OK In Health - Gluten Free Goodness

What Do I Make For a Gluten-Free Dinner? - May 2022

An easy switch to gluten free

By Cathy Lauer

gulten free penne pasta

How many times have you heard those words or even thought them yourself? Your family will be through the door soon, your significant other will be home any minute, you’re by yourself and you just arrived home from work. No matter what your situation the age old question can still put fear into many a home cook. Oh and don’t forget your dinner needs to be gluten free. Don’t panic, this is one of the easiest meals to make gluten free.

There are actually limitless choices for dinner and making them gluten free is really not that much of a change if you already eat a healthy diet. Your dinner plate should include a protein, at least one vegetable and a starch. Proteins can include meat, fish or beans depending on your diet preferences. Rotating through the basic types of meats such as pork, beef, chicken and lamb helps to keep your meals interesting not only for you the chef but for those you are feeding. Add fish and a meatless alternative one day a week and your menu choices for the week are planned. Now start adding your vegetable choices.

Fresh vegetables should abound at every dinner table and they are all gluten free whether they are raw or cooked. They are easy to dress up with a bit of butter or some fresh herbs or if you can have dairy a little grated cheese on top. An easy way to get lots of vegetables is in a salad. Salad recipes are many and as long as you add gluten free croutons, if called for, most vegetable salad recipes are gluten free. Keep in mind that potato salad is a starch not a vegetable so if you are serving it you will still need to add a vegetable to your plate. Sliced tomato or cucumber is a quick and easy choice and looks nice too!

Next is the starch. Potatoes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and types and they are all gluten free. Potatoes can be baked, boiled, fried, scalloped and even grilled. They are a nutritious and delicious part of a healthy diet so why not add them once or twice a week. At this time of year there are plenty of farmers markets and you will find a wide variety of potatoes there, possibly even some you have not seen before. Most farmers are very knowledgeable about their produce so if you aren’t sure what the best cooking method for a particular potato is be sure to ask.

Rice is another popular starch. Did you know that there are 140 thousand types of rice in the world and the International Bank for Rice Strains owns 90 thousands types (used only for research and studies)? The top 5 types of rice are: white rice, brown rice, yellow rice, and black rice. Within those colour choices there are many different strains. With that many choices there is bound to be one variety out there for everyone to enjoy. Naturally the less processed rice is the healthier it is for you and the more flavourful it will be. Most grocery stores carry a wide variety of rice from the non nutritious minute rice to the more healthful brown and wild rice.

Along with the wide variety of rice there are millions of ways to prepare it. If you don’t already have a rice cooker you might want to get one. They are quite inexpensive and they do a really great job of cooking rice just right. Follow manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the best results. An online search of different ethnic recipe sites will give you some ideas of how to make rice that is authentic to each country.

Gluten free pasta is the one starch where improvements over the last 20 years have made a big difference in the taste and texture. This has made going gluten free so much easier for those who are pasta lovers.

Gluten free pasta now comes in brown rice, white rice, corn, corn rice blend and buckwheat. It is just a matter of personal taste and application as to which one is better. Many Asian noodles are made with white rice flour or bean thread and only require soaking in boiled water before eating. They will soak up the flavour of whatever you toss them with so they are great to use with flavourful sauces or in stir-fry’s. If you want more flavourful pasta try corn or brown rice. Corn pasta holds up better when cooked and is great for a chunky pasta sauce or in a soup. Brown rice noodle are a little softer, so don’t over cook them. They have a pleasant flavour and come in a variety of adult and kid friendly shapes and sizes. Most major grocery stores carry a variety of gluten free pasta and Asian rice noodles.

The final category for starches that can be a problem for those newly starting a gluten free diet is bread. For dinner this can be in the form of a hamburger or hot dog bun, pizza crust, garlic bread, dinner rolls or focaccia bread. Many of these items are now available either at the grocery store or health food store. If you are fortunate enough to have a gluten free bakery in you town you may find they offer a wide selection of breads, buns and pizza crusts. With a good teacher you can also easily learn to make your own.

If you like to eat out for dinner on a regular basis you don’t have to stop doing that. Many restaurants now offer gluten free choices on their main menu or on a separate menu if you ask your server. Even some fast food restaurants have gluten free items on their menu. All you have to do is ask. If you have questions about what is available in your area go to www.theceliacscene.com to find celiac friendly restaurants in your area.

