Thursday, September 24, 2015

On a Budget? You Can Still Go Gluten-Free!

These days, it seems the price of everything is going way up, and a trip to the grocery store can bring the balance of your bank account (and your mood) way down. So, if you're like me, you spend a fair amount of time planning out your meals and your corresponding food budget each week in order to maximize your food dollars. And for those of us with the additional consideration of gluten intolerance or sensitivity, we need to make sure we are making smart purchases that don't break the bank.

According to Money Talks News, the food industry is rapidly responding to the needs of those who are on a gluten-free diet, but g-free products can be breathtakingly expensive. One study found that gluten-free products, on average, cost 242 percent more than their wheat-based counterparts.

Why So Expensive?
There are legitimate expenses that help drive up the cost of creating gluten-free foods for consumers, first and foremost being the cost of having a dedicated, secure facility to manufacture g-free foods without the risk of cross-contamination from non-g-free ingredients. There's also the cost of specialty ingredients, employee training, and product testing and certification.

So, keeping a gluten-free shopping trip within budget is easier said than done, right? Well, not necessarily! Several spending-savvy members of our g-free community are here to help guide us through shopping g-free without ending up in the poor house.

Bulk Up
Go big or go home! Invest in bulk size whole grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, and wild rice. You'll save when you super size vs purchasing in smaller quantities. Or ask your grocer about getting a discount if you buy pasta a case at a time. Once you buy in bulk, be sure to cook in bulk. Saving and freezing leftovers for future meals can save time and money. Like to shop online? Try buying in bulk at Amazon.

Take a Pass on the Prepackaged Foods
Whether Celiac or not, we all need to eat more fresh produce and lean meats and limit our consumption of prepackaged foods. Gluten-Free Gigi provides these three easy money-saving tips to consider before your next trip to the grocery store:
  •   DIY to the rescue! Skip the hefty price tags associated with buying pre-packaged mixes and flour blends, and make your own. It will literally save you thousands of dollars over time. Stop relying on processed gluten-free foods to make up your daily meals. Experiment with making your own broth rather than buying expensive gluten-free broths.
  • Go ahead and get fresh! Eat in-season fresh produce or scour the frozen food aisles for sales (make sure those products are 100% gluten-free, of course!). Scout out your local farmer's market for seasonal inspiration.
  • Eat lean to save green! Turn to lean meats such as fish and poultry and low-cost eggs for high protein (or plant-based proteins like beans lentils and for our g-free vegan friends). Use those specialty items to complement meals or as a special, occasional treat. You will soon see your grocery bill dwindle down. And if you snag a sale? Be sure to load up your freezer.

The Power of Pasta and the Potato
The Gluten Free Goddess details her top 10 tips and recipe ideas for thriving on a g-free budget, including embracing the oh-so versatile potato—whether as a side dish or as the center of a meal—and pasta purchased in bulk. One of my favorite go-to recipes is the Roasted Veggie Smothered Baked Potato Recipe. So simple and yet so satisfying!

Embrace these tips to ensure you are keeping your food budgets under control. Your pocketbook and your waistline will thank you! 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Converting Recipes to Gluten-Free: Focus on FLOUR!

Some of the best recipes are the ones handed down from generation to generation, sometimes tweaked here and there, but largely sticking to the same tried and true formula that has bewitched and fattened up family members across the ages. Some recipes are so legendary, they begin to take a life of their own and make an appearance at each major holiday gathering, year after year.

So, what can you do when you inherit a beloved family recipe and want to participate in the tradition, but aren't sure how to adapt it to be gluten-free, either for you or one of your g-free relatives? Or, what if you spot something fabulous on Pinterest and want to give it a whirl but need to make a few adjustments to ensure it is g-free? The good news is that you don't have to sacrifice your family legacy or deny yourself the giddy joy of trying that Pinterest recipe and contributing your Pinterest fail for the whole world to see. Yes, your horizons exist beyond gluten-free cookbooks! With a few strategic, yet very simple swap-outs, you can transform any recipe into gluten-free without giving up any of the appeal or flavor.

For Baked Goods, Convert That Gluten Flour to Gluten Free
By and large, the biggest conversion concern will be in baked goods (think, cookies, breads, and pies) and the biggest culprit will be the gluten flour.

So, how do you convert a recipe from gluten flour to gluten-free? Well, the Gluten Free Goddess advises that for every one cup of all-purpose flour cited in a recipe, you can swap it out for 140 grams of your favorite gluten-free flour blend. Remember, every gluten-free flour has a different weight per cup. So, you'll want to buy a kitchen scale! Safe and popular g-free choices for baking can include sorghum flour, brown rice flour, white and sweet rice flour, millet flour, buckwheat flour, quinoa flour, certified gluten-free oat flour, and teff flour. However, make sure sources of corn, millet, sorghum, etc flours are 100% gluten-free!

