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What to Cook When Your Allergic to Just About Everything

My boyfriend is struggling with yeast/mold and corn allergies and it puts us on a very restrictive diet. I posted about this for suggestions as to where to eat out but we are not doing much of that lately. So the blacklist is as follows: corn (obviously), cheese, wheat, yeast, mushrooms, alcohol, buttermilk, vinegar, chocolate, coffee, tea, nothing fermented and nothing that goes through a molding process, nothing preserved, condiments, and nothing to high in sugar or salt.

We don't eat much fruit or drink much milk (because of the sugar). We try to eat things that are fresh and natural, lots of grilled meats and veggies and some brown rice/brown rice pasta once in a while.

It hasn't been so easy thinking of interesting meals and I hope you all can help!! Thanks in advance!

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  1. I have two little boys with about the same host of allergies as your boyfriend. My wife and I make a lot of Thai dishes with rice noodles. I understand the lactose issue but fruits have much simpler sugars and normally shouldn't be a problem although I do know a couple of people with berry allergies. Has he tried coconut milk or any of the others (rice, soy, hemp...) I prefer the coconut and use it as a substitute for regular whole milk whenever I can.

    A lot of the gluten-free blogs have good recipes too, but gluten free doesn't mean corn free so make sure you read the fine print. I made a really good lentil dish the other day with a wild and brown rice mix from Bob's red mill and some green lentils from the health food store. We use tinkyada brand rice noodles since they seem to be the most like what we're used too. They have a pretty good spaghetti which the kids really like. My wife makes some pretty killer spaghetti and meatballs.

    I suggest investing in a good wok, maybe a rice cooker, and explore Asian cuisine to add a bit of variety to the same old, same old fare. I know it's difficult at times, but eventually you'll discover stuff that he can eat and find substitutes for things that you crave.

    I hope I helped a little bit. Hang in there!

    1 Reply
    1. re: po3tree

      We have recently found tinkyada products and really like them too! Thanks for the support!

    2. I have to echo po3tree's recommendation of lentils. They are incredibly versatile and nutritious to boot. In addition to Thai, I would look at Indian cuisine as well. There are many bean, lentil and vegetable curries that your boyfriend should be able to eat. Off the top of my head, here are some relatively easy Indian vegetable dishes you can make: chole (chickpea curry), aloo gobi masala (potato and cauliflower curry), rajma and poriyals (dry curries, for example green beans.) A lot of Indian cooking has the reputation of containing a massive ingredients list. You can somewhat accelerate the process by buying premade masalas. I'm not sure what the danger of cross-contamination is with these spice mixes though.

      I find that vegetable stews provide a warm, soothing meal during the colder months. Some ideas: ratatouille, caponata, bademjan (Persian eggplant stew), vegetable tagines.

      Pilafs and biryanis with veggies would make a good one-dish meal. Dirty rice, hoppin' John (sans bacon or ham hock) and rice and beans also fall in this camp.

      I'm sorry to hear of your boyfriend's condition. It's great that you're helping him find meals that accommodate his dietary constraints.

      2 Replies
      1. re: amy_wong

        We make tabouli with lentils since I can't eat wheat. It should fit within the food rules of the OP. The tart comes from lemon juice instead of vinegar. Lemon might also be a good swap where vinegar is used in some dishes.

        1. re: blackpointyboots

          Quinoa makes great tabouli as well if you can eat that.

      2. I can totally relate... I can't have yeast (therefore the fermented/molded foods are out), gluten, dairy (including casein), and coconut (no loss I don't like it, but it's useful in cooking). The hardest things for me have been balsamic vinegar and mushrooms, two of my great loves.

        I got several great cookooks...
        Feast without Yeast
        Extraordinary Foods for the Everyday Kitchen
        Allergy Self-Help Cookbook
        There are lots of great recipes in these... made great buckwheat pancakes the other week. But lots more!

        In one of my cookbooks, there's a good recipe for tortillas, which can be altered based upon the flours you use. I've done a garbanzo flour based tortilla, as well as buckwheat. Both are good for making fajitas or burritos or the like.

        Chili is an easy one.

        Seared Scallops with Toasted Beluga Lentils and an Orange Reduction and Parsley OIl
        Soak black lentils over night. Rinse and dry. Toast the lentils in a pan til crispy and crunchy. You can also do this in the oven and just bake at 300 for 20-30 minutes. Sear scallops in olive oil, then deglaze pan with a little orange juice (I'm usually fine with a little) -- you can also use lemon. Serve scallops over a bed of lentil, drizzled with reduction and parsley oil.

