Thursday, September 27, 2007
Top Ten Gluten-Free Eats (and One Drink)
When my husband Dan went in to the doctor to check out why he had dropped so much weight and felt so lousy, he was told at the initial visit by the amazingly brilliant Dr. Bruce Harro of Schuylerville, New York that celiac disease was a possible culprit. The Good Doctor told Dan to enjoy his breadstuffs and beer while awaiting his blood test results, because he felt strongly that he might have celiac disease. Dan glumly enjoyed his beloved dark beers on his birthday, coincidently the last day before he would hear about his test results. He moped as he munched on some pizza and crackers and mourned the fact that he might never again sip a Newcastle Brown Ale.
The next day Dr. Harro confirmed his diagnostic suspicions and our adventure in gluten-free living began. It's been a year and a half, and we are both still experimenting with recipes and new products, but we've found that it does get easier over time to read labels, maneuver the grocery aisles and cook up gluten-free grub. There is now an explosion of interest in the wheat-free diet and many more people, even in our circle of friends and family, who need to eliminate gluten from their lives. The Internet has been an inspiring fountain of information for us and in that spirit of sharing and to help us all live a happy and healthy gluten-free life, Dan and I would like to share his Top Ten List of Favorite Gluten Free Edibles (and One Potable):
1) Cheddar Cheese Flavored Nut Thins - The Blue Diamond Almond company makes a line of gluten-free crackers that are wonderfully crunchy and come in an assortment of flavors. Dan enjoys the the Cheddar Cheese Nut Thins when he has been crafty enough to remember to hide them from our kids. Look for them in the supermarket in the gluten-free section or sometimes next to the gourmet cheeses. They are also available online directly from the Blue Diamond website. When browsing the home page, just ignore the cute almond dudes in Raybans smiling out from being entombed in almonds up to their armpits. Perhaps the marketing department might want to rethink this photo. Who's eating those almonds?
2) Roasted Vegetables - Browsing the wealth of gluten-free recipes on the Internet has given us a lot of new ideas and roasting pretty much any member of the Vegetable Kingdom is now a favorite way of getting our greens. We traditionally roasted potatoes and the occasional medley of root vegetables if we were really getting down and funky, but now we have tried roasting asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and fennel. All yummy. Toss with oil, spices, snipped fresh herbs, chopped garlic and roast in a 375 degree oven until crispy.
3) Pirate's Booty - Yarrrhhh! These all-natural cheesy puffs are made from rice and corn and won't make your arteries recoil when you open the bag. They taste like they're really bad for you, as a good snack food should, but are only 130 calories per serving if you can restrain yourself to that. Gluten-free and booty-licious! Readily available in most grocery stores in our area.
4) Gluten-Free Pastas - Our fears that we would be bereft of all our beloved pasta were put to rest when we examined the shelves of our health food store and grocery. There are lots of great gluten-free pastas made from quinoa, brown rice, corn and my favorite, those rice vermicelli noodles. You soak them in hot water to soften and then use in stir fries, soups, noodle salads and in spring rolls. They have a great texture. I find that you need to pay closer attention to the cooking times with these pasta varieties as they have a tendency to go from al dente to mushy in the blink of an eye.
5) Anything from the Garden - No need to read labels or worry about chemical sprays in the garden, everything's naturally gluten-free! We renewed our gardening efforts greatly and have tried out some new crops in keeping with our new wheatless lifestyle. I would encourage everyone to try their hand at growing their own vegetables, even if it's just a porch pot of tomatoes and basil. It's good exercise, it keeps you connected to the earth and everything tastes better when you've invested a bit of yourself in it. Few things are more heavenly than biting your own sun-warmed tomato.
6) Jennie's Macaroons - Our supermarket carries these great little macaroons in the bright yellow cannister and they are scrumptiously moist and chewy. They are just the right size for when Dan wants a sweet treat.
7) Corn Tortillas - Pop one in a buttered skillet, top with grated cheese and bits of diced onions, peppers, or tomatoes, top with another tortilla. Press down, fry for 1-2 minutes, flip and fry another 1 minute and serve them up piping hot with sour cream, guacamole and/or salsa for a fast meal.
8) Quinoa - Dan and I read about this Aztec wonder grain and then went to the health food store to invest in some for our supper. We learned not to ask for "Kee-no-ah", but "Keen-wah" after receiving some dumbfounded stares from the owner, and glad we are to be corrected, for it is a great alternative when stuck in the rice or potatoes rut. Rinse the grains to remove a naturally-occurring bitter seed coating, and then throw it into the pot with water to cover. Cook just like rice. Makes a great tabbouleh.
9) Hot Sauces - At first I worried about vinegar-based condiments because most are made with white vinegar, but lots of research and reading seems to indicate that the distillation process removes the gluten, so we've been wantonly using lots of hot stuff to spice up our gluten-free meals. The hot sauce troika ever present in our cupboards: Peewee's Green, Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce (original flavor) and Tabasco Chipotle Sauce.
10) Fresh Gingerroot - We had used fresh ginger in the past, but not as readily as we are now in the post-gluten era. We are cooking up a lot more Asian recipes and find that grating a little fresh ginger into various recipes really kicks up the flavor. We now always try to keep some on hand in the refrigerator, and it has become a staple in our pantry, just as fresh garlic is.
11) Redbridge Beer - Dan wanted me to list this first, to indicate his complete happiness at finding a gluten-free potent potable that actually tastes great. We tried some of the other small gluten-free craft beers available in our area, and they just tasted weak or strange, or both. Redbridge is a nice red ale made from sorghum and I would describe it as being similar in taste to a Killian's Irish Red Ale. It is made by Anheuser-Busch and is readily available in our area in most supermarkets.
We are still on the prowl for a really good gluten-free pizza crust recipe and for an artisan bread of architecturally resplendent proportions (stunted loaves are the order of the day out of my oven to date), but the above top ten list keeps us happy and healthy in the interim.