Sunday, December 7, 2014

It doesn't always have to begin as 'gluten free'

For a while there, I spent an epic amount of time googling gluten free recipes.  You can do that.  You can lose a large chunk of your life to that.  OR- you can realize that much of what you already eat is gluten free or could be gluten free.

Take, for example, a few of my favorite soup recipes.  Like this Perfect Potato Soup from the Pioneer Woman or this Apple Cheddar Squash Soup from Food Network.

Yes, they each call for a small amount of flour as thickener.  Don't let that stop you!  You can substitute your favorite GF flour mix (I like King Arthur or the America's Test Kitchen Blend, which I store in my fridge so it lasts a long time).  I find these thicken soups just fine, and any weird, gluten-free taste won't be detectable in the soup.

Also, let's talk about cornstarch.  If flour is just for thickening, then you can easily thicken with cornstarch- this is especially good for stews and gravies.  Just make sure you dissolve it in some cold liquid before adding it to your hot pot (it will clump otherwise).  This beef stew works well and you can ignore the flour on the beef and use cornstarch to thicken it at the end.  I'm allergic to tomatoes, so I use red wine instead of tomato juice.  You're welcome.  This Shepherd's Pie is also tasty; instead of adding flour and butter, just heat the broth and Worcestershire sauce and then thicken with cornstarch.

Pasta.  You can have pasta.  There is so much good gluten free pasta out there at this point that there is absolutely no need to deprive yourself.  Major brands are now making it- just head to you're nearest grocery store pasta department and start looking.  Voila- you can now make pasta anything (and if you need to thicken a cream sauce, reach for the GF flour NOT the cornstarch).

And then there's all the delicious recipes out there that have been GF all along.  We really enjoyed this Steak with Arugula and Mushrooms from Real Simple the other night.

So, my point is, stop  freaking out.  Stop completely re-inventing the way eat, and stop thinking you have to give up your old time favorites.  Whatever it is, it can probably be made GF with a few easy swaps.  So start experimenting!

Happy Cooking!

Friday, December 5, 2014

You call this bread!?!?!

The first time Mr. Fiancé made me a sandwich, I ate a lot of potato chips. Why, you ask? Well, the bread was so dry that no amount of mustard seemed to solve the problem. Let me tell you, Mr. Fiancé had not noticed. Ten years into a life with celiac, he had grown accustomed to extremely mediocre bread. And so, we slowly started trying every form of gluten free bread we could find (well, except Rudi's- Mr. Fiancé had already declared their bread inedible). And so....the overall winner(s) is/are.....

For sandwich bread and toast:
Three Bakers

These folks make bread that (though small) is indistinguishable from glutened bread, especially when toasted. The whole grain white is my favorite.

And, in the baguette department:
Against the Grain

Airier and with a slightly different texture than the gluten version of baguette, these still make a great match-up for soup or cheese or a tasty sub sandwich!

And the runner up is...


I kind of feel like Udi's is my perpetual runner up when it comes to gluten free baked goods. They're always good, but rarely my favorite. Except for their chocolate-chip cookies which are AMAZING when heated in the microwave. The udi's bread is dry, so get your butter or mayo ready!

What do you like for gluten free bread? Are Three Bakers and Against the Grain available where you are?


Gluten Free for Love

On our first date, my fiancé and I sat across from each other is a cozy little pub in the middle of no-where New Hampshire.  As we discussed appetizers he said "yeah, I'm one of those annoying people who has to be gluten free," as if it were a quirky personality trait.  Well, weeks later, I learned that it is not be a quirky personality trait, but in fact celiac disease, a serious auto-immune response to gluten that causes gastrointestinal and neurological issues.

Now, here's the thing- I've read a lot of blog posts from people who helped a loved one through the transition to gluten free living.  This was not the case.  Mr. Fiancé has been diagnosed a decade prior; he had been living with this and making it work for a long time.  And, well, let's just say I'm a little dense.  "Gluten-free, easy enough!" I thought!  And it was, for a while.  Of my favorite recipes, probably about 20 of them are already gluten free, and Mr. Fiancé had a good mental list of safe restaurants and fast food places.  I have a tomato-allergy myself, so I already had a decent working knowledge of cross-contamination and reading food labels, so I figured we had this all worked out.

But then, a few months in, we began to see that perhaps this wasn't so easy.  The change in our routine as we began dating seriously- eating out, cooking in my contaminated kitchen, kissing a girl who ate gluten all the time- had clearly taken a toll on his health.  One day, after he knew he had been exposed by a careless waitress (who brought him gluten pasta and didn't notice until he'd eaten a few bites) he declared, "um...if my speech starts slurring or if I limp, don't freak out."  All of a sudden, I was sure I needed to think much more seriously about this gluten free thing.  This was nothing like my simple tomato allergy.

Now, engaged and preparing to create a home together, I'm changing the way I think about gluten free.  I know our soon-to-be shared kitchen will need to be gluten free, and I know we'll want our future kids to eat mostly gluten free (celiac has some genetic factors), and I know that once we're living closer together, I'll want to limit the gluten I eat to avoid putting him at risk (I'm not super interested in having to brush my teeth to keep my kisses safe :-)).

I'm someone who has always shown my love through cooking and baking.  Sharing a meal is at the heart of relationships for me.  So, I'm learning to cook and bake food we both like and can eat. Right now, we're both crazy busy, and I am also learning what convenience foods are safe,  and we're slowly finding brands that we both enjoy (I swear he had forgotten what bread was supposed to taste like).

-if you or someone you love is changing the way they eat and prepare food to eliminate gluten...
-if you occasionally break out in a cold-sweat while googling the anti-caking agent in the shredded cheese you just threw in the casserole...
-if you've been known to lecture waitstaff on the dangers of thinking gluten-free living is just a fad...
WELCOME, you're in good company.