I recently bought a three-pack of romaine lettuce from Ocean Mist Farms. They clearly label their lettuce as gluten free, lactose free, vegan, and heart healthy. I'm still trying to decide if this is a good thing or just really insulting. It's sort of like proclaiming that air has oxygen or that water has hydrating properties. I checked out Ocean Mist's website at www.oceanmist.com
. They don't mention gluten-free properties of vegetables at all on their site, so I'm thinking that an over-zealous marketing person slapped all the pro-health properties on the label. In fact, they seem very sincere about providing quality produce, especially artichokes, which I admit I've eaten occasionally (mostly at restaurants) and never prepared myself.
I don't want to act like a big know-it-all. Maybe some people ARE unaware that all vegetables are gluten, lactose and animal product free. Maybe it's a public service to point it out. Maybe there is someone out there who is so unfamiliar with the property of vegetables that they don't know that they are inherently vegan. (Of course, there ARE carniverous plants. My brother, upon learning of my vegetarianism nearly 20 years ago, asked if as a vegetarian I would I eat a venus flytrap. But I digress.)
On the other hand, I am a bit offended. Just as I am happy for Miley Cyrus that she found better health eating gluten free as a lifestyle choice, I am annoyed with her for gumming up the message that there are those of us with celiac and gulten intolerance that HAVE to eat gluten-free. Does displaying the health properties of lettuce on the package actually prompt people to buy more?
Can you imagine this conversation at the store?"Look Honey! Lettuce is GOOD for you! Let's get six heads."
"Why no, Dear. I had no idea it had all of the properties of a green leafy vegetable! Let's get nine heads!"
Wait til they find out that spinach has all those properties AND is fat free...
(Sign up for the mailing list and get my "QuickStart Guide to going Gluten-free." I never share or sell my list.)
In another head to head test with typical kids, this time there is a CLEAR winner. The boys enjoyed one just fine, but truly disliked the other. I managed to add more milk and frozen greens and have it for MY dinner, since I mostly never met a gluten-free mac and cheese I couldn't find a way to like. Well, okay, so these two are the only boxed gluten-free mac and cheese I've ever had. But still. You get the point. As you may have gathered from my ecookbooklet, I add greens to lots of things.
And as I promised my older son Corley, here is his website. He's 10. It has nothing to do with living gluten-free.http://mastermagicianslearnmagic.weebly.com
[May is Celiac Awareness Month, and I’m giving away copies of my ecookbooklet: So What CAN You Eat? Gluten-free Paleo Vegan (mostly) Recipes for Health and Weight Loss, to all who join the mailing list. Visit the homepage here. 19 fast, easy recipes!]
When I first went gluten-free, I had a little help from a friend about what to buy, but mostly I looked at the shelves and freezer cases of the gluten-free replacement products and didn’t know where to begin. Corn pasta or quinoa? Tapioca bread or some mixed grain thing? More often than not, I let a major deciding factor be that of price. I figured if I started with the least expensive and kept moving up the scale until I found something palatable, then I would eventually identify my go-to purchases. With the exception of Udi’s bagels
, I had very few Eureka! moments (well, other than if you add enough milk, eggs and cinnamon to make bread pudding a girl can actually choke down a loaf of tapioca bread…). If I had to do it over again, I’d have sought out the advice from a real gluten-free foodie, bought what they buy, and just stuck with those except when feeling adventurous or wanting to try something new.
Not long ago I asked the celiac listserv
for their recommendations for stuffed pastas and egg noodles and got some great suggestions. One woman who replied gave me this feedback
on the new bread from Kinnikkinnick. She and her daughter, both gluten-free for more than 10 years, are passionate about food. They have done lots of product reviews and, in fact, her daughter was once gluten-free food editor for Foodista
. I asked if she would share their go-to gf recommendations and she gladly put together this list, asking for no credit or attribution, but just wanting to help people navigate the world of gluten-free products for maximum enjoyment and satisfaction. Here are her suggestions (and note her full disclosure for being a sales rep for Glutenfeeda) and also my full disclosure that I haven't tried most of these suggestions, (but I plan to!):
Here is my very short list of the gf essentials in our house. We are foodies and do like to cook. We are not huge bakers but do bake! And in the interest of full disclosure, while I have been a Celiac for over a decade I do work for a manufacturer as a sales rep... Glutenfreeda.
Our favorites in the pantry: pretty slim but we are foodies and this is all we truly need* Jules Gluten Free Flour (for anything and everything using standard recipes) * Kinnikinnick Panko Crumbs * Pamela's Cornbread ( I use the traditional recipe but bake it in a iron skillet) * Pamela's Pancake Mix (but generally we make crepes with corn starch or I use almond flour) * Better Batter Brownie Mix (in a pinch but I prefer my old Ghiradelli brownie recipe using Jules Flour) * Gluten Free Mama's Pie Crust Mix (truly fabulous) * Better Batter Flour nice to have on hand if you make homemade egg rolls, or Fry Bread..the rice blend lends itself very well for frying * Dakota Lakes Gourmet Coating .. just nice to have on hand . I often mix it with the Panko Crumbs for a spiced coating on chicken tenders or baked fish..Frozen:* Feel Good Foods Egg rolls and dumplings * Garlic Jim's pizza when I am too lazy or in a hurry to make Pizza Dough with Jules Flour Bread and Pasta:
* Kinnickinick Buns and Bread (frozen) * La Veneziane pastas (pantry) * Orgran Spirals (pantry) We're Jewish so...
* Eena Kadeena Mock-zah Ball Mix * Eena Kadeena Mandel Cookies Not marketed as gf but essential for our lifestyle (aka to busy to make from scratch):
* Cream of Buckwheat (Wolffs') * Wolff's Kasha * Sweet Rice Flour * Rice flour wrappers for sushi and spring rolls * Corn Starch for crepes (sweet and savory) * Almond flour (mainly because I prefer almond flour pancakes) * Lundberg's Risottos and Rice blends If I had kids at home still: I would probably also stock the K-Toons, or the plethora of cookies out there but now I just make up batches of my favorite recipes , roll them into balls and freeze for bake on demand.And I do eat our oatmeal often, as well as the burritos and pizza wraps Glutenfreeda Oatmeal, Burritos, Pizza Wraps and Granola :-) That's it...I cannot think of one thing that I cannot make with the above on hand. I use any recipe I come across from Liebowitz's "to die for" German Chocolate Cake to Curtis Stone's Cheese Biscuits.
So Thank you, anonymous gluten-free food aficianado for sharing your list and hopefully making life easier for others!
Recently I met Richard Goldberg of Helen's Pure Foods
and Dale Reese of Martindale's Natural Foods
at a meeting of Slow Food Philadelphia
that I attended for my Day Job. Martindale's is apparently the oldest health food store founded in 1869. That's a full 20 years before white people decided to populate Oklahoma. Kind of mind-boggling! I love Martindales for a number of reasons, but the best one is that they clearly mark their shelf tags with a red dot for every GF item in the store. And that's a lot of red dots! One time when I found a clearly marked GF item without a red dot, I brought it to an employees attention and she fixed it right away. Helen's Hummuses and spreads are made fresh locally and only shipped within something like a 100 mile radius. Every container of Helen's Spreads I have read shows no gluten content. They apparently had a gf labeling issue and had to mark out "gluten free" on a bunch of their Michele's Hummus and Spreads line because of soy sauce, but Richard tells me they are changing the recipe to make it GF this year. I advise a roadtrip to Springfield to visit Martindale's, and pick up some Helen's Pure Foods hummus while you are there!
I recently got an e-mail from a woman who lives in rural Canada who had checked out my website and noted that my material didn’t really speak to her: The restaurants are not near her, and she can’t get a lot of the prepared/packaged foods that I have reviewed.
This was really good feedback. I took it as encouragement to build out my website to have greater appeal to people who don’t necessarily live in a major metropolitan city. Watch for more improvements!
I also thought it would be interesting to do a little research when I visited my brother and sister-in-law in Roswell, NM. I figured Roswell was pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so sure getting GF products would be a challenge, right?
Wrong. Turns out, Roswell’s not that little. They have a couple of grocery stores, including a mega-Walmart. I decided to do a little research at Walmart (I know that many think they are evil-incarnate, but it’s way affordable and MANY people shop there. Don’t hold it against me!) Not only did they have all of the perfectly normal, regularly occurring GF food, they also had half a row of shelving labeled Gluten-Free, and carried things like GF Bisquick. In ROSWELL. I found that to be pretty promising.
