Eleven Easy Gluten-Free Go-Tos

My little sister, Ellen, has been on a path toward becoming gluten- and dairy-free, which has significantly improved her health issues. When she cooks for herself and strictly monitors for cross-contamination, the golden age of GF living reveals all its rewards. One smidgen of gluten though . . . and she’s a goner. When we were together at Christmas, I told her I’d work on a cheat sheet for quick grocery store purchases and safe items at the restaurants she has access to. Many of these are based on what’s close to my office as well–crappy fast-food where I am able to find gluten-friendly fare. I don’t condone a great deal of eating out, especially at fast-food restaurants, because home-cooking is really the only way to monitor quality of ingredients, but reality is that I will be too rushed to make my lunch two days out of the week. It’s good to be aware of my g-free options, even if they aren’t super healthy. (Links below are to the allergen pages for each restaurant/manufacturer so you can scope out the menu items that will work best for you.)

  1. Costco Rotisserie Chicken. $4.99 for a whole cooked chicken. Boom. Most of the time, you can’t even buy a raw chicken for that amount, never mind the hassle and expense of cooking it. A lonely girl like me can get a good four to five meals out of this lovely seasoned bird, and I freeze the carcasses to make my own GF chicken stock down the road. Check the label next time you’re in the store. It says gluten-free in red letters across the bottom. Holla!
  2. Wendy’s. Gluten-friendly items include the baked potato, chili, hamburger patties, and side salads (watch it with the dressings and no breaded chicken!). Sadly, Wendy’s fries are not listed as GF because they are cooked in the same oil as breaded items.
  3. Chick-fil-A. This is no help for my sister, but I want to marry Chick-fil-A sauce, so I’m putting it on the list: chargrilled chicken salad (amen), waffle fries (the choir crescendos!), Chick-fil-A sauce (a downright religious experience). Add a half-sweet half-unsweet tea, and I could die a happy woman.
  4. Qdoba or Chipotle. I don’t love Mexican. Therefore I don’t love these places. But a rice/bean/meat/veggie bowl works in a pinch, and these places make it easy to eat g-free.
  5. Gluten-Free Waffles (Van’s are my favorite). When I first cut out gluten, I ate these for dinner three nights a week. A little butter, almond butter, and a handful of raspberries, along with a couple poached eggs, made for a perfectly satisfying meal. I watch for BOGO sales and keep a couple boxes in my freezer at all times.
  6. Brown rice cakes. GF bread is spendy, and I really don’t like it unless it’s toasted. Brown rice cakes are a great vehicle for albacore with pesto and veggies, turkey and goat cheese, or whatever you might normally put in a sandwich.
  7. Kind Bars. I eat one of these nearly every morning. I only love two or three flavors (the rest are too sweet for me), and I buy those by the box through Amazon Subscribe-and-Save.
  8. Sonic. I don’t love Sonic, but in a pinch, it’s good to know you can get something that won’t derail your lifestyle. Hamburger patties, tots, and fries should be safe.
  9. Arby’s. Arby’s has a fairly comprehensive allergen sheet with some good options, including roast beef and roast turkey, side salad, and roast turkey chophouse salad. Steer clear of the fries!
  10. Quinoa. By the truckload. Almost daily. I have grown to love quinoa more than any kind of rice. I make a double batch with chicken stock on Sundays and use it throughout the week–as a heated side, cold on salads as a shot of filling protein, mooshed together and lightly fried alongside a veggie scramble, etc. Buy at Costco if possible–way cheaper!
  11. Canned soups and stock. Let’s be honest. I am not going to cook soup from scratch every week. Some nights I am going to drag my sorry rear home at 7:00 and reach for a can of soup. Thank the Lord in heaven there are options. (Are you paying attention to this one, Ellen?) Progresso has an assortment of g-free soups. Skip the creamy soups if you’re dairy-free as well. Add a piece of GF toast with tomato slices and crumbled goat cheese on top, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, and this isn’t a half-bad meal. (Also worth noting is Campbell’s allergen document. If you don’t have access to a Whole Foods, which believe it or not, many people don’t, it’s good to know that your standard grocery store carries GF chicken stock, a staple in my kitchen.

Next time around, which will likely be in three months since that’s the frequency of posting I seem capable of, I’ll get together a list of my favorite gluten- and dairy-free bottled salad dressings–another of the challenges for someone new to this lifestyle change. (I promise I won’t wait that long, sis!)

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Slow Your Roll Recipe: Italian Chicken and Veggies

If you read my adventures in slow cooking crazy, you’ll know I’m on a serious slow cooker roll. I thought I’d share my recipes so you can slow your roll too!

I’ve seen variations of this recipe on the web and in a few cookbooks–probably because it’s kind of a no-brainer. Maybe I lived in NYC for too long, but nothing says comfort food to me like a cheesy Italian dish. Perfect for a chilly fall day.

This one was a big hit with my husband–I only ate one serving and he finished the rest off over the course of a couple of nights. He requested expressly that I make this one again!

