Monday, April 26, 2010

Replacing Dairy in Recipes

by Kelley Lindberg

Last week, I offered some suggestions for replacing nuts and peanuts in recipes. The week before that, I discussed replacing eggs in recipes. This week, let’s talk about dairy!

Milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, sour cream… lots of recipes use dairy products. Whether you can replace them with a safe substitute depends in part on the recipe, but I’ve had some good luck with some of these replacement ideas:

In baked goods, I use rice milk (Rice Dream) instead of regular milk. No one can tell the difference, and it bakes identically in everything I’ve tried. You can also try soy milk.

I’ve also used rice milk in a few soups that call for milk, and it seems to work okay. The only thing rice milk doesn’t do is set up – so you can’t use it to replace real milk if you’re making pudding or a pie, for example.

There are a few dairy-free margarines that I like. Smart Balance Light and Blue Bonnet Light are completely dairy-free (the other varieties of Smart Balance and Blue Bonnet all have milk, so be sure you get the Light version only). Both spreads are great for using on the table to butter bread or flavor vegetables, for example. However, neither one is great for baking. Spectrum margarine is dairy- and soy-free and okay to use on the table, but not for baking.

For a margarine that works extremely well in baking, use Nucoa margarine (it comes in sticks). You can also use safe shortening or vegetable oil instead of butter in baking recipes. Or use Spectrum shortening if you need to avoid soy, too. You can also replace half of the oil or margarine called for in a recipe with applesauce, to reduce the fat. The baked product won’t rise quite as high as the original recipe if you use applesauce, but it will still be yummy.

To replace sour cream or yogurt in a recipe, try a soy yogurt or Tofutti soy sour cream (your best bet is health food stores or Whole Foods or Good Earth Markets). Just check the ingredients carefully on soy yogurts – some have milk ingredients. I haven’t found any soy yogurt in a plain flavor – just vanilla, which is somewhat sweet for most recipes – so you might prefer looking for that Tofutti sour cream instead.

Rich’s makes a couple of versions of a non-dairy topping that you can whip yourself or buy in a tub like Cool Whip. Rich’s also makes a non-dairy creamer that’s a liquid designed to use in coffee, but you can probably use it to replace milk in other aspects. (All are made with soy.) Rich’s products can be elusive to find, however, so ask your local grocers if they carry it. A friend of mine buys the version you whip, and she adds Jell-O pudding mix as she’s whipping it to make it set up a little thicker. If she adds a whole box of Jell-O pudding mix, it becomes a sort of mousse. (Make sure you get the regular Jell-O pudding mix, and not the sugar-free kind, because the sugar-free kind has milk.)

Looking for milk-free chocolate chips? Try the Kroger “Value” brand (the store brand for Kroger and Smiths) which is both milk-free and nut-free. Enjoy Life Foods also makes chocolate chips free from the top 8 allergens, and you can find them at Whole Foods Markets. Can't find those? Lots of online grocers sell allergen-free chocolate chips, so just search online for what you need.

Pie crusts? Believe it or not, most of the premade graham cracker crusts at the store are milk-free, egg-free, and nut-free, and so are Pillsbury’s refrigerated pie crusts (the kind you unroll). Just double-check ingredients to be sure.

As for cheeses, there are soy cheeses that are milk-free, but the taste is usually different enough from regular cheese that most people can tell. I’ve found it’s perfectly alright to just leave the cheese out of some recipes. For instance, our group of friends often has tacos, burgers, chili, or other foods, and we just skip the cheese. It may seem a little “un-American” at first, but when we’re all sitting around eating and gabbing, nobody notices and nobody cares.

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to replacing dairy ingredients in recipes. Please feel free to share your own dairy-replacement ideas or recipes! I’ll tackle gluten-free ideas for recipes sometime in May, so stay tuned…

Monday, April 19, 2010

Replacing Peanuts and Tree Nuts in Recipes

by Kelley Lindberg

Last week, we discussed some ideas for replacing eggs in favorite recipes. This week, we’re talking about peanuts and nuts.

