Stress and entertaining go hand-in-hand, but adding a gluten-free dinner guest to the mix can set your stress-o-meter to the max. Don’t let it overwhelm you; instead, get prepared. Follow these straightforward tips to make hosting a gluten-free guest a breeze.
Stick with Simple
You may want to prepare a gluten-free pie or bread to go with dinner. Simple advice: Don’t. Unless you are well versed in gluten-free baking, embarking on these items now is a sure pathway for disaster and additional stress, which is exactly what you don’t need. Gluten-free baking is finicky at best, so stick with the basics instead and rely on prepared gluten-free baked goods like those offered by Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery®.
The good news and important thing to remember is that most foods are naturally gluten-free. Basic vegetables, fruit, meat and fish are all fair game. Instead of planning separate gluten-free items, focus on whole foods and simple preparation methods to create a seamlessly gluten-free meal without all the fuss.
Before you begin cooking for someone who is gluten-free, it is important that you clean your kitchen well. Place all flours in your cupboards and wipe your counters and cupboards down with warm, soapy water to prevent cross contamination. Give all your pans an extra scrub and then send them on a cycle through the dishwasher before cooking.
Stay Away from Wood
Speaking of cross contamination, everyday utensils and surfaces such as cutting boards can harbor enough gluten to cause discomfort in someone with a wheat sensitivity or Celiac disease. Wood is especially permeable and known to trap unwanted particles. Taking a little extra care to avoid the use of wooden spoons and cutting boards when cooking for a gluten-free guest can go a long way. Prepping foods on a plate, plastic cutting board, or other easily cleanable surface is a simple way to prevent cross contamination from wooden cutting boards. Roasts and other large pieces of meat can be cut in the dish they were cooked in to avoid cross-contamination.
Check Labels Carefully
Be sure to scrutinize all labels on food items and ingredients used to prepare food for your gluten-free houseguest. Anything that contains wheat or barley is off limits. Also, any foods processed in a facility that also prepares wheat products can present a problem; these should be avoided as well. Many common foods contain gluten, and you many never have even considered that they do, so be cautious. Common gluten-containing items that you might overlook include vinegars, soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce and beer, among many others. Looking for the Gluten-Free label on food packaging is an easy way to find passable products but, when in doubt, check out the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’ comprehensive information on shopping for gluten-free products. You can also contact the food company and you can go over any questions that you may have with your guest. They will appreciate the care that you are taking to prepare a meal that they can enjoy.
Inviting your guest into your kitchen to help you cook is a great way to help ensure that a gluten-free meal is prepared truly gluten free. Not only is this a fun, communal way to prepare a meal, but your guests can also help you answer any questions you may have and ease any concerns. And even better, with a little planning they can bring along a few extra gluten-free ingredients to use in the meal so that you don’t have to restock your cupboards with a ton of gluten-free products.
Keep Gluten Separate
If you are going to be serving wheat crackers or other gluten-containing foods, don’t serve them on the same tray as rice crackers or other gluten-free items. Also don’t expect gluten-free eaters to pick gluten-containing items like noodles out of soup. When gluten-containing foods are added to a dish, the food has gluten in it and there is no way of reversing this. If you accidently sprinkle croutons on a salad, and then take them off after realizing your mistake, there is still enough residual gluten left in the salad to create negative effects in someone with Celiac disease.
Gluten-Free Menu Ideas
With all these things to avoid, you may be thinking what to serve. Well, the options are vast, so don’t get dismayed. For breakfast or brunch, eggs are a go-to choice and can be prepared as an omelet, scrambled or fried, or they can be baked into a crust-free quiche for variety. Serve with a side of fresh fruit and yogurt, and you have breakfast.
Chicken, beef, fish, lamb, turkey or beans can all form the cornerstone of lunch or dinner with a solid protein punch. Potatoes, quinoa*, millet* or rice* are extremely versatile side dishes that can be sculpted to fit many styles of cooking. If you want to prepare a noodle dish, there are plenty of gluten-free pastas available and many types of Asian noodles, including those made from sweet potato, buckwheat, tofu, rice and konjac that are available in Asian markets, online and at many specialty grocers.
Steam, stir-fry or roast a healthy share of vegetables to serve alongside your protein and grains, and you have a complete meal that is gluten free. Top a generous portion of salad greens with the protein of your choice and add a cup of soup for a warming, hearty meal. Or serve rice and stir-fried chicken and veggies (look for gluten free tamari instead of soy sauce**) for an Asian-inspired meal that is gluten free.
Here are a few of our favorite gluten-free recipes you may want to try:
*Due to agricultural practices, some grains may contain traces of wheat. Look for gluten free labeling
**Tamari is traditionally made with little or no wheat. Check label carefully to ensure that it is gluten free.