For those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it may seem like there are only two options: subsist on gluten-free prepackaged foods or eat bland, boring dishes at home. Not so. Sure, it's tough to avoid gluten, a protein in everything from wheat and barley to rye and malt (think breads, pastas, cereals, and cakes). But cooking up tasty, gluten-free meals can be easy with these simple ideas:
1. Read labels and make it yourself. Even seemingly innocent items like sauces, soups, and salad dressings can contain gluten, which in Celiac sufferers interferes with the proper absorption of nutrients from food. Why not whip up your own gluten-free versions? Thicken sauces with corn starch instead of flour and make velvety soups using pureed vegetables. Salad dressings are easy to make using three parts oil (such as olive or canola), one part acid (such as lemon juice or sherry vinegar), chopped fresh herbs (try tarragon or cilantro), salt, and pepper.
2. Use whole, unprocessed foods. Rather than scouring store aisles for gluten-free takes on traditional ingredients, try something altogether different: spaghetti squash in place of pasta, for example (using my Spaghetti Squash Lasagna recipe). Or for a gluten-free twist on crunchy granola use buckwheat instead of oats, which may also be contaminated with wheat gluten during processing (unless the package is labeled gluten-free). Bake a mixture of buckwheat groats, nuts, honey, maple syrup, vegetable oil, and a pinch of salt at 300 for 15 to 20 minutes; mix in dried fruit then cool before storing in an airtight container.
3. Focus on texture. Go-to party appetizers often use crostini or crackers as a base. Sliced cucumbers and endives are crunchy substitutes.
4. Embrace naturally gluten-free dishes. If you love pasta with Alfredo sauce, consider making a creamy risotto instead. And if buying or making you own gluten-free flour mixture is unappealing, satisfy your sweet tooth with flourless chocolate cake, meringues, and French macarons. These guilty-pleasures only require five ingredients or less, like chocolate, eggs, and/or almond flour for structure.
Any diet may seem restrictive, but focusing on what you can eat will open up delectable options you can easily make at home.
Hazel Sy is a cooking instructor, food writer, and food photographer. In www.TastyPursuits.com she innovates in the kitchen by exploring and experimenting with classic and new flavors.