If you’re anything like me, you may have spent years of your life thinking severe stomach pain every day was somehow normal before learning you had celiac disease. When you have celiac disease, your small intestines become damaged more and more as a result of gluten intolerance. Another side effect is that your body doesn’t absorb the nutrients in other foods you consume, resulting in malnourishment. I found out I had the disease three years ago, just before it became really well-known. For me, learning how to shop and cook gluten-free was an overwhelming task.
Learning you have celiac when you can afford the expensive substitutes is one thing, but learning you have celiac while in college is another story. Instead of being able to buy all-purpose flour, I had to either buy an expensive mix of gluten-free flours, or make my own with ingredients I had never heard of before like tapioca starch and xanthan gum. All of a sudden the beer, pizza, and breadsticks I once enjoyed were off limits. As a result, I learned how to be creative with my new diet. Here are some delicious, gluten-free dishes that I’ve incorporated into my own diet!
Rice wraps have become one of my favorite gluten-free discoveries. All you have to do with these paper-thin, easy-to-break sheets is run some warm water over both sides for a few seconds and they’re ready to use. Putting leftover stir fry, veggies, or a salad in one of these wraps is a quick substitute for a sandwich or flour tortilla wrap. An added perk is that the stickiness of the rice wrap allows the shell to stick to itself and hold together far better than a tortilla. Baking or frying the wrap will make it crispy if the softer texture is bothersome to you.
I’ve always enjoyed baking. However, it didn’t take long for me to learn how tricky gluten-free baking can be. The first two or three gluten-free cakes I tried were about as fluffy and soft as cornbread. After experimenting with different recipes, adding and substituting ingredients, and making a few cakes that ended up being thrown away, I started to learn how to make a gluten-free cake so good you’d think I was the next Cake Boss.
Here are some helpful pointers to gluten-free baking:
- Adding sour cream, yogurt, applesauce, or pumpkin puree will help the dishes keep a softer texture.
- Recipes that use processed fruit or shredded veggies make for an easy translation to gluten-free.
- If your gluten-free baked goods are looking a little thin, adding potato starch will give a softer rise than other starches.
- Using brown sugar, agave nectar, or honey instead of white sugar is yet another way to enhance flavor and keep the moisture in your gluten-free baked sweets.
- Gluten-free cookies aren’t the most simple, but are definitely the most versatile. As long as you maintain the right consistencies, you can add almost anything you have in your pantry. I like to throw some Nutella and chocolate chips in a bowl and match it with an egg, butter, gluten-free rolled oats, brown rice flour, and potato starch to add some substance to the mix.
An important issue to note is the severity of your gluten intolerance. To my dismay, I can’t eat a typical loaf of bread, pasta, cake, cookies, or brownies without getting sick… ever. But there are also a lot of items like vanilla extract, flavorings, sauces, condiments, and every-day products like toothpaste and lotion that may contain gluten and will affect some with celiac worse than others. I recommend talking to your doctor about the extent of your allergy and visiting Celiac.com to be sure you’re choosing the right ingredients and products.
Unfortunately, some gluten-free dishes simply won’t be the same as you remember their gluten-containing counterparts. But experimenting with new recipes and utilizing some simple tips on gluten-free cooking will help with creating some pretty mouthwatering alternatives that won’t make you sick! Have any gluten-free recipes that you love? Share them with the other readers below!