Guests with grain sensitivities?

Here’s a tip to help people feel appreciated and welcomed.

Like most of us, I have friends and guests with sensitivities to wheat and/or gluten. So I always have a range of grains on hand so I can easily make something they will feel comfortable eating. If you don’t have a mill, I encourage you to buy small quantities of flour you know your friends or neighbours can eat, and store them in your freezer. These might include spelt, heritage wheat, oat, barley, or pea flours.

During the past week, I have had many opportunities to bake for a visiting friend who cannot eat wheat. However, she is fine with spelt, and spelt works well for bread as well as for baking with baking powder or soda in biscuits, cookies, scones, etc. I also used oat flour as a straight substitute for wheat in brownies and a strawberry cobbler. In most cases you can simply use recipes you already use and like, and substitute the kinds of grain. Have fun with your experimentation!


“What can you do with it, other than put it in soup?” I’m often asked.

We are rather limited in our thinking about barley in this part of the world. I was once invited to a friend’s home for an evening with Tibetan delegates, who were in Canada learning about First Nations communities. I wanted to help them feel welcomed, so I tried to make momos: a traditional Tibetan steamed dumpling dish. Instead of roasted barley flour, I used white flour, and I may have adjusted some of the filling ingredients as well. It was pretty labour-intensive, but their eyes lit up when they saw the steaming tray come into the room. Part way through the wonderful evening, I asked the translator if the momos were like the ones at home. I saw a hint of hesitation, and assured him I really wanted to know. “No,” he said. We both belly-laughed.

I am now using barley and barley flour in many ways, and especially enjoy being able to share barley baking with people who cannot eat wheat or gluten. I’ll share more about that later, but for now, here is a site I really like for the variety of barley recipes and facts that they present: