Six Reasons Why: Just because it’s Gluten Free, doesn’t mean I have to eat it. Right?

Can you guess what this is?

a "standard" polenta loaf.... but nothing is as easy as just that. Everyone does it differently.

So yes, this IS a “loaf” of polenta.  And it was EASY to make.  In fact, I made the polenta and as it cooled, I cooked some pork chops, asparagus and sliced up some fruit.  Then I even whipped up some gravy with the pork bits in the pan (and sweet rice flour/butter/chicken stock – easy).  I sliced the polenta loaf and plated it with the pork chops and gravy on top.  Dinner.  Done.  Sweet.  (If you want the “recipe” for how I made this Polenta Loaf – and it’s variations, please click here.)

I’m glad I made polenta again.  For a long time after going gluten free, I tried EVERYTHING *just because* it was gluten free.  And you know what?  I discovered some very awesome food!  And, I ate/ordered/attempted to digest – and spent WAY too much money – on some very horrendous food.

Very horrendous.

When I think about it, I always go back to the FIRST box of ordered gluten-free food/bread that I ordered.  O. M. G.  Never again.  Really.  After I was diagnosed, I ordered some “rolls” to bring with us on our honeymoon to Italy.  I had no idea if it would be easy or difficult to navigate gluten-free life in Italy back then (PS – it’s fairly easy!).  I barely knew what I was doing at home.  When we had begun to plan our trip, we planned to just get up in the morning and take the subway as far out as we could (each day in a new direction) and then stop at a local open-air, fresh market.  We bought meat, cheese, and fruit for our backpacks.  And then we started walking back in to the center of Rome and our hotel.  I really thought I would be hungry – and have a hankering for chips or bread.

Silly me.

We lugged what seems like a veritable elephant-weight of gluten free “buns”.  The first morning, I opened one up and brought it down to our “continental” breakfast at the hotel.

I should have just left it as a door stop in the hotel room.

It was disgusting.  No amount of heating, toasting, microwaving, steaming, etc that the kitchen offered made a difference.  On the second day, the kitchen brought me some gluten free corn-based crackers they had picked up at the local “farmacia”.  Done.

Those dry, tasteless corn crackers (shaped like a graham cracker) rocked my eggs, jams, and prosciutto breakfast plate.  And probably only because the other option was so disgusting.

So now, I’m older.  And that is SUPPOSED to mean that I am wiser.  Although I question the application of this logical statement to myself, it seems that experience has taught me a few things.

Gluten Free Store Bought Breads:   while developing shelf-life, they also may just outlast nuclear fallout.  My first loaf of GF bread had an expiry date FIVE YEARS from the date of purchase.  *This* is questionable for my health, IMHO.  And then the other side of the coin for me was:  Hey!  This might be great in that “emergency food box” I’m supposed to have (but don’t, even though we always talk about it).  Not all store-bought bread fits this category, but the stuff that I find in the freezer section?  Not good.  At least, I don’t like it.  It’s crumbly, dry and not so flavorful.  And I don’t think I’m alone in that assessment.  So I guess I’ll just keep making my own.  At least I know what all of the ingredients are and it stays together nicely. :D

 
Prepackaged lunches:  in particular I’m thinking of a can of noodle soup that was gluten free.  Even heating it up in the microwave at school (my only option) did not  save it.  And when my next class entered the room (the microwave is in my classroom), there was a mini-rebellion due to the unpleasant aroma.  Can’t say I blame them.  I didn’t even eat the soup.  Not okay.  I – once again – in search convenience overlooked the fact that not only is homemade soup cheaper and BETTER for you that the sodium-saturated can version, but that I had fallen back into a bad pattern.  Not planning my meals – lunches included – meant grabbing anything on the way out the door at 7AM.  Time to change that habit.  I’m working on it.  Really.  I am.

 

 

Costco.  Warehouse Clubs.  Whatever.  How many freaking boxes of rice crackers does a person really need?

If you are ever at my house sometime after Christmas, i will gladly share.  I am JUST NOW using up the last pack of rice crackers I bought in NOVEMBER.  Truly, these bad boys don’t go stale… but dang.  I would rather snack on fresh fruit, crunchy nuts or some celery/peanut butter – or … well – spoonfuls of NUTELLA (yeah, baby!) than eat my weight in rice crackers.  Never again.   (Well… unless I’m hosting a party of 50+ people.  Rice crackers are just NOT the “in demand” crunch for us.)

