34: Food Allergy Awareness

Any kind of holiday or occasion involving food is a high alert time for food allergies. Near and dear to my heart is the issue of food allergies. Our daughter and my brother have life-threatening food allergies that require planning, research, and prevention. The key to success in not having an emergency room visit, or worse, is to plan your food. Pack snacks, safe desserts, and other food options if you are uncertain about the ingredients or preparation conditions of food you will encounter.

Here are some potentially deadly items for peanut- and nut-allergic people:

  • pies (a pumpkin pie might seem okay, but it might use pecan flour in the crust!)
  • anything prepared in a kitchen containing nuts or peanuts (past and present)
  • processed baked goods
  • all bakery items
  • anything on a buffet where a nut item is also located (cross-contamination)

At parties with lots of holiday foods, make sure you only drink from your glass. Again, cross-contamination is possible and occurs in drinks. Eat using only your utensils from your plate. If it is possible to go first in a buffet situation, do that and try not to make a second pass. Cross-contamination covers a picked-over buffet.

Remember to make sure your Epi-Pens are current. If you need a refill, take care of it. While you’re doing that, review all of your labeling and contact information on emergency medicines and update it. We keep our Epi-Pens in a red, insulated bag that has been clearly labeled with Sharpie with our contact information and medical information. Inside that bag, we also keep Benadryl Strips and an Albuterol inhaler. The Epi-Pens are also in their own plastic duo-case that is also labeled very clearly.

If you are hosting an children’s event, please have your food clearly labeled and any nut items out of reach of small children, in particular. Children under 3 years of age should not have any peanut or nut items at all, so keep that in mind, too.

In the past, I think of Christmas with nut goodies of all kinds playing major roles, but now it’s a little different. Making safe desserts to give and take has become a tradition in its own right.

Have a safe Christmas this year!

64: Tablescapes

Now that you’ve decided to host Christmas dinner at your place this year, it’s time to think about your tablescape. A great tablescape adds a lot to the atmosphere of your dinner when done well.

My favorite way to serve the food for a big dinner is buffet style. If you choose to do that, it’s another opportunity to stage your food in an interesting presentation on the buffet, and you can still have a great dinner table. The key to staging your buffet is varying heights. Use a variety of pedestal stands and candelsticks and you’re halfway there! (TIP: When using candles in a food setting, make sure they are unscented.)

Other additions to your table or buffet could be silk flowers and foliage, themed dishes, wired ribbon, food identification cards and place cards, small ornaments or balls, confetti, tablecloths and runners. On the dining table, make sure your tablescape is low enough so that guests can see one another across the table. Centerpieces should not interfere with conversation. If you are using fresh flowers, make sure the scent doesn’t overwhelm diners. If the arrangement is very fragrant, remove it from the table during dinner.

Before the big day, determine your menu and get out all of your serving dishes you will be using. Arrange your table and buffet area with everything and take a picture of it, once you’re happy with it. Keep this in your planning notebook for Christmas so you don’t have to figure it out again.

Photo courtesy of Liz Lawley