"The recipes I loved were giving me the finger": Adapting to my child's life-threatening food allergies as a foodie

November 23 | Guest post by SonyaG
SAY NO TO #SunnySideUp! #YellowLivesMatters
By: pushkargujarCC BY 2.0

I am a foodie. I love food. Cooking is rarely a chore for me, and I happily find the time to do it. I'm one of those people that try those recipes you see on Pinterest, and most often succeeded. I get freakishly excited over stuff like a new, unknown vegetable in my CSA basket. I also used to obsessively follow a bunch of food-related blogs and I looked forward to the beginning of the month for my magazines to arrive.

Then a year ago, life dropped a bomb smack where it hurts the most for me: My five-year-old suddenly developed a severe life-threatening allergic reaction to eggs.

Eggs. Wtf? I never even knew you could be allergic to eggs! Turns out, eggs are actually the third most frequent allergy, after milk and fish.

So when the diagnosis came, obviously we became an egg-free home.

It affected me deeply. Personally. Not just as a concerned mom, but this allergy took one of my greatest passions and prevented me from indulging. Before, the only thing restricting my cooking inspiration was boyfriend's meat-and-potato-lover distrust of anything green. Now, suddenly, most of the recipes I loved were giving me the finger.

I've had major health issues and I'm a champ at adapting. But somehow, restricting what I took pleasure in was a punishment much more difficult to swallow than chronic health deterioration or freak accidents. So I was angry.

I quit reading my beloved food blogs. More than two thirds of the recipes in there, I couldn't try in my egg-free kitchen…

Keep your home-made pasta, I won't be trying your secret trick for the perfect ravioli. And your lobster salad looks awesome, but it has mayonnaise. But there were a few recipes I could, and did, try and those I treasured. Glorious triple fudge cake with chili powder in the batter — you won't ever make me again! Bye-bye, grandma's secret recipe skitterdoodle cookies! No, you will never make these awesome six-ingredient asian meatballs that the whole school raved about. (Oh, you can try, but they will disintegrate into mush without eggs!) And doesn't that Caesar salad look dreamy? Yes, you can have it, but no dressing. Argh.

But I kept the "selfish" part of the allergy impact to myself. I mean, my kiddo is the one who's allergic — I need to be supportive of her. Like every diagnosis, it takes a while to get your life back to a new normal.

She was five when she nearly died, so she knows how real her allergy is. And I know that she will not be trying to sneak egg products behind my back, which has been a relief. She eats her own lunch, not her friend's. Eating out is suddenly so stressful and complicated, but she asks for the ingredients and, when in doubt, she does not eat questionable recipes. I do not expect others to accommodate her. She is an active participant in her own well-being.

Of course, she had a few melt-downs of the "Why can all the other kids have birthday cake, not me?" kind. And yes, she deserves ice-cream and cake and cookies and my heart breaks every time she can't have them. So we developed a pact that helped us both get through this together…

When she is offered something she can't eat, and has to refuse, she remembers what it is. And later, I will Google it and attempt an egg-free version. She gets treated to a feeling of being normal, and I reclaimed some of the fun in cooking challenges!

Our pact has made things easier, for both of us. Because after the diagnosis, cooking was a chore at first. I had always loved it, and now I had to do it. Which was no fun. But, in time, I did find great egg-free recipes. With a few epic misses. (Still searching for a meatloaf recipe, if anyone has one.)

And then, over time, boredom and habit made me return to the food blogs I used to love, too. And they don't make me angry anymore. Just like I read travel articles with no budget to fly any time soon, or I look at home decoration shows, those egg-y recipes are inspiration now. They are not close to my heart like a good friend coaxing me into new adventures like before. Now they are like high-fashion models, beautiful and unrealistic. They are a challenge, a concept, and an idea that I can evolve into a good alternative.

I am still a foodie.

Now I am forced to carve my own path. Sometimes I am proud. And sometimes it's more work. Sometimes I embrace it. And sometimes I wish for the freedom I took for granted before. But it is all worth it, because I very much like to see my kid breathing.

You deal with curve-balls as they come. Sometimes, you just have to change your mind-set.

  1. Hampton Creek has the plant based Mayo, completely egg free. I use it for everything. They're also working on plant based eggs, so you may be in luck soon!

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  2. It's great you've been able to regain your love of cooking! I've used chia seeds in the place of eggs in veggie fritters, it works surprisingly well and there are heaps of egg free cake recipes, the ones with orange juice are especially good.

