First, I want to thank everyone for entering the Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil giveaway and celebrating the 1-year anniversary of The Willing Cook with me. If you would like to make a purchase and receive a few book about Virgin Coconut Oil, go to the original giveaway post and scroll to the bottom under the weekly flyer link. The randomly drawn winner is Jess K. Jess, you should have received an email from me.
One of the most important, and thus frustrating, aspects of living with food allergies is learning to cook allergy-safe food. When you first start this journey, cooking is at the top of the learning curve. You have to rethink every step of the cooking process, from meal planning (optional, but very helpful) and shopping to cooking without cross-contamination and serving – all in a timely and tasty manner. Phew! That’s a lot to swallow. So, let’s take it one step at a time…
Instead of overwhelming you with too much detail this week, I will wait until next week to discuss the next step in a life with food allergies: shopping. The following week will focus on the actual act of cooking allergy-safe. This week I want to focus on the preparations that need to take place for you to get started eating allergy-safe.
- Know your allergy limits. What are the specific foods to which you or your family is allergic? You must also know all the names for that food. (See the list at the bottom of this post for the ingredient names of the top allergies.) When you know your limits, you MUST stick to them. It can often be a life or death situation.
- Compile a list of your top 10-15 favorite meals, all of them, whether they are allergy-friendly or not.
- From your list, see if any are naturally allergy-friendly (i.e, Can you eat that dish without making any changes?). Naturally allergy-friendly food is often called real food or clean food. Basically, it’s food in its natural state like, meat, beans, vegetables, fruit, rice, potatoes. Make a second list and place any naturally allergy-friendly meals on that list.
- Go back to your original list and write out the ingredients for each dish that you are no longer able to have. You need to start doing some homework at this point. Start easy by taking only one of the dishes and do a google search for an allergy-friendly version of the dish. I’ll give you some of my recipes to illustrate. Let’s say that chicken nuggets is on your favorites list, but you can no longer have (or want!) the varieties sold in the grocery store. You have a wheat, dairy, and egg allergy. I have a recipe for a gluten, dairy & egg-free breading that can be used for any meat or vegetable breading. The ingredients are ones that you most likely already have on hand. You can find most of my recipes under the “recipes” tab at the top of the site or under “recipes” on the sidebar, or do a google search (for example, dairy-free cinnamon rolls or whatever…)
- Another key point when you are starting on this journey is to try to attempt easy recipes with familiar ingredients. You can start working with the more difficult moderations, particularly gluten-free flour concoctions, when you get a handle on your allergies and cooking.
- You must come to terms with the fact that there will be some of your favorite dishes that you no longer can have. For example, our family has not had lasagna or cheesy potato casserole for years. Sure, I could buy the expensive non-dairy cheese and gluten-free noodles, but I have chosen to just do without. Each person must make those choices for themselves.
5. Once you have a list of a few meals, make your grocery list. (You can build up to 10-15 meals from which you can build a weekly meal plan once you get a hang of things.) You may have to deal with “survival” eating for a few weeks until you get a hang of this whole new food allergy world. But, I promise you, with a little organization and determination, you can learn to enjoy safe and delicious food.
One part of allergy cooking that I highly recommend to whom I have given advice at this beginning stage is to cook the same meal for the entire family. I am a firm believer in the importance of eating together as a family as much as possible. If the allergies vary within your family, you can modify at the time of serving. For example, when we have tacos, those of us without a dairy allergy have cheese and sour cream, the others do not. It’s not a big deal and everyone still enjoys their tacos.
Next week: I will pick-up where we left off with making the grocery list based on the few dishes that you have compiled. Then, we’re off to the grocery store. The next hurdle to jump.
Are there any questions with this first stage in cooking allergy-safe? If anyone has any helpful tips to add, please do so!