We can't pick all of the food we eat directly off a tree, and we can't make everything ourselves. I always think I want to raise my own chickens, and then I catch of whiff of what raising chickens actually smells like, & I think the closest I'm going to come is to befriend a farmer.
When I first started writing Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Quick & Easy, I figured I was gunning for the job of The Gluten-Free Sandra Lee. After all, there are so many new gluten-free packaged products available now. Shouldn't we be able to eat like everyone else in America does – or like I read that everyone else does? Semi-homemade gluten-free food could go together like Fred & Ginger, right?
Does “no” go with “way”? I quickly learned that “gluten-free quick & easy,” for me, means devising smart kitchen shortcuts and techniques, and adding the occasional top-notch packaged gluten-free product where it really matters. Not putting Cool Whip on canned pumpkin and calling it pie. Every recipe gets you where you wanted to go in the first place (real food, real fast) without sacrificing your dignity (and your family's health) in the process.
In the new book, I list the gluten-free prepared products that I really like and use in my own kitchen, my own bad self, most every week. It's the truth, 'cause I do not lie. But there are also plenty of things I ran into along the way that are serious Don'ts. I learned them the hard way. Why should you have to walk a mile in my moccasins? Often, my “don't” is based on the fact that a product is ridiculously expensive and simply plain not good. And I say we don't buy them unless and until they come UP in quality and go DOWN in price.
Vote with your wallet! Here's my list of don'ts. As in Don't Waste Your Hard-Earned Money:
1. Those ridiculous single-ingredient “tortillas.” I don't even know who makes them, but it absolutely doesn't matter. They sell one brand at Trader Joe's, and they are an affront to the word Tortilla. They peel and crumble if you so much as dare to take them out of the package. For shame!
2. Gluten-free bagel-shaped bread, sold as a bagel. Look, it could be because I'm from New York, home of The Bagel, but there's a certain huge gluten-free company that makes a certain gluten-free “bagel” that used to be at least passable, and now I find it personally offensive that they are getting away with charging what they charge for that dry, crumbly mess.
3. Gluten-free hot dog buns. C'mon. I dare the corporate representative of this company to eat a hot dog on one of these things and get more than 50% of the bun itself into his or her mouth. Dare.
4. Gluten-free breadcrumbs. Maybe you know of a gluten-free breadcrumb that is worthwhile, but I haven't seen it. They're either wildly expensive, or they are, essentially, ground cornmeal, except they cost nearly $5 for 12 ounces.
5. Gluten-free readymade pizza crusts made with rice flour and tapioca starch as the only grains. They are crackers. Super expensive crackers that make me so very sad when I think about people who are spending their hard-earned money on them and thinking that this is all they have to look forward to. Cracker pizza.
6. Gluten-free pie crust mix. It's basically just something of a premium-priced all-purpose gluten-free flour blend. You still have to add fat and you still have to add liquid.
7. Gluten-free powdered frosting mixes. Similar to the pie crust mix. It's basically just confectioners' sugar with some flavoring and salt. Have mercy.
8. Don't freak out, but Chebe Cheese Bread Mix is just tapioca flour/starch and dry milk with salt, at north of 50¢ per ounce. And that's just the dry mix! You still have to add the cheese and eggs. I will give you a recipe for Brazilian Cheese Bread that will knock your socks off—at the proper shoestring price.
9. Gluten-Free Pancake Mix. There are plenty of companies that sell gluten-free pancake mix these days, and it breaks my poor cheap heart every time I roll on by them in the grocery store or online. The first four ingredients of my gluten-free pancake recipe can be your mix.
10. Speaking of mixes, let's talk Gluten-Free Cake Mix while we're at it. You know how you pay more money per pound for chicken when it's more processed? Like a whole chicken costs less than skin-on, bone-in breasts costs less than boneless skinless costs less than tenders? It's like that. If you pay someone else to put together 4 dry ingredients for you, you're going to pay a huge premium. Chapter 8 of My New Cookbook has 13 recipes for Make-Your-Own Gluten-Free Baking Mixes. Use a digital kitchen scale and you'll have the same consistent results that led you to buy that mix in the first place.
What's on your Don't Buy List? Teach me!
P.S. If you haven't yet, please pick up a copy of My Cookbooks! I can't keep the blog going without your support! Book 2 will be out in just a few weeks!!