Friday, May 3, 2013

To Gluten-Free Cookbook or Not to Gluten-Free Cookbook

So you have to go gluten-free, huh? And you're probably freaking out because you don't know what to eat or cook. And you're looking in the cookbook aisle trying to find the best gluten-free cookbook. But do you really need it?

Having owned several gluten-free cookbooks, I gotta say: no. I don't think you really need them. And here are my reasons why:

1. Beware of INVOLVED recipes. Some of the gluten-free cookbooks out there have really yummy-looking pictures and will entice you with delicious-sounding recipe names, but when you look at the list of ingredients and read the directions, you'll realize that the recipes are NOT 30-minute meals. Just because you're gluten-free doesn't mean you automatically have to spend 2.5 hours in the kitchen making everything from scratch. Some people do it, and that is great for them. But I didn't have 2.5 hours to cook before my husband went on a gluten-free diet, and I certainly do not have 2.5 hours now!

2. You probably already have a lot of gluten-free recipes. And you don't even know it! We were totally clueless when we embarked on our gluten-free journey, which is why I went out and bought The Everything Gluten-Free Cookbook. At the time I thought it was really great. But three years later, I realize that my purchase was kind of silly. A lot of the recipes in the cookbook were recipes that we already had. Example: I already have a good carbonara sauce recipe that just happens to be gluten-free. I don't need the one from the gluten-free cookbook. So check the cookbooks you already own, check your favorite recipes, and make a list of the non-gluten-free recipes that you need to replace.

3. Then GO ONLINE. There are a lot of really great gluten-free recipe websites out there that you can access for FREE. Here are some of our favorites:

A Lazy Girl's Guide to Living Gluten-Free
A Year of Slow Cooking (while not billed as a specific gluten-free website, the blog's author is gluten-free and so the recipes are gluten-free)
A Few Shortcuts (recipes AND fun crafts and coupons)
Gluten Free Mom
I Breathe I'm Hungry

Some other websites that might be helpful:
Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef (sort of an example of cooking that is too involved for me, but you might find some of the information helpful - and the pictures pretty)
Jennifer A. Janes (this post is about preparing allergy-friendly foods on a budget)

You will eventually get the hang of this gluten-free thing. Visiting a nutritionist for advice is really helpful. My husband had two sessions with a nutritionist. She set us on the right path and answered our questions, such as can I (a person who can still eat wheat) share the butter tub or peanut butter jar with my husband (who cannot eat wheat)? NO because of cross-contamination.

And once you start learning about what ingredients to stay away from because they contain gluten, you'll figure out what foods are okay to purchase. And once you figure out what foods are okay to purchase, you'll be able to look at just about any recipe and substitute the bad stuff for the good stuff. That's what I try to show on this blog. I take recipes from a variety of sources and adapt them to fit our dietary restrictions. Some of them need adapting, but you'd be surprised at how many are naturally gluten-free!

It takes time. You might make mistakes along the way. But eventually, eating gluten-free will not be a chore or a hassle. It will just be the way you eat. And hopefully, you'll start feeling better, too, which, for Celiacs, is really the best part of going gluten-free.

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