Cooking for Ken

We all know someone who has dietary limits, whether that is onions giving them gas, or an allergy to blueberries, or keeping kosher, or lactose intolerane, or gluten sensitivity, or any number of things, large and small.  Ken, though, has to deal with several of these at once.  Growing up and well into adulthood, he rarely knew times when he felt good, whether it was a rash in his hair or an upset stomach or something worse… and “something worse” eventually resulted in majorly swollen joints and a trip to the hospital, with a diagnosis that his diet was the problem.  No more pizza, or fried chicken, or omlettes, or beer, or Mexican food or Chinese food or Indian food or Italian food or…

When we met, his diet was about 10 items — including olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Over time, we have introduced a number of items back into his diet successfully, and learned to do lots of substitutions to allow him to eat a wide variety or relatively normal foods.

Among the things he cannot eat: poultry, eggs, cod, scallops, wheat, milk, peas, carrots, green beans, spinach, zucchini, melons, apples, papaya, peanuts and peanut butter, curry, soy sauce, tofu, tapioca, mustard, cumin, cayenne, most anything fermented, and red dye.  As you can guess, turkey dinner with all the trimmings is right out.

On the other hand: beef, pork (and bacon!), lamb, shrimp, crab, tilapia, salmon, mahi mahi, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, tomato, onion, lettuce, hard squash (butternut, acorn, spaghetti, pumpkin), potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam and ube, coconut, jalapeño, berries, stone fruit (peach, nectarine, plum, apricot), mango, lemon, lime, orange, pineapple, jackfruit, passion fruit, dates, figs, almonds, pecans, garlic, paprika, rosemary, various "Italian seasoning" herbs, chipotle powder, mint, cocoa, vanilla, liquid smoke, parmesan, beans (pinto, black, etc.), chickpeas, rice, oats, sesame, palm, honey, molasses, maple syrup, corn and rice pasta, rice stick, corn tortillas — there is a whole lot to work with.

Substitutions: Almond milk, oat milk, and coconut milk to replace dairy.  Coconut aminos to replace soy sauce.  Aquafaba and flax meal to replace eggs.  Xanthan gum and chia seed to replace binders.  Almond milk cream cheese and ricotta, or potato starch feta.  Rice ramen.  None of them are perfect, but many of them are great options.  (Replacing leavened bread is ther hardest thing.)

Packaged food at the grocery store means closely reading the ingredients: pea protein shows up as a thickener.  Cassava flour is tapioca.  “Spices” and “natural flavors” could be anything — apple juice is used as a sweetener all over the place, and anything spicy hot is bound to have cayenne or capsacin.   And now imagine trying to eat out at a restaurant (although we have found a few places where he can get a specific meal or two, including Five Guys, IKEA, and some Hawaiian places).

This collection of recipes is an effort to document some of the recipes we use, with substitutions, both so he can reference them easily and so that maybe other people can make use of what we have developed.



Haupia (pudding)




Spaghetti Sauce





Corn Tortillas




Ingredients Index

Fruit Haupia

Coconut milk


Lemon Custard Haupia

Fruit Haupia

Pumpkin Custard Haupia

White rice flour
Masa harina

Send me e-mail