Not to scare anyone but if you are throwing a party and plan to serve delicious food to someone who is gluten free be sure to do a few things to ensure their safe eating. I should have posted this last week but it slipped my mind, probably due to an excess of cookie baking and gift wrapping….
These tips will give you a general idea on how to feed people and do it safely if you have a gluten free guest. If your friends or family members pooh pah gluten free as exaggerated or made up; let them know: getting glutened for most celiacs is a lot like having that Norovirus; you are very ill for several days, you may spend many hours in the bathroom sick as a dog. That sort of result doesn’t happen to me but I do get a severe burning pain in my right side and can have to spend 3-4 hours prone on the sofa feeling dreadful, almost comatose, and unable to read a book or even watch tv. We celiacs are not exaggerating, we get really ill from even a tiny amount of wheat. This sensitivity actually gets worse once you are gluten free for a few months.
Do you really want to know that your carelessness or cavalier attitude led to someone being sick for 3-10 days? I am sure you are vigorously shaking your head No. So follow these steps and you will be sensitive to the needs of guests with this severe allergy. Basic knowledge on best practices will give you the power to make safe and yummy food for your gluten free friends/family.
- Wash all the cooking and serving items from pots and pans to utensils so you are starting with safe equipment and serving dishes. That includes counter tops and cutting boards. Do not use a wooden board that you cut regular wheat based bread on to cut or serve gf food on. Colanders for pasta are particularly problematic: I bring my own when friends make pasta for me as the gluten clings to all those tiny holes; very hard to get it all off and make your colander totally safe and gluten free.
- If you are serving GF and wheat foods on the same table please set them far away from each other and never put them on the same serving plate. You should probably put a label near each item so those eating gluten free will know what is safe. Safer yet is to have a separate GF table at your buffet. Safest is to only serve gluten free food.
- Remember there are lots of foods that are naturally GF. Like fruit, block cheese (except blue cheese) and veggies including potatoes, yams and salads. Shredded cheese can be iffy; sometimes wheat products are added to facilitate the pourability of the shredded cheese product. If you make a dip be careful with prepared mixes as they often contain wheat. There are lots of crackers in the grocery store that are GF. I love Nabisco’s brown rice and pepper ones and Crunchmaster’s crackers are excellent. You could serve just them and no one will be the wiser but your guest will thank you. When packaging says “seasonings’ that is suspect; look for the GF label. Wegmans now puts on a nice G label that means gf. Save the bag so your guest can inspect it if they are worried as to the safety of the crackers.
- Most alcoholic beverages are safe except beers and wheat based vodka. You can get GF beer for those who are GF and must have beer! Hard cider and wine are naturally GF.
- Look for the letters Gf on the packaging to be sure. Sometimes the ingredients are naturally gluten free but the product has been processed on the same equipment as wheat products. If the label mentions the possibility of wheat in the product to to that sort of thing, don’t get it. People with celiac disease can and often do get very ill due to foods contaminated with minute amounts of wheat from the processing on shared equipment. Read the ingredient list for all prepared or snack foods. Some cheese curls are GF and some are not. Ditto for tortilla chips. Be careful about rice mixtures as the seasoning packet often renders them unsafe.
- Seafood is a good choice except for imitation crab and seafood as they are wheat based. I did hear that there will be some new imitation crab in logs like string cheese that is gf; not seen it yet. You can buy GF crumbs for breading things including for putting in your homemade crab cakes. Ready-made crab cakes are not GF.
- Sweet rice flour makes excellent gravy, get it at a Chinese grocery store. I use the same proportion as any flour; just dissolve it in cold water before adding to a hot broth or blend with fat/butter before adding.
- Don’t put wheat croutons in the salad; serve them on the side for those who can eat them with a label that they are not gf. You can set out slivered almonds, walnuts or pumpkin seeds to add crunch for GF eaters. Or make your own croutons from GF bread cut into cubes.
- Follow the recipe very closely if you bake a GF bread or dessert as they should not be altered if you want good results.
- There are GF cake mixes that can be whipped up just as easily as regular wheat based cakes. King Arthur’s is my favorite as it makes two layers and the flavor and textures are quite good. Most frosting recipes are GF so you can easily make a tasty dessert for not that much cash (as compared to buying a GF cake from a bakery) and you get the satisfaction of having made it yourself.
- Of course, you can make a pudding or serve fresh fruit. There are GF pie crusts out there so pie is certainly a yummy option. Wegmans has them and so does Fry’s Better Foods in Hellertown. I have used GF chocolate cookie ready-made crust for a quick and delightful pudding pie dessert, see that post from last winter.
- Be careful about candies and chocolates. Read the label before you put out that candy dish. Wheat abounds in a lot of them!
- Ice cream makes a great dessert but don’t serve cookie dough ice cream or any other flavor that has crumbled cookies or pretzels in it. Do it yourself Sundays are a great dessert idea.
- You could make those tasty soft dinner rolls I gave the recipe for recently or the brownies I also posted some ago. I made those rolls this week and a fellow who eats wheat all the time asked for my recipe; he said they were the best rolls he had ever eaten, wheat or not!
- I have posted several gf cookie recipes, each is great for serving as dessert at your party or to take to one so you have something safe to share.
- Most of your meal will likely be GF if you cook from scratch: it is the pre-made and packaged stuff that tends to have wheat in it so scratch cooking is safer and frankly tastier.
- Check on the internet or at the library for GF cookbooks to help you make delicious meals for GF friends and family.
- There are GF bakeries out there, one in Catasauqua, PA, also one in Coopersburg and a vegan bakery in Bethlehem. Great for a hassle free gf dessert option.
- Save all food labels/packaging in case your GF guest has a question or wants to view the ingredient list themselves. Not that unusual a request for anyone with celiac disease.
It is not the end of the world for we celiacs to have to cook and eat GF but it gets tiring to cook every meal and eating out is often problematic: nothing much safe to eat. I always feel especially loved when someone cooks a homemade and safe dinner for me to enjoy. So go ahead and try making a meal in the coming weeks for you know someone who can’t eat gluten. You can do it and you will thrill them!