This story is about me, but it’s also about a baby. The baby I nearly didn’t have because I didn’t think my health was strong enough to sup­port a sec­ond child. My hus­band and I had a won­der­ful fam­ily – includ­ing our funny three year old daugh­ter and an exhausted, run-down mother – me. We took a leap of faith and our lit­tle boy was born.

When he was about five months old, my health wors­ened. 16 years of doc­tor after doc­tor and shot in the dark diag­noses, my stom­ach pain was unman­age­able and I had no energy. Right around that time, I gave my lit­tle boy his first bite of cream of wheat infant cereal. I watched in hor­ror as his stom­ach bloated tight as a drum and he screamed in pain. When the food went right through him, I sud­denly real­ized what I had been strug­gling with my entire adult life and what was wrong with my baby. Sev­eral months of a food elim­i­na­tion diet along with a bat­tery of allergy tests con­firmed I have severe food intol­er­ances and chief among them are gluten, dairy and soy. But my biggest relief of all was that my lit­tle boy would not suf­fer as I had.

As my son and I stuck to a gluten and dairy-free diet for the next sev­eral years, I strug­gled with the schiz­o­phrenic task of prepar­ing two sep­a­rate meals each day, one for my son and me and a tra­di­tional meal for my hus­band and daugh­ter. As I started to tire of this reg­i­ment, I began to notice a mood change in my 10 year old daugh­ter accom­pa­nied by a type of brain fog. We took her off dairy and she improved imme­di­ately. Her sinuses are clear and her stom­ach pain is a thing of the past.

I know the loss of giv­ing up foods that are attached to famil­ial mem­o­ries, the iso­la­tion of being the only per­son at a din­ner party eat­ing their own ready-made food, and the frus­trat­ing incon­ve­nience these lim­i­ta­tions bring to your life. Worse still, is watch­ing a child forced to give up the favorite foods she’d grown up with. To make it all work, I knew our entire home had to be not only gluten-free, but dairy free as well and the meals had to be deli­cious. But really, it had to be real­is­tic and that meant quick and easy.

I’m one of nine kids, so quick and easy was the rule of my mom’s kitchen. As I cooked with her over the years, she taught me basics and short-cuts and gave us kids a foun­da­tion of recipes that go back to our grand­par­ents and beyond. And per­haps most impor­tantly, both she and my dad taught us the impor­tance of a deli­cious, well bal­anced meal, eaten together at the end of the day, free of the inter­rup­tion of phone call or door bell.

So I give you recipes and tips that I hope will sup­port the chal­lenges you’ve been given. I hope you find the food deli­cious, easy and prac­ti­cal, espe­cially for work­ing families…food not just for those with aller­gies, but food for the entire fam­ily. And I hope you find what I’ve found – that these lim­i­ta­tions are not a curse. To be delib­er­ate about the food you eat is to choose a more con­scious, health­ful life and that is noth­ing short of a gift. From my kitchen to yours…enjoy!

Amy Trimm Waczek