Gluten Free Cooking

Gluten Free Cooking:

The very best strategy for enjoying your new healthy gluten free lifestyle is to cook!

Why Cook Gluten-Free?

The main reason that people follow a gluten free diet and learn gluten free cooking is because they have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. 

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by eating gluten, which is the protein in wheat, rye and barley.  Gluten intolerance often comes with similar symptoms to celiac disease but it's not an autoimmune condition.  

Benefits of Cooking At Home

The best quality and most satisfying food in the world comes from home kitchens.    It’s no coincidence that some of the best experiences in life do too.  It's through food that we connect with family and friends, partake of and pass on traditions, learn and teach our children the old family recipes and maybe some new ones that will become the traditions of the future. 

I have an ulterior motive here, I want to convince you to cook. 

If you don’t know how then I want to convince to you learn to cook.

Cook and Eat Real, Naturally Gluten-Free Food

Before I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I cooked most of my meals at home, mostly due to cost, but I cooked like so many of us do today, relying on package products and bottled sauces.  Even salad dressings and gravies, two of the easiest things to make from scratch came from bottles and packages.

My celiac diagnosis convinced me that I needed to get closer to my food.  I needed to learn gluten free cooking, but more than that, I need to understand where my food came from and how to make meals at home that would be every bit as good as in a restaurant.  That's when I enrolled in cooking school and it changed my life!    

Gluten Free Cooking for Nutrition

One of the most important and convincing reasons to do your own gluten free cooking is nutrition.  If you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, you likely know what it feels like to be undernourished and unhealthy.  When you cook at home, you control the ingredients.  You can make sure your meals include lot’s of healthy fruits and vegetables, whole fresh cuts of meat, and poultry for the protein and vitamins B12 and A, fish for the omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamins B2 and D.  You also get to control the amount of sodium and sugar.   If you have other food intolerances, then cooking at home is the best way to avoid those foods that will cause you trouble. 

Gluten-Free Nutrition:  Is a gluten-free diet healthy?  Learn all about the vitamins and minerals in grains and other foods to make the best of your gluten-free diet and your health.

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Gluten Free Cooking to Reduce Cost

In recent years it’s been fairly easy to get a cheap takeout or restaurant meal, but in this post pandemic world of inflation and interrupted supply chains, the cost of everything is going up.  I’ve barely spoken to a person lately who hasn’t mentioned first the cost of gas and then the cost of food. 

Restaurants are having to recover their costs from many months of opening and closing, and as a result are increasing their prices.  If it's in your budget and you wish to support your local restauranteur, then I highly support that on an occasional basis.  Just follow these tips for safe restaurant dining.

Price increases are hitting the grocery stores too, but gluten free cooking at home is much much cheaper than grabbing take-out.   You'll find that specialty products like gluten free bread and gluten free pasta are more expensive, but if you focus you're diet on whole, naturally gluten-free foods you'll save money and be healthier. 

This restaurant burger on a gluten-free bun without the fries cost $12.95

This homemade roast beef sandwich on a gluten free bun cost about $3.50

What Do You Cook for Someone Who is Gluten-Free?

Image by: Maarten Van den Heuvel - Unsplash

If you’re cooking for yourself or a family member or even a guest, you’ll want to first familiarize yourself with the list of gluten free foods and so you know what foods to eat and what foods to avoid on a gluten free diet.  The full list is in the link above, but in short: It’s best to focus on whole foods that are naturally gluten-free. 

These are:

  • all fresh fruits and vegetables
  • all fresh whole cuts of meat, poultry and seafood
  • eggs
  • most dairy products
  • fruit juices
  • rice and potatoes
  • tea and coffee
  • Cooking oils are gluten free as are most individual spices. 
  • Spice mixes often have gluten as do some cooking sprays. 

Always check labels to be sure there are no gluten containing ingredients and no “may contain wheat, rye or barley” statement. 

What foods do you avoid on a gluten free diet?

Just remember the acronym BROW.  It stands for barely, rye, oats and wheat. 

Oats are technically gluten-free but are often contaminated in growing and processing so people with celiac should only eat certified gluten-free oats. 

If you’re trying to figure out what to feed someone on a gluten-free diet, the best bet is to keep meals simple, at least at first. 

What Common Meals are Gluten-Free

Here's a brain dump of some simple meals you probably already know how to cook that are gluten-free or easily tweaked to be gluten-free.

  • Grilled steak with baked potato and green beans
  • Green salad with a sliced chicken breast.  Most salad dressings are gluten free, just check the label to be sure
  • Grilled salmon with rice and steamed broccoli
  • Roast beef (if using flour ensure that it’s gluten free), mashed potatoes and sautéed brussels sprouts.
  • Stir fried beef or chicken with onions, peppers, mushrooms served over rice.  Ensure any sauce is gluten free or flavor with garlic herbs and honey and make a simple cornstarch and water glaze. 
  • Whole roast chicken with potatoes and green vegetable.  Stuff the chicken with onion, lemon and thyme.
  • Roast turkey dinner.  Stuff the bird with onion, lemon and thyme. Thicken gravy with cornstarch.

