Swiss National Day of Allergy 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015 – Today marks the seventh National Day of Allergy in Switzerland. Organized by aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse, this year’s event focuses on the relationship between allergies and skin, particularly during times of leisure, such as traveling or participating in sports activities. To increase awareness of allergies, aha! will be presenting images related to this year’s theme and sharing informational materials at seven train stations across Switzerland: Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Locarno, Lucerne and Zurich.

Image source: aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse

As part of its focus on skin, allergies and leisure in 2015, aha! is promoting several of its programs and activities related to this theme, such as its allergy-friendly camps for children and translation cards for traveling. Also, aha! offers training courses for parents of children with atopic eczema. At least two of these courses are planned for Suisse Romande this fall. Finally, aha! has lots of materials on allergies available via its website to help further this year’s message: “une bonne information et prévention pour une meilleure qualité de vie” (i.e., good information and prevention for a better quality of life).

For more information:

Swiss Allergy Center: Summer and Fall Camp Programs for Children and Teens

aha! summer camp 2014

Site of the aha! camp program in Davos Klosters (Photo courtesy of aha!)

Are you looking for a summer or fall camp for your child with food allergies? If so, aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse is once again hosting several camp programs for children ages 8 to 12 years and 13 to 16 years.

For several years, I attended a weekly summer camp in Minnesota, and I think programs like this create memories for a lifetime. Kids get the opportunity to make new friends and enjoy the outdoors, while learning how to be independent from their parents for a week (and now I see how it’s a nice break for parents too!). It’s great that aha! is sponsoring programs to make camp accessible for children and teens with allergic diseases, such as asthma, atopic dermatitis and food allergies.

Located in the Swiss Alps, these camps have staff trained to deal with food allergies, such as responding to severe reactions like anaphylaxis. Also, there’s a dietician to help plan safe and nutritious meals for those with food allergies and intolerances. With this support system in place, children and teens with allergic diseases get to have a wonderful camp experience, and parents have the comfort of knowing their children’s medical and dietary needs are being met.

Please see the table below for a quick overview of aha!’s various camps this summer and fall. For the first time this year, aha! will be offering a camp for French-speakers.

Camp d’enfants aha!

aha!kinderlager

aha!jugendcamp

Eligible ages 8-12 years 8-12 years 13-16 years
Language spoken French German German
Date Fall: Sunday, October 11 to Saturday, October 17, 2015 Summer: Sunday, July 19 to Saturday, July 25, 2015

Fall
: Sunday, October 4 to Saturday, October 10, 2015.
Summer: Sunday, July 26 to Saturday, August 1, 2015
Location Crans-Montana (Valais), elevation of 1500 meters Davos Klosters (Graubünden), elevation of 1100 meters Davos Klosters (Graubünden), elevation of 1100 meters
Cost* CHF 240 CHF 240 CHF 290

*For children and teens residing abroad, the cost will be CHF 350, if the individual is not covered by insurance in Switzerland.

For all of the camps listed above, the deadline for enrollment is four weeks prior to the start of the program. You can find the online registration form for each of these camps by clicking on the links provided above. If you have any questions, please contact aha! directly at 031 359 90 50 or info@aha.ch.

Tonight, my husband and I will attend aha!’s Benefizkonzert in Bern, which will raise funds for these camp programs. A big thank you to aha! for inviting me to this event. I’ll report back soon on this evening’s festivities, for a worthy cause!

Recipe: Swiss-French Red Cabbage Salad with Apples and Raisins

It’s that time of year again, when I try to serve more vegetables to my family after weeks and months of feasting on baked goods—and I’m usually the worst offender!

My latest plan involves trying to work vegetables into all three meals, and ideally in at least two dishes. For breakfast, that means scrambled eggs with spinach. At lunch or dinner, we’ll have a salad and steamed green beans with lemon, for example. With more and newer options, I’m hoping my kids’ interest increases so they actually like eating vegetables, instead of viewing them as a necessary evil.

After a recent Sunday walk, I tried out a new a new red cabbage salad recipe from a local Swiss-French cookbook. I served it as part of leisurely brunch during our last day of the holiday break. My husband, who usually HATES mayonnaise, liked this salad. Unprompted, my 7-year old said it tasted good after his first bite. My 3-year old gave it a thumbs up, but I think he really only liked (and ate) the raisins, to be perfectly honest. We’ll keep this cabbage salad in our mealtime rotation, and I’ll have to try another one I saw recently from Migros’ Saison.ch made with orange juice (here’s yet another salad recipe with cabbage, orange and fennel that also looks good).

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Sunday walk on Mount Vully


Salade de Chou Rouge (Red Cabbage Salad)

Recipe adapted from Recettes du terroir neuchâtelois by Francis Grandjean (2002).

