If you are new to the world of food allergies, it can be very daunting to learn how to cook while avoiding traditional ingredients. Especially if you have one of the top 8, which are the most common ingredients. And if you have multiple allergies to deal with it can feel almost impossible.
I am here to tell you that it CAN be done. Yes, you have to relearn a few things. But after an adjustment period, it becomes old hat. Second nature. You can do it with very little effort.
The biggest pitfall is expecting your substitute ingredients to taste the same as your standard favorites. They won't. Ever. It's like expecting the home made birthday card from your 7 year old niece to closely resemble a Hallmark. Not likely. Is a card from your niece a bad thing? No. It is sweet in sentiment and simplicity, with adorable illustration. It is like a big hug, because it comes from the heart. Baking allergy free is like that. If you can let go of your Hallmark expectations and understand that you are going to get results that are totally different but still delightful in their own right, you will be a happy eater. And your tastebuds will gradually adapt to the new flavors. In a year or two, you will swear that your substitute tastes just like the real thing, and it will. To you. And your family will love what you cook because it was crafted with love for them, by you.
Ok, kids are picky eaters. They may not love it. But they might not like Kraft either. It's a crapshoot. The part about feeling safe and loved? They'll like that. Even if they never say it.
Enough sentiment. Let's cook, I'm hungry already!
Hmmm...where to start? How about milk. A staple in baking and cooking anything creamy. And the easiest to relplace. It's wet. Replace it with something wet. LOL. Really, in baking any beverage will stand in for milk. Water, juice, coffee, and substitute milks. There are a ton of substitute milks. Soy, Rice, Hemp, Almond, Oat, Coconut. And they all come in multiple flavors. You don't have to pick just one. Drink one for the flavor, bake with another for it's health benefits. You can even use multiple milks in a recipe to avoid strong flavor and still reap the health benefit. Pay attention to make sure you get one that is fortified. The substitute milks are very important in making things like home made chicken pot pie. Mmmmm.... here's a quick run down:
Soy Milk: Controversial replacement for many. Research the pros and cons. Good source of soy protein. Works like regular milk in any recipe, will sour like regular milk if left in a sippy cup too long, or if you add vinegar to make buttermilk. Make sure to buy unsweetened plain for cooking, because that hint of sugar and flavor in the rest will give your savory recipes an odd flavor. Available in organic and non.
Rice Milk: Has a thin, watery flavor and consistency when compared to its dairy counterpart. Lacks body and richness due to it's low fat content. Does not sour for use in buttermilk recipes. Mild flavor easier for many to adapt to. More flavor varieties of this beverage on the market than the other milks have.
Hemp Milk: Rich in healthy omegas. Slightly nutty flavor is very unique. Full bodied and rich, making it a heavier milk to give baked goods more oomph. Sours nicely with vinegar.
Almond Milk: You're on your own here. We're allergic to nuts. Enjoy though!
Oat Milk: Slightly gritty texture makes it harder to drink straight, but great flavor makes it yummy when baking. I like to use it in equal parts with water to make oatmeal! Creamy without altering the oat flavor. Be careful if you are gluten free, as oats are often contaminated with wheat.
Coconut Milk: Rich and creamy and high in medium chain fatty acids. ("Good fat", essential for growing little people.) High in lauric and capric acid, which are supposed to be good for supporting the immune system. Adding sugar to this can bring out the coconut flavor, which will vary in intesity by brand. It should not change the flavor of savory recipes. It comes canned (thicker) or in the dairy section (traditional milk consistency). It will make buttermilk if you add vinegar. You can make whipped cream with it if you buy a can of full fat milk. Lots of recipes for this online.
Try them all. Figure out which ones have the health benefits you value most, and which ones your family is most likely to drink. All of them are an investment, ranging in price from $6-$15 a gallon. But so worth it to know that you are giving your kiddos the healthy stuff they need to grow.
We'll stop there for now. Tomorrow? Egg replacers. And by tomorrow, I mean whenever I get the chance to sit down and blog. Until then, go try a new kind of milk. You'll feel good about it.