Replacing peanuts and tree nuts in recipes is often pretty easy. In most cases, nuts are used as a garnish or as additional texture, so you can usually just eliminate nuts from a recipe, and it will hold up just fine (such as in fudge, banana bread, or a casserole.). But here are some additional ideas:

Instead of a using slivered almonds or another nut topping on a casserole, try using safe bread crumbs (dry your own if you need to), crushed potato chips, crushed pretzels, or crushed tortilla chips. You never know – the new variation you’ve created may turn out to be even more popular than the original recipe!

Instead of a nut topping on a dessert, try a streusel topping. Mix together 1/3 c. flour, 1/4 c. safe softened margarine, 1/2 c. sugar, and 1 tsp. cinnamon and sprinkle it on top.

Another yummy dessert topping might be an oatmeal crumble topping. Mix together 3/4 c. uncooked oats, 3/4 c. flour, 1/3 c. brown sugar. 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, and 1/3 c. melted safe margarine.

Instead of using nuts in a cookie recipe for texture, use safe chocolate chips, dried cranberries, raisins, or oatmeal.

Instead of using peanut butter in a Thai recipe or in a dessert, use Sunbutter (made from sunflower seeds). Sunbutter makes wonderful Muddy Buddies, for example! You can try this delicious Peanut-free Muddy Buddy recipe that I posted before. Sunbutter is very similar to peanut butter in taste and texture, and it seems to work well in most recipes, so give it a try. It’s a much closer replacement than soy butter, in my opinion. Just make sure you explain to people that it’s not real peanut butter, so they don’t think you made something with peanut butter, so it’s okay for them to do it, too!

Do you have any additional suggestions for replacing nuts or peanuts in a recipe? If so, leave a comment and share it with us all!

Next week, I’ll talk about some ideas for replacing milk and other dairy products in recipes.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Replacing Eggs in Recipes

by Kelley Lindberg

Last week, I talked about how sometimes making a favorite family recipe safe for a food-allergic person can be as simple as replacing one or two ingredients with a safe substitute. This week, I’ll offer a few ideas for replacing eggs in recipes.

If someone in your family is allergic to eggs, it can seem like a real challenge to eliminate eggs from your favorite recipes. Fortunately, there are several ways to replace eggs that really work, and in most cases no one will be able to tell you’re using a safe substitute. This is true for recipes that aren’t loaded down with eggs – for example, you wouldn’t want to try to make a quiche with one of these recipes, and brownies and angel food cake don’t work well, either.

But for recipes calling for three eggs or less, here are some of the egg replacements I’ve used. (The following quantities replace one egg. If you need to replace 2 eggs, double the substitute, etc.):

1 tsp baking powder, mixed with 1 Tbsp water or apple juice and 1 Tbsp white vinegar – This mixture works beautifully in most baked goods – cakes, breads, cookies, etc. Breads rise nicely, and you can’t taste the vinegar. This is my favorite home-made substitute to use in baking. It’s great even if you aren’t allergic to eggs and you just run out in the middle of a recipe! It will foam up (think science fair volcano!), so it’s fun for kids to help with.

Ener-G Egg Replacer – This is a great commercially available egg replacer mix made from potato starch and tapioca flour. It comes in a box, usually in the baking aisle. It works great in most baked goods, just like the vinegar mix above. You just mix a spoonful with some warm water, and you’re good to go. The box has lots of great recipes on it, too.

1/2 of a ripe banana, mashed – This works great in pancake mixes and other recipes where you want a banana flavor.

1/4 c. applesauce – Baked goods won’t bake rise as much if you just use applesauce; they might be a little more dense. Try using this in cookie recipes, pancake recipes, etc.

1 Tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 3 Tbsp of warm water – This works well, but some nut-allergic people are also allergic to flax, so use this with caution.

If you’re making a casserole that calls for eggs, you can try using a soy yogurt or soy sour cream instead. (Tofutti makes soy sour cream.) Or try using the Ener-G egg replacer.

Some recipes, such as breads, call for brushing eggs on top of the item as a glaze. Try brushing melted safe margarine or brushing rice milk on the bread instead.