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free)

Serves 6-8

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Salad:
500 grams red cabbage (about 1 cabbage)
1-2 apples, diced
about 1/2 cup raisins (I like golden raisins)
Optional: finely chopped chives and lettuce leaves

Sauce:
100 ml vegan mayonnaise (use really mayo if you can!)
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
2 teaspoons mustard
salt, to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)

Instructions:

1. Slice the cabbage into thin strips and place in a large bowl.

2. Prepare the sauce by whisking together all the ingredients until smooth. Pour the sauce over the cabbage and toss until well-incorporated.

3.Stir in the raisins and diced apple(s). Best served the same day. Top with chopped chives and serve with fresh lettuce leaves, if desired.

For 2015, we have lots to look forward to in terms of managing my son’s milk allergy, like a food challenge next week and starting school in August. I hope you do too! Happy New Year, and Bonne Année, everyone!

aha! 2014 Awards and a Giveaway

On Wednesday, October 23, the aha! Allergiezentrum Schweiz (Swiss Allergy Center) held its 2014 awards ceremony at the Bern Stadttheater. I somehow snagged an invitation to this year’s event. The thoughtful staff members at aha! are often fielding my questions via email, and it was such a pleasure getting the chance to meet them all in person. I was also excited to learn about the people and projects receiving awards, as they represent some important new opportunities to increase awareness and improve the quality of life for children and adolescents living with food allergies in Switzerland.

Stadttheater Bern

Bern Stadttheater

Unfortunately for me, all the speeches and presentations during this event were in Swiss German, but I guess that’s to be expected on the other side of the Röstigraben! Thankfully, the French version of the written program and the PowerPoint presentations helped me to follow along. To learn about the award winners, aha! has information on its website in German and French. Three projects shared the grand prize this year, all with a particular focus on peanut allergy and anaphylaxis. Here’s my quick summary of the 2014 grand prize winners:

  • Angelica Dünner: Erdnussallergie und Anaphylaxie (Peanut Allergy and Anaphylaxis) is a nonprofit organization based in Zurich that provides information for people living with food allergies, which Ms. Dünner helped to create three years ago. In 2014, among other activities, Ms. Dunner obtained permission from Food Allergy Research & Education in the United States to translate into French and German two children’s books about Alexander, an elephant with a peanut allergy. You can purchase these books via the organization’s website. When my 3-year old starts school next year, I’m planning to order a copy for his new classroom. I’ve exchanged emails with Ms. Dünner several times in the last year or two, and I was delighted to finally meet her. Her group is doing important work in Switzerland, so please consider becoming a member today.

  • Dr. Alice Köhli: At the Universitäts-Kinderspital Zürich (University Children’s Hospital) in Zurich, Dr. Köhli is the head of the Allergologie department. She has been working in collaboration with Ms. Dünner to offer food allergy and anaphylaxis training for parents, teachers and other caregivers of children with food allergies. The purpose is to help prevent anaphylaxis and to teach people how to respond to severe allergic reactions, should they occur. To date, these workshops have only been offered in German.

  • Dr. Ferdinanda Pini-Züger: For the Canton of Zurich, Dr. Pini-Züger is the director of the Sektor Schulärztlicher Dienst (School Medical Sector). Also working with Ms. Dünner, Dr. Pini- Züger helped introduce informational sheets for parents and teachers on peanut and tree nuts allergies and anaphylaxis. She also helped to develop a legal agreement between parents and the school district on how to manage food allergies in the classroom, based on existing primary school law. According to aha!, this is the first time informational sheets on food allergies have been prepared by a school district and shared on their website. This project is of great interest to me, and working with aha!, I would like to develop a similar set of materials in French for my son’s school.
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The view from my seat before the aha! 2014 award ceremony

Congratulations again to the three deserving winners of the aha! 2014 award, and a special thanks to the generous aha! staff members for allowing me to attend the ceremony. I hope these projects can be replicated soon in other regions of Switzerland and in different languages, namely French and Italian. I will continue to follow their progress and share updates in the future.


A Peanut-Free and Tree Nut-Free Giveaway

Giveaway prize 3516x2463

You could win these products! Please read the instructions below.

