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Gluten-Free Cooking Tips

Special cooking tips for a special gluten free diet...

A Gluten Free Diet

A gluten-free diet means avoiding all foods that contain wheat (including spelt, triticale, and kamut), rye, barley, and possibly oats - in other words, most grain, pasta, cereal, and many processed foods. Despite these restrictions, people with celiac disease can eat a well balanced diet with a variety of foods, including bread and pasta. For example, instead of wheat flour, people can use potato, rice, soy, or bean flour. Or, they can buy gluten free bread, pasta, and other products from special food companies.

Flour: Start with the most obvious and mostly commonly used ingredient. If your recipe calls for flour, consider using cornstarch or a gluten free flour or mix. Experiment with the many new flours available, like bean flours, sorghum, and amaranth. They are nutritious and add flavor, and they are gluten-free!

Amaranth is sweeter than most alternative flours with an almost nutty taste. Although the taste is good, the texture tends to be very sticky, so no more than 10 percent of your flour mixture should be amaranth. The advantage to including it is that it's more nutritious than most of the alternative flours. It's high in fiber, iron, and calcium.

Soy flour is an option, but it tends to leave a distinctive aftertaste, as do teff and buckwheat. (No, buckwheat does not have wheat in it.)

Bake that Bread!

Gluten free breads should be beaten by hand with a wooden spoon or spatula. A whisk doesn't work - the batter should be a bit too thick for this. The mix master over-beats them and they get too fine a texture and tend to fall.

If you put 1-1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar and 1-teaspoon of baking soda in for two loaves, they do not interfere with the yeast but help the bread to rise and keep it up during baking. Limit the use of potato, bean, arrowroot and tapioca flour to about 25-percent maximum. If the bread is 'sticky' when baked, cut these flours down further.

Bread crumbs: Many gluten-free breads turn to crumbs when you look at them. And certainly, there are always plenty of crumbs in the bag; just use them as extras for cooking. Or crumble some bread slices and toast or broil the crumbs to make them crunch.

Croutons: Cut fresh, gluten-free bread into cubes, deep fry, and then roll in Parmesan cheese and spices. Some people suggest letting the bread get just a tad stale (not moldy) before making croutons this way. An alternative would be tortilla chips. You can also check out several varieties of gluten free salad toppings in the veggie section of your grocery store, or better yet, make your own!

Buns and flour tortillas: Substitute lettuce, gluten-free bread, corn tortillas, or rice wraps (found in Asian markets and often used in Thai cooking). If you like nori (the seaweed wrap on sushi), you can use it as a wrap with anything stuffed inside.

Duck Eggs

Duck eggs are often tolerated by those who have problems with chicken eggs. They can be hard to find. Look for them in Chinese markets.

Oatmeal/hot breakfast: Try corn grits. Prepare them like oatmeal and top with butter, cinnamon, and sugar, or fry them. Hot cereals also are available from the producers of gluten-free flours. Some new amaranth and quinoa hot cereals that are nutritional powerhouses are also available.

Coconut milk is a good substitute for cow and soy milk.

Xanthan Gum can be substituted for Gluten-Free Guar Gum. If you are new to gluten-free baking, you may see the words xanthan gum (pronounced zan-thun) quite often. It is a gum that helps to hold your baked product(s) together. The result of using the gum is sticky, not the gum itself. Xanthan gum is a cream colored powder that comes packaged either in a pouch or a jar. Adding just a little of this gum to your flour mixture helps

Guar gum accomplishes the same thing as the xanthan gum (preventing crumbling). Although guar gum is gluten free, it may cause distress of the lower intestinal tract in some people. Another alternative to using xanthan gum is to use twice the amount of unflavored gelatin. If the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum, use 2 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin.

Rice bran can be substituted for rice polish.

Sweet rice is a rice that is low (10 to 18 percent) in the starch compound called amylose.

White rice can NOT be substituted for sweet rice (it is not sticky enough).

Thickeners: Cornstarch, arrowroot flour, and tapioca starch make great substitutes for flour and other thickeners. Dry pudding mix works well for sweet recipes, and bread or baking mixes work well for just about anything. Tapioca flour works roughly the same as tapioca starch.

For a Granola Tip visit our Chewy Granola Bars Recipe.

Potatoes. If you are making mashed potatoes for dinner, bake the potatoes (instead of boiling them); remove most of the insides to make the mashed potatoes, and leave the skins intact. Then make your own potato skins topped with Cheddar cheese, sliced green onions, and crumbled bacon. Potato skins make a fun lunch for kids and adults.

Soy and teriyaki sauce: Asian markets carry some absolutely amazing Asian sauces that are gluten free, but you have to read labels carefully. If you can't find a gluten free soy sauce, you can substitute Bragg Liquid Aminos. You can find Bragg in the health food aisle of your grocery store or at a natural foods retailer. To make your own teriyaki, add equal parts of sugar and wine to your favorite soy sauce substitute.

Sandwiches. If you're having a difficult time getting used to gluten free bread, but love a good sandwich, you can improvise and make a sandwich out of just about anything else. Try wrapping lunchmeat around a piece of string cheese; or, if you are more daring, add a piece or two of marinated asparagus before wrapping. Make toothpick kabobs of cubes of lunchmeat, cheese, pickles, and olives.

Purchase corn tortillas made from either yellow or white corn. Pre-cooked corn taco shells are a crisp holder for a multitude of fillings. Pancakes, waffles and crepes make wonderful wraps. And lettuce leaves are the ideal holders for lunchmeat and cheese. Belgian endive leaves are shaped like boats and make a neat container for tuna and chicken salads.

Tamales, quesadillas, and Chinese stir fry add variety to your meals and warm easily in the microwave, too.

Trail mix: Lots of trail mixes that are available at the stores are already gluten free, but if you like to make your own, mix some peanuts, raisins, dried fruit, and gluten free chocolate candies or chips. Dates and some other dried fruits are often dusted with oat flour. Be sure to check the labels. If they've been dusted with oat flour, the ingredients label will say so.

Use a Thermos. Pack a gluten free bun and spoon sloppy joe mix into the insulated container. You can also fill a thermos with boiling water and add corn on the cob, or one or two hot dogs. A thermos is great for pork and beans, hot dog slices and beans, or sausage in barbecue sauce. Rice dishes and gluten free pasta entrees - everything from Spanish rice and beans, to gluten free pasta marinara, to fettuccini Alfredo, to macaroni and cheese - hold well in a thermos.

Pizza Crust. The challenge with gluten free pizza dough is in the spreading. To get a light textured crust, the dough must be sticky to work with. You can add extra flour if you want to roll out the dough, but the baked crust won't be as light as one that isn't rolled. When spreading the crust in the pan, dip your fingers in warm water to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.

Meat. Meat is gluten-free in its natural state. If you buy roasts, chops, or any other whole piece of meat, there is nothing to be concerned about from a gluten standpoint. If, however, you pick up a package of marinated beef kabobs or preseasoned pork tenderloin, you will need to check what ingredients have been used in the marinade and seasonings. When you buy meat from the deli department, be careful. Most premium deli meats are solid meat, but some of the less expensive brands may use extenders. Extenders are inexpensive fillers and binders that can include wheat; they can enhance the flavor of processed meats, but they are primarily added to expand and extend the product. These fillers must be listed on the label, and manufacturers must list wheat on the label.

Vegetables. Veggies are gluten-free! All of them!

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