Gluten-Free: It’s an Evolution

There are many benefits of eliminating gluten from your diet, but it can be hard to know where to begin.  Time and time again I am told, “Oh I could never go gluten-free, it would be so hard.” To which my response is always, “It takes time to get used to but as you go it gets really easy.” The next thing I receive often is the question of which gluten-free products I like, or ways to replace different glutenous options. Going gluten-free was definitely an evolution for me, as most things are. So, here I want to share the products I like, as well as pieces of my evolution to hopefully save some time and tinkering for others.

When beginning a gluten-free journey, it can be easiest to first simply replace your favorite glutenous items. So, search out gluten-free bread, pasta, cookies, and the list goes on. Once a person is living a gluten-free lifestyle for some, time they often evolve to eating fewer grain-type foods in general, so the replacements aren’t as important.

Let’s start there: my favorite replacement brands.

Some gluten free products

Some gluten free products

For pasta, my favorite brand is Tinkyada. This pasta fools those who say they would never be gluten-free. It is easy to make. I suggest following the instructions to get the best results (this is important with gluten-free products because they don’t hold up well when overcooked). Tinkyada is simply brown rice and water, except for their vegetable spirals. I have tried probably about 5 different brands and this is the one that comes away as the winner. It is not super awesome cold, if you like cold pasta leftovers, but it usually reheats well with just a little oil in a pan.  This brand makes spaghetti, lasagna, noodles for homemade macaroni n cheese, and the list goes on.

Next, bread. My two favorite brands are Rudi’s and Udi’s. I like the ingredients of Rudi’s better because they do not use corn syrup, only molasses. What I do not like about Rudi’s is that it can be really hard to break apart when frozen and wanting to quickly make a piece of toast. However, it does have good bread quality and can be used for sandwiches or toast without seeming like a complete gluten imposter. Udi’s breaks apart better when frozen and is a little bit more like ‘normal’ bread than Rudy’s, though comparable. What I do not like about Udi’s is that there is a tiny amount of corn syrup. Another bread option is to check out if you have some paleo bread options in your area. They are often made from almond and coconut flour, with some other goodies like flax and eggs. I love the ingredients in these breads, and have made one from scratch. I like these for things like toast with butter or nut butter, but I do not like them for sandwiches; I find them to be too dense. However, some people love them and they rise above the others based on their ingredients. There are other companies that make good gluten-free brands, like The French Meadow Bakery, but these types of things are only going to be accessible in certain areas so I won’t list all of them here.

Bagels, Baguettes and Pizza.  The winner is Against the Grain.  My favorite is their Pesto Pizza and their bagels. Yummy! The pizza crust is thin and gets crispy when cooked on the rack. I make the pizza in the toaster oven sometimes and the crust is more doughy than in the oven and still so delicious. Everyone who I have known to try the pizza likes it. The bagels are similar to the pizza crust, so if you like one you will most likely like the other. They get kind of buttery when toasted and are so very good with just butter or with a favorite topping. The baguettes are also similar to the other bread products, and are a good replacement to make little baguette snacks or to have along side an Italian dish.

Crackers. I have found a few that are good for me, based on taste and ingredients. I also have made one recipe that I really liked. These Brown Rice Snaps are my favorite for a dipping cracker that is not too flavorful. Some may find them to be too bland. However, I love them for eating with sardines, or dipping into hummus. I also don’t mind them plain, and they have other yummy flavors. I like that they are simply brown rice; no worries about crazy ingredients. Mary’s Gone Crackers is another brand which has more of an earthy flavor. Some may like that while others may think it’s too ‘health food’ tasting. Personally I really like them. They are good plain, as well as dipped in things like hummus or with cheese or avocado slices.

As I transition from specific products to flour options for baking our own goodies, I want to remind everyone that just because it says Gluten Free it does not mean that it is Good For You. There are many products that have miscellaneous ingredients or fillers that one who is seeking health would want to avoid. So, read your labels. Also, there are numerous products that are made from corn, which is a highly genetically modified food, so check for non-GMO labels, especially the non-GMO project labels!

Some gluten free flours

Some gluten free flours

OK, as we step into baking our own goodies, I want to share how I began. I went on different gluten-free mommy blogs and other pages and found numerous recipes, all of which required flour blending and most often, xanthan gum. The main flour blend I have used and found to be good was the combination of white rice flour, tapioca, and sorghum. There is an amazing recipe for black bottom cupcakes where I’ve stuck with this blend. However, as I have reached for optimal health, I have wanted to veer away from grains and felt a bit weird using not-so-nutrient-dense flours for my baking, while at the same time I stumbled upon Almond Flour. If I were to do it again, I would go straight to using almond flour, and on occasion add another flour like coconut.

Almond flour does not require the addition of xanthan gum to create nummy textures. It can often be used as a 1:1 conversion for ‘normal’ glutenous recipes, though this is not the case with every recipe. It is also protein-rich so it’s a great substitute so a person can make snacks that are good for you. My favorite is making almond muffins. These are a great option for those who like a ‘bread thing’ for breakfast. Almond flour, and coconut, can also be used to create some tasty pancakes. Again, these pancakes would be rich in protein and something you can feel good about eating to start your day. Elana’s Pantry is a great blog for nourishing, whole food gluten-free recipes.

