Recipes for an extremely strict diet.
November 25, 2008 9:33 PM   Subscribe

Recipes for someone with a really strict diet

My sister, by her own choice, has cut out refined sugar, refined flour, meat and all dairy that comes from a cow out of her diet.

For Christmas, I'd love to compile a cookbook for her of recipes that she could make that would fit this strict regiment.

I'd like to first start with some of my favorite recipes and adapt them accordingly and then start finding some online that sound good.

In recipes for cookies and other desserts, is there a suitable substitute for sugar? Also, is brown sugar considered to be refined sugar?

Is there a website out there designed to find suitable ingredient substitutes?
posted by Becko to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm pretty sure brown sugar is just molasses plus refined sugar.
posted by Airhen at 9:37 PM on November 25, 2008

Most vegan recipes should fit the bill.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 9:54 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Splenda can be used measure for measure in most recipes, but odds are good if she's cutting out refined sugar she'd be cutting out things like Splenda too.

People mean all kinds of things when they say "I'm cutting out refined sugar." Does unrefined sugar -- basically, evaporated cane juice, often sold under the brand name Sucanat -- count? Can you use honey instead? If so, reduce the liquids in the recipe by a bit and generally use half as much honey by measure as you would sugar.

Refined flour is another tricky. Is she allowing any kinds of flour at all? Would stone-ground whole wheat flour make the grade?

Avoiding cow dairy is easy -- just turn to vegan cookbooks (Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World has by now become a sort of vegan bible). If she actually wants to get dairy, just not cow dairy, that means goat milk, which I would not recommend as an ingredient in most recipes since it can have a really strong flavor (think the difference in flavors between cow cheese and goat cheese).

I have to say that in my experience, having gone through a few unusual diets as a kid, is that substitutes do not work. THere is no way that a baked good sweetened with fruit and featuring some kind of strange wholegrain flour is going to taste anything like its refined original. Rather than writing up a bunch of recipes that are flour-y and sugar-y without the sugar, why not feature recipes that put other ingredeints front and center?

One recipe that comes to mind is coconut sticky rice, which is rice cooked in water with a bit of coconut milk, with a bit of shredded coconut for flavor and texture, served with slivers of ripe, ripe mango. This is a truly mouthwatering and decadent dessert that avoids any of the problem ingredients. As a child I regularly hungered for a delicious smoothie made from banana, peanut butter, silken tofu, and apple juice (at least, I think those were the ingredients, to the best of my memory). A richly creamy "ice cream" can be made by blending up chunks of frozen banana with frozen fruits or berries, sweetened with really just a drop or two of honey and thinned out with a bit of soy milk (although I am sure that juice would work as well).
posted by Deathalicious at 9:57 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Avoid trying to substitute things, if you can. What would be great for her would be recipes for things that are interesting and flavorful all on their own. Interesting salads (they do exist), particularly a variety of dressings -- vinaigrettes and dijon mustard type stuff -- would be quite useful, since you can put them not only on "salads", but also on things like cooked kale, cucumber slices, carrot sticks, and even use them as marinades for portobello mushrooms and tofu, or even add them to beans or something like a cold lentil salad (haven't tried this, just had the idea now, but definitely _will_ try it).

Other things to look for: middle-eastern tabbouleh-type salads; spreads like hummus and baba ghanoush; and, with winter coming, soups! Look for a vegetable soup, a winter vegetable soup (kind of like borscht, or there's a beet-based one I think that's Russian), a pureed squash soup, a lentil soup, a black bean soup, and maybe one or two more bean soups.

One of our very favorite things to make with soup is fresh bread, in our bread machine, from wheat that's just been ground. A wheat grinder would be a fabulous gift. Whole wheat bread can be so-so, but freshly ground wheat adds an entire new dimension to the flavor. It's amazing.
posted by amtho at 10:11 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest agave and stevia as well.

You can also use some natural ingredients to sweeten things: honey, maple syrup, maple syrup powder, and dates all come to mind.