But still. I passed a number of “towns” that were hundreds of miles from a grocery store. What if I lived there? Here’s how I’d handle it:
Have a kitchen garden and grow things I like to eat, if I have the space. If I don’t, make friends with someone who has the space, or start a community garden (as it is part of my Day Job, I can tell you more about that if you are interested.)
Experiment with seasonal veggies. Vegetables are naturally gluten-free, and we can all stand to eat more of them, especially the green variety.
Learn how to freeze, can or otherwise preserve fresh produce. If I’m growing it and can’t eat it all when it’s ready, I hope I’d learn how to extend its edible life and eat it on into the winter months. I occasionally freeze my overabundance of kale and collards from the garden, but I have to admit it's kind of time consuming. Still, if I couldn't go to a grocery store anytime I wanted, I'd get better and faster at it, I'm sure.
Get good at cooking beans in interesting ways. Beans are available everywhere, and really nutritious.
Get a rice cooker and embrace rice as my go-to grain for breakfasts and dinners. Rice is available at stores even in the middle of nowhere.
Don’t forget eggs. I always forget eggs.
Mail order. For that gf birthday cake that you have to make, one can get gf baking products on Amazon.com or directly from the manufacturer. If you type in Gluten-free foods at Amazon.com in their "Grocery and Gourmet Foods" menu, there are 3,540 listings. The products there would be a splurge, but certainly in the realm of possible.
Stock up when in the presence of gf food. I grew up on 80 acres of land between Guthrie and Edmond, OK. I wouldn’t call it remote, but it was Small Town Oklahoma. We’d go into Oklahoma City (oft referred to as just The City) and there are health food and specialty shops there that can accommodate GF needs and provide specialty vegetarian products that are hard to find elsewhere in that part of the state. Of course, it could mean just going to the nearest town with a real supermarket and stocking up on Rice Chex and Corn Chex. Sure it’s a breakfast food, but everybody needs the opportunity to just eat a bowl of cereal for dinner now and then.
Salty snacks: Popcorn. Potato chips. Tortilla chips. Read the labels of course, but many of these offerings have no gluten present.
Sweets: Fruit. Rice pudding. Custard. Ice cream (read the label.) Crustless pies.
Other suggestions for our GF friends in remote locations? Leave a comment here or send me a note through my contact page.
From the Roswell, NM Walmart
Like Whole Foods, it looks like someone in the back room of Trader Joe's is hand-making gluten-free shelf tags. Whole Foods actually has way more GF products that TJ's, and for way more money. TJ's has products that look like they should be free of gluten but which have a suspicious-sounding CYA disclaimer about the possibility of allergen sneaking its way into the product. Even the GF markings on some products are accompanied by the statement "No gluten-containing ingredients," which is different than making a gluten-free claim and which leaves the door ajar for worrying about possible contamination.
All that said, the pre-fab Indian food pouches at TJ's are inexpensive and tasty, so I buy them despite all that. And I'm glad they now carry Udi's, though the price is just as high as everywhere else.
Whole Foods did warn me on their website that they don't have people just standing by to answer random e-mails. I didn't think that meant they'd never answer my e-mail question about how they decide to label something gluten free. I haven't been back to the store since that day, but I think I'll try to find some time this week to see if they made any changes in the tea selection.
I'll keep you apprised. I fully expect that you are on the edge of your seat.
At a recent shopping trip to Trader Joe's, I read a lot of labels. Many items that I thought looked like good candidates for being gluten-free had a tag line that, in effect, said: Our producers use good practices to avoid contamination with allergens. We make no guarantee that this food is not contaminated.
So, do I eat it or not? What does it mean: We try really hard but maybe we failed? Eat at your own risk?
I visit the nutritionist that works out of my primary care doc's office in a couple of days. She's not a celiac specialist (I still haven't heard back from the GI doc's office for celiac-specializing nutritionist referal -- grrrr), but her dad has celiac and she's helped him deal with it for 30 years. I expect she'll have a lot of good real life advice. I also want to get advice on B vitamins.