Pimp my Pantry Allergen-Free
September 22, 2011 6:10 AM   Subscribe

Pimp my pantry - Allergen free style.

Yesterday, my husband was diagnosed with a allergies to wheat, soy and peanuts. He's been told to eliminate all three from his diet. I'm the primary cook for the family. I try to make sure that dinners are large enough to provide lunches for us as well. So, taking his lunch to work is not going to be an issue.

I've decided to tackle this as a cooking challenge. I've already gone though the pantry and fridge to identify all the items he can no longer have. My pantry is suddenly looking pretty sad. While I've kept a little pasta to cook for the kids on the nights when DH is out of the house, there's a lot of food that's being passed to a neighbor.

So, what are some of the staples that you find essential to your allergen free pantry? For example, if I can't use cream of mushroom soup in a recipe because it has soy oil, what do you keep on hand to use instead? I know that I'll need to get tamari to replace soy sauce. What brands of rice pasta are good and which should I avoid?
posted by onhazier to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: His name is Bob, and he has a Red Mill. King Arthur is also good, with the expected higher prices you would pay to a member of royalty.

I love these cookies and they are great with GF oats and almond butter instead of peanut butter.

You might also want to take a look at noodles made with buckwheat; despite the name, they are GF (if processed in a GF facility).
posted by hmo at 6:26 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Tamari is available in wheat-free versions, but it is still made from fermented soybeans so that's probably still out for you.

Typically when multiple allergies are involved, process foods are pretty much out (especially because of the peanut allergy) and you have to make more from scratch. So for example, instead of cream of mushroom soup, you would probably need to use chicken stock, mushrooms, and cream/half-and-half/milk.

You might want to make a habit out of making quick stock out of chicken carcasses and veggie trimmings. That way you know what's in it and can use it as a flavor base instead of canned soups.

In terms of starches, you might want to stock up on:

rice noodles
soba noodles (unless he can't have buckwheat either)
non-wheat flours (see below)
cornmeal (hellooo polenta!)
rice (brown, wild, white)
bulgar, barley etc. (makes really tastey and filling sidedishes and stuffing etc.)

You might also want to make a habit out of making quick stock out of chicken carcasses and veggie trimmings. That way you know what's in it and can use it as a flavor base instead of canned soups.

I highly recommend Gluten Free Girl for recipes without wheat. She tells you how to use other types of flour (here is her mix for using instead of AP flour) and has a ton of recipes on her site.
posted by Kimberly at 6:30 AM on September 22, 2011

Best answer: I found the tastiest foods for our allergy household were those that came from ethnic cuisines that naturally didn't use foods on our do not eat list. For us, this included a lot of Asian food: Japanese and Thai. Sounds like you might be able to do Japanese (omitting soy) and Mexican. Lord, I wish we could have Mexican!

Get a sushi mat and a rice cooker -- lots of things taste good wrapped in nori and sushi rice.
posted by apparently at 6:33 AM on September 22, 2011

Indian food is another good source - lentils!
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:41 AM on September 22, 2011

We use a lot of Tinkyada GF pasta - best one I've tried so far although Gluten Free Girl was just raving about a brand I haven't seen around here. If you're near a Trader Joe's they have really good allergen labeling and a number of pre-made things we use for those nights when you get home late and are starving - kid friendly too. You can download lists from their site of what is wheat free. I assume they have lists for soy and nuts but haven't needed to look. Sanj makes good GF soy sauce - I don't think there is a soy free soy sauce but you can use Thai fish sauce for a similar umami flavour.

I agree with apparently - we eat a lot of Asian, Mexican and Italian food. Lots of good gf pasta around these days. We don't use much gf bread but do use gf crackers - particularly like Crunchmaster and Mary's Gone Crackers. Rudi's and Udi's both make decent gf bread and I just saw Udi's gf granola at a regular supermarket. While you're starting out you may find it easier - and safer to eat foods which are simpler. We typically do a few big batches of things on the weekends - soup, stew, spaghetti sauce or the like. When I'm really organized I'll do stuff in large batches and freeze them in meal sized portions - few weeks of that and I'm in pretty good shape on busy weeknights.
posted by leslies at 6:52 AM on September 22, 2011

Bulgur is wheat, and barley contains gluten.

The best rice pasta I've tried is Tinkyada. Avoid the spiral shape though - I find it doesn't cook evenly.
posted by expialidocious at 6:54 AM on September 22, 2011

Those three things aren't allowed in the paleo diet, so you might look to paleo cookbooks for some inspiration.
posted by losvedir at 6:58 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Don't use rice pasta, use corn pasta instead. It's got a much better consistency. I like De Boles brand spaghetti the most.

I use a lot of corn starch for thickening gravy and soups.

In my pantry:

Masa Corn Flour
Brown and white rice flour
Tapioca Flour
Potato Starch
Xanthan Gum

Lots and lots of rice. I buy it in bulk and keep it in a 5 gallon bucket, I keep a smaller sealed container in my cupboard and refill the little one from the big one as needed. If you don't have a rice cooker already you really want to think about getting one. Mine gets used at least 3-4 times a week.

