8 Tips for Cooking for Gluten Free Friends

Hey friends! I'm excited to introduce you to another amazing food blogger, Stephanie! She has some great tips to share with you on how to host your gluten free friends. I hope you love it!

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I love to entertain guests and show hospitality to others. One of the side effects of entertaining often is having people over who have food allergies or dietary restrictions and wanting to accommodate them. Many of my closest friends (and my mom) are gluten-free, so I cook for Celiac friends often and wanted to share what I've learned. 

Here are my 8 tips for cooking for gluten-free friends in a gluten-full household:

(Note: GF = an abbreviation of "gluten-free")

1. Be super mindful of cross-contamination!  When you cook gluten-free foods in a kitchen that frequently has wheat, you need to be very careful to clean EVERYTHING thoroughly before you begin.  Mixers, counter tops, toasters, baking dishes, and small appliances are huge culprits for cross-contamination, so be sure to clean them very, very well before you use them to bake gluten-free. (Run them through the dishwasher if possible)  If you made brownies last week and the flour went "poof" all over your mixer, chances are you wiped it down with a wet paper towel and didn't think anything of it. Unfortunately, there is likely still some flour hiding under the arm of the mixer, on the lever, or where the paddle attaches that could shake loose as you're mixing.  This could lead to a friend getting sick, even from a tiny bit.  You can either bust out the can of compressed air and the q-tips and clean it down like you're on CSI, or you can just chose to mix by hand in a bowl that has been run through the dishwasher.  The same goes for a toaster - you'll never get it clean enough, so either chose to use the broiler, don't toast, or wrap your gluten-free item to be toasted in a layer of aluminum foil to protect it from the gluten then carefully extract it later. Also note: don't eat anything with gluten while you're cooking.  You never know how much gluten might spread from your hands. 

2. Make the gluten-free items FIRST. If you're going to be making a gluten-free and gluten-filled version of a recipe, be sure to make the gluten-free item first in your spotless, super-clean kitchen. That way you have less cross-contamination to worry about.  Better yet, if you can afford it, make a gluten-free version for everyone so you don't have to worry. 

3. Check EVERY SINGLE LABEL. Gluten is hidden in so many things you would never expect.  Some of the "hidden," less-obvious sources I've come across are canned soups, soy sauce, spice rubs, broths, beer, some alcohols, chocolate, flavored coffee/tea, deli meats, oatmeal*, and salad dressings. (*Oats aren't a source of gluten, but oatmeal products often contain wheat.) Gluten comes from wheat, barley, and rye, so look through the ingredients list for them first, but note that there may be other sources of gluten in the ingredients list that contain gluten.  I often look for "certified gluten-free" foods, google the product name +gluten free and see what the results are, use a smartphone app, call the manufacturer/check their website, and look for the "Contains: Wheat" warning on the label. Also note that just because one brand of something is gluten-free, a different brand still definitely needs to be checked.  

4. Avoid processed foods. As with any allergen, it's always easiest to stick with naturally gluten-free foods (and likely healthier and less expensive too!) I tend to stick with fruits, veggies, unprocessed meats, rice, potatoes, cheeses, herbs, and most spices (watch out for hidden gluten in spice blends!) All of these are naturally gluten-free and easy to come by and prepare. 

5. If I want something special and gluten-free, I typically buy it.  I often make my own bread and baked goods, but when you're not used to baking gluten-free it's so much simpler to just buy the cake, cookies, or loaf of bread.  You don't have to worry about cross-contamination that way and it doesn't require 12 steps and 4 attempts to make it from scratch. :) 

6. Open a new jar when you use a jarred ingredient. It's really easy to cross-contaminate when you're using spreads like mayo, peanut butter, jelly, hummus, or pasta sauce.  Unless you keep a jar taped closed, marked "Gluten-Free Only" and use a new utensil EVERY time you dip into it, buy a brand new one for your GF friend and don't risk it. 

7. Keep some frozen, gluten-free meals on hand. If you often have GF visitors, it's always great to keep some frozen GF meals on hand.  That way you always have something to offer if the need arises and you don't have to feel like you're leaving them out or they always have to bring their own food. This is also a way that they can eat with you and be absolutely certain something is safe for them to eat. (An especially great option for someone who doesn't know you very well yet.) This leads me to my last point:

8. Don't be offended if they don't eat something you've made for them. In a world where they can become ill for days over a pinch of flour, many GF people are hesitant to trust that something is gluten-free, no matter how many times you assure them.  Don't take this personally.  They have to advocate for themselves and may not judge the treat or meal to be worth the risk.  It also takes some time to build up their trust that you KNOW what is or isn't gluten and you've taken all the steps above to make sure they aren't sick. They also may just not like the item. Just because liver is gluten-free, doesn't mean they'll chose to eat it, you know?  My best friend has seen me obsess over labels (even before handing her something), and I haven't ever made her sick (that I know of), so she will typically eat what I make for her, but I have other friends who turn everything down as a rule, and I'm okay with that because I know it's not personal. 

I hope that info helps you feel more comfortable knowing what to do if you have a gluten-free friend over! What do you do to make your friends with allergies feel welcome and included in the hospitality in your home? 

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Stephanie is the creative mind behind the food blog Sustaining the Powers. She’s passionate about making cooking accessible to everyone and helping you provide sustenance to your family. When she’s not in the kitchen, Stephanie is also a web developer, a geek, a foodie, a Whovian, a book-addict, and (more importantly) a disciple of Christ and a wife to Nick, the most amazing man she knows. 

Connect with Stephanie and check out her Meal Plan Monday's on her blog Sustaining the Powers

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