DIY: Make Your Own Gluten-Free Book

If you’re like me, when you discovered that gluten had to be banished from your diet you bought books. A whole LOT of books, right? Recipe books, baking books, nutrition books, medical books, allergy books, How To books, How NOT To books…. And you probably dutifully read them all. Or at least most of them. At the beginning.

That was me. As I became more familiar with what a gluten-free diet entailed, I maybe skimmed a book… or  just went right to a one of my favorite recipes…. Then, as I started to get more bold in the kitchen and began to experiment on my own, some of the books started to pile up. Some ended up in the “archives” (read: box under counter in kitchen). Now all but the favorite few are ignored and gathering xanthan gum dust.

I do use many of these books still (hence the handy “archives”), and they’re invaluable to my gluten-free diet. But they take up so much space!! And I just keep adding more! Even though I rarely have time to fully read them, I just can’t stop buying these books. If it says “Gluten-free” in the title, I MUST have it. It’s almost like I believe “If I buy the book on ‘Quick and Easy Gluten Free!’ it will somehow magically make my life Quick! and Easy! and Gluten-free! without any effort from me.” (Including the effort of actually reading the book.) I just keep buying them and adding them to an ever-growing collection in my kitchen.

So now what do I have? Lots and lots of books on a groaning shelf. New books, old books, books with torn Post Its, stained pages and unopened junk mail stuck between pages as permanent bookmarks. And papers! Oh, the papers. Torn articles, recipes, print outs, stained and water-warped with kitchen use. All stuck in between my books, books, books.

Not pretty.

After a few months of sneering at this mess, I decided to make my own book. Not that I wanted to write a cookbook or anything. No, I made my own DIY Book from gluten-free ideas I’d been collecting. I gathered all my favorite gluten-free food lists, recipes, weekly meal plans and all the gluten-free information I’d torn out, saved & copied. I printed out a bunch of the recipes I have listed on my site, so it would all be in one handy place. I sorted it all out and cobbled together My Very Own DIY Gluten-Free Book. Since I already had all the information just sitting there, it was super easy to put together. And now I have a gluten-free book personalized to my family’s tastes.

So whenever we have the inevitable “What’s for Dinner” conversation, my husband or I simply grab the book and flip through it until we see something we like. Or whenever I’m trying to explain to someone new about Celiac and my gluten-free diet, I simply let them take a peak at my book so they can get a quick idea of what being gluten-free entails, instead of explaining it aloud for the 100th time. It’s a wonderful tool in my gluten-free arsenal.

Here’s how I did it:
From an office supply store, I got a simple 1″ binder, a few packages of sheet protectors (you know, those clear plastic pouches that you slip paper into), a small package of tab dividers and some 4×6 photo sheet protectors.

Then I assembled all my gluten-free info into these easy to find, tabbed sections:

• From Regular Cookbooks
I scanned my favorite gluten-free recipes out of my “regular” Fix-It-And-Forget-It and other gluten-filled Cookbooks. There are many naturally gluten-free recipes out there that aren’t labeled as such. So you can scan your regular cookbooks and maybe you can use some of your old favorite recipes. You just have to do a little more legwork to make sure it’s safe by avoiding all gluten-containing ingredients.
(I had actually started doing this well before making this book… it was just too depressing to flip past all my old favorite recipes that I could no longer have because they were full of gluten. I scanned & made copies of the naturally gluten-free recipes using my All-In-One Printer, so I had a sheaf of water-warped recipe copies stuffed amongst the gluten free cookbooks.)

• From Gluten-Free Websites
There are so many wonderful gluten-free recipe websites out there now! I love to find new gluten-free recipes. So I had bunches of print-outs of things I’d tried (some successful and some not!)

• From Other Websites
I also found “regular” recipes, both gluten-free and gluten-FULL on Food Network, All Recipes, and many other websites. If they were gluten-free, I’d just print them. But if they had gluten and needed to be modified, then I copied them into my favorite gluten-free helper, Evernote, where I modified the recipes to be gluten-free, then printed them all out to put into the book.

• From Gluten-Free Cookbooks
And finally, from my numerous gluten-free cookbooks, I made copies of all the gluten-free recipes that constituted the usual suspects in our dinner lineups. This way I could have all the hits in a row and not have to wade through all the misses.

When we were first starting out, we were so overwhelmed with information on what we could and couldn’t eat, I was often immobilized when it came to planning meals. Completely blank! So my husband and I would sit down and hash out a weekly meal plan so I’d always have a safe, gluten-free meal to prepare, regardless of how addled my gluten-detoxing brain was that day.
• Five weekly meal plans, all three meals, with a basic food rotation to help avoid new food sensitivities from starting.

• Foods to avoid
• Brands that are safe
• Staples for people to have on hand for me when I visit
• My ALCAT Food Sensitivity Test Results (60+ foods, not including gluten & dairy!)

I’m a bit of a shutterbug (understatement!) by nature. And before going gluten-free, the serious brain fog I’d get made me so forgetful. So I started taking pictures to remember. My iPhone Photo Camera Roll is the best memory manager! So tend to take pictures of everything I want to remember. And since a picture is worth a thousand words (which I am quickly approaching!), I take, print and save a lot of pictures.

So I purchased a couple of packages of 4×6 photo sheet protectors and slid in a bunch of these gluten-free photos: dishes I’d prepared and wanted to remember… foods I saw at a store and needed to be checked for gluten free status… restaurant menus that I wanted to remember for the next time I went out….

This is a pretty dry section with information on Celiac: what it is, what is gluten, what foods must be avoided, what happens if cross contamination occurs. I don’t need it anymore (I sure do know what it entails now!) but I find that this is a helpful little section for when I travel or even just to explain to a new friend. This way I show people what I can and can’t have, what I’m cooking and baking, and, most importantly, what I can NOT do/have/eat.

And now I’m organized! Having a handy (if a bit large and cumbersome!) resource with all my information in one place makes being gluten-free just a bit easier. Now I just grab it and go!

Sound good? You can do it too! Just get any kind of binder and either a three hole punch or sheet protectors. Then copy recipes and assemble all your gluten-free bits and bobs together to make your Own Gluten-Free Life in a Book.

Let me know if you try it. I’d really love to know if it helps make your gluten-free life a little easier! :)

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