        Big fan of blackened grilled fish. Grilled anything is great since it adds flavor without dangerous ingredients.

        Try making frittatas or quiches with unsweetened almond or rice milk... I eat a lot of egg whites.

        Paella can be done

        Hummus and Baba Ghanoush

        Make fried rice using Bragg's Amino Acids instead of soy sauce

        Lettuce wraps

        Jamaican Rice'n'Peas

        Also check out http://affairsofliving.blogspot.com

        10 Replies
        1. re: Emme

          Wow!! Thank you so much! So many great ideas! The buckwheat pancakes sound fantastic! And yes, some things have been hard to let go like the balsamic!

          Question: I was under the impression that dried foods tended to be moldy... are lentils okay? And how is Bragg's? Have heard the name a lot but not 100% sure what its all about yet.

          Thanks again! Its so nice knowing there are others out there!! I will post some of the things we eat and hopefully they can help someone else out too!

          1. re: Yes Please

            Braggs liquid aminos are similar to soy sauce. While not quite the same as soy, it is a great unfermented gluten-free alternative to those who can't have soy sauce for whatever reason. They have it in Whole Foods and many health food stores. They also sell it in a spray bottle (which I love).

            I have no problems with corn but have discovered that I feel better when I limit my intake of fermented foods. I would recommend you looking into some Mediterranean recipes. There are lots to eat that don't have gluten and fermentation. One of my favorite cookbooks is Arabesque by Roden.

            You should look into exploring other grains aside from brown rice. Black rice is deliciously nutty and has a great fiber and mineral content. Quinoa is excellent. Lots of threads on this board about quinoa. Millet is also another favorite of mine. I used to hate it until I learned to toast it before cooking. Gives a similar texture to couscous. I make a millet "pulao" using millet, veggies, chicken, curry leaves and spices.

            I do make some substitutions to avoid using fermented items. Not quite the same, but still good. Instead of vinegar, I use lemon or lime juice for many things. I make my version of Korean hwe dup bap using chili pepper powder, lemon, braggs, garlic, ginger and sesame oil instead of the gluten-containing fermented hot bean sauce. I eat lots of soups like asparagus soup, leek and potato soup, chicken vegetable soup -- it's endless. I made my own chicken pho last night using salt instead of fish sauce. Braised vegetables like braised cabbage in Molly Stevens's braising book is awesome as well. I've also made my own fried chicken using cornstarch as the coating. I know you can't have corn, but tapioca starch is also a good substitute. I've also used brown rice flour to coat things like fish and chicken for pan-frying. Fish baked in salt-crust served with olive oil and lemon is terrific as well. If you can eat citrus fruits, ceviches are also good too. As another poster noted, many things in Indian cuisine you can eat that are gluten-free and fermentation-free. You can make potato samosas using rice paper. You can eat mayo if you make it yourself. The Zuni roast chicken with rosemary is something we have a lot as well. Really, there are so many things out there to eat.

            Good luck with this diet. Hope your boyfriend will feel better. And who knows? You may feel better as well. My sister's ex-boyfriend and my aunt were both really ill at one point. They did a huge overhaul of their diet and both are doing well now and can eat many more things that they couldn't in the past.

            ETA: In order to answer your question about dried foods and mold, in my experience, I haven't noticed a huge difference with things like lentils and mold. But I've seen things like dried fruits (probably because of the high sugar content) causing problems in people who are sensitive to molds. It's really an individual thing. The only way to tell is to test and see if your bf has a problem. Oh, and you can't have Braggs if you're allergic to soy as it's made from soy.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Thanks! We have been eating this way for a couple months now and we look and feel absolutely amazing! We've learned lots of tricks but was hoping for some new ideas too!

              The tapioca starch is a good idea! As for the dried lentils, we've found dried packaged things esp certain nuts to be a bit of a problem.

              1. re: Yes Please

                The dried, packaged things like nuts are often dusted with corn starch- if its used as a production aid, it doesn't have to be listed on the ingredients. Its no fun with a corn allergy. Has he figured out how careful he has to be with all the corn derivatives?

                1. re: anniemax

                  The doctor said some nuts are moldy like pistachios in particular. But the corn starch would explain why roasted almonds make him sick sometimes! I think the corn allergy is slight but because there are so many other things to be careful of and therefore it being easy to slip up or make a mistake, we try to avoid everything we can.

