Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Quest for Bread

Here are some things I’ve learned about gluten-free products:

  • Pasta - I like the quinoa and corn better than the rice-based noodles. Ancient Harvest spaghetti is my favorite so far. They don’t have too many shapes so I haven’t been able to try the other varieties. I have elbow noodles in my cupboard but haven’t used them yet. The next best is Annie’s macaroni and cheese. It’s nearly as good as regular boxed mac-n-cheese, despite being rice-based noodles. They’re much larger in size than the typical blue box but they taste great and hold their texture as leftovers. My least favorite is Tinkyada. Maybe it’s just their asinine “energy-saving” cooking method (boil for 2 minutes then let sit, covered, for 20) but the texture was awful, they fell apart when mixed with other ingredients, they were mushy in the casserole, and worse as leftovers. We threw out half a pan.

  • Snacks & Desserts - I haven’t actually tried that many crackers. The Glutino table crackers are underwhelming so I’ve been sticking with Nut Thins. I genuinely like them and I keep trying new flavors. They’re really great with spreadable cheeses like port wine and cream cheese. Tortilla chips are of course a standard, as they have been all along. Frito Lay has a marvelous list of all their GF snacks, which include Cheetos! Unfortunately not Nacho Cheese Doritos; Cool Ranch just aren’t as good. I’ve also tried a few different bars. Bakery on Main has some nice granola bars and I like that you can actually buy a whole box. KIND bars and Lärabars are individual only. I was underwhelmed with the one flavor of KIND bar I’ve tried but plan to sample others. So far I like the chocolate coconut Lärabar best but it’s only the second flavor I’ve gotten around to sampling. I made some homemade Monster Cookies using a recipe from General Mills’ They used a box mix for Betty Crocker GF chocolate chip cookies. The finished product was OK, not great. They were actually better the second day but then got quite dry as they aged. I do like the idea of using more baking mixes though, instead of having to have 80 different weird flours on hand. A co-worker brought in a French Meadow GF brownie and a GF chocolate chip cookie for me earlier this week. They were both good but the cookie was actually pretty great. I’ve also had the local co-op’s GF brownie, which I liked though it was day old and so a bit stale.

  • Breakfast - Mostly I’ve been eating Corn Chex or Rice Chex. Or combining them into the same bowl for “Crispix”. I’ve tried one actual GF cereal, Sunrise Harvest, and it was good but weird. There were like six different shapes of things in there so it was like eating suicide cereal. Seriously. Like if someone poured Kix and Rice Krispies and Wheaties and Grape Nuts and Special K into the same bowl and mixed it all together. Odd. I’ve also gone through a box of Glutenfreeda instant oatmeal. I tried the variety pack which had apple-cinnamon, maple-raisin, and maple-banana. The maple-banana is best. But I would like to find just regular instant oats. Like a big container that I can choose how much to pour and flavor myself instead of the packets. I’m also curious about the quinoa flakes (like Malt-o-Meal?) but haven’t tried them yet. I have some actual quinoa that I used to make a delicious pilaf the other night. I think I have a recipe to make a hearty breakfast bowl with quinoa that I’ll have to dig up. I’ve also been buying Amy’s frozen GF burritos, which are awesome, and having those for brekkie. But that gets spendy.

  • Pizza - Pizza has been tricky. Mr. b found an Amy’s frozen rice crust pizza and it was awful. The flavor was ok I guess but the texture was all kinds of wrong. We threw out the leftovers. Since that disaster, I tried an Udi’s frozen pizza crust. It was great. Good texture, good flavor, and really only a little bit more effort to have to spread my own sauce and toppings. It was a two-pack so I’ve got a second one to decorate. They’re fairly small crusts though so I can eat like 2/3 myself. Something for a night when the kids are having Spaghettios. We had a pizza lunch at work the other day and the admin was kind enough to order several GF along with the massive order she called in from Pizza Luce. It was great. I even got to snatch the leftovers so I’ve had some leftover pizza for breakfast. There are a couple of other pizza joints I want to try that have GF crusts. It’s nice living in such a hippie organic bean sprout city because there really are a lot of restaurant options. I just need to remember all the places we used to go back in the 90s…

  • Bread - This is the biggie. I haven’t found anything that’s *that* good yet. Udi’s plain bagels were fine. They weren’t great but they were acceptable. I’m a bagel snob and nothing is ever going to compare to Bruegger’s for me so I just have to accept that. Udi’s were as good as non-Bruegger’s and that’s as good as it’s going to get. I also tried some brown rice tortillas. They were pretty passable as naan for scooping up Indian food. But they didn’t wrap well for burritos. I haven’t tried them as quesadillas yet but my fingers are crossed. Corn tortillas, though good for pretty much anything (seriously, I eat most leftovers in them; you can make anything into a taco), just don’t work for quesadillas. Regular bread though, haven’t hit on it yet. First I tried a loaf of Schär. The first two sandwiches I made for Mr. b and I – grilled ham and cheese – were excellent. But small. The loaf is little. But after it was frozen and I had to defrost in the microwave I was completely disillusioned. I choked down my grilled cheese and figured I’d have to try another brand. So next up was French Meadow. They’re local and their tag line is that it’s so good you won’t miss the wheat. Bullshit. I missed the wheat. It was not good. I choked down the tuna melt but was very unhappy. Then I decided to try toasting the old frozen Schär in the oven. It’s a bit weird and slow but it was good! I had it with cream cheese and it was better than the bagel. I tried the same oven technique with the French Meadow and again, it totally worked! My salami and provolone sandwich was dry but delicious. So I guess toasting is the key. I still want to try Udi’s and see if that’s universal but I suspect it is. I covet the soft pillowy direct-from-the bag slices when I make the kids’ PBJs. And croissants. I haven’t even attempted a hunt for GF croissants.

    Jennifer said...

    Have you tried "Food for Life" bread? They have a line of GF bread products available, and Whole Foods and Trader Joes usually carries them. I like the the (not GF) Ezekiel sprouted grain breads bc they're low carb/diabetic friendly & taste good. Hopefully the GF ones are as tasty.

    belsum said...

    Ooh, thanks Jennifer I'll keep them in mind. I've got their brown rice tortillas in my fridge right now. They made excellent quesadillas.

    Jennifer said...

    You're welcome! I love quinoa too. Thankfully it's gotten popular so there's lots of recipes out for it right now.

    Since I only sporadically comment, like once a year, it's nice to be able to help. :-)

    Anonymous said...

    Just a thought - Japanese food tends to be gluten-free. Here are two websites that I enjoy, both written by a Japanese ex-pat who adapts recipes to use ingredients available outside of Japan. She also writes some great articles about traveling in Japan.

    belsum said...

    Sporadic commenting is just fine by me - I thought I had chased everyone away with all my celiac talk! HA!!

    Great idea milkysa. I forgot you were on that Japanese kick a while ago. I'll definitely check that out.