Saturday, August 2, 2014

Can I be a [gluten-free] foodie?

Can I be a [gluten-free] foodie?
the crossroads where diet meets desire

If you do a quick Google search of the term "foodie," you will immediately be greeted by these definitions:
  • (n.) a person with a particular interest in food; a gourmet (
  • (n.) a douchebag who likes food (
  • (n.) a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages (

At first glance, the idea seems fairly straightforward: foodies like food. Therefore, being a foodie shouldn't involve much more than an appetite and a desire to try something new. As you explore the concept, however, things start to get a little more complicated. The Wikipedia entry on foodies, for example, goes on to say, "Typical foodie interests and activities include the food industry, wineries and wine tasting, breweries and beer sampling, food science, following restaurant openings and closings and occasionally reopenings, food distribution, food fads, health and nutrition, cooking classes, culinary tourism, and restaurant management." Wowza. That is quite the list of interestes, and some of it seems a bit exclusionary--at least, for me. 

I mean, can you be a foodie if you say no to every wine list, reject every plate of fromage (that's cheese for you non-foodie types), and shudder at the thought of biting into a flaky French pastry, colon-damaging gluten oozing from every pore? I'm Mormon and therefore a teetotaler, lactose intolerant to the point that too much milk chocolate gets me gassy, and a celiac. When you eliminate alcohol, dairy, and gluten, what is there left for a gourmet to enjoy?

Plenty, I tell you:

  • Scouring the internet (Okay--Pinterest) for delicious, yet approachable, recipes that meet my dietary requirements
  • Inventing new non-alcoholic beverages, like Obsessions (Sprite, non-dairy ice cream & orange juice) & taste-testing every variety of non-alcoholic sparkling cider
  • Sharing the joy of a newly-discovered, celiac-friendly restaurant with my family and friends (especially those who are also gluten-free)
  • Discovering new gluten-free products--baking mixes, flour blends, pastas, whole-grain cereals, sausages, granola bars, GoPicnic lunches--You name it, I've gotten excited about finding a gluten-free version of it!
  • Tweaking recipes and simple meals to add my own flair and an extra dash of flavor
  • Enjoying the many foods I actually can eat (and it is more than you might think)
    • Hummus 
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables in all their varieties (I could list my favorites all day)
    • Smoothies 
    • Indian food 
    • Homemade coconut ice cream 
    • Dark chocolate 
    • Steak
    • Rice
    • Potatoes
    • All-fruit popsicles
    • Coconut
    • Herbs & spices
    • Garlic
    • Quinoa & other gluten-free grains
    • Eggs
    • And many more!
  • And, and what else?
Okay, so maybe my list looks a little measly compared to what you might find on the pages of Food & Wine, and I may not be able to enjoy every dish that calls to me from the latest cookbook or food blog. But I enjoy eating. I enjoy trying new things. Food and I, we're good friends. Isn't that enough to make me a foodie?

Well, I want to say yes, but the truth is--probably not. Food allergies and an aversion to alcohol don't have to be obstacles on the road to foodie heaven. In fact, G-Free Foodie is dedicated to that very concept (well, at least the gluten-free side of things). They have recipes, a restaurant guide, a shop, and most interestingly--a program called G-Free Foodie Box Club that delivers "a curated collection of the most delectable artisan foods" straight to your door (for a fee, of course). So, yes, being gluten-free AND a foodie is POSSIBLE; however, MY enjoyment of eating and trying new things is not quite enough to classify me (personally) as a foodie--at least, not yet.

While I love food, I don't exactly love cooking. Sometimes it's the idea of shopping for unfamiliar ingredients that leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Other times it's a lack of confidence in my cooking skills or culinary knowledge that makes me wilt before a challenging recipe. And if I'm being totally honest, I have some form of culinary ADD. Frankly speaking, if a recipe has more than about eight ingredients in it, I'm probably going to skip it, especially if those ingredients include things like xanthan or guar gum (vegetables, fruits, and spices, on the other hand, are another story). Combine these weaknesses with the secret ingredient of my mother's natural prowess in the kitchen (she is most definitely a foodie), and you wind up with a "kitchen intimidation" reduction that allows me to pin dozens of beautiful recipes while only sampling a handful in real life.

