Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Gluten Free Me

To say that going gluten free has made me cranky would be an understatement. However, I have been blessed in that I have been able to go to two different GF tasting events within weeks of being told to go gluten free. So far, I have been able to keep the buying and discarding to a minimum, thankfully. Bad enough to be spending a fortune on GF products, but even worse to spend that much on something that I won't eat. Here is my assessment of the products I have tried so far; please share your recommendations of what is worthwhile and what to avoid in the comments. I'm using a one to five star scale.

Flour/Baking Mixes

  • Grandma Whimsy's Rice Flour (Bread Flour coming out soon) ***** By far the best that GF flour/baking mixI have tried so far, with the caveat that I have not actually tried cooking with it. The products offered to sample at the Celiac/GF fair were indistinguishable from products made with wheat.
  • Jules' Gluten Free Baking Mix *** We have a large bag of the baking mix; so far we have tried pancakes and waffles with it. If the pancakes had instead been labeled crepes, I would have been happy with them; however, as pancakes, they fell flat. (pun intended) The waffles weren't bad, but the batter consistency was a little odd. (My husband liked the waffles.)
  • Gluten Free Bisquick **** The pancakes were good. First my husband made a quarter recipe of the GF pancakes for me, then he made a quarter batch of regular Bisquick pancakes for himself. He got to do the side by side taste test, while I just compared the appearance of the two types. The GF pancakes were roughly as fluffy as the regular pancakes, though they did absorb syrup a whole lot faster. According to my husband, the GF pancakes were slightly chewier/less cake-like. I was more disappointed with the GF Biquick biscuits, but that could be due our need to substitute other fats for the shortening. The biscuits seemed a little gritty, though adding jam made them easily edible. I'll be interested to see how they turn out when we try making them again using shortening.
  • Pamela's Pancake and Baking Mix **** When they say individual serving size, they aren't kidding! We bought a small packet to try it, and it made exactly 4 pancakes. They were definitely light and fluffy, not gritty at all. The texture may have been a little chewy, and like the GF Bisquick pancakes, they soaked up syrup like a sponge. Oddly enough, the one I had reheated the next day may have been better than the one I had fresh. My previous exposure to Pamela's baking mix was the wonderful cake that Rebecca brought to IF cookout, which everyone loved. 
  • Against the Grain Baguette ***** The best GF bread I've tried so far, but it's $9 for a baguette. Needless to say, this will be an indulgence only rarely taken.
  • The Gluten Free Oven Sandwich and Multi Grain Sandwich Bread ***** Very good bread, so close to regular wheat containing bread, but it's also $8 to $9 per loaf (and not located nearby), so not something I will partaking of regularly.
  • Bloomfield Farms Cornbread & Muffin Mix *** Good, no texture problems.
  • Silvana's Arize Italian Bread * The texture wasn't very good.
  • Schar
    • Ciabatta Rolls **** Very good, but following the heating directions precisely is an absolute must. I tried just toasting one in a rush to get out the door and was a bit disappointed.
    • Sub-sandwich rolls ***** I wasn't able to find their hot dog buns, so we tried using the sandwich rolls for hot dogs. It was a happy experiment. 
    • Hamburger buns **** While the texture wasn't quite that of a standard hamburger bun, it was definitely similar to that of certain types of buns/rolls and was highly acceptable. (to borrow my husband's phrase)
  • Market District GF Buckwheat Blueberry Waffles * I threw 2 in the toaster to eat en route to bible study. I only ate one; the rest of the box is going in to my husband's work place. They're young, male, and hungry - they'll eat anything, right?
  • Vanilla Chex *** The only reason why my rating is so low is that it was way too sweet for me. 
Pizza/Pizza Crusts
  • Against the Grain Frozen Pizza ** For all that I loved their baguette, their frozen pizza was as cardboard-y as bad frozen pizza can be. I will definitely not be spending my money on it.
  • Jules Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix *** We have a second bag to try, which will help us determine whether the odd flavor came from our substituting a different type of vinegar for the apple cider vinegar. It wasn't bad, but when making the pizza, the crust was insanely sticky. The finished product was close, but not quite right. (Also, I'm a pizza snob; I love Lou Malnati's and Giordano's. Yes, I'm from Chicago.)
  • Kinnikinnick Personal Size Pizza Crust *** It wasn't gritty and had the general texture of a frozen pizza crust.
  • Glutino Premium Pizza Crust * I couldn't even finish the little sample sliver at the grocery store. Yuck.
  • Namaste * Gritty and disgusting; I couldn't even finish the sample.
  • Schar ***** Very good pasta, with sauce and cheese I couldn't tell it was a GF product.
  • Delallo ***** The best GF pasta I have had so far; even served cold in a salad, it was good. They are supposed to have a gnocchi coming out soon, which I am excited to try.
  • Jovial Brown Rice Pasta ***1/2 The directions were very firm about not overcooking, but taking the pasta out after 9 minutes left them chewier than al dente. Served with the same sauce and cheese as the Schar, it was good, but not quite as good.

