My Favorite Things – Ingredient Edition
My Life Motto
For as long as I can remember, my life motto has been “Be the person for others that you needed back then.” This means that no matter what the “then” circumstance might be, I want to try and view each situation from the others perspective, show empathy, and do what I can to make it easier for them.
For example, I lovingly bestowed my high anxiety on to my son. Whoops! Sorry kiddo! He’s anxious in many situations, but social ones are the worst. He hates attention and can’t stand when people stare at him. For this reason, he will be going into first grade without ever performing in a school concert. Where others would push, peer pressure, or bribe…I don’t. Why? Because I remember the days when the tears would roll down my cheeks and my heart thumping out of my chest as I was being forced in to something that terrified me.
What I needed during those moments was not forceful pushing. Pushing will 100% guarantee the situation will escalate. I needed a loving person to understand that I was not being defiant, but there was a physical, mental, emotional reason for my actions. What I needed, was a safe, loving person to tell me everything is going to ok and to give me a choice. I want to be that person for my son.
So, it only makes sense that the last 3 years of sifting through a multitude of allergy friendly, Paleo food brands not be wasted selfishly on myself. So, without further adieu, please allow me to introduce you to my favorite pantry staples!
Mexican food is life! Imagine the disappointment I felt after a doctor informed my that grains, dairy, and legumes could no longer be a part of my diet. Cue the sad break up music!
Shortly after that day, I was not-so-subtly pouting my way through the health food aisles at my local grocery store. There I was, glancing through all the varieties of flavorless weapons that were sure to kill me via bland starvation.
Then, something happened! A beautiful teal and magenta bag, shining in the fluorescent lights radiating down from heaven above, caught my attention. Siete. Grain free. Tortilla CHIPS!
This bag of chips morphed into a bell and I became Pavlov’s dog. Ding! I immediately started to salivate. Next thing I knew, I had already checked out, drove home, and was perfectly poised to dive into my new treasure.
Upon my first taste, I had to recheck the bag. They tasted exactly like regular tortilla chips. No way these were grain free! Alas, the bag was correct and my flavor starved belly ate the entire bag. Not recommended, but so worth it!
Much to my amazement, I discovered Siete foods has expanded their line to include tortillas, taco shells, taco sauce, taco seasoning, enchilada sauce, and even COOKIES! Needless to say, you will probably always find something Siete in my food cabinet.
Learn more at the Siete website here.
Pros: Tastes just like corn tortilla chips and satisfies cravings for carb loaded Mexican dishes. No grains, gluten, dairy, or soy. Made from simple, natural ingredients. Uses avocado oil instead of vegetable or canola oil. Vegan and Paleo. Lots of product and flavor options.
Cons: If you’re watching your carb count, these are not for you. They are made out of cassava, which is a relative of potatoes. Each serving contains 16g net carbs, and servings are small. Also, the products can get pricey.
After Mexican, comes Italian, am I right? Spaghetti, ravioli, chicken parmesan were all menu staples from pre-food restriction days. Naturally, after finding out that there are Mexican food options that don’t taste like gravel, I set out on the mission to find Italian food fixes. As it turned out, this little fella’ would find me.
I had just arrived home after picking up my online grocery order. Online ordering was brand new at my grocery store and I was ecstatic to give it a try! No more grocery shopping for an hour with a cart full of kids…say what? Anyways, back to the story.
I was unpacking the jungle of plastic bags when I noticed my pasta sauce label was different colors. Upon closer inspection, I realized this was a substitution for my sauce that was out of stock. I’ll try anything once, so I decided to give it a whirl.
I finished cooking the ground beef, so it was time to add in the experimental sauce. Don’t ask me why, but every time I pop open a new can of pasta sauce, I have to lick the small bit off the lid before pitching it into the trash.
POW! Flavor town! The flavor of this sauce teleported me back to the days of eating off the children’s menu at Denny’s. Their spaghetti and meatballs were always my favorite and no sauce I’ve purchased has ever come close, until now. If you’re not an eater of “green things” aka vegetables, never fear. They have a traditional marinara option as well, but be forewarned, the chunky veggies are where it’s at!
Check out the Ragu website here.
Ragu Simply Summary
Pros: Flavorful! There is no added sugar. Ingredients are simple to understand. Made with olive oil. Non GMO.
Cons: There aren’t any. This jar is not outrageously priced in my opinion. The flavor alone is worth the extra buck or two.
Sir Kensington’s Mayonnaise
I had no idea how much I liked mayonnaise, or how many recipes use it, until I discovered I couldn’t have it. Sir Kensington’s has been a life saver!
If you’re used to Miracle Whip, there will be a slight flavor shift. The taste of this product is a true mayonnaise, but it tastes great!
I use this product several times a week. I not only use it on my lettuce wraps, but I use it to make homemade salad dressings, on burgers, in summer vegetable salads, and in deviled eggs. Really, you could use it to substitute in any mayonnaise dish. A simple thing that makes a huge difference!
Sir Kensington’s now makes ketchup, mustards, ranch, and flavored mayonnaise as well, so there are always options!
Visit their website here.
Sir Kensington’s Mayonnaise Summary
Pros: Versatile substitute. Uses sunflower oil instead of vegetable or canola oil. Sugar content is so low, it’s not even listed. Non GMO, certified humane, and uses free range eggs.
Cons: This product is more expensive than regular mayonnaise. I use it sparingly so it lasts a long time, but may be considered an investment if used a lot. Contains eggs, so it’s not 100% food allergy safe.
