Gluten-Free Myth 3: You’ll Have Less Money to Spend

Probably my favorite gluten-free myth is the “it costs a fortune!” legend. Okay, I’m being a bit harsh, because this myth has a basis in reality. That being, if you look closely at the price comparisons on the linked page, you’ll notice a pattern.

Yep, it’s those darn highly-processed foods. There was a CBS News story about a celiac patient’s grocery bill increasing forty dollars a week due to her dietary change. Digging into the source of her diet, you can see that, again, the price increase is due to *what* was being consumed, not the gluten-free diet itself.

This does not have to be the case. Gluten-free specialty foods have higher costs for a variety of reasons: the cost of special equipment, the cost of testing, the cost of safety for consumers, the cost of raw ingredients, the loss of some economies that come from scale. Ditto for special gluten-free meals in restaurants. I was extremely opposed to the lawsuit filed against P.F. Chang’s by a woman who felt the higher prices for GF meals was discriminatory; I’d rather pay a price for a safe meal out.

That being said, if you think long and hard about your meals, the one thing you realize is that gluten-filled foods are not usually the largest component of what’s on your plate (quick reminder about the necessity of reading labels!). Meats are gluten free. Vegetables are gluten free. Dairy products (with some exceptions) are gluten free. Fruits are gluten free. Many grains are gluten free. Eggs are gluten free.

Or, you can eat pretty well without encountering a situation where you need to buy or ingest specialized and pricier gluten-free products. Taking this approach allows me to treat these products in the same way I treat a special food item or meal out at a nice restaurant. They are nice-to-have additions to a meal, not have-to-have additions.

Additionally, many restaurants and food suppliers are making a point of noting they serve naturally gluten-free items. Yes, this means some people laugh at salsas that are labeled gluten free, but I totally appreciate a manufacturer alerting me to the fact that their food is safe.

Sure, you can increase your grocery bill by investing in gluten-free specialty foods, but as we learned in Myth 1, this may not be the best thing you can do for yourself from a nutritional perspective. My advice? Put your money in a place that gives you the best return for your investment!


Tip of the Week

As you expand your culinary horizons, you will discover a lot of cuisines tend toward naturally gluten free. One that is increasingly easy to enjoy around the world is Mexican food. While there are rare corn tortillas that contain wheat (why, oh why?), the basic diet is remarkably gluten free. I can get my taco fix safely whenever I want!

Gluten-Free Meal of the Week

Speaking of tacos…yeah, I do love me some tacos, but I’m also pretty excited about enchiladas, made my way. Much to my surprise, many commercial enchilada sauces have wheat in the them, so I avoid them in restaurants. And at home, I either make my own red or green sauces (so easy), or I substitute commercial salsas for the traditional sauce.

You can guess which approach I take most often! In fact, based on the ingredients I have in the house right now, I’ll be taking this approach tomorrow night. *Someone* bought avocados when we were already oversupplied. Those babies won’t eat themselves!

One word about enchiladas: yes, traditionally, they are filled and rolled, but ain’t nobody saying you can’t do a stacked, lasagna-like enchilada. Especially if time is short.

Under Pressure

As I think I’ve mentioned about a thousand times, I use a lot of chicken (and vegetable stock). And years ago, I realized that I was spending a small fortune to buy stock. I much prefer to make it myself, and it really doesn’t take that much active time.

In the past, I’ve set a pot on the back burner of the stove, added some aromatics like onion and garlic, tossed in some seasoning like salt and peppercorn, added the chicken carcasses I’ve bagged and tossed in the freezer. And for the next couple of hours, the stock or broth or whatever you prefer to call it would simmer away. I put the liquid in one-cup size containers and freeze them until needed. Continue reading “Under Pressure”

Quinoa and Black Bean Cakes

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is suddenly everywhere. This ancient South American grain is tasty and versatile. It cooks up just like rice*. I find that quinoa absorbs flavor really well, and I really love as a stuffing for squash and peppers.

Quinoa also makes a great vegetarian patty or cake, perfect as a base for Huevos Rancheros or an interesting side dish (maybe topped with a creamy mustard sauce?).  Quinoa and black bean cakes are a great way to use leftover quinoa, with the added bonus of tasty black beans. Adjust the seasonings in this recipe to suit your palate and goals — there is no wrong way to make these!

* Seriously, just like rice — if you’re cooking on your stovetop, it’s 2 cups water or broth to 1 cup quinoa plus seasonings (salt, pepper, cumin, or whatever you like), bring to boil, let simmer for 15 − 20 minutes; if you’re using your rice cooker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for basic white rice.