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Help needed SO badly in coming up with recipes when available ingredients vary from week to week.

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 


new here, and I have a really kind of odd question, but I'm thinking if anyone can answer it, the folks here would be it.


I have a rare disorder where I react allergically to things that aren't my allergens. It's made my diet very, very limited, and unfortunately, these abnormal allergic reaction can alter at any time. Sometimes I can gain foods, but any physical stressor can make me lose them. For example, I can get a virus and I suddenly have allergic reactions to, say, potatoes. And it may go away when the virus is gone, or it may be permanent. 


This has wreaked havoc on my ability to cook good tasting food, as you can imagine. From one month to the next, I never know what ingredients will suddenly be unavailable to me. Just as an example, 4 years ago I lost soy, all grains, corn and dairy. 3 years ago, I could no longer have any spices so I grow fresh herbs now.  2 years ago I couldn't have anything fermented. Last year I lost all alliums, so no more garlic and onion.  And a few weeks ago I lost tomatoes, avocados, and all citrus.


And I'm hoping someone here will be able to help me figure out this: what techniques or resources help you when you need to be able to come up with a recipe on the fly, when you may not be able to use it long enough to play around with it?


I can cook with the ingredients I have, but the food is so often bland, or not tasty. I am hoping to find some resources or techniques that might help me figure out - more quickly - ways to add flavor. And to learn...I guess to learn more flexibility so I can mix and match the foods I still have left, if that makes sense?


Because otherwise, it takes me a few weeks to figure out new recipes, and then by the time I do that, my 'safe to eat' list changes and I have to make up entirely new recipes.


Anyone have any ideas? Some good books, or blogs, maybe?  Ideas for what to do - look up spice flavors, or...anything? I've tried to simply play around with my cooking, but I just can't seem to keep up with the rapidity of my dietary changes (I do not think I am destined to be a good chef. It doesn't come naturally to me.).


Appreciation in advance for any ideas you might have!

post #2 of 11

I know this is a bit off topic , but what is the name of this disorder. 

I just want to do some research before answering. 

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.



Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.


post #3 of 11

Like KK I am curious about what this is. It seems wrong to say you "react allergically to something that is not your allergen" .. rather your allergens are changing rapidly. Makes sense a virus may trigger a change in your immune systems reaction to foods in that case.


But to answer your question, there are a number of recipe sites out there that allow you to select one or more ingredients. This site in particular seems to stay very focused on one ingredient so perhaps it would help you find tastier ways of dealing with something that you presume to be safe for you. I assume you are looking for recipes to follow since you don't have enough time to experiment and develop your own.

Welcome to ChefTalk by the way :)

post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks for responding, Kaiquekuisine and eastshores. Appreciate it.


The disorder is a called Mast Cell Activation Disorder (MCAD for short). For looking-into-it purposed, Kaiquekuisine, it's related to something called Mastocytosis. This is probably the best place for information on it: http://www.tmsforacure.org/documents/TMSERBrochure.pdf


Eastshores - sorry the language was odd, but it's actually accurate. I have almost no allergies, bizarrely enough. This disorder causes my mast cells to react abnormally so that rather than requiring an allergen to trigger an allergic reaction, my mast cells can trigger to any physical, environmental, or emotional trigger, so on top of food, things like heat, cold, or getting really angry during an argument. Since mast cells are involved in fighting off viruses, when you catch a virus they get even more crazy, basically, yeah. 


It's been a real roller coaster of a time figuring out what was wrong all these years, but now that I have, I finally feel like I can STOP having such boring food and focus on something fun and positive, like new tasty dishes!


Thank you for the site recommendation. I will go check that out. I would love to find recipes, yes, although would also be happy to just find...I don't even know what to call it...maybe ideas for flavor or texture combinations that could be incorporated into dishes, if that makes sense? I just have trouble sometimes finding recipes that I can focus down to enough ingredients that I don't have to substitute half of them, so they are still palatable. Hopefully that site will be able to help me narrow it down much more. :-)


Again, thanks for your time!

post #5 of 11

Maybe look into Japanese cooking? Not for the particular ingredients, but they really made an art of elevating the minimum amounts of ingredients to fantastic dishes. Those techniques could perhaps help if you are really limited regarding your available foods. I feel your pain, I got my own auto-immune shit going on here, thankfully, not food-related. More of a stress thing.

post #6 of 11

Forget recipes learn technique. Once you've learned technique you can cook anything. Learn to braise, learn to roast, learn to saute, learn to season properly, learn to reduce, learn to thicken, learn to strain, learn to simmer, learn to cut, learn to chop, learn to temp, etc...


Then given any sorts of ingredients, you can then decide what you want to do with it. Recipes chain you, technique frees you.

Apprentichef - Six stitches to go home early and you can't die until your shift is over.



Apprentichef - Six stitches to go home early and you can't die until your shift is over.


post #7 of 11

Shaunamom.. thank you for sharing what seems to be a very difficult disease with us.


I think GeneMachine and Apprectichef are hitting the right points. You seemed to be trapped by your inability to deal with ingredients. We can help you get started.. can you explain where you are at as far as the kitchen is concerned?

post #8 of 11

I would definetly work with less ingredients and look into asian cuisine. 

Ingredients and styles pertaining to Chinese, Japanese, and Indian cuisne, considering their use of spices and sauces. 

I dont think you really need recipes and yes learning techniques and playing around with your own creativity and developing you own style of cooking. 


