Kids In The Kitchen: Cutting Down Cross-Contamination in a Shared Kitchen (and Molten Chocolate Lava Cake)

Yes, this is wheat flour on my blog...but let me explain...

This weekend, Brittany wanted to make molten chocolate lava cake. She’d had a version of it at a restaurant for her birthday, and wanted to recreate it at home. I researched and found several gluten-free recipes and was confident we could make a tasty version. But during this past week, she stated that she wanted to make it “with gluten”. I explained to her that it’s very likely it would taste just as good gluten-free, and that since I had zero molten chocolate lava cake experience, gluten-free or not, that gluten would not necessarily guarantee good results any more than gluten-free. But it was her decision. She insisted this was what she wanted to do. I agreed. (After all, the reason for the kids in the kitchen is to teach them cooking skills. Since they are not gluten or dairy-free, it is their decision whether they want to make their recipe gluten-free and dairy-free or not.) I started to make plans.

Some background: our kitchen is not 100% gluten-free. I know there are varying opinions on this out there in the gluten-free community. However, I do imagine that there are as many people out there with celiac disease that have to share kitchens with gluten-eaters as there are people with entirely gluten-free kitchens, maybe even more. Regardless, those of us with sensitivities to gluten must take steps to ensure they remain healthy if there is a decision to keep gluten-containing ingredients in the home.

For those new to a gluten-free diet, the idea of cross-contamination is often overwhelming at first. Cross-contamination is a term usually reserved for things like keeping raw meat separate from other foods and the like, not gluten. But even residual amounts of gluten can wreak havoc on the health of someone sensitive to it. So in an effort to remain healthy, steps must be taken to reduce or eliminate the risk of cross-contamination of gluten in food.

One solution is to make the kitchen entirely gluten-free. If there are gluten-eaters, they can get their gluten “fix” outside the home in restaurants and such. On one hand, this is a simple solution from a cross-contamination perspective. But many times, not everyone in the family agrees this is the most feasible.

We opt to keep some “gluten-y” foods around the home, mostly in the form of packaged bread, the occasional cracker, and beer. It’s all kept on one shelf in the pantry (with nothing underneath, in case somehow crumbs were to fall into other food). There are separate condiments in the fridge for gluten foods (such as mayonnaise, peanut butter, etc.) and the gluten-free versions are clearly marked on the lids. (Why have separate condiment jars? Well, if you’re like most people, when spreading something such as mayonnaise on a slice of bread, you will dip the knife in the mayo, spread it on the bread, and stick the knife back in the mayo again to repeat. Once that knife touched the bread, it’s VERY likely crumbs were clinging to it, and you then put crumbs into the mayonnaise jar. Crumbs = gluten = bad! Hence, the separate jars.) While I have heard that some people have opted to dedicate a counter space for the gluten foods to be prepared, our kitchen is too small for me to give up any space. Instead, the counters are thoroughly cleaned, and gluten-free items are never laid directly on the counter unless I have cleaned the counter immediately beforehand. If something with gluten needs to be cooked (occasionally, someone makes a grilled cheese sandwich or a frozen pizza in our home), there is a drawer below the oven that contains the “gluten-only” cooking utensils, such as a frying pan, spatula, pizza cutter, etc. There is a separate sponge used exclusively for cleaning the “gluten” dishes so no residual gluten is transferred from one plate to another. 99% of the time, this works for us. Other than my husband’s beer, gluten isn’t even consumed more than about once a week in our home, so while this sounds like a lot, it’s rather routine for us and not something we have to deal with every day.

But when Brittany brought up the molten chocolate lava cake, I knew this was time for that additional 1%. While I knew I needed to take extra steps to ensure that there wasn’t flour everywhere in my kitchen (Flour can stay airborne for many hours, and could settle on just about any surface. Not to mention, I didn’t want to breathe flour for any length of time.), I will admit, I was stressing a bit on how to best accomplish this. I needed to get a game plan together, because I didn’t want to be overly stressed during the time we were baking – this was about teaching Brittany to cook (and enjoying each other’s company!), not “freak out” time for yours truly. So I reached out to some of my best gluten-free friends, and they gave me a wonderful idea. So great, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it myself.

What was the idea?

Just take it outside.

Duh. It seemed so obvious. There wouldn’t be any flour in the air in the kitchen, no flour on the counters, no obsessive-compulsive cleaning (although I did do a top-to-bottom cleaning of the kitchen the following day, but that was just because it needed it!). Best of all, no worrying. I could be calm and relaxed and enjoy our time together.

