I find myself writing this entry today because I've hit a blip of frustration in navigating my way through a gluten-dusted world before. I know what it's like. The frustration at realizing slowly that your list of common dining options are vanishing. You find that you must seek out new pathways - and be less resistant. When first hearing you should steer clear of wheat, you believe your cereal eating habits are restricted. You don't consider that meeting your friends up at Fireside Pizza is now not-a-happening. You also don't consider that grabbing a sammy at Jimmy John's isn't an option either, even if you have to work through your lunch and had no time to prepare your lunch that morning cause you slept in an extra 10 minutes. Responsibility is bitch-slapped onto your face. You are gently guided into making healthier decisions in your eating. And although it seems downright evil and unfair in the beginning, at some point you realize you are feeling better, looking better and not so pissed anymore.
I've always liked to cook. As a child I often was the side-kick assembler to my Grandma's pot roast or Heinz-smothered meatloaf. As an adult I often hear my friends and family express cooking to be time-consuming and find the results, "Not worth it."
So all of this brings me to share with you -the lonely pioneer- what i know, as you head out on your own gluten free journey. Pony up to the challenge. It's not going away.
Here's some starting points.
Investigate optional shopping markets. That's right. Get out there an explore what your city/town/blip-on-the-map has to offer. Hell, even Blue Earth, Minnesota has a Co-op and they ring in at 3,395 people. If you live in the city, look for Trader Joe's, Fresh & Natural Foods, Whole Foods, Kowalskis, Byerly's, Lunds, any specialty store. Search around you many even have a Gluten Free Bakery nearby that can make a cupcake to tide you over till you get a recipe working for ya.
I'm going to lay out some resources that I rely on, for people who are from the Twin Cities area.
This place obviously cares about people with food obstacles. There is one located in Maple Grove and one residing in St. Louis Park. Here is a list of all of their gluten free products. I suggest printing out the list and highlighting some things that sound good to you for your first trip there, it really helps.
Some of my favorites include:
The flour-less chocolate torte is a divine pick-up. Grab a few varieties of berries and some heavy cream to whip for the top, and voila, dessert. For crackers I really like Savory Thins, which are sesame flavored. They definitely have an Asian flare to them which I adore. I also enjoy the Almond Crackers by Blue Diamond. One of my favorite finds at Trader Joe's are the Veggie Flaxseed Tortilla Chips, they are healthful and taste fantastic. GF French Rolls in the bakery section can be frozen and used when you don't have time to prepare your own bread. These are a bit greasy, but great for Saturday morning egg & cheese sandwiches.
Speaking of bread...
Might as well just go straight here for the best GF bread in town, if you are not interested in making your own. Madwoman packs a full bakery case of gluten free goodies sure to please. They also carry a small but sure line of specialty items, such as GF lasagna noodles, crackers, cookies and frozen foods. I really enjoy the carrot cake bars and the peanut butter frosted chocolate cupcakes. The owners of Madwoman Bakery are wicked nice and will make you feel at ease. Pick up some Kombucha - it is chuck-full of pro-biotics which will help heal some of the GF symptoms you might be experiencing. I really dig on the Mango and Divine Grape flavors. Madwoman also carries books about food allergies, and there are tables to lounge at while you review the many offerings while noshing on treats. I picked up Wheat Free Worry Free by Danna Korn. It helped me to learn what wheat was actually doing inside of my body. It also gives a ton of information on what to look out for as well as how to cope with questions from family and friends, which can be very challenging and overwhelming.
Next, you can head to The Wedge, over in Uptown. This place is great for quite a few reasons. First off, they have a great assortment of things that will help you out when you aren't ready, or don't have the time to cook from scratch. For example, pick up Tinkyada Pasta there. It's some of the best GF pasta you'll find. I tried corn, quinoa, and assorted rice versions before settling on this sturdy brand. It's closest in texture to wheat pasta, and holds up to sauce. Start there, then branch out when you're ready for other tastes and textures. Tinkyada produces noodles in varying shapes which is nice too. Also on hand in the refrigerated section are brown rice and corn flour tortillas. You'll need those, they are great for wraps (although a bit crumbly) quesadillas and enchiladas. Down the bakery isle, you will find mixes for bread, pizza crust, brownies and pancakes, all gluten free. It's pricey, but one thing at a time. In the cookie isle, there are gluten free gingersnaps that are way worth it. There are frozen GF breads and crusts, do try them, I preferred the mixes when I started. Bob's Red Mill does a GF flour mix that I used chronically until I started understanding the way flours worked. Do not miss the deli. I repeat, do not miss the deli. Everyday in case are fresh made options just for you. Want an egg salad sandwich, but don't have time to make bread, check. Want a deliciously warm GF morning muffin, check. Want a GF pasta salad, but not the mushy leftover, check.
One of the best places I could recommend besides TJ's, Madwoman & Wedge is Fresh & Natural Foods. This one is new for me...but do check it out. They carry a wonderful assortment of produce as well as many items that are gluten free.
I know it's a bunch of looking around, testing and shopping at various places to keep your pantry stocked. But get over to Madwoman to relieve your stress of missing bread and baked goods, that will put you in a better mood to shop.
And I know that it's hard, believe me. Just a couple months ago, I threw homemade pasta dough on the floor in the "all time best hissy fit" a 31 year old could throw when it wouldn't hold together after an Italian GF blog told me it would. Grrr, bastards.
Just know, I understand. I so do. I have for the last 5 years held a dream of being a personal chef to my nearest and dearest family and friends. I was even working on a business plan. Then all of this happened.
I had stopped in at Madwoman one day to get a pick-me-up cupcake. I was low. I told him of my plans to prepare inspired and healthy meals for my family and friends. I told him of how I thought often of my family with multiple tastes and how I'd just like to deliver a dish that could satisfy them all. I told him of two of my best friends who struggle with their weight and love of food and how I wanted to be the person that stocked their fridge with delicious options they loved, instead of the Seattle Suttons standards, of which they selectively consumed. I wanted to express my concern for kids not eating their vegetables, on the same path to where I was today, as a 31 year old. He stopped me and said this: "We need you. Don't give up. We need you."
All my passion lies in food. I may not be able to join you all at the cool new pasta bar on the corner. I may not even be able to partake in that wonderfully decadent birthday cake from Wuollets. But I will cook for you. I do a pretty good job. And it's nice to be needed, isn't it?
Hope this helps.