                  1. re: Yes Please

                    Corn is tough because is omni-present in modern US food- you just cannot avoid it without really knowing the ins & outs of all its possible names...and a lot more about food processing then any of should have to know. It took a lot time for me to totally figure my corn allergy out, even after I was officially diagnosed...and even longer to convince my doctors how severe it was. I have to avoid all forms of corn, which takes a lot creativity- and can lead to a pretty boring diet because its easier to fix the same things all the time. Have you seen the list of corn names to watch for on labels?- http://www.cornallergens.com/list/cor... Also, I noticed in the soda thread that you were talking about Xylitol as a sweeter- did you know its made from corn mostly now (occasionally still find it made from birch, but not often). Have you found the Avoiding Corn at http://forums.delphiforums.com/Avoidi... yet? Its really helpful sometimes to see what other people are doing.

                    And if you have any questions, I can try to help- my diet is limited by some other medical issues & I a lot of the corn free foods I do make wouldn't work for your BF because of the other foods he is avoiding now. I can help with identifying if things are corny or not, for the most the part.

                    1. re: anniemax

                      Yes, we had tried Xylitol before we knew about the corn allergy and have since switched to stevia.

                      Thanks for the corn allergen link! Seems really helpful!

              2. re: Miss Needle

                Used some Bragg's the other night for the first time and it was a hit! A little goes a long way! Thank you soo much!

                Also using brown rice to coat meats... do you add anything else or just use the flour? We've been using almond meal which has been pretty good if you want to try it!

                And ceviche is on the list too! With brown rice tortillas baked into chips! Brown rice tortillas have been an exciting find!

                1. re: Yes Please

                  I buy raw almonds and toast them myself. Then I whiz them up in the food processor and use them to coat meats. I have also done the same with pine nuts and fresh herbs. Love it. I have no allergies (though I grew up with misdiagnosed Celiac) I just like this 'crust' on meat and fish - it's yummy.

              3. re: Yes Please

                I soak dried soy beans, lentils, whatever overnight in water, then rinse. I rpast/toast them in the oven, sprinkled with some salt and onion powder (or whatever else), and it's a great protein dense snack... You can do a combo for your own Chex mix kind of thing.

                And the Bragg's explanation was spot on. I prefer it to soy actually.

            2. Here are the things we've macgyvered to make from what we could that have been tasty and a little interesting. Hopefully you all can offer tweaks or benefit from this!

              -Chicken with chopped jalepeno, lime, cilantro, and this smoky Santa Maria seasoning.
              -Brown rice cooked down with chicken stock (almost like risotto) and red peppers and onions.
              -Brown rice with butter and broccoli.
              -Quinoa with onions and peppers and basil wilted in.
              -Salmon with lemon and fresh ginger and herbs.
              -Pork chops/tenderloin with olive oil, garlic and rosemary.
              -Chicken or pork crusted with almond flour and herbs.
              -Salad dressing: Olive oil with crushed garlic, herbs and lemon juice.
              -Cream of buckwheat with cinnamon.
              -Green apples with raw almond butter.
              -Cinnamon and stevia sprinkled on anything to make it dessert-y!

              1. I have no experience with your situation but I don't see eggs on the no-no list and if you can have tapioca starch, then could you make Fluffy Tapioca on the Minute Tapioca box? The only ingredients are milk, eggs, Minute tapioca, sugar (I reduce the amount they call for), vanilla. That's all. It's a nourishing pudding. Goes nicely with any fruit.

                Or, if tapioca pudding is out, could you make a rice pudding? Reading your post I am feeling kind of sorry for you both and thinking that you need a treat.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Querencia

                  Yes, eggs are fine. For the sugar we can use stevia.

                  Thanks Querencia! We do miss sweets and those are difficult to macgyver from the "allowed foods" :)

                2. Hey there, you mention brown rice, but have you tried experimenting with different grains? Chow has this nifty primer. I personally love quinoa, barley and amaranth. http://www.chow.com/stories/11819

                  Also, as far as flavoring, can you make good use of various homemade stocks, fish, chicken, vegetable, beef, pork? I can mine. Or, freeze them in ice cube trays.

                  Also, fresh herbs?

                  Heidi Swanson has some great recipes using whole grains: http://www.101cookbooks.com/

                  And caramelized onions are great on everything: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6398...

                  And whole roasted garlic: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/20...

                  Can you use fresh lemon and lime for flavoring?


                  3 Replies
                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Yes, we do use lots of herbs and garlic and lemon and lime. And they are a lifesaver!
                    Quinoa is great! Stocks are good as long as they are low sodium.