More often than not, however, it is simply a matter of time that keeps me out of the kitchen--as in, cooking requires time, and I don't have it, or cooking requires time, and I don't want to give it. Typically, I only think about preparing food when I'm hungry and, therefore, impatient. As in, ten minutes is a sizable amount of time to wait before the meal is on the table. Anything more than that would be unbearable. Peruse my "To-Dones" Pinterest board and you'll find that most of the recipes I have tried are simple, contain few ingredients, and are perfect for beginners. Sure, there may be an exception or two, but certainly not enough to hide a clear bias towards the more streamlined recipes of life.

Now, does any of that sound like a foodie?

Yeah, I thought you would agree with me. I'm not there yet, but I'm learning. Blogging encourages me to experiment (otherwise I have no new content), and successful experiments have built my confidence (at least a little). As I collect more and more would-be recipe options on Pinterest, my natural urge to scratch items off my to-do list starts to itch, and through experimentation, I've learned that I might have inherited a little more of my mother's food instincts than I first imagined. I used to think she was crazy for improvising measurements as she goes; now I frequently find myself doing the very same thing. The more I get out of my own way, the more I believe in my ability to improve--and that goes for more than just making food.

This blog is about offering resources, recipes, and reassurance, so let me reassure you: You can do this. If you want to be a gluten-free foodie, do it. Seek out "delectable artisan [gluten-free] foods," meet like-minded people, try those recipes that please your palate, meet your dietary needs, and challenge your kitchen's status quo. However, if you're like me, and sometimes put "get'r done" over "gourmet," know that's okay, too. Food allergies may limit our diet, but they don't have to reduce our enjoyment of food.

So, what do you say: Are YOU a gluten-free foodie?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Clean Eating Coconut Blueberry Quinoa with Lime Recipe Review

Clean Eating Coconut Blueberry Lime Quinoa
a mouthful, yes, but a fairly yummy one

This recipe comes from one of my favorite food blogs: The Gracious Pantry. Tiffany's site was one of the first blogs I started following, and her posts always inspire me to experiment, use fresh ingredients, and never let my kitchen intimidate me. Her writing style is very friendly, her recipes are always straightforward, and because she is always trying something new, you are bound to find something you'll like. While she isn't strictly speaking gluten-free, many of her recipes are or can easily be adapted to become gluten-free. In a nutshell--go check out this site!

Now, on to the recipe. Tiffany originally described this as a "breakfast 'salad'" created out of her desire to mix things up in the AM (like I said, she's always experimenting), but it could probably work as an afternoon snack or possibly even a side dish for a summer barbecue. Quinoa seems to be all the rage now, so that makes this recipe both tasty AND trendy--a combination sure to impress your guests, whether they are gluten-free or not!

The basic recipe is fairly simple, and preparing the quinoa is the only cooking required, so it comes together in a few minutes. If you don't like one of the original ingredients, you can easily swap them out for something you prefer. If you think of this recipe as an inspiration piece, it can open up a whole world of other options, using quinoa and fresh fruit as the base.

The ingredients
  • cooked quinoa
  • light coconut milk
  • fresh lime juice
  • fresh blueberries
  • honey
A few notes
  1. The lime juice was a little strong for me, so consider reducing the amount or substituting a different juice. I think lemon juice would pair nicely with the blueberries.
  2. I used a small handful of shredded coconut and sliced almonds more or less as a garnish. It was a nice finishing touch, and added a nice taste boost as well.
How would you customize this dish to suit your taste buds?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Gluten-Free Shopping at Costco


Gluten-Free Shopping at Costco

You'll be surprised what you find.

If you are like me, shopping for gluten-free groceries can be frustrating. Yes, I know I can pop over to the closest health food store and probably find a host of options, but the price tags are often hefty as well. To get around this, I scour ordinary grocery stores for products that just happen to be labeled gluten-free but aren't marketed specifically to the gluten-free consumer. Surprisingly, Costco has become one of my favorite places to do so.

First, some tips if you decide to go:

  1. Plan to be there awhile and do a lot of walking. Costco's products change frequently, so I go up and down the aisles, eyes peeled for new items. You'll be amazed at what products you might have missed.
  2. Look for the right labels. Obviously, you should take a second look at anything that interests you with a gluten-free label. However, spotting phrases like "all natural," "non GMO," "Kosher," etc. can often lead you in the right direction. Companies that advertise these qualities are more likely to include a gluten-free label for appropriate products, and they may be less likely to add unnecessary gluten-containing fillers.
  3. Try new things. If you think you'll like a product, go ahead and buy it. Yes, you may waste a small amount of money on some mediocre food, but you may also find something you love!
  4. Stock up. As I said above, Costco's products change frequently, and this is especially true with some of the small-market items seen below. Check the expiration dates on products you enjoy and consider whether or not they can be frozen. If they have a long shelf life and or you've got room in your freezer, cram that cart, baby!

