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Is Gluten Free Ever Easy?
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I've recently come into the gluten free world through my husband and it hasn't been easy. I'm used to southern cooking, but every gluten free recipe I come across has some kind of special ingredient that I have to go to the store to retrieve. Does anyone know of any easier way to cook things gluten free "from scratch?"

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Welcome here! You've come to the right place. gluten-free is not easy but it does get easier. My first two months or so post diagnosis were challenging but now I am nearly six months in and it is and it is a routine part of my life. The things I find most difficult are social situations and eating out. There is no safe place in our area for me to eat out. But that is ok as I make everything from scratch include buying whole spices, grinding them and making my seasoning blends and rubs; mustards and ketchups and BBQ sauces; various kinds of pesto, marinades, and so on. There are tons of things naturally gluten-free (many protein dishes). Where the trouble comes of course is with baking OR things with dumplings, crusts, breads, croissants, fresh pasta, etc. That is when you require various flours and/or starches. I have 20 kinds in my freezer but do all my own baking. The only thing I buy the odd time is Udi's bread as it is decent. Not wonderful but it will do in a pinch. gluten-free cookies, cakes, brownies, quick breads are easy to make gluten-free. Breads? Not so much.

If you take most typical cookbooks there are many recipes that you can easily substitute gluten-free stuff in like gravies, pan sauces, etc. I cannot fathom anyone loving cooking/baking/food as much as me so when I was first diagnosed I was C R U S H E D. I teach cooking classes and test recipes but now I just do things differently.

Take a look at the Recipes section on this forum, especially the "What's for Dinner" thread for some great ideas.

Hang in there! :) It CAN be done! :D

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Whole foods (not the store, but whole, outer ring of the grocery store) makes gluten-free easy. We were into whole foods before DS's dx but even more so now. It will get easier! Hang in there!

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I have been gluten-free for a month, and for me meal planning is very easy. As it turns out I didn't eat that much gluten to begin with and have always been a whole foods shopper for the most part. I have started eating more eggs for breakfast and replaced corn tortillas for sandwich bread and gluten-free cereal for my beloved Cheerios and oatmeal.

The thing I find overwhelming is the idea of baking. I have always LOVED baking, more so than cooking. Love2travel, do you have any recommendations for gluten-free cook books with an emphasis on cookies, cakes, and breads? I have heard there is one using almond flour that is supposed to be pretty good.

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I, too, stressed out about cooking gluten-free meals when I was first diagnosed. However, it turned out that I liked my own family recipes more...and I could easily make them gluten free. In fact, just about the only ingredient that needs to be changed out is the flour or pasta. Everything else is naturally gluten free. When I bake, I add xanthan gum along with the gluten-free flour--and no worries there. So, I no longer use gluten-free cookbooks at all.

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Yes, Gluten Free cooking becomes easy with time. As already stated most recipes can be made gluten-free by replacing the flour - others only need a few minor adjustments. For a long time I googled gluten-free recipes first, now I generally google regular recipes first because it is easier to replace a few ingredients - rather than shop for 12 different flours, etc. that you never seem to have in the cupboard.

You have already won a significant battle because you are used to cooking. The only thing that remains difficult is eating out.

We found it helpful when I started shopping on Amazon - we buy our flour, cereal, pasta, nut bars, etc utilizing Amazon's Subscribe and Save and free shipping - best deal around for many gluten-free items.

Hang in there...it absolutely gets easier with time.

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I myself am also a southern girl so I know what you are going through. I know growing up we ate a lot of cabbage if you want I can re-post the cabbage and chicken recipe I have. Just let me know

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Love2Travel said it: Easy? not really. Easier? Yep! I generally cook using whole foods, not the store, but fruits, vegetables, meats, and (if you can tolerate them), dairy. Tonight I made a sweet and sour pork. Sauce was pineapple juice, molasses, apple cider vinegar, and potato starch. Pork was dusted with sweet rice flour, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper. Fryed the pork, added pineapple when pork was just about ready. Serve with rice and YUM!! But Love2travel is the cook around here! I just put that in here to give you an idea of how simple it can be.

The gluten-free diet does require work, as I cook every meal. But is it hard? No, you just have to adjust to not microwaving everything (if you did, and boy did I LOVE those microwave meals.....).

