Tuesday, February 26, 2008

These are a few of my favorite (gluten free) things!

In my gluten free circle, I'm known as a bit of a food snob. Basically that means that I have high standards for my gluten free food. Something can't just be edible for me to eat it. If I don't love a product, I'm not spending my hard earned money on it - period. Several of my dinner club members, and a few of you, have asked me to post a list of my favorite brands of products. Many of the following items listed are made in dedicated gluten free facilities but not all of them are, in case that matters to you. I'm only listing products that I LOVE and most companies listed offer more than what I buy from them. Below are my favorite products in two catagories. My fave ready-made shelf stable and frozen product lists will be in my next post.

Gluten Free Mixes:

Gluten Free Naturals - cornbread mix, yellow cake mix, brownie mix (crust top), pizza crust mix, bread mix (NEW!) and THE best pancake mix on the market, regardless of gluten content. The yellow cake mix makes a fabulous pineapple upside down cake - recipe on their website.

Breads by Anna - bread and pie crust mixes, the latter being the only crust that I've tried that is indistinguishable from those containing gluten.

123 Gluten Free - pan bar mix, pound cake mix, biscuit mix and brownie mix (fudge type). Gluten eating kids and adults love the pan bars, and they make great mini cupcakes with frosting.

Gluten Free Pantry - all purpose flour blend and scone mix. Their flour is great for coating crab cakes, chicken and shrimp and works well as a thickener for sauces, soups, etc. It can also be used for quick breads - just use a tablespoon less of it than regular flour, per cup.

Sylvan Border Farm - lemon poundcake mix. I have to ship this from CA and it's worth every penny!

Bob's Red Mill - chocolate cake mix (use chocolate milk to overpower the bean flavor). I use Silk chocolate milk and get rave reviews from gluten eaters every time.

Pamela's - pancake and baking mix (used for quickbreads, homemade brownies - not pancakes) and choclate chunk cookie mix. I make cookie bars instead of cookies and have to hide them from gluten eaters if I want some for myself! The recipe for bars is on the package.

Namaste Foods - spice cake mix. I add in raisins, nuts and 1/2 cup of natural unsweetened applesauce for the best spice cake ever! Also makes a great zuchinni bread - recipe on bag. Don't add applesauce when making bread.

Gluten Free Bakeries

Everybody Eats - French baguettes and deli rolls

Celiac Specialties - cinnamon buns, powdered sugar doughnut holes and doughnuts

Joan's GF Greatbakes - bagels (all varieties) and English muffins

The Grainless Baker - premade pizza crusts, graham crackers, choclate creme cakes (like a whoopie pie)

A Bountiful Harvest - various cookies and cakes

My criteria for buying gluten free products (more than once) is pretty simple - I have to think it tastes like a gluten containing version of it, or better. When gluten eaters enjoy them as well, that's just the icing on the (gluten free) cake! I've served most of the products listed above to gluten eaters, including kids. Most of them had no idea they were gluten free, or what the word gluten even means. They just knew that the cakes, cupcakes, brownies, cookie bars, pan bars and doughnut holes were delicious.

When people (who eat gluten) actually ask me for the recipe of something I have to laugh, because I know if I put a sign saying 'gluten free' by the food, most people would not even try it. Over the years there have been more horrid products than goods ones, so the misperception that all gf food is bad is understandable. If you're following the gluten free diet and eating food that tastes like dirt (yes they still make products like that), then you need to get to a Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Wegmans or your local co-op or health food store asap! The days of eating bland, gritty and tasteless gluten free food is so last century. Contrary to the funny line in the cancelled ABC tv show 'Cavemen', all gluten free cookies do not taste like dirt...lol!

I really believe that people who are miserable on the gluten free diet fall into two categories - they either havn't tried the best products out there or they have much deeper issues to deal with, that are most likely not about food at all. Certainly, I agree that we have to pay way too much for great gluten free food in this country and that has to change. But don't tell me there isn't any good gluten free food available. Instead just say that you can't or won't spend the money on the best products out there. It's true that the US is about 10 years behind most European countries in terms of variety for gluten free foods, as well as dining out options. The only way this will change is if we all ask for better options, more gluten free menus...whatever we want. Why not do your part? What's that saying I love....'be part of the change you want to see in the world'. Yeah...do that!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Afternoon Tea at the Four Seasons - Gluten Free Style!

Just over two years ago when I was told I'd have to follow a gluten free diet forever, one of the first things I knew I'd greatly miss, was Afternoon Tea service at the Four Seasons in Atlanta. It wasn't so much about the food, which was perfectly delightful, but it was more about the pomp and circumstance of it all. You see, having Afternoon Tea is a rather regal thing to do - and you don't have to be wealthy to enjoy this special treat. After considering the traditional tea menu, I sadly realized that most every bite offered was now off limits to me forever. I could still have the tea of course, though some teas contain barley. So you even have to check the gluten content of tea.

While researching my visit to London in 2006, I found out almost every single place there that served Afternoon Tea, offered a gluten free menu with advance notice. In my previous post about the trip I noted how fabulous the sandwiches in London were, and that my husband was sure they could not be gluten free and tasty at the same time. They in fact turned out to be both! When I returned home I set out to find someone here to offer me a gluten free version of Afternoon Tea. Surely this would be possible considering London is not exactly the culinary capitol of the world. If they could do it, surely we could do it better here.

The Executive Chef at the Four Seasons (mentioned in my Cooking Spree post) offered to make me gluten free food for the Afternoon Tea service served there. I tried it and found it surprisingly good so we recently took our Gluten Free Dinner Club there for an event. The event itself was lovely and most of the food was very good. The salmon crepe cakes were heavenly as were the chocolate covered strawberries and the lemon curd and Devonshire cream. The cheesecake was divine and I don't even like cheesecake particularly. The bread served for the tea sandwiches was from Whole Foods and I didn't find it very appetizing. I feel sure the Chef will come up with some awesome gluten free bread for us eventually. Since his gluten free Southern cornbread is amazing, I know he can make a decent gluten free bread if he chooses to.

Here are some photos I took of a couple of our members (father and daughter)
and a close up of our dessert plate. The cheesecake had a nut crust that was about the best cheesecake crust I've ever had...oh and best cheesecake too!

You too may enjoy this special treat with a two day notice at the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta. You might even want to request a small cup of gluten free lobster chili with corn muffins to start. That's what several of our members did for our event. Knowing I'd be full from the tea treats, I ordered my chili to go, and savored it over the next two days!

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