Last year while living in Denver, I was struggling majorly with my newfound diet. Not because of my own allergies, but my finance’s (now my husband’s). He has severe allergies to cow dairy, gluten, and tree nuts.
Before moving in together, I thought (smugly) that I would be just fine abstaining from those foods. If I could quit smoking, I could for sure quit eating a few different types of foods! I had no idea the reality of his dietary restrictions until I began cooking and baking (see my hub ‘Life without Gluten & Dairy, Part I’ for the whole story).
Since moving into a new apartment in May, I am falling in love with Charlotte! So much to do in and around the city- plus all of the charming farmer’s markets- what’s not to love? It’s hard to imagine my gluten and dairy free trek began a little over 16 months ago. And I am feeling strong! Finding recipes and ingredient substitutions is getting easier, as is grocery shopping, cooking and baking! I suppose that’s what a lot of practice does, right?
Gluten Free Bread or Cardboard?
Just because I have to eat gluten-free (and dairy-free), doesn’t mean I’m willing to eat cardboard. Or anything of close resemblance. I’ve tried my fair share of flavorless, dry gluten-free bread. And quickly learned the brands to stay away from! The best option I’ve found thus far- baking my own dang bread.
If you’re in a similar situation- tired of buying expensive gluten-free breads- Pinterest is a great place to start searching for recipes. I found this French bread recipe early on in my quest for soft, airy bread. It calls for egg replacer, but I’ve made this bread several times successfully with 2 egg whites. And a French bread pan sounds nice, but for those of us without this fancy pan, forming the bread with your hands works just as well!
Another excellent recipe I found was yeast-free flatbread, which I used to make hamburger buns. They worked ok for burgers, but I much prefer a light airy bun to these heavy biscuit-like buns. I will continue my trial and error search for a solid bun recipe!
Flour and Groceries
Before baking gluten-free, I had almost no knowledge of how flour and everything else worked together. (I’m still learning.) Thankfully, I have found many helpful online resources.
This Guide to Gluten-Free Flours is crucial for flour substitutions and a great reference. The Beginner’s Guide to Gluten-Free Flours is very detailed, but a great place to find information on some key gluten-free flours.
Just last week, I did some digging on baking ingredient prices- compared grocery store prices to online shops. The online shops won out by a LOT! (This may not be the case for every part of the US, it depends on your location and grocery store prices.) I had no idea how much money I was spending per ounce on gluten-free flours! (I even made a chart to compare prices per ounce. Deep down, I’m a big nerd.)
After comparing prices between different online stores, the winner was Vitacost. A lot of the gluten-free and organic focused stores were over-priced and had little selection. Vitacost had every ingredient I searched for, with some of the best promotional deals and prices. The best part of online grocery shopping- they deliver it right to you! Who knew online shopping could be so awesome!
Gluten Free Menu, Please?
Dining out will never be the same. I’ve learned to accept that. My circumstances are fortunate, since I’m not allergic to gluten and dairy, I can always “cheat” on the diet when out with friends or family. My fiancé does not have this luxury. Although, during those times of total food freedom, I do my best to stay away from heavy gluten (pizza, sandwiches, pasta).
Trying to find restaurants with gluten-free options, or even a whole gluten-free menu, is definitely a challenge! We’ve had some great dining experiences at a barbecue restaurant, burger joint and two very unique asian restaurants here in Charlotte. I have to give credit to Yelp– without it, I’d be totally lost!
Before traveling anywhere or deciding where to eat, I always check the reviews on Yelp. If I find more than one review including details about gluten-free options, I send a short email (or Facebook message) to the restaurant asking about their menu. It may seem like a lot of work, but I’d rather be safe than worry about my fiancé possibly getting sick for weeks!
There are new dining-out options coming available for all food allergy sufferers. Nima, a food allergen sensor, is a small device that restaurant go-ers can discreetly test food while dining out. The product is set to come out this year, taking pre-orders now with plans to ship out Spring 2016. Reading about this device has given me hope for dining out in the future!
Practice Makes Things Easier
There is hope! You can do it! Don’t give up! Cooking and baking gluten-free DOES get easier with practice. Coming from someone who is a realist (aka not super-duper-every-day-is-a-cup-half-full-ist), I am not one to spout positive rays of sunshine. Take it from the great chef, Julia Child.