Thinking about Thanksgiving? My favorite gluten-free products

Vegan Pumpkin Pie I made one year. It's pretty easy with almond milk and without eggs.

Although I mostly write about gardening, I am also gluten-free, and lately, I’ve received a lot of requests to write about my favorite gluten-free products. The week before Thanksgiving seems like a good time. If you’re looking for traditional gluten-free Thanksgiving recipes, I have you covered with my mother’s cornbread dressing–I now use butter instead of buttery sticks, but both work well–Waldorf apple salad and gluten-free cherry pie. Just use canned cherries instead of fresh.

Fresh cherry pie. In fall, I make cherry pie with canned cherries.
Fresh cherry pie. In fall, I make cherry pie with canned cherries.

Favorite gluten-free flour mixes:

First, about flour mixes, they are mixes because straight rice flour–often used in mixes–is gritty and flat and doesn’t make decent baked goods. I’ve watched flour mixes improve greatly over the last ten years. Usually, gluten-free flour mixes contain either brown or white rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, sometimes dried milk and, maybe, some type of binder like xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is derived from corn though so, in recent years, more companies are removing binders from gluten-free items. Another common binder is guar gum.

You can often substitute a good gluten-free flour mix for wheat flour. No, it will not taste exactly the same, but in many baked goods other than yeast bread, gluten-free flour mixes below work very well. You can make Thanksgiving gravy with them and create quick breads, pastry, and cakes.

Cup 4 Cup gluten free flour. They also have a wholesome recipe blend which I'm trying this year. It has flaxseed and rice bran in it.
Cup4Cup gluten-free flour. They also have a wholesome recipe flour blend I’m trying this year. It has flaxseed and rice bran in it.

Cup4Cup Gluten-Free Flour is probably my favorite flour mix although there are many other honorable mentions. You can buy it online, or you can find it in Oklahoma at Sprouts and at Williams Sonoma. Williams Sonoma has several baking mixes with Cup4Cup as their base too. I recently tried the Meyer Lemon Bread mix. It was delicious. I added poppy seeds because I like the crunch. With whipped cream, it would make an excellent dessert at Thanksgiving. So would these lemon squares I’ve made many times.

The Cup4Cup website has some great recipes. Developed by the chefs at the French Laundry restaurant, Cup4Cup flour mix is composed of “cornstarch, white rice flour, brown rice flour, milk powder, tapioca flour, potato starch and xanthan gum.” It does contain milk products. Some gluten-free people can’t handle milk products. I couldn’t for many years, but as my stomach and intestinal tract healed, I am now able to eat them. I am so grateful for this.

King Arthur gluten-free flour
King Arthur gluten-free flour.

King Arthur Flour Multipurpose Flour, Gluten Free.King Arthur Baking Company created this flour mix, and it’s up to their high standards. This is the all-purpose gluten-free flour, but they also have a cup for cup version and other baking mixes. The ingredients are “white rice and whole-grain (brown) rice flours, tapioca starch, and potato starch.” I found this information on King Arthur’s website which has great recipes, both GF and regular. Note that potato starch lightens baked goods so it’s a great addition if you can handle nightshades. Some people can, and others cannot.

Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free baking flour.
Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten-free baking flour.

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour. I love Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 gluten-free baking flour. I don’t like their regular GF flour. It has pea protein and makes my stomach hurt. It also gives baked goods a “unique” taste. This flour doesn’t have the pea protein and works great in most recipes. The ingredients are “sweet white rice flour, whole grain brown rice flour, potato starch, whole grain sweet white sorghum flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum.” What makes this mixture interesting is the addition of sweet white rice flour and xanthan gum. I mentioned binders above, and the sweet white rice flour is a nice addition. It adds softness to cakes and other baked goods. In gluten-free baking books, you will often see it added to cakes. It’s not completely necessary, but bakes in a better texture.

Favorite Gluten-Free Breads

The first thing you find out when you become gluten-free is that good bread, like a good man, is hard to find.

From 2007 to 2014, I bought every gluten-free cookbook out there and attempted to make bread that would replace or rival wheat bread. Here’s the truth as I see it. You can make really good gluten-free bread, or buy it, but you have to quit thinking it’s going to taste like wheat bread. Although you can make bread that has a wheat-like nuttiness, I have never been able to make something with the same texture, the same bite.