Did you say you don’t currently eat a healthy diet? Although the switch may be a little more challenging for you it is still doable. A number of companies offer frozen gluten free dinners, all meat frozen burgers and gluten free hotdogs. As always read the label and know your ingredients. If you are an unhealthy eater maybe this is your opportunity to change that. Eating gluten free is not a recipe for bland boring food. It may take a little more thought to plan your weekly menu but flavour and variety can easily still be a big part of your dinner. If you have questions about modifying family favourites you can contact me and I will help you find ways to continue to have your comfort foods.

Enjoy your dinner!

~ Cathy ~ 

Cathy LauerCathy's Bio: Cathy Lauer has been cooking/baking gluten/dairy free for 17 years. She has written 3 all baking cookbooks and has a gluten free baking blog/store. In her spare time she loves to garden in a big way with fruit, vegetable and flower gardens. She is a classically trained singer and loves to read and collect recipe books. She homeschools her youngest son (11) and has 3 grown children and is grandmother of 2. Cathy's Gluten Free Creations Ltd. Gourmet Gluten Free Baking. Cookbooks and Baking Mixes. 250-758-5232 - Cathy Lauer Website - Email

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Tuscan Leek, Potatoe & Bean Soup
Category: Soup
Description: Welcome those crisp winter days with a pot of hearty Tuscan bean soup. Leeks are a unique combination of flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients, the allium vegetables belong in your diet on a regular basis. Like their allium cousins, onions and garlic, let leeks sit for at least 5 minutes after cutting and before cooking to enhance their health-promoting qualities.
A good source of dietary fiber, leeks also contain goodly amounts of folic acid, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. Easier to digest than standard onions, leeks have laxative, antiseptic, diuretic, and anti-arthritic properties.
Leeks contain many noteworthy flavonoid anti-oxidants, minerals, and vitamins that have proven health benefits.
Leeks are low in calories. 100 g fresh stalks contain 61 calories. Further, their elongated stalks provide good amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber.
Laboratory studies show that allicin reduces cholesterol production by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase enzyme in the liver cells. Further, it also found to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal activities.
Allicin also decreases blood vessel stiffness by release of nitric oxide (NO); thereby bring reduction in the total blood pressure. It also blocks platelet clot formation and has fibrinolytic action in the blood vessels, which helps decrease overall risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), peripheral vascular diseases (PVD), and stroke.
Leeks are great source of minerals and vitamins that are essential for optimum health. Their leafy stems indeed contain several vital vitamins such as pyridoxine, folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin in healthy proportions. 100 g fresh stalks provide 64 µg of folates. Folic acid is essential for DNA synthesis and cell division. Their adequate levels in the diet during pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects in the newborn babies.
In addition, leeks are one of the good source of vitamin A (1667 IU or 55% of RDA per 100 g) and other flavonoid phenolic anti-oxidants such as carotenes, xanthin, and lutein. They also have some other essential vitamins such as vitamin C, K, and vitamin E. Vitamin C helps body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals. Further, its stalks have small amounts of minerals such as potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and selenium.
Often overlooked in leeks is their important concentration of the B vitamin folate. Folate is present in leeks in one of its bioactive forms (5-methyltetrahydrofolate, or 5MTHF) and it is present throughout the plant (including the full leaf portion, not only the lower leaf and bulb).
Fresh leeks should be stored unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator, where they will keep fresh for between one and two weeks. Wrapping them loosely in a plastic bag will help them to retain moisture.
Tips for Preparing Leeks - Cut off green tops of leeks and remove outer tough leaves. Cut off root and cut leeks in half lengthwise. Fan out the leeks and rinse well under running water, leaving them intact. Cut leeks into 2-inch lengths. Holding the leek sections cut side up, cut lengthwise so that you end up with thin strips, known as the chiffonade cut, slicing until you reach the green portion. Make sure slices are cut very thin to shorten cooking time. Let leeks sit for at least 5 minutes before cooking.
With a more delicate and sweeter flavor than onions, leeks add a subtle touch to recipes without overpowering the other flavors that are present. Although leeks are available throughout the year they are in season from the fall through the early part of spring when they are at their best.
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