A Nana’s Perspective: Christmas Baking & Food Allergies

Hi, everyone, Kathleen here! I’m excited to share with you this blog post written by mom, a.k.a. Allergy Nana. She’s been so wonderful at accommodating my son’s multiple allergies, making us feel safe and comfortable at her home, that I wanted to hear what it’s been like from her perspective — especially at a time like Christmas. She’s been baking her delicious desserts for decades, and I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to make so many changes so suddenly. Curious to hear her experience? Read on…


By: Julie O’Hagan

Christmas baking! Is there anything better?

The tradition of presenting with pride various cookies, muffins and Christmas cakes to my family — and then to my adorable grandsons — fills me with happiness.

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But wait! Something new has happened, something Nana has to figure out, and quick! How to continue the tradition safely for grandkiddies with allergies, nuts being a major one, oh and egg, and…. you know, so many of those ingredients that are present in my Christmas baking.

Mama Bear taught me well. There are substitutes for egg. There are spices that don’t have “may contain” warnings. And no more Bulk Barn for me! I have become the consummate label and ingredient reader! My famous Christmas cranberry muffins are still so good with an egg substitute. And, who needs pecans and walnuts anyway?

The past two Christmases, I was still able to make just about every cookie, just minus the allergens. And, any baking that had an allergen (such as my light and dark Christmas cakes) did not appear on the table when wee grandson #2 was awake. And, Mama Bear always reminded us to wash our hands and face after eating.

 

Before: Cookies covered in nuts |  After: Nut-less & yummy!

And this year? Well, grandson #2 is no longer allergic to tree nuts. So, I can make my much-loved snowballs, without omitting the ground almond. (I just have to make sure the almonds I buy don’t come with a “may contain peanuts” warning… which is proving to be difficult so coconut may again be substituted this year.)

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What I did discover over the past couple of years is that there are so many delicious alternatives or the same desserts with a bit of tweaking. Gingerbread people without egg works!

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Christmas dinner is easier. Just make sure my stuffing, cranberries, and all vegetables are made from scratch — as usual, but I’m just more aware of the ingredients! We buy perogies (a family tradition) from a local Ukrainian church, but they can’t guarantee that there isn’t any cross contamination. Luckily, our Farm Boy has safe (and yummy!) frozen perogies for him to enjoy. There is still so much delicious food that the little guy thinks life is good, and he doesn’t even notice if he is not being served an item.

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Nana has always tried to cook healthily, but I have learned so much more since grandson #2 was diagnosed with so many allergies. Now, when I read labels, I notice things I had skimmed over before. Do we really need sesame seeds or tree nuts in our spices, for example?

What else? Counters are super clean, toaster is emptied and cleaned; cross contamination is always on my mind.

And, you know what, it is all worth it!

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If I’ve learned anything from my grandsons, it’s that there are substitutes for everything! Sure, it can be a challenge, but there are always ways to make it work.

Speaking of which, will you be taking part in the Top 10 Challenge in April? It’s a great way to see what it’s like to make all these changes to your regular recipes and family traditions.

I already participate via my grandsons. So instead, I’ll be donating to Mama Bear’s fundraising efforts to support allergy research.


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