Hi everyone! I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted any recipes—which is hysterical, because I still spend a huge chunk of time cooking and eating. A significant part of my life is devoted to eating. Or thinking about eating. Or planning what I’m going to eat next. I’m obsessed.
But I’ve started a new job (YAY!!!) which means that I have a lot less daylight in which to photograph food. And also a lot less energy to devote to writing recipes and posts.
Well, boo to that, I say. Working full time will hopefully bring out my ability to create some healthy, delicious lunches that I can heat in the microwave. Soups, casseroles, salads-in-jars, it’s all going down in the Veg/GF kitch.
I’m going to start doing some serious meal planning in order to ensure that we eat healthy, home-made food as frequently as possible. I’ve done meal-planning before and it saves a TON of money on groceries, which is very groovy. So I’ll be sure to share those deets with you as well.
A Recent Work Lunch
Meanwhile! I’m going to jump back into the blog by sharing a post that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. If you’re a celiac, a newly diagnosed celiac, trying gluten-free, or just interested in changing your diet up a little, one of the most daunting tasks is wading through products.
A huge deterrent to a lot of people trying to avoid/eliminate gluten is that a lot of gluten-free products taste like SHIT. I caught an episode of Parenthood recently, in which the characters were sampling gluten-free cupcakes and the jokes about how crappy they tasted were just incessant. Aside from the fact that this is pretty lazy humor, I didn’t really mind. A lot of gluten-free stuff just tastes foul.
Having spent the last year and a half wading through gluten-free products, we have a few recommendations. These are things we buy regularly, and heartily recommend. We have been sent NO samples, nor have we been asked to do this review. This is 100% unbiased. We spend our hard-earned dollas on these products and will continue to do so.
Udi’s Gluten-Free Bread:
When we first went gluten-free, I knew that one of the things GF would miss the most would be “Toasted Cheese.” His grandma made them for him when he was growing up, and I had made them regularly for the first few months of our relationship. I knew that toasted cheeses would need to be reincarnated as a gluten-free goodie.
We tried several gluten-free breads, and they were all AWFUL. Not fit for the birds. (I apologize to the bird community if they have eaten this—or any—bread, because it’s not good for them! DO NOT FEED THE DAMN BIRDS!) Anyway, then I found Udi’s Gluten-Free Bread. I stumbled upon it in the freezer section, and I think that this is what set it apart from other gluten-free breads. The “shelf-stable” gluten-free breads are incredibly dry. If you’ve ever seen that video of The Cinnamon Challenge, it will begin to approximate how dry the shelf-stable GF breads are. Udi’s Gluten-Free Bread is EXCEPTIONAL. Their bagels are also BANGIN’. Better than regular bagels. Yep, I said it.
Unfortunately, the Udi’s products are rarely on sale and they are on the pricier end. Certainly more than standard bread. My only major criticism of this bread, along with the price, is the size. A loaf of Udi’s averages between $4 and $4.25 and it is a small loaf. The bread itself is kinda small.
But, I swear, it’s positively heavenly. I was not a big fan of bread, and never ate it plain, but I will eat Udi’s with nothing on it. When I make Toad-in-a-Hole for breakfast (Bird’s Nest, Egg-in-a-Basket, whatever weird thing your family calls it) I pull a hole in the center of the slice of bread and just moan with pleasure as I eat the circle of bread. WE EVEN LOVE THE BREAD ENDS. Until I start baking our own bread, it’s Udi’s all the way.
GF’s favorite use of Udi’s is definitely Toad-in-a-Hole. I recommend making grilled cheese with some thinly sliced green apple and Sriracha.
Zena’s Gluten-Free Probiotic Cookies:
These are a relatively new find for us. We picked them up in the gluten free aisle of Shop Rite, on a whim, because we were shopping hungry (dangerous, don’t do!) and GF wanted a cookie. My expectations were low, because these cookies were not only GF, they were also (dun-dun-dun) PROBIOTIC. While I will absolutely jam with some kefir or kombucha or just about any other fermented food with a weird name, I was hesitant about such blasphemy in a cookie. Additionally, some gluten-free cookies are dry and tasteless. Again, I think this has a LOT to do with shelf-stability. Just like how Udi’s products are frozen, these cookies were individually wrapped in plastic, and therefore did not need to be desiccated and unbearably dry in order to be shelf-stable . The Zena’s cookies were moist and sweet (but not too sweet!) and had perfect semi-sweet chocolate chips… I’m drooling just writing about them. They are SO. DAMN. GOOD. The only downside? Again, these are on the pricier end. $3.50 per box, I think. If you know and love someone who is GF, these are the BOMB. There are 6 cookies in the box. But, on the plus side, they are BIG COOKIES! Nice and think and chewy and… drool…
This is pretty much the gold-standard hummus. If you like hummus, I don’t need to tell you much about it. We like the garlic hummus (what a surprise) and we usually go through a family sized container of it every 5 days or so (it’s also cheaper to buy the larger containers and it never goes bad in our household). I even started saving the containers because I was low on food storage (and we had SO MANY OF THEM) and they’re really perfect for packing an individual portion of a meal, keeping a chunk of cheese fresh, storing some fruit for a long car ride, et cetera. Reduce, re-use, recycle, babies! Obviously, as with all plastics, don’t put them in the microwave, don’t put piping hot food in them, and don’t put them in the dishwasher. Someday, we will transition to 100% glass or ceramic food storage, but until we have the money for that, this is a great solution.
Mrs. Renfro’s Black Bean Salsa:
This is one of my personal favorites. Just as GF does the majority of the damage to the hummus, I will destroy a jar of Mrs. Renfro’s. It is the best salsa you can get, other than home-made. It’s got the perfect amount of heat, and great texture from the black beans.
Just like with the Sabra Hummus, I keep the container! Mrs. Renfro’s Salsas come in really cute glass jars. The paper label comes off with some soap and hot water, and a little elbow grease, and then you have an adorable drinking glass or storage jar. I save a lot of jars and many (I’m looking at you, Tostitos!) use some sort of Gorilla Glue to keep their labels on, so they’re permanently sticky and not usable. The fact that Mrs. Renfro is a naughty little thang who gets naked at the slightest touch makes her all the more endearing.
I’m currently using one of those jars to store my basil simple syrup. Fun fact: You can write on the surface of a glass jar with a permanent marker and it will wash off. That way, you know exactly what you have and you don’t encounter any mystery liquids.
Tune in soon for Part II of this series, when I will discuss the extremely helpful Gluten-Free iPhone apps that we use! Gluten-free iPhone? Yep, it’s a thing. I’ll explain it all in the next post. Part III will be about the very useful kitchen tools we like. In between, there will be recipes, so let me know what you want to see! Veggie pot-pie, avgolemono (Greek lemon soup), fresh green pesto, pumpkin chili, maybe something for Thanksgiving?
Final thought: Many gluten-free products (including some of these) are not the healthiest foods in the world. Just because it’s GF does not mean it is healthy, guys. These foods (particularly the breads and cookies) are treats, not the bulk of our diet. Check the links I have (so thoughtfully!) provided for nutrition facts. Try to keep your food as minimally processed as possible.
Eat well, feel good, treat yourself!
PS- Don’t do the Cinnamon Challenge.