|Gluten Free Pancakes|
About six months ago I decided that I would put myself on a Gluten-free diet. I was not diagnosed with Celiac Disease, but I suspected that what I had suffered from for years was a Gluten Intolerance. Celiac Disease is an inherited autoimmune condition that triggers a toxic immune reaction that damages the small intestine and prevents proper absorption of nutrients. Gluten is a common name for the proteins that are present in grains that cause this reaction in people with Celiac Disease. These proteins are found in wheat (durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn and faro) rye, barley and triticale. A person could test negative in blood work for Celiac Disease, but have a significant intolerance towards gluten, also sometimes called Gluten Intolerance IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome.)
So, for those of us who suspect this could be triggering or exacerbating our digestive problems, an elimination diet can be a good test. I removed all forms of gluten by taking any of the above mentioned grains out of my diet, as well as any foods that contain wheat. I was tempted to purchase a barrage of gluten free foods to survive, but opted instead to dry a couple baking mixes and make everything else. I read labels, shopped for foods and prepared meals more carefully (my family of six eat gluten-free dinners along with me) and after a few days begin to notice I was feeling better, and many of my frustrating symptoms were alleviated. After a couple months I experimented by having a few foods with wheat and immediately felt my symptoms return. So, I have begun the journey of creating an entirely new menu for my family and re-creating many of our favorite meals into gluten-free dishes that I can eat and enjoy again.
I will share many of these as I develop and test each, along with tips and advice for others searching for information and ideas for living Gluten-Free. You may see ingredients that some believe contain an unacceptable amount of gluten such a rolled oats. I as many others am able to tolerate them in any amount, while others are only able to eat a small amounts due to a similar protein found in both wheat and oats. Some of my recipes will contain rolled oats, which I have found are safe to use as a Gluten-intolerant person. I hope that you too find that reading labels closely and finding good resources to stock your pantries will keep you prepared to bake or cook when you desire with items you already have. I have found my local grocery store has both white and brown rice flours for sale, as well as white rice, brown rice, and potato based pastas for sale in bulk as well. An excellent supplier of flours, mixes and grains is Bob’s Red Mill. You may see many of these items already for sale in your local grocery store, but for those that cannot find them, ordering larger quantities online is a great way to find the ingredients you need to make your favorite foods.
Here is a list of my favorite ingredients that I have found indispensable in baking and cooking Gluten-Free:
- White rice flour. White rice flour tends to have a slightly more grainy texture but it is excellent for making cream sauces, soups, gravies, baked goods and desserts. I use it just like white flour made from wheat, it has completely changed the way I thought I would have to cook when removing Gluten from my diet.
- Brown rice flour. I love brown rice flour and it’s slightly nutty flavor for baking. I use it in all of my quick-breads, muffins and many cakes. A good rule of thumb for me is the item I am making would taste good with chopped walnuts or pecans in it, it will probably taste good with brown rice flour. I also use a 50/50 mix of white and brown rice flours in cookies and desserts to achieve the consistency I like.
- Rice. You may like Basmati or Jasmine, Long grain, or medium. It is one of the most cost-effective additions to our meal planning and so versatile. I use white rice interchangeably with many of my former wheat based pasta dishes.
- Pasta alternatives. Since I do not eat bread really anymore, I like to incorporate pasta in many of my soups, casseroles and skillet dinners. My personal favorite due to it’s mild flavor, affordability and flexibility is pasta made from white rice flour. I buy huge bags of it in the bulk section at my local grocery store. I have found if I undercook it slightly and rinse it before I add it to a casserole, it prevents overcooking while baking.
- Rolled oats. As mentioned earlier, some people are not able to tolerate rolled oats, but many of us are. You may have to experiment a bit and see how you feel. Just imagine soft, spicy oatmeal cookies loaded with any of your favorite additions such as coconut, raisins, nuts or chocolate chips. Yummy!
- If you typically use packaged mixes for taco seasoning mix, chili, gravy etc…you will want to begin making your own to save money and make sure they do not include wheat. Alternatively even if the prepared foods we are buying do not have gluten in them, they may have been processed on equipment that processes wheat etc…and cause issues due to cross-contamination.
With a little bit of research and experimenting, you will be able to eat well, and not break your food budget