Gluten-Free Diet? A Lot Can Be Cooked at Home! Enjoy Palate-Pleasing Gluten-Free Cooking

For starters, our experience says gluten-free meals can be just as delicious and healthy as gluten-y ones. Whether you use Inspiration Bakery and Mixes products or not, with some experimentation and practice in the kitchen you can prepare replacement dishes so close to gluten-y ones that family and guests won’t be able to tell the difference.

In fact, we find it’s fun to serve a whole gluten-free dinner…from appetizers to dessert…and then ask guests how they liked the taste and texture of each dish. And then we spring the shocking news on them that they have just eaten totally gluten-free! Just getting some fun where we can…while Living Gluten-Free.

One way you can start cooking gluten-free at home is to buy, cook, and serve pre-prepared foods. Take pizza for example. Grocery stores now offer a wide variety of frozen, bake-at-home, gluten-free pizzas, ones that come complete with a gluten-free crust, tomato sauce, cheese or cheese substitutes, and vegetable or meat toppings. Crusts for some of the pizzas are made of the same non-gluten flours as we use at Inspiration Bakery and Mixes and others might have corn, tree-nut, or cauliflower crusts.

You can also buy a partially baked crust, like those we make in the Inspiration Bakery, and add your own favorite toppings before baking.

Lots of choices. So, it’s all up to you.

For many people, pre-prepared foods work just fine. But if you are a person who likes to cook dishes from scratch, or wants to become “that cook,” get ready for some sad failures and some equally grand successes. That’s because even if you’re an experienced cook, recipes that involve gluten-free flours and other substitutes sometimes require combinations and sequences you may not used to following. It’s a practice thing as well as a matter of taste….

Our hats are off to the authors of many well-written and -illustrated gluten-free cookbooks now available. And many websites have recipes to try, too. We offer our Cookbook and some delicious recipes right here on our Inspiration Bakery and Mixes website.

Following the many recipes, you can tackle gluten-free cooking, from making simple and easy dishes to complicated and challenging ones. Just be patient and willing to try a particular recipe more than once…and tweak it to suit your tastes…before deciding whether it works for you.

Once you’ve built your understanding of substitutions and mastered a few recipes, you can exercise your creativity and develop new recipes. With some trial and error, you can even adapt gluten-y ones from traditional cookbooks and family favorites.

Among many great choices, here are some of our favorite cookbooks:

For “Starting” Cooks Who Never Cooked Much Before

Mix and Match Gluten-Free Meals: Meal Planning Made Easy with More than 35,000 Combinations, Caterson, Debbie. 2017. Summerland Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9986451-0-0 [Profits go to the Autism Treatment Center of America, www.autismtreatment.org]

The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook: Over 350 Natural Food Recipes, Jones, Marjorie Hurt, RN. 2001. Rodale. ISBN 1-57954-276-x [Note: some recipes call for nuts]

For “Growing” Cooks Who Can Follow Easier Recipes

A Cook’s Bible: Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free, and Dairy-Free Recipes, Cheetham, Grace. 2009. Duncan Baird Publishers. ISBN 978-1-84483-811-0

The How Can It Be Gluten-free Cookbook: Volumes 1 and 2. America’s Test Kitchen. 2014 and 2015. ISBNs 978-1936493616 and 978-1936493982

For “Grown” Cooks Who Like to Tackle Challenging Recipes

Fabulous and Flourless:150 Wheatless and Dairy-free Desserts, Mauksch, Mary Wachtel. 1997. McMillan. ISBN 0-02-862002-x [Note: many recipes call for nuts]

We’ll be giving you some information about flours and other ingredients later in this article. But first, we wanted to give you some ideas about kitchen tools and gadgets you might want to consider picking up if you don’t already have them.

You might be able to make nachos with just corn chips, peppers, and cheese. But you can’t bake a cake that way! You gotta have cooking tools designed for the job, which includes an oven if you plan to bake tasty stuff (could be a Dutch oven, too, if you love the outdoors).

You can certainly buy brand new tools. But we’ve also found lots of quality choices at thrift shops or on-line resale websites. And some of our family members have generously gifted us with some things from their kitchens, too.

So, what tools should you pay for or get for free? We’ve decided to break our cookin’-tools list down into three categories by cook experience like we did for the cookbooks: “starting,” “growing,” “grown.”