Easy Gluten-Free Meal Ideas:  Try even a couple of these 10 tips to make gluten-free mealtime easy, and leave kitchen drudgery behind forever! 

easy gluten-free meal ideas.  roast beef sandwich on a gluten free bun topped with feta cheese and a green side salad.

Several ethnic inspired meals are naturally gluten free, such as:

  • Tacos – hard taco shells are made from corn.  Fill with ground beef and top with shredded cheese and salsa.  Ensure that the taco seasoning is gluten free or make your own.
  • Indian curries are usually gluten free. Try Garam Masala Chicken Curry or Chana Masala
  • Simple curry recipe for beef chicken or lamb

Gluten-Free Ethnic Meals: Go here to take a trip around the world (food wise) and learn about cuisines that eat mostly naturally gluten-free and the ones that have adapted more recently to accommodate gluten-free diets. 

Gluten Cross Contamination

This is so important.  If you are cooking gluten free because of Celiac disease then you need to be careful about cross contamination.  Everyone has a different level of sensitivity and for some even the tiniest bread crumb or grain of flour can cause a reaction.  Still, it is possible for a Celiac to live harmoniously with ‘glutenous’ family members.  Once you’ve set up your kitchen and organized your pantry, the tips below should help to keep everyone safe and happy.

Keep a Separate Gluten Free Cutting Board

Cutting boards are an excellent opportunity for cross contamination.  They have little grooves in them that gluten can stick in and be difficult to get out.  If you use a wooden board, the porousness of the wood could be an issue as well.  This is where I say better safe than sorry.  Have your own, either a different color or label it “Gluten Free”.

If someone accidently uses your cutting board for bread, you don't need to throw it out.  Scrub it really well and run it through the dishwasher.  Same goes if you're cooking for a gluten-free guest.

You Need a Gluten-Free Toaster Too

I talked about this over on the kitchen set up page.  Check it out for detail on toasters, dishes, and pots and pans. 

Watch for Splash Over

If you are cooking two items in on the stove or in the oven, one with gluten and the other gluten free, be careful of splash over.  If the water from the pasta or the grease from breaded fish or chicken splashes onto your food you have cross contamination.  Just keep the wheat pasta turned down so it’s gently boiling.  If you’re still concerned keep your food covered.  If you’re cooking gluten free and "gluteny" food together in the oven put the gluten free item on the top rack so it’s above anything gluteny.  If it’s going to splash grease, cover the gluteny item.  Another option is to cook them separately.

Stirring and Serving Spoons

If you're cooking gluten-free and gluten at the same time make sure you don't mix up the stirring spoons.  Dipping the spoon into your gluten pasta then the next time using it for a gluten-free dish is a sure path to cross contaminate.  Same goes for serving spoons.  Each dish gets its own spoon and make sure everyone knows not to mix them them up.

Add a Barrier

Lining baking dishes or grill pans with foil or parchment adds an extra barrier to prevent cross contamination.  This is especially useful if you use the same dishes for cooking items with or without gluten.  It's also a good tip if you're travelling and staying in a vacation rental where you are using dishes that aren't your own.

Gluten Cross Contamination on the Grill

Gluten free cooking on the grill can be a bit tricky.  At home we always use gluten free burgers, sausages etc, so there is no cross contamination on the grill.  If you are cooking gluten and gluten free together I suggest wrapping your food in foil.  As things get flipped and moved to different locations on the grill I think the risk is a little too high that your gluten free chicken breast will land in the spot where the bread filled sausage was a minute ago.   This is what I do if I'm attending a barbecue at someone else's house.  You don't get the nice grill marks, but you do get to stay safe.  Some people recommend grill mats.  That may work to guard against contamination on the grill itself if only gf foods are being cooked at the moment.  If both are being cooked together I'd be concerned about splash over. 

Cook Gluten-Free First

Say you’re making pancakes for yourself and the family, and the Glutenous Ones want wheat pancakes.  You can use a separate pan for yours of course, or you can simply do the gluten free ones first, keep them warm in the oven while you cook the regular pancakes.  Same with say pan frying breaded fish.  Do the gluten free pieces first.

Gluten Free Cooking: The Answer to All of Life’s Questions:

I hope I've convinced you of the benefits of at home gluten free cooking.

I think Michael Pollan said it best in his book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation when he said that the answer to most of the questions that occupy his mind is the same: cook.  I couldn’t agree more.  Whether it’s how to be healthier personally, how to contribute to the health of the planet or how to connect with your friends and family;  to cook is as good an answer as any.  Enjoy!

Recipes

Check out this collection of gluten free recipes I've curated just for you.

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