And so we did. After dinner last night, we gathered all of our “gluten-only” cooking utensils (measuring cups, spoons, wooden spoon, whisk, etc) and began. We started in the kitchen, melting butter and chocolate in the bowl, and stirring in powdered sugar and eggs. When it came time for the flour, though, we headed outside.

whisking the last bit of flour into the batter

(Forgive the less-than-ideal photos – it was 8 PM when we were working on this treat last night!) Only once we had the flour fully incorporated into the batter did we come back inside, where Brittany immediately washed her hands well to get the flour off. The ramekins were set on a piece of foil inside the “gluten-only” baking sheet, so that in the chance there were drips of batter, the batter wouldn’t be all over on the counters or in the oven.

The dishes were all washed with the “gluten-only” sponge, and the table outside washed down and cleaned. And as for the molten chocolate lava cakes? They were enjoyed by the gluten-eaters in the home – they were described as tasting brownie-like on the edges, and while different than the ones at the restaurant, they were delicious.

forgot to take a shot of the molten lava inside, but trust me, it was there!

One day soon, I’ll attempt a gluten-free version. (I do have this part of me that wants to prove that a gluten-free, dairy-free, even refined sugar-free version can be just as delicious!) But until then, I’ll share that we used this recipe over at Tasty Kitchen. It’s a really easy recipe, so it was perfect for Brittany.

What about you? If you have someone with food intolerances/allergies, do you eliminate that item entirely from the home? If not, what do you do to ensure cross-contamination issues don’t occur?


Filed under Baked goods, Quick and Easy

19 responses to “Kids In The Kitchen: Cutting Down Cross-Contamination in a Shared Kitchen (and Molten Chocolate Lava Cake)

  1. amanda williams

    Hey there! I am gluten free, and for cross contamination, I use the Norwex cloths in my kitchen! Not sure if you have ever tried them, but they have a silvering agent in the microfiber that traps the bacteria and all the stuff on our counters and destroys it in the cloth, not on the surface of the counter. I just went to my first party last November and have slowly been stocking up on their stuff! I think you could google them for their main site. 🙂 Hope that helps.

  2. those look so good-whether gluten free or not! Did you notice your gluten allergy all at once, or gradually? I’m a type 1 diabetic and have been told there is a good chance I’m allergic to gluten, but since I don’t suffer any (noticeable) side effects, I haven’t bothered getting it checked out.

  3. Alta, this was perfect!! I love love this post – it will be so helpful for people! I will totally be linking to this!
    And, man, that cake turned out just beautiful!!! Seriously! Wow! And for the record, I have made a gf version of molten lava cake, and everyone at my dinner party (and 98% of them were NOT normally gluten free) claimed it was the best lava cake they had had. So I think you will love it when you make it!! 😉

  4. Sharon

    Cross contamination is a big issue for me. Im the one with celiac and the only gluten free eater in the house. My husband and 3 small children eat regular. But I am the only one who cooks so the cooking is 99 % gf. On occasion I will make them regular pasta (I have a separate pot colander and spoon) but most of what I cook is gf. But they eat regular bagels, cereals, sandwiches, goldfish, chips, snacks, etc. And the kids are all under 6 so they ar messy and crummy. But I clean alot and am constantly wiping down countertops and tables. I’m trying to train the kids to watch there crumbs and clean up after themselves. It’s a never-ending process. And I don’t have any symptoms if I where to accidentally ingest gluten so I have no idea if I’m getting cc’d or not. I would love a gluten free house for my safety but it just isn’t realistic at this time.

  5. tastyeatsathome

    Sharon – I understand about the messy and crummy! Our kids are older, but especially since they’re not always at our house, I have to constantly re-educate our kids about crumbs and messy hands. But I feel for you not having symptoms! While I wouldn’t wish gluten symptoms on anyone, sometimes, it’s helpful to know whether you’re doing a good job staying out of it or not! Do you get tested periodically at the doctor’s office? That should give you some indication of how “good” you’re doing.
    Kim – Thank you! I can totally believe that a gluten-free cake would be great. I’ve made other gluten-free cakes that were as good or better than gluten ones. Cakes are relatively easy. Bread, not so much. 🙂
    Thegypsycook – I noticed it gradually. My dad was diagnosed with celiac disease when I was a teen, and in my early twenties, I started to have digestive issues. After numerous doctors visits, I had a blood test (negative), and at one point even gave up gluten for about 3 weeks to see if anything happened. Since I didn’t have dramatic symptoms, I figured that wasn’t my issue, and accepted their diagnosis of IBS. Even tried various medications – none of which really worked. But by the time I was nearing 30, my sister and brother had both discovered on their own that they could not tolerate gluten. Meanwhile, I was feeling worse and worse – run-down, bad heartburn and nausea, repeated infections, swelling, tingling hands and feet, worsening digestive issues, and brain fog. At the doctor, I did discover I had a vitamin B12 deficiency, and we discussed gluten again – and he told me my previous trial wasn’t long enough. He told me to try 90 days. And in June of 2009, I did. And when I “challenged” and ate gluten 3 months later, I KNEW. The digestive distress was dramatic, and the heartburn, tingling, swelling, and brain fog came back almost immediately. I encourage you to get tested, if you’re at risk. Some people don’t get those “classic” symptoms when they eat gluten. As for me, I didn’t realize my symptoms until I removed gluten and realized how much better I felt. If you have gluten issues, and you go untreated, you can suffer more serious diseases down the road – so it’s probably good to check it out!
    Amanda – I haven’t heard of these cloths. I’m not sure that they would actually break down gluten proteins on surfaces (gluten isn’t as easy to “destroy” as bacteria and stuff) but I do like the idea of the cloths from a cleanliness standpoint! I will have to check them out.

