Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Here Comes Peter Cottontail!

The season of Lent is upon us, which means that pretty soon, Easter will be hippity-hopping its merry way into our lives. If you've got any allergies in the family, this is pretty much a bona fide Nightmare Season. You're surrounded by happy cheerful advertisements for luscious things that could, in fact, kill a cherished family member, but nevertheless makes everyone long for a bite. It's like staring down a beautifully-decorated display of arsenic-flavored chocolates. And, of course, if you're looking to keep the Easter Bunny around, you can't actually be caught MAKING anything that shows up in the Easter Basket. What on earth are you supposed to do?!

Well, no worries. This ain't my first rodeo, and I'm here to help. My first Easter with kids was tough, but I have found a few go-to favorites that give old Cadbury a run for its money. The secret with getting something for a person with allergies is to emphasize quality over quantity. Could you load them up with a bulk bag of jelly beans that makes Santa's bag look like a Ziploc? Well, yes, you could. But after the initial sugar buzz wears off, those suckers aren't so appealing, and you'll be finding the remains stashed in the back of the snack cupboard at Christmas.

What I'm giving you today isn't a recipe in the strict sense, but it is a recipe for sanity on a holiday that pretty much centers around a basket full of candy. Here's what will show up in my kids' Easter baskets this year:

  • A Chocolate Bunny. (Safe for the following allergies: wheat, corn, dairy, egg) This seems like a no-brainer, but I triple-dog-dare you to find a chocolate bunny that's actually dairy-free. Go on. After an extensive panic-ridden search a few years ago, we found ONE (count 'em: 1) company that makes a dairy-free dark chocolate bunny. Last year we found that our local branch had closed, and there was a panicked search at the last minute. Don't let that happen to you! Order one NOW from... Lindt (!
  • Turkish Delight. (Safe for the following allergies: wheat, dairy, egg, soy, peanuts) This little gem tastes WAY better than any bag of gummy candies, and comes in a few different flavors. I completely understand why Edward might have considered this stuff worth turning his siblings over to the White Witch. Most varieties, unfortunately, contain nuts. All varieties that I have found are wheat-free and dairy-free, though that dusting on the outside is usually corn starch. As with most confections, the high-quality brands taste exponentially better than the cheap brands, which have a tendency to taste like Artificial Additives. Personally, I lurk at my local Home Goods store and pick up the gourmet packs at discount prices, but if you need to do things online Haci Bekir ( is a good company to try. They have uniformly stellar reviews and are an authentic Turkish company. If you have a particular allergy concern, contact them for more detailed information. Another good place to try is Sweet Gourmet (, which actually has an ingredients list posted for all its products.
  • Marzipan. (Safe for the following allergies: wheat, corn, dairy, egg, soy, peanuts) I've never been a huge fan of the taste, but my children go NUTS for high quality marzipan. The cheap stuff (again) tastes awful, but the more expensive stuff tastes pleasantly like almonds, with no unpleasant chemical aftertaste. The Easter-themed marzipan from most companies comes in rainbow-colored egg shapes, but I'm personally a sucker for the ones from Marzipan World (, which give a clear list of ingredients, and are quite obviously top-of-the-line. Yes, it's expensive stuff, but you won't have to wonder what on earth you've just eaten, either. And they are all aggressively adorable.
  • Hard Candy and/or Gummies. (Safe for the following allergies: wheat, corn, dairy, egg, soy, peanuts, tree nuts) This is where things get awesome. There are a ridiculous number of candies out there made with corn syrup, and that's okay, as long as you aren't allergic to corn. Yummy Earth ( does not bother with any of that nonsense. It is organic candy with nothing fake in it, and free of most allergens. They carry lollipops, candy drops, and gummies (bears or worms, take your pick), and do not contain nuts AT ALL. So if you're a poor soul who wants good candy but can't tolerate cross-contamination, treat yourself to everything they've got!

 Now, I know this probably doesn't look like a long list, but when you're looking at even a small package of each of these things, it actually overflows most Easter baskets. Better yet, since all of these things are high-quality, the kids won't spike-and-crash quite as much as they would with a basket full of an Artificial Technicolor Rainbow. And, of course, if you succumb to temptation and sample some for yourself, you won't have a nasty aftertaste and a stomachache afterward.

As with all things, companies do change their ingredients from time to time, so take what I've said here with a grain of salt. If you're badly allergic to something, get in touch with a company representative before ordering.  I hope I've given you a few ideas to make the approaching holiday less stressful, and I hope you all get a little something from the Easter Bunny yourselves. Happy Easter!

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