Hello there and happy Monday!
In my last Don’t Panic post, I wrote: “Be prepared to waste a lot of money trying things out. Don’t trust the ads in your magazines. Trust the feedback from your friends and peers”. I am going to spend this final post discussing trial and error, websites and other resources that you might (nay, WILL) find helpful.
There are TONS of GFDF (or GFLF, for Lactose-free, as I’ve heard used by Americans) products out there on the market. There are a lot of brands claiming to be the most delicious best or everything, and the only way you’re going to know is by trying them. All of them.
I’m not one to write badly about anyone or anything, so I will save the nasty talk and skip to telling you which items I DO absolutely love. In fact, I really only love one brand’s full line: Schär (called Schar in the US, I guess the umlaut isn’t needed). I’ve tried MANY other brands for pasta, bread, crackers and cookies, and only this brand has been consistently great and tasty for me.
I got started with them with the Landbrot, which I have no idea how to translate into English: but I imagine it’s just normal white bread. The texture is great, and so’s the taste. My only issue is that there are only 5 slices per package, although to be fair: if I’m using these for anything, whether it’s a sandwich or dipping into my egg yolks on Sunday morning, I cut one piece in half and then it lasts longer. The pieces are too big to fit unbroken in a regular toaster, so as far as I’m concerned, each piece functions as two. But beware: anything that comes in a package like this is bound to mold quickly: I will put the bread (anything, for that matter) into a plastic baggie and get all of the air out in order to help it keep longer. But even so, you’ve got about 4 days after you’ve opened the package until it’s growing mold.
I got into the fusilli next, just because of how good the bread was. Granted, one COULD try to make a really good GF pasta from scratch, but one thing I’ve learned is that there are some things I just NEVER get right more than once… pasta/noodle recipes being at the top of that list, just above ‘breads requiring active yeast’.
What I love about the Schär pasta products is how they don’t lose a lot of starch in the boiling. These noodles only take about 8-9 minutes to boil at top heat and never fall apart or ‘shed’, as many GF pasta products tend to do when boiled. There’s no residue in my pot when I’ve finished and strained, and although that doesn’t really make a difference for the taste, it DOES say a lot about how these things are made.
Finally: the bread mix. I’ve tried so many different recipes for the ‘perfect bread flour’ and I have to say, only one aside from the stuff being packaged by these guys is worth even half of a shit (to be fair: I haven’t gotten to try any of Bob’s Red Mill since it’s not available here: but I hear it’s excellent). If you don’t want to just make a mix yourself including a binder and maybe three different types of flour, then what Schär is packaging is definitely a nice fix.
In the same way that you’re going to have to try many different GFDF products available on the market, you are going to have to try GFDF recipes available to you in books and online.
Let’s get something straight: just substituting GF flour for regular flour isn’t often enough to change a recipe and have it be successful. Sadly, it never works that well. If (or when) you get to the point where you’re tired of paying somewhat high prices to buy everything GFDF pre-made in packages, you are going to have to learn how to cook and bake.
Now, I was definitely into cooking before I was diagnosed. I have it easy, as far as I’m concerned. Some of my friends who have been diagnosed couldn’t even make mac n cheese properly before their big life change. So I understand how the idea of having to make things like bread, or cupcakes, or brownies from scratch could be majorly intimidating.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be, because there are plenty of experts out there who have already figured out how to keep living and how to cook or bake our favorite things! Beware: a lot of recipes out there that claim to be GFDF are just crappy. Sorry to say it, they are. I’ve tried so many of them.
Before I get into websites, I’d like to mention a book and someone who has made MY cooking life pretty easy since the diagnosis: Silvana Nardone. Silvana wrote an excellent book (which one of my best friends gave me a few year ago) called Cooking for Isaiah, full of excellent GFDF recipes. What I love about her recipes is that you know they’re going to be good, as they have all been approved by her teenage son (Isaiah). And if a teenager likes it, you know the flavor is there. I’ve cooked or baked a majority of the recipes in the book and have had nothing but success.
It’s a book I’ve ordered for and gifted to more than a few of my friends who have been diagnosed. It’s so easy to follow, the photos are helpful, and she even has her own flour blends that you can make, which are listed in the first pages of the book. Without this useful book (there’s even a page full of ‘tools you should have in your kitchen’), I would have felt really, really lost.
Silvana now operates an excellent magazine called Easy Eats, which is totally dedicated to these types of recipes. You can subscribe or just have a look online, either way, the recipes are there for you to see. It really doesn’t get any easier.
In fact and as a disclosure: I’m a recipe tester for the website. I don’t get pad anything to do it, it is all volunteer: I just like her recipes so much, I’m excited to get more emailed right to me:)
Regarding recipe websites, there are a few that I use religiously. There are really more than anyone could track… but the ones I use and recommend to all of my friends are these:
Gluten Free Food Gawker: Granted, on these pages you need to make sure that any recipe you click on doesn’t have milk involved, but either way, you can’t beat these photos. For those of you not familiar with the wonder that is Food Gawker, it’s a site that sources recipes from OTHER blogs and keeps them all in one place, and it updates in realtime, or something close to it. You can scroll to the bottom of the FG front page to choose ANY tag, such as vegan, fast, no desserts, etc. It’s a majorly helpful site, even if some of the recipes are in Italian and some are flops.
Celiac Teen: This is a blog by a girl who is about to enter college, and it is full of great recipes (click the category tab on the side).
Girl Cooks World: same blog deal, but from a lady named Kate who shares the great international recipes she makes. And makes well:)
Supercook dot com: This isn’t a GFDF website, but helpful anyway. Once we’ve gotten past the understanding that GFDF doesn’t equal death and just doesn’t include wheat, we can get creative. Supercook is a site where you can enter the ingredients you have on hand, and it will spit out a bunch of recipes that you can make RIGHT NOW. It’s a great way to get rid of that extra kale or celery that would otherwise go bad…
There are SO many websites out there for cooking and living GFDF… just go and do a google search! The key to all of this is to find the things you like, the things that work for you, and stick to them.
Sure, this means that from now on you’ll only have to read about a third of ANY restaurant menu from now on, but if anything, it’s going to help you get more creative with what you’ve got and what’s available.
And when in doubt, I guess just order the salad:) Or the steak and potatoes!
I hope this three-part series has been helpful! I’m always looking for new sites and recipes to try, so if our readers have anything to suggest or contribute, please feel free to message or comment! ❤