If you are hosting Thanksgiving this year, and someone in your family, or one of the guests is allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, here are some preparation tips that may help—especially if managing a food allergy is new for you:
- Alert All Guests. Alert everyone attending about the allergy well before the party or dinner. That way, guests bringing an appetizer or hostess gift can plan accordingly. It’s important to be specific about the allergy, but there’s no need to reveal who has it. Most people, kids particularly, don’t want their allergy to be a topic of conversation during holiday festivities, so it’s best to say all that needs to be said ahead of time.
- Label Checking. The labels of all food products used need to be read carefully to avoid allergens (nuts). Many allergy families use the “rule of three.” Food labels are checked for allergens 1) at the grocery store, 2) at home when groceries are being put away, and 3) before a package is opened for use. Any product that “may contain trace elements” of an allergen should not be used.
- Significant Concerns. Of particular concern are Thanksgiving staples that frequently call for, or contain nuts: stuffing recipes, breads used for stuffing, gravy sauces, sauce enhancers or mixes, and dessert recipes. Read the ingredient list of these recipes and products very carefully.
- Two Version Option. If a cherished family recipe calls for nuts, you could make both regular and nut-free versions of the dish. However, cross-contamination* is a worry for those with nut allergies. Different utensils must be used to prepare and serve each version, and all kitchen surfaces plus the utensils used should be cleaned with warm, soapy water after preparing the nut-inclusive recipe. Label each dish clearly.
- Nut Alternatives. There are plenty of safe and delicious nut alternatives to use in recipes. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds, for instance, can replace nuts in stuffings, salads, or as casserole toppings. Roasted chickpeas make a crunchy topper on salads, or green beans. A sprinkle of streusel is a tasty substitute for pecans on sweet potato dishes; simply combine flour, light brown sugar, cold butter, and old-fashioned rolled oats. Or, purchase some nut-free granola as a ready-made garnish.
Fortunately, pre-dinner snacks are easy to plan since nut-free party mix recipes abound. Here’s one to try.
Allergy Friendly Chex Mix
You will need:
- 4 cups Rice Chex
- 4 cups Corn Chex
- 1 cup pretzels
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 6 tablespoons butter (dairy and soy free butter, if necessary)
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
- In an ungreased large roasting pan combine the cereals, pretzels, and sunflower seeds.
- Melt the butter in a small bowl. Add sugar, hot sauce, garlic and onion powders, seasoned salt, and ketchup; mix well. Pour over the cereal mixture and combine. The mix will be slightly damp.
- Bake for 90 minutes, stirring every quarter hour. It’s done when the mix is no longer damp, which might take more than 90 minutes - especially with a doubled or tripled batch.
- Let the mix cool; store in an airtight container.
“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times takes twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” ~ Erma Bombeck
* Cross-contamination occurs when allergens accidentally spread from one food to another.