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April 20, 2016

GIRL’S GUIDE TO THROWING A GLUTEN-FREE DINNER PARTY

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Your best friend called and guess what?  She and her significant other are finally coming over for dinner.  Yeah!  Oh shit… she follows a gluten-free diet.  Don’t panic, there is no need to call and cancel your plans- we’ve got you covered! Whether your pal was diagnosed with celiac disease or following the latest diet trend, creating a gluten free (GF) evening can be easy AND yummy.

As someone who was diagnosed with celiac disease over two years ago, I am always anxious while eating at friend’s homes, especially for the first time.  Having a conversation about my restrictions and knowing my friends took the time to research and prepare some gluten free foods is extremely thoughtful and sets my mind at ease. My mind, belly and my heart are always happy by the end of those evenings!

Over three million people in the United States have celiac disease and must avoid foods containing gluten. The next time you are hosting a party or having friends over, consider going gluten free, chances are one of your guests will be VERY thankful.

For those who do not know, gluten is a protein that helps food keep its shape and is found in wheat, rye, and barley. This means no mouth-watering loaf of Italian bread and no beer (for the most part).

Positive Preparation:
If your guest was diagnosed with celiac disease please be aware of cross-contamination while cooking and serving the food.  Nothing is worse than spending hours prepping a delicious, gluten-free meal than spoiling it by cross-contamination.  This could easily happen by reusing a kitchen utensil or cutting board from a gluten to a gluten-free food.  The best advice is to prep your kitchen beforehand by wiping down all cooking counters/stove and keeping the entire meal to gluten-free food items.

Keep It Simple:
Keep your dinner menu basic.  Everyone loves a good piece of NON-breaded meat served with fresh fruits and vegetables, all of which are gluten free!  Think grilled instead of fried. Not only is this an extremely healthy option for all, but the safest menu for your GF guests.

Read the Labels:
Pay attention to the complicated ingredients listed on packages.  It is extremely important to read over the ingredient list for any food item that is processed.  Nowadays, most companies will advertise if their product is gluten-free.  If it is not labeled gluten-free, read those ingredients.  The list of ingredients to avoid is huge, but anything that says wheat, rye, malt, or made with soy sauce should be taken off the menu.  Still not sure?  Skip it!  Your friend will thank you! Remember, keep it simple.

Watch the Gluten-Free Substitutions:
While perusing the gluten-free section at the grocery store, you find a box recipe for bread or brownies.  Be careful!  The gluten-free version will NOT taste like the regular version.  Many times these items have a much different texture or aftertaste than expected.  It’s easier to change your dinner menu than try to replicate an item with a gluten-free option. Not only are these items more expensive, but many of the gluten-free items have more calories per serving than their gluten-filled counterparts.  Recipe makers add more sugar to enhance the flavor, or the base flour used may just naturally have more calories (e.g. rice, corn, or potato starch). For me, many gluten free items do not have the same taste and I’d rather go without than try to substitute them.  Since I can’t eat the REAL cake, I’d rather have no cake at all.

Gluten Free for ALL:
It is easier to create a gluten-free menu for everyone to enjoy versus a specialized menu for one.  Remember, your friends came over to visit you, not to watch you sweat it out in the kitchen.  Keep things as simple as possible by serving the same delicious and delectable foods to everyone.

Here’s my favorite GF dinner go to recipe. It’s simple, quick and fun.

Jen’s Yummy Gluten-Free Dinner Party: It’s Taco Night!
Appetizer: Tortilla chips and dips!  Most brand name tortilla chips are made out of corn and are naturally gluten free. The same with salsas.  For queso and guacamole dips, just check the ingredients to be sure!

Main Dish: Hard corn taco shells or corn tortillas are key.  This can be coupled with gluten-free taco meat or fajita meat.  If you are worried about finding a gluten-free season mix, then stick to the basics!  Fajita meat is simply grilled, seasoned meat!

Dessert: Nothing says ‘I love you’ more than ice cream!  As long as the flavor does not mention a gluten filled food in the title like cookies/cream or brownie flavored, you should be fine!  You can always add gluten-free toppings (nuts, whipped cream, cherries) to make sundaes!

Armed with your new knowledge, it’s time to get to preppin’!  Oh and remember… all rums and tequilas are gluten free (WHEW!) so get those drinks poured too!  Surprise your friend with a GF evening and think about how many extra BFF points you will earn with your thoughtfulness!

BY JENNIFER NEIDENBACH

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