I am getting more requests for gluten-free help lately than I can follow. Honestly, I'm not surprised. Gluten is a large, sticky protein and it's hard for the human body to break down, period.
An acquaintance of my mom's was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease and (ready for this?) she had no symptoms. She was not sick, she had no GI symptoms, she wasn't tired or achy, she wasn't under or overweight, no thyroid issues, no skin issues. She went in for a routine physical and found out that she had osteoporosis at a very early age. The doctor (bless his brilliant mind) tested her for Celiac, because he was convinced that her body wasn't absorbing nutrients properly.
He was right.
Going gluten-free though, is scary. It's hard to think of eating differently or giving up the foods you love. Food is a language spoken in every culture. We eat when we celebrate. We eat when we grieve. When people are sick or babies are born or kids come home from college, women cook. Rulers of every nation have shared meals of every kind while declaring their wars and bartering their daughters and honoring their sons.
Food is culture. So what do you do when you feel like your culture is being stolen from you? Where do you start?
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Start with foods you already know and love that are naturally gluten-free. Treat yourself to a steak and potato dinner. Make a ham and cheese omelette for breakfast. There are so, so many foods that are delicious that are automatically gluten-free. Make a list of what you love, learn to read labels, and start dealing with alternatives for gluteny foods (breads, cakes, pastas, etc.) later.
Interestingly, when you eat with someone who is a great cook, or go to a quality restaurant, you find that most of their foods are automatically and naturally gluten-free. Why? Because they are cooking with fresh, whole, healthy ingredients. Not fried, not breaded, not full of artificial ingredients and preservatives. Omit the rolls and you're good to go.
We should be eating whole, natural food anyway. Fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, nuts, and seeds should fill the majority of our diets. The list I made below deals with gluten-free alternatives to foods like pasta and pancakes, but remember: these kinds of foods should be eaten in moderation. Gluten-free alternatives, while usually higher in protein, are also higher in fat and starch.
Below are parts of an e-mail I sent I to a friend with gluten-free suggestions for her mom. I thought it would be helpful to post it here. Here are some suggestions and alternatives for going gluten-free with ease.
We do a lot of eggs, yogurt, fruit, smoothies and hot cereal (like gluten-free oatmeal). The gluten-free Bisquick and Pamela's gluten-free pancake and baking mix both make good pancakes, but I usually add a little more water than the recipe calls for. Just enough so that it's close to the consistency of regular pancake batter. Gluten-free bread usually makes great french toast since it's a little heartier and denser. Rice chex (almost all of the kinds) are gluten-free, and so are Cocoa Pebbles. Breakfast potatoes, bacon and sausage (most kinds, just check the label) are great, too.
We tend toward just eating leftovers for lunch, but I LOVE sandwiches made with these:
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You can get them in the freezer area of the gluten-free/natural food section at Giant. The taste and texture is different, but SO yummy. They only taste good if you heat them up! I thaw one for about 10 seconds in the microwave, then lay it flat in a dry (no oil needed) skillet on medium heat. I put cheese, lunch meat, and veggies or lettuce on half the tortilla and leave it until the cheese melts and the outside of the tortilla is just slightly brown and crispy. (Don't leave it too long or it gets way to hard and crunchy!) Then I add salad dressing or mayo and mustard, fold it in half, and go to town. My mom always makes sandwiches like this for her book club ladies (none of whom are gluten-free) and they love them so much that for the longest time the Giant near their house kept selling out of them because everyone kept buying them!
A lot of Progresso soups are labeled gluten-free now, which is a yummy addition. I make homemade soups and stews for lunch a LOT around here because it's so quick, easy and cheap.
I keep salsa and corn chips, hummus and veggies, apples and peanut butter, cheese and gluten-free crackers (I like Mary's Gone Crackers brand) and potato chips on hand pretty much all the time.
You have to skip a lot of pre-packaged stuff at dinner, but with a little checking and tweaking, you can make anything gluten-free. Make your own spice mixes with McCormick brand spices. Use rice flour or cornstarch to thicken sauces and stews.
We do a lot of meat and veggies at dinner, as well as a ton of crock pot stuff. I have a great gluten-free crockpot book that I use regularly. Here's the author's site, all of her recipes are gluten-free! http://crockpot365.blogspot.
Chili is really easy. I brown a pound of ground beef, rinse it, then add half a diced onion and cook till it's translucent, then add two cans of beans, a can of tomatoes, a small can of diced green chilies and about two cups of tomato vegetable juice (like V8). For seasoning I just dump in a packet McCormick brand original taco seasoning.
Taco night is another staple for us. I use hard shell corn tortillas or salad greens. Sometimes I throw a few chicken breasts in the crock pot with about a cup of salsa, some beans, and some corn. Then I serve that will soft corn tortillas and lots of fixings.
I like to make curry sometimes, and serve it over rice. There are tons of great curry recipes out there. Here's one I like:
I use curry powder mix instead of paste (you can get it cheap at Lotte in the spice area) and I add lots of mixed veggies as well as some cinnamon. The cinnamon sounds weird, but it's yummy! I also use gluten-free soy sauce (La Choy brand is gluten-free, also at Lotte) instead of fish sauce and omit the baby corn just because I never have it on hand.
Beef and broccoli (using the gf soy sauce) is really yummy. We serve it over rice or quinoa.
Like I said before, we do a lot of soup and stew. Just use natural chicken broth instead of chicken or beef boullion because boullion isn't ususally gluten free. I adore this recipe, and we call it "princess soup" because it turns purple pink from the beets! I serve this all the time for guests and they are always asking for the recipe:
I use frozen mixed veggies instead of dicing carrots and cabbage. I omit the rice and sage. I don't bother to puree the tomatoes, either.
Gluten-free pasta can be a little tricky to cook just right. I always slightly undercook it (so it's a little more al dente) or else it will fall apart. I pull a piece out two or three minutes before whatever the cook time on the box says, taste it, then cook it a little longer if it needs it. If it feels right, I rinse it right away under cold water to stop the cooking. Then I pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over it and toss it to help keep it from sticking together before adding whatever sauce. The best pasta is Tinkyada Joy brand, specifically the ones that say "with rice bran." Sold at Giant.
Here's a pasta recipe we love:
I usually add sausage, extra cheese, omit the nutmeg and thyme, and use rice flour instead of regular for making the sauce.
You can do this. If you want to be healthy and feel better, it's worth it. I promise.