Since peanut and tree nut allergies were a focus of this year’s aha! awards—and one of the kind organizers of the 2014 Food Allergy Bloggers Conference just sent me a complementary box of allergy-friendly products—I wanted to share some of these treats by trying my first-ever giveaway. Here are the details, if you’re interested in entering:

  • How to enter: Please leave a comment below with the answer to this question—What is your favorite allergy-friendly product?
  • Deadline: Saturday, November 8 at 12:00 PM (Swiss time). I will randomly select a winner and announce their name in a comment below on Monday, November 10.
  • What you win: I will send to you, wherever you are, a box of peanut-free and tree nut-free goodies, including:

Full Disclosure: As I mentioned, I received a complementary box of allergy-friendly products from the Food Allergy Blogger Conference. However, I did not receive any compensation from the Food Allergy Blogger Conference or from any of the product manufacturers listed above, nor I was expected to hold a giveaway via Dairy-Free Switzerland with these products. Any opinions expressed in this or other posts on Dairy-Free Switzerland are solely my own. The King Arthur Flour Golden Flax Meal is my contribution to the giveaway. As always, please read labels carefully to make sure these products do not contain any of your known allergens.

I hope you all had a wonderful (and safe) Halloween and an excellent weekend. Thanks in advance for those of you entering my giveaway, and good luck!

Recipe: Swiss Comfort Food—Benedictine Stew from Einsiedeln Abbey

benedictine stew

Public schools don’t provide lunch here in Switzerland, as I’ve mentioned before. Kids either go home for lunch or to a grandparents house, for example, or they participate in an offsite parascolaire program. These programs in our Swiss city pick up kids from school at 11:40 AM, feed them and then bring them back to school by 1:45 PM.

Since I’m still working as a mère au foyer (i.e., stay-at-home mom), my son comes home for lunch. With a fixed amount of time to get him fed and returned to school, I find myself needing to do some meal prep in advance. This way, our time together isn’t too rushed (i.e., I keep my cool and don’t yell as much!), and he’s not late getting back to class.

This week, I wanted to share a very Swiss recipe from the canton of Schwyz that I’ve adapted to be dairy-free: Benediktinereintopf Kloster Einsiedeln (Benedictine Stew from Einsiedeln Abbey). It’s a hearty Swiss-style meal that can be made relatively quickly, with a little chopping done beforehand. So far, I’ve served it with mashed potatoes (which most of us prefer) and elbow macaroni (which my son with food allergies prefers). Surprisingly, it’s a dairy-free cheese that makes this dish work!


Einsiedeln Abbey

Our family visited the Einsiedeln Abbey this summer, where the Benedictine Stew apparently originated, but the torrents of rain prevented us from having a leisurely visit. We still enjoyed our time there, but I would love to return someday during the holiday season for the town’s famed Christmas market, as the Abbey makes a dramatic backdrop to the festive stalls of craft makers and food vendors.

Einsiedeln Abbey front

Einsiedeln Abbey in the pouring rain, July 2014

The current Monastery and Abbey Church in Einsiedeln were constructed in the 18th century, but religious pilgrims have been visiting this site for over a thousand years. The courtyard include stables for the historic Einsiedeln breed of horses. The boys would have loved seeing them, but it was raining so hard that day, none of us wanted to venture out across the courtyard!

Einsiedeln Abbey interior

Courtyard of the Einsiedeln Abbey; stables in the background

Back home after our trip, I came across the Benedictine Stew recipe in my Betty Bossi cookbook. Other than it being from the Einsiedeln Abbey, I haven’t learned much else about this Swiss dish. Although, I saw the Jewish Museum Berlin has a recipe online for a cheese soup served at the Abbey on “minor fasting days,” with leeks as a suggested addition. If you know anything else about the Benedictine Stew, please let me know!

The Betty Bossi recipe calls for a soft cheese with herbs, like Boursin. Instead, I substituted a dairy-free alternative: CreamyRisella, a soft Italian cheese made from brown rice. For the herbs, I just added some fresh tarragon. If you can use real cheese in this recipe, you should! However, if you’re like us and need to avoid milk-based products because of an allergy, CreamyRisella is a very good alternative.

Benedictine stew ingredients


Benedictine Stew

Recipe adapted from Betty Bossi’s “The Swiss Cookbook” (Zurich, 2010).

Ingredients:

400 grams ground beef
1-2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine
400 grams leeks, cuts into thin strips lengthwise (or into rounds—it’s easier and tastes the same!)
3 small onions, finely chopped
500 ml vegetable broth
200 grams CreamyRisella (or another very soft dairy-free cheese)
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon

Instructions:

1. Brown the ground beef in a large pan. Remove the beef and set aside. Drain the fat from the pan.

2. Add 1-2 tablespoons of dairy-free margarine to the same pan, and sweat the leeks and onions slowly for about 5-10 minutes over medium heat.

3. Pour the vegetable broth over the leeks and return the ground beef to the pan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

4. Stir in the CreamyRisella (or other cheese substitute) and tarragon, over medium heat, until both are fully incorporated and the dish is heated throughout. Serve immediately over your choice of an accompaniment: allergy-friendly boiled or mashed potatoes or elbow macaroni.

