Archive for Pantry Staples

HEB Gluten Free Products

    HEB is a Texas-based company with headquarters in San Antonio. This organization is very generous in support of The Caring Place (TCP) in Georgetown with their daily donations of bread and support of other TCP programs. They have also been long term suppliers of my most basic gluten-free grocery needs.

    I needed to replenish my Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free cornmeal in order to make several pans of GF cornbread to be served at the Annual Soup Supper to benefit TCP (where Don and I both volunteer). Our nearby HEB on Williams Drive carries a good selection of these products.

    While I was shopping there I decided to check out their brand of pasta that Clara had tried and told me about. I was really curious because Don and I had been on the HEB product taste-testing panel quite some time ago. Also, as a volunteer in The Caring Place food pantry I often hear comments from people trying to manage gluten-free about how expensive it is. This is what I found.

HEB Brand Pasta & Sauce - All Gluten Free

HEB Brand Pasta & Sauce - All Gluten Free

Prices on March 1, 2011:
Gluten Free Fusilli $1.99
Gluten Free Spaghetti $1.99
Garlic & Herb Pasta Sauce labeled Gluten Free $1.89
Traditional Pizza Sauce labeled as allergen: milk $1.50
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Corn Meal $3.58

    I also picked up Udi’s Whole Grain Sandwich Bread while I was there since there were only three slices remaining at home from the previous loaf. Price wise this one is in my ‘luxury item’ category. But it is handy to keep in the freezer for when I don’t have time to put together something else for the carb portion of a meal or snack.

    For staying healthy, whether you must eat gluten-free or not, a balanced diet is always in order. It takes planning ahead so that the right stuff is always available: in the fridge, in the pantry, in the car, wherever. It is critical to prevent a tumble over ‘The Gluten-Free Edge’ that lurks nearby. Given that criteria I can always rationalize a ‘luxury item’ 🙂

Gretchen

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Quinoa – Learning to Love It

    Quinoa (kee-nwa) was an ancient food of the Incas – it was considered sacred and referred to as ‘mother of all grains’. Although no longer widely known or used it is gaining in popularity due to its nutritional qualities and versatility.

    Unlike most other grains and seeds quinoa contains all of the amino acids needed for humans to assimilate as a high-value protein. In addition to being gluten-free and easy to digest it is a good source of dietary fiber, protein, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.

    The quinoa seeds, as harvested, have a somewhat soapy and slightly bitter coating of saponins that discourage birds from consuming the seeds. Most quinoa available at your local grocers has been pre-soaked and rinsed to remove this coating. I always soak and rinse my quinoa whether it is presented in bulk or packaged and labeled as pre-rinsed. This insures that the seeds are clean, tender, and ready to accept the seasonings in your recipes be they sweet or savory.  Evidently a short-lived experiment in raising quinoa without the saponins coating resulted in birds consuming most of the harvest. And so I soak  . . . .

1) Measure out the quinoa and add enough water so that the mixture is slushy when stirred.

Quinoa Seeds Soaking

Quinoa Seeds Soaking

2) Pour the slush into a mesh strainer and thoroughly rinse. If the soaking water is only slightly hazy when stirring then 15-20 minutes is probably enough. These pictures are of bulk quinoa that needed about an hour of soaking and a change of water to clear.

Draining the Soaked Quinoa

Draining the Soaked Quinoa

3) Dump the soaked quinoa into your pan and cover with water. Turn the heat on medium until the mixture starts to bubble. Then turn the heat down low and put on the lid. Watch it very carefully until it settles down to a steady simmer because like oatmeal or pasta it will make fierce bubbles that climb the pot walls and boil over onto the stove.

Turning Up the Heat

Turning Up the Heat

4) The quinoa is done when it looks something like a sand dune on top with minor dips and valleys that are no longer moving. There should be no liquid visible when you take a spoon and check the bottom of the pot.

This Batch Is Fully Cooked

This Batch Is Fully Cooked

    Cooking quinoa is similar to cooking pasta in that you may prefer it very tender or ‘al dente’. You may pre-cook it for a recipe or add it directly to liquids in the recipe. It has the capacity to absorb an amazing amount of flavor from added ingredients. I pre-cook it over low heat for 15-45 minutes; then turn off the heat and let it cool slowly on the burner. The longer it was soaked the shorter the cooking time. Also, if there is still water and it is cooked as long as you like then just drain of the excess water. If you cook it without salt or seasoning then you can use a portion of it in a sweet recipe and the remainder in a savory dish like this one.

    This basic recipe was served at a potluck lunch meeting and received very favorable comments. It was prepared with a large, sweet onion and two fresh tomatoes. I included some ground turkey breast to make it a main dish meal.

    When I make it for Rita, who is currently avoiding nightshade plants I use washed and chopped zucchini in place of the tomatoes. The resulting texture is very similar. I also add a small carrot cut in bits to provide some color,

Savory Quinoa Casserole
Ingredients:
1 cup of dry quinoa cooked with 2 total cups of liquid = 2-2.5 cups cooked quinoa
(If a can of organic diced tomatoes is used for part of the liquid then omit the fresh, sliced tomatoes.)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground yellow mustard (French’s yellow mustard works – it is gluten-free)
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 small tomatoes, thinly sliced (optional, see above, or zucchini))
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

Directions:
    Heat the oil on medium or medium high  in a large skillet that has a lid.  Add your mustard and bay leaf to the oil and let it sizzle. Stir while adding your cumin and wait a few seconds before adding the onion.
    Sauté the onion until it starts to soften and turn brown. Add ginger, tomatoes (or zucchini/carrot), and turmeric. Let soften and then add your quinoa, stirring it in gently and sprinkling with salt. Reduce heat and cover, cooking for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir once, sprinkle with cilantro, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff and serve.
    If you add meat, tofu, or beans then include it already prepared along with the quinoa. This is a good recipe to extend leftovers from another meal. And any local vegetables in season are excellent options.

Gretchen (Mom) and Rita

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SO Cultured Coconut Milk

    Rita first became interested in the probiotic qualities of fermented foods during her studies in Virginia. And when Chef Alain Braux, Austin-based nutritherapist, spoke about how fermented foods can promote intestinal healing in people with damage from gluten intolerance I determined it was time to give them a try. For the past two months I have used some of the recommended products.

    We were on my first shopping trip to Natural Grocers when Rita introduced me to this tangy, creamy SO Cultured Coconut Milk product (also known as SO Coconut Milk Kefir). And how strong could it be after appreciating the very strong taste of fermented daikon radishes? So I came home with a bottle.

SO Cultured Coconut Milk Beverage

SO Cultured Coconut Milk Beverage

    Several bottles later, it reminds me of the cultured buttermilk that I used to mix with pineapple juice and no-cal sweetener to create a beverage that tastes like pineapple sherbet. And I plan to try that mixture again especially after discovering that this beverage is so very thick. In the meantime I mix it half & half with water, add a few drops of stevia and enjoy a tangy, refreshing drink that feels really good in the tummy. I am definitely hooked on this.

    Right now it makes a nice bedtime treat but come summertime I am already thinking of tall, frosty, fruity drinks.

Gretchen (Mom)

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Natural Grocers in Austin and Pamela’s Cheesecake

    Don’t you just love finding new gluten-free products and places to shop that are within modest driving range? Especially a store that has a staff so knowledgeable, helpful, and personable that shopping is an adventure rather than a chore?

    When Rita first discovered a local Natural Grocers she was so excited. “Mom, the first thing I saw when I walked in was a whole rack of food labeled gluten-free. It was right at the front of the store. I didn’t have to hunt or ask; it was RIGHT THERE.”

Natural Grocers Storefront

Natural Grocers Storefront

 
The Natural Grocers monthly advertising flyer is here . Their business philosophy is explained on page 4. Next time we shop there I need to bring bags and a cooler to bring home some of their beautiful fresh, organic produce.

    As I peered into Rita’s car I saw that she had a couple of cardboard boxes full of grocery items. Was she so excited that she bought cases? No, it seems that Natural Grocers is totally green, ‘bring your own bag(s)’. They have their discarded cardboard boxes available for reuse if you forgot to bring bags but they do not have any plastic or paper bags.

    Rita was so excited about the new products that she found. One of them was a miniature cheesecake made by Pamela’s – yes, Pamela’s of the baking mixes that first eased our transition into the gluten-free world. (Hmmm, now I am thinking about those biscotti that I haven’t made in quite a while from the Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix.)

    An Agave Sweetened New York Cheesecake – this is classic Sara Lee’s gluten-free cousin. OMG, three times we have purchased one of these 3 inch little jewels and they have yet to make it out of the parking lot! Like mother, like daughter, the two of us are “have fork, will travel” food adventurers.

Rita (with cheesecake), Joel, and Nate

Rita (with cheesecake), Joel, and Nate

    There are currently three locations in the Austin and Cedar Park area. The one that Rita first discovered was at Arbor Walk. We don’t know if the one in Cedar Park is open yet but the website says February so we will be checking it out. And there is one more to the South in Austin on Guadalupe.

Austin – Arbor Walk Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage
10515 N. Mopac Expressway, Bldg. L
Austin, TX 78759
Hours: M-S 8:56-8:04 Sun 8:56-6:06
Phone: (512) 231 9200
(P.S. It doesn’t hurt our feelings that DSW Shoes is there at Arbor Walk also)

Austin Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage
3901 Guadalupe St.
Austin, TX 78751-4522
Hours: M-Sat 8:56-8:04 Sun 8:56-6:06
Phone: (512) 323-5100

Cedar Park – Opening February 2011! Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage
1335 Whitestone Blvd Bldg G-17
Cedar Park, TX 80104
(Half Price Books, another of our favorites, is in the same shopping center)

Gretchen (Mom) and Rita

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Udi’s Bread Arrives at H-E-B Georgetown!

 
 
Udi's Bread
Udi’s Bread

 

After a long wait and checking back week after week it really is here!

Georgetown 2 – Williams Drive
4500 Williams Drive
Georgetown, TX 78633

    Yesterday, Friday, 01-07-2011, I picked up a few items on the way to my volunteer shift at the local food pantry. I cruised by the frozen bread section just in case and there it was! Udi’s white bread, whole grain bread, and bagels all lined up on the top shelf, left hand corner of the frozen bread section.

    I immediately notified Clara. There is real bread, good bread, when we want it and when we need it. Don can cook French toast for our breakfast without a long lead time and sometimes complex planning.

    Yeah H-E-B and thank you ever so much for following through and making it happen!! 🙂

Gretchen (Mom)

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A Really Edgy Day

    Today was our scheduled bi-weekly grocery shopping excursion. It was almost an ordinary trip with a few extra items added in anticipation of our family Thanksgiving gathering which we are hosting.
    Earlier this summer as I was reading labels in the pantry I noticed something that I had previously managed to overlook. The red-and-white can of tomato soup listed wheat flour as an ingredient. The room tilted slightly as I went light-headed for a moment.
    This tomato soup is a key ingredient in a New Year’s traditional dish that Don and I have jointly prepared in the 33-going-on-34 years that we have been together. He chops the onions, adds rice and ground meat, mixes and seasons the mixture, steams the cabbage leaves removing them carefully to avoid tearing, and delivers them to the cutting board. There I carefully shave the thick ribs so they don’t break when rolled and I stuff and wrap the rolls. They go ever so carefully into a large oven-proof casserole dish where they are covered with several cans of tomato soup plus a can or so of water. And it cooks in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours until it is tender and fragrant.
    It is so tasty that we often decide to have a couple of ‘test runs’ before the New Year and a couple of ‘quality assurance’ batches during February and March.
    Since that inadvertent label discovery incident I have done my very best imitation of an ostrich with its head buried in the sand. But today there were fresh cabbages, now in season, in the produce section and Don said ‘how about stuffed cabbage’? Again I went light-headed and carefully studied the avocado selection while trying to regain some composure.
    Evidently I wasn’t very composed because his reaction was ‘you mean we can’t ever have stuffed cabbage again’?!! Not fair! Headache and navy blue mood were followed by several hours of funky miserable depression.
    We worked through our pizza issues so surely there is a solution to the tomato soup. My great misgiving stems from the fact that we have occasionally tried store brands of tomato soup and it just never worked. Somehow I have to figure out the flavor mystique of this particular soup.

Gretchen (Mom)

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Udi’s Bread Coming to H-E-B Austin and Georgetown!

Update:
    Friday, 01-07-2011, I picked up a few items on the way to my volunteer shift at the local food pantry. I cruised by the frozen bread section just in case and there it was!  Udi’s – white bread, whole grain bread, and bagels all lined up on the top shelf, left hand corner of the frozen bread section.

    At long last! The very popular Udi’s gluten-free breads are coming to H-E-B grocery stores in Austin and Georgetown. The stores selected are the ones that have the larger, 3-door freezer space for gluten-free products. Be sure to stop by one of these stores and check them out.

Udi's Bread

Udi's Bread

The new items will be in the following stores starting November 8th.

 Austin 08 – Congress/Oltorf
2400 S Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78704

Austin 23 – Brodie/William Cannon
6900 Brodie Lane
Austin, TX 78745

Austin 25 – Parmer/IH 35
500 Canyon Ridge Drive
Austin, TX 78753

Austin 28 – Slaughter
5800 Slaughter Lane W
Austin, TX 78749

Austin 29 – Bee Caves
701 S Capital of Texas Hwy
Westlake Hills, TX 78746

Georgetown 2 – Williams Drive
4500 Williams Drive
Georgetown, TX 78633

    Udi’s bread is the commercially available gluten-free bread chosen by an ever-increasing number of families and restaurants. Jason’s Deli introduced it nationwide earlier this year as a bread option for their sandwiches. Rita and I have eaten at several Jason’s in the Austin area and recently I was in Abilene and ate lunch twice at the Jason’s there.

    Rita and I had it served to us at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort in Bastrop when we were attending a family reunion! And my wonderful Sister, Amanda, brought me a loaf of Udi’s there because she didn’t know if Rita and I would be able to have bread at the resort.

    Those of you with family and friends know how BIG this is for those who must eat gluten-free!! Can you tell I am excited?

Gretchen (Mom)

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