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Hey, Sherlock!

Find out how to turn the products you buy and love into RECIPES!

by Melissa Taylor
Is a product you buy regularly too expensive?
Is a product you regularly buy going to cease production?
Is there a product you would love to try if not for that one forbidden ingredient?
Many people do not realize that ingredient listings are non-copyrightable. Although recipes themselves are copyrighted, ingredient listings are not. And this is a real blessing to those of us who have food allergies.
One of the things I've found myself doing a lot is a bit of detective work. I take a product's ingredient list and attempt to duplicate it into recipe form. People are amazed that I can go on so little information and come up with a recipe that tastes pretty much like the original. Almost every time, it's "perfect" on my first try. And I'm not bragging here, either, because it's very just have to gather up all of your confidence and plunge right in! I hope my instructions will help you be able to not only make recipes, but to be able to try NEW things (including those products that contain just one forbidden ingredient -- get rid of it by making substitutions in your recipe!) -- AND save money!
Here is a fictional ingredient list, based on the actual ingredient list I used for my salsa recipe:


To begin creating a recipe, I write all of the ingredients on a piece of paper in descending form. In ingredient listings, whatever is in the product the least is near the end of the ingredient listing. In other words, the ingredient list is in descending order of what is in the product quantity-wise. This is important to remember when creating a recipe. For example, you would not put in more sugar than you would vinegar. Begin by writing down all of the ingredients, and making substitutions where necessary. I give an example according to my allergens below:

- water
- tomato paste
- green chili peppers
- jalapeno peppers
- vinegar
- sugar
- lemon juice [When an ingredient list uses citric acid, I've always used lemon juice as a substitute.]
- [Notice that "spices" and "natural flavoring" are non-existant in my recipe. These are ingredients that, by law, can be left off a label. In other words, though these are actual food ingredients, they aren't listed. A company may do this to protect its recipe, or because they simply don't know what ingredients are in the flavoring they used! Either way, it's not enough imformation to go on, so I'm leaving these mystery ingredients out.]
- [Notice that "garlic" has disappeared from my list of ingredients. I'm allergic to it. Since garlic is so far down on the list of ingredients, I see no need to make a subsitute for it; the peppers in the beginning of the recipe will be present in high enough quantities to give the salsa the "oomph" it needs.]
- xanthan gum [I react to guar gum, so xanthan is a good substitute for me.]
- salt
- onion powder

Now that we've gotten this far, everything looks easy. You're probably thinking, "deceivingly so!" However, it's very easy to copy a product!
Remember again that everything is in the product in descending order. I often like to try about 1 cup for my first ingredient. Then I "instinctively" just write smaller and smaller quantities down for the other ingredients. I do this all on paper without even lifting a spoon or getting out a bowl!
After thinking it through, I have a finished recipe to try:

1 cup water
3/4 cup tomato paste
4.5 oz. can green chili peppers
1/4 cup jalapeno peppers
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
Dash salt
Dash onion powder

How do you figure out the cooking instructions for your recipe? This may be the most difficult challenge for you -- not figuring out quantities! Go by what you think it would be (for example, a recipe such as this one doesn't require baking, and is thus pretty easy), or look in a cookbook for ideas. With cookies and cakes you can "check along the way" using a toothpick to see if the middle of the product is "done." Here are the instructions I came up with for the salsa:

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Store in the refrigerator.

Note that the ingredients near the bottom (the flavorings -- salt and onion powder) are present in similar quantities. Also, the sugar, lemon juice, and xanthan gum all require 1 teaspoon. Don't be afraid to have items that are next to one another in the recipe call for the same amount, even if they come later on in the ingredient listing.
If your first try doesn't work out, don't despair. It can take a while to figure out how to "work" a recipe. If you want to duplicate cookies, for example, check in a cookbook to find cooking times and temperatures, and solids vs. liquids quantities to get a better idea of how to formulate a recipe.
There is a saying that "necessity is the mother of invention." If you need to duplicate an ingredient listing and come up with a product, either due to financial reasons, or the product having a forbidden ingredient in it, I think you'll find this project both challenging (or -- hopefully -- easy!) and fun. I've come up with bread, cookies, nacho cheese, ketchup, salsa, salad dressing, and other foods that have almost become a "daily staple" for me and taste like the "real thing." I wish you similar success!
Good luck, and have fun!

This article is adapted from Food Allergy Survivors Together Handbook, registered copyright 2002. Because this is a registered copyrighted work, if you want a hard copy of this article, please support the book and purchase a copy from your local bookstore instead of printing out the article. Thanks! Find out more here.

This website is for personal support information only. Nothing should be construed as medical advice.