  6. Thank you for a super informative post. We live in a 550 sq foot apartment so we ended up having to make the kitchen 99% gluten-free – I say 99% because occasionally my husband will buy a couple of rolls, which are kept in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. He won’t slice them anywhere near the kitchen – usually on a plate as we are about to eat. Incidentally, we have two sets of plates, so one set I just let him use for eating bread and cheese, or when he brings home takeout (which he still eats out of the container, but usually sets the container on a plate). We did separate sponges for a while, but since he so rarely eats gluten on a plate, now he just uses a paper towel. He does eat some crackers/cookies/boxed snacks, but those are kept on a bookshelf elsewhere in the apartment, far from the kitchen. He has a separate mustard, but that is just because he really likes one brand and I like another.

    I found it interesting to read your comment about tingling hands and feet. I always had that issue, but I am realizing it has gotten far better since I went gluten-free, and even better since I cut back significantly on grains. Hmmm, food for thought.

    Thanks for a great post Alta 🙂

  7. tastyeatsathome

    Valerie – the funny thing about the swelling and tingling hands and feet – I asked my doctor about that before going gluten-free. I explained that my feet would swell (not a huge amount, but still, enough where my shoes would be too tight and my toes would tingle) and it wouldn’t be as a result of standing for too long. Many times, it would be first thing in the morning. He didn’t really have solutions. But it went away when I went gluten-free. I usually forget that it ever happened, but I was reminded last weekend when I was “glutened” pretty badly (ate out at an unfamiliar restaurant, and besides my cautionary measures, I got sick.) – along with my other undesirable gluten symptoms, my feet were swelling and tingly again. Boy, I don’t miss those symptoms!

  8. Hi Alta,

    This is a great post. I have never thought about how I would handle gluten in our household since we just don’t use it since eI went gf. But now that we have Max (2.5 y.o.) and so far, he has shown no symptoms, we might have to consider it some day. He loves helping me bake and cook, so I figure some day he might want to make something with gluten. I am glad I have this post to refer to. Plus, it is a great resource to share, now. Thank you.

    And I can’t wait to see how your gf version turns out. I love chocolate cake.

  9. Pingback: Kids In The Kitchen: Cutting Down Cross-Contamination in a Shared Kitchen… from Tasty Eats At Home | Celiac Handbook

  10. I have only been GF and DF since the beginning of this year so we are still very much in a learning mode. I have been slowly replacing things that were “glutened” with gluten free items (I simply couldn’t afford to just empty the kitchen and start over), but my husband and two kids do still eat regularly AND I run a daycare and feed them mostly regular food. I’m certain that I still have some of my former symptoms because of cross contamination issues- I am on the diet because of numerous autoimmune problems, the worst being fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue- but I just don’t know how to completely get rid of it- this article just really reinforced to me that I have to TRY HARDER. It is so hard, but I can’t stand to hear people complain about their health issues and not do anything to fix it and I refuse to be one of those people. this is what needs to happen for me to be completely well and I have to figure it out.

  11. amandadance

    Since I live by myself, my 100% gluten free kitchen is easy…I am thinking about getting a roommate, though, so this really helps.
    My problem is going home to see my family. I just got diagnosed last year, and I’m the only one who’s gluten intollerant. So it’s a completely new concept to my family, who’ve never had to deal with any kind of cross-contamination at all. I don’t have celiac disease, but I usually have pretty bad symptoms if I eat even a little. It’s hard to get them to understand how big a deal it is not to contaminate my food.
    And most of my family is completely unwilling to do any research on their own or make an effort to learn what I can eat. They just expect me to come home and tell them what to do. I know I’m not the only one with this problem, but sometimes I feel really alienated.

  12. I really struggle with this because although for years I’ve thought I was intolerant…I just found out the I have celiac and I live in a gluten infested home. I try to clean the counters off well and do my best on my part but I’m always worried something going to get in my things.

