Cooking for a celiac can be scary if you are not sure what the rules are for making a celiac safe dinner. I’ll help you do that. I get a lot of emails these days from folks who are not diagnosed with celiac and need to make a celiac safe dinner for a family party or special event. If you are looking for celiac safe recipes for the holidays, Healthy Family has some gluten free recipes you should consider, like our wild rice stuffing for the turkey.
Cooking for a Celiac Means Keeping Foods Separate
I understand the need to make celiac guest feel a part of things, as food is a natural way to bring folks together at holiday times and at parties. But it’s not practical when you are cooking for a celiac. No matter how good your intentions are, if you do not know the specific risks and pitfalls cooking for a celiac can be dangerous. You really need to know the steps necessary for making a celiac safe dinner. Once you’ve got it down, it really is so simple.
When you are cooking for a celiac who is recently diagnosed they have a high antibody level. The slightest gluten exposure celiacs get could make them really sick. When I first started cooking for my celiac son, he was more sensitive to gluten than he is now. The slightest crumb of gluten would make him sick. He was more sick from gluten after he stopped eating it every day than when he had it regularly. This is common for a newly diagnosed celiac. I had to learn that cooking for a celiac meant being very careful in the kitchen. In our case, because he was so little, we gutted out the cabinets, bought new kitchen utensils, and created a gluten free kitchen. You are going to be cooking for a celiac in a gluten filled kitchen, so let’s talk about what this means for your celiac guest.
A Celiac Safe Dinner: A Word about the Kitchen Utensils
Making a celiac safe dinner might mean having to buy new kitchen utensils. Porous kitchen utensils and tools that we use regularly are like magnets to gluten. They will harbor miniscule amounts of gluten on their surfaces for years. A newly diagnosed celiac will react to even a crumb of gluten (hard to believe, but it is true). So if you are cooking for a celiac, there are a few utensils you want to avoid like the plague.
Your wooden cutting board and wooden rolling pin are suspect. Your toaster is also inclined to cause illness. As is your open jar of jelly or half-used butter with remnants of bread crumbs in it, your mixer that you cleaned but used to make biscuits last night is dangerous too. If you use wheat flour in your kitchen regularly the dust from your mixing and drops from your pouring will enter the air and settle on your workspace and utensils naturally. A porous terry cloth towel will not remove all the gluten from your cutting board and counter space.
Given all these precautions, successful cooking for a celiac is still possible. All you have to do is keep it simple. If you have a glass or ceramic plate you can use it to prepare your celiac safe dinner. Slice your veggies or fruits on a ceramic plate rather than the cutting board. Use a clean knife with a metal handle.
Sometimes your celiac guest will oblige you out of politeness and suffer silently afterward. No one wants to tell you that your food makes them sick. Your loved one may be more honest with you but at the same time it hurts them to do so. No one wants to sound like a hypochondriac or worse yet, ungrateful for your efforts.
A Sample Celiac Safe Menu When Cooking for a Celiac:
Bottom line: you need a menu for your celiac safe dinner. Now that your kitchen is clean of gluten cross contamination, you are ready to start cooking for your celiac. As a rule, prepare your celiac safe dinner first before you prepare the other gluten containing foods you are serving. A plain grilled piece of meat that is unseasoned and cooked on a clean grill or in a clean pan or dish is ideal. I like to lay a clean piece of tin foil on top of the grill as an added layer of protection. You can serve it with boiled vegetables and plain organic white or brown rice that is NOT enriched. This is the safest way of cooking for a celiac. If you have a small corning ware dish with a glass lid you could layer it with the rice, vegetables, and safe seasonings of your choice. If you are not sure about the seasonings, just ask your celiac guest. Add the chicken and cook it in the oven at an appropriate temperature to time it out with your meal. Leave the lid on your safe celiac dinner after it is finished to keep it warm. Several companies sell chicken broth labeled gluten free. Trader Joe’s has a house brand that we use frequently. Just be sure to read the label. Most brands have gluten in the broth. I like to pour the gluten free chicken broth over my rice and veggies in my baking dish. It flavors the meal nicely. McCormick single ingredient spices are gluten free, as a rule, and are typically fine. And best of all, you probably have a few jars of them in your cabinet already. Just don’t use the seasoning mixes, they generally use gluten in them. Be sure to use well washed and cleaned utensils. When cooking for a celiac it is a good idea to use a different color fork, knife, or spoon for gluten free food. Do this especially if you are serving foods with gluten in the ingredients as well. If you follow these basic rules you and your guest should have a positive experience at your party.
Baking for a Celiac: My Opinion? Don’t!
Cooking for a celiac in a kitchen where you bake is dangerous. There is a high chance of what newly diagnosed celiacs call “cross contamination”. Simply put, those minuscule bits of wheat dust find their way onto your mixing surface, bowls, and spoon that is laying dormant in your workspace.
