Allergy free cooking tips
An allergy free diet is not a fad diet or a quick-fix to lose weight. For those of us who have food allergies, it is a medical necessity to avoid those allergens. It’s the fastest way to stop feeling sick all the time. There’s no real way to “cheat” on this diet. If you ingest your particular allergens, you will become ill, and you don’t want that.
Once you have been diagnosed with a particular food allergy, the first step is to rid your house of that allergen. If at all possible, you avoid that allergen if it is in your house — or not have it in the house at all. Many grain-based allergens will get into everything very quickly regardless of how careful you and your family are. You have to simply toss or give away any potentially contaminated items and start over.
Guidelines to get you started:
- Some advise relegating the allergen free products to a particular area. I say the other way around. Confine the allergen to see if that is sufficient. If you have small children, this will probably not work; they are messy eaters.
- No sharing condiments. You don’t want their crumbs in your butter. You don’t want their peanut butter in your strawberry preserves. Even one crumb can make you sick. Mark which is yours and stick to it. Bright labels for all your food will be very helpful.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Clean the kitchen counters frequently with a paper towel so as to remove allergens from the cooking area. Kitchen sponges harbour allergens; discard them.
- Separate your toasters: If you allow your particular allergens at all, the toaster is contaminated from any grain allergens and/or oils. Get your own toaster. A toaster oven (in a bright colour) is better yet because it is easier to clean.
- Use your own cooking utensils. You can get utensils all in a particular colour (red, for example), and those may be used to prepare only your food. This includes scrapers, whisks, and especially cutting boards. Get coloured appliances if there is a potential contamination issue (food processors, blenders, etc that are hard to clean).
- Any cooking utensil with small holes must be replaced. It is impossible to get them completely clean. This includes colanders, slotted spoons, pancake turners, and strainers.
- No plastic food containers for leftovers. If your plastic gets scraped, allergens will be impossible to remove from scraped areas. Glass or metal only. I find Anchor-Hocking glassware holds up better than Pyrex. I also tend to store liquid foods such as soup in mason jars with a screw-top lid. Pint jars are good for single portions, quart jars work for larger amounts of leftover soup and chili.
- Likewise, no plastic mixing bowls. They get scraped easily. Glass or metal only. I like Anchor-Hocking for glass because they’re sturdy and hard to damage.
- No nonstick pots and pans. Again, if the nonstick gets damaged, you won’t be able to remove the allergens.
- All cast iron that you intend to use must be stripped and re-seasoned. Warning: pre-seasoned Lodge cast iron has soy-based seasoning on it.
- Do not use the pasta pot to cook your food. It will never be clean enough. Buy a small stock pot for yourself. A 4-QT stainless steel one will be sufficient for one person’s use.
Once your kitchen is clean, you will learn to cook if you can’t cook already. The best possible way to ensure you aren’t accidentally ingesting allergens is to make everything yourself. In additionally, allergen-friendly packaged food is very expensive. Most people cannot afford to buy all their food in a pre-packaged form. It may seem overwhelming at first, but if you can follow a recipe, you can cook. Start off with recipes that accommodate your allergens, then try modifying existing recipes to suit your needs.
Finally, don’t rush in with trying to replace your favourite cookie recipe. I would recommend not eating any replacement baked goods for at least four to six months. Baked goods taste different if you use different flours and sugars, so it helps if you forget what the real thing is supposed to taste like.