Questions

Where do I find non-traditional items like Agave, Gluten Free Breads, and Almond Milk?

The good news is that today you can find almost anything in your local grocery store.  Agave, almond milk, tofu cheese slices, gluten free breads, you name it. Most grocery stores have a special section where they keep these items, but some places like Market Basket simply have the items interspersed with the “regular” items.

Is it more expensive to buy these items?

Unfortunately, yes, the costs are more prohibitive.  If you have food allergies, however, you really don’t have much of a choice about purchasing them.  You can, though, cut down on the costs by ordering many of the items online when there are sales.  You can also buy some items like Agave and Truvia in bulk at wholesale places like BJ’s.

Do you use honey and molasses?

I use honey in small quantities, because honey has been shown to have a bunch of health benefits.  Honey is still, though, a “sugar” and using it to replace white sugar doesn’t change how your body reacts to it.

As for molasses, I use Alwaldi date molasses.  I use Alwaldi because that’s the brand a natural foods store near me sells.  I use the date molasses because it’s made from dates which are good for you, and it replaces regular refined molasses wonderfully in recipes.

What do you know about brown rice syrup?

Brown rice syrup is used a lot these days as a substitute for sugar.  Made from brown rice it’s gluten free and is said to have a lower glycemic index than sugar. I’ve used it on occasion as a sugar substitute, but the reason I don’t use it more frequently is, quite frankly, the cost per use.  Unlike Agave where I use half the amount for any sugar in a recipe, you have to use more of the brown rice syrup. Given that brown rice syrup isn’t cheap, over time, the cost of using it simply became too prohibitive for me.  I keep a jar on hand, though, in the pantry for those few times when I do want to use it for a particular recipe.

Why don’t you use Almond Flour as your gluten free substitute?

I don’t use it personally because I’m allergic to almonds.  I have, however, used it to prepare recipes for other people to eat.  The fact is that Almond Flour is a very nice substitute for regular flour.  It cooks and bakes well.  It provides protein and good fats.  If you’re looking for someone who provides great information about using Almond Flour, check out www.elanaspantry.com  I’ve always had success with her recipes, which unfortunately is not always the case with every recipe you find online these days.

Can you recommend a good gluten free bread?

My experience has been that most people tend to complain about the texture of gluten free breads, not the taste.  The texture of gluten free breads tend to vary, though, depending on the bread and the type.  I would suggest that folks try different brands and different types until they find one that they like.  If you’re lucky you can try them at other people’s houses without having to purchase them yourself!  For myself, the two which I like the best are Udi’s Millet-Chai bread and Food for Life’s Millet bread.  The texture and taste appeal to me when the bread is toasted.  As well, they freeze wonderfully which is something I need since I so seldom eat bread.  I can keep these in the freezer and just pull out a slice or two as I want them.  Food for Life’s bread has the advantage that it’s fruit juice sweetened, too.

What if I want to substitute a gluten free flour mix that isn’t Authentic Foods?

Most of the recipes are listed with whole wheat flour amounts.  For those recipes, simply follow the instructions that your gluten free blend states for substituting for every one cup of flour.  If one of my recipes is actually written with the Authentic Foods gluten free flour amount, you simply add 1/4 cup for each cup to figure out what the whole wheat flour amount would be.  For example, if the recipe says to use 2 cups of the Authentic Foods gluten free flour, that means we would use 2 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour.  Once you know that, you can simply follow your gluten free flour’s instructions for substituting for regular flour.

Do you ever use Egg Beaters instead of just plain egg whites?

Actually I don’t use Egg Beaters.  The reason is simply because Egg Beaters and the generic brands of them aren’t just egg whites.  They have added spices and salt which you don’t get if you use egg whites.  Since I’m mostly substituting egg whites into baked products, I don’t want my baked good to be altered by the added salt and spices in the Egg Beaters.

What advice do you have for anyone newly learning how to cook with non-traditional ingredients?

Don’t give up!  Practice does make perfect!  And don’t be afraid to fail!  My children and husband will tell you that some of my experiments don’t quite work out the way I intended, but they’re still tasty to eat anyway.  And the best part, according to my family, is that it provides a wonderful excuse for having to try again the next day!  Some recipes do take a lot of trial and error to get both the texture and the taste that you want.  But others you get perfect on the first shot.  Just remember that you’re doing this for your health and not for competition.  It’s okay if it takes time to learn it.

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