike's Fish Market at St. Lawrence Market has a mouthwatering selection of fish and seafood on display. While it seems unlikely there are any peanuts or nut products present in any of the products available there, I still ask about the seasoning used on the salmon/black cod kebabs. The counterperson is friendly and obliging and promptly produces the spice mix so I can read the ingredients. No allergens are present and its grilled fish for dinner tonight!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Churrasco at St. Lawrence Market

A quick visit to the Churrasco at St. Lawrence Market confirms that the popular Portuguese-style rotisserie chicken contains no peanuts or nut products. After speaking with the owner, who makes the basting sauce himself, I feel safe in getting a chicken to go. He assures me that there are no allergens present in either the chicken itself or any of the other tasty treats available. I get a chicken for dinner - and fries for lunch! DJ wolfs down his toddler-sized portion with a side of rice with no problems.

While the stand certainly isn't as convenient as stopping at any one of the many grocery chains that carry rotisserie chickens, it's nice to know there is a safe option for us.

Always do your own research.

Grocery Store Rotisserie Chicken

One short cut for cooking dinner that I frequently take advantage of is the grocery store rotisserie chicken. On days when roasting my own bird isn't an option time wise, I like the convenience, and often strip the chicken to make everything from individual pot pies to quesadillas. Too bad a quick trip to Loblaws last night puts a damper on my plans. A warning that the store cannot guarantee the chicken has not come into contact with peanuts or other allergens has me searching for another quick fix for dinner.

Today, I'm going to check out the Churrasco stand at St. Lawrence market to see if the traditional Portuguese-style grilled chicken is safe. I'll blog more when I find out the answer.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

.Com vs. .Ca - A Lesson Learned

Make sure to check the correct country of origin website when looking up allergen information for a restaurant you may want to visit. I naturally default to .com when accessing most websites.

In the case of Pizza Hut, my mistake could have been a serious one. Before calling up the Pembroke location I blogged about yesterday, I accessed http://www.pizzahut.com/. The allergen table indicated no peanuts or tree nuts in most of the products but warned that peanuts or nuts may be present in common manufacturing facilities. It didn't specify which menu items could be contaminated, so I called to ask the manager on duty. I didn't feel satisfied the pizza was safe, so we declined to order.

However, a look at the comments on http://www.peanutallergykid.blogspot.com/ alerted me to the difference between the Canadian and US operations. A visit to the Canadian site reveals that nearly all of of the crusts are indeed manufactured on a line that also produces products that contain peanuts and/or nuts.

To me, this just reinforces how cautious one has to be when dealing with peanut allergy and how important it is to do your own research and ask questions when in doubt.

Always do your own research.

Maple Dale Cheese

Maple Dale Cheese, about 10 minutes north of the 401 on higway 37, has always been one of our favourite stops on the way to the lake. A quick grilled cheese sandwich, made with aged cheddar, on whole wheat seemed like a good alternative to the fast food fare along the highway, and with few towns between here and our final destination, we considered it a great place for a pit stop. With DJ's peanut/nut allergy I am not so sure anymore. After explaining our situation to one of the workers there, I am told that the Maple Dale factory, where all of their cheese is produced, has been operating as a nut-free facility for over a year. However, with nut-laden ice-creams also served in the store, I am concerned about cross contamination. The solution? The worker offers to thoroughly wipe down the counter with hot soapy water before she prepares our sandwiches. I am also offered the bread bag to check the ingredients. We decide it's a go, and within ten minutes are sitting down to a deliciously hot and gooey grilled cheese sandwich. I am still a little nervous because we will be heading away from the nearest hostpital, which is at least a 20 minutes drive in the direction we came from, so we linger after, checking out the cheeses for sale and letting DJ stretch his legs on the grass outside. We end up leaving with a block of nine year old cheddar.

Always do you own research.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pizza Hut

We're hotel-bound on the outskirts of Pembroke after our camping trip is waylaid by bad weather and a shattered rear window. Delivery choices are limited, and pizza seems like a relatively safe bet. Still after a call to Pizza Hut I am still unsure as to what their allergen policy is, even after speaking with the on-duty manager. Even though the pizza dough, sauce and toppings contain no peanuts or nuts, I am told that the ingredients may have come from a facility where peanuts or nuts are processed. We decline to order based on the notion that there may be trace amounts of allergens in the food as a result of the manufacutring process. Given that other pizza makers can guarantee no nuts, I'm disappointed that a chain as big as Pizza Hut can't. We try 2-4-1 instead, with more success.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Boston Pizza

I can't find any information on allergens on the Boston Pizza website, but a phone call to the Pembroke location we'll be visiting is reassuring. The manager is well-versed in the company's allergy policy; she tells me to ask for an allergy information binder which details the most common allergens in each menu-item. She also tells me in detail about the kitchen procedures in place to avoid cross contamination. Given the limited number of restaurants in Pembroke, this is definitely one chain worth considering.