    As someone not allergic to but who HATES egg I would appreciate a few suggestions for where to look for good recipes. I won't get sick if I eat egg but I really hate it. And egg is a flavour that sticks out no matter what it is in, particularly in deserts, I taste sugar and cream and fried eggs, a disgusting combination!!

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  3. I totally feel you. I absolutely self identify as a cook and get a lot of joy out of preparing, cooking, and serving meals. When my youngest was diagnosed with severe food allergies and Failure to Thrive as a result I was floored. For the obvious health and safety issues but also for the impact this had on my daily life. I was nursing at the time and had to restrict my diet to one that wouldn't put my baby back in the hospital. My dad helped me by telling me I should take these new restrictions and make it a personal challenge. To make a gourmet meal that everyone can eat and enjoy. Evidently that is what he did when we were all growing up and he had to cook for children with Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. Now I scour food blogs in search of recipes I can twerk to make allergy friendly.

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    • I am in the midst of the anger following my daughter's diagnosis of wheat, peanut, eggs and dairy allergy. I'm still nursing her so while part of my brain knows it is for the best, I'm so hungry and pissed off that I have to alter my diet. I cried thinking about all the Christmas baking I can't do this year. I'm glad to hear other people have made it through to the other side.

      1 agrees
      • Ugh yeah I was having trouble the first few months. With the hunger. So much hunger. I'm a life long vegetarian and my son has a server egg, soy and diary allergy. He was a preemie and we discovered that breast milk basically caused his stomach to bloat uncontrollably and then vomit non stop. It was very scary. Lots of testing and weight loss (his not mine) later we discovered the food allergies. But now 2 years later and he's a healthy weight and I hardly notice what my diet doesn't have in it anymore.

        p.s. look at homemade Lara bar cookies. Delicious and pretty allergy friendly.

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  4. My 21 month old has an egg allergy as well. (He is also allergic to peanuts and soy which make things even trickier, but that has no impact on this right now.) I have found that I can sub a 'flax egg' in for regular eggs in things like cookies, MEATLOAF, muffins, etc. 1T ground flax seed, 3T water. Let sit in the fridge for 5-10 minutes and it gets the thick viscous consistency like an egg. You can also use chia seeds, although I haven't tried it yet. There is also an egg substitute, called Ener-G I believe. I haven't tried it yet but it is on my list. I am learning how to sub eggs in cooking but it can be challenging. As for mayo, Target has am eggless brand, JustMayo, that tastes like the real thing.

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    • Just as a heads up, most egg substitutes contain soy. The only one I know of that doesn't is the Vegg.

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      • Ener-G does not. It is, as I recall, a mix of tapioca, potato, corn starch. I'm not 100% sure on the ingredients, but I know there is no soy because I have a soy allergy, and some Ener-G sitting my cupboard.

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        • Oooh, that's good to know. I still can't use it because of the corn, but I know quite a few people with soy allergies so I can pass that on.

          1 agrees
          • I'm glad someone mentioned the flax thing-it should work well for your meatloaf/meatball recipes.

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  5. I'm sorry to hear about the allergies impacting your family– it can be awful.
    If you're looking for some more possible solutions, perhaps I can help! I am also a foodie. I'm a foodie that is allergic to eggs, soy, corn, celery, carrots, peanuts, and a few other things. I have had to learn to adapt, and while I still sometimes have things that I simply can't eat, there are definitely things I can do to make my favorite recipes.

    I 100% swear by the Vegg. It is an egg and soy free egg substitute specifically made for baking/cooking, and I can honestly say that I can't tell the difference in my food. I buy mine on Amazon. The company also makes a version that can be used specifically for making scrambled eggs, but I haven't felt the need to try those out. I use the Vegg in baking all the time and have yet to have it fail me. The one downside is that it smells kind of like sulfur when you first mix it up. Yuck. Tastes fab, though.

    Vegenaise makes an awesome soy-free/egg free mayo. It tastes pretty much the same to me, although I haven't had any of my friends try it to see what they think.

    I don't know if you ever use biscuits from a tube, but if you do Pillsbury now makes "Simply" biscuits that are egg/soy/corn free and delicious.

    Also, give your kid a fist bump of solidarity from me. I get the tantrums, I literally cried yesterday when it dawned on me that I will probably never eat a Twix again.

    2 agree
  6. Just piping up to say that if you haven't tried the Jeni's ice cream cookbook, it's a good one- there's definitely an amazing egg-free base (which I prefer because I have crazy paranoias about undercooked egg, and I never quite trust eggy ice cream.)

