Guest article contributed by guest writer Gina D’Andrea-Penna ’16.
If you have Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, or if you know anyone with either of those problems, I’m sure you’re aware that a gluten-free diet can be quite an adjustment and challenge. Although a gluten-free diet may initially seem intimidating due to its limitations, if you follow a few basic guidelines, you’ll find that gluten-free cooking actually isn’t as difficult as you might assume—in fact, it can be quite simple, and it can also provide you with opportunities to demonstrate culinary creativity.
- Check your cookware. If you’re cooking with pots and utensils that may come into contact with gluten (like a pasta strainer), make sure that they are clean. Otherwise, buy your own designated gluten-free materials. Cross-contamination can be a major issue for individuals with Celiac disease; don’t ruin a perfectly good meal by contaminating it with a dirty spoon!
- Stick with whole ingredients. Gluten sneaks into so many processed goods; unless you trust yourself to check the entire ingredients list (and to understand what the names of those ingredients actually mean!), cook with whole foods. Fruits and vegetables from the produce section, as well as unseasoned, plain meats (raw chicken, beef, etc) and eggs are nearly always safe. But, when in doubt, check the nutrition label.
- Opt for herbs and spices over sauces. Sauces could potentially contain gluten. If you don’t feel like visiting a specialty grocery store to purchase an entire bottle of gluten-free soy sauce, try using herbs and spices for flavor instead. It’s amazing what a little bit of garlic powder and chives, or a sprinkling of cumin can do to transform an initially bland dish.
- No, you don’t have to give up breading. If you really want to coat your chicken tenderloins, you can easily make gluten-free breading by crushing gluten-free cereal, like Rice or Corn Chex, or by crumbling gluten-free bread or crackers. Just make sure it actually is gluten-free.
Hopefully these tips will at least give you a start at gluten-free cooking. As long as you exercise caution, you need not view gluten-free cooking as a daunting task. And believe me, your stomach (or the stomach of your gluten-free guest) will appreciate it.
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