October 17, 2011

Preparing Your Kitchen... the Pantry

One of the hardest things to do if you have recently discovered you are gluten intolerant or suffer from celiac disease, is preparing your kitchen for the big change in your life. Three and a half years ago when I was diagnosed, I was clueless. I had a friend who gave me some basics on what I needed to do and I did a TON of research on my own. If you do not have hours and days to do research, this post is for you.

I am (was) such a cookie and cake junkie!! I guess you can just say "gluten junkie". I would not eat a whole package of double stuffed oreos in one sitting, but I could! Your first stop in your kitchen needs to be your pantry. Look through absolutely EVERYTHING. This may sound crazy, but the easiest thing to do is to completely empty your pantry on to your kitchen table or kitchen counters and start separating. More often than not, you will have an extremely large pile of "gluten" items and a small pile of gluten free.

Steps to cleaning out your pantry:
-Empty your pantry
-Separate as you go or separate after it's empty.
-Read every ingredient on every package.
 (Some items will say gluten free, that makes it easy!! Some items say Contains Wheat, this will not help you if you are going gluten free, only wheat free)
-After you have emptied and separated all of your items, wipe your pantry shelves. (You may not have them covered in gluten or flour, or you might. Either way, how often do they get cleaned?)
-When you go to put everything back in your pantry, have a shelf designated for gluten free foods. If you have a child who is used to being able to eat the cookies and things that contain gluten and now they are gluten free, put the gluten items out of sight for them. Make sure that their new gluten free things are at eye level, or easily seen. This makes the lack of snacks much easier to handle. This little tid bit of information is from experience. I was 21 when I was diagnosed and I was not as depressed when I saw my gluten free items before I saw the gluten loaded, ever so scrumptious cookies.

If you have only one person in your family who is gluten intolerant, it is going to be easiest for everyone to make the adjustment to a gluten free lifestyle when you guys eat a meal together. For example, if you are making pasta for dinner, make gluten free pasta for everyone. That way, you do not get the spoons mixed up if you are cooking two separate pastas. (Cross contamination is just as dangerous as eating a few oreos. Cross contamination will be covered when we talk about cleaning out your refrigerator) By saying have everyone make the adjustment to gluten free, I am not suggesting that they convert to gluten free forever. As the household chef, I have found that it is easier and less time consuming to only cook one meal at dinner time instead of two. As you cook, you will find very quickly, that a gluten free meal tends to be a lot healthier than a meal that contains gluten. I never thought I would see the day when I did not miss the casseroles (made with creamed soups that contain wheat and are topped with buttery crackers, which also contain gluten).

Next... Preparing Your Kitchen, the refrigerator.

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