I even made the Flying Apron Baker’s labor-intensive bread shown in the first two photos above. It was pretty good, but I’ve since made better.  Quick breads and muffins are the easiest things to make, and if you haven’t tried my retooling of Marion Cunningham’s nutmeg muffins,  you really should. They are amazing on a cold morning with a cup of tea or coffee.

Gluten free nutmeg muffins for Christmas
Gluten-free version of Marion Cunningham’s nutmeg muffins.

Bread straight out of the oven is one of the best things in life. After you turn 50 though, it will also put a rubber tire around your waistline. Maybe I’ll do a post one day on what they don’t tell you about growing older. Ha! So, I’ve stopped making bread most of the time. Occasionally, I’ll pull out my recipes for a special occasion like St. Patrick’s Day and make soda bread, but Bill and I don’t really need the extra carbs.

In the meantime, I buy great sliced bread for the times when I want a sandwich, and I want one about once every two weeks. I keep my bread double wrapped in the freezer to keep it fresh. The secret to good gluten-free bread eating is to always toast the bread. I have a Breville BOV800XL Smart Oven 1800-Watt Convection Toaster Oven with Element IQ, Silver. Yes, it was pricey, but I have to toast all of my gluten-free items separate from my family’s stuff, and I love the convection feature. I use it for everything from gluten-free chicken nuggets to pizza, and, obviously, toast. It’s the best purchase I’ve ever made. We still have a regular toaster for the kids’ breakfast toast.

Canyon Bakehouse Mountain White bread.
Canyon Bakehouse Mountain White bread.

My hands-down, favorite gluten-free bread is Canyon Bakehouse bread. If I’m ordering online, I get the Canyon Bakehouse Variety Pack Gluten Free Mountain White Bread , Cinnamon Raisin Bread, Deli Rye Bread and San Juan 7-grain Bread. I like all of the flavors, but the white bread is my favorite for sandwiches. I buy it at Target, Sprouts and sometimes, Whole Foods.

Canyon Bakehouse Heritage Wholegrain gluten-free bread.
Canyon Bakehouse Heritage Wholegrain gluten-free bread.

They’ve also come out with a heritage bread with seeds and nuts. It makes a wonderful grilled cheese sandwich which I like served with Amy’s Creamy Tomato Soup.

Udi's gluten-free classic French dinner rolls.
Udi’s gluten-free classic French dinner rolls.

For dinner rolls, I like these classic French dinner rolls by Udi’s.  Sure, you can make your own rolls, but Thanksgiving has enough work in it already. These rolls are delicious.

Gluten-free turkey

Gone are the days trying to find a turkey not basted in wheat. You have a lot of options now. Most fresh turkeys say gluten-free on the package, and many of the larger turkey brands offer gluten-free turkeys. Just read packages carefully and be sure to remove the gravy packet. I’m not making the turkey this year, but I’m pretty sure I’m fine there too.

If your family loves ham instead, check the packaging there too. Usually, whole or half hams without additives and fillers are fine.

Best gluten-free pizza

I know this post is basically about Thanksgiving, but you need something else to eat when the leftovers run out. I love pizza. If I’m going to eat carbs, it’s going to be pizza. My favorite pizza is made at local restaurants, including one national chain, B.J’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. Their gluten-free pizza is delicious. However, my favorite gluten-free pizza comes from a local chain, Hideaway Pizza. They rewrote the book on gluten-free crusts, and they are really good at telling you which toppings are gluten free and which are not. Pepperoni Grill also has excellent Italian-style, gluten-free pizza. They also get food allergies and sensitivities and are a wonderful option for eating out.

As for frozen pizzas, the big three of gluten-free, Udi, Glutino and Amy’s are all just o.k. My personal favorite is BOLD Organics. The crust is delicious, and the toppings are great. It’s also dairy-free. Here’s the story behind this young company’s pizza. I also like Against the Grain’s pizza. It’s very good. One day, I’m looking forward to trying Conte’s gluten-free pizza. It’s not available in Oklahoma yet.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie I made one year. It's pretty easy with almond milk and without eggs.
Vegan Pumpkin Pie I made one year. It’s pretty easy with almond milk and without eggs.

Pies

If you’re making one-crust pies, I have good news. Sprouts Farmers Market has frozen gluten-free pie crusts that are pretty darn good. Whole Foods also has these. I’m planning on baking an apple pie this year with two crusts so I’ll be making my pie crust. I used to use a different brand of pie crust mix, but I now love Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Pie Crust Mix, 16 Ounce.

