Keeping a kitchen free from gluten when others can eat gluten is not an easy task. I know I was so overwhelmed, I shouted “we’re all gluten free” like it was a badge of honor. I didn’t want to worry. I could not see how to do it in my world filled with school meetings, phone calls about those school meetings, and life in general. That was 10 years ago.
In the last 5 years, gluten-free has been the fastest growing food market in the United States. That means, great information has been proliferating on the Internet. Guidelines for preventing cross contamination in your home are everywhere. My current favorite comes from a trusted source, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. They offer a four step process for setting up your kitchen here.
Ok, so now you have a process. That’s a great first step. This is the place where I usually freeze for a while. “Nice steps. How do they work in MY kitchen?” Because we all know MY kitchen is much more complex than anyone else's, right?
And then I found Gluten Dude. He really goes by Gluten Dude. The site has a definite “dude” flavor, too. You’ve been warned. But he also has one of the best features for people new to gluten free life: Real-life examples of kitchens. Right now Gluten Dude features six different kitchens (you can submit your masterpiece, too!). I always like snooping around in other people’s kitchens. I love to see the gadgets and toys they have to cook with. I bet you’ll like it too. Go ahead....give it a try. Snoop away and be inspired.
It inspired me to organize the pantry….again!
# 6: Flour! Flour! Flour!
Flour….Flour….Flour! When first going gluten free, you feel surrounded by flour. Almond flour, rice flour, brown rice flour, sweet brown rice flour, tapioca flour, hazelnut flour, corn flour, this flour blend, that flour blend… does it need xantham gum? Does it have expandex? The world spins tossing flour here, there, and everywhere. And how to store all this flour? In the fridge? In a container? In the bag?
My best advice is to find an all purpose blend that works for you. Whether you make it yourself or buy one, find one and stick with it for your experiments. Unlike gluten-filled flour, gluten-free all purpose flours are not all the same. Each one has it’s own personality and response to a recipe differently. So choose the one that gives the taste you like and stick with it.
After a bit of trial and error, we have chosen to use Tom Sawyer’s Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (glutenfreeflour.com) It has a cup for cup ratio and tastes similar to regular all purpose flour. (Cookie dough is a little grainy, though).
With that settled, we use other flours for their flavor and special qualities. For example, Authentic Foods Super Fine Sweet Rice Flour works best for my grandmother’s Pound Cake.
You’ll know when you find the combination you’re most comfortable with.
If you are already gluten free, what flours have you tried? Which ones did you like?
If you're just getting started, how's it going?
# 5: Open a Tasting Room
Ok, not really. You don’t need to open an actual tasting room. I do, highly recommend learning how to taste and explore new foods. Gluten-free eating involves a lot of courage for people who tend to be rigid in their food choices or experience sensory defensiveness around foods or certain textures.
This is fun for me. I really like tasting new foods. And since I’m an adult, and often in charge, I know that it’s Ok not to like something. There are polite ways to say “no thank you” or “Oooh. That’s a bit too much for me.”
It’s also one of my favorite activities to do with children, teens, and adults with Down syndrome. Learning to taste, describe, and experience new foods.
Purchase an copy of My Tasting Journal: Keeping Track of the Foods I Try an e-book designed just for this purpose. It includes some guidance on the process of tasting foods and ways to use the journal to help you navigate this new lifestyle.
As a thank you for following Celiac Awareness Tip-a-Day for 31 Days use coupon code "TTT5" to receive a 10% discount on My Tasting Journal.
Share your favorite Gluten-Free tips on my Facebook Page. (and like the page while you're there!) The more we share, the more we can all expand our palate.
See you tomorrow!
# 4: Mind Your Macro....Nutrients.
Being gluten-free is essential for people who have Celiac disease. If you haven’t guessed, whenever something is removed from foods, such as gluten, sugar, or fat, it is replaced with something else. Many gluten-free foods are far higher in fat (and thus calories) than their non-gluten-free counterparts. Fat plays an important role in all foods. It provides energy (calories), carries the fat soluble vitamins, has a high impact on satiety (feeling satisfied and full) and it provides a smooth, rich, mouth-feel to foods. All of these are important, but when eating gluten-free, Fat is essential in the quality of food by creating a smoother, less grainy mouth feel. It's easier to forgive too much fat than it is to deal with too little.
Take a look at this nutrition label for carrots. True, carrots have no fat, so it says zero. Take note of where the Total grams of tat are on the label. It's a great place to start. Compare the total grams of fat to a NON-gluten-free item that you would buy. Does it have more fat? How much more? If it's more than twice as much, you might want to think twice.
This is something to keep in mind when trying new foods with your child who has Down syndrome. For example, a gluten-free graham cracker may have a great flavor, but it will definitely feel different in your mouth.
Keep an eye on the fat content on the nutrition label in the store so you know which foods need to be served with lower calorie foods to balance it out.