Keep your stinkin’ gluten on your side of the counter (and other ways to create a safe shared kitchen)

“Best laid plans often go astray.” Or are forgotten. Or are given up on. Some were never best laid plans to begin with.

When Nora was diagnosed with celiac, the guilt was all-consuming, and I had every intention to go gluten-free myself and lead the rest of my family into a mostly gluten-free lifestyle. If my 8 year-old daughter could give up every food she’s ever loved, so could I. And a good mother should, right? I guess that’s where you have to decide what makes a “good mother.” And why should I remove healthy and delicious foods from our older daughter’s diet, without just cause? My attempts to reach this unobtainable goal to create a GF family lasted for no longer than 1 month.

I still make all dinners, desserts, and family breakfasts gluten-free. And I personally eat gluten-free probably 75% of the time. But most weekday mornings, we all go our separate ways. To our separate toasters, and separate areas of the counter.

I have learned through trial and error how to create a safe, shared kitchen, where gluten and GF foods can exist harmoniously. Here are 7 tips to help you do the same.

7 tips to create a shared gluten-free kitchen

1. Clean – Not to sound condescending, but clean your kitchen, refrigerator, pantry, utensils, and cookware really well. Gluten lives on the bottom of that silverware holder and in the corners of your favorite cake pan. If you can’t get the crumbs out, get rid of it.

2. Organize – If you have a child that is GF and you have the space, organize your dry goods so that GF foods are within your child’s reach and your non-GF foods are stored separately in another area of the pantry. For instance, I have a left and right-side pantry. I store all GF foods on the left-hand side and strategically place cereals and snacks where Nora can reach them. If your pantry is small or non-existent, place GF foods on top shelves and non-GF on the bottom so that no gluten falls into your GF foods.Gluten-free pantry

3. Separate – Once again, try to separate your GF and non-GF as much as possible. If you keep your bread in the fridge like us, keep all loaves wrapped up well. I don’t go this far, but I do know that some people will even double-bag their GF bread to avoid cross contamination. If possible, store the GF frozen foods together above the non-GF foods.

4. Label – If you think you can buy one tub of margarine and keep gluten-infested knives out of it, more power to you. But this would never fly in our house. If you’re like us, buy two sets of margarine, cream cheese, peanut butter, and anything else you’d likely stick a knife into. Label one set as GF and keep on the lower shelf of your fridge, so your child can reach it easily.Gluten-free fridge

5. Designate – Even the smallest kitchen can accommodate a designated GF food preparation area. I have designated the right-hand side of our counter as GF. In the mornings, when I have to prepare and pack one GF lunch and one regular lunch, I prepare Nora’s food on the GF side of the counter. And because other members of my family don’t necessarily always follow that rule, I also use either a paper towel, plate, or cutting board to prepare her food on as an extra layer between her food and any possible lingering gluten. I also don’t ever put regular breads directly on the countertop. They always get some type of protective layer as well. That way the plate or paper towel catches most of the crumbs and I can quickly dispose of them and give the counter a quick swipe with a cleaner.

6. Invest – I will not tell you to throw away all your utensils and cookware. If it’s glass, ceramic, or porcelain, it can most likely be easily cleaned of any gluten. However, non-stick baking pans are another story. Oddly enough, my supposedly “non-stick” bread, muffin, and cake pans had tons of unidentified crust and gunk “stuck” in the corners and it was impossible to get these clean. I did use them to bake GF and just used liners or parchment paper, but if you can invest in new GF pans, do so. Or if you enjoy baking as much as I do, ask for new pans as a gift for the holidays or for your birthday!

7. Toasters – I gave toasters their own category because this is one item that you really NEED to buy new. There’s no way to clean a toaster of all gluten. You can shake it as hard as you can and there will still be crumbs inside. We now have 3 toasters on our counters. Ridiculous, I know. But it works. We have a toaster oven which is shared and we put all GF foods that need to be baked, like chicken nuggets, on a layer of foil to avoid cross contamination. We also have two pop-up toasters. One that is dedicated to gluten and one that is dedicated GF and lives on the GF counter. As ugly as this is, our toaster is even labeled GF with permanent marker so that when babysitters come over, they know which toaster to use for Nora’s food.

Gluten-free toaster
Follow these simple tips can help you can successfully create a safe, shared kitchen that accommodates everyone in the family, gluten-free or not.

Share the love: What’s your secret to keeping your kitchen GF? Share them here so we can all learn from one another.