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1) Explain for our Recipes Wiki readers what "gluten-free, casein-free" means exactly.
Gluten-free mean absolute avoidance of all the proteins called glutens in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut and some other grains by contamination (oats for example). Casein-free entails absolute avoidance of all mammalian dairy proteins (casein, whey for example) commonly found in milk products like cheese, milk, yoghurt, made from milks like goat, cow or sheep. Since the protein compositions are similar, some people who have to avoid dairy products also have to avoid soy products. For the purpose of this diet, dairy foods do not include eggs; only products made from mammalian milk.
It means reading the label on every food you buy, every food a friend offers you, and any potential offerings from a restaurant. It means praying people are honest when you ask questions about the food, and explaining for the 1 millionth time, that a little bit will hurt you, and it's not about liking or disliking. For most people on the GF and CF diet, they would love to have the old foods. For a person with CD though, just a little bit of wheat can do intestinal damage which will take months to repair.
Most people who follow the GFCF diet due it for one of a couple of reasons: treatment of Austistic Spectrum Disorders, food allergies or intolerances, or Celiac Disease co-morbid with other intolerances.
2) What motivated you to start a recipe group that was gluten and casein-free? A daughter who almost died before her Celiac Disease was diagnosed, and 3 sons who are non-cd gluten intolerant and have multiple food allergies and intolerances. When my family started this journey 11 years ago, the idea of treating ASD (and ADHD) with a dietary protocol were just really starting to be encouraged and I was looking for support. The original list was on off-shoot of GFCF Kids on yahoogroups, but when the founder Angela Lowry found herself over-committed, she passed the list ownership to me, and I have continued for the last 7 years.
3) What should those cooking for individuals with these kinds of allergies keep in mind when preparing recipes?
Read every label, even if you just read it yesterday. Manufacturers change food ingredients to improve their product. This is about YOUR health and no one else can take charge of that. Check spices, margarine, flours, baking powder, the commercial cheese replacements and anything that will be going in your mouth. Learn to know what those 5 syllable words mean, and what that additive, preservative or supplement is derived from. For a child with ASD, having dairy or wheat can be like giving them a dose of heroine. It's too important to not check and be sure.
Gluten-free flours are not wheat. They don't cook the same, they don't taste the same, and you shouldn't have the same expectations. There is a reason our ancestors chose wheat for the bulk of their food preparations. Combining a variety of flours is important.
One thing that is a real consternation for most folks just starting out, even accomplished bakers, is that gluten-free flours react to weather. A bread recipe that work perfectly last week on a dry day, can be a doorstop flop on a rainy day. It's frustrating and can be expensive - which is why a list like this one and our archives on Recipe Circus are so important for people on the diet - well, at least to I and the 3500 list members think so! :-)
The thing is, once you get past the idea of what food SHOULD look like, gluten- and dairy-free is flavourful, tasty and often more healthy than the Standard North American Diet. My children actually order vegetables and salads when we go out to eat!
4) Are there any ingredient substitutes that are commonly used with these allergies?
Technically yes, there are, but one thing a person with CD or cooking for an ASD child learns rather quickly is that plain, basic food is the best thing. Instead of all the commercial foods we are used to, we stick with the basics as much as possible and then we come up with some foods which are good just because they are - not because they are standing in for something that used to have wheat.
Most people will find a need for a variety of GF flours: bean flours like chana, mung bean or garfava; rice flours (sweet, white, brown, and wild), sorghum, tapioca starch, potato flour and starch, corn starch, arrowroot, millet, chestnut, montina, and the list goes on. Foods made with a blend respond much better than foods made with just one gf flour.
Wheat and it's cousins are ideal among the grasses for baking because it has a comination of proteins and starchs which respond well. We have to blend other flours to get a similar response.