Friday, September 10, 2010

A Gluten-Free Guide

 So you have Celiac. Oh no! No food! No bread! NO PIZZA AND BEER!!!!


You can have your food (and pizza and beer) and eat it, and not suffer too!

You have options. Chances are you will have to ask questions when eating out, and will become a label-reading expert, but you can eat pretty darn normally with some hints and practice--and not get glutened at the same time.  You may also find that you have a really hard time eating dairy right now--that will happen most times after eating gluten--give it some time and you probably will have no problem with that glass of milk or bowl of ice cream (assuming the ice cream is GF, of course—no malted milkshakes allowed).

Many restaurants are becoming aware of GF needs, and have separate GF menus. You may have to ask your server specific questions to make sure that your food is safe, even at these places (do you have one frier for both breaded foods and fries/chips?).  Tip your server well and they won't mind asking the cook about ingredients of the day, and don't be afraid to send something back--better to wait than to get glutened. Be VERY careful at buffets as you can never really be sure that something is GF or has not been contaminated by other foods--I do eat at buffets occasionally, but I get to know the places and am VERY careful... and get glutened sometimes anyway.

Here are a few places that cater to GF patrons:
•    P.F.Chang's/PeiWei (GREAT Chinese food, ask for GF soy sauce)
•    Wendy's (Check the website, but they have lots of cheap GF food--the chili is really good)
•    Carraba's (ask for the GF menu)
•    Outback (ask for the GF menu, or check online first, pass on the bread)
•    Red Robin (ask for the GF menu, pass on the fries unless they have a dedicated no-gluten frier)
•    Boston Market (look online, or ask for a GF menu--they tend to be out of the menus though)
•    Chili's (ask for a GF menu, it may take them a few minutes to print one out)
•    Lone Star Steakhouse (ask for GF menu or online)

Yup, options, lots of them. Some are cheaper or tastier than others, but all are gluten free. Here are some Grocery store notes and suggestions

Grocery Stores with many GF options:
•    Sunflower Market (my favorite around here)
•    Trader Joe's (their prices are between Sunflower and Whole Foods)
•    Whole Foods (as a last resort, but they have lots of options)
•    John Brooks/Smiths (each location carries different products--they both accept requests)
• (lots of GF options—and Amazon Prime is free for anyone with a .edu email address right now)

So now that you know where you can find GF foods, what can you eat?

Here are some easy and naturally gluten free foods that are easy to keep around the house:
•    White/Brown Rice (good for use like oatmeal)
•    Corn Grits/Polenta/Masa (careful--some brands have flour contamination, but most are fine)
•    Beans, Potatoes, Corn, Veggies, millet, quinoa
•    Lettuce (as sandwich wrappers they work great)
•    All Chex cereals (except, of course, the wheat chex)**only the brand name ones are GF***
•    block cheese (except for blue cheese and other veined cheese)
•    Corn Chips (almost all brands--if you get them in a restaurant they may be contaminated from the fryer)
•    Frozen Fries/Tater Tots (Ore-Ida brand is safe, as long as fried in oil that has not had gluten products fried in it)
•    Yogurt (check for modified food starch--yoplait is okay, as is the Walmart brand and Dannon)
•    Vinegars (all except malt vinegars or flavored vinegars with "malt" in the ingredients)
•    Mayo/Miracle Whip
•    Corn Tortillas (make VERY sure they don't have flour in there as a binder)
•    Buckwheat (even though "wheat" is there...but not buckwheat pancake mix, sorry)
•    Jello Puddings and Jello (except for cookies and cream, check new flavors their starch is all corn)
•    Handi-snacks puddings (except for cookies and cream and tapioca, starch is corn)
•    Larabars--instant meal bars
•    "Imagine" Chicken Broth (and I believe their beef broth too)
•    "Pacific" broths
•    "Better Than Bullion"stock base (not the pork or seafood versions)
•    "Kraft" Brand products (all are labeled clearly if any gluten ingredients are used)—they even have some new hamburger helpers that are GF
•    Kroger Scalloped Potatoes (at last look had no gluten ingredients in it--seen at Smith's)

Easy GF Foods (and Brands when I have a preference)

