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Eating gluten free is easier than ever! Large chain grocery stores are selling gluten free items and ingredient lists are more explicit than ever. However, gluten free living is still expensive and often times inconvenient. This instructible's purpose is to share some knowledge and tricks gleaned from three generations of living gluten free.

Principles to remember
If in doubt leave it out. - This one is hugely important. There are a lot of trial and error mistakes you can make. Unless you know what is in a food, don't eat it.

If gluten touched it, it's no longer safe - My child would come home throwing up (her reaction to gluten) at night because the lunch lady at school wouldn't change her gloves to make a salad.
 
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Step 1: Safe Foods

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A lot of times you start to explain to people that you can't have wheat products and they think you mean you can't eat whole wheat bread. After it dawns on them that you can't eat any normal bread products they then say "What can you eat?". So here's a safe list. Your list may be more restrictive due to other allergies or lifestyle choices.

Bear in mind that how these foods are cooked can make them unsafe. For instance fish is safe but breaded fish would not be. You also have to be very careful about food cooked in a fryer. If they are used to cook other non-GF foods, they should be left out.

I'm only including things that may be common in anyone's kitchen. This is partly to help with finding foods you and family might be familiar with.

Food groups that are safe
Fruit
Vegetables
Meat
Eggs
Dairy
Nuts
Peanuts

Starches that are safe
Potato (baked mashed etc)
Corn
Rice

Common cereals that are safe
Fruity and coca pebbles
Rice chex are now safe
Trix

Take out food that is safe (as of this writing)
Burger King Fries (they have their own dedicated fryer and don't coat with wheat starch)
Burger King Milk Shakes
Wendy's Burgers without the bun (Fresh patties means they're not dusted with wheat starch to separate them.)
Wendy's Baked Potato
Most take out salads (croutons are normally in their own pouch) but watch out for the dressing
Hot Dogs without the bun are usually safe

Alcohol
Red Bridge beer made with Amaranth and is labeled Gluten free
Wine (all except possibly spiced wines)
Potato Vodka

When going to a restaurant ask if they have a gluten free menu. Many are starting to, some have menu items that are marked gluten free.

Update. We recently ran across Dinty Moore Beef Stew and found out it's gluten free!

Step 2: Unsafe Foods

Obviously wheat is one big no-no but there is gluten hiding out in a lot of ingredients that you might not think and there is a lot of confusion as to some ingredients.

Oatmeal - By itself, oatmeal doesn't have gluten but it is often processed with wheat and picks up gluten from the wheat. If you see Oats in the ingredients and it doesn't explicitly say Gluten Free, go without.

Malt - Anything that is malted has gluten. This one is a big deal when looking at chocolate milk or milkshakes.

Amaranth - We've been told both ways on this one. It contains gluten and that it doesn't. We've been going without unless the product says gluten free. This could be the same issue as oatmeal picking up the gluten from processing.

Modified Food Starch - This could be wheat starch. Now they usually label it more accurately as Modified Corn Starch which is safe. If it says Modified food starch and doesn't explicitly say gluten free, do without.

Scrape off that breading? - A lot of times people will say "Just scrape off the breading." That doesn't work. Ask them if you coated their food with feces would they be content to just scrape it off.

Be careful with Jelly and Peanut Butter - Mainly if non-GF people use it on their bread. They will spread the jelly or peanut butter on and then return the knife to the jar, contaminating it with gluten.

Beer - It's made from wheat.

Wine Coolers - these are actually a beer product.

Distilled Liquor - Many are made from wheat mash. The distilled product should be safe but sometimes a small amount of the mash is re-added to the liquor. If in doubt.

Step 3: Baking

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Eating gluten free is expensive! You can limit that by baking for yourself. Cooking from scratch also makes things cheaper and will taste far better than store bought items but makes it more complicated. Here are a few concepts to get used to for baking

1. Keep a notebook

Or a binder for holding recipes you like and that you reference often. We have a pizza crust recipe that we make all the time and most of our non GF friends actually prefer it. That goes  in the notebook. I'll be sharing some other items from our notebook later.

2. Use different GF flours for different purposes.

Rice flour is sweet for desserts but can be gritty
Tapioca has a good texture and neutral flavor
Corn flour is good for a heavier bread
Corn Starch is inexpensive, neutral and good texture.
Potato Starch is neutral and has good texture. It's price is in the medium range
Buckwheat (yes it's safe) is good for some whole wheat flavor
Millet flour, expensive but tastes most like whole wheat.
There are many more flours available such as chickpea and soy but my family doesn't use them because of other allergies.

3. Use blends of flours

We use corn starch for nearly 50% of most of our recipes to keep the cost down. Beyond that combining flours gives the strengths of different flours to your mix. A very basic economy mix for most recipes is 50% corn starch, 25% potato starch, 25% tapioca flour. A better quality mix is 1/3 corn starch, 1/3 potato and 1/3 tapioca. If you don't have one of the potato or tapioca starches, you can go with 1/2 corn starch and 1/2 of whatever one you have.

4. Don't look for an "all purpose" blend.

The blends above are general. We will add or subtract based on what we want the final outcome to be. Some blends are good for bread and others are better for cookies etc. Get used to experimenting. If you get a blend a little wrong, you'll still have something eatable, it just won't be the best recipe ever. Adjust it in your notes and try again next time.

5. Start with cookbooks, move on to making your own recipes

We have a library of cookbooks. We learned from each one some basic concepts and started to experiment. Many times I make up recipes now based on what feels right then have to write them down later when they turn out especially well.

6. GF dough is heavy, sticky and settles unevenly.

GF dough will not look like normal bread dough. At best it will look like something in between pancake batter and a sticky hard blob. Working with it takes some adjustment. Adding liquids can make a mix go from solid dry lump to sloshy liquid in no time. Balancing the liquids is key to getting something that is workable as a dough, and even then it won't work like bread dough (gluten is what gives wheat dough it's flexibility and strength. There are some thickeners that go a long way to making GF dough workable, like guar gum and xanthum gum. If you let anything with corn starch sit after it has mixed, you'll have to stir it again because the corn starch will settle to the bottom in a hard lump.

When working with GF dough it helps to grease your hands with butter, shortening or bacon grease. The dough will stick to your hands more than it will stick to itself unless you have a good coating.

Step 4: Tools

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There are only a few basic tools you need but getting them right is important.

Important tools

Oven - many ovens have hot spots or don't get up to the temp that they say they are at. A quality oven can make a big difference between frustration and good food.

Mixer - GF flours are heavy. I mixed them by hand for years but I was also used to mixing grout by hand and they're not much different. A strong mixer is important. Kitchen Aid mixers will work fine but Cuisinart are built a bit sturdier and cheaper. There's a big "which is better" fight between the two brands. Do some reading and find out which one will suit your needs.

Useful tools

Cast Iron Pizza Pan - We make a lot of pizza. Being near Buffalo NY, it's a big part of the culture here and not being able to eat a much loved food is a big let down. Cast Iron gives a good even heat.

Bread maker - Being able to fill up a bread maker and let it go overnight is priceless. It produces better results than pan baking in my opinion because the timing is perfect.

Waffle Iron - Pancakes and waffles are relatively easy to make. If you want a little variety in your breakfast, waffles are a good way of adding a starch.

Silicone baking pans/sheets - since GF dough is so sticky, it can be hard to get out of the pan. Silicone pans make removal much easier.

Step 5: Quick Fixes

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A lot of times you don't want to wait for a cake or loaf of bread to bake. You're hungry and need something bready right away. Here are some suggestions.

5 Min Chocolate Cake GF Style
1 Packet of Hot Coca
4 TBSP GF Flour (2 corn starch 2 potato starch will do)
3 TBSP canola or vegetable oil
3 TBSP water
1 Egg
Mix in a large coffee mug. Place in microwave and cook on high for 3 min. Let cool and enjoy!

5 Min White Cake GF Style
6 TBSP Sugar
3 TBSP Dry Milk Powder
4 TBSP GF Flour (2 corn starch 2 potato starch will do)
3 TBSP canola or vegetable oil
3 TBSP water
1 Egg

Optional Add choco chips, cinnamon, cherries etc
Mix in a large coffee mug. Place in microwave and cook on high for 3 min. Let cool and enjoy!

5 Min Bread GF Style
3 TBSP Dry Milk Powder
1/3 Cup GF Flour
3 TBSP canola or vegetable oil
3 TBSP water
1 Egg
Mix in a small bowl. Spray a wide coffee mug with cooking spray or coat with butter. Transfer mix to the wide coffee mug. Place in microwave and cook on high for 3 min. Let cool, remove from the mug, cut in half for a sandwich and enjoy!

The bread ends up very heavy. If someone figures out a better mix, please let me know. Still it's better than nothing when you really need a samich.

Pancakes
Pancakes and waffles are easy and quick options too. Every GF cookbook I've seen have recipes for them and nearly all taste fine.

Step 6: My Breadmaker Recipe

This works really well in my breadmaker, I don't know how it will work in other brands of breadmakers.

Add liquids first so the powders don't stick to the bottom of the mixer

3 Eggs (we have chickens so eggs are plentiful)
1 1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable (or canola) oil
1 tsp cider vinegar

Now the powders add yeast as the very last ingredient.
3/4 cup corn starch
3/4 cup potato starch
3/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup corn flour
1/4 cup millett flour
3 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
2 tblsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp bread machine yeast

Optional
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins

If your mixer waits for a while before starting to mix like mine does, you may have to help it by breaking up the cake of flours with a rubber spatula.

Step 7: Recommended Resources

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So now you're thinking "How do I find a good cookbook?". These are some that we use frequently.

Gluten Free Kitchen by Roben Ryberg
This is an excellent starter book. Almost all recipes use strictly corn starch and potato starch as flour which has a good texture and taught us that GF doesn't have to taste funny. We've given this book as a gift to many people. We use it so much the binding fell apart and we punched holes in the pages and put it in a small three ring binder.

The Gluten-Free Gourmet by Bette Hagman.
This is a little older book, It's a little more complicated than the first book but there's still some good recipes.

More From The Gluten-Free Gourmet by Bette Hagman
An update with more recipes.

Gluten Free Cooking by Ruby M. Brown
gflesvig1 year ago
I realize we all have our ND's regarding GF.
Check out this great Podcast: http://podcast.gcnlive.com/podcast/fireYourMD/pcast.php
He truly gets GF!
murphmag2 years ago
My boyfriend and his family are gluten free and they have told me that Sonic French fries are safe :) just though I'd let you know
SinAmos2 years ago
Thanks for the info.
Klassen223 years ago
I have come across a gluten free chocolate and it is delicious. It is got the highest antioxidant content in it so it is very healthy.

Worth a try..if you like chocolate..

CamoBedding3 years ago
This is so cool, I have never seen a pizza cooked over an open grill before.
EmmettO (author)  CamoBedding3 years ago
A cast iron pan helps a lot.
this is awesome, even through ive been living GF for a couple yrs now this really helps. i also hav to agree that my friends like my GF cooking and always ask for food.
EmmettO (author)  flyingfox5673 years ago
Thanks! We GF people need all the help we can get, we need to support each other. You should make some instructables about what you make.
i wil,l i just found this site a couple days ago so i havent had much time to make some cool stuff yet, through im getting there
Oats are actually a double-whammy. Not only do they use wheat flour to roll them through... but oats have been grown in wheat fields for so long that they actually develop some gluten in and of themselves. They are genetically altered (naturally) over time because of their proximity. Soooo... you have to get gluten free oats no matter what type of processing they use. Also, it is much harder when sorting to separate out wheat from oat groats.

This becomes clear once you actually make oatmeal with those gluten-free oats. They take much longer to cook down, *and* the texture is fundimentally different.


With Ameranth, the two are genetically different enough and easy enough to tell apart that even a machine can do it. ;)
Amaranth does NOT have gluten in it, at least the puffed Ameranth or the Ameranth flour from Bob's Red Mill. My dietitian said it was safe.

OTOH, I tend to avoid most pre-packaged things like Ameranth flakes which have had wheat flour added to them to roll them through the machines. *sigh*
They use such a proportionately small amount for this that they don't put it on the label *double sigh*.

EmmettO (author)  DorthyBlueBird4 years ago
Yes, Amaranth by itself doesn't appear to have gluten, I suspect it picks it up like oatmeal when processed.
Really awesome explanation of GF guidelines! Your bread recipe sounds pretty good, but I try to avoid gums and things like that when baking - this recipe works well and uses flax seeds and egg whites instead (it can be a little heavy though if it doesn't rise for enough time).
EmmettO (author)  shesparticular4 years ago
Is there an issue with gums that I wasn't aware of? Guar gum is a plant protean, xanthum gum is a little weird in that it comes from bacteria I'll admit. Sometimes I've used too much gum while experimenting and I get something a little odd.
Some folks have reactions to them, and depending on where you live they can be expensive or difficult to find. If they work for you though, no reason not to use them.
EmmettO (author)  shesparticular4 years ago
I guess thats not too surprising that people can be allergic to them, I hadn't heard of that. They are pricey per pound but you don't use a lot so even though it's expensive to buy a bag of it they go really far. We did have to order guar gum last time we needed it. For some reason everyone decided to not carry it all at once.
Jennigma5 years ago
I'd be interested in your pizza recipe. I've got one that works, but it's very complicated. I make a 4x batch and freeze 3/4's of it when I make it, but that gets old. :-)
EmmettO (author)  Jennigma5 years ago
Sorry I'm responding so late, the one we use is not a simple one either but it's good. It's based on the pizza recipe in Gluten Free Kitchen by Roben Ryberg but with modifications. I'll have to sneak the recipe away from my wife. Maybe I'll make it as it's own ible.
EmmettO (author)  EmmettO4 years ago
And there's a Pizza contest so I'd better get cracking!
Yes, please!
EmmettO (author)  Jennigma4 years ago
Sorry I didn't get this done earlier but I finally finished the instructable. http://www.instructables.com/id/Gluten-Free-Pizza/
Thanks!!
Joe Martin5 years ago
We've got a Gluten free student riving in a couple of days so this is invaluable for us, thank you!
EmmettO (author)  Joe Martin5 years ago
No problem! If you have any questions leave them in the comments and I'll see if I can answer them.