Italian Crock-pot Chicken

  • 4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 16 Ounce Bottle of GF Italian Dressing (I used Kraft Tuscan Italian, but I think I may swap for a less sweet Italian dressing next time–it was a little sweet for my taste, although my husband loved it)
  • 1/2 Cup of Parmesan or Mozzarella Cheese (I will often add a dollop of cream cheese to this)
  • GF Italian Seasoning
  • 6 Potatoes cut in  wedges
  • 2 cups of baby carrots
  • Fresh basil to taste, chopped

IN THE BAG: All Ingredients.

TO COOK: Place chicken in pot first. Top with carrots. Top with potatoes. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve over rice pasta or with a salad.

Recipe Rip-Off: California Pizza Kitchen Quinoa and Arugula Salad

No, I wasn’t raptured. No, I wasn’t abducted by aliens or zombies. Yes, I did briefly fall off the planet AND the gluten-free, anti-inflammatory diet wagon. {Boy did I pay for it too. Any thoughts I had that perhaps I didn’t have any food allergies or intolerances were proved wrong this week–via hives and swelling and miserableness!} I happen to have been thrown into a bit of a life crisis, and it has been a teensy bit consuming. It has left me mostly disinterested in food, so when something sounds good and will keep me healthy, I’m all over it. I will attempt to make occasional contributions to our little ol’ blog, but I sense it will be sporadic. But for tonight? You get something!

I had a lovely lunch with a girlfriend last Saturday at California Pizza Kitchen. They have had GF pizza that I wanted to try, and she had mentioned a seasonal quinoa and arugula salad she thought I might like. And boy, did I like it. I didn’t like paying $14.50 for it though. And here’s my pride confidence making an appearance: I thought I could make it better at home. So here’s my rip-off version.

Quinoa and Arugula Salad with Salmon

Salad Ingredients:

  • quinoa
  • arugula
  • asparagus
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • pine nuts
  • feta or goat cheese
  • salmon
  • red onion (optional)

Dressing Ingredients:

  • olive oil (or grapeseed oil, if you prefer something with less flavor)
  • vinegar of choice (champagne vinegar, white balsamic vinegar; I have some lovely blood orange vinegar from a friend, so I added a dash alongside the champagne vinegar)
  • salt and pepper
  • a tiny bit of honey or agave

Instructions:

Don’t get your hopes up for any specific measurements or amounts here. Sorry! I played fast and loose, but it all worked out fine.

Cook quinoa according to package instructions and cool. I like to cook mine in chicken stock if I have it. Chop asparagus into one-inch pieces and drop into salted boiling water for a couple minutes, until crisp-tender. Immediately remove and shock in an ice bath. Toast pine nuts for a couple minutes (don’t burn them, says experience!), and remove from stove. Chop sun-dried tomatoes. I am not friends with raw onion, but if you are, finely dice or thinly slice a few tablespoons of red onion, and add to the mix. Prepare salmon according to your preferred method. I rubbed mine with coconut oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and baked it (a couple minutes under the broiler at the end makes for some lovely crisp edges).

Whisk together your vinaigrette. I pretty much always eyeball this. Your ratios should be one part vinegar/acid to three parts oil, so 2 T vinegar and 6 T oil. Add a drizzle of honey or agave, maybe a little dijon, and salt and pepper to taste.

In a large bowl, combine arugula, cooled quinoa, asparagus, and chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and onion (if using). Pour dressing over the top and toss. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and feta or goat cheese. Add salmon . . . and boom. Dinner is served.

Worst Blogger Evar. With a Side of Asparagus Salad.

Hello, strangers! A combination of crazy-hectic work schedule, deadlines, personal overcommitment, losing my darn cat (and then finding him!), tiredness, and lack of inspiration has added up to me not cooking much or blogging here the last couple weeks (or even staying up to date on what my fellow GFGs have posted). Sorry! No more sleepless nights of wondering where I’ve been.

I did manage to pull together a meal for Easter Sunday. I googled “Easter menu items” and cobbled together a last-minute mishmash of make-ahead dishes and what sounded easiest and tastiest at the moment and would allow for the longest Easter afternoon nap possible. The meal wasn’t a slam dunk. Oh well. At least I made an effort. And EVERYTHING would have been gluten-free if I hadn’t screwed up the pie (I don’t have time to tell that story). The menu consisted of:

  • ham: Meh. I put a glaze on it. It was still kinda gross. I’m not a huge ham fan anyway.
  • potato salad: based on this recipe but with some significant tweaks. YUM. Anything with potatoes makes me very happy. Note to self: raw onions have given you heartburn for all of the 30+ years you can remember. Why did you put them in this lovely potato salad–and then suffer for the next 48 hours?
  • shrimp shooters: marinated in olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, cilantro, and some other stuff. Dang good.
  • banana custard pie: which I managed to ruin by trying to make trying to make gluten-free . . . and then subsequently made not gluten-free because I ran out of ingredients.