 

Once upon a time, I accepted a sample box of items to taste test for my blog.  I was so excited.  It arrived and we spent time figuring out which goody to try first.  And you know what?  We didn’t like any of them.  They were too salty or lack flavor or…. whatever.  They just weren’t for us.  And, I rarely post reviews.  Truly I only do it when I really love something.  (Psssst:  NUTELLA….. I’m willing!)  Now I know that when a sample offer comes, I am picky.  I truly only accept it if it is something I can NOT do on my own.  And the salti-fied, tasteless?  Need not apply.

Just because we eat gluten free doesn’t mean we don’t have taste buds.

 

 

Is it just me or are the absolute to-die-for gluten free prepared foods also the ones with the most limited market range?  There used to be a product called Dragon Toast – offered out of Portland.  It was great – and simple.  But once they got recognized, they got overwhelmed.  It crashed.  They just couldn’t produce the quantity people wanted to buy.  And maybe that’s the trick.  The companies that are able to meet the huge, growing demand for gluten free foods are simply not always able to maintain the standard.  Or at least, that is my experience.

Maybe when the market gets more saturated, those companies will have to step it up and the quality will become more stable?

 

Have  you  seen it?  The “Gluten Free” or “Naturally Gluten Free” label on things that are head-slappingly obvious?  (Like the potato in my produce department (and/or the email from the potato council, not kidding either).  Next time, I will take a picture.)  Here’s the kicker for me:  when the newly labeled gluten free food item suddenly costs more than before it was labeled as such.

Dear Marketers:  Don’t play on the “fear” factor.  These are real health issues for us.  The GF label should be meaningful and helpful.  Do us a favor, support the GF Labeling laws.  Add your comments to the mix.  But don’t treat us poorly.  We are a serious cash-cow for your business when you treat us as intelligent consumers and not mindless purchasers.  TYVM

 

 

And as for my motto:  Just because it is gluten free doesn’t me I have to eat it?
That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to try – or come back to things to try them again.

Like that polenta.  An item I forced myself to eat even though I didn’t like just because it was easy and naturally gluten free.  But now?  I’m growing up, I guess.  My taste buds have changed and I like it!  (Well, at least when prepared like this.)

But it does mean i feel SO MUCH LESS pressure when shopping nowadays.  It used to be that when you found a GF item – you would buy in bulk because who knew when you would be back again or find it again.  And now, I am fortunate enough to live near a GF market and to be able to find GF items in common markets about town.  My reality is so different from 12 years ago.  Thank goodness.

Tomorrow we set off on our first  adventure (read 4 day mini-vacation) since 2003 (or 2005…. but that was for my brother’s funeral).  I recently posted my anxiety on Facebook.  And then I googled the Las Vegas airport (layover/lunch).  Several websites popped up telling me the three restaurants in the airport that serve actually GF food (not just ‘salads”).  Really?  I’m done worrying.  I’m still packing my snack pack with nuts, cheese and fruit.  But years ago, I think I packed sandwiches etc for the long flight back to Chicago and Minnesota.

So – a shout out to all of us:  Let’s hear it for banding together and making GLUTEN FREE work.  We are a hugely diverse community.  There are many voices among us.  Not one speaks for you but your own.  So speak up, people.  Let’s get a GF Labeling Law passed and move forward.

:D

~Kate

 

12 comments on “Six Reasons Why: Just because it’s Gluten Free, doesn’t mean I have to eat it. Right?
  1. Aryn says:

    Have you tried Udi bread? It’s in the gluten-free freezer at Whole Foods and it’s the only edible GF bread I’ve found. It’s still small, and it’s still expensive, but I keep a loaf in the freezer for those “I’m in a rush and need a quick bite” or “I need food to take on a plane” moments. You don’t have to toast it or do anything else to make it edible.

  2. gramps says:

    As an aside, try Blue Diamond Nut Thins. Crackers made from Nuts and Rice, Certified gluten free.
    Pretty good.

  3. Van Johnson says:

    I like Udi’s OK, and very much enjoy Kinnuckinnuck’s brown sandwich bread (except for it’s maddening tendency to stick together) but I am absolutely in love with canyon bakehouse seven grain bread which I only discovered within the past month. Tried one loaf on a lark at whole foods and promptly ordered a dozen for the freezer. First gluten free bread that (to me) is just like a regular loaf of bread. And their hamburger buns!! Spectacular. I took one with me to a barbecue recently and felt sorry for the folks who had the plain white buns. I hope they can handle the demand, because I think as people discover them they are going to be very popular. BTW, Your fabulous oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookies were a game changer for me as well. I keep ziplock bags full of little frozen cookie balls and make one or two at a time for an evening snack. Yum! Give Canyon Ranch a try if you get the chance.

