Gluten Free Without Breaking the Bank

Here’s a fun fact anybody who follows a gluten free diet is well aware of: living gluten free is expensive. It just is. No matter which way you slice it, a life free of beloved wheat, rye and barley is not only more difficult but it absolutely kills your wallet.

Since most of us gluten free folks try to minimize our meals out as to avoid cross-contamination and accidental “glutening”, we find ourselves frantically searching the aisles of our local grocery store for gluten free ingredients to prepare our own meals at home. And as the cashier rings us up at the check-out line, we sigh and take out our debit cards, nostalgic for the days of buy-one get-one-free loaves of bread and crackers that cost less than $5 per box.

So what can we do about it? What can we eat that keeps us healthy and doesn’t break the bank?

First, start with the basics: meat, fruits and veggies. All three of these things are naturally gluten free, and staples of a healthy diet anyway! Sure, it may cost a little more to purchase fruit than a box of Oreos, but in the long run your body will thank you and you won’t find yourself getting sick anymore. Meat is a staple of gluten free living in our household. We always have chicken, ground beef and shrimp in the freezer, ready at a moment’s notice for a night of grilling or homemade tacos! (With corn tortillas, of course!)

taco1-1024x665

You know what else is naturally gluten free? Nuts, eggs and cheese. Looking for a quick snack but not willing to splurge on a $6 box of gluten free crackers? No problem; buy yourself a bag of nuts. Grab yourself some fresh cheese and pop a few cubes whenever you need a snack. Cook up some scrambled eggs in the morning for a quick and delicious gluten free breakfast.

something-with-scrambled-eggs-500

For those times when you are really craving some delicious carbs, don’t shy away from using coupons! The sting of a $5 bag of bread or $6 box of muffins (4 per pack) won’t hurt quite as much when you can save a buck or two by simply using a coupon. Sign up for emails and promotions from some of the best gluten free companies out there like Rudis, Udi, and Glutino all offer coupons for email subscribers!

Grab a big bag of gluten free flour and prep your favorite snacks from scratch! There are some awesome gluten free flours out there, but many have a price tag to match. (Cup 4 Cup, I’m talking about you) I’ve had some of my best luck with brands like Pamela’s and Bob’s Red Mill. These can easily be substituted for regular flour in almost any recipe and don’t carry the hefty price tag that others do. Not sure what to whip up? Check out Pinterest for some fantastic gluten free recipe inspiration or start following a few gluten free blogs online.
When you really want some delicious processed gluten free food (and let’s face it, we all crave it from time to time), try shopping online. Vitacost.com regularly offers some amazing deals on gluten free products and every order over $50 ships for free. Do yourself a favor and get yourself an Amazon Prime account and enjoy the benefits of free 2-day shipping every time you order some gluten free goodies.

amazon-prime

I won’t sugar coat it for you: you absolutely will spend more money living a gluten free lifestyle. Your friend’s hamburger will almost inevitably cost lot less than the salad you ordered because nothing else on the menu was gluten free. So cook at home as much as you can, saving you the frustration of pricey gluten free menus or places where you might get accidently glutened. And try some of these money saving tricks next time you hit up your local grocery store!

Advertisements

A Gluten Free Christmas!

This Christmas was definitely my favorite one so far. No, it wasn’t just because of the amazing food (though I am going to get to that in just a second). This year my entire family came to town for their first Mississippi Christmas – which meant I got to spend the week surrounded by the ones I love. And my husband and I didn’t have to worry about splitting time between families. We had both of them with us all week!

Combining families at Christmas can be a challenge though. It involves more than just combining bodies; it means combining traditions as well – and that includes the food. In my family, we always do a big Christmas Eve dinner. And since four of us are gluten free (five if you count my husband), we make the entire meal Celiac-friendly. Though my husband’s family doesn’t share our gluten allergy, this year we wanted them to share our love of some delicious gluten free food so I volunteered to host Christmas Eve dinner at our house.

What was on our gluten free menu?
– Turkey
– Mashed Potatoes
– Homemade GF Gravy (my favorite!)
– Gluten Free Stuffing (thanks to Glutino for this mix!)
– GF Dinner Rolls (courtesy of Chebe Bread Mix)
– Cranberry Sauce (my sister’s favorite)
– Squash (because we thought we should include at least one vegetable)
– Gluten Free Pecan Pie (Pillsbury, your GF crust is a lifesaver!)
and last but most definitely not least
– A ridiculous amount of GF cookies and wine!

No meal is complete without Chebe Bread

No meal is complete without Chebe Bread

GF Stuffing, courtesy of Glutino!

GF Stuffing, courtesy of Glutino!

