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Have kids with food allergies? One mom shares tips, safe cookie recipes

If you or anyone in your family has a food allergy, every day can be a challenge — especially during the holidays with so many desserts and homemade treats at parties. Just in time for the season, Kelly Rudnicki, of FoodAllergyMama.com and author of "The Allergy Mama's Easy, Fast Family Meals," has shared her personal experience with TODAY, plus some allergy-friendly tips and safe holiday cooki

If you or anyone in your family has a food allergy, every day can be a challenge — especially during the holidays with so many desserts and homemade treats at parties. Just in time for the season, Kelly Rudnicki, of FoodAllergyMama.com and author of "The Allergy Mama's Easy, Fast Family Meals," has shared her personal experience with TODAY, plus some allergy-friendly tips and safe holiday cookie recipes.

My son John’s first introduction to finger foods before his one-year birthday was also his first severe food allergic reaction. While eating cheese-coated vegetables, the skin around his lips exploded explode in puffy, red hives as he choked and gasped for air. He got violently ill. 

After that horrific moment, my son was diagnosed with severe allergies to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, peas and legumes. I was overwhelmed as I thought, how am I going to be able to feed my son safely? 

Kelly Rudnicki discovered when her son, John, was one year old that he was allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, shellfish and fish. Now 12, John is an active and healthy kid.Today

Since having a kid with food allergies, our family has had to adjust to how we eat and shop. If you’re a parent whose child has just been diagnosed, it can seem overwhelming. Here are some useful tips if you have a child with food allergies: 

  1. When food shopping, read every ingredient, line item by line item, every time. Train your food-allergic children to do the same. The Labeling Act also requires food companies to disclose whether certain ingredients share equipment with allergens, or even shared a facility. Take these disclaimers seriously.

  2. Be diligent, aware and strict when buying packaged foods.There is no room for error. Strict avoidance will minimize potentially fatal reactions. Those that live with food allergies understand they are one mistake away from suffering a severe reaction.

  3. Be sure to keep your home as allergy-safe as possible and become familiar with proper cross-contamination best practices.

I struggled with our new reality for years as I had to learn to trust myself as well as others about how to keep my son safe. Today, John is 12, and an active and healthy kid who plays soccer, basketball, the guitar and hangs with friends and his three little brothers. Our lives were forever changed in 2003, but we’ve learned to embrace our son’s condition with open eyes, arms and most importantly, an open heart. 

Allergy-friendly sugar cookies
Makes 2 dozen

Dairy substitute: Dairy-free margarine (
Fleischmann's unsalted margarine or Earth Balance buttery sticks)

Egg substitute: 1/4 cup applesauce per egg

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup dairy free shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 3/4 cup all purpose flour (substitute for gluten-free all purpose flour blend) 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

In a mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, combine shortening, sugar, applesauce and vanilla thoroughly. In a separate medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt with a wire whisk. Add to shortening mixture and mix on low until combined. Chill dough in refrigerator for one hour or more.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside. Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness on floured board. Dip cookie cutters in flour and cut out desired shapes. Bake 8-10 minutes or until very light golden. Cool completely on baking sheet.

Easy cookie icing
*Dairy, egg, soy and nut free

Ingredients

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoon rice milk
  • Food coloring optional

In a small bowl, combine the confectioners sugar, vanilla and soy milk with a small whisk until combined. Add drops of food coloring if desired.

Today

Sunflower butter cookies

*Dairy free shortening swapped for butter
Applesauce swapped for eggs
Dairy, egg, soy, nut free (can be gluten- and wheat-free with gluten-free flour swap)

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup dairy free shortening
  • 1/2 cup creamy sunflower butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, thoroughly combine the shortening, sunflower butter, sugars, and applesauce. In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt with a wire whisk. Add the flour mixture to the shortening mixture, and stir until just combined. Chill the dough for one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using your hands, shape the dough into 1-inch balls, and place the balls onto the baking sheets. Dip a fork into flour and press the fork lines into each ball twice, making a criss cross design. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until light brown. Cool completely on baking sheets.

Molasses cookies
Makes 2 dozen

*Dairy-free shortening swapped for butter
Unsweetened applesauce for eggs
Gluten-free flour blend for all purpose flour (optional)
This recipe is dairy, egg, nut free (can be gluten- and wheat-free)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup dairy free shortening
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, for dipping
  • 1/4 cup water, for sprinkling

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment thoroughly combine the shortening, brown sugar, applesauce and molasses. In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt with a wire whisk. Add the flour mixture to the shortening mixture and mix until combined. Chill dough for one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls using your hands. Dip each ball into the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and sprinkle a couple of drops of water onto each ball using your fingers. Place each ball on the baking sheet.

Bake 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely on baking sheet.