Friday, January 29, 2010

Cooking Challenges

I love cooking, but a lot of my cooking is done out of necessity. I certainly cannot afford to eat out every night. Who can? But I also have a serious problem with onions.
Some people call it an allergy, but it is actually a food intolerance, much the same as being lactose intolerant. But, unlike a lactose intolerance or a food allergy, people don't recognize this onion intolerance. Therefore, I generally tell people that I am allergic to onions. For some reason, that makes them understand better that I cannot have onions. Otherwise, they assume I simply do not like onions. On the contrary, I love the flavor of onions in many foods. My mother used onions very liberally when I was growing up and I always loved her cooking. But even as a child, I had problems with eating raw onions. As I have aged, even cooked onions, dehydrated onions, minced onions and onion powder can have adverse affects on my digestive system.
It is very frustrating because I have to be so careful about what I eat at restaurants and parties. Even worse, I have to read all food labels of the foods I buy at the grocery store, including the components of anything I use in cooking a meal. I will sometimes allow some onion powder if it will truly be minimized as part of the overall meal. But I will still have to suffer a small amount.
The only way to eliminate the gastric distress from onions is to prepare EVERYTHING from scratch. I simply do not have the time for that. Let me just list a few of the things that most people would never consider making from scratch. Spaghetti sauce, soup, salsa, refried beans, meatballs, eggrolls, barbeque sauce, steak sauce, salad dressing, rice-a-roni, sloppy joe mix, taco seasoning, gravy, baked beans, soup mixes, dips, stuffing mix, hamburger helper, pizza, frozen meal in a bag, alfredo sauce. The list goes on and on. What I do is find a few things that I can buy that don't have onions (or only have a little onion powder) and use those things to make my sauces and soups.
So,I have been cooking a lot from scratch because I have to. I use Prego Traditional sauce for many Italian recipes, including pizza and spaghetti. It does have a little onion powder, but I go easy on the sauce and add unseasoned diced tomatoes. My family loves all kinds of Italian cooking.
Another popular item is salsa. Try making that without onions. I have to keep my homemade salsa around all the time. I have several variations. One uses nothing but canned tomatoes and canned peppers and a few spices. That's the easiest one because I don't have to do any chopping. While it is good, it is not the best, but it will do when I'm in a hurry.
Soups without onions have been a real challenge. Vegetable soup, chicken soup, chowders, chili. Imagine them without onions. Well, I think I have come up with some pretty tasty soup recipes. I love soup, so I always make extra to freeze for later.
On top of this onion problem, I cannot tolerate much garlic either. Sadly, this is common for people who have problems with onions because the two are related. So, most of my recipes are garlic free or have very little garlic.
Now, on top of all of that, I am trying to develop recipes that are lower in fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar and calories. That's right,folks, healthy foods without the flavor enhancement of onions or garlic. I may be the only person in the world who needs these kinds of recipes. Who knows?

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