Making your Kitchen Gluten-Safe

Deciding to go Gluten-Free can either be a decision based off of personal factors, or it can be based off of medical advice. Either reason is a great one to decide to choose a healthier or alternative lifestyle. Chef Paula has provided us with some great Gluten-Free tips to make for a cleaner and healthier kitchen

Making your Kitchen Gluten-safe
First, a shortened version of my gluten story. I became gluten-intolerant almost 3 years ago.  I had been suffering from horrible exhaustion, brain fog and  indigestion for many months with no apparent reason.  My husband kept telling me I should go to the doctor – that I wasn't my usual self.  I finally agreed, and the doctor tested me for Lyme disease.  
Um, no.  

Like many other gluten-sufferers, I figured out the cause of my problem  myself.  In a conversation with my neighbor, she told me her diagnosis and the light bulb went on over my head. Her symptoms sounded just like mine, so I did an elimination diet to test whether I was also intolerant of gluten. I went a week without eating any kind of flour, cereal, bread, or anything else containing wheat, then I ate a piece of really good yeast bread.  My last piece, it turned out. I will spare you the details, but I spent that night in the bathroom dealing with the reaction the bread caused. That was it for me. I haven't knowingly eaten any food containing gluten since then. In fact, I suspect I have Celiac disease, but I am unwilling to go through the medical tests to confirm it. I don't need a piece of paper to tell me I can't eat gluten.

For those unfamiliar with gluten, it is the protein in wheat and a couple of other grains like barley.  (Yes, most beer contains gluten.)  It is the component of  bread  that gives it its texture and elasticity.  In other words, it makes baked goods taste good!  
If you want to eliminate gluten from  their diet, you need to do more than just change what you eat.  That's the easy part. You also need to change your kitchen.  Here are some basic tips that will keep you from getting gluten in your food without meaning to:
1. Get new cutting boards and mark them as gluten-free only. Gluten particles are tiny and they will hide in the little cuts and scratches of your cutting boards.  Hand over your old boards to the wheat-eaters in your family, and mark yours with a Sharpie as strictly g-free.
2. Same thing goes for wooden and bamboo spoons.  I bought new bamboo spoons for my foods, and my hubby marked the old ones with a “W” using his wood-burning tool so we all knew they were harboring traces of gluten in them.
3. Sort through your plastic ware.  Do you have storage containers that are scratched on the inside, or with a rough-textured surface?  If so, those need to get the “W” mark, too.  Buy new plastic ware for storage that never sees pasta or bread stored in it.
4. Scrub your pots and pans until they are squeaky clean, literally.  Any film left in a pot may contain gluten, especially any pot you have boiled pasta in.  Gluten film clings to the inner surface of the pot it is cooked in.  Pots and pans with a completely smooth inner surface are best for cooking because they are easiest to clean.  
5. Keep bread crumbs out of the butter, margarine and peanut butter.  If you look into the container of these foods and see those little bread specks, stay away!  Buy separate peanut butter and butter containers for the gluten-free and gluten-eating people in your family, and clearly mark them.
These are just a few tips to get you started.  Look at your kitchen with a critical eye and think about where gluten particles may be hiding. Buy new if you can, and keep them g-free.  
After almost 3 years, I can cook with confidence in my kitchen, knowing I am not going to get sick from cross-contamination.  My husband and son know how serious the impacts are on me if I eat gluten, so they willingly stay away from my gluten-free utensils and cutting boards.  Still, it's an ongoing process.  We all learn new things every day.  Be mindful of possible sources of contamination and it will help prevent the awful symptoms those of us who are gluten-intolerant suffer through when we get “glutened.”  
Be well!

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