To me i would make a list pertaining to ingredients to can eat and enjoy eating. For every vegetable, fruit or protein come up with a few meals you can do with each using or changing ingredients and as well as using different styles of cooking. 


Sorry to hear about this condition, but "what doesnt kill you only makes you stronger right"?!

Im sure this is just another objective to be conquered and who knows maybe you can help others with a similiar problem or condition. 

People usually publish alot of cook books for people with allergies or food conditions, you may just be the next one. :D

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.



Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.


post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thank you all so much, and so sorry you're going through your own physical troubles, GeneMachine. Thank goodness for the internet and being able to connect up to other people like this!  Helps so much finding advice when one is in need, yes?


And thank you all for the advice on techniques rather than recipes, especially in the Asian traditions; that makes a lot of sense. 


I had kind of started down that road with baking when I had to go gluten free, but then lost all my grains and stopped. I think partly because I was looking at a lot of Western-centric books when it was all going downhill, so my main focus whenever I saw something was 'I can't eat any of this.'  Kind of blinded me to 'I can use this technique on something I CAN eat.' 



I like your idea of making a list, KaiqueKuisine, especially with styles of cooking - I think that would help. Probably help when a food changes but there is one similar that I can use the same techniques on, especially.



Eastshores - I'm not entirely sure I understand the question about where my kitchen is concerned. Is that the kitchen itself, like what equipment I have, or is it more in terms of what I can use in the kitchen in terms of food? I figure I'll answer both, so either way it's answered. ^_~



I have an electric stove (boy do I miss the gas one), a solar oven, and a microwave. I've also got a juicer, a food processor, a big mortar and pestle, and an electric ice cream maker. I have some generic cast iron, stainless steel, and glass pots, pans, and casserole-type dishes. Small bamboo steamer. Wok doesn't work well on my stove. Can use silicone. Can't use anything non-stick.  




- For most ingredients, I have to get it in season, which is often some of the challenge. I am still adjusting to only being able to have a fruit or veggie for a few weeks out of the year. I can freeze some for future use, but often there are very limited quantities so it only extends my ability to use it by a few extra meals-worth of that ingredient.


Fats - rendered beef fat or extra virgin olive oil (organic, from a specific family run operation, but they don't make any that is not extra virgin).


Sweeteners - stevia leaves (from the garden), reduced apple juice, other fruits on my good list (can only find apples in enough bulk to reduce) (I have tried ever sweetener and syrup I know of without success, from every store and ethnic market I could find. I kind of liked my sweets. >_<)


Herbs, spices, and seasonings - (CAN'T have onions, garlic, pepper, mustards, nutmeg, cinnamon, anise, cloves, or paprika.) I can have sea salt. I can have ginger, turmeric, and galangal. And otherwise, if I can grow it myself, I can have it. I have the basic herbs like parsley, cilantro (and coriander), oregano, sage, rosemary, marjoram, thyme. I also have basil, lemon grass, thai basil, savory, burnet, green shiso, bay laurel, pineapple sage, fennel (fronds), dill, Mexican tarragon, onion seeds (which I don't react to, oddly enough), and German chamomile. Managed a tiny bit of fenugreek and am still working on growing cumin. Might be able to eventually get some other Asian spices to grow, so if anyone has some that you like to use in your cooking, I'd appreciate the suggestion to go explore if I can grow it. :-)  Oh, I also have chiltepines and chile peppers of all kinds.


Proteins -

meat - salmon (filets) or organic, grass fed beef (meat or organs) or bison (meat only). 

beans - Heirloom chickpeas, cranberry beans, and tepary beans. Maybe a few other varieties, but not black, white, kidney, or pinto. 

Seeds - if I grow/process them myself - sunflower, squash seeds, melon seeds, bell pepper seeds, chile seeds

nuts - organic pecans, about 10-15 pounds a year.


Fruits - apples (cameo, pink lady, gala), red or d'anjou pears, cantaloupe, watermelon, or honeydew, pomegranates, prickly pear fruit, saguaro fruit. Everything else I've tried so far has bombed, from simple things like plums to buddha's hand and dragon fruit.


Vegetables - (CAN'T have any alliums like leeks or onions, or any brassicas, like broccoli, cauliflower, mustards, bok choy) I can have sorrel, varieties of lettuce, bell peppers (just not dried), persian cucumbers, zucchini, carrot, broad beans/green beans, yellow squash, and winter squashes. In small quantities, I can have sweet potato, potato, avocado, eggplant, and some mushrooms. I may be able to have more exotics, like gobo root, jicama, or true yams, but I am still looking for safe sources to try, or how to grow. Any suggestions of some interesting veggies to check out would be greatly appreciated!




And...hopefully one of those two was what you were looking for, Eastshores...it was actually really helpful for me to just write it down so I can see it all. Make me realize just how many herbs I have that I haven't played around with in a while!


This has been so helpful, and it's making me feel really hopeful about improving my meals. Thank you so much, you guys, truly.

post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by KaiqueKuisine View Post

People usually publish alot of cook books for people with allergies or food conditions, you may just be the next one. :D


Heh - I think right now, my cookbook would be 'here's what not to do if you don't want to scare your tastebuds into a revolt,' LOL.  It would be like the cookbook of cautionary tales! :-D

post #11 of 11

Thanks Shauna! From your list of ingredients, I immediately thought about some arabic or north african stuff, too - some chickpeas, some beef, some of your vegetable list, pomegranate seeds for garnish... Lots of potential there.

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