  13. That was an excellent idea to take it outside!

    As for my kitchen. I’m the non-gluten eater and my husband is the gluten glutton. I kept our old toaster for him to have bread with gluten toasted and bought a toaster oven for my own gluten-free toasting and rewarming of gluten-free leftovers. However, since we moved in October (I wrapped up the gluten-filled toaster in two plastic bags and stretch tape all around it so no crumbs could get out while being moved. It’s still sitting on the fridge wrapped up. He has not been asking for gluten-filled bread, but will eat it when he eats out for lunch at work or if we go out for dinner. Most of the gluten that comes into the house now is the cookies he brings home and an occasional box of Triscuits. These rarely go in the pantry and stay on the counter away from where I prep meals. I do not eat any ice cream he brings home unless it’s a taste when he first opens it because he will eat cookies while eating ice cream. When it’s his turn to cook on weekends, he makes sure that everything is gluten-free and doesn’t get anything special with gluten just for him. 🙂

  14. tastyeatsathome

    Hunterslyonesse – Maybe your husband is coming around on how much gluten he brings into the homes! That’s nice to hear.

    Ariana – I empathize. Maybe asking to dedicate a spot in the kitchen to be gluten-free only? Even just a counter? And save some dishes, pots, pans for you? If you have celiac, even just trace amounts can prevent you from healing. Hugs to you – I get where you’re coming from!

    Amandadance – I can imagine that’s really difficult. Will they allow you to cook your own food or bring something? I find a lot of people find it hard to overcome those family members that are food pushers – like you’ll crush their feelings if you don’t eat their food. I hope you don’t have to deal with that!

    Tonia – it’s definitely a learning curve! I imagine the more you eliminate cross-contamination issues, the better you’ll feel. There are follow up tests you can have performed too that can help you check your healing, so you can know if it’s the gluten or not that is hindering your recovery. You might ask your doctor about them!

  15. Add me to the list of the tingling feet and hands and then the feet swelling when glutened. My lips do the tingling thing, too. Great job on solving the problem, Alta.

  16. tastyeatsathome

    Wendy – glad I’m not the only one. (Okay, not GLAD, but you know what I mean) Sometimes I feel like I notice SO many things when I’m glutened, it begins to sound like I’m making this stuff up!

  17. M

    Thanks for this post! I have been GF for 1 year, tomorrow. I know I still have a lot to learn and have wondered if I need to quit messing with wheat flours. I frequently sell Gluten-filled desserts but have been feeling yucky after making them, even though I wear gloves! I also wondered about needing separate pots, pans, dishes etc. Do you find that makes a big difference for you? I am pretty careful and thorough at home. But, we’ve been camping this week and I’m pretty sure I’ve glutened myself once or twice 😦

  18. tastyeatsathome

    M – First of all, congrats on being gluten-free for one year! That takes a lot of dedication and adjustment, especially during the first year. Iv’e been gluten-free for about a year and a half, and there are still things like this that I’m slowly learning! As for your question – I think that you might notice an improvement if you stop messing with wheat flours. They seriously can hover in the air for over 24 hours, and can settle on just about every surface. So even if you’re eating gluten-free, if you’re preparing your foods in that same kitchen, chances are you’re ingesting a small amount at every meal, and that can really add up and prevent you from healing. If you feel you must continue to made gluten-filled desserts, then you might consider using one of those rented kitchens and wear a mask and gloves to protect yourself as much as possible.
    As for separate pots, pans, dishes – I think some things can be used for both, if they’re easy to clean thoroughly. For instance, my dishes and silverware are sometimes used by my family for gluten-y foods, but they’re easy to thoroughly clean. Glass and stainless steel is also easy to clean. However, plastics, wood, cast iron, earthenware, and anything that either isn’t easy to clean or is porous shouldn’t be used for both gluten and gluten-free items. The protein in gluten can get “stuck” in the pores of those items and can then contaminate your food. So if you’ve used a cutting board for bread, a pizza stone for gluten-y pizza, a plastic colander for pasta, a wooden spoon, etc for gluten, then either toss it or set it aside for your gluten-only eaters and get yourself some “special” stuff. Label it or otherwise make it easy for everyone to know not to use YOUR special dishes. (or if you’re primarily the one that cooks, and you cook gluten-free mostly, then do like I do and have a special drawer with a few “gluten” cooking utensils, and everything else is gluten-free.) Also – teflon. If you have a teflon pan that’s been used for gluten, then toss it or relegate it to gluten-only cooking. You might decide to have a big kitchen cleaning party – and do all of this and also wipe down everything! If you have a stand mixer for baking, you might want to REALLY THOROUGHLY clean it. Be meticulous, and scrub with an old toothbrush or something – there are lots of parts that can harbor flour! (I’d say get a new one, but I realize that’d be pretty darn expensive!) Good luck, and I hope that this helps you to keep healthy.

  19. Pingback: A Blogger A Day: Tasty Eats at Home « Celiac Central: Bits and Bites

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