Sweet Treats
  • Sunny Bridge Natural Foods & Cafe 
    • Pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese icing ***** Yum!
    • Flourless chocolate cake **** Good, but not as good as some that I have had. (Flourless chocolate cake is flourless chocolate cake with or without the GF label, at least to my level of sensitivity/caring.)
  • Truly Wize (
    • Gluten Free Iced Lemon Cake * The texture was gritty, which was a disappointment given how good the other products were.
    • Gluten Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake ****
    • Gluten & Dairy Free Chocolate Decadence ***** Incredibly rich, a small piece would be all you would need.
    • Gluten & Dairy Free Chocolate Roll ****
    • Gluten & Dairy Free Pumpkin Roll ****
  • Bloomfield Farms
    • Cake Mix ** Very light, but slightly gritty
    • Brownie Mix ***** Excellent
  • Schar Vanilla Sandwich Cremes ***1/2 Good, but not great. I'm not sure I would buy them, but I had no problems eating them.
  • Glutino Chocolate Covered Pretzels *** First complaint, the pretzels were too crunchy; the texture wasn't quite right. Second complaint, the balance between sweet and salty was nonexistent; it was just sweet. Chocolate covered pretzels have been one of my big weaknesses for a long time, so I was definitely disappointed that these were not really chocolate pretzel-y. The pretzels themselves were sweet rather than salty, almost graham cracker-y.
  • Enjoy Life Chocolate Chip cookie **** I'm usually more of a soft cookie person, but it did taste and have the texture of a crunchy chocolate chip cookie.
  • Sarris' Gluten Free Chocolate Covered Pretzels **** These were so very much better than the Glutino Chocolate Covered Pretzels; however, the balance of sweet to salty still wasn't quite right, and the pretzel was still a little crunchier than I would like. I think I may need to find a new favorite sweet treat. Maybe chocolate covered caramels or English Toffee...
  • Snyder's of Hanover Pretzels ***1/2 Can a pretzel be too crunchy? In my book, yes. These small pretzels were crunchier than a regular pretzel, though not as tooth-busting as the thick sourdough type. 
  • Lundberg Bean & Rice Chips - Pico de Gallo **** Satifyingly crunchy and with good flavor. However, they aren't the kind of chip you can eat very many of at a time... but is that a bug or a feature?
  • McKenzie's Original Hard Cider ***** When I studied in Ireland my junior year Bulmer's Hard Cider was my drink of choice; in my many years back here in the States I have been disappointed by the hard ciders available here. They are always too sweet, not quite right. McKenzie's is by far the closest to a UK cider that I have; I cannot recommend it strongly enough. (On a side note, their Green Apple Hard Cider was not as good as the Original.)
  • Gluten Free Clubhouse ( This is a sampling club for GF products; the idea is really appealing, but a month's membership is $49.95 plus shipping. It does give you 4 or 5 non-perishable gluten free products to try each month, as well as coupons and recipes. 
  • Bakery on Main Street Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars * Disgusting - I ate two bites, then gave it to my husband, who also considered it utterly disgusting.
  • Envirokidz Berry Blast Crispy Rice Bar *** More like a Rice Krispie treat than a granola bar, but edible. The berries were small and didn't add much.
  • Food For Life Brown Rice Tortillas ***1/2 Quesadillas and wraps are staple quick and easy main courses at our house, so giving those up completely is not an option. I was happy to find these in the freezer at our local grocery store, even though they are by far the largest tortillas I've seen. So far we've only used them for quesadillas, and they were good. There was no grittiness, and they crisped up nicely. The texture was a little different from that of a flour tortilla, somehow both crispier and chewier. (No, I don't know how that works.)
Overall, Schar has been the most consistent brand I have tried. I wouldn't necessarily say that their products are the absolute best in any category, but they have all been very good. I would feel comfortable buying any of their products.

