Allergy-Free/Vegan Cake

I need to do a comprehensive post or series of posts about my cake experiments. I have one recipe that works for cake that is eggless and free of dairy. The trick to finding that kind of recipe easily, if you have that pair of allergies, is to search for vegan and whatever type of recipe. Discovered that when I was doing clunky searches for no egg and dairy free or whatever. No need to be a vegan yourself, and you can ignore some of the finer points like making sure every ingredient complies strictly, but that community has done a ton of crossover work applicable to egg and milk allergies.

I’m reminded of this because today I experimented with making orange flavored cake

, and recently perfected a yellow/vanilla cake variant of what started out as a chocolate cake recipe. I have the hardest time getting the chocolate version to come out great, but my son loves that flavor and can’t eat most chocolate. You know… milk chocolate.

I have also made versions with mango-peach applesauce and dried apricots, pumpkin (much better than my efforts to get a no-egg pumpkin bread to work without being too moist), mocha (in theory), and, very successfully, strawberry for my daughter’s fourth birthday. Sometimes I haven’t exactly measured the changes I’ve made, but it’s easy to take the concepts and extrapolate.

I know, I’m being a tease, but I’d also like to collect up the relevant pictures before I post it for real. Stay tuned Real Soon Now…



Once upon a time, I posted about cooking on personal blogs, and then I started a food blog named The Married Guy Cook [posts prior to this one chronologically were imported from there].  It was inspired by and a spoof on the name of a short-lived food blog by Jeff Soyer, The Single Guy Cook.  That was especially appropriate, since my cooking ability came to the fore once I was married.

Now I am not.  Married.  [Not true, exactly. Deb wished to break up, but we have never divorced or lived apart – not that we could have afforded to, and remain an intact family for all practical purposes.] Which makes the name a bit odd.  And it’s built into the domain [which I regret having subsequent failed to renew, probably since I wasn’t using it and lacked funds to keep it in the collection], so still odd even if I rename the blog itself.  Which I did, but in the midst of a blogging drought and already dreaming of this new place.

Along the way, I thought about how much I knew now could have saved me and given me a better diet when I was single.  Along the way, I hit economic disaster that made my existing frugality useful and challenged it to be more so.  Along the way, I had a child with multiple allergies.  Allergies to fundamentals, eggs and milk, and more avoidably, peanuts, bananas and now tree nuts.  Worse, early on, thankfully temporary sensitivities to substances in most foods.

When I was young, I loved watching Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet.  I had to agree with my late grandfather’s remark that there was nothing frugal about much of what he cooked.  I hope to do better here, but the theme is general, not absolute.  Nor is it only about cooking.

To cut to the chase, this blog will be about frugality, something more in vogue than usual currently, and while that may relate mainly to food, that’s not about cooking as such.  Call it lifestyle as much as anything.  This blog will be about food and cooking, obviously, with an eye to frugality and making do, but not tied exclusively to it.  This blog will have a large coping with allergies component.  That could perhaps be its own blog, but I decided not to be too niche about it.  Finally, with three young, variably fussy kids to feed, expect to see an element of making them happy.  At the same time, I haven’t forgotten my decades as a single person who could have saved money and eaten better, so I plan to touch on that as well.

I welcome guest recipes and ideas.  Feel free to contact me in the comments or at an address to be named later, as I set the place up in finer detail.

Finally, I expect to import material from my old blog.  Probably directly, with the possibility of reposts from the past as well.  That may look disjointed, or be dated prior to this “first post,” so please bear with me.  And by all means, if you missed it the first time, peruse away.



One thing we eat all the time is burritos and related items. They’re easy, flexible and tasty.

The ingredients start with flour tortillas. These can be from the store, or they can be homemade. For the former, we prefer Manny’s brand Market Basket’s store brand. Usually it’s the burrito size, but the smaller ones work fine too. For the latter, we naturally like Mama Jedi’s Flour Tortillas. These are much tastier than store bought, if a lot less uniform.

That is perhaps all that is consistent about the ingredients here, though cheese is also customary. I could imagine leaving it out if there were no cheese or you were not a cheese eater (the youngest is not a cheese eater in some contexts, despite outgrowing the dairy allergy, and this is one of them). Thus the list of ingredients is mix ‘n’ match, with some combos more likely than others. Possible ingredients are:

Meat – Chicken, Steak, or Hamburger. Presumably pork, venison, etc. could work too.
Cheese – Usually shredded with a grater, normally some combination of cheddar and/or jack.
Refried beans, usually canned but can be homemade easily and cheaply.
Shredded lettuce
Chopped tomato
Sour Cream

I’ve also tried adding salsa, and if you were fanatical about onions or such those could work.

