The Picky Eater’s Guide To Gluten-Free

May 28, 2014

cealiacawernessIt’s almost June, which means we’re coming to the end of Celiac Awareness Month. Do you feel more aware? It’s okay if you don’t, because a lot of people in the food industry are plenty aware, and that’s what’s important to me.

I first became aware of celiac disease about two and a half years ago, when a doctor told me I had it. Bummer, right? Doubly so since I like to eat food that is packed with gluten and I’m not real bullish on stuff that’s green. But, honestly, it hasn’t been that hard to deal with at all. Eating gluten-free is an inconvenience, and I can imagine it would be really hard to have celiac disease as a kid. But, as an adult, you adapt quickly if that’s what it takes to feel healthy.

Gluten-free food is more expensive, but there are plenty of good options out there, even for a finicky eater like me — and there are more every day. If you or someone in your family struggle with a gluten allergy, here are some of my go-tos when it comes to foods that are normally packed with wheat, barley or rye:

At home

  • Bread/buns/pizza crusts — If you’re a fan of white sandwich bread, Udi’s is probably the best bet. You’ll find it in the freezer and you’ll want to keep it that way, but it toasts up nicely. Udi’s specializes in gluten-free products, and their pizza crusts also make a good foundation for a homemade pie
  • Pasta — Tinkyada brown rice pastas work well for Italian dishes or soups that require noodles
  • Cereal — Chex remains my favorite, particularly cinnamon and vanilla (insert bland palate joke here)
  • Snacks — Glutino crackers, pretzels and cookies are solid (not a ringing endorsement, I know, but they’re the best I’ve come across)
  • Bread crumbs — Ian’s Italian-style panko bread crumbs are perfect for chicken parmesan and similar recipes
  • Cake mixes — Bob’s Red Mill offers several mixes, and the chocolate cake is the best of the bunch. It’s not perfect, but it’s simple to make — and the cake is really just a delivery vehicle for the frosting anyway, right?
  • Flour — If you like to bake at home, the perfect all-purpose flour mix comes from Annalise Roberts in her cookbook, Gluten Free Baking Classics. Mix two parts brown rice flour (extra finely ground) with 2/3 part potato starch and 1/3 part tapioca flour. You can substitute it for traditional flour in almost any of your favorite recipes — cookies, cakes, muffins, pancakes, waffles, etc. Just add a teaspoon of xanthan gum to things like cookies (it will serve as a binding agent to keep them from running all over the pan). Oh, and you should probably buy Annalise’s book before stocking up on ingredients, because every one of her recipes I’ve tried has been awesome.

Dining out

Of course, you can find a gluten-free meal just about anywhere, but here are a few quick suggestions for harder-to-find items for those who live in the Twin Cities.

  • Pizza — Pizza Luce does an excellent job if you’re looking for a traditional-style pie and Pizzeria Lola comes in strong with wood-fired ‘za
  • Pasta — Bar La Grassa makes its gluten free pasta in-house (and it is outstanding)
  • Burgers and sandwiches — The Freehouse in the North Loop offers very good gluten-free bread and buns, still a bit of a rarity for most restaurants
  • Ice cream — Izzy’s serves up gluten-free cones and cakes if you want more than just a scoop

Of course, this is all just one bland man’s opinion. So if I’m missing out on something, please make a suggestion. I’m always looking to upgrade (as long as it’s not too zesty).