Creating your own gluten-free recipes

When the verdict is heard, you are gluten-intolerant, from your physician, no more wheat, barley, rye, and maybe oats, what do you do? If you are like most burger eaters and pizza lovers, you feel as if your world is crumbling. On second thought, however, you are excited about finally getting a diagnosis. No more irritable bowel syndrome, no more having to stay close at home because you had to frequently rush to the toilet, no more sharp pains after eating. For sure, the blood test has come back positive for gluten antibodies. 

It is entirely possible to be sensitive to gluten, the protein in wheat, rye and barley, and not have it show up when tested. But however the diagnosis comes about, the only treatment is strict gluten-free diet. What then are you to eat? Must you be forever eating only vegetables, fruit and meats and no grains? Absolutely not, but there will be a transition period where either one of two things will happen: Either you will try to mimic your former eating habits with the gluten products you find in specialty store, or you will find new culinary paths. The second scenario takes a while, but it will come. At first you stumble along in the kitchen doing the best you can while dodging those breadcrumbs from the rest of  the pizza, biscuit and burger loving family.

Rethinking your culinary skills 

After a period of trial and error, you learn better eating habits. Your general health improves and your craving for gluten foods lessen. You  learn better eating habits and your craving for bread, which incidentally was enormous, vanishes. Your body learns to like what it gets and when it is no longer fed toxic food, it bounces back amazingly fast. At least that happens with gluten is no longer your tormentor. 

You learn from many different sources, guide books from gluten-free websites, from trial and error, and yes, you learn from your mistakes. You also learn that gluten-free mixes and prepackaged food not only is expensive, it is often not very tasty. But the last straw is the excessive weight you possibly gained because the goodies you treat yourself with is also chocked full of calories. 

Experimenting in the kitchen

Once you learn the basics of gluten food cooking, you learn to use what is gluten-free and rather than throwing out all your cookbooks you improvise. You adapt your best loved recipes to gluten-free. Isn’t that too complicated for the average cook? Absolutely not if you fully understand that gluten is the mortar that holds baked goods together; replace that and you are free to try out your own version. The substitute for gluten, Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum can be purchased at any health food store, or even at Walmart. This artificial gluten goes a long way and gives cookies, cakes, breads holding power. 

If you are daring and like to create your own flours, you can grind up your own from potatoes, garbanzo beans and other flours made from vegetables and not from grain. This is actually not worth the effort and it’s best to purchase all purpose gluten-free flour. In recipes use it as if its regular flour. Of course you’ll have to expect a few mistakes along the way but you will learn how to adjust your recipes. This is how the professionals  put together their own gluten-free pastries and breads; it is trial and error all the way. The one thing they have that serve them well is lots of experience in cooking in general.  

The best of the gluten-free products

Of course there are lots of wonderful gluten-free products on store shelves and more are coming in every day. Make use of these but read their labels and learn what ingredients are in those you really like. As an example, Uno Breads are extraordinary. In fact they are every bit as good as regular bread products, with one exception; they are expensive. To counter that buy a loaf whenever you crave a turkey sandwich, as an example,  but don’t make turkey sandwiches a regular habit.   

Gluten-free Bisquick is a recently seen favorite on store shelves. It is light and has all the essentials, meaning no Xanthan or Guar Gum is needed. Pancakes made with this flour is light and fluffy and compares favorably with regular flour pancakes. The one drawback is its expense. But it can be combined, in some recipes you create with other regular flours, corn, soy, all purpose gluten-free baking flour, rice flour and other. Just buy a box and turn your kitchen into a test lab for an afternoon, then sit back and enjoy your treats. Be sure to keep notes however. Along your other recipes on the shelf, a spiral notebook of your  gluten-free cooking notes. Of course you will want to share these with others.

Rice flour, soy flour, buckwheat flour, gluten-free baking powder, gluten-free vanilla, and other cooking items with the gluten-free labeling are all now fairly easy to find as you shop the shelves at supermarkets. Of course at these specialty stores prices seem to be higher. There’s reason for that: Up until the last four or five years, when gluten-free labeling was required on products, health food stores were about the only place where gluten-free products were sold.

To sum up, gluten-free dining is sometimes a pain, but so is living in general at times, but a healthy body and a inquisitive mind trumps all negativity about having to go gluten-free for the rest of your life. Why not take advantage of the situation and turn yourself into an award winning cook, at least in your own mind as well as in your own kitchen? And an extra bonus will be a better nourished body. Sure, it takes a little more effort to prepare your lunch from veggies and fruits instead of throwing together a sandwich from last night’s left over meat loaf, but it’s healthier. (Yet, even a meat loaf made with gluten-free products is still a welcome treat now and then. Just find the right ingredients that will hold it all together, possibly a bit of Xanthan gum, corn starch, eggs, etc.) In no time at all, an answer to the hardship of living without wheat will be that there’s nothing to it. It has turned me into a better cook and healthier and happier person.    

Posted in Cooking