Archives for Allergies

Questions for cooks: Egg substitutes

Reader M submitted the following to Questions for cooks:

My son is allergic to egg. I’m wondering if you know if any substitutions for eggs you can use in recipes such as meatloaf and meatballs that use egg as the binder. I’m also looking for substitutions for eggs in the standard breading procedure like you would find for breading chicken and other things. Thanks!

Since we talked about restricted diets earlier in the week, I thought it might be nice to continue this conversation into Friday’s column.

I don’t have any personal experience with an egg allergy, so I talked to a number of my vegan friends who abstain from eating eggs. They said that they use a number of alternatives for binding agents that will likely go over well with your son.

About 1/4 cup of blended tofu, combined with a few drops of soy sauce or barbecue sauce can be a nice replacement for an egg in meatloaf (my vegan friends weren’t hip on the meat part, but all confirmed it works with vegetableloaf). Mashed potatoes and tomato paste (also good for meatloaf) work well for savory dishes, and apple sauce is a great replacement in sweet baked goods. The consensus was that 1/4 cup of these items all work for one egg, but that you may need to tweak things a little for each recipe.

For breading on pork chops or chicken, I use buttermilk. I don’t actually like using eggs for breading, as I find the egg too heavy. I like a light, crispy texture and the buttermilk does this. I highly recommend the Crispy Pan-Fried Pork Chop recipe from Cook’s Illustrated as a primer on amazing breading.

Thank you, M, for submitting your question for our Questions for cooks column. Please check the comments for even more suggestions from our readers on alternatives to eggs.

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Reducing stress associated with restricted diets

Special diets can add an extra level of stress to meal planning and preparation. As the mother of a child with a deathly peanut allergy, I’ve certainly experienced some frustrations as I’ve navigated the peanut-free world.

Even if someone in your home doesn’t have a food allergy, you might invite a guest into your home who does. Or, you may have a roommate or child who is a vegetarian or you may invite a vegan to dinner. No matter the reason for the restriction, it can be frustrating when the diagnosis is new or you’re not accustom to making a meal without a specific ingredient.

The following are tips that can help you to relieve some of the stress associated with preparing a special diet or meal:

  • Ask questions about the diet restriction to learn as much as you can. Whether you’re asking a doctor or the person with the food restriction, it’s best to be as prepared as possible before setting a/the menu. You don’t want to accidentally make your guest or family member or roommate sick, or offend him.
  • Ask for cookbook recommendations or sites with recipes that work with the special diet. Doctors often have handouts prepared for restrictive diets and people with the special diet will know where to turn. Asking for recommendations can save you a lot of time and worry.
  • Unless the diet is somehow not recommended for others, have everyone eat the special diet. If one member of your household can’t eat gluten, have a gluten-free home. If someone can’t eat tree nuts, have a tree nut-free home. The same goes for reduced sodium diets. My husband and I have stopped eating peanuts and foods produced in plants where peanuts are present, and neither of us have faced any consequences. If you’re just cooking a meal for a guest with a limitation, make the entire meal safe or respectful for all your guests.
  • Have empathy. It’s very likely the person with the diet restriction doesn’t wish she had the diet restriction. She probably wishes she could eat chocolate or pine nuts or whatever food she can’t have. Think about how frustrating every meal must be for this person.
  • Imagine you’re on Iron Chef and instead of an ingredient you have to include, you’re given an ingredient you can’t include. Thinking of the meal like a challenge can keep things light and feel less like a burden.
  • If the diet restriction is for you or someone who lives in your home, know that the first three months of following the new diet will be the most difficult. After three months have passed, the restricted diet will be an old habit and you’ll barely experience any stress because of it.

I have a good friend who follows strict Orthodox Kosher laws, and when it’s our turn to host her family we have found it easiest to go out to eat at observant restaurants instead of trying to produce a meal in our kitchen (we only have one set of plates, one stove, etc.). It works well because the burden isn’t always on her to cook for us if we want to get together for dinner, and it’s simple for us to eat at a Kosher restaurant. It’s stress-free for everyone involved.

Do you live with someone who has a restricted diet? What do you do to reduce the stress of meal planning and preparation? Share your advice in the comments.

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