Reprinted from the Jerusalem Post with edits.
During the Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) prayer service we ask G-d for a healthy new year. For the many people who suffer from food allergies and sensitivities, even the first meal of the new year can be a challenge. Hopefully after reading this article, Rosh Hashana will set the tone for a healthful New Year.
Food allergies are on the rise. As many as 15 million Americans have food allergies (according to FAAN-Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network). That number more than doubles if you include people with food sensitivities–which are non-life threatening hypersensitivities to food–such as lactose intolerance, Celiac disease, gluten intolerances, as well as various gastrointestinal conditions like Krohn’s disease.
People may experience food sensitivities due to a deficiency or absence of enzymes needed to digest certain types of food. The classic example is lactose intolerance: Lactose intolerance is a result of the body not producing enough lactase used to break down the lactose in milk. True food allergies, in comparison, are immediate hypersensitive immunologic responses to a food protein.
The “Big 8″ food sources of allergens? Peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soybean, fish, shellfish and wheat. Food allergies and sensitivities are a reality that many have to live with. Being aware of the challenges and developing a plan can make eating with food allergies and sensitivities manageable–without sacrificing taste.
Rosh Hashana is the perfect time to start a delicious, healthy new year. The gematria (numeric value) of egoz (nut) is the same as chet (sin). Many avoid nuts in their Rosh Hashana menu. What a break for the nut-allergic! Nuts can easily be omitted from recipes. Looking for something crunchy to throw into your salad? How about roasted edamame (soybeans)? If you can tolerate wheat, there’s chow mein noodles, croutons, and toasted ramen noodles. Dried cranberries are another great salad toss-in. There’s even a pomegranate-flavored craisin variety perfectly suited for Rosh Hashana.
The Rosh Hashana simanim (symbolic Rosh Hashana omen foods) are all allergy friendly as well (with the exception of fish). Pomegranate, dates, apples, squash, beets, leeks, carrots and cabbage are safely tolerated by most food allergy sufferers. A Taste of Sweetness (my new e-cookbook) incorporates one or more of the simanim in each allergy-friendly recipe. Have you ever tried Pomegranate Mousse Pie, Pumpkin Muffins, or Mushroom Leek Souffle? Allergy-friendly recipes can be (should be!) delicious, exciting, and festive. Even if you need to avoid several food groups, don’t fall into a rut and accept boring meals as your lot.
Let’s look at a traditional Yom Tov (holiday) meal and navigate it course by course for potential allergens.
Challah. Traditionally made with eggs. No worries–there are many delicious eggless recipes out there. What if you’re wheat intolerant? Spelt flour can be substituted for wheat flour.
If you typically serve a fish course and are allergic, there are a variety of appetizers that make delicious substitutes: try hot or chilled soups and salads.
Main dishes typically are easier since they are meat- or chicken-based and don’t generally pose a problem for the food allergic. Beware of nut-encrusted and wheat-coated main dishes. Look out for potential allergens in sauces as well.
Side dishes (like kugels) can be a problem for the egg-allergic. Have plenty of vegetable sides instead. Wheat sensitive individuals can enjoy potatoes or sweet potatoes and rice without pilaf (which is a wheat product). Quinoa, known as the wheat-free “super food,” can do double duty as a side or a main for the vegetarians at your table.
Look at Rosh Hashana food-allergy-friendly-menu development as an opportunity for creativity. There’s more to a beautiful meal than the food. Presentation is key in creating a festive ambiance. Linens, serving pieces and flowers all go along way in creating the right mood.
Think of colors, textures, and flavors. The natural vibrant colors of the simanim lend themselves to gorgeous presentation. I love to use a large glass sectioned platter to highlight each siman. Find the balance that creates a festive, delicious , and food-allergy savvy masterpiece for your family. Don’t forget to ask friends and other guests who will be joining your meal if they have any dietary restrictions. “Food sensitivity” has more than one application. The last thing you want at your holiday meal is someone who won’t eat or worse, someone who eats the wrong thing and has a reaction.
Rosh Hashana is the beginning of the new year and the start of a beautiful string of fall celebrations. May preparing food allergy-friendly Yom Tov meals help us enjoy a happy and healthy Shana Tova U’metuka (good and sweet year).
Sample Recipes from A Taste of Sweetness E-Cookbook:
Eggless Round Challah
Servings: About 5 round challahs
5 Tbsp dry active yeast (like Fleishman’s–not rapid rise)
2 cups sugar
5 1/2 cups very warm water
1 T vanilla extract
1 t of salt
1 1/2 cups canola oil
5 lbs bread flour ( I like Gold Medal Better for Bread in orange bag)
Place sugar, yeast and hot water in a very large bowl. Stir until foamy and let sit for 5 minutes.
Add oil, vanilla, salt and a few cups of flour. Stir until consistent. Keep adding flour until the dough becomes very stiff and then knead by hand. Gradually add all of the flour. Knead till dough is consistent and smooth and not too sticky.
(At this point, challah needs to be taken with a blessing for this amount of flour.)
Shape and place in round pans. Don’t brush with egg wash if you’re preparing an egg-free challah.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (until challahs are golden brown).
Carrot, Apple and Raisin Salad
This recipe is nutfree, eggfree, dairyfree, wheat free. It incorporates 2 symbolic foods (simanim): carrots and apples.
2 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablesppons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons olive oil
Combine dressing ingredients. Toss with salad ingredients.
Tamar Warga, MS-CCC, SLP is a licensed and certified Speech Language Pathologist and a certifiably crazy mother of 10 (4 with food allergies). She is author of A Taste of Sweetness Rosh Hashana Food Allergy E-Cookbook and A Taste of Freedom Passover Food Allergy Cookbook. Tamar has recently taken up blogging at Kosherfoodallergies.blogspot.com, “Where kosher Jews get allergy news.”