Corn or rice are potential sides, as well as potential ingredients [in practice those have become primary, due to preference of the kids, and we have abandoned lettuce and tomato for the most part]. We are more likely to use them if we don’t have beans, lettuce or tomato, or have eaten too many beans too recently.

For chicken, I thaw if needed, cut into small pieces or strips, and cook them in butter or oil I’ve heated with spices. Cook until somewhere between done enough to eat and crisped fairly well. Spices vary to taste. More can be added later in the frying. Typically I use black pepper, red pepper, garlic powder, cumin, cilantro, and a touch of powdered ginger. [I don’t remember ever using ginger! I do use Turkish oregano, which I prefer to Mexican oregano despite the context. Sometimes also paprika or chili powder in modest amounts. Amounts vary depending which meat. I sometimes add a tiny bit of powdered cloves to burger, but would never add that to chicken. Also, I left out salt.] Only the first two are what I would consider absolutes. You can also use chili powder instead or in addition. that is essentially a mix of red pepper, cumin and garlic, though somehow with a distinctive flavor I don’t seem to get from combining the individual items. You can also use some oregano, some celery flakes [I don’t remember ever doing this, though with chicken it could work] or salt, or a touch of allspice [applies more to beef, just as with cloves]. That’s just what I have tried or what comes readily to mind; the sky is the limit. You could make a more traditional poultry spiced chicken to serve in wraps with other ingredients; use the tortilla as a delivery system without pretending to be Mexican about the flavor.

For steak, I thaw if needed and then fry it whole. I either spice the butter or apply a dry rub. The dry rub came out so amazing when I tried it recently that it is likely to become my method of choice. The spices are similar to what I’d use for chicken, but stronger to be able to penetrate. You could use a grill if you have one, make a marinade, pretty much do whatever you want. Cook to your preference. I like steak well done [I’ve become less vehement but still prefer it not too rare], but it’s better if you get it off the heat still slightly pink, or at least not too overcooked. I slice it into thin/small pieces and try to ditch any fat or gristle you’d not want to run into while chewing.

For hamburger, I spice the butter [actually, I don’t normally use any butter, especially for fatty burger, and I just spice the meat], crumble in the burger and cook it up as if I were going to make scrambled hamburger, or were doing the initial prep for a store bought taco making kit. Speaking of which, taco seasoning from one of those would also work [turned out the kids hated commercial taco mix compared to my own], with or without other spices, especially in the hamburger variant. Hamburger can be stirred into the beans if you’re using them, or used as a separate ingredient. You may want to add a dribble of water to the beans to thin them and let the meat mix better. The result can also be served with tortilla chips, rather than as a burrito filling.

Chop, grate, and heat as appropriate for the other ingredients of your choice. A can of refried beans – we have a mild preference for Old El Paso, with Taco Bell probably second, but none we’ve tried are actually bad, and we prefer traditional, but low fat/no fat/vegetarian labeled ones can be okay – heats up quick in a saucepan. [We’ve come to prefer Ortega, which conveniently cost the least, at least at Market Basket.]

You’ll want a big flat frying pan. We have a round one, flat like a griddle, the kind of thing good for pancakes, which is perfect. Use that to heat your tortillas one at a time. Call it medium heat. Lay it down, give it a moment, flip it over, give it another moment. If it starts to have pockets inflate with hot air, it’s probably ready to flip or remove. The goal is to warm and soften, unless you like them crisped a bit. You can use the microwave, but they aren’t as good that way.

With the ingredients and tortillas at the ready, everyone can start piling on whatever they like. If it’s with beans, I usually put beans, meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato if available, and sour cream. Speaking of which, we’ve found sour cream is best served with a small plastic “baby” spoon, to get dabs the right size. If there’s no beans, usually I’d smear on sour cream, add meat, rice and/or corn, and cheese.

Fold up the tortilla around the fillings, burrito style, or fold it like a taco if you like. Leftover meat, beans or cheese can be used to make quesadillas the next day.

The beauty of all this is it needn’t be spicy. When I make it, it’s usually less spicy than it probably sounds. Or you can make it more spicy. You can make them more or less meaty. You can make them vegetarian-ish, using just beans plus other ingredients. In fact, bean burritos are quite good, and can be faster to prepare.

Do you make anything similar to these? Any ingredients I’ve overlooked or ideas I’ve not tried?