Some Gluten-Free Staples

A friend of mine knows someone who’s son has just been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Those weeks after diagnosis can be so hard, you’re suddenly trying to figure out substitutes for all the basic items you’re used to cooking with. And for some reason, all the basic items you normally use in the kitchen seem to have gluten! Here’s a quick primer for those of you just starting out on the gluten-free road. It’s different being gluten-free, but there are blessings along the way that you’d never have had if it weren’t for this little digestive difference. The first year is hard…but in no time you’ll be a pro and you’ll find you don’t miss gluten so much after all! Blessings, and best of luck to you!

Here are some great products you can buy at the store to substitute regular gluten-containing foods:

Noodles: Tinkyada Rice Pasta. Tastes great, doesn’t fall apart or get soggy, and will pass as “normal” even to people who have never heard of gluten free!

Flour: I love Tom Sawyer brand gluten free flour. There is a store locally where we can get 10 pound bags of it, it is pricey but boy is it convienient! You can substitute this flour for wheat flour cup for cup and it is the closest to “normal” tasting that I’ve tried.

Soy Sauce: Watch out for soy sauce! Most of it has gluten. There are some really tasty sauces out there that are gluten free, but the easiest to find (and cheapest by a long shot) is La Choy brand.

Bread: Good gluten free bread is hard to find. We like Kinnikinnik brand “English muffins” (which, by the way, taste nothing like English muffins) cut into three pieces horizantally and toasted or warmed in the microwave. Gluten free bread is nasty unless you toast or warm it, so you’ll want to buy a toaster dedicated to gluten free bread only.

Hot dog and Hamburger Buns, Pizza Crusts: Once again, Kinnikinnik wins on these. They’re in the frozen foods section.

Canned Chili: Western Family brand chili has ONE gluten free variety, and that’s the Thick and Chunky kind. DO NOT trust any other Western Family variety! They do have gluten. Also, Dennison’s chili and Hormel both have gluten free canned chili. Always read the label first, though!

Cereal: There are several good cereals out there that are gluten free. Cocoa and Fruity Pebbles are both GF, also Kix and Honey Kix. Rice Chex is absolutely a must-have, because you can use it for breading things. BEWARE OF BARLEY MALT EXTRACT! Many cereals would be fine except they contain this gluten ingredient.

Chicken or Beef Stock: Watch out for gluten in chicken and beef broth. Pacific brand has a nice chicken and beef stock that comes in a box and is gluten free. Also, McCormick’s paste chicken boullion is gluten free and you can buy it in a large container at Costco. Kitchen Basics makes another paste-type boullion that is safe and tastey.

Oatmeal: Oatmeal is technically gluten free, but oats are usually grown along with wheat so most oats are contaminated and therefore unsafe. Bob’s Red Mill makes certified gluten free oats, as well as several other types of gluten free products. There are other gluten free oat companies, but Bob’s is the cheapest if you can find it.

And now for some recipes….

I’ll link to recipes on my blog, and add a few quick substitution hints and recipes here as well.

Cream of Mushroom/Cream of Chicken Soup: This is one of the biggest losses for gluten free people. I make a substitute for this that can be done gluten free and dairy free if need be, it’s not as easy as popping open a can but at least it tastes pretty close to the real thing and has a similar texture.

3 tablespoons butter or butter substitute
3 tablespoons gluten free flour (rice flour works fine)
2 cups milk or milk substitute (if you’re doing cream of chicken, add 1 cup milk and 1 cup gf chicken stock).
dash worshtershire sauce
dash garlic powder
1 small can mushrooms, finely chopped (or 1/2 cup finely chopped cooked chicken)
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a sauce pan, when it’s melted add the flour and whisk until combined. Add liquid(s) all at once. Stir until thick and bubbly, add worshtershire, garlic salt, salt and pepper. Add chopped mushrooms or chicken and cook a few minutes more. Use in place of undiluted cream of mushroom soup, or if you want to eat it like a soup you can add more milk until it’s the consistancy you like.

