Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Corn-Free Basics

When coping with a new corn allergy, many people try to depend on packaged foods from the corn-free list at first. That can get you through the first few days if you live in a large metropolitan area with Whole Foods and Trader Joe's stores. Because of the limited list of foods that are corn-free, most people will get desperate fairly quickly for easy meals. "Easy meals" is a relative term, as you'll soon find. It's really important that you learn to cook at least a few basic things for yourself now that most convenience foods are out of the question. Here is a list of things I would put at the top of the list to master (youtube is a rich source of cooking videos):
  1. Dried Beans: refried beans, bean dip, hummus, bean soup, cold bean salads, red beans and rice, fried bean patties, etc.
  2. Brown Rice: Spanish rice, chicken and rice, rice cooked in broth, fried rice, rice and eggs, rice pudding, etc.
  3. Eggs: scrambled, fried, boiled perfectly, deviled eggs, omelets, baked eggs, egg salad, homemade mayonnaise, egg drop soup, egg noodles, quiche, frittatas, poached, etc.
  4. Wheat: muffins, quick bread, pancakes (can be used for sandwich bread), waffles, fritters, fried dough (make bread dough and pan or deep fry, roll in cinnamon sugar), rolls, buns (roll out a circle and fill with meat or bean mixture, close up and bake), crackers (a million variations possible), pies (there are tons of pies that can be made if you learn to make a simple pie crust in the food processor - it's a snap), bread sticks, garlic bread, toast (baked or fried), pasta, dumplings, cake, and on and on....
  5. Chicken: whole boiled chicken and broth (cook soups or rice with the broth and pull meat off bones to use in chicken salad, etc.), broiled chicken pieces, roasted whole chicken, chicken cut up and fried, etc.
  6. Salad Dressings: oil and vinegar, mustard vinaigrette, green goddess (avocado), ranch, parmesan, homemade Italian, etc.
  7. Vegetables: basic roasted veggies, dishes too numerous to list.....
Most of the ingredients needed for the dishes listed above are pretty easy to find. Here are the ones that I've found even with our limited shopping options (no Whole Foods or Trader Joe's here): 

  1. Beans: Pretty much any brand of dried beans including lentils and garbanzos from the local Indian market and Adzuki beans from the local Asian market. I can buy Eden canned beans from my local health food co-op but they are prohibitively expensive.
  2. Brown Rice: Lundberg organic from Kroger or Unenriched white rice from the Asian market.
  3. Eggs: farmers market - two of the five vendors carry safe eggs for me. One of them even has duck eggs. Look for organic eggs that haven't been washed in corny detergents or local eggs from farmers you can question. My eggs come straight from the farm dirty so I know they've not been corntaminated. I actually do better with duck eggs and I believe that's because they have an entirely foraged diet without corn or soy.
  4. Wheat: Private Selection organic unbleached, unenriched wheat flour. Many do well with King Arthur organic whole wheat flour as well.
  5. Chicken: I get pastured whole chickens and livers from a vendor at the farmers market. Empire chicken seems to be widely available and corn-free (I've never tried it because I seem to be in an Empire-free zone!).
  6. Salad Dressings: I buy Filippo Berio extra virgin olive oil in glass bottles from Kroger (refined oils contain citric acid), Gold Label virgin organic coconut oil from Tropical Traditions, Bragg organic apple cider vinegar, Eden Brown Mustard, Daisy Sour Cream (full fat - lite version contains corn), local pasteurized but not homogenized or fortified cow milk from a vendor at the farmers market (fortified milks contain corn)
  7. Vegetables: amazing veggies and fruit in season at my farmers market, Birdseye Deluxe Frozen vegetables from Walmart (NOT Steamfresh or ones with sauces or seasonings. I get a friend to pick up that one thing for me because we can't go in that store without a reaction).
As you can see, if you pick up the things on that list and keep a good supply of a few others*, you can have a huge variety in your diet as long as you learn to combine them creatively. *safe butter (Kerrygold salted butter), salt (Redmonds Real Salt or Morton canning salt), EVOO, cheese (Kerrygold from Sam's Club or Costco or Organic Valley from Kroger or the health food co-op), and seasonings (organic herbs and spice from Mountain Rose Herbs), Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, organic sugar (Private Selection from Kroger), onions (Kroger sweet), garlic (Elephant garlic - Kroger), celery (unbagged conventional celery - Kroger), peppers (farmers market only - dehydrate or freeze extras for winter), and citrus juice (Santa Cruz organic lemon juice and lime juice from Kroger).

I found it helpful in the beginning to look for recipes for specific things I had that I knew were safe. Try doing a google search for "egg recipes" or "cabbage recipes" or whatever safe ingredients you have accessible. This opened my eyes to many dishes from other cuisines and we've incorporated them into our diet. Sprinkling Indian or Mexican or Asian dishes in with your tried and true recipes will make your diet much more exciting.  

I love looking for dessert recipes on All Recipes by excluding the ingredients you can't have....for instance: I would do an ingredient search and put in the keyword "cake" then put eggs, milk, flour, sugar in the "Ingredients to Include" column and put corny things like sweetened condensed milk, cool whip, cake mix or evaporated milk in the "Ingredients to Exclude" column. If you start reading the recipes and the top few contain another corny ingredient, you'll want to revise your search to add that to your "Ingredients to Exclude" column. It will help to broaden the scope of possibilities because it will bring up things you've never had or didn't remember existed. There are tons of simple corn-free desserts that can be made as long as you can eat wheat, sugar and dairy. In the end, I may not even use the recipe from, but it will point me in the direction I want to go with dessert. I can then look for "traditional" or "homemade" recipes for the dessert I want to make. 

It'll soon be spring and you can shop for fresh peppers, tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers and such at the farmers market so you'll have an endless supply for fresh salads. It will require washing (remember not to use prewashed baby carrots or salad greens), but you can learn to wash large amounts and store it for combining at meal time. Plus you can just saute onions and peppers in butter before adding eggs and shredded cheese to the pan for fancy scrambled eggs.....if you have safe sausage or bacon, all the better. Imagine whipping up a batch of biscuits to eat with your Western omelet cheat or just toasting some homemade bread. It's easy enough to make biscuits or bread for the freezer so you can bake only what you need at one time or bake the whole pan and freeze in individual portions. You can make several batches on your day off and put them in the freezer for later (freezer = essential longterm solution). 

I would say that most of my meals take slightly longer than just opening a can or package and reheating and I spend far less time and money shopping. Also, I cook in bulk and freeze portions for later or we eat the leftovers for a cooking break. I really enjoy my cooking much better than anything I could buy, anyway. I would never be able to just reheat a can of store bought beans and be satisfied with it. The only time I ate the Eden canned beans I had to saute garlic in EVOO and stir the drained beans into the pan to reheat while adding salt, pepper and a dash of vinegar. Once you start to enjoy your own cooking, you'll see things like canned beans as something you keep for emergencies like a power outage for several days.