How to prepare a gluten-free meal for the first time

Gluten-free is a common term these days — in food labels, restaurants, recipes, menus and conversations among friends.  Chances are you might need to prepare a food dish or meal for someone who is gluten-free. Don’t spend hours Googling gluten-free recipes and scouring Pinterest.  Don’t blow your grocery budget buying a variety of expensive, processed gluten-free foods.  Making a gluten-free meal is quick and simple and there is no need to lose sleep over it. There are many reputable websites, with guidelines to help you get started, first by understanding the gluten-free diet: what’s allowed, what’s not (from the Mayo Clinic website).

When you’re ready to cook, the easiest rule of thumb is to choose whole foods that are naturally gluten-free. Fresh meat, poultry and seafood, fruits and vegetables, eggs, beans, potatoes, corn, rice, and most dairy products provide you with a long list of safe foods from which to choose. Make grilled steak or chicken, potatoes and a salad for a crowd pleasing option.  Or bake some fish and serve it with rice and broccoli. There’s nothing unusual or complicated about that, right? Keep the meal simple and your guests will appreciate it.  The last thing anyone with dietary restrictions wants is for you to worry and fuss over what to serve.  Calling your guest and asking for feedback on menu ideas will help guide you as well.

Once you get comfortable with what is acceptable and what to avoid, you can personalize your gluten-free menu and begin making your favorite recipes with simple substitutions.  For example, go ahead and make your grandma’s famous lasagna recipe using gluten-free lasagna noodles. Tinkyada brand cooks well, like regular wheat pasta, and tastes great. Or, make crab cakes and serve them with a colorful, protein and fiber-packed edamame salad followed by blueberry kuchen — all made with simple gluten-free substitutions.  For more ideas, see our gluten-free recipes collection on the Maine Warmers website. Happy cooking!

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