09 Jan Stocking An Allergen Friendly Kitchen
Transforming your life to encompass food allergies and sensitivites is a process. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Life becomes much more structured and well, rigid. Grocery shopping stops being focused on grabbing the cheapest product, or on the impulsive purchase, and now becomes focused on what is the safest product. After determining what you CAN have, the next step is what you WANT to have, what tastes the best to you. The taco seasoning that you’ve bought and used for the past 10 years, you now realize, has wheat and/or soy. Your favorite salad dressing has eggs in it? Whaaat?! In our case, my son had so many food intolerances that we had to completely start from scratch with almost every item in the house. This might be your issue or you might have a household where each person’s food issues are different. Fortunately, once you have your basic requirements nailed down, life can begin on autopilot again!
To help jumpstart 2019, I have created a list of what I consider basic staples for a top 8 free allergen friendly kitchen. While this list is by no means exhaustive and will need to be adjusted for each family’s specific needs and tastes, I hope that it provides a place to start for those that are overwhelmed. I generally make a lot of our foods from scratch, but to keep my sanity, I have our “must haves” that are store bought to help keep me sane with many food intolerances. Everything in the list below I use on a regular basis to cut time and effort when preparing meals. Thank you to all of those who helped me compile this list by suggesting your own kitchen must have’s!
So here we go!
Cooking oil is a must have in any kitchen. I always have one or a few bottles of avocado, coconut or olive oil and when I find it, flaxseed oil. These are all great oils in terms of healthy fats. However, these oils do contain some flavor so for a flavorless oil, you can go with canola, sunflower or grapeseed oil
PASTAS AND GRAINS
For quick meals, gluten free pastas are a must. Gluten free pastas can be made from corn, quinoa, rice, or a mix of various grains. In our house, we have found brown rice pasta to be the favorite (Tinkyada brand to be exact). Corn can be quite mushy because of the starch.
We also love risotto in our house. To make risotto you need Arborio Rice. Risotto is a great creamy and sturdy base for any ingredients and is a great alternative to pasta. My 10 year old LOVES making Risotto and I love letting her because it does require patience. The creamy, delicious texture of the Risotto comes from the time consuming act of ladling broth into the rice, and then stirring. Over and over. But it is so worth it and such a great allergen friendly meal!
Quinoa is a nice gluten free alternative to rice but the taste can be strong for many so experimenting with various recipes is your best bet. It is a great source of protein and balanced carbohydrates, however, so it’s a great option.
GLUTEN FREE FLOUR and BAKING MIXES
Most of us love baking so a good gluten free flour is a staple. Depending on how much you bake, you will need to determine whether or not you should make or buy your flour. Buying is obviously easier but it can get very expensive and the packaged gluten free flour is pricey. I make my own in huge batches and then store in a flour bin I bought. If you do go this route, you will most likely need xanthan gum to add to your flour mixture as this will act as your protein binder.
Now, as much as you might love baking, you know it is time consuming. So, for those days when you need to make something quick, keep a few baking mixes in the pantry. I always have gluten free pancake mix, brownie mix and various other pre-made mixes on hand.
Of course, don’t forget our Buddy Cakes as a 1 minute solution to a sweet tooth craving!:)
I often wonder if half of our income goes to cereal. My husband LOVES eating cereal (out of a cup) as a snack and our kids love it both as a snack, and dry, as a munching snack. Be very careful with cereals, however, reading ingredients carefully. Soy was a difficult allergen for us to overcome as well as food dyes as my son cannot tolerate those at all.
We love granola but again, be careful. We really like KIND granola.
Gluten free oats are great for oatmeal, but I also love them blended into a flour to us as a partial replacement for flour in baked goods.
SEEDS AND SEED BUTTER
Seeds are the friendly cousin to nuts in our house. I keep them in the freezer because seeds can go rancid very quickly due to their high fat content. Or keep them in another dry place.
Chia, Flaxseed -I grind these in a coffee grinder and then add a scoop to just about everything for added Omegas. Anything to add a punch of nutrition!
Pumpkin Seeds – I always have these on hand. We just love them toasted and thrown in salads, rice, on top of oatmeal, or just to snack on. They are a great source of healthy fats and vitamins!
Seed Butters – Although Sunbutter dominates the market as the safe alternative to seed butter, for some reason, we are the odd ones in that none of us like the taste of it at all. So we love pumpkin seed butter. The downside? It is bright green so it can be a bit offputting to young kids! ?
*Aside from the obvious use as a peanut butter alternative on bread, a scoop of seed butter added to coconut milk (with a good slug of gluten free Tamari/Soy Sauce) makes a delicious satay sauce for grilled meats, and helps add good fats to your diet.
COCOA POWDER – We LOVE Vermont Nut Free’s rich dark cocoa that is safe from nuts. Most cocoa powders are processed in facilities that also process nuts but Vermont’s Nut Free is completely safe and it is delicious!
CANNED FOOD STAPLES
Coconut Milk (if you can do coconuts) – I use this for everything. Sauces, smoothies, cream replacements, baking, you name it!
Broth – to be completely honest here, I have gotten rid of pantry broths and just use “Better than Broth”. I absolutely LOVE this stuff! It is a paste (comes in chicken, beef and mushroom I believe) that is kept in the fridge. Scooped into water, it acts as a “bouillon” but is 5x’s the flavor. You can adjust the intensity of your broth by simply adding more for a stronger flavor!
Tomatoes and Sauce – I always have a couple of cans of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce to add to various things.
Beans – We love beans. Black beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, you name it! I actually buy cases of them at Costco we go through so many!
One great way to use both chickpeas and cannellini beans is to puree them and use them as a cream alternative in soups and pasta sauces. Thrown in various herbs and spices and it makes a wonderful “cream sauce”!
Chickpea brine is also a fabulous egg replacer! Known as “aquafaba”, it can be whipped into a meringue, mousse, and as a binder for recipes! Check out our article, The Magical Chickpea
FRUIT PUREES i.e. APPLESAUCE and DATES
O.K. believe it or not, I keep applesauce and baby food, yes baby food, in our pantry. Prune puree, blueberry and apple babyfood or any other “dark fruit” is fabulous for adding moisture to anything chocolate, and applesauce (or pear baby food) is great for adding moisture to milder flavored baked goods such as cookies or vanilla flavor.
Dates – I always have dates, specifically Medjool dates in the pantry. I use these as a binder for raw crusts, to snack on when I need a sweet that doesn’t make me feel guilty, to adding natural sticky sugar to recipes. When blending into anything, I always soak dates for about 10 minutes in hot water and then drain before pureeing into a thick, sugary paste.
SPICES AND SEASONING
I am not going to go into every spice that I have in my drawer because that would be a doctoral thesis length, I have SO many! But 3 that I think are worth mentioning are:
Taco Seasoning – be very careful and read the ingredients as several have “whey” or “msg” or “wheat” products which would mean gluten. We use McCormicks brand.
Steak and Chicken Blend Seasonings: I use and love McCormick’s Grill Mates – both their Montreal Steak and Chicken seasonings. These work for us but I have met others that say they don’t work for them.
If you are able to use these, they are a fabulous convenient blend of spices that add great flavor not only to steak and chicken, but to mushrooms, sweet potatoes, onions and really, anything!
Smoked Paprika – I “discovered” smoked paprika years ago and have been a huge fan ever since. It adds a wonderful rich smokiness, like a bacon would, to soups, vegetables and meat rubs. It is especially great if you are a vegetarian as again, it adds the smokiness that bacon would add!
REFRIGERATOR – just the basics
Vegan Mayo – Definitely a staple.
Milk Alternative – we have tried every possible kind. Flaxmilk and oatmilk are the current favorites. Rice milk is good but quite watery. Coconut milk, if you can have it, is good but definitely imparts a coconut flavor.
Butter Alternative – Earth Balance is WONDERFUL. We use both the tub “butter” spread, and the “butter” sticks for baking. Make sure to get the “soy free”! It is in a red package and can be hard to find.
Hummus – great to eat with g.f. pretzels, carrot sticks, celery, cucumbers, or as a nutritious spread on bread instead of mayo.
Guacamole (this is hard to keep for very long)
Like spices, this is where your own preferences come into play, but I thought a few of our favorites would be worth mentioning.
Crunchy Chickpeas – you can either make these (super easy) or buy them now! My daughter picked up a couple of bags at a gas station on a road trip!
Tortilla Chips – We use these as silverware sometimes. Huh?? Yes, we use these instead of spoons when we eat chili, or even chicken salad! They are great for packing in lunches for that reason.
I also use these as a crunchy, gluten free coating for chicken strips. I throw a handful of chips (or dump the crumbs at the bottom of the bag) into a food processor, pulse until finely ground, and then mix with whatever spice mixture I feel like. It is usually a combination of garlic and onion powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.
Gluten Free Pretzels – I personally like these more than “normal” pretzels. I use them to snack on but also as a basis for pie crusts, much like the tortilla chips.
Gluten Free Graham Crackers – We love SCHAR brand
Fruit Chewies and Fruit Leather (easy to make on your own when fruit is in season!)
Gluten Free Crackers – We love Crunchmaster Multi Grain Gluten Free Crackers