Gluten-Free +

What is gluten free +? To me, it is eating without gluten, dairy, soy (mostly), and eggs. Eating gluten-free + is a way of life for us. I decided to create a page here to help those along the path after receiving quite a number of people looking to me for answers, advice, resources and recipes. I figured if I had all of that information in one spot, it would be easier to direct people to it rather than to say it again and again.

First, I must say, this is only my list of resources and advice. There are great resources out there. Do some research! There is also some bad advice. ;) I am not a doctor, but I do want my children to live healthy, full lives. This is what I have learned so far, and I know there is so much more to figure out! I will update this page as I find out more.

In my family, three out of six of us have celiac disease and must eat gluten-free. If you would like to learn about celiac disease - in my words - and my family's diagnosis stories, please visit this post. Because of my own additional food intolerances, I also avoid dairy, eggs, peanut butter and soy when baking or cooking for the family.

In general, I feed my family whole foods - the meat, vegetables and fruits with a bit of spice and oils added. While I do try to avoid processed foods and other weird ingredients, I am not a stickler about it - yet. So, yes, my kids do receive tootsie rolls from great-grandma and great-grandpa. They do go out for some soft serve ice-cream. And they do have the occasional food-dye gummies. But these are treats, not an every day occurrence.

This is a long page, and I have broken it down into subcategories for easier browsing:


If you have any other questions not answered below, feel free to contact me via the comments. Leave your email. The comments will not be published, and if applicable, I will add your question/answer to the page. Thanks!

My Kitchen Necessities

Back when food was just food, I loved to bake and create. Thankfully, that has helped me so much in our new lifestyle. Though, I will admit that cooking as a hobby is much different and much more fun, than the every day, need to feed my family kind of cooking. I also find that in the kitchen, some tools are way more useful to me than they used to be.
  • Heavy duty stand mixer. These cost money and one was gifted to my husband and I when we were married. Funny thing is, we barely used it! I loved to mix my cookies and breads by hand. I thought the mixer too strong for regular gluteny foods (but it was great for making pizza dough!). For gluten-free batter, however, it works like a charm. Many doughs are tough and quite an arm workout if you forgo the mixer, and even then, the dough does not mix up well enough. So, for me, this is a must have. You can get by, but if you plan on doing a lot of baking, I highly recommend one.
  • Wire whisk. I use one every single time to whisk together my dry ingredients for baking prior to adding to the liquids in the recipe. I guess it acts like a sifter but I find a whisk much simpler to use.
  • Immersion blender. I love, love, love my immersion stick blender. It makes thickening or pureeing soup a breeze. In the past I also used it to make sauces or a quick smoothie though I find it more of a mess now that I need to double, triple, and quadruple amounts to feed my family. I just use the big blender then.
  • Crock pot. Gluten-free or not, a crock pot is a busy mom's best friend. I have made breakfast, lunch and dinner in the crockpot. I have made bread, and soup stock in it.
  • Rice cooker. Before I was gifted this item, I was horrible at making rice. Seriously, how hard can it be to mix up rice and water and cook it? Yet, I failed miserably at it except for the rice in five minute kind. So, rice cooker to the rescue. It is awesome! Makes perfect rice every time and I can even throw in some veggies to steam toward the end of the cooking time.
  • An Extra Freezer. I know this is a costly item and a space hog, but I have found it so useful. I use ours to store our gluten-free flours, nuts, bulk meat, soup stock, and any freezable meals I scrounge up.
  • Food processor. Strictly speaking, this is not necessary but I have found it highly useful. I use it to shred cheese (for the others) since block cheese is cheaper. I use it quite often for nut sauces, for shredding potatoes and other vegetables, and even for shredding bar soap to make my homemade laundry detergent!
  • High speed blender (Blendtec). Again, like the food processor not necessary for gluten-free, but I love it to make smoothies, ice-cream, and dairy-free and egg-free condiments (works great for mayo).
When the kids first had to go gluten-free we did do a major overhaul of the kitchen - new pans (if not glass), new pots, new toaster (which we rarely use), new cutting boards, new cooking utensils. I got rid of all the plastic containers and now have only glass for easier cleaning and for lower cross-contamination risk since we do have a shared kitchen.