  4. Carol Cripps says:

    I like cornmeal, just not as polenta. As a bowl of mush topped with berries and a little maple syrup – yum. And leftovers poured into a loaf pan and then fried up for breakfast the next morning? *Almost* better than pancakes. But my favourite use is the old-timey dish called scrapple, especially when made with bits of home made sausage and sauteed (or leftover) vegetables have been stirred into it. I’ve seen recipes for cooking pork bones and using the meat and broth, but trust me, go with the sausage. Or leftover ham from Easter.

    As for Udi’s bread, yes, I’ll keep an emergency loaf in the freezer, but the carb/calorie count is way too high for everyday eating. I’ll stick to what I can make I enjoy (why make/eat it at all if I don’t like it?) and keep the calories and carbs where I want them.

  5. Sarah says:

    Out of curiosity- do you make an effort to track your nutritional intake to be sure you are getting enough iron, folate, niacin, zinc, and fiber? More on this at http://www.nutrition.org/blog

  6. Karen says:

    Just discovered your blog, and I’m enjoying catching up. Liked your post a while back on saving money. Agree with your hints. One thing we do which has saved a lot of money is to grind our own flour. We have a Nutrimill grain mill (available at amazon.com) We can get bulk brown rice, Bulk sorghum (from Twin Valley Mills) corn, millet, etc. I keep containers of each flour in the freezer (I have the shelves on the door fitted with freezer jars) and I only have to grind every couple weeks. Others that do a lot of baking might want to try this. An added bonus is that whole grains keep much longer than flour, so you know your flour is fresh.

  7. ghostcrab says:

    I will shamelessly plug the best crackers I have ever eaten – Mary’s Crackers, which also happen to be GF. Everyone I know who has tried them has not been able to stop with just one, whether they need to be GF or not.

    Also, their cookies are pretty good, too. :D

  8. Carol says:

    Just discovered your blog and all I can say is, “Thank you!” I have been GF for 4 years and cook and bake A LOT! I wonder about many of the recipes on GF blogs that I have tried. Often, after one taste, the “delicacy” goes directly into the trash.
    1. My taste buds are not dead.
    2. My family is not GF and I am not going to subject them to poor texture and flavorless recipes.
    3. I admit I have real texture issues and rice flour is like little ball bearings in my mouth. Yuck!
    4. I do not buy into the “food as medicine.” A naturally balanced diet should serve us all well, even if we are gluten free. Moderation is the key.
    5. I buy very few processed GF foods. However…Real Food’s Corn Thins with some peanut butter spread on them are my breakfast every morning and Snyder’s of Hanover’s GF pretzels are really good.

    I look forward to reading your blog and trying your recipes.

  9. allergymom says:

    I just have to chime in on the Udi’s bread too. For my 10 yr ols , who’s never had gluten, I make bread from scratch and she loves it, but my 16 yr old, who just went gluten free 3 years ago can’t stand it. Every once in a while my 16 yr old will taste test a new bread, but until last week she had not cared for a single one. I brought home the new Udi’s hamburger buns (from the freezer section), she tasted it, and I saw a heartwarming twinkle in her eye that I don’t get to see very often anymore when it comes to food. She had three sandwiches last week, and I am just so happy! Oh, one more thing…does anyone know of gluten free saltine style crackers that actually have SALT sprinkled on top? It seems like when it comes to crackers gluten free also means salt free! Thanks. :)

  10. LOL. Great post. I made a chocolate cake yesterday and after trying it I said to my husband, I don’t bake to eat, I bake to try out new things so we can throw this away, can’t we? He said, it’s edible. But I say, just because i have to eat gluten free, doesn’t mean I have to eat edible food. I want to eat delicious food. The cake is iced and sitting there waiting to be eaten. I might eat one more slice and then out it will go.

  11. Rabid says:

    My pet peve is “Gluten Free Cook Books” that have foods that never had gluten in them in the first place. After being diagnosed celiac I went through those same disgusting products. In the interest of helping the gluten free newbies I would like to suggest some products. Two thumbs up for Udi’s. For snacks try Glutino brand crackers and pretzels. When it comes to pasta my choice is Ancient Harvest (Quinoa). The best Chocolate cake I’ve ever had, “bar none”, is King Arthur brand. (if you are watching your cholesterol this one is not for you) You can still eat well and be gluten free.

Got a gluten free crumb to leave behind? Share your thoughts!