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July 23, 2010 > Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Gluten-Free For Dummies(r), 2nd Edition

Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Gluten-Free For Dummies(r), 2nd Edition

Submitted By Dottie DeHart

The word "gluten-free" so often conjure images of bland, tasteless, and (if we're being honest) gross foods. If you skip the special gluten-free section of the grocery store or turn up your nose at the dish your friend with celiac disease brought to the neighborhood potluck, you're not alone. Gluten, a mixture of proteins in wheat, rye, and barley, was once a largely ignored allergen that was causing big problems for its sufferers. And while gluten awareness is on the rise, most people assume that getting rid of gluten means a lot of extra work and giving up on all the foods you love. But a new book says that it's actually much easier and tastier than you think.

"Being gluten-free isn't about being on a diet," explains Danna Korn, author of "Living Gluten-Free For Dummies(r), 2nd Edition" (Wiley Publishing, Inc., June 2010, $19.99). "It's about living a lifestyle. And whether you've been gluten-free for decades or are just getting started, your most important tool is knowledge." Korn, who is respected as one of the leading authorities on the gluten-free diet and the medical conditions that benefit from it, has written the book as a practical guide full of trusted, authoritative advice and explanations and clear guidance on how to make the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle.

"More and more families are learning to go the gluten-free route, and it's not just for those who suffer from the increasingly common celiac disease," she continues. "Families everywhere are facing wheat allergies, gluten intolerance, and even autism-all diseases that are linked to the gluten we get from the food we consume. And more and more people are taking the gluten-free plunge in the hopes of getting their families on the road to healthier eating." The trick, she says, is learning how to substitute for a few staple ingredients in your kitchen. If you're tempted to experiment with making your favorite recipes gluten-free, here are some savvy substitutions for a few of your favorite ingredients.

Flour: If you do any sort of baking or cooking at home, then you know flour is an essential ingredient in a lot of recipes. For those who cook in a gluten-free home, finding a flour alternative can be a top priority. If a recipe calls for flour, consider using cornstarch or a gluten-free flour or mix instead. Experiment with the many new flours available, like bean flours, sorghum, and amaranth, and see which one you like best. They're nutritious and add flavor, and most importantly, they're gluten-free!

Breading and coatings: If a recipe calls for breading, bread crumbs, flour coating, or a similar preparation, consider using wheat or gluten-free mix (either homemade or store bought). Bread and muffin mixes work well for coatings on chicken and other fried goodies. Seasoned cornmeal or corn flour (masa) and crushed potato chips are also excellent alternatives.

Bread crumbs: Gluten-free bread crumbs are one of the easier alternative ingredients to come by in your kitchen. Many gluten-free breads turn to crumbs when you look at them. And certainly, there are always plenty of crumbs in the bag; just use them as extras for cooking! If you need a larger quantity, try crumbling some bread slices, then toast or broil the crumbs to make them crunch.

Croutons: Croutons are a great way to take a salad from so-so to sensational with very little trouble. Making your own, gluten-free croutons is simple as well: cut fresh, gluten-free bread into cubes, deep fry, and then roll in Parmesan cheese and spices. Some people suggest letting the bread get just a tad stale (not moldy) before making croutons this way.

Granola: Granola is a multifaceted ingredient that should be a staple in any kitchen! It is great with yogurt and fruit, as a component in trail mix, or as a stand-alone snack. If you can find gluten-free oats at the store, then you're set. But if you can't, you can still make granola with very little trouble. Toss toasted nuts and seeds together and then mix them with gluten-free cereal, honey, vanilla, a tiny bit of oil, and spices or seasonings. How much spice and seasoning? A smidge or so until it tastes good to you. Bake at 300 degrees for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Add dried fruit (that has been soaked in water for 10 minutes), let cool, then refrigerate or vacuum seal and freeze.

Trail mix: Trail mix is great for snacking on the go and is a healthy treat kids enjoy. Many trail mixes that are available in stores are already gluten-free, but if you like to make your own, mix some peanuts, raisins, dried fruit, and gluten-free chocolate candies or chips.

Oatmeal or hot cereal: If you like to start your day with a steaming bowl of oats, don't despair! Try substituting your morning oatmeal with corn grits. Prepare them just like oatmeal and top with butter, cinnamon and sugar, or fry them. You may also be able to find hot cereals that are made from grain-free flours. Some new amaranth and quinoa hot cereals also are available. (And as an added bonus, they are nutritional powerhouses!)

"Don't be afraid to get creative," Korn concludes. "Having a gluten-free kitchen shouldn't take the joy out of preparing meals and creating new culinary delights. In fact, it should make you that much more skilled as a chef. And with a little planning and an open mind, you just may be surprised at the safe, nutritious, and downright tasty dishes that come out of your kitchen!"

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