I am so excited to share a guest post with you today.
As a part of the I’m Fitpossible community I’ve found some pretty amazing and wonderful people who inspire and encourage me. Now it’s time to introduce you to one of the many outstanding bloggers I’ve had the pleasure of working with:
Meet Chrissy, single, thirty-something living, playing and eating her way through life in Chicago. She stays fit by doing spinning, yoga and swimming and playing tennis and volleyball. You can follow her crazy adventures in life at www.thebuddhabustsamove.com or in the kitchen at www.thehungarybuddha.com. She’s also a tweeter @lulubelleND
Chrissy and I decided that since we both LOVE food, we’d blog swap a food topic.
I know so many people suffer from food intolerances and I know it can be disheartening if you let it. Chrissy is proof positive that you don’t need to let those things control you. Chrissy’s blog shows you how to maneuver around some of thos tricky intolerances and create food masterpieces!
I”ve asked her to share some tips and tricks for working around these culinary minefields.
Keep in mind that only you and your doctor are qualified to make choices on what’s best for you. These are things that work for Chrissy. YMMV
After talking with Amanda, she asked me to talk about food and I was all about it. I love food. But I’m not just going to talk about how much I love food, because that could go on forever. Specifically, I’m going to talk about food intolerances, and how it’s affected my little culinary journey around the world. More on that later.
I grew up in a house where mom cooked everything from scratch. I never ate a boxed cake, saw a blue box of macaroni and cheese and only got a TV dinner if I begged for it. What did I know? Because of that I’ve been spoiled into only eating the best, which I can’t say is really a bad thing. Like a lot of people do in their 20’s, I got swept up in losing my college weight using Splenda (which I still do miss even though I’ve been off it for two years), Lean Cuisines and packaged everything, but a stint studying aboard snapped me back into the realization that home cooked is always better. Mom was right.
So I cook from scratch. Like many, it was easy to fall into the same boring food routine. For me, it was cottage cheese and fruit for breakfast, salad for lunch, some meat/veggie combo for dinner. It gets old but I never had any impetus to try and change it.
The other thing about me is that I’m an extensive traveler. I max out my vacation time and budget (wait, do I have a vacation budget??) every year. I’m proud of the stamps in my passport, and wear them like badges of honor. Besides broadening my mind and learning about other cultures, my friends and I travel to eat. DUH. I love food. And I love different food. One of the best countries I’ve visited recently for food was, believe it or not, Ireland. I came back from there dreaming about every single mouth- watering meal I’d eaten and that’s when my story really begins.
After returning from Ireland, it dawned on me that I loved eating “foreign” food so much, why not try and make it at home? It was a year and a half ago I started my “project,” where every week I cook a different region of the world. Check it out and give me a follow at The Hungary Buddha Eats the World.
Anyway, this project was already a challenge, trying to adapt international flavors to my own preferences. For example, I eat really healthy, so to try and make all of those rich French foods without gaining 30 pounds was my challenge, one that I can say I accomplished quite successfully. There are exceptions (Crème Brulee Cake), but for the most part, my international tastes are still clean and healthy because that’s how I roll.
Cooking this way forced me out of my comfort zone, trying spices and ingredients that I’d never before dreamed that I’d want to eat. I can say I’ve liked 80% of what I’ve made, so I have a pretty good track record.
The hiccup in all of the above came about 3 months ago. I’ve notoriously had horrible digestive issues, and have always sort of guessed on what would or would not set off a trigger without knowing more. However, things got so bad and I got so desperate for answers that I finally bit the bullet and got tested for food intolerances. And it was bad news.
The major offenders were wheat, cow’s dairy, eggs and anything yeasty (which ranges from most alcohols to vinegars to the obvious bread). I will admit that I had more than one breakdown, about both my life and my beloved blog. What was I going to call it, The Hungary Buddha Eats the World, the cooking project for the girl who can’t eat anything?
After I calmed down a bit, I saw it as a challenge, and now, I do my best to make everything gluten, dairy and yeast free. It hadn’t been easy at all, but at the same time, I definitely have the personality to face this challenge head on. I’m a scientist by education and this is all one big chemistry experiment.
That was a long winded story, but Amanda asked me to pass along some of the tips and tricks that I’ve learned so far as I navigate food allergies in the context of international cuisine. The best piece of advice is to talk to others with these allergies. I’ll make you feel “not alone,” and if it’s a trusted source, it’ll save you the time and money of extensive trial and error.
In my life and in my coffee, I drink almond milk, original flavor. However, I realized that this has a very distinct taste (as does soy), different enough from cow’s milk that it wouldn’t necessarily blend well in certain dishes. Therefore, depending on the cuisine, my go-tos are light coconut milk (the canned variety, which I admit works really well in most Asian cuisines and as an ice cream base) and unsweetened vanilla cashew milk (by So Delicious). The cashew milk I’d never have found on my own, but learned of this tip straight from a chef’s mouth. It has not steered me wrong and just worked beautifully in some Irish style parsley sauce that I made last week. Also, after making the Belgian soup waterzooi, I learned that eggs are a surprise way to make a soup appear creamy without using cream.
As for butter, right now I use coconut oil for mostly everything. Since these food intolerances are pretty new, I haven’t had a lot of time or reason to experiment with butter alternatives, particular in recipes that rely on butter for flavor (read: France). I do find that the coconut oil is pretty benign as far as taste goes and wouldn’t affect the flavor in the way that a strong olive oil might.
My last comments on dairy: I’m only intolerant to cow’s dairy. Therefore, goat’s milk, while expensive, is a good alternative. You’d be amazed how readily available goat or sheep’s cheese or yogurt is, so no need to pass on fondue. And, you’d also be surprised how “hidden” a tangy goat cheese can be in recipes that call for cream cheese.
This is still a work in progress. I’ve been working with some homemade gluten free flour mixes to avoid having to create special mixes for each recipe. My favorite so far has been the one created by America’s Test Kitchen. Though I’ve never personally tried them, some gluten-free friends recommend the commercial brands of Cup4Cup and Better Batter.
In instances where flour is used as a thickener, cornstarch has worked well. So, say in place of a roux (butter + flour), I’ve used a cornstarch slurry (cornstarch + water) with success.
This was maybe the saddest for me because yeast foods are among my favorite things in life (Um…Belgian style waffles? Yes, please). Plus, I’m half-Hungarian and yeast breads are sort of what we do. I am not sure how to get around this yet- there may not be a way, but those are just experiments waiting to happen. As far as eliminating vinegars, lemon/lime juice is a great substitute since they mimic vinegar’s acidic effect. Clearly you can’t substitute lemon juice for something as strong as a balsamic, but for marinades and salad dressings, this is what I use.
I’ve slowly been introducing these back in since cutting them out completely, and I’ve found that, when baked in breads and cookies, I’m fine. I also had more than one failed experiment to know that you can substitute one egg out in quick breads by using apple sauce, avocado, bananas or flax/chia vegan “eggs” but for those that depend on eggs for leaving to make them rise, you sort of just have to add the eggs, unless you like squat-shaped breads. I, personally, do not, so as long as my stomach can handle it, the eggs are staying in my breads.
Those are the tips and tricks I’ve learned so far. It’s a lot of reading, research, trial and error and my best advice when trying any new foods (whether it be some weird-looking African “meatloaf” or if it’s your first time cooking without all-purpose flour) is DO NOT BE SCARED. Cooking should be FUN. Don’t take it so seriously!
Some of my favorite sites so far are The Gluten-Free Goddess, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring and Free Eats. Check them out!