  • asparagus, walnut, and feta salad: based on this recipe. I kindly overcooked the asparagus. If I hadn’t? This would have been my favorite component of the meal.

So I’m going to share a recipe with you that I ruined but that I still loved and that I hope you’ll make and not ruin. Makes perfect sense.

Asparagus, Walnut, and Feta Salad

based on this recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2-2 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus
  • 1/4 small purple onion, thinly sliced wedges
  • 4-6 ounces crumbled feta (goat cheese feta if you can find it) or goat cheese

Instructions

  1. Bake walnuts in a shallow pan at 350°, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes or until toasted; set aside.
  2. Combine oil and next 5 ingredients; cover and chill.
  3. Bend asparagus until it snaps. Cut the remainder up to the same height to remove woody stems (if you’re being frugal, save those stems for soup). Submerge asparagus in salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes, until crisp-tender and still bright green. {No longer! I’m serious! You turn away to watch three minutes of a car chase on Fast Five and you will have ruined your dang asparagus.} Immediately plunge asparagus into ice bath to stop the cooking process; drain and pat dry.
  4. Re-whisk vinaigrette if needed and pour over cooled asparagus. Sprinkle walnuts, onion, and cheese over the top. Allow to sit at room temp for 30 minutes before serving.

So the asparagus portion of the salad was kinda crappy because of the overcooking, but this dish will definitely be on repeat for me. I loved the vinaigrette and the combo of flavors. I wisely sliced the onion in thin slices rather than dicing so I could easily remove the heartburn-causing monsters from my dish (I wasn’t so smart with the potato salad). Asparagus is looking lovely in the market right now. I hope you’ll give this recipe a whirl!

What did you make for Easter dinner? Any flops? Standouts? Please tell me I’m not the only one who made something that didn’t turn out AT ALL.

Recipe Rip-Off: Yumm Sauce (à la Jen)

There is a great restaurant chain in Oregon called Cafe Yumm! If have the opportunity to visit my lovely home state, definitely check it out. I don’t want to take away from their business in any way by posting a knock-off recipe, but I can’t live without the sauce and I’m 2,500 miles away! You can find copycat recipes all over online, but none of them has been quite right (and a couple are downright WRONG), so I’ve made some tweaks that I think get it pretty close to what I remember of the original. Even if it’s not exact, it’s still dang good—for a rice/bean/veggie bowl, on a salad, as a veggie dip, whatever.

This recipe makes a lot of sauce. I find it easier to just whir up a big batch and either share with friends or freeze half of it. I know some people shun soy altogether. I try to avoid it, but for this recipe, it’s such a small amount per serving that I’m willing to include it. Also, it’s highly critical that you use nutritional yeast, not brewer’s yeast, which is what some of the ripoff recipes online list. They are two very different things. It must be nutritional yeast (which I promise will find its way into other areas of your cooking, like on popcorn). Okay, enough nagging. Let’s get Yumm-ing!

Yumm Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup organic canola oil (preferably cold pressed) OR sunflower oil {see this chart if you’re interested in info on oils}
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds (for a creamier sauce, use almond meal/flour)
  • 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed (freeze the rest or make hummus)
  • 1/2 package+ silken tofu (add more or use the rest in smoothies; I use about 3/4 of the package)
  • 1/2 cup+ filtered water (important for flavor)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh is best)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (small to medium)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • fresh-ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried cilantro {something I never thought I’d purchase}
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast (available at Whole Foods in the supplement area or online)
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon citric acid (optional; helps preserve the color and adds an acidic kick)
Directions:
  1. In a food processor or blender, blend almonds, beans, tofu, and oil until smooth. In my new Vitamix (wheeee!), the sauce comes out much smoother than in the food processor.
  2. Add all other ingredients, and puree until creamy smooth. Add more water and/or lemon juice until it reaches the consistency you desire.
  3. Cover and let stand in the refrigerator for one hour.

This will keep in the fridge, tightly covered, for 7-10 days. I’ve also frozen the sauce, and it has thawed fine. However, we usually end up scarfing it up before we ever have a chance to freeze it.

Yumm Bowl. Here’s what you want to do. Layer a bowl with the following:

  • brown rice or quinoa or this sprouted rice/quinoa blend I’ve been loving lately
  • beans or the protein of your choice
  • a generous layer of Yumm-ish sauce
  • veggies: tomato, black olives, shredded carrots, scallions, avocado, peppers, etc.
  • shredded sharp cheddar (if you’re doing dairy)
  • sour cream (again, if you’re doing dairy)
  • fresh cilantro

Bam.

Put it on a burrito. Dip your crudites in it. Dress a salad. Eat a spoonful of it in front of the open fridge door at midnight. Oh, wait. That’s just me. It’s vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free, high in protein, and SO, so flavorful. Really, the sky’s the limit. Let me know what you think and what other ways you find to use this delicious sauce!