If I may, the references that made this easier for me were Shelley Case's "Gluten Free Diet" (eased the paranoia), and I recommend any cookbook by Carol Fenster if you aren't used to baking extensively. I had to re-accustom my self to cooking, and she has some amazing recipes that are easy and delicious.

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To start, make a list of the meals you already make that are naturally gluten-free. You may be surprised to find there are a lot of them! Here are some simple things off the top of my head that can be naturally gluten-free:

Chili--make your own seasoning rather than using a packet and watch out for gluten in tomato soup if that is an ingredient in your chili.

Hard shell tacos--most brands are gluten-free or Mission brand corn tortillas are gluten-free.

Grits!

Bacon

eggs

pork chops

ham

BBQ chicken

grilled chicken

Collard greens

Potato salad

steak

coleslaw

mashed potatoes

corn on the cob

Grean bean

sweet potatoes

Any steamed vegetable

etc, etc...

So many simple, everyday foods are gluten-free. Focus on those for a while. Slowly, over time you can try all those new flours and try baking and find repalcements for all the Southern food you love.

There are many methods of breading things for frying that don't have to involve multiple gluten-free flours. Instead of buyign all those expensive flours, you can use corn meal, crushed chex cereal (the gluten-free varieties), crushed gluten-free rice Krispies (make sur eit's the one labled gluten-free), crushed up potato chips or corn chips, Betty Crocker potato buds, bread crumbs from those gluten-free breads you tried and hated or from gluten-free baking flops. The best flour I have found for coating and frying things is sweet rice flour which is also known as glutonous rice flour (don't worry it's gluten-free). Anyway, don't try all these things at once or you will be very frustrated and feel like you're not getting decent meals. Make the things that are simple and easy first and then slowly try making replacements for your favorites.

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Try not to do what I did. When my daughter was diagnosed, I bought every book I could find about gluten free stuff. Not all of the cookbooks I bought even worked for us because there are additional food allergies.

Then I went through the books, wrote down the names of the various flours and weird sounding ingredients then bought them. I couldn't find all of them in the stores, so I mail ordered a lot.

Then a year later, I threw out two black plastic garbage bags full of expired stuff! Most of the flour and weird stuff I didn't even use.

So... Get yourself a pre-made flour mix. Most have 4 or 5 flours in them. I usually use Bette Hagman's blend but there are plenty of others. A lot of people like Pamela's but we can't use that because it contains almonds.

Get yourself some sweet rice flour. It's what we use for making gravies and sauces and it is also used in some recipes. If you have an Asian store or a large Asian section in your grocery store it will be cheaper there. Also called glutinous rice flour.

Get yourself some white or brown rice flour. This can be used to make apple crisp along with some gluten free oats. Make sure the oats are in fact labeled gluten free. That's if he can tolerate oats. Some people can't.

Get yourself a container of Xanthan gum.

Unless there are additional food issues, these things alone should be enough to make and bake countless things. Yes, you will run across recipes that will call for something else. Like tapioca starch. Or potato starch. Or sorghum flour. Sometimes you can substitute something you already have for one of these. Sometimes I think the people who make up these recipes go out of their way to put 10 weird ingredients in there. Unless it is something you think you really, really want to make, don't buy all those things. Or ask here first and see if you can substitute something you already have.

Betty Crocker makes a chocolate cake, yellow cake, brownie and chocolate chip cookie mix. There is also gluten-free Bisquick. They are not available in all stores but many stores carry those. So if you need a quick cake, I suggest you try those mixes first because you can probably find them easier than some other brands.

I don't know a lot about Southern food. I am in the Pacific Northwest but was born in Wichita. I get the feeling that the type of foods my mom cooked were more like Southern. We ate things like hominy and black eyed peas. I think biscuits and gravy are Southern. Now I haven't tried the Bisquick yet although I do have some. All of the other biscuit mixes and recipes I have tried have come out very sweet. And there is sugar in the Bisquick. So you may not like it for biscuits and gravy. What we do is make the gravy and serve it over a baked potato. You may find that you have to make substitutions like this. We also find that Teff Wraps work better for packing than sandwiches. The gluten-free bread can go kind of funny and it really needs to be microwaved slightly just before eating.

The good news for you is that there are getting to be more and more gluten-free products available in the regular grocery stores. When my daughter was diagnosed 7 years ago I had to mail order most of what I got for her. I could get some things at our local health food store. It's owned by a Celiac. And Central Market had some things. Now, all of the grocery stores have at least *some* gluten-free products and there is an actual gluten-free store near here too.

