When I was diagnosed with celiac disease 35 years ago, I went to culinary school to better understand how food was prepared. I discovered I could remake the recipes so they were safe for my gluten-free diet. As long as I maintained the ratio of ingredients in the original recipe, I could replace regular flour with gluten-free flour and the results were always delicious.
As food editor at Living Without Magazine, I am always thinking “substitution” when we make a recipe and these basic principles I discovered 35 years ago still hold true. We regularly replace the gluten, dairy and sometimes the eggs in our recipes with yummy results.
I think of myself as the champion of substitution these days. But truthfully, it’s mostly about knowing the ingredients to replace. For that I keep a running list of suitable alternatives. I know, for instance, that some butter alternatives contain casein while others are vegan and completely dairy-free. I know that these dairy-free butter substitutions can be cut and frozen to make flakier pie crust and cookies. And I can list the alternatives for milk in order of the ones with the highest protein – - Soy, Hemp, Almond, Rice, and Potato – - for starters.
When one of our readers contacts me with a lengthy list of ingredients they must avoid, I suggest that they make a list of the ingredients they can have, too, and keep those in mind every time they want to make a recipe. It’s empowering. It makes them feel like the world is full of possibilities. After all, the glass is not empty if you arm yourself with friendly substitutions.
Here is a recipe that has been a favorite with our readers, Quick Macaroni and Cheese. To be honest, I hadn’t tasted macaroni and cheese in many years. Gluten-free/dairy-free versions aren’t standard fare on restaurant menus and making it from scratch—well, let’s just say, it seemed like a lot of work. But this year I gave into my craving and headed to the kitchen to develop a gluten-free, dairy-free version of this universal favorite.
My goal was to make something fast, yet flavorful – - a mac and cheese full of creamy good taste without the time-consuming preparation. I had no desire to stir up a “cream” sauce or shop for ingredients. Instead, I used what I had on hand. Then I melded flavors (and saved time) by using the microwave.
The result? A wonderfully grown-up version of mac and cheese that speaks comfort. This chili mac is so delicious and easy to make, I wonder why I waited so long.
For more of Beth’s recipes, check out her book, Gluten-Free Makeovers.