January 8, 2014

Accommodating Gluten-Free Friends and Family

Dijon Honey Pork Chops are an easy gluten-free meal!

While I no longer follow a gluten-free diet, I still have several family members that either have celiac disease or are extremely sensitive to gluten. Our house has been the house where everyone gathers for family get-togethers, and so I am often making meals that accommodate all sorts of diets. Beyond checking labels for gluten-containing ingredients, there are a few things I have to consider. Here are some tips and tricks to ensuring that when you have gluten-free family or friends visiting your home, that you can keep them safe and well-fed.

- Serve easy, naturally gluten-free foods. Whole, fresh meats and seafood (watch for added broths and marinades), eggs, vegetables, fruits, plain white or brown rice, beans, and nuts can all make up delicious, easy meals. How about a dinner of roast chicken, a baked potato, and some green beans with smoky pecans? Or lamb chops with a Mediterranean pepper salad? How about strawberry gelato for dessert? These are all simple, easy-to-make, fresh dishes that are naturally gluten-free. No need to buy expensive special “gluten-free” items or a million flours.

- Have a dedicated area for gluten-free items, if you will also be serving items with gluten. Label them clearly and keep them separate. If you will be using jars of peanut butter, mayonnaise, and the like, start with a new, fresh jar. (Don’t want any gluten-y crumbs in your gluten-free condiments!) If you have young children, putting brightly colored tape around a jar might be a great way to let them know that product is safe for them. If you buy certain specialty products, store gluten-free products on a higher shelf than gluten-containing products (if you are storing anything for several days), so if by chance, a bag spills, the gluten-y crumbs don’t fall into the gluten-free products. Educate everyone so they know where the safe gluten-free foods are.

- Thoroughly clean counters after cooking, so you won’t have to wonder if a stray crumb is gluten-free or not. I make sure to do a thorough cleaning before I have gluten-free guests over. Get down to eye level on the counters and inspect. You can also opt to designate one counter or one special area for all gluten-containing food preparation, to make it a bit easier. Other areas to think about cleaning: silverware drawer (notorious collecting crumbs) The drawer below your oven – mine gets crumbs from the oven in it pretty often. Pay attention to other surfaces that gluten-y hands touch – refrigerator handles, backs of chairs, the faucet handle, light switches, and so on.

- Have separate cutting boards, especially if you ever cut gluten-containing bread on your cutting board. If you bake gluten-free just for your guests, but typically use wheat flour, check mixers, blenders, wooden spoons, rolling pins, flour sifters, pizza stones, colanders, etc. that previously were in contact with gluten. Some tools can be well-cleaned and reused – like stainless steel cookware, which is non-porous. Tools previously in contact with gluten should not be used if they are plastic or wooden. Even baking pans that have metal seams or small edges that are hard to clean are suspect. Use your best judgment when making a decision about whether to replace or clean a certain tool. Gluten is sticky and likes to hide in these small crevices, so if you know there’s no way you’ll be able to effectively clean it, it’s best to use something else.

- Check your spices. Single-ingredient spices (such as oregano, sage, cumin, etc.) should be gluten-free, but read labels on those mixed blends. Also, consider this: did you ever use a dirty measuring cup/spoon to measure out spices, after that measuring cup/spoon was used for wheat flour? This could have contaminating the jar of spices. The same can be said of sugar and other naturally gluten-free baking ingredients – if you used the same measuring cup for the flour and the sugar in the past, it’s best to toss the sugar and buy fresh.

- If preparing gluten items, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands afterwards. If you were handling crumbs or flours, you may want to use gloves or clean with a nail brush as well, otherwise, your hands could contaminate the gluten-free items. Don’t touch any gluten-free foods with hands after handling gluten items. Same goes with utensils.

Of course, simple and easy is best - it reduces worry on both your part and the part of your guest. Don’t be afraid to ask your guests for any preferences or suggestions of what they like to eat – you can gain inspiration and find that a wonderful meal can be easily made with minimal concern.

For more information on living gluten-free, visit my resources page. Happy Cooking!

Learn more about living gluten free! Visit http://udisglutenfree.com/community

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Udi’s Gluten Free. The opinions and text are all mine.

4 Responses to “Accommodating Gluten-Free Friends and Family”

  1. These are great tips, Alta! People seem so overwhelmed when it comes to accommodating gluten-free diets of others, so I love how you make it much simpler and “demystified.” :)

  2. Great tips Alta! There’s a lot to consider. I tend to keep my get togethers 100% gluten-free for Pete’s safety (he has celiac). His Mom stayed with us recently and we bought her gluten-full bread. I didn’t love that, but I feel like sometimes we need to accommodate the gluten-eaters too :)

    • Maggie – As long as some “rules” are followed, accommodating the gluten-eaters can work as well. And I TOTALLY get keeping the get-togethers 100% gluten-free. It’s definitely easier that way from a worry/cross-contamination perspective.

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