I have a confession. I, um…well, you see…it’s just that…icaneatgluten. Phew. I said it. I can eat gluten.
Oh, and I should probably mention that, while I’m not a complete flop in the kitchen, I’m not exactly what you would call an All-Star chef, either.
So, what’s this all about? What business do I, a gluten-eating girl with little gumption in the kitchen, have advising anyone how to live gluten-free? Hmmm…good question. Well, first, I suppose it’s because I can eat gluten, and, yet, when we discovered my husband and son are sensitive to gluten, I decided to make our home gluten-free. No hands tied behind my back, no gun to my head. No, “This is your shelf, and this is mine.” (Okay, well, maybe at first, but I came around.) Second, while I may not be the world’s best chef, I do love to eat good food, and I did not toss my taste buds out with the gluten. I have found delicious, scrumptious, you’d-never-know-it’s-gluten-free food. Ooooh, and the best part is…it’s relatively painless and easy.
That’s the edited version. Here’s the full story.
Gluten-free For You (Not Me)
In late 2007, my husband was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis, a digestive disease often triggered by food allergies. After five EGDs and a few months of trial and error in both food and medicine, he was restricted to a gluten-free diet. My reaction? “Oh, wow, honey. That really sucks.” In my head, I thought, “…for you.”
Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t abandon him completely in his gluten-free world. I made gluten-free dinners most nights, and I’d scan the organic section of our grocery store for anything that looked even remotely edible every time I shopped.
We tried a few different types of cereal, pasta, breads, pre-made meals, crackers, cookies, cereal bars, and other snacks. We found a pasta or two we could tolerate, but, in general, we agreed…gluten is in foods for a reason. Most of what we tried either had no taste or tasted awful. The texture was often so dry and chalky, we needed a glass of water just to get it down.
I scoured the internet for gluten-free recipes. I even tried to make a few, but the reviews in my household rarely matched the rave reviews online. I shied completely from recipes containing more than eight ingredients, five steps, or any instructions beyond the realm of “chop,” “stir,” and “bake.” I considered homemade gluten-free cakes and cookies, but I’d never even heard of many of the flours called for in the recipes, and, truth be told, any recipe that calls for three different kinds of flour is not my kind of recipe.
So, I pretty much stuck to the basics at dinner: beef, poultry, fish, veggies, whole grain rice, dairy. The rest of the time, my husband was, for the most part, on his own.
While he struggled to figure out what he could and could not eat, I continued to be a glutton for gluten. French toast for breakfast. Sandwiches for lunch. Brownies for dessert. My husband’s diet was gluten-free, but our pantry was gluten-ful.
Two and a Half Against One. I Surrender.
In April of 2009, a blood test confirmed that our then three-year-old son is also sensitive to gluten. His anti-gliadin IgG and IgA levels were both high. Within days of starting a gluten-free diet, the chronic diarrhea that had plagued him for nearly three years stopped. I was thrilled. My baby had solid poop!
Our then 12-month-old son had also already suffered a number of GI issues in his short life, including bloody stools in early infancy and acid reflux to date. His blood test results were all normal, but was it really too much of a stretch to think that he, too, might have a gluten sensitivity?
I pulled out the kitchen trashcan and cleaned out our pantry, cabinets, and refrigerator of all gluten-contaminated foods. With little hesitation, I decided to make our home gluten-free.
The Cupboard Was Bare
At first, I panicked. What were going to eat? More to the point, what, on Earth, was my little boy going to eat? He was like every other preschool-age child…picky. He insisted on waffles for breakfast nearly every morning. It was a battle to get him to eat anything but chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese for lunch. I felt victorious when I got him to eat a ham and cheese sandwich.
I was determined to do this thing. But how?
In the Kitchen
I love to eat, I love to host gatherings and parties centered around good food, and I am filled with pride when someone compliments my efforts in the kitchen. But, to be perfectly honest, I am no chef, and I don’t really enjoy cooking.
Perhaps not surprisingly, I am of the belief that if the boxed, bagged, or wrapped version tastes just as good (or even almost as good) as the homemade version, why make it from scratch? When I enter the kitchen, I hope to whip up a quick, tasty meal, and I am ecstatic when the Pillsbury Doughboy or Betty Crocker does most of the prep work for me.
While I’m generally not one to mess with ingredients or “experiment” in any way, I do like to tweak here and there, typically adding more of the good stuff. For example, my brownies usually get rave reviews, and I’m often asked for the recipe. The secret: Add an entire bag of milk chocolate chips to your favorite boxed mix. Quick, easy, and sooo scrumpdiddlyumptious.
So, I made it my mission to find gluten-free alternatives to all our favorite foods that, perhaps with a minor tweak here or there, are not just tolerable, but downright tasty. I wasn’t sure it was possible, but I had to be hopeful.
I went to almost every grocery and health food store within a 30 minute drive, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that we had only skimmed the surface in our gluten-free taste-testing. Each time I went grocery shopping, I’d pick up a few new items to try out at home. While uncountable cookies and crackers went stale in our pantry (we all tried one, and, apparently, that was enough), in time we found our fool’s gold; many of the products we sampled were so delish, you’d never guess they were gluten-free. For instance, I knew I’d found a winner in Conte’s Margherita Gluten-Free Pizza (with a handful or two of extra cheese) when my son exclaimed, “Mmmm, this is good! It tastes just like gluten!”
Ours can’t be the only gluten-free home with no chef to cling to. There must be others who, like me, like a little help in the kitchen. Surely someone else said a tearful goodbye to Aunt Jamima, not knowing Pamela could be there to help wipe the tears?
For so long, I thought gluten-free synonymous with taste-free. Now, each time I make a new, delectable discovery, I feel a strong desire to share it, to shout it from the rooftops. Everyone should know gluten-free can taste this good.
So, I’m sharing. This site is for those of you who, like me, love to eat good food, but would rather not spend a great deal of time and energy making it, and aren’t completely confident it would turn out all that great even if you did. It is for anyone hoping to find something quick, relatively simple, tasty, and (drum roll, please) gluten-free.
In this house, we don’t just eat gluten-free; we eat gluten-freelicious.