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How to prepare gluten-free meals without torturing your family

Long before the gluten-free craze came about, many members in my dad's family discovered that they had Celiac disease. For Thanksgiving dinners, when we would gather together, there were always two separate tables: one filled with the “regular” food and one exclusively for those eating gluten-free foods.

I admit, at first, I had a really hard time with it. How could such a seemingly small ingredient (gluten, found in wheat) affect someone's body so drastically? I could not understand the harm that a piece of pumpkin pie could inflict.

The tables turned two years ago, however, when I got diagnosed with a severe gluten intolerance along with Hashimoto's disease. Thankfully, I had my family to turn to for help (and some very delicious recipes). Most grocery stores carry gluten-free products. Still, the transition was not as smooth as I might have hoped.

If you, or someone in your family struggles with gluten, I am sure you are aware of the challenges that this can create:

  • Cross contamination. Are those bread crumbs in the bread dish filled with gluten?
  • No one diet fits all. Finding meals to please everyone in your family — not just those with special dietary needs — can be a difficult task.
  • Dining out. Eating in restaurants and social gatherings is challenging because not every restaurant or dinner host is on-board with a gluten-free menu. Going out with your family or friends can turn into a not so pleasant experience.

Since I have experienced all of those challenges (and more) I want to help turn family meal time into an enjoyable time for you as well as those family members who are not on a gluten-free diet. If you find yourself in a gluten-free rut, I have a hunch that these recipes are just for you:

Pasta

If giving up pasta has been difficult for you, or you want to switch it up from gluten-free pasta, try replacing it with squash. Spaghetti squash is a delicious and healthy alternative. This spaghetti squash and meatball dish from the “Chris Loves Julia” web site is delicious. If you are not a fan of spaghetti squash, pick up one of these vegetable spiralizers, and make your own “pasta” with zucchini, sweet potatoes, or carrots. Your kids might enjoy making pasta with you.

Cheese

The “Our Best Bites” web siteposted the recipe for quick brazilian cheese rolls and they are the perfect addition to almost any meal. Warm, fluffy and cheesy…what's not to love?

Pizza

Haven't found a pizza crust recipe that you love? Me either. However, this pizza recipe from Minimalist Baker claims it's the best of the best. I think I will be making it this weekend with my family (I have got major pizza lovers under my roof!)

Asian Cuisine

When making this Asian Noodle bowl with ginger peanut dressing, just make sure that you use gluten-free soy sauce. Besides that disclaimer, dig in and enjoy.

Savory vegetables

I have tried serving my family brussels sprouts multiple times, but so far I have been unsuccessful in convincing them that they are yummy. I think this creamy brussels sprouts & shallots dip is the ticket.

And now for some sweet recipes

Just be warned that these chocolate cake bites from the Oh She Glows web site are extremely delicious. I have served these at multiple parties, and every time I have people coming up to me saying, “Howare these gluten-free?” They are a crowd pleaser for sure.

If you have got children old enough to help out in the kitchen, let them help you make some chocolate macaroons. Chocolate and coconut combined is divine, and though this isn't the cleanest recipe, it provides lots of chocolatey fingers to lick.

Banana cream pie is my weakness. I could definitely eat it on a weekly basis, if not more. These three-ingredient banana bites (just bananas, coconut and cinnamon) are a perfect little pick-me-up and may help curb your banana cream pie cravings.

These banana bread breakfast bars, filled with bananas, oats and dates are both healthy and filling. Keep these on hand when busy mornings with your family roll around, and you will be set.

If you or someone you love is missing doughnuts, these cinnamon and sugar apple rings are a fun substitute.

I know first-hand that going gluten-free is not about what's popular right now; it is a way of life that will forever change the way I eat. It is not the easiest transition, but I am confident that these recipes will take you in the right direction and family meal time will be enjoyable once again.

Jessie McKinley is a city girl living in a small town. A graduate of Brigham Young University (in Home and Family Living), she now puts her knowledge to use daily as she teaches and raises her two young children, whom she adores.