NUT FREE chocolate chips

Six years ago…I stood a few feet away from a group of chatty moms as we all waited for the kids to be released from pre-school.  One of the moms thrilled about finding the perfect saddle shoes for her daughter informed everyone they needed to go to Nordstrom. Since it was close to Halloween the discussion turned to the rules about what candy could be sent into school. Certain kids had severe nut allergies so any candy potentially exposed to nuts at the factory was prohibited. For the most part, that ruled out chocolate and it was clearly upsetting this group of chatty moms.

“I don’t care,” exclaimed the saddle shoe mom. “I’m still sending in some Snickers. The kids should be able to have chocolate.”

I bit my tongue, and didn’t say a word. Even as I write this six years later the idea of overhearing this conversation and doing nothing burns me. I should have spoke up on behalf of all the kids with nut allergies. I have a few regrets and this is one of them. A severe nut allergy is a life or death situation. A life or death situation, people!!! No child or parent should be fearful about going to school because some saddle shoe mom feels her kid is entitled to a Snickers. If I’m ever in a similar situation I would tell that mom to keep her Snickers at home.

Neither of my kids have allergies and I can only imagine the terror that grips the parents of kids with these types of allergies. Why not have a little empathy for these families? Do whatever you can to make their lives easier. Follow the rules set by the schools.

This past year I did some baking for people with severe nut allergies, did a little research and what I learned was mostly common sense.

Always, always, always check the label on ingredients. You can never be complacent about the ingredients that you use. Even if you’ve used a nut-free ingredient in the past, don’t trust that it is still safe. The manufacturer could have changed their practices or the store could be supplied from a different factory. Check every single label every single time.

Use new packages of ingredients. That flour bin on our counter? Not a good idea. It could be contaminated from previous use. Unless you are completely sure that you’ve never used a nut-tainted measuring cup in your container of ingredients you’ll want to use new unopened ingredients when baking nut-free.

Use separate, clean equipment in the kitchen. Think about whether you’ve ever used a measuring cup for nuts. Forget about the flour sifter because it has tiny unreachable areas that might have a contaminated ingredient stuck there. That’s what we call cross contamination my friends. Don’t do it.

When in doubt use parchment paper. Your baking sheets could have been used with nuts in the past so don’t take any chances.

Here’s where you should chime in. I know many of you deal with allergy situations on a daily basis. What did I miss?

Updated on October 8th, 2013.