Eat, cook safely to avoid the ‘nasty nine’ food allergies |

Eat, cook safely to avoid the ‘nasty nine’ food allergies

Susan Hart
For the Nevada Appeal
Mark Mathewson/For the Nevada Appeal

Yikes! Don’t Eat THAT! Welcome to Food Allergy Awareness Week, May 9-15. Usually I write about celiac disease, which affects more than 2 million people in our country alone. Celiac disease is a digestive disease which destroys the nutrient-absorbing capabilities of the small intestine and is a “permanent adverse reaction to gluten,” a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The disease is managed by elimination of gluten from the diet for life, which is a real pain in the neck, as you can imagine.

If one has celiac disease or a food allergy, the remedy common to both is to avoid the food that causes a reaction. I found it chillingly informative to know that food allergies affect 12 million Americans. One in every 17 children under the age of 3 has a food allergy. The “Nasty Nine” top allergens (from Dr. Sears) are: dairy products, soy, egg whites, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, citrus fruits, shellfish, food additives

Wheat allergy can often be confused with celiac disease, but allergy is a response to an external stimulus and is normally outgrown after childhood. Avoidance of wheat and all products containing it is necessary during the tenure of the allergy, however, which makes those with celiac disease and wheat allergies “sisters (or brothers) under the skin” in terms of avoiding wheat.

The theme for this year’s Food Allergy Awareness Week is “Respect Every Bite.” For those with food allergies, just one bite of food containing their specific allergen can cause anaphylaxis, which has a rapid onset and can be fatal. Excellent information on food allergies is available at, the website of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. Also, check out for some very useful advice if you suspect you or someone you love has food allergies.

Persons with celiac disease must also respect every bite, for continued damage to the small intestine can also, over time, be fatal. A diagnosis late in life or choosing to ignore the gluten restriction can lead to a shortened life span. Along the way, the damaged intestine may make one more susceptible to Type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, early-onset osteoporosis and a host of other ailments related to lack of nutrient absorption.

So, in a gesture of solidarity with my allergic friends, I have looked at foods that are least likely to cause allergies so that I can incorporate them in my recipe offering today. While there is less concrete advice concerning what foods DON’T cause allergies, here’s a list of some: rice, apples, apricots, honey, pears, beans, lamb, most vegetables

And, here’s the recipe:

Lamb Stew with

Honey and Apricots

(requires overnight preparation)

In addition to being a low-allergenic food, lamb is available locally at this time of year. Also, this dish is traditionally made with almonds, but nuts are on the nasty nine list, so I’ve left them out.

3 pounds lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric

1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne

1⁄4 teaspoon cardamom

1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg

1⁄4 teaspoon cloves

1⁄2 cup water

1⁄2 cup soy-free margarine

2 medium onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 cinnamon sticks

3 cups chicken stock

11⁄2 cups dried apricots, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons honey

Up to 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, if needed to correct sweetness

1 cup carrots cut into 1⁄2-inch slices

1⁄2 cup cilantro, chopped

In a large bowl, combine the dried spices and water and mix well. Add the cubed lamb and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In a stock pot or Dutch oven, melt the margarine over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and cinnamon sticks and cook until the onions are transparent.

Add the marinated meat and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Remove any scum that rises.

Reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally. Add water if the mixture seems dry. Cook for about 11⁄2 – 2 hours. Remove the cinnamon sticks.

Just before the next step, begin to prepare the rice that you will serve with this dish. I like brown rice, but Arborio-type rice is more traditional.

Add the apricots, honey and carrots and simmer uncovered, stirring often until the meat is falling apart tender, about 30 minutes. If the sauce is too sweet, add apple cider vinegar, a little at a time, until it tastes right to you.

Serve over rice, and top the stew with the chopped cilantro.

This serves 6 to 8. I hope you will find this to be unusual and delicious, as well as low in allergens and gluten-free!

Oh, I want to remind you that the Early Bird Farmer’s market begins Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., at the Carson Station, 9th and Carson streets parking lot. There will be plant starts and herbs and whatever’s growing locally now, sponsored by the Third Street Farmer’s Market. See you there.

• Susan Hart has been cooking gluten-free for 15 years. She teaches continuing education classes in gluten-free baking at Truckee Meadows Community College and can be reached at