•    Rice Pasta (Tinkiyada is a great brand that doesn't get mushy):
•    Bread (Udi's Whole Grain is great and not cardboard like most GF"breads", fairly affordable too, or Glutino's Raisin Bread for french toast)
•    Bob's Red Mill GF hot cereal (like oatmeal, but cheaper than GF certified oats)
•    Crackers (Glutino is good, as are the crackers at Costco/Sams though though they tend to be harder)
•    EnviroKids products (granola bars as well as flavored cereals, expensive but handy)
•    Nature's Path GF Cereals (Maple Sunrise and their Corn flakes are great, but expensive)

Frozen/Instant GF Food:
•    Amy's Kitchen (labeled clearly, and okay food, but not great)
•    India Kitchen (Very tasty Indian food)
•    Glutino (okay, and often on sale at Sunflower market)
•    Thai Kitchen Noodle Soups (the little rice noodle ones, cheap and quick food--NOT the udon soups)
•    Pamela's mini cookies (the larger cookies are not as good)

Tasty GF Mixes:
•    GF Bisquick
•    Glutino/Gluten Free Pantry Mixes (bread, pie crust, pizza crust, they all work well here)
•    Betty Crocker White and Chocolate Cake Mixes (the brownies suck, good yellow cake)**many canned frostings are also GF)
•    Pamela's Chocolate Cake Mix (Best Ever Chocolate GF Cake, okay white cake)
•    Chebe Bread (Good for breadsticks and making crackers, lousy for pizza crusts and rolls)
•    Pamela's Baking Mix (very good)

Here are some things to not buy:
•    most frozen pizzas. They are like chewing on expensive cardboard, but work if you REALLY need pizza, or a quick pizza crust (other than the recipe for home made later on here).
•    brown rice tortillas. You can find them frozen if you are really craving a burrito, but they are just not the same. I can't figure out a good homemade recipe for flour tortillas. Corn tortillas normally are GF--always check or ask.

Booze options:
If you see "malt" in the name, it is not gf (look for more info)—this includes Smirnoff Ice, B&J coolers, and Jack Daniel’s Punch

***all distilled booze is technically gluten free, but many companies add back in flavorings and non-distilled alcohols to get their products, so you might have to watch yourself VERY carefully, especially with flavored alcohols like Chambord or flavored rums/vodkas, and some people (like me) can’t tolerate even “pure” distilled grain alcohols like Smirnoff Vodkas***

•    Redbridge beer (I believe it is a Anheiser-Busch product)
•    Bard's Tale Beer (this can be hard to find)
•    Hard Ciders (check the label as usual, but most hard ciders—not flavored beers—are safe)
•    wine (not wine coolers or flavored malt beverage)
•    port/brandy/fortified wines (really sweet and tasty)
•    Capt Morgan Rums (and all non-flavored rums from sugarcane)
•    Tequila (all from Agave)
•    Mead (from Honey)
•    Sake (rice wine)—not all rice beers are safe, most use barley as a base
•    Kahlua (Bailey’s MAY be safe, but only if your system tolerates the distilled whiskey)
•    Southern Comfort
•    Frangelico
•    Vodka (made of corn mostly, and some is from wheat—rarely potatoes—especially watch the flavored ones, since they never list ingredients)
o    Smirnoff Ice is never safe—it is a malt beverage
•    Gin (should be safe, but is normally cut with other grain alcohols)
•    Whisky/Scotch (made from gluten grains, but if fully distilled they can be okay for some people—sadly not safe for me, at least not on my budget)

Okay, lets go on to the depressing list

Here are the words to look out for on menus and ingredients:
•    Flour—assume that it is wheat, whether enriched, whole, or high protein
•    Malt--usually barley malt, and seen in many cereals, teas, and drinks
•    Barley, Wheat, Spelt, Rye, semolina, Durum, Triticale
•    modified food starch (Kraft will label this if it is from a gluten grain)
•    Oats (contaminated with wheat unless SPECIFICALLY called GF—and those are really expensive)
•    Couscous (pasta)
•    Textured Vegetable Protein (it may be from soy only, but normally is wheat and soy)—the foods that can sneak in gluten without even a thought
•    Natural Flavors (can be anything from corn, to roasted wheat, to petroleum products—check online for each brand's definition)