For now, try to eat things that are naturally gluten-free. Read each and every food label, each and every time. Manufacturers change ingredients all the time. Or they change where the product is made. I just bought some bread for myself and had to throw it out because I didn't read the label. And now it is made on shared lines with things I am allergic to.

Try to degluten your house. You will need to buy him a new toaster or buy some of those bags for use in the toaster. Replace anything where gluten could be lurking, like a non-stick skillet. If you are going to keep gluten in the house for yourself, you'll have to come up with an area to keep it in and take measures to avoid cross contamination. In our house my husband and I do eat gluten but we keep it to pre-made things, bread and sometimes crackers. I do not keep any wheat flour in the house because it is next to impossible to prevent cross contamination with it. So all of my cooking and baking is gluten-free. But I do still eat an occasional sandwich on wheat bread. And my husband eats things like cookies and muffins that I buy pre-made.

Be careful if and when you go out to eat. Many places now offer gluten free menus. Always tell the wait person that you need a gluten free meal. Well not you, but your husband will need to do this. Don't assume that they know anything. We have ordered gluten free pasta and gotten croutons on our salad. And sometimes they will want to pick those croutons off. He can't have that. He would have to get a new, clean salad. Don't be afraid to ask questions, especially if the food doesn't look right.

It does get easier. I'd say the first year or so was the worst for us. Now it's pretty much old hat.

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The easiest and most pain free way I have found is to cook foods that would normally be gluten free anyway. I've been gluten free a while now, and whilst some gluten free substitutes taste ok, for some reason I still feel deprived :lol:

A jacket potato, salad and chicken breast taste the same as they always did however.

Breakfast was the hard one for me. I was a toast, bacon sandwich or bowl of cereal kind of girl. These days I have either eggs, or I have some soup in the fridge. I make a huge pan and that will last me a few days. It's handy for those times when you're feeling uninspired or just want a quick fix.

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I grew up with a Southern Mamma, and I love her good old home cooking. Bone Suckin' Sauce makes a good BBQ. It's gluten-free. Collards are naturally gluten-free, and so is everything else that goes into them. I like my mashed taters fresh with skins left in, but for quick mashed potatoes, Betty Crocker's PLAIN flakes--nothing else extra in them--are gluten-free. You can always add garlic or butter or cheese anything else. You can also use the potato flakes as breading for fried chicken or baked "fried" chicken. Plain pork rinds make a good breading or ingredient in breading. Read the label to make sure they're gluten-free! Utz is a good brand available in the mid-Atlantic region at regular grocery stores--dunno how far they're distributed. I just got The Cake Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free cookbook and have made several of her cakes with Betty Crocker's gluten-free mixes. She has some Southern favorites like hummingbird cake. The cakes are tasty enough to please gluten eaters (though the frostings tend to be a little too sweet for me). My cousin reminded me of poke cake recently -- just make it with BC's yellow gluten-free mix and your favorite jello flavor. I haven't tried to reproduce biscuits yet, though Namaste (which you can get usually at Whole Foods) makes a mix that's supposed to be good for biscuits. For thickener for gravies and sauces, plain old corn starch or arrowroot powder are good. I don't trust most grits (Georgia ice cream) for cross contamination issues, but Bob's Red Mill makes Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal that's a mixture of grits, buckwheat, sorghum, and rice and is indeed mighty tasty with butter (or alternative), cheese, and/or garlic.

It does get easier with time. Don't be afraid to experiment, fail, laugh, and try again to eventually find something that works beautifully.

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All great responses for you! I'm a southern girl and gluten-free Bisquick is my friend! I don't fry things much, but have used rice flour to fry pork chops and make gravy that my kids loved. Experiment with the gluten-free bisquick (you can find recipes online) and Betty Crocker mixes, they are good for starters. I make fresh strawberry or blueberry muffins with the cake mix. It's overwhelming at first, but soon you'll have some of your favorites back!! You don't need to buy a lot of different things at first, just think what your family would normally eat and how to replace that. The baking and recipe forum here is a great place for advice!!

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I have been gluten-free for a month, and for me meal planning is very easy. As it turns out I didn't eat that much gluten to begin with and have always been a whole foods shopper for the most part. I have started eating more eggs for breakfast and replaced corn tortillas for sandwich bread and gluten-free cereal for my beloved Cheerios and oatmeal.

