A holiday meal for the sensitive stomach

The Rosh Hashana meal need not be a challenge for those who suffer from food allergies and sensitivities.

Apples (photo credit: Wikicommons)
(photo credit: Wikicommons)
Rosh Hashana is a great time of the year for amateur cooks and Jewish mothers to show off their skills in the kitchen. While food allergies are not always the number concern when preparing for a big holiday meal, more and more people are factoring this when feeding their families.
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 various food sensitivities such as lactose intolerance, Celiac, other gluten intolerances, as well as various gastrointestinal conditions like Krohn’s disease. Food sensitivities are non-life threatening hypersensitivities to food.
Symptoms of food sensitivities can be caused by 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 are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soybean, fish, shellfish and wheat. Food allergies and sensitivities are a reality that many have to live with. Nevertheless, being aware of the challenges and developing a plan can make eating with food allergies and sensitivities manageable while not sacrificing taste.
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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 a festive salad? How about roasted edamame (soybeans)? For those that 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 ideally 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. The e-cookbook, A Taste of Sweetness incorporates one or more of the simanim in each allergy-friendly recipe. Ever tried Pomegranate Mousse Pie, Pumpkin Muffins, or Mushroom Leek Soufflé? Allergy-friendly recipes can be delicious, exciting, and festive. Even if you’re avoiding several food groups, don’t fall into a rut and accept boring meals as your lot.
A traditional holiday meal can easily be made taking into account a number of different allergies.
Halla is 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 like 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 even better, sweet potatoes and rice without pilaf (which is a wheat product). Quinoa, known as the incredible wheat free “super food,” can do double duty as a side or even a main for the vegetarians at the 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, flowers, all go a long way in creating the right mood.
Think of colors, textures, and flavors. The natural vibrant colors of the simanim lend themselves to gorgeous presentation. Try using a large glass sectioned platter to highlight each siman. Find the balance that creates a festive, delicious and food allergy-savvy masterpiece for the whole 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 the 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. Carrot, Apple Raisin Salad Serves 8
Salad Ingredients:•    8 carrots, grated•    4 granny smith apples, chopped•    2 stalk celery, chopped•    1 cup golden raisins
Dressing:•    2 tablespoon lemon juice•    4 tablespoons honey•    1 teaspoon Dijon mustard•    4 tablespoons olive oil
Combine dressing ingredients. Toss with salad ingredients.This recipe was taken from A Taste of Sweetness  E-Cookbook and is nut free, egg free, dairy free and wheat free. It incorporates two symbolic foods (simanim)-carrots and apples.Tamar Warga 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.