Wheat, Wheat, Where Aren’t Thou?

ImageWheat, wheat everywhere I look, I find wheat in my food shopping expeditions. It is not that much fun to keep on ranting but I can’t seem to escape this one ingredient! Wheat was in my Heinz 57 sauce, now given away. And worse yet, it is in my Turkey Hill, light recipe, Skinny Minty ice cream. It is in all cookie dough ice creams. As I said before, wheat is in Campbell’s tomato soup, and pretty much all their soups as well as many Progresso soups! I did find a Progresso cream of mushroom soup that is GF which is such a great find for cooking and just eating as soup. I wonder why Campbell’s can’t thicken soups with corn starch or rice flour?

It was in my bottle of soy sauce, so I had to throw it outand get some new GF soy sauce by San-J. And yes, it is in my white vinegar. Upon some research the celiac.com site says distilled vinegar is safe for those who want to be GF. Still…in the comments underneath I found a number of people who have celiac who say distilled or white vinegar makes them ill. So I think I will keep my white vinegar for cleaning only purposes. Other vinegars are all safe except one; malt vinegar which I already gave away. I am hoping to still eat most pickles. Of course, they have some sort of vinegar in all of them so I will see what eating dill spears does for my tummy.

Wheat is ubiquitous. Meaning it seems to creep into most processed foods. As I walk through the grocery store whole aisles seem off limits. I have to look very hard for cold or hot cereals that I can eat. Chex cereal brand come to mind as a great choice, just stay away from the bran or whole grain versions. Corn flakes has wheat in it unless you get an organic brand; just a tad pricy and rather hard to crunch on. Still it made a dandy fried chicken coating. Oatmeal should be safe but unfortunately so many mills that process oats also process wheat which can contaminate it…. Breaded foods in the freezer aisle must be passed up too!

I can’t much go down the snack/pretzel aisle nor the cracker and cookie aisle. They are all too, too depressing. No more fig newtons, pretzels or a host of snack bars. The list goes on and on. Premade frozen foods are all off limits as are canned premade stuff or mixes. All seem to have forms of wheat in them which rule them out for me. Of course, the bread and bakery areas are a total loss as are bread crumbs, hot dogs and all pastas. Rice mixed with pasta in the little box is a no no and I can’t even make matzo ball soup. You don’t have to be Jewish to love that and I am sad over the loss of something so comforting.

No more couscous or any of my favorite pasta shapes and no more homemade pastas when I eat out. Worse yet, no ravioli, pot stickers or perogies. Disaster!Still, people tell me there are far more GF pasta choices than there were ten years ago. So far I like brown rice pastas far more than white rice pasta. I want to try the corn blend spaghetti next.

Wheat is in my vodka. Time to give it away. And in some liquors – there is a yummy Irish cream one that I tried last weekend and then found out I can’t enjoy ever again…. It was in my Josh Early chocolates and in the Victoria’s chocolates I got this Saturday as an early Easter gift! Both of which I deem major bummers.

I have to think about what I eat so much more these days. I can’t just grab a frozen meal for lunch and head off to work. I have to plan ahead for what I have in terms of meals particularly breads. I have found myself baking GF bread at ten pm as there was nothing in my house for lunch the next day. I now love that I can keep a few slices of GF bread in my freezer so I am always prepared for a quick meal. Can’t buy Hot Pockets, not until they make a GF version! All my favorite frozen meals are all off limits too for now. I am hoping more big companies jump on the gluten free bandwagon and make versions I can eat. One can hope anyway….

Peace and think of me when you are chowing down on some cheese and potato perogies…..boo hoo hoo!

Originally published March 25, 2013.


First Efforts at GF Shopping

ImageMy first reaction to the news of having celiac disease (other than total disbelief) was a strong sense of irony.  How could I, the baker of all things wheat, now be allergic to that most basic of components of my baking?  Once I got used to the idea, I spent some energy investigating where I could buy GF foods.  My local Giant didn’t seem to have much at first glance but after perusing it a couple of times I saw that they had a fair amount of GF cake/brownie/pancake mixes, pastas, redi-mixed flour mixtures, GF condiments and the like.  I bought some GF bread crumbs and cheddar cheese crackers there because they were on sale.  The Giant in Coopersburg has a slightly bigger GF selection.  I got a bunch of rice pastas there.

I have only been to the Rt. 248 Wegmans but it has some great finds too.  I imagine the other two local Wegmans have similar GF stock.  Most important, they have the individual flours that are critical to making your own flour mixes and for many recipes out of GF cookbooks.  I bought some tapioca flour, some potato starch and garbanzo & fava bean flour there.  The G&F flour is hard to find but is used in a number of recipes.  I did find that a white bean flour from Echo Hill was a decent substitute.

Echo Hill Country Store is out in Fleetwood, PA; the edge of Amish Country.  It is a small busy store crowded with aisles full of packaged flours, pastas, rice and beans of a variety that is found no where in this area as far as I can tell.  My friend Marjorie took me there a few years ago and I used to buy a lot of interesting wheat flours there.  Now I buy everything but wheat there.  They have pretty much everything but the G&F flour which I later found at Wegmans.  And they have a good GF pasta selection at decent prices.  I also found a wide variety of rices there that I never see anywhere else.  I found brown risotto rice there! And black rice, green rice and a number of rice mixtures that looked interesting.  Even if you are not GF you should take a trip to Echo Hill.  Their spices have great prices, bulk dipping chocolate is to be had there and there is just a lot of packaged goods to check out.  You can even get real chocolate jimmies there!!

Health food stores carry a decent range of flours and Fry’s Foods in Hellertown has brown  rice flour as well as several other specialty flours necessary for GF baking.  They also have some great GF cereals there.

One thing I haven’t found is rye flavor.  One of my cookbooks uses it to simulate rye bread.  You can mail order it from Authentic Foods which is located in California.  I think I may have to put together an order this spring….  I do miss seeded rye and pumpernickel breads.  So I know I will continue looking for it in stores and one way or another I will make some rye bread soon. 

Most stores have redi-made GF baked goods like rolls and breads.  I have heard nothing good about them.  And they are very pricy; I saw frozen GF breads in Weis Markets that was $7.49 for a loaf! That is twice what wheat bread costs these days.  The GF rolls when touched (my man did that!) are hard and unyielding so I think for now I will be making my own from scratch. 

GF bread crumbs cost about three times what wheat bread crumbs cost but they are nice as they don’t really need refrigeration.  Still, these were made only of cornmeal crumbs which I take issue to.  I think I will stick to my homemade crumbs from leftover GF bread I made in the past.

Everyone says that, once you get the hang of it, home made GF baked goods are far superior to the pre-made stuff offered in today’s stores. So I cannot report to you on how they taste.  If I buy any I will let you know how it tastes.  And if you, fair readers, have tried any pre-made GF breads/rolls please do write in on what you thought of the taste and texture.  Tell me where you bought them too! Maybe I will be tempted to try one by your recommendation.

First published late March 2013.