So let's get started.
1. Take a Deep Breath. We're going to take this step by step. Everything is going to turn out great.
2. Inform the Other People in Your House What You Are Doing. Let everybody know that you're making a special dish and there will be no touching or tasting of anything in the kitchen until you are done.
3. Re-Read Your Recipe. Make sure you have all of the ingredients and all of the food prep items (bowls, knives, cutting boards, measuring spoons and cups, etc.) you need. Make sure all of your food prep items are clean and ready to go.
4. Wash Your Hands. I'm only saying this once, but you should wash your hands a LOT when cooking gluten free food in a non-gluten-free kitchen. Use gluten free soap and use a clean dishtowel to dry your hands. You could completely clean your whole kitchen and wipe down every surface to make sure there isn't gluten on it, but who wants to do that? Not me, that's for sure. Need to get your kid a snack? Wash your hands when you're done. Answer the phone? Wash your hands when you're done. The way I've learned to navigate in a non-gluten free kitchen is just wash my hands before I touch my gluten-free food or food prep items. Once I've had to break the "gluten free zone" and handle something I'm not sure is gluten free, I wash my hands.
5. Clean Your Food Prep Surfaces. Clean off the counter you will be working on. Even if the food won't directly touch the counter, your hands and other food prep items will.
6. Put All of Your Ingredients and Food Prep Items Out on Your Counter. You don't want to have to break your "gluten-free zone" if you don't need to.
7. Do Your Magic. It's cooking time baby!
8. Guard The Food. Walking away is asking for unknown fingers to gluten the food without you being aware of it. When the food is cooking and the whole house smells amazing, that's when your family will be tempted to sneak a bite without realizing it can cause a serious problem.
9. Promise the People in Your House That They Can Have Some When You're Done. If you're making your world famous chili, dish some out for your family. If you're making cookies, set some aside for them. Remember, we're just one person. We don't need the WHOLE THING. Although we probably could polish off a whole batch of cookies, we're definitely not going to be able to eat the whole pot of chili on our own.
10. Contain, Cover, Label and Secure. Once your food is cooked, put our portion in a container that can be covered. Label the container in some way. I love bright Post-It notes for this. I've found that just writing gluten free on the note doesn't give enough information if you need to keep other people out of the food that might not understand cross contact. Writing something like "UNCLE JIM ONLY - DO NOT OPEN" is more effective. I also recommend securing the lid in some way. A rubber band or tape usually works well. People tend to not read labels or notes when food is involved. Just about every container of food in your kitchen probably has words on the label, and it may not stop someone who is just going through the fridge on automatic looking for something to snack on. A rubber band or tape is just unusual enough that it will make someone stop and look at what they've got in their hands.
11. If Something Goes Wrong, Don't Serve it to Us. Just about every gluten free person I've ever encountered has glutened themselves in their own kitchen many times. Especially the first few weeks. All of this stuff is a lot to remember. If you're getting ready to put the chili in a container and you turn around to find your son dipping a piece of gluten bread in the chili to take a big bite, it's just over. There's nothing you can do. Don't worry about it. Your loved one will be grateful to you that you're putting their health above everything else. Hand your son a bowl and tell the rest of your family that dinner is ready.