Tweaking a family recipe…

Which of the following words doesn't seem to fit?  Holidays - Traditions - Recipes - Food sensitivities

It's easy to believe food sensitivities and restrictions will destroy a family tradition.  Especially since most family traditions involve food in some form or fashion.  

While I do agree food sensitivities impact every aspect of life, I do not buy into the idea that everything is completely ruined.  Holidays and traditions just mean we have to do some planning, be deliberate and know our non-negotiables.  

Since this is a food-ish blog, let's focus on the food side of traditions.  We have already gone through the process of identifying holiday traditions and meals which are important to you and we determined if you're a Recipe Maverick or a Recipe Purist.  Once you know those two things, you're ready to dive into recipe experimentation!! And that can be the most fun (and bizarre) of all!

One quick caveat about recipe experimentation: 

Keep in mind the longer it has been since you tasted a particular food or recipe, the more likely it is your memory of how it tastes and how it actually tastes are a mis-match.  When you eliminate a food trigger - and that could be allergies or sensitivities - your body biochemistry actually changes and your taste will also likely change.  Even a Recipe Purist may be willing to accept an altered recipe when it has been a year or more since you last tasted the original!  (That opens up some opportunities!)

OK…so back to recipe experiments.  

Once you know the recipe you want to try, identify the ingredients you need to exclude or substitute.  Don't worry about how many or how important they are…just figure out what you need to experiment with and then you tackle them one-by-one!  

General substitution suggestions:

Here are some ideas for substitutions, but be sure to read labels to identify any potential triggers unique to you! And all you have to do is Google "replace [insert trigger food]" and you'll get tons of inspiration!

Milk alternatives:  Try one of the many dairy-free milks out there - coconut, oat, cashew and almond are just some of the options.  Consider simply replacing with water - this ended up being the secret of my mom's wonderful drop biscuits!  

Butter alternatives:  My go-to is Earth Balance buttery spread.  You can even get soy-free!  A little coconut cream (not coconut milk) may also work as long as you don't mind a light but lingering coconut flavor.

Wheat flour alternatives:  Consider one of the many alternative Gluten-Free flours available - tigernut, almond, coconut, cassava, tapioca or any of the pre-packaged gluten-free alternatives.  Most will have tips of converting recipes and how much of the new flour to use.  We use a lot of GF oat and quinoa flour in my kitchen.  

Egg alternatives: This one can get a little tricky but I have used two different egg substitutes with really good results: Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Egg Replacer and Ener-G Egg Replacer.  These are both great substitutes for cooking and baking.  If I had to pick one, I would go with Ener-G every day of the week!  If these aren't good for you, you might even consider applesauce!

Sugar alternatives:  There are a ton of natural sweeteners out there any more and you can find replacement equivalencies online.  My favorites are maple syrup and coconut sugar.  I also avoid baking with honey.

And then sometimes you just have to go hunting for an alternative and punt!  

My family recipe - time to change it up

I'm originally from the Midwest and scalloped corn was on the table every holiday.  The challenge came when I started eating for my allergies and sensitivities - dairy and gluten.  Both are included in the recipe so for many years the dish was off-limits.  Then the dairy was replaced by some of the products above several years ago and it tastes wonderful…but this year gluten is off the table, so-to-speak, and I need an alternative. 

So now it's decision time.  Do I skip the scalloped corn or do I experiment?  I'm going with experiment!!

The item we're looking to replace is saltines.  They are crushed and mixed throughout the corn and then also sprinkled on top while it bakes.  There is enough cracker in the casserole to make a difference in how it tastes and how it feels in your mouth.  

With a spirit of adventure (and, honestly, a little bit of doubt), I went to my grocery store to look for a possible saltine cracker replacement.  Three options were discovered: Schär Multigrain Table Crackers, Made Good Star Puffed Crackers and Schär Entertainment Crackers.  Options may be different at your store, but keep your eyes open and stay curious in your search for alternative ingredients!!  Who knows what's out there?!?!?

Taste Test Results

After a quick taste test, the winner is the Entertainment Crackers because of their consistency and neutral flavor. These are really similar to Late July Organic Saltines which are no longer in production.  But that does bring up another little trick - you might consider experimenting with an organic version of a trigger food to see if that allows you to eat small amounts with fewer symptoms.  

My favorites are actually the Multigrain Table Crackers, but the multigrain flavor would definitely change the flavor of the dish which could be really nice (there's my Recipe Maverick status coming out!) but my family may not agree.  And I'm willing to take that into consideration for this one.  Another option is to make two different pans of scalloped corn - guarantee they would both disappear!  

The Made Good Star Puffed Crackers are a really lovely oyster cracker alternative but they would likely be too crunchy for the casserole.  Going to save those for chili!  You might wonder why I bought these since they obviously look like oyster crackers.  Honestly, I find the pictures on packages to be frequently misleading and who knows what nifty new product you'll find if you just pick up a package and give it a try!

Now it just comes down to actually putting it all together and trying the new recipe.  That'll be for later this week as the holidays start.  I'll share some pictures and my (and my family's) review on Facebook - come check it out!

Sixty-second Self-care Tip…

Self-care this week is all about finding that important-to-you-recipe and figuring out how to tweak it so you can enjoy it!  If you are having a hard time figuring out how to replace ingredients, just let me know and I'll help you troubleshoot.  You can always email me at, comment here or come find me on Facebook!  

Or, if you just need a new tradition, why not try one of my family's favorites, Scalloped Corn.  Here's the recipe - 

Scalloped Corn


Original Recipe:

One can creamed corn

Two boxes of frozen corn (10oz each)

Chopped onion to taste, about ¼ cup

One tube Nabisco saltines



Salt & Pepper

Recipe Modified to DF:

One can non-GMO and DF creamed corn

Frozen organic corn (approx 20oz)

Chopped onion to taste, about ¼ cup

One bag Schär GF Entertainment Crackers

Earth Balance Buttery Spread

Non-Dairy Milk

Salt & Pepper

  • Preheat oven to 350°.  
  • Place the crackers in a plastic bag and crush them until they are in small bits.  
  • Mix half of the crackers, the canned corn, frozen corn, chopped onion and a glug or two of milk/milk alternative in a casserole dish.  
  • Cover the top with a dusting of crushed crackers.  
  • Place 4-5 pats of butter/buttery spread across the top.  
  • Place in the oven and bake until bubbly and lightly browned on top which will easily take an hour - remember, it's all but frozen!  
  • Serve immediately.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.


60-second self-care, holidays, substitutions, tweaking a recipe

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Postcards from Me to You

Sign up to get a weekly e-postcard (aka blog post) delivered straight to your Inbox.  It'll turn Sunday into Self-Care Sunday and give you super quick, practical tips for thriving through the craziness and stress of another week!