Gluten Free Gravy:

Chicken or Beef Stock, gluten free
Corn Starch
Salt and Pepper to taste

I never measure for this, but it’s pretty easy to adjust. Just put the amount of stock you need (figure that the amount of stock is the amount of gravy you want for the number of people you’re feeding) in a sauce pan, bring it to a brisk boil. In a cup, mix corn starch (start with several tablespoons and work up if you need to) with water (about 1/4 cup) until well combined. Pour this into the boiling stock, stir until thickened adding more water and corn starch if needed.

Now for some links:

Here’s a recipe for homemade Egg Noodles that works wonderfully in soups or other recipes.

Store-bought Meatballs normally have gluten, so here’s a way to make them safe.

Need a Pie Crust? The crust from this recipe works great for any pie.

Here is a Crumb Crust for cheesecake-type pies. You can also substitute the ginger snaps for Midel brand chocolate chip cookies if that works better with what you’re baking. The crust is described in the Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe in this post, which has Thanksgiving Recipes as well…including gluten free stuffing.

Birthday Cake! You’ve got to have birthday cake. Here are several cake recipes…

Oreo Cake
Strawberry Birthday Cake
Black Forest Cake
Birthday Castle Cake (looks like a castle!)
Pineapple Upside Down Cake

And, if you want to speed things along…here’s a review of an easy gluten free cake mix! You can use the mixes in place of the cake recipe and then use the frosting and decorating ideas from the links above.

And some Cookies….

Scotch Shortbread
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip
Velvet Sugar Cookies
Chocolate Peanut Butter

Here’s a link to more gluten, dairy and soy free foods kids love.

Here’s how to make your own gluten free Chicken Nuggets.

And, finally, here’s a link to Gluten Free Meal Plans to help plan dinners.

Whew! There are tons of great recipes and resources out there, this is just a condensed version on what I have to offer here. Good luck in your gluten-free adventure, and God bless!



Beautiful. Everyday. Life.

Just thinking about how, under all the gray and snow, buds are already forming and sleeping roots are preparing to send up shoots of tender green. Even under frozen blankets of crystal white, life prepares and waits for the moment when God says….Spring.

A letter to my son on his 13th birthday


Dear Isaiah,

Today you are thirteen! I know it’s what you would expect me to say, but it seems like only yesterday that I held you in my arms for the first time. You were amazing, so tiny and perfect and beautiful and such a gift from God. And today, I can only say that rather than becoming less amazed with each passing day I have been more amazed by you as you have grown. The awe has never worn off, each day has brought more…More amazement in the unfolding gift of who you are, more amazement that God in His graciousness trusted me with the gift of being your mother.

I know that you are concerned about becoming a “teenager” and all that society expects from the years to come. I want to tell you right now that I am looking forward to these years, that I am not looking at the word “teen” in your age with a feeling of dread but with a feeling of excitement and joy. Did you know that the whole concept of “teenager” is relatively new in our society? A hundred years ago, there was no “Teenager” who society expected to rebel and cause problems. There was no concept of the disrespectful youth who’s parents were helpless to help or control. This image is false, the concept has been created and fed by a society that does not want to take responsibility for its parenting mistakes or lack of commitment. A hundred years ago, people in the “teen years” were simply young adults…growing into their responsibility and learning as they went. They were given responsibility, held to high moral standards and were expected to do well with it, and because people expected the best from them they lived up to that. We do people your age so much disservice by expecting the worst. Why should we be surprised when so many teens live up to our negative expectations?

My son, I am expecting the best from you, I am resting easy that you will make good choices and that you will continue to grow into the Godly young man you are already becoming. I enjoy your company, I look forward to spending time with you, and I am so proud of who you are. I love your heart for God and your caring nature, I love how you are unafraid to speak Truth when others are missing the mark. The years to come hold so much! Ups and downs, to be sure. I am not fooling myself into thinking that there will be no struggles, but as always you should know that your parents are 100% committed to getting through those struggles with you and growing stronger in the process. Down the road we will be able to share so many conversations, so many adventures, so many new things…adult to adult as well as son to parent. And through it all I will always, always be your mom. You have no need to feel like you have to grow up fast…take your time, enjoy who you are today, and know that God has plans for you! Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you hope and a future.

