three stages of gluten free eating part four cooking through stage two

The Three Stages of Gluten-Free Eating Part Five: Cooking Your Way Through Stage Two

You made it to Stage Two—the “There’s Got To Be More” Stage. You are in this stage for a variety of reasons: 

  • You’ve become bored with all gluten-free replacement foods being such a large part of your life
  • The taste of gluten-free replacement foods seemed good in the beginning but now you are looking for more flavor
  • The amount of money you spend on gluten-free foods is really starting to add up
  • Your family is gently urging you to branch out and try new gluten-free meals that don’t contain as many gluten-free substitutes
  • You want to enjoy your food more and still maintain gluten-free eating

No matter the reason, you are here now and that’s a good thing. To stay gluten-free for the rest of your life, you will need new eating and cooking strategies. This is a marathon, not a sprint!

Here are some tips, tricks, and ideas that will help you navigate Stage Two and get you on the road to Stage Three.

Reducing the Bread

Every meal does not need to include gluten-free replacement bread. Well, obviously you know that or you would not be in Stage Two, but what are the options?

Even though I make my own baked goods, I still prefer hamburgers with a lettuce wrap instead of a bun for a few reasons. One, they are less filling and allow me to add a larger burger patty. Two, they leave room for french fries, and lastly, I taste more of the burger and condiments than I do with a bun.

So, start to think outside the “bun” and imagine what meals would be like without them. 

  • Lettuce wrap hamburgers
  • Hamburgers, patty only, with sauteed onions, mushrooms, and a garlic aioli
  • Hot dogs sliced atop a bed of tater tots smothered in chili, and topped with cheese and onions
  • Italian Chopped salad with all the ingredients except for the bread. You really can make a salad out of any sandwich ingredients!
  • And so many more!

I am not suggesting you NEVER eat gluten-free bread again. No way, not at all! I am suggesting ways to cut back. In doing so, it forces you to start thinking about ingredients, how they go combine to create flavors, and how you can use them in ways you may not have thought of before.

If you have grown tired of the taste or texture of store-bought gluten-free bread, you can always make your own, which I highly recommend. Is it hard to make your own? Yes, but only at first. Once you find the recipe you love and make it 2-3 times, it will become an easy process you don’t dread. Is it expensive? Yes, and no. You will need to buy a ton of ingredients but those ingredients will make a considerable amount of bread and in the end, your cost per loaf, per bun, etc., will be a third of what you are paying now.

We all have different tastes when it comes to food. Because of that, you may, or may not, like my recipe for bread and buns, and that’s okay. Make different recipes and see which ones you like the best and then keep making them. Just get started. Your taste buds and your bank account will thank you.

Once you learn one baking recipe, you can use it, or a slight variation of it, to make different things, which will save you time, and money. With my recipes, you can make:

Again, whether you use my recipe or another one, baking your own gluten-free products is definitely the way to go in the long run.

Trying New Ingredients

Before I met Rich and really dug into my passion for cooking, there were a TON of ingredients I never tried. The list and I have actually made it, was over 50 items. When you really start to cook, you will find that many recipes include ingredients you just never tried before, thought you would not like, or had in your head you would not like them. But, since you never tried, you really did not know for sure. Try them! Love them, hate them, but just try them!

Here is a short list of my would not eat ingredients that now I eat all the time:

  • Artichokes
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Capers
  • Anchovy
  • Salmon
  • Fish sauce
  • Cayenne pepper and chili flakes
  • Lamb
  • Scallops
  • Swordfish
  • Ahi tuna
  • Sushi (holy cow, I LOVE sushi now)
  • And many, many more!

Make New and Different Recipes

If you are new at cooking different dishes or newer at cooking gluten-free, I recommend searching for and making gluten-free recipes. Yes, you can modify traditional recipes but it is best to start with gluten-free ones. Here’s why.

You will benefit from the experience of making someone else’s gluten-free version of the recipe. Much of your gluten-free cooking knowledge will be derived from failing at a recipe or making a recipe that was doomed from the beginning (not your fault but rather the fault of the recipe creator). The other large part of your knowledge will be gained by the simple act of cooking the recipe. You need to know how different ingredients and techniques work together, or in some cases, don’t work together. You NEED variety and experience.

When I find a new recipe, I make it exactly as written so I experience the dish as the recipe author intended. Then I determine if I would make the recipe again, and if so, what would I change about it to make it tastier, or have a better texture, etc. Now, this is a Stage Three process but you will begin to have these questions as you start making more recipes, and that’s great!

By making only gluten-free recipes, you will also start to learn how to substitute gluten-containing ingredients. Not all-purpose gluten-free flours work best for breading, making gravies and sauces, or baking, and as you make recipes you will learn which brands work best for the type of recipe. This is very important and will change how you cook.

Asian cooking involves many gluten-containing essential sauces such as Oyster, Hoisin, and Soy, and many brands have gluten-free versions. But, they are not all created the same and as you cook and experiment, you will find the ones you love. Outside of the sauces, Asian cooking is very gluten-free friendly and I find myself making quite a bit of Asian food. The flavors are amazing and the variety of ingredients is endless.

Make the Things You Now Buy

There are many premade gluten-free meals available and I can see how they really help to reduce the time spent on cooking. They are costly, however, and many do not give offer the wonderful flavor and texture that they would if you made them from scratch. So, why not start making them yourself? You don’t have to set out to make a five-course meal, but instead, start small. 

Chicken nuggets or tenders are a dish to start with because they have multiple uses (main dish, snack, salad), are not too difficult to make, and they will hands-down, be better than any frozen gluten-free version you can buy. And the techniques you’ll learn in making them will translate to many other dishes.

I have a recipe for chicken tenders you can start with, or you can search and find many other versions. You will find that it is both the flour blend and the dredging/breading technique that will vary with every recipe. Try many versions to one, find the version you love, and two, gain more experience. 

Navigating Stage Two requires an open mind and a desire to learn more about cooking, flavors, ingredients, and techniques. It’s a journey worth taking and once you start, you may find that you really do like cooking! You’ve got this!!!!

In my next blog, I will wrap up the series and talk about Stage Three—the “I Am Breaking Up With Processed Food” Stage.

discover. cook. enjoy.

Gluten-Free Victoria Wolf

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