The thing I find overwhelming is the idea of baking. I have always LOVED baking, more so than cooking. Love2travel, do you have any recommendations for gluten-free cook books with an emphasis on cookies, cakes, and breads? I have heard there is one using almond flour that is supposed to be pretty good.

I am loving "The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten Free". All the recipes start with a Betty Crocker gluten-free mix, and add-ins give lots of variety. Easy, and good.

I miss Cheerios, too! :(

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Love2Travel said it: Easy? not really. Easier? Yep! I generally cook using whole foods, not the store, but fruits, vegetables, meats, and (if you can tolerate them), dairy. Tonight I made a sweet and sour pork. Sauce was pineapple juice, molasses, apple cider vinegar, and potato starch. Pork was dusted with sweet rice flour, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper. Fryed the pork, added pineapple when pork was just about ready. Serve with rice and YUM!! But Love2travel is the cook around here! I just put that in here to give you an idea of how simple it can be.

The gluten-free diet does require work, as I cook every meal. But is it hard? No, you just have to adjust to not microwaving everything (if you did, and boy did I LOVE those microwave meals.....).

If I may, the references that made this easier for me were Shelley Case's "Gluten Free Diet" (eased the paranoia), and I recommend any cookbook by Carol Fenster if you aren't used to baking extensively. I had to re-accustom my self to cooking, and she has some amazing recipes that are easy and delicious.

Thank you very much for the sweet comments!

It is true that gluten-free cooking can be very simple. One easy key is to use fresh ingredients for flavour, such as fresh lemons and herbs - that makes a tremendous difference. It is a lot of fun making your own seasoning mixes - I make my own lemon pepper from peppercorns, lemon zest, etc. and rosemary orange salt, garlic salt and so on. Sounds too simplistic but I cannot emphasize that enough. You can take most recipes in regular cookbooks and make them gluten-free (except for some baking). Thankfully many ethnic recipes are already gluten-free. When I first heard I had celiac I immediately purchased a few gluten-free cookbooks. Mistake. You know why? Most recipes are naturally gluten-free anyway. It was disheartening to see the ubiquitous Calabrese salad that has always, and always will be, gluten-free. However, if you are into baking, I would recommend a few gluten-free baking books such as the Blackberry Cafe and the Culinary Institute of America's gluten-free baking book. You can make brioche, English muffins, breads, etc. Not the same as gluten ones but you can at least create vehicles for other things such as preserves (another thing incredibly simple to make. Some things I make may sound challenging but when you break them down they are not!).

Do not be intimidated. If you are into cooking I recommend focusing on maybe one new and interesting ingredient a week. Take lemongrass for example. It is necessary in many Thai dishes. You can plan an entire menu around it. Perhaps make a simple chicken or pork sate or a green Thai curry. Then you can simply infuse water with lemongrass for rice (just crush a few chunks and toss in boiling water). You can even infuse simple syrup with lemongrass to drizzle over fruit! It really is inspiring to use fun things in the kitchen. And lemongrass is SO CHEAP - about 25 cents for a few stalks. But that is just one example. My kitchen contains 85+ exotic spices from various countries from our travels that I use all the time. But you only truly need about 10-20.

I always ask myself how I can introduce flavour into each dish. Plain white rice? Rarely. Instead I throw in some lime leaves or bay leaves for some subtle flavour. Potatoes? Make a quick pesto or boil with garlic and mash together. Or simply drizzle with olive oil and fresh herbs and season.

Keep a sense of humour and have fun experimenting. If your first bread attempt looks and feels like a heavy rock, so be it. The next one won't be. Focaccia breads are easy to make gluten-free. Just throw in some fresh herbs and garlic.

Another huge (and easy) way to add flavour to proteins is to make dry or wet rubs. Or even brines. No comparison in flavour to things that have not been marinated, rubbed or brined. Things take on an entirely new flavour profile and it seems as though you've slaved in the kitchen all day but you haven't! These things take only a few extra minutes. Cook things bone in if you can for best flavour (i.e. thick pork chops).

John Besh's Louisiana cookbook is very good - including some lovely cornmeal biscuits - and a whole host of other things easy to convert to gluten-free.

Sorry - I could go on and on about this for days! :D

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