Written By: Valerie Herskowitz, MA CCC-SLP
It has now been 26 years since I was thrown into the world of the gluten and casein free diet. That’s how long it’s been since my son, Blake, an autistic man of now 29 years, entered the world of GFCF eating. I was alerted to this diet by a very forward thinking chiropractor/biologist, who has since passed. He felt that putting Blake on this diet could improve some of his cognitive functioning levels. (Improving his gut function wasn’t discussed back then, but I later learned how important the diet was for those issues as well.)
Back then, the word, gluten, was not part of the verbal repertoire of our society. There were no books written on the subject, aisles of GF food at the grocery store with boxes marked gluten-free, nor restaurants offering these dietary options. I was alone when I started this journey. I had to learn all about how to make gluten and dairy free everything as there were no cookbooks or processed foods available. I’ve learned a lot along the way about preparing foods gluten and casein-free, and now that I have been professionally in the culinary dessert universe for the past 10 years, I often create these items for others.
As I started becoming aware that you really are what you eat, I also needed to learn to cook and bake without other food groups such as soy and food colorings as Blake showed sensitivities to these items. (For me as well as I started to have lactose and sulphite issues and now I am wheat-free). Also, eggs and nuts for others. Additionally, more people have become vegan, so I have expanded my repertoire to include those options.
As the holidays approach, and our interests turn to meal preparation, those of you needing to prepare meals to meet a variety of individuals some with food allergies or sensitivities, I have some tips as well as one of some of my favorite recipes to share with you.
Ten Tips for GFCF Food Preparation:
Tip 1: Many existing cake and cookie recipes can be made Gluten-Free simply by substituting the flour for a gluten-free blend. You can buy one of the existing GF blends in the store , but my favorite is Better Batter Gluten-Free Flour Blend. It’s available on the internet. This brings me to:
Tip 2: I now make my own GF flour blend because the existing GF flour blends use brown rice flour as one of the ingredients and many people have trouble digesting brown rice as the bran and germ are still intact. I bet many of you thought that brown rice is better for you than white rice. But for some people, that is not the case. Bran and germ can be very irritating to the gut. This is important because many individuals on the spectrum have gastrointestinal issues and may find brown rice difficult to digest. Here is a recipe for a flour blend that I use which is easy to make and very versatile. You can make a large quantity in advance and then you’ll have it available for all your holiday baking.
4 cups of white rice flour
2 cups of potato flour or starch
2 cups of tapioca flour
Mix together well. What I do is put everything in a large ziplock and then shake the bag until I feel everything is well blended.
Tip 3: You can buy all of these items at your local organic grocer. I keep all the bags in the freezer to preserve freshness including the flour blend.
Tip 4: I also use this blend when I coat foods that you would normally dip in egg and then flour and bake. I use this blend and then I add my seasonings to it. My favorite is baked chicken. After I dip the chicken in the egg, I put the breast in a bag containing the blend with seasonings and do the shake n bake thing. Then I spray it with olive oil and bake. Right before it’s done, I broil it for a few minutes to give the coating a chance to brown.
Tip 5: This is my go-to flour when I make pancakes. Here is my favorite GFCF pancake recipe:
1 1/4 cups of flour blend
1/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup or more of Almond milk depending whether you like thin or thicker pancakes
Mix together well. Add blueberries if desired
Tip 6: You may also want to add Xanthan gum to the recipes when you make baked goods. The rule is 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum to every cup of flour blend in the recipe. Xanthan gum can help with moisture retention and hold baked goods together.
Tip 7: Lets talk butter substitutions for a lactose or casein intolerance. I use different ones for different purposes. For adding a fat to let’s say something like a baked potato, I use either olive oil or Earth Balance Soy Free Spread if you want that buttery feeling. I always use the soy free one because I find a lot of people need to avoid soy as best they can. If that is not the case for you, feel free to use the original Earth Balance. The Earth Balance also works well in most cakes. However, if you are looking for a really buttery taste, say in a butter cake or buttercream frosting, I recommend Ghee. Ghee is clarified butter, which sounds like you shouldn’t use it, but clarifying the butter takes out the lactose and casein. It’s not cheap, so some people make it themselves.
Tip 8: For health reasons, I no longer use canola oil for any reason. I only use olive oil and it has met all my needs even in cakes. But that’s a personal choice.
Tip 9: No eggs? No problem. Some people are allergic to eggs. In baked goods such as quick breads, brownies, muffins, cookies, and even pancakes, you can substitute aground flax seeds (meal) recipe. Some people buy the seeds and grind them, but I just buy ground flax. I have heard some people also use chia seeds but I haven’t ever tried that. To substitute one egg, just take 1 tablespoon of the flax meal with 2 1/2 tablespoons of water. Cover and let stand at least 15 minutes until it has become thickened and gel-like. Some people refrigerate it overnight.
Tip 10: Another wonderful way to bake GF is by using almond meal. It’s not a substitute for all purpose flour in recipes like the flour blend above, but there are some wonderful recipes out there. Here is one of my favorites:
Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies:
3 1/2 cups of almond flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons of oil of your choice
10 tablespoons of honey (or maple syrup for vegans)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of almond extract
1/2-1 cup of dark dairy free chocolate chips
Blend wet ingredients. Blend dry ingredients. Mix together. Add desired chocolate chips.
Make them any size.
Bake at 350 until done. Approximately 8-14 minutes depending on the size. Let cool and enjoy
Enjoy and happy Holidays.