I remember sitting in the allergist’s office when I was told my son had food allergies and he told me that I could no longer feed him dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts and soy. I wasn’t so worried about the rest but no dairy! That’s what my food phobic boy lived on. I can remember saying to him “What am I going to feed him?” and he just looked at me and said unsympathetically “I don’t know, feed him rice milk. I’ll see you in 6 weeks”.
We had a really rough few weeks while we were adjusting to this new diet and the fact that my 3 year old was really, really stubborn about what he would eat didn’t help. We got through though and the difference in our miserable little boy was evident within 3 days – it was like a miracle!
Things bubbled along for a while and we ended up with him having an endoscopy to check for eosinophilic oesophagitis. After a positive diagnosis we then needed to remove more food and then we also didn’t have wheat, rice, fish / shellfish and beef. Things just went to a whole new level of hard!
I thought for my first blog post I’d share with you my thoughts on learning to cook with new ingredients because some of you will be new to this journey and may have just been through something similar to what I described above.
I’ve had lots of practice at it over the last few years and am glad to report that my allergy free cooking is a lot better these days (just ask my husband). If you’re an expert at this already give us your thoughts if you’ve got anything to add.
1. Keep it simple to start with while you get the hang of it.
2. As you get more confident it’s really important that you start with a good recipe. When you’re new to allergy free cooking it’s hard to modify your old favourites, especially for baking. Get yourself a couple of really good allergy free cookbooks or search the internet for a few good websites that have recipes that suit your family. Favourite websites in our house for finding recipes are listed at the end of this post. Check some of them out and try a few new recipes!
3. Take your time. Read the recipe and don’t hurry. Think about what you are doing. Sounds simple I know but when I first started allergy free cooking I wasn’t doing this and trust me it makes a difference.
4. The first time you make a recipe follow it closely. In allergy free cooking, especially gluten free baking, the quantities used can make a massive difference to the final product. I like to make the recipe as it is the first time to ensure success and then I often modify to suit my needs on subsequent attempts. Invest in a good set of kitchen scales if you don’t have some so that you can weigh ingredients.
5. If you’re modifying your own recipes or even those in a book, make sure what you write down what you did this time so that if it works you can make it again and if it doesn’t you can tweak what you do next time.
6. Start with recipes you think your family will like. No point going all radical and making things they’re not used to. Make the transition easy and try and cook things they’re more likely to enjoy to start with.
7. Plan ahead to make sure you have all of the ingredients you will need. This is especially important if you are just starting out because you may not have some of the ingredients you will need.
8. Be careful of contamination. It’s really easy to forget and use a contaminated spoon or work on a benchtop that’s contaminated. If you use potential allergens in your home for other members of the family ensure when you’re cooking for family members with allergies that you work in a clean area with clean utensils.
9. As you get the hang of allergy free cooking learn about the way the ingredients work. This knowledge you build up will help you modify your old favourites.
10. Accept that you will have failures from time to time and try to use the failure to learn and try to use a failure to make something else. Check out my dud cupcakes in the pics below. They made the best cake pops ever and I didn’t even have to add anything. I just blitzed the cakes in the Thermomix, rolled the crumbs into balls, dipped in safe chocolate and rolled in Hoppers 100s & 1000s – they were a hit! They probably went down better than the cupcakes would have :)
11. Have fun! Embrace that you have lots to learn and see it as a challenge. I love seeing what you all get up to so share your success and post it on the Happy Tummies Facebook page or on Instagram and hashtag #happytummiesfood so we can find it!