Yes, I know it's the time of year for crazy diets and resolutions that last maybe two weeks (been there, done that). But this one's serious. My 14-year-old daughter and I started eating gluten-free on January 1st and will stick with it for at least three months. She has an auto-immune disorder that can be improved by eating gluten-free, and I thought it would be a great experiment to see how I feel, plus I wanted to support her and, since I'm the main cook, it makes sense for me to eat GF too. Removing gluten from your diet is supposed to reduce inflammation, help you sleep better, give you more energy, and reduce digestion issues. I have terrible insomnia and could definitely use more energy, so I'm excited to see how this turns out! I also have rosacea and thought maybe a GF diet might help me get rid of that "raccoon face" look, with bright red cheeks.
So, eating gluten-free means no wheat, no rye and no barley, plus no byproducts like malt vinegar, wheat starch, etc. Thankfully, we're not dealing with celiac disease, so a speck of gluten isn't going to make either of us feel awful, but we're both very committed to completely avoiding gluten. I picked up several gluten-free guides at the library and learned all about where gluten is found, and Santa brought some gluten-free cookbooks, so we were ready to go on January 1. The day before we started, I ate far too much of some of my favorite gluten products, just to enjoy that last taste and get it out of my system -- pizza, chewy ciabatta bread, some holiday sweets we still had.
I have to say, eating gluten-free has been surprisingly easy so far! Just like many of us, I've started a million diets and I struggled with every one, feeling terribly deprived, craving sugar or whatever. But there are so many gluten-free products now that it's pretty easy to eat what you want on a GF diet. I can have sugar and there are GF pastas and breads which are pretty good. I don't like beer (which has gluten in it) so I don't miss that. I've even lost a few pounds this past week, because I'm not bringing home all of the cheap and easy flour-based crappy food that I used to eat as (guilty) pleasures, like donuts, pastries, etc. I'm also eating way more fruit because I'm skipping the quick piece of toast or a cookie when I get a bit nibbly. (I went grocery-shopping today and it was kind of a relief to just skip the entire bakery because there's nothing there I can eat -- yay! No more sweet stuff to tempt me!)
Here's a quick rundown of what I've eaten this week: (GF = gluten-free)
Brunch: Scrambled eggs, slice of GF toast, bacon, fruit
Dinner: Herbed pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, broccoli
Breakfast: Egg, GF cheese, slice of GF toast, fruit
Lunch: Homemade GF macaroni and cheese (use cornstarch instead of flour when making the cheese sauce and use GF macaroni)
Dinner: Bacon-wrapped chicken, rice, carrots and broccoli
Breakfast: GF waffle, bacon
Lunch: Greek salad
Dinner: Homemade GF meatballs (YUM -- recipe below), GF spaghetti sauce (Hunts Four Cheese), and GF spaghetti (Ronzoni)
Breakfast: Egg, GF cheese, slice of GF toast, fruit
Lunch: Leftover chicken and rice
Dinner: GF chili, GF tortilla chips, cheese
Breakfast: GF waffle, fruit
Lunch: Leftover GF chili and GF chips, GF cookies
Dinner (potluck at a friend's house): GF meatballs, GF pasta, GF garlic bread, GF brownies
Breakfast: Egg, GF cheese, slice of GF toast, fruit (can you tell I'm a creature of habit?)
Lunch: Greek salad, GF brownie
Dinner: Chicken and vegetables marinated in McCormick Herb & Wine Marinade (confirmed GF) and roasted, rice
Most days I also had snacks of fruit, GF popcorn, GF trail mix, or a few GF crackers with cheese
Gluten Free Italian Meatballs
These are baked, not fried, to reduce calories a bit (plus it's a lot easier and less messy). These meatballs are moist and on the soft side, just like a regular Italian meatball.
Ingredients (be sure to check that cheese, bread, and Italian seasoning are gluten-free):
1/2 small onion (or 1/4 large)
3 slices GF bread, torn into tiny pieces
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1.5 lbs ground beef (I use 85%)
- Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large rimmed cookie sheet with foil and spray with oil spray. Set it next to your work area, ready to go.
- Grate onion on the large side of a box grater into a medium bowl. Add torn-up GF bread, parmesan cheese, egg, milk, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Milk well until bread is soaked and egg is completely mixed in. Use the side of the spoon to break up bread.
- Add ground beef and mix thoroughly with your hands until the bread mixture is completely incorporated into the beef. (Really squish it up with your hands.) You shouldn't see any large chunks of bread.
- Form meat into balls about 1.5 to 2 inches across, rolling them into round balls using the palms of both hands. The meat will be quite sticky; dip your hands in a bowl of water if the meat is sticking too much while you're rolling the meatballs. Line meatballs up in rows on the lined cookie sheet. They can be very close together; they won't spread. You should have 30-40 meatballs.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and place the cookie sheet into the oven. Bake meatballs about 25 minutes until cooked. They will produce grease and water, so remove the sheet from the oven carefully so the juices don't spill.
- Use tongs to add cooked meatballs to your favorite spaghetti sauce and serve with gluten-free pasta or shredded zucchini.
Wondering where I get my meal ideas? I use some cookbooks but mostly choose and modify recipes from my weekly Emeals meal plan that includes 6 different gluten-free recipes every week. They have 14 different meal plans to choose from, and you can switch meal plans at any time without an extra charge. I've been on both the Quick and Healthy Meal Plan and the Gluten Free Meal Plan, and they're both great! Use this link to get a free two-week trial.
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