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1. )  Think pretty seriously about how you eat and how you cook: are you actually going to cook, or are you more likely to eat out?  Are you just cooking for you, or for a family? Would you rather cook and have leftovers, or would you rather have fast recipes–or some combination of the above?  Supposedly, Americans throw out 40% of the food they buy. If you can avoid food waste, you’ll stop seeing dollars with wings, because you’re gluten-free.

2.)  Stop eating red meat and chicken. It’s cheaper, and you won’t stay sick: according to Scientific American, saturated fat can change your gut bacteria so much that it creates colitis if you’re prone to it.  Chicken has become a major source of food poisoning in the U.S., so much so that people like the New York Times’ Mark Bittman recommend that no one eat it. (Eggs, turkey, fish, kefir for the probiotics, and cheese from grass-fed cows seem to be safer sources of animal protein.)

3.)  Each week, cook a pot of rice, and then cool it in the refrigerator.  You can use it throughout the week to make stir fried rice, Indian biryanis, and rice salads, or just use it as breakfast cereal or the carbohydrate for any meal. (more…)

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So you’re gluten-free–and you’ve figured out that it can be pretty pricey. Follow a few simple rules, and eat, without worrying about the cost.

1. Make Cheap Bread.  There are ways to bake bread at home that are cheaper than buying specialty items; rolls, baguettes, and corn flatbread are all easy to make. There are also less expensive ways to buy gluten-free flour, if you buy it in very specific places.  IMG_0175

2.  Eat your conscience.  If something is not in short supply and it is easy to produce, there is a good chance it’s cheap.  (For example:  beans are much more ecologically sound, and less expensive, than beef, because they take less fossil fuel to produce–not that I’m advocating not eating any animal protein–just eat less. Bush’s Beans and some Heinz beans in cans, are gluten-free; dry beans can be cross-contaminated with wheat.)

3.  Rice is your friend.  Rice is cheap, and extremely versatile.  It can be cooked and kept in the refrigerator for salads or stir fry for up to a week, or just reheated for breakfast.  It’s also a good substitute for pasta.

4.  Look for gluten-free labels away from the, “gluten-free,” aisle.  Manufacturers pay for placement there, and anything marketed there is paying for that marketing in the price.  Also, the Asian food aisles in larger grocery stores are full of rice crackers and noodle soup packages marked, “gluten-free,” and they’re usually much cheaper.

5.  Make your own coffee and iced tea.  Coffee and tea aren’t always gluten-free.  Instant coffee is almost always gluten-free; any reasonable herbal tea can be cold brewed in your refrigerator;  drink it instead of soda and save several dollars a week.  (There is no gluten in most Stash and Celestial Seasonings Teas.)

6.  Crack your own walnuts and shell your own peanuts.   Anything that has been in a larger mill, like nuts and seeds, isn’t guaranteed to be gluten-free, unless you buy it more expensively (paying for that gluten-free marketing) or you make it yourself. (Blue Diamond almonds are the lovely exception to this.  They make certified gluten-free almond crackers and almond milk, and they sell shelled almonds that are gluten-free.) 

7.  Avoid gluten-free versions of wraps, and pie crusts.  They have too many ingredients, and that makes the gluten-free substitutes expensive. Chard, iceberg lettuce leaves and rice wrappers make good sandwich bread substitutes;  for dessert pies, like apple and pear, use nut-crumbles and brown sugar for crumble crusts

8.  Find a good gluten-free store brand of pasta.  They exist, and they’ll make your life infinitely easier when you can’t figure out what to cook.

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9.  Learn what cheap food you’re really willing to eat. Keep some of that on hand, even if it’s not something you think you should be eating, because it’s technically junk food or not all that healthy.  (Examples of nutritious, cheap gluten-free junk food are  as follows:  homemade steak fries; Cocoa Pebbles, which actually have very little fat and lots of supplemental vitamins; cheddar cheese and peanut or almondbutter for quick snacks; refrigerator pickles from leftover vegetables; Jenny-O frozen turkey sausages and hot dogs, all say, “no gluten,” or “gluten-free,” on the back–rolled up in homemade corn tortillas, they make very inexpensive meals.) You can also easily make things like gluten-free cookies, cake and ice cream.