Country Crock Plant Butter
I’m a baker. I use butter in EVERYTHING! It was a challenge when my son was forced to go dairy free due to a worsening dairy sensitivity. I again found myself aboard the lackluster flavor train when I tried replacing everything butter with olive oil.
I quickly discovered not all oil is the same. Olive oil and extra light tasting olive oil just didn’t have the same special touch as butter did. Fortunately, I had a friend who recommended I try Country Crock Plant Butter.
Country Crock took avocado oil and added a magic wand to create this identical butter substitute. You can’t tell the difference. It melts the same, spreads the same, and bakes the same as regular butter. I now use this for all of my cooking and baking recipes. It’s delicious!
Surf the Country Crock website here.
Country Crock Plant Butter Summary
Pros: Looks and tastes exactly like butter. Versatile! Dairy free. Plant based. Almost half the fat as regular butter.
Cons: Again, I must say any health food substitute is going to cost you. This product is no exception. You’ll find yourself spending close to $4 on a 10.5oz container. Also, there are no larger containers, at least that I have found.
Food dishes are bland without condiments and sauces. Ironically, those two categories are the hardest to find allergy, or Paleo, friendly. So in addition to pasta sauce, mayonnaise, and butter peanut butter was also a hard one to replace.
Our hearts broke when my son was diagnosed with a life threatening peanut allergy. We love everything peanut butter. From candy bars and baked goods, to sandwiches and fruit dips, peanut butter was everywhere in our house.
This one took us quite a bit of trial and error. We first tried almond butter. NOT the same as peanut butter. None of us liked the flavor and the jars were super expensive. Then, followed cashew butter, cookie butter, and WOW butter.
Nothing scratched the peanut butter itch like SunButter. The day we found this product, we jumped for joy. SunButter and jelly sandwiches, scotcheroos, and SunButter cookies started dancing around out our heads like sugar plums. Options were endless!
What makes this product even better, is that there are several varieties. If you’re Paleo, like me, and avoiding sugar, buy their orange container with no added sugar. The blue is the crunchy variety. Yellow is original smooth. And now, there is a green all natural and even a chocolate. Go SunButter!
Visit the SunButter website here.
Pros: As close to peanut butter taste as you’re going to find. Made from sunflower seeds so it’s safe for people with tree nut allergies. Processed in a factory free from the top 8 allergens. Non GMO and gluten free.
Cons: More expensive than peanut butter, but less expensive than cashew or almond butter. Needs to be stirred when first opened. The oil likes to settle to the top during storage.
Free2b Sunflower Butter Cups
While we’re on the topic of sunflower seed butter, allow me to introduce the allergen friendly replacement for peanut butter cups. These are so good, I don’t even miss the other one! What’s that candy brand again? Oh yeah, Reese’s.
Free2b isn’t only peanut allergy friendly, it claims to be free of 12 top allergens! It’s nut free, dairy free, soy free, egg free, coconut free, sesame free, and more!
I can’t keep this one in my pantry or I will weigh more than my SUV. My post-pandemic impulse control issues will make sure of that. But, they are the perfect little treat every 4 weeks when I’m craving a little something sweet. I’ve even chopped some up to put on top of my favorite almond flour brownies before they bake. Delicious!
Find more about Free2b at their website here.
Pros: YUM! Perfect Reese’s substitute. Available in milk and dark chocolate. Super allergen friendly. Simple ingredients. Non GMO, vegan, gluten free, and kosher.
Cons: Small. Like “I feel like a giant every time I eat one” small. Obviously, that means a serving size is more than one…wink! Can get pricey depending on how much of it you buy.
The loss of chocolate chips hit me hard. I had no idea the amount of chocolate brands that are cross contaminated with peanuts. Add in the dairy sensitivity, and there were zero options left.
I eventually found brands of morsels that were sweetened with monk fruit or erythritol, but those bothered my stomach. Without chocolate chips, baking, holidays, and special occasions were difficult. That giant tray of Christmas goodies became extinct. But fortunately, I’m a believer that if you look for something hard enough, you’ll eventually find it. Cue the heroic melody!
By this time in my diet journey, I was starting to learn the things I like and the things I didn’t like. For example, I found that baked recipes that use coconut flour as their main ingredient are gross. The texture gets weird and it’s very heavy. Almond flour and arrowroot starch on the other hand, is much, much better. I turned into a full blown nutrient and ingredient label junkie.
When I found enjoy life, I was intrigued to read on their label that they use rice milk. I had tried almond milk, coconut milk, pea milk, and oat milk but had never heard of rice milk. I thought “What the heck, I’ll give it a shot.” I threw it in my cart and heading home to bake.
Of course I didn’t wait until the recipe was done. I opened the bag and popped a small handful into my mouth before it even made it into the bowl of batter. My first thought? “Better than the originals!” I love Enjoy Life so much, it’s the only chocolate chips I’ll buy.
Enjoy Life also has a large line of snacks, bars, and other goodies. Find them on their website here.
Enjoy Life Summary
Pros: Tastes better than name brands. Made in a nut free and gluten free facility and are free from 14 of the top allergens!
Cons: More expensive for less product. Sense a recurring theme? Most of the products listed are on the more expensive end due to the specialized ingredients and process required to make them.
Whether you are just starting out or just need new ideas, I hope you found this review helpful in some way. I could have used someone 3 years ago to give me a list like this. They could have saved me so much time, and money, during the learning process.
Each one of these brands satisfy a need for different people. These are hand picked from my trial and error. As always, make sure to read the labels for yourself before purchasing to ensure that the product is right for you. This list checks all our boxes, but boxes are not always universal.
For those of you who decide to try these brands, please let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you! Comment below or reach out via our contact page here. Happy eating friends!