Here are a few tips I have learned to make it easier to bake gluten, dairy, and egg-free.
  • Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature, unless stated differently in the recipe.
  • I preheat the oven, grease the pans if needed, whisk up the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately before adding the wet to the dry.
  • In general, you can mix and mix a gluten-free batter without much damage, as you would, say, mixing up a loaf of bread made of wheat.
  • In general, the batter will look strange. Quick breads, muffins and pancakes will seem too wet and goopy. It's ok, that is normal. Yeast breads also look more wet than their gluten counterparts. Again, the breads will rise and you can scoop it into the prepared pan with no issue. Some recipes will have a  somewhat spreadable and handable dough but at first it will look like wall spackling. Depending on the recipe you will need plenty of extra flour, oil, or water to spread the dough.
  • Always check your baked good prior to the time the recipe states it will be done. All ovens are different. Gluten-free baked goods will dry out fast if not taken out at the proper time. To give an example, we tried the Betty Crocker gluten-free brownie mix and took it out at half the time stated and it was just perfect! Plus, time is so dependent not only on your oven but on your pan. So, better check early rather than too late.
  • Dairy-Free... It's so easy to replace milk in a recipe, it is ridiculous. Replace at a 1:1 ratio. I prefer to use coconut milk (it does not lend a coconut taste!). Rice milk is a good alternative as well. You can use other alternatives as well. I avoid soy whenever possible, hemp milk does a decent job, but almond milk, I feel, does not work as well as my preferred alternatives. For butter, using coconut oil or Spectrum palm shortening usually does the trick.
  • Egg-Free... It is actually much easier to replace eggs than you would think, but it really depends on the recipe. Flat breads and biscuits have no eggs so they are good recipes to start with. Pancakes are extremely easy to eliminate the eggs, though admittedly, being egg and gluten-free, the pancakes will not be as fluffy. I use applesauce, bananas, pureed vegetables/fruits, or a flax egg in my pancakes. I will also use flax eggs in my muffins and quick breads. I save the Ener-G egg replacer for those special items - birthday cakes, potluck desserts, Sweet Sundays, and any event I am bringing a dessert to share with regular, gluten folks. **A flax egg is 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed (either already ground or you do it) + 3 Tbsp. water, whisked together and refrigerated for a bit to help it gel up.**
  • All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix for those extra special treats (from Cybele Pascal):
    • 4 c. superfine brown rice flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
    • 1 1/3 c. potato starch
    • 2/3 c. tapioca starch
  • For a great all-purpose mix for muffins or quick breads, I use the above blend ratio but replace the rice flour with sorghum flour.
  • Gluten-Free Bread Mix (from Cybele Pascal):
    • 1 1/2 c. millet flour
    • 1 1/2 c. sorghum flour
    • 2 c. tapioca starch
    • 1 c. potato starch
  • I also like to experiment and I simply take a bit of this and a bit of that to make up the amount of flour I need. I have used quinoa, teff, amaranth, buckwheat, and almond flour.
  • For most baked goods, the item needs to be cooled completely or you risk "gumming it up" by letting the steam escape. There are some exceptions of course and the recipe should state that.
  • Until you get a feel for baking gluten/egg/dairy-free, I suggest following recipes to the T.

**Everyone's threshold for gluten is different. It really is trial and error. For the boys, it is difficult to tell when they have been glutened one time. I only see it when it is something new that they eat consistently for a time. However, since I have gone gluten-free, there have been two food items that I thought were safe with the boys and now I do not think they are!**

This is a topic I thought I had handle on. Until I went gluten-free myself. Wow, has that opened up a whole new, paranoid world of gluten for me. I highly dislike the feeling of paranoia so I try to keep calm about it, but sometimes it really gets to me.

