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Apr 28, 2012 06:39 AM

Sharing Ideas for Gluten-free Eating

My wife was diagnosed with celiac disease about a year ago. I'm the main cook in our house, and have been poking around ever since for food prep ideas. The commercially available gluten free products are mostly pretty boring for a committed 'hound, not to mention expensive. And one can only eat so many salads. We'd like to keep eating old favorites as much as possible, and I'd like to hear what others have come up with to get a handle on the problem, and share ideas.

I have been experimenting with non-wheat flours, and have had good luck with lentil flour, available in Indian food sections, both for breading (e.g. fried chicken) and as a thickener (e.g. bechamel).

I have also read in various places that many/most?? soy sauces are actually not a problem. Similarly, and amazingly, I have heard that bread made with levain (true sour dough, which most SD bread isn't) is actually OK-- something about how the wild yeast affects the gluten. We have a local baker who uses levain -- she has tentatively experimented with eating small amounts of his bread and has not experienced pain. So take it FWIW -- her celiac may not be as severe as others.

What ideas have you come up with for a more satisfying gluten-free diet?

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  1. What a lucky wife to have your support and great cooking! I was also diagnosed with celiac a year ago and now it is second nature and easy (except for going out and traveling to foreign countries can be a challenge at times). What I do is mainly stick to naturally gluten free dshes such as risottos, proteins such as lamb and duck and common chicken, beef and pork and lots of roasted or grilled veg. I do make bread and bake (I have over 20 kinds of flour) and make my own pasta. I find eating at home to be very easy. We eat incredibly varied and delicious food 7 days a week (or 6 if I get lazy). I make crackers and snacks but try to use whole foods where possible.

    I believe there is absolutely no reason why we cannot (or should not) eat just as well as ever and therefore I cook creative and lovely meals. Whenever I create a dish I try to inject it with as much love and flavour as is possible.

    On a typical day we will have roast leg of lamb with roasted butternut squash puree and prosciutto-wrapped grilled asparagus with dessert sometimes (often fresh fruit). I like to make GF angel food cake, cookies, pavlova... I might make vichyssoise soup for lunch (or smoked chipotle bean soup or roasted poblano pepper and corn soup). What inspires me is the ingredients I see at the store (we have no market here - our growing season is far too short). However, a few hours' drive away we have specialty stores where I purchase wonderfully unusual ingredients. Then I create a meal around that. Ethnic cooking is often naturally gluten free as well. I enjoy making tons of Thai, Malaysian, Italian, French, Turkish, Syrian...foods. My huge library of food/culinary/cookbooks also inspires me.

    2 Replies
    1. re: asulikeit

      I cook gluten free for my sister with cakes and meals when she is over for dinner. I am from Australia and the Australian Coeliac Society does an annual gluten free expo where you can go and sample new gluten free products available from supermarkets and specialty stores. Some are quite expensive and I agree that using fresh foods naturally gluten free is a good way to go. With Asian cookery, is the Ayam brand available in the US? We were shopping yesterday and discovered Ayam has a range of GF certified sauces such as soy, hoi sin, black bean, plum and fish sauce. We have been able to buy a different brand of GF soy sauce for several years, not Tamari which is quite expensive in comparison to the one we buy.

      1. re: margiabc

        Unfortunately Ayam products are only available in the Asia-Pacific region and the UK. Eden Foods, San-J, Lee Kum Kee and Choy Sun all offer GF options in the US. I'm actually partial to tamari over soy sauce because I prefer the flavor.

    2. Lentil flour! What a great idea. I've been trying to find a good grain-free thickener for my cauliflower gratin (which is my cheaty low-grain version of the mac and cheese I fiend for) but haven't had any luck. I'll have to give that a try.

      I've heard similar things about true sourdoughs -- how great that your wife can eat levain bread!

      WRT soy sauce, is it the fermentation that's the difference? I know some of the cheaper grocery-store brands are made by a different method than the traditional way of fermenting.

      Though I don't have a gluten allergy, I find that I feel better if I keep most of my diet very low to no grain and mostly gluten-free, so I've tried quite a few GF hacks to keep my cravings under control. Kale chips satisfy my "crunchy" craving, and are so easy and versatile. I've also fallen in love with spaghetti squash as a sub for noodles of all kinds -- I've used them in Southeast Asian soups, instead of pasta or egg noodles, in creamy baked dishes, etc. I haven't had pasta in ages and I don't miss it because of that.

      I agree with asulikeit that sticking to naturally GF dishes works best for me. When I try to keep my diet focused on proteins and vegetables the other stuff falls into place.

      1. I'm early in the process of learning about gluten free cooking, and mostly I just sub rice products for wheat products. I do a rice flour roux to thicken sauces and use rice noodles for most things. I often just use the dry Asian ones, but rice flour makes great fresh pasta too. I did two yolks and two eggs to amp up the yellow color, added 3 or 4 tsp of xanthan and rice flour until it felt similar to normal fresh pasta dough. It does have to sit before you roll it out though- preferably an hour. It's a little finicky- I usually had to smash it really flat with my fingers and put it through the biggest setting a few times, and I could only roll it out to the second thinnest setting. But it was worth the trouble; the result was excellent, and it even reheats well. I find a lot that if I explore Asian and Latin American, I run into fewer situations where I have to substitute. I'm interested in trying to handle bread next. I'm curious about whether stiff egg whites (beaten with cream of tartar) would be a good addition. I tried eggs once, and the lift was pretty good, but the result smelled sulfurous. I think I overcooked it and that I need to actually use a temperature probe next time. A baguette is my white rhinoceros. I'm trying to avoid buying a ton of flours because I'm moving, but I'd really like to figure it out.

