Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Gluten Free Good Finds

First and foremost I would like to apologize for my absence. This has been an extremely busy time for us, as it probably has for most. Between the holiday season, and anyone who has children knows how much work the most wonderful time of the year is, as well as a busy period at work, and the wonderful news of our newest expected member of the family (and all of the lovely fatigue and morning sickness) I haven't had two minutes to accomplish anything it seems.

Feeling better now though, thank god, and with the new year having begun, things have settled. Having been greatly effected by a lack of hours in a day, and knowing that I am not the only one, I got to thinking about all of the staples that I keep in my pantry to help me through week night dinners, rushed mornings and on the go snack times. I have weeded through countless products and tossed away very hard earned money just to be disappointed again and again by grainy, dense products that are allowed to be sold at twice the cost because they are "specialty items".

I have found some diamonds in the rough though, and I would like to share them with you to save some frustration from your transitions into gluten free casein free living. Even if you are already well established in this sort of diet, perhaps there is a product or two you have overlooked. Feel free to leave a comment with some of your favorites as well.

picture from someecards.com

And on with the list....

I cannot live without pasta. Can't and won't. Also every time Little Man gets pasta for dinner he exclaims: "I Yuv Pasta Mummy!"
My favorite brand and type of pasta for a traditional tomato based sauce is "Organics" brand brown rice fusilli.
When cooked correctly and thoroughly rinsed it is quite nice and lends itself to both hot and cold pasta dishes. I have served this to a few skeptics, without them knowing and received nothing but praise and empty plates. When I am preparing a lighter style sauce, like an oil and garlic, I actually prefer rice stick noodles. You know the kind you get in your pad Thai? Well, same ones. They are beautifully textured and can be finished in the sauce itself to soak it up. I have even served these to Little man with tomato sauce as "spaghetti" and he gobbled it up.

When I am out in the grocery store and I need to grab something to put on a slice of toast, I go for "Becel" vegan margarine. It tastes no different and behaves no different then any other margarine I've had. When baking I prefer "Earth Balance". This also comes in soy free, which I like because soy is the food of the devil, get into that another day, but mainly I like it because it comes in pre-measured sticks of 1/2 cup, just like butter. It is also firm like butter so you can use it in pastry and cookies without a gooey mess. I do have to say though, As much as these products are very convenient, and we do use them, they are man made and therefore not the greatest to put into your body in my opinion. Most of this stuff is canola and/or soy based, two foods near the top of the GMO list. So when I can, I like to use Ghee. For those who don't know, ghee is clarified butter. This means that the milk solids have been separated from the fat. The casein is in the milk solids which are discarded of, leaving you with a tummy friendly REAL butter flavour which I do almost all of my cooking with. It has a wonderfully high smoke point and a delicious taste.
***Disclaimer: Ghee when made correctly is casein free, not dairy free. Ghee Can be made at home, however straining of all protein is not guaranteed. You can purchase certified casein free ghee online  HERE and many other places.

OK, so I have bought loaf after loaf of inedible bricks called bread from grocery stores, farmers markets, specialty stores, etc. and only one brand has satisfied my little guy. I always have a bag of "Udi's" whole grain bread in my freezer. It can be eaten without toasting, and when you do toast it, it only goes down once, as apposed to the three times I need to toast other brands for before they begin to brown. I have even made french toast with this bread and it went over quite well. Udi's also makes bagels, hot dog and hamburger buns.

Ask any three year old, and cookies are a must have on hand. I do like to bake cookies for the kids, but I don't always have time, and sometimes I do but just don't want to. (Don't judge)
I have found a pretty good "Oreo" type cookie to have around that the kids, all of them, love. Even I have dipped into them and been quite satiated when looking for a little late night sugar fix. The brand is "kinnikinnick" and the cookie is called "kinnitoos". Mouthful, I know, but don't let that scare you away. These are gluten free, dairy free, preservative free, and nut free. Omnom away cookie monster.

So little man doesn't really dig any of the non flavoured milk alternatives straight out of the carton, but that's OK with me. When he wants a glass of milk he gets "Silk True Almond" dark chocolate. It is sinfully chocolaty, but is also loaded with tons of calcium, protein, and vitamins. For pretty much anything else I use coconut milk, and occasionally unsweetened almond milk. I love coconut milk because it is delicious, creamy, rich and the fat in coconuts is very good for you. coconut milk makes lovely ice cream, adds beautiful texture and richness to curry, is super easy in hot cocoa, and even whips up nicely to dollop on some berries. Any brand that you prefer of coconut milk is fine, just don't buy light. It is the fat that makes it so amazing, and not all fat is bad.

Ice Cream:
OK, so these are a bit of a splurge, but they're worth it. "SO Good" makes a coconut milk chocolate coated ice cream on a stick, and it is in my opinion as good as the haagen dazs ones that they charge the same amount for. I have only recently found these, and am very glad I did. The first time I handed little man one for eating all of his dinner, his eyes lit up, and he asked me three times if it was for him. After the final confirmation he bit into it and said "mmmm, ouscweem mummy, dewishis". I of course had to find out for myself, and when I couldn't help but find myself agreeing with this statement I decided that daddy mustn't know; Then there would be none left. It's nice to know that i can grab one of these out of the freezer if we are taking the kids out for ice cream, and no one, especially Max man, will know he's not getting the same. We also keep different brands and flavours of sorbet on hand for a refreshing bowl of fruity goodness.

Hot Dogs and Lunch Meats:
There are many Natural lines of all the major processed meat companies now. Choose your favorite, or do what I do and buy what's on sale. Just be sure to read the ingredients carefully, but most brands are gluten and dairy free. They also contain only natural ingredients and no sulfites. I prefer these regardless of dietary restrictions. Just a healthier choice all around. Kids are going to eat hot dogs sometimes, great now that they're a bit better for you.

The best product I have come across so far for a yogurt type snack is "Amande" cultured almond milk. It comes in a variety of flavours, and is creamy and tangy. It is soy free, dairy free, non-GMO, gluten free, sweetened with fruit juice, and contains 6 live active cultures (there are those wonderful probiotics again.) This product is a bit pricey, but good and good for you.

Please keep in mind that we do live in Canada, and not all brands will be available to everyone. With the beauty of the Internet now though, even if you can't find something locally, you can usually find it online. Once again please feel free to share some of your favorites or any other input.

*******I am in no way affiliated with any of the named brands, I am speaking from personal experience and preference alone. My opinions are just that, my opinions.***********