The first thing to do is to rid yourself of kitchen items that could harbor gluten like the toaster, cutting boards, plastic bowls (see above).

If you have kids, play-doh is a no-no. You could try to control it but that stuff gets on everything, under nails and kids are great at putting fingers in their mouths. I found that Crayola Model Magic is soft and easy for little hands. I also really love Aroma Dough. It's pricey, but makes nice gifts.

Since we have a shared household, my husband does his best to wash his hands after touching gluten and before touching the refrigerator, microwave, etc. We also try to catch Miss Bear before she leaves the table to clean her up. I wash the gluten dishes after the rest are done. And then, using a new rag, I wash the table and kitchen down. I go through many towels in one day.

Of course, before meals and any snacks, I have the kids wash their hands. That is just plain good hygiene in action, but is especially important for those needing to be gluten-free so nothing they picked up on their hands can be transferred.

Communion... We are working on this. Currently, since I am in the process of healing, I only take the Precious Blood, which unfortunately is not available at every Mass. I do run the risk of cross-contamination from others using the chalice before me, but I try to find a seat close to the front (my kids like that). When the Precious Blood is not offered, I simply make a spiritual communion. Hopefully, once Skipper is ready for his First Holy Communion this Easter, I will be able to join him in having a low-gluten host. For information on that, I found this site very informative. For most, the low-gluten host is acceptable. However, there are always exceptions for extremely sensitive persons. Here is the FAQ from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Another thing I never thought much about when it was just the boys with celiac - kissing. Even a simple kiss in greeting to my husband needs forethought. Did he eat gluten recently? Has he brushed his teeth? My boys will have to deal with this one day, and right now, I can say this is pretty annoying!

Ice-cream. This is a fun outing in the summer for my kids on occasion. They can only do soft serve in a cup, and seem to do fine with no cross-contamination issues. For more flavor options, we buy it and eat it at home.

Avoid eating out if you can. If you must, spend a bit more to go a to a well known gluten free restaurant and make it a special occasion. We are lucky in that we have a small mom and pop restaurant a half an hour away that has a great GF selection. One of the family members has celiac disease so the staff is well trained in food prep and service. Everything is prepared separately and served on GF only dishes. Still, we rarely eat out. It is just plain expensive for a family of six.

Finally, look at all nonfood sources like chapstick, lipstick, toothpaste, shampoo. While you cannot absorb gluten through the skin, if you have young kids, you know how much of those items can find its way to little mouths. And of course, do not forget about your pet's food if you have one. For our cat, we use Purina Fancy Feast dry and wet food. No treats as our cat does not like them. For our dog, I am still looking for food as everything I have seen locally has wheat or barley in it. I did find some treats that are all natural, no wheat so that the kids can easily work with the dog for a treat.


There are many good people out there, with good intentions, and I love them for wanting to include my children in their meals, snacks, parties, etc. But please, please, ask and make sure everything is kosher. It goes far beyond whether or not the ingredients look gluten-free, because trust me, there are way too many products out there that would be gluten-free naturally but are contaminated at some point. Case in point, Quaker Oats rice cakes. The ingredient list: whole grain brown rice, sugar, fructose, maltodextrin, natural flavor, cinnamon, soy lecithin. Looks gluten-free, right? And better yet, it even says gluten-free on the bag. So what's the problem? If you look at Quaker Oat's website, this is what it says about it's gluten-free statement (as of 9/14/12):

"We understand that individuals sensitive to gluten cannot digest even trace amounts of gluten. To date, the Food and Drug Administration has not defined the term "gluten free." Since so many of our products contain grain ingredients and many products are made in the same facility, we cannot guarantee that any particular product is entirely free of gluten."

Whoa... So is it or isn't it? Again, if you are gluten intolerant, this may be ok for you, but it is not something I take a chance on with celiac disease as I minimize our exposure to gluten as much as is sanely possible. I try to dig further and often allow "made in the same facility" but never allow "made on the same lines" as other products containing wheat, barley, rye, oats. Though I may be rethinking this as I realize how much may be cross-contaminated. Anyway, everyone has a different way of dealing with this so ask.

