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Building a GF Kitchen

Today I’m going to describe the process of creating a gluten free kitchen- this project proved to be easier than I imagined and helped me get my arms around this new concept. It’s true what they say…knowledge is power and I always feel more in control of a sticky situation when I just jump right in.

You will read everything from keeping separate cookware and toasters to banning all gluten from the kitchen. We started out being overly cautious (which isn’t always a bad thing) but soon changed over to what we felt was “safe” practice and that our space would allow.

We have a four-slot toaster and the left side is designated as GF and the right side is for one of the few items I won’t give up, which is gluten-full bread.

With regards to cookware, you will hear that if you have pans that are teflon coated, cooking non-GF items will contaminate the pan; we’ve determined that on the rare occasion we do expose our pans to gluten, it a) isn’t enough to cause adverse reaction and b) isn’t worth our sanity of obsessing about every little thing. Again, I don’t claim to be an expert- I’m just sharing what works for our family.

As I mentioned in the previous post, until you’re familiar with what products are or are not safe, mark all GF items with a sharpie.

This serves more than one purpose; it properly identifies safe items and serves as a reminder for other family members and guests to not contaminate.  Items such as butter, peanut butter, mayo, or any other item that can be spread onto a non-GF food with a knife (especially those that aren’t accustomed to the GF lifestyle), can be easily contaminated if they go back in for more with the same knife. Potential situations like this requires a diligent eye and gentle reminders to not double-dip!

A few staples I keep in the kitchen are as follows:

GF soy sauce- this is easy to find most of the time, but read those labels…the majority have wheat!

GF frozen bread- we use Udi’s and prefer the one labeled as “family size”, as the pieces are larger than the other smaller loaves.

GF fresh bread- we recently discovered Aldi’s brand and they even have a cinnamon raisin!

GF all purpose flour- I like Cup for Cup, found at Williams Sonoma. However, I don’t necessarily like it as a substitute for large amounts of flour, but it does come in handy for recipes that call for about 1/4 cup or less.

Cornstarch- this is an excellent thickening agent for soups, stews, and such.

GF cereal- we buy Chex (with the exception of the wheat variety) and Van’s.

GF crackers- we LOVE Nut Thins…even our guests prefer them over the non-GF crackers!

GF quick oats- we use Bob’s Red Mill.

GF vanilla/flavor extracts- this is one that is a sneaky source of gluten- extracts are made with alcohol and alcohol is most commonly derived from wheat! Gluten free options are readily available, but be certain it actually says “gluten free” on the label.

GF baking mixes- of course, we are absolutely obsessed with ABUNDTANT LOVE‘s cake mix, pie crust mix, and biscuit mix…it truly is the world’s best and super versatile! Get them right here, right now!

With these items and foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as meats, cheeses, vegetables, and fruits, there are literally endless options. Keep in mind, I am referring to fresh products- be watchful of cold cuts or any meat that is marinated or prepackaged- it doesn’t mean it isn’t safe, but read the label! The same applies to fruits and veggies…in their natural form they are perfectly safe, but if it’s frozen or in a prepared state, read the label first.

My next post will address ways to modify your favorite recipes, which is more simple than you may think!

 

 

Getting Started


Before I tell our tale, let me just state that I am in no way, fashion or form, a substitute for professional advice.  This is just our story and how we dealt with a major lifestyle change for the sake of health. Please consult your physician or dietician for medical guidance.

You’ve just learned that you or someone you love needs to avoid gluten, where do you go from here?

First of all, what the heck is gluten, exactly? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, malt and rye. Back in 2007, my husband, Doug, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and we were a bit overwhelmed. To learn exactly what this diagnosis means, click here.  At some point, you have to pull up the proverbial big girl panties and deal with it and that’s exactly what we did.