Lastly, I am finding that I am generally happier with foods that are naturally gluten free than GF versions of normal foods. Why? 1) It's cheaper. 2) I don't feel like a freak. 3) There's no compromising on quality or texture. I am profoundly glad that I gave myself permission to go back to eating sushi a while ago. Rice, potatoes, and popcorn are my friends. (Yes, I am making sure to eat lots of fruits and veggies, too.)


  1. Wow--I'm definitely going to have to come back to this for reference--thanks! I think you've tried more gluten-free foods than I have, and I'm at 3 months!

    Another recommendation--King Arthur Flour's GF chocolate cake. I'm not usually a big fan of chocolate cake (too dry) but it was amazing! My husband even declared it better than regular chocolate cake!

    In general, though, I agree with you on foods that are naturally GF just being the way to go.

  2. I need to comment hear as I have been pretty silent recently. Going GF is hard but it does get easier, and definitely try too find foods that are naturally GF, it is way cheaper in the long run. I try and eat a lot of salads for lunch with meats on top. I also have made chicken salad from a precooked rotisserie chicken, it is yummy and lasts a couple of days. I do popcorn and potato chips when i need a snack. Here are products I have found that are yummy.

    UDI's: Pretty much anything is good, I LOVE their blueberry muffins. It come frozen in most stores so its keep a while and you can eat in over the course of a week or two.

    King Aurthur Mixes: We love the cookie mix with nuts and chocolate chips, we also love the brownie mix.

    Puree bars: very yummy, pricy but yummy :)

    I know there is more, but that is what I have found that works best.

  3. Olive Garden has gluten-free pasta too :)! We should meet for dinner in Washington - and actually do it soon :). I'm sending you a FB message right now :).

  4. I agree that buying foods that are naturally gfree is better on the budget. That being said, I use a lot of bobs redmill products as well as namaste pancake mix(the sugar free one). I use Jules gfree for a lot of my holiday baking because it has been the best mix, you just have to learn the texture and look will be different while mixing it but it turns out alright in the end and the recipe must be followed to a T. Glutino's pretzel sticks are really good, we like those a lot! Overall we try and do baking mixes that are healthy because a lot of gfree stuff has no nutritional value so we stick to whole foods(not the grocery store) it keeps the cost and my waistline down ;) I have found a place that has decent gfree pizza but let's be real there isn't anything on par with real pizza yet!

  5. I agree that I much prefer foods that are naturally gluten free. I honestly haven't tried much cooking with gluten free products. I have some stuff from local vendors that I like, but doesn't help much in these circumstances.

  6. I've never heard of a GF tasting, sounds yummy! Reading about all these foods makes my mouth water!

  7. Wow, you've tried a lot of GF products! My favorites are: Udi bread, buns, and muffins (all freeze well); anything by Enjoy Life (especially their soft baked cookies); and Cherrybrook Kitchen cake mix (I used to make a third of the box at a time since I was the only one eating it). When I did baking I usually just made my own mix of flour instead of a box mix because it was cheaper and then I could make any recipe in my (non-GF) cookbook. It takes some practice to see what flavor you like/don't like, but everything usually turned out fine. I started with rice flour and tapioca flour (both from an Asian grocery store) and sometimes added potato starch. If you make you own, you need to add xanthan gum too. Bob's Red Mill flour mix and Hodgson Mill multipurpose baking mix are both good also. Then a friend got me hooked on almond flour.

    1. Udi's bread and enjoy life products are staples in our house! I totally forgot about them being gfree!