Also, note that while oats themselves are inherently gluten-free, oats that are not certified gluten-free are contaminated. Oats and wheat are often grown as rotating crops, contaminate each other from the field on into the production lines.

First, ask if there is something specific you can make or provide for whatever meal or function you are planning.

If there is something you would like to make, see if it is doable gluten-free and how to do it.

Whether you are baking something from scratch or putting together a mix or even cutting up a vegetable platter, make sure your work area has been thoroughly cleaned. Use a different cutting board. My parents actually have their own set of GF only kitchen items to make it easier when the kids are over. Otherwise, make sure everything is super clean.

Wash, wash, and wash your hands. In my house, since it is shared, if I go away from prepping food, for any reason, even to grab something from the fridge, I wash my hands before going back to food prep.

Use glass pans (not nonstick) or cover nonstick pans with foil, parchment paper or muffin cup liners. Do not use scratched up nonstick pans (really, those should be ditched for your own health anyway!). Do not use your electric hand mixer since it no doubt has some built-up crud.

And, whatever you make, keep gluten away from it off the counter or in the fridge.

Finally, if you need to use certain items - like butter, peanut butter, jelly, etc. - use brand new containers. You might even need a new bag of sugar. I know I always dip into the sugar bag after dipping into the flour bag using the same measuring cup. Just sayin'... 

My motto when I tell friends is to treat gluten as if it were raw meat. You would not want raw meat touching food you were going to eat, right?

Here are some easy favorites that people have bought or made for us in the past:
  • Jello - yeah, I know, food dye and weird ingredients. My kids like it now but when they were first offered jello, I am pretty sure they thought it was something alien.
  • Amy's frozen chocolate cake (yum!) - this is also dairy, soy, and egg free! This is a small but very rich cake so you will get many finger servings out of it. Kick it up a notch and drizzle some melted Enjoy Life chocolate chips on it.
  • Betty Crocker GF mixes: chocolate chips, brownies, devil's food cake, yellow cake - Gotta love Betty Crocker for stepping up. They produce these in dedicated GF facilities! And they are good mixes. The mix themselves are dairy-free and egg-free, though both are added for the final ingredients. However, I have successfully made them without dairy and eggs. The mixes do contain soy however.
  • If you want some frosting to top those brownies and cakes, I grab Duncan Hines for a quick fix (does contain soy). Usually, I make my own frosting though. Really, it is so simple to do. I use coconut or rice milk, powdered sugar, and spectrum shortening.
  • Fruit and/or vegetable trays. My kids love fruit and vegetables. So often I see people just assume kids do not like what is supposed to be healthy for them and want to give them junk. Not so for my kids! They love their fruit and veggies fresh or dried, as a leather, in smoothies, in juice. My kids eat salads and soups and ask for more!
  • Pizza - Udi's makes a tote-able travel crust that can be frozen if needed at a later date. My son also really likes the Kinnikinnicks pizza crust. If you can find one of these I would skip the mixes all together but both do contain eggs.
  • Mac-n-Cheese - Annie's makes a rice mac-n-cheese (of course it is full of dairy).
  • A naturally gluten-free and easy cookie that uses only four ingredients is flourless peanut butter cookies. I am so tempted to eat these whenever they are offered but two of the ingredients are no-nos for me (peanut butter and eggs).

I am a huge fan of Google search, but here are some of my favorite in-hand, for-sure resources that I go to for help or inspiration.

