Food allergies, man.

My 15-month-old daughter has had one bumpy ride with food since her first taste of solids at five-months-old. Banana, avocado, yogurt, eggs, peanut butter–you name it, almost every baby staple you can think of produced some kind of allergic response. Skin pricks and one blood draw later confirmed that my family’s food habits would need a permanent overhaul.

The emotions were (are) hard. I cried when I drove away from the pharmacy with an Epi pen in the passenger seat. I had a solid three days where I was completely paralyzed in the kitchen, feeling sad about withholding certain foods (mainly peanut butter) from my four-year-old son while wanting so desperately to find easy, nutritious food options for my daughter.

And then, THE HOLIDAYS. How do I keep everyone safe and happy through the time of year when all sorts of foods are on serving trays and bowls scattered around houses within easy reach? I don’t want to be so uptight that I’m slapping “dangerous” foods out of everyone’s hands at a holiday gathering, but at the same time, I need to advocate for my daughter. What’s a new food allergy mom to do?

Cry, pray, release, and then get yourself to Pinterest.

Everyone’s favorite virtual pin board has been really crucial for me in discovering safe (and surprisingly simple) meal, snack and dessert options for our entire family. It has even led me to a couple good connections with other food allergy parents.

One thing I initially felt devastated about was how my daughter would participate in all the cookie-decorating parties that happen this time of year. ALAS! Let me share with you a simple vegan sugar cookie recipe I found from a blog called The Yummy Mummy Kitchen. These cookies look and taste like the real thing with a bit of subtle coconut flair. The dough takes a bit more patience than your standard sugar cookie dough, but I actually found them hold up really well in the transfer from rolling mat to cookie sheet. Mix up some frosting (2 cups of powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of coconut milk), add food coloring if you wish, and you’re in business!

My son scarfed these up, even without frosting. What a relief for this mom who felt like I was relegating him to tasteless cardboard cookies the rest of his young life.

I could go on about all the emotions, questions and elation I’ve experienced in this new journey, but I’d rather keep it hopeful and simple. Food allergies are no joke, for sure. However, if you are also new to the food allergy scene, I hope you soon come to discover that you are very much not alone in this and that food doesn’t have to be the enemy (just so we’re clear, I am still learning this). There are options, and they are delicious!

Happy holidays, and may you find joy and ease in the season, even if Grandma’s famous fruitcake is now off limits.