What advice would I give you, going into the future? Keep on reading your Bible. Consume the book. Read it daily, reflect on it, write about what you read. Become a man known for loving the Word, study it with all your might, and surround yourself with others who do the same. Turn to the Word first when you feel empty, lost or afraid, because it is the only thing that can truly fill you. Memorize the words so that they flow through your mind and off your tongue, when you do this you will find that the Spirit will bring verses to your mind when you need them most, and you can stand under those words as a shelter in any kind of temptation or storm. Think of God first in all things, let Him be your guide in every choice you make. Have a different mindset than the one the world offers you…keep a Kingdom mindset! You are here on the earth for a short time, but your soul is eternal and your real home is far from here. Build your life around your true home, make your choices based on what will last there and not what is destined for destruction here. Trust in God’s plan for your life, because even when everything seems dark He is weaving the strands of your days together toward a picture that you can’t yet see…but is more beautiful than you can imagine.

I am so proud of you! You bring joy to my heart and I love being your mother. Every day is a blessing and the best is yet to come!

With Much Love,


Most Important Mistake

I stand at the sink, sleeves rolled up, hands plunged into warm water. Rub clean the lunch plates, listening to the clink of dishes, the burble of bath water running, the happy sound of Youngest singing along as the bubbles in her bath rise and the water warms. Such a balm, warm running water. I stack plates, scrape potatoes from fork’s tine and knife’s face. Hear the water in the tub turn off, happy splashing from youngest spills from the open bathroom door as I listen and work, listen and work.

Youngest lives in the moment, ever my child who sucks the marrow from life. She lives hard, plays hard, falls hard and gets up again with hard resolve. She tries, but so often in her exuberance she acts before she thinks. Touches the hot pan on the stove, snips long gold curls from her head, climbs higher than she can climb down, speaks before the consequences of her words can form in her mind. Life is bumpier for Youngest, yet she enjoys it so much and brings such joy in her love for life, her creativity, her commitment to live every moment to the fullest.

I am rinsing the dregs of the lunch dishes, chasing spent suds from the sink’s steel sides, when I see it. We’ve had a good morning, Youngest and I, with little disruption or scolding needed. So it’s due time when I turn to see the dog, our big, yellow, loopy dog, hurry from the bathroom. She comes right to me, her patient brown eyes pleading “fix this, please.” I skip a beat, laugh in exasperation as I rinse suds from my hands and reach for the dish towel. The dog sits with the patience of Job and continues to fix her gaze on me pointedly. Atop her head, scrubbed into curls of fur and mounded like white snow peaks on a dun-colored mountain, shampoo bubbles foam and slide and drip down her golden ears. The water drips onto waxed wood floor, beads up in growing pools. Youngest has shampooed the Labradoole.

It’s obvious what’s happened: Labradoodle, ever-curious, has hung her great doggy head over tub’s edge. Youngest, ever-creative, has seized the opportunity and practiced her cosmetology skills. We have talked much in previous weeks about things like this, because a parent can’t anticipate every childish crime that comes her way. The first time you {paint the cat, cut your hair, dig a large hole in the middle of the yard, wash your stuffed animals in the dish washer….} you get a stern explanation as to why your actions are wrong and a warning as to what will transpire if it happens again. This first action is a mistake…the next such action is a premeditated, willful sin and will be punished as such. This dog shampooing, being the first of its kind, falls into the former category.

I pull Labradoodle’s head over tub’s high side, kneel beside white porcelain and carefully rinse suds from curled yellow fur. Youngest watches. “Mommy,” she ventures. “It was a sin to shampoo the dog. I’m sorry.” I smile, push stray hairs from my face with the dry back of my wrist, wrestle the dog back into place with one hand on the collar. “It’s OK, sweetie…you thought you were helping. But now you know better, and if you do it again you will be in trouble.” I continue to rinse, pink plastic cup bobbing into warm water over and over. Youngest sniffles. Whispers. “No, Mommy. It was a sin.” I look up to see Youngest point, follow her small finger to the damning evidence. My French shampoo, forbidden to children (and this she knows well) is open on tub’s edge, tell-tale pools of lavender-scented soap stain tub’s white and run down its pristine sides. No wonder Labradoodle smells so good.

