What To Eat NOW: Gluten-Free Options

Gluten intolerance and Celiac disease are serious and on the rise. It’s estimated that 1 in 100 people actually have diagnosable Celiac disease, and many more are gluten intolerant.

Let’s look at common symptoms:

  • abdominal bloating and pain
  • chronic diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • constipation

If you suffer from these regularly, you may want to visit your health care provider.  However, there are around 300 possible symptoms, as Celiac affects every person differently.  For more information, check for symptoms, screening, and effects.

Celiac disease actually destroys park of the small intestine, makes you unable to process lactose, and can cause infertility and arthritis.  It’s a bad mamma jamma, so knowing your status is crucial.

Moreover, many people are choosing to eschew gluten for health reasons outside of Celiac disease.  Gluten is high on the Glycemic Index (GI), which raises blood sugar.  For diabetics, hypoglycemics, and anyone trying to stabilize their blood sugar, this is a problem.

What To Buy Instead of Gluten

You must avoid wheat, gluten, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, and oats that aren’t certified gluten-free.  However, the “real list” of things to avoid is longer and more stressful.

That list terrifies me, and I don’t struggle with gluten intolerance.  I imagine that I’d be beyond obsessive reading labels if I were in that position.  However, I’ve got one ace up my sleeve, and that’s that I make much of our food from scratch.

Amazon.com has a whole section of their “grocery store” full of GF products.  Most mainstream markets have a special foods aisle where you can find items without gluten, too.  However, these items cost on average twice as much as their wheat-riddled counterparts, so the costs add up quickly.

If you absolutely must have bread and pasta, check out Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.  They have the best gluten-free bread.  They’re primarily rice-based, which takes some getting used to in terms of texture.

I personally think there are better alternatives than rice-based pasta.  Jerusalem artichoke pasta, for example.  Or why not go the raw route and make zucchini pasta?  This is the perfect time when prices are low and it’s coming into season.

For the record, none of these things taste like semolina pasta, so they take some getting used to.  Since they’re not killing you slowly, however, it’s probably worth it.

Homemade Substitutes

If you have a grain mill of a high-speed blender (such as a Vitamix or Blendtec), you can make your own wheat-free flours at home.  This requires some experimentation to your taste, of course, but is relatively cheap and easy.

Having done some gluten-free baking for friends, I think the best recipe for GF-flour in savory application is:

1 c. white bean flour or garbanzo bean flour

1 c. potato starch

1 c. tapioca starch

1 c. brown rice flour

You can double or triple the recipe, just store in refrigerator.

For sweet applications, so long as there isn’t a nut allergy, I prefer:

1 1/2 c. almond flour

1 c. potato starch

1 c. tapioca starch

1 c. brown rice flour

I make my almond flour in my BlendTec, but you can purchase it pre-ground if necessary.  Do NOT grind nuts in your grain mill unless specified, the oils will ruin your machine.

A Primer on Gluten-Free Ingredients

If you’re baking at home, you’ll notice that xanthan gum is in almost every gluten-free baking recipe.  This product is an emulsifier, which contributes to texture in your baked goods.

Xanthan gum is derived from corn.  The texture it produces is more similar to gluten than guar gum.

However, more people are allergic to corn than legumes (from which guar is derived), so that’s a consideration.  I think guar has a funny aftertaste, but we all get used to different things.

As for flours, I prefer bean and almond for the high protein content.  However, there are many grains that don’t contain gluten that are great as part of your blend.  Substitute 1 c. of any of the flours given in the recipe above:

  • Almond
  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat (related to rhubarb, not wheat)
  • Coconut
  • Corn (masa harina)
  • Certified gluten-free oat flour
  • Quinoa
  • Rice (brown or white)
  • Sorghum
  • Teff

Gluten-Free Resources

There are some great blogs and other websites on gluten-free living nowadays.  Glutenfreegirl.com is my favorite, but I’m a sucker for good storytelling. Other great blogs are glutenfreemommy.com for families and glutenfreehelp.info for general information and recipes.

There are also some great books about eating gluten-free, both from a scientific standpoint as well as practically speaking.

I recommend Healthier Without Wheat by Dr. Stephen Wangen for a new understanding of how gluten intolerance and Celiac disease function from a scientific standpoint.  You’ll probably only read this book once, but you’ll pass it on to someone else questioning their health.

A book that you’ll refer to time and again is Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide.  It’s got lists of gluten-free commercial products, research papers, and worldwide resources. If you buy one book on gluten-free living, this should be it.

If you want to read about someone’s journey with Celiac  Disease, look no further than Gluten-Free Girl.  Yep, she’s got a book AND a blog!   This is more a memoir than a recipe book, and chunks of the book come from her blog.  However, it’s a sweet read, and if you love food, an enjoyable one.

Necessarily, most of the cookbooks are baking books.  However, when you’re craving pizza or cupcakes and nothing else will do, it’s great to have them on hand.

Because Celiac is often one among a number of food allergies, I think a vegan cookbook is a great resource.  Dairy and wheat are on the top ten list for food allergies, so it makes sense to create a cookbook that prohibits both.

