We have been mostly gluten-free since 2006. There is so much information on Celiac and gluten-intolerance out there so I won’t bore you with too many details…
My partner was diagnosed with a gluten-intolerance through a blood test in 2006. Our doctor speculated that it was triggered by a vegetarian diet we were on at the time. The only way to officially diagnose Celiac is to have a biopsy done of your small intestines. At the time, as poor college students with no money and not willing to have something so invasive done, this procedure was not performed. We decided to simply go gluten-free. Now, we could do the test for Celiac but that would involve eating gluten again for a month because the test will be negative if you are already gluten-free as it does not show damage in the villi in the intestine (they would heal on a gluten-free diet.)
While my partner is gluten-free, on occasion he does ‘cheat’ and does not suffer huge consequences for it. A few slices of traditional pizza once every two weeks is not a problem for him.
A gluten-free diet is simpler than people think. Unlike soy which is found in everything, gluten is pretty avoidable. The biggest issue most people have is that they are unwilling to give up a nice french baguette or pizza. And for these two examples specifically, I have yet to find decent substitutes.
Whether you are gluten-free or not, traditional wheat flour is nothing like it was even in our grandparent’s generation. And it seems to be doing a number on a lot of people, not just those with intolerance or celiac. http://news.discovery.com/human/why-you-should-probably-stop-eating-wheat-121214.htm
I also find that some of the substitutes for wheat flour have an even better taste than wheat.
Below are some of the products that we use, as well as some resources. My hope is that you are a bit more informed about gluten and that it doesn’t frighten you when you think about cooking or baking gluten-free.
1. The first thing you should know about gluten is that it can hide in food items, like soy sauce, so make sure to check labels! (In the case of soy sauce, Mrs. Bragg’s Amino Acids is a great substitute.)
2. For most of our baking, specifically cookies and sweet breads, I use Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix http://www.amazon.com/Pamelas-Ultimate-Baking-Pancake-4-Pound/dp/B000NMJWZO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363788856&sr=8-1&keywords=pamelas
3. For savory baking and when I need a couple of tablespoons for a stew or soup, etc, I use Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-free Baking Powder http://www.amazon.com/Bobs-Red-Mill-All-Purpose-Gluten-Free/dp/B000ED7M3Q/ref=sr_1_2?s=grocery&ie=UTF8&qid=1363788961&sr=1-2&keywords=bob%27s+red+mill+gluten+free
4. These are two websites that I frequent regarding gltuen-free baking and recipes.
Simply Sugar and Gluten Free also has a great Ancient Grain Blend that I use to boost nutrition content in my baked goods, http://simplysugarandglutenfree.com/my-basic-flour-blend/
5. A lot of companies now make store brand gluten-free products. For instance, Trader Joe’s makes great rice crackers. Many stores also group gluten-free substitutes together at the store, making it easier to shop.
6. Pasta is probably right up there with bread and pizza in foods that people miss. We really love the Tinkyada brand. The pasta has great texture and no weird taste.
7. Bread. Well… let’s face it, this is a hard one. I have never found a gf (gluten-free) substitute for a baguette and most breads are just not pleasant. But in the past two years the options for sandwich loaf bread have increased dramatically. Trader Joe’s has its own brand that is great. They also sell Udi’s brand unfrozen and Ezekiel bread unfrozen. We use Ezekiel bread, though some people cannot, because even though it is a sprouted grain bread, it still contains wheat. Our favorite is Udi’s though it tends to be a bit pricey.
This is truly an overview of gluten-free eating. There is so much to cover, but I hope this has been helpful, maybe not necessarily your own life, but in your ability to serve gluten-free products for a guest in your home.