– Starting (little or no experience with cooking or baking): access to a wall oven or range, griddle, glass or stainless-steel mixing bowl set, whisk, large wood or stainless-steel spoons, spatulas, paring and chopping knives, cutting board, rolling pin, cookie sheet, bread pan, cupcake/muffin tin, 8” x 8” cake pan, 2-cup wet measure, 1/8- to 1-cup dry measures, measuring spoons, and scissors for cutting bags, pizza slices, etc.

– Growing (experienced with relatively easy recipes): hand mixer, waffle maker, egg separator, flour sifter, pastry mat, small food processor, double-wall “air” cookie sheet, pizza pan, pizza cutter, pastry knife, 9” x 13” cake pan, and kitchen scale that weighs in ounces and grams

– Grown (handles challenging recipes): stand mixer (possibly with a flour grinder attachment), countertop oven, stand blender/mixer, and large food processor

So, now you’ve gone gathering, got your cookin’ tools, and you’re ready to make delicious foods! You open your gluten-free cookbook and see…ingredients you’ve likely never seen before. Or ingredients you only read on gluten-free product ingredients’ lists in the grocery store. Stuff like “teff” and “quinoa.”

Don’t worry, these strange ingredients are available at many groceries, supermarkets, and health-food stores. If you are “starting,” you may have to read recipes in cookbooks, make a grocery list, and go shopping before taking out the mixing bowls or turning on your food processor. For more advanced cooks, you may well already have some of these ingredients in your pantry.

As you read through recipes, you may notice that a lot of gluten-free cooking is about substituting gluten-free grains and ingredients for gluten-y ones. Using substitutions, cooks can then prepare dishes or baked items that appear and taste much like the gluten-y ones you are used to eating.

For example, faced with making a tasty green salad or savory soup, you might try swapping gluten-free polenta crumbs for gluten-y croutons as a topping. Or you might prepare noodles or pasta using gluten-free buckwheat, rice, or quinoa, and make gravy with corn starch or potato starch instead of gluten-y flour.

If you would like to experiment with some of your previously gluten-y recipes, we prepared this chart to give you very basic ideas about how gluten-free substitutions might be made. But by itself, the chart doesn’t show enough information to allow you to convert your favorite gluten-y recipes into gluten-free ones. Those conversions will take more research and trials by error.

However, the chart does give you some basic ideas about how flour amounts might be substituted and a few simple things to think about when converting gluten-y recipes into gluten-free ones. Many gluten-free cookbooks and on-line sites show a lot more flour- and starch-substitution information and charts to help you along the way.

Gluten-Free Flour Per Cup of Regular FlourSome Notes on Using Each Flour
Almond -- 1 cupAdd more fluid and egg for texture
Amaranth – less than 1 cupCombine with other flours for less earthy flavor
Arrowroot – less than 1 cupGreat thickener; combine with other flours for texture
Buckwheat – less than 1 cupCombine with other flours to stiffen
Chickpea -- 1 cupCombine with other flours for flavor
Coconut -- 1 cup ¼ cup = 1 cup reg flourAbsorbs water and bulks up; considered a tree-nut allergen
Corn – 1 cupMay combine with other flours for less-coarse texture
Oat – less than 1 cupCombine with other flours to lighten texture
Rice (Brown or White) – 1 cupMay combine with other flours for texture
Sorghum – less than 1 cupCombine with other flours to lighten texture
Tapioca and Cassava -- variesMay be combined with other flours to thicken batter
Teff – ¼ to ½ cupCombine with other flours for flavor

You might have to make many other changes to convert your traditional recipes into gluten-free. Be thinking about changes in;

– Amounts and kinds of added moisture

– Substitutions of light gluten-free flours (such as tapioca starch) for light gluten-y ones and heavy gluten-free flours (such as almond flour) for heavy gluten-y ones

– Cooking temperatures

– Whether to add thickeners or texturizers like guar and xanthan gum or bulking agents like psyllium fiber

We know it’s a little frustrating to have to try recipes several times to get them right, but if you want to bake gluten-free from scratch, you may have to throw yourself into some baking-and-tasting experiments.

We’ve gained a little weight from doing those kinds of experiments here at Inspiration Bakery and Mixes. But it was worth it. And we get to work the extra pounds off making pizza crusts, flatbreads, bread for toasting, and hamburger buns for you in the Inspiration Bakery.

Some of you Grown cooks and bakers may want to mill your own flours from raw or roasted native grains and roots. Some trial-and-error milling and baking or cooking will give you the right particle size and consistency you’ll want for certain baked products or sauces. Most of you other cooks and bakers will want to buy your flours and starches from your grocery or supermarket pre-ground in bags or in bulk for ease of use. Again, it’s all a matter of taste and preferences.

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