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03.12.2007

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DigsMagazine.com.

wheat it out
easy gluten-free cooking

by Emily Meyer|
1 2 3 4 

At the grocery store, I tend to casually flip over a box or a can to read the fat content, curious to see if there are any redeeming qualities of the food Iím buying. But imagine if you had to carefully examine every single unpronounceable ingredient on the label, in case the seemingly safe food could make you sick. Indeed, for the increasingly large number of people diagnosed with Celiac disease each year, buying many common processed foods can be a tricky situation.

People with Celiac disease have a genetic condition in which their bodies cannot tolerate wheat gluten. Gluten is a protein found in flour; it helps bread rise, becoming stretchy when kneaded, trapping carbon dioxide in bubbles, and is used in many foods as a thickening agent. Consuming gluten can cause those with Celiac disease to experience excessive gas, short-term memory loss, anemia, and chronic fatigue. If untreated, possible long-term effects can include infertility, a compromised immune system, even cancer. This disease has so many varied symptoms that it has often been mistaken for other conditions in the past. In recent years, awareness has increased and more gluten-free products and information and are available than ever before.

Over one million Amercans have Celiac disease, so chances are you may know someone who cannot eat gluten. I first became aware of the disease when I worked briefly at a gluten-free bakery, an experience that taught me that sugar cookies made of rice and corn flour -- gluten-free alternatives to the traditional wheat flour -- are still delicious!

Fortunately, there exists an array of gluten-free, ready-made foods and packaged mixes out there. Many of these can often be found in the organic section of your local grocery store. Meanwhile, major food companies offer information on their websites regarding the ingredients in their products. I found a list of gluten-free products on the Frito Lay website, which informed me that my favorites, the Tostitos Gold bite size chips make the cut. (Go corn!) Another way to easily identify safe products is to just inquire at your local grocery store. Many stores offer a list of all of their gluten-free products, and may have knowledgeable dieticians on staff as well.

Of course, cooking from scratch on a regular basis can take quite an investment of products to build up a gluten-free pantry. If you have a member of your household with Celiac disease, it will take a lot of in-depth research to learn all of the precautions needed to avoid cross contamination with wheat flour. Cooking gluten-free on a more casual basis, however, doesnít have to be a chore. Here are a few ideas on how to make good food to offer your occasional gluten-sensitive dinner guest -- without redesigning your kitchen as a completely gluten-free zone. My solution is to just make recipes that naturally have no gluten in them, because it is easier to avoid it completely than to make substitutions. Even the gluten-tolerant wonít notice anythingís missing!

To learn more about Celiac disease and to see a list of resources for gluten-free products, check out these sites:

celiac.com

glutenfree.com

enabling org: celiac disease information guide

bop along this way for the recipes...

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