Making Your Kitchen Gluten-Free in Seven Easy Steps
Posted Jan 29 2009 9:12pm
As you make your transition to your new gluten-free lifestyle, one of your first jobs will be to make significant changes in your kitchen. Of course, you can predict the importance of having the right ingredients, but let’s take a step back even further than that.
Prevention of cross-contamination is just as important in your own kitchen as it is in the factories where grains and food products are processed or packaged. Even a small amount of dust or crumbs from gluten-containing food can cause problems for anyone with celiac disease. Consuming as little as 1/8 teaspoon of gluten can actually damage your intestine. That means even just eating the fruit filling out of a wheat flour pie crust, eating a salad that once had croutons on it, or using utensils or appliances that might have traces of a non gluten-free food can be harmful. With that in mind, let’s get specific about your kitchen safety.
Clean Out and Reorganize Your Pantry
Put all the foods that contain gluten into a box, and put all things that are opened or expired into a trash bag. Looking at all the gluten-containing foods you’ve removed, decide which ones are important enough to you that you want to find a gluten-free substitute or make it yourself. Then donate that food you won’t be using or designate separate sections in your pantry and fridge for those non-gluten-free items if you need to maintain a dual household.
Thoroughly clean the surfaces of all cabinets and shelves and any containers you plan to use so that there will be no chance for left-over cross-contamination. Label gluten-free sections or food with colorful tape, stickers or signs that celebrate these safe, healthy, yummy foods.
Replace Your Toaster
Since it’s almost impossible to really clean a toaster to remove every crumb, you might as well buy a new inexpensive one to be safe. If you have gluten eaters sharing the kitchen, designate and label the new one for gluten-free only.
Whenever possible, use condiments from squeeze or pouring bottles. For anything else, make it a rule that there is only one dip into a jar or tub with a utensil. Bread crumbs can easily stick to the knife used to spread peanut butter and get deposited in the jar, for example.
Replace Pans with Worn Surfaces
Buying all new pans may not be feasible, but check for worn surfaces and scratches or dents where food could hide. These probably need to be replaced anyway. If you are dedicating some for use in only gluten-free cooking, you might want to identify them by wrapping brightly colored electrical tape around the handle.
Learn to be an Expert Label Reader
Cleaning out your pantry will give you a great opportunity to practice reading and understanding labels. Watch out for disguised gluten sources like malt flavoring, brown rice syrup, malt vinegar, or any unspecified thickeners, stabilizers, starches or flavorings. Carry lists (free on the internet or in my books) of gluten-free grains and ingredients with gluten in them. Begin to develop lists of your own of names of manufacturers who produce gluten-free products that may be mixed in with conventional foods.
Many companies’ food labels list no gluten-containing ingredients, yet they do not use the term “gluten-free” on their containers. New food labeling laws are phasing in which will help with this, but you must not assume that the product was manufactured in a gluten-free environment unless if specifies. You may need to investigate further by calling or writing to the company to make sure the product fits into your dietary restrictions.
Keep a Good Supply of All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour
Following this tip will make an incredible difference in reducing the number of ingredients you’ll need to bake or cook, the expense of your cooking, and in the preparation time you’ll need for each recipe. With a good quality, versatile gluten-free all purpose flour blend, you can get terrific results and have the convenience you were used to in your pre-gluten-free life.
If you have a go-to flour that will work in most all of your favorite wheat-flour and gluten-free recipes, you will not hesitate to bake what you need for your family. It is far easier to reach for this one flour than to maintain a stock of lots of different flours, and never know if you have what you need for a given recipe. Particularly as you make a transition to a gluten-free lifestyle and a gluten-free kitchen, not having to worry about whether you have all the various flours you may need, not having to worry about how to store these flours, and not having to worry what flours work in what recipes, will make your life so much easier!
I developed my own all purpose flour recipe for my own baking and I have shared it with thousands of people through my books and website ( http://www.nearlynormalcooking.com ). It is also now available pre-mixed, to make it even easier ( http://www.nearlynormalkitchen.com ). Try mine or invent your own! Just be sure to have one that you can rely on in all your gluten-free baking.
Be sure to also purchase several new containers with tight lids to store flour, mixes, and snacks so they’ll stay fresh and separated from any gluten-containing foods you may decide you need to keep for other people.
Limit Gluten in the Kitchen
One of the easiest ways to stay on a gluten-free diet is to have the support of your family and friends. It’s actually cheaper, easier and more conducive to eating family meals together if you can all enjoy the same food. When everyone tastes the delicious dishes available on your diet, eating gluten-free should be a non-issue!
Adapting your kitchen and shopping to these new cooking habits is the first step to your new lifestyle and improved health.