This blog is the answer to that question.
First of all, to all you allergic folks out there, welcome! We live in a time of unsurpassed inventiveness, when alternatives are plentiful, but even so, figuring it all out from the ground up isn't easy. I've learned a lot of things the hard way, and my goal in writing here is to make sure you don't have to! There are *many* allergies, and I don't have all of them, but I do love a challenge. So if you have a particular allergy you don't see addressed in my posts, please ask me! I'll play with it here in my Mad Science Lab of a kitchen until I've got at least a clue. If there's one thing I've learned from all this allergy nonsense, it's that the biggest issue isn't often food so much as the feeling of struggling alone. You're not alone, I promise. At the very least, you've got me on your shoulder.
Second, to all of you who *don't* have a food allergy, welcome! If you're here, you must really care about someone who does have a food allergy or two, or possibly you're just looking to win the award for Best Chef In the History of Ever. I promise, if you're using this blog to help you, you will at least know how to cook for me (or possibly my long-lost twin), and I will happily give you the title with a tap of my magic wand just as soon as I put the fork down.
I'll keep this first post pretty basic: FLOUR.
If you've got an allergy to any of the common grains, what on earth do you use for flour? Mixes are a fast and easy solution, but in my experience most of the pre-made ones sold taste kind of funky and gummy. If they're not gummy, they're mealy. Sometimes they're both gummy AND mealy. That kind of thing gets me in a towering temper faster than you can say Tink! Good gravy, do those folks even *taste* what it is they're selling to poor allergic folks who think there's no other option?! Well, I took that towering temper of mine and stomped into my kitchen, and I experimented with a bunch of alternative flours, until I came up with a flour blend that:
- doesn't taste like beans
- isn't gummy
- isn't gritty
- won't kill anyone I know
1 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/2 cup organic tapioca starch/flour
(makes 2 cups of amazingly versatile allergy-cheating flour)
Safe for the following allergies: gluten, wheat, corn, oat, barley, soy, nightshade
For no cross contamination with nuts, I recommend using Bob's Red Mill (http://www.bobsredmill.com/); they carry all of the flours I listed, and use good manufacturing processes to keep cross contamination from occurring. Any self-respecting organic market will carry that brand or something like it. You'll notice I specify ORGANIC tapioca, and that's on purpose. The rest of it tastes okay if you get the regular kind, but for some reason conventionally-grown tapioca makes starch that tastes like you're eating a handful of change sprayed with Windex. Mmmm!
If you're looking to pinch pennies, a great place to find alternative flours is in an Asian grocery store. I'm lucky enough to have one about a 15 minute drive away; Google "asian grocery" for your area, and if you come up a lucky winner, do a little celebration dance! Rice flour is usually about half the price by weight if you get it at an Asian grocery store versus an organic market. That's also where you can find green bean starch and roasted soy flour (see below).
I have met people with allergies to each of the above ingredients, so I'll make a quick conversion for you. If you're allergic to white rice, brown rice is a pretty good substitute - a little nuttier in flavor, but acts the same in recipes. If you're allergic to garbanzo beans (chickpeas), fava bean flour also works well, as does roasted soy flour. If you're allergic to tapioca, cornstarch or potato starch or green bean starch all work well.
That's it for my first post. It's not a full recipe, but it certainly opens up a whole magical range of possibilities! Now put down that sad gummy mealy gluten-free muffin mix, dust off your old cookbooks, and go play!