Cookbooks
  1. Go Dairy Free by Alisa Fleming - this book has some great basic recipes and an excellent portion all about dairy, its effects, how to avoid, and subbing options to replace dairy. Excellent tool to have on hand.
  2. The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook by Cybele Pascal - this is my go-to dessert book. She does include some quick muffins and breads and yeast breads, but this is the book I pull out when I need something fancy and for all the gluten eaters out there. All of the recipes are free of the top eight allergens. Awesome! If you want to try a sample, try her red velvet cake (you can sub the dye with equal amounts milk or water, your cake will just be brown). So good. This is our birthday cake, asked for again and again. Better yet, I have had people tell me how they can actually eat a piece without their stomachs hurting! (Hmm, me thinks they might have some food issues...)
  3. The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook: Whole Foods Recipes for Personal and Planetary Health by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre MS CN. This book is a nice intro in overhauling your diet to a whole foods one. It goes over some basics and has some good recipes, but I have also had some flops (to my taste). I particularly like the soups and healthier sweet treats. At the end of the book is a good intro to their elimination diet as well.
Blogs (in no particular order)
  1. Daily Bites from the Pure Kitchen - Hallie has a lot of great ideas, posts often, and makes my mouth water! Her site is gluten-free, and while I am not positive that all her recipes are dairy/soy/egg-free, I know I have not seen those ingredients in recent history on her blog.
  2. The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen - This is an extension of Ali and Tom's book and work with elimination diets. The posts are random but I find occasional recipes to try and it always inspires me to eat healthier.
  3. Gluten Free Goddess - Karina is well-known for her GF (and many free-of other recipes as well). She is definitely a writer so if you like that kind of introspective, dreamy aspect of blogs, you might enjoy her rambling. I, for one, enjoy her recipes. She covers everything from breakfast to dessert, but I most particularly love her vegetable dishes. I always find that her dishes take me longer to prepare (mostly because I am a slow chopper) but her recipes are fabulous. If you are having a dinner party and want to wow, check her out.
  4. M.A.G. (My Asperger's Girl) - Here is a mom's blog I found when we first went GF. She also cooks/bakes without corn, casein, soy, eggs, and peanuts. She is down to earth, shares recipes but also a bit about her life with her two girls, one on the autism spectrum and another that has adhd.
  5. A Year of Slow Cooking - Stephanie O'Dea's site that went from an experimental crockpot year to a blogging sensation. She cooks gluten-free and all recipes use the crockpot.
  6. Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom - recipes, gluten-free news, tips, etc.
  7. Chocolate Covered Katie - the healthy dessert blog. Not all gluten-free, but a nice (and good!) collection of healthy alternatives for high calorie desserts.
  8. Cybele Pascal: the Allergy-Friendly Cook - Cybele has recipes but she also hosts allergy-free Fridays for others to link up. I love to see what others are cooking up.
Other Resources
  1. Once a Month Mom - This is a website that has a variety of recipes per month for once a month cooking. You can choose from a traditional menu, whole foods menu, gluten/dairy free menu, diet menu, baby food menu, and vegetarian menu. I like to browse for inspiration.
  2. Ohio Proud - If you live in Ohio, use this site to find a farmer's market near you.
  3. Celiac.com - Has all the info you could want on celiac disease as well as latest research, recipes, tips, lists, etc. They have email updates. I find them informative.
  4. Chick-Fil-A - I miss having one around. Not only have they been in the news for sticking up for their Christian beliefs, they also have about the healthiest fast food kid-friendly meal out there. They have a grilled nugget that is safe for the kids to have. And plain old potato waffle fries in a dedicated fryer (fried in peanut oil) and fruit as a side.
  5. Pick Your Own - find a pick your own farm near you. Lots of canning and preserving info as well.

Now, onto the good stuff! If you would like a suggestion for something not listed, feel free to comment and I will let you know if I have anything for you.

I try many, many new recipes, always in search of the perfect one. I tend to follow baking recipes exactly the first go round, but I am experimenting more as I become comfortable in the kitchen. With cooking, I tend to cook by the seat of my pants, and while I have some recipes, I have a general menu that I pick from and put this and that together. That helps me use up my fridge, pantry and freezer items and to not let food go to waste. I generally plan for a week's worth of meals. One meal, sometimes two, ends up being a free-for-all, eating leftovers or putting the leftovers together to make a different meal. Often, one meal a week is "off" for me, meaning I do not feel too hungry and so I make the kids a light dinner and my husband and I do our own thing. We do a lot of Mexican inspired meals around here as well as stir-frys.