                    And sadly carmelized onions are a bit too high in sugar...

                    PS I love pioneer woman too! And thanks for all the tips and links!

                    1. re: Yes Please

                      Ah phooey, I wondered about the caramelized onions. You can control the sodium (and fat) in your stock by making your own, if you are so inclined. There are a couple of "chicken stock in a crock pot" threads floating around her on Chowhound.

                      I have a book from 1996 called the "Body Ecology Diet"(authors Donna Gates and Linda Schatz) written for people who have candidiasis. If you can pick up a copy of the book cheap (I see one copy on alibris for $5, but there'd be $4 shipping on top of that) or at your library, you might get some good ideas out of that. They have lots of soups and grains recipes, including one for buckwheat croquettes, quinoa (or millet) stuffed peppers, kasha "meatloaf", waffles (half amaranth & half millet), a gravy, and some salad dressings.

                      This book was my first introduction to "alternative" grains and it was a revelation (to me, anyway) back then. I haven't tried the recipes in awhile, except I occasionally go back to it if I want a basic quinoa or millet recipe.

                      It's not a complete match, though, there are also some corn recipes (which you can avoid, substitute some other vegetable or omit in many cases), recipes with vinegar (for which you could probably sub lemon juice in many instances), and they advocate kefir (though, I don't think it's included in any of the recipes). Many of the recipes mention salt, but you say you can have, just not a lot of salt, so you could probably just control your own quantities to fit your needs.

                      Can you have stevia? They have a couple stevia cookies in the book.


                  2. This was a memorable thread in chowhound!

                    (Is it possible to cook deliciously without salt, sweeteners, soy, milk products, eggs, non-fish animal protein, alcohol, caffeine and wheat?


                    I know the list is slightly different from your list of restrictions, but hopefully you will find some creative ideas in here!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Mellicita

                      Wow! Great (and long) thread! About halfway through :)

                    2. I sympathise with your challenge - on week four of a crazy exclusion diet suggested by my doctor.

                      As someone else suggested, chickpea flour is something worth exploring. We make farinata, a sort of baked polenta, only made with chickpea flour instead of corn. Nice and nutty.

                      If you're missing the cheese, you could try make ricotta at home, since that can be made with just milk and lemon juice, which I see he can have.

                      I don't know if sweet potatoes are allowed (they taste sweet, but I know they're considered a good choice for diabetics), but those are totally saving my life right now! Mashed sweet potato, baked sweet potato, even sweet potato gnocchi (obviously use a nonwheat flour).

                      Good luck!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Gooseberry

                        Thanks! Good to know others can sympathize!

                        A couple questions. Can you use chikpa flour in the same ways you would use regular flour? Any suggestions on how to use it? Also the ingredients for ricotta are allowed but cheeses are excluded because they go through a molding process to become (slightly) solid. I'm not familiar with the process but do you know enough about it to know if it would still be allowed?

                        As for the sweet potato, I think any starch like potato, sweet potato etc breaks down in the body as something similar to sugar so those are treats! But sweet potato gnocchi sounds great! I think that could be filed under "for eating in small quantities"! Do you have a recipe?? Or sauce rec?

                        1. re: Yes Please

                          with most cheeses, rennet coagulates the solids separate from the liquids (whey) which are then matured, sometimes using mold (eg. blue cheese). From the list you give, I suspect it's the ageing as well as the mold which are the problems. However a fresh cheese which uses lemon juice (which he's allowed) shouldn't be any worse for him than fresh milk, as long as you store it in the fridge. It can be eaten as soon as it is made, with no maturing needed.

                          I don't actually have a tried and tested recipe for sweet potato gnocchi, I'm afraid - I just like the idea! I'm sure there are lots of recipes online.

                          Chickpea flour does not have gluten, so you cannot substitute it for flour in recipes where gluten is important (anything where you work dough, like bread). But anything that can be a little dense and crumbly should be fine, such as cakes, pancakes, cookies, farinata.

                      2. I'm gluten-free, vegan, and currently have to avoid foods high in vitamin K (leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, etc). Have you tried quinoa or quinoa pasta? It substitutes well for rice and is lower in carbs/higher in protein. What about almond, rice or soy mylk? There are brown rice tortillas available. We've gotten them at WFM. We use chickpea, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, and sorghum flour, grinding all but the sorghum flour ourselves with a small coffee/spice grinder. Generally, when using gluten-free flour one needs to add 1 tsp of xanthan gum (which is formed by fermentation), guar gum or something else to "hold things together" per 3 cups of flour.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: lgss

                          i often play with flour mixes... curious as to your favorite ratios... recently i've been doing a lot of brown rice with chick pea and soy... and sometimes with baked stuff, some buckwheat...

