Hi! My name is Marissa and I'm the kitchen witch behind Sweet Apothecary (and the treats pictured below). Nice to meet ya! ;)
(Psst - this is a bit of an intro post. If you're just here for the starter glossary, click here!)
This whole endeavor started back in 2020 when I learned I would have to cut gluten out of my diet. As a vegan with anaphylaxis (a deathly allergy) to all nuts and soy, my food choices at the time leaned *heavily* on carbs (I still think bread is the best thing since someone decided to slice it), so I was more than a little devastated and at a lost for what to eat.
Now, I am very lucky - we are living in a great time to have dietary restrictions and food allergies. I've been allergic to nuts my whole life, and there is so much more awareness about common allergens now than there has ever been before. The fact that I can go into any regular grocery store - being vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free - and am able to find more than raw fruit and veggies to eat is amazing. And even my small northern-Ontario town has two gluten-free bakeries, a nut-free bakery, and more than one fully-vegan restaurant on *one street*. That's AMAZING.
Of course, when you combine aaallllllll the things I can't eat into one person's diet, it can still make food choices super limited. As far as I know, my little home bakery is the only place offering entirely gluten-free, vegan, nut-free, AND soy-free treats. And understandably so - it took me months, and many more inedible cupcakes than I'd like to admit, before I even figured out a GF flour mix that worked for me. But I had to do it - I LOVE desserts, and I couldn't find some anywhere else. So I learned how to make my own. And now I want to help you make some treats too!
I've had a sweet tooth since before I can remember, and I'm not going to let being unable to eat most of the things used to make traditional desserts stop me. Everyone deserves desserts - and yes, you do too. :)
Since my career shifted to full-time employment (I'm in PR & marketing by day), I no longer bake full-time. I still whip up the odd special order as they come in, but I didn't want to let Sweet Apothecary fizzle out just because I can't spend days covered in flour in my kitchen any more. So I've decided to shift my focus to this blog to try to keep helping people like me, just in a slightly different way.
In this lil' corner of the internet, you'll find tips for making your kitchen more allergy-friendly, tricks for baking and cooking without using common ingredients, some of my favourite plant-based and allergy-friendly recipes, and more. My goal is to make this a mini resource hub where people who can't eat anything - and those who love them - can find yummy ideas and a helpful hand to make things feel (and taste) a little more 'normal'. <3
To kick things off, I wanted to share an introductory glossary of some common terms and phrases you'll see on this blog, and in other allergy-conscious and plant-based spaces. If you're not new to dietary restrictions, some of these may be second nature to you - but if you've just found out yourself or someone you love needs to avoid some foods, this is a great place to start.
GLOSSARY & STARTER RESOURCES:
Allergy (ie Food Allergy): An allergy is when a body's immune system reacts unusually to something, so a food allergy is when a body's immune responses are triggered by eating, touching, or sometimes even smelling a specific food item. Allergic reactions can include hives, facial swelling, itching, sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, drops in blood pressure, a sense of doom, and in extreme cases, death. When the allergy is so severe a reaction can cause death, that is called anaphylaxis. For example, I am anaphylactic to all nuts and soy protein. For answers to some FAQs about food allergies, I recommend taking a look at Food Allergy Canada's resources.
Common Allergens/ Priority Allergens: The top-ten most common food allergens in Canada. These include: eggs, milk (dairy), mustard, peanuts, crustaceans and molluscs (commonly known as shellfish), fish, sesame seeds, soy, sulphites, tree nuts, and wheat. For more info on Canada's priority allergens, follow this link.
"Free-from" (aka "something-free"): A term adopted by the allergy community to denote foods that do not contain AND have not come in possible contact with some specific, or all, food allergens. You may see this phrase on allergy-friendly foods in the grocery store, followed by a list of all the allergens that product is "free-from". It is a guarantee of safety for those with food allergies. For example, common uses of this you'll see here are "gluten-free", "nut-free", and "soy-free". Those phrases also my recipes are "free-from" gluten, nuts, and soy.
Gluten-Free (GF): A person or food items that are free-from the protein known as gluten. This includes wheat (wheat contains gluten), but it also includes other grains - barley, oats, rye, triticale, and variations of yeast and malt extract. Someone who is Celiac or has a gluten-intolerance (cannot digest gluten easily) will look for products that are designated "gluten-free".
Wheat Allergy: It is also possible to have an 'abnormal' immune system reaction to wheat (rather than a digestive system reaction), making it an allergy (instead of an intolerance or celiac disease). If you have just been diagnosed with a wheat allergy, here is a great first-stop resource for you.
Nut-Free: A person or food item that is free-from ALL nuts, including peanuts and tree-nuts. Not everyone who is allergic to peanuts is allergic to all tree-nuts, and vice-versa, so always pay close attention to which exact nuts a product is 'free-from'. For example, some jars of almonds are marked as 'peanut-free' and some jars of peanut butter are designated as 'tree-nut-free'. Someone with a peanut or tree nut (or if you're like me, all-nuts) allergy will often look for products that are designated as "nut-free".
Soy-Free: A person or food item that is free-from soy.
Vegan (V): A person or food or item that is free-from all animal products and by-products (things made from stuff that comes from animals). If you cannot eat dairy and/or eggs, vegan foods are a great go-to for you! In addition to being free-from meat, eggs, and animal milks (dairy, goat milk, etc), vegan food items will also not contain honey or ingredients derived from eggs or dairy (eg. whey protein).
Plant-Based: You will see this term used interchangeably with Vegan, but there is a difference. Plant-Based diets do not necessarily eliminate all animal products, but instead focus on eating mostly plants. This means that while all vegan items can also be designated as plant-based, not all plant-based items are entirely vegan. This one of the many reasons why reading ingredient lists is a good practice to keep up!
Cross-Contamination: This is a phrase used to describe when it is possible for one food item to have come into contact with another. For example, if peanut butter cookies are made on a baking sheet and then a batch of chocolate chip cookies go into the oven afterward on that same sheet, there is a risk of cross-contamination between the two batches of cookies. Even though the chocolate chip cookies do not contain peanut butter, there may be some traces of peanut butter on them. You will often see warnings under ingredient lists that say 'may contain' and then list some allergens. These labels are warning you that while the food in the package does not contain the food allergen, there may have been some cross-contamination between the food and the allergen(s) listed. If something is designated as 'free-from' something, then it is guaranteed to not contain the ingredient and to be free from possible cross-contamination with that ingredient.