Gluten-Free Labels on Naturally Gluten-Free Foods

You’ve heard the jokes about gluten-free food labeling. You’ve made the jokes! “Why does it say gluten free? It’s a corn tortilla! Of course, it’s gluten free.”

In theory, this is true. The very short list of ingredients in a traditional corn tortilla do not include items that include gluten. Masa, water, salt. Simple.

Yet I make it a point to buy corn tortillas with gluten-free labels.

Why? Because of production issues. I’m talking about shared equipment. Shared facilities. Alternative or artisanal products. Sure, the ingredients in traditional corn tortillas are safe, but what about the other variables that can cross-contaminate my food?

Likewise with plain potato chips. Potatoes, salt, oil. But you know that plain, perfect potato chips are not the only products being manufactured by your favorite chip maker. And, much as it pains me to say this, there are some brands out there that add gluten-containing ingredients to this most perfect, simple food. Yes, I’m looking at you Hawaiian Kettle Style Potato Chips.

I trust that my chamomile tea is gluten-free (but thank you, Bigelow, for making it clear). I don’t worry about eggs or asparagus. I laugh sometimes at the use of the gluten-free label on foods that seem so obviously gluten free…and yet I appreciate that these labels exist.

If you stick to real foods — meats, vegetables, grains, and dairy that haven’t been enhanced with flavors or sauces or weird ingredients — it’s pretty easy to buy and consume gluten-free products. And these products make up the bulk of my food shopping experience.

But my palate and menus demand more than just plain foods. I like seasonings. I like sauces. I like convenience. I like tacos. And enchiladas. And pasta. And trying new things.

I don’t like spending time trying to decipher labels or using my phone to figure out if a particular product is really gluten free or just seems that way on the surface. Sure I do this kind of fact-checking all the time, but life is so much easier when a manufacturer cares enough to let me know that I don’t have to work hard to enjoy their food.

I can (and will!) make fun of foods with gratuitous gluten-free labels. Yeah, I’m talking about you, extra-large eggs! But I will also continue to heap appreciation on those manufacturers who give me peace of mind when it comes to the food I purchase.

Tip of the Week

If you have to buy more corn tortillas than you need, they can be frozen. The tortillas will be drier than fresh (and remember that you can keep a bag at room temperature for about a week, in the refrigerator for a few weeks, and frozen for a few months), so might fall apart. Heat one-by-one in a lightly oiled skillet or wrap a few in a foil packet and gently heat after freezing and thawing.

Menu of the Week

Last night, my husband had the most amazing-looking enchilada (he said it tasted as good as it looked…alas, it wasn’t on the GF menu, so I didn’t risk a bite). Enchiladas are traditionally rolled — a bit of filling is placed into softened tortillas, the tortillas are rolled into cylinders, and placed into a baking dish, covered with sauce and cheese, and baked.

His was a stacked dish — a bottom tortilla, filling, another tortilla, a bit more filling, another tortilla, cheese, sour cream. Red and green sauces were placed on the plate and the whole stack was placed on top of the sauces. I wish I ordered what he ordered…and was obviously inspired to make this for myself.

The enchilada recipe below is easily modified to make a stacked enchilada. If you are not using a fairly wet filling, dip your tortillas in a bit sauce before stacking. Finish with a fried egg if you want!

The mango salad is a simple mix of cubed mangos dressed with lime juice, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. The sweet, tangy, and spicy mix is amazing! Or, if you’re feeling creative, combine whole black beans with cubed mango and seasoning.

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