I’ve heard Xanthum gum can be used as a binder, but I’ve never tried it.

If you have any egg-replacement ideas to share, please leave a comment with your great suggestions!

Over the coming weeks, I’ll talk about peanut and tree nut replacements, milk substitutions, and wheat replacements.

Monday, April 5, 2010

KUTV Channel 2: “Easter With Food Allergies”

by Kelley Lindberg

Last Friday, my son and I had our fifteen minutes (okay, more like three minutes) of fame. We got to represent the Utah Food Allergy Network (UFAN) on the KUTV Channel 2 News at Noon show. Debbie Worthen interviewed us in the studio for tips on enjoying Easter get-togethers even if you have food allergies. (UPDATE: I finally found a link to the video. Click here for the Easter with Food Allergies clip.)

I had about three days’ advance notice, which was about three days too long. It gave me that much time to get nervous. My son, on the other hand, was completely relaxed. The idea of getting nervous over a little thing like being on TV completely eludes him. He just shakes his head at my nerves and says, “Oh, Mom,” in that exasperated, “look what I have to deal with” way.

The interview went fine (despite my nerves), and we got to talk about several topics. The main idea I wanted to convey was that the most wonderful gift you can give a food-allergic person is to make them feel loved, wanted, and welcome in your home. And the best way to do that is to make sure the food you’re serving won’t make them sick or send them to the hospital. After all, nothing ruins a family gathering like having to dial 911 in the middle of it.

I also explained that the problem with food allergies is that you don’t have to eat a food allergen to get sick – even skin contact can cause a severe reaction. So it isn’t enough to say “Tell Little Johnny not to eat the casserole with nuts on it.” If everyone else in the room has eaten that casserole, they all have the nut proteins on their hands and lips, and if they touch Little Johnny or kiss him goodnight, that can be enough to cause him to have a reaction.

That’s probably the biggest learning curve for most families. Relatives often don’t understand why parents of food-allergic kids get so worried at family parties. They figure if the child just doesn’t eat the food, he’ll be fine. That may not be the case. They forget, or don’t understand, that the food proteins can get spread around the room and on toys, and that makes the risk of a reaction from skin contact sky-rocket.

I’ve actually heard kids say things like “Why did Aunt Betty bring that dessert, when she knows I’m allergic to it? Doesn’t she love me?” It’s a heart-breaking question to hear, and a challenging one to answer, since sometimes it seems that Aunt Betty is being deliberately obtuse, insisting that the holiday will be ruined if she doesn’t bring her traditional dish. To those of us with food allergies, it seems like a trip to the ER would ruin it even more.

That’s why I was glad I had the opportunity to talk about ways to find safe substitutes for common allergens in traditional recipes. The single most important tip is simply to call the person with the food allergies and say, “I’m thinking of cooking this recipe.” Then read them the ingredients, and ask, “How can I make this recipe safe?”

It’s surprising how many times a regular recipe can be made safe by eliminating or substituting one or two ingredients. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing a brand – using chocolate chips without milk or nuts, instead of your usual brand, for example.

We also got to talk about Easter eggs themselves – how egg-allergic kids can’t touch hard-boiled eggs, but they still like to decorate eggs, so look for paper-mache, plastic, foam, or wooden eggs at the craft store to decorate with paint, glitter, stickers, or ribbons. And instead of filling plastic eggs with unsafe candy for the big egg hunt, fill them with tiny toys or even coins. As my son explained on the show, coins are great if you’re planning a trip to someplace like DisneyLand, and you want the kids to have some spending money while they’re there.

I didn’t have time on the show to go into details about specific safe substitutes to use in recipes, so on the next two Mondays, I’m going to post some ideas for safe substitutes for milk, eggs, nuts, and wheat – some of the most common allergens used in some of the most common “party food.” And if you have some great ideas, feel free to share them in the Comments section, too.

Thanks again to KUTV for letting UFAN be a part of their 2News at Noon Easter newscast. For those of you interested in safe recipe substitutions, stay tuned…