There are other flours out there. Arrowroot is one which I hear goes well with almond and coconut and I plan on experimenting with it in the near future. I have used garbanzo bean flour, which I think would be good in small quantities, mixed with a nut flour, but is not a good option for 1:1 conversion. I also have really liked using hazelnut flour for things like cookies. It is a strong flavor though so needs to be used accordingly. For instance, I used a half hazelnut, half almond blend for some chocolate chip cookies. The cookies tasted like nutella because of the hazelnut and chocolate blend. I have also made those cookies with only the hazelnut which enhanced that nutella taste. I like both.

Also, when it comes to flours, I have had success with using white rice flour or a non-GMO corn starch to thicken things, such as gravies. Or for instance, I have a macaroni and cheese recipe that calls for a small amount of flour to thicken the cheese sauce.  In situations like this I reach for white rice flour, because it doesn’t have a strong flavor.

Overall it is still a taste and try situation, because we all have different tastebuds. But it is my hope that this will help some of you find some tasty things, before you go through brand after brand and get discouraged about being gluten-free.  Going gluten-free is an evolution, and with this in mind, you can do it!

Delicious blueberry muffins made with almond flour, and flax seed as an egg replacement

Delicious blueberry muffins made with almond flour, and flax seed as an egg replacement

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Categories: Crystal

Author:Crystal

I’m Crystal. I’m a Momma, Lover/Partner, Gemini, Number 9, Vata, Fairy Goddess, Healer, doula, writer, artist, placenta remedy creator, educator and student (I teach others as I learn and both are forever happening). I do my best to live this life in every moment and maintain as much peace and balance within myself as possible. And then I remember that I am human. I feel as though I embody many different faces and with this I have a wide range of skills and interests. My number one role is that of Mother. I am (and have been since birth) with my daughter (who is currently a couple months past 3 years old) almost 24/7. We unschool so I am constantly learning! As is she. I view parenthood as the epitome of stepping outside of oneself and embodying empathy and compassion.

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6 Comments on “Gluten-Free: It’s an Evolution”

  1. April 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Thank you for the great info. We are relatively new to GFCF and the learning curve can be daunting.

    • April 10, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

      You’re welcome. Congratulations on stepping into the GFCF world! There is a lot of information out there and thankfully a lot of wonderful recipes. I do find that it’s easier to eat at home than out, but really that’s what’s better for our health anyway so I don’t mind. Good luck on your journey!

  2. April 11, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    I was wondering if you could substitute brown rice flour for the white rice flour? Thanks for the great information.

    • April 11, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

      You can but it does change things a little bit. I haven’t used it a lot because I switched to almond as primary pretty quickly in my experimentation, but I have liked it (brown rice) with blends for things like pancakes. I have not used it as a thickener however, and the texture that comes with white rice flour is unique which makes me think the brown may be a bit odd for thickening, however if you have it on hand give it a try ;)

  3. susan fink
    July 18, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

    My daughter recommended this page. My son is 9. He has celiac and psoriatic arthritis.we ..he has been gluten free for less then a month. I’m finding it difficult. He hates the bread even the ones you mentioned. He also is having bad bathroom issues since going gluten free to the point he bleeds and I have to give him Miralax ..my 13 old as well same issue with the bathroom. We trying to go gluten free with him..but have cheated when he is not with us.any pointers would help. I’m learning how to cook..again…and not out of a box..ugh

    • July 19, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

      It is intense stepping into the gf world and cooking more things from scratch!
      I would suggest utilizing a probiotic (Garden of LIfe is one of my favorite companies) to help his gut heal as well as having the good bacteria help move things more easily.

      It sounds like you would benefit from a specific plan for your son/you to follow for this transition and gut healing, in which case I would recommend seeing a naturopath or a nutrition consultant. (Kristen Tea, on this page, does nutrition guidance counseling sessions and would be a good option if you do not have someone in your area).

      Healing the gut takes time and it will get easier as things evolve.

      I would also suggest checking out other blogs like elanaspantry.com and zenbellyblog.com for more recipes. Elana’s pantry has other bread recipes. Since the store bought ones often need to be toasted, they may work better for your son-especially if he is used to non-toasted bread for sandwiches etc.
      [We post recipes on here too, but we post about a wide range of healthy/parenting topics so they are a bit more sporadic, but you can always search our page for new gf recipes].

      There are also other brands that are tasty, such as King Arthur’s for brownies. They lack the nutrition density that I prefer so I didn’t list any of them because I use them very rarely, but they may be a good option for you as you get more accustomed to creating the meals/baked goods from scratch-that way you can sometimes still use a box ;)

      I would also suggest finding a support group-meaning a gluten free facebook group or people in person that have begun this journey as well. They would be a great resource for more ideas as well as support during those really tough days.

      Way to go on finding ways to improve your son’s health!! Good luck-you can do it!

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