Editor: Lorin Arnold for Elephant Journal
Photo: Tracey Eller
The Foundation of a Healthful Diet.
Everyone can benefit from eating a wide range of gluten-free whole grains. Gluten-free cooking and baking goes beyond just replacing the few popular gluten grains wheat, barley, triticale, and rye in favorite recipes. It is a celebration of the earth’s bounty.
There are more whole grains that do not have gluten. This means more choices, more whole grains and whole grain flours to mix and match with local, seasonal produce for an endless variety of daily meals. Doing so isn’t as hard as it seems if you follow some basic tips:
Create Gluten-Free Makeovers.
You can make pasta dishes, pastries—just about everything that can be made with gluten—into delicious, nutritious, gorgeous dishes with a wide gluten-free whole grains and flours.
Go Beyond Toast.
Start your day with nutritional powerhouses: gluten-free grains such as millet, rolled oats, teff, quinoa, and amaranth make tasty porridges cooked in water or coconut milk with a variety spices like ginger and cinnamon, and dried fruits. Top with your favorite yogurt, milk, fruit, or maple syrup for a great breakfast.
Pancakes and waffles are delicious and super nutritious made with one or a combination of gluten-free flours: teff, sorghum, quinoa, brown rice, corn, buckwheat, maca, and coconut flour.
Make Versatile Vegetarian and Vegan Dishes.
It is easy to make grain loaves, polenta, and croquettes with corn grits, millet, and teff. Once cooked and cooled, you can cut them like a brownie. Slice and serve or refry; the possibilities are endless.
You can make beautiful dishes mixing and matching grains with nuts, seeds, and colorful vegetables. Decorate finished dishes with edible flowers, springs of herbs, and sauces.
Get Your Protein.
It is rare for whole grains to be complete proteins; however quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and oats are complete proteins making them ideal for main course entrees, and side dishes.
Employ a Variety of Textures.
You can create dishes with many different textures: running the gamut from dense, smooth dishes like polenta to chewy wild rice to crispy granola. In the realm of desserts alone, grains and their flours can be used to create textures ranging from creamy rice pudding, to dense and chewy hazelnut brownies, to crispy cookies made with teff flour.
Create Great Pastries Everyone will Love.
Bake delicious cookies, piecrusts, fruit crisps, muffins, and brownies with a great variety of gluten-free flours: teff, oat, brown rice, quinoa, coconut, ground nut and seed flours (hazelnut, almond, and flax seeds, etc).
Roll Some Sushi.
Vegetarian sushi, also known as nori rice rolls, are delicious and easy to prepare with a wide variety of rice: Bhutanese Red Rice, Forbidden Rice, brown rice, Jade Pearl Rice, sweet brown rice, among others. Mix and match fresh and sautéed seasonal vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, beets, salad greens, etc) with avocado, pickles, sprouts, seasoned tofu and ginger tempeh, and more.
Stake Out a Variety of Shapes.
Gluten-free pasta comes in many shapes and sizes and made from a variety of grains: rice, quinoa, corn, amaranth, and buckwheat. All are great topped with savory sauces: tomato, peanut, pesto, mushroom, among others.
Expand your Repertoire.
Say yes to abundance of choices: enhance your nutrition by including high fiber, whole grains in your diet. You can make pilafs, soups, stews, porridge, and marinated salads and more with gluten-free grains.
Enjoy Being Environmentally Friendly.
Going gluten-free can help you decrease your carbon footprint. Huge monocultures of wheat and other common grains have damaging impacts on the earth, especially when grown commercially using petroleum-based fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
Because many varieties of gluten-free grains are more closely related to their wild cousins than the hybrids we’ve come to rely on, they can often be grown more easily, using less intensive methods. Some gluten-free grains are drought resistant, requiring less land and less water to produce high yields. Others grow in harsh conditions, arid uplands to moist tropical settings.
As a bonus, many of them offer superior nutrition and higher-quality protein than wheat and other common grains. That means more net nutrition from the same amount of land. And best of all, this approach to easing our impact on the planet offers a delicious culinary adventure.
Worldwide, gluten-Free whole grains truly are the foundation of a healthful diet—healthful not just for us humans, but also for our planet.
You’ve probably heard about the devastation of rainforests to create grazing land, water pollution from feedlots, and the problems with methane from cattle. And chances are, at some point you’ve read or heard that eating lower on the food chain is more sustainable, so I’ll just offer the reminder that it’s far more efficient to eat grain than to feed it to animals and then use those animals for food. As food resources grow scarce for an ever-increasing human population, it becomes more important to eat less meat, or avoid it altogether.
All of that said, I do believe that there’s a place for organic eggs and dairy products, especially when the animals that produce them are allowed to range freely and fed a diet that’s more natural for them (for dairy cows, that means grass-fed).
Adapted and excerpted with permission from Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook by Leslie Cerier (New Harbinger Publications)
Leslie Cerier, “The Organic Gourmet,” is a national authority on gluten-free cooking and baking specializing in local, seasonal, whole foods and organic cuisine with 20 + years experience: Chef, Educator, and Author of 5 cookbooks including Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook (2010), and Going Wild in the Kitchen (2005). Leslie teaches exciting “hands-on” vegetarian cooking classes in some of the most prestigious centers of holistic evolution and organic lifestyle. Please check out more at http://www.lesliecerier.com/classes/.
Editor: Lorin Arnold for Elephant Journal