I would suggest you check into "living foods" or a raw food diet. No sugar or flour used there--or animal products.
posted by Manhasset at 11:17 PM on November 25, 2008

Just so you know, stevia makes things sweeter but it is *not* an substitue to sugar in recipes. For baking, unless you have recipes which specifically use something like equal or sweetnlow as sweetener, then you cannot use stevia as a substitute. Stevia is perfect for sweeteting teas, sauces, salad dressings, and marinades.

dates...come to mind

You can actually buy something called "date sugar" at some health food stores. Basically it's what it sounds like -- a crystalilized sugar made from dates. Not exactly sure how it is made, but it is not refined.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:34 PM on November 25, 2008

If your sister is trying to eat healthy, you might want to avoid too many "dessert" recipes. This reminds me of the first person I ever met who was vegan: she was _not_ of the slender type, because it's entirely possible to avoid "unhealthy" foods but fill up on carbs and sugars anyway. By making such a dramatic change to her diet, it sounds like your sis is counting on this to get her away from unhealthy foods.

Eating sweet things, even fake sweet things, may make it more difficult for her to let go of the craving for the usual not-so-great foods that we're all too used to snacking on.

I don't know your sister, and you probably know all this already, but I felt it might be worthwhile to mention it.
posted by amtho at 11:48 PM on November 25, 2008

I mean, even fake sweet things OR "natural" sweet things.
posted by amtho at 11:55 PM on November 25, 2008

Here in the UK you can certainly buy brown sugar that is unrefined (though much of the cheap brown sugar is just refined white sugar with added molasses). Perhaps ask at your local health food store?
posted by altolinguistic at 3:38 AM on November 26, 2008

Here is an article comparing/explaining unrefined (and non-animal product) sweeteners. It includes info on what the ratio of sweetness is to sugar so you know just how to replace it. It will also let you know which are best for baking. Let me know if you need a membership to log in and read it, but I think you don't. Some unrefined sugar alternatives include rapadura, sucanat, evaporated cane juice, and brown rice syrup. Also, date sugar, which is just ground, dried dates is great for flavoring cereals and oatmeals, yogurts, etc. However, like some sugar alternatives (read the article for details) won't bake so well because of it's consistency/form.

Overall, I think you want to look into vegan cooking because it will fit most of your requirements off the bat. From there, you might need to sub in or out certain ingredients (some vegan recipes err towards the all natural, unrefined, no flour, etc. and some just don't).

Vegan Yum Yum has delicious recipes and Fat Free Vegan will probably help, too.

Also, if you have access to a decent all natural/health food store, I would definitely make a trip and peruse what they have--you'd be surprised at how many products already exist to accommodate a multitude of dietary restrictions, even ones that occur simultaneously--like being a kosher, vegan, gluten free person, etc. Also, chat up any friendly staff members at those places--they know secrets, shortcuts and have great ideas.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 4:30 AM on November 26, 2008

If you need some ideas, you can always go to whole foods and try out some of the 100% natural snacks. They usually have a very simple ingredient list like: "rolled oats, shaved coconut, pineapple juice, raw cocoa powder".

Then you can just buy the raw ingredients yourself, mix them, form them into bite-sized pieces and put them in the fridge for a while.

Once you have a good list of potential snack ingredients (nuts / peanut butter, dried fruits, raw cocoa, oats and/or other grains, honey, etc) you can make thousands of delicious snacks by combining ingredients in this way.

The advantage of these foods over traditional baked goods is that they don't require flour, eggs, butter or refined ingredients, and they retain all of the nutritional value of the ingredients because they aren't cooked.
posted by helios at 5:24 AM on November 26, 2008

Vegan Planet is an excellent cookbook which tons of easy and delicious recipes that don't use a bunch of weird ingredients. It also has information throughout the book about nutrition and what not. This is the best cookbook for people just starting out with that kind of lifestyle change.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:20 AM on November 26, 2008

the vegan cooking community on livejournal is great - tons of recipes sorted by tags, so it should be easy to find what you're looking for. Also, refined sugar isn't vegan, so you'll find plenty of discussion about sugar substitutes.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:10 PM on November 26, 2008

Esme's Sauce is, like, the best thing ever. Over whole wheat noodly goodness...

(Ok, I'm slightly addicted to it, anyway.)
posted by Incognita at 1:45 PM on November 26, 2008

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