Bob's Red Mill gluten free pie crust mix.
Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pie crust mix.

I do make a couple of changes. I add one egg as a binder and one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. The apple cider vinegar seems to help with crunch. I also brush my upper crust with a little milk and sprinkle sugar on top. I find milk works better than butter for this purpose. I use my food processor to bring all the ingredients together and then refrigerate the crust. I also use two sheets of wax paper to roll out my crust, or the Glad Press ‘n Seal wrap. I put the sticky side down on the counter. It takes some practice, but I think gluten-free crust is easier to make than wheat crust.

I hope this post is helpful for those of you facing our national wheat-filled holiday. Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and safe eating my gluten-free friends.

Note: I was not given any compensation for any of my thoughts on gluten-free products or foods. I doubt they even know I occasionally write about gluten-free eating. However, this post does contain a few Amazon affiliate links which help pay for the cost of maintaining the blog. Thanks!

 

Gluten free, Dairy free Caesar salad

Diners at Tavern on the Green in New York

Back in the days before I went dairy and gluten free, I ate a lot of Caesar salads at various restaurants. My favorite was the one the Metro Wine Bar and Bistro in Oklahoma City served, although Juniors made a delicious one too. I like the Metro’s creamy salad dressing, and the way the chicken was grilled to perfection, crispy on the outside with a moist interior. I also adored the Metro’s famous bread and the croutons they must have made from it.

Then, gluten freedom came and soon after dairy liberty. Now, when I eat out  at a restaurant, I often feel like the management is saying, “No croutons for you!!!”

No Parmesan either by the way. Half the time management also considers eggs dairy (although they aren’t), and so they won’t let me have a good salad dressing based upon eggs. I question. I cajole. The other night at Charleston’s I was told the dressing I love on their menu, champagne vinaigrette, is not gluten free. Say what!?! I still am not sure I believe them on this, and when I asked the manager what ingredient wasn’t gluten free, and he said he’d have to go back and look at the label. He never did. Before you think I’m unreasonable, it was a Monday, and they weren’t busy. His solution? The little bottles of oil and red wine vinegar which looked like they’d sat in the back for a hundred years.

No dressing for you either.

So, a few years ago, when my boys would go to their weekly, Tuesday Boy Scout meeting, the girls and I worked to perfect the best gluten and dairy free Caesar salad ever. After many good tries, we’ve finally done it, and because I want to share the yummy goodness with you, the recipe below is set to serve five or six people (because the boys figured out what we were up to, and demanded some.)

Gluten and Dairy Free Caesar Salad

 

Two heads of romaine lettuce or one bag of romaine hearts rinsed and torn into pieces. We use our collapsible salad spinner to rinse.

Three Udi’s Gluten Free Bagels (Multigrain), chopped up and placed so that they lay flat in a metal pan of 4 Tbsp. olive oil and 4 Tbsp. Earth Balance Spread melted. (Yes, it’s a lot of fat, but how many croutons are you going to eat? Never mind, don’t answer that.) Before placing in a 425 degree oven, toss the croutons with Penzey’s Fox Point Seasoning (this is crucial.) Toast the croutons until brown tossing them a few times until evenly golden.

Five chicken breasts (preferably from decent chickens which haven’t been locked up in a darkened chicken house their entire lives.) Sprinkle these with the Fox Point Seasoning also. Grill the chicken outside on your grill. It’s too hot to really cook indoors. You can also put the croutons on the top shelf of your gas grill and cook them that way too.

Now, if you can have dairy, and if you can, I am so jealous, buy shaved Parmesan or a block and shave it yourself. Use Cardini’s Original Caesar Dressing. It’s dog-gone good.

For those of us who are dairy free, here is my dressing.

4 Tbsp. Hellman’s mayonnaise (or another great brand)

2 Tbsp. Japanese seasoned rice vinegar (which is lightly tart and a bit sweet) If you want a sweeter dressing (I don’t, but you might), use a white balsamic in place of the Japanese vinegar. This is enough dressing for two people, but once everyone discovered how good homemade dressing is, they all asked for it. Cardini’s just sits lonely in the back of the fridge.

A sprinkle of Fox Point seasoning

A sprinkle of pepper

Mix with a whisk.

Slice the now delicious chicken and mix it all together. Get ready for yum.

Oh, and I don’t have a picture because we ate . . . every . . . last . . . bite.