Thursday, March 10, 2011

Basic GF Cooking Tips

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Recently, a friend of mine contacted me about eating GF.  At the same time I was asked to give a class on preparing GF meals for church.  The class is aimed at those who aren't GF, but may need to bring someone a meal with GF issues.  We are also addressing food allergies and diabetes and other special diets.  As a result I have been coming up with some basic GF cooking tips and thought I'd pass them along.

-You can not use any cooking ingredients that use Wheat, Rye, Barley or non-GF Oats, or any version of these ingredients.  Find a list of unsafe versions of these ingredients and use it!
     Seems silly to say if you are GF, but for the group I'm presenting to, this is rule #1, so I am adding it here.

-READ LABELS!  They identify Wheat in the allergens section but not Rye and Barley.  Look out especially for malt flavoring, a very common ingredient that is a derivative of barley.

-Buy a new toaster and waffle iron.  Your old ones are contaminated and will make you sick.  We have two toasters and just buy our GF waffles for cupboard space reasons.  For the toasters we have one for everyone else and one labeled with big vinyl letters "GF".

-When thinking about what to eat, stop thinking about what you can't eat.  Write down what you normally cook and you may notice that a lot of what you normally eat is naturally GF or only needs a small adaptation.

-I am incredibly brand loyal.  If you take the time to label products GF or tell me you will always identify gluten ingredients and they will never be hidden (Kraft and McCormick, for example), I will be your friend for life.  I also love grocery stories that identify GF foods (Trader Joe's is my favorite).

-If you don't use mixes normally and you are going to run a GF and non-GF house.  Invest or make some.  It will make cooking meals so much easier.  I usually mix up several bread mixes to keep in the freezer to save time on bread.  I also keep a pancake mix around to make breakfast go faster.  I also buy GF waffles to save cupboard space so I don't have 2 waffle irons around.

-Thicken with cornstarch or potato flour if you need to thicken something.  Once you get in the habit of cooking GF you may find other alternatives.  These are just easy ones to start with.

-Season with herbs and spices and not seasoning packets, you can find mixes all over the internet that are strictly herbs & spices.  I usually just season by taste anymore.

-Gluten can be found in soy sauce, bbq sauce, all condensed soups, some spaghetti sauces, seasoning packets (taco seasoning, spaghetti sauce mix, dressing mixes, etc.), cold cereals, salsas, etc.  You will constantly be surprised where it will pop up.  Read labels.

-Use clean plastic cutting boards (do not use wood cutting boards, they trap gluten and can not be completely cleaned of gluten), plates, knives, etc.  If you are unsure about whether a dish has touched gluten, DON'T USE IT!!!
         -- I never set food that is GF directly on the counter. Even if the counter is clean, I can't guarantee someone didn't stick something with gluten on there when I wasn't looking.

-If you are going to make GF food and food with gluten, make the GF first to avoid contamination.

-If you have any questions about whether something is GF, Google!  If you can't find the answer then call the company.  If all else fails, find something else to use.

-Casseroles are rife with gluten challenges.  Approach them carefully and be prepared to do some major adapting.  Or, like us, figure out the ones you like the best and say goodbye to the rest.  You will eat healthier, hopefully.

-Just because something says “Wheat-Free” does not mean it is GF. Newman's Own has a wheat free Oreo-like cookie that has rye -- Yep, learned that the hard way.  Luckily, my daughter didn't try if before we figured it out.

-I don't worry about "may contain ______" statements.   I feel that is more for their liability than my safety, which means it isn't worth my hassle.  It is my understanding that the FDA cleaning requirements for manufacturing equipment are pretty severe, so the likelihood of contamination is VERY small.  We’ve never had a problem with my daughter and GF contamination and I have a son with a SEVERE peanut allergy (smelling peanuts causes a reaction) and he has also never had a problem.  That said, this is my opinion and our family's decision, and you need to decide what the appropriate level of risk is for you and your family should be by researching it yourself.

-For a hamburger or other sandwich, if you don't want or have GF bread, use lettuce as your bun.  Or just use a fork and knife.  My non-GF sister has started choosing to eat a hamburger with a lettuce bun so she can save her calories for the cookies.

-Keep some mixed up flour handy in your kitchen and store the remaining flours in the freezer.  GF flour can go rancid quicker than regular flour.

I'm sure I will add to this as I think of other things.  This is just the beginning.  If you think of other tips let me know and I will add them to the list.


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