I just found this recipe on Pinterest for Cream of Something Soup. I haven't had a chance to try it out yet, but it looks very promising. Considering how many recipes call for those Cream of ___ soups I think it's definitely worth a try. (If you aren't already on Pinterest you might want to try it out. I've found a ton of allergy friendly recipes there.)

The really good thing about altering our diets due to food sensitivities is that we're eating a lot more fresh veggies and meat. Basically all processed foods are off the menu, so we're eating fresher healthy foods a lot more. I have a blog about Celiac Disease, let me know if you want the link. I'm also more than happy to help you getting started with your new cooking adventure, feel free to MeMail me.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:11 AM on September 22, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you all for your answers. I'll look into each suggestion. Please keep them coming.

I'm aware of Gluten-Free Girl's website and plan to start digging through there tonight or tomorrow. I also expect that I'll be spending a lot more time reading labels at the grocery until I have this down pat. I was aware that bulgar and barley are on his no-go list and have them bagged up for the lucky neighbor.

I do lots of scratch cooking already. Ethnic foods and recipes are most welcome in our household. I knew Mexican wasn't a problem as long as I stick to corn tortillas. Bob and his Red Mill have made appearances in my home before. I suspect we'll become much closer.

I've never heard of corn pasta. Thanks for that tip, TooFewShoes. I've already got Masa, white rice flour and potato flour in the pantry. I may even have a small bag of manioc flour. The neighbor will be getting the farina flour. I've also got lots and lots of beans and several varieties of rice.

Making our own stock is something I occasionally do but I'll have to do it much more often now. No worries on that one.

I was surprised to see all the places soy was popping up. We even have to check medicine labels now.
posted by onhazier at 7:52 AM on September 22, 2011

I am also not a fan of the rice pasta, though it you are then I'll recommend the Trader Joe's version. It tastes exactly the same as Tinkyada to me and is something like half the price. I prefer corn pasta but even that's not great. I eat a lot of rice now, when I would have had pasta before.

My favorite gluten free bread is Rudi's, though Udi's is also good. I'm able to get both in my suburban grocery store now. Most of my bread-like eating, though, is Chebe bread mixes, with tapioca flour. It's pan de quiejo, which you can find a million recipes for if you want to source the tapioca flour yourself, but I've found it's just easier to get the mixes.

You are lucky in this situation in that wheat soy and peanuts are legally required by law to be listed on packaging. You'll get pretty good at reading labels, but remember to read them EVERY TIME. Even on stuff like beans -- I can't buy Trader Joe's beans because they are made on the same lines as something with gluten. What seems perfectly okay today might have a formulation change and not be okay next week.

Like some others above mention, it's a lot easier not to rely on processed stuff anymore. Beware stuff in fresh meat cases. Just yesterday, the butcher at Whole Foods told me that he wouldn't recommend any of his sausages to someone who couldn't have gluten because he couldn't guarantee they weren't cross-contaminated. I'm sure this would extrapolate to wheat allergies.

Oh, and even though you didn't ask about restaurants, be super careful: lots of them fry stuff in peanut oil. Getting stuff without wheat is hard. As a person who has Celiac, 99% of restaurants are pretty much off-limits to me. (I'm sensitive.)

If you find something you like, see if you can get it on amazon at a cheaper unit price.

On preview, I see you mention stock. I like the Costco chicken stock and I think it will work for you.

TooFewShoes, I would like to read your blog.
posted by sugarfish at 7:55 AM on September 22, 2011

Think starchy veg, too, to replace the pasta.

You can find rice pasta with nice consistency but I could only recommend a brand in the UK so that won't help you. Just buy one packet at a time and try them until you find one you like.

Think outside the box as much as possible and explore different dishes. Cream cheese may work as a substitute for your cream of mushroom soup for example, depending on what you were using it for. Anything where it acts as a sauce and not soup basically.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:57 AM on September 22, 2011

I'm allergic to peanuts.

I've found that Sunbutter, which is sunflower seed butter, is the closest thing to a peanut butter substitute that I've found. It can be pricy, but a jar goes a long way. The product is peanut and gluten free, and their factory is even peanut free.
posted by spinifex23 at 8:22 AM on September 22, 2011

Mexican is great, with corn tortillas. As mentioned, be really careful with labels. Trader Joe's has corn tortillas that I can eat, but Whole Foods has corn tortillas that have labeling on the front of the package saying they only have three ingredients - corn, lime, and water - and on the back in big print says MAY CONTAIN WHEAT. Read carefully.