Though this year’s meal turned out surprisingly perfectly (we barely had any leftovers everyone loved it so much), the dinner itself was not my favorite part. After all, isn’t dessert what everyone looks forward to during the holidays?

My favorite Christmas cookie is the white chocolate covered oreo. I always use Glutino Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies white chocolate bark to melt for the coating. They could not be easier to make – and they are so so delicious!

Add some sprinkles to make them festive!

Add some sprinkles to make them festive!

Oreos are great, but it just wouldn’t be Christmas without cut-out cookies! This year, my sister and I decided to try out Chebe Bread’s sugar cookie recipe made with Chebe All-Purpose Mix. Combined with our homemade frosting, these cookies were incredible. And did I mention also incredibly cute?!

photo 3

I also love pecan pie, especially during the holidays. Because nothing tastes better for dessert (and breakfast!) than Pecan Pie. This year, we used fresh pecans from my grandmother’s pecan orchard and Pillsbury GF Pie Crust. You can find the recipe here.

1476320_549202091834541_175836897_n

But more than anything else during Christmastime, I love a good Christmas morning breakfast. For my family, Christmas morning would not be complete without homemade cinnamon rolls. And since going gluten free, we’ve always used Chebe Bread Cinnamon Roll Mix to whip a batch up. It makes for a hassle free – and delicious – Christmas day treat!

What you’ll need to make your own:
– Chebe Bread Cinnamon Roll Mix
– Eggs
– Milk
– Butter
– Powdered Sugar
– Vanilla Extract

It’s easy! Just follow the instructions for the Chebe Mix on the box. Then, roll the dough out completely flat. Cover the dough in a layer of melted butter and powdered sugar. Cut into strips and roll into mini-buns. Cook at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

photo 5

photo 6

While your rolls are cooking, whip up some icing. Mix together powdered sugar, butter, milk and a dash of vanilla extract. Yes, I really wish I had exact measurements for the frosting, but unfortunately, we are not an exact measurement type of family. Next time I make some I’ll be sure to measure!

photo 7

When the rolls come out of the oven, pour some of your homemade icing over the top of them while they’re still hot. Serve warm with your favorite morning coffee and enjoy!

Hopefully each of you had a holiday week that was just as much fun, and as delicious, as mine was! 🙂

Merry Christmas!

Gluten Free 7 Layer Cookies

7layer cookies

When I posted this picture on Facebook and Twitter over the weekend, everyone kept asking me for the recipe. So I knew I couldn’t wait to publish just a single post with all of my favorite Christmas Cookie recipes – I had to get this recipe out ASAP! So here it goes: a family tradition, Gluten Free Seven Layer Cookies.

Ingredients
– GF Graham Cracker Crumbs
– Butter
– Butterscotch Chips
– Chocolate Chips
– Coconut Flakes
– Sweetened Condensed Milk

Wondering what the 7th layer is? You and me both! My family has called these cookies 7 layer cookies since before I can remember – and somehow, we managed to overlook the fact that there are only 6 layers to these tasty treats. Either way, they’re delicious and I am more than willing to move past that minor naming oversight if you are 😉

How to put it all together:
Melt 1 stick of butter. Pour the butter into a greased baking pan. Pour a layer of graham cracker crumbs on top. If you don’t have any graham cracker crumbs (I have a hard time finding them in stores so I purchase mine online), try crushing some cookies and use those as your base layer. I like Annie’s GF Ginger Bunnies or GF Ginger snaps for crusts.

Once you have your bottom layer, sprinkle some coconut flakes, butterscotch chips and chocolate chips on top. Don’t be afraid to be generous with each topping! I promise, the more you layer on, the tastier the cookie! Then, pour a layer of Sweetened Condensed Milk on top.

7layer before

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Then enjoy!

Friendsgiving

I love hosting events at our house. My mother says I definitely inherited the “hosting gene”, which I have always been grateful for. So to me, Thanksgiving seemed like the perfect time to get together with friends – and of course, eat and drink. From this, the idea for our first annual Friendsgiving was born, which took place this past Saturday evening.

Hosting events when you have food allergies is no easy task – after all, you want to make sure the food you prepare is both gluten free (that’s the only allergy in our house, thankfully), easy to eat in a “party setting” and delicious for everybody. It is also difficult to ensure that guests who bring food will always bring gluten free items, so you have to be extra careful to keep utensils and dishes separated.

That being said, I knew I was up to the challenge – so I set out to prepare a menu that would be easy to make and extra delicious. The first item I prepared was a Bacon Cheddar Ranch dip. This is my go-to dip for parties, events and tailgates. First, because it is so ridiculously easy to prepare a toddler could do it. And second, because it is comprised of many of my favorite things – namely, bacon and cheese.

