Did you know that today's National Celiac Disease Awareness Day? Neither did I — but then again, I didn't know that imitation crab meat, oyster sauce, and licorice all have gluten, either. Gluten may seem innocent enough — it's a protein composite found in all wheat products — but for an estimated 3 million Americans with celiac disease, it can have devastating effects if consumed.
A whopping one in 133 Americans has this autoimmune disease, so if you're big on entertaining at home, chances are, you'll need to be equipped to go gluten-free at some point or another, whether it's an intimate dinner, tailgating bash, or Christmas party. I asked Alice Bast, president of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and a sufferer of the disease herself, for some advice on doing just that. Keep reading to see her tips for gluten-free entertaining at home.
- Keep it simple. The fewer ingredients a dish has, the lower the risk of contamination.
- Shop the perimeter of your store. Build your meal around fruits, vegetables, meats, and other unprocessed foods that are naturally free of gluten.
- Don't cross-contaminate. It's easy to overlook cross-contamination: "If you've ever dipped a knife into a jar of peanut butter, spread that on bread, and then put the knife back in the jar, then you've just cross-contaminated," Bast explains. To prevent potential contamination, use a cutting board that hasn't been exposed to gluten products; if your kitchen isn't an entirely gluten-free kitchen, employ foil or parchment paper in your oven to minimize risk.
- Remember, there are plenty of naturally gluten-free starches. These include potatoes, rice, and amaranth. "Quinoa is awesome; it's easy, versatile, and fun to cook with," Bast suggests.
- Know what drinks you can and can't serve. Wheat-distilled vodka, surprisingly, is OK; beer, which is made from barley, is off limits.
- Always read labels. Even products you wouldn't expect to contain gluten might have a trace of it. Bast cites tea as an example: some teas contain barley as an ingredient.
- Look for "gluten-free" on the label. A number of organizations, like the Gluten Intolerance Group or Quality Assurance International, have gluten-free seals.
What are your suggestions for successful gluten-free entertaining?