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!)

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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.

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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.

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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!

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?!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Eat Local, Jackson: A Giveway!

Are you looking for a quality local restaurant while you’re in Jackson? Wondering which local restaurants might be best for a romantic date night or a Southern Style meal? Look no further than Eat Jackson.

I first discovered Eat Jackson a few months after I moved to Mississippi. I was unfamiliar with the city, and definitely didn’t know which places were best to eat at, so I would constantly search online for new spots to try out. Luckily, I discovered Eat Jackson, a local’s dream guide to the latest and greatest dining options that Jackson, MS has to offer. With food directories by location, craving and meal type, this site makes finding food an absolute breeze!

Here’s what makes it even more awesome. You can purchase an EatJXN Card for just $20, which gives you discounts and freebies at tons of local places throughout the year! Some of my favorite deals include Free Cheese Dip with the purchase of an entree at Sombra Mexican Kitchen, Two-for-One Dessert at Bravo! Italian Restaurant (their GF peanut butter pie is to die for) and Bar and 10% off your order at Campbell’s Bakery (which features GF options daily!). For a complete list of card deals, click here.

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For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know how important that free cheese dip at Sombra is to me! And if you’ve read my post about Bravo!, you won’t want to miss out on that two-for-one dessert deal. So how can I help YOU benefit from this awesomeness?

One lucky reader will win a 2014 EatJXN card! That’s right, all of those awesome deals can be yours for an entire year. All you have to do is comment below and tell me what your favorite restaurant in Jackson is or which of these deals you’re most excited about. Tweet about the giveaway and “Like” Gluten Free Girl MS on Facebook to increase your chances to win!

One winner will be randomly selected on Friday, December 20th.

Good luck!

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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! 🙂

Coming Soon to Baton Rouge – the GF & AF Wellness Event!

Living in Mississippi, I tend to feel a little bit isolated from the gluten free world. I often read posts by other bloggers about fabulous restaurants or bakeries that serve completely gluten free menus. Or incredible shops and stores that offer aisles upon aisles of gluten free goodies! Whenever I hear of these things, I find myself dreaming of the day that a place like that opens in Mississippi. (Sigh) Until that day comes, I do what any girl would do… I eat wherever I can, order lots of food online and travel often! Documenting it all for you to read, of course.

But when I hear that a gluten free event is happening so close to home, I get excited. Not just a little excited – can-hardly-contain-my-enthusiasm excited! Because how often do I get the chance to meet other incredible gluten free bloggers and sit in on sessions with great gluten free speakers? Better yet, how often do I get to do this only hours from my hometown? (In case you’re still wondering, the answer is pretty much never)

Enter my excessive enthusiasm for the Baton Rouge Gluten Free and Allergen Free Wellness Event on November 2nd! Admission is only $10 for adults and free to children 13 and under! And the entire event takes place from 10am – 3 pm at the Cook Hotel & Conference Center at LSU. That’s FIVE HOURS of gluten free awesomeness!!!

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Wouldn’t you just LOVE to join me in Baton Rouge for this event? You can! Click here for detailed information on speakers, sponsors and vendors. You can even purchase your event tickets online!

Once you decide you absolutely cannot live without attending this event, let me know that you’re planning to join us there! I would love to see all of you!

Eat Local & Gluten Free, Mississippi

When you’re gluten free, eating out can be hard. We all know that. It can be especially hard in some of our local restaurants down here in Mississippi, where deep fried food is more than just the norm, it’s whats restaurants are known for! But don’t we love it when we find a great local restaurant where we can eat gluten free?

Yesterday I had the privilege of eating lunch with Andy of Eat Jackson at Bravo! Italian Restaurant and Bar. If you’ve never been to Bravo!, you are missing out on one heck of a gluten free menu. From appetizers and salads to pastas and even desserts, the menu is loaded with gluten free options that will make your mouth water and leave you anxiously awaiting your next visit!

Yesterday we ordered the Gluten Free Bruschetta as a starter. Since discovering this appetizer, I don’t think I’ve ever visited Bravo! without ordering it. I promise it does not disappoint. Even Andy, who is not gluten free, could not get over how incredible the flavor was. He even enjoyed the gluten free bread!

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Next up was the main course. I opted for the Tomato and Basil Gluten Free Pasta. If I have to be honest, it was a little bit greasy, but definitely delicious! And it’s always a nice treat to have pasta when you’re dining out gluten free.

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When Andy suggested we use our Eat JXN card for two-for-one dessert, I couldn’t refuse! What girl could? I opted for the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with Gluten Free Pecan Crust. All jokes aside, this pie is life changing. It is arguably my favorite dessert in all of Jackson, Mississippi. No really. It is that good. If you have not tried it, go to Bravo tonight and order one. Better yet, order an Eat JXN card so you can have TWO slices for the price of one! 😉

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Thanks to Bravo for yet another incredible Gluten Free meal, proving that eating out in Jackson can be not only delicious, but safe for us gluten free diners! And thanks to Andy from Eat Jackson for the great company and lots of laughs over lunch!