Remember to always do your own research when eating out.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Louise on the left: Nut Allergies -- a Yuppie invention: As if.

Louise on the left: Nut Allergies -- a Yuppie invention: As if.

A compelling read.

Every Label, Every Time

When I bought the korean short ribs at Whitevens I asked to read the label, even though I'd bought the same ribs there two weeks before. I felt like I was being overly cautious to ask to see the label again, even though I knew the sauce on the ribs didn't have any nut products. Still, I am trying hard to adhere to advice I keep seeing repeated: read every label, every time. That is, read the ingredients label for every product you use every time you buy it, since manufacturers can change ingredients at any time. Or in the case of the ribs, they could have switched to a different sauce; one that might contain peanuts, or some other deadly nut. I felt like a broken record asking, but the counterperson was totally understanding and accommodating.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friday Night BBQ

With dinner out, or even order-in, a now less frequent event, I still want to feel like Friday night dinner is a treat. While we'll still be cooking dinner at home, I want to make it at least seem not like everyday fare. St. Lawrence Market is a great starting point. Short ribs available at Whitevens are coated in a Korean 'Maui Sauce.' The counterperson assures me there is no peanut or nut product in the sauce, and pulls the bottled sauce out of the walk-in freezer so I can read the ingredient label myself. Add some steamed edamame and it almost feels like dinner at one of our favourite Korean restaurants. While DJ isn't the biggest meat eater, he loves the ribs!

Always do your own research!!! Always.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chapman's Ice Cream

While doing the grocery shopping, I'm surprised to see that most ice creams have at least the 'may contain' warning, even vanilla. Luckily, Chapman's has a great selection of peanut/nut free ice-cream.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Waiting for Pizza Nova

We've ordered in from Pizza Nova dozens of times, probably too many. Their website offers a comprehensive food allergen chart that shows only three items on the entire menu containing peanuts or tree nuts: wing sauce and the caesar and balsamic dressings. A phone call to inquire further and it seems like Pizza Nova is very diligent in answering all of our questions, with one worker deferring to a more senior colleague several times when she doesn't know the answer. We're at least convinced they take our questions seriously, and combined with the allergy chart, we feel safe in ordering. DJ's already had dinner, but we are trying to maintain a strictly nut-free home at all times, regardless of who's actually eating.

Health Canada Update

"It's Your Health" is the latest food allergy information from Health Canada. This document has some good tips for minimizing risk and talks about how the government is working to amend the Food and Drug Regulations to beef up labelling requirements. One proposed change would require that food ingredients always be identified by their most common name so that they are easily recognizable by consumers.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dining Cards from Anaphylaxis Canada

Eating out with a PA kid safely means doing your homework thoroughly. I want to make sure we're as prepared as possible and know the right questions to ask. While I plan to always call ahead, I know that may not always be completely realistic, especially when travelling. I'm going to order the Dining Out Card from Anaphylaxis Canada. It has a list of questions to ask when eating out and is designed to help you inform restaurants and friends of your allergy when eating away from home.

The Big Apple

Without an online menu available, it's nearly impossible for me to tell if the Big Apple on the side of the 401 near Colborne is a suitable stop for lunch on our upcoming road-trip. We've been there countless times before and both love indulging in their apple pies. Unfortunately, an email request for information has bounced back as undeliverable. A phone call is in order.

Even if the menu turns out to be unsuitable, with outdoor areas for picnicing available and a well stocked petting zoo, the Big Apple may still turn out to be a viable alternative if we pack our own snacks. Still, a hot chicken sandwich would be nice.

Road Trip Ready

With less than two weeks to go to our first road trip since DJ's diagnosis, I am starting to feel anxious about finding safe places to eat on the go. With Pembroke the planned destination , I will have to start doing my homework. A side trip to Ottawa will also require some forethought. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Caledon Inn

At least three times a year my husband and I hit the same trail in Hockley Valley. It's the perfect length, just long enough to feel like we've done something. Most times, on the way back into Toronto, we stop at our favourite pub, the Caledon Inn, for a snack. With a hike in mind for this afternoon, I called the pub yesterday to enquire if it would be safe for us to eat there now, considering DJ's life threatening peanut allergy. Even though there are no nuts, or nut products listed on the menu, the hostess that I spoke with told me they could take no special precautions whatsoever to enable us to continue eating there. A request to speak with either the chef or the manager was denied. Considering our patronage there over the years, their already seemingly nut free menu, and the minimal effort it would take to accommodate us, I'm disappointed to say the least. From now on, we'll have to pack our own snacks or find a new spot to nosh after hiking. Bugger. It looks like finding safe places to eat may be more difficult than I thought.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Corner store chocolate

Finding chocolate bars that don't contain even trace amounts of nuts is challenging. I haven't found one higher end bar without the 'may contain' warning yet. At least now, I'm starting to remember the standards at the local corner store that are safe. Kit Kat, Aero, Coffee Crisp and Smarties are all okay. There's a peanut free promise on the Nestle's website.