    1 agrees
  7. I was diagnosed with several food allergies in my early 20s, and it was devastating for me. Wheat, rye, barley, oats, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame. Yes, I am allergic to ALL THAT. It impacted my daily life because it was food I ate on a daily basis, all the time. It impacted my relationships because it would hurt the feelings of people who would try so hard to accommodate me with "gluten free cake because she can't have wheat"
    but it has almond meal in it, or "hummus, because the cheese dip has soy in it" but there is sesame in hummus. Every recipe, every regular restaurant, and many regular social dynamics had to be changed–I had to start from scratch. It was as rough for the people around me as it was for me, being the person ordering *just* a drink at a restaurant because there is literally nothing else on the menu that I can safely consume.

    But after a while, I found my niche. I found my favorite recipes, I found a handful of restaurants I can regularly eat at. Yes, it is hard; I often have to skip meals. But I am much healthier because of it. The allergies have forced me to become hyper-aware of what is going in my food, especially because soy is so hidden, so I've become much healthier for it.
    I know how to make food from scratch. That is something I never would have done had I not developed allergies. I used to eat ramen and boxed macaroni and cheese as actual meals on a daily basis, and would habitually out at Quizno's so often I the staff knew me by name. I weigh about 30 pounds less than I used to, and have so much more energy. Silver lining.

    I truly appreciate this post as I am thinking about having children, and I know that they will probably not eat select foods simply because we don't have them in the house. I am almost confident any child I have will have similar ailments.

    It sounds like you found your niche. There are lots of egg alternatives (flax, gelatin), so don't give up on the egg recipes just yet!

    1 agrees
    • And get a homemade icecream machine! You can make some of the most delicious 3 or 4 ingredient ice creams with no eggs!

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  8. Eggs are a tough one! Our little girl had an egg allergy from about 6 months to about 18 months. (We were able to help her outgrow it using the 'muffin therapy' (ask your allergist) so we're now allergy-free.)

    I love your challenge and that it's brought joy back to food and cooking for both of you.

    Homemade ice cream was a lifesaver for us (we have the Kitchenaid attachment and A Perfect Scoop for recipes), and for her first birthday cake we did an egg-free chocolate cake with applesauce as a substitute. Super delicious – it actually beat out the family favorite German chocolate cake. http://www.egglesscooking.com/2011/03/09/chocolate-layer-cake/

    1 agrees
  9. If you're looking for any specific recipes I might be able to help! I have a little black book stashed in my kitchen of recipes either perfected or in progress that have no egg. My sister was diagnosed no-egg about 14 years ago; and with my mom no-dairy and my brother no food coloring, or anything in the benzoate or sulfide family cooking regularly for them is bit tricky, but I'm a cook both professionally and as a hobby so I cook!

    I've had a lot of luck with mid-30's recipes. Since it was war-era and everything was rationed a lot of the recipes have no eggs or milk. Wacky cake is a fantastic egg free cake base that can be made chocolate, spice, carrot, or red velvet (still tinkering with vanilla it tastes like vinegar too much still)

    As for meatloaf (or meatballs) just use your normal recipe but with a handful of mashed potato and a teaspoon of xanthan gum (it's a thickening and binding agent) instead of eggs. A lot of people already recommended egg substitutes but I run out of those too fast so I save them for baking.

    Good luck to you!!

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    • Powdered gelatin might work too. Bloom it in some beef broth and then add it to the mix.

      1 agrees
    • Yes to Wacky Cake! We call it Jiffy Cake in my family, and it's a staple at every birthday. My grandmother also had a great cookie recipe that is eggless from around the same time.

      1 agrees
  10. I have a friend who is anaphylactic and her husband is celiac, so you can imagine that meals are tricky in their household! Most items at the supermarket are off limits to them. Our local supermarket (Coles, for Aussie readers) has a wonderful selection of allergen free and vegan items- pasta, cake mix, sauce, chips. The sweet potato, red sweet potato and taro chips are literally the bomb! AND they dont contain nuts, soy, egg and wheat. WIN!

    Another lifesaver for them has been the purchase of a thermomix. With that they can cook all their food themselves and know what ingredients their food contains. I'm not sure about America, but the brand often advertises in Australia as a great kitchen helper for people with food allergies.

    Lastly, Pinterest is your friend for finding recipes that don't contain allergens. There are sooo many on there and they are all mouth-wateringly good!

