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