Tuesday, December 4, 2012

An easy approach to gluten-free recipes

I am thinking ahead a few weeks and planning what I will make for dinner for the two holidays we celebrate in our house in December.

Most of my dishes are family favorites, with some recipes written out in my  grandmother's Catholic grade school perfect penmanship. Others I've scribbled myself while talking on the phone with my mother and getting directions and advice on how to make something. Some come from my mother-in-law, an artist, who sometimes draws illustrations in the margins.

None of these are specifically gluten-free recipes and most of them required just a little change or none at all to make them gluten free.

When you are new to the gluten-free diet, it's easy to get the impression that you always need a specialty gluten-free recipe. When you are unsure of exactly what might contain gluten, it's reassuring to have a recipe that comes from a gluten-free cookbook, magazine, blog or website. And some types of food need a specialty gluten-free recipe, including pretty much any baked good like bread, cookies, cake and more.

 That's why Gluten-Free Living now includes more recipes. We get great feedback on recipes from our Food Editor Jacqueline Mallorca, a true gluten-free expert with impeccable culinary credentials.

But as you grow in knowledge and confidence, you can step outside specifically gluten-free sources and find many wonderful, tasty recipes that don't require a whole cabinet full of specialty items.

I was reminded of this fact this weekend by my daughter, who happened to be home and in the mood to try a new dish. She often looks through magazines, Pinterest, and other general websites to find interesting recipes.

She may look more than she cooks, but she is not intimidated by the gluten-free diet when she does decide to make something. So this weekend she prepared Potato and Butternut Squash Gratin and an escarole salad with toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds that she found in one of her searches.

She didn't need any specialty gluten-free items, though she did have to buy heavy cream, fresh thyme and peppercorns, which we did not happen to have on hand. And since the recipes were designed for holiday entertaining,  they took a little more work than your average Saturday night dinner.

But the whole experience showed that you can find perfectly safe, delicious, innovative recipes that will work in your gluten-free diet without need of a special gluten-free ingredient. And so can friends who want to invite you to dinner or for a holiday meal.

 It seems to me it's a lot easier for someone unfamiliar with the gluten-free diet to prepare recipes like these than to try to learn about specialty gluten-free cooking for one night. In addition to GFL's specialty gluten-free recipes,  we also publish a number that are naturally gluten free.

The next time you get a dinner invitation, try asking what your host wants to prepare and then suggest a recipe that uses techniques and ingredients familiar to them. It's so easy to share recipes digitally they can easily take a look online or on a cell phone and decide if it's something they might want to try. And it might lighten the load of dishes you have to tote along.

Or when you do bring something, make it from a naturally gluten-free recipe. Then you can skip the characterization as some who needs "special food." Instead you will be seen simply as someone who brought the dish that everyone loved and now wants the recipe for.

Amy Ratner

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