    1 agrees
    • Trick with Thermomix is to find someone who is ALREADY nuts about the machine and has brought all the recipe books to go with them. (My mother, next door neighbour and husband have all jointed the cult of Thermomix.)

  11. I can understand the combination of frustration and fun experimenting that comes with a restricted diet. I am a vegan, and it is actually fairly exciting to try and find new recipes. Once you close doors, you start to get excited about opening new ones. And I think eggs were the hardest thing to give up because they keep things together. I would recommend buying a vegan baking book, and if you want use normal butter and milk where recipes call for it (but the vegan in me says to use soy milk ^__~)

    My suggestion is also not to be too above vegan substitutes. I know lots of people are put off when a vegan says "IT TASTES JUST LIKE…..!!!!" and it clearly doesn't. No my cookies don't taste just the same as Grandma's but most people wouldn't notice unless they ate them right after each other to compare. If you want foodie food that is vegan (just won't have eggs) I suggest Olives for Dinner. She has the exotic complicated foods and no, she doesn't skimp on fats. Again, you don't need to use the fake vegan options, but I suggest to try anyways! I know cashew ricotta isn't the same as dairy ricotta, but sometimes you want that different taste.

    And as some people have mentioned there are lots of vegan/eggless egg options. Like chia or flax seed ground up and mixed with water, fruit/veggie purees in baked goods, egg powders, tofu (for scrambles), besan (for omelets or getting a nice crisp outside on french toast), and there is Kala Namuk to achieve an eggy flavor. And Follow Your Heart now has a vegan egg, it comes in a carton, but I have no idea how it works. I hear a lot of people loving it. Oh! And there is also aquafaba. This is the liquid from chickpeas. It whips up into stiff peaks. I haven't tried it out yet outside of a cocktail, which was a little too strong of a chickpea flavor. BUT a lot of people have made some yummy macarons, frostings, and are using it often in cookies and baked goods. It can be frustrating but man, you will have tons of fun new things to do in the kitchen.

    4 agree
    • I totally use vegan recipes when I cook for my mother and father in law – they both can't have gluten, dairy or eggs, as well as a whole host of other things. Searching for vegan recipes is far easier. Then I just substitute as I go along for the things they can't have. Don't be afraid to do that – I made a lovely fish pie a few months ago that I just substituted the milk for the free from milk they use. Still tasted great.

  12. My family is egg free (among other things) because both my mother and brother are highly allergic. I highly recommend veganaise for a mayo substitute. I'd eat it instead of real mayo any day. Also some who are allergic to chicken eggs are not allergic to other kinds of eggs like duck eggs (that's what my family eats now) so you might want to ask your doctor about the possibility of that. Also egg replacer and apple sauce are life savers for baking purposes.

  13. Eggs?? So … I am a vegan I gave up eggs, milk, dairy and meat… Yes it makes cooking harder but it makes you much more creative and adventurous. The animals matter to me more then my taste buds. I guess I am saying your lucky its only eggs. Just keep trying new recipes two years vegan I don't miss eggs at all you won't either eventually.

    2 agree
  14. I empathize completely. I am a foodie from a culinary focused home (2 chefs, and a splendid home cook). My daughter inherited a family allergy to raw tomatoes, no problem. Then my son and I were diagnosed with celiacs (yes, by a GI dr). In the hell of trying to adjust, we found out my daughter is highly allergic to almonds (Swedish almond cake anyone ). I have mourned and continue to mourn my losses. Like you, our whole home cooperates (though my daughter does eat gluten, I won't force it on someone that doesn't need it. I just can't and don't have it in my home ). We are much more creative now and have gotten pretty good at substitute recipes and byob (bring your own bread). I hope you continue to find inspiration in the challenges.

    2 agree
  15. Try binding meat loaf with flax seeds!

    I do feel for you. In my family we had diagnosed allergies to sulfites, sucrose and gluten in my son. Then my daughter came along and started vomiting from eggs and coconut. So I learned to be a very creative cook.

    I was crying in GP's office, complaining that I couldn't possibly deal with all these food restrictions. She suggested that we start eating fermented foods to see if that would help, and it did! It took about a year of eating tons of ferments, but they honestly both "grew out" of their allergist diagnosed problems (none of which were life threatening, our issues were with eczema in my son, and vomiting from both ends in my daughter). Now I have a fermentation blog! http://www.fermentingforfoodies.com

    Only the gluten issues persist (we'll test for celiacs some day… just not brave enough to have him eat all that wheat).