Here are some of my tried and true recipes that all of us like.

Condiments and Extras

Mayonnaise - This is so easy to make and yet I often forget about it! So far I have only used it for my own purposes, but the ultimate test would be to make a pasta salad that we crave once summer rolls around.

Breakfast

Fluffy Pancakes - This is a basic gluten pancake recipe. I made my conversions and it was the fluffiest gluten and egg-free pancake I have made to date. I replaced milk with coconut milk, the vinegar with apple cider vinegar, the flour with my all purpose mix (see above), the egg with a banana, the butter with coconut oil or Earth Balance dairy/soy-free spread.

Buckwheat Pancakes - For when I want to use up some of my buckwheat flour. It is a good recipe too. I can never have too many pancake recipes!

Pumpkin Pancakes - Yes, another pancake recipe, but this is my favorite gluten-free pancake.

Lunch/Dinner

15 Minute Avocado Pasta - Yum! The saddest part is that it is gone so soon. You do need to eat this the day it is made. Our favorite pasta is Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta (a corn/quinoa mix).

Juicy Apple Turkey Burgers - Normally, turkey burgers are dry to me, and my husband is not a fan, but these were winners for us all. Moist and flavorful, and simple to make up.

Pumpkin Chili - I just love fall and the start of heartwarming soups and stews!

Pot Roast - I cannot believe I used to hate pot roast. If I had had a roast like this when I was a kid, I might have enjoyed it more.

Brown Sugar Glazed Turkey Meatloaf - a nice change from regular meatloaf. Satisfies my sweet tooth.

Breads

Tortillas - I cannot make these thin enough for a true tortilla but they are excellent as a flatbread. I usually mix up 2 cups worth of flours and it has worked every time. I cook mine on our pancake griddle at the highest temperature. Eat hot and fresh and it makes a flexible, and tasty, addition to taco night or to add meat and roasted vegetables to.

Biscuits - I am a little upset as a few weeks ago I made the best GF biscuits to date and I cannot find the recipe! Agh!

Beer Bread - from The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook by Cybele Pascal

Cornbread (or corn muffins) - my all-time favorite.

Crescent Rolls (or bread sticks or dog in a bun or cinnamon rolls) - This recipe is great - versatile, tastes good, and makes a lot. Freezes well.

Desserts

Pie Crust - I use the one from Cybele Pascal's Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook. I looked to see if I could find it online with no luck. But it really is delicious! To work with, it is heavier than your traditional gluten crust, but because it is GF, you can work with it for awhile and not compromise the end result. This bakes up to be a slightly sweet, flaky crust. Yum! This is the closest I could find online from The Examiner.

Banana Split Dessert - a favorite of mine as a kid. Quite easy to adapt.

Frosted Pumpkin Bars - so, so good! My kids requested this as their Thanksgiving dessert the very first Thanksgiving we were gluten-free. My husband wanted to scarf the entire pan - and he can eat all the gluten he wants!

Pumpkin Milkshake - I was not able to drink this but by the sounds of the slurps and the quick disappearance of these shakes, I would say they were a hit.

Soul Cakes (aka spice cookie) - This recipe is a heavier cookie. It is good for snacking and it makes a ton (freezes well).

Maple Syrup Popcorn Balls - an annual favorite around here.

Sandbox Box - What a yummy afternoon treat when you want a little sugar and spice. It makes a small pan but we all get a nice little piece. The recipe do calls for an egg, but I have successfully replaced it using Ener-G egg replacer.

Red Velvet Cake - Make the icing with this cake. It is so good! This is our birthday cake. My husband prefers it slightly chilled. You can opt out of the red food dye and replace with equal amounts water or milk (or milk alternative).

Blueberry Boy Bait - If I were a boy, and a girl made this for me, I would certainly come running. This is a melt in your mouth, so delicious you cannot believe it coffee cake.

Crockpot Cake - so simple (and delicious) for summer!

Watermelon Popsicles

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

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