Did you know that May is not only the month of Cinco de Mayo!… Happy Cinco De Mayo my friends. May is also celiac awareness month.
Working in the food industry the topic of gluten free food is a common one. I remember one time I was working for a company. We were working on a wedding and the groom was a celiac. One of the cooks suggested that if we were working on his meal we should not only change our gloves, cooking tools and sanitize or station, but we should also change our chef jackets. It is standard procedure when dealing with food allergies to take it seriously; switch out all tools and sanitize eliminating the possibility of cross contamination. It was a sweet gesture for said cook to suggest changing our chef jackets, but the thing about gluten is its everywhere. Once an environment has been exposed to gluten it will always be there. Imagine this: you are making your favorite chocolate chip cookies, you’ve already creamed your butter and sugar, and your eggs are mixing away. You just finished weighing out your dry ingredients and you add them to your butter sugar mixture, but you forgot your mixer was still on speed 6. Flour is not only up your nose but it is also in the air, and there is no way to get it to go away. If someone has a gluten intolerance or sensitivity that is extremely severe they should only be eating in 100% gluten free facilities. Some people believe that going gluten free is just a fad, but in reality this is a necessary strict diet that some people must follow for the rest of their lives.
So, what is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that if goes untreated it can be very harmful to the small intestine, and can lead to malabsorption. The Gluten protein found in foods containing wheat cannot properly be digested by people with this disease. There is no cure for this disease besides eliminating gluten altogether. There are so many symptoms associated with celiac disease, that often mirror those of other diseases.
My senior year of college I took a class called “Baking for restricted Diets”. In that class we learned about all sorts of diseases that require food restrictions. A lot of recipes we tried in class were quite terrible, although some of them weren’t so bad. I personally think that when you have no choice but to avoid certain foods the substitutes really aren’t as bad as them seem. I also think different tastes grow on you over time like the grittiness of garbanzo bean flour doesn’t bother you anymore after you’ve experienced it a few times. Prime example; in that class I tired natural stevia from the stevia plant, I thought it was potent and I didn’t like it at all. Now, I won’t drink my coffee without it.
I have had a few requests for gluten free cakes recently; I have found the most amazing gluten free all-purpose flour made by Red Mill! I have tried other brands and have not been as successful. I use my regular cake recipe but I substitute AP flour for the Red Mill Gluten Free flour! If I blindfolded you, and asked you to do a taste test I think you would struggle to differentiate between the two.
I have participated in fad diets that require you to be gluten free. Boy, is it hard. I really feel for the people who have no choice but to live this lifestyle. As Oprah says in the Weight Watchers commercial “ I love bread!” Now that the diet is over there are some gluten free foods that I prefer. Something sweet without wheat is a local MA bakery that is a completely gluten free facility. Their gluten free rolls are amazing! I also LOVE Tate’s Bakeshop gluten free cookies! I buy them and the whole family devours them. Proving my point about not even being able to taste the difference. Snyder’s Gluten Free Pretzels are available In many flavors and they taste great!
Something I don’t think people think about all the time is that some liquor contains gluten especially beer. Anything containing wheat contains gluten, but there are alternatives! Have you ever had Angry Orchard Hard cider? Well, it can be a little sweet, but it is a gluten free alternative.
For those of you who are looking for gluten free options please try some of the snacks I suggested above. Now that Celiac Disease and gluten Intolerance is so widely recognized many supermarkets have gluten free sections housing cereals, alternative pastas, even frozen meals!
Good luck with your gluten free journey if you are on one! Share with us your favorite gluten free products!