Not to be outdone, almond flour, hazelnut flour, chestnut and peanut flours are high protein non-grain options. And do not count out legume flours such as chick pea flour and soy flour. The very trendy coconut flour is a high fiber addition to g-free blends that attracts moisture and adds a lot of texture and flavor.

Simply Skip the Flour or Try a G-Free Flour Blend
Less is more, and in some recipes this applies to the flour. For example, peanut butter cookie recipes do not suffer at all if you simply skip the flour.

It's all about the blend. The Gluten Free Girl has a tried and true g-free flour blend that I have used for many baking recipes. This blend is free of any additives, preservatives, fillers, emulsifiers, xanthan or other gums. Bonus: for those with additional dietary or allergy concerns, it is dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, corn-free, soy-free, tree-nut-free, and of course, fish and shellfish-free. It’s also guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination from those ingredients. What's not to love?

You can also skip the “DIY”, and find a nice flour blend from your local gluten-free Bakery, such as mine – Sweet Ali’s.

Increase the Hydration
King Arthur Flour provides an important key to unlocking the gluten-free conversion conundrum. Adding liquids (egg, water, milk) will increase hydration and develop structure, but keep in mind that they may also promote a cake-like texture. Using fruit purées in place of some of the liquid content can help aid in building structure.

So, with that, I hope you will be inspired to dig through your dog-eared cookbooks for those traditional family recipes you're hoping to try! With a few savvy swaps, you will be on your way to creating timeless new recipes and family memories to pass down to future generations.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Lattes & Other G-Free Fall Favorites

I don't know about you, but I felt a little chill in the air this morning... Fall is just around the corner and with it the turning of the leaves, the smell of cinnamon and spices, and yes, pumpkins!  We are heading into one of my favorite times of the year!  I'm talking about the triumphant return of the fall season and the inevitable hoopla surrounding apple festivals and trips to the pumpkin patch. Not to mention our national obsession with a certain warm, frothy beverage. #PSL, forever!

Okay, technically it's still summer and the official start to fall is a few weeks away. But, here in the Midwest, the leaves have started to get that yellow tint to them and already my Pinterest boards are filling up with pumpkin-infused everything. So, it got me inspired to get my culinary act together and share some of my favorite fall-friendly, gluten-free recipes. And it's all about the pumpkin, people. Rich in Vitamin A in the form of beta carotene, pumpkin is also a good source of heart-healthy potassium and folate. So, it totally rocks that it is a popular staple in many gluten-free recipes, from smoothies to bread to brownies.

Pumpkin + Spice = Twice as Nice
Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice create such a perfect spiceland utopia in this smoothie that you will be questioning where it has been all your life. Seriously, whip this one up for breakfast or a fun fall snack (or for lunch or dinnerthere's no judgment here).  Just be certain that all of your spices are gluten free!

This Is What Winning at Life Looks Like
Betty Crocker got it so right with this recipe. The convenience of using their gluten-free yellow cake mix and canned pumpkin does nothing to diminish the excellence of this fall favorite.

Forever Yours, Faithfully
The folks at Faithfully Gluten-Free have been faithfully trying to destroy both my waistline and willpower with this beautifully decadent dessert. The pecans and dulce de leche make the perfect unexpected accompaniment to this gluten-free masterpiece.

Fall Festivus for the Rest of Us
If you're like me, you've probably already been to the apple orchard twice this season and are scratching your head at that bushel of apples stashed in your kitchen corner, wondering what in the world will become of them. This recipe is their destiny. Figs or dates can be handily swapped in as the main fruit in this recipe, if you are not yet suffering from an abundance of apples.

The #PSL Craze Is Real
Forget baseball or the Kardashians as the nation's pastime/obsession. A few years ago, America discovered the wonder that is the pumpkin spice latte, and our nation was forever transformed. Well, most of the nation. Gluten-sensitive and Celiac consumers have been trying to answer the question, "Is Starbucks pumpkin spice latte gluten-free or not?" since it first appeared on the Starbucks menu, with concerns about potential gluten in the syrups and the very real risk of cross contamination from the baristas brewing non-gluten-free beverages on shared equipment. On August 17, 2015, Starbucks announced they were revising their ingredients list to add real pumpkin and remove the caramel coloring. So, the jury is still out on whether we are (gluten) free to be part of this fall obsession.

I say, simply save yourself the worry (not to mention a few bucks) and try one of these delicious gluten-free pumpkin spice latte recipes at home!

For this recipe, it felt very luxurious to buy the Godiva Pumpkin Spice coffee. Go ahead and splurge!

I love the addition of the agave nectar in this recipe, and swirling the cinnamon stick around in the delicious foam makes me feel like an adult.

With that, I will sign off so you can head out to the grocery store, stock up on pumpkin (real or canned--again, no judgment), and raid the spice aisle at Whole Foods. What is your favorite gluten-free, fall-friendly, pumpkin-inspired recipe? Drop us a note in the comments section!