(Before you get started: don’t miss part one of this series, here!)
Food that’s just gluten-free, without any recipe-tweaking
The easiest foods to pass over while you’re gluten-free? Probably the ones that never contained gluten to begin with. These foods didn’t need any alteration or tweaking, so it’s pretty easy to forget that they are gluten-free.
Think sushi, Chinese fried rice, Greek rice with feta and lemon (which I am a total sucker for, oh my god), nachos (depends on who makes the chips, mind you), chips (crisps and fries; potato, sweet potato, and rice), popcorn, most meat and vegetable dishes… the list goes on. Japanese, Chinese, and Korean restaurants will almost always have something you can eat while gluten-free, and there’s usually at least one appetizer on a basic menu that you’ll be able to have – fries, or (if you’re nightshade-free) sweet potato fries, for instance.
At home, try eating more things like meatloaf with rice, shepherd’s pie (aka pâté chinois or cottage pie, depending on where you live), potato-free shepherd’s pie (boil a head of cauliflower until soft, then strain and blend through a food processor; makes a flawless impostor mashed potato) – basically, any “normally” gluten-free dish.
A number of breakfast cereals are gluten-free, too – it might just take some time to sort through the ingredients lists, if your supermarket hasn’t already separated them out. I’ve been head over heels for Honey Nut Chex recently, and I was hooked on Barbara’s Puffins line before that. (The Peanut Butter ones are super tasty on their own, and the Cinnamon cereal is delicious with a banana cut in.)
And then there’s the oatmeal.
I could write an entire post just on oatmeal; I’m a total sucker for it. I grew up hating oatmeal, actually, avoiding it at all costs and grudgingly swallowing it down if I had to, but it turns out… well, it turns out that my mom and I just like very, very different oatmeal. She likes hers soft and watered-down with milk; I like mine with more texture, a dash of cinnamon, and just a touch of honey. If oatmeal’s always been too soggy for you, try cooking it with a sprinkling of cinnamon and a smaller water-to-oats ration, then stir in a tiny bit of honey and just a drop of vanilla once it’s done.
I kid you not, good oatmeal is practically life-changing.
If that gets boring, try it with apple chunks (cut up a quarter of an apple and throw it in as your oatmeal cooks), dried cranberries (add them in at the end), or –to make it totally unhealthy–toss in a few semi-sweet chocolate chips right before you eat it. Or, try it baked – a recipe like this one or this one should do it.
Snacks and desserts
Strangely enough, I have the least to say about desserts. I mean, okay, I spend a lot of my time eating, and okay, unhealthy food is usually the most tasty. But I’ve been really into savoury foods recently, not sweet ones, so I’m afraid I’ve been spending more time with melty mozzarellas and tart yogourts (hello, Activia Plain Sweetened) recently than I have with cakes and candies.
Which doesn’t actually work out all that well for me, seeing as I’m lactose intolerant, but. Well.
Anyhow, here are three great, chocolatey recipes to get you started. There’s this amazing gluten-free chocolate cake recipe, which is gorgeous and moist and honestly just really, really tasty; then there are these mint chocolate chip cookies (photographed below), and, finally – you can’t go gluten-free without puffed rice squares. Just simmer together a puffed wheat square recipe on the stovetop, then pour over puffed rice instead.
My advice is that if you’re going to try going gluten-free, and you really want to do it seriously, try it for more than three weeks. Ease yourself off gluten slowly, then stick to it for at least three months. At the end of the three months, go on a wheat binge – switch out your rice for bread, have pasta for dinner, etc. If you can’t feel a difference, feel free to go back; if you can, gluten-free is probably for you!
After that, decide what kind of gluten-free lifestyle is going to suit you best. I’m gluten-free most days, but every now and then, I’ll get a massive wheat craving and cave into it entirely. Obviously, that’s not going to be a good game plan if you’re a newly-diagnosed celiac or very sensitive to wheat, but it might help keep from falling off the wagon entirely if you’re just a bit intolerant!
[Aside: I’m a beauty blogger, not a nutritionist, and definitely not a doctor. Yes, I went gluten-free without talking to my doc, because GPs are extremely hard to find in Edmonton and (unfortunately), my doctor doesn’t really support… any kind of non-pharmaceutical treatment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.
In other words – if you try going g-free and it doesn’t work out, please don’t take it out on me, because I’m just trying to be helpful for the people who have recently found out they’re gluten-intolerant, okay? Okay!]
Next, find out where you’re going to get everything. If you’re in Canada, see if your city has a Bulk Barn (owned by Loblaw’s) for your flours – I find the prices there are a lot better than at Planet Organic (oh, $30 bag of soy flour, you wil forever haunt my dreams), and they have a lot in terms of gluten-free: not just raw ingredients, but boxed cookies, crackers, and protein bars, too.
Safeway and Well.ca are both Canadian stockists for my can’t-live-without-it Tinkyáda pasta, and Planet Organic (which is like our Whole Foods) is always a good last-ditch option. The “ethnic foods” aisle is a good place to look for flours, too – tapioca starch is tapioca starch, no matter if it’s French or Chinese, but the prices are often better (and the bags are often bigger) if you can find things in the Asian foods section.
Finally, a resource that I’ve found absolutely indispensible on my gluten-free journey has been Gluten-Free Goddess, a fabulously put-together blog by a celiac woman living in California. Between Karina and the Almighty Oracle (read: Google), you should be good to go.
And… that’s it for today. I really, really hope you found that helpful, and please share this post if you enjoyed it! It was an absolute monster to write, so I’d love if you could pass it along. (Monster, oh my god. I think we broke the 1K mark a couple hundred words ago.)