        9 Replies
        1. re: jvanderh

          I find a lot that if I explore Asian and Latin American, I run into fewer situations where I have to substitute.
          i'm so glad you've all said this in one way or another. when i counsel clients who are transitioning to GF, one of the first things i suggest is to start exploring more foods that are naturally GF rather than trying to substitute with sub-par GF versions of everything. it's far more useful than stocking up on ersatz products that leave you feeling unsatisfied (and 10-15 lbs heavier thanks to all that refined starch and sugar).

          as for adding stiffly beaten egg whites to bread, they can help provide a nice lightness and rise, but may also dry it out a bit. this is one of the best GF baguettes i've seen, if you're willing to give it a shot...

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Hi, I was hoping you'd show up :-)

            I look forward to trying the "perfect gluten-free bread" recipe, but what I'm really chasing is a round and very skinny loaf made from regular old flour/water/yeast/salt (no eggs, fat, etc) with a crust so shatteringly crunchy it makes the inside of my mouth bleed, and a middle that's pillowy soft with large air holes. SIgh. If I could do that, I think I could really truly embrace gluten free living.

            1. re: jvanderh

              Google the Gluten Free Doctor (Dr. Jean Layton) and her sourdough. It's awesome.

              I've also found that baking my bread in a perforated baguette tray worked well. Good crust!

              1. re: Vetter

                I can't seem to find it. Is it the recipe from the bagels?

                      1. re: ItalianNana

                        Looks like she's changed her web address since then. Here's the same link from her new one:

                        And a more recent revision of the recipe without any gums:

            2. re: jvanderh

              I miss pasta a LOT. It's a vehicle for so many of the sauces I grew up with. Rice works for some things...but...

              Is there a place here where we can post methods and actual recipes? It sounds like the is good bread and pasta being made in homes?

            3. - injera is a great GF alternative to wraps or lavash.
              - split and stuffed arepas are a really satisfying alternative to traditional sandwiches.
              - quinoa makes terrific "tabbouleh" and can stand in for couscous in most dishes.
              - sweet rice flour, millet flour and arrowroot all make great thickeners for gravies & sauces.
              - use seeds, crushed nuts/nut meals, cornmeal or coconut flour in place of breading for meat or fish - you'll never miss the bread crumbs.
              - a tempura-style batter with rice flour and club soda makes killer onion rings, fried calamari or squash blossoms.
              - polenta & steel-cut oats are both amazingly versatile for both and sweet dishes, and can be prepared soft or firm, even grilled or pan-fried.
              - masa and corn tortillas offer a world of GF possibilities.
              - long strips of blanched zucchini & carrot make a really light & tasty alternative to pasta. just toss in the pan with your favorite sauce & serve.
              - buckwheat is highly underrated - the flour is terrific for baking (or, crepes, anyone?) and toasted buckwheat groats make wonderful side dishes like pilaf & grain salads, and a really satisfying hot cereal for breakfast.

              even better, if you fill your plate with an array of colorful veggies, clean protein and healthy fats, you won't have much room for the bread, pasta, cookies or cakes...and you just might find after a while that you don't miss it all that much.

              6 Replies
              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                Good list. I'm interested, however, that you mentioned arepas. We were in a Latin restaurant a few days ago that specialized in them, and we asked about the GF factor. They told us their arepas did have a small amount of wheat flour. So it would be good to know if this is normal or an exception. In any case, it would suggest that checking before consuming is a good idea.

                1. re: johnb

                  that's a bit of an exception, arepas don't typically contain wheat flour. but yes, ALWAYS ask - unfortunately that comes with the territory. the good news is that you can safely work GF magic in your own kitchen with all the things i mentioned. (i was operating on the assumption that we were discussing home-prepared items made from scratch. sorry!)

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Nothing to be sorry for. I think we are indeed mostly discussing home made, but restaurants are in the picture as well, so no reason not to discuss both. Right now my wife and I are traveling (have been for a month), so restaurants are very much on our minds.

                    Thank you for your excellent input.

                    1. re: johnb

                      you're a lucky couple to have that kind of freedom - i hope you're enjoying every moment! have you checked out any of the GF travel or city-centric websites? depending on where you go, you might find some really useful information and restaurant recommendations/reviews.

                      and when it comes to preparation, here's one of my favorite resources:

                      they actually have a separate category for GF items, including packets of GF soy sauce which are super-handy to bring with you when you're out for sushi.

                2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  I understand that the flour for injera in the US is often cut with flours other than teff. Some, like buckwheat, are GF. Others, wheat or barley, aren't. So I would be careful before eating injera.

                  1. re: Lori D

                    The OP was talking specifically about foods to be made at home, so I suggested injera based on the assumption that he would be preparing it from scratch using a traditional teff-only recipe. But you raise a good point - never assume something is GF, and always ask unless you made it yourself.

                3. my sister changed to a GF diet after life long battle with nausea, IBS, fatigue, etc. she also has thyroid issues which contributes to her health problems and turning to a GF diet has helped her tremendously.

                  she etas tons of japanese food and don't know where you're located but there's quite a few selections of potato starch type of noodles in the noodle section of our Japanese market.

                  if you ever want the best fried chicken try japanese tatsuta age. marinated chicken pieces in tamari, rice wine, sugar, garlic and ginger. dust it with corn starch and fry away.

                  my sister eats tons of mochi for dessert too.

                  bread does seem to be an issue. so far she's failed at all attempts to make it successfully at home so she's given in to Udi's for now