I love growing and cooking and eating food, but unfortunately not all food likes me. Luckily, gluten free living and homesteading fit very well together. In honor of celiac awareness month, here are some ways that the gluten-free among us can eat healthy local food that’s also gluten-free.
Eat Your Greens, Reds, Blues….
One of the best things about celiac disease is that it gives you an incentive to eat whole, unprocessed foods. While grains like rye, spelt, and wheat contain gluten, the fruits and vegetables that you grow in your garden do not – unless you’re a grain farmer!
Going gluten free gives you an incentive to get off the grain train for your meals. Breakfast can involve fruit, omelettes, and homemade yogurt. Add a salad to your lunch. For dinner, I like some carbohydrates, so I’ll often choose rice or high-protein quinoa. Quinoa is also very quick to cook, and its nutty flavour makes it a great side dish, a base for a salad, or even a breakfast cereal.
If you’re seasoning your fruits and veggies, be aware that many sauces contain additives that may have a little bit of gluten in them. Soy sauce is one example: the traditional kind is wheat-based, so go for gluten-free tamari instead,
Baking From Scratch
While I’ve found a wonderful local bakery that makes gluten free products that are amazing, I can’t afford to go there all the time. Like many commercial breads, commercial gluten free breads are a little lackluster, so I prefer to make my own baked goods.
To get prepared to bake gluten free, you’ll need a good flour mix. Be aware that many gluten free flours are very processed, so they’re not necessarily very healthy. I like to use a chickpea flour mix, which has a little bit of a beany taste, but I like it. I save the more processed tapioca and rice flours for pastries and fancy Christmas cookies. Experiment with many different flours until you discover what works for you and your tastes.
Gluten may not be good for you if you have celiac disease, but it sure is good at sticking baked goods together. To bake gluten free, you’ll need something other than gluten to keep your baked items from crumbling. The standard recommendation is xanthan gum, a yeast-based product. Add less than a tablespoon to your baking, and it will stick together. I also use guar gum. However, if you’re making something simple like pancakes, you really don’t need to get that fancy: adding plenty of eggs and ground flax helps baking stick together as well.
It is possible to live a frugal lifestyle and be gluten free. Check outGluten-Free on a Shoestring: 125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap.
If you’re storing food for the winter or in an emergency kit, be aware that buying commercial products may be more expensive if you’re looking for gluten free. Make your own canned, dried, and frozen foods so that you can stock up for the winter and do so on the cheap. I freeze lots of berries for morning smoothies, and it’s far cheaper than buying imported food or tiny packages of berries in the winter. If you do need to stock up on canned goods for an emergency kit, do your research and make sure that they’re all gluten free, so that you don’t add illness into the mix in an emergency sitution.
Whether you are a dedicated homesteader or new to preserving and cooking foods from scratch, going gluten free can give you even more incentive to cook healthy foods from scratch.