For me, the pictures alone are worth the cost of The Gluten-Free Vegan, total food lust.  The foods looks beautiful, healthy, and absolutely inviting.  We’ve been eating the yam and black bean burrito recipe in this book for a couple of years now, and it’s still a family favorite!

For those who don’t struggle with dairy, a great go-to book for baking is The 125 Best Gluten-Free Recipes.  I’ve got three words for you: lemon yogurt scones.  ‘Nuff said.

Heather’s Favorite Gluten-Free Recipes

You know I wouldn’t write a column on what to eat now if I didn’t have some recipes, right?  I’ve got three for you today, all baked goods because of the holidays this weekend.

First Black Bean Brownies.  If you like chocolate and easy, this is the recipe for you.  It uses canned beans instead of bean flour, making it a snap to prepare. I found this somewhere on the internet some time ago and have adapted it to our tastes.

Black Bean Brownies

  • 1 (15 1/2 ounce) can black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 3 eggs (or flax substitute)
  • 3 tablespoons oil (I use coconut)
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sucanat, or 1/2 c. honey or agave nectar


  1. Mix ingredients together in a blender/food processor until pureed.
  2. Pour into a greased 8×8 cake pan.
  3. Add in mix-ins you want, such as coconut, nuts, or chocolate chips, or leave plain.
  4. Bake at 350 F for approximately 30 minutes (mine take 45).
  5. Let cool completely before cutting.

You can add 1/4 teaspoon mint extract for mint brownies, GF white chocolate or butterscotch chips, anything you like.  These brownies do well with any number of additions/substitutions, so go for it!

Hot Cross Buns

Recipe from LivingWithout.com

3 cups gluten-free flour
⅓ cup honey
2 packages rapid-rise yeast
½ cup powdered milk of choice
3 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup warm water
¼ cup light olive oil or melted coconut oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten (chia works better than flax in this case)
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 cup currants or raisins
¼ cup diced candied lemon peel, optional (I skip the citrus and use a bit of candied ginger for the spice factor)
¼ cup diced candied orange peel, optional
3 tablespoons melted butter or shortening of choice, for brushing

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 10-inch cake pan.

2. Mix flour blend, sugar, yeast, powdered milk, xanthan gum, salt and cinnamon together.

3. Add water, oil, eggs and vinegar and beat for 5 minutes.

4. Mix in raisins and candied fruit peels, if desired.

5. Scrape dough out onto a floured cookie sheet. Cut the dough into 8 or 9 pieces and gently shape each into a ball. Place one ball of dough in the center of prepared cake pan. Loosely arrange the remaining balls around it, leaving room for buns to rise. Brush the buns with melted butter and cut an X into the top of each bun. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 20 to 30 minutes.

6. Place buns in preheated oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. When the buns are cool, drizzle icing over the scored X.


1½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk of choice (cow, rice, soy, hemp, almond)
¼ teaspoon vanilla

Whisk powdered sugar, milk and vanilla together until smooth. Add more milk if icing is too thick.

Recipe from GlutenFreeCookingSchool.com

Finally, the thing I hear most from Celiacs is that you miss sandwiches.  Here’s a great sandwich bread that I make for friends.  Like all gluten-free breads it gets dry if overbaked, so underbaking a bit is preferable.

This recipe is for the bread machine, but you can shape it into a loaf and bake in the oven if you prefer (I hate the hole in the bottom of bread machine loaves).

1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 ½ c. water (105 degrees or a little less than hot)

2 ½ cups “Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Mix Recipe”
2 tsp. xanthan gum
1tsp. salt

2 eggs (or 6 Tbsp. water and 2 Tbsp. ground flax seed)
1 ½ Tbsp. oil
1 tsp. cider vinegar

1. Start by combining the yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Add the water while gently stirring the yeast and sugar. Let this mixture sit while you mix the rest of the ingredients – bubbles and foam should form if the yeast is happy.

2. Combine the flour mix, xanthan gum and salt in the largest mixing bowl and stir well.

3. In a third bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and vinegar until the eggs are a bit frothy.

4. By this point the yeast mixture should be foamy, so you can pour the two liquid mixtures into the flour mixture. Stir until all ingredients are well mixed and then dump into your bread machine. Cook on the 80 minute setting – the stirring paddle is not necessary.

Slice after baking, then put in the freezer to pull out as needed.  GF bread gets really crumbly after a day or so, so please remember to put it away.

Well, there you have it.  Gluten-free brownies, hot cross buns, and bread for all those holiday leftovers.  Have a great weekend!

  • 1 (15 1/2 ounce) can black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sugar


  1. 1

    Mix ingredients together in a blender/food processor until pureed.

  2. 2

    Pour into a greased 8×8 cake pan.

  3. 3

    Stir in some chocolate chips and nuts, or leave plain.

  4. 4

    Bake at 350 F for approximately 30 minutes.

  5. 5

    Let cool completely before cutting.

  • 1 (15 1/2 ounce) can black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sugar


  1. Mix ingredients together in a blender/food processor until pureed.
  2. Pour into a greased 8×8 cake pan.
  3. Stir in some chocolate chips and nuts, or leave plain.
  4. Bake at 350 F for approximately 30 minutes.
  5. Let cool completely before cutting.
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