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Keeping Things Spicy (and Gluten Free) with Lauren

Posted Jul 24 2009 11:13pm
Lauren is a gluten eating friend of mine. We shared a love for all things vegetarian for many years and traded recipes and protein packed dishes. Though I've moved on to eating things that graze in greener pastures, I still receive emails from Lauren with gluten free, vegetarian options at least once a week. She's an amazing cook and loves good, healthy food. Here's her take on special needs diets and keeping things spicy!

Full disclosure. I am not gluten free. I eat my fair share of pasta and bread and I drink beer more often than I drink wine. But I have a number of friends, family and coworkers who are gluten free. And I’m a vegetarian.

Yes, I know that not eating meat and not eating gluten aren’t the same, but hear me out. Both are prevalent in American cuisine. Hot dogs and hamburgers? Thanksgiving? Friday night pizza dinners? Both require a commitment to maintain, and a knowledge of food and ingredients. And when prepared well, both vegetarian and gluten free dishes could make a “normal” diner forget their dish lacks the prerequisite animal protein with a side of bread.

I’ve been a vegetarian for half my life. I’ve grown up thinking of my dinner in terms of a complete dish, rather than a protein, a vegetable, and a starch. I’ve also grown up learning how to cook for myself. Learning how to cook and prepare meals is one of the most important skills anyone with a special diet can have. When you make food from scratch, you learn what you like and don’t like, how to pair ingredients, and how things like sauces, soups and seasonings come together. I know where meat products hide – no risotto for me at Italian restaurants, it’s probably made with chicken broth – just like someone who is gluten free knows that the cream sauce probably started as a roux – made with flour. Knowing what’s in your food keeps everyone healthy and happy.

They say variety is the spice of life. I think spice adds variety to life. My secret to creating dishes that satisfy me, and my (kind of reformed) carnivorous boyfriend, is my ever expanding spice cabinet. I have yet to meet many spices or herbs I dislike, and am always looking for recipes so I can try new ones. Maybe I have a bit of an addiction – but I’ve never received any complaints about my cooking, gluten free or not.

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