Benedictine Stew 2
The Swiss holiday, Jeûne Fédéral, is this weekend, so I’ll be making a Tarte aux Pruneaux to celebrate. Bon week-end, everyone!

Coming Home for Lunch: Bread & Sausage

Students of all ages at Swiss public schools generally come home for about 2 hours to eat lunch. As a “mère au foyer” or stay-at-home mom, I prepare about 21 meals per week, not including snacks. As a working mom in the United States I numbered about 13 meals. While I sometimes complain about having to cook, I feel very lucky to be spending more time with my boys.

In many ways, this lunchtime routine will be ideal for my food-allergic son. When he starts school, his lunch will be safe because I’ll still prepare everything he eats. Of course, I’ll need to pack along an allergy-friendly cupcake when there’s a birthday party in his class. At the same time, I won’t have to pack an entire meal or worry about friends in the cafeteria offering him food he can’t have.

With all this meal preparation, I’m always looking for quick allergy-friendly meals I can serve at lunch. For example, bread and sausage is a typical street food in Switzerland, and a super fast meal I can make for hungry kids. Most recently, I saw street vendors selling bread and sausage with mustard at the finish lines of my recent running races, both in Basel and Lucerne.

sausageandbread

At Coop, I can buy allergy-friendly baguettes and sausages without milk, eggs and nuts (Please note: the baguette contains gluten and traces of sesame). The “Saucisse à rôtir de campagne,” which I loosely translate as “country sausage for roasting,” reminds me of bratwurst from home in Minnesota.

After I walked the boys home from school yesterday, we celebrated the beginning of our weekend with a bread and sausage lunch. I always try to savor our lunchtime moments, especially on Fridays when we talk about the past school week and make plans for the weekend. When I’m feeling cranky and frustrated amidst all the chaos and cooking and cleaning, I have to remember that my little critters are growing so fast, and we won’t always have this special lunchtime together.

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What do you serve your kids for lunch? If you have any quick and allergy-friendly ideas for us and others, please share them below. Bon week-end!

First Day of School 2013

Yesterday, my oldest son started his second year of school in Suisse-Romande. His younger brother that has multiple food allergies will be eligible to attend the same public school after his fourth birthday. During that time, I hope our little guy outgrows at least one of his allergies (milk, raw egg and almonds). Regardless of what happens, I have the next few years to learn as much as I can about managing food ­allergies at school.

classroom


Food Allergies in American Classrooms

Recent data indicates that 1 in 13 American children has some type of food allergy, which could translate to about 2 students per classroom, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). Luckily for parents, there are lots of existing resources out there to help prepare them and their food-allergic children for the classroom setting. Here are a few I’ve come across that look particularly good:


Food Allergies in Swiss Classrooms

I have yet to find good data on the proportion of Swiss children with food allergies, so I can’t say how the numbers compare to the United States or elsewhere. Anecdotally, based on my first year in Switzerland, food allergies just don’t seem as common. I meet fewer people with food allergies and see fewer specialty products available in stores. What does that mean for children with food allergies when they enter a Swiss classroom?

Last year, I don’t remember seeing anything in writing about food allergies from my oldest son’s school. It’s very possible his teacher mentioned allergies on the first day, but my French wasn’t good enough at that point to pick it up. My oldest son doesn’t have any food allergies, so I never pursued this topic further with his teacher.

This year, I distinctly heard my son’s new teacher mention allergies during the first-day introduction to parents. Plus, there was a brief section on allergies in a small brochure that was sent home. Essentially, from my limited French, the excerpt below means his teacher wants to know about any food allergies or other medical conditions, so the school can collaborate with parents to help ensure the child’s safety.

“Je vous serais reconnaissante de bien vouloir me signaler si votre enfant souffre d’allergies ou de troubles particuliers (prise de médicament, asthma, allergies alimentaires) afin d’assurer sa sécurité. Une bonne collaboration est importante, n’hésitez pas à nous contacter si nécessaire.” – Classroom brochure for Classe 1 et 2 HarmoS

The section in the brochure on food allergies immediately followed the section on “anniversaires” or birthdays. My son’s teacher wants to be notified of the time and date parents plan to bring in special birthday treats. Last year, I would often hear from my son how he had birthday cake at school for one of his classmates. I’m sure arrangements can be made so parents of a food-allergic child are notified when a cake is expected in class, so they could send along an allergy-friendly snack for their child to enjoy during the celebration.

Thankfully, I still have a few more years until my food-allergic son starts school, so I have plenty of time to figure things out, and work on my French! For all the parents out there, best of luck in preparing for the new school year.

Do you have children with food allergies attending school in Switzerland or elsewhere? If so, I want to hear from you! Please share your experiences and advice about preparing for a new school year by leaving a comment below or sending an email to dairyfreeswitzerland@gmail.com