PLEASE NOTE: I have removed the word "safe" from this page when mentioning foods to eat! All of the foods here can be safe (as well as unsafe), so please be sure to locate the safe products!! Avoid ingredients like starch, natural flavor, and honey, to name a few mentioned on the corn allergen list. The key to baking at home is to be sure you use safe ingredients.
One of the adjustments to having a corn allergy in the house is that most (and I really mean most) prepared and frozen foods are no longer an option. Making foods from scratch is a healthier choice, both for your body and for the environment. If you don't do much cooking or baking now, be patient and give yourself time to learn how. Buy a couple of good cookbooks (I highly recommend Better Homes and Gardens and The Fannie Farmer cookbooks, found cheap at half.com) and a couple of good recipe websites (I like allrecipes.com the best). Aim for "old-fashioned" meals and desserts kids will eat. If there's something you like that you usually buy prepared or go out to eat for, learn how to make it at home! Pizza, Chinese food, even pretzels and funnel cakes can be made at home for much less than what you'd pay for out. To make it seem less like work, involve the kids, put some good music on, and barter the workload with the kids or spouse ("I'll cook and you clean up").
Here are a few hints for getting you started cooking corn-free:
- Keep staple baking ingredients such as yeast, cream and butter on hand. This way, you can whip something up without having to go to store to get the necessary ingredients. It doesn't quite overcome the convenience of prepared foods, but it sure helps to satisfy cravings. Yeast can be stored in the fridge and butter in the freezer for months.
- Get rid of the baking powder! It has cornstarch in it. If you can't find Featherweight Baking Powder (made with potato starch), use 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for 1 teaspoon baking powder. I've been doing this for years, and no one has noticed a difference in my foods, even biscuits.
- Make your own vanilla. Buy a 750 ml bottle of potato vodka, stick 2 vanilla beans in it, and let it sit for a month or two. Yummy, and actually cheaper than pure extract. I have heard that Frontier's vanilla has corn alcohol in it, but their other extracts seem to be safe (I use them).
- Use this substitution for corn syrup: 1 cup corn syrup = 1 cup sugar plus 1/4 liquid (water or whatever other liquid is called for in the recipe). I've also read that rice syrup can be substituted directly for corn syrup.
- For powdered sugar, add up to a tablespoon of potato starch to 1 cup sugar, and blend in a coffee grinder until it's not grainy; I often run it through twice. I also keep a bowl of it handy for when I need it quickly; just stir or sift it first to break up any clumps.
Working fulltime can make this hard, because food preparation takes so much time. If possible, and if you don't have one, I suggest investing in a freezer and a really good microwave oven. We also have a Seal-n-Save, which is really useful. Bake on the weekends, or one night a week. Breads, cookies, soups, pasta dishes and pizza all freeze well. I almost never cook one meal at a time. I cook up several meals worth of meat so I don't have to cook everything from scratch every night (this is quite an energy saver as well). Don't be afraid of large amounts of leftovers, especially vegetables. Believe it or not, cold, plain vegetables (steam them and leave them a tad crunchy) make pretty good snacks. White rice, egg noodles, and baked potatoes are quick to make fresh.