I love Bob's Red Mill products. Lentils are a good staple pantry food. If you like to fry stuff, instead of breading, get pure corn meal (but make sure it's gluten-free). Really, the key here is to read labels really carefully. You sound like you're ahead of the curve already, which is great.
posted by bedhead at 8:50 AM on September 22, 2011

I'm allergic to soy and wheat, as well as bunch of other things. What I've discovered is that soy and wheat are in everything. Basically, you have to get used to the idea of making everything from scratch, or be prepared to deal with some allergy symptoms.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:23 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Living Without has a lot of good recipes and tips.
posted by theperfectcrime at 11:43 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's a handy Gluten/Casein/Soy-free Products Guide. A friend has another version and she's found it handy in the grocery store. Not sure if there is a better app available, but if you're interested in a book, that seems to be a good one.
posted by barnone at 12:46 PM on September 22, 2011

Is it specifically a wheat allergy, and not a gluten thing? Can he eat Rye or Oats?

Do you read 101 cookbooks? Do you have her latest cookbook? Heidi does not focus on gluten-free or soy-free diet, but her recipes are remarkably full of various grains, proteins, vegetables and ideas for combining them. Once you start to follow a number of her recipes, you'll get the hang of imagining other good combinations. She often uses amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and other non-wheat grains. When she does use one of the common allergens, she'll often offer some good substitutions. Fried egg instead of tofu in a specific salad, or gluten-free flour for baked goods. I would take a good look through her archives and cookbook on how to build up your pantry.

If you are interested in stocking more beans in your pantry, may I recommend Rancho Gordo? Oh my goodness. They are truly a different species from those little pebbles in the bulk bins. Completely amazing in salads, soups, on their own ("pot bean"), in a variety of spreads, pasta dishes, mexican dishes, the works. They are more expensive than the bulk bin, but if you have a bean-forward recipe, take a chance and order some of these. I have been extremely pleased with them!
posted by barnone at 1:00 PM on September 22, 2011

Last post, sorry! Are you familiar with quinoa? It's an awesome replacement (and option in its own right!). There is now quinoa pasta too!
posted by barnone at 1:04 PM on September 22, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the posts barnone. I'm not familiar with the 101 cookbooks and will look into them. A gift box from Rancho Gordo was my husband's Christmas present to me this past year. We love their stuff. Ok, really, I LOVE their stuff and he generally likes what I make with it. Christmas limas opened his eyes to limas that don't suck. We have a 5 lb bag of quinoa in the pantry. I love it. He tolerates it.

There's a lot that I cook already that fits his dietary restrictions. This week we've had posole, chicken and chickpea curry with rice, and pork butt with sauerkraut and roasted root vegetables. All was done from scratch.

I've shown him this post and he started sending me lots of baking related links from gluten free girl. He's happy to know that there's ways for him to still get shortbread and not suffer for it. I also saw that I can order packages of baking supplies from Red Mill. While my local stores carry some of the products, there's a lot they don't.

I know we can tackle this change and that he'll be feeling better soon as a result. Thank you all SO much!
posted by onhazier at 2:03 PM on September 22, 2011

Seconding quinoa. It works well as a substitute for couscous and bulgur wheat. Lentils are good, too.

You might check out Middle Eastern and North African foods. They have strong emphases on rice and legumes, and there are lots of good cookbooks out at the moment. Two I've found good are Silk Road Cooking and The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. A bonus is that the recipes tend to scale up easily - one of my housemates who can't have gluten loves to host large dinners, and I've seen her throw together food for twelve in about as much time as it takes rice to cook.

Finally, as an unrepentant wheat-loving person in a gluten-free house, a small box of wheat crackers for when the cravings get bad can help a lot.
posted by VelveteenBabbitt at 2:16 PM on September 22, 2011

http://365crockpot.blogspot.com/ is a great blog about crockpot use (with tons of recipes I would not have guessed worked in a crockpot...) but for your purposes also really handy because they eat gluten-free (and avoiding the soy and peanuts is pretty easy the way she lays things out.)

She has a great recipe for cream of mushroom soup (and other variants for recipes that rely on a can of soup as a base) that you can make in advance, and freeze - using ingredients that won't hit your allergen issues. (I found it came out a bit too liquid for me, so cut back on the stock amount in future recipes, but that's an easy fix). Lots of other stuff like that, too.
posted by modernhypatia at 3:52 PM on September 22, 2011

Onhazier, I forgot to mention that my pantry is pretty bare right now. There are a ton of recipes that I'm dying to try that take other flours and ingredients that I don't have. My mixer is broken though, so no experimentation is in my near future. Those ingredients I listed are the very minimal basics.

You're also going to want to replace your Vanilla Extract with something you know is 100% allergy free. Some of the cheaper brands have fuzzy sounding ingredients. Personally I like cooking with Almond Extract but I prefer almond to vanilla. You might have to order things like that online, my local groceries have lots of options but none of them make me feel completely confident.

If you really like baking from scratch you might look into getting your own flour mill. That way you can make your own flours from things like flax seeds or amaranth, and you can double mill other flours to get a really great consistency. I'm lucky that I have a local supplier that double mills their rice flour so I don't have to but it might be something you'd like.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:55 AM on September 24, 2011

Response by poster: Update and Thanks.
posted by onhazier at 7:32 AM on October 28, 2011

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