I sigh. “You knew not to use that shampoo, Love. You’re right, that was a willful sin. But I forgive you, and thanks for telling me. Let’s clean it up.” I stand, shuck water from my hands, rub dog’s grateful head with a towel and release her to lick her wounded dog-pride under the kitchen table. Behind me, from water’s warmth, I hear sobs. Not just the cry of a youngster who has been caught red-handed, not the sorrow of someone who has been found out and must now face the consequences. This is the come-undone sobbing of a soul rent, a hopelessness that I cannot connect with the child of six sitting in front of me. What on earth could be so wrong? I rinse her off, talking soothingly all the time. You’re not in that much trouble, Love. I’m not angry any more, I forgive you. Don’t you understand that I forgive you? I love you so much more than French shampoo! It’s only shampoo, Love. We all sin, that’s just what people do. You’re forgiven, it’s Ok. You’re forgiven.

But for the first time, my mother’s assurances fail to console. Her heart is broken, her sobs reverberate off tile floor and slick porcelain, rise with the steam to heights above us. I stand, wrapping her in towel’s warmth, confounded by her brokenness. What about this has broken her so? She has been naughty in a thousand ways worse than this one. What is in her heart now that tears her apart like this? I rub her, soothe with words, try cheerfulness and stern warnings and finally just kneel and hold her, wretched and dripping, on the cold tile floor. She sobs, hiccups, draws in quavering breaths. Her small shoulders shake as if under the weight of the world. I silently swear off expensive shampoo, pick over my mind for what parental failure has led to this breakdown, hold her close and rub her back. The tide of sorrow abates somewhat, slacks off to let her speak between shuddering breaths.

“I…Just…can’t stop…sinning,” she cries. “I try and I try and I try every day, and then I just sin again!” Oh, my baby! My mother’s heart breaks for her. My baby, we are all the same! Oh, how many times I’ve cried that in my own heart, how many before us have cried the same. I pull her away from me a bit, smooth wet hair away from damp face, see tears and bathwater run in tandem rivulets down her round cheeks. “Mommy, I just can’t stop sinning and I’m afraid I might go to Hell!”

Oh, the moment of realization, when it hits….we look up, realize. I can’t do this by myself. I can’t ever be good enough. On my own, I’m not going to make it.

I wipe tears from her face, smile down into worried brown eyes. “My little love! Jesus knows you try hard not to sin. He knows that sometimes you’re going to anyway, no matter how hard you try. We all do…Mommy, Daddy, everyone. But He will forgive you, just like Mommy forgave you for the shampoo. God is a perfect forgiver, even better than Mommy. He even forgets what you did entirely. Do you know how you get that forgiveness? How you tell Jesus that you belong to him, and that no sin in the world will ever come between you?” She nods uncertainly, she’s heard these words before but until now they have run down the smooth surface. Now for the first time, in her brokenness, they find cracks and seep in. They take root.

I am a sinner. I can’t do this on my own. I need Jesus to help me, to heal me, to forgive me. I need Jesus to save me from myself.

We kneel, two broken souls on the wet tile. We lift our broken hearts to Jesus, offer them up in cupped and trembling hands like breathless doves waiting to take flight. We admit our failure, our brokenness, our habit of sin. We ask, from the soul, for His forgiveness. We ask for Him to take us in, we offer to take Him into ourselves to live. The Spirit fills what is broken, mends what is cracked, strengthens what is weak. “Jesus,” Youngest whispers, her eyes closed tight. “Thank you for dying for my sins. Please come into my heart to live. I give my heart to you.”

The pucker of concern has left her small forehead, the tears are drying on her face. She opens her eyes, radiant and almost painfully beautiful in her moment of joy. “Will I sin again, Mommy?” She asks a moment later. “Yes, undoubtedly.” She nods. “But Jesus will still forgive me and love me, and I’ll still go to Heaven.” It’s a statement, not a question, and I hug her close, tears of my own finally falling. So simple, this offer of salvation. So beautiful and so poignant and so humbling. He is holding out His hand in offering, and it occurs to me that the most important mistake we make is the one that brings us to accept what He has to give.

Join wonderful writer Ann Voskamp for Walk with Him Wednesday…share a spiritual practice that draws you closer to His heart. Stop by Ann’s blog to join or just to read her beautiful words!