Since my crafting, baking and DYIing have been pretty limited the past few days I thought I would take this chance to share with you some of my favorite gluten-free items. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease about 4 years ago and have spent these past 4 years trying to educate myself as much as possible about the disease and gluten-free cooking. Being someone who has loved to cook & bake & most importantly EAT, I was very overwhelmed when I was first diagnosed. However, over the past 4 years I have come to realize that living gluten-free is not much a sacrifice at all. Ok- I will admit it- there are times when I still get frustrated or feel like I am missing out on something delicious (Chinese food!) but for the most part there are excellent gluten-free options out there. And it is an area that just keeps improving- even in the few years since my diagnosis the variety of gluten-free food has increased tremendously. Although I am by no means an expert in the area, I have learned a few things about the gluten-free lifestyle and will share with you a few pointers for any newbies out there
- Gluten Free doesn’t have to be expensive! When I was first diagnosed I wasted so much money buying only items with “gluten free” written right on the package. Then I realized that I was seriously overpaying for items that were gluten-free by nature. Most meat (except for deli meats, sausages, hot dogs) are GF, rice is GF (yes-even the cheap no name or Minute Rice!), everything in the produce section of your grocery store is GF (ALL fruits & veggies!), most dairy products are GF (just be careful to read the label on yogurts, sour cream, cream cheese). Regular ketchup, mayo, mustard, salad dressings- most of these are GF! As long as you read the label each and every time you purchase something- there is no need to spend the extra money to buy the brand with “gluten free” written right on the label.
- That leads me to my next tip- ALWAYS read your labels! Even if it is something you buy every single week with groceries and woulf not think gluten would be in it!! Manufacturers can change their recipes at any time without any warning and more than once I have been disappointed to see that an item that had always been G-Free now contains gluten. And gluten is in the weirdest things (licorice, yogurt, chicken broth!).
- You do not have to stick to gluten free recipes. There are lots of options for gluten-free flour mixes, cooking broths, and pretty much every ingredient you can think of. Do not limit yourself to only looking at or buying gluten free cookbooks (Although these can be helpful!)- simply have an open mind and a willingness to try something new and you can adapt almost any recipe to be gluten free.
Now here are some of my favorite gluten-free foods. If anyone out there has their favorites they would like to share please share!
- All purpose gluten free flour mixes. One thing about gluten-free baking that I dislike is that to get the consistency of regular wheat flour you have to mix together several different flours (rice, tapioca, quinoa, potato, etc..) along with xanthum or guar gum. I do not mind doing this every now and then but it can be A LOT of work to do on a daily basis. Buy yourself a GF alternative for flour and just substitute cup for cup…you will thank me-I promise! My personal favorite is a mix made by my local natural food store The Cackling Goose. But I also love this mix by Better Batter
- I have always been a huge pasta lover ( I secretly think I must be Italian!) and when first diagnosed saying no to pasta dishes was my biggest fear. Happily- GF pasta has been one of my favorite substitutions. I honestly cannot tell the difference between GF and regular wheat pasta and feel good knowing that this pasta by Gogo Quinoa is not only gluten-free but also healthier .
- My second biggest fear when I learned I would have to go GFree was missing out on oatmeal. I ate either cream of wheat or oatmeal for breakfast nearly every day (especially in the cool months) and could not imagine going without. Luckily, I have also found excellent GF oatmeal. (Although just a caution- I have no problem at all with oats but some Celiacs cannot tolerate oats.) My favorites are Glutenfreeda and Cream Hill.
- I have to admit- I have yet to find a GF bread that I love. And I sometimes find myself fondling freshly made, glutenous bread in the bakery aisle (true story…I wish it wasn’t!) but I have found Udi’s bagels do the trick when I am craving something carbohydrate and toasted in the morning and Food for Life’s brown rice tortillas make an excellent wrap and great pizza crust!
- And last but certainly not least- when a sweet craving hits I have found some gluten free alternatives that float my boat. Although I will admit- I prefer to bake most GF treats myself (or for anyone living around Sackville, NB- the Cackling Goose makes AMAZING GF carrot cakes & cinnamon buns.) Kinnikinick makes a great sugar doughnut and surf sweet jelly beans satisfy my sweet tooth every time.