When we first start eating gluten-free, our focus is on finding anything we can eat. We want foods that are familiar so we try gluten-free pasta, cereal, bread, cookies, crackers . . . anything we can find that has a gluten-free label. As time passes and we become more comfortable with this lifestyle, we get bored. Just flat out bored. The bread we liked is, well, the same every single time. The cereal is boring. Are you starting to think the gluten-free diet is boring? Nope. To begin with, there are other brands of cereal and different varieties of bread. (Here’s an interview with Rudi’s.)
Now is the time to spice things up. How?
Well, first try some new spices. (You didn’t see that one coming?) Most of us are creatures of habit; we tend to use the same herbs and spices in everything. Sprinkling paprika and Italian seasoning – this is my favorite – elevates a hamburger to something special. I like Italian seasoning on zucchini (sauté zucchini in a pan with olive oil, add salt, pepper – minced fresh garlic optional – and sprinkle on the seasoning.) Cinnamon on a baked sweet potato with butter/margarine is fun.
At this time of year, I’m also using fresh herbs from the farmer’s market. I have basil and rosemary in my fridge right now. You’d be surprised at the number of foods these two herbs can liven up. Speaking of the farmer’s market, if you haven’t found one near you yet, you need to see if you have one. For those who live in the country or in other countries, any place that is selling fresh, seasonal produce, preferably organic, will do.
Try something you haven’t tried before. I bought beets on Saturday and, gulp, am going to roast them for dinner tomorrow night, and eat them. (I haven’t tried beets since I hated them as a kid but have heard many times that they’re great roasted.) There are many fruits and vegetables that most of us walk right by but looking for something new doesn’t mean you have to try something exotic. If you always eat strawberries, try some blueberries. If red delicious apples are your favorite, try a gala.
Exotic could be fun, though. I’ve never had star fruit. It’s beautiful so that I may have to give it a try sometime. Check out new veggies too. Always eaten orange sweet potatoes? Try a purple one. Potatoes also come in many varieties. (Check out this interview with Jenn Cuisine. She enjoys exploring new foods.)
When it comes to gluten-free baking, it’s easiest to begin with a pre-made flour mixture such as Better Batter (interview with Naomi of Better Batter soon). These continue to be useful over time but many flours await you – if you’d like to try them. Simple recipes such as pancakes or muffins are a good place to start because they’re edible even if the combination isn’t perfect and the same can’t be said for a cake. Brown rice flour, teff, sorghum and amaranth offer up whole grain nutrition (although amaranth isn’t technically a “grain”).
One good way to find new foods is to explore your grocery store or natural foods market. Always eaten peanut butter? Try almond butter, cashew butter, or sunflower seed butter. A note on this: I find that each brand is very different, particularly with almond butter – some are creamy, some dense. Sunflower seed butter is generally sweetened. Part of your exploring may be trying more than one brand of something to find the right one for your tastes.
For snacking, I often eat nuts and I try to mix up the varieties. I particularly like hazelnuts and cashews, and know that each offers somewhat different nutrients. The whole point of eating gluten-free is to feel good, to be healthy. Eating a variety of foods provides a variety of nutrients and that’s a win-win for your taste buds and your body. So I challenge you to try one new food or a new way of cooking or seasoning this week. I’d love it if you tell us how it was and I’ll let you know what I thought of those beets.
(Photo Credits: Top Photo www.public-domain-image.com, Apple Photo Courtesy USDA)