Second, a glimpse at the gluten-free products you might find:

I know that, ideally, these lists would include specific information about the price and quantity of each product. Sadly, I just didn't have the patience for I threw the receipts away months ago. However, I'll try to be more diligent in the future!

Shopping trip #1

From left to right:
  • Welch's Fruit Snacks
  • Kirkland Turkey Breast lunch meat
  • Kirkland Kettle Brand Krinkle Cut Potato Chips: Sea Salt 
    • These are thickly cut, so they're a little hard & extra crunchy--not my favorite buy.
  • Mrs. May's Naturals Trio Variety fruit, nut, & seed bars  
  • Clif Kid Organic Z Fruit Rope
  • Mariani Premium Sliced Almonds
  • Crunchmaster Multi-Seed Crackers: Five Seed
  • Tru Roots Organic Quinoa
  • Burgers by Amylu Sweet Caramelized Onion Chicken Burgers (10 ct. 1/4 lb patties)
    • These come individually wrapped & fully cooked. You can even MICROWAVE them, and they are absolutely delicious, even if eaten alone. I found them in the specialty section in front of the butcher section, and they are one of my favorite products. Buy them if you can! 
  • Late July Organic Sea Salt by the Sea Shore Multigrain Snack Chips
  • Ocean Spray Craisins
  • Nature Path Envirokidz Corn Puffs Gorilla Munch Cereal
  • Eat Pastry Gluten-Free Cookie Dough
    • Do not judge this cookie dough by it's uncooked taste, because it makes a great cookie. I found it in the frozen section, and we buy it every trip. If you have a sweet tooth and no time to bake, keep this in your freezer to crush that fresh-from-the-oven craving!
  • Nature's Path Gluten Free Trail Mixer Granola Bars
  • Peggy's Premium Edamame
    • Edamame is a healthy, protein-packed snack. While it is not labeled gluten-free, it literally has just one ingredient--Non GMO premium soybeans. Pop one of the packs in the microwave, nuke for 3 minutes, sprinkle with sea salt, and enjoy! Just remember the pod is inedible (too tough), so you'll need to pop the beans out to eat them--my husband learned this the hard way. Oops!

Shopping trip #2

From left to right (new items only):
  • Kirkland Beef Hot Dogs
  • GoPicnic boxed lunches (read more about them here)
  • Amira Premium Basmati Rice (20 lbs.--about half the price of Wal-Mart!)
  • Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce 
    • This is the only barbecue sauce my father-in-law buys, gluten-free or otherwise. Delicious!
  • Lea & Perrins Original Worcestershire Sauce
  • Plus a few of the same great finds from trip #1!

Shopping trip #3

From left to right (new items only):
  • Aidells Chicken & Apple Sausage
  • All Natural Coconut Macaroons
    • Macaroons are like a chewy coconut cookie--heavy on the coconut and heavy on the egg. I have yet to find a brand that is not gluten-free, and they are Kosher, so you may find them stocked with traditional Hebrew foods at your regular supermarket, especially during Passover.
  • Lara Bar Fruit & Nut Bar Three-Flavor Variety Pack
    • Lara Bars are another great protein-filled snack option. Most health food stores sell them individually for a little more than a dollar a piece, and they come in dozens of flavors, all of which are gluten-free (to my knowledge). If you don't like the first one you try, there may be another one that you love!
  • Sabra Hummus Individual Packs
    • I found this product in the salsa, salads, etc. case located next to the cold produce section. Each individual pack holds roughly one serving, so I can easily enjoy hummus and crackers on the go. I usually pair this with the Crunchmaster crackers seen above.
  • Food Should Taste Good Sea Salt Brown Rice Crackers
  • Meatballs by Amylu Kickin' Cranberry Chicken Meatballs
    • My husband and I loved these for a quick meal. They are precooked, so they just need to be reheated. We like to drizzle them with honey for a special twist. They are just a little spicy (hence "Kickin'"), so they may not be the best choice for kiddos--I stopped trying when my son said, "They hurt my mouth." Oops, again!
  • And, of course, more of those gems from trips #1 & #2!

Finally, a resource for putting your Costco groceries to good use:

I recently started following Amy of A Little Nosh's Pinterest board "The Best of Pinterest," and found this pin:


The post provides recipes, a grocery list, and how much everything costs--basically all of the stuff I didn't provide here! If you are feeding a large gluten-free family and or are on a budget, it could be a great resource.