  16. Husband is allergic to eggs, deeply so, and we have a ton of food allergies beside in the house — wheat/gluten, shellfish, pine nuts, kiwi, pineapple, and no pork. It is hard and challenging to adapt to the new dietary normal. But it is so very possible to bake with substitutes, and having allergies doesn't mean letting go of the old favourites, it means making them in new ways. I thought I'd never have my Vovo's sweetbread again, but Husband found a way to make it gluten-free and vegan, and it tastes almost identical. I thought I'd never eat bialys again, but even having never had them before, Husband found a way to make them vegan and gluten-free. There are so many communities for people with food challenges — vegan blogs, food allergy blogs, celiac blogs, etc — and finding a few where people are dealing with your issues helps immensely. You get to learn from their mistakes, which means avoiding them in your own, and that's so important to getting over the deprivation feeling of food restrictions.

    It also means that you have to start thinking outside the box, as well as get into the science of what different elements do in a recipe. Eggs are binders, they're fat, they're protein, and they're lift. All of those jobs can be achieved by a substitute, once you know what the purpose of the egg is in the recipe. And that's the sneaky, clever part that makes you look like a damn genius when you figure it out and replace the egg without anyone being the wiser. There's no greater feeling than having someone go, "what do you mean, there's no diary/eggs/wheat in this?!?" And it's totally possible, says the woman prepping for Thanksgiving. It sucks, and you do have to go through a re-drafting of what is a go-to food for you. But once you do and you get the new foods in your wheelhouse, the experimentation and joy come back into it.

    1 agrees
    • A bit more here about using chickpea (an other legume) brine as egg replacer, or specifically egg white replacer, it really does seem to work much the same way egg white does in almost any context, ie; to give structure/lift as in meringues and baking, to give body when whipped as in mayonnaise and buttercream and to bind as in fishcakes, burgers, etc. All done with success in the article!

      As someone with both vegans and people who allergic to eggs in my extended family I’m going to give these a try, the only thing I am concerned about is the that making sure I compensate for the lack of yolk. This basically just supplies richness and like all fats contributes to tenderness of crumb, therefore certainly when baking I’m going to up my chosen fat and boost background flavour with something like vanilla.

      http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/sep/29/aquafaba-chickpea-liquid-baking-egg-white-substitute

      1 agrees
  17. This is one of those things I randomly worry about happening, even though I do not have kids yet

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  18. I don't use egg in my meatloaf, I wrap it in bacon so it doesn't fall apart. But I do still use breadcrumbs in it which I understand bread has eggs in it. Hmm. I can see just how challenging it truly is!!!! I'm sorry that happened to your daughter and to you. I appreciate an inside look on frustration with your kids, some days I feel like the WORST parent in the world when I get frustrated like this when it's relating or directly caused by my kiddos.

    • Most breads don't contain egg, unless it's an enriched dough (like brioche or similar). Basic bread recipe is flour, water, yeast and a little fat (usually oil or butter).

      1 agrees
      • In theory bread shouldn't have eggs, but a lot of rolls have them. I think people use them for flavor and an egg wash. Milk is often added for flavor as well. I get a lot of weird looks but I always ask at restaurants for veggie burgers and the like. Most of the time they don't, but I know a few that do have them (*cough* Zinburger) Also many gluten-free breads have eggs to replace the gluten proteins found in wheat.

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  19. Your mileage may vary, but as a vegetarian I tend to find my favorite meals to cook and eat are those that aren't centered around substitutes. When I decided to go vegetarian at 13, my diet was entirely vegan hot dogs. My mom talked me into allowing fish, and then every meal was fish. Now I'm in my twenties and, thanks to food blogs, have taught myself how to cook with a lot of veggies, grains, cheese and legumes in salads, stir frys, soups, and casseroles. It's been years since I bought a meat substitute for myself. Similarly, I've had to cook for gluten intolerant family before, and we enjoy corn tortilla tacos more than gluten free bread sandwiches, or a flourless chocolate cookie made with egg whites more than one made out of a gluten free baking mix, etc.
    Eggs can be much more pervasive than meat, so I don't know if this will be a completely satisfying solution, but rather than stressing about how to make egg-based meals without eggs, you could collect all your favorite eggless-by-design recipes. Explore different cuisines! There's a lot of room to learn, cook, and eat tasty allergy free recipes that don't have you bending over backwards.

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