What if I can eat some of the things you are avoiding?
If you are only avoiding one or two of these foods, you can still make these recipes. Most of them are adapted from recipes that use normal ingredients, so they can be easily reverted to their natural state.
What if I am not gluten free?
If you do not need to be gluten free, you can almost always replace all of the flours and starches with the same amount of all-purpose flour and omit the xanthan gum.
What if I can eat dairy?
If you can eat dairy, you can often replace non-dairy milk with regular milk, special butter with regular butter, and coconut milk from a can with heavy cream or whipping cream. (I am not sure if that is true for the chocolate cream pie, but there are many recipes on the internet for such a pie made of normal ingredients, so I think you’ll be just fine :-)).
What if I can eat eggs?
If you can eat eggs, you can replace Ener-G eggs or flaxseed eggs with regular eggs.
Do I really need to buy xanthan gum?
The short answer is yes if you want to do any gluten free baking. If you for some reason can’t have xanthan gum, there are other alternatives out there, but this is the one I use. I know the bag is expensive, but you will use it up so slowly as you only use 1/4 to 2 tsp per recipe. I think I am only on the end of my second bag and I have been baking about once a week for the last 3.5 years. If you are baking gluten free, your flours don’t have gluten in them. Gluten is the part of the flour that makes it stick together. If you skip xanthan gum or its equivalent, you are most likely going to have something that crumbles very easily. If you don’t want to use xanthan gum, do some research online to find the equivalent that will work for you.
I don’t bake, but my recipes sometimes call for a few tablespoons of flour. Can I get away with buying just one kind of flour?
Yes! I usually use just brown rice flour for such recipes. However, if you intend to bake, it is a good idea to have more than one type of flour around. Your products will turn out much better.
I am new to avoiding an allergen.
Always read labels. If there is milk, egg, or wheat in a product, it is, by law, going to be in the label. Read both the allergen list and the ingredient list as it can show up in either place. Gluten is trickier because it comes from wheat as well as barley, rye, and sometimes oats (from how they grow/process them). For example, malt comes from barley, so anything with malt in it is not technically gluten free. If a product is labeled gluten free, you can assume it is gluten free. If you have a life-threatening allergy, please talk to your doctor and don’t just take my word for it.
It says on the package that this was processed in a facility that processes some things I am avoiding. Is it safe to eat?
This is an interesting question. It kind of depends on why you are avoiding a certain food. If it is to lose weight, be healthier, to ward off stomachaches, etc, you may be just fine eating such things. If you are severely allergic, you may want to opt for things that are certified gluten free or that are not made in a shared facility. You can always call/email the company to find out more about their products (do it several days in advance so they have time to get back to you). If you are not very sensitive, you may be able to get away with shared facilities/equipment. If you are very sensitive, you may not be. The tough thing about food sensitivities is that they seem to vary from person to person, so you have to decide what works best for you and your body.
Do I really need to buy gluten free oats?
From my experience, it depends on the person. From what I understand, it’s not the oats themselves that are the problem. Apparently in the normal processes, they get cross-contaminated with gluten. Some companies take special care when growing and processing their oats to keep them free from cross-contamination. Some people seem to be able to eat regular oats with no problems. Others need them to be gluten free. Since I don’t eat very many oats, I go ahead and buy the gluten free ones. I haven’t really experimented with regular oats.
Are there any products I need to which I need to pay closer attention?
Yes. Gluten is sometimes in products you wouldn’t think of such as soy sauce. Most of it has a lot of wheat in it. Why? I don’t know. Soybeans are cheap. Why not just make it out of soy? There are some brands that have a version made out of just soy. The ones I know of are Kikkoman’s (make sure it’s the gluten free version), La Choy, and San-J. This is one of the main reasons that many Asian dishes are not gluten free. Some restaurants have become aware of this and have gluten free options on their menus. Yay!
What am I going to eat for breakfast without gluten?
There are lots of good breakfast options. If you want cereal, there are several brands out there that have really become aware of allergens. Cheerios, Chex, and Fruity Pebbles all have gluten free varieties. There are lists online of gluten free cereals, so just do a search and read ingredient labels. Oatmeal is another good option (use gluten free oats if you are being careful about gluten.) Eggs and many bacons and several sausages are gluten free. I usually get Hormel, Oscar Meyer, or Hillshire Farms bacon and either HEB, Jimmy Dean, or Johnsonville sausage. If you are unsure and it is not clearly labeled, check with the companies again as I did most of my checking about 3 years ago. Potatoes and smoothies are also good options. I have several breakfast recipes listed on my blog for baked goods for the morning. Check out your gluten free aisle in your local grocery store and don’t forget the “healthy” section of the freezer. Sometimes they have prepared things in there, but they may be expensive.
Do I have to buy only things that say gluten free?
Not necessarily. If you are very sensitive or don’t know how to read labels yet, you may want to do so until you know more information. There are several companies that are very good about labeling things gluten free. If it’s something from their company and it doesn’t have the gluten free label, I assume it’s not. Jimmy Dean labels things gluten free as well as HEB and Chex and many others. There are other companies who have decided that they will name any ingredient that might have gluten in it. They don’t necessarily test the products to see if they are gluten free so they can’t label it as such, but they declare all gluten containing ingredients. Last time I checked, Hillshire Farms, Oscar Meyer, Frito Lay, and Hormel do that. With those brands I just read the label carefully for things like malt or oats and if it looks safe, I eat it. I make my own judgment call with other brands. Sometimes companies change their recipes, so periodically check the labels of products you use frequently. If the product is from a company that doesn’t label clearly, I usually avoid it if it says vague things like “spices” or “natural flavors.” Like I said before, if you are severely allergic, please get more specific advice from your doctor.
I once tried something that was gluten free and it was terrible. Am I forever doomed to eat tasteless food?
No! That is one of the purposes of this blog! Some things don’t hold up well on a grocery store shelf. I tend to prefer homemade goods especially since there are not many pre-made products that are gluten, dairy, and egg free. Flours like almond meal and coconut flour can be very good, but they will give your food more of a gritty texture and it may have a “healthy” taste to some people. I typically avoid them, especially since most coconut flour recipes call for eggs, which I can’t really eat without consequences. Your best bet is to use a blend of flours and a little bit of xanthan gum or a 1-to-1 baking flour mix. If you really want to use a baking mix, I have found that several of Pamela’s turn out quite well without eggs. They usually have a variation written on the bag, so thank you, Pamela! Also, for main courses, there are plenty of things that are naturally free of gluten or that can easily be made so without changing the quality of your end product. Check out my main dish tab.