I'm still bummed about Ritter Sports.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sushi a Possibility

According to one of the sushi chefs behind the counter at Bikkuri, there are no peanuts or nuts used in any of the menu items at this popular King Street East resto. Of course, seafood is also a common and serious allergen to be aware of. From allergy testing, we already know seafood and other types of fish are safe for DJ, so this is one restaurant we may try with him.

Always do your own research before eating out with a severely allergic child. Call ahead and speak with the restaurant owner or chef, remind the staff once you arrive. Ask once again before you order and when the food arrives. Always carry an epi-pen, medical information and a cell phone. Understand there is always a risk.

Are sushi restaurants safe?

Even though we've eaten at sushi restaurants several times with DJ in tow, that was before his peanut allergy diagnosis. I'm heading out at lunch to Bikkuri to grab a dynamite roll so will be sure to ask if any peanuts or nuts are present in Japanese fare. While I doubt DJ will like sushi - at least yet - perhaps the teriyaki offerings will be safe, providing with us another alternative for eating out in a peanut/nut free environment with our PA tyke.

The Butter Chicken Blues

After a long days work, Indian delivery from our favourite local restaurant seemed like the perfect comfort food. We've been ordered from Everest on Lakeshore for years now. Delivery is relatively quick, the food always arrives steaming hot, and I've got a particular soft spot for their butter chicken. I called the manager to ask about the 'peanut situation. '

I had no idea, but Indian food is chock full of nuts; a large majority of the meat dishes include cashew paste, which is used as a sauce thickener. Even though the manager graciously offered to cook the dishes fresh, without the paste, we declined to order. The opportunity for cross contamination in a kitchen where nuts are commonly used seems high. Even though DJ was already in bed and wouldn't be partaking, we decided from the onset that we would maintain a strictly peanut/nut free household, so even foods with trace amounts of allergen are considered off-limits. Maybe we're being overly cautious, but for us, it's the strategy that we're most comfortable with for now. I'm going to miss Everest. In the meantime, I'm going to check out the labels on some of the prepared Indian sauces available so I can make my own Indian food at home.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cafe Du Lac

After not venturing out to eat for months, we decided it was time to give brunch a whirl. It's one of my favourite ways to spend a Sunday morning and with the forecast calling for sun I was craving a patio. I started thinking of potential locations for our first foray back into eating out.

My husband and I have eaten at Cafe du Lac before. It's a small resto in Mimico featuring great Quebecois comfort food. I called the restuarant a couple of days before and spoke with the chef. I ran through my checklist of nearly 10 questions and was assured that there were only two items with nuts on the menu - the cheese plate and the crepe with nutella. The chef assured me he would take every precaution - including using a clean cutting board, pan and utensils - to ensure we would be able to eat there safely.

We packed our sons two epi-pens, medical information, cell phone and set off.

Once we arrived I flagged my concerns once again with the waitress and asked her to double check with the chef. Again, I was assured every precaution would be taken. I ordered apple crepes with whipped cream and fresh seasonal fruit. DJ immediately dipped his fingers into the whipped cream and jammed several strawberries dripping with maple syrup into his mouth as soon as the plate hit the table. Hot, fresh and delicious. And thankfully, safe.

Next time, we plan on eating dinner there. The poutine is gut-busting good.

Please remember - Always do your own research before eating out with a severely allergic child. Call ahead and speak with the restaurant owner or chef, remind the staff once you arrive. Ask once again before you order and when the food arrives. Always carry an epi-pen, medical information and a cell phone. Understand there is always a risk.

First Steps

After my 21 month old son, DJ, was diagnosed with severe life-threatening peanut allergy, my first thought was "How am I going to keep my son safe?" Sleepless nights between his first reaction (which landed us in the St. Joes emergency room for a third Sunday in a row) and an appointment with his allergist three weeks later had worst case scenarios running endlessly through my mind. I worried about everything and anything. For other parents of PA kids, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about. Every situation where food is involved seems like a minefield. I wondered how we could live our lives as normally as possible, without ever putting DJ at risk.

Up until DJ's diagnosis, we had eaten out around Toronto dozens of times without incidence. Eating out was a big part of our social lives...Sunday brunch with friends on Roncessvalles, Dim Sum at Harbourfront with family, Friday night sushi...you get the idea.

Don't get me wrong. My first concern was, and always will be, for my boy. Still, I worried that life the way we knew it might be over. Then, I talked to a former colleague who has managed to navigate life without incidence. Not only did he put my mind at ease, he assured me that he's eaten out safely all over the city. Since then, I've started calling around to do my own research, to find where we can eat out safely. I'll keep you posted on what I find out...which restaurants have PA-friendly menus and are willing to accomodate us, and which ones don't and won't.