10.  The only thing that you should buy in bulk is dog food.  Boredom is the enemy here, “potatoes, rice, polenta, corn chips, tortillas, repeat”, gets pretty darn old pretty fast. (As you discover new food ingredients, you’ll be tempted to buy them in bulk, and then discover that you don’t actually like millet, but you’ve now got a cupboard full.)  Buy less than you think you need, and then use it up.  You’ll spend less, and you’ll like what you’re eating more.

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This isn’t a recipe, so much as it is shopping advice.  Many, many of the big discount stores can feed a gluten-free person for a lot less.  (Although if you’re a vegetarian, look away.) 

Costco is probably the most gluten-free friendly.  Although they don’t sell gluten-free bread, they sell Lundberg rice chips and other kinds of gluten-free crackers by the truckload, boatload, and, probably, trainload.

The fact that they’re slightly upscale means that they have bothered to mark their in house store brand, Kirkland, as gluten-free.

Currently eating: 

Kirkland pulled pork–it says gluten-free on the box–with Kraft, Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce.  MmmmmmMmmm.

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So a boy, let’s call him, “Wayne”, hasn’t called me in two weeks.  He’s in Bastrop, and if I know Wayne, it’s time to check the jail again.

Ingredients:

2 4 oz chuck steaks, preferably pre-pounded and perforated

8 tbsp Kokuho Rose Rice Four

4 tbsp Glutino Bread Crumbs

1 egg

1/2 cup cup canola oil

pinch sea salt

For Gravy:

1/4 cup rice flour

1/2 cup almond milk

For Green Beans:

One handful frozen green beans, two if you think Wayne is going to bond out by dinnertime.

1/2 tsp powdered garlic

2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil

Mood Music:

“Sisters of Mercy–Flood”  (No, his name’s not Wayne.)

Kitchen apparati:

2 plates

paper towels

slotted metal spoon

splatter screen

mid-sized cast iron pan

small glass bowl for the egg

larger glass bowl for the flour mixture

fork

kitchen timer

microwave with a “defrost” feature

tupperware, in case “Wayne” can’t make bail to by home by 5:30  (Chicken fried steak is pretty good cold, too.)

Take the chuck steaks out of the freezer.  Set them to defrost in your microwave according to the instructions.  (Sorry I can’t be more specific:  mine just has a button that says defrost.  I push the button and then squint at the label to put in the food weight.  Then I take out the dogs for their evening walk.  When I come back, whatever it is, usually, is defrosted.)

Fill the cast iron pan with canola oil to about 1/8 inch depth.  Turn your stove to medium.  Take the chuck steaks out of the microwave and throw away the packaging.  Put the steaks on a plate by themselves, and let the extra blood drain onto the plate. Wash your hands.  Measure out the flour, salt, and bread crumbs into the larger bowl.  Mix well.  Crack the egg and wonder how “Wayne” is doing in Bastrop.  Beat the egg in the smaller bowl with a fork.  Dip the steaks in the flour/bread crumb mixture and then in the egg, and back into the bread crumb mixture, making sure to get bread crumbs and eggs into all the meat crevices.  (It looks about as gross as it sounds.)  The canola oil should be heated by now.  Put the coated chuck steaks in the pan.  Put the splatter screen on top of the pan.  Turn the kitchen timer on with a twenty minute time.  Let each side cook about 6 minutes and then carefully flip the steak, using the slotted metal spoon.  (Be careful not to dislodge the coating–this is really just an egg/flour skin.)  After about fifteen minutes, put paper towels on a plate and take the chuck steaks out to drain. 

For the Gravy:

Stir the remaining drippings, add 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup almond milk.  Let cook another five minutes until slightly bubbly, stirring with the slotted spoon.  (Curse Wayne and his fifth DWI in the interim.)

Turn the stove heat to simmer.  Cook for three to five more minutes.  Sob quietly.

Put the chuck steak and gravy on a plate for each person, or into tupperware if that crooked judge set the bond too high today.  Take a handful (or two) of frozen green beans out of the freezer.  Turn the stove heat to about 40% and sprinkle liberally with garlic and olive oil.  Let the green beans defrost and simmer for about another 10-12 minutes. 

Wash the dishes, being careful to drain any blood away from work surfaces.  (Is it chuck steak drippings?  Is it Wayne’s?  I’ll never tell.)

Wash your hands carefully.  Take the green beans out of the pan and add to the plates.  Crack open a gluten free beer, like Redbridge.

Cost:  About $7.00 for two people and bail.

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