Monday, January 24, 2011

Shopping Gluten-Free & Your New Staple -Quesadillas


Diane displays some of her gluten-free staples that she purchases.

 Food shopping with food allergies is a skill that you develop. You have several choices: hit the health food store, (easier & expensive), go to your local market (overwhelming and limited) find a co-op (bulk purchasing) or do more of you own cooking.
        When I first found out about my trio of allergies – gluten, dairy and soy, I headed straight for the health food store and received a lot of  welcome help. The smaller size of the store and the fact that 30% of it is directed to foods without dairy, soy or gluten makes it easy. In many supermarkets, gluten-free food is “segregated,” while in the health food store, shopping for gluten, dairy and soy free food is the norm.  
Emotionally, it is a more supportive place to shop where half the people are purchasing the same foods as you are regardless of their food allergies.  When you shop at the supermarket, the food is labeled, as health foods, it is limited and the employees are not as knowledgeable or helpful. But it is less expensive and certainly the supermarket chains are becoming more aware of the available products.  I recommend to start shopping at the health food store for help and variety and then once you have established some products you like and have experimented a bit, head over to the supermarket or join a co-op to purchase your items at a reduced price.  It takes some time to find the substitutes for your gluten filled life style, that you once enjoyed, but they are out there.
     BREAD  -  Let’s start with bread, probably your largest wheat carrying food.  My first couple of months, I ate brown rice bread and I will tell you, that was no substitute.  The brown rice bread was like a brick and only palatable when toasted.  For a time, I thought I had only a wheat allergy and not gluten, so I switched to spelt bread. (be clear with your doctor.)  Then, I found Sami’s Bakery.  Now I can enjoy a cold sandwich on their millet/flax bread or  I can toast or  make a panini on their cinnamon raisin bread.  AND – they now make hot dog rolls and hamburger rolls.  For awhile, I ate everything on the bread, hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.  Remember, I will not be ignored.  If you read my previous blogs, I am a foodie and determined to still enjoy culinary experiences.  Chances are, there are some local bakeries as well that may offer some gluten-free products.  As a substitute for bread, I also purchase brown rice tortillas from “Food for Life.” (recipe below)
PASTAS – These run the gamut from brown rice to corn and there are some good ones.  I enjoy, a variety and see what’s on sale.  Tinyada makes a good brown rice product and comes in a variety of shapes.  There are also corn and quinoa pastas.  Check the cooking instructions, as they all require a different amount of time.  You could always consider the fact that Pad Thai noodles were designed to be gluten-free and have been perfected for years. I use them in my chicken noodle soup and no one is the wiser.
CEREAL – At first I ate things with oats in them, not realizing that some oats contain gluten, so that had to change.  The loose cereal in the bins is very expensive and so I sought another option.  I wanted an affordable gluten-free granola type cereal and was not interested in the rice puffs or corn flake type cereals.  Finally, my husband spotted something at our super market; the brand is “Enjoy Life” and is a solid granola.  I enjoy cinnamon crunch and they offer other flavors as well.  Although not inexpensive, it is more reasonable and I will seek it out in the co-op I just joined.
Dessert - Until recently, a tough category.  Gluten free cookies were available at first but tended to be dry.  Now I have found  moist brownies at the super market, and mixes for cakes and breads at both the health food store, co-op and super market.  Gluten free flour has been available for a long time and you can  readily find  both rice flour and almond flour.  I use these flours to whip together pancakes or muffins without a recipe.  Following a recipe drives me nuts.  I look at it once and then I do what I want.  Namaste makes a good rice flour, Bob’s Red Mill has many products and Betty Crocker has even jumped on the band wagon with some gluten-free mixes.  Again you have to see what you like.  I made a gluten-free chocolate cake for a party and my son could not stay away from it.  Normally, he avoids my gluten-free products but he was unaware of its origins and went to town on my cake.
READING LABELS - Shopping takes longer as you should be constantly looking at the ingredients.  I try to do a lot of cooking myself so my use of packaged food is limited, but I still have to read ingredients on some of the products I purchase.  Things to be aware of; in addition to looking out for wheat and gluten on a label , modified food starch is  gluten and should be avoided.   Watch what chicken stock you purchase, many have wheat as do some sausages and soups.  Wheat is a cheap filler and that is part of the problem, why many of us now have food allergies.  Yes, genetics are involved but putting cheap fillers such as soy, wheat and dry milk where it doesn’t really belong can create overexposure and produce an allergy.
           Good luck with your shopping. Products are out there and console yourself by knowing that you are eating healthier than a diet filled with wheat and gluten.  Next time, I will cover shopping  with a dairy allergy. 
1) Four Seasons on Phila Street in Saratoga has good quality, good selection and good help.
2) Price Chopper on route 50 is increasing their stock and has pastas, crackers, cereals, flour, and cookies.  Employees don't really know the products but the manager is willing to listen.
3)  Hannaford I understand has a very good selection but is less convenient for me.
4) Odd job lot has good prices on a variety of flours, mixes and pastas.
     One of my favorite gluten-free products are the brown rice tortillas that I cook with from the company “Food for Life.”  I am able to quickly and easily cook them up and serve them as a quick lunch or dinner or a great appetizer for company.  Mine are also dairy free as I use rice cheese to still create that cheesy goodness that we expect from a quesadilla.  Quesadillas are also flexible because you can use just about anything you have in the fridge to fill them.  When I think I have nothing to serve, I turn to them.
1 tbls. olive oil             2 brown rice tortillas     4 slices of rice cheese   
 2 full slices of onion      4 slices of tomatoes           1/3 cup spinach
Have all your ingredients ready by the stove, as quick assembly is necessary to have the quesidilla come together without burning.  Heat stove to medium under your round frying pan and add oil.  Add 1 tortilla and 2 slices of rice cheese, torn to cover the bottom leaving a half inch from the sides.  Next, add your filling of tomatoes, onions and spinach.  Add the remaining 2 slices of cheese and cover with the other tortilla.  Press down with either a sandwich press(invaluable) or a flat pan with a filled tea pot on top to create weight. When the cheese has started to melt and adhered both sides – flip over to complete the grilling.  The quesadilla is complete when both sides are golden brown and the cheese is melted.  Serve alone for lunch or a great dinner with rice and beans and a salad.  Experiment with different fillings but always have your choice of cheese on the outside of the ingredients to seal the tortillas.  Now you can eat like everyone else.  Enjoy!!

Diane Lachtrupp Martinez

1 comment:

  1. I am saving this recipe and hope to make it at least half as good as the one you make turns out. Thank you. Carmen aka Tangotuta