We had a wonderful trip of a lifetime planned to Hawaii that year and his diagnosis came just a week or so before we were scheduled to leave; Doug decided to wait until we returned and knew that this wasn’t our typical New Year’s resolution, but it would be something he’d have to adhere to for life.  The long flights did provide time to really get our plan of action in place and once we got back to the mainland, it was on.

We started by looking at the ingredients of each item of our fridge and pantry- looking for the words wheat, barley, malt, or rye and using a sharpie, we marked the ones that didn’t contain those culprits with a big “GF”.  I also did this at the grocery store and would mark items as I unpacked them, so that he would know what was “safe” for him to eat. We quickly learned the typical suspects- soy sauce (or anything containing soy sauce), salad dressing, seasoning packets, and cereal- and of course, the obvious ones, like breads.

This was also a time of learning the hard way that many specifically gluten free mixes and packaged goods were barely, if at all, edible. I still bought them, mostly to squelch the guilt of having something way more appetizing for myself. (More on this to come!)

We were a busy family and had eaten out WAAAAY too often and initially this curbed those convenient runs to the nearest fast food restaurant to grab a quick bite. Then, slowly but surely we learned which restaurants were safe and accommodating and became loyal customers.

As time has gone by, the gluten free fad has brought awareness to the need and now, more often than not, most establishments offer a pretty decent selection. We still have to be diligent and ask questions like 1) are the chips/fries cooked in a dedicated fryer? 2) do you take precautions with utensils and gloves? 3) are the steaks/chops/burgers cooked on a shared grill? 4) can you please leave the croutons/bread/french fried onions off the salad? This was definitely awkward, especially for Doug, who was raised to make every attempt not to inconvenience anyone!

After years of practically apologizing for having an autoimmune disease, we’ve finally come to the conclusion that yes, we know we’re needy and yes, we know it’s a pain, but can you please bear with us? All our friends know that if we’re going out, this is to be expected and to just. deal. with. it. We’ll cover more on dining out in near future posts, today is just meant to cover the basics of getting started.

The next post is about setting up a gluten free kitchen and keeping it that way!

What We Do for Love

Hi there, everyone! I’m so excited to start this blog, which was born out of necessity- just like our mix business! The more we travel around and meet wonderful people, the more I realize that there’s a real need to share what we’ve learned over the last decade about how to live gluten free (GF) or in my case, how to live with someone you love that’s gluten free. I hope that sharing everyday problems and solutions to a GF lifestyle will be a helpful tool for anyone that isn’t sure where to begin.

If you haven’t read our story on our “About” tab, get over there and take a look when you have a few minutes…in the meantime, here’s the gist of it; my husband, Doug, was diagnosed in 2007 with Celiac Disease and I swear I was more distraught about it than he was (I know, I should’ve let him process it first, before making it all about me!), but because his sister had been diagnosed a few years earlier, I knew it was going to be a huge lifestyle change.

Looking back now, it wasn’t as challenging as it seemed it would be and we’ve found a good balance over the years.  There’s still moments where it can be a real pain, like when a restaurant has a “gluten free menu” and it turns out to consist of a grilled chicken salad or a burger without the bun, meanwhile I’m feeling guilty for enjoying my gluten-full meal, trying to mask any signs of real pleasure.

Because we’ve been married for almost 27 years, I guess I’ll keep him and his Celiac Disease-ridden self…what can I say? I love the guy and his sometimes difficult but necessary GF lifestyle. I hope you learn to appreciate my sometimes sarcastic and seemingly self-absorbed humor, but let me be perfectly clear from the beginning- I understand that his health depends on him avoiding gluten and I will happily inconvenience myself any day of the week to ensure his well-being.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t ever look forward to meeting up with a friend for lunch and not having to worry about choosing a place that has a GF menu!

It is my goal to be helpful, whether it’s a new restaurant we’ve discovered or how to adjust your favorite recipe. I’d also like to be a source for folks just like me, that happen to love someone that’s gluten free and share ways as to how you too can find a happy medium. Tomorrow’s post will address where to begin!