Ah, another Friday and I have yet to finish the blog post I started on Monday night. 2018, that’s going to be my year of planning ahead, I hope! I’m aiming in 2018, and really now too, for the mantra “get it done, not perfect” ---with encouragement from the Mamapreneurrevolution
Instead of that nutrition post (still in the draft folder), which really just isn’t done, I’m going for a get-it-done post today.
Last night, I needed to use up a lot of random foods for dinner, and I had to make it in just a few minutes if possible, without a lot of prep time. As my kids get older, my husband and I find ourselves all over town with them in different directions---a somewhat new occurrence for us. I needed a dinner to lay out ahead of time that I could toss together when we all got home, hungry and ready to eat right away.
And, instead of planning that dinner, I spent the morning looking at carrot cake recipes.
Let me explain: I don’t actually like carrot cake. Or at least I don’t think I do.
I have a dear friend in Florida who adores it, though, and a neighbor friend who makes the most amazing cake I’ve ever seen…and it’s carrot. I trust these two an awful lot. And I found pre-shredded carrots at Trader Joe’s. And I found a gluten-free carrot cake bread-loaf recipe at ElaVegan, and I’m pretty desperate right now for a good slice of quick bread for autumn mid-mornings.
Naturally, I started searching for more examples of carrot loaf cakes, because the one I found looked amazing but wasn’t quite what I was going for. Then I started brainstorming about what I might do with the recipe. And I realized that I’ve almost never explained how or why I remake recipes---trying to balance the art and science of cooking and baking without any professional kitchen experience whatsoever (like most of you, I hope!). Thus, this post was born.
Most of my "recipes" these days are made up on the go as we tease out the true allergies in the house. So, today, you get a walk-through of how I start to build a recipe-creating/converting grid AND a recipe-free method for the quickest allergy-safe dinners ever. Maybe I’ll get to that nutrition post by 2018….
Converting and Creating Allergy-Safe Recipes
If you’re like me, you have a ton of recipes from your past that you adore and can’t make as is anymore because of food restrictions. That’s a natural place to start converting ingredients to safe ones, of course.
Also, though, I tend to find recipes on favorite food blogs/sites or even on allergy-friendly sites that just don’t quite fit our needs. Maybe they’re dairy-free but not egg-free, or they’re wheat-free but not dairy-free. You get the idea.
When that happens, I grab the recipe that inspired me, search for a few more examples that might replace other allergens, and line them all up in a table with the same/similar ingredients on the same rows. Like so:
Then I aim for my own version, which uses the ingredients I know are safe and work for us, and which usually relies on ingredients I already have on hand.
For example, if it’s a fruit or veggie product, I might use juice instead of milk. If the original has nuts, I might replace them with dried fruit or just leave them out. If peanut butter is key, this recipe might not be for me! But it can still work in some cases with another thick spread or oil, if I’m lucky. If the recipe has 1-2 eggs, I’ll use one of my favorite egg mixes (applesauce, starch, and water), might increase the oil or fruit/veggie content a bit, and might add some extra leavener (baking soda) if it’s a baked good that should dome.
If my final version is quite similar to one of the originals, then it’s ALWAYS called an adapted recipe if/when it goes on my blog or in a book. If the final differs pretty substantially (a qualitative statement, I know), it’s simply inspired by, or maybe acknowledged in another way.
A lot of my recipes come out of my family archives, but I get more and more inspiration from friends and families lately, too!
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned during my baking grid experiments so far:
1) If the recipe calls for coconut oil, or is a no-bake recipe, you really can’t replace the coconut oil with a liquid oil. Semi-solid oils are crucial for holding together batters after they cool. You can try to lower the amount of coconut oil, though, for heart healthy purposes.
2) Recipes with 3 or more eggs are really tough to convert to egg-free versions. Sometimes it’s worth cutting the original in half and making smaller batches at a time instead.
3) Recipes without the fatty mouth feel of dairy and eggs really need some extra kick sometimes, even if you get that texture from oils or fruit sauces/butters. We have “accidentally” used double the amount of cinnamon, vanilla, and many other herbs with a lot of success.
4) Too much baking powder gives you bitter cookies. Baking soda and powder are both important. Don’t use just one if the recipe calls for both! If I’m replacing eggs in a recipe that calls for just one, I try to use the other option for a better balance. Don’t forget the extra lemon juice or vinegar if you add soda to a recipe, though, because the acid isn’t built into that leavener.
Since I “wasted” much of my morning browsing around carrot cake ideas, I really had to stretch to pull off our Recipe-Free Dinner. You know what’s funny, though? Everyone thought it was delicious (even the kid who won’t eat food that touches each other, usually).
This dinner was made in one pan and was served in individual bowls right from the pan. I measured just about nothing and went for the Rachael Ray eyeball-it method. Minimal cleanup necessary.
Hectic Day Dinner
Pick a sautéing oil (we love olive oil, always on hand)
Pick a veggie (we used pre-frozen sliced peppers, defrosted, but fresh will work well here of course)
Pick a protein (we used 1 pound of stir fry beef, defrosted, but beans or fish or another meat will do)
Pick a sauce or liquid vehicle (we used a leftover half-empty jar artichoke red pepper dip because I needed to get rid of it. To thicken it all up, I added a dusting of cornstarch, too)
Pick some seasonings (we used a huge scoop of minced garlic, unmeasured, and a ton of shakes of a Bavarian spice mix from Penzy’s)
Pick a healthy (low GI) carb (we used thin sliced farm red potatoes from our WGG delivery that morning)
Pick a leafy green (we used romaine on the side but a collard/kale green shredded into the bowl would be ideal if it’s on hand)
Warm some olive oil in a medium covered pan on the stovetop.
Add the veggies on medium high.
Add the meat, cut into small dices, and saute briefly; then cover and turn the heat to medium to steam.
Add the sauce or liquid, cornstarch, and garlic. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil, then return to medium and add the seasonings.
Wash and thin slice the potatoes, then cut slices in half and add into the pan (or stir in broken up rice noodles, instant rice, couscous, or other carbs if you choose).
Cover the pan and allow the steam and liquid to cook the potato slices. When they’re soft, dinner is ready.
Ladle some of the meal into each bowl and add the greens on the side or shredded into the mix.
*You can make this an even faster dinner by using leftover cooked meat, drained beans or tofu, and vermicelli-style Asian rice noodles or tiny Italian pasta (pastine).
So, what would you use in your version?!
Hi, I'm Nicole.
ABOUT THE BLOG
An apothecary is a person or a place. Either one implies healing and relates to pharmacy in its truest sense, as a source of treatment and advice.
This blog is my way of uniting my pharmacy training with my efforts to provide a healthy and safe lifestyle for my family. In true apothecary form, I research and prescribe alternative ingredients that work just right in each specific recipe, and I would like to share the results with anyone who needs help making their own family’s kitchen allergy safe and heart healthy.
I made the 2017 Top-40 Food Allergy blogs!
Nicole Van Hoey's books on Goodreads
Bakery Bites: Breads and Treats Without Dairy, Eggs, Nuts, Seeds, or Soy
ratings: 1 (avg rating 5.00)
Kitchen Adventures With Multiple Food Allergies: A Recipe Collection for Celebrations Without Dairy, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Seeds, or Soy