Entertaining-Cooking for a Gluten Free Guest: 5 Helpful Tips
Written by Lauren Sclafani, RN, BSN (updated June 6, 2014)
Entertaining any guest can be stressful but cooking a gluten free meal for a gluten free guest can be problematic without the right education and tools. This past weekend, my husband and I were excited to have 10 family members over for our first official home cooked meal in our new apartment – we are newlyweds. Keeping with our healthy new year resolutions, my husband and I wanted a healthy and yet appealing meal option that would satisfy everyone’s palate & accommodate for one of our guests who was gluten free. So, being that I never cooked gluten free in my own kitchen before, I knew it would be challenging and I needed to educate myself. The meal Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken (recipe below), ended up being delicious and my cousin who has Celiac Disease didn’t end up getting sick (whew) so I think she’ll come back.
I decided to put together a quick tip guide to help others like myself through the steps of cooking for a family member or friend who is gluten free. While it may seem overwhelming at first, a little gluten free planning can reduce the stress and give you a sense of accomplishment:
1) Educate yourself on Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance – just know the basics. Being a nurse, I am fortunate enough to understand what Celiac disease is but if you don’t quite get it, get educated! The Gluten Intolerance Group is a great resource too.
2) Familiarize yourself with ingredients gluten free people can & can’t ingest – It may seem extreme but it’s important to be overly careful while choosing your ingredients. My cousin is very sensitive to gluten so even a minuscule amount of wheat will cause a reaction. Celiac.com has an exhaustive list of unsafe items. My best advice is to simplify. My cousin says that sometimes just substituting gluten free flours for wheat flour isn’t enough. Some flours include Xanthan gum (adds volume to gluten free foods) and others are multipurpose but don’t taste as good. Focus on vegetables, proteins grains (corn, rice & potato) that are already gluten free.
3) Ask your guests what foods they like – After doing my research, I contacted my gluten free cousin to give her some options of dishes. Just because something is gluten free does not mean the gluten free person will like it. Also, I read this Gluten Free Money Savings Guide to help make the meal affordable.
4) Planning for a gluten free meal – Finding a gluten free recipe was a bit harder than I expected since many recipes I found while googling were listed as gluten free, but they contained wheat flour! Gluten Free Labels has a great gluten free foods guide and Gluten Free Girl has some easy to follow recipes which are also categorized for simple navigation. It’s a great resource.
5) Don’t gluten cross-contaminate – Once you choose a gluten free recipe, keep dishes you are using for gluten free foods apart from non-gluten free dishes. Gluten has a funny way of clinging to anything it touches. For example, if you are serving gluten free chips (Utz) and gluten free French onion dip (Penn Maid) don’t place glutinous Crackers (Toll House) next to the gluten free tray. If someone dips the cracker into the French onion dip – the French onion dip will be contaminated! I used Gluten Free Labels to label plastic bowls “Gluten Free” to prevent gluten cross-contamination during appetizers and I tagged my pots with an oven-safe tag so others knew the gluten free pasta from the kids glutinous mac n cheese pasta during dinner. Those labels/tags were my safety net in case I wasn’t paying attention to people coming and going in my kitchen. This guide to prevent gluten cross-contamination for someone new to Celiac Disease helped too.
All in all it was a great and enjoyable day. The gluten free meal was healthy for everyone and guests could not even taste the difference between regular and gluten free pasta (which I got at my local grocery store). Below is the recipe I found for a delicious and healthy gluten free balsamic chicken dish. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!!
Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken (Low Sodium)
6 chicken breasts cut into strips
1 10 oz. bag of frozen vegetables (corn, peas, carrots)
1 onion, cut into wedges
1 green pepper, cut into strips
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Place vegetables in slow cooker, then place chicken strips on top. Sprinkle garlic and spices over chicken, then pour balsamic vinegar over chicken. Cook 3-4 hours on high (or 6-7 on low). Half way through the cooking time, remove lid, baste chicken with juices in slow cooker, and stir. Serve over rice or gluten free noodles
Number of Servings: 10
Recipe from Spark People