Bacon Cheddar Ranch Dip Ingredients
16 oz. sour cream
1 packet Ranch dressing
3 oz. bacon bits (in the bag)
1 cup shredded cheddar

photo 5

See? I told you it was easy! All you have to do is stir those ingredients together and refrigerate overnight. The result? A tasty treat that everyone will enjoy. (I serve with Fritos scoops or Tostitos, but any corn tortilla chip or gluten free cracker will do)

Next up: Gluten Free Cornbread Muffins. I didn’t grow up a huge cornbread fan, but my husband definitely did. Cornbread is a staple of Southern meals and he had not eaten any since finding out he had a gluten allergy earlier this year. Since I am no cornbread expert, I stuck with the basics and whipped up a batch using Wegman’s Gluten Free Honey Cornbread Mix (which I picked up on a visit to Buffalo, NY in October).

photo 6

What could be easier than following the instructions on the back of a box? Pretty much nothing. And did I mention they were INSANELY DELICIOUS? They were completely gone by the end of the party – and I never even told anybody they were gluten free!

photo 7

I know Glutino also has a gluten free Cornbread mix, and we’re going to give that one a try this week – so we can compare results. But I’m sure that one will be tasty too 🙂

I knew I needed a dessert that would be easy to pick up and eat, but also one that nobody would suspect of being gluten free. So I stuck with the basics and opted for a batch of chocolate chip cookies, prepared with Domata Gluten Free Flour. (If you don’t remember my love for Domata, check out this post about the Peanut Butter cookies I made a few weeks back. To. Die. For.)

I followed the recipe from Domata’s website (no need to reinvent the wheel, right?) and they turned out incredibly well! Light and fluffy – they were gone before most people had even gotten to the turkey yet! So much for dinner before dessert… 😉

photo 4

Want to make your own? Here is what you will need:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
Dash of GF vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups Domata Recipe Ready Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup GF semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and brown sugar together until smooth – then adding egg and vanilla to the mix. Once those four ingredients are mixed together, add flour, baking soda and salt. Stir until combined thoroughly. Add chocolate chips. Place on greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 6-8 minutes. Enjoy!

Many of our guests (who were awesome, by the way!) brought dips, appetizers and desserts with them. One of my favorites included some bacon wrapped dates – because who doesn’t love things wrapped in bacon?! Another favorite was this baked brie (prepared gluten free with Pillsbury pie crust) that one of our friends brought. It was so thoughtful of them to prep a gluten free item that we could enjoy (complete with gluten free Nut Thin crackers to boot!). I am definitely going to have to try to make one of these myself soon.

photo 9

Of course the night wouldn’t have been complete without some meat! Though I had a minor Turkey fiasco on Saturday, when I went to pick up my pre-ordered “cooked and ready to eat” turkey from Heavenly Ham – and instead received a FROZEN turkey, everything ended up working out perfectly. A local BBQ restaurant in Vicksburg, Goldie’s Express, put together some pulled turkey and pulled pork for us – which made for great leftovers too!

photo 8

Having a Friendsgiving event of your own? Give one of these recipes a try! I know I can’t wait to make those chocolate chip cookies again – ASAP!

Chocolate Chip Bread Bombs

I like chocolate and I like bread. (Probably too much, honestly.) So when I saw the recipe for these Chocolate Chip Bread Bombs on Chebe’s website, I knew that I had to try them out! I mean seriously, mini rolls loaded up with chocolate? What could be better?!

Lucky for me, I had all of the ingredients I needed already in the house. To make your own, here is what you will need:

Ingredients
1 package Chebe All-Purpose Bread Mix
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. softened butter
1/2 cup sugar (original recipe calls for 1/4 cup)
4 tbsp milk or milk substitute
Chocolate Chips (to your liking)

Directions for Baking:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Mix the Chebe mix, eggs, butter and sugar together. Then, add the milk 1 tbsp. at a time. If you’re anything like me, you may find that once the milk has been added, kneading the dough with your hands is easier than using a mixer. It’s okay to get your hands dirty on this one! Once well mixed, add in the chocolate chips.

Separate dough into small balls on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes or until done.

breadbombs

Enjoy the chocolatey goodness! 🙂

Pillsbury Gluten Free Pizza Crust – Yay or Nay?

When Pillsbury came out with their line of gluten free products, I was more than just excited. I was ecstatic. Finally, something gluten free that would make my life EASIER! Let’s face it, when I come home from a long day at work, I don’t always want to make a pizza crust from scratch. (Although it is delicious that way!) And chocolate chip cookies? I have missed the days of just baking 3-4 cookies at a time from a tub of pre-made dough that is always ready to go in the refrigerator. Pillsbury’s new line of products was offering me just that! The ease of my gluten-filled days! But would it live up to my high expectations?

pillsbury+gf

The first thing we tried was the gluten free pizza crust. Though the crust is a little bit sweeter than I was expecting, and if you use a standard pizza pie pan it rolls out to make a fairly thin crust, both my husband and I really enjoyed it.

