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How I Set Up My Gluten-Free Diet Pantry and Kitchen – Part 4

This is the fourth and next-to-last post in my Gluten-Free Diet Pantry and Kitchen Series. Click to read the previous post in my “How I Set Up My Gluten-Free Diet Pantry and Kitchen” series.

Just a reminder that for the next couple of months, in addition to my regular recipe posts, I will be featuring excerpts from my newest book “Eating & Living a Gluten-Free Diet… The Official Guide (2012 – 2013)” in some of my posts. Today through sometime Monday, it’s available from Amazon for $2.99 USD on sale from its regular price of $5.97 USD.

We had a great free give away for the last 5 days and gave out 4,035 free copies and are making the book available to those that meant to get it during the give-a-way but didn’t at a reduced price.

Get yours today!!!  Monday will be here before you know it…

The next several free excerpts will be from a section devoted to helping you learn how to set up your gluten-free pantry and kitchen in a home with both gluten-free and gluten-y individuals…

… Welcome to my world! Here’s today’s excerpt:

Chilling Thoughts

In the refrigerator and freezer, keeping things separate is a little more challenging, mostly I think because the space is so limited.  Possibly there are more things that are not labeled, also.  The best defense in my experience is to mark things when I put them in there.  Sometimes that’s important for other people to know what they find, and sometimes it helps me not to get mixed up.

It may seem like extra trouble, but it is still important. As I said before, the best protection you will have for avoiding cross-contamination is to develop good habits. Here is how I try to arrange things in our refrigerator.  The same general principles apply to the freezer.

What You See Is You’ll Get, or Out of Sight, Out of Mind

People have a tendency to reach for what they see first, so try to keep the gluten-free things out of sight when you can.  Things that are easily contaminated like jars of jam or tubs of butter or containers of cream cheese are safer if you put the gluten-free version farther to the back on the shelves.

When my family opens the refrigerator, they see the gluten-y containers first – their butter, their jam, their cheese (can you tell what my husband’s snack plans usually are??).  I’ve tried putting healthy snacks up front, too, like snack bags of carrots or apples, but for some reason those just aren’t as popular with everybody.  Go figure.

If you set a dish of chocolate pudding in the refrigerator to cool, set where it will be hard to see and hard to reach.

Top to Bottom

Don’t forget about gravity.  Put the gluten-free foods on top when possible.  If there is a spill, even a drop, or a tiny little crumb from a gluten-y food that falls in the refrigerator, you don’t want it to fall on the gluten-free food.

Imagine how one plate of leftover regular pizza could shed crumbs to lots of other food if it were set on the top shelf in the refrigerator.  Make room on the bottom shelf for it!

Store the gluten-free dishes above the others whenever possible.

Also, cover the gluten-free foods carefully with tight-fitting lids to keep out anything that might spread from neighboring containers.

Divided We Stand

If you have other people who also work in the kitchen, like a spouse or a child, you will probably really like dividing the work areas.  Other people would then be able to do gluten-y food prep without contaminating the gluten-free area.  For example, in the gluten-y work area you might have a toaster for the gluten-containing breads along with butter knives and peanut butter and so forth right at hand.  If you can keep the gluten in your kitchen divided, you’ll all be able to stay…healthier!

My Husband's Gluten-y Counter Area

My Husband’s Gluten-y Counter Area

The cabinet in the gluten area might be where you keep the regular bread, saltines and whole wheat crackers, the regular granola bars and trail mix, the regular boxes of cereal and maybe the cans of regular soup or other packaged dishes for them to fix a quick meal, if that fits your people.

I try to keep easy things that don’t make a big mess – canned soup or chili for them to prepare for themselves would probably be easier to clean up thoroughly afterwards than mac and cheese (draining the pasta is the real contaminator in that case), or a regular pre-baked pizza or a cookie mix (those probably would involve someone flinging flour and dough around the kitchen).

Don’t forget that flour “poofs” into the air while mixing.  It can hang around in the air for 24 hours or longer.  I don’t let people into my kitchen to use gluten-y flour.  If it’s used, which it is sometimes, I want to be aware of when and how so I can clean up thoroughly.

The important point to remember is that, since people are creatures of habit, it helps to keep some of the things normally used with gluten-containing food located together.  The gluten-free foods and tools can then stay in their own location.  In this case “divided” is good.

Traveling Breadcrumbs

A good example of developing a habit to help keep things straight is where I keep the bread and baked goodies.  All of them are stored in the gluten-y workspace.

You know how breads and cookies are – if you even look at them, it seems they disperse crumbs!  Those crumbs seem to get into whatever is nearby…and farther away, too.

Have you ever noticed how far breadcrumbs from just one little bagel can spread?  Try slicing one without making crumbs.  Or, have you ever watched crumbs from one English muffin roam around the table, counter or cutting board?  The crumbs from slicing a loaf of French bread can easily spread farther than my arm’s length!  It amazes me every time!

As a result of that spreading tendency of crumbs, I really like having the gluten-y bread on its own counter across the kitchen from my main workspace.  When I slice bread or prepare a sandwich there, as soon as I finish I wash my hands and go back to safely working in the gluten-free work area.  People who want that gluten-y bread are welcome to help themselves, and I don’t have to worry about those little gluten crumbs near where I’m preparing gluten-free food.  Nor do I have as much trouble cleaning the gluten-free work area later.

Let’s face it – if there is gluten to clean up, I need to work considerably harder at cleaning thoroughly than most people would need to.  Remember, killing bacteria may get rid of germs, but it won’t do a thing to get rid of gluten.  The amount of gluten in food that is needed to cause a bad reaction in someone with celiac disease is measured in PPM – that’s parts per million.  There is current discussion about what level is safe for celiacs, and some authorities believe that below 20 PPM there is no perceivable harm, while other authorities believe the number should be 10 PPM or less.  Either way, that is a VERY small amount.  Clean your work areas well!

New Habits

The general rule I’ve heard for learning a new habit is that you have to do the new thing for three weeks before it will become “second nature.”  That seems like a long time at the beginning of the three weeks, but towards the end it becomes easier and easier to remember the new procedure.

If you aren’t sure it will be worth it to try to change your kitchen habits, keep track of when you start a change like, say, always cooking the gluten-free pasta on the same side of the stove, or always cutting the gluten-y bread in the gluten area.  Then see how long it takes you before you don’t even have to think about it anymore to do it the new way.

Prepare for a Morning Routine

If your children are encouraged to get their own cereal in the morning, and they’re not gluten-free, I’d suggest putting all their gluten-y cereal in one area along with some bowls, spoons and whatever sweeteners they use.  When you think they’re old enough, let them learn to be responsible about managing those.

Let them do what they are mature enough to do, and don’t forget just how hard it can be even for adults to keep the gluten and the non-gluten food separate. Make it as simple as possible for them to keep straight.  If the children aren’t likely always to remember not to gluten the strawberry jam, then keep two separate containers of it, one marked “GF” and one regular.

Make It Clear – Mark It Clearly

Storing our things separate makes it easier to keep the gluten-free food safe, but it does require some labeling.  Whether it’s for the pantry or the refrigerator, I use a fiber-tip marker to put a big “GF” on things like jam or peanut butter, mayonnaise and mustard jars, and anything with a lid that can be opened to put a knife or spoon into.  If the “GF” container accidentally becomes contaminated, simply put a big “X” or a line through the “GF.”

GF or  GF   

It’s instantly ready to move to the gluten-y section.

Whenever I can, I buy things in squeeze bottles or pump dispensers.  Those can still be a problem since the dispenser lid or cap can accidentally touch the bread or muffin or crackers where the mustard or honey or other good stuff is being applied, so be careful with them.  Watch your fellow cook’s helpers to see if they understand how to use these tools well.

Labels Have More Uses than You Might Realize

Since we’re talking about marking, I’d like to make a suggestion about labels.  I used to like to keep many things on my shelves in matched sets of containers. They look so neat that way! That meant that I’d bring something like salt or cereal home from the store and put it into my own container.  Then I’d discard the original package.

Now when I bring something home to put in the pantry, I keep the original package if I can so that I have all that information available.  There are many times that I’ve been glad to have it for one reason or another, even if I’m sure when I bought it that it’s gluten-free.

Labels even turn out to be useful for measuring ingredients by weight rather than volume (my new favorite way to bake). Often I can use the grams per serving to quickly figure how many grams to put in what I’m mixing together.  The labels usually give the size of a serving by volume, say, ¼ cup.  After that the manufacturer often shows the grams for that serving in parentheses.  If my recipe calls for a cup and the label shows the grams for ¼ cup, then I multiply the grams times 4 to know how much to add to the mixing bowl.  It’s so hard to measure gluten-free flours accurately by volume.  They seem to ”settle” more than gluten-y flour does.  I’ve had better success with baking since I got a scale and began measuring by weight when I can.


My Next Post

My next post will pick up from where I left off in Section 2 of my new book with my next topic in which I call “Countertops/Workspace.” And, it will be the rest of the “How I set Up My Gluten-Free Diet Pantry and Kitchen” excerpt. So, check back often to read my next post about how to setup your gluten-free pantry and kitchen.

Or, do it the easy way!

Just sign up to receive your personal .pdf copy of the “How I Set Up My Gluten-Free Pantry” excerpt from my new book in the upper left hand corner of any page on this site. One of the benefits of becoming a member of the completely, without charge “Elegantly, Gluten-Free Connoisseurs’ Club” (in addition to periodic free gifts) is that all of the Connoisseurs’ Club members are notified each time I post.