I spent yesterday afternoon with a wonderful girlfriend of mine who is revamping some of the eating habits of her family. This change was sparked by her daughter’s recent results of an allergy test. The culprits? Wheat, gluten and eggs. Hmmm, sound familiar to anyone out there? Maybe a few hundred thousand or so, right? Well, after being told that these foods are hurting you and you must eliminate them from your diet, most folks certainly feel alone, not at all like part of an ever growing club. But I’m here to tell you – YOU ARE NOT ALONE! First things first…don’t panic!
One of the best things you can do once diagnosed with an allergy/intolerance is seek help, friendship and knowledge. Any of those things will start you feeling like you can take this on, because you will know you’re not alone. Another thing that will help, especially when dealing with changing you’re child’s eating habits, is to seek help from those who have already found tricks and recipes that work for them and their kids. Never, ever start from square one. There are literally thousands and thousands of people who have already handled square one for you, so no need to go there. Just move on down to square two, okay?
Yesterday, I helped my friend with square two. Her daughter was falling into the trap of eating the same 3 or 4 things for every meal, each and every day, since the things she loved in the past were now off limits. I believe it’s very important, especially for kids, to have some favorite foods that are recreated in the gluten free world, to help ease that transition. Over time, that sugary GF cookie may not seem as appealing when taste buds change and palates mature. But for the first little while, it’s ok to transition young and old alike into this new way of eating. Tackle GF (and DF etc.) first, and worry about excess sugar a little later when you’re not so overwhelmed.
We spent our day making a few things to help my friend’s daughter feel a little less traumatized. First up, was pancakes! This was a favorite breakfast food that they hadn’t eaten since diagnosis, so we tackled making a few pancake mixes first. I talk about this method in my upcoming book, The Healthy Gluten Free Life (available for pre-order now and on shelves February 21, 2012). I showed my friend how to mix up dry ingredients, that really take up most of the time in preparing most baked type goods, and having them ready to go in her pantry and freezer for those mornings they want pancakes. Now, all she has to do is dump the mix, some oil, nondairy milk and water and she’s got yummy, fluffy pancakes for breakfast. Plus, it makes enough for a family to eat their hearts out and still freeze some for quick mid-week breakfasts. You can find my favorite pancake recipe in my book, The Healthy Gluten Free Life.
Next up, our new little gluten-free’er was missing pizza so we got to work on making a batch of pizza crusts. Nice thing about this recipe (also in The Healthy Gluten Free Life) is that you can mix up your dough and par-bake these crusts. Then we just cooled, wrapped, and stuck them in the freezer for later. Now when they want pizza, she just needs to remove what they need, let them thaw and then top and bake for another 15 minutes. Seriously…it’s that easy!
Finally, we needed a sweet treat to show her daughter that all wasn’t lost in this new gluten free world. So we whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies (recipe also in my book). Instead of baking the cookies and freezing, we decided that fresh baked always beat frozen on taste, so we just placed small amounts of dough in plastic wrap, rolled them into logs, dropped them into freezer bags and placed them in the freezer. Now when they want cookies, she simply removes a package, let’s it thaw most of the way, then slices and bakes! Fresh baked cookies anytime, without baking an entire batch which dry out quickly.
I hear over and over again how hard it is to be gluten free because of cost and time. Yes, you do have to cook more to oversee that what you’re eating is safe. Yes, some of those ingredients do cost more than traditional ingredients. But if you do things DIFFERENTLY and plan ahead, shop wisely (big bags of flour) and spend a nice afternoon gossiping with a friend while you make delicious food that you can use all month long, you will find that this new way of eating is better, not a punishment. Life in the kitchen will never be the way it was before, but the sooner you embrace that and change with it, the happier and less stressed you’ll be. Why don’t you start that new attitude off right and go make something you can stock your freezer with!