Cooking with Food Allergies

Creativity is my superpower. I grew up with an abundance of imagination, a keen desire for knowledge, and a deep seated love of all things colourful and bright. My passion for crafting occasionally borders on addiction… But cooking was my kryptonite. For many years I refused to deviate an inch from recipes. Adding recipes to my repertoire usually involved forgetting a key ingredient, mixing up the amounts, or burning those mini muffins until they resembled hockey pucks. Sigh……

It turns out the solution to unlocking my creative potential in the kitchen was developing a ridiculously long list of food allergies. The more I stayed with a few ingredients, the more I learned the basics, and the more I gained the confidence to make the attempt. Most of the time, those attempts worked. When they didn’t, they were usually still good enough to eat. Maybe I was just too stubborn and determined to waste the failures!

The first thing I learned about cooking was simplification. I’ve become addicted to 18th century cooking shows, and it has dawned on me that our ancestors ate a lot more simply than we do. With new undiagnosed allergies, the safest thing to eat involved the least number of ingredients. Did you know that you can just roast meat plain? It was really quite a shock for me to discover how many recipes actually fare pretty well without spices. Gingerbread without ginger, for example? It’s different, yes. But it’s still surprisingly close to the original, and makes a pretty good cookie!

Then I learned to plan ahead. I started cooking at night, after my housemates had gone to bed… cleaning thoroughly and then cooking a two week supply of meals and freezing them. For trips, I borrowed a dehydrator and made a whole bunch of shelf-stable meals. This summer I’ll be using my new pressure canner to free up my freezer space… It feels occasionally like planning for the zombie apocalypse. But it helps! The other day I had a 2 hour meeting that went 4 hours late… and I might have eaten my friends if I’d not had a quick and easy meal ready and waiting in my car!

Finally I learned to change it up. I may not be able to change my ingredients, but I can change the way I cook them! For example, I like to change the colour of my vegetables as often as possible. Did you know that carrots aren’t all orange, and that tomatoes aren’t all red? Most vegetables have a wide range of colours, and each colour tastes a bit different. My favourite is the purple sweet potato, though it does make an odd-looking soup! Next I like to change the shape of my food. Sometimes I’ll use cookie cutters, or cake pops… for shaping vegetables and meat. Maybe I’m a little crazy, but I like my “four-star” hamburgers! Then I’ll change the texture by varying whether things are raw, boiled, baked, fried, roasted or cooked sous-vide. Who knew raw beet greens are really good tasting? Roasted kiwi over a campfire? Almost better than marshmallows! Plus the longer you cook things, the better they taste. My brother swears by cooking sous-vide (vacuum sealed bag, boiled for over 24 hrs)… and I gotta say Easter dinner was pretty amazing as a result!

Do you have any other tips for cooking? I’d love to hear from you with a comment below!

Happy Cooking!

– Janice

4 thoughts on “Cooking with Food Allergies”

  1. I will sometimes just throw everything together in the same pot or skillet to put together a meal quickly with minimal use of dishes. For example, I’ve put okra, a hamburger patty, and squash into a skillet with coconut oil and cooked them all together in the same oil. The vegetables are cooked in the meat fat/grease, and that makes them taste delicious. Sometimes I’ll boil meat and vegetables in the same pot of water so I just use one pot. I’ll add flavor to the vegetables with salt, pepper, and butter (or alternative). I may put salsa or a similar tomato-based sauce on the meat. When I don’t have a lot of time and don’t really feel like cooking, doing things like this allows me to prepare a meal quickly and easily. Sometimes I just have to eat the vegetables mixed together because it’s either too much work or just impossible to separate them, but that works fine for me.

    1. Nice! I’ve only recently started doing combined meals like that (or like casseroles and such), but it definitely speeds things up! Next up I want to learn to stir fry a little more… 😀

  2. Thanks for this! I was actually a great cook and baker but have the same issue. I have multiple food allergies since childhood and seem to be reacting to either something new or some cross-contact with an existing allergen found in diverse prepared foods. It has settled down, knock wood, since I eliminated all prepared foods except those I had consumed repeatedly at times I had no reaction. I also don’t have a stovetop or oven so that makes it really challenging from the start. I’m gluten-free so, ideally, I would be doing a lot of baking. Even when I had the oven, I found it hard to re-learn to bake gluten-free. It is quite the skill. I have recently got into crock pot cooking which had never generated any enthusiasm in past years. I’m also off spices having reacted to black pepper-my favourite! Like the author, I have adjusted well to no spices if a tad disgruntled. I was able to do a full dinner party with a roast beef and assorted vegetables in my family sized pot. It was delish and surprisingly economical. I can still do fresh herbs and tend to use meat or vegetable broth or plain tomato sauce in the pot rather than the usual water a recipe calls for. Carrots and celery as well as brussels sprouts and mini turnips are the vegetables I like best in these meals. The crock pot really shows off the natural aroma of these vegetables. For a vegetarian option, I made faux-baked potatoes by wrapping large ones in foil and adding a thin layer of water in the pot. This took four hours on high for two giant idaho baking potatoes. The skin is not crispy but was still edible and the inside was just as you would like. They are delicious with plain yogurt instead of sour cream, if you can have it. If anyone has any ideas about the black pepper reaction, please let me know. I am allergic to regular (bell, chili, jalapeno) peppers, but as far as I know it is not the same plant and I had been a heavy bp user throughout life until recently. I’m just thinking cross-contact with cayenne pepper or some preservative that may not be labeled? Thanks.

    1. Hey! Glad you liked my article!

      To answer your question about black pepper… sulphites are often used in spices (including black pepper) to de-clump the spices. But, you might want to get re-tested. I found out I was allergic to both sulphites AND actual black pepper, as well as the bell peppers in the same test. I don’t know if they’re related or not, but… yeah… VIRTUAL HUG for the craziness of it all! If ever you want someone to talk to, let me know- you can DM me on Facebook (last name Henderson) or Twitter (@chicklets_1999)

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