I was overwhelmed when I was first diagnosed with food allergies. All my life I had enjoyed all food had to offer. I loved going to restaurants. So much so that any vacation included plans on where to eat. Las Vegas was always a favorite. So many celebrity chefs have restaurants there, and it was such a treat to choose. Likewise when we traveled to Disney World they had their international food fare. It is with great fondness that I still remember the escargot in a garlic butter sauce – so fabulous. Now it seems like another world ago. So what is on the menu?

At first, I floundered. For every success there was a failure. It was expensive and frustrating to create a good gluten-free flour. You can’t just substitute one ingredient, there needs to be a combination of various flours in order to get a decent result. I’m not sure how I discovered gfJules, but she makes a wonderful one-to-one substitute flour. From that point on, I began looking for substitutes.

Of course, egg is the biggest issue. You practically need a degree in food chemistry to figure out egg substitutions. It all has to do with how the egg is used in the recipe. Eggs and egg whites are so versatile that I have at least 6 different substitutes. Plus the experts say to limit your eggs to only two in a recipe. If you need more than two eggs, then you need to make multiple ingredient substitutions. I make a delicious lemon cake. My recipe has two egg substitutes. I use a two egg portion of an egg replacer, such as Neat Egg or Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer, and then use applesauce for the third egg. It works great and is one of the most requested recipes that I make.

Butter is not a problem, and I’ve even found butter flavored oil. Cheese is interesting. There are many choices for soft cheese. I believe many of the best ones are made from cashews. Cheese shred products are just okay. They are supposed to easily melt, but that has not been my experience. Most companies’ hard cheeses are still a work in progress. The exception is parmesan; there are several good ones that act and cook like the original.

I don’t know anyone else that has a pea allergy, but it’s pretty simple to watch for. The biggest thing to watch for on the ingredient label is pea protein. Most of the meat substitutes use pea protein. If my recipe calls for peas and it’s a color thing – think fried rice – then I can substitute green onions or edamame.

My process for reverse engineering a meal is simple. I pick something that I want to eat. Last night it was meatballs. I found a recipe that looked wonderful, so now I needed to make my substitutions. I print off the recipe so I can write comments on it, plus I note each ingredient that I substitute.

For the meatballs, the recipe called for ground beef, chopped onions, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Now for the modifications. For breadcrumbs I used Kikkoman gluten-free panko. I needed one egg, so it was Bob’s Red Mill egg substitute. Four ounces of Follow Your Heart parmesan cheese. Milk, of course I use my own Cheri’s HazelCream. Formed into balls, they bake in the oven.

Meanwhile I fixed gluten-free spaghetti according to package instructions. Pasta sauce was the final piece of the puzzle. When I served it to my husband, he said it took him back to his childhood, that it was a genuine comfort food dish.

And that’s my goal. An allergy friendly meal that the entire family will enjoy.

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