Commonly Glutened foods:
•    Cream of X Soup--including Tomato Soup (flour thickened)
•    Ice Cream (can be thickened with flour or have flavored gluten bits) (Most fast food ice cream is okay, skip the oreos)
•    Sausages and Processed Meats (modified food starch, check label or check online for more info)
•    Soy Sauce (some are just soy, like many store brands, so check the label)
•    Krab (the fake crab)
•    Wasabe paste
•    Shredded Cheese (look for the word "cellulose" or "modified food starch" thickened sauces/soups (mostly thickened with flour--ask the cook or read label)
•    Rice Krispies (barley malt)
•    Corn Flakes (malt flavoring)
•    many rice cakes (flavorings or malt)
•    Rice-A-Roni (has pasta with the rice)
•    Flavored Tea (check bottles or bags for barley malt flavoring)
•    Mustard (check and see if it has flour, most yellow mustards are fine)
•    Red/Green Chilie sauce—many are thickened with flour (like 505 brand, and about half of the restaurants I have talked to)
•    Bacon Bits (the little fake Bac'O's are bound with flour)
•    Subway (they all touch the bread, then dive into the bins with crumbs--it is just not safe, no matter how careful you are)
•    Crisp Rice (barley malt)--ALWAYS will have barley malt unless labeled GF
•    licorice (all soft licorice has flour)
Taco Seasoning (thickener)
•    Envelope lick-and-stick glue (sad but true--just use a damp sponge instead if licking
•    no-stick spray (some contains flour as an all-in-one no-stick baking product)

Needed items for GF cooking (especially for breads and desserts)
•    fine ground white rice flour (basic grocery store)
•    fine ground brown rice flour (basic grocery store sometimes, otherwise Sunflower or Whole Foods)
•    Xanthan Gum (Bob's Red Mill at basic grocery store—needed for bread-like stickiness)
•    Cornstarch (I get the big Sam's box because it is used a lot as a flour more than a thickener)
•    Tapioca starch/flour (Bob's red mill from reg. grocery)
•    Potato Starch (not potato flour, can be substituted 1 for 1 with Tapioca/corn starch in most cases, Bob's Red Mill makes it)
•    corn meal, corn flour (basic grocery store)
•    powdered milk/buttermilk (Excellent for adding binder and flavor to cooked goods)

Good to have:
•    Sorghum Flour (Bob's Red Mill--excellent for breads)
•    powdered egg whites (good as a binder for breads, coatings, and cookies)

Helpful Cookbooks/Authors

#1 Bette Hagman "Gluten-Free Gourmet" series (my favorite so far is "More From the GF Gourmet", excellent recipes for breads and alternate forms of everyday foods like Cream of X soup base. Most of the ingredients are easy to find. The fresh egg noodle recipe is great!

#2 Donna Washburn and Heather Butt "125 Best Gluten-Free Recipes" (this is my go-to for pizza crust)

General Notes for cooking:
•    When measuring the flours (many of which are fine powder starches), lightly spoon the flours into the measuring cup--don't pack at all.
•    Use white rice flour to make a roux for thickening, just like you would with white flour, or mix cornstarch and cool liquid and add to the sauce (bring to a boil to thicken completely).
•    Use tortilla chip crumbs instead of bread crumbs for crunchy breading
•    either clean bakeware VERY well (especially those crevices on folded pans), or purchase a special set just for GF cooking, use paper liners for muffins/cupcakes
•    If people are baking/using regular flour—stay away from the kitchen until the dust settles for a while. Breathing in the flour is enough to get gluten in your system from your sinuses (I speak from experience here—took me a while to figure it out too)

If you want GF versions of specific recipes, feel free to contact me and I can see if A: I have a recipe already tested for high altitude/New Mexican flavors (like rellenos); or B: if I can approximate a starting place or find a close alternative (so far no good replacement for tortillas).

(I wrote this guide for a friend of a friend. The woman was just diagnosed with Celiac, was 21, and a mother of a toddler—the last thing she had time for was muddling through learning a new way to eat with no help. It has taken me two years to get this far in gluten-free living, so I might as well share the information that I have gained in that time.)

A few disclaimers—I am not related in any way to any of the products, companies, or brands that I have listed here except as a purchaser of their wares/services.  I am just spreading the information that I have gathered over the time I have spent gluten-free. And as always, this is not medical information and is not meant to treat or cure any condition--ask your doctor if you have questions about treating Celiac or gluten intolerance