A number of years ago when Jensen’s Atopic Dermatitis was incorrectly diagnosed with food allergies, I became pretty well versed with what Wheat Free, Gluten Free, and Dairy Free products were decent.
After we found out his issues were topical only, I reverted back to cooking with glee, using whatever I found in my refrigerator that didn’t bite me first. The glory years of cooking. Fraught with pre-packaged meals that very likely had a shelf life longer than me.
Now as I face my own health issues concerning R.A., my doctor has recommended that I cut dairy, wheat & gluten out of my diet.
Goodbye ChocoVine, so long Oreos, adios columns of Ritz Crackers that simply melted on my tongue.
Instead of concentrating on what I can’t have right now, I’m trying to play up all of the good products that I’m finding. And I wanted to share a few with you, because I’m amazed at how many people are also having to avoid this in their diet.
Baking Mix: I discovered Fearn Brown Rice Baking Mix years ago. I’ve kept it on my shelf, even when I didn’t have to worry about gluten because I love it so. It makes the most excellent pancakes. There is also a muffin and bread recipe on the package as well. And happily, I recently discovered that Wal-Mart carries this.
Cake & Muffin Mixes: Namaste Foods makes the most amazing product when it comes to an easy flavored baking mix. I have found this at our tiny health food store (what I would not give for a Whole Foods Market in this town) and it’s a little pricey, but worth the splurge. My favorite is the Spice Cake Mix flavor. I make muffins from this mix, adding a little pureed pumpkin and protein powder. It makes a rather large batch, so I’m able to freeze a few for later.
Protein Powder: This is a must have in my pantry. I’ve used this brand faithfully for the last number of years, even when I wasn’t wheat free. NutriBriotic makes a Vegan Rice Protein Powder, and I keep it in both vanilla and chocolate. The vanilla flavor works well in pancake and muffins. I use the chocolate flavor in my peanut butter/banana protein shakes. Now I simply use soy, instead of cow’s milk.
Pasta: Rice pasta is tricky. I’ve tasted some brands that I think we’re made from my children’s Elmer’s glue. I’ve found one brand that I love even more than wheat pasta. Tinkyada makes not only rice spaghetti, elbow macaroni, but also rice lasagna noodles. My children actually prefer this over wheat, and I’ve been able to find it a Wal-Mart. It cooks a little bit longer than regular pasta, but the taste is always better.
Chips: I’ve completely let go of my obsession with whole grain tortilla chips. We found a brand of brown rice crisps called Riceworks, in a Sea Salt flavor. There are no preservatives and the flavor is wonderful. I’ve found these also at Wal-Mart. Frankly, I’m pleasantly surprised at the variety of wheat/gluten free products I’ve been able to buy there.
Cereal: This is a tough one, because I am a cereal FANatic. I’m still able to eat gluten free Rice Chex, but I’ve also found a cereal that takes me right back to my youth. Envirokidz makes an organic gluten free cereal called Gorilla Munch. I swear to you it tastes like Captain Crunch. I eat it sparingly because it has 8 grams of sugar in a 3/4 cup serving. But at least that sugar is from organic evaporated cane juice. And I’m able to buy it also at Wal-Mart.
Tortillas: I make a chalupas every chance I get. I love Amy’s Organic Black Refried Beans (can), on top of a brown rice tortilla made by Food for Life. I have to spring for these at the health food store, but I can buy a few packages and freeze them. My favorite way to eat them is to first saute them in a little extra virgin olive oil to harden them up.
Bread: Does it occur to anyone that I may be a little carb-centric? I love my carbs. I do have to limit them somewhat, but these rice based products make me feel like I’m not deprived. I truly believe that most rice breads are made by the makers of styrofoam. With only a few exceptions. A brand called Udi’s makes the most amazing gluten free/dairy free sandwich bread bread. I have only found this in the health food store.
Margarine: I thought I would never find a margarine that I liked as well as my old standby Smart Balance. However, Earth Balance makes a wonderful vegan (and soy free) buttery spread made from natural vegetable oils. I can also use it in my cooking. Make sure you get the red package. And I’ve found it at Wal-Mart for about $3.00.
Treats: I’ve never met a dessert I didn’t like. I have to have a few treats stashed about so that I don’t feel like someone is torturing me by taking away my ChocoVine. Pamela’s makes a delightful Chunky Chocolate Chip cookie that is wheat, gluten, and dairy free. I limit myself to one a day. My will power, it has at last returned.
And since I’m confessing my dessert sins, I will tell you that I keep a small container of Haagen-Dazs all natural Mango Sorbet in the freezer. Hidden behind the frozen broccoli, so that no one is the wiser. I have days that a spoon and the sorbet are the only thing standing between me and a padded cell. There. Confession is good for the soul.
Cheese: I’m a cheese head. I love cheese. I love to cook with cheese. So this is a tough one. I’ve tried rice based cheese products, and frankly, well, I hate them. Recently I was reading about a gluten, soy, and dairy free cheese by Daiya. Fiddledaddy just found it at the health food store and brought it home for me to peruse. I tasted it, and did not want to rip out my tongue. It will do very nicely, and it even melts. I’ve only tried the Mozzarella, but will be looking for other flavors.
Frozen Meals: In a pinch, I’ve come to love an occasional organic Amy’s Frozen meal. Some are only gluten free, some are only dairy free, but there are a few that cover both territories. My kids adore their burritos.
We’ve also made the decision to use more organic fruits and vegetables, as well as organic chicken and ground turkey. This has been an eye opening experience looking for the best prices. I tell you what, when you pay $6.00 for a small package of organic chicken breasts, you pay extra careful attention to your culinary skills and allow NOTHING to go to waste. And yes, I admit it, the taste of the organic is definitely better.
This is all a learning experience. I’m having to re-think everything I cook, but in the long run, I know I will be serving healthier meals for my family. And perhaps expediting my own healing as I traverse the winding path of finding my way back to health from R.A.
If you have any tried and true products that are wheat/gluten/dairy free that you’ve found (as well as cookbooks), I’d LOVE to hear about them!
For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, head on over to Kristen’s at We Are THAT Family.