There are so many fabulous whole foods that are naturally wheatless, from plump, juicy, healing fruits to bright, crisp vegetables to satisfying, protein-rich legumes. But when it comes to carbohydrates — you know, the baked goods and pasta we all crave from time to time — things get a little bit more challenging. But who says being wheat-free means you have to sacrifice these things?
Whether you’re just getting into the swing of Wheatless Wednesdays, or whether you’re in the middle of a life-long wheat-free adventure, don’t despair. There are three crucial gluten-free ingredients that will leave you with your attention fully riveted to your wheatless plate, just like like the toddler in the photo above.
In no particular order, here are my top essential ingredients for the wheatless life.
Gluten-free Flour Blend
There are so many different options here, and opinions vary depending on personal tastes as well as personal food sensitivities and allergies.
In the past, I’ve used Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Baking Flour, but that was before I realized that sorghum is so closely related to corn. If you don’t have a problem with corn, this mix might work for you. It contains garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, whole grain sweet white sorghum flour and fava bean flour. The advantage of this particular blend is that it’s rice-free — not many gluten-free options are.
I prefer to create my own gluten-free mix, using the following template: a heavier flour combined with a lighter starch and a protein boost. The following is my current favorite:
1 c. brown/white rice flour
1/2 c. tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour)
1/2 c. soy flour or finely ground almonds
Once you’ve developed an eye for the right consistency, the sky’s the limit. Develop flour blends unique to the recipe you’re making. Substitute quinoa flour for the rice flour, or try potato starch instead of tapioca starch. Making a chocolate-y desert? Grind some hazelnuts for added protein. And don’t forget about flours from other gluten-free grains like amaranth and millet.
If you’ve tasted wheat-free pasta before, you might have second thoughts about trying it again. But I think I speak for anyone who’s ever had Tinkyada when I say that this pasta is such a far cry from other gluten-free varieties that there’s just no comparison. This stuff is just that much better. The selection, too, is practically limitless – fusilli, shells, spirals, penne, spaghetti, elbows, fettuccine, and lasagna.
The ingredients are simple – brown rice, rice bran, and water. They also produce an organic line containing nothing but organic brown rice and water. And if you have little ones, you’re in luck. The “Little Dreams” variety comes in fun shapes like airplanes and animals. The world’s easiest vegan macaroni and cheese can be achieved merely by adding a spoonful of tahini, a splash of non-dairy milk, and sea salt. This is one of my favorite comfort foods.
And the best part about Tinkyada? There are no worries about cross-contamination. Tinkyada pasta is manufactured in a wheat-free facility; nothing but rice touches the equipment. This is a sigh of relief for sensitive individuals.
Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Tortillas
If you’re fortunate enough to have a Trader Joe’s within driving distance, you absolutely should not miss these. I don’t know how they manage to take simple ingredients like brown rice, salt, and water and magically transform them into delicious, bendable, tortillas, but they do. And if you’re allergic to corn, like I am, traditional corn masa tortillas are not an option, so these gems are a tremendous lifesaver.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box – I mean, outside the wrap. Look beyond what you’d traditionally put in tortillas, and get creative. My two favorite fillings are quite different from one another. If you’re in the mood for fresh, light and summery, slice organic avocado and tomato into the tortilla, then season with sea salt and pepper and top with a handful of crisp alfalfa sprouts.
For a sweet and sticky sugar high, drizzle tahini and honey or agave into the tortilla, then roll it up around a peeled banana. It’s like a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwhich — only better.
And let me know in the comments — what top three gluten-free ingredients are always in your pantry?
Image via Erik van der Neut on Flickr under a Creative Commons license.