However, every time I’ve tweeted a picture of a pizza we’ve made with Pillsbury crust, or posted one on my Facebook page, I’ve gotten mixed feedback. I’ve heard from lots of people who have had trouble with the Pillsbury crust. Anything from the dough not cooking all the way through to toppings actually sliding off the crust! If you are one of those people, here is what I recommend to you:

DO NOT FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE CONTAINER.

That’s right – you read that correctly. Be a rebel. Don’t follow the instructions on the container the dough comes in. I know that this is a challenge for those of us in the gluten free community because we live for following baking instructions, but trust me, I’ve had great success with this dough by NOT FOLLOWING THE INSTRUCTIONS!

So how do I do it?

It’s simple really. First, I roll out my dough.

dough

Then, instead of pre-cooking it in the oven before adding toppings, as suggested by the instructions on the container, I simply place my toppings directly on the uncooked dough. (Aren’t I such a wild child?!) Adding toppings is the fun part! We’ve made regular pizzas with just sauce, cheese and pepperoni. Sometimes I even mix it up and add a little sausage for the hubs.

regularpizza

Or, when I really need a taste of home, I make a Buffalo Chicken Pizza. Those are my favorite. Instead of pizza sauce, I use Bleu Cheese as the base, sprinkle on Frank’s hot sauce (as desired), add some pre-cooked chicken and shredded cheese and bake.

pizza2

Now, here is the trick. Remember when I mentioned I don’t pre-cook my crust? I also don’t bake my pizza for as long as recommended on the packaging. The first time I ever made a pizza using Pillsbury dough, I simply kept an eye on it while it was cooking and after about 14 minutes at 400 degrees, I noticed it looked finished. It had cooked all the way through, even in the very center, so I was relieved. Now I know that my oven only requires about 13-15 minutes of cooking time, depending on how many toppings I pile on top of the crust.

pizza1

Your oven might not be quite as intensely hot as mine is. (I never keep any recipe I make in the oven as long as recommended) So if you find yours takes a little longer, don’t fret. The best thing to do is watch your first pizza and make a mental note for round two!

Hopefully this helps some of you who have been struggling with Pillsbury! And if not, stick with your other go-to crusts. Like Chebe Bread, which has always been a favorite of ours!

Good luck! 🙂

Are You a Gluten Free Pasta Lover?

I love pasta. Well, honestly, I love most carbs. In fact, I would totally rock this tee shirt if anybody wants to get it for me:

i_love_carbs_tees-ra1484a83256545e7a34965c1f6f086cb_8nazc_512

But, I digress. Back to pasta…

When I first went gluten free, I struggled with gluten free pastas. I tried gluten free pasta after gluten free pasta and never found one that tasted quite like the “real thing”. And I always wondered why pastas left that strange, thick, white goopy residue on the bottom of my pans. Regular, gluten filled pasta didn’t do that.

In fact, I detested gluten free pasta so much that I pretty much avoided it at all costs. I went years without eating any pasta at all. I call those the dark days.

And then I discovered corn-based pasta. This new discovery helped me to realize that my life could be delicious and filled with the glorious taste of pasta again. It was a miracle! Before I knew it, I was snatching up every brand of pasta I could find that was made with corn or a corn-rice blend. And was I ever living in sweet pasta goodness.

Here are some of my favorites:

barilla

I got a sample box of Barilla’s new gluten free spaghetti at the International Celiac Disease Symposium in Chicago last week. And boy am I ever glad I picked this sample up! This quickly became a new favorite in our household. The texture is absolutely perfect – you would never know it was gluten free! And that goopy white stuff I complained about earlier? No such thing with Barilla! The pasta didn’t stick together at all – and I’m sure it would have been good as leftovers, but we wouldn’t know because my husband and I ate the entire box! (Don’t judge)

photo 3

I first found this pasta about one year ago in the gluten free aisle at Kroger. It is actually the brand that brought me back to gluten free pasta, believe it or not. A corn pasta, we prefer it to rice-based pastas. However, do not overcook this pasta because it definitely will fall apart if you do!

photo 2

You can find this corn-rice blend at Fresh Market. (At least in Jackson, Mississippi anyway!)

photo 1

This last pasta I also picked up at ICDS last week, but haven’t had the opportunity to try yet. Made in Italy, I’ve heard it is incredible and am really looking forward to testing it out! Have any of you been lucky enough to try it?

These are just a few of my favorites. What are some of your gluten free pasta favorites?