Help! My friend is coming for supper and she is gluten-free! What should I serve her?

First of all, in my opinion, if you don’t feel up to the task of accommodating a friend’s food allergies/sensitivities, it is totally fine to say so. Ask her for suggestions or ask her to bring something for herself to eat. Although this may seem a little awkward, it’s much better than risking cross-contamination. However, if you are up to the challenge, here are some tips to get you started:

  •  If you would like to serve a fabulous gluten free meal but don’t think your kitchen (or cooking skills are up for the challenge), you could order a ready-to-heat-and-serve meal. There are several places that make excellent single-serving, gluten free meals. Two of these are Thyme and Again and Epicuria.

  • If you would like to try cooking something yourself, please be aware that cross-contamination can be a major issue for anyone with celiac disease or with a severe gluten intolerance. Therefore, talk to your friend ahead of time to find out how concerned you should be about cross contamination. If your friend is not worried about cross contamination, then simply choosing dishes without gluten should be enough. Remember to read the labels of all ingredients and don’t use anything with wheat, barley, rye or anything labelled “may contain wheat” or “may contain gluten”.

  • If your friend is worried about cross-contamination, then you need to prepare your kitchen prior to starting to cook. Start by removing all glutinous foods from the area you will be prepping and cooking in. Then wash down the area with hot soapy water. Make sure any cutting boards, utensils, etc. are cleaned, preferably by the dishwasher. Read all labels! I cannot stress this enough. Many products you would never expect contain gluten. For example, most soy sauces, salad dressings, sauces, and spice mixtures contain gluten. When buying these products, look for ones with “gluten free” on the label. Most grocery stores now have a wide variety of gluten free products. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask for help as it may be in a separate section.

  •  Many basic foods can also be cross-contaminated during processing or packaging. A couple of examples include oats, lentils, rice. I always buy only those varieties labelled “gluten free” or which do not say “may contain wheat” or “may contain gluten” under the ingredients.

  •  What to cook? You will probably find that many of your recipes are naturally gluten-free or can easily be adapted to gluten free. BBQ is an easy option. Meats and fish are naturally gluten free, as are all vegetables. Be careful with marinades and sauces- either use store-bought ones that are labelled gluten-free, or prepare your own using all gluten-free ingredients.  Watch out for prepared burgers, sausages, or kebobs – unless they are labelled gluten-free, they often contain fillers which have gluten in them. Farm Boy sells fantastic gluten-free sausages. There are also pre-packaged gluten free sausages and kebobs available at most grocery stores.

  • Other easy options include roasts with vegetables, (if you make gravy, use gluten-free cornstarch instead of flour. For vegetarian options, try stir-fries, roast vegetables, tofu, rice, corn tacos, rice and beans. There are lots of fabulous gluten-free recipes on line.

  • For dessert, there is always fresh fruit salad, making a cheesecake with a gluten-free crust. Most grocery stores sell frozen gluten-free dessert such as icecreams (ready the label!), Sweets of the Earth cakes, Daiya cakes, or you could pick up something from a gluten-free bakery. This is also something you could ask your friend to bring to share.

Eating at Someone’s House

Being invited over to a friend’s house for a meal can be somewhat stressful for both you and your hosts. Here are some tips to make things run smoothly. Again, it is all about planning ahead and communicating. When you first get the invitation, be upfront with your host and let them know that you are intolerant of gluten (as well as any other food intolerances/allergies). Explain what that means. Sometimes, a host is willing to accommodate you and if you are confident that they will be able to manage without cross contaminating your food, then accept graciously. Otherwise, offer to bring your own food or bring a dish to share with everyone. I have used both approaches successfully. Most often, I end up bringing my own food. In this case, I ask the host what they will be serving and try to bring something similar so it isn’t so obvious to everyone that I am eating differently. I also always work hard to put people at ease to eat in front of me with no guilt. I honestly enjoy watching people eat food they enjoy and it really doesn’t bother me not to be eating it too. If this isn’t the case for you, try focussing on the fact that you are still a part of the group, enjoying the meal together. Focus on the conversation, the atmosphere, etc.