Baking a gluten-free dessert in your own gluten-containing kitchen is risky. There are many safety precautions to be followed and most good-natured people are just not aware of what can go wrong when they attempt to bake for their celiac friend.
Your best bet is to find a prepackaged product or a local dedicated gluten-free bakery that can provide celiac safe gluten free desserts.
If there isn’t a dedicated bakery in your area or you are in a pinch for time and can’t afford to wait for product shipping, there are several ready to heat and serve foods available in the gluten-free market from major Gluten-free suppliers. You can purchase prepackaged cookies and crackers from just about anywhere, especially Health-food stores and Dietary Shops. Even your local grocer and places like your local Super Walmart have gluten free sections nowadays. But there are also several companies that offer frozen desserts that you can heat and serve at home for that fresh baked taste and texture. We have indulged in several brands and I thought I would share a bit of what is available on short notice.
Here’s a list of Gluten free Dessert Options:
Before preparing a gluten free dessert, find out what’s safe. Your celiac guest may be avoiding other foods besides gluten. You need to be certain you do not purchase or prepare a dessert that they really shouldn’t eat. Many newly diagnosed celiac patients have so many gut problems. Their dysbiosis comes from a long, slow, steady destruction of their intestinal wall. As a result they develop multiple sensitivities before their actual celiac diagnosis. It is not uncommon for a celiac to suffer 8-10 years before they are diagnosed and in that time their condition slowly will deteriorate until they have multiple digestive problems. Some also develop seemingly unrelated joint and central nervous system or skin problems too. A healthy, recovered celiac will slowly start to add foods once considered intolerable back into their diet. But it takes time, often more than a year, before they are able to handle many foods that seem typical at a party. Foods often hard to digest for recently diagnosed celiacs are: dairy products, corn products, soy products, and sometimes egg products.
A simple dessert is a fresh fruit plate and allergy friendly chocolate. Enjoy Life brand carries one of the only commercial chocolate bars on the market that is also dairy-free and soy-free, the Boom Choco Boom bar. You could simply melt it with some oil (palm oil works the best but margarine would do in a pinch) and dip strawberries in it for your guest.
Companies that Make Gourmet Gluten free Frozen Desserts:
Gluten free frozen desserts are the way to go. There are several places you can go to find gourmet gluten free desserts. Some gluten free frozen desserts just need defrosting, others need to be heated in your oven first. They can be found at local area specialty stores. Just call ahead to make sure your local shop carries them.
- Shabtai Gormet Foods has a line of delicious desert products that specialize in Gluten-free, Lactose-free, Soy-free, Casein-free, Peanut-free and Dairy-free and often corn-free products. Their Sponge Cake is delicious and corn free as well, and can be used to make strawberry shortcake. The Raspberry Roll and the Chocolate Roll are also corn-free and a favorite for special occasions. Their Seven Layer Cake is another favorite that is also corn-free. We found these items at our local specialty store and they are kept in the frozen food section.
- Grainless Baker has many products in their line but only one passes the test for multiple food sensitivities. Their yummy Blueberry Pie is the one. It contains eggs, and is NOT dairy free, but it is made without all the added chemicals. It is made without corn flour, but it does contain xanthan gum and vinegar in the recipe, so folks with a true corn allergy should be aware of that.
- Foods By George has a nice line of products that are delicious and are often found at health-food stores and Whole Foods. Their Brownies (which are dairy-free, soy-free, and egg-free, and corn-free) are tasty, their Pecan Tarts (which are soy-free and corn free but contain eggs and butter) is another favorite. They also have a Crumb Cake which is soy-free but contains dairy and corn.
- Dr. Lucy’s Cookies, is a great line of pre-packaged gluten-free, nut-free, milk-free, and egg-free products for the multiple allergy sufferer that includes many organic ingredients. They can be found at many specialty health-food stores that cater to allergy specific diets. They all do contain soy and corn, however. She has four varieties: Sugar Cookie and the Chocolate Chip Cookie which are vegan, the Oatmeal Cookie which is low calorie, and the Cinnamon Thin.
- Madwoman Foods has a line of tea cakes that cater to the low glycemic diet, perfect for diabetes control (often associated with Celiac) and for weight control. All of their varieties contain whey low sweetener which includes fructose sugar from fruit, sucrose (table sugar), lactose (from milk), and vanilla which is derived from corn-based alcohol. The recipe uses ghee, which is casein-free and lactose-free (which means that ghee contains only easily digestible dairy fat and the problematic milk sugars and milk proteins are removed. Teacakes are not corn-free, dairy-free, egg-free or nut-free.
Now that you know how the rules when cooking for a celiac, you are good to go. Enjoy your celiac safe party, and bon appetit!