Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jessica's Most Frequently Used Product List

On my most-frequently asked questions list: "What type of [bread, pasta, flour, etc.] do you recommend?" Wonder no longer. Here are the products that I use most frequently. (Please note my warnings for those with true celiac or other allergies.)

Substitutes for gluten-containing products:

* Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix -- around $11 / 4-lb. bag with Amazon's Subscribe & Save deal on pack of 3, around $5-$6 / 24-oz. bag on Amazon and elsewhere. I avoided buying this mix for about a year of my gluten-free eating, unsure that I would use it very much. Finally, I tried it out, and I have not looked back. I purchase three 4-lb. bags on Amazon at least every two months. We use this stuff up like crazy. It works great as an all-around quick-rise baking product, for uses from pancakes to cookies to quick breads and muffins. The only drawback for some people is that it does contain some dairy and other potential allergens (like almonds). It doesn't seem to bother my girls, though, and even one of my nieces who is significantly more sensitive to dairy can eat it in moderation. But please don't sacrifice me to the allergy gods if it causes some people to react to the dairy. If you need a dairy-free flour mix, my sister recommends Better Batter, which sells for around $11.50 / 2.5-lb. box on Amazon. (I am unfamiliar with the price elsewhere.)

* Bob's Red Mill Organic Brown Rice Flour -- around $2.25 / 24-oz. bag with Amazon's Subscribe & Save deal on pack of 4, around $3-$4 elsewhere. This is the flour I use when I need to throw in a small amount into a recipe as a thickener, to make a roux, etc. I don't generally use it in baking (the Pamela's mix covers that), but it is nice to have around as a substitute in recipes that call for a small amount of wheat flour. It generally acts fairly well when used 1 for 1 in place of wheat flour. Warning: although many Bob's Red Mill products are labeled "gluten-free," some celiacs still react to this company's products. Other brown rice flours are available if you are extremely sensitive.

* Udi's whole grain bread -- around $6 / loaf (available at some Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and other health food stores). This is the best sandwich-like bread I have found. Unlike many gluten-free breads, it is not gritty and does not crumble as easily as other brands. Gluten-free bread is not going to be very elastic in general (because gluten is what gives bread its elasticity), but this bread is about as elastic as you can get with gluten-free. And it tastes pretty darn good, too. I am picky about my gluten-free bread substitutes, and this one really is good. It is a bit pricey, so I don't buy it often, but it is certainly handy to have around in case you need a quick and portable meal like a sandwich.

* Pamela's Bread Mix -- around $4.50 / bag with Amazon's Subscribe & Save deal on pack of 6, around $5-$6 / bag elsewhere. This homemade bread is so yummy I feel like I could eat the whole loaf when it's straight out of the oven. It is a bit heavy, so not as suitable for sandwich bread, and it tends to crumble more easily when it is not freshly baked. It also contains sorghum flour, which can tend to make you gassy... But it really is quite worth it in moderation. Even gluten-eaters enjoy this bread.

* Tinkyada pasta -- around $3-$4 / bag, available at health food stores and many other stores that sell health foods. (I buy it at Super Walmart.) When I first started having digestive issues, I switched from regular to whole wheat pasta. I quickly grew to love whole wheat and despise white flour pasta. When I cut out gluten, I quickly grew to love brown rice pasta even more than I loved whole wheat. Some gluten-free pastas can be rather mushy and flimsy, but this brand really holds up well and can be cooked to a nice al dente. I use the spaghetti noodles in particular.

* Trader Joe's penne and rotini -- around $2 / bag. Honestly, this brand doesn't taste quite as good as Tinkyada, but the price difference is significant enough and the taste difference is minimal enough that I can make the compromise. I don't use TJ's spaghetti anymore, though... the difference in taste and texture is a lot more noticeable.

* Trader Joe's gluten-free waffles -- around $2 / box of 8. These are not my favorite taste-wise, but they are handy when you need a quick breakfast, and you can't beat the price. There are other more tasty brands out there (such as Van's), but they generally run for at least $3.50 per box of 6, so I usually stick with TJ's. (The Pamela's pancake mix makes a mean Belgian waffle when you in less of a hurry, though.)

* Glutino's mini pretzels -- around $7 / large bag or $4 / small bag (available at locations from Whole Foods to some Super Walmarts). You'd never know they were gluten-free. Seriously. While on car trips, I have to keep my gluten-eating husband away from them or he will consume half the bag by himself. They are on the pricey side, but they are definitely worth it if you love pretzels. I just try to make them last as long as possible so I don't have to buy them that often.

* Trader Joe's Savory Thins (brown rice crackers) -- about $2 / bag. Nice, cheap crackers, perfect when you are in the mood for a snack. These also work nicely as a substitute for bread crumbs when crushed.

* Trader Joe's Gluten Free Ginger Snaps -- about $2 / bag. These cookies have been a staple in our household since I began eliminating gluten. I've tried another brand or two of ginger snaps, but there really is nothing that quite matches the real gingery bite of these cookies. When I need a grain or cookie fix, a few of these babies do the trick.

* Pamela's Simplebites Mini Cookies (chocolate chip) -- about $2.40 / bag with Amazon's Subscribe & Save deal on pack of 6. Super yum. I bought another brand of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies recently (because they were on sale and we were out of these), and they just didn't match up at all. Like the pretzels, you would never know these are gluten-free. And in case you were wondering, I love chocolate. And I love cookies. And did I mention super yum??!

I also use McCann's Irish oatmeal when I need oats, but I don't use it very often. For some reason, I dislike the taste of their rolled oats when used as oatmeal. They taste different than your standard Quakers for some reason (perhaps because they are lacking in gluten contamination?). I do enjoy their steel-cut oats, but don't make them very often because I'm not usually patient enough to wait 30 minutes for oatmeal.

For mixes for things like cake, brownies, pie crusts, etc., I haven't used anything often enough to have a favorite brand, but some brands I have tried and liked are Gluten-Free Pantry, Namaste Foods, and of course Pamela's.

Substitutes for dairy-containing products:

* Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice Drink -- around $3 / half gallon. I know it doesn't taste like milk, and I don't generally drink it plain, but it's my personal favorite milk substitute when I want chocolate milk or something to pour over my cereal. I've been using it and giving it to my girls for nearly 4 years now, and now whenever I taste regular milk, it actually kinda grosses me out (the cow's milk, that is).

* Rice Dream Enriched Original Rice Drink -- around $3-$4 / half gallon at some Walmarts and Target stores. Tastes about the same as TJ's rice milk. I prefer the enriched original version, but the vanilla is good too if you want some extra flavor, especially in baking.

* Earth Balance Buttery Spread (original or soy free) -- around $3-$4 / 15-oz. tub, available at health food stores and many stores that sell health foods. I buy it at Super Walmart. I can believe this is not butter, but after having avoided dairy for so long, I actually like it a lot better than butter in most cases.

* Smart Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread -- around $3-$4 / 13-oz. tub, available at health food stores and many stores that sell health foods. (The tubs I've bought lately don't look anything like this one, though... I think they must have redone the design lately.) I can't seem to find this at Super Walmarts I've visited, but I've found it at our local grocery store for $4, and normally can I find coupons. Tastes about the same as Earth Balance.

I also occasionally use various brands of coconut, almond, or soy milk if I'm using it in a recipe that calls for whole milk or cream, since these other milks are noticeably thicker than the rice milk.

My sister has her own list of her gluten-free favorites, a few of which I haven't tried yet, so check it out if you're interested!

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