                          1. re: Emme

                            When baking from Bette Hagman's GF Gourmet Bakes Bread I generally use her combos. When "de-glutenizing" recipes that call for wheat flour I wing it depending on what we have handy. Usually a blend rather than just one kind. Brown rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, and chickpea are what we usually have around.

                            1. re: lgss

                              i do combos as well... how do you find the millet and quinoa flour affect the texture/product in general?

                              1. re: Emme

                                I don't notice anything in particular regarding the texture/product when using millet or quinoa flour as opposed to other flour.

                          2. re: lgss

                            Have not tried quinoa pasta because the only ones I have found have corn in them. But we like brown rice pasta and we love quinoa! Ditto on the rice milk. Any recipes?

                            And unfortunately no fermented things so no go on the xanthan gum...

                            1. re: Yes Please

                              Guar gum is sometimes also used as a thickener, it's from guar bean so might be an option. There are some GF recipes that don't call for either in Tami A. Benton's Pure and Simple, I think.

                              1. re: Yes Please

                                FYI- Xanthan gum is also grown on corn sugar. Another good reason to avoid it in your situation.

                                1. re: Yes Please

                                  I saw pasta at WFM today which was made from quinoa flour and rice flour. It was quite expensive...$3.49 for 8 oz box so we didn't buy any. http://www.celiac.com/catalog/product...

                              2. There's a banana buckwheat breakfast cake recipe in "The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook" by Marjorie Hurt Jones, RN, that calls for buckwheat flour, no xanthan gum, no yeast. The breakfast cake version calls for maple syrup but there's also a bread version without the maple syrup, just the bananas and 1/2 tsp of stevia (I use xylitol).

                                1. Remembered this on Food Network with tapioca flour. Might be other things you could use tapioca flour for. Been meaning to try some of the specialty flours I see in the store - just never got around to it.


                                  1. A bunch of people have mentioned that you need xantham gum as a replacer for baking, but I skip it and use potato starch instead. Use about 1tablespoon p/ cup of flour and it will be the same as using xantham gum. It's a little easier to find, and less expensive to buy. I generally use this substitution to make everything from pancakes to cookies and cakes with great success. I have also found some great recipes at a blog written by a woman who is allergic to almost everything, just like me: http://recipesrediscovered.blogspot.com/ I hope that helps!

                                    1. Am I reading this right? He's allergic to all this stuff and you are denying him fruit and milk because of the natural sugar calories??? WHY are you eating meat then?? You are neglecting your nutritional needs by eliminating fruit but you'll eat saturated fat... this makes no rational sense - I MUST be misreading this. Remember fruit? HIGH in fiber, vitamins, minerals, LOW in calories. Fruit JUICE is high in sugar without the fiber - lets not get them confused. When anyone is having food issues, generally, any good nutritionist tells them to start by eating fruits and veggies, then add in with protein they can tolerate, grains they can, legumes they can, meats they can, seafood they can. One at a time if you can do the elimination/challenge the right way.
                                      But folks. Please don't stop eating that 60 calorie apple or 40 calorie orange - they have a lot of stuff you need that you won't get elsewhere! Quite the food bargain by any standard.
                                      For those of you who knew this - sorry for this rant... pet peeve...

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: MariaTweety

                                        with a yeast/mold allergy, you can't have a lot of sugar, as sugar feeds yeast.

                                      2. I hear that sorghum can be popped like popcorn (it looks like itty-bitty popcorn kernels). I bought a bag but haven't tried to pop it yet.

                                        Is tomato sauce off the list (check the ingredients)?

                                        Eggs? You could make a nice omelet without dairy, just add lots of fresh veggies.

                                        Salad with homemade citrus-based dressing.

                                        Legumes, toasted nuts (unsalted, of course).

                                        Pesto (no cheese) over rice pasta.

                                        Check your local Asian market for "Rice paper wrappers." The main ingredients for the ones I bought last week are rice flour and tapioca. They may also have "soy wrappers," as well as rice noodles.

                                        Possibly my more useful suggestion is to clear out some freezer space, make homemade stock with lots of meaty bones and veggies, strain and reduce it, and freeze it in ice cube trays. It'll give anything you cook a flavor boost, and you'll know exactly what went in it.