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New allergy, need help with recipes (Benzoic Acid, Cinnamates, and Balsam of Peru)

My wife was recently diagnosed with a number of food allergies. Not life-threatening, but the effects do seriously impact quality of life. We are hoping that the right diet will help.

Sadly, the allergy eliminates some of her favorite foods, and basically cover 75% of our go to dinners. So I look to you Chow Hounds for help! Any ideas for recipes given the following restrictions will be HUGELY appreciated. All the more so if they are good weekday meals, or something I can make over the weekend and then easily serve as leftovers. I would also welcome good websites or other resources for menus/recipes.

We limit meat to 2-3 times a week (red meat only once), so vegetarian meals are appreciated. We prefer lighter dishes, as opposed to heavier meals. Think `steak salad' rather than `grilled ribeye'. Aside from pork, we'll eat anything. I tend to cook largely from scratch, though do use canned tomatoes or stock-in-a-box. Turns out a lot of the allergens are used as preservatives, so we were on the right track with that one.

The entire list of foods is long, but here are the biggies:
-Tomatoes
-Citrus
-Chili? (unclear if chili powder or spicy peppers too?)
-Spiced Condiments
-Cinnamon
-Wine
-Pickled Foods
-Chocolate and Vanilla :(

The allergy is to Benzoic Acid, Cinnamates, and Balsam of Peru. Balsamic vinegar is okay though! Anyone have any experience with this, or any good ideas?

(I'm trying to cheer up my wife, so please don't elaborate on how much you'd regret having to give up any of these foods. Believe me, we know!)

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  1. I'll help get things started, too. Finding this out right before the super bowl threatened my guacamole. I wasn't going to let that happen! So I replaced the lime juice with pomegranate seeds and chopped granny smith apples. Turned out great! In addition to the acidic bite, it also added some nice texture and great color. I highly recommend.

    1. Oh, one more thing. Beer and gin are also on the no-fly list. Does anyone happen to know whether whiskey is okay on this diet? We definitely need a strong drink after learning all of this, and I hate to drink alone. ;)

      1. This thread may have some inspiration:
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/859176

        This thread should also be helpful:
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/853552

        Obviously these are veg recipes and suggestions but it's easy enough to add whatever meat and to omit/modify the allergens.

        This thread has some really great veggie burger recipes- i make a big batch, freeze them, and then add to a big salad for a quick meal, or even crumbled into a simple soup like butternut or a corn chowder.
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/866038

        1. you can do braises of meat or chicken in big batches, then round the meal out with fresh veggies. it's winter here, so i've been making lots of soups, with home-made broth, bits of meat or swirling in eggs like egg drop soup. seaweed or spinach in there as the green.

          i'd do an elimination diet for now and some further research into the unreliability of food allergy testing:

          http://chriskresser.com/food-allergy-...

          http://chriskresser.com/rhr-testing-f...

          both are transcripts from podcasts, so you'll need to scroll down for the relevant bits.

          also do some reading about how leaky gut syndrome can cause false positives in food allergy testing.

          http://www.gaps.me/preview/?page_id=344

          these will help explain why tests like this produce results that seem both nonsensical and all over the map.

          in addition to eliminating these foods for now, please look into the gaps diet for healing the gut.

          good luck.

          1. I'm sorry to hear that you're both going through this, I know it's not fun. Have a look at these two blogs - hopefully you'll find plenty of meal/recipe ideas within:
            http://thespicelesslife.blogspot.com/
            http://nowwhatdoieat.blogspot.com/

            I don't want to wander off topic here, but B of P and its derivative components are also very common in cleaning supplies, cosmetics, toiletries & medications, so your wife should check the labels on all the products she uses in those categories as well.

            Regarding liquor, yes, whiskey is safe (though you should add vermouth to the no-no list along with beer, wine and gin).

            Since warm spices are out, I'd encourage you to focus on preparations that rely heavily on herbs. Pesto is a delicious, versatile option - serve on pasta, or use to coat meat or fish before cooking.

            Take advantage of cooking methods that increase or concentrate flavor without the addition of spices (like roasting vegetables or grilling meats and veg).

            Other ideas:
            A frittata or omelet with lots of veg and some cheese.
            Salad with a variety of vegetables, your choice of protein (and/or cheese/nuts/seeds), and homemade vinaigrette or a yogurt-based dressing with herbs.
            Homemade hummus, bean dip or baba ghannouj as a spread for pita or lavash (garnish with cucumber slices, sprouts, shredded carrot, etc).
            Popcorn with herbs or cheese (or both!) would make a nice crunchy snack.
            Oatmeal can go sweet or savory.
            Polenta is wonderful with cheese, pesto or an herbed mushroom ragout.
            Risotto and other rice or whole grain dishes cooked with homemade stock or broth.
            Ricotta or goat cheese mixed with herbs makes a tasty spread or topping for crackers, toast or cucumber; either one can also be lightly sweetened and/or paired with fruit for a light dessert.

            Hope that helps!

            2 Replies
            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              goodhealthgourmet, a few years ago i remember reading on the home cooking board about how someone's grandmother cooked such delicious food without any spices/seasoning. she just took the time to bring out all the natural flavors with slow cooking and whatnot. i try to cook slow and low when the weather's not so hot here, so i can accomplish the same. your post above reminded me of that.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                I should have responded to your helpful post earlier, it was great! And, yes, figuring out balsam free cosmetics and toiletries has been a huge help (and her doctor provided her with a list of approved products). I would strongly urge anyone with a B of P allergy to ask their doctor for such a list, and to take goodhealthgourmet's advice on that.