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.