Recipe Tips, Tricks and Substitutes

“Mom, do you like cooking?” My daughter Tayler asked one afternoon as I began pulling out ingredients for a new recipe back in 2008.

“Not really. It’s frustrating to spend time and energy cooking something everyone just complains about.”

Less than two weeks later, my older daughter, Elora’s test results came back. She also had CSID in addition her five-year-old brother.

I took a deep breath, pushing back tears as my mind swarmed with the many struggles I would surely face. Then I had to laugh, recalling Tayler’s question. Whether I liked cooking or not, my family needed to learn to eat differently. I needed to learn to cook the foods that were best for all of us. Elora would be going off to college before I could blink. And all of our kids could potentially have children with CSID one day. Creating good cooking and eating habits would be essential to their future health and the future health of my grandchildren.

I decided creating a cookbook that my daughter could bring with her to college would also become valuable to every family facing the many challenges involved in the CSID diet. During the past several years, that effort to share my successes as well as my failures has had many ups and downs.

No, I don’t like cooking or baking. With the exception of  doing so with my sisters and mother during the holidays, cooking does not bring me much joy. However, when my little Parker comes up to me and reaches up to wrap his tiny arms around my waist after finishing off a whole plate filled with my latest sugarless, starch-less meal, I know every bit of my efforts have been worth it!

Here is a quick reference list to some things I have found helpful while adjusting to cooking the CSID way. Hopefully these tips will give you needed motivation or help you get through one more day of experimental cooking. Maybe you will also reap a harvest of smiles around the table and requests for a second helping…

1) Take a deep breath and focus on what you can do today. With five children, a self-employed husband and my over-achieving personality, I have had to face the very real fact that I cannot do it all. Sometimes I have more money than time. Other days I have more time than money. I don’t always plan ahead and often I make compromises as a result. However, I take comfort in each day as a new beginning.

2) Make small goals and plan when you can. If you are just getting started cooking CSID-friendly foods, decide which meals and recipes are most important. If your child is suffering from major symptoms, take it one day at a time. Replace one meal at a time. Begin with ingredient substitutes (see below), then move onto entire meals. Remove “problem” foods from your child’s reach or from your house completely.

3) Get the whole family involved. Talk to your spouse, grandparents, and siblings about how important diet changes are to your child. Find the recipes that more closely resemble what your family normally eats. Perhaps you can try desserts first. Recruit older children to help you make a salad, push the button on the blender when making smoothies, or scoop the muffin batter into the muffin tins. Share recipes with extended family or bring enough to share at the next family gathering.

4) Batch bake to save both time and money. Some ingredients, such as almond flour, can be very expensive if purchased in small quantities. Now that I have my list of “best recipes” (those I know my kids will eat and that are great for on the go) I know that ordering 5 or even 10 pounds of almond flour will ensure I have plenty on hand to batch bake. Other ingredients that are best to buy in bulk include eggs, butter, honey, fructose and unsweetened coconut. Usually I set aside one morning during the week and plan to batch bake several recipes at once. This saves time since many of the ingredients are similar. The amount you bake will depend on how much storage space you have in your refrigerator or freezer. The recipes I typically batch bake are coconut macaroons, almond flour muffins or cookies, coconut flour crepes, knox blox and lima bean soup. It is wonderful to have so many CSID-friendly foods on hand. I use them for a quick breakfast, school lunches, after-school snacks or as dessert leverage (yes, bribery!) when experimenting with a new dinner recipe.

5) Recipe tricks and tips. Every time I use a recipe, I discover something new. Sometimes I do not have all the ingredients I need. Other times I realize my directions needs tweaking. Some recent examples include…

  •  Omitting the paper cups for muffin or macaroon recipes. Almond flour sticks worse than any other flour! The last few times I have made muffins, I have generously greased the muffin tins with butter or coconut oil, and left out the muffin cups. A silicone or rubber spatula works great to remove the muffins as well. Cool for just a few minutes, then remove muffins to finish cooling on a rack.
  • Medium-High heat and less batter for coconut flour crepes. Make sure the pan is hot, butter is melted and that you use just enough batter to cover the pan. The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup of batter per crepe, when in reality 2 tablespoons is more accurate. Make sure the crepe cooks to the point of browning, and flip by lifting up just the edge of the crepe. Don’t try to get the spatula under the entire crepe (as you would with a pancake) or the crepe can break.
  • Cook extra chicken, turkey breast or vegetables. Cube, crumble and store for the next day’s meals. Cubed chicken can be added to salads for lunch. Cooked ground turkey and chopped veggies such as broccoli can be added to scrambled eggs for breakfast.

6) Ingredient Substitutes. Do you ever come across a recipe in a magazine that looks great, but your not sure how to substitute ingredients to make the recipe acceptable for the CSID diet? Most of my recipes were inspired by traditional recipes. Some of these exchanges are basic, while others may not be so obvious.

  • Use sea salt instead of regular salt. Even though salt of any kind can be digested, the benefits of sea salt are becoming so mainstream, that many packaged foods now boast it as their salt of choice. After using only sea salt for the past five or more years, I can now tell a huge difference in taste. Sea salt adds an authentic flavor and is void of the chemical side affects processed salt can create.
  • Exchange equal amounts of crystalline fructose for sugar.
  • White cooked lima beans replace other beans, pasta or rice. I usually purchase several cans of lima beans called “butter beans”. Be careful to read ingredient lists so that you know no sugar or starches are added. To remove added salt, drain beans and place in a small bowl with enough distilled water to cover beans. Soak for 15 minutes, and rinse in a collander. Then add sea salt to taste after warming. These beans also make a great thickening substitute for cream sauces or soups that normally call for white flour or cornstarch. Simply blend until smooth.
  • Almond flour for white flour. Since almond flour has a very different composition than white flour, a direct exchange for a traditional recipe will not work. Generally, almond flour bakes like quick bread. The best alternative I have found is to take one of my almond flour recipes, such as the banana-nut muffins and swap out the “flavor” ingredients. Exchange mashed banana and walnuts for shredded carrots (carrot cake), shredded apples (apple muffins), shredded zucchini, blueberries or strawberries, or grated cheese for a variety of flavors. Almond flour mixed with melted butter is also a great crust substitute for either pizzas or pies.
  • Spaghetti squash or cauliflower as a starch substitute. Spaghetti squash can be used for a pasta, as a dessert with honey and butter, added to muffins, soups and more. I use cauliflower as a crust substitute (see Hawaiian Pizza), fake mashed potatoes, instead of pasta, flaked with butter instead of rice and more.

Do you have recipe tips, tricks and substitutes to share? Have you come up with any of your own recipe ideas using these ideas or others? I would love your comments!

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