Week 5 of eating gluten-free was a little harder. I felt grumpy and deprived, especially when wandering through the million and one Superbowl snacks laid out at the supermarkets. Pizza, calzones, pull-apart breads covered in cheese and pepperoni, brownies, cookies -- yikes, it was a gluten fest. Plus, I went to check out the gluten-free options at Roche Bros in Acton and, holy moly, their bakery almost made me lose my focus. I'm so glad I don't normally shop there -- WAY too many muffins, pastries, cookies, cakes, pies, etc., which are totally my weak spot. But I pulled it together and stuck with the program. For Superbowl munchies, I made TGIF potato skins with cheese and bacon, GF chili nachos, Wegmans GF chicken tenders and GF brownies (Krusteaz brand). (Not the normal menu for a Sunday evening!) Figuring out a GF Superbowl menu -- which was pretty easy -- made me realize that there really are very few specialty GF foods that we absolutely have to buy.
Realistically, now that I've explored all the local grocery stores and found lots of expensive GF brands, what specialty GF products would I really buy? Not many. In looking back at our weekly menus, the kids' snacks, breakfasts and lunches, here are the only GF products I would truly need, and in most cases these are available from a major brand at your everyday grocery store:
- GF pasta -- a must. Barilla and Ronzoni make perfectly acceptable and delicious GF spaghetti and penne at a decent price ($2 for 12 or 16 oz). Trader Joes has a great and inexpensive GF ziti. There's no need to buy the $4 8-oz box from the specialty label. I would go broke in a month, given the amount of pasta my family eats.
- GF bread and bagels -- another must. Canyon Bakehouse makes an excellent plain bagel for $4* for a 4-pack. My daughter loves them for breakfast or a snack. Udi's makes a good sandwich bread for $4* (12 oz loaf) that works for toast and sandwiches. Also Udi's hot dog rolls are great for dogs, burgers and sloppy joes. Van's makes a great homestyle frozen GF waffle. All are available at your everyday grocery store.
- GF brownie or cookie mix -- must have for the occasional sweet treat or to bring a dessert to a potluck. Krusteaz is the best GF brownie mix I've tried and is available at most grocery stores. Trader Joes was OK, but Krusteaz is better.
- If you're a cereal eater, a GF cereal -- there are a couple good ones at Trader Joes.
- For GF kids, a GF chicken nugget or tender. The best I've found are Wegman's GF chicken strips BUT I haven't tried Bell & Evans GF nuggets, which are available everywhere.
(*Note that prices are based on Market Basket.)
Other than those items, it's really not necessary to go crazy buying a lot of expensive specialty GF products.
Find a good GF baking mix (so far, I like Bob's Red Mill Baking 1-to-1) and you can quickly make most recipes, such as sweet quick breads, muffins, even cupcakes. It is handy to stock up on some other GF flours, especially white rice flour and tapioca starch, which seem to be the most common flour substitute ingredients in GF baking recipes.
Substitute potatoes and rice for pasta where possible.
For GF kids, serve prepped fruits and vegetables instead of snack bars, Goldfish or crackers. If they need crunchy snacks, try a dry GF cereal.
Carefully check the labels of all the products you would normally buy and you may be surprised how many are actually already gluten free (except products that obviously have gluten, of course, like macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie, frozen pizza, rolls, crackers, cookies, etc.). Some of the foods that surprised me as already gluten free: Bush's baked beans (all varieties), Hunt's spaghetti sauce (most varieties), certain Progresso soups (chicken and rice to name one), most tortilla chips, most potato chips (not potato crisps, like Pringles, though), Smartfood and most other popcorn snacks, those TGIF potato skins (my daughter was ecstatic), and some candy (M&Ms, Snickers). All fruits, vegetables, nuts and most meats are naturally gluten free (check though if the meat has been injected or brined; the solution may have gluten). Many deli meats, dairy items, jams, many condiments, and peanut butter are gluten free. But, of course, be sure to check the labels carefully or ask at the deli counter. Market Basket American cheese is gluten free; Land o Lakes American cheese is not (or is not guaranteed to be).
And, for simple GF dinners that don't require a lot of specialty products, follow a gluten free blog or subscribe to a gluten free menu plan. 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.
So, what did we eat this week?
Breakfasts were generally a GF bagel or an egg and slice of GF toast. Lunches are generally leftovers. Snacks are fruit or popcorn.
Dinner: Avgolemono Soup (Greek lemony chicken and rice soup)
Dinner: Pineland GF Italian Meatballs (would not recommend -- my GF meatballs are better!), Hunts Four-cheese spaghetti sauce, Barilla GF spaghetti
Dinner: Glazed bacon-wrapped chicken, rice, spinach
Dinner: Superbowl munch fest -- Wegmans GF chicken strips, TGIF Potato Skins, GF chili and tortilla chips, GF brownies
This was a nice snack this week:
Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread
Based on recipe in The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook by America's Test Kitchen
1 1/4 cups Bob's Red Mill Baking 1-to-1 Gluten Free Flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup pureed pumpkin
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 ounces cream cheese, softened (at room temperature or in microwave)
2 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan.
- Whisk flour blend, baking powder and baking soda together in a small bowl.
- Combine pumpkin puree, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and cloves in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until mixture is thoroughly heated and slightly reduced, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Add sugars, oil and cream cheese to pumpkin mixture in saucepan and stir well until cream cheese is completely incorporated and there are no more cheese lumps left.
- Whisk eggs and milk in a large bowl until well-mixed. Add pumpkin mixture and stir or whisk until well combined. Add flour mixture, a third at a time, and stir well after each addition until thoroughly mixed.
- Scrape batter into pan. Bake about 45 minutes.
- Cool in pan on wire rack for 20 minutes, then gently remove from pan and cool on rack for another hour. Store in the refrigerator.
This also makes a nice cake if baked in a square or round cake pan and frosted with GF frosting (most are). Note that the baking time should be reduced to about 30 minutes.
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