My son has been gluten free for over a year now. His improvements in health and behavior have been astounding, so I am completely on board with making gluten free become just a natural way of life. It was quite a shock for me, who makes everything from scratch, to rethink literally every recipe I had collected over the years. How could I continue to provide family meals without using my number one ingredient; flour?
It's been an interesting challenge financially as well. Many of the things that are used to replace gluten foods are so expensive that they are prohibitive to a shopper on a budget, and certainly not a sustainable sort of thing. I shop with a plan, with a list, and certainly with a budget made in stone. How can I add an extra $70 to my budget if I replace gluten free items that I can't replicate at home?
It's not an option.
I have figured out that there are gluten free fad foods and gluten free items that will make navigating a gluten free kitchen that much easier. Here are 5 things that I have to have in my kitchen, making my cooking more spontaneous and imaginative like it used to be. The take away here is that gluten free is doable for any home and any budget. Check out some of my ideas:
This is my go to mix for baking anything. It's used equally as regular flour in any recipe, baked goods and thickening. I do find that it results in a little denser product at the end, but it's soft and tasty, unlike many gluten free flours that are gritty. This is used almost every day in my kitchen. I highly recommend it!
It sounds silly to include parchment paper to a list for gluten free, but it's a vital part of my everyday cooking that saves me worry and saves my son from accidental contamination and illness. I use parchment on my cookie sheets and baking pans to provide a gluten free, save layer for cooking. Of course, you could use the traditional advice and buy a separate gluten free set of cookware for the GF member of the family, but who can afford that? It's also just as tough to remember to pull out whatever pan when you need it. Plus, cross contamination can occur with your special pan and then you have to buy another one.
My advice? Buy parchment paper and become adept at folding it into any shape you desire. I use it mostly for cookie sheets and make his GF pizzas, cookies, and baked good on. Then I know he is going to be able to eat it without worry.
Let's face it, having a cake mix from a box means you can get a dessert on the table pretty easily. This was perhaps the biggest challenge when we first started looking for suitable gluten free products. Most boxed GF cake mixes were gritty and stayed that way all the way to the plate. Just imagine bringing your birthday cupcakes to the pool, and none of the kids will eat them because they are weird tasting.
I found an excellent boxed cake mix from King Arthur, that is silky, fluffy, tasty, and just plain perfect. Use it for making cakes and cupcakes of course, but also use this cake mix just as you do in other recipes that require a box of cake mix as the ingredient. We are fond of the vanilla cake more than the chocolate, but that could be because we are spoiled from the Hershey's cake recipe on the cocoa tin.
It's not just a fad. Silicone Bake ware is such a useful item to have in the GF kitchen when you are new to cooking this way. Gluten free baked goods are delicate. By that I mean they just fall apart. You have to have a gentle hand and be able to quickly transfer the baked good from pan to cooling rack, and more often than not you will break, smush, crush, or otherwise mess up the finished product. Unless you can get it out of the pan or off it, with ease.
That's where silicone bake ware comes in. Now, silicone is great for baking and cooking in the oven. It's like nonstick ware of old, meets new age cooks. Use silicone for making muffins and your GF muffins come out whole. Use it on the cookie sheet and you can get delicate, rich chocolate chip cookies off the sheet and onto your cooling rack. Use it in the old pans you have (often the silicone